Short Update

Not nearly as long as I’d hoped it would be, but here’s an update for the fantasy western:

 

The goyle considered her silently, just long enough that she started feeling the urge to fidget. At last, it said <We will help you in this, Arbiter.>

Katherine told herself not to look the gift horse in the mouth, that she really shouldn’t risk losing the only real shot she had at catching up to Clementine and the rest of the outlaws. Even so, the words slipped out of her mouth anyway. “What’s the catch?” From the way the goyle grunted and tilted its head she could tell the phrase hadn’t quite translated. “I mean,” she clarified, “That seems like a pretty big favor. What’s in it for you?”

<Some of us have forgotten why we are here,> it told her. <Our charge is not simply to protect this land from outsiders, but to protect the outside world from what lies within. Those who are misguided, who have forgotten our purpose, seek to end the momentary threat to these lands at the cost of our honor, the failure of our task. To do it they have placed their trust in the Rogue One and her allies. To stop them, we place our trust in you and the Lonely One.>

Katherine raised her eyebrows. That cast a whole new light on the goyles and their tenacious hold on the Badlands. “So what exactly is it that you can’t let get out? Is it something to do with what’s in that box they stole?” She thought, but didn’t say, that whatever it was must be pretty bad if it needed goyles to guard it.

<Yours were not the first people to this land, Arbiter, nor were mine. Those who came before sowed the seeds of their own destruction. Those seeds remain, waiting to be brought to the fertile soil of another civilization. A few chosen among your people can speak with the Spirits, and more among mine can do the same. But those who came before it was a gift known to all, though some were more gifted than others. And they did not treat Spirits as we do. To them the Spirits were not worthy of respect, not conversed with. To them the Spirits were servants to be commanded. They did not ask, they ordered. Ordered the Spirits to perform any task they wished – opening the gates of their great city, taking them from place to place, destroying their enemies, reshaping the world itself… and at the end they could even order the Spirits to take physical shape. Pulled from their native existence Spirits were bound to stone and metal, and some unlucky few to mortal flesh. All to better serve those who came before. But even that was not enough. They sought to bind the Spirits with their own essence, to make Spirits of themselves! It was this final hubris, this act of trespass against nature, that destroyed them. In one great upheaval their city and people suffered the wrath of Spirits who would no longer be ordered to obey. Only those few who had come closest to making Spirits of themselves remained. Steps were taken to ensure those few were rendered impotent. Never again would their hubris threaten the natural order. And then, Arbiter, your people came. And with hubris of their own.>

After waiting a few heartbeats to make sure the goyle was finished Katherine blew out a heavy sigh. “That is one hell of a story,” she told it. “So that’s it, then, is it? Whatever Haversham & Black brought out of the Badlands is something to do with the ones who came before?” She frowned, trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle that still didn’t make any sense. “But then they brought it back to the Badlands… because they were really working for your people, weren’t they? Through Clementine – I mean, the Rogue One? That’s why they let Clem and the outlaws pass, but stopped me and my posse. Only, that can’t be quite right.” She looked up at the ceiling contemplatively. “Because you’re going to help us stop them. Which means something else is going on. Either I’m being played and you’re the group who wants to set things all to hell, or the group using Clem wants something more than just letting that box out into the world. They want to use it for themselves, somehow.”

<There is a human living in the old city,> the goyle informed her. <They bring it to him. Many things might happen to the artifact outside of these lands, once among your people. But there, with him, they know what will happen. It cannot be allowed.>

“Then why not do something about it yourself?” Katherine wondered. “It’s not like you’ve balked at killing humans before.”

<Were it only humans the matter would be solved swiftly and permanently. But there are others of our kind protecting them. They would shield your outlaws from us, and we cannot fight one another.>

“Sounds insane to me,” Katherine admitted. “But you’re offering me a chance to get the job done, and I’m not turning that down. I just wish I had more of my people left. Doing this with just me and Lonesome is gonna be… well, it’ll be the craziest thing we’ve done yet. And that’s saying something.”

<Fear not, Arbiter,> the goyle told her, <We know where more of your people are to be found.>

 

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