Fiction Archive | 6/5/2009
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Black Crusade: Compiled
By Ari Marmell

Black Crusade

They moved through a world of endless mist, and the mist moved around them in turn. It cradled them like a mother guarding an errant child—or a cyst forming defensively around an intruding splinter.

The vardos of Clan Hanza, late of Barovia, originally of gods-alone-knew-where, appeared single-file from the sea of white. Gypsies, they were called by some; Vistani by others, who pretended to know them. They trod the Mists via paths invisible to other mortals, heard the deep secrets of the world whispered on the winds, and Saw truths to which others re-mained blind.

Today they followed a road—if road it could be called—well known to them. Each of their great wagons swayed, the wheels running across divots and potholes unseen in the heavy fog. The bright paints that rendered each wagon dis-tinct from the next were muted, as though viewed through cataracts. The creaking of the wheels and the jingle of the harness bells were muffled, barely audible from one vardo to the next. Even the scent of the horses seemed to waft from afar, as if carried by some distant wind, rather than from the animals a mere few feet away.

The horses shivered, and not just from the clinging cold and damp. They wore blinders so they might not realize that they moved through the proverbial kingdom of the blind. Be-fore each team of two walked a young Vistani girl, one hand on her horses' halters to guide them. Blouses and skirts of white blended perfectly with the surrounding haze. The girls went barefoot, that they might feel the path beneath them, and many walked with eyes firmly shut. It made no real differ-ence in the Mists, and besides, these were Vistani. The Hanza always traveled thus, and they needed no eyes to See.

About the Author

Ari Marmell was born in New York, moved to Houston when he was a year old, moved to Austin when he was 27, but has spent most of his life living in other worlds through a combination of writing and roleplaying games. He has been writing more or less constantly for the last dozen years, though he has only been paid for it the past five. He is the author of multiple roleplaying game supplements including work on Dungeons & Dragons. Ari lives in Austin with his wife, George, and two cats.

Look for Agents of Artifice, the new novel from Ari Marmell -- out now! You can also find Ari at: