The Dark Storm
It was a still October night. On the cliff top the harvest was gathered in and sheaves of corn were stacked together to form peculiar straw houses. A bright silver moon shone down on a calm sea. In the distance the silhouette of the Friendship, a collier brig, could be seen picked out against the waves. The sails of the ship looked like the flags of a small army preparing for war.
The brilliance of the full moon penetrated the darkest depths of the wood that gripped the tops of the cliffs. A small, darkly clad figure in a frock coat and knee boots stumbled along, carrying a long black leather case, timidly following a tall, confident man with long flowing white hair.
Nearby, a fox lay hidden in the undergrowth, dreaming of fresh rabbit, when suddenly it was woken by the panic of a deer bolting from the cover of a holly bush and running deeper into the darkness of Wyke Woods.
"What was that?" The small man was startled and his voice jumped and quivered. He dropped the leather case in fright and clutched at the cloaked figure that he had followed so closely through the autumn night. "It's there," he squealed. "I can see it, it's in the trees."
His companion grabbed him by the ear. "Keep quiet, Beadle. The world doesn't need to hear your voice."
The small man pinched his eyelids together as he tried to peer into the darkness and hide in his companion's cloak at the same time. Beadle didn't like the darkness and he hated the night. Bravery was for other people, and the night was to be spent by the fire of the inn, listening to stories of faraway places, the news of war in other lands and of smuggling, while drinking warm, frothy beer.
Here in the wood on the top of the cliff was a different world for Beadle, a world where he did not belong. The wood was the place of boggles, hedge witches, hobs and thulak. Beadle feared the thulak more than anything. They were strange, invisible creatures of the dark. They could steal upon you at night, smother you in a dark mist and take from you the will to live. There were stories that they would creep through open windows and come into houses to cover an unsuspecting sleeping victim like a dark blanket. Once the victim was seized, he couldn't move. They would take his strength and fill his mind with horrifying, hideous thoughts. These were the thulakian dreams that would be with him for the rest of his life. They would leave their victims listless and heavy-limbed, with sunken eyes from the sleepless nights spent fearing their return.
Beadle grasped his companion's cloak even tighter as a gentle breeze rustled the brown, crisp leaves in the trees.
"Is it a man or is it...them?" He could hardly say the words; his right leg shook, his eyelids twitched, his mouth went dry and his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.
"Them?" hissed his companion in his face. "Who are them? Can't you say the word? What are you frightened of?"
Beadle hunched his shoulders and buried his face in the musty black cloak of his tall, angry companion. "Thulak," he whispered feebly, trying to muffle his voice so they would not hear him.
His companion raised both his hands and cupped his mouth like the bell of a trumpet; he took in a deep breath and with a voice that came from the depths of his soul, he bellowed: "Thulak. Thulak. Thulak." The voice echoed around the woods; the fox scurried from the brush and ran deeper into the undergrowth.
A roost of the blackest rooks lifted from the trees above their heads and their caw-caw-caw filled the night sky as they circled above the branches, dancing in the moonlight.
"...No," whispered the now terrified Beadle. "Please, Parson Demurral, don't say that word, they will hear and they will come and get us, my mother said --"
From Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor. Copyright G.P. Taylor 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.
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