NaNoWriMo Update Fifteen

Slightly shorter update that I’m not entirely happy with, but at least it’s something. 1230 words with a running total of 26416.

Lonesome left his horse tied to a scrub bush some distance away from the skulls. If the goyles were here he didn’t want to be riding when his mount spooked. He usually preferred walking, anyway, and he’d gotten a bit sore from being in the saddle. It felt good to stretch his legs. There were spirits aplenty around, he could feel it even if he couldn’t see them, so he called one over as he approached the skulls. He asked it where it lived, and it told him it lived in the rocks nearby. “That’s a good home,” he told it in First Words. “A nice, solid boulder that won’t wash away in a flash flood or burn down in a fire. Too big for something to pick up and carry off. Bet you get some right friendly lizards living under it, too.”

A few feet away from the pile of skulls he stopped and looked around. “There’s Gargoyles around, aren’t there friend?” he asked the spirit. It whispered back in his ear, the meaning of the words going straight to his brain without him stopping to think about it. The guardians patrolled, it told him. “Hmm. Well, friend, I’d like to ask you a favor. I don’t want any trouble, but you’ve been around long enough to know how these things can go. If trouble starts I’d like you to help me get out in one piece. The ground around here is softer than the rock you live in. I wager a spirit like you could make it even softer if you put your mind to it. Shift it around a bit, you know? That way if one of the Gargoyles puts his foot down in it, he’ll sink a bit. Slows him down, gives me time to skedaddle. Won’t hurt him any. We don’t want that. What do you say?”

The spirit considered his words for a moment, but agreed readily enough. “My thanks,” Lonesome told it. “Just hold that thought. I’ll give you the word if it needs to happen. Now,” he looked around and tipped his hat up a bit. He made sure to pitch his voice a little louder, “Where are you hiding out at? I see your message, I know what you want. Since you bothered to warn us off I figure you’d rather we just turned around without a fuss. But we can’t do that. We’ll keep on through unless you come have a talk with me.”

A goyle emerged from cover. It had been hiding a safe distance away, but was close enough to have heard Lonesome’s demand. He noted with interest that it carried a spear, something he hadn’t seen since the war. Far behind him, Walsh noted the goyle’s arrival as well. Though the deputy didn’t raise his rifle he held in a way that would let him bring it to bear quickly, and through squinted eyes he was already judging distance and wind. Every detail mattered. If he had to take the shot and missed he doubted he’d get a second chance.

“Hello there,” Lonesome greeted the goyle but didn’t move an inch. Drawn up on two legs, using the spear as a staff with which to walk, the Gargoyle came closer. It sniffed the air a few times, taking in deep lungfulls before snorting them out.

<Spirit Talker,> the goyle growled. Though it spoke the native tongue of its people he could understand it easily. It was an interesting coincidence that the goyles used the same term for what he did as humans. They did it for completely different reasons, of course. Humans called them Spirit Talkers because they talked to spirits. Goyles used the term because they sounded like spirits, using the same First Words to communicate. <Talk,> it invited tersely.

“No introductions?” Lonesome asked it. “That’s not very polite. Your people south of here know me as The Lonely One. I’ve spent time with them, I know a custom or two. I’d like to know your name.”

The goyle tilted its head a little, and its dark eyes narrowed. It looked as if it was reassessing a few assumptions about him. <I am Gravik the Longspear,> it told him. He didn’t need to ask where the honorific had come from. Introduction made, it left the conversation for Lonesome to pick up.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Gravik. My friends over there, and I with them, have come looking for others that passed this way. We want no trouble with your people. Let us take care of our own, and I promise you we’ll leave as quickly as we can. As you can see, we’re willing to work with you if we can.”

<Your trackers are inept, Lonely One. No others came this way.>

Despite the bald faced lie, Lonesome couldn’t call it. Not outright, and not if he wanted to keep his chest spear free. So he went for something the goyle couldn’t argue with. “The spirits tell me otherwise,” he asserted.

There was a moment of calculating silence as Gravik mulled over that information. Lonesome could guess at what it was thinking, and when its answer came he wasn’t terribly surprised. <There were no spirits here to say what was or wasn’t,> it pronounced.

“I know,” he fought hard to keep from sounding too haughty. “That’s exactly how I’ve been following the people I’m after. They’ve got with them a box, a box that the spirits dispise. They leave when it draws near and then return when it’s gone. All I have to ask is if they’ve done that, and why. The box was here, so the people were as well.”

<Rah,> Gravik made a noise like it was enthusiastically clearing its throat. <Just as well,> it said. <Falsehoods taste sour. Those you seek came this way, Lonely One. But you will not be allowed to follow. I was told to turn you away. To allow you a chance to leave without violence. This is that chance. Leave now. Pass the marker and suffer the same fate as those whose heads went into making it.>

“But you let them pass,” Lonesome protested. “Why them? Why with that box? I know the connection your people have to the spirits. How can you abide something they can’t stand?”

<That is not for you to know or judge,> Gravik rumbled. But the towering goyle looked irritated, its nostrils flared and a dozen other signs showed through to Lonesome’s trained eye. Was it possible that even Gravik didn’t know why? Or if it did know it didn’t agree with the reasons? That would be something new.

“I can tell you don’t like this,” Lonesome tried. “You know as well as I do that letting humans wander freely around your home is going to end in trouble. Let us stop them. Let us take that trouble on ourselves.”

<I’ve done what was asked,> Gravik told him. <Leave. Don’t. You know the consequences.> The goyle turned to leave, but Lonesome held up a hand to stop it.

“Hold on. Just… one more thing. Did Clem ask that you turn us away? The Spirit Talker that was with the others?”

<The Rogue One asked that we give you the choice,> Gravik revealed. <We agreed to do this for her.> It turned and stalked away, and this time Lonesome let it leave.


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