Chest Full Of Secrets
Greyscale forms a loop with the laces and he ties them hard. Harder than neccessary perhaps. He can’t help but mutter about the color. “Pink”. I understand that the store was out of blue and black shoes. But only pink? There were no orange or yellow ones? If Hebimaru or Quetzalcoatl were here they would be laughing their asses off.
He checks the duffel-bag on his back for the umpteenth time, just to make sure that everything is there. Shovels.The White Casket. Several bottles of water.Map. A compass. A packet with soil. Oh yeah, everything is here.
A brief look in the mirror tells him that his cargo pants and vest are sitting perfectly.
He exits his house and after a dozen attemps his old pick-up starts to move. He drives in a northerly direction, towards the forested slopes. When did I buy this car? 1987? No, it was before Olof Palme was assassinated. 1978? Naw, the Soviet Union hadn’t collapsed yet. It was the same year the Americans invaded Grenada. 1983? Yeah, that feels about right.
He stops for a few minutes at the side of the road and takes out an old map, a map he spreads on the hood of his car. The maps depicts Fallowfell, the slopes and the adjacent area. Three red circles with question marks marr it. Greyscale looks intently at those three red circles, then at the mountains and slopes that tower above Fallowfell. “Now, which one of you are the closest..?” “Ah.”
He folds the map inside a pocket and restarts his car.
A twenty-two minute ride later and he stands at the foot of one bigger slopes of Fallowfell, Thrymheim. He parks his car between two trees, ensures that everything is cinched tightly and he starts to run at a punishing pace which turns his surroundings into a formless blur.
Midstep he looks at his arm, more specifically at a pink area on his left forearm, which is still tender and healing. Why did I make that patch for Rune? Because he resembles Fafnir? But Fafnir was short and pale, whereas Rune is tall and dark…No, the resemblance isn’t physical. But they both have that awkward, worrying outlook on everything. Bah, I think too much. At this rate I will never reach the site.
He increases his speed until it looks like he is flying through the forest.
With a large jump he traverses the cliff. He missreads the distance and splits a tree in two with a thundering crash.
He shakes his head and dislodges a couple of splinters from his indestructible body.
He opens his bag and grabs a bottle of water. Man, what is it with witches and building sites of power at places that are close to unreachable? Would it kill them to put one near a Macdonalds?
The site of power isn’t much to look at; a large cliff that juts from a mountain, dotted with some bushes and trees. But looks deceive.
He runs a lap around the cliff, inspecting the trees, the bushes. The trees don’t look too healthy, and the bushes are nothing to write home about.But that’s not why I am here. He extends his senses deep in the ground and lets the magic flow into him rather than around him. Huh. That’s not much power.
Well, final call. He opens his bag and takes out the White Casket. He sits, crosslegged on the ground, and waits for an reaction. Eventually there comes a faint stirring from the Casket. “Yeah, I agree. This place won’t be good enough for you.” He grabs the Casket and puts it back in the bag.
Within the blink of an eye he is free-falling.
He sprints through the underbrush; over a large stone, under a thorn-bush, but his left foot gets caught under a root and before he has time to react he crashes head first into a second tree. For fucks sake!
He wrenches his head out of tree and looks at it. You smug fucker. He opens his mouth and lets loose a stream of white fire that turns the tree into white ash in seconds.
Greyscale can feel the Casket moving through his bag. He listens. “You’re absolutely right. It was childish. And yes, I do feel better.”
After forty minutes of running he finds the second site. He looks at the map, and then back at the site. The site is bisected by a stream that shouldn’t be there, and the ground has turned spongy and marsh-like with small pockets of water.
He takes one step into the marsh–
— and water soaks through his shoes. His new shoes. “Fuck.Hell.Shit. Noooo, but I just bought them!” He quickly removes his shoes and starts to step lightly on the treacherous ground. He looks around. Water- that’s good nutrients. The sun illuminates the trees around the make-shift swamp. Good light. The Casket vibrates. Hard. “Don’t be silly. There is nothing to be afraid of.” I think.
