|No Goblins Allowed
|[Vote] Souls of the Unshriven
|Page 1 of 1|
|Author:||RavenoftheBlack [ Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:17 pm ]|
|Post subject:||[Vote] Souls of the Unshriven|
Title: Souls of the Unshriven
Word Count: 11,298
An uncensored version of this story is available here: Souls of the Unshriven.
Souls of the Unshriven
“****,” Orida said.
Nobody heard. Nobody living, anyway. Whatever Ythol was – and Orida Vise had no answer for that question – it was a dead place. Even the dead were mostly silent here, and the living? There were no living. For as long as Orida had been here…
“Wait,” Orida said to herself. “How long have I been here?”
A few minutes, I suppose. The voice sounded through the whisperweft. It was the dead man Orida had been speaking to, the dead man named…
“Um,” Orida said, struggling. “Um, oh, ****. I don’t…”
Orida moved her mouth to talk, but nothing came out. She shivered even under her heavy leather trench coat. Spirits, it was cold!
I don’t…I can’t…remember your name. Orida struggled with the words even through the whisperweft, and she had to stop walking to finish.
You can’t? The spirit asked, sounding confused even across the shadow threads. I’m Perod. I just told you.
You did? Orida asked. She couldn’t seem to remember. She seemed to recall something he had said, something about minutes? What did you say? About, um, how long?
How long? Perod asked. You mean, how long you’ve been here? A few minutes, maybe. Are you feeling alright?
Orida wanted to respond, but the effort seemed too much, and she was so tired, so she merely shook her head. The kithkin took a step forward, but tripped suddenly. She caught herself before she fell, bracing her weight against the Doom Clapper she was still clutching tightly in her hands. As she struggled to stand up straight again, she caught sight of her right hand. The light in this place was terrible, like a Cogdon midnight when the lights were out, but it looked to her that her hands were bluer than usual. She knew it was cold here, but…
Can you hear me? Are you alright?
I’m **** fantastic, Orida managed.
She was breathing heavily now, presumably from the exertion of…trying to stand up? Suddenly, Orida was shaking. Something was wrong, but it was becoming difficult to think about what that was. She spotted movement to her right, and nearly fell over as she turned her head, but there was nothing there, until she saw it again and realized that nothing was moving but a dark spot in her vision.
And it was growing.
What is it?
Once, when Orida was younger, she snuck out of her father’s home and down to a local ale house. She had been too young to drink, and the other ‘kin would have caught her easily had she not been a Whisperweft, but they were as cut off from her as she was from them, and because they couldn’t hear her on the threads, they failed to notice when she would steal half-finished drinks from tables of distracted patrons.
While there, though, she had overheard a story being told by one of the miners. Kithkin, Orida had learned, tended to speak out loud more when they were intoxicated than when sober, which made the ale houses all the more appealing to the young ‘kin. The miner was recounting, with humor that was incongruous to his tale, the story of when he had been trapped in a small cave-in. His supply of air had been cut off, and he had nearly suffocated. Had it not been for the thoughtweft, he would have. But, in his story, he described what it had felt like when he was not getting enough air.
And it was disturbingly similar to what Orida was feeling now.
I told you, Perod said. Ythol is a dead world. The people are dead. The land is dead. I’m dead! Of course the air would be dead, too.
Well, I don’t want to be dead, ghostdamn it!
The dead were not physical, yet still Orida could practically feel Perod shrug. Fine. Then leave.
How the **** can I… Orida’s vision spun, then refocused, leave?
The same way you arrived, I assume.
I don’t know…how I ****…arrived.
From the sound of things, I think you had better figure it out quickly.
**** you. Orida’s curse through the whisperweft was not particularly venomous. She did not have the energy. At some point, she had sunk down to one knee, and although the chill in the air made it burn like ice, she would not release her grip on the Doom Clapper. It was the only thing she had, the only thing that was left to her of her home beyond the clothes she wore. But although the Doom Clapper, from everything she had heard, could destroy anything, it could do nothing to help her now. The only thing that could help her was leaving, and she had no idea how.
Orida Vise felt herself slipping away from consciousness. Her vision blurred once again, and this time it did not recover. Darkness began to threaten her sight from all sides. Weakness seeped into her limbs, and Orida fell to her other knee. She struggled to stand, but couldn’t. She tried to remember what she had been talking about, but couldn’t. She wanted to live, but…
Alright, look. Perod said suddenly. I don’t know who you are, but if you’re here, I know what you must be.
What…what does that mean?
Let’s just say that the most learned of us on Ythol knew about your kind, for all the good it did us. You’re a planeswalker, and you had better get to planeswalking, unless you’d rather stay here. Forever.
Even through the haze in her mind, Orida grew angry. **** that, she said. She struggled to move, but couldn’t. **** that! She repeated. She tried to leave, but couldn’t. “****! That!” She screamed aloud, and she tried to live. Then she felt herself falling forward, but although she lacked the strength to steady herself, she did not hit the ground. Instead she continued to fall, right through the world and beyond.
In the state she was in, Orida had neither the words nor the mental capacity to describe what she was feeling. She merely tumbled ceaselessly as reality itself spun around her. Orida was dimly aware of the experience, but could do nothing but hold on to a single thought, a solitary desire: to live. It was all Orida Vise wanted in that moment, and frankly, the best she could hope for.
When Orida found herself once more on solid ground, she had only a few fleeting seconds to catch sight of blurred and indistinct trees before passing out completely.
* * *
Orida Vise became aware that she was awake not because her eyes opened and vision returned, nor because she heard some noise or smelled some odor, but rather because she became aware of the worst pain she had ever felt trying to split her head in two. Orida had felt nasty headaches before, usually the mornings after sneaking off to the ale house, but this was on an entirely different scale. She reached up to try to clutch her own skull, but moving seemed to light a fire in her arms, and she quickly gave up on the idea. All she could do was groan pitifully.
Orida could make out a gruff voice from somewhere nearby, but she could barely hear it over the pounding in her head. With what Orida considered an almost godly effort, she managed to open one eye just enough to get a general sense of her surroundings. She was in some kind of room, relatively small by the look of things, with a simple, rustic style. She made out movement across the room as a large shape picked up a pitcher and poured some liquid into a cup. Then the form approached her.
“So, you’re awake, huh?” It was a man’s voice, harsh and worn. As he drew closer, his shadow blocked out most of the light that had been all but blinding Orida. The kithkin flinched as she saw the man’s face. He was human and bearded, but not like most of the humans of Cartrevard. Most human men she had seen were either beardless or kept their beards neatly trimmed, often wearing only mustaches or goatees. But this man’s beard was thick and wild, and his eyes were hard. There was an angry sound of wood on wood as the man forcibly set down the cup on a table next to Orida’s head.
Orida tried to say something, but she found her throat was too dry. She could not even speak, and the attempt alone hurt. The man grunted.
“Come on, then. Drink up and get out.”
