Ameshirel: A World Undone
The Rider's Heir
Late into five nights, they had ridden. The party of seven endeavouring in the difficult task to make their party seem like their entire tribe. They rode long, then lit enough fires for five dozen ‘bolds. Their steeds, hardy mountain goats bred for their endurance and strength, barely managed to eat their food, drink from the stream before collapsing into a slumber that would be far too short. The ’bolds themselves would eat, sleep, and move on just as quickly. Leaving behind nothing but the carcass of a goat who didn’t wake, and the forged marks of 52 sleeping places.
A master tracker surely could have told the difference, but the ‘bold scout hadn’t seen one when they’d first observed them six days past.
The first to rise and last to fall were the scout pair of KikTik and Daxenth. Born within two days of each other, the pair had been inseparable in the eight years it had taken then to reach adulthood and in the twenty years since.
The pursuing party consisted of almost thirty armed horseman lead by a nobleman of some sort. The ’bold tribe had swung too far south in their nomadic travels, and attracted the attention of the hunting party. For three days the tribe had run before afforded an opportunity for trickery.
A hidden shallow cave allowed the majority of the tribe to hide, while the seven scouts and chosen warriors lead the horsemen away. Leaving the remaining tribe with only three riding goats to get a message to a nearby allied tribe.
The scouting pair of KikTik and Daxenth were in high spirits this morning, despite holding the knowledge that the raiding party was sharply gaining on them. For two days they’d lead them over rocky terrain that gave their own steeds the advantage, but now that terrain had ended for the hilly grasslands to begin, benefiting the horses longer legs.
But the ‘bolds hadn’t survived persecution and genocide due to dull wit or luck. And upon successfully drawing the horsemen into an advantageous position, the combined forces of two ’bold tribes, over one hundred and twenty soldiers, crested the peaks of two adjacent hills and turned the hunters into naught but slaughtered prey.
The seven ’bolds who had lead the chase, collapsed into a slumber that lasted an entire night, day and another night. The two tribes worked while they slept, turning the carcass of man and horse into meat for consumption. Nothing was wasted amongst the ’bold tribes, and following the direction of a long dead ’bold chieftain, they turned every attack against them into a delivery of supplies. And left the evidence of their feeding to be found by the next set of foolish raiders seeking a ’bold skull for their mantle.
Upon their arising, the seven were treated as heroes, and sequestered to the joined tents of the chieftains.
There, they were briefed that despite this recent raid, it appeared the Easterlings were to retreat, creating an opportunity for the tribes to unite and reclaim their former glory. Five riders were to embark to make contact with the other nomad tribes.
KikTik and Daxenth, however, were to ride to the Westerlands, to gather greatly skilled warriors to join them, as it was determined that without the aid of the Westerlands, any attempt would likely fail. KikTik and Daxenth were to embark on their journey to the Westerlands early the next morning.
The pair approached their tribe shaman, and under his blade and blinded eyes, swore a blood oath to each other and to the Rider, that their lives were forfeit to the other, and that they would accomplish their quest or die together in the attempt.
Equipped with lance, armour, shield and war goat steed, Dax and KikTik began their long journey to the Westerlands.
For three days they travelled quickly through the day, an extra ’bold accompanying them with extra steeds to give them a speedier start. Every hour they switched mount to a fresh one, and rode like madmen.
On the fourth day, the accompanying ‘bold took his leave and headed back. He would go no further, and Dax and his blood brother, KikTik would continue on with just one goat each. While slower, they determined that it would be the wiser option to proceed as such, and remain unobserved. So they rested through the day and travelled onwards through the night. Hiding themselves throughout the day. A farmer almost stumbled upon them as they got deeper and deeper South, but KikTik steadied Dax’s hand and prevented his murder and they remained undetected.
The next day, as they rested in the thicket that was their hiding place, a shake of their steed’s head, and the slight crack of a breaking twig alerted them. Brandishing their blades, the pair rose silently, heads slowly turning to the direction of the noise.
One attacker entered the thicket before the others, and KikTik sank his blade deep into his side before he had a chance to cry out.
They were upon them, then. The goats frenzied and accounted for two each. Driving their horns into their sternum and cracking the ribs and internals of the unfortunate attackers. KikTik took down another couple, plus the first attacker he killed. And Dax accounted for the same – narrowly missing the blade of an attempted decapitation.
They stood panting in the thicket, the goats, their heads slick with blood, stood, heads darting around to check for more. One of the downed men moved slightly, and KikTik’s steed began bludgeoning him him into the ground with it’s horns.
Dax looked to KikTik, and his cry was simultaneous with his companions fall.
“Kik!” Dax cried, springing towards him as KikTik collapsed to the bloodied ground, a blade stuck in his chest armour and flesh. “No, no, no, no, no, no. NO.” He screamed, shaking his life long friend as he slipped further away from life.
“Dax,” KikTik murmured, “Remember our oath, remember our task.” Dax nodded, a tear falling down his scaled face, dripping onto that of the one thing in the world he cherished the most. And with that tear, “I see him, Dax, I see the Rider.” and he slipped away.
The living ’bold howled to the sky, his friend, companion, comrade and mate was gone.
“Do not mourn him.” The voice was visceral, and felt like it came from all around him, but simultaneously like it was carried on the wind from far away. “For he has gone from your breast and unto Mine. The greatest reward a true warrior may ask for.”
The ’bold’s eyes snapped to the far end of the clearing. A figure mounted on a horse left the shadows. Dax started, and then started again when he realised that the figure wasn’t just in the shadows, but was made of them. “Rider…” He whispered in shock, before straightening his back and replying with a greater strength, “I gaze upon you…you are to take me, too?”
“In a manner, but not as you think.” The Rider replied, dismounting from his shadow horse, leaving behind shield and axe. The Rider crouched by the struggling soldier and goat, and with a mere touch with a gauntleted hand, he took them both to Death. Only now did Dax see the blade protruding from the war goat’s side.
“Before you undertook your journey, you swore an Oath under My name.” The Rider’s voice hummed, “Upon his death, his possession of your life falls to me, and your possession of his life crumbles away, as it is so fraught to do in Death.
“So, my dear Daxenth, your life is mine if I so wish it, but to just take it would not suffice for me, as The Rider of the Cold, as the God of War and Death.”
“Then what?” Dax demanded, outrage spread across his face, “You take an oath made from and to brother’s, with You as a witness, and You corrupt it for Your amusement?!”
The Rider chuckled, “You have had no experience with the Gods before, I take it.” He waved his hand in dismissal of the ’bolds concerns, “You are close enough with your assumptions, but it is not for My amusement that I sequester your life. You will continue on your task as has been set, but it is no longer your primary task to seek an army. Rather, you are to become the army.”
The Rider bent and touched two more soldiers, sending them also to Death.
“I have your Life, Daxenth of the fourth tribe, and as my descendant you are to seek and to become the Rider of the Cold, so with your Life I can become you.
“My bloodline runs through your veins, young Kobold, and with each passing of My Blood through your lips, you approach as the Rider.”
The Rider was in front of Daxenth, now, and his gauntleted hand held out a goblet to the ’bold who had just lost his companion and his Life.
“This is God’s Blood. Take it, you whom were the former Daxenth of the fourth tribe, cousin to KikTik of the same. Now, servant to your true God, you are the Rider’s Heir.”
Daxenth’s eyes were fixed upon the goblet, the shadowed glass giving the impression it held more than it would appear.
“Drink of My Blood, Heir.”
“Drink of your cousin and fulfill your Oath to Me.”