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Friday, June 23, 2017

Into The Storm

Azereus cast his eyes over the once verdant plain, but overnight it seemed to have died and now all that remained was drab, brown tufts of grass. Small boulders decorated the plain laying testament to the fact that they were deep in the mountains. He cocked his head listening waiting for some sound, but it was silent. Not even the birds felt the need to sing on such a forlorn morning.

He felt a presence just as Bo clapped him on the shoulder. He noticed that Max was tagging along behind him. “This feels un-natural. It isn’t the time of the year for the grass to grow brown. The deer will have little to forage if this goes on. He covered his eyes with his hand as he looked up toward the sky. “I think we are headed for some nasty weather. And if my aching old bones are any indication it’s going to be one hell of a storm.” He dropped his arm, rubbing at an old battle injury.

Bo studied the sky as well. The clouds seemed to roll like the waves on the ocean. The differing shades of gray the ebb and flow of the heavens. “What do you think Max? You are more accustomed to the weather up here; do you think this is normal for this time of year?” He watched as Max seemed to sniff the air, as he contemplated ominous sky.

“This being the mountains anything is possible; my suggestion is we travel as far as we can today before whatever this is bringing comes. Then we find someplace safe to weather it out. I do not like the thought of being trapped out in the open, but maybe with luck, we can make it to some caves before it gets too bad.” Max turned after taking one last look at the roiling cloud banks. “Let’s get the others and get moving.”

It began to snow shortly after the gang started on the trail heading ever closer to Black Barrow. First, it was just a light sprinkling of the fluffy looking ice crystals, collecting in their fur to melt when met with their body heat, but soon it seemed the weather gods opened the sky and it began to snow in earnest. The gang stopped to don their warmest clothing, hoping that they reached the caves soon.
 It wasn’t long before visibility had dropped to barely being able to see the one who rode next to you.

The sky so dark and the snow falling at such a rapid rate. The world had become a snow-carpeted landscape. The animals that they saw scurrying to find shelter from the elements. It was getting more difficult for the horses to walk as the snow rose higher. Bo called them to a halt, “At the rate, it is snowing, we need to dismount and lead the horses. How far are we from the caves, Max? We need to find shelter, there is rain mixing in with the snow and the temperature is dropping.”

Max dug out his compass from underneath the layers of clothes he wore and took a bearing. He studied the disappearing landmarks and pointed in the direction they needed to go. “If my calculations are correct, we’re not far now. You can see that we are riding through more outcroppings, I’d say within the hour we should be there.” He tucked his compass back under the safety of his clothing and dismounted his horse. He ran his hand over the mare’s muzzle to wipe away the snow collecting there.

Everyone began dismounting and were soon on their way heading for what they hoped would give them refuge from what was swiftly becoming a blizzard. CeCe was trudging along, the snow so deep now that her short stride was making her lift her legs higher with each step. She was feeling so tired. She was soaked through to her fur, and icicles had formed on her eyelashes and the tips of her whiskers. She didn’t even want to talk about how cold her tail was. She was afraid if someone bumped it, it might break off.

She was so intent on just placing one foot in front of the other, she never noticed that the males had worked their way further away from her. She had looked up, to see where they were at when the trail suddenly gave way and she went tumbling down a small hill. Her arm was wrenched as she worked to free her hand from the mare’s reins so that she wouldn’t be dragging the horse or worse the horse come tumbling down on top of her.

The wind had picked up while they had been walking, and now it blew so hard that it made it difficult to hear any sound but it. As she continued falling, her exclamation of surprise when she fell, had been swallowed by the thunderous wind. The ground under the snow was filled with many jagged rocks, and even through the layers of clothing, her body took a beating. Her decline came to a sudden halt when her body slammed against a rough-edged boulder. Her head slamming against one of the edges. Tearing open a huge gash between her eye and ear. The white of the snow underneath her soon turned crimson as her blood ran from her wound.

As the circle of red grew, CeCe lay as still as death. Not too far from her lay the darkened openings like dark eyes watching her unconscious form. The caves were clustered in and around the area. Some provided homes for the animals who dwelt in there. Others were cold, empty caverns winding deep within the heart of the mountain. The little mare had fared better than her mistress, while she had stumbled a bit down the hill, she had regained her footing and now stood ground tied to the spot near where they had fallen.