“Papa!” A second voice, this one a woman’s, sounded off to Orida’s right. “Can’t you see she’s hurt?”
The man grunted again. “She’s trouble.”
“Oh, come on, Papa. The Church says we need to help the less fortunate, and she is hurt, after all. Isn’t she, Papa?”
“Hurt,” the gruff man repeated. “And trouble. And what the Church says and what it does are not always the same thing. If Father Bernhard learns she’s here…”
“Oh, you worry too much, Papa!” Orida felt a new weight on the bed she was lying on as the young woman sat down next to her. Reaching over Orida, the girl picked up the cup of water the man had placed on the table and brought it up to Orida’s lips. The kithkin didn’t trust either one of them for an instant, but her throat was burning now that she had noticed her thirst, and anyway, if they had wanted to kill her, they had presumably had plenty of time to do so.
“And you worry too little, Annika. Have you payed no heed these past few months? Father Bernhard is convinced that the entire town is…”
“Yes, Papa, I know, but if he never knows she’s here, he’ll never…”
“Don’t talk like I’m not right **** here!” Orida croaked, coughing through her words. With tremendous effort, she moved her hand up and took the cup from Annika. She had intended to grab it defiantly, but with her limited strength, it was a meek gesture.
“I think she’s already feeling better!” Annika said, sounding oddly excited. Orida forced herself to look over at the girl. She was young, but in the beginning of her womanhood, and was not unattractive, for a human. Her face had a sweetness and an innocence to it that made Orida wonder if the gruff, unkempt man was actually her father. The fact that her hair was an obnoxiously light shade of blonde, compared to the man’s dark reddish-brown, further brought the question to the kithkin’s mind.
“Good,” the man said. “Sooner she’s better, the sooner she’s gone.”
“Suits me just fine,” Orida said. “With hospitality like this, I can’t **** wait to get out of here!”
“Saints take you if you use that language in this house,” the man warned.
“Who the **** are the Saints?” Orida asked.
The man made a strange gesture, using his right hand to indicate a spot on the left side of his lower abdomen. He then moved his hand upward to a point just above his left pectoral, then over to the right pectoral, and then back down to his left abdomen. He looked over to his daughter and shook his head. “I knew she was a heathen. This is going to be trouble.”
“Oh, Papa!” Annika turned toward Orida and smiled. “Hi! I’m Annika Lederer, and this is my father, Ladislaus.”
“I’m Orida Vise. Now where the **** am I?”
Ladislaus groaned, but Annika laughed. “You’re funny, Orida! Anyway, you’re in Haltung.” The girl seemed to notice the expression on Orida’s face, because she quickly continued. “We’re not a very big town, so you may not have heard of us. But it’s the biggest town between the Major and Minor Duft Rivers!”
Ladislaus made a slight coughing noise, and Annika looked away sheepishly. “Okay, fine! The biggest unwalled town, which, I guess, makes us pretty small.” Ladislaus turned away to do something or another, and Annika leaned in close to Orida. “I’d rather be in Algentang, personally. The big city, that’s where I should be!”
Orida rolled her black eyes. Having lived nearly all of her life in the biggest city on Cartrevard, she didn’t think this girl was missing much. Orida tried, and only barely succeeded, in lifting the cup to her mouth and taking another drink. As she did, Annika shifted and stood up.
“So, Orida, where are you from? And how did you get here? Papa and I found you lying in the woods outside of town, but we couldn’t figure out how you got there.”
Orida thought back, trying to remember everything that had happened since she and Royce Ingot had made their assault on the Graveyard. The kithkin was suddenly overcome with a pang of sorrow as she remembered that she would never see Royce again. And as she began to wonder what, exactly, Ythol had been and where she was now, she wondered if she would ever hear his voice again, either. As she was trying to remember how she had gotten there, a sudden thought occurred to her, and she panicked.
“Hey, where the **** is my Clapper?”
“Your what?” Annika asked, surprised.
“My Clapper! I had it when I got here! I want it back!”
“If you mean your club,” Ladislaus said, “it’s over there.” The grizzled man pointed toward the wall, where the golden artifact was leaning. Orida breathed a sigh of relief and tried to move toward the weapon, but she could barely move, and almost spilled the remainder of her water in the attempt.
“Careful!” Annika said. “You’re not strong enough yet.”
“**** that,” Orida said. “I want that thing. You can’t have it!”
“Calm down,” Ladilaus said. “You’re barely strong enough to lift a wooden cup, let alone that weapon of yours. But it’s not going anywhere.”
“How the hell am I supposed to know that, huh?” Orida asked.
Ladislaus’s already unhappy countenance seemed to darken further. “We are not thieves here. I am a respectable leatherworker with a good Rep, and my daughter has a good start of it, too.”
Orida looked from the man to his daughter and back again. She wanted to get up, grab the Doom Clapper, and run out of there as quickly as possible. The problem was that it wasn’t possible. Ladislaus was right; she could barely move. She hated being at the mercy of a couple of humans she knew nothing about, but they had treated her well enough so far, and it was not as though she had a choice in the matter.
For the time, at least, Orida Vise was trapped.
* * *
Orida struggled to stay awake for a time, and spoke with the enthusiastic Annika, trying to get as much information about this place as she could. Unfortunately, nothing the girl said seemed to make any sense. Orida was particularly interested in learning where she was, but there was not a single name, a single landmark, that Annika could name off that Orida had heard of. The kithkin willingly admitted that she had never studied much in her schooling, and geography had not been her strongest subject, but nowhere sounded anywhere near Cogdon.
After a while, Orida gave up and tried to sleep. It did not go well. At first, she could not sleep because of the strange surroundings. Once she got more accustomed to them, she slept for a short time before she was woken up by some sort of commotion outside. Orida could not make out everything that was going on, but with all the yelling and the screaming, it must have been one hell of a party.
This continued for two more nights. Orida’s strength was returning, and her head was finally beginning to clear from whatever it was that had happened to her. She remembered Ythol and what happened there only vaguely, and often wondered if the entire ordeal had merely been a hallucination. Of course, that still didn’t explain what had happened to her in the Clock Tower. The entire experience was a blur to the young kithkin, and no matter how much she tried to figure it out, none of it made any sense.
During her convalescence, Ladislaus continually said that Orida was trouble, and while Annika maintained that he was wrong, on the morning of the third day, trouble came. Annika had left the house to go to the market, and as usual when the girl was gone, Orida and Ladislaus went about their business in an awkward silence. The older man was working on some sort of leather project, and Orida was doing everything she could to not be bored out of her mind. When an insistent knock came at the door, the two shared a quick glance, and then Orida grabbed the Doom Clapper and hid around the corner.
Ladislaus opened the door to see the person he least wanted to see, although he was careful not to show it in his face. On the other side stood Father Bernhard, smiling brightly at the leatherworker.
“Good morning, Father,” Ladislaus said tonelessly. “Would you like to come inside?”
