THE FORLORNE MOUNTAINS, JUST NORTH OF THE TOWN OF EVERMOORE
July 5th, a few days before the July Market Day
The birds were chirping softly as they darted from tree to tree, and Whispering Pines enjoyed the relief of a cool breeze on her neck after a long day of work of prayer and tending to the elemental shrines in the camp. She was currently tending to the fire at the center of the camp which was going to be used for feasting later in the evening.
Secluded in the deep in the Forlorne Mountains, the evening sun was beginning to set on the temporary home for the Red Earth Tribe. The summer months had the tribe constantly moving to follow the herds of animals. Whispering Pines felt confident that the land would provide for their people.
Three Rivers and Wahanassatta were working hard to lead the hunting groups to gather enough meat to satisfy the larger tribe for several days, but the boars were crafty and hiding in the rocky mountains in caves and under the thick brambles.
Movement in the treeline caught her eye as she was feeding the chickens. She squinted at the distant trees when something distinctly white darted between the trees. Was that.. Horns?
“Farseer Sky Song!” Whispering Pines called back to the largest tent, excited that she may have seen a sign, and then turned back to the trees. The white that she had spotted was gone as quick as it had appeared.
Suddenly, the ground began to tremble under her feet and shake the water in the pale by her feet, splashing onto her boots. The vision of a darting white thing in the woods was suddenly forgotten when the tremors began.
For the last few weeks, the tremors had happened and startled many animals away and caused larger prey to scatter or stampede. The hunters had to work twice as hard to catch the same herds when they were so scattered. Now this shaking seemed to increase in volume and frequency.
Sky Song came from her tent and grabbed onto a nearby post. Her expression was grim and deeply troubled. The dark circles around her eyes were more prominently displayed with the red makeup she wore.
The tremors continued and the tents shook and the logs in the fire rattled and collapsed, spreading the fiery ashes all around. The tremors had not originally alarmed them because they seemed to happen sparingly over the last few weeks in the mountainsides. It could have been orcs and their new dreadlord causing it for all they knew.
The chickens and roosters kept by the tribe for eggs were squawking and cawing at a piercing volume and they beating their wings in protest to the shaking under their clawed feet.
The shaking continued in its intensity and Whispering Pines kept back and away from the circle of tents, afraid it was going to shake apart at the rate of the tremors. The banging of pots and pans falling was loud enough to be heard from all over the camp.
A loud CRACK and fizzle erupted from inside one of the tents near her. “What in the blazes… ” She muttered.
The tremors slowed to a stop, although the animals continued to pace about uneasy which meant some of the shaking was still happening even if it couldn’t be felt.
Farseer Sky Song and Whispering Pines both felt safe enough to approach the tent that had the strange noises but stopped short as in front of them, the ground split and sank in the middle.
When the two of them looked up at the tent’s supports to assess the damage there, the sighting of a column of smoke peaking over the edge of trees in the distance triggered a response more of curiosity than of alarm.
“Is it the orcs?” Whispering Pines said after a moment.
Farseer Sky Song’s chin dipped as she focused on the cracked ground in front of them. Her eyes began to water. “... No. It’s the land.” She swiftly returned back to her tent, pausing just outside to say, “I will spiritwalk for answers. No one is to disturb me.”
Whispering Pines frowned. “What of your husband? He will be back from gathering vines soon.”
Farseer Sky Song disappeared into the darkness of her tent without responding.
A red and fiery glow peaked out from the edges of the cracks and continued to sizzle and pop as it consumed the soil.