Werik meets the sky, p.1
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       Werik Meets the Sky, p.1

           D.A. Rogers
 
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Werik Meets the Sky
Werik Meets the Sky

  D.A Rogers

  Copyright 2014 by D.A. Rogers

  I’m dedicating this little book to my great mum.

  The Battle of Gurneyhill Castle

  Werik did not like the open sky of the surface world. Its yawning roofless vastness and its shifting restless air disturbed him. However he would endure these things, endure anything he must to serve she, the great queen, the most powerful matriarch in the long hidden history of the roama people. His brothers shared this with him. Marik's distaste was close and palatable, less than a league away to the northeast. Closing his large luminous eyes Werik could see snatches of moonlit rock and his brother’s hand pushing aside thicket, echoes of Marik's senses. His brother’s nervous excitement and sense of purpose blended with his own as their minds touched.

  Distant and weaker now, but always with them, their third brother sat pondering a map, knowing with complete certainty where his brothers stood in the open tunnel-less and alien world above him. Gurik shared their anxiousness, but he was home, secure in his rightful place within the deep tunnels. His brothers drew upon this for comfort in the strange over-world, a place where the only rock and soil were beneath ones boots.

  Werik shaded his giant eyes from the painful glare of the star lit sky and stared at the dwelling place of the surface people. A castle they called it. It was a place of defence and shelter for the brown and hairy humans, one of the most numerous of the surface dwellers. Rather than carve away the unwanted rock until they had the homes and defences they needed, these strange folk broke the stone into box shaped boulders and stacked them up into the roofless skies, leaving space to live and fight in as they did so.

  Curious behaviour, but these are a very curious species.

  This castle called Gurneyhill and its humans had no great all-seeing queen, but the brothers knew that it had the protection of enemy magi. Their new enemy, the Trade Sea Alliance, had many magi. The queen had told them that not all were humans. None of those magi lived here, but like the queen, their reach could stretch far when they willed it and their powers could bring swift death from over the mountains and leagues of ocean that covered the surface world. Werik sincerely hoped he would never encounter one of these ‘oceans’, there was enough oddness to bear up here already. These stars for example, so horrifyingly bright, yet mesmerizingly strange. Between the mountains, he could see one exceptionally bright star; the surface dwellers named it the homebound star. Above it and almost as bright was another, but it had a white tail flaring upward like a falling candle. The bearded star the humans called this one, as its tail so resembled the wisps of chin hair of which they were so proud. To the reptilian jima people, it is the long tailed nomad, gracing their skies for millennia. What the bayshan or hecatian name for it was, Werik did not know and it was unimportant to his coming campaign of conquest against them.

  Marik's mind touched his, he had checked that his scouts were in position flanking the south road and then returned underground. More than a thousand soldier caste had been positioned with great care in three tunnels beneath Gurneyhill, but in case the humans could unexpectedly counter these, a surface attack had been included also. The surface force was scattered in the scrub near the gates and a reserve force of six hundred huddled in sky cave and its tunnels. The mouth of sky cave opened onto a rocky hillside above the south road where Werik now crouched. Once Marik's force opened their tunnels and stormed the interior, their first priority would be to secure the south gate and open it. This would ensure four points of entry for the roama forces and Werik would then lead his reserves in. The plan was to overwhelm the sleeping castle before the human magi knew this remote corner of their empire was imperilled. Magical interference was a danger best avoided until the queens own arcane protections were extended to include this place. The queen’s first outpost in the surface world needed to be strong and make a bold statement.

  The cold air of the surface world was so dry it pained Werik’s slit nostrils; filling them with disturbing and unfamiliar scents, organic, tangy and strong. He wanted this to be over, to return to the tunnels below, but his role was to be his majesty’s voice amid the forces of the surface campaign, sadly, he would have no reason to return for some time. He wanted to conquer the humans and the jima, take the lands of the demonbringers and kohlinites, to flatten the mud towers of the greenmen. Then it would be over and he would return to the burrows in triumph, never to leave again.

  All is ready.

  The thoughts were words and ideas in combination and they belonged first to Marik, but both his brothers shared them too. Gurik passed this message to her majesty and the brothers waited. Through Guriks eyes, the brothers watched the queen’s face for her response. Half again as tall as Gurik, waspishly slender and ivory pale, she projected power with every movement. For now, however she sat statue still, her large orange eyes closed and her rabbit skin gown flexing only slightly with her light, slow breaths. Gurik and his brothers waited, watching her in silence. The firelight staged a dancing display of shadow and pink chaos across the pale curve of her towering smooth skull. A sudden shriek sounded from the nursery chambers, Gurik jumped a little and hundreds of leagues away his brothers twitched in response, all were anxious to begin, but the queen remained still and focused, unmoving. Then finally, her lips parted, she drew breath.

  “Give the word,” she whispered.

  “Majesty,” replied Gurik with a bow.

  In the tunnels beneath Gurneyhill Marik touched the shoulder of the soldier in front of him, the gesture silently passed forward to the front most roama and they drove tapered crowbars into the brickwork before them. The stonework of the castle’s cellars soon broke and was dragged aside to make room for the invaders. Marik’s group entered under the southern gatehouse, another group into the kitchen cellars and the third broke into the crypts. Gurneyhill Castle was asleep, poorly maintained and built a long way from its surface dwelling enemies. Its human occupants slept, snored, coupled and dreamt; unaware that burrowers were creeping like nightmares into their cool summer evening.

  Marik stole up the stairwell four ranks behind the soldiers, ahead was the triple ‘shwink’ of roama crossbows and he was soon stepping over the bodies of human sentries. They were scruffy things with hair from neck to crown except for two bare patches under each beady eye, on either side of the great beak of a nose with its round open nostrils. They wore an unmatched mix of tooled leather armours, woven cloth and metal plates. The soldiers held a whispered discussion about the iron and wood mechanism in the room beyond. A consensus reached, they hauled vigorously on one of the wheels. One soldier looking through an arrow slit whispered encouraging feedback on their progress. The time for whispers had passed however, the wheel turned with reluctant scraping and the firm clicks of a large ratchet. A soldier was poised with a great iron peg, ready to pin the gate wheel in the open position. Marik herded his half phalanx of fifteen soldiers into the gatehouse winch room and ordered the door barred shut and sealed with hammered in wedges. Catching his breath Marik closed his eyes and thought.

  We are ready for you brother.

  Werik had ordered Major Soriv to ready the soldiers the moment his brothers eyes had beheld the gatehouse winch, now he signalled the march with a brisk wave. He stood aside as his force jogged down the hillside, shading their eyes from the glare of the starlight. No doubt, the unimaginable vastness of the open space terrified them, but not so much as the thought of failing their queen. The road to the south gate seemed so much longer to run then he would have guessed from the hilltop. Werik was breathless when he arrived, but like his soldiers, he charged directly in, happy to have a stone roof over his head once more. There was fire in the little village beyond, human screams
and roama screeches sounded ahead and the signs, sounds and scents of battle compounded with each step. The gatehouse courtyard widened into a cobblestoned village protected by the outer wall. Squat stone buildings filled it, their roofs yellow and fibrous. These were apparently flammable, as a few of these dwellings were already on fire. To his right Werik could see a larger ornate structure, its tall doorway topped with the statue of a hirsute winged beast. A steady flow of roama soldiers jogged out of this archway heading toward the inner keep, this must be the crypt gate and the soldiers from tunnel three Werik concluded.

  He followed the main mass of troops toward the keep. Thinking it was surprising that he had sighted no live humans yet. Suddenly a bellow from his
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