“Oh, I don’t know if that’s necessary, Mr. Lederer. I know you are a busy man, as I am. But I felt I must stop by and speak to you. I promise, I’ll be brief.”
“I appreciate that, Father. What’s on your mind?”
“These are troubled times, Ladislaus. Much has been on my mind. Surely, you have been aware of the attacks over the past few months.”
“I trust you and your daughter have been safe from this…this thing that comes in the night. This, what do the townsfolk call it? This Rag Man.”
“By the mercy of the Saints,” Ladislaus said, “it has not come near us.”
“Yes,” Bernhard said, stroking his chin. “Curious, that. It’s been all over the town, I have heard. Reports say it seems to be looking for something.” Ladislaus said nothing. He just stared at the priest until the other man continued. “It has been appearing more frequently,” he mused. “For months, it has appeared, what, once a fortnight, or less? But these last three nights…”
“A terrible thing,” Ladislaus agreed hurriedly.
“Yes, terrible,” Bernhard agreed. He seemed to consider the leatherworker for a moment, then shook his head. “You know, Ladislaus, I worry about this town. Haltung is much like a pack of dogs, and the Church, with the wisdom of the Seventy-Seven Saints, has entrusted them to me. And like a pack without an alpha, the people of Haltung wander. I must bring them back, but I cannot do it alone. I need the pack to help me.”
There was an uncomfortable silence before Ladislaus answered. “What is it I can do for you, Father Bernhard?”
The priest considered him for a moment. “I have heard rumors. Disturbing rumors. These attacks, this Rag Man, these are unholy things, Ladislaus. And despite my numerous…attempts…to sanctify the town, things have gotten worse. Any evil or tainted thing in our town is an enemy to all of us.”
Orida shifted uncomfortably. She did not like the direction of this conversation.
“Father Bernhard,” Ladislaus began, “I do not know…”
“The rumors I have heard,” Bernhard interrupted, “regard this house, Mr. Lederer. There are some who whisper that something unholy dwells here.”
Ladislaus stiffened. “Father Bernhard, never in my life have I been accused of being impious. I have worked hard since my childhood and always contributed fairly and generously to the Tithe, and my daughter, though over a year from her Calling, already contributes as well. Both of us attend your service each week, and you know well the time Gertraud devoted to the Church.”
“Please do not misunderstand me, Ladislaus,” the priest said. “Never for a moment would I cast dispersions upon you, and certainly not on your late wife. But rumors of dark things must be investigated. Nor am I suggesting that blame could be placed upon you should something sinister have inhabited your home. If anything, Mr. Lederer, I am here for your safety, and the safety of your daughter.”
Ladislaus paused. “How do you mean?”
“Most people in this town are good people. Like you, they want to be pious, and they want to be safe. If rumors are spreading, well, you know how things go. It takes so little for rumors to become facts for some people, and if they fear something dark dwells here, it is only a matter of time before, well…”
He trailed off, and Ladislaus stood there, thinking. After a long moment, Bernhard continued. “I would not want anything to happen here, you understand. I would not want anything to happen…to Annika.”
Ladislaus stared at the priest. He knew the other man’s words of concern were nothing but a veiled threat, but he also knew that threat was very real. The priest had not been lying when he had mentioned his attempts to sanctify the town. Over the past several months, numerous people had felt the wrath of Bernhard’s paranoid justice. Many had burned in the square, and their trials had been little more than farces. Looking into the other man’s eyes, Ladislaus could see that there would be another burning tonight, and the implications were clear. If it wasn’t Ladislaus’s guest, it would be his daughter.
Before the leatherworker could say anything, the priest stepped close to him, dropping his voice a bit. “Ladislaus, I have yet to ask you a question, so you have yet to lie to me. But now I must ask, taking everything we have discussed into account, do you harbor something within this house?” He stepped even closer, his voice no more than a whisper. “Are you sheltering…a dwarf?”
Ladislaus never answered, but his silence was answer enough. His eyes quavered. Hospitality was a tenet of the Church, and surrendering a guest, even one like Orida, was a grievous matter. But the most dogmatic within the Church of the Holy Catharsis – and Father Bernhard was certainly that – viewed anything non-human as necessarily demonic, and while Orida’s eyes and vocabulary seemed to support that, Ladislaus did not truly believe it. However, the only alternative was Annika…
Father Bernhard laid a hand on the leatherworker’s shoulder, almost as if he pitied the plight of the man. “They are evil, Ladislaus. And I assure you, no blame will fall upon you, no tarnish to your reputation, for obeying the will of the Saints.” He paused, deliberately. “Give it to me, Ladislaus.”
The leatherworker again looked the man in the eyes and then, slowly and pained, he spoke. “Give me an hour.”
The priest seemed to consider, then shrugged. “Half an hour. I will return with some men to help, in case it is less injured than it led you to believe.”
Ladislaus was briefly surprised by how much the priest seemed to know, but it passed quickly. Bernhard viewed Haltung as his town, and would not lightly give it up. The priest smiled as he walked away, and Ladislaus slowly turned around and walked back into his home, closing the door behind him. He said nothing, but instead grabbed a tankard from the shelf and filled it from a barrel of ale in the corner. He did not even look at Orida, who was fuming and clutching the Doom Clapper, although her still-limited strength restricted her to holding it top-down against the floor.
Ladislaus sat down at the table and took a long drink from the tankard, and then slid it over toward Orida. She stared at it, and then at him, and then moved over to stand across the table from him. She was staring daggers through him, partially hoping that looks could kill, before grabbing the tankard and downing the remainder of its contents. It was strong, and loosened her tongue a bit, although Orida rarely needed help with that.
“So, you’re just turning me over to that son of a bitch, huh?”
Ladislaus nodded, but said nothing. He just leaned over the table with one hand on his forehead.
“You know, we all probably would have been much better off if you had just left me lying in that **** forest.”
The leatherworker nodded again and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“So this is it, huh? You just **** sell me out?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, and at least sounded sincere. “It’s either that, or they’ll take Annika. I…I can’t lose my daughter.”
“Well, isn’t that ghostdamned noble of you!”
“No, it’s not,” he agreed pitifully. “But there’s nothing else I can do.”
“We can fight those mother ****!”
Ladislaus looked up at her. “Really? Are you strong enough to even lift that thing in a fight yet?”
Orida used both hands and lifted the Doom Clapper a few inches off the ground. Ladislaus shifted again, interested, but Orida could not do it, and she set it back down. Although the Doom Clapper appeared to be made of gold, it was in fact a small fraction of the weight a golden club would be. Still, even being absurdly and illogically light, Orida could not do it. Her strength was returning, but it would not return in half an hour.
“Well, ****.” She thought for a moment. There had to be a way out. If she understood how she had gotten from Cartrevard to here, maybe she could get away that way. Or, failing that, there was the forest surrounding them, but Orida had never been to a forest before, and doubted she could lose her pursuers. But anything was better than waiting around to be killed.
