How they met, the pilgrim and the legionnaire, on the road to Sancre Tor.
He, a merchant son from the Nibenay, in his humblest saffron silk.
Red tattoos on his face showing market allegiance.
He left behind his ledgers and his abacus,
his lover and his fortune,
to ask of holy spirits the hidden meaning of all things.
She, a veteran marked by wake of war, Colovia's red-handed daughter.
Cruel scars across her face showing a soldier's map of servitude.
Smitten by strife, smiting,
with a wicked hammer at her side.
Come to the hidden city, to make amends for old and evil deeds.
How they met, and shared bread and brandy,
laughing, commiserating their lot.
Determined to journey together,
along the road to Sancre Tor.
But the road to Sancre Tor is long,
it is a wicked road,
and it must be walked alone.
How they walked together, the pilgrim and the legionnaire, on the road to Sancre Tor.
The road to Sancre Tor is an evil road,
there is no water and no life,
evil spirits haunt it,
evil beasts beset it,
evil men besiege it,
it is an evil road.
The legionnaire wielded her iron hammer,
smashing the skulls of wolves,
crushing the skulls of thieves,
destroying the skulls of braying bulls.
The pilgrim spoke in whispers,
abjuring the hungry ghosts,
placating the watchful saints,
deceiving the mocking sky-spirits.
Together they walked, siblings of fate and fortune,
journeying far on the road to Sancre Tor.
Glad to have the strenght of one another,
each others' warmth in cold nights.
But the road to Sancre Tor is cold,
a bitter road,
it knows no solace in companionship.
How they rested together, the pilgrim and the legionnaire, on the road to Sancre Tor.
Asked the legionnaire,
toasting bread over the fire:
What is it like, the high city,
the great fortress of Sancre Tor?
What do the Nibenese say?
Answered the pilgrim:
They call it the hidden city,
its gates are vast and shrouded,
by deep water and secret arts.
Bells once rang there every hour,
for Reman, Al-Esh,
for Pelinal and Morihaus,
for all the saints and spirits.
Now the spirits are muted,
this faithless age has cut out their tongue.
And I must journey far,
to learn secrets they once gave freely.
Asked the pilgrim,
sipping from a liquor flask:
What is it like, the secret hill,
the temple halls of Sancre Tor?
What do the Colovians say?
Answered the legionnaire:
That city of the dead, great necropolis,
A thousand dancing kings were buried there,
ten thousand more their shining scions.
Once we raised iron swords,
aimed at the midnight-morning,
sky-shroud of the utter north,
and challenged our every enemy to face us.
Now we have no enemies,
the Empire has subsumed the world entire.
And I, a sullied weapon,
cannot cleanse myself anywhere but there.
Beyond their pale fire's light,
beyond the hungry spirits,
and beyond the glasslit eyes of wolves,
the great hill of Sancre Tor loomed,
utterly ignorant of their feeble desires.
For the road to Sancre Tor is hard,
a merciless road,
it knows not the one who treads it.
And how they suffered together, the pilgrim and the legionnaire, on the road to Sancre Tor.
The pilgrim was wild with fever,
his red wounds,
as infected as his rotting head.
In his dreams the faces of saints,
the gods and spirits of his river home,
were mocking him.
The legionnaire was silent,
her iron hammer at her side.
hearing her companion weep.
Knowing he needed her,
Needing cures she could not provide.
Knowing he would die,
a slow death,
a painful death,
or a swift one.
Alone now, the legionnaire walks on,
her bloodied hammer at her side,
the stories of a pilgrim ringing in her ears.
Ahead lies the hidden city, that awful mound
fountain of solace,
herald of nothingness.
For the road to Sancre Tor,
is a solitary road,
wicked, bitter, and merciless.
Do not tread it with a light step,
do not tread it with love in your heart,
do not tread it with hope in your head.
And to walk it,
one must be alone.