Friday, September 9, 2016
Glass and Roses, Chapter 9
Catarina stood up after examining the ground. “This is their trail, and it's fresh,” she said. “We don't have much longer before we have caught up to the bulk of the horde.”
Valdimer stood next to her on the hill, overlooking the rolling knolls and patches of woods. He pulled his hood up, unconsciously making sure the others couldn't see the longing on his face. “Are you sure this isn't another straggling group?” he asked.
Catarina gave a sharp nod. “The tracks all move in the same direction, and are spread over a large area. There have to be hundreds of them.”
“Where are they going?” Zhihao wondered out loud. Valdimer took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with a sigh.
“We think someone is summoning them,” Berit said, understanding what Valdimer was thinking. “But we don't know what her purpose is.”
Dror stiffened and looked at her, remembering what he heard at the scrying pool. “It's your mother, isn't it?” he said. Berit nodded.
Valdimer started walking down the hill, and the others followed. He began to speak. “Almost six years ago, our mother seemed to be growing ill. She started acting strange, sneaking out and getting lost at night, forgetting simple things, and no amount of medicine seemed to help. I worked a trading post and Berit took assassination contracts to help pay for the debts we were acquiring. Then...” He trailed off, lost in memory.
Berit continued for him. “One day, I visited Val and our mother to see how she was doing. Val and I were not getting along, and our disagreements piled up into an argument. A loud one. We didn't noticed that Mom had left. When we did, we blamed each other, and stormed out looking for her. We never found her, but we saw what she did.”
“While we were searching,” Valdimer said, “the alarm was suddenly raised. Demons were killing people in the streets, out of nowhere. Berit and I split up...”
“That was the last time we had seen each other before we set out on this quest seven months ago.”
They passed through the shade of a small grove between two hills. Demons had definitely passed through the area, as told from the claw marks on the trees and dying plants. Life was starting to return, despite the corruption. A mourning dove called for its mate, and from far off it was answered. Small patches of green were sprouting up amongst the brown.
Valdimer let Catarina start to lead again. “We both figured out later that it must have been our mother who summoned them,” he said. “We found ritual supplies that she had hid in her room, and found out that she had been doing research on demons. She must have been seeking a cure for her illness.”
“I assumed she had been killed by whatever demon she had summoned,” Berit said.
“I didn't,” Valdimer said. “I knew she was still out there. Otherwise they would have found her body. Demons don't do much cleaning up after themselves.”
Berit smirked. “Neither of us went searching for her, anyway. But Valdimer made sure to pay attention to news coming from almost every town and village in the countryside.”
“And after five years,” he said, “it paid off. I heard of a demon attack believed to be caused by a summoner. It had to be her.”
Dror nodded. “I had never heard of demons breaking into this realm in such huge numbers. Another occurrence like that can't have been a coincidence.”
“I was skeptical at first,” Berit said. “Or maybe I just didn't want to believe it. But in the end, we're helping to stop the outbreaks, even if it's not her.”
“It's her,” Valdimer said, and stopped walking. Berit was about to walk past when she saw that Valdimer wasn't just being confident in his logic. In the grove ahead of them stood two women, one young and one old. They both turned to look at the five approaching adventurers.