“I’m going to run,” Orida said suddenly. “To hell with this ghostdamned place!”
“You can’t run,” Ladislaus said.
“Why the **** not?”
“Because if you run, then they will take Annika in your place.”
“Well, that’s your **** problem, not mine! I don’t owe you people a single ghostdamned thing!”
“We saved your life,” the leatherworker reminded her.
“What, for three **** days? You saved my life and now you’re just giving it away? **** you!”
She started to turn away, her weight resting on the Doom Clapper as she steadied herself. Ladislaus stood up suddenly and pulled, and as he did, the Doom Clapper was ripped out from under her, ball first, and she crashed hard to the floor. Her vision swam, but she barely made out a long leather strap in Ladislaus’s hands. He must have slipped the loop under the Clapper when she lifted it up. Before Orida could recover from the fall, Ladislaus picked up his chair and set it down over her, trapping her arms and pressing in on her chest. When he sat down on it, the weight was far too much for Orida to move.
Orida Vise didn’t stop swearing until long after the priest and his men came for her.
* * *
Growing up, Orida had rarely been outside of Cogdon. She had taken several trips to Silver Chasm, particularly after her father Sumner had begun dealing in some illegal merchandise – illegal to the kithkin, at least – but Silver Chasm’s skies were even darker than Cogdon’s. Even during those trips, Orida had been stuck inside third-class train cars packed full with other ‘kin who wouldn’t say a word to a Whisperweft girl. At no point in her life had Orida ever really experienced the strange phenomenon of fresh air.
So, to Orida, this situation was perhaps not really all that bad. She had, for the better part of the day, gotten to enjoy the outdoors for the first time in her life. The town of Haltung was like nothing on Cartrevard. The houses seemed organized in a long line, and much of it was built right up against the tree line of a great forest that completely surrounded the town. Orida could not get over the trees. They were so big, so healthy, so green. She had never seen anything like it. And the air smelled and tasted so fresh that she almost felt like she were getting drunk merely from inhaling it. Yes, in some ways, this situation really wasn’t so bad.
On the other hand, Orida thought to herself, I’m tied to a **** stake!
The kithkin had only stopped cursing after her voice finally broke. It was too dry to continue, and nobody seemed particularly inclined to offer her anything to drink. They had merely bound her hands behind her back and around a large stake in the center of the square. They did not even bother with a trial, although it would hardly have mattered, as Orida had little idea of what she was being accused of. Essentially, she knew, she was being charged with being something other than human. In that sense, justice here seemed pretty much the same as in Cogdon.
They had, fortunately, allowed Orida the mercy of sitting down, or at the very least, had not done anything to stop her from doing so. She spent most of that day sitting, tied to the stake, waiting for nightfall. After two hours or so, Annika had come by in tears, but she had not been allowed to come close to Orida. The kithkin ignored her. It wouldn’t do either of them any good anyway. Eventually, Ladislaus came and let his daughter away. Orida didn’t even look in his direction, nor he in hers.
As night approached, some of the priest’s men arrived and started to prepare for the fire. Orida would have spat on them had she had the energy. They worked quickly and said nothing to her, although they occasionally shot worried glances in her direction, as if they expected her to summon up the very earth to swallow them. Orida wished she could. Almost before she realized what they were doing, they had finished. Clearly, these people had a great deal of practice.
Shortly after the last light of day had faded, Father Bernhard finally made his appearance. Orida had expected to see him sooner than that, had expected to be questioned or tried or something, but there was nothing. The square filled up with people – Orida guessed that the entire town was there – all with anxious faces. The kithkin was hauled roughly to her feet, her arms still tightly bound around the large wooden stake at her back.
Once everyone calmed down and torches were distributed and lit, Father Bernhard launched into a litany of charges and accusations against Orida that she could barely understand. Most of them she didn’t care about. She was accused of opposing the Church and consorting with demons and other insidious beings. Bernhard claimed that she was behind the attacks against the town, had tried to kill the villagers’ children and pets, and summoned vile creatures. She was accused of using foul, unsaintly language, which Orida actually would have conceded to, had she been given the chance.
What bothered Orida the most, apart from knowing that they were getting ready to kill her, was that Bernhard kept referring to her as a dwarf. There were no dwarves on Cartrevard, but they lived in legends and storybooks, small, diminutive creatures who toiled endlessly beneath the ground. The Humans viewed them as laughable creatures, lower even than the Kithkin. The Kithkin saw them as pitiful beings, worthy of sympathy only. Either way, it was a great insult.
And Orida Vise had been insulted enough.
“Hey, ****!” She yelled, having saved up her strength for the better part of the day. “I’m not a **** dwarf, dumbass! This is all ****! **** you and all your ghostdamned Saints!”
A collective gasp sounded from the crowd, and most of them made the same arm gesture Ladislaus had on that first day. Feeling a bit better, Orida prepared herself for another tirade, but as she opened her mouth to speak, a gag was slipped into it from behind. As one of the priest’s men tied the gag tight, Father Bernhard squared up to the Kithkin, smiling a wicked sort of smile.
“Whatever you may be,” he began, “you have shown yourself to be evil, and an enemy of the Church and all of its children. I hereby condemn you to death by burning. Creatures such as you do not deserve the mercy of the Saints, and so I offer you no Final Blessing. I commend your soul to damnation, unshriven and unblessed.” He paused, glancing at the townsfolk around him. “Light the fire.”
Orida tested her bonds again, but they would not give. The ropes were too tight, and her arms, though stronger than before, were not strong enough. The first of the villagers had just reached the pile of sticks around her when a scream broke through the crowd, and then another. The townsfolk panicked and scattered, some dropping their torches on the ground, others carrying them away with them. A few of them formed a line as if to fight, and Father Bernhard cowered behind this line.
Then, the creature that had caused the panic lurched into Orida’s view. Her solid black eyes grew wide at the sight. It was a horrible, twisted thing, shaped roughly like a man, but with arms and legs disproportionately long for its body. It was covered completely in torn and tattered rags, although through small gaps where its eyes must have been came a dull purple glow. Its hands, completely wrapped in the rags, were horridly elongated into what could only be described as claws. As it moved toward the line of townsfolk, Orida saw that it walked with a shambling, irregular motion, like a creature unaware of its own body.
It reminded Orida eerily of the Scarecrows in the Cogdon Graveyard.
Most of the townsfolk were shaking as the Rag Man approached, but three of them rushed forward to meet it. The first stabbed at the Rag Man’s midsection with a pitchfork. The Rag Man did not even react as the tool pierced its body. The second villager swung a torch at the creature, but it brushed the torch away, knocking it to the ground, and dangerously close to Orida’s intended pyre. The third man panicked before he could do anything useful. He fell backwards onto the ground, and then scrambled back to his feet and ran, with his two companions close behind him.
