The Fog of Severed Peaks part 8

    Vog held out his arm, inviting the woman over. She was much shorter than he, and gracefully slid under his arm. He let her show him up the stairs even though he was well aware of where they were going, and waved over the guard once they reached the rooms.

The guard was a short, round man who sat on a stool at the far end of the loft. He was there to make sure no one got any extra time or services they did not pay for. Vog made a habit of tipping him in order to get a little leeway with the girls, and was going to need to do just that for what he intended on this night.

The woman stood, leaning against the doorway of a vacant room and looked on as Vog whispered to the guard and handed him a whole fistful of coins.

“Paying off a gambling debt?” She inquired upon his return.

“No, that was for you.” Vog replied, guiding her into the room and closing the door behind him.

“You just got took, fella. He’s not the one you pay.”

“I understand how this works.”

Each space was made up like simple bedrooms with changing curtains in one corner that concealed a chest filled with garments to accommodate a number of fantasies.

“I paid him extra to look the other way while I do whatever I want to you.”

She laughed. “That’s the whole point!”

“Not like this. What I’m planning on doing will be… painful.”

His voice was calm and he crept toward her with a dead look behind his eyes. She indulged him.

“You have to hurt me, huh? I’ve seen your type enough times to know; the only way you can make that work is if I scream.” She turned her back to him and fiddled with her corset. “Let me loosen this a bit before you go tearing it off.”

Vog grabbed her wrist and twisted her around, holding her up by her arm up, nearly lifting her off the floor. She gasped as if she had been splashed with ice-cold water.

“I guess you’ve seen it all, haven't you? Tell me this, if you’re such an expert; what happens next?”

“You’re going to take out on me, whatever frustrations you had today.”

“That’s very good. What else?”

“Sounds to me like you wanted to sleep with a woman who wouldn’t have you.”

Vog sneered. “You might be charging for the wrong thing, gypsy!”

With that, he hoisted her onto the bed and towered over her.

“There are ropes in the chest, aren't there?” Vog asked, moving toward the changing curtain.

“Why did she turn you down?” The poor wench interrupted. “Could she see your hatred for women?”

Vog halted, he shook his head, and blinked rapidly as bad liars do.

“No. I have information she wanted, but she was too proud to pay my price.”

“It must be highly valuable information.”

The woman rolled onto her knees and crawled across the bed, beckoning seduction. She was gaining control over him.

“Maybe to them. Who knows? They were desperate to figure out who my supplier is.”

“A powerful man, no doubt.”

“That’s the best part! He’s just some peasant farmer named Orri! It would have been worth giving up his name to have a taste of that harlot.” Vog paused to imagine what Signey looked like under her furs. “I almost had her. Oh well, you’ll do just fine.”

With his chubby fingers outstretched, Vog wrapped his hand around the woman’s throat and began to squeeze. He didn’t see the changing curtain pull back behind him as a mallet swung around, cracking him on the back of the head, knocking him out cold.

“Are you alright, Nadya?” Signey asked, emerging from the curtain, still clutching the mallet.

“I’m fine. He’s not as strong as he thinks.”

Signey opened the door and signaled down the way to the guard. He, in turn, knocked on the entrance of the far room and out came Wary and the twins. They all congregated around Nadya as she gathered herself.

“Did you get the name?” Asked Una impatiently.

Signey replied with disgust. “Orri.”

“That weasel!” Wary grunted. “He never listens to anyone but the King! He's greedy and he’s rotten!”

“Easy, Wary, we’ll deal with him later.” Inga said as she patted him on the back.

“Did he say anything else?” Una wanted to know.

“There wasn’t time, he was about to snap Nadya’s neck.” Signey pointed and leaned in to see if she was bruising.

“The plan worked well enough, anyway.”

They all looked at Vog, still passed out, face down on the floor.

“I have to say, it was remarkably easy to hypnotize the oaf.” Nadya said, pulling two stones from her pocket, each with a slight glow about them, one purple, one orange. Their light faded in her hand, they looked like nothing more than black stones.

