Sneak Peak: Hymn of the Dead Chapter 1, Part 1

Chapter 1


Floyd jolted into consciousness, bitter cold assaulting his exposed flesh. Instinctively, he tried to pull a blanket closer around him, turning on the pile of cloth he’d been using as a blanket, about to curse his brother for stealing the cover off his bed. It was only when he turned his head—and thus his good eye—that reality reasserted itself and the absence of a blanket was the farthest worry from his mind.

“Sorry ‘bout that. Bit of a rocky pass,” the deep voice of a dwarf spoke from the front of the cart.

“It’s been long enough I think. Even if he took the last watch, it’s been at least six hours,” the higher voice of the mage added.

“Don’t you guys need more than that?” The last voice was the highest, which appropriately belonged to the smallest member of their motley crew. It was this one who was also the closest. 

Rolling over, Floyd found himself eye to … well, full body, really, with the pixie, who was standing behind him. A deep ache pounded in his head, but also in his shoulders as the words started to form.

llanuras heladas, ain’t ya supposed to be keeping the cart warm?”

“Only when I have to, and even then I have to be careful.”

Floyd resisted an eye roll as he sat up and rubbed his hands together, blowing on them as they rolled up the mountain path. It hadn’t been as much of a problem when they started traveling ten days prior. Sure, the nights were chilly, but four warm bodies in a cart were well enough to stay toasty. As they got out of the valley though, the air had taken on a much deeper chill, one Floyd hadn’t ever experienced this early in the season.

As the wagon creaked again, bits and bobs strewn around the carriage slid to the back, only being stopped by the raised edge.

Mirto, how high up is this pass going to take us?”

“Depends,” the dwarf responded from her perch at the front. “There’s a couple of passes through the mountains, but not all of them will be clear.”

“What’s blocking them?” Floyd asked as he moved deeper into the covered cart. Wendell reached down and handed Floyd his own cloak. It was long on Floyd, but he accepted it all the same. Truth be told, he’d have preferred something like Glenn’s setup. The thick fur the dwarf had draped over her armor looked very cozy.

“It’s landslides, isn’t it? That’s why traders don’t like to travel during the winter,” Amber suggested.

“Aye, though that’s not the only reason,” Glenn said. “Could be bandits staking out for a last-minute score. Or maybe some local beasts. Plus, aren’t some of ya lot active during winter?”

“By my ‘lot,’ you mean…?”

“You did state you were part of the Unsidhe Court. Isn’t their domain that of winter?” Wendell asked.

“Oh, yeah, that’s kind of true. But they wouldn’t bother with anything here. It’s more likely we’d run into wyld fae.”

“Well, are there any of those we need to worry about, Tomillo?” Floyd really hoped not. He knew from the stories how dangerous fae could be.

“From what I know of the area, this is largely satyr territory, and they generally like to stay inside during the winter. Same with any spriggans, since they usually hide until spring. If we get to any freshwater springs, we might find an alven or two, but they won’t bother us if we don’t try to pollute the water.”

“So that’s a ‘no’ on them being a problem?” Glenn tried to clarify.

“It’s not likely unless we do something to piss them off.”

“And if we do? Would you be able to handle it?” Wendell asked.

Amber shrugged. “Dunno, maybe? Wyld fae in this area only sort of follow the Unsidhe Court. But again, it should be fine so long as we don’t break any of their rules. Since we’re just passing through, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“If ya say s—” Glenn’s words were cut off as the wind suddenly picked up, whipping through the cart. In a split second decision, Floyd slid back, his body bumping up against the edge, but more importantly, he caught Amber as she was pushed back so she didn’t fall out. The pixie had tumbled back boots-over-head and now lay against his arm, a bit dazed.

“Good catch,” Wendell noted, reaching down and grabbing his staff. The mage mumbled something under his breath as he held up a hand, which seemed to scoop at the air as if it were a pool of water, before making a fist and bringing it down. “There’s been a drop in the local currents. A storm must be heading into the mountains.”

“A storm? Well, ain’t that great. We’re barely into the pass and it’s not like there’s any outposts this far up.”

“So what should we do?” Floyd asked as he held a finger out to the pixie, who was only now getting her bearings.

“From what I can tell, it’s probably at least an hour or two out. We can keep moving until we find a good outcropping to buckle down before we pull in the pack animal,” Wendell said.

“You mean … we’re sleeping with the donkey tonight?” Floyd asked.

“We can’t very well leave ‘em out to freeze,” Glenn said, turning back to the front to drive.

Floyd lay back down. It was already crowded enough in here with just the four of them. With the donkey as well, one of them would probably be hanging out the side. Letting out a deep sigh, he tried to think of the positives … but as his mind wandered, he reached absently on his blind side for someone who he knew wasn’t there. 

Yet still he hoped for that shoulder to squeeze, that hand to brush, that clever tongue to tell him that he’d smell like ass in the morning. He knew it wasn’t there, and the ache started anew.

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