The Rag Man took a moment to pull the pitchfork out. There was no blood. The Rag Man continued toward the spot where Father Bernhard had been crouching, but the priest had run off when his men had. The creature seemed to pause, looking around the square for anything or anyone to pursue, but the town had become suddenly empty, the people fleeing to their homes, or to the church, or perhaps even into the forest. The Rag Man stood motionless for a long time until, slowly, it turned to face Orida.
The kithkin stiffened, unconsciously trying to back away from the monster but unable to move the stake she was tied to. It was a long, horrifying moment before the Rag Man moved again, and only the gag in Orida’s mouth stopped her from screaming out as it started moving toward her. As it moved, it stepped on the lit torch the villager had used to try to attack it, and the rags of its left foot instantly caught fire. The Rag Man seemed to notice, and looked down at its own burning appendage. Orida watched in horror as more rags appeared as if from inside the creature. These new strips of tattered cloth moved of their own accord to choke the flames, only to catch fire themselves, before yet more rags emerged to wrap those. Eventually, the fire was completely smothered, and the Rag Man continued toward the kithkin.
Orida was screaming into her gag now, but it was no good. The Rag Man kept coming on until it was standing directly in front of her, towering above her like a giant of twisted cloth. As it came within its arm-reach of her, the kithkin girl could take it no longer. She closed her eyes tight and turned her head away, wishing like a child that it was all a dream, that she would wake up in her bed in her father’s house. She felt the Rag Man draw closer still and, terrified, she screamed a plea to live in the only way left to her: the whisperweft.
The answer she received both shocked and confused her. Through the shadow threads, a cacophony of voices erupted, so many that Orida could not separate them. She had heard the dead whisper to her throughout her life, and at times there were too many to decipher, but never had it been like this, as if the threads themselves had crossed and intertwined. There were words there, Orida knew, but she could not pick them out of the noise of the other voices. If she had had the time to concentrate, she might have made them out, but there was no time.
She felt the Rag Man move again, but this time, it seemed to be moving past her. Slowly, cautiously, Orida opened one eye, and then the other. The Rag Man was gone. Hardly daring to exhale, she looked around. The town square was still empty, although she could just make out a shape in the shadows near the tree line. Orida finally let out her breath, then craned her neck to look behind her and jumped. The Rag Man was still there, behind her, just visible in her periphery. Before Orida could do anything, she saw the Rag Man lift one gangly arm and bring it down again. The kithkin closed her eyes, preparing for her death, but it was not her head that took the Rag Man’s blow. It was the rope that bound her arms.
Suddenly free from her imprisonment, Orida fell forward. She tried to recover her balance and managed to turn around just in time to fall hard on her rear, looking back up at the Rag Man, who simply stared. Using both her hands and her feet, Orida tried to scramble away, and the creature did nothing to stop her. It merely regarded her with an eerie curiosity. Suddenly, Orida felt an arm around her shoulders and she panicked again, certain there must have been a second Rag Man, but when she looked, it was just the young, tear-streaked face of Annika.
“Come on, Orida,” the girl implored with a frightened whisper. “We’ve got to get out of here!”
Orida Vise was not about to argue. The leatherworker’s daughter helped pull the kithkin to her feet and they took off running. Orida did not even bother pulling the gag out of her mouth until they were clear of the square. Behind them, the Rag Man stood for a long time, watching as they fled, before turning around and shambling into the forest.
* * *
Annika brought Orida back to her home, but she did not stay there long. Ladislaus was nowhere to be seen, which was just as well, because Orida had more than a few words for him, and she simply didn’t have the time. Her Doom Clapper, mercifully, was leaning against the wall, and Orida grabbed it greedily and never set it down, even as Annika was filling a pack for her. Orida had no idea whether or not the girl knew what her father had done, but she seemed intent on helping the kithkin however she could. After everything that had happened, Orida wasn’t about to argue with her.
The leatherworker’s daughter gave Orida whatever food she could find and three full water skins. She also told the kithkin the best way to get away from Haltung, which was information Orida was very interested in. However, knowing that she had never been in a forest before, let alone at night, Orida was reluctant to venture into the woods in the dark, especially with the Rag Man around. After a few moments of thought, Annika led Orida to the outskirts of town, where an abandoned house stood. It had once been the home of one of the victims of Father Bernhard’s justice, and was subsequently avoided by most of the townspeople. Orida stayed there until the earliest signs of morning light, and then slipped quietly into the forest.
At first, things seemed to go fairly well. The underbrush was not particularly thick, and Orida’s comparatively small size allowed her to move about easily. It was a chilly morning, but Orida’s leather trench coat helped keep some of that chill away, even if it did get snagged on branches and bushes far more often than she would have liked. Another minor inconvenience was the Doom Clapper. It was Orida’s only weapon, and she trusted it would see her through whatever trouble she would encounter, but carrying the thing was a pain. Annika had told Orida to make her way straight north until she hit the bank of the Major Duft River, so that’s precisely what she did.
Unfortunately, Orida promptly got herself lost.
Navigation, she found, was considerably different in a thick forest than in the twisting streets of her home city. Annika had told her that she should be able to make the river by nightfall if she hurried, and so, when the first night fell and Orida had not yet found the river, she was only a little worried. She had, after all, not hurried as much as she might have, because she was busy watching her step, disentangling her trench coat, and adjusting the way she carried the Doom Clapper. She found the darkest thicket she could and burrowed in, wrapped herself up with her coat, and hugged the Doom Clapper like it were her own life.
She woke up cranky the next morning, having slept uncomfortably and little throughout the night. She was certain that she would reach the river by mid-morning, and so when the second night fell, she was beginning to grow concerned. She had found a small stream in the afternoon to refill her water skins, but she was already half way through her food supply and, if she had not even found the river, not even close to half-way to her destination. The second night was even worse than the first, as the best she could do for shelter was a tree that had fallen over onto a hillock. She barely slept an hour throughout the night, and that only because of exhaustion.
Orida was cursing to herself throughout the third day, and as the hours wore on with no river in sight, her anger began to dissolve into desperation. In the back of her mind, she knew that there must have been a way to leave. She did not understand how she had gotten from Cogdon to Ythol. She could not remember how she had gotten from Ythol to Haltung. But she knew that something had happened, or that she had done something. Whatever it was, she just needed to do it again.
As twilight crept upon her, Orida found herself in a small clearing, nowhere near a river. Fear and exhaustion caught up with her then, and she dropped to her knees in the middle of that clearing and began to cry. The weight of her helplessness crashed in on her, and everything she had been through since stepping off that train from Silver Chasm came rushing back. The scarecrows of the Graveyard, the dead air of Ythol, and almost being burned alive by a religious maniac, it was too much for Orida Vise to take. And so, alone in a darkening forest, the kithkin wept.
