• Published 4th Dec 2012
  • 469 Views, 5 Comments

Ferocious Hearts - mazi



How far can passions drive one to go?

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Chapter 1

Late Autumn, 4109 Year-of-the-Talon, the Mountains of Felyn


Again the dreams had come.

Vast landscapes, histories, contests of faith and culture, all glimpsed in cataracts of detail. Horses skidding to earth. Fists clenching mud. Dead strewn on the shore of a warm sea. And as always, an ancient city, chalk dry in the sun, rising against dun hills. A holy city . . . Zebrica.

And then the voice, thin as though spoken through the reed throat of a serpent, saying, “Send to me my son.”

The dreamers awoke as one, gasping, struggling to wrest sense from impossibility. Following the protocol established after the first dreams, they found each other in the unlit depths of the Thousand Thousand Halls.

Such desecration, they determined, could no longer be tolerated.

- - -

Climbing pitted mountain trails, Erigryphor Miskus leaned on his knee and turned to look at the monastic citadel. Talonuäl’s ramparts towered above a screen of spruce and larches, only to be dwarfed by the rutted mountain slopes beyond.

Did you see it thus, Father? Did you turn and look for one last time?

Distant figures filed between the battlements before disappearing behind stone—the elder Clawwan abandoning their vigil. They would wind down the mighty staircases, Miskus knew, and one by one enter the darkness of the Thousand Thousand Halls, the great Labyrinth that wheeled through the depths beneath Talonuäl. There they would die, as had been decided. All those his father had polluted.

I’m alone. My mission is all that remains.

He turned from Talonuäl and continued climbing through the forest. The mountain breeze was bitter with the smell of bruised pine.

By late afternoon he passed the timberline, and after two days of scaling glacial slopes he crested the roof of the Felyn Mountains. On the far side of the range, the forests of what once had been called Griffon extended beneath scudding clouds. How many vistas such as this, he wondered, must he cross before he found his father? How many ravine-creased horizons must he exchange before he arrived at Zebrica?

Zebrica will be my home. I shall dwell in my father’s house.

Descending granite escarpments, he entered the wilderness.

He wandered through the gloom of the forest interior, through galleries pillared by mighty redwoods and hushed by the overlong absence of men. He tugged his cloak through thickets and negotiated the fierce rush of mountain streams.

Though the forests below Talonuäl had been much the same, Miskus found himself unsettled for some reason. He paused in an attempt to regain his composure, using ancient techniques to impose discipline on his intellect. The forest was quiet, gentle with birdsong. And yet he could hear thunder . . .

Something is happening to me. Is this the first trial, Father?

He found a stream marbled by brilliant sunlight and knelt at its edge. The water he drew to his beak was more replenishing, more sweet, than any water he had tasted before. But how could water taste sweet? How could sunlight, broken across the back of rushing waters, be so beautiful?

What comes before determines what comes after. Clawwan monks spent their lives immersed in the study of this principle, illuminating the intangible mesh of cause and effect that determined every happenstance and minimizing all that was wild and unpredictable. Because of this, events always unfolded with granitic certainty in Talonuäl. More often than not, one knew the skittering course a leaf would take through the terrace groves. More often than not, one knew what another would say before he spoke. To grasp what came before was to know what would come after. And to know what would come after was the beauty that stilled, the hallowed communion of intellect and circumstance—the gift of the Logos.

Miskus’s first true surprise, apart from the formative days of his childhood, had been this mission. Until then, his life had been a premeditated ritual of study, conditioning, and comprehension. Everything was grasped. Everything was understood. But now, walking through the forests of lost Griffon, it seemed that the world plunged and he stood still. Like earth in rushing waters, he was battered by an endless succession of surprises: the thin warble of an unknown bird; burrs in his cloak from an unknown weed; a snake winding through a sunlit clearing, searching for unknown prey.

The dry slap of wings would pass overhead and he would pause, taking a different step. A mosquito would land on his cheek, and he would slap at it, only to have his eyes drawn to a different configuration of tree. His surroundings inhabited him, possessed him, until he was moved by all things at once—the creak of limbs, the endless permutations of water over stones. These things wracked him with the strength of tides.

On the afternoon of the seventeenth day, a twig lodged itself in his fur. He held it against storm-piled clouds and studied it, became lost in its shape, in the path it travelled through the open air—the thin, muscular branchings that seized so much emptiness from the sky. Had it simply fallen into this shape, or had it been cast, a mould drained of its wax? He looked up and saw one sky plied by the infinite forking of branches. Was there not one way to grasp one sky? He was unaware of how long he stood there, but it was dark before the twig slipped from his fingers.

