The Farthest Hite

For AL.

Adye hadn’t been long in the city before he found himself roaming the streets in his brown robes of coarse woven fibers. He hadn’t been in the crags of Tiir Enath long before even his pale skin became covered in the perpetual soot that drifted down from the Old Gods. He hadn’t been in the city long before he came to know how cruel it could be to be so far from home.

Home was the white mountains of Tenn Eldrath where he had been born and raised. The skies were clear by day, and by night clouds rolled in and blanketed the mountains in another layering of fine dust. Houses were built of snow shaped into bricks and formed into large townships where hundreds of his people settled for meals and gatherings together. The men tilled the snow orchards, where nut-bearing trees able to withstand the icy air flourished, and the women at home reared the children and cared for the sick. All hands were one hand in Tenn Eldrath. All homes were one home in Tenn Eldrath. All people were one people in Tenn Eldrath.

In Tiir Enath, this was not the case. No one spoke without business and no one ventured without cause. No one met eyes without menace or asked of you in the street lest you were blocking their path–and then they did not ask, they yelled and clamored and forced you to move.

The only thing left in Adye’s possession other than the clothes he wore was the silver tankard he dragged alongside him, his arms reaching the ground while his short legs staggered further down the stone streets. Everything here had been carved of the crags themselves, from the streets to the hard-edged stone buildings that rose like blocks stacked upon themselves, windows present but guarded with black shutters that never seemed to open. Higher than his eyes could almost perceive, the lip of the crags called to him, a faint scratch of blue and white amidst all this black. But even such was no warrant of peace: The skies bled black snow that clung to the stones and to the people and to himself. Every three minutes he wiped his face against his sleeves, but resistance was futile and no matter how often he moved, the grime remained.

Adye came to a marketplace some time upon his fourth day travelling through the crags. The place was full of hundreds of Detta, the most he had seen since entering Tiir Enath. They had tall slender legs, quick and agile, towering, but their arms were short and their hands were small, good for little else than for clutching and grasping possessions and goods, far too diminutive to hold one another even if they had the slightest inclination to do so. They turned as Adye walked through the marketplace, and in the darkness, their bulbous eyes turned the brightest blue as they took in all the shreds of light that filtered down through the soot. In side alleys and open storefronts, they passed satchels of coins and goods back and forth, glancing always at what passed from hand to hand, or elsewise all around them, never daring to look at one another. Even without the perpetual dusk of the crags, such dealings looked shadier than sunset to Adye.

He was glad to finally pass the congestion some time later when he came out of the marketplace upon the other side. Every so often he saw openings in the black rock, like large mouths these tunnels were, to connect one crag to another in this sodden land, but Adye’s directions were clear as could be: Down from the lofts of Tenn Eldrath, into the crags of Tiir Enath, at last to the bowels of the Old Gods themselves. There the offering could be made, the last soul set to rest, and he could return home at last.

Adye wandered further, but still held to his tankard as even the houses of Tiir Enath vanished into flat cliff-faces past the borders of the great city at the feet of the New Gods, wherein the land of Tenn Eldrath rose. He had drunk his last remaining drops of snow-waters from the mountains, but still held tight to his single belonging; the rhythmic clank and scratch of metal on stone kept him company, deep in the earth and kept from the winds of familiar territory, where silence was not all the substance there was to be had and solitude was absent.

Days more passed, and as he went the crags narrowed till the sky could no longer be seen. The layering of soot upon him darkened his skin as black as the stone itself. His body shriveled, his steps slowed, his mind strewn with wicked thoughts and damnable delusions as spectres of his own making wandered around him in company. He kept going.

Finally a light began to show before him, a smaller fire like the sun that slowly rose from a faint white flicker to an orange and yellow conflagration before him. Still he went on, wading through the thickening heat as he approached the Old Gods where they rose from the earth, heading toward their stomachs from which they spewed forth the thunders that had since plagued Tenn Eldrath. A year had passed since the first thunder; but prayer alone had not appeased the Old Gods. Offerings cast from the homes and the hearths of Adye’s people gave no great calm to the Old Gods, either, and their rage shone through at night when great clouds of fiery ash colored the white storms red even during the thickest blizzards. The Old Gods were angered, were restless, and only an offering in person could have the hope of soothing them anymore.

Herein the walls of the crag fell away at last, leading Adye forward only by a thin spire of stone that protruded from the path. He could hear the roaring now, over the ringing in his ears that for days had been all he could hear, and he could smell the putrid, pungent, acidic breath of the Old Gods’ bowels. He stumbled forward, careful to keep his balance, unable to look downward into the brightness that emanated from below him, until the path ended entirely.

“Shenendrah,” he said, “Rabhidikubra,” naming each of the Old Gods in turn, “Yochenatra, Furendratnah, Huruthdidra,” and through the others, till his mouth was dry and his heart was sore from spinning blood through his body in this accursed place. He proclaimed himself, “Adye, I have come to you, the farthest Hite from the land of Tenn Eldrath, sent by the New Gods to appease you. I carry no incense, no jewels, no great offerings–all lost in my travels from the homelands. But I give to you all I have, every last morsel of my keeping, to appease you.”

Adye slipped the robes from his shoulders and pushed a single foot forward until they slipped from the stone and into the brightness below. His fingers, for so long held around his tankard, loosened one at a time until it, too, fell from his grasp, struck the stone once with a single final clank, and then bounced into the bowels as well.

“Settle your anger, we ask,” he said, “and accept our prayers as wholly as we offer them each to each of you.”

Adye waited, not knowing what would happen next, and waited further, not knowing what should be done next.

At last Adye, feeling nothing more would occur and nothing more could be done, turned slowly from the bosoms of the Old Gods and began travelling backwards, the way he had come. What more could be done, when all had been given?

What more could be done?

The End

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