Beseeching the Gatekeeper

 

If There Is A Will, There Is A Way.

Dominique made her way along the courtyard wall. The clearing was silent as the smoke churned around the burning pyre. Countless grieving bodies blurred into an unfocused haze as a dozen blank faces became lost is a billowing sea of white smoke. Despite the hushed quiet, Dominique could hear their cries.

Anasa stood at the front, face upturned towards the dark, rolling sky. His lips moved in prayer, but there was no sound. Dominique leaned against a stone wall tucked in the corner of the courtyard, quietly watching as the young prince-turned-king dropped to his knees. His forehead pressed against damp ground, his tanned hands fisting in the grass.

Overhead, hidden within the shadows, something flickered. Dominique kept her gaze on the crowd ahead as she let her senses graze over her surroundings. The presence above shivered when she brushed against it, streaks of earthy green flashing behind her mind’s eye. She silently set her thoughts toward it, questioning.

:Many come to grieve,: was the answer she received. She looked up, then, to see a large bird of prey resting on a branch extending over the courtyard wall. It was looking at her, pale body glowing in the gloom surrounding it. :Not just mundas, but animas too.:

Hushed whispers beseeched the Gatekeeper, a wordless song carrying through the haze.

It nearly distracted the young woman from the bird above, the crowd shifting as the young king rose to his feet. ‘The late king is undoubtedly watching,’ Dominique mused to herself as stepped closer to the wall. Overhead, the large avian creature launched itself from the wall. In the distance, chimes and bells tolled.

It was a sound that made her pause, a high and sweet note.

Anasa stopped at her side, his head turning in the direction of the town and the music rising from it. The chimes sung, their light voices rising over the droning tone of the old temple bell. The young king’s arm brushed hers, his voice low as he said, “A bell once silent rings loud. What do you hear, Nique?”

Dominique chanced a glance at the king, and regretted it. His gaze was cold, the bags under his eyes dark. She turned, senses sweeping out of the castle grounds and down the rolling, sloping hills. Her senses touched something wet and oily, and a shudder cut through her as she whispered, “What I can hear is not an issue, Mi’Lord. What I sense, now that is something else…”

The chimes rang loud and long, an unending note that seemingly would not stop. She stood in place, one hand resting against the damp stones of the castle wall as Anasa’s hand settled on the small of her back. Eyes half-lidded, she exhaled. Sounds came, a low growling rumble that shook her bones.

Scents and sounds, images, they zipped through the ethereal, hazy landscape of her mental touch. A dozen horses swept down the streets, reins whipping behind them with bits of broken wood caught in their snare. Mice darted through loose gaps in the wall, the air around them thick with tension and fear. Overhead, birds took to the sky with a thousand screams as something beneath the town’s feet rumbled.

Behind them, the late king’s pyre roared all the brighter.