On the morning of the twenty-ninth day, he crouched on rocks green with moss and watched salmon leap and pitch against a rushing river. The sun rose and set three times before his thoughts escaped this inexplicable war of fish and waters.

In the worst moments his arms would be vague as shadow against shadow, and the rhythm of his walk would climb far ahead of him. His mission became the last remnant of what he had once been. Otherwise he was devoid of intellect, oblivious to the principles of the Clawwan. Like a sheet of parchment exposed to the elements, each day saw more words stolen from him—until only one imperative remained: Zebrica . . . I must find my father in Zebrica.

He continued wandering south, through the foothills of the Felyn. His dispossession deepened, until he no longer oiled his sword after being wetted by the rain, until he no longer slept or ate. There was only wilderness, the walk, and the passing days. At night he would take animal comfort in the dark and cold.

Zebrica. Please, Father.

On the forty-third day, he waded across a shallow river and clambered onto banks black with ash. Weeds crowded the char blanketing the ground, but nothing else. Like blackened spears, dead trees spiked the sky. He picked his way through the debris, stung by weeds where they brushed his bare skin. Finally he gained the summit of a ridge.

The immensity of the valley below struck Miskus breathless. Beyond the fire’s desolation, where the forest was still dark and crowded, ancient fortifications loomed above the trees, forming a great ring across the autumnal distances. He watched birds wheel over and around the nearer ramparts, flash across stretches of mottled stone before dipping into the canopy. Ruined walls. So cold, and so forlorn, in a way the forest could never be.

- - -

The ruins were far too old to contradict the forest outright. They had been submerged, worn and unbalanced by ages of its weight. Sheltered in mossy hollows, walls breached earthen mounds, only to suddenly end, as though restrained by vines that wrapped them like great veins over bone.

But there was something in them, something not now, that bent Miskus toward unfamiliar passions. When he brushed his claws across the stone, he knew he touched the breath and toil of Folk—the mark of a destroyed people.

The ground wheeled. He leaned forward and pressed his cheek against the stone. Grit, and the cold of uncovered earth. Above, the sunlight was broken by a span of knotted branches. Folk . . . here in the stone. Old and untouched by the rigour of the Clawwan. Somehow they had resisted the sleep, had raised the work of hands against the wilderness.

Who built this place?

Miskus wandered over the mounds, sensing the ruins buried beneath. He ate sparingly from his forgotten satchel—dried wafers and acorns. He peeled leaves from the surface of a small pool of rainwater, drank, then stared curiously at the dark reflection of his own face, at the growth of blond fur across him.

Is this me?

He studied squirrels and those birds he could pick from the dim confusion of the trees. Once he glimpsed a fox slipping through the brush.

I am not one more animal.

His intellect flailed, found purchase, and grasped. He could sense wild cause sweep around him in statistical tides. Touch him and leave him untouched.

I am a griffon. I stand apart from these things.

As evening waxed, it began to rain. Through branches he watched the clouds build chill and grey. For the first time in weeks, he sought shelter.

He picked his way into a small gully where erosion had caused a sheaf of earth to fall away, revealing the stone facade of some structure. He climbed over the leafy clay into an opening, dark and deep. Inside he broke the neck of the wild dog that attacked him.

He was familiar with darkness. Light had been forbidden in the depths of the Labyrinth. But there was no mathematical insight in the cramped blackness he found, only a random jumble of earth-pinched walls. Erigryphor Miskus stretched out and slept.

When he awoke the forest was quiet with snow.

The Clawwan had no real knowledge of just how far Zebrica lay. They had merely provided him with as many provisions as he could efficiently carry. His satchel grew flimsier with the days. Miskus could only passively observe as hunger and exposure wracked his body.

If the wilderness could not possess him, it would kill him.

His food ran out, and he continued to walk. Everything—experience, analysis—became mysteriously sharp. More snow came, and cold, harsh winds. He walked until he could no longer.

The way is too narrow, Father. Zebrica is too far.

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Comments ( 5 )

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm :moustache: "I concur." :moustache:

Wow.

I love this.

Oh dear Celestia. :heart: Words cannot convey how amazing this is.

This has the potential for an epic level of epicness,

Wonderful opening, by the way.

Whoever disliked this is stupid!

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