Howl of the Carrion King – Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Ill Winds

Nes stood at the front of the line he had organized, tossing bucket after bucket of water onto the flaming wagon. His arms ached from the exertion and his smooth hands were already beginning to form blisters. Worst of all, his favorite silk robe was singed.

Whoever had done this, would pay.

Some time during the commotion Princess Roveshki and her retainers had joined the water line, working as hard as any of them. They helped, but the battle was far from won. The flames spread along the dry wood faster than the water was arriving and most of what water did make it the wagon was turning to steam before his eyes. The heat must have been intense.

They needed a second line.

To his left, Santon and some mercenaries worked to drag the supply carts away from the fire. If Nes and his crew could only hold the fire at bay until their comrades accomplished their task, they would best the flames.

Nes took another bucket from the man behind him, Garavel, he believed, and threw it onto the flames before him, followed by another, and another. Sweat poured down his face and arms, soaking his once fine robes.

Finally, Santon and his workers managed to drag the cart out of the range of errant sparks.

“Second line!” Nes called out. To his relief, Fudin and Santon seemed to know exactly what he meant, and guided the rest into a second line without much difficulty. Fudin worked beside him, closest to the flames.

Ever so slowly, they gained ground.

Muscles strained, skin burnt, water flew and the flames retreated. As the last of the embers died a half-hearted shout of triumph went up from among the caravan. They were too exhausted to muster much more.

Nes smiled. He had led them to this triumph. It was the start of great things.

Fudin stepped up beside him and clapped him on the back. “You did well, my brother.”

“As did you. Father would be – ” A shiver ran up his spine and he paused.

“What is it?”

“An ill wind blows.” Nes whispered. He surveyed the camp around him.

From the burning embers of the wagon a number of colourful cards tumbled up into the sky. Nes eyed them suspiciously, watching their every motion as a stray breeze caught them, causing them to scatter. One card, caught in an updraft, tumbled far up into the air, before being picked up by the wind. It drifted away for a moment before the wind suddenly shifted, driving the card towards him. It landed upon his soot covered robe in a burst of orange cinders.

Curious, Nes picked up the card and snuffed its burning edges with his fingertips. It was sturdy and, despite its time in the roaring flames, only slightly singed. Upon one side it bore an elaborate, swirling pattern, mimicking the arcane symbols for divination, inquiry and tradition. The other was illustrated with a picture of an anthropomorphic tornado with a snarling, demonic visage tearing apart a village. A small hammer adorned the card’s lower right hand corner.

It was a harrow card. A divination tool used in lands far to the north.

Nes raised an eyebrow at Fudin.

He was not familiar with the tradition himself, and did not know the meaning of all the cards, but it seemed as it this one shared it’s symbology with arcane traditions familiar to him. The Cyclone signified a force that tears through whatever it meets – but it is not blind destruction. It is destruction at the behest of an intelligent being.

Ill winds bearing ill omens.

Nes smiled held the card up to Fudin. “Fate is a fickle mistress, indeed, my brother. War comes.”

Fudin arched an eyebrow and, ever so slightly, smiled. “Our legacy is at hand.”

Nes nodded and twirled the card between his fingers.

They were prepared to meet their destiny head on, without fear. It was what they had come here for.

Things were about to get very interesting.

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