*Wordcount: 1521 words.
The wind tugged at the man’s cloak, and, despite his layers of thick clothing, a chill set in. He’d felt chills like this before, he thought, but… No, wait, that wasn’t quite true.
He had felt chills spurned by biting winds and stinging rains, and from heavy snows, and he’d never forget the kind of chills he got on that whaling ship during its stint in the cold waters far north. Remembering his damp quarters and the water lapping at the ship from outside almost sent a chill down his spine…
That is, if the scattering of corpses before him hadn’t already claimed prime chilling territory.
He walked over and began inspecting them, his heavy brown cloak largely obscuring his form and covering a manner of ‘proactive defence technology’.
The rolling green hills all around him belied the grotesque nature of these slain men, and the cloaked man wondered if it would be in poor taste to return here at a later date for a picnic.
He inspected one man, a grizzled middle-aged thing with an eye patch. He could only try guess which body the detached head belonged to, although, that being said, he’d always fancied himself a good guesser.
After somewhere around 15 minutes (he wished he brought a watch) of inspecting, lifting, shifting, and some light pilfering, he had the bodies laid out before him.
Nine told, in all. Most were hideously wounded, torn quite literally limb from limb.
The wounds themselves were savage things, no clean cuts but rather jagged rips and torn flesh.
Whatever had killed them was strong, but he could’ve guessed that before stumbling across this hunting party. Most were young men, and he could do nothing for any of them. He would point the village in the right direction once he was done, and perhaps share a few words with them about how hurtful it is to be the second choice…
The cloaked man’s name, as his name is an important step in understanding a complex and mysterious character, was, and I assure you of the importance of knowing his name, in matter of fact…
Oh, wait, he’s on the move. He’s supposed to wait for the exposition before the story continues, the fool!
Oi, Kellan, seriously?!
Oh forget it, you get the idea.
Kellan, despite being rash (and having little respect for the structure of a narrative), was hardly ever ill-prepared. He achieved this by strapping himself with all manner of things that might be useful, and then rushing headlong into a situation and hoping.
It helped that he was something of a tinkerer, a habit he’d picked up from his mother, and often carried tools suited to very specific jobs that he’d knocked out the night before.
Kellan got a taste of travelling from a young age, and it was one that he always found palatable. As such, he carried a small (large) portable tinkerer’s set with him, and before he knew it he found himself helping people out with small problems wherever he went.
These problems got bigger and bigger, and in such dangerous times like these, he ended up as something of a… monster hunter.
He never liked the term though, he preferred to think of it as really-big-pest control.
Speaking of big, his current quarry definitely was. The trail Kellan was following was not a hard one to find, what with all the kicked up ground and footsteps big enough to encourage Kellan not to think about it.
The corpses Kellan had found were a day old at most, so he knew he was close. Still, his pace never wavered as he brisk-ed his way along.
He was not unaware though, and his green eyes scanned over every hill and rock, just in case.
He was also listening very hard (though how one does this is beyond me), every now and then flicking aside his in-need-of-a-cut black hair as it fell over his ears.
The sun beat down on him, or at least tried to, hindered quite severely by the thick bank of grey clouds spanning the heavens.
Kellan really would have to come back this way for a picnic someday, perhaps when there’re fewer man-killing monsters about.
Speaking of picnics, Kellan had to stop for a moment to admire the perfect spot. Unblemished and beautiful, with a number of wild flowers and springy green grass, it would be lovely. One thing bothered him about it, though, and that is that he stumbled across this patch while on the trail of a large, bloodthirsty monster.
A trail that left no small amount of destruction.
This unblemished patch of land actually signalled the end of the trail, Kellan noted, fearing for a moment that he had wondered off the trail. But it led up to this, and no further.
Well, Kellan was stumped. He sat down for a moment to collect his bearings, and, truth be told, take in some of the peaceful countryside.
Then, the earth quaked.
It quaked with such force that it sent him stumbling off its… Back?
Kellan took a moment to orient himself, realising that there was no quake, but rather…
Well, the ground was standing up.
Kellan found himself just watching this happen, as he had never seen the ground stand before.
Now, Kellan was not a short man by any stretch of the imagination, nor was he ungainly tall. Average might be the word, but Kellan wasn’t average anything god damn it.
Regardless of his average height, this thing towered above him. He figured he’d need another him, situated on his shoulders, to look this thing in the eyes.
If it had eyes, that is. So far, it seemed to have its back to him. A back covered in springy green grass and wild flowers.
It slowly, arduously, turned to face Kellan.
Large, stony eye sockets looked down at Kellan, seemingly sightless. A jumble of stones below that resembled a mouth, and it didn’t seem to have a nose. It had large arms, comprised of a collection of rocks and mounds of dirt bound together by thick roots wrapping around them all, splitting off at the end to form fingers. The legs were largely the same story.
Kellan stood as tall as he could (looking laughably small next to this thing), and met its gaze.
Then, it spoke.
Its voice was that of the grinding of stones, the babbling of water and growth of flowers. Life and death and the endless natural cycle that claims us all, of the beginning and end and all in-between.
To the untrained ear it would simply sound like stones grinding together (to be fair, you try talking with stone vocal cords). This is what it sounded like to Kellan, and what the creature said shook him to the core.
Its words were ponderous, but it seemed to imbue a kind of meaning into each sound that left Kellan straining his ears to pick up on every delightful stony gurgle.
Looking down at Kellan, the great earthy creature said: “Hello.”
Kellan just stared at it.
“It is nice to meet you.” Said the creature.
Kellan just stared at it.
“I would like it if you did not trod on my back next time.”
Kellan just stared at it.
“I was sleeping.”
Kellan just, well, you know.
“Oh great… I always get the slow ones.”
This sparked something in Kellan, and he finally found his voice. He gathered himself up, and shouted back at this thing. “Hello!”
“No need to shout you know.”
Kellan faltered a moment. “Um… You’re living earth?”
“H… How are you living earth?”
“I am. As you are.”
Kellan thought for a moment, while the creature just stared at him, and then remembered his mission.
“Did you kill anyone lately?”
The creature cocked its head to the side. “Not that I am aware.”
“Steal any livestock? Upset a village at all?”
“That does not sound like something that I would do.”
“I am sorry I am not what you seek.”
The creature pointed a root at Kellan. “You smell of metal. Earth.”
Kellan was about to tell the creature what for, before realising what it meant. He was carrying a number of his tinkered tools.
So, for once meeting someone (or at least something) with an appreciation for good craftsmanship (or at least creative craftsmanship), he took out his tools and showed the creature.
As bizarre as fate is at times, Kellan and this creature ended up becoming friends. Well, that’s how Kellan saw it, he could never tell how the creature felt or what it thought.
Unfortunately, this means that Kellan pretty much just forgot about the creature he was supposed to be hunting, despite going back to the town to fetch his tinkering tools and being questioned by a number of townsfolk.
Ignoring them, he and his new earthen friend ventured forward.
For about two days.
Kellan eventually tried to have a picnic on the creature’s back which resulted in a very harsh exchange of very slow words, and eventual parting of ways.
But it was a lovely picnic.