The Gates to Edendorn
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Bronze skin gleaming in the dual glare of twin suns, the broad-backed bowman scans the harsh and barren landscape. Broken jagged clumps of rocks and cragged peaks lie ahead. The blind bowman sniffs at the air, nostrils flaring under his green bandana scarf that covers his vacant eye-sockets and nose. Super sensitive ears collect sound waves and vibrations and even his thickly hewn body serves as a receiving dish for sonic and motive signals.
In the distance a tiny speck registers, circling in flight between the jagged peaks. Immediately the bowman sets off into a loping run across the rocky landscape, bow in hand and quiver slung across his muscular shoulder and back. With his sonic super sense he traces a path across the unstable surface pinpointing regions that will support his prodigious mass. He sails from one step to another, landing on one thick thew, quads bunching and absorbing the impact before springing off the same foot to the next safe region some fifteen feet ahead.
The bowman reached the edge of a ridge overlooking a desert plain with another range of cragged mountains behind it, grey in the early morning light. The sky would soon be its familiar orange glow. Now the bowman could sense a dozen or more shape moving in the sky above the plain. Sythes! Their batwing profiles and huge pointed skull outlines were immediately recognised by the bowman. Normally solitary scavengers they would sometimes work together to hunt bigger prey. They bore six-inch razor talons on their hands and feet and poisoned spikes extended from the end of each wing. Their long thin skulls extended to points above and below a vicious face where large mouths were armed with long sharp incisors and flesh rending fangs.
The long thin skull of the Sythe and it's bone density and strength had been used by the bowman to make the very bow he now brought up in front of his sightless face. He held it rock steady in one huge hand braced by his bulging triceps and tensed forearms. In one easy motion he drew an arrow from his quiver and moved side on to take up a firing position. Now the bowmen pinpointed the Sythe's quarry fleeing along the desert plain, darting from boulder to boulder trying to avoid the aerial attack of the Sythes.
'Humans', the bowman thought, 'two male adults and two children.'
Flaring his nostrils and drawing in the scent trails gave the bowman instant information about the flight and attack patterns of the individual Sythe. Instinct and intuition combined with his logic and imagination to create a virtual image of the desert scene as the bowman drew back on the bow. The bowstring was made from the gut lining of the Sythe and was virtually unbreakable and almost totally inflexible. The blind bowman held the arrow between index and middle finger as he drew back and the skull bow creaked and groaned in response to the tension.
The bowman then stopped his heart for a few moments as he tensed and zeroed in on the target. The Sythe banked in the sky and then dove towards a boulder the four humans sheltered under. Back talons extended and scraped across the top of the rocks as it banked upwards with a swoop of it's wings. The blind bowman drew the arrowhead back into the snout of the skull bow and as the arrowhead caught alight with fire he released, sending the flaming arrow towards the Sythe soaring upwards.
The arrow barely dropped before piercing the neck of the Sythe severing the main artery and sending a spray of green blood into the air. The Sythe fell to the ground lifeless. Another turned immediately to face the direction the arrow had come from, hovering in mid-flight when it was struck with a large crack between it's large goblin like eyes and the flaming tip buried deep in it's primeval brain. The flame extinguished, as did the life in the Sythe and it fell to the desert floor with a thud that sent a shower of dust over the humans huddled under the shelter of a large granite boulder.
Some of the Sythe had broken off the attack and three were speeding towards the ridge where the bowman stood. One reared up and dropped like a rock, the arrowhead still alight and protruding from its chin and the tail sticking out one eye socket. Another cried out and wavered in flight before arcing downwards, the arrow shaft piercing its chest plate to tear a hole in its heart. Still, the third Sythe came on quickly and closed on the bowman, who drew and fired into the open mouth of the swooping Sythe as it collected him and they tumbled backwards across the rocky surface.
The bowman was immediately on his feet and turned to face the fallen Sythe but it lay motionless. A large gash on his immense thigh was the only damage he sustained in the attack. Then he realised he had been pierced with the poison spike of the Sythe. Already he could feel his leg throbbing and the poison working it's way through his system, slowing his motions. He fought these mentally and strode with no visible limp to the edge of the ravine. The Sythe were still hovering but at a greater altitude now. At his presence there was a general cry of "Creeah! Creeah!" And the scavengers flew off towards the opposite cliff-face where they sat watching and waiting for their chance to feast on their fallen comrades. For the moment, they would respect the archer's skill.
Bounding down the cliff face like it was a staircase the bowman landed on the floor of the prairie on his two feet together. The brown hide boots disappeared in a cloud of dust and then he was striding with a long loping pace across the desert plain to where the four humans had emerged from their hiding place under the ledge of the boulder and were waving and calling their thanks. The bowman just stood and waited for them to be quiet.
"You must go." He said in a deep monotone voice. "More will come now." He indicated the Sythes, which had crossed the valley, and were tearing apart the last Sythe killed.
