THE HOUSE OF YEEL

Prologue: The Far Coast

 

The forest stopped just a few paces from the cliff. Here the trees allied with the rock of the earth to defy the ocean’s progress, intertwining their massive roots with the boulders strewn along the coast. The waves crashed against the stone below angrily, pounding into every pore and crack to wear it away. If the Far Coast had any beaches or bays, they were far from here.

A stiff wind blew from the ocean. The Crescent Knight contemplated the terminus of his quest silently. He had donned his magnificent armor only a few leagues back, sensing his approach to the ocean. The pearly armor would have given him away anywhere in his homeland. The smooth plates were a finely crafted treasure of the Moon Temple at Liscenium.

The knight waited for a threat to materialize. The coast rang notorious in a hundred tales of woe, but it seemed a peaceful place…

The faintest noise emanated from behind him, an almost undetectable vibration that found his ears despite the wind and his heavy helmet. He whipped around in a graceful motion, the rasp of his longsword being freed his answer to the unknown behind him.

A small humanoid crouched at the edge of the trees, clutching a twisted walking stick. The knight warily raised his visor and took a closer look. It was a man—stooped, crooked, and hairy, but definitely a man.

The old man nodded as if appraising the armored newcomer. “A fast one for sure. Welcome to my home, man from beyond the forest. I am Faverhind.”

“Of what people are you, Faverhind?”

“None. I live here alone.”

“How do you know I’m a man?”

“Only a man would travel here,” the hermit said cryptically. “Men come to explore distant places far from their homes. There are always those who are looking for something.” The hermit sat down on a large rock, letting his thin legs dangle over the edge. The ruined strips of his clothes flapped in the breeze.

“I came seeking the Far Coast,” the knight said.

“I know that place well. I’ve lived there for over a hundred years.” Faverhind pointed a crooked finger at him. “You find yourself standing on it right now.”

“It seems, then, that I’ve reached my destination.”

“Not what you expected, perhaps?”

“There are stories…legends…” The knight’s voice trailed off. He allowed himself to lean against a rock, and looked out over the sea again. “Is this the point farthest west in all the land?”

“Almost. It is that bluff slightly to the south. That is the farthest spot.” The hermit leaned forward, as if sharing a secret. “If you stand on that bluff, you can see the House of Yeel.”

“The House of…Yeel?”

“He is powerful beyond reckoning.”

“Tell me of this Yeel. What does he look like?”

The hermit shook his head. “I’ve never seen him.”

“Then tell me of his house. What is it like?”

“Amazing beyond understanding. It stands on the mist and never touches earth or water.”

“Perhaps I shall go and see it.”

The knight spoke casually. He did not mention that he had traveled across half the known world to see this place, or that he had heard countless stories and legends about it from the sages in Woldwall, or that he had come to find out what became of every explorer that had ever traveled to the Far Coast and never returned.

The hermit’s beady eyes danced over the fine armor of his visitor.

“It is a steep climb,” the hermit squeaked. “Perhaps you should leave your armor here and hike up without it. I give you my word, I’ll see that no harm comes to it while you’re gone.” The twisted old hermit smiled broadly, showing his pointy teeth.

For a moment the knight looked at the hermit while the cool wind hummed across the rocks. He scratched his right gauntlet across his perch, feeling the ridged lichen that grew there. Then he inclined his head toward his host. “I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but think I shall leave it on just the same,” he said.

The hermit chuckled energetically. “As you wish. You may join me back here after you’ve seen the house. I would share your company and learn of the lands beyond the forest.”

“I’ll do that,” the knight said, and tipped his head so the visor fell back. He turned and strode away to the south, fixed on the bluff. The westernmost point of all the land…it was amazing to think about.

He followed the edge of the cliff until it turned sharply out farther west. A small grassy strip wound up the eastern side of the rocky bluff. The Crescent Knight took a moment to rest, and then tackled the incline. His armor was massive and the going was rough. The only small blessing was the cool ocean wind that swept over the bluff.

After over an hour of steady trudging, bordering on staggering, the knight approached the summit. Just a few more steps remained. The grass here began to thin out. It clung to the rocks tenaciously. The Crescent Knight stared at it as he tramped the last few feet, his head lowered in exertion. Then he arrived and looked up.

