Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Lliferock (3 page)

BOOK: Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Lliferock
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Pabl mainly used the bracers for fighting, but ever since he had started learning wizarding spells, they doubled as his grimoire. Each spell was cut as runes on the facets of small dia-monds which were set into the metal in a hexagonal pattern.

This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

15


Jak Koke

“Jan,” he said, “you must develop patience or you’ll never master the intricate items.”

“When you learn quick combat spells, I’ll learn patience.”

“I already know the spells.”

“Yes, but you don’t use them fast enough.”

“It doesn’t interest me to develop magic for combat. I have my hands and feet for that.” Pabl punched the air with clenched fists.

“I know, I know,” Jan said, combing fingers through his beard. “You study spell casting only for knowledge of the universe.” Pabl heard the sarcasm in the dwarf’s voice, but it had no effect.

“The more I know about the world, the more effectively I can heal it.”

“Right, that other discipline you profess to follow.”

“All obsidimen are purifiers at heart,” Pabl said. “Some of them just don’t listen to their hearts.”

When Jan didn’t respond, Pabl looked down at the puzzle in his hands. It was shaped from silver wire, bent to form a hollow polyhedron with ten sides. The wire traced an intricate, but not identical pattern on each side, and in certain places the wire dropped into the center or across to another face of the puzzle. He had picked it up at Bocco’s Magic Emporium in Bartertown. The puzzles were novelties for thread-weavers, challenging and good practice for spellcasters. He liked this one because each successive anchor point was progressively more difficult to weave a thread to. He had managed to nego-tiate its loops and twists through seven tiers.

He turned the polyhedron, nudging his mind to look at the object’s astral pattern. Each line of the wire was visible as thin glimmer of silver gossamer. Simple really, but growing more complex and difficult toward the center. As Pabl spun out the red gray filament of his thread, he concentrated on weaving it through the intricate interlacing of the puzzle’s This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

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Jak Koke

pattern.

The goal was to attach the thread to the key points, eventually reaching the center. As a simple precaution, Pabl never left his threads attached to it. You never know whose hands it might fall into.

“Pabl?”

Pabl let his thread astral dissipate, then squeezed his eyes closed and took a few steady breaths to clear his mind. When he opened them, he saw Celagri standing in front of him, brushing the dirt from her pants.

“Ready?” said the elf.

Pabl nodded, stowing the puzzle with his things and lifting the heavy backpack to his shoulders.

“Good, then,” she said. “Let’s move.”

Jan was slower. He cleaned himself off, retrieved a chunk of taro root to chew, and finally, with much grunting and carrying-on, hoisted his pack to his shoulders. He retrieved his wizard’s staff and nodded that he was ready. Jan had never liked the boring parts of the adventure, the hiking bits. But he lived for the thrilling discoveries, the chance confrontations.

Pabl remembered when the two of them had first met Celagri. The elf, young and naive, had tried to steal the jeweled wart which protruded from the third finger of Pabl’s right hand, thinking it was a ring.

Pabl had felt a small tugging, then nothing as the elf slipped off into the shadows. But Jan, always the quick one, caught the thief in a rapidly growing mass of magical vines which erupted suddenly from a small hedge to entangle and immobilize the unsuspecting elf.

Celagri screamed to be let go. Jan yelled warnings and threats at the elf. Pabl merely laughed at the two of them, bickering furiously over nothing of importance. He laughed without restraint for minutes until the elf and the dwarf had This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

17


Jak Koke

stopped their yelling and stared at him.

The three of them had been together ever since. Now, they walked the final miles to the village of Rabneth. The road in this part of the jungle was much wider and more heavily traveled than it had been when Pabl had been through here twenty years earlier. It hurts to see it.

The road opened into a broad clearing, crowded at the edge by houses and low buildings made of wood and mud brick. Another new road led out of the clearing southwest around the base of the tepuis, and Pabl saw farmers driving carts along it. More development. But what really made his heart ache was the shantytown along the stream. About fifty or sixty ramshackle houses, built from bamboo and palm leaves, lined the stream on both sides.

