Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tales of the Rancid Blade: Part Two: The Curved Courtyards of Commoragh

Small white up-lights along walls did little to influence the black granite floors bathed in red. Long passageways lined with pillars lead to open air chambers. Statues of the kin of old still stood in the curved courtyards of Commoragh. They stood with cloths or hoods thrown over their stone faces. The statues’ blasphemers had been unable to look upon the faces of their old cousins and were too afraid to pull the statues to the ground. Granite stairways led to rooms long empty and pillars supported the high ceilings. Each day slaves quietly scrubbed the floors to a high polished shine. Through arched windows along a passageway the bruise colored Commorragh sky could be seen.

Lady Hosphel walked these passageways confident in her almost supreme power. As she walked long heeled boots clicked on the stone floors and small pendants about her hips rattled together. A long purple robe hung about her shoulders to the floor. It was tied at the waist. She carried herself as one who holds the knowledge that none could best her in martial combat. Her mind had been excoriated of fear and muted to the horrors she had seen. In fact she had come to love those horrors that she had faced.

She entered a small open air court yard. It was octagonal in shape with no apparent exits. Beyond the simple arch where she had entered the wall sections were dull and unpolished. In some places the black stone seemed rotten, blotchy and crumbing. It was as if this small garden had been abandoned even by the slaves. It was in direct contrast to the perfectly manicured walls in the previous passageways. A burnt tree stood in the middle of the small court yard. It was about twice her height but seemed also to cower from her confident form. The tree had once grown from an opening in the ground but now its charred remains simply twisted up like an old skeletal hand protruding from a sleeve.

Statues stood where each of the wall sections met. They were raised on dais’ and looked down on the tree in the middle of the garden. These Eldar forms were from the old times when this was the city of all Eldar. Those old ancestors had their mouths and eyes bound with red cloth.

Hosphel stopped before the tree. She reached for one of the trinkets that hung about her waist and lifted it. It looked much like a small coin. She rubbed it between her forefinger and thumb and as she did she watched the covered eyes of the old ancestors to be assured they were not looking. In an instant the tree was transformed. Its branches re-knitting themselves as if a spasmodic force were shaking the tree and forcing it against its will to remake itself. As it formed into a gate before her, like a rusty gate into an old lonely garden, she recalled millennia ago when she would never have had to force this gate. It had been always open. As she stepped through the gate she recalled that once all the places these gates had led to had been bright and warm. She had never concerned herself about what lay beyond. Her dress whipped about her, blown by a strong warm wind as she stepped from the old garden into a chamber far below the surface of the city that few knew. As the wind settled the fabric of her dress she felt her flesh chill at the prospect of what lay before her and though she enjoyed the sensation her once mighty confidence was gone.

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