The ridiculously long, ridiculously overdue backstory, Pt1

The residents of Bisbee have a story to tell

The ridiculously long, ridiculously overdue backstory, Pt1

Postby Enigmia » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:47 pm

Golden fields of grain roll by as the horse and cart trundles down the rutted dirt road. I open my eyes to the lessening light of near dusk, as the wheels hit a particularly large bump, jostling the clay pots settled in the back, and eliciting a grunt from the other passenger, who, unfortunately, is also the driver.
“…Nice day out today.”
I look at him. “…Really? That’s all you could come up with?”
He grins, flicking the reins, though the horse, Sparkles, ignores him completely. (I was a little kid when I named him, hush.) “At least I’m trying, instead of dozing off.”
I close my eyes again. “Given a choice between getting some sleep and awkward conversation with you, I think I’d rather keep my eyes closed.”
He chuckles, tossing his head. “You’re just jealous ‘cause I can mingle with people, while you sit there in a corner sulking because they won’t listen to your stories.”
I start up, half-heartedly glaring at him. “Sulking?! What about when Mother says you can’t have one of your noisy gatherings? You storm up to your room and don’t come out for two days! Now that’s sulking if I ever saw it.”
He puts a hand to his chest; “Why my dear sibling, you wound me to the core. That isn’t sulking, it’s resigning from household life and human companionship in protest of unfair treatment. Utterly noble of me, if I do say so myself.”
I snort, falling back into my previous position and closing my eyes again. “Noble you say? Now that’s something I’d like to see.”
He turns back to the road, “How unsupportive of you my good….
“You might want to look at this.”
I slowly sit up and turn around, expecting it to be a prank, and for him to say ‘Hah, got you’ as soon as he sees me looking.
It isn’t. And he doesn’t. And there’s a giant glowing circle on its edge in the middle of the road.

Needless to say, this is not what I was expecting. “What is it?”
“How would I know? Never seen anything like it before.”
I cautiously get off the cart and move closer to the strange object, passing a shifting and stomping Sparkles, and start to hear a strange humming noise. All of a sudden I’m pulled towards the glowing thing, and have to grab the reins to keep myself from going further. “Holy crap! Need some help here please?”
“Hang on sis, back up Sparkles, back up.” He pulls on the reins. The horse tries to move, but the force from the object makes him keep his hooves dug in simply to stay standing, as the pull gets heavier and I start to lose my grip. One by one my fingers slip, my entire body lifting off the ground, and suddenly I’m shooting toward the glowing circle feet first.
“Sis, no!” I hear my brother cry as I go through, and then everything disappears. When it all comes back, the first thing I see is thorns and vines, green and brown and covering everything, looking sharp enough to go straight through you at the slightest touch. The circle is behind me, and starting to shrink as I watch, but for some reason, for the moment, I can’t move.
It hasn’t been more than a few seconds before my brother comes rushing through after me in the cart, calling out my name in panic. He almost runs me over, but Sparkles notices me and steps as far to the side as he can on the narrow path between the masses of thorns. I want to yell at my brother for being so reckless, but my attention is taken up by the glowing circle shrinking to nothing, and leaving only more walls of vines in its wake. I get the horrible feeling it will be nearly impossible to get back now.