“What are those?” Inga asked, wide eyed.

    “Energy crystals. They let me connect with the subject, to… persuade them.”

    “Crystals? They look like rocks!”

    “Ah, yes.” Nadya held one up for display and tapped on the stone. “The crystal is on the inside, but what surrounds it is hardened lava. The lava traps the crystals energy; with nowhere to go, it becomes concentrated and powerful. The hard part is learning how to pull the energy out through the stone’s pores.” She pointed out the tiny holes in the lava.

    “It’s a scam, Inga. Just a trick they do to get people to give them money.” Wary blustered.

    Nadya sat up straight and raised her chin to him, wearing a gleeful smirk. She was more than used to the ridicule her kind often faced.

    “But I saw the energy myself.” She argued.

    “It was only glowing!” Wary slapped the stone from Nadya’s hand and examined it. “I bet it’s a chemical reaction or something. This is how they get you. Next she’s going to want us to pay her.”

    “Well, we have to pay her. She got the information we needed.” Una pointed out.

    “See!? That was her plan all along!”

    “No, that was our plan! You’re being paranoid!”

    Nadya took back the stone and held it, her palm flat, to show that she was not concealing anything.

    “Many grifters have passed themselves off as Gypsies, but make no mistake, Wary, the powers that we wield are real.”

    With that, the purple glow began emanating from the stone again. She closed her hand over and placed it back in her pocket.

 

    Orri returned to his hut after another late night of losing everything in his pocket at a card game. The sun was starting to peek over the top of the mountain and shine rays of lights through the fog down into the valley. He had built his home at the far corner of Wilverth facing away from the rest of the village. He kept mostly to himself, except when he somehow came into enough money to get belligerent at the pub and pick fights with anyone he sized up as someone he could beat.

    He plopped down into a chair in his dark hut and contemplated the headache he would soon face. The throbbing in Orri’s head would come faster than expected, however, as his door flung open with a loud crack. His senses heightened, but too much ale kept him from getting to his feet. Una entered, upright and tall, with a long stride she placed herself directly in front of him.

    “I know what you’ve been doing, Orri, and you’re going to stop immediately.”

    “I haven’t been doin’ nothin’” He slurred.

    “You’re making trades outside the village arrangement, which jeopardizes everything we’ve worked for!”

    “I just wanted some for myself. You can’t control it all, it’s not fair.”

    “We’ve given the whole village equal shares. Tell me how it’s not fair!” She was growing angry and spoke through her gritted teeth. “You just want to gamble it all to try and get more. You’re greedy.”

    “No!” He shifted in his seat and waved his finger around drunkenly. “It’s too much power for one person.”

    “You can’t even count! There are four of us.”

    “But you struck the deal. You’re the smart one, Una; you’re the one with the vision. But if only one person controls something as important as a trade route, that person will be succepppable…”

    The ale would not allow him to mouth the word.

    “Susceptible.” Una corrected.

    “Yeah… to corruption.”

 

The Fog of Severed Peaks part 7

Tensions were running high during the next hike to Gatespoke; what was once a lucrative venture had become one with no reward. Una and Inga had determination in their step, coupled with a bit of aggression; something Signey and Wary had noted throughout the journey. They spoke softly to each other while the girls marched ahead, wondering if they had something planned, but there was no more time for speculation.

    “We will complete this trade as usual, girls.” Signey said, optimistically. “There will be plenty of time for disruption back home.”

    “Right.” Wary added. “You don’t want to go picking fights in the wrong places. After all, it’s not Hild you’re upset with.”

    The girls just kept moving onward without a reply.

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The Fog of Severed Peaks part 6

The woman looked vacantly at Wary for a moment before calling to someone out of sight behind her.

    “Ketill! I’ve got a haggler out here, doesn’t understand the prices on the board!”

    A door flung open behind the counter and a hulking beast of a man entered. His cloak billowed, black embroidered patterns on black fabric; the hood draped over his head, hiding his face in shadow; his massive arms were bare and intimidating.

    “Show this peasant what we do to those who don’t like the prices on the board.”

