The House of Yeel
Author:Michael McCloskey

The House of Yeel - By Michael McCloskey


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.