DeadLife Standstill, Part 10

The blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch and her daughters spent the evening eating a meatless pie covered with chasm cow cheese. They talked about the things they’d done and the people they’d met.

Just a candle flick before sunset, as her daughter were clearing the plates and jugs, there was a knock at the door. The blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch opened the door. No one was there, but there was a scroll at the threshold. She knew by the markings it was from the matriarchs.

Stoically, she began to unwrap the scroll as she closed the door. The time was short; she skimmed the story to understand its instructions. They were quite bewildering.

She called her daughters. As they arrived before her, she stated “It’s time.” While making a warding sign with her sword, she reminded the girls, “Get your friends to play our cat and mouse game, the secret one from the last War Games. Have them run with you. Go to the lake where we did that War God exercise about quiet minds and where I first told you this was coming. Wait there.”

They ran immediately, and she grabbed her knapsack, stuffed the scroll inside, and departed for the little War Games grove outside of town per the scroll’s instructions. She chopped 30 arrow tree spears, building a fire with the scraps. She searched for the creature described in the scroll; she questioned the existence of animals that tolerate and chase fire.

Her heart hammered in her throat. While the children giggled and skipped out the town gate, she spied a cage in the hollow of a dying moonbird tree. Huge moonbird trees lived for generations longer than recorded time, but bugs ate the wood and weakened older trees.

In the cage were 10 beasts. They were furry, wiggly, and crammed tightly together. They exploded from the cage and circled the fire. The warrior clan matriarch was stunned; no known natural animal acted this way.

They looked like the Chaos God was playing tricks on the War God. They weren’t chasm cats or moon dogs or river rats. They looked like all three creatures melted into one creature.

The fire shouldn’t mesmerize them, and yet it did. She feared they’d never leave the fire. As she lit an arrow tree spear and moved to get some rope, she noticed the group’s confusion as they tried to both follow the torch and circle the fire.

As she rolled in dark mud to conceal her identity after nightfall, she dropped the torch in the mud. She begged the War God to hide her in this realm and the next. Through the War God connection, she was shown how to tie the creatures together so they could be led to the town gate and have the rope burn away. She was shown how to fix torches to the animals’ heads so they would chase the torches when the circle of flame was doused.

She wept silently but the mud was too thick to wash off. She tied all ten animals together, lit just 20 arrow tree torches, and tied the torches together to the heads of the creatures, two torches in different directions for each animal. She glanced at the town gate; for reasons known only to the War God, the gate was open, the Life Spice stalls were closed, and all was quiet.

She lit three more torches and doused the fire. She crept quietly toward the gate, leading the creatures. She prayed for no night watch or at least for the brown-eyed brawler who took Life Spice to be on duty.

When she got just a stone’s throw from the gate, she threw the three torches through the gate and dropped the rope lead. The creatures took off toward the town.

The warrior clan matriarch bolted. She crept through dried gullies toward the lake, glancing back only once to see the smokey orange glow. She tried to ignore the screams of the people she loved as everything she and they knew went up in flames and smoke.

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