Max held up his hand to bring the group to a halt, as the others came up to him, he pointed down a small incline toward what could be barely made out as cave openings. “We need to get down there. The horses can’t go any further, and in truth neither can I. We need to get warm and out of these wet clothes. Come on, let’s get a move on.” He pulled his horse's reins to get the poor beast moving once again and started down the hill.

Bo turned to ask how CeCe was doing only then realizing that she was nowhere to be found. He studied the path they had just taken, already there was no sign that they had passed through the undisturbed snow. “Hey…guys… where’s CeCe?” he queried those near him. He handed the reins of his horse to Donny before walking back the way they had come. “Where is she? She was just beside me…” he stopped to think when he had last looked over to check the small bundled figure.

“Dammit, we need to find her! She can’t be that far.” He started calling her name. “Come on, help me!” his voice had taken on a panicked tone. Neko by this time was heading back the way they had come, sweeping the area, praying for a sight of his sister.  He started calling her name as well, hoping that she would be able to hear them above the roaring wind.

Dominic came running up next to Bo and reached out to stop him. “Max told me he is going ahead to find a cave and get it ready. That way once we find CeCe we’ll have a warm place to bring her.” Bo just shook his head in agreement as he continued his search. Dominic took up the search and worked to keep the others in his sight as he went.

It was while he was tracking where the guys were, that Dominic began to wonder if the weird long-range vision he had experienced before would work again. He stopped and chose the figure of his twin to focus on. With his and Donny’s coloring, they blended the best into the snow storm. The grays, blacks, and whites echoing the surrounding perfectly. He cleared his mind and trained his eyes on his brother, as he looked he noticed that he was indeed seeing Donny clearer with each second.

He had trained his sight to the point he could see individual hairs on his brother’s face when he turned and began to scan the surrounding area. He fell into a zone, where he was aware of the others, but his vision was picking up the most innocuous animal. As he slipped further into The Sight, he began to see heat signatures. “Cool, this ought to make it a bit easier.” He said to himself as his gaze swept the terrain.

He found her horse not long after that, the poor mare had at least been smart enough to move around a bit from becoming frozen where she stood. Dominic came up beside her, running his hands down her withers brushing the built-up snow as he did. “Where’s your mistress?” he questioned the pretty mare. Dom began to study the area around the horse trying to figure out why CeCe would have abandoned her. His vision expanded he noticed the disturbed snow. He followed the trail, leading the mare behind him. He would have missed her completely but for the dark blue of her cloak and the circle of frozen blood under her.

Dom ran to the small snow-covered heap, he started yelling for the others to join him. While he waited he started brushing the snow off the Mithralian Queen. Neko and Donny arrived about the same time with Bo and Azereus arriving seconds later. “She’s hurt,” Dominic stated as Bo bent down beside him. Bo pushed the hood of CeCe’s cloak away from her face to see the jagged wound.

“We need to get her to the caves. We can worry about her injuries once there.” Bo stated as he scooped his love up into his arms. He frowned at how cold she felt. “It appears she found the caves before any of us.” He said indicating with his head the caves spotting the landscape. “Quickly now! Let’s find the one Max has made shelter in.” He rose slowly with his beloved and started carefully heading towards the caves. Praying they found Max soon.

“I’m way ahead of you, bro. I’m using my eagle eyes to locate him now. Follow me.” Dominic called over his shoulder as he took off heading in a specific direction. Azereus gave Bo one those looks that spoke of the eagerness of youth. Bo figured he would put his faith in the brother who had found CeCe in this wintry expanse.

Amerak stood at the window, his eyes a strange opalescent color. His lips moved whispering words in an ancient dialect long forgotten but by few. His hands moving in a series of twists and turns, a soft glow emanating from them. In the corner, a glass globe filled with the vision of the blizzard overtaking the Tlaqix Mountains. His hands came to a stop, and as the glow faded, his eyes returned to their usual malevolent color. Laughing an evil deep-throated laugh he walked toward the globe. “Yes, that should do nicely at slowing the guardians down so that my band of thieves can finish their job.” He ran his hand lightly over the stormy view. “Soon guardians, you’ll be gone and the Triad will be mine.”

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