He uses his toes as anchors and extends his senses, once more. A frown forms on his forehead. There is power here alright, more than at the first site. But someone’s been touching that power, changing it.
He extends his tongue and tastes the air. There are several scents present; that of a wet dog; of manure and shark; of a… turtle, and a fourth, fish-like scent which brings him memories of the New World and a forgotten age. Overlaying all scents is a sense of raw, undiluted magic. That fish-scent, now where did I smell that? Virginia? Croatoan?
Millenia of hardwired instincts start to scream suddenly at him. He breaks his reverie and looks around.
The water of the stream has stopped flowing, and is standing still. The small pools of the marsh have started to swirl in an ominous counter-clock movement. A light rain begins to fall.
“Why have you come to my home, wyrmling?” Greyscale turns sharply at the voice. Less than a meter away from him, an odd creature slowly materializes out of a pool of brackish water. Eyes the color of sea-weed meets his with an inquisitive look. He inspects it- no she, he realizes, looking closer at her body. She is shaped vaguely like a human, with dark blue, mottled skin and a thick crown of water-lilies on her forehead. She carries a large turtle-shell on her back, and her crown of water-lilies holds water. That’s Turtle-Scent.
He places her from an story one of his younger cousins told him once. What was it Hebimaru called them? ….kappas. He responds to her query in Ancient Japanese.” I came here to find a Place of Power, one that I was led to believe was vacant. As it appears that I am wrong, I will take my person and leave.”Greyscale politely inclines his head and slowly backs away. “Wait.” The kappa looks closer at him, and then at the bag he is carrying on his back. For a split-second her eyes widens.”That…!”
She seems to remember herself and get her composure back.
“I have a query to ask of you.” “Me?” He couldn’t have been more surprised if she had asked for his credit-card number. “Are you not the famed Greyscale, the second child of Vritra and Illuyanka , the Wyrm of North?” Ohhh someone’s done their homework. “I am. What do you ask of me?” The kappa thinks for a heartbeat.
“Three weeks ago, something disturbed the forest. Something old. I know not the nature of this being, but it killed some animals, and its very nature left trees to rot. If that was all, I would not care the slightest. All things must come to an end, that is the wheel of life. But have I personally inspected those trees- and they will never regrow, neither through science nor magic. And furthermore, this creature reeks of death and blood- it will not stop at mere trees.” Greyscale looks at the kappa and thinks through the implications of what she has said. “I understand.” He looks at the dominion of the kappa, the marsh, the small stream.
“If this… if this creature comes back, will you be fine?” The kappa smiles a cold smile. She snaps her fingers and he can feel magic surging like electricity through the air. The hair on his forearms becomes charged.
To the left of him, three horses, each the size of a Humvee appear. The horses are all white as snow, they’re all eerily beautiful and they all have sharp teeth, like sharks. Brook-horses, like something of out of the Old Times.
To the right of him, four dogs, each the size of wolfhounds jump out of pools that shouldn’t be able to hold beings that big. The dogs all have glossy black fur, handlike paws, ridged bonespines like dinosaurs and they all look at him with hungry eyes. He sniffs the air. They smell like old pennies and saltwater. Now where have I smelled that scent before?…The answer comes to him in a horrid realization. Oh dear God in Heaven, they’re ahuizotles. Aztec demondogs.
Greyscale turns toward the kappa. He makes sure that he has them all three under his gaze and that his back is free. “It appears you have everything under situation.” He pauses. There is still one thing I need to make sure. He hefts his bag and pats it lovingly. ” We won’t ask each other annoying questions, right?” The kappa nods politely at him; an gesture that acknowledges his words while at the same conveying a sense that he should be going.
He inclines his head and starts to run.
This is worrying. That kappa, polite or not, would’ve killed that creature if she could. Which means that we’re dealing with something nasty.
He looks back one last time. The kappa stands shoulder to shoulder with the brook-horses and the ahuizotles. Impossibly large tentacles writhes and twist in a sinister dance above them.
