Sunday, January 11, 2015
The Jeweled Serpent - Live Writing!
"He went this way." One of the guards pointed down the darkened street of Drygate.
"You had best be sure," the second guard snarled. "If he gets away, it will be us on the stone for certain."
Neither took note of the old washer woman, bent with age and struggling to hang her wash. The two men hurried down the street looking for their prey. The woman watched till they turned around the corner then pulled a bag from beneath the wet laundry.
Khor had not had long, but the old woman had been more than happy to let him hang her laundry in exchange for the use of her cowled cloak. He slipped back through the stone door and winked at her as he handed her the garment. "I hung a fair bit of it. You take care, elder. I would hate for you to run a foul of those guards." He slipped a piece of medure into her hand. "That should keep you fed for a good while. Just tell the trader, you found it in the sewer."
The woman looked up at him; her eyes blank from years in the dark underground city. "You be the one best be careful. The priests' guards do not give up easily, and there is but one way out of the city."
"I will try to avoid their arms." Khor kissed her hand gallantly and after checking the street, slipped out the door.
It was not quite true, the only 'one way 'in. He had found another route that the small kerkin used to raid the city. He was much larger than the small tribal creatures, but the route had been big enough he had been able to work his way through. Kerkin loved everything that glittered, so he had rounded up wastes of metal, armor and even a few small daggers. It had been all that he had needed to win their loyalty.
He wove his way through the shadows. The guards would be moving to the South where the great entrance to the lands above waited. He was headed west. Drygate was the underground citadel of the Priests of Dethara. The Goddess of Death did not seem to like bright places. Most of her temples and priestly dwellings were underground.
Khor had always liked the underground and his time in the trenches of Veilstear had ensured he knew how to move silently. When he had come to blows with the Trench Lord of Veilstear, he had decided it was time to get out of the city. While neither had really won that battle, Khor had known it was only a matter of time until the Trench Lord saw to his early demise. Khor rather liked living.
He wove his way around the small underground lake looking for the barely discernible break in the rock. It was barely big enough for a child to enter and it had been the one point where Khor had almost become stuck.
Khor moved from rock to rock, here in the open at the lack, he was more likely to be spotted. While there were less light-stones about, there was also less cover for those that could see well in the dark. The one thing he had learned was that those who had been born here in Drygate could see as well in its dark shadows as he could above ground. He did not have that advantage.
He was growing impatient. Khor had made sure to note the surroundings of the hole when he had emerged but now, everything seemed to be the entrance. The dark shadows all called to him, promising him the narrow escape route. He cursed softly, unsure of which hole was the one he had emerged from.
A strange hissing sounded close by and Khor swung around pulling a dagger as he did so. Nothing moved in the stillness of the cavern and the only close sounds he could hear were the sounds of dripping water into the lake. His heart raced as he felt his way along the cliff face. It would not take them long to figure out that he had not made for the gate. He was running out of time until a full city search began.
Finally, his hand found the opening and the small rock he had placed to mark the entrance. He tied the bag to his ankle. He did not want the kerkin to decide to make off with his prize while he was trying to crawl through some small space.
Khor began the job of wiggling through the small opening. More than once, he had to let all the air from his lungs out to press through a tight space. His breath came in labored gasps when the small tunnel would open up enough to allow him to breathe. Twice, he swore he heard the soft hiss of another creature or even a snake. Whenever he would pause and lay still to listen, there was nothing.
It took four long hours to make his way to the wider tunnel where he could crawl on hands and knees. When he crawled out into a kerkin living area, they all skittered around him with excitement. Their little hands touched him all over. and he was forced to retrieve the bag and tie it securely to his belt.
He slipped them some spoons and other small items he had stolen on his way through Dethara's temple. The last item, he kept for their leader. It was a tiny incense burner but he felt that Mota, their great mother, would value it. He made his way to where she sat on a large wine barrel. It made him smile; for the barrel had been decorated and from what Khor could tell, it was her throne.
"Khor find what seek?" She managed to communicate with minimal common tongue.
"Yes, Great Mother, and I have brought you a gift." Khor produced the incense burner much to the excitement of all gathered. He laid it at her feet. "The large people are stirred and angry. I would not hunt their halls for a time," he cautioned.
"Khor not come back." Mota declared. There was a strange sad look on her face.
"I won't need to," he promised. He tensed as he sensed something different. All the kerkin around him had become silent, their large luminous eyes gazing upon him.
"The Dark Mother take Khor." Mota said, caressing the incense burner.
"No, I am not pledged to the Dark Mother and I did not see her. Do not fear." Khor decided he needed to leave. The hair on his neck was raising and he had learned to trust his gut.
"Farewell Khor," Mota nodded to the kerkin next to Khor to lead him back to the main cavern.
The little kerkin darted ahead; soon Khor had left the little village like tunnel behind. Yet, he could not shake the sense that something was horribly wrong. He would be happy to make his way to Nesander and give him the snake. The commission in slips had been worth the risk, but suddenly he just wanted the business over.
It took another hour but finally he emerged from the side of the mountain that Drygate rest beneath. He was on the far side from the city's gate and he had never been more relieved to see daylight.
Khor found his horse and rode hard to the north. He wanted as much ground as he could gain on Dethara's priests. They were not known for swift and merciful deaths for even minor transgressions. He had no idea what they would do to a thief who had stolen from their treasury.
When the sun began to set, he finally pulled up and made camp near a small stream. Khor's camp was without fire, he wanted to be safe with that pile of slips in his purse before he breathed easy again. Once the horse had been tended to and he managed to eat some dried meat, he finally looked at the sack.
The thief pulled the bag to him and carefully opened it. The snake was made of the finest silver he had ever seen. Each scale point held a small glistening emerald stone. The eyes were glittering rubies that sparkled in the firelight. It was beautiful. He imagined it had some strange property or history, else Nesander would not have wanted it. The warlock tended to only seek items that would increase his reach or power.
Khor reached out to touch the glittering golden tongue. Every detail of the jeweled snake was so lifelike. As if alive, the snake's mouth snapped shut. The fangs sank deeply into his finger and fire shot through his blood. He tried to pull the thing off, but short of ripping loose his own finger, it would not budge. Khor watched in horror as the snake came to life, uncoiling from its pedestal and wrapped about his arm. His vision swam as pain dropped him to his knees.
The snake continued to send poison coursing through him. Khor realized that he would die here. He would die far from the great isle and his people. He would die to some magic that he did not understand and in a land that was nothing like home. When his last heart beat sounded, the snake let go of his finger and recoiled around its pedestal. It once more became a figure of metal and beauty lying near the fallen thief's outstretched hands.
Two hours later, the night was quiet except for the sound of bugs and trickling water. The wind blew softly, causing the fronds overhead to dance to a music of their own. Below them, lay the body of a thief, a picketed horse and a jeweled snake.
Khor's eyes shot open.