The Marauding Mist

Caravan guards sit close around a campfire, mist all around them on an otherwise cloudless night. A few flasks make their way around the circle. They talk in low voices, and eye the shifting mist largely obscuring the merchant’s wagons.

“Back before the world burned, I’ve heard there was no marauding mist. The mist was blameless, innocent of danger. When the great lords made terrible magics and devices for their wars on each other, the mist was born from their hate.”

“Well I’ve heard the mist is from another world, creeping in through holes the lords tore in the very fabric of the sky, reaching too far beyond their ken in their lust for power, calling upon power or magic they had no right to. Just like entitled little lordlings now.” The guard turned her head and spit into the mist.

“That’s what I think, too,” another volunteered. “That it comes from another world, I mean. And sometimes it brings things with it! My nan knew someone who stumbled out of the mist. They said they didn’t even recognize the stars anymore. Never could explain rightly where they come from, poor sod.”

“We’ll set two per watch tonight, just like any mist night, in case one a ya takes ta screamin’.” A calm voice cut across the chatter. Everyone nods at the veteran’s words , accepting his edict without protest. He knew his business. “Even better is ta be inside on mist nights, where the maraudin’ mist fears ta go, but I doubt those cozy merchants would invite the likes a us guard to join ’em in their snug wagons.”

The newest addition to the guard troop glanced bleakly at the closest wagon, separated from their fire by the barest tendril of mist. It was plain that indoors was where he would rather be, even at the cost of mockery and laughter from those around the fire. Noticing his discomfort, one of the guards takes up a story teller’s voice.

“The mist holds nameless dread and sharp, thin blades. Folk lost out in the mist, if they’re found at all, are found as corpses. Sometimes they look perfect, without a mark on their bodies. Dead from fear alone, some say. Sometimes they look like badly dressed meat, they have so many cuts all across their flesh. Occasional folk can walk through the mist untouched, and no one knows why. Dangerous trick to try twice, of course. The mist is fickle, and jealous of its secrets. The mist-“

“Shut up, Venric.” The vetran quashes the attempt to further spook the untested guard in a conversational tone of voice. “We don’t need people more riled up than they already are. Nice a you ta volunteer fer middle watch.”

“I had middle watch last night!” Venric exclaimed in outrage. He groaned, already imagining how much harder tomorrow would be after having such fractured sleep two nights in a row. He continued to grumble to anyone who would listen as the guards settled into the bedrolls.