She did not know how long she cried, but as the tears started to dry, Orida sensed that she was not alone. Barely daring to do so, she opened her eyes and confirmed her worst fears. Directly in front of her, standing at the edge of the clearing, was the Rag Man. Orida stared at the creature and the creature stared back, or at least that’s what Orida assumed it was doing. The Rag Man had no visible eyes, only that dull purple glow. Slowly, Orida forced herself to her feet, and pulled the Doom Clapper up to a defensive position. Staring into the misshapen form of the Rag Man, she was somewhat less confident in the Doom Clapper’s power.
The Rag Man took an awkward step forward, and Orida tensed. Another step, and the kithkin squatted slightly, preparing for combat. A third step, and Orida took half a step back, pulling the Doom Clapper back, ready to strike. Then the Rag Man stopped, and waited. Orida, too, waited. Then, just when Orida was about to break and run, the voices of the dead sounded again. It came through the whisperweft, but it was no whisper. They were yelling, screaming, but just like in the town square, there were too many of them. Unlike in the square, though, it intensified until Orida could barely stand it. She dropped the Doom Clapper, closed her eyes, and covered her ears, even though it was not true sound she was hearing. But she had to do something.
The voices stopped almost instantly. Orida’s eyes shot open, and the Rag Man was standing there, making no further move. The kithkin’s eyes swirled black within black, and she reached out desperately for the threads of the whisperweft.
What are you? Orida asked.
There was another burst of voices through the whisperweft, and Orida winced, but managed to stand her ground. After a short time, it died down again, but still the Rag Man did not move.
Who are you?
Another surge, and still no movement. Orida was breathing heavily and clutching the Doom Clapper as hard as she could. She just wanted to get out of there.
What do you want?
This time, nothing came through the whisperweft, at least not at first. Then the voice came again, more controlled this time, and slower. Still, Orida could not quite make it out, but the voices tried again, and then a third time, before Orida finally managed to understand.
We need your help.
My help? Orida asked, unsure. My help with what?
Please, the voices implored. You are the only one who can hear us.
Yeah, story of my **** life. So why the hell should I help you?
The Rag Man tilted its head to one side. We saved your life, if you remember.
So, wait, Orida said, indicating toward the Rag Man with the Doom Clapper. You’re…that? But how…I mean, you’re…dead…right?
We are trapped. We died…were killed. The same way you nearly were. The voices seemed to lessen the more they spoke, as if the dead were falling away one by one, and voices were becoming more individual. More distinct. And by the same man.
Orida’s swirling eyes grew wide. Bernhard?
The voices flared again, but after a moment they died down, and left only a single voice. A woman’s voice. Yes, Bernhard. He killed each of us, most in the fire that you almost felt. But it is not his murders that keep us here. All of us – almost all of us – died a heretic’s death. Most were baseless accusations, but that didn’t matter to him. He, the only man of the Church in Haltung, refused to shrive a single one of us.
Shrive? What the **** does that mean?
The Rag Man seemed to regard Orida for a moment, as if confused. The Final Blessing. He denied us that, as he tried to with you. Our souls were not commended to the Saints, and as we are not demonic as Bernhard claimed, there was nowhere for us to go but to one another. But to the rags.
Orida shivered. The normal dead were bad enough, but there was nothing more obnoxious than the restless dead. Fine, but what can I do? I’m no priest. I can’t just, uh, whatever you called it your souls.
No, but I need something more immediate from you. Please, you must help!
I don’t know what you’re talking about. If we can… Orida froze, suddenly catching something in the words of the dead. Wait. You said “I.” You’ve been talking together so far. So who the **** am I talking to now?
My name is Gertraud. I was the first of us. The others, they were burned at the stake, but not me. When I lived, I worked in the church, helping out where I could. One day, Bernhard came to me. What he wanted, I will not say, but I would not relent. In his anger, and in fear of the exposure of his wicked lusts, he killed me. My body still lies unburied in the church’s cellar, and my soul unshriven by that monstrous man.
Gertraud, Orida repeated to herself, remembering. Ladislaus’s wife. Her eyes widened. Annika’s mother.
Yes. I saw that she came to help you. Now I need you to help her. When she rushed to help you, she was seen. Bernhard has had her arrested, and tonight, she will burn, innocent and unshriven, like the rest of us.
So, what’s the problem? You saved me, so just go save her.
We would, but it is no longer so simple. After your escape, Bernhard sent for help. A Paladin of the Veil has come to town. Bernhard’s nephew, and the only man I have ever heard of more vile than Haltung’s priest. And while the paladin cannot destroy us forever, we are not strong enough to defeat him.
Even if I wanted to help, there’s no way I could get there in time. I’m three days from Haltung, and could never find my way back.
The Rag Man tilted its head back the other direction. We can lead you back. You are quite near the town now. You have been walking in circles for three days.
I have? ****.
Will you help?
Orida didn’t know what a paladin was, but if the monster standing in front of her thought it had no chance against one, she was in no hurry to fight him. I would, but I really need to get going.
And how long will it be before you starve to death out here? Or die of thirst? Or get attacked by any of the beasts that dwell deeper in the forest? How long before you die, and your unshriven soul joins us in the rags?
Orida stared at the Rag Man for a long time as the last light of the sun dipped below the treetops. Ghostdamn it. Fine. Let’s go.
* * *
It was a strange thing, seeing the stake-burning ritual from the other side. Annika was tied to the stake, of course, but she held her head up defiantly as Father Bernhard was talking. Orida was too far away to hear what he was saying, but she suspected it varied only slightly from the recitation at her own burning. Fewer uses of the word “dwarf,” undoubtedly, but otherwise it was likely the same thing. Off to one side, Ladislaus was on his knees, restrained by four of the other townsfolk. Judging from the look – and the bruises and cuts – on his face, the leatherworker had put up quite a fight when they had come for his daughter.
A short distance away from the crowd, the Paladin of the Veil sat atop a large horse caparisoned in a white cloth emblazoned with a picture of a black palace. The Paladin was similarly adorned with cloth over some sort of metal armor, with a white veil affixed to his helm. It was like nothing Orida had ever seen before, and the kithkin had to admit that there was something distinctly intimidating about the appearance. She hoped that the souls of the unshriven had been wrong, and that the Rag Man would be able to handle the knight itself.
Just as Orida thought that, a scream went up from the crowd as the Rag Man broke from the woods opposite Orida. They had decided it was best to draw the Paladin’s attention away with the clearly anticipated Rag Man attack. Once the Paladin moved to engage, Orida could hurry and untie Annika and get her free. So far, everything seemed to be going to plan, because the moment the Rag Man broke through the tree line, the Paladin urged his horse into a full charge.
Orida had hoped that the crowd would scatter as they had at her burning, but apparently the presence of the Paladin gave them a bit more courage, and so Orida was forced to skirt around the townsfolk as she rushed toward Annika. She was just over half-way there when she was noticed, causing another scream to overtake the crowd. They started to disperse then, and Orida finally had a straight line toward Annika. One of the priest’s men moved to block her path, but Orida threw herself shoulder first into his abdomen, doubling him over before he could react. She leapt around his crumbling form and up to Annika.
