The Chonguns and Wiyae
The evening grew late. A rosy sun waxed on the horizon, bathing the crypts with a bride's blush. Silence reigned queen over the stone mounds that adorned the grass.
Deep in the belly of one, a howl split the air, resounding over the kingdoms and lingering in the ears of its citizens.
They flocked to the southern gate, drawn by the cries emanating from that direction. Through the forest they streamed, clustering curiously like carrion birds, startled but drawn inexorably onward towards the livid cry's source. Amongst them were assembled three Chonguns: the venerable and quick witted Regent, PyroAce, roadshouldered Magistrate Logorin and myself.
Murmurs passed through the crowd. Uncertainty, speculation, rumors.. each burrowed within the hearts of those assembled, pressed together at the forest's edge at the mouth of the crypts.
A sudden commanding bark drew the attention of all away from the cemetery. A wave of brilliant cerulean blue, a rigid line of soldiers, forced its way through the crowd. The Koguryian Royal Army parted the onlookers, driving a wedge through the group as they passed. At their heart walked the good king MuHyul, his eyes flashing even over the parade of speartips.
"Get the book, men. Fan out through the crypts. You there, not so hasty, be thorough. and DON'T LET HIM GET AWAY" The soldiers burst into the closest crypt and spread like water from a torn wine skin. And with them, we trailed after. The doors were fastened behind us, several guards standing sentinel.
The crypt was dank. A thin film of mist covered the sepulcher walls, leaving a lingering chill that crept beneath the thickest robes and clung to the body insistently. Bootsteps and orders barked left and right filled the small confines of the crypt, but even this was overshadowed by the shouts from below.
The soldiers surged forward into the lower level of the crypt, closing rank behind them so that none could follow nor see the source of the incessant shouting. The three of us stood restlessly, conversing in hushed tones.
"Do not worry, sire." A nameless soldier attempted to placate Mhul, who watched the rest of his retinue depart, his jaw clenched in anger.
From the lower passage was dragged, fighting tooth and nail, the thief that was known as Wiyae. Hands on all sides grasped him, some pinning his arms, others keeping his rage in check. Still, the white haired thief spit venomously in the faces of his captors. "Release me," the thief hissed.
"Return the book, Wiyae." Mhul's voice boomed over the
scuffle. Heads bowed low as he spoke, the force of his voice resonating within their chests. "I will only ask once.." Each of his words were cut crisply from his tongue, like chopped celery.
Wiyae the thief, the Kiyan murderer, stared back at him, undaunted. His eyes were slits in his tightly stretched face. "Do as you will," he said, his voice flinty and dull.
"I did not come here alone.."
Mhul's expression hardened and he swept his hand upward and with the gesture, his army jumped towards the thief. "Search him," the man who had attempted to reassure the King barked.
As they did so, patting the thief down and stripping his satchel from him, a strange sound bubbled out of the thief's throat. It slithered over his tongue and into the ears of all present, worming its way insidiously into the chill of the air.
"Tssssisisisis." It was the teetering sound of laughter. With it suddenly came a high pitched whine, a violin string sound. It began with a low tremor. The grave dirt of the sepulcher floors squirmed in their beds and steadily increased until the very very doors of the crypt trembled in their frame and even the thief's laughter was drowned out.
The doors to the crypt, fastened though they were, shuddered once and were ripped from their hinges and tossed away on the wind. The light of the evening pierced the eyes of all those clustered within the tomb and vision was lost for the span of several breaths..
The first to cry out were the soldiers at the door, then those closest to the exit. Slowly vision returned. Startled eyes peered 'round the room. The exit yawned open and empty.
Then a startled shout rose from deeper within the chamber. Heads swiveled to the men guarding Wiyae and in astonishment, the great sorceress Mupa was revealed, standing within the inner ring of guards, one hand on the thief's shoulder.
The woman's wine red lips lifted to reveal a set of perfectly white canine teeth. A dazzling light filled the room again and the air swam with liquid fire and stars.
When at last the sea of faces blurred into vision once again, both Wiyae and Mupa were gone..
The confusion and apprehension in the air lasted for just a moment. The King's man, with a cough, ordered the others to pursue him. Soldiers lept to attention, streaming out through the open doors in search of Wiyae and Mupa.
The crowd, including the three of us, stood in silence, mulling over what we had seen..
Wiyae had obviously stolen something of great value from the King, a book if Mhul's words were true. When captured, none other than the vile sorceress Mupa had come to his aid, to prevent the tome from being retaken. As we stood looking at each other, the same question circled through our minds. What kind of text would bring Mupa crawling out from the hole she had stayed hidden in all these years?
