The stripe of tree-covered foothills below looked haunted in the clear, autumn air. The grey branches of the local deciduous trees created a dense fog. Only the tall, dark evergreens peeked up from the haze of grey limbs, as though struggling to escape their choking hold.
Beyond the trees, the ugly grey and dark-green fens sullenly remained as they always had– constantly shifting, and constantly ugly. A distant tree was a good mile from where it had been when he went to sleep the night before, and the idea of the moving plant life sicked the young baron, as always.
His lands were flush against the border between Icesog and the northern earldom of Highpoint. Right between two duchies that were near-constantly at battle with each other. How he hated his lands, given to him by his father. He glared at the soggy land below and the dead-looking foothills, then wrinkled his nose.
“Choo!” he sneezed. The man’s eyes were touched with wetness from the sheer force of the sneeze as he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief to wipe his face before he presented himself to his mother to ensure he met her standards.
The man was dressed in last year’s fashion from Hotazhek– it was thick, showy, and limited his movements. How he hated Hotazhek’s fashion sense. His heeled boots were so high he always felt a moment away from tripping, and his jacket felt constricting. It took six servants to dress him each day, and two more each night to undress him.
Only as he approached his mother’s room did he allow his hatred to fade. He steeled himself, then walked into the room. There she was– beautiful as always. Age had taken only some of her youthful beauty that he recalled from his childhood, and had taken none of the good humor from her eyes. “Mother. Do I please you today?” he asked formally, trying to hold back tears that threatened his composure.
The woman that looked up at him seemed to be touched with the clear night sky, that lit up as she stood to approach her son. She inspected every detail of the young man, then smiled. “You look wonderful, Krem.” she assured the tall, muscular man that was her son.
Like every northerner that took care of themselves properly, he was tall, strong, and pale. His dark hair fell in free waves down his back, despite the urging of all to wear his hair as the Hotazheks did.
Baron Krem du Climbe, fourth to his name, bowed formally to his mother before he departed. Those beautiful dark regions where stars appeared were taking up more of her arm and leg, and he could see some appearing on her neck. He hurried away, then punched a wall, staining it further with his blood, as he had every day since he first saw that deadly darkness in his mother’s limbs.
Behind him, his mother sighed and shook her head. Her neck lit up, beyond where the darkness enveloped it. “I wish he would stay longer in the mornings…” she murmured quietly before she sat once more, ready to read or sew the day away, at least until her grandchildren– those two who remained of them after the plague– came to play with her.
Krem walked down to the yard and mounted his readied horse. He skipped breakfast, as was the usual, and rode off, looking for something that was not as it always was.