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The 3rd Rise
By FRANK E MABRY
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Frank E Mabry
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSpring rain clings to the leaves but the water is tainted with black suet. Though the shower is cold steam rises from the blackened ground as a fire roars close by. Chard animals lay scattered in a field of ash. Crops burn as a winged serpent makes another pass. Fire pouring out of its mouth as it circles low farm houses incinerated in the inferno.
Beyond the field a cluster of houses are left unscathed and a large barn. Its double doors gaped open. Disfigured bodies clustered not far from the entrance. Livery servants torn to pieces, another servant dressed in the same livery is tossed out of the shadowy depth of the barn. Already a corpse his disemboweled body slits apart on impact. Its skin white the man's eyes stare emptily up into the clouds as the winged serpent circles over head breathing more deadly fire destroying more of the crops in the field.
In the shadows inside the barn more servants cower. Terror hits them in waves as two convex yellow eyes stare at them from beyond the shadows. They know what they face and that makes them more afraid.
A woman's voice calls out from behind the monster. "Have you allowed it to take you completely yet?"
The demon eyes focus on an old lady her face shrouded deep with in the cowl of her gray robe.
Rows of ivory daggers are revealed as the demon replied. "What?"
The rumble of its voice caused the servants to flinch; like scared animals cowering in a corner. The woman in the cowl seemed unaffected by the demon.
"It's time for you to take on your task again." The old woman said raising her hand. The robe fell away enough to see her wrinkled had presenting a rolled piece of parchment. "Take this and leave these people alone. Besides there is only one left here."
"Which?" The beast growled.
Her other arm rose moving the gray curtain of cloth until her pale gnarled finger pointed to an old man. The others moved away from him as he backed away his hands raised defensively fright overwhelming him. He screamed a deafening shriek as the demon plowed through the frightened servants to snatch him up. Lifted over head he was tossed from the barn first one half then the other.
Covered in blood the demon looked back at the old lady but she had gone leaving the piece of parchment lying among the hay strewn across the floor. He looked back at the servants his quest will start soon enough. It grinned a toothy grin and they whimpered and it smiled even more broadly. Lowering its head into light to revealing its charcoal skin broad nose and massive horns and the servants clutched each other in fear. Its convex yellow eyes panned over each one of them and rested on a maiden. Her shirt had been torn in her attempted flight uncovering her white flesh and over ripe breast. There was one thing the demon loved nearly as much as terror and violence. Its hot breath wafted her dirty blond hair. She shrunk too scared to look away. It yellow eyes soaked her up admiring her generous curves the maid screams realizing what it wants.
Saws chewed at wood and hammers pounded nails, building the war machines of long ago. Until that time the army that destroyed cities and nations was merely a shadow. Whispers and fear sent people out of the homes away from their businesses: abandoning their lives, for fear of death. They had known this terrible abomination once before and felt its horrors darkening the sky. Travelers report too many tales to be a coincidence and fires in the sky meant your neighbors death. Sporadic attacks in every direction. Towns reduced to ash and other sparingly missed and still the army inflicting such catastrophic damage evaded detection. Suddenly the army moved down from the terrible mountains west through the vast wilderness and its cursed horrors. Never until that day did it leave such a path. Dirt and dust rising through the air an ominous sign of their approach, Smoke rising up into the clouds meant another town had been reduced to ash. Dirty faces watching hoping that this affliction would somehow abate them. The army in all its great mass of horned demons, green skinned imps and pig faced Cretans swung south advancing.
Men had gathered on the edge of the woods sullen faces, tired and yet full of hope hiding in caves they heard whispers of a champion that had came to lead them. With a power unlike anything they could imagine. Mages spoke and the whispers grew louder as the rumble of the war machines grew closer. They went to sawing and hammering as towns continued to burn men took to sword and spear young and old, hope and renewed strength filling their hearts. There at that field at the edge of the cliff, men made their stand and were once again men were victorious.
And so the second rise ended and among the littered dead and the screams of the dying a farmer was brought to his knees and in front of everyone that could see he was anointed ordained and crowned King of Castle Gate. Each nation that had gathered to do battle made a pact to stay and defend and build a fortress around the prison the spell that was cast. Until they could defend against any that would undo what had be done. And from that point they would send their brightest their brave and their very best. To serve in the protection of the gate without a key, to keep those terrible beings locked away.
The path that the dark legion had burned through the cursed forest and cut north of the Demons Teeth and the Black Marsh they named Legion Run. Their mad march had started something a trail abandoned long ago leaving isolated villages to live on their own. Down that trail now towns have grown as caravans pass, inns developed to make accommodations for the wayward and weary. Merchants and traders from every guild stand to profit as wares are needed for those broken on the road. Wheat and corn ground into meal to feed horses and faces of those who make and those who buy goods.
