This story is based on a picture sent to me by a friend. https://i.redd.it/p8e9h9xngv721.jpg
Hope you like this one because I think we will be returning to this story and this world quite a lot more in the coming weeks and months.
The first thin pale line of dawn light was just appearing on the horizon, and above the tall mountain peaks the stars still glimmered in the velvet blackness. The cold air hit her as she closed the tent flap behind her and walked over to the still glowing embers of the campfire. She put a couple of fresh logs on the fire and the fuel starved blue flames dancing across the embers began greedily licking the unburnt wood, and before long flames of yellow and orange flitted merrily.
She stuffed a handful of ginger root, sarrak flowers and humak leaves in to the little copper pot and hung it above the growing flames, the tea needed time to boil and would help with the altitude, Grandmother had taught her the recipe when she was a young girl and she felt a certain pride and warmth in now preparing it for the old woman. She walked over to Pearl and patted her on the flank, the donkey turning its wet eyes to her and starting to lick and nibble on her hand, the rough tongue making her laugh. “Cut it out you dumb thing.” She said it lovingly as she put down a bushel of hay on the ground and Pearl began to eat happily.
After that she sat down at the fire and began preparing the porridge, looking out over the mountains and loosing herself in thoughts. They had made camp on a small plateau perched high above a deep valley and around them tall snowcapped peaks towering high above, reaching for the heavens. As the porridge bubbled away beside the pot of tea she wandered over to the edge and looked out over the valley. The horizon was now glowing in shades of orange and gold, the dawn light shimmering in the snow and painting the mountain sides in the pastel hues of morning.
Far below she saw the deep greens of the forests covering the valley, and snaking through the valley the glimmer of the river as it flowed gently towards the plains far beyond. They were far too high up now for trees and grasses to grow and she couldn’t help but miss the feeling of grass beneath her feet and the smell of trees and growth around her. Clouds rolled gently in, flowing across the mountain sides like sheets of silk and floating across the roof of the valleys and crags, they were higher up than even them she thought. She’d not been this high up the mountains very often in her twenty years, just a few times with father when she was younger as he was teaching her the ways of the peaks.
She brushed away an errant lock of auburn hair as she walked back to the campfire. Sitting there stirring the porridge she lost herself to memory. Memories of the village, of fishing on the lake, of trade journeys to Highfall and the Village of Shells. She thought of those excursions with father up in to the high mountains, remembered that weathered face looking so serious as he pointed out game trails and handholds, only to break up in warm laughter moments later at some simple little thing. She thought of embers flying towards the stars, of walks through forests filled with life, of a loving hug and freshly grilled meat. She felt the pang of longing for home.
She was shaken from her thoughts by the sound of a tent flap closing behind her and the tapping of a staff against the rock. She turned her head and saw Grandmother hobbling across the rough ground towards the campfire. A warm smile played on the ancient woman’s farrowed face and her small eyes, eyes that looked almost black, glittered in the morning light. The old woman put a hand on her shoulder as she sat down next to her. “Mornings blessing child.” The old woman’s voice was warm and brittle. “Mornings blessing Grandmother.” She handed a plate of porridge to the old woman and poured two cups of tea. They sat in relative silence as they both ate their breakfast. Grandmother took a deep sip of the tea and smiled at her. “Quite good love.”
“Thank you Grandmother.” She couldn’t quite hide the pride in her voice and the old woman laughed heartily.
A couple of hours later the camp was taken down and packed up, and she helped the old woman on to Pearl’s back. “By days’ end we will be there.” The old woman looked off ahead. “We are that close?” She had thought there was at least a couple more days to go. “Yes. And a good thing it is, my shadow grows fainter.” The weariness in Grandmothers voice caught her off guard and she felt a lump in her throat. “You are a good girl.” With that Grandmother pulled her head close and kissed her gently on the forehead. “Now let’s go.” She nodded silently, took the rains and began walking up the narrow path.
The setting sun set the sky aflame in hues of purple, gold, red, orange and deep blue, making the mountains look as if they were on fire. Behind her Grandmother was telling her a story, one about the gods and one that she had heard many times before so she wasn’t listening to hard. Suddenly the old woman went silent and as she looked up from the path it felt as if the whole world went silent. They had just turned around a steep corner and there it was. It was bigger than he had ever imagined, its presence overwhelming. Leaning against the mountainside on the other side of the valley was a massive skeleton. Its head was almost at the mountains peak, looking up at the sky, its jaw hanging slack gave it a look of surprise and shock. Its arms rested against glaciers and its feet were somewhere beneath the clouds, planted firmly on the valley floor. The remains of a god, and it was painfully clear how god had died. Protruding from its ribcage and lodged in the mountainside behind was a massive sword, easily the height of a small peak it cast a long shadow down the mountainside. Its edges were notched and well used, the pommel and guard simple brass without adornment, and the handle wrapped in leather straps the width of streams. As she looked at it in awe she realised that it seemed entirely untouched by time, no rust, no corrosion, the leather of the handle supple and smooth, and it glimmered in the light of the setting sun. She stood there, just staring, struck motionless by awe.
Grandmother walked up next to her and gently brushed her hand as she sat down, cross legged on the ground next to her, leaning against her staff. “Sit child.” She did as she was asked, not taking her eyes of the dead god on the mountain. “What do you see?”
“It’s magnificent, I.. I can’t…” She stammered, couldn’t find the words.
“No, no. What do you see. Focus.” There was steel in the old woman’s voice.
“I don’t understand.”
“Open yourself to spirits. Listen and see as I taught you.”
She closed her eyes and calmed herself, reached out and felt a tingling at the back of her spine.
Then suddenly a flash of white. She saw a blade come down. Saw streams blood. Heard herself scream, scream from the pain. Surprise. She felt surprise. Then another flash of white.
She was down on her hands and knees, sweat dripping from her brow.
“What happened, what was that?” Her voice quavered and she turned towards the old woman.
Grandmother smiled as she answered “I always knew you were a special one child.”
“I don’t understand. It was as if… As if I felt it die.” Her voice was shaking.
“Shamans speak to the spirits, ask their council, bargain for their power.”
She nodded, Grandmother had told her of the ways of shaman. The old woman had been a powerful soothsayer and healer for as long as she could remember.
“ But some, the most powerful of shaman, have the Connection. They do not only speak to spirits, no. They speak to the very gods, and harness their long dead power.”
“I can do that?” She didn’t believe it. It couldn’t be true. But the old woman just nodded at her and smiled. “Sit with me child. I can sleep well now” She felt grandmothers wrinkled hand in hers and felt her thoughts race. She had so many questions but couldn’t seem to find the words and so just sat there silently as the sun set.
Hours had passed in silence and the stars were out above them. She turned to grandmother and her questions stuck in her throat. The hand in hers was cold, the old woman’s furrowed face was pale and her eyes stared sightlessly in front of her. She felt a bottomless sorrow well up inside her and clutched the old woman hand hard in hers as the tears streamed down her face and her pained sobs echoed through the mountains. She was alone, utterly and completely alone.
As she sat there enveloped in grief and pain she heard a voice. “Come child.”
She turned to the god and through the tears she saw a flickering light in its left eye.