Lone Spark

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by ze_kraken, Nov 22, 2015.

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  1. Mankind rests at the bottom of an elaborate food chain.

    The Entity, the Maker of All Things, rests divided into several deities.

    The King, the Knight, the Scribe to name a few.

    The King, most powerful of such deities, finds enjoyment in the struggles of Man.

    His brother, the Scribe, writes the pitiful beings into existence,

    into a mad, cruel world.

    But there exists one immortal that sees into the good of Man,

    the Illuminated Lady.

    It is through her guidance, her light, her Lanterns that Man may live.

    When the light dies, so does Man.


    This story begins with the birth of a Savior, a child blessed by the Illuminated Lady in abundance. She is born to a band of stragglers fleeing from the destruction of their village, a handful of battered survivors vow to escort her safely to the Grand Library, the one and only vestige of accumulated human knowledge in known existence. Though their purpose is unclear, undefined, it leaves them each with a sense of hope.

    And the spark of hope can leave burning a flame brighter than the most powerful Lantern.

    Long Dark Night
    "In their faces there came to be a brooding peace

    that is seen most often in the faces of the sorrowful or the wise,

    but still they wandered this world in search of their better selves."


    camp was motionless this late into the evening, rather 'evening' as used to refer to what was the time of the day when the survivors could move no further without rest. Without a sun to guide the passage of the day, time was a meaningless luxury as the world itself was cast into an eternal shroud of night. Overhead, the grey outline of clouds moved swiftly through the darkened sky, blotting out the sickly green light from the moon above known as the Eternal Lantern. There were no stars to gauge direction, nor did even the moon shift from its overhead perch among the clouds. The only lights to grace the encampment came from the dimly glowing Lanterns collected around its perimeter.

    Tilheor had awoken early for his watch, taking position where the worn trail met the clearing his group had taken to camp in. Around him, in a loose circle around tents made of spare hide, leaves, and fallen branches, stood Lanterns upon poles fashioned from carved wood, each with an armed man or woman standing by it. In the center of the encampment rested wagons stacked with spare furs, scraps of food, and weapons. Their lifeline.

    At Tilheor's gentle tap to the shoulder, the man on watch, Ames, jolted. For a brief instant he glared at Tilheor, wooden spear at the ready, knuckles white with strain. Recognizing the man, Ames lowered his weapon and nodded, slamming the tip of his spear into the earth below with a deep thunk. Tilheor grunted something that Ames took for assent, and the previous watchman left his post and wandered to the nearest tent, disappearing inside.

    With considerable strain - he hadn't eaten properly in days - Tilheor wrenched the spear free from the ground and propped his back against the Lantern pole. Allowing himself to slide to the ground, Tilheor rested the butt of the spear against the ground and shifted his attention to the path ahead. Though he had the light of a Lantern to see by, without the moon or reliable night vision (he had just been awoken from slumber), the dwindling trail blended seamlessly into the woods around it until both tree and ground converged into a single black mass.

    Then he heard the noise. A rustling of leaves and branches.

    Gripping his spear in a tighter grip, Tilheor mustered the strength to rise, wresting the spear upwards as he did so, tip pointed into the darkness before him. The rustling ceased. Tilheor took a cautious step towards the source of the noise, weapon at the ready. Though the clearing was chill, and a slight wind blew from the trail, Tilheor could feel the first drops of sweat forming across his brow. Would he be able to call for help if the thing in the thicket darted forth?

    He was at the edge of the Lantern's glow now, right at the mouth of the trail where stamped dirt met grassy clearing. The rustling sounded again to his left. Tilheor wheeled around, creeping towards the source of the noise hunched low.

    "Don't kill me!"

    Tilheor shot up at the sound of the voice.

    "I've been wandering here and I saw the lights and-" the man cut the voice off.

    "Shut up," Tilheor grunted.

    "No, you can't send me back out there. I'll die!"

    "Step out."

    There was a pause.

    "Step out," he repeated.

    As the figure emerged from the woods, Tilheor stepped back, breaching the gap between himself and the hunched form before him with his spear. A young man stood, hands raised above his head, clad in plain cloth and hefting a dead Lantern over his shoulders with considerable effort. His cheeks were sunken and already sores were forming from malnutrition. A walking corpse more than a human at this point.

    "Who are you?" Tilheor snarled, gesturing towards the young man with his spear tip.

    "I'm nobody," the young man rasped.

    "Why are you here?"

    "To survive."

    "Nothing we can do for you," Tilheor's eyes looked the man over, searching for a weapon. None.

    The young man stammered and allowed his Lantern to fall into the soft earth of the trail.

    "I'll die," he stated plainly.

    "Other people I know'll die," Tilheor retorted bluntly.

    The young man suddenly shot forward in a blur of motion, a glimmer of steel in his hands flashing as he sprung towards Tilheor. In an instant, Tilheor's spear was cast aside and the weight of the young man came crashing down on to him, sending both of them careening into the ground. Tilheor looked up to see the steel in the man's hands come hurtling down towards his face. Synapses fired and his arm shot up to block the blow, trapping the two in a gridlock for a split second before Tilheor heaved and flung the man over, sending him an arm's length to the left.