And then there are those that sell strange things and that is where our story begins, pressed far off the main road deep in the woods a wagon rest. A permanent part of the landscape and only laziness left to ruin solid walls and a roof. Its oxen put to pasture the wooden fence gray with age bordering along a few trees older than most. Their high branches reach far and wide leaves a collage of brilliant oranges and yellows with the changing of the seasons. The rickety wagon is weather beaten and falling apart: soil engulfing most of the wooden wheels. Grass with fuzzy tops stretching high above the axels, steps leading to the doorway well set in the soil surely the inhabitant had set root and became firmly planted.
The insides, as bad as the out, the floorboards cry out in misery not strengthened with oil or seen the love of a mop. Only the stress of feet mark the floor that now sings back with a creek for every step. Baskets of spoiled fruit and a neglected washbasin set the way for several swarms of gnats and bugs.
The trader its only occupant, nonchalant about his slovenliness, bearded and gray past the age of his youth, a slob and always has been. The experience in his eyes doesn't match the look of ignorance and laziness that in encompasses the man's posture as well as his entire being. His head and shoulders sloped forward and tunic pressed tight against his massive stomach a symbol of his gluttony: his bulbous red cracked nose a monument to what he likes to do most.
Hobbling around the wagon on two bad ankles; supporting his body weight against any horizontal surface in reach of his hairy arms. Stumbling from one side to the other; being chased by the horrible cries from the floor performing his idea of cleaning. He rises up on his toes brushing the thickened dust off the cluttered shelves with a duster far too old to do any good. Most of the bristles frayed back to the handle the others caked with dust to a permanent gray. The shelves themselves are filled with potions, books, remedies, alchemy sets, souvenirs and anything else that might have some future value; or some other miscellaneous use.
With a huff through his gray beard he is finished cleaning winded from what he feels is a tedious task. Dust swims around through the stagnant air dancing in the streaks of sunshine breaking through the cracked walls soon to settle where another piece of dust might have sat.
He puts the tattered duster in its case atop a stack of dusty tomes that had never been used and turns to a plate of food sitting on a stand in front of his couch. The plate his meal lies somewhere between mutton and slop. He spots a rather large insect one of the thousands by chance to get caught, its black antennae searching for a morsel to steal.
The slovenly man mutters to himself. "No, no not sharing my food with you." "Not, no bloody cock roach."
He hobbles over to the unfortunate bug, snatching it up in its attempt to scurry away. His meaty fists seem to move faster than they should. Around the back of his hand it escapes only to end up between left thumb and forefinger. He hobbles across the small stretch of floor stumbling on his way to a large jar resting along the far wall.
He twist open saying "soon I will have feast."
The jar is filled with a green liquid and with it more bugs of various size a shape lifelessly floating.
"I think I deserve one of these." He says as he drops the insect into the pickling juice. It swims helplessly trying to gain a foothold on the glass, as the man's thick fingers sift through ignoring the one trying to swim: grabbing a rather large locus out of the juice. He bites the insect in half juice and a tiny leg escapes his lips as it crunches with every chew.
With a grin he says. "Nice and crispy just the way I like em."
In the next bite he finishes it off and replaces the cork. Bar, the old trader works his way back to the worn out couch where his meal awaits. He plops down on the couch it creeks under the strain of its corpulent host. Picking up his spoon he begins shoveling his only meal of the day taking enough time to only take a breath. He finishes the meal by drinking a tankard of light mead made from fermented honey.
The slovenly man runs a pick through the remainder of his mangled teeth; they are flat tree stump shaped and gray. With a rag sweeps out the food and mead trapped in his beard. Rocking himself deep into the couch his eyes grow heavy and he drifts off to sleep.
In his slumber he dreams of what most men dream of the age of chaos and fear those that have grown to be old men still remember with vivid detail and horror the life that they once lived. Abandoning the cities and towns to live in the woods dirty and hungry foraging for what food they had and living on what they can. Hiding from those that hunted them with terrible yellow eyes. He kicked in his sleep those eyes they had found him his hands moved storms of arrows rain down in front of him the battle field awaited him every time he slept. Men fall under axe and sword screams of the dying mingle with the screams of the warring his blood curdled like soured milk and the air felt like cold soup. He's closer now he dropped the banner and his hands shook for his sword.
Awaking in a cold sweat to the sound of massive rapping on the ratty wagon's weathered door; the trader moans and stretches mumbling harsh words as he sits up taking a deep breath. The wagon seems to rattle as whoever waits on the other side knocks again.
Hobbling to the door he curses under his breath. "Hold your hard on my wares will not run away you bastard not in this far off place."
