The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 78

In the early morning hours, some traces of dew still remained on the grass, which the horses’ hooves swept away as they galloped down the road connecting Waldoon and Still Creek. This road was little more than a half-grown-over dirt path that wound through the mountains and into the valley of Still Creek. Nonetheless, this was all that the Fourth Order advance party had to use to guide them there, since it was a place none of them would ever have any reason to know how to find.

Their leader, a pale, scruff man named Robair, led the way galloping on his horse, his long black hair bouncing with the horse’s stride. Four other mounted scouts followed behind him, each of them hunched forward as their horses advanced at a full gallop, making the greatest haste to reach their destination. He had told his men discouragingly when they first departed from Waldoon, “This is all a waste of time.” As they neared the village, on the verge of coming into sight of it, he repeated this same complaint over and over again to himself. “This is a huge waste of time. It’s all the delusions of some backwater, ignorant country peasant, sending us off to capture clouds,” he said, reciting a familiar maxim.

Once the village began to come into view and Robair could see the destruction, his mouth dropped in shock. Much of the harvest was still left in the field, but it had been eaten into by the black jaws of the fire. It was evident how far the fire had reached before it had burned itself out, since it formed a wavy and imperfect circle, in the center of which were the charred remains of the village.

As they got closer, he could start to see the footprint of the village stamped into the ground, the lines of tiny streets between the buildings and the wreckage of the buildings themselves, mostly just piles of ash blown away into the wind and bits of blackened wood. The only part untouched was the mound where the child had sat and by which a small creek flowed.

Robair and his four men brought their horses to a stop at the edge of the village. The place sounded of death. A hollow wind blew through it and all that was left when this died down was silence. Not even the quiet sounds of the forest—the birds and the insects—were audible in this desolate place.

“Search for anything that might give us hard evidence that the Omnia or the Aresan Clan were here,” Robair told his men as they dismounted and started to walk into the village.

As the men dug through the rubble, they found many human remains—the bodies black and shrunken by the fire. Bits of metal and leather could be found among the debris, but they could find no weapons or pieces of clothing that appeared to be from the Omnia or the Aresans.

“Nothing,” Robair’s men reported to him as he sat at the edge of town and oversaw this activity.

Robair finally dismounted himself and walked into the village to assist them. He pushed through the rubble, in search of a knife or a sword or even just a spear point that might point Summerward.

He was unsuccessful, until he pushed aside a large chunk of roof from one of the houses and noticed a burned and blackened goat among some human remains. It was something he wouldn’t have otherwise thought anything of. Surely some of their animals might have been killed in the blaze, but he decided to ask his men, “Did you find any livestock?”

All his men unanimously replied in the negative. If they could, the livestock would’ve all fled from the fire, or the attacking soldiers probably would’ve captured them. Perhaps this goat had been lame or tied up, or already dead.

Then Robair looked at the legs. The legs were all pinched together, almost as if they had been tied. If it were tied with a rope, the rope would probably have burned in the fire. Robair kneeled down to examine the legs more closely. And that’s when he saw it: the scanty, charred remains of a rope wrapped around the legs. The goat had been tied up and thrown into the fire as a ritual offering to god.

“The people of Still Creek weren’t into animal sacrifices were they?” Robair asked his men. They simply shrugged their shoulders and one of them replied, ‘If they’re part of the Order, they shouldn’t have been.”

“Any of the Itinerant tribes?” Robair asked.

“They’d consider that the height of wastefulness,” a soldier replied.

“But the Aresan Clan and some of the tribes of the Omnia are. There the only ones aren’t they?” Robair said to himself, and then he loudly announced, “I think I found some evidence.”

<-- Go to Part 77         Go to Part 79 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

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