And that’s when he remembers the putrescent fish-scent. Sulfur and brimstone! Kraken. That’s a kraken. There is a kraken next to a populated area. He shakes his head. Fallowfell is more interesting than I thought.
After a half-hour of running he reaches the third and last site of power; a part of the forest which hasn’t probably seen humans in centuries, if ever. Thick oaks abound, the afternoon sun cannot penetrate, and the smell of mulch is thick in the air.
He drops the bag on the ground and performs his check. Sun- could do with more, but this will work. He looks around. Good enough foliage. He extends his senses and feel the enviroment. There are several small wells of water deep beneath the ground. And power, power in the form of raw magic.
All in all, a decent place. The Casket vibrates impatentiently. “You’ve been in that casket for over a millenia- I think you can wait for ten more minutes .”
He unzips the duffel-bag and brings out a shovel. He holds it at an angle, leverages one foot behind it, and he starts to dig. As he digs, he starts to rhyme an old chant he was told by a certain soothsayer long before Djingis Khan fell upon Europe with his Mongol Hordes. Even though centuries has passed, the chant burns in his mind.
“There is a casket of white
to make ancient folly right
with magic’s rite and arm’s might.” He pauses. Takes a deep breath. Then continues.
“As the millenia pass
and the powers of Man amass
there will come an impasse.” He hadn’t understood what she had told him, not in the beginning. But that’s the thing about prophecies, isn’t it? They make so much sense after they’ve taken place.
“Broken by one who shall be
neither man nor creature
and you must be the teacher.”As he voices the words, a tall gangly kid with swarthy skin, who can’t hold his beer and who wears an eye-patch comes to mind for some reason. That won’t be. Kid is as mortal as white bread. The woman who’d told him those words– she’d told him the words, then feverishly screamed til her death. Two out of three has already taken plac, Tiresias. But I will honor your words.Now I just have to find the person that the third paragraph matches.
Fifteen minutes later, and he surveys his work; a square hole, maybe two metres deep and two metres wide. He looks at the Casket. “Will that work?” The stirring is positive. “Alright.” He removes a key from the bag, a key the size of a man’s fullgrown palm, made from a grey material. He takes a deep breath and blows a stream of fire on it.
“Brinn.” Rather than dissipate, the key retains heat from the fire, and starts to glow red-white. He takes the smouldering key and unlocks the Casket. There is a faint click, revealing a casket filled with dirt, black dirt. In the middle of the dirt-filled Casket, there is a slight indentention, as if something has dislodged part of the black matter.
Greyscale lifts the Casket down in the hole. He takes out a packet of soil, cuts a hole in it with an elongated nail and piles it on top of everything. He uses the shovel to flatten the surplus, and inspects his handiwork. If someone didn’t explicitly know that there was something buried here, they wouldn’t be able to find it.
Only one thing left to do. He reaches deep inside, to the center of his being and summon magic he hasn’t used in centuries.Like calls to like and the flow of power beneath the Oaken Thicket starts to curve and twist and fluctuate.
The ground beneath his feet starts to rumble and shake, if but for a second.A tendril of sweat snakes its way between his eyes -he had expected it be difficult, just not this difficult. He reaches out with his senses–
— and smile. The power has been successfully routed; rather than just swirling around unbound, its shape now resemble that of the digit eight, perfectly looped, linked to the Casket.
He looks at it. For close to a thousand years he has protected the Casket, protected it from all that would destroy the future.
He kneels and sends out a probe to the Seed.
“If you need any help- well, you know where to find me.” It sends back a thought of a sunflower being protected by a larger tree. “Exactly.”
He turns on his heels and starts to run in the direction of the car without looking back. He thinks of what he has done. The ramifications. The far-reaching consequences. He starts to laugh, a deep harrowing laugh, thick with unnamed emotion, filled with ancient triumph. I have flipped the board and the players will have no choice but to play my game now. Nobody can stop it! The future is here!
But as his laughter dies on the wind, he thinks about a white chest. A white chest, indestructible to all, made from the bones of an ancient wyrm. Fafnir. Sweet, innocent Fafnir.
His baby brother.