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.

A Brief History of Adralel

Map of Adralel

“In the beginning was the Singer and the Song. The Song and the Singer wound around one another, inseparable. Our world, and every speck in the night sky, was Sung into existence. Pure notes coalesced into mist that sighed over the land and the jeweled dew drops that followed after.

“With time creatures came to roam the land as well. Some of these found their ways of being compatible. Some of them did not. This struggle went on for years uncounted, until the days of the Halflings, who came to make peace. Nimble of finger and quick of wit, the first Halflings brokered –“

“It weren’t the halflings that broker’d anythin’,” a human interrupted. He had paused in the marketplace to listen to the storyteller. Seated halfling children craned their necks to look back at the tall visitor as he continued to speak, oblivious to the glares from all around. “It’s the dwarves that sued fer peace, in’it. On account of they were dwindlin’ and afeared a’ dying out.”

 “It’s certainly true that no one can outbreed you humans,” the irritated storyteller snapped, before she thought better of it. More babies than brains. She clicked her teeth shut before that thought had a chance to escape out of her mouth.       

“I’m jus’ sayin’ you should tell the chil’en right,” the human countered, before moving prudently off into the crowd. The crowd being mostly halflings, it didn’t hide him. It did, however, provide a convenient reason for he and the storyteller to let their argument drop. 

“Why did he say it was dwarves, Mama Valda? Didn’t he have a Storyteller to tell him right?” one of the older children asked, watching the visitor disappear among the stalls of the marketplace.

“There are no surviving written records from that time, Riton. So much was lost when the first peace broke and the world burned. Even recorded oral traditions from that time are centuries distant from the time they report.” Storyteller Valda replied, trying to regain her composure and rhythm. “And humans live such short lives. Their oral traditions had to pass through the most heads before it was recorded, so it is the most distorted.”

The children stared up at Valda, uncomprehending. At such a young age, it was difficult to conceive of the practical difference between 60 and 100 years. Both seemed equally distant. Thinking for a moment, the Storyteller remembered a game from her childhood that might be useful now.

“Here, I’ll show you. Everyone sit in a circle. Riton, you sit here next to me. Now think of two words. Got them? Good. You are going to whisper them to Ziri sitting next to you. She’ll whisper it to Rosula and so on until it gets all the way to me. Does everyone understand?” Each child nodded when she made brief eye contact. She nodded at Riton to begin.