I look around to see where we are while my brother asks if I’m alright.
“I’m fine. You, however, are an idiot.”
“How am I an idiot? I came to rescue you!”
“That’s why you’re an idiot. Charging in when you don’t know what’s ahead of you is stupid, you could have been hurt or killed by whatever got me, and then you’d be no help to anyone. “
“But nothing did attack, and it doesn’t look like anything’s here waiting to do it either…”
I sigh, “Not the point and you know it.” He’s right though, there’s really nothing here but thorns and a trail through them leading from the spot where the circle was…
Wait. What was that moving down the path? Is that a human? No, it’s too big, much bigger than anyone in the village. Doesn’t look like any animal I’ve seen either…
I get up and move toward the cart. “Get ready, we’ve got company heading toward us.”
“What?” He looks where I’ve pointed. “Crap, what now?”
“Just get Sparkles moving.” I say, climbing up and digging in the back for the clubs we carry on the off chance a wild animal gets hungry enough to attack a cart with humans and a horse. He nods and flicks the reins sharply, turning to the only way forward, toward the figure in the distance as I hand him a club.
Sparkles snorts and shies away from the sides of the thorn walls, going into a trot as the distant figure grows more distinct. I can now see that it is indeed bigger than a human, with greenish skin, and wearing rags stained beyond all hope of cleaning. It’s running toward us almost as fast as Sparkles is going, and I can hear its footfalls and growls clearly over the sound of hooves on the dirt path. I glance to the side, “Speed up, we need to go fast enough to knock him into the thorns.”
“I know, I know. Giddy up Sparkles.”
He starts galloping, but as he does, the ogre-like creature speeds up as well. I ready my club, and as we come within yards of the creature, Sparkles swerves to the side, and I swing, driving the club into it's upturned face as it raises its arms to grab hold. I hit it with enough force to break someone’s jaw, but it barely flinches and grabs the side of the cart as we rush past, slowing us down with its weight. It starts to pull itself up, snarling at me.
So I whack it on the head again, then hit its fingers to get it to let go of the side as it starts to reel. It loses its grip and falls to the ground behind us, howling in pain at its injuries. As I watch, it gets up and runs off into the vines, completely ignoring the thorns.
Then, “Sis, we may have another problem.”
I look further up the trail, and see many more figures coming toward us, yelling with what sounds like anticipation. They appear to be robed and carrying knives of some kind and one of them has stopped and is pointing at us. I raise my club again, but then my vision goes blurry, and I feel the cart turn into the side of the path, into the vines. Sparkles screams as the thorns cut into him, but we’re moving too fast for him to stop, and we are thrown into the bramble as the cart overturns and pots fly everywhere.
I feel the thorns pierce my skin, and it hurts so much, more than it seems like it should. I hear screaming from the other side of the sideways cart, and realize I’m screaming as well, as I look at my right arm and see a thorn going straight through it. I start to feel weak as the moments go by, and my cries get softer, till I can barely see or hear anything but the sound of my own heartbeat as the ground turns wet and sticky beneath me. Eventually, after what seems like hours, I feel hands pulling me out of the thorns, and hear people saying something in an angry tone, though I can’t make out what it is. I hear more rustling and my brother’s whimpers of pain, and the whinnying of Sparkles as someone forces him to stand up and walk out of the vines himself.
My vision starts to clear a bit, I can see a large blurry form rearing up and getting free of some smaller forms, then galloping off as the smaller ones chase after it. Eventually they come back, then put us into the cart and start pulling it somewhere. I don’t know where because at this point one of them starts trying to pull the thorn out of my arm and everything goes dark and quiet.