“That will do you no good, vile dwarf!”
Orida looked up to see Father Bernhard standing confidently in front of them, one hand on his hip and the other holding a torch. “I told you, I’m not a **** dwarf.”
“Whatever you are, profane one, I think you’ll find it difficult to untie iron shackles.”
The kithkin looked down at Annika’s arms, bound not by rope as hers had been, but by metal manacles. “****!” She suddenly wished her father were there with her. Sumner Vise was a masterful tinker, and could likely have picked such a simple lock with ease. Orida, sadly, could barely pick a lock when she had the key.
“If only all those who consort with demons were as foolish as you!” With that, Father Bernhard tossed his torch into the pile of sticks and branches surrounding Annika. They caught fire, but mercifully slowly.
Orida actually smiled. “Oh, I’m going to enjoy this, you son of a bitch!” She turned to the leatherworker’s daughter. “Annika, duck!”
The girl was momentarily confused until she saw Orida swing the Doom Clapper at her head. She fell to a crouch, and the weapon collided with the stake behind her. The instant the two connected, the stake disintegrated into a spray of splinters and sawdust. Bernhard’s eyes grew wide at the display, and the crowd panicked completely, tripping over one another to make their escape.
Two of the men who had been holding back Ladislaus had already fled, and as the stake holding Annika evaporated, the other two were too shocked and distracted to stop the leatherworker. Ladislaus pushed one man away and brought his fist up hard into the other’s jaw, knocking him out cold. Then, running faster than Orida had ever seen a human run, he rushed forward and into the fire, which was beginning to spread. He grabbed his daughter, scooped her up, and jumped out again. Orida had a brief thought of tripping the man, but it would have been counter-productive to her purpose. Instead, she refocused on the priest and jumped toward him and out of the reach of the flames he had started. Bernhard fell backward onto the ground and held up his hands, as if pleading for mercy.
“Like I said, I’m going to enjoy this.”
Something flashed in the priest’s eyes. “I doubt that.”
Orida was momentarily confused, but then she felt something approach from behind her. Living a life as a second-class citizen had given Orida a certain sense for when humans were coming at her. Usually it was a constable about to harass her about something or another, and usually not a knight swinging a sword, but either way, Orida was used to having to get away from them. She dove to her right just before the Paladin’s sword sliced through the air where her neck had been.
The knight was unhorsed now, and his surcoat had been slashed deeply across the chest, but the cut had not pierced the armor beneath it. Orida risked a glance over to where the Rag Man had emerged from the woods, but only saw a pile of dirty rags lying on the ground in a heap. Orida swung once with the Doom Clapper, which caused the knight to slow his advance. Behind him, Father Bernhard had climbed to his feet and was yelling to his nephew.
“Kill it! Kill that vile dwarf!”
“For the last time,” Orida said, clutching the Doom Clapper tightly, “I am not a **** dwarf!”
She charged forward suddenly and swung at the Paladin, who casually brushed aside the clumsy attack. Unfortunately for him, the ball of the Doom Clapper struck the flat of his blade as he did, and the sword shattered into steel shards in his hand. The Paladin panicked, weaponless and terrified of Orida’s weapon, but the kithkin was in no mood for mercy. There had been none for her in this town, nor for anyone the priest had condemned, and if the Paladin lived, he would only become a weapon against her or the town again. The Paladin of the Veil stumbled in his panic and dropped to one knee, and Orida brought the Doom Clapper up and then back down before anyone, even Orida herself, could stop her.
Father Bernhard was too shocked to even run after watching the Doom Clapper obliterate his nephew. He dropped to his knees, his eyes blank as he stared at the spot the Paladin had fallen. Orida turned on him quickly, not wanting to dwell on what she had just done. As she brought the Doom Clapper up again, the priest snapped out of his shock, and instead began imploring Orida to show mercy, to spare his life.
“Are you **** kidding me?” Orida asked. “Where was your mercy for me, huh? Or for Annika, or any of the others you’ve killed! You deserve exactly what you’re going to get. Nothing.”
Suddenly, strangely, the fear seemed to leave Bernhard’s eyes. “Very well. If I must die for the Church, so be it. But if you are truly not the vile, demonic creature I have named you, then at least grant me this mercy: allow me to shrive the soul of my nephew. Do not let him wander unshriven.”
“Him?” Orida asked, suddenly furious. “You don’t want him to go unshriven? What the **** is the matter with you? How many **** people have you burned, how many have you killed, without giving them your damned Final Blessing? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to these souls, you son of a bitch?”
“The Saints alone will judge me,” Bernhard said. “But if there is any mercy in you, then…”
“**** that,” Orida said. “I’ll judge you! I’ll tell you what, ****. You want to shrive your nephew? Fine. But not just him. You shrive every single person you’ve put to death here. Every single soul that has died in this town that you denied peace. Shrive them all, and I’ll let you finish shriving your ghostdamn nephew.”
“They were vile!” Bernhard yelled. “Wicked! I…I will not! They lived tainted lives, and they will suffer tainted deaths!”
“Then so will your nephew,” Orida warned.
Bernhard shook his head. “Perhaps, but he will not suffer long. When the Paladins of the Veil come to investigate, his soul will be shriven then, and so will mine!”
Orida raised her Doom Clapper. “They won’t find enough of either of you to bury.”
“Strike if you must, vile one. I would take a quick death at the hands of one of your kind over the judgement of the Saints to have shriven souls who did not deserve it.”
What about a slow death? Orida heard the voices through the whisperweft, and glanced over her shoulder. The pile of rags had risen again and reformed into the Rag Man, and it was shambling toward Orida and the priest. We can give him that.
Orida smiled and looked back at Bernhard. “Who said anything about a quick death?”
The kithkin lowered the Doom Clapper and stepped aside. She felt a grim sort of satisfaction as the priest’s eyes bulged at the sight of the Rag Man. There was a collective gasp, and Orida was shocked as she realized that some of the crowd had gathered again, presumably having seen the paladin defeat the Rag Man, at least once. Orida had not even been aware that they had an audience, but she knew this was an opportunity she had to take.
“What do you say, Bernhard? Shrive those souls, or I turn your fate over to...”
“No! Please, just keep that thing away from me!”
“That thing?” Orida glanced at the Rag Man, then back at Bernhard. “Oh, you mean them.” The look of confusion that crossed the priest’s face was perfectly understandable, but still amusing. “What, you don’t know what the Rag Man is? It’s your sins, Bernhard, coming to get you.” Orida made sure to speak loudly enough for the crowd to hear her. “Don’t want the Rag Man to hurt you? That’s easy. Just shrive their souls.”
“What?” Bernhard asked, incredulous. A confused murmur went through the crowd, and Orida smiled.