Before him floated the House of Yeel.

Amazing was an understatement. He saw a multisided object the size of a small keep, white as bone. The top smoothed out into a rounded dome. The entire structure floated in the air as if anchored in the sky. The Crescent Knight stood staring at it in awe, breathing in ragged gasps. He saw no means of moving from the bluff to the house or vice versa.

A tremendous blow fell upon the knight’s helm from nowhere. He crashed to the earth, and started to slide off the bluff toward the rocks below. His scabbard caught on a protruding rock. He took a handhold on the stony ground and pried himself up.

A savage scream erupted above him. The knight looked up into the eyes of a gargantuan bird of prey. He gazed at it through his visor, trying to recover. Somehow he found the strength to draw his sword from its long scabbard.

The creature reared up, calling out in anger. The knight saw that it wasn’t exactly a bird. Its back half resembled the body of a great cat. A long green serpent slid out from inside the giant hooked beak. The knight realized that the snake was its tongue.

The harapin blinked slowly, examining him with a huge yellow avian eye. Then it hopped forward aided by its wings, seeking his arms with its two great taloned forefeet.

The knight yelled back in anger and fear. He lowered his head and thrust his blade into the feathers and fur of its powerful chest, aiming for its heart.

The wickedly sharp beak struck, clamping onto his helmet. The serpent hissed and spat as it angrily sought an opening in the metal. The knight clung to his sword with all this strength, trying to drive it further into the attacking beast.

Then the monster twisted savagely. A spike of pain erupted in the knight’s spine, then a numbness that left his body limp. He watched in horror as his hands released the sword impaling the monster. He started to slide away in the loose gravel, toward the edge of the bluff. The creature flapped its huge wings spasmodically in its death throes, pushing him further away.

The knight struggled for breath that would not come. He slid over the edge and fell into the mist below, unable to scream.


 

Chapter 1: The House of Yeel

 

Eight months into her journey, Jymoor finally looked upon the House of Yeel.

“It’s real!” she cried. “I made it!”

She stared at the huge floating dwelling for long seconds, drinking in its grandeur. The house looked perfectly formed, colored an even shade of white across all its sides. The arched roof seemed no different than any other part of it, and Jymoor could not tell how it had been built. As she stood watching, she realized it slowly revolved in the mist. She took another step forward to get a better view.

Jymoor’s foot landed on something with a snap. She looked down at the rocks of the bluff. The bones of some awful thing were strewn about. Jymoor stared at the refuse, wondering what kind of huge beast had died here at the peak of the bluff.

Her eyes caught a glint of metal. A sword lay among the rocks, almost consumed by rust. The precious metal decoration of the hilt was practically the only thing left of it. Jymoor stared at the gold symbol and gasped. The Crescent Knight had met his fate here, at the very foot of the House of Yeel!

Jymoor looked about nervously. She hoped that whatever the thing had been, there were no more. Still, she had to attempt contact with Yeel. She had known it would be dangerous to travel to the Far Coast, but had accepted the mission as her duty.

“Is anyone there? Great Yeel, are you there? I beg for audience with the Great Yeel!” Jymoor called out. Her own voice sounded scared and lonely, she thought.

The sounds of waves striking the rocks far below had receded with the height but were still loud to Jymoor, who had become accustomed to the cries of the forest birds and the rustling of leaves in the wind. She listened patiently over the noise, waiting for any hint that her request had been heard.

No answering call came, but Jymoor sensed some shift in the floating house before her. At first she thought it changed shape, then she realized that the entire house floated toward her! As it neared she got a better idea of its size: the house rose about twelve times as tall as Jymoor at its apex and extended at least that far in diameter.

Jymoor kneeled. She pushed back the wave of fear that tried to rise up in her chest. Yeel himself was responding to the summons! She hoped she would not anger Yeel. The legends spoke of a being of immense power. Jymoor took a deep breath and readied herself for the task. Her homeland depended on her. Only with the help of Yeel could her people hope to survive. She had been instructed to offer herself to Yeel, even as a sacrifice if necessary, to secure the help of this ancient entity.

The house crept closer to the cliffside and slowed. It came to a stop less than a single pace from the rocks. One of the smooth, white walls confronted Jymoor, hovering close enough to touch.

