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Excerpt for Will o' The Wisp by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Will o’ the Wisp

Journey of One Thousand Souls

Brett P. S.



Copyright © 2018 Brett P. S.

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Table of Contents



CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4



Chapter 1

The Dawngazer



Cyran Dawngazer, Oracle of the moonlit dunes of Asroka, strode peacefully atop shivering grains of sand. The eroding ground beneath his feet trembled with each step into the Eastern Wastes, a pulsing rhythm that seemed to grow more rapid by the day. His legs had grown weary, his beard unkempt, and his skin burned from the heavy sun beating steadily above his head.

Cyran protected himself in his traveler’s garb, thick dull beige fabrics that covered his chest, arms, and legs. A headdress encircled his scalp with ends that ran down the length of his back, staving off the burning light of Rosa and keeping his body fit for the length of his travels. He jabbed his walking staff through the ebbing sands to give his feet traction.

Cyran smiled and carried on.

Another pulsing shiver coursed through his body, rippling the tiny grains around his feet as it ran across the wastes. He turned in time to catch the vibration travel through dune after dune, a wave of energy visible to the naked eye.

“Never before,” he said. “Never had I laid eyes on such majesty.”

He closed his eyes and whispered a prayer to Rosa and her Pantheon. He spoke the old tongue, a worming, slithering speech older than tales he can recant. By the light of his ancestors and the will of the gods, he would drive this evil from the land of his kin, banish it to the starlit seas above. He looked up. He couldn’t see them yet, but the time would soon come when Rosa’s dominion waned and her children rose to shine down their soft, faint heavenly glare.

Cyran scaled a lofty dune that once lay a kilometer before him, now looming above his head. He dug his fingers into the sand and riddled his staff with grains that scratched the battered hickory. He spat on the sand, and the sand laughed, turning his spittle to vapors before he’d lifted his head.

“Great Mother, take pity on this old fool,” he said. “If it is the end, I must see it for myself.” He gritted his teeth and lunged. “I must do something!”

Heaving forward and hoarse of breath, Cyran pulled his tired body with tired arms and force of will. His garb stunk of days without rest. His face burned from too many a midday sun. His palms and fingers had run raw from wear and trials in the dunes of the Eastern Wastes. Cyran cast off his physical pain and climbed his way to the top, where his flesh collapsed and his eyes grew heavier than the thumping in his chest.

It wasn’t right. None of it. Cyran’s thoughts carried him to his home. In sandstone crypts, good people wasted away in sickness, filth, and disease. Good men died by the light of a devil, a thumping, rattling void cast into the heart of Asroka.

He lifted his head just enough. Rosa’s light reached its zenith, and she had begun her descent to peaceful slumber. Whatever it was that shook his world would wait for the searing light of her influence to wane. He was sure of it, just as sure as the sands burned his wrists and scratched his neck.

“Be it not on my watch … I …” He choked on the words.

Cyran’s eyelids drooped. He reached for his staff but found empty air. The stick had rolled down the other side, caught in the vibrations of an otherworldly monolith. He could see it now, a tower on the horizon, a needle that split the sky. Great Mother be damned, it was real. There was no mystery, no magic to the workings of this devil.

The tower pulsed with a ghastly, sunlit glow, sending out a vibration so powerful it shook the core of the world, penetrating deep beneath the sand. This … was different. He was close … maybe too close. Or had something changed? Cyran groaned. He steadied himself, gathered up his reserves, and rose to a knee. He uttered a second prayer, this time not for his kin but for himself.

“I would not ask a goddess protection from earth, wind, fire or iron,” he said, gesturing a circle around his chest. “I ask only this, Great Mother. Ward my spirit from the corruptions of cowardice. Stave off not weakness but fear and luminous doubt. Do this, and I will either have what I came for or die with a full heart.”

Cyran smiled and carried on.



Chapter 2

Taken Souls



The Great Mother Rosa succumbed to slumber, and a curtain of starlit children danced above Cyran’s headdress in the stillness of the void. He gazed up at the mighty tower with weary eyes and trembling bones deep inside. The sands and earth rattled like ten thousand hammers pounding in rapid succession. The monolith stretched upward to a place he could barely spot with the blurriness of his vision, and the grains of dust and sand that clung to the air. He took care in breathing, covering his mouth with a length of his headdress.

“Mother Rosa …”

Like veins of golden blood, a course mixture flowed through the black iron of the tower face as the base of it thundered a rattling that shook his temple. Many veins formed from below the sands, ran along the outer walls, met and departed as they converged at the summit of the monolith.

Cyran glanced to either side, taking note the width of the structure. It stood two-hundred meters wide, maybe two-fifty, thickened by almost the same amount. Like a needle or a good blade, the summit tapered off, though not to a point. Rather, as he looked up through squinted eyes, the uppermost point of the monolith gave hint of a plateau.

