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Prologue ExcerptEyes-of-an-Owl's gaze was drawn to the heavens. The starry sky he knew so well was forever changed. The prophecy was about to unfold. The first sign had appeared. The new star... the bringer of death. The star that drifts aimlessly with its brothers. It marks the coming, the warrior’s omen. The time of the rebellion. Eyes-of-an-Owl knew it to be a time of dishonor: a time of impasse. The old medicine man dipped his fingers into the black paint at his side and began the chant - the chant of silence, as he smeared on the cloak of death. The time had come. The star would fall.
He closed himself off to the world and allowed the chant to overtake him. The mantra was to help him drop into a state of meditation; from there he could seek answers from the other realm. He whispered for help from his spirit guide. Would the answer come for his plea?
The smoke of tobacco and the heat of the flame swallowed the small chamber as the old man drifted into a clouded vision amid the dark tunnel of change. Things were hazy at first as the patterns unfolded in a maze of illusion under the mask of sleep. Blinded by the fog of a trance, a scene unfolded as a sense of reality raised the shroud of hesitation and focused the dreamer’s perception to receive the quest. The layer of mist hung in the air and it seemed to billow at his feet as he stepped through the warren. When he reached out and touched a wall he found it hot to the stroke and smooth as a knife blade. The sight gave way to a large darkened cavern with flat walls covered in drawings, and designs that he could not distinguish.
The air stunk of musty sweat and animal rot mixed with the smell of white trapper stink: the bait used in their trapping. Yet the odor had a unique twist he could not place. He walked forward through the sultry tunnel; the fog rolled at his feet and swelled as he passed. The tunnel in which he walked opened into a large room with tall smooth pillars that lifted in columns supporting a contoured canopy of soft glowing light with interrupted patches of night sky. Through the haze of the picture came the feeling he wasn’t alone.
He could not fully understand what he saw next, for who could understand the spirit realm. Ghostly shadows moved through the misty room, at first distant, then closer, as the man was pulled through the chamber like he was falling, yet vertical. Immense figures passed by the haze, out of focus, without form - then took shape with abrupt clarity. Taller than a man and well muscled, their skin looked as if it were covered in scales. Was the perception misleading? The tough hide was smooth to the touch and metallic in color. Spots of various red hues blanketed the flesh, but seemed out of place over the silver backdrop.
As he looked upon a face he felt fear overtake him. For surely it was a face of a demon. The thing had no lips, but protruding from the upper jaw, the savage, oversized fangs of a cat, froth, amid the otherwise small toothy mouth. Icy red pupils, burned beneath large round reflective orbs; like narrow slits of evil that studied the environment with complete maliciousness. Long knotted branches of black jointed cords appeared as numerous spider legs, twisted and gnarled, encircling the skull and skirted the crown of its head. Truly ugly and evil - never had he seen a creature quite like it.
The demon turned towards a body, hanging helpless from a limb. Then the revelation transposed to the scope of the demon’s view as the visionary focused on the treachery. The man was screaming in the agonies of the torture. A massive forearm supporting numerous hooked daggers dragged across the victim back rendering the flesh and tearing the skin. A hand, clawed and menacing, pulled the loose hide free as the giant raised his eyes skyward in triumph. The devil reveled in the screams of the vanquished.
“The gatherer!” Whispered the dream, as the visualization revealed its scope.
The visionary knew the sign. The Demons to come for the quest of men... Stealing the soul… harvesting the pinnacle.... “The gatherers have arrived.”
The ground below him tossed and he found himself thrown from his feet. The floor then buckled once more and he watched other demons fall. The purge had come. The star would descend. Sucked from the scene to a rock over a cliff, a streak tore the night sky with flares, like branches that spread in a shower from the heavens above.
Then,- Eyes-of-an-Owl awoke in his chamber. The dream ended in a haze of the fire’s smoke. His quest had revealed many secrets, and the sign had been uncovered. In the night’s sky was the answer. He stepped out of his lodge into the cold air of the intense starry night. A new light glowed bright; it was the hunter’s star. Proof once more that the time was soon. How many would die this time? The star intensified then passed into a fiery streak of luster that pierced the expanse. The luminary was falling, forever sealing his people’s fate.
The time of the gathering had come.
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