"Leave me," Mhul's voice broke through our contemplations. "Go find the book!" The few guards and citizens left in the crypt hesitated under his command. Surely it would not be wise to leave him alone, not with Mupa in the area.
"Don't just stand there.. Go after him!!" Myul roared, thrusting his fist out and scattering the few guards still left attending him. The three of us tarried for a moment, unwilling to leave him.
His thunderous gaze swept over us and with great reluctance, we departed in search of the thief.
The three of us met for a moment outside the crypt, eyeing each other in silence. The Regent was the first to break the quiet. "I'll skirt the walls," he said, adjusting his helmet of the Bear clan over his azure tresses and summoning his mount. His blue eyes glinted keenly in the fading light.
Bearded Logorin inclined his head. "I have a few places to check as well.." His deep voice resonated from within his embossed dread platemail.
"Very well. Send word if you find anything," I could only offer in return. I knew nothing of the ways of thieves, least of all the murderer Wiyae and I was certainly no tracker.
We parted ways, each taking our own route into the coming night.
Citizens scattered throughout the town and the regions neighboring it. Some combed the sands of Dae Shore, others fanned out through the buildings shrines and chapels of Kugnae while still others searched southern Koguryo and the remaining crypts of the cemetary.
My own footsteps brought me to the tree of Yieta, where Mupa had imprisoned her follower. I stared at its grotesque trunk and twisted roots thoughtfully. I had only heard tales of the woman's cruelty and wrath, and tonight's display of magic was only a drop in the barrel of what magical deeds she was capable of, if the legends were true. Mupa who had kidnapped Cheyn of Kinung and the Tae family, imprisoning them in the Ice Dungeon. Mupa who had enslaved the race of triiofas. Mupa who had perverted King Yuri's brother Sagu to her ways of sorcery, who had attempted to murder Princess Yun and assaulted the Muses over the Book of Stones, a tome said to contain powerful curses.. This last thought I pondered over..
Could the King's book be of similar value and nature?
The clopping of horse hooves drew my attention away from my musings to the path that skirted the palace. Magistrate Logorin, his tall steed beneath him, drew up beside me. "'ve got something in the crypts again," he said as his horse panted from the trot. "They've got Hawkmori.. he attacked the King after we left him."
I swore and gestured for the Magistrate to make room. He leaned forward in his saddle and with a short leap, I was beside him. As we rode, he spoke of what had happened. The former Nangen Hawkmori, murderer of Prince Kija, had assaulted the King after his men had departed. Perhaps he was attempting to add a second royal figure to his list of corpses left behind. The timing of Wiyae and Mupa's theft of the book could not, however, be overlooked. It was no coincidence. The King, Logorin explained, had survived the attempt, but lay wounded within the walls of his Palace, closely guarded by the Royal army.
Logorin left me at the palace and headed back towards the crypts, where Hawkmori was being detained.
My heart was heavy in my chest as I climbed the steps to the
palace. I had left the King vulnerable and the kingdoms had suffered for it. My remorse was not to be mistaken for overwhelming patriotism, but rather for the citizens that were throwing themselves in harm's way to detain these criminals. My duty was to the community. That was why the three of had ventured out, Shinshos in hand.
The Palace was quiet and still as I entered. I could see where the royal guards had taken the King; the entrance to his chambers were barricaded by magical forces. I shouldered my Honor Shield and stood sentinel at the door.. carrying the weight of my shame.
Even from the Palace I could hear the shouts of the fight with Hawkmori. Logorin's voice was premier among them, along with the Regent's.
At last, as the night fell completely upon the kingdom and only the sconced torches of the Palace lit the chamber, the door behind me opened just enough to admit a soldier. It was the man CronxJr, who nodded briskly to me and moved down the steps to the oubliette. Out of his pockets he produced an ebon key.
The oubliette doors creaked open with a grating sound that was deafening. He tucked the key away and stood at attention, his gaze towards the door.
Suddenly there was movement at the palace steps. Several soldiers, armed to the teeth moved through the portal, several large shipping ropes strung between them, encircling the man known as Hawkmori.
"For the crime of the attempted murder of King Mhul," CronxJr's voice echoed through the chambers, "you are sentenced to containment in the oubliette"
I watched from above, my back pressed against the door as Hawkmori's figure disappeared into the blackhole of an opening of the oubliette.
The night passed uneventfully after that.. The three of us reconvened in Heavens Ascent. A sea of stars swam above us, oblivious or unfeeling to the dramatic scenes that had passed through the lands that night. We sat in silence together, waiting for the morning.