The Time Between Times is Always a Time of Barbarism and Chaos
Zacharion rested on the raft, again drifting down the river, having taking what he could from the slain slave of a deceased Dark Lord and quitting the minion’s lair before more of that thing’s kind arrived from whatever villainy they do. Yet, unable to wholly ignore the burning desire to purify the land clean of such filth, Zacharion made a trap of the dead Gek’s corpse. As he rested, he smiled at the plume of smoke arise from the landing site behind him, for he knew that it was—at the least—successful in part.
The other man-things, monsters like Gek with misshapen flesh, returned to find Gek slain on the floor of their abandoned hovel of a lair, his black ichor spilled out on the floor from the neck wound in a pool that flowed towards the doorway, and once the others filed into the room the trap- as Zacharion noted during his encounter- sprung. The hovel was not level, but instead slanted towards the river in a slight angle, which Zacharion found as he watched the ichor spill out. He deduced correctly that the foul nature of Gek’s hideous form held within it an essential corruption that could not abide contact with the force of purity in the world: the sun. The boy, remembering the tales of Ilker’s wars with them and their masters, moved Gek’s limp arms such that they formed a gesture known to be obscene to that kind- and thus stun them with curiosity.
So intrigued, the others would come closer for a look and lose sight of the ichor approaching the door- and exposure to the sun. The ichor ignited upon contact, instantaneously engulfing the corpse as well as those around it in purifying flames of blue and white; soon the flames engulfed the whole of the hovel, burning bright and hot, and a column of smoke arose over the tops of the trees- and Zacharion on his raft knew that his own cunning and wit had again finished a task that his master begun generations before.
Some days later, Zacharion again made contact with the Witch of the Wildlands, who came to him by means of magic and appeared to him through a black carrion bird- speaking through it.
“You will see a youth, not unlike yourself, waving to you around the next bend. Make landfall there and follow that youth, for through such shall you come unto me.”
The boy nodded, and apparently the bird understood for it flew away without comment. As he heard, he saw an older boy waving to him just after he came around the next bend in the river. He then did as told, polling himself to land where the youth stood waiting. Upon landfall, the youth helped him bring his raft ashore.
“I am the Witch’s aide.” The youth said, sizing up Zacharion, “You may call me ‘Yearling’.”
“I am Zacharion, Holy Ilker’s final apprentice.” Zacharion then saw that this youth had a mark upon his brow, one incorporated into a body-sized tattoo that reminded him of the fabled barbarians of the eras of antiquity thousands of years before the Azure Flames that his master told him about, and he knew this “Yearling” to be more than an aide- this boy, on the cusp of Manhood, was her apprentice. As such, the name given was no more his true name than “The Witch” was that of his mistress.
“This way, Zacharion Sun-Kissed,” Yearling said, pointing away from the river, “for tonight you rest with my people, as our guest. Tomorrow we embark upon the hidden hovel of my mistress.”
As they embarked away from the river, Zacharion said to his host “Then this is the Wildlands then?”
Yearling laughed. “As your people say, yes this is your ‘Wildlands’. For my people, and other tribes of these lands, this is the place that once was known as the Many-Mirrored Lands, for here we are blessed with lakes, streams, rivers and other flows of water that gleam like the moon at night.”
Zacharion smiled. “The Ten-Thousand Streams of Silver.” he said, noting an ancient name lost to most men of these days- a name now held only by savants, here and elsewhere. Yearling returned that smile, and once more Sun and Moon walked side-by-side as Day passed through Twilight into Dusk and then Night.
* * * * *
In Solland, the civil war between the Acton Faction and the Throne swiftly progressed from a thousand private wars between local parties to a true war between two factions, each with their own banner, and in so doing became a war that Zebulon and Keela could win with aplomb and alacrity- and they did. So fast did they crush their enemies, and so solidly did they destroy the possibility of revived hostility, that when first word of external invasion arrived at their pavilion they could—and did—move at once to cut off and confront the invaders.
A great and mighty army arrayed itself against a horde of howling, hideous things from lands beyond the Solar Nation, and in a single battle did that horde find itself shattered and slaughtered by means of focused, disciplined might skillfully arrayed and deployed (and redeployed) by exhaustively experienced officers fresh from a conclusive and complete campaign of consolidation. The day ended with another Solar Nation victory, and with the men of that army spending their evenings scouring the ground upon which the corpses of their foul, inhuman enemies erupted into flame and incinerated themselves so that the priests could sanctify said ground and purify it of the pollution poured upon it.
Of those that died last, one kneeled unwillingly before the Solar King and Queen. This one did tell truly of the encounter between Zacharion and Gek, for it saw the aftermath of the encounter and—by means of sorcery—divined the facts of the matter. This lead to the forming of the horde, for these barbarian monsters deemed this a provocation that could not go unanswered, and they cared not for their own lives- only that revenge be seized by slaughter of the people that slew their own.
Thus struck home to the royal couple the true depth of Ilker’s death, and their hopes for a swift and easy interregnum fell away with the ash of the fires.