The two men talked whispered amongst themselves, which was pointless because the bowman's hearing was so acute he when necessary filter out all waveforms of any frequency except the one he wants, be it sound or shock wave. His hearing is so acute he can literally hear a blink over the horizon.
"There is only one way to get to Edendorn." The bowman said butting into their conversation.
"Can you lead us there?" The shorter of the two men said. The bowman sensed from his proportions that he was a special caste called a Jalugar or Birdman. His forearms were particularly thick and meaty; almost as large the bowmanís own and his calf muscles were also oversized, giving him an ability to leap great distances. His feet were broad and black and bare. The bowman noted he wore simple peasantís clothes and carried no weapon. Only a little pouch was tied around his waste.
The bowman's expression was half-hidden by the green hood he wore.
"The only way is through the Gate!"
The other man stepped forward now. He wore some sort of uniform, of a synthetic material foreign to the bowman's knowledge. "We must take the children to their family in Edendorn. Will you help them?"
The bowman could sense this man carried a long blade by his side, which he had been wielding ineffectively against the marauding Sythes. A trickle of blood ran down across his forehead.
The huge man flinched and then gritted his teeth and growled at the Jalugar who stepped back or more correctly, hopped back away from him. The blind bowman felt his wound where the jalugar had spread some paste on his open wound. He could sense the same paste on the other man's forehead. The jalugar had a strange expression on his face. Was he challenging me? The bowman wondered. He was showing his teeth and staring unblinking at the blind goliath. Then he realised the jalugar was smiling. An expression as foreign to the bowman as some of the objects and minerals he could sense in the backpack the uniformed man carried.
"That will counter the poison in your system." The jalugar said throwing an arm each around the children and ushering them forward. "This is Alexia and Hallion. They are of the royal family of Sofia. They were kidnapped by the Silico's and escaped. Now we are helping get them to safety." They were clothed in long purple robes, the boy bald and the girl's hair braided tightly and tied in a long ponytail. They shuffled forwards, staring up wide-eyed and mouth gaping at the huge monolith that the bowman was.
Children! The bowman scoffed but nothing showed on his face. He looked up towards the cliff where more of the scavenging Sythes were gathering.
"We go now." He said hoisting his bow over his shoulder and striding out across the plain towards the eastern horizon. "The Gate is this way. Hurry or perish." He said walking off into the distance. The four humans scurried after him as the Sythes slowly gathered in number and glided down into the valley to feast on their fallen brethren.
When they caught up to the bowmen, the children having to jog to keep up with his long stride, he spoke.
"No birds here Jalugar. Only Sythe." The bowman slowed down a little so the others could keep up, growling though in frustration at the delay. He kept his face forward and never looked directly at anyone when speaking to them.
"No my friend." The jalugar replied the shortest of the three men. He still stood six feet tall, while his companion was half a foot taller. The bowman towered over both of them by nearly two foot.
"They are too wise to stray into Sythe territory." The jalugar said looking up into the orange sky, now that day was fully upon them.
"Yet you are not." The bowman concluded causing the jalugar and his companion to chuckle. The bowman grimaced at the sound.
The jalugar shrugged and spoke in his sing song voice. "The innocent must be protected. These children and this man who is a foreigner needed my help. I could not refuse them. I am Zurvan of Avinal and this is Chi, a pilot he tells me. What do they call you bowman?"
"I have no name." Came the monotone response.
The blind man led them towards a cluster of rocky hills. The children whispered wondering if this were the gate. The followed a cleft in the hills that led to a dark opening - a cave in the side of one of the hills.
"Is...is this the gate?" Hallion ventured.
The bowmen swept the outside landscape for one final time with his sensors until satisfied he ushered the humans inside. Before they knew what was happening the bowman thwacked the two men on tops of their head with his meaty paws, knocking them senseless in an instant. As the children froze too frightened to move and the screams stuck in their throats, the bowmen picked them up and quickly bound and gagged them with more of the gut-twine of Sythe he had stashed in the cave. They were hung up on hooks by the ropes binding them and swung up towards each other as the two men were dragged out by the giant.
For a while they heard the sounds of hammering and chopping and then there was silence and only the flicker of a flame somewhere and the smell of meat cooking. Hallion shut his eyes and wondered what would become of them now. When he opened them again the bowman was standing in front of him chewing on a large thighbone.
"Don't worry about getting to Edendorn." The bowman said licking his lips glistening from the fat which spilt from his mouth. He patted his rippled stomach. "You'll be in this Edendorn soon enough boy." And bending down to eclipse the boy completely in his shadow he grinned baring his huge teeth. With a crunch that made the boy wince and his sister shriek through her gag, the gleaming teeth slammed together millimetres in front of his nose.
"And these are the gates to Edendorn!" The goliath boomed.
Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus should we do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.