Fan Fiction

30 April 2004, 9:49 PM

Part I - The Grey Gates by Dustin Geeraert

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"After the armies of the Province were finally broken at Covenant, the survivors scattered among the Free Cities of the North, taking their arms with them..."

I came here to escape. I have never been the one to take initiative or deal with problems while they're still manageable; I am a caring person but I know I'm not a responsible one. At some point a time ago, I lost control of my life, and the only way I can deal with being overwhelmed is to retreat.

So I am here - the rain-fortress at the utmost ends of the earth, a place of never ending bad weather, a supposedly military outpost that no sane man would ever want. This will be the last place that the Fallen come - and come they will - because it is strategically useless. No one goes in or out of here except for the occasional convoy, and I can think of no better place to hide in the known world. Out of the way, drizzly, near-empty, and utterly desolate; a place of nothingness.

It's been a long journey here, several months from the sun-scorched plains of the Province. The plains themselves were haunting. No matter where I was: hidden cave, open camp, or sturdy garrison, I always felt as if the Fallen were dangerously close - that I would look over one more hill and see the damnable thrall marching again, again towards me. This feeling faded as the distance between Madrigal and I increased. But the woods of the Ermine were scarcely better. The sun disappeared and everything became shadowed and blue, savages and wild beasts threatening my mount at every turn.

But when I emerged, I saw neither blinding brightness nor pitch shadows. I saw everything in gray, flat, murky despair. The trail through the swamps was rough and often half-overgrown, and I lost my way several times. The countryside was and has remained unrelentingly bland; rocky in places, marshy in others, with the odd tree trying to keep a hold in the boggy ground. The colour seemed to drain as I journeyed from the sunny valleys past the stony mountains of the Cloudspine and through the dull swamps of this dreary landscape. The trees became dark and dull, the rocks melancholy, and the sky claustrophobically covered in ever-present gray clouds. It seems that there is only one season here; a cold season in which parts of the ground are stiff or frozen, and rain, sleet or snow is never far away.

My retreat has come to an end. I reached the gray gates several minutes ago, but there was no watchman in the tower to welcome me. I cannot tell what time it is, but it's dark outside. Perhaps the watchman is asleep. This place looks even more decayed than what I envisioned it to be. Stones once well-cut have been dislodged, rain has dulled any sharp lines the place may have had, and there are holes in the masonry everywhere. In some places the wooden palisade-stakes are rotting at their bottoms, and the muddy ground is full of fallen stones and stagnant puddles. The glass windows have pieces out in several places - not one I can see is intact. I continue to wait outside, knocking on the large wooden gate and listening to the sound of distant thunder.

Through the light rain and a window's broken pane, I perceive a slight movement. Scarcely a moment later the heavy wooden gate creaks open and I am admitted inside. The gateman is a thin, wretched looking creature with a half-beard and a worried look about him. He is dressed in drab, worn clothing and looks like an extension of the building - a true product of his environment. He introduces himself as Dranor, and in his meek way inquires how far lost I am that I arrived at the doorstep of this forgotten fortress.

I tell him I have been stationed here for an unknown period of time, and that this was done at my request. He looks at me curiously, and looks down at the soaked mud-stone ground and mutters in a low tone "Oh."

Without another word he grasps my horse's bridle and leads me into the front courtyard. The design of this place, I see, is irregular - probably before the days of standardized fortress designs and well-famed masons. Possibly, it was even built upon the site of an older fortress built by a different and more ancient people. I inquire.

Dranor says "This place's been here for s'long as anyone c'n r'member. I don't know when twas built, gotta say long ago though... as y'can see, it hasn't been kep't in good r'pair..."

He ties up my horse in the stable, shoves some moldy food at it, and leads me up a flight of stairs of questionable stability and into a small room with a small, broken window on one wall opposite the door. The modest furnishing consists of a single worn bed and a woven matt on the floor. He bids me good night and tells me to see a man named Erik sometime tomorrow. There doesn't seem to be much of a schedule around here. As the thunder still rumbles, far off, I drift from gray consciousness to the blackness of sleep, drowning in memories...

~ You have reached your journey's end ~