Through a dense fog marched the outline of a swiftly moving form. A form much larger than a man, wider as well, but nevertheless it moved like one. “Search the corpssess, fooollss,” said a slithery voice within the shrouded mist. Before swirls of grey cloud dissipated, the form had moved on, somewhere deeper into the invisible.
Moist wisps of wind were oozing down from the pass and into the valley and it’s foothills. The wind in the morning in which the battle had ended was too slow, too gentle to part the fog. The wisps curled and coiled over the tall grasses, over and around the bodies that were already staining the soil red underneath it. The battle had not been quick, nor had many of the deaths. Moaning, and the screams and cries of the dying echoed in the vastness of this space that lay beyond the hidden cloak of cloud. Other forms marched by, larger, some smaller which did not move like men. None were more than a darker grey form within the lighter grey of the swirling mist. Perhaps they only existed in the mist, thought the dying man. They were moving through silently to exist in some other place, just as he was about to do himself.
Two forms stopped perhaps a dozen paces away, and lowered themselves in a squat perhaps, then moved on again. Their talk was garbled, and grotesque. They spoke common words of the Realm, but it was corrupted, harsh, like ice scraping along ice. As if an animal had learned to speak words it’s throat could not properly form. Although he could not see them do it, he knew then when they stood that they would be coming next for him. What he could hear, he knew they could hear just as well. And there was no stopping the sounds of his dying anymore. He had given himself away. His sole chance to die here frozen, but in peace. Now gone, he was at their mercy, and they would give him none.
His body was twisted and turned in such a way that his eyes would soon close but he would see everything, watch them come to him, watch them have their way with him; he reasoned he knew what they were doing. They were taking the spoils of war. He saw the forms that belonged to the voices growing more detailed, and yet still mysteriously grey within the silhouette. They shuffled towards him.
“Grimnash has found nothing,” said one such voice clearly agitated. He could make out their words now.
“Grimnash is a fool,” said another. “Gormang will find the sign our master wants. Gormang will move up in rank.” A pause. “There is one more to search!”
Closer the forms came now, and the dying man knew his moans and his last attempts to breath through the blood pooling in his lungs had drawn them to where he lay. But there was nothing he could do of course. During the battle, his nightmares had come alive. Now he knew he must die in a nightmare, this time never to wake up from it. At least the pain would end soon he hoped.
He stared upwards blankly and saw again the creatures that belonged to the voices materialze out of the void. And in a swift instant he felt the warmth of a blanket spread over his body. He smelled the cold yet rotten breath and stench of the demons growling over him, watching him die. With his only hand left, he reached up to pull the blanket higher around his chest and instead felt the shaft of the spear which had now pierced him. It had stuck him to the earth like a pincushion. The creatures leaning over him turned his body this way and that, obviously searching for something. The blanket he then realized was his own blood, now soaking him in frozen death as it cooled quickly in this damnable frozen wasteland.. His eyes closed then and the last of the air he held inside him left his body in a slow drawn out whimper.
One of the beasts pulled his spear out of the ground and shook the man’s corpse off the shaft until he fell back to the soil in a jumbled heap. His blood which now soaked his armor and torso was cooling like ash in the cold air. The Southerners had a name for this phenomenon. It was known as “The Rising”. Neither of the creatures seemed to notice, and so they walked on to the next body.
“The master keeps us busy with idle tasks, while the others carry away the true spoils of war!” Said the beast calling himself Gorclaw. “The sign is never found on the bodies!”
“You are the fool then, for the sign is not meant to be found on so many of the bodies, only but a few. Those who find them, will destroy the blighted remnants of our enemies. And prepare the way for the masters.” There was a guttural noise as if this last statement were being considered by the other. “Bringing the signs to the master is not an idle task Grimnash, you fool. You will know one day, it has been foretold.”
“It is a fool’s errand. A tale told to keep us in our war lines. To do the master’s surface work.”
“You are the fool Grimnash,” said the voice of Gorclaw. “And that talk will get you roasted in the masters’ cooking pots. To a lucky few, will be the spoils of finding the signs. I will mount a Gaian skull on my stave, and you will someday call me the master.”
“Hahaha,” roared the other. “You will be no one’s master. Nor I. We will murder and tear and rip until the master has made his way to the heart of these sheep. Then, shall we sleep once more.”