The Way-Wailer in the WallOn 2017 March 1st by monty
(This has now been adapted into a campfire story here)
I was given the prompt, “The Road Less Travelled”, to create any 500-word piece. An idea came to mind in a fantasy setting. As I haven’t established a fantasy world of my own yet, I pictured this little scene happening in Analand, a region of Titan from Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy series.
The voice was gravel and dirt; a long-grinding syllable from the cracked and weathered lips of the stone mouth, which hung eternally open below unblinking eyes.
Dextruss and Poyntluss looked at each other, perplexed, then back to the Way-Wailer. The face in the rock looked back through them, not giving any further advisement.
“Is that it?” asked Dextruss to his companion.
“What did it say?” responded Poyntluss, “Walk?”
“Oh yes, maybe that’s it. Let’s try again.” Dextruss lifted the butt of his staff from the ground, gingerly tapped the Way-Wailer’s forehead with its tip, and then pointed it up the northern fork. The emerald stone at its end gave a faint pulse, and the granite eyes in the wall glowed and dimmed in response.
“Walk,” confirmed Dextruss, “that sounds about right. But the northern path through the Shamutanti Hills will take us further from the Kakhabad Sea, surely. How are we ever going to reach the Copperstone Caves by heading towards Kharé?”
Poyntluss emitted a hum of contemplation and grabbed absently at his chin. He turned to face the south-bound fork and gazed over the rolling hills and trees that seemed to come to an abrupt stop a dozen or so miles down; a sure sign of the sea interrupting the landscape. “The Elders’ advice could always be interpreted or ignored, Dex, but I reckon we should believe them nonetheless; they taught us that Way-Wailers never lie, so north it must be.”
Dextruss nodded along in agreement, then stopped and considered their options once more. “Well, my friend, let’s see what it has to say about the south road, just to be sure.” He once again tapped the jewel to the stone face’s brow, but then pointed his staff down the southward fork. Again, the tip gave a faint green light and the carved eyes illuminated in reply.
The deep noise that rasped grittily through the thick grey lips was this time disyllabic.
The two travellers looked at each other again, each expecting the other to confirm what the wall had uttered.
“No walk?” offered Poyntluss with a shrug.
“So, walk and no walk...” Dextruss repeated, pointing his staff in each direction to illustrate, “Seems simple enough to me! There must be some concealed grotesque awaiting us down the south road.” Dextruss continued with confidence, “Well translated, Poyntluss.”
Poyntluss beamed at the praise, and slotted his thumbs under the straps of his pack in readiness to continue their journey.
Dextruss gave the Way-Wailer a curt nod and tapped it on the nose with his staff, which he then pointed with finality up the north fork. “Walk!”
The two plodded on in-step with one another, leaving the fork behind.
Neither of them heard the Mountain Orc that stealthily padded out from behind a hollowed oak tree and crushed their skulls like crow eggs, one in each hand, simultaneously.
As Dextruss’ staff of power hit the ground, its emerald tip knocked on a half-buried rock, causing the gem to produce a gentle glow. A short distance behind them, at the fork in the road, came the response;
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