“That’s all they are, you know,” Orida said, then turned toward the crowd. “They’re the souls of your friends and your families, trapped here because of this little prick.” The murmurs intensified, and Orida knew they did not believe her. “Come on, dumbasses, think about it. You’ve been talking about these Rag Man ‘attacks,’ but has it ever hurt anyone? Has there been even a single death in this village because of this thing? Meanwhile, how many people have died because this bastard said it was a good idea?”
The change in the crowd told her that she had guessed correctly. The Rag Man had frightened them, but they were the souls of neighbors. They didn’t want to hurt anyone. Except Bernhard, of course.
“Lies!” the priest yelled, desperate. “What about…what about Gertraud, huh? Remember, it was her disappearance that started all of this!”
That son of a bitch! Orida heard Gertraud exclaim through the whisperweft, and smiled.
Don’t worry. I’ve got him right where I want him now.
“Funny you should mention her,” Orida said out loud. “Since she’s right here.” Orida indicated toward the Rag Man. “And she had a very interesting story to tell me about the church. A story about a priest who didn’t take his vows too seriously. A story about a man who wanted something he couldn’t have. A story about a murderer who killed to cover his sins. A story, Father Bernhard, about a happy Haltung wife and mother whose body can still be found in the church basement, waiting to damn the man who killed her!”
“Stop!” Bernhard yelled, but it was far too late. The crowd had heard everything they needed to hear, and they rushed forward to carry the priest, bodily, to the church, where they discovered the truth of Orida’s words. After realizing that everything that had occurred was his fault, not the fault of some mysterious demonic worshipers, most of the town was in favor of tearing him limb from limb themselves. Orida wouldn’t have stopped them, had he not been needed for something more important. Threatened with all manner of creative tortures by the people of the town, Bernhard finally relented, and shrived the souls of everyone who had been killed in Haltung, starting with Gertraud.
When he finished, the Rag Man crumbled to the ground, motionless, soulless, and at rest.
* * *
It took days to sort everything out in Haltung after that. The people there did what they could to make it up to Orida, although they were still clearly uncomfortable around her, despite her numerous and persistent insistence that she was not a dwarf. Bernhard had been given a proper trial, although after the discovery of Gertraud Lederer’s body and the effect of this shriving, the result was a foregone conclusion. He was put to death by the town, but was allowed to give himself the Final Blessing, if for no other reason than to prevent future appearances of the Rag Man.
The question of what to do about Bernhard’s nephew was discussed at length among the townspeople. The Paladins of the Veil would, undoubtedly, come looking for him eventually, and the town knew they could not tell them the entire truth when they did. Some suggested that the town simply agree that they had never seen the paladin, that he had never arrived in town at all and must have been waylaid on his way, but this was deemed too dangerous. Instead, the story became that he had arrived, stayed three days with his uncle, and then left, never to be seen from again.
During this time, Ladislaus and Annika again offered their home to Orida, who begrudgingly accepted. Ladislaus was kind and thankful, though he never apologized to Orida for turning her over to be killed. Orida wanted to be angry about it, but a part of her couldn’t blame him, especially after seeing what the leatherworker had done to save his daughter. Still, just in case, she never strayed far from the Doom Clapper.
When everything was settled and Orida was finally preparing to leave, Ladislaus thanked her again and gave her a gift. Made of black leather to match the rest of Orida’s outfit, it was a cleverly designed harness made to carry the Doom Clapper. The kithkin slung the harness over her shoulder and tested it. It sat perfectly against her back, and the Doom Clapper slid right into place. She nodded appreciatively, and almost caught herself thanking the leatherworker.
“If I were you,” Ladislaus said, “I would head straight to Weide, south of here.”
“South?” Orida asked. “Annika told me to go north to Algentang last time.”
“Algentang is a Church city,” Ladislaus said. “You’ll need a strong Rep before you want to set foot there, and I know you’re a Nought.”
“Nevermind. I don’t know where you came from, Orida, but I know it’s far from here. If you want to survive, you’ll need Letters of Reputation, and fast. Follow the road south out of town. Signs will point you to Weide from there. If you’re stopped by anyone, tell them you were robbed, and your Letters stolen.” Ladislaus took a stack of envelopes from the table. “I’ve assembled some testimonies from the people here.” He held up the top one. “Go to this address and see this man. He’s a Rep banker. My brother-in-law.” He paused, lowering his eyes. “Gertraud’s brother.” He paused again, his voice catching. “Anyway, this letter will explain everything to him. After what you did for Gertraud, he’ll help you. Once you get your Rep, things should go smoother for you. I hope.”
“Alright, well, I should get going. Where’s Annika?”
“She said she couldn’t say goodbye. She’s at her mother’s grave, now that she has one. Thanks to you.”
“First time I’ve been thanked for putting someone in a grave.”
“Well, you’ll always be welcome here.”
“Yeah, well, don’t get too **** soft on me, alright?”
Ladislaus laughed, and Orida turned and walked out. The sun was bright above the tree tops, and Orida pulled her tinted goggles over her blackened eyes, and walked off into her new world, enjoying the fresh air.
|Author:||RavenoftheBlack [ Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:26 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: [Vote] Souls of the Unshriven|
|Author:||OrcishLibrarian [ Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:32 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: [Vote] Souls of the Unshriven|
|Author:||Brentain [ Sat Feb 24, 2018 9:18 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: [Vote] Souls of the Unshriven|
It is with some small regret that I too accept this story, for it subtly shoves everything I've written about Orida even more firmly into non-canonical territory. Yet it is far too masterful to disagree with, and certainly better than my meager offerings.
The note about dead air was odd, until I realized that there was no indication of timing since Phantoms of the Past, and that rocks themselves leach oxygen from the air.
Meanwhile, the Rag Man is amazing, and Orida is as, um, charming as ever.
|Author:||RavenoftheBlack [ Sun Feb 25, 2018 5:15 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: [Vote] Souls of the Unshriven|
It is with some small regret that I too accept this story, for it subtly shoves everything I've written about Orida even more firmly into non-canonical territory. Yet it is far too masterful to disagree with, and certainly better than my meager offerings.
Thank you! For the record, I think you write Orida very well, and while the plots of her various exploits may no longer fit in with canon, you have contributed a lot to her characterization, both with the short Penelophine piece and in VITAL. And as always, if you are ever interested in writing for Orida, I would always love to see more of her stuff!
The note about dead air was odd, until I realized that there was no indication of timing since Phantoms of the Past, and that rocks themselves leach oxygen from the air.
Tevish pointed out in the original thread that not everywhere in Ythol is likely to be this oxygen-starved, so Orida probably just got unlucky. You know, like pretty much every time she does things...
Meanwhile, the Rag Man is amazing,
Thanks! I was really happy with the Rag Man and its unique sort of interaction with Orida. Her ability to speak with the dead is the only thing that allows these poor souls to communicate their plight. I also like the implications of the nature of the afterlife on Dammerdall, that the souls of those of the Church who have died unshriven are trapped.
and Orida is as, um, charming as ever.
Thanks for reading, Brentain, and for voting! It's always appreciated!
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