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SJORIA: Book One|"The Silence Before The Song"|Scroll Down to Begin...

Chapter Ten: Isle of the Cursed

ya stirred. He was not sure what had disturbed him, nor of how long he had slept.
It could not have been too much time, for the dark of night had not yet retreated and he had not rested well. And yet, the fire was burning low, drowsily flowing between cracks in the red embers. Strange, he thought, I built it fer self-feedin’ a good five hours at ze very least... it shouldn’t be out just yet... He looked at his sleeping companions, curled up close together for warmth. Their hair and clothes looked only now a bit damp, so it would seem that the fire had served them well in its short existence. But it was fading fast now, and the dead chill of night still surrounded them. So he stood and looked for the rest of Gideon’s wood to nurture the flames back to life.
Gideon stirred and moaned. “Nya?” he asked sleepily, “Where are you going?”
“Fire’s dyin’,” Nya replied. “I’m goin’ t’see if I can find some more wood fer her.”
“Oh,” Gideon said. He yawned and looked around confused for a moment, as though he had forgotten the events of the previous evening. Then the memories returned to him and he frowned. “Surely morning cannot be too far off, can it? The fire...” His voice died in his throat. His eyes widened and the colour drained from his face. “Nya,” he breathed, “Nya, what is...?”
Nya did not see whatever it was behind him that the Prince was referring to. Some part of him felt he did not need to. An icy sensation took a hold of his heart and he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Hesitantly, he looked over his shoulder; then he turned around completely and felt as though his heart had withered within his chest!
Nothing in the natural world could explain what he was seeing. A massive shadow loomed directly over him. It was like a mighty stallion in form, though a great deal larger. It was no beast of flesh—his coat absorbed the glow of the fog completely and remained black as a void. A cold crooked blue horn protruded from his great head, and his eyes burned crimson below it. The spectre was soundless, unreal until he huffed his frozen breath into Nya’s stricken face. Then there was a voice; deep, majestic, yet terrifying, “Death comes forth to claim thee and thy brethren, yet do not interpret this to mean that we shall take thy lives, for we shall not. Nay, we are sent to guide thee only, to meet thy queen.”
Gideon shook Marley awake. He had no idea what to make of the cryptic message spoken in a more ancient form of Münshirling. There was no sign of a rider on the fell creature’s back to have spoken, and the words seemed to vibrate from inside his mind, out of the ground, and through the stale air all at once. “W-What are you?” he gasped.
“We are Death. Thou shalt follow us, Child of the Marked, and reserve further questions for a later time. Thou shalt find all answered unto thee, but not as yet. Come and be swift, we make for Karton’s Village.” The horror turned, his movements fluid and soundless.
“K-Karton’s Village?” sputtered Nya.
“We can’t go with you,” Gideon said.
The stallion paused, but he did not look back. One of his ears flicked in the direction of the Prince. “Oh?” the voice asked simply.
“My friend is hurt, she cannot walk the distance to your Karton’s Village,” Gideon said.
Marley gave him a desperate look. “Gideon, don’t tell—”
“So sure of this, art thou?”
Gideon looked uncertainly back at Marley. She shook her head quickly. He looked at the shadowy stallion and went on hesitantly, “I-I stood up on the bluff—there isn’t a town for miles.”
“Wilt thou, as one blind, tell one that doth see that there is no world beyond thy reckoning? Take up thy comrade, for there are two of thy number that can yet walk, and come with us.”
“And who is us?” Marley demanded.
The spectre’s ears flattened against his shadowy skull. “Our patience weareth thin. We hath aught to do elsewhere, and cannot abide to hear thy grievances. Thy queen expects thee.”
“If it’s all ze same to yeh, we’ll stay here until morning comes,” Nya said.
“...Morning?” the stallion repeated, as though the word were strange to him. For a moment he stood unmoving. Then he turned towards them again, raising his head high and his ears erect. “Cast thine eyes out across the sea. Beholdest thou the silver thread which doth line the horizon afar off? That is thy Morning, and she shall not come to thee.”
It took some searching to make out the thread to which Death referred, for it was so faint. Then there it was, as though all Kiirlight simply stopped at the edges of the horizon and went no further, without any obstacle to block its path. It was a phenomenon that defied reality once more, but like the spectre before them, also could not be denied. Slowly Gideon’s eyes wandered back to the stallion, seeming dazed as his mind tried to grasp what he had seen and heard. “What do you mean, she shall not come?”
“It cannot be said more simply,” Death stated. He flattened his ears back once more and huffed. “We perceive thy mortal frames art in need of food and shelter. These, also, shall not come to thee, but thou to them. Hesitate no longer, and come.”
Nya gave a warning glance to Marley and Gideon. He still stood defensively between them and the spectre and his expression spoke clearly his opinion, at least to the former. Gideon waited for him to speak, but he did not, so he looked to Marley.
Marley, in her turn, clenched her fists and looked away from everyone. Nya would not, he obviously

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