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By Stheno - April 2020

On the dark and distant moors, a lone fire set to burning.

As around the flames, yearning, sat a camp of only four.

One: the trapper, young and strapping.

Two: the navigator, lost.

Three: a petty thief and cut-throat.

The fourth a woman of the moss.

With eyes kind and old hands lined, she had happened on the band.

Sensed their troubles with a look, and sat down to understand.

"Ole matron, where ye come from? We been thirstin' for a while.

Honest folk for honest work. We been walkin' now for miles."

Here the others quickly nodded.

They were cold and damp with mist.

"Be ye a witch or wise woman?

Apothecary? Herbalist?"

She just smiled and shook her head, muddy in her ivory cloak.

She warmed herself by the fire and looked deep into the smoke.

"I'm a servant of the wilds, come to help my fellow man.

Though you ventured out for gold, did you venture with a plan?"

They told their story all at once,

with voices overlapping.

"The axle broke."

"The blade blunted."

"The clouds came out."

"The traps kept snapping."

Her face grey, the woman sighed. She had heard this tale before.

"Luck left you at every turn, until you lucked upon the Moor."

At her back, the sun was setting. Or was it rising?

Was it risen? Was it climbing through silver veils of fog?

When she spoke, her eyes were shining

as she told them of the wealth

that dear Nature was supplying

to keep Pri'alysh in perfect health.

"You can hunt the grouse for days. They are fat with silken down.

You can oil your swords with blood. You can drink from fertile ground."

"Fill pillows with fine feathers!" Now the trapper had the gist.

"And the snakes can't taste too bad. Help ourselves, if ye insist."

"One long night here can ply your trades,

so you needn't want for much.

You pile your wagon with the spoils,

and I will lift it from the muck."

Together they doused the fire, and the moors did light provide,

like the wisps that haunt the fog to ask travellers inside.

Shadows prowled on the edges, but the cut-throat waved his blade.

"You can line your den with pelts," said the woman, unafraid.

"Warm your children with the black furs,

string a necklace with the teeth.

Look no further than the Moor,

and what it chooses to bequeath."

As the morning mist shimmered, it was easy to succumb.

Cold hunger in their bellies, and already counting sums.

The three friends thanked their fortunes, and not one had stopped to think

how a frail old woman would lift their wagon from the brink.

Opportunity had smiled when

they were tired of their poor frowns.

They would return to Loramere

to earn a living in the town.

What would they each buy first? A pretty necklace for the wife?

A faster herd of horses? A sharper hunting knife?

Deeper in the foggy curtain, their breath began to mist.

The old guide stopped their journey at the bottom of the cliffs.

There she raised her fists to the sky,

spoke in a soft and unknown tongue,

beseeched something they had not seen,

that once sung could not be unsung.

At the top of the climb, an obelisk of mirrored white

yawned above their heads and into the thin clouds, out of sight.

"Yelest," she called aloud. The obelisk began to howl.

A ghastly moaning from the spectres in their ragged cowls.

The first man looked to the second.

The second looked to the third.

The third ran back across the moors,

having lost, like sovereigns, his words.

"Yelest! Yelest! Come divest me of the rest! Shed my form

and rend my breast! Take my skin and steal my breath! In the storm

of your unrest! In the fury

of undeath! Take these men that luck

has left! Every coin they could have kept!

Free them from the weighty flesh! And

raise them up as soaring spirits in the safety of your sept!

For this chance, we have wept. A chance to serve you, sweet Yelest."