The Broken Gate
For several weeks Miltos the Red traveled. His bare feet felt the puncture of rocks and dirt, the caressing of grass, and the cold puddles of rain. He had forgotten the sensation from bedridden years. Now he took to it like how a thirsty man drowns himself in water.
Disinterested from the main roads that connected various towns and villages, he took unknown paths. He saw large open plains, with the occasional wild herds of animals. Sensing them from the distance, he would carefully come upon them, slaying one to eat. In the forests, he tracked down wild berries and mushrooms, though these were trickier to find. He had come to find that the roots of all the plants and trees intermingled beneath the ground, and thus it took some time to untangle in his mind which roots belonged to what.
Coming closer to his destination, he felt weary. There was a poison in the earth, stemming from several far away places, though he neared one location. It flowed like an infection, a fever that started in the head and continued to ransack the body. The landscapes changed as he traveled. Lush fields became barren. What were perhaps lakes and ponds were now swamps. Gravel,sands, and distant mountains were in eye view. The poison flowed more freely through the earth; he came closer to where he needed to be.
Miltos stood before the broken gates of Revash Bohde. He gazed at the carrion crows circling above,listening to them caw and perch themselves along the walls. The wind drifted in from the north, bringing with it the stench of rotten flesh. The large city, surrounded by tall stone walls, was etched onto the side of the mountain chain. A kingdom—a dying kingdom; a dead kingdom. He motioned the earth beneath him to cover his skin,like a thin sheet of armor. It would serve as little protection, but it would help by dulling his odor as he remained hidden in the shadows. Out of sight, out of scent—out of mind.
He was unsure what Dyrda, the Abyss Walker who renewed his legs, would have him do here, but he was certain this was where he needed to be. He moved cautiously, but swiftly through the city’s streets, avoiding these scavenger and preying animals: Hounds whose yellow teeth and ribs were visible;human-shaped bodies with protruding bones from their deprived flesh;half eaten rats that were still alive, scurrying between the shadows as he was; and other creatures that he did not recognize, but also that he did not wish to ever know.
He walked slowly, taking note of shadows and sounds. Down an alley, he heard something that had the shape of a woman, but on its back were protruding bones. She cried and wailed as it gorged on an animal underneath her. Miltos stared in wonder and horror.
The sun was setting, and night would come upon this gray, ashen city. This would endanger him, for the gods only knew what dark creatures stirred at night. He decided that,since the poison in the earth was most noticeable, he would try to finds its exact source.
He ducked into an alleyway, avoiding two hounds that were rummaging in the main street. Lowering himself to one knee, Miltos placed his hand on the cobble, stretching his senses into the earth and stones. In his mind, he saw something of a map of the kingdom, but below the kingdom were a small series of caverns, and it was there the poison festered. He searched for a way downward. There were several sewer entrances that led into the earth,but they were only large enough for water. However there was one shaft that seemed to lead downward…
His head jerked up in instinct. He felt it again. Similar to how he felt Dyrda eyeing him, there was something in this city watching him. It was hostile; a raging bitterness stared at him. He looked down the alley, both in front and behind him. He placed his back against the wall, attempting to see if it came from the roofs above him. Nothing stood out as different.
He closed his eyes to try to pinpoint the glare’s location. In his mind he saw a thousand eyes, each of him pointing towards him, and each of them twitching in rage. Several were single, human-like eyes; others were like the eyes of an insect,a hundred smaller eyes in a socket. He gasped, trying to breathe, and opened his eyes to see only the alleyway. He staggered from the wall,trying to compose himself.
The wall rumbled then busted open. A cloaked figure rushed through it, it’s arm outstretched reaching for Miltos’ face. His body was covered, and Miltos could not see the attacker’s visage, but beneath the hood, where the light could not reach, he thought he saw those thousand eyes, like a thousand voices calling out for his death. The attacker’s hand gripped his head like a vice, and all went black.