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Severed Shadows Continues some more...
It had taken Gemkray no less time to reach his own destination, a miserable clearing surrounded by forest and thick undergrowth. Within were the slightly rotting and mutilated bodies of maybe two dozen gnolls or more, just as expected though the birds had mostly left. One particularly fat and annoying crow still perched just out of Gemkray’s reach in the branches above, squawking displeasure at his presence.
“A fine companion you’ll make to pass the time; quite the conversationalist. Perhaps by the time the illustrious Master Krune has finished charming the locals and has them all in awe of his wit I will have taught you some hospitality my fine feathered friend,” Gemkray was well aware that this crow had no comprehension. He knew as well that it was merely a convenient target for his surly sarcasm which should rightfully be directed at Seandar.
“Probably enjoying a fine bit of roast goat and bread and ale just now, laughing with Meryl and the townsfolk about how he saved them all from a gnoll war party one hundred strong,” it wasn’t that Gemkray was hungry or thirsty, but he still wrestled with jealously and resentment. His vague and hazy memories of life held few details about himself or his deeds, but he could vividly recall the pleasures of food and drink and companionship and somewhere in the mists he was sure he had been a popular man, with more friends than he had use for. A rich man too, with finery and prestige. Surely he had been a noble if not royalty, which made it all the more frustrating to remember nothing, not even his proper name. Gemkray had been the first mumblings of his new unlife as it were. Just a bit of rubbish that had come to be his name. All his memories of the pleasures of life were stark against his new reality. No hunger, no thirst, no need or ability to sleep even. Sleep might be the thing he desired most. Every waking moment, which was every moment since his vulgar resurrection, was filled with implacable exhaustion. Tiredness invaded every portion of his conscious mind, an insatiable need for rest dulled only by immersing in extreme contemplation of the universe and existence. As such he ignored his new friend the crow, and began to ponder the nature of this shadow beast. To an observer he was still as a statue; a gruesome scarecrow apparently inept at scaring crows.
Oddly, in life Gemkray had never been a thinker yet it had become his bastion from this torturous state of being. Bastion or no, he didn’t find he had gained any talent for exercising his mind after returning from the dead. As yet no astounding epiphanies had risen from his efforts, no divine secrets unlocked. Perhaps it was the worm holes in his brain. In any case the sun was dipping low behind distant mountains before his thoughts on the shadow led him to actually look at the very place in which it was created.
There in front of him was the scene of massacre, all the mutilated bodies pecked at and gnawed upon scattered about in a loose circle. Scuff marks and torn undergrowth told him very little about the battle for he was no tracker. Still, something tugged at his undead eyes, drew them like flame in almost hypnotizing fashion. Almost against his will his eyes followed a series of sweeping and graceful tracks in the dirt. Heels and toes dragged along a precise and complicated pattern, broken in places by the traffic of scavengers, drew a spiraling prison around a lone body. A gnoll that Gemkray now realized was completely unmolested by animals or even by decay. While the other bodies stunk with the overripe scent of spilled entrails and sunbaked meat, this gnoll was pristine. If not for a tiny steam of blood dried on its back, there would be no sign as to why it died.
Something about the hypnotizing power of the pattern, too perfect for chance, gave Gemkray the secret to a question that he couldn’t before answer. How, he had wondered, did the animated shadow come to have a will of its own? How in empowering his own shadow with magic flowing from his will, had Seandar come to struggle with the will of an inanimate thing? Now it was obvious to the spirit who was so securely bound against his will to his own dead body. The shadow’s will came from its soul, and that soul came from this gnoll Seandar had killed. It was frozen within his spell and even its body could not fade. Somehow this was the key to undoing what had been done.
Gemkray’s revelation, satisfying as it was, left a new puzzle. How to let Seandar know before the shadow struck again? He looked about for inspiration only to find a fat and happy crow perched on his shoulder. With a start, Gemkray nearly fell over. The crow fluttered and squawked with angry displeasure but would not let go his shoulder. It harped in his hear as though scolding his foolishness.
“Be gone, impertinent beast. I have no use for you, nor a desire to wonder when you’ll drop your friendly guise and eat me,” his face was near pressed against the beak of the rotund black bird.
“Squawk,” it seemed a reasonable reply. Gemkray took a half hearted swat at the bird which forced it to flutter away, only to circle about and land on his other shoulder.
“Dear gods, why me? Was I so wicked in life?” Gemkray looked again at his stubborn friend, craning his neck to look it in the eye. The crow cocked its head, putting its eye right up to his for a brief moment.
“Indeed,” Gemkray, ever the suffering martyr, made the conscious effort to draw breath and sigh at his new friend Crow, before shambling away from his hiding spot. He knew the night would be on in full before he reached Rocky Spring, but with any luck he would find it unharmed. Not that he had any luck.
|Severed Shadows Part 4||Severed Shadows Part 1|
|Severed Shadows Part 8||Severed Shadows Part 5|
|Severed Shadows Part 7|