“What is that?” he asked.

Jan looked up at him. “Looks like a miniature Bartertown,”

he said. “Gambling, whoring, even a slave market.”

Pabl felt a prickle wave travel along his skin. He hated places like this; they reminded him of the slums of Kratas.

This was his home. A shantytown like this here was more than depressing. It was unacceptable. “This place is an insult to Tepuis Garen,” he said. “It must be destroyed.”

“Now don’t get mad before we know everything,” Jan said.

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Let me do the talking; I’ll find out what’s going on.” Jan smiled, then he cast a spell on himself to clean away the road dust from his robe.

As they approached, much of the community stopped its daily labors and came out to greet the travelers. The towns-folk eyed Pabl with a mixture of suspicion and awe. When the three were completely surrounded and it was obvious that they weren’t going to be allowed to continue without intro-duction, the dwarf stepped forward.

“My name is Jan Farellon,” he said, making a grand flourish in his patched robe. “Some of you know me, or did know This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

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Jak Koke

me, as a youth. Untested and naive.

“I have had many adventures since leaving twenty years ago, with my good friend, Pabl Evr, and our companion, Celagri.” Jan gestured to the elf and the obsidiman.

Pabl had known Jan since waking from the rock, and the dwarf was his closest friend, but sometimes Jan could talk away even Pabl’s patience. Jan had grown up in Rabneth, bored and itching to get out by his fifteenth birthday. He always talked about how Pabl had rescued him from a life of cooking boiled potatoes and roasted wildebeest, of getting fat on Samson’s flat and stale brew. How he would’ve run off with a merchant caravan eventually.

“I now return to Rabneth,” Jan continued, “an adult, tempered and weathered by my travels. Worn and jaded and cyni-cal, as you can see.”

Abruptly, Pabl felt the pull of his liferock. Like a sublimi-nal, yearning wail, calling him. Everything around him faded.

Jan and Celagri and the whole village fell forgotten from his mind. He merely looked past the clearing to the cliff face, towering and sheer, straining up to the sky. Beautiful, he thought.

Home.

It had been years since he had experienced the Dreaming — communion with his brothers and the rock. He had been feeling the call of the rock for more than a year now, the compulsion to return. He had tried to resist at first because he wanted to stay in Bartertown to finish his training with Es-callio, the human wizard who had been mentor to both him and Jan.

But now, as Jan spoke to the villagers, his voice fading into the background of Pabl’s consciousness, the vision of the tepuis ingrained itself into Pabl’s mind. As the smell of riflev water vapor, blowing in a fine mist, triggered his instincts, the drive to merge became insistent, growing in urgency until all This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

19


Jak Koke

thoughts of other things left Pabl’s mind. He strayed slightly from the others, moving involuntarily toward the cliff face.

“Pabl?”

He stopped. “My excuses, Jan. But I cannot tarry in the village with you. I must go to the rock now. I will return in a day or so to let you know when the Fire Bath ceremony will take place.”

A puzzled look crossed the dwarf’s face, but it soon passed.

He knew not to question Pabl’s actions. They’d been through much together, and even though Jan did not understand an obsidiman’s relationship with his liferock, he needed no explanation. “We will be at Samson’s Inn,” he said.

“I will find you there in a few days,” Pabl said. “Goodbye.”

Celagri nodded.

Pabl turned away and moved at a blistering run out of the village toward the cliff. The fragrance of impending satisfaction filled the air around him. Very soon he would rejoin the source of his life, and the brothers who shared that source.

Right now it was all he wanted. The rock was warm in the fading light, and his urgency increased as he picked his way up the steep path. Soon the path disappeared entirely and Pabl was clawing from ledge to ledge, from crevasse to column, climbing up the face of the cliff, nearly frantic in his desire to get home. He used magic to help him — a little levitation here and there to pass the more difficult spots.

