Year : 523
The green light faded from the interior of the makeshift hovel. As the hum of magick dimmed, the sounds from the Mire began to creep in from the outside. Crickets strung their legs together, matched by the deep baritone hoots of owls in conjunction with the whistles and chirps of the nightcaws. The surroundings buzzed with a life of their own now, greeting the oncoming night through a symphonic concert.
The Hermit placed the orb down upon the finely stitched velvet cushion, which sank beneath the orb’s weight. A small smile appeared in the corner of the Hermit’s lips as he listened intently to the freedom of the world and lost himself for a moment in the joys that it gave. For the briefest of moments a green hue began to overtake the hovel as the Hermit listened, the magick escalating once more. Then, with a heavy-hearted sigh, the light subsided once more.
Walking over to the corner of the hovel, the Hermit snuffed out his lantern and basked in the moonlight streaming in through an open portal. Though it was not warm like the sun, he often felt a familiarity in the presence of the sun’s sister light. With aged care, he removed his stained, patch-worked robes and hung them on the wall. Torn, tattered, ripped, shredded, and unwoven in sections, the robes had seen their fair share of use. But the Hermit was a resourceful man and had mended them as best he could in a variety of leaves, barks, skins, and pelts. They were his pride and joy and, more often than not, his protection. The odor of the unwashed linens and animals parts helped mask his human scent from the predators in the Mire. He had lost count of how many times he had been able to sneak safely away from a murlock, or catch an unsuspecting hare for supper, due to his camouflage.
As the Hermit lay down upon his bed of furs, exhausted from that days magick use, he thought back onto happier times, when the Mire had been a grand forest and not the desolate swampland it had become. He formed an image of those woods in his mind, and image not more than a year old, and held onto it as he drifted into the late evenings slumber.
Perched on twisted ironwood, two eyes darted in and out of the shadows, watching the light fade from within the hovel’s opening. First the greens gave way, then slowly the yellow light of the Hermit’s lantern. The eyes flashed in and out once more, adjusting their position on the ironwood, waiting for their opportunity to infiltrate the abode. Waiting, watching, the eyes picked up once more when the Hermit strode in front of the portal, naked as his nameday, exposed to the world. He lingered there briefly before disappearing from sight. And then the wait began.
Then, finally, after three hours, the eyes emerged from the shadows of the ironwood. Carefully inching their way across the sturdy branches of the tree, they made their way to the small gap between the limb and the portal. With a deft leap and a silent landing, the figure crept inside the Hermit’s hovel. Stealth was of the utmost importance as it stuck to the crevice of the wall and floor, remaining as low as possible. Worming its way to the velvet pillow, the figure hesitated as it gazed upon the orb before it.
The orb was forged from a milky crystalline substance and twice the size of a city melon, weighing as though made from the purest iron. Gently, the figure picked up the orb, a dark shadow covering it as it did. While making doubly sure of the grip, the Hermit stirred. A head turned as the two eyes darted back to the sleeping man. A flicker of anticipation shown as an image of the old man dying formed in the mind of the figure. But a reminder quickly broke up the image.
“The man must not perish. With him, the magick lives. If his life is to be forfeit, then the magick we seek will cease to exist.”
A tongue broke through the tightly pressed lips and traced a path across the lips of an enlarged, misshapen face, the pull of the kill lingering too long. Thinking better of it, the figure worked its way back toward the opening, climbed the rickety wall of the hovel’s interior, and disappeared in the night.