    At the sound of the conflict, others around the camp had come to assist Tilheor, only to find him locked in melee once more with the man. Tilheor's fist slammed into the man's gut, driving the air from the prone figure. Coughing and spluttering, the man attempted to reach feebly for his knife, which had been flung just out of arm's reach to his left.

    "Leave," Tilheor boomed, plucking the knife from the ground and standing from the man's chest, unpinning him.

    The man shot to his feet, gasping for breath. Cautiously, he grabbed his Lantern and hoisted it over his shoulders, backing away from Tilheor, who merely pointed towards the trail with the stolen knife.

    "Leave," he repeated.

    So the young man did, and the camp became motionless once more.

    #1 ze_kraken, Nov 22, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2016
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  2. "Well. 'Nother midnight snack for the beasties, then." Paisel's words came like the first crackles of a fire, stirring movement into the gathered crowd. They had been spoken not with spite nor humor; they were simply a rough truth that had been given light to.

    Some acknowledged her words, casting sidelong glances at the tangle-haired woman, disapproval intermingling with reluctance. Some chose not to, pointedly turning their heads in a slow turnabout back to the safety of sleep. Others seemed not to quite comprehend them, their minds still wrapped thick in dream or perhaps still shivering nightmare, dusted with the abating alarm of someone just awoken.

    The blocky bear of a woman wandered towards where Tilheor stood. No other sentiments were spoken, no gentle rustlings escaped her rough tongue; she simply stood beside him and watched the faded, now limping form of the man mill back into the darkness. First, the edges of him blurred, the back slowly following and sinking into the black tide of night. The last thing she could make out was a foot stepping away, and the gentle puff of dust it left behind. She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth.

    "You know," she began, not unkindly, "we'll probably run along his corpse in the morning." Fidgeting with an errant tie on her hide armor, her gaze lowered to the ground. She wasn't really looking at what she was doing. "How 'bout you let me take the rest of this one, then? You've had enough of the night for now."

    Back among the shuffling caravan, one body still did not move. The group passed by him like he was a jutting rock in an trickling stream, the people setting out to bed again. Yet there he stood, stilled as the breath in him. The patchy mane of lengthy stubble stuck on his face rustled slightly in the night's wind, as did the unkempt corn-gold hair on his head. His skin looked even sicker in the moon's shadowed glow; he looked almost like a Lantern himself in the light.

    Not moving from his spot, he pulled a small bit of bark-backed parchment from his pocket along with a crude bit of charcoal. The blackened writing utensil was slim at one end, pointed but not sharp, and the young man sat down crisscross right where he'd been standing. Words began to blossom at the touch of the coal to parchment, long, strangled bits of writing that lacked proper form. It was a quick scrawling of lines next to others, and the near silence of the young man's tasked added quietly to the whispering unease filling the rest of the woods.
    #2 Aerem, Nov 25, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015
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  3. Tilheor

    "No point in trying - dead here, dead out there, makes no difference," Tilheor snorted, staring critically at Paisel. "A spear to the gut would've proven kinder, but not without a decent meal."

    The man nodded once and thrust his spear back where Ames had earlier. He had no way of knowing when their column would begin to move, or even how long he had been at his post. His only gauge of time had been the clouds above, which had passed over the moon, letting its light fall below across the encampment. It still unsettled Tilheor, though he had known nothing but it all his life. That eerie green glow cast with trailing black shadows. The patches around the Lanterns shone yellow still, creating pockets of yellow-green glow all around him.

    "I hand over my watch, and you nearly kill a man over some food, 'eh?" Ames asked.

    His was not a pretty face. Wizened and wrinkled, a scar running from the left ear, over the forehead, to its opposite side, Ames' hideous visage was a welcome one all the same.

    "I didn't kill him," Tilheor retorted, though he knew what Ames meant.

    "Ah, makes no difference, don't it? But, 'n I must say, awful load of horse shit rejectin' a man when you yourself-"

    "I came to your people when you still had food to feed the group," he snapped. "What were we to do, anyways? His bones were showing through, there were sores at the corners of his lips. It was too late for him."

    Ames nodded.

    "Right, then, Til'," the man paused. "Well, you be gettin' some sleep. Did big ursa take your watch?"

    "That she did."

    The lapse in conversation lengthened, both men standing within arm's distance of one another. Ames cleared his throat and continued.

    "Much as I hate to say it, you did the right thing, Til', sending 'im off like that. Least we can say you weren't gutted and hamstring'd by the time the others woke up," Ames sighed. "Like I said, get some sleep. We'll see about heading out when the rest are up and about."


    Sybeth had been glad at the excuse to leave her tent. Sleep, as it so often did, eluded her, leaving her upright among sheets of cloth and spare fur. She had come to fill the listless hours by staring at her Lantern, watching its dim yellow light ebb and flow. It was not so much flame as it was a soft glow; the light did not flicker, it did not cast stark shadows, it merely emanated from the Lantern itself. Once, Sybeth had attempted to pry the Lantern open and see what rested within its metal shell, but to no avail.

