The throat-song of the night invoked ghosts.
Cats yowled nervously, heckled and aggressive, whilst dogs yelped and welcomed the leash as a token of protection, only a lone jackal answered the darkness with delight.
The tavern dancer was infused, slow and hypnotic, rotating her hips apparently with disinterest and this reflected in the patrons, willing to watch and smoke themselves into a stupor, anything that would give them a reason not to acknowledge the fact that the dead of the necropolis had risen and played out a parody of existence not far from here.
For this ‘entertainment’ was a cloak and Arcael observed that every fire here struggled against grasping shifts in the wind, even the imbibed glow of the hookahs stuttered at the insinuation of the wind-borne scream in the night. Weak circles of light, breath-given, flickered askance within the smoky darkness, as if to reflect the truth that mortality is a spark that we cup in hope that it is never taken away.
‘For the light is transient and night will win?’ a tutor had once asked, for most perhaps.
And yet, Arcael mused, that both death and undeath need life to come before it and without it both are nothing. For while we burn with revelries, momentary sparks of sex and food, company and drugs, our life frittered away in vibrant moments… the dead do not. Does this momentary dance of sense and fire define us against whatever darkness there is to come? The heavens and the afterlife? If so, regardless of power and appetites, these undead seem unable to escape the banality, the burdens, the duties, the joke that was their previously mortal existence.
Arcael inhaled the smoke and a thought rose unbidden, a hint on the high wind carried him and he was on an airship climbing far above the distant western wastes of his homeland – the cries of the Shrieking Mountain, a great pre-existent entity magically held in stasis, trapped in slow motion but still bellowing a maddeningly discordant chorus of notes… and his kin had brought it to this world.
The woman on Goran’s lap choked, she’d laughing taken a toke on the pipe and drawn too deeply, then Goran kissed her and they exchanged tongues and smoke. Ironwall gleamed, for once silent by the firelight, the lion-priest Saabu entertained himself with rare slices of goat’s meat and the druid was drinking, his great beard glittering with drops of night-blackened wine.
Chancers and courtesans plotted the periphery of their circle and the smiles of their host seemed almost desperate, imploring them to ignore the wind as it rose again, wild in the desert and to spend more, spend more!
But the darkness wanted in… And so ignoring their host, the company, the prostitutes, the food, the revelry and smoke Arcael left the fire and the temptations of the room. He unsteadily approached the door following his thoughts, for whilst he knew he wasn’t on the bow of an airship, the high winds were howling and he would give himself to this, listening… listening… for the desert night’s own discordant notes.