Nightvoid Chapter 0: Sirkelandri of the Hills

Nightvoid Chapter 0: Sirkelandri of the Hills

There was, upon the hill, a man seated cross legged, and in strange attire. A long purple robe of woven cloth was the only garment he wore. He was a Tharn, robed in the woven cloth of his people, a long thin blade was laid across his lap. His eyes were brown and angular, almost feline, and at the moment, unfocused. Most notably, though, were his horns. They were untouched by the carving knife, which was uncommon among his people.

The whole world lay winding and curling in upon itself, swimming in his vision as light dances upon the waters. The self slipped into an abyss so dark that it could not be remembered. The spirit road was all that was. All that ever was, at least, as far as he was aware.

As sudden as the blink of an eye, there was a stag. It stepped into that place, as if coalescing out of the dancing, swimming light. It had walked in as if through a veil. The edges of the creature curled back and bled into the winding curve of the dancing world. Sirk remembered himself, and it was as if he’d never forgotten.

The creature sat before him, and its eyes rested on him.

Like the receding waters reveal the shore, the whole world was revealed as Sirk found himself to be seated in a stone circle on the plain.

The sun was at its zenith. His skin was cracked and dry. His tongue felt sluggish and thick as he tried to wet his teeth.

Sirk turned his eye to the stag. It was watching him, expectant. The creature had a scar running through one blind eye. One antler had four prongs, five on the other. Nine pronged beast, just as the Hashedna had told him he would find.

Sirk went to the creature in a single swift stride, and plunged his knife into the place at its neck where all creatures hold their lifeblood. The stag didn’t give any sign he’d noticed. There was no smell of fear. Only the salty tang of blood and the hiss of the creatures breath.

As the life draining out it, Sirk cupped his hand under the wound and drank a mouthful of blood.

“I take your life in mine, creature. You will walk the spirit road everywhere I go.”

The warm sticky fluid nearly made him vomit from hunger and thirst. They said that it was the feeling of the animal spirit bonding with his own. He had to admit, he had been certain it would be a hunter. Perhaps a great cat, or wild dog. But this stag bore good omens, and many scars. It was an honor he would not have chosen for himself, but the spirit of the rocks knew better than he, and he knew better than to complain.

Sirk lifted the stag onto his shoulders, and its weight bore him down. The Hashedna would be pleased with the creature. The rush of exertion brought on a powerful nausea. The world rocked slightly beneath him, and he went down on one knee to stabilize himself. Walking the spirit road often left aftereffects.

Sirk carried his kill over the crest of a hill. It took him a moment to remember where he was. But when he saw the three topped pine to the east, and one of the gray monolithic stones to the north, he remembered enough to retrace his steps.

The sun was low by the time he reached the Hashedna’s hut. It was nestled into a hillside, surrounded by thick pines with little space between them. Though the day was still bright, it was as dim and as chill as a night of full moon.

Before the door of the hut was a fire, and before the fire was a man with a hood seated on the ground.

“What have you brought me from the spirit road, child of the hill?” said the man within the hood. Sirk placed the stag reverently beside the fire and knelt down across from the Hashedna.

The hooded man held a burning stick from the fire, and lit a pipe.

“Give me the creature’s heart.”

Sirk drew his knife, and sliced the skin just under the ribs. He pushed his hand inside. There was not much blood, but the body was still warm. This happens to all things, in the end. Creatures all struggle against the tide, and all fail in time. But very few, like Sirk’s stag or the other spirits of the Hillfolk, would give their lives willingly.

The heart felt as heavy as a stone. He placed it in the offered hands of the Hashedna, carried it into the hut. He returned a moment later with a bowl of dark liquid and placed it in Sirk’s bloody hands.

“Drink. All of it.”

It tasted earthy like mushrooms, and tangy like marshweed. He tipped the bowl, draining it.

He was vaguely aware of being handed a pipe, and being told to smoke it, before all things faded into a deep black hole.

Sirkilandri, son of Zok, stood upon a frozen lake.

Walls of sheer stone cliff stood to his left and to his right.

The frost was so strong it leapt off his breath like fire, and burned like smoke to breath. His feet were bare against the glassy surface, the ice as clear and as pure as the mountain lakes of the west.

Beneath the waves he saw the Kaanok. Its black form cut serrated lines against the pure clear water. It slithered around, turning one eye on him.

An old man with slender horns crouched in the center of the lake. He held a spear, poised to strike down at something in the depths. In a lightning flash, he struck.

Zok pulled his spear from the fishing hole, and on the end was a silver longmouth. The light danced over its scales like sunlight over the water. Sirk watched over his shoulder as he sliced open the fish’s belly and drew out something yellow and bright.

“Child of the hills.” His father said, placing something slimy into Sirk’s hands. “Take it.”

It was a golden Torc, fit for a king. The Torc made a circle, a serpent that ate its own tail. Through that circle he saw a dark vision. A host of dark shapes dotting the horizon. From those shapes a thousand thousand men pouring over the land. In their hands they hold a fire that spreads across the lands consuming three topped pine, creatures of the field fleeing in the wake of the destruction. The smoke rising up the gods in their secret places.

A prince with golden hair raises a scepter to catch a ray of sunlight. Men who live within a cloud, a cloud from the mouth of the Sun. The children of the Sun would set a fire that spread across his lands and that would consume his own children.

“Why do you not wear it, my child?” asked Zok.

Sirk gave no answer. He knew better than to speak to the dead.

Below them the ice began to crack as the beast within ascended.

Jordan Hawes

Jordan Hawes

Spokane, WA