    The man moved toward Wary, who tried to reason with him.

    “I can read the board! These prices are fine!”

    But he wrapped his arms around Wary and began to squeeze. Wary kicked and squirmed as he was lifted into the air and the grip around him tightened.

 

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The Fog of Severed Peaks part 5

There weren't a lot of fighters in Wilverth proficient with a sword or axe, which left Una and Inga to teach themselves for the most part. They got pointers occasionally from traders who came through town, and filled gaps by trial and error. They enjoyed sparring one another, and worked their technique tirelessly, practicing every day, often twice. They set up obstacle courses and workout areas outside the village. People wondered why they acted as though they were about to go fight the King, but everyone in Wilverth knew the twins and they were all proud to see them growing into strong, young women.

Sweat dripped from their chins as Una and Inga sat near the fire pit in the center of their home, taking a break from practice.

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The Fog of Severed Peaks part 4

Wary pushed through the crowd.

    “Signey! Get out of there!”

    Ignoring his instructions, she gave her own.

    “Help me get her down! I’m not leaving her!”

    The Giant, amused by all the excitement, whipped Gavriila side to side and watched as the people looked on in horror.

    “No!” Signey bellowed in a primal tone.

    The Giant flung Gavriila one last time, a snap was heard coming from somewhere in her neck. Her body was tossed in the dirt with a thud; her limbs collapsing in awkward directions, plainly showing that there was no life left inside.

 

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The Fog of Severed Peaks part 3

 

Wary hustled back as fast as he could; when he got to the village, he found some familiar faces congregating outside the tavern.

    “It’s not what you think it is!” He was out of breath from his travels and gasped for air. “Something’s not right… It’s a mine!”

    “What are you trying to cough up?” Orri, a wagon driver and bad gambler, asked.

    “I saw it! On the old farm lands at the bottom of the valley.” Wary bounced and pointed.

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The Fog of Severed Peaks part 2

Wary had his cart packed up with as much as his small foal could bear to pull. It was time to make his trip to the neighboring village of Wilverth. Neither the horse nor the rig were large enough for him to ride, he would have to guide them along the path.

    “I’m off to brave the elements, Mother.” He declared, sarcastically. “The trails will be treacherous, but I will manage to conquer them.”

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The Fog of Severed Peaks

It is said the fog comes down when two halves were made whole in death. Answers to questions on where the saying came from, or what it meant, varied from village to village, even person to person. It wasn’t like the other stories; tales that would be told around fire pits with differing versions being recounted for all to hear. A vote would be held on which story was the closest to the original. From that day forward, everyone in attendance would only retell the agreed upon version, unless, of course, they took part in a new vote.

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Current, Part Fifteen

Olivia ripped the radio off the officer’s vest.

    “I’m not going to fight you anymore, Major, don’t worry. I’m going to the tomb myself. You can call off whatever… this is.”

    Dellucci scanned the room, catching eyes with the General who held a stoic look on his face.

    “All units stand down. Let her through.”

    The troopers didn't move, so Olivia marched up the road with the flutter of butterflies in her stomach, the surge of adrenaline in her veins. She had only made it a few steps when a voice rang out over the radios again.

    “And Sergeant? ...Good luck in there…”

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Current, Part Fourteen

Olivia reached the Clark and Lake station only to realize that it was on lockdown. She went to the top of the stairs and peeked out, finding troopers stationed on the street corner. Olivia had worried about the possibility of too many eyeballs being present for her to get to her destination on the street, and already had a backup plan in mind.

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Current, Part Thirteen

The pendulum had swung, forcing Olivia to backtrack in search of a new path into the loop. Panic was setting in all around her as a familiar scene was beginning to play out once again. Hordes of military and disaster relief were filing into the city while tens of thousands evacuated from their homes.

    “These are only precautionary measures. There is no flooding at this time.” A trooper shouted over a line of people marching over the bridge. Olivia approached him.

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Current, Part Twelve

“I know I haven’t really been out here since the funeral.”

    Olivia tried to remember that painful day, but the only thing she could recall was being exhausted from so much grief.