Jymoor remained on her knees. “Forgive me, Great Yeel. I humbly seek an audience with you!” Jymoor cried out.

Once again, no direct answer came. Instead, a large segment of the wall descended toward Jymoor. She whimpered and crawled away, uncertain. When she gathered enough courage to look up again, Jymoor saw that a perfect white staircase had descended onto the rocks of the bluff, allowing ingress into a white corridor leading up into the floating house.

“My lord? May I enter, my lord?” groveled Jymoor.

Part of Jymoor still wanted to flee, but where would she go? She had traveled for so long, come so far, how could she not enter? She stood and peered up into the white hallway that beckoned.

Jymoor walked up the stairs to the entrance. Touching the wall gingerly, she tested the surface of the dwelling. It felt smooth like a fine wood or polished marble, but absolutely white with no grain visible. It warmed her hand. She hesitated again, gathering her courage. Many odd tales were told of Yeel, and some of them had a sinister slant to them. Some told of an eccentric recluse who would just as soon eat visitors as help them, others described an insane sorcerer lost to the dark arts.

Jymoor took a step into the open doorway. Clearly one aspect of the tales had been true— those describing the unusual height of the man. The doorway was very tall, about half again taller than the doorway to Jymoor’s house or the tavern back at Riverglade.

Expecting to be accosted at any moment, Jymoor moved into the legendary home. Tall doorways led away to the left and the right. Jymoor caught sight of a fountain straight ahead in some kind of atrium. The air around her felt cool and fresh, without the tang of salt like the air outside.

Behind her a snap and sizzle broke the silence. Jymoor jumped at the sound. She whirled around. The entrance had disappeared!

“Spirits preserve me,” Jymoor whispered. Then she turned back and called out again.

“Lord Yeel? I beg forgiveness, my lord. I seek audience with you!”

She heard only the soft murmur of the fountain ahead.

Jymoor stepped forward again so she could look through the doors to both sides. Long corridors stretched away, curving with the shape of the house. Strange objects decorated the halls. Jymoor saw busts of unknown heroes and paintings of strange places and terrible battles. Nearby Jymoor saw a full suit of armor made for some being clearly not human, for it had no less than six arm guards sprouting from the central breastplate. The helm was wide and flat, with a spiked visor adorned with silver.

These marvels distracted Jymoor from her fear. For a moment she forgot her dangerous trespass and stared at the beauty of the place. Then she began to walk forward toward the great fountain in the next room.

“Forgive me, Lord Yeel,” Jymoor cried out. “Lord Yeel, are you there? I am Jymoor, here to present myself as a gift to you.”

The traveler found herself in a large circular fountain room. Seven enormous columns rose from the floor to support a high ceiling. A circular portal in the center of the ceiling allowed the light of day to pour down into the room.

The fountain itself was massive. Carvings depicted humanoids with scales and fins around its perimeter. Tier over tier rose above Jymoor’s head, each catching the water in large pools and allowing it to swirl down in a constant rush.

Jymoor took a few steps around the fountain and saw something else truly singular. An archway beckoned between the next two smooth pillars. The opening was filled with a translucent curtain of orange light, wavering gently as if in a breeze. Jymoor’s mouth dropped open and she stared at the magical doorway, completely awed by its silent beauty.

“My lord?” Jymoor said absentmindedly, stepping toward the curtain. As she watched the curtain, dim washed-out scenes of faraway lands rotated behind the shimmering light. Jymoor saw vistas of purple mountains edged with snow, wide rolling plains, and thick, dark forests. She realized that perhaps the Great Yeel had traveled to one of these far off places and left his house unoccupied for the time being. How long might the lord of this place be gone?

She shook her head and continued around the fountain. A hallway connected to the fountain room between the next pair of columns, and Jymoor walked through the arched doorway and into another elegant white passage.

She strode down the hallway and noticed movement on her left. A deep brown hardwood picture frame held a mirror of superb quality, and Jymoor caught her reflection in it. When she realized this, she exhaled in relief, until she noticed the details in the mirror. A small squeal escaped her. She stepped back. Her reflection in the mirror was that of a beautiful queen, bedecked in the most regal finery imaginable. She wore a long red dress and a sparkling jeweled crown. Her walking stick had transformed into a royal scepter.