All that coursing liquid, blood of Asroka or worse, crept the length and glowed like a glorious golden boon at the top. He’d caught a glimmer during his trek, but not until night had fallen did it ever seem so bright. Cyran grumbled and wiped the sweat from his brow. The monolith carved into the sand like a wedge.

Asroka screamed with a fiery temper that brought Cyran to his knees. In one repugnant surge of vibration, he clutched his temple and shielded his ears. He screamed until his lungs ran dry and his body collapsed. Sand blasted high into the air as he convulsed in apathy and numbness to sound. This thing … it was an affront to the ancients and the natural world, a farce from some foul being who sought to claim Rosa’s light for itself.

Dust and smoke hung high above him while the grit and sand settled around and on top of his garb. Cyran balled his fists and swung his staff. Through pressure and weight of layers of earth, he dug himself free and pried his corpse from an early grave. Once he rose to his feet, however, he noticed something odd.

“I can’t hear the …”

Cyran gasped. His own words did not reach him. Silence. Unnerving quiet so still he could feel the beating of his heart amidst the chaos. His tongue rattled, and his teeth chattered, but the words … it was as if they’d never left his lips.

“Pl … e … he … me …”

What? Cyan turned toward the voice. Rattling sands erupted about him. Force penetrated his body and shook him so hard he could barely stand, but he braced himself with strong hickory as he searched the dust clouds for the soft echo.

“Pleas … help me …”

Cyran cried out inaudible screams, unable to balance himself from the swaying earth. The horizon bowed and buckled. In the end, he slammed his body against the hot, black metal of the monolith. A ladder pinched his shoulder, and he reached for it. Cyran grasped the railing with both hands, and the voice … no, the voices grew louder.

“Help us,” he heard them say. “Help us, Oracle! Save us!”

Cyran’s world spun in his own mind. Warm liquid flowed from his ears and ran down his shoulders in rivers of red that soaked into the beige fabrics like blood in sand. Again, he heard them call to him, this time too many to count. A chorus of melodies drove closer until wisps of glowing blues, reds, purples, and golds met his gaze and drifted upwards. He lifted his head and looked to the zenith of the mighty monolith as spirits of his kin fluttered on high. Men he’d served, women he’d healed, children he’d guided, all lives claimed by the World Eater.

The Oracle of the moonlit dunes reached with one hand to grab the next railing, then the next. He let go of his staff and watched in dulled silence as the stick disappeared into the churning vibrations of sand. The smile on his face turned to a grim scowl as he reached for another railing. Cyran spoke the words, even knowing he would not hear them.

“Curses of the ancients.” He reached for the next and more wisps flew by him, converging on the boon. “Crops wither, and wells dry. Fighters turn sickly, and the frail suffer as you suck the life from our world.” Cyran climbed above the churning clouds and breathed fresh air. “Good men died to get me this far! Do you hear me! Do you?!”

Winds blew across his garb and tore at the back of his headdress. The monolith, a world eater, thumped in a rhythm all too familiar. He felt it as he grasped the black iron. The higher he ascended, the sharper it dug at his bones, less like a pulse and more akin to coursing blood.

Cyran had come to know many things in his life as an Oracle. He had carved out cadavers, explored strange new rock formations, and learned the secrets to fertile soil. When he looked toward the luminous boon, felt the thumping deep inside the black iron, he knew what lurked in the heights above.

“It’s a heart,” he said. “It’s a beating heart.”



Chapter 3

Veins of Gold



Cyran fought against lashing winds that struck him without mercy or temperance. He steeled his resolve, pushed up along the ladder. The old Oracle huffed and reached for the next rung with a fire eating at his muscles. Walking alone should have proved too much. Breathing challenged him as he reached for the next and the next. His arms and legs fought to dangle like limp branches, and it took all his will and more to keep them straight and true.

He swore to himself, muttering under his breath in words he still could not hear. Until the end. Until the end, he would only stop if his own heart failed him.

Veins of gold converged around him, flowing with a stronger rhythm now. The liquid pumped to the beating of the monolith’s heart, a structure obscured by the plateau above him. So close. So close. Cyran reached for the final rung, but his vision waned and his heart fluttered. He missed it, watched in vain as his hand slipped across the blackened metal. His fingers no longer obeyed his commands, and his arm hung limp, muscles torn in a searing fire of fatigue.

Starlight showered him in the dark of night as he clung in silence. A swift wind tore off his headdress. Cyran watched the folds unravel as they fell downward, a spiral of eggshell ribbons soon obscured by the viscous clouds of dust and sand at the base of the monolith. So close. He looked up. One more rung. It felt so far away.