A while later I regain most of my senses, and notice that the vines have thinned into a clearing with much rockier terrain than before. Also, my arm is wrapped in a bandage of some kind, it’s harder to breathe (though that might be the pain), and it’s now night time apparently, since I can see the stars.
Oh, and there’s a bloody altar a little ways off. I can tell it’s an altar because of the dead body tied to it with a knife in its chest.
I look over at my brother in the cart, who appears to be unconscious, though I think I see his eyes flutter and his lips move once or twice. I can hear the robed people arguing about something, I think one of them says “We won’t get much out of them,” but I’m not sure, half of it is in a language I’ve never heard before, and given our village is a trading post of a sort, that’s very strange indeed.
Then I hear something else, something that didn’t come from the robed people. A quiet whisper that comes from nowhere, but I still hear it over everything else.
“…Do you want to live?..”
Of course I want to live, why wouldn’t I? It’s not like there’s a bunch of probable cultists about to sacrifice me and my brother and drink our blood or anything.
“…Will you accept the terms?..”
Terms? What is that supposed to mean? What the heck is the voice talking about?
“…Exchanging a favor for a favor…”
Oh. I guess it can hear my thoughts then. Well, not much I can do in this state, and there’s still the matter of my brother’s life as well.
“…He is being taken care of. Will you accept the terms?..”
The robed people finish their conversation and start to walk over to the cart. I can tell that my time for negotiation is up.
Sigh. Fine, I guess I have no choice in the matter. I accept your terms for the time being, though I’m going to want to talk them over once we’re out of danger.
“…That is sufficient…”
Suddenly the pain is gone. Just gone, as if it was never there to begin with. I feel alert too, like I just woke up from a long nap and had a light meal. More, I can sense the exact positions of every living being, rock, and vine for what feels like miles, where the portal we first came through is, and even where certain stars (or as I now know them to be, big balls of rock and ice and gas, much closer than the balls of fire are to us) are currently positioned and what’s making them stay there.
I can also sense a sphere of pressure around my brother, where things are moving faster than they should. It seems to grow more powerful for a moment, then sort of… Steadies and draws close to him, wrapping around him like a second skin.
He sits up so fast I probably wouldn’t be able to follow it without this new perception I’ve gained, and moves over to me, as the sphere expands again to encompass me, and everything outside it slows down to the point of not moving at all.
He looks at me for a moment. “We need to get out of here.”
I snort as I unwind the bandage on my arm to find the wound completely gone. It looks like there’s one on my chest as well, but when I unwrap it there’s nothing but some blood and a hole in my shirt over some bare skin. “That’s fairly obvious, but how do you propose we do so? Can you keep everything from moving till we get back to the entrance?”
He shakes his head. “No, this is hard enough to maintain as it is, I can’t hold it for much longer, especially not while moving and covering you as well. At best I can speed myself up for a bit, but you’ll be on your own on that front, which means we’re going to have to fight our way through if we want to get out of here.”
Hmmm. Well, I certainly feel ready for anything. But I can now see there are guards all around the clearing, and they have spears and swords that I’d rather not be hit with. “Very well. Might be best to have a plan though.”
He grins at me. “Of course, you doubted I would have one?” He tells me his idea.
I stare at him. “That’s a horrible plan. I could have come up with a better one a few minutes ago, and I was pretty much dead to the world.”
“Well if it’s so easy to come up with one, what’s yours?”
I look around for a moment. It’s my turn to grin now. “Actually…”

The sphere of pressure goes away, and everything speeds up again. The robed people come over to take us to the altar, judging by the orders and gestures coming from the one already there. As one of them grabs my rebandaged arm, I stay limp and pretend to still be asleep. Another one grabs my brother, who proceeds to open his eyes slightly and struggle a bit. The robed person slaps him and tells him to be quiet, unless he wants me to be killed right there in front of him. The strange language they were using before is gone, though they still have some kind of accent I can’t place.
They start to drag us over to the altar, me still limp and having to be carried by two people, and him doing his best to appear defeated and meek as another guides him by the shoulder. As we figured might happen, most of the guards start to head toward the altar as well. After all, they probably joined the cult to worship, not guard a clearing while everyone else gets to enjoy the show.
I wait till we’re about halfway across, keeping one of my hands slightly clenched and in front of the hole in my shirt, both to disguise the fact that there isn’t a wound there anymore, and to hide what I’m holding. As most of the unburdened guards get to the altar, I let my other hand drop and signal to my brother. Then I move.
I snap upright and punch one of the guards in the stomach with even more force than I did the ogre-creature, letting the thorn I found in the bottom of the cart slide into the front of my fist, between the second and third fingers.
As he doubles over, my brother taps the one who was assigned to him on the shoulder, and the robed one disappears without any fanfare at all except for a slight pop. I hammer both of my fists down on the back of the first one to make him hit the floor, then turn and ram my elbow into the face of the one on my other side, breaking his nose and sending him flying. I then stomp on the first one for good measure, and he stops trying to get up.
The person who appears to have been leading the group screams in outrage, and the rest of the cultists start to rush toward us. I grab the cart and start pushing it toward them, and it speeds up so fast that it knocks most of them over as it crashes into the now cleared altar, destroying it in a large explosion of wood and bone. My brother runs forward, dodging every punch or projectile launched at him with ease, as if he knows of them several moments before they’re even thought of. As he reaches the leader he pinches a bit of robe, and the whole thing suddenly crumbles into dust, leaving only an undershirt and a pair of short trousers. The leader is an older man I don’t recognize, though he’s wearing a gold pendant on a chain that looks Roman in design.
My brother sticks his tongue out at the man, then runs back to me, grabbing my hand and dragging me along the path back out of the clearing. As soon as we hit the trail, I start grabbing rocks and throwing them behind me. Once they hit the ground they start to grow into giant boulders that completely fill the path, and weigh as much as a real one would. I can't help but think these may not stop them for long.
As we run, I take the lead since I can sense where the portal we came through is in relation to us, and he keeps a lookout for anyone following. After a few minutes I feel the first boulder shatter into splinters, and our pursuers clamber over the remains as they shrink back to their original size.

