Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Strangers in the Night

"Strangers in the Night"
Artesia #3 (March 1999) Story & Art by Mark Smylie

Synopsis: Night falls over the battlefield and something strange is in the air. Artesia tells her troops that the door to the underworld has been opened; it is not their goddess Djara and her companions, but the Wild Hunt that roams this night. She tells the warriors to stay close to the ghost heads--heads of the fallen placed on stakes--tonight: One ghost will ward against another.

Artesia rides out to warn the scavengers they've seen among the fallen.

She finds they are not human but hathaz-ghul. They can't be harmed by mere iron, but Artesia's rune-inscribed sword is something different. She's only just defeated them and finished off her dying horse, when she feels it coming. She runs for the ghost wards, but:

She boldly tells the master of the Wild Hunt that he has one night given to him by Yhera, and this is not it.

But Artesia has already chosen sides.

Her spirits rebuke the Master of the Hunt to be gone. Artesia has been claimed by another. "Ah, the heart of war, After so long." the huntsman says. "I am glad."

He departs, leaving Artesia to wonder who it is that can banish the Wild Hunt. Then, she's distracted by the cry of the dying Dymas. He explains that he had to change sides because his king told him to. He would never side with the Knights of Agall and the other outlanders, though. He worries that the death guides have not come, that the souls of he and his men will be lost.

Artesia reassures when that they will keep the vigil for his journey. Their prayers will give his soul 7 days to find their way. Then, they come. And Dymas sees them.

Artesia says her prayers to Geniche, goddess of the Underworld. Though she is afraid, she looks the goddess in the face:

Artesia flinches from the bright light, and then the goddess is gone--along with the souls of the dying.

Her troops find her their in the morning. They tell her three outlanders slipped by the pickets last night. Artesia sees the ones they speak of approaching. They say they have come to the highlands to find a woman: a woman captain, once a king's concubine. A woman born in the lowlands, but come to the Highlands. A witch like her mother.

Artesia embraces her brother, Stjepan.

Things to Notice:
  • With his recitation of the rumors about her, Stjepan relates a lot of Artesia's backstory.
The Wild Hunt, which appears in this issue, is a well-known European myth, with the Master of the Hutn varying, depending on the culture. The corpse-consuming hathaz-ghul are inspired by the Arabic ghul (ghoul).


Timothy S. Brannan said...

I added the three collected issues to my pull list. Now I just need some time to read them.

Trey said...

It's good stuff!