Gates of the Netherworld — teaser — The Three Stones of Destiny
Mirrortac realised it was now Yidu’s intention for them all to slowly starve to death, but having the Werdstone again gave him an advantage. He was able to invoke food out of the air, and these proved tasty and nourishing to the hyfnuks who eagerly accepted the morcels of meat. Rimerelle refused to eat the invoked food, calling it ‘food of the demons to poison sober minds’. Instead, he pleaded to Yidu to spare him, but nothing came of it.
The group crossed over many streams, all bubbling with cool, sweet water. Mirrortac guessed that Yidu did not want them to die quickly, and so the waters of the streams kept them refreshed while the lack of food would weaken and taunt them. Ameece tried to make Rimerelle eat the conjured food but he refused every time, and was steadily losing his fat. The fur on his body fell out in clumps and his step was wandering and uncertain. They slowed their pace to allow Rimerelle to rest but he was becoming dangerously gaunt.
The landscape changed gradually in the days ahead – though the sun of Luma moved imperceptibly. Rusk and Iyaji now carried a haggard Rimerelle on a makeshift litter. The elder’s eyes were grey but his hatred for the erfin still burned fiercely in their hollow, sunken pits. For the first time since they had come to Skye, they saw clouds; small at first but later growing in number and size, bundled together and dark brown underneath. They rose out of the horizon ahead like smoke while the air carried a faint pungent odour, like something burning.
The hills flattened out into plains covered only in low shrubs and ratty dry grasses, gathered in clumps with a pale yellow earth between. The shrubs were blackened with the marks of previous fires. Evarngar inspected the burnt shrubs and turned up his nose at the pungent odour.
‘We be surely at the gates of the Netherworld,’ Rimerelle said, raising his head slightly before slumping back with the effort.
Mirrortac too was disquietened at the unfamiliar stench, and questioned the Werdstone to verify his course. He was answered with the image of a castle set up on a knoll above a steaming plain. The stone flashed brightly, pulling him in the direction they were headed. ‘Oashu is well protected,’ he said.