By the time the third boulder is destroyed, both of us are exhausted from all the running, fighting, and strange powers, which have been diminishing fast. We’re down to walking, my sense of everything except the way out fading, when the green creature from before stumbles into view a little bit farther down the path.
We both do our best to hide behind a bulge in the vines, hoping he hasn’t seen us yet. He doesn’t seem to spot us, but then he stops and sniffs the air, apparently having caught a whiff of our scents. He starts to walk down the path toward us.
We watch as he gets closer, readying ourselves as best we can for another fight, when there’s a neighing sound from close by, and Sparkles comes out of nowhere, knocking the creature into the thorns. The creature howls in pain, then springs back up and lunges for him, hands outstretched.
And Sparkles shoves a hoof in its face and knocks it back into the thorns again. More howling ensues, and the creature gets up again, but this time it runs off back the way we came, leaking dark green blood and holding it’s lump of a nose. Sparkles snorts at it and looks at us, standing there with our mouths open.
He walks over to us, prancing with impatience. His wounds are gone as well, and he nudges us to get moving and climb on his back. Once we’re on, he turns and gallops back to the portal faster than he ever pulled the cart.

Eventually we speed past the spot where our cart overturned. The thorns have already grown back over half the hole, all the blood has disappeared, and even the remains of the pots are gone. At this point all but the last boulder has been destroyed, and though the creature has not shown itself again, I can’t stop looking behind me to make sure it didn’t decide it wants us more than it fears Sparkles. We come to the spot where the portal was, but there just seems to be more thorns forming a wall where the glowing hole should be. My brother and I get off and walk over, looking around for any sign of how to open a way back. The last boulder takes a massive hit.
“There has to be some way of reopening this thing.”
I rub at the headache starting to form between my eyes, “You’d think. All that seems to be here is rocks, vines and dirt.”
He’s silent for a moment, then, “Wait, these vines in the center here, do they look different to you?”
“Hmmm?” I take a closer look. “…Yeah, they kind of do, they don’t have those thorns and the leaves are a slightly different shape.”
“It kind of looks like a miniature door, doesn’t it…?” The final boulder takes another hit, this one almost destroying it completely.
“I suppose… Oh, no way, it couldn’t be that easy…”
“There’re stories like this, where someone opens a weird door by knocking and saying a secret password…”
The boulder turns to pebbles. "We're running out of time, Will it work?"
He looks at the vines in question. “Well, there’s only one way to find out.” He raises his hand and knocks on the picture the vines form, which produce a sound not unlike that of a wooden door. “Uh… Open?”
For a moment, nothing happens, then the vines start to glow, and the light widens until the portal reappears in all its circular glory.
The sounds of pursuit start to echo down the trail, and without delay we grab Sparkles and head through, hoping that it will lead back to the country road and the world we know, and not another sacrificial altar or more near-lethal foliage. And also hoping that once we're through, that we can close it behind us.
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