The Occulta

Photo by Todd McKinley

Sybil awoke to the sounds of birdsong. It was a strange sensation, almost foreign.

How long have I been surrounded by dead stone?

She opened her eyes and beheld more green than ever has been seen in her short life. A veritable sea of green stretches through the sky, with only traces of blue between reaching limbs.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, unable to keep her feelings contained. She was a child again, a feeling of wonder sinking deep into her mind. Vast trees as big around as entire citadel towers stood all around her, reaching impossible heights.

“I never . . . Not this much,” she felt herself say. Beneath her, the ground sank into a soft spongy moss. She wanted nothing more than to languish in the spot and giggle to herself. But years of learned propriety forced her to stand and take a survey of the situation.

She was alone, or so it seemed. The sounds of trickling water filled the air about her.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” she asked, knowing full well there would be no answer.

Silence.

Somewhere far off a bird took to flight, it’s wing beats almost a scream in the forest.

“Hello?” she called again. Nothing.

Call out with your mind, a sudden thought spoke to her, as if whispered in her ear.

Ask us, anything.

The sudden intrusion into her mind left her speechless, and thoughtless. Her legs faltered and she fell back upon the heap of green moss.

“Who are you?” she blurted out, and then remembered the words she’s heard.

Who are you? Sybil asked, her mind echoing as never before as if her thoughts were being listened to, are you there?

Yes, came the reply, more powerful than she could comprehend, yes we are here.

Sybil looked up at the trees once more and then it dawned on her.

The trees.

Who are you, she asked again feeling her confidence grow.

There was a pause and then the trees reverberated.

We are the Forest Occulta.

-M.E. InkOwl

The Devil’s Tooth


Photo by Todd McKinley

It’s said that when the light was divided from the dark, and land torn from the sea, the Darkness could not contain his jealousy.

In anger, he pulled away from the light with jaws of poisonous death.

The light cast him from the heavens, her scorn white hot and eternally sprung.

With mouth spread wide, the Darkness fell, an ungodly scream born from his throat.

And break he did, with shattered teeth upon the mortal realm.

But one tooth stuck fast to a mountain’s peak, never to move again.

And upon that mount darkness grew, from silver-white tooth divine.

-M.E. InkOwl

Beyond The Forbidden

Photo by Todd McKinley

“Quickly now!” hissed Temporus, his voice clicking with impatience, “you see, there, the Bridge of Agrust!”

Below them, the sea crashed upon jagged rocks, seething white and dark azure foam. Mareth pause for an instant, following two of the Calvarig’s slender arms. Around her, Icarus Worn, and the others stood at the edge of broken coastline. Beyond them, across the swirling bay,  foreign stones bespoke safety.

A scattering of islands spanned the divide. Between each a graceful bridge arches from one island to the next.

“The Emperor’s Road,” stated Worn, a note of relief coloring his usually stoic tone.

“We’re close!” said Icarus with a smile. Mud covered his sweaty face, and the dark circles under his eyes showed only a hint of the exhausted they all felt, but they had made it.

“Father should be waiting at the end of that road!” Icarus cheered, starting forward after Temporus. Other beleaguered crewmen took heart at Icarus’s youthful excitement. She watched as bowed heads and wear limbs livened up, and even join in a quiet cheer.

Mareth wanted to share in her companions excitement, but unease rippled within her mind.

Something’s not right, she thought, looking back at the sea, there’s something . . . wrong.

Beyond her then sea moved, roaring in tandem with her deepening fear.

A shadow moved across the noonday sun, and for a moment the feeling left Mareth, that was until she heard the screams.

-M.E. InkOwl

Through a Haunted Glass

Photo by Todd McKinley

What secret lies beneath the sleeping wood?

Where mists of doubt and lies cling to root and stone.

With much stillness, does darkness wait below the silvered surface.

For with the steps of mortal man wake ripples of forgiveness.

Why would the child wake the sleeping giant, to heal it’s mortal wounds,

When would creation fall before the blackness of oblivion?

Which path will you take now? The road lies shatter between each trunk.

From here the Deepening lies Unending.

-M.E. InkOwl

Through A Ruin Darkly

“The wind speaks hidden words, Cereph,” whispered Worn as the two creatures watched the darkening sea.

They stood beneath a broken awning, a golden Sphinx and chestnut centaur.

Cereph continued to stare at the rolling bay, emerald green eyes taking in the world. A glossy coat of golden fur ended at her shoulders and arms were soft human skin began. But her head held a mane of tawny hair that had been drawn up under a circlet of silver.

“I know, friend,” she said, her voice filled with sorrow. Cereph turned to her oldest companion, the centaur’s glossy coat held streaks of grey. How many ages had passed that he had been by her side.

“They will come, I feel it,” she murmured, “I’ve felt it in the ground beneath us and tasted it upon the winds of the sea.”

