Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Black Forest

The Bone Soldiers trudge through the aptly named Black Forest, led by their deaf leader Azun.  He claimed to have lost his hearing during a fight with a water demon after being drowned, but some of the older soldiers knew he'd been losing his hearing long before that and not for any spectacular reason other than old age.  But old soldiers tend to cover their weaknesses with stories of battle.

The newest member of the Bone Soldiers, Caleb, did not know Azun's story, but had warned him from going into the Black Forest during the high moon.  Azun showed him the map, they needed to be in Portalan and the most direct route was through the forest.  Azun laughed at him and spoke to him in his strange dialect, "Sigor ot holy man.  Ne, you wurny.  Tollus wilv be pad."  He pointed to the ten prisoners shackled together, but did not explain.

The first day of travel was uneventful and Caleb got a good dose of ribbing from the others.  But it didn't take long into the second day before the black spirits of the forest make themselves known.  Caleb clutched the crude, wooden necklace his grandmother gave him before he left.  She said it would protect him from things unknowable. 

It began with a few shadow shapes flying above.  Azun shouted orders for the Bone Soldiers to form up.  Shieldman formed a circle, spears resting in the small insets at the top of their shields.  Other spearman and crossbowman rushed into positions behind the shield wall and took aim at the swirling forms.  Sigor, the group's holyman, grinned as he watched with his bloodshot eyes.  Caleb steadied his crossbow as he took his place beside Azun. 

What little daylight that leaked through the treetops vanished.  The priest mumbled a word and a small light flared from the head of the mace he carried, but never seemed to use.  Even the magical light failed to light farther than the ring of bone soldiers.  The men shouted to one another confused.

Caleb heard the spirits, the sound of wind and a barely audible scream as they flew overhead.  As more of the black spirits gathered the louder the wind and screams.  One man broke tried to break ranks and ran into the blackness, but was held back the others.  A few dropped their weapons to cover their ears.  Caleb repeated the pray his grandmother taught him to keep the dark spirits away.  Azun ordered the prisoners to be pushed out of the light.

As the first prisoner stepped outside the light he was taken up and into the darkness,  His shackles clattered to the ground.  His shout faded quickly as he vanished into the unnatural blackness.  The prisoners one by one were plucked from the ground and vanished into the blackness above.

Azun shouted, "Tollus pad.  Tven man."

With that the Black Forest returned to normal.  Caleb believed he saw the last few wisps of the spirits vanish into the thick shadows.  The faint sunlight returned and Azun ordered his men to continue. 


  1. That was a good read. Great ideas, dark as they are, and a very cool dialect. I like the dialect a lot. There's not enough playing with language out there. This shows well how something can be comprehensible, but still very strange.

  2. Good stuff! It's an unfortunate lack of D&D. The sort of mechanistic "magic as energy" nature of its magic makes spirits and cool interactions with them like you give us here something that needs to be worked in.

  3. Porky > Thanks. I try to play with it a bit, but very little. A little goes a long way.

    Trey > Thanks Trey. I'm very big bit into that aspect of gaming.

  4. Very interesting short piece. I agree with Porky about the dialect -- very nicely done.

  5. Great work here. I'm a fan of small groups of desperate soldiers who do shady things to get the job done. Reminds me of Glen Cook or Stephen Eriksson, though if Eriksson had written this it would have taken 30 pages and I'd have been confused about it until I'd read 200 more.