    “I guess I deal with these things differently than you’re supposed to. You already knew that, though.” She let a smirk curl up on one cheek, which quickly faded. “I don’t know what to do, Mom. It’s like I’m trying to prove half of the world wrong and half of the world right, at the same time. I’m being pulled in different directions, and the stakes are as high as it gets. I’ve screwed things up so badly, at this point, I have to either stand up to this thing, which will probably kill me… or run.” She paused to swallow the cracks in her throat. “Running means being alone. Forever. Hardly an existence.”

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Current, Part Eleven

Olivia’s hands were fastened behind her back and the restraints around her wrists were tight enough to make her fingertips throb. One of the MPs got in the driver's seat of a jeep, leaving the two others on either side of her, in the back. As they drove, the adrenaline started to subside and she felt the soreness of having been in a fight. Olivia replayed the fight over and over again in her head. She felt like she could have given them more of a fight; she could have knocked them out and gotten away if she had done a couple things differently. It made her feel like a loser… Olivia hated losing.

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Current, Part Ten

Olivia entered Dr. Bradley’s waiting room to find his office door open slightly. She peeked her head in.

    “Hello?” She asked timidly.

    “Come on in.”

    “Sorry I’m late.”

    “It’s fine, it’s fine. Have a seat.” Dr. Bradley was looking at his phone. He silenced it and tucked it into his pocket as he got up from his desk and moved out to the chair opposite Olivia. “I’m sure you’ve been busy with the frenzy that’s been going on.”

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Current, Part Nine

The I.V. in Olivia’s arm was starting to feel irritated. She shrugged her shoulder and twisted around, causing a slight movement in the needle; a painless sensation, but an uncomfortable one nonetheless. The medics found she had been slightly dehydrated; the new fluids rejuvenated Olivia, and she was eager to be released.

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Current, Part Eight

The two of them plunged in, Olivia began guiding herself along the ceiling once again, thinking the woman would follow, but she did not. She was paddling in an unconventional way, exerting much energy and getting nowhere fast. Olivia turned herself around and reached for the woman’s hand. She then kicked hard and pulled her forward. Olivia found the ridges in the ceiling and placed the sides of her boots against them, thrusting the both of them further into the hallway. She repeated this motion several times before her body’s strain for oxygen could no longer be ignored.

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Current, Part Seven

 A levee was patched together the entire length of the city, but a new issue was arising… The Chicago River, which previously had several feet of clearance between water level and street level, was creeping its way towards the bottoms of bridges. Units were pulled from the lakeshore wall to begin construction on the riverfront. More personnel and civilians arrived to help save the city as the realization was setting in… the water was not stopping.

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Current, Part Six

Chicago’s Lakefront Trail was crowded most mornings with locals and tourists alike. If you biked or jogged the 18 mile path in its entirety, you would pass the world's largest convention center, Soldier Field, Navy Pier, several parks, and a whole host of museums. In the summer, the beaches are crowded with people passing footballs or Frisbees, playing volleyball, and drinking light beer until they can’t stand. The waves, which crash against the shore, aren’t large when compared to the waves on an ocean beach, but they are present… Which is why the countless people sprawled along the Lakefront Trail didn’t notice the rising water; not at first, anyway.

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Current, Part Five

People were scrambling all over the place; most were clearly nervous. It was like a beehive, made out of camouflage and gunmetal. Transport trucks were pulling up, some were dropping troops who jumped out and took off running, and others were being loaded with supplies; it was a madhouse. Olivia wove her way through the chaos to find the offices where she was instructed to report.

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Current, Part Four

It was the same sirens used throughout the Midwest to signal tornados and flood warnings. Most of the time, people only heard them on the first Tuesday of every month when the sirens are tested, but this was not the case today. Next, car alarms started blaring; then cell phones starting ringing with no one on the other end. As far as the eye could see, people were coming out of their houses, confused and stunned. Olivia slowly put a hand on Ella’s shoulder and grasped her protectively to let her know that if something should happen, she’d be there to protect her.

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