© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-Five

Eli stood before a massive stone door.  Reaching out, he ran his finger along the intricate patterns depicting trees, bushes and grass.  It struck a chord in his memory, this image of a Great Forest.  He shook his head, trying to remember where and when he’d seen anything like this.  Even the tapestries along the walls of the Keep did not have the level of detail he saw here.

The Wall stretched as far as he could see left and right, the door set within the stone and ending just at the edge of the light above him.  It made no sense for it to be here.

“Have you gone through?” asked a voice.

“No,” he answered.

“You should,” said the voice.  He felt a hand press against his back, giving him a shove forward.  He lost his balance, toppling towards the door.  Raising his hands, he tried to stop himself from slamming face-first into the stone and found that he stumbled forward without ever hitting it.  Warmth spread across his skin and he lowered his arms to see that he was standing on an impossibly ancient stone, one of thousands forming a road twice as wide as any he’d ever seen.  Above him a blue sky replaced the canopy of leaves and a bright sun caused him to blink and squint.  Looking South, he saw that the road stretched nearly to the unfamiliar mountains on the horizon, cutting a swatch through the Great Forest surrounding him.  To the North, it disappeared into that same Forest, swallowed by trees older and larger than he was used to seeing. Read the rest of this entry »

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-Four

Narut touched Jaycn on the shoulder.  The older man had been nodding off as he sat his watch over Elias.  His friend slept like the dead, never moving, barely breathing.  Whatever the Engineers had done, it was slow working.  They said he would need several more sessions before he would be safe and on his way to properly healing.  Until then, Jaycn, Narut and the others had taken it upon themselves to watch over Eli.

“I’m fine,” Jaycn protested as Narut dragged him to his feet.

“You are not. You need sleep.  I’ll take this watch,” Narut answered him softly, but firm.  Jaycn grumbled as he left, but he did leave.  Narut settled into the chair beside Eli’s bed, wondering what the Engineers had done.  Everyone he talked to said the same thing; they were taken into a dark room and told to breathe deeply.  Soon, they found it difficult to keep their eyes open and the next thing they knew, they woke back in the infirmary, their wounds healing, pain lessened or completely gone.  The worse the wounds, the longer it took to be healed.

Eli had been among the worst. Read the rest of this entry »

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-Three

The Magistrate walked beside Shen, Captain of Deisarch Dain.  Valenz trailed them like a shadow as they stepped into the room acting as a triage for all the casualties.  The attack had been coordinated and deadly and completely unexpected.  The men of the Militia had been slaughtered.

“I’ve lost nearly half my forces,” Shen continued.  He’d been talking for so long the Magistrate wondered how his voice hadn’t gone hoarse.  “And another half lie wounded or dying.  I know that the Engineers are helping, but…”

Devastating, the Magistrate thought, trying to ignore what the Captain was trying very hard not to say.  In truth, he couldn’t blame the Captain his distrust of the miserable little creatures.  If he had his way, they would be rid of them.  Of course, everything would fall apart inside of a year.  He stared at a dark skinned man sitting on the floor, trying to hold his intestines inside his stomach.

“Six months,” he muttered, not really seeing the man.

“My Lord?” asked the Captain.  The Magistrate jumped as if goosed. Read the rest of this entry »

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-Two

Valenz watched from the parapets as far below, the Militia wagons brought in the wounded, dead and dying from the massacre.  He shook his head at the word, though he knew it fit better than anything else he could come up with.  From a distance, he’d observed the damage to the Wall, worse than anything he’d seen before and that was going back a ways.  They had nearly breached through to the far side when the retreat was called.

He shook his head again; that was applying military tactics and stratagems to something more animalistic and instinctual than strategic; like putting your hand in a flame, you pull it back because it hurts, not because it makes strategic sense.

“Valenz?”

Making his way back into the tower, Valenz walked over to the stone chair and waited.  The Magistrate sat rigid; his face could’ve been carved from the stone itself.  The battle with the Engineers had taken its toll on him but the end result was rolling in through the gates this very minute.  Again he shook his head, applying military terms to things.  It came from another life long, long ago.  You’d think he would’ve forgotten all of that by now. Read the rest of this entry »

So.

Been a little busy lately.  Evermist is actually a done deal, but I always like to go through and edit episodes before they go live.  Sometimes I do this one chapter at a time, sometimes in groups, sometimes – not at all!

Right now, I’ve been distracted by my other writing project, Sam Kane, and by massive amounts of work at the day job and the podcast, so I haven’t prepped Chapters 32 and beyond yet.  To give me some time to get caught up, I’m going to take a little hiatus on new chapters for a weekish.

New chapters will return starting June 11th.

Thanks for continuing to read :)

~P

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-One

In the Tower of Valles, where the walls are covered in cream and gold, a discordant note vibrated the very foundations as the Magistrate, high atop the Tower, staggered as if struck and cried out.  Spiraling to the floor, he collapsed into a heap of robes and lay there twitching; arms and legs refusing to respond.

Valenz appeared as if from nowhere, melting away from the walls and rushing to his master’s side.

“My Lord?  What is it?  What has happened?”

Eyes that could not see him stared unfocused at the ceiling of the room and a voice that was strained answered, “Evermist…  Take me…  Hurry…  Engineers…” Read the rest of this entry »

Okay peoples – over on the downloads page, I have put up Chapters 11-20 and Chapters 21-30 as PDF’s that you can download and read whenever you like.

Because I spent some time working on that, I’m going to take this week off from a regular chapter but new chapters will begin again next Friday, the 14th of May!