Twisting the door handle it squeaks from lack of oil and as it begins to open the hinges bind with a creek and a crack. The slovenly trader pushes on the door once twice three times, each time the old door creeks a cheer for his effort or rather laughing at him for his failure. He pushed his meaty hand out the crack in the door and motioned to whoever is on the other side with his thumb: No response.
"Can you help me open the bloody door?" The bearded man says miming the question with his thumb and forefinger again.
As soon as the words left his mouth the door was ripped away thrown high and far. The man inside the wagon watches wide eyed looking at his door fall to the forest floor. He cringes as it splinters to pieces the wind blows and chills send his hair standing up all over. The crash loosened dying leaves off a branch and they too like his hair were caught in the wind.
The man's eyes go from the wreckage of his door to the man before him and back again. Short in stature and thin the man who knocked on the door is swathed in fine clothes of black except the frill of lace a wealthy merchant or a noble might wear. Instead the man's attire reminded the grubby man of mortician's black garb. His eyes went back to the door lying in a heap yards away and then to the man in blacks face cold and gaunt a skull wrapped in pale flesh.
"Gee you're strong for a little fellow." The words floated ghostly out his mouth hanging in the air slowly fading with his amazement.
The man in black ignores the man pushing past him and marching inside the wagon. Coming from his amazement he turns toward the man who passed him by without a word.
"I hope you know you are going to pay for that." He began to say but only stumbled and muttered incoherently unsure of what to say.
The man in black may be small but there is something about him something menacing. Removing his hat revealing a hairless pate above a stern brow sheltering hawk eyes he paces in a circle his hard sole shoes slamming against the wood floor, eyes searching scanning the walls seeming not to notice the fat man waiting to be acknowledged.
Continuing his stride the man in black speaks. "You say you have something of great importance you want to donate to our beloved legion praise its glory." His voice boomed in a monotone that filled the dense air inside the wagon.
The slovenly man smiled his message actually made it to Castle Gate and now he will be a rich man. He studied the man he was sharp and his suit seemed as rigid as his posture a contrast from his surroundings.
The owner of the wagon steps forward only to stop and drew a deep breath before speaking. "You must be one of the collectors for the royal house I am glad to meet you." He raised his hands up bashfully and continued. "How rude of me as your host, not to offer a drink."
The man then hobbles over to a cask and opens it dropping a pitcher in filling it up with the light brown liquid. Turning back toward the man he begins to offer the warm mead however he is interrupted.
"What is this thing you want to donate to our beloved land praise its fair handedness and peaceful borders?" The well dressed man's voice fills the small quarters and seems to come from everywhere.
The old trader takes a nervous gulp straight from the pitcher then looks down realizing what he had done.
Taking a deep breath Bar, gather his words and answers the finely dressed man. "It's an invention, two or three if you count the powder as an invention rather than a concoction."
The trader chuckles but the man in black shared no humor with him so he took a long pull straight from the pitcher. Drawing another breath of musty air the trader continues. "I did not invent it, but the man who did went to the moons in a million pieces, so I am giving it to you."
The stone faced man breaks into a grin and says. "What?"
His cheeks rose up in tight balls and deep grooves race down his jaw and white teeth gleam his smile menacing.
"Never mind, long story funny but long." He looked down at the pitcher and cup of mead and continued. "My name is Bar at least people call me that, because they say I have a drinking problem but it is not a problem. I drink I get drunk, sometimes I throw up and pass out the next morning I have a hangover, it's not a problem ... never."
After his introduction Bar drinks thirstily from the pitcher, looking at the man in black's cold eyes he drinks again and says. "I never did get your name; I surely hope we can become friends."
The man in black's brow narrowed. "What is this invention you speak of and how much importance is it?"
The stern voice breaks Bar's concentration his hand shook for a moment until he took a nervous gulp from the improvised mug.
Bar gulps down the rest and sloshes the foam a bit. "Come on I'll show you."
Bar stretches the girth of his corpulent body and begins hobbling for the gaping doorway shouting over his shoulder. "Come on out behind the wagon, come on and I'll show you."
Clearing the steps with the man in black in tow he continues to talk "The man was a chef for the Marzcek family they relieved him saying he was crazy at least that is what he told me."
He turned around and hobbled backward as he continued "He was angry with them he would say things like they were all slave drivers. Never did he say what he did to be relieved from his position and to be honest I did not care I never met one of them, never wanted to either."
Bar's words cut off short realizing that the man could know a Marzcek or worse be one. He would be screaming at the top of his lungs however he did not realize his oxen had been slaughtered and only pieces of them lay a strewn in the pasture to his right. He was content only on the way around the wagon and his visitor and even more so on the reward he will surely receive.
Excerpted from The 3rd Rise by FRANK E MABRY Copyright © 2012 by Frank E Mabry. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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