“Darkwell is coming,” Worn breathed, finishing her though, “but there is something upon the air that you do not speak of, something written above us, in the stars beyond.”

Cereph shifted her gaze to the growing storm and said with a long sigh, “that dream died too long ago, old friend, when Hope was an everlasting river in my heart.”

“Is there no hope?” asked Worn as he laid a hand upon her shoulder. His hooves clicked upon cracked stone floors.

A sing tear fell from Cereph’s glowing eyes, she knew her deepest fears to be true, yet she couldn’t speak them.

After a moment’s pause Cereph responded.

“We are all that’s left Worn, and it is not enough. We stand alone between an Empire and the Sea, a rabble of embattled souls.”

The centaur pawed at the ground, impatience getting the better of him.

“We are the beginning Cereph,” Worn chastised, “the Elemental will come-”

Cereph held back a roar, feeling her hackles rise with her anger.

“There is no Elemental, Worn, look around you, look at our Kingdom,” she gestured to the crumbling edifice all around them, “this place will not hold, and we will fail.”

Worn stamped a hoof and was about to counter, but Cereph raised a hand, turning her face away from Worn, and beyond the sea.

“No friend, it is over. We must ready the city to fight and flee,” she said, pausing before a dark stair. “This is the end.”

With a swish of her golden tail she was gone.

Worn stood in the ruin of Parmara, and breathed in the world around him. He turned back to the sea, nostrils flaring.

“You are wrong, Cereph,” he said to the empty courtyard, eyes full of hope, “the Elemental will come. We must have . . . Faith.”

-M.E. InkOwl

Hope

Photo by Todd McKinley

Though darkness walks upon this land, breaking it asunder.

And mountains tremble beneath snowy peaks, whispering of their folly.

The free folk flee before a host, domineering and proud.

And countries quake beneath a load of slavery and compliance.

Hope is not lost, as the sun blots out, from fiery death and destruction.

For a day will come, when the elements will rise, freed from their prisons tethered.

And light will walk upon the ground, combined with powers of each.

For the Elemental will grow, from wind and water, tempered by earth and fire.

-M.E. InkOwl

Parmara, Shield of the Sea

 

Photo by Todd McKinley

 

Between sea and land,

Upon white teeth of a winding shore.

There lays a city of ruin and growth,

Continually beings swallowed by the sea, and rising from fields of green.

It is where Chimerans reside.

Creatures of myth and strangeness beyond imagining.

Continuously caught between an Empire and it’s rebellions,

Parmara continues to shine, a hardy jewel among tumbling stone.

Shield of the Sea, it means.

For once the crumbling towers and city walls were young and strong.

On one side the sea raged, desperate to destroy the foundation of stone.

Yet as wars clashed from all sides, the city remained, forever between the sea and land.

For hundreds of years, thousands of people come and gone,

Parmarian towers still stand, shielding the land from its eternal nemesis.

Forever caught between.

-M.E. InkOwl

 

 

The North

Oh to the North I am called,

Upon a voice full of ice and snow.

Between the mountains Atrox I am drawn to begin.

Foot upon foot, step upon wintery step.

Where creatures of ice and starvation thrive, and the green world shrinks from view.

Home.

I am called home, upon a voice of ice and snow.

To the North.

Beings that dwell within caves of heat and labyrinths so deep they find the very roots of the earth.

Tall men with eyes of white commune with spirits of light.

Upon voices of ice and snow.

They beckon me to go,

North.

Home.

I will be one burdened with a secret dripping of lies,

Whispered to by ghosts of old.

A secret that will bring down the world, and raise the very mountains to the ground.

Some call me Truth-sayer, some liar.

But I have touched the light of eternity.

Infinity has swallowed my eyes, blurring my vision and bestowing Their own.

My tongue is set upon Their breath, a burning sheet of ice.

And now I see and speak as the gods do

Here in the North.

Where I am called.

For I am a Seer.

-M.E. InkOwl

The Lament of Argeatum

It is said that cities of old were once the size of a cluster of farms.

Their people were one with the earth and growing things thereupon.

Within the nourishing arms of Solumra did the first peoples of the world gain succor.

And for a time the world knew peace and prosperity.

But then the crown of Solumra slipped from her fingers, spilling precious jewels upon mortal grounds.

A mistake, a blessing, but no one will acknowledge that it was a curse.

That of Solumra and Her unsatiable greed.

Now the green farms are gone, the forests laid bare.

And between petrified trees of Lacer and the Grumul peaks lay vast walls.

Walls set to divide.

Walls placed to remind.

Walls to inspire fear.

For the Empire has conquered even here.

-M.E. InkOwl

Secrets Upon A Stair

She stood upon her secret stair, willing the voices echoing quietly to move on.

Surely I’ll be found out, and be cast from this place forever! She thought, desperately looking for an escape.