    But now that the encampment stirred, audible even through her tent, she hoisted her father's iron cudgel and clambered out into the clearing, cudgel gripped in her inexperienced hands. People were gathering towards the trail, but no one was really doing anything. By the time Sybeth had made it across the clearing to where the congregation stood, whatever had drawn them there in the first place had ended and the crowd was dispersing.

    "Hey," she called to a passerby, who promptly ignored her.

    She caught another one.

    "What was that about?"

    "Straggler come to join the camp," a young boy clutching a wooden spear chirped.


    "The watchman didn't let him in, said something about food!"

    Sybeth let the boy go and turned to walk back to her tent, feeling defeated, cudgel dragging upon the ground behind her. She noted the scribe perched by the rear of the dispersing crowd, standing as if he were just one of the leafless trees around them.

    Strange one, he is.

    Sybeth altered course and paused within earshot of the man, clearing her throat.

    "You see what happened? No one's given me a real answer yet."

  4. Paisel
    Paisel took the spear from its place. Her gaze did not follow Tilheor's departure. Her words did not come to reply to his. They were true; she'd said as much herself.

    The wide noises of night huddled in around her as she leaned up against a tree. Whispering wind crowded the deadened space between the crumpled foliage, and the light of the moon crept along the canopy, casting a cautious eye down on the roughened earth wherever it could see through. The musty dredges of night spun slowly around her in all directions.

    It was not their fault. She told herself this as the distant steps of the man they had shunned died from a smattering to sparseness. It was not her fault, and it was not Til's. Neither of them were the bringers of the ax against this man's neck; it was merely the way of the world.

    She consoled herself with this fact as distant horrors roused a muffled scream. No heroic call to arms was hers to bare; she bore the spear tighter, and let her feet spread just a little. And there, in the night, another light was extinguished forever.

    Just as soon as he had settled his knees against the earth, the girl came up to ask her question. He roused himself and stood, awkwardly brushing dust from the rear of his cloak. "Oh, um, somewhat. I saw a bit."

    Ceder took a glance at where Paisel now stood, stoic and unstirring like a statue on a plinth. So little movement for how much there had recently been. "The, uh, man was, uh..." he looked back at the girl. Woman, really, at this point. Such stress made elders of them all. "...he was ragged. His skin was ragged. He, you know, held himself like one who is ill. Tilheor, the guardsman, he tried to talk him off from what I saw, and then there was a scuffle and now..." A padded scream rang through the night, just far enough away to not be dangerous but still close enough to set the spine tingling.

    Ceder looked down at his feet, observant. "Yeah, that's about the breadth of it." Mentally shaking himself, he looked up. First, casting an errant glance to the side, then once more at the woman. "You're..." he lingered, seemingly verging upon some minor embarrassment, "...Sybeth?" For all his pointed questions, none was as so pointed as the next. "You any good with that?" He began the sentence with a slight click of his tongue, and punctuated it with a gesture at her cudgel.
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  5. Sybeth

    "I hope your writing is better than your speech, scribe," Sybeth mused. "But at least your memory's decent."

    At his mention of the cudgel, she shrugged once. From where she stood, it appeared as if she was inept with the weapon as she would be with the quill and ink, the lump of black iron held angled behind her, a line of recently packed dirt behind her and ending with the cudgel. Her arm still shook from the strain of holding it aloft in one hand, fingers repeatedly having to adjust their grip to keep the weapon steady.

    "I'm decent," she lied. "Never had to use it, though."

    The lapse in the conversation lengthened, Ceder took a few more scribbles of his utensil. The camp around them had fallen silent again.

    "I figure we'll head out soon," Sybeth blurted. "If we let that man go, someone knows this place."

    Without another word, the woman turned and idled back to her tent, dragging the cudgel behind her.


    Sleep was not quick to come to Tilheor. In his tent he sat hunched upon his knees, staring at his gnarled, filth-matted, and tattered hands. They would be moving soon, he told himself, but that did not help the rest come. Snapping to attention, reaching instinctively for an ax he knew was not there, Tilheor's glance shot to the entrance of his tent. Nothing came through, no survivor, no monstrosity. Wind, it must have been wind. He shook his head and stood, leaning out of his tent.

    Soon, we will be gone of this place.

    Though the clearing had been a place of relative safety for some time now, it too was beginning to exhibit signs of danger and inhospitably. Raiders were becoming more common in the surrounding area, more and more men were reporting sightings of strange beasts haunting the trees, and soon enough their Lanterns would perish one by one. Perhaps he should have slain the walking dead man, claimed his soul for some inert Lantern. Paisel would have reacted the same way, and perhaps even Ames would understand his decision more. No matter. The deed had been done, and now he had to live with it.

    And, knowing the way of the world, he would not have to deal with it for too long.
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