~P

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty

The sound of wagon wheels on stone could be heard long before Elias actually saw the wagon itself.  The horses became visible first; a team of four whites gleaming in the midday sun.  They wore harnesses of red leather and pulled a coach painted bright red – even the Coachman wore red from head to toe.  Two flags flew on poles above the coach, whipping in the wind – one red and black and one gray and black.  He had no idea what they meant and couldn’t remember ever seeing them before; Paerleon’s flag was a black tower against a red and white checkerboard.

Jaycn rode beside the wagon yet apart, surrounded by four riders all in black.  They wore helms of black with great big plumes that fluttered and swayed and masks that covered their faces.  Long black coats covered them to their high boots of polished black leather.  Twin sword hilts could be seen over their shoulders and they each carried two rifles just as Jaycn did.  Looking back to the Coachman, he noticed that he or she was also masked.  Each mask appeared to be a sculpted face; the Coachman wore a smile, the Black Rider’s an angry snarl.

Klen stepped passed him, causing him to jump as he made his way to the coach just coming to a stop.  Klen waited patiently for the Coachman to come down and set the steps in place.  Jaycn hopped from his horse and tossed the reins to the hostler – the men on horseback flanking him stayed mounted, each moving to positions where they faced the squad but were between all but Klen and the coach, their angry masks slowly scanning the soldiers.  Eli shared a quick glance with Narut, who shrugged.

“The Elites,” Jaycen said softly as he came to stand next to Eli.  “Advice – don’t stare at him.” Read the rest of this entry »

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Elias reined his horse up and whistled to Jaycn, who was riding between he and the rest of the squad to let Elias see if he could scout on his own.  It was the twelfth day out from Deisarch Dain and the weather had cleared again, leaving the sky above bright and blue and the sun hot.  He’d already stripped away his heavy coat and had kept his gloves behind his belt all day.

Jaycn trotted up and Elias pointed to a point in the Wall where a crack had formed and a tiny stalk of green no more than a cubit tall poked its way out and into the sunlight.  It had a single leaf about the size of his thumb.

“Right, good eye.  I’ll tell the Sergent.  Stay here and watch for anything, understood?”

“Yes.”  For some reason, Elias felt the need to pull his rifle from the holster on his saddle.  He tried to take in everything from the Wall, to the crack, the fog that hid the forest – even Jaycn as he trotted back to the rest of the squad.  He’d found the crack and the plant, but he still felt like he didn’t know really what he was supposed to be doing.

“All right, everyone spread out facing the interior of the island,” Klen ordered as the squad rode up.  “We take positions along the Wall, weapons out and at the ready – keep your eyes on that fog!  Jaycn, on your way, bring back the Engineers.”

“Aye, Gunny,” Jaycn said, then rode to Elias.  “The Engineers live in the Towers and only they can deal with this.  Keep your eyes and ears open, I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

“Right.”  Elias dismounted as someone came and took his horse.  The rest of the squad had already begun taking positions along the Wall, rifles ready and pointed at the trees no one could see.  Jaycn spurred his horse and sped off.

Elias took the spot next to Narut, who gave him an uneasy smile.  Staring out from the Wall, he could see the blackened earth Fesh had told them about back when they were in training, and that felt like a lifetime ago even though it was only a few weeks.  It extended for a mark beyond the Wall, and he couldn’t imagine anything being able to grow out there and wondered how anything managed to grow at all with all the snow they’d seen.  Then he thought about the fact that it had snowed for days straight, and yet there was no snow on the ground below.  Plus, there was this heat today that he didn’t think could happen – yet it did, almost as if the island itself was radiating a heat from within.  That thought soured his stomach.  How could an island radiate heat?  It had to come from somewhere, right?

“How was your watch?” Narut asked him softly.  Neither took their eyes away from the space beyond the Wall.

“Quiet,” he said, just as softly.  “And creepy.  I did hear the trees rustling just before my watch was over.”

“Oh.”  His friend looked green.  “You saw those paw prints?”

Eli nodded.  Larger than the hoof prints left by the horses, larger than anything he’d seen before, really.  He had to study them with Jaycn, who pointed out that his hand fit fully inside the middle while the three toes could each hold another hand spread out.

“I heard about the cats,” Elias said slowly.

Jaycn nodded.  “Big ones.  Take a horse right out from under you and drag it over the wall with you still in the stirrups.  Ever heard a horse scream?”

Elias shuddered.  “No.”

“You will.  In a full attack, I’ve seen vines come whipping out of the mist, drag a man off or pierce him through.  Branches too.  Those deaths are immediate.  Trees don’t need fresh meat.”

Elias got as comfortable as possible, sighting down his rifle towards the trees.  The sight at the end of the barrel glared in the light, so he licked his thumb and rubbed it on the sight.  It was going to be a long afternoon and he wanted to be ready for anything.

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-Eight

The first few days of patrol blurred together quickly, filled with heavy snow and endless riding.  It didn’t take long for Eli’s backside to go beyond pain and well into numb.  Walking became a chore whenever they would dismount to spell the horses or setup camp at one of the way stations.

These were curious places where a path led down the outside of the Wall to a wide landing that seemed to cling there unsupported.  He knew that couldn’t be and tried to put the engineering of it out of his mind.  He’d spent each night in such a place; they had shelter against the snow and the wind seemed to flow right over without touching them.  There was even a small stable for the horses, food and water stores and coal for burning to provide heat.  Jaycn told him these stations existed the length of the Wall for the patrols to use and that wood was expressly prohibited for obvious reasons.

“When you’re ready, we’ll split watches,” Jaycn said the first night as he handed him a mug of something hot and steaming.  He sniffed it and couldn’t place the scent.  A taste and it was bitter, but warm.

“Kaff,” Jaycn said.  “Helps with watch duty.  Keeps you awake, alert.” Read the rest of this entry »