Jymoor looked away from the mirror and examined herself. She appeared as normal. She still wore her simple, dusty travel clothes and her hair felt disheveled. She checked her reflection again. It still showed her dressed as royalty.

“I’m so sorry, my lord,” Jymoor called out. “I lost the dress I was to wear…it got wet in a storm and then mildew ruined the fine cloth. I’m sorry I don’t appear as I should. The journey was long.”

Only silence answered her. She looked back at her reflection and gasped. It now showed her in a suit of heavy mail, holding a longsword inverted by the hilt, blade resting against the floor. She shook her head.

“What an amazing place!” she whispered, and moved on.

The next doorway brought Jymoor into an elaborate kitchen. Racks of cooking pots and utensils lined a stone wall next to three large fire pits. In the center of the room a heavy table sat with a large cutting board in the center. A collection of blue ovoid shapes were placed on the board, next to a large knife. Some of the spheres were already diced, revealing a mottled blue and orange interior.

Jymoor couldn’t guess what type of food sat before her. She walked around the massive cutting board and shrugged. Doubtless the master of the house enjoyed delicacies beyond Jymoor’s ken. Hope arose in the traveler when she realized that the food in midpreparation must mean that someone currently inhabited the dwelling. With this thought, she resumed her search of the house.

A tall tunnel led from the other end of the kitchen. It angled slightly downward with flawless smooth white walls.

“Lord Yeel? I beg forgiveness, but I seek an audience with you,” Jymoor called out. No answer returned to her ears.

Jymoor walked into the passage. It wound around and around, sloping gently and leading down into another level of the house. She wondered if perhaps she had taken a poor route; still she continued on to see where the twisting corridor would take her.

The passage ended in a tall, narrow door that opened up into a square room filled with shelves full of books. Two archways led out of the room beside the tunnel from which she had emerged. Jymoor goggled at the huge collection of tomes, walking up to take a close look. Many of the books had writing on the spines, but Jymoor couldn’t read any of it. She had some ability to read and write, as her older sister had served as a scribe to a wealthy merchant and taught a bit of the language to Jymoor. This unique combination of talents had been one of the reasons Jymoor had accepted the mission of traveling to the Far Coast. But the script on these books didn’t look even vaguely familiar.

Jymoor heard a noise from the adjacent room. She stepped through the huge archway uncertainly.

“Hello, is anyone—” her voice caught.

Before Jymoor an awful thing worked over a huge table. A tall cone of green rubbery flesh rose from the floor and extended higher than the top of Jymoor’s head. It was covered in thick skin with a sprinkling of warty growths. Several long hideous tentacles sprouted from the top of the body. Jymoor glimpsed eyestalks and dangerous looking hooks at the ends of the members before a shriek of terror clawed its way from her throat.

Jymoor turned to run in a panic. She bolted through the previous room and fumbled at the latch of the door to the stairs. Her shaking interfered with her dexterity so that the mechanism defied her for long seconds. She looked over her shoulder but saw no signs of pursuit. At last the door was open, and she ran up the sloped passage, winding round and round until coming to the top. She burst out of the passage and back into the kitchen.

Jymoor came to a hallway but wasn’t sure which way to turn. She panicked for a moment until she heard the soft rustling of the fountain. She ran toward it and came to the room full of columns. She headed past the glowing curtain portal and out the way she had come.

As she turned the corner, heading into the hallway toward the door, she was intercepted by a tall, thin man in heavy maroon robes.

“Please, dear lady, do calm yourself. I assure you there is no need—”

“Monster!” yelled Jymoor. “Run for your life!” She clutched at the man’s robes and tried to pull him toward the door.

“Monster? Oh no, no. That is not the case at all, I very strongly assure you, my lady. If you would take a deep breath and let me explain, you will see that there is absolutely no need for any alarm on your part. Calm yourself, breathe deeply, and I shall make everything clear. Very clear, simple, easy to understand, you see.”

Jymoor absorbed this speech reluctantly, at first ready to burst away without the stranger, and then with more calm, still looking repeatedly over her shoulder. At last she returned to the moment.

“Who…are…” she stammered.

The stranger shook his head. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Yeel. A collector of relics, examiner of artifacts. An alchemist at heart, really. I live here. So nice to meet you, my dear lady.”



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