October 12, 2013
“Boneyard, 935, Hind bitn Iqbal. It has been several days since I left Gorcix on top of the escarpment overlooking the Boneyard. While the bloodspiders have been easy to dodge, it has proven difficult to avoid the looming spectre of death here. Places where I thought the ground had started to sag into muck or mire, a swamp perhaps brining some semblance of life back to this broken necropolis, proved only to be the bloated loam of decay yet incomplete. Today, however, I heard breaking bones in the distance and what sounded like the movement of someone or something near the size of a man or horse. So far my sight glass hasn’t shown me anything and there are no obvious signs of anything out of the ordinary. It is early afternoon, perhaps late morning, on the sixth day of the ninth month by the moon.”
Hind shut the small door on the brass box she ws talking into and set it back into her pack carefully. She was very careful to not make any sound, as she did not want to alert the bloodspiders where she was. The area already reeked of their death pheremone thanks to her needing breakfast, with the husk of a deseccrated spider several hundred feet back on the trail where she had shot it that very morning.
Skipping forward down the path, jumping lightly over the fallen bones and tangles of iron0-grey nettles, she kept watch out to the center of the Field of Sorrow, the primary battlefield that makes up the Boneyard. After several minutes of working herway away from the spider carcas, she paused and pulled out her spyglass again. Scanning the ecenter of the battlefield she finally saw what she had been searching for all morning – a sign of life. This particular sign was a gleaming red shield, the size of a large child or a small family’s dining table, hanging despondently from a massive ribcage fallen from some ancient, massive evil. The shield was bright red with a large brass boss right in the middle, gleaming in the midday sun. Painted to each side of the boss was resplendent lions with crossed swords under them, the heraldry of an ancient order of holy warriors known as the Praetori, the Judges. A small sound floated across the loam as well, the small sound of labored breathing and frustration.
She picked her way over carefully, circling around the shield slowly with her bow in hand and an arrow nocked. She carefully stepped from stone to petrified bone silently and watched her quarry. It was a man, sitting on a large stone in the middle of the open ribcage, obviously winded. He was wearing what looked like freshly polished armor that was as old as the battlefield itself, clasped over a vibrant green long tunic and a brightly plumed steel helmet. It was as if one of the soldiers who had died here had stepped out of the past and sat down to get their wits together. As his breathing slowed again, she watched him stand slowly , shivering the entire time, and take up the shield once again. It was clear that his muscles were powerful, the way they strained in his arms when he hoisted the shield and the way they tensed in his thighs (thick, powerful, warrior’s thighs that were left bare by the distance between his tunic and leather boots) when he stood. They seemed weak, however, when he started moving again. She noticed a short sword belted to his waist and he picked up a short throwing spear from the ground next to him before advancing, using the spear to clear debris and bones out of the way. Of all of his clothing and equipment, only the spear was stained – it bore the clear marks of killing bloodspiders (or, perhaps, one of the other vampiric beasts living in the bloody loam of the Boneyard).
She silently crept to a small pile of nettle and bone and turned her cloak around to be similar to the flat grey of most of the ground around her to watch. He moved slowly and deliberately, not like someone who is sick but rather as someone recovering from wounds they are used to. Each footfall was deliberate, each breath practiced. He knew what he was doing and he knew how hard it was. He also knew that he had to keep his wits about him. She tried hard to control her heartbeat, her breathing, but ideas kept popping out of her mouth. Was he some kind of actor? Part of some obscure martial order? Maybe the victim of some practical joke gone awry? Some kind of madman?
The last question, however, was just loud enough. While she was distracted by her own need to know who he is, she kept an eye on him the entire time and had just enough wits about her to realize what happened when he hefted the short spear in his hand as if to throw it and looked toward her, calling out, “Asai? Asai verix pason?”
She sighed and hissed as quietly as possible. Not only did he possibly know where she was, he apparently spoke ancient Imperial. Hoping that the shield was no lie, she carefully raised her hands and stood up. “Asai!” She called out in what she knew of ancient Imperial, though it was clear ther her native tongue was accenting her quite a bit. “I am known as Hind, daughter of Iqbal, archer and scientist! Are you of the esteemed and honorable Legions?”
The man lowered his spear slowly. “I am Preatorius, by the name of Caillus of the House of Vortix. Where am I?” She crept closer, keeping her hands clear of her belt and pack. He was a good looking man, with a thin dusting of facial hair and a strong face tempered by compassion and…something else. His skin looked fresh. New. As if he was still a child, yet the size of a man.
“You are in the Boneyard,” she said, trying her best to stay in his language but having to use Low Flendish for the Boneyard itself. “An ancient battlefield where the esteemed and honorable Legions did march against the Unholy Host in the name of our Warden, may she watch over us all.”
He looked around slowly, eyes tracing the escarpment then looking back to the south west, to the forest that made up the barrier of Estra and Flendar. “This is Syvaius? This is what remains of the fertile plains of the Sylvan host?”
She cocked her head to one side. “Sir honorable and noble Judge, what year is it?”
He chuckled softly, “That is simple, it is the three-hundred and forty-seventh year since the descent of the Warden.”
She shook her head slowly. “You may want to sit, honorable and noble Judge. For it has been nearly six hundred years since then.”