Paths, pt 6

Thursday, July 10, 2008 - 10:18 PM

Redemption had always been part of Naello's plans, but he frequently felt as if the opportunities for it were stolen from him, and his bitterness had increased, drop by brackish drop, over the years. This in turn whetted the hunger for atonement, but he could find no way to earn that which he wanted most.

When the neshniya came back with the wrong blood on their hands, at first he'd been outraged. They'd never failed him before, but somehow, the damnable four had managed to evade the neshniya. He quickly realized that being angry at the neshniya was pointless, and feeling foolish quelled his temper just as quickly. But in gathering information, they'd overheard something that made their failure worthwhile.

He looked out the tiny stone window to the broken, bleak land that hid him in apathy and fog, and his back shivered involuntarily at being turned to the neshniya.

This was a possibility, at last.

“Tell me again what you heard,” he said.

The low, impassive voice that replied was like a wisp of cold fog given voice. Chalciere was the neshniya leader, and generally spoke for all of them. “In the city of Arn, a man claims that he has the soul of Martel the Gorecrow. This information was taken from a traveling tinker, heading south from Arn.”

“What else did you hear,” said Naello.

“The information warranted interest, as the quarry might be following the same trail,” continued Chalciere in an even, expressionless tone. “We interrogated several, and discovered the following: the soul is contained in a red glass hourglass, set with hematite. The man in possession is a very rich man in Arn, but he does not pay alliance to any Guildmaster there except in normal dues. The man in possession hires many bodyguards, and intends to sell the hourglass to the highest bidder. He will not leave Arn, knowing that his trade is illegal elsewhere. We know his name and countenance.”

Naello smiled without humor. It was a triumphant grimace more than anything else. Martel's reputation was so tremendous that even now, after his death, people did not want to say his name or remember what he did. Some hadn't even believed he'd been slain.

And the four had killed him.

What if a terrible mistake occurred? What if Martel came back from Hell and destroyed the four who sent him there? And what if Naello were to come forward and defeat Martel in turn?
The red hourglass was almost certainly one of those crafted in Mancora, designed to hold one's life in place for the duration of their unnaturally slow sand-fall. The hourglasses were not well known, and most measured a century rather than an hour. The glass will have been turned, then, to contain Martel's blood-stained soul, and it will hold him for a hundred years... or unless his soul is given somewhere else to rest.

Revenge and redemption, thought Naello.

“Forget the quarry. Go to Arn. Find this man and take the hourglass, and bring it to me. Be as quiet as you can, but kill anyone who interferes, and kill any witnesses who see you take the hourglass.”

The command made his heart contract; he remembered the first time he'd told the neshniya to kill witnesses.

“...kill them quickly,” he added, turning to look at them. “No side trips. No feeding. No torture. But bring me the head of the man with the hourglass.”

They stood there, wrapped in black cloth and hunger, with no sign of deference. Their empty black eyes looked through him, and for a moment, he had to repress the urge to flee, to hurl himself out of the window rather than let them satiate themselves on his body. But they obeyed, leaving the cold hall swiftly on silent feet, with Chalciere last, light as a spider.

When he turned back to the window, the hall seemed colder.

He ignored it.

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At July 11, 2008 4:54 AM, Blogger MCHossman said...

Lots of good elements in this entry, Monte. This would be one of my more favorite entries that you have put here, I think. Good imagery, great pacing and I particularly liked the clipped ending.


At July 11, 2008 8:52 AM, Blogger Montgomery Mullen said...

Thanks! Naello's been on the group's hit list for a very long time now. He is easy to write at this point, and I hoped to convey a bit of what never got seen in him here.

The neshniya will demand an entry of their own eventually, too.


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