The last time he had climbed up the tepuis was just after his birth. He had been guided up the Path of the First Merge by Gvint and Yonik, then he’d entered the First Dreaming —a hundred years’ communion with Ganwetrammus. He had learned the entire history of the liferock and the Garen Brotherhood during his First Dreaming. Ganwetrammus had forged the pattern of his spirit during that century, nursing him, shaping him until his spirit and body had fused and Pabl was ready to go into the world for a brief time, before returning to This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

20


Jak Koke

join the Garen Brotherhood as an adult.

Wind whipped at him as clouds blew in from the west. He looked up. A crevice about three hundred feet above and to his right led to the top, but he knew that it would be full of cascading water in less than a half-hour. It was time to merge for the night.

He stood on a narrow ledge and prepared himself. He removed his backpack and took off his clothes, folding them into the pack. He breathed deeply and started the merge, squatting with his back against the stone to form a pocket behind his knees which would protect his belongings once he and the rock were one.

The stone warmed him, hardening his skin and solidifying his muscles as he melted into it. He hadn’t done this in a long, long time, but the merging was effortless. He opened his spirit to the elemental force inside the tepuis, and the rock drew him in. Pabl felt himself sliding down into the stone, falling . . . falling . . . As the features of his body crusted over, he heard the whispers of the others, and he felt the echoes of their inner voices in his mind.

He kept his eyes open for a minute so that he could watch the sun setting behind a misty jungle mat below. Red gleams painted the bellies of the high, black clouds until the sun was gone. Then the wind gusted and the rain started.

Thunder crashed above as lightning struck the rock.

Pabl felt the lightning touch the rock like a slight itch in the back of his mind. He closed his eyes and let Ganwetrammus take him. He entered the Dreaming and lost himself.

But as he melded with the liferock, he knew something was wrong. The minds of his brothers touched him, telling him that Reid Quo had not returned. They were glad Pabl had come home, but the ritual of the Fire Bath could not happen without Reid.

Pabl would not be Named.

This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected])  Chapter Three 

Sangolin called to him. Always called to him.

He awoke in a daze to a hot night, lit by the perpetual fire glow. He straightened up, feeling the cracking of his skin. He was among the oldest here and felt it in his bones and the hardening of his flesh. The glow brightened as he left the cave and stepped out onto the wide ledge.

Far below was a great sea of molten rock which stretched into the blackness of night in the distance. Rising winds brought the great searing hiss and stifling heat up from the scarlet ocean and baked him. He felt a remote gladness in the fact that the wind was blowing the wrong way to bring the steam over from the swamps. The sulfur steam was always suffocating. And as much as he could feel anything, he hated the steam.

But now, he had to go. Sangolin called.

He walked the well-worn path along the wide ledge, and he wore no clothing, no covering save the red body paints which striped haphazardly across his skin. All at Sangolin wore the same paint, similar patterns, no clothing. As it should be.

21

Liferock 

22


Jak Koke

He made his way past the caves where others of his race slept. The path meandered around old boulders and rock into a clearing, broad and flat, set slightly away from the edge of the cliff. At one side of the clearing, an ancient rock slide sloped upward into the darkness of the mountainside.

A heavy stillness pervaded the clearing, the aftermath of the feast earlier. They had netted a gargoyle, charred its flesh in the sea below, then hoisted the beast up. The feast had been grand, accompanied by body painting and dances, though he knew not why. He could still hear the drums in his head as though their echoes continued to reverberate off the valley walls.

In the center of the clearing, he saw a mess of the gargoyle’s bones in monochrome red. No one had cleaned up.

Drums and uneaten food lay scattered. The dark silhouettes of satisfied obsidimen lounged like fat orks, sleeping propped up against boulders. This was the way of things; how it went every night. How it always was, and always will be.

The heat lessened a bit as he left the cliff edge and moved toward the old avalanche. A path had been cleared of fallen rock, straight and wide, into the heart of the jumbled mountain. He walked slowly, methodically down the path, like he had always done. He could not remember doing anything else right now.

BOOK: Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Lliferock
8.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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