His fingers began to slip. Flesh slid across warm black metal, and he … he considered it. By the Ancients, he’d actually considered letting go. He groaned as tears rolled down his dirt riddled face. It hurt so much, burned so deeply. He flexed his limp, hanging arm as best he could, but he could not manage a fist and barely wriggled his fingers. No good. Cyran squinted at the light cast by the boon, then drooped his head and closed his eyes.

“Oracle!”

Wha … He forced open heavy eyelids in a stupor and gazed upon the light of smoky wisps gathered in a coming storm. Dancing clouds of illumination darted across the moonlit dunes of Asroka. They were as children of the Great Mother. Cyran stared wide-eyed and in awe at the many lights. A handful flew past him, brushing against his flesh as they floated toward the summit.

A single cloud rested beside him, setting atop the final rung. “Please save us, Oracle. You are the only one now, the last who can do anything, and my … my mother is sick and …”

Cyran drew his lips shut as the wisp spoke in a child’s voice.

“I left you,” he said. “I left you, and I journeyed to the wastes and …”

“Please,” the wisp called out to him. “Please just a little further. I know you tried to help me, but for my mother, please a little more.”

Cyran groaned and pulled at his dangling arm through force of will.

“You ask too much of me, boy.”

He ground his teeth but could not form a fist for his efforts. He exhaled, eyes steady. A new strategy. Cyran rocked his body back alongside the railing and swung his arm through sheer momentum. He guided the flesh and curled his forearm around the final rung, a smile widening across his face.

“I’ll tell your mother how much you loved her,” he said. “No matter what comes to pass, I will tell her.”



Chapter 4

Does it Matter



The howling cries of one thousand screaming souls encircled above Cyran as he planted his foot down on thick iron. Winds lashed, and the monolith thundered with a resounding pulse that rattled the sands below. The wave of violent eruption spread out to the edges of the horizon, throwing heaps of sand into the air. Dunes softened, and the soft tremors continued. Though he could no longer hear the tremors, he felt the shock melt into his flesh.

Cyran lifted a hand to block out the golden glowing light as he stared out into the long, dead wastes of Asroka. Wet tears drifted down his worn and reddened cheek, mixing with blood, sand, and sweat. The Oracle wiped clean his face, cast his tears against the black iron, and turned to the monstrosity itself.

Golden veins pumped vast amounts of liquid into a blazing inferno of heat, fire, and luminous essence. A candle in the emptiness of night, one that outshined Rosa’s own children. The fire thumped and wriggled as it drew more of the land’s life-blood. Precious water, soil, and health. The illness of his kin, sickly withering crops. He’d come to do something, anything at all, but what could one man do?

The light scorched his flesh with a coolness of heat that went beyond burning. Cyran looked around for a weapon or weakness, but his eyes met emptiness. The summit of the monolith lay flat. Tubes pumped the liquid into a churning fire that seemed to reach upward, but that was all. He’d cast away his staff, though he doubted it would have mattered. Cyran tightened his fist and cursed under his breath.

“Mighty Oracle,” someone whispered behind him. This was a woman. “Dawngazer, I believe in you. We all do.”

He turned this time to see another will o’ the wisp, this one slightly larger, with a blue tint to the white clouds. Cyran lifted his hand to touch the spirit, and his fingers passed through. Same as the others. The boy’s mother, was she real? If she was, was she dead then? How many had died thus far?

“Mistress,” he said. “I must ask you something.”

“Dawngazer, please … there’s not much time. Please, save us!”

Cyran shook his head. “No, I must know. Tell me, Mistress … are you really here or is this my mind?” He paused, narrowing his eyes. “Are any of you real at all?”

Cyran caught a soft whimper from the wisp, and the fires behind him thumped with a burning glare that fried the flesh of his neck. He screamed, hunched over with a soreness that didn’t fade. He offered a prayer to the Great Mother, though in more ways than one, his words fell on deaf ears. The Oracle lifted his head toward the wisp of white air.

“Does it matter at all if we are real?” she said. “Does it change anything at all?”

Cyran balled his one good fist. “No, it does not.” He rose up and turned to face the fires of oblivion, heart of a world eater.

“You know what to do, Oracle.”

He nodded. “I’ve always known.” He paused, looking back to the wisp. “Your boy is strong, strong like his father. Take good care of him, Mistress.”

“Cyran .. I …”

The old Oracle turned away, threw his hands up, and charged at the still beating heart. Fires raged in his chest, and the monolith thumped with a light that seared his flesh and ignited his garb. The boon of the monolith grew brighter by the second, its endless light touching the sky.

Cyran’s story ended this night. His sight turned from blurred black, to pulsing red to emptiness … then nothing. The pain of his burning skin ceased before he touched the fires themselves, and the rest followed soon after. The Oracle of the moonlit dunes would never know what became of his kin or his world, but he died with a full heart and the hope that he made a difference.




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