But then the mumbling voices grew clear and she froze.

“And when it is completed, the sign shall be given from the highest tower,” growled a voice. It was harsh like a winter’s night and it chilled Sybil to her heart.

“As it must,” lisped an all too familiar voice.

“You serve your Mastre well,” the Sister Superior spoke, “even for a Sicari.”

Sybill all but fell down the stairs in shock. The Sister Superior’s voice held a note of respect for her dark companion. Sybil cocked one pointed ear to the side, her dark hair spilling down the front of her dress.

Respect? The Sisterhood despised the Sicari, she thought, placing her feet carefully as she descended the stairwell, moving toward the glowing embrasure.

Everyone knows that these two despise one another, almost as much as siblings. Sybil’s mind wandered to the propaganda and pamphlets that seemed to run rampant through the city each day. It was a bitter rivalry fought from both sides as each sect vied for the Imperial family’s attention.

My imperial family, she thought, feeling a pang of longing as she reflected upon the separation. Memories hung before her in the chilled air, willing to be reviewed, but she pushed the thoughts away. The conversation beyond had continued, shifting to one side as the pair continued to walk upon a cobblestone path.

Sybil descended a few steps more, intrigued and terrified by this unprecedented exchange. Standing tiptoe on a stair she was given a covered view of the courtyard beyond. Torches burned along stone walls outlining the trees and shrubs of a covenant garden. Two forms walked side by side, one robed in moon silk, the other wrapped in a garment of raven black.

They would bring their most despised rival into their inner sanctum? Sybil breathed out her shock. This was the Superior’s own garden, tended by her hand for over a hundred years.

What are they playing at? she thought, pressing herself against the cool stone wall. At that moment Sybil’s foot slipped and she all but lost her purchase on the wall. A few small stones skipped down the stairs, echoing into the night. She clung to the wall for dear life, kicking her feet for a second before her slippers regain purchase on the rough stone. The tower was an old one, having been the companion to many a weathering rock and stone. Viens of cracked obsidian traced their way through roughly carved blocks giving the walls a chaotic structure.

Please don’t hear me, please don’t hear, she begged as her fingers slipped over the stone. Sybil felt her garment catch and fray and the front of her slippers tear as she regained her purchase and pushed her head up over the curved lip.

Both figures had stopped short and were facing one another, their words pouring in through Sybil’s embrasure. Neither had heard the young elf or her panicked scrabbles.

“It will be done, Daughter of the Moon,” hissed the Sicari as he bowed his head and shoulders low, “your cause is a most honorable one.”

The Sister seemed to stiffen for a moment, her gaze going beyond the robed figure.

“It must be done, Sicari. But I doubt this city . . . and these people. . .will call it honorable.” she said, with what Sybil thought was regret.

“Yes, I taste it in the air, Superior. Many will turn, and in their folly greet a death most horrible,” snarled the Sicari. Mercy abandoned his words as they left hidden lips. And Sybil instinctively knew the creature was excited at the prospect of death, of innocent death.

But what are they to do? Why are they meeting like this? She thought, pushing her self into the embrasure, willing both forms to stay where they were.

“As Sister Laureece would say, ‘the wound must be cleaned, and bone set from the inside before it can properly heal,’ and we will do this Ceptor,” the Superior said, reaching a cowled hand to touch the Sicari on his shoulder, “by the blood of the Emporer we will set the bones of this Empire, Her Empire.”

“Your bidding comes from the Burning Goddess herself, Superior,” hissed Ceptor as he again bowed his head, “We do as you and She would command.”

Sybil felt rather than heard her heart pounding in her ears at these words, but she forced herself to listen.

“Rise, Sicari,” commanded the Superior, “the Emperor must die, and upon the light of the full moon. You have a fortnight.”

“Upon the rising of our Blood Moon, the Usurper will die,” promised Cetpor, his voice shaking with suppressed energies.

The Superior waved a hand across their path saying, “Now go, there is work to be done.”

And as quick as a forming stormcloud the Sicari was gone, melting into the darkness.

Sybil watched as the Superior surveyed the garden scape around her, silent as a grave. And then she began to laugh. It was high simpering tones at first, and then the laughter came as if torn from her throat and mouth. The horrible noise filled the garden, bouncing from wall to wall until Sybil’s hidden tower stairs vibrated.

The young elf lowered herself down onto the stairs, placing hands over her ears.

“No,” she whispered, rocking back against the stones,”no.”

She looked up through a vast crack in the tower wall and saw a sliver of stars where the moon should have been.

Sybil sat shaking, torn between rage and fear, the Sister Superior’s words echoing in her mind even as she listened to her laughter. Sybil could do nothing, her airway squeezed off by this terrible secret.

“Father,” she croaked, knowing there was nothing she could do.

-M.E. InkOwl