The Gelft, (characters from a work in progress)

“I bring news from the Underground City: We’ve been betrayed. And so have you.”
(From my work-in-progress story. MUCH bigger snippet under the artwork…)

Acrylics, coloured pencil, chalk pastels, Mylar flakes, green iridescent enamel paint, the glowing hauteur of an underground kingdom who cares not for your petty achievements, and gouache paint, on paper. 21×29 cms.

Original illustration by Soni Alcorn-Hender

Original character from a story in progress: A Gelft

For those who want story time, click on ‘Read the full post’ below:

“Jemi? You look rather grim, has something happened?”
“There’s something in the garden you need to see.”
“Are all the pigs facing north again? It’s eerie when they do that. If it’s the pigs I should get my boots-”
Jemi glanced behind her and lowered her voice. “Samuel, the Gelft door has been opened.”
He stared at her in silence for a moment, then simply nodded.
“Show me.”

Samuel’s house had many strange doors, but the Gelft door was set directly into the ground like the lid of a tunnel. It was circular, made of black meteor iron, and covered in worn markings that even Samuel couldn’t decipher anymore. Above ground it bore no lock or handle; it could only be opened from below.
The flowers there glowed on moonless nights, and it had become a haunt of fireflies. For many years they were the door’s only visitors, for it had been rusted shut for more than a century. Until today.

Samuel and Jemi stood in the gathering dusk and stared down at the thing in uneasy silence. It was wide enough for them to stand on together, but neither would. Yesterday it had been encrusted with rust and overhung with weeds. Now the metal gleamed velvet-black, and all the encircling vegetation was sliced to ground level.
Jemi bent and caught a stem. “Look how it was cut – cauterised I should say. And whoever opened the door oiled it too; I can smell it. They intend to return quietly and not ‘bother’ us with the creaking of old hinges.”
Samuel frowned and glanced back at the house. “And yet none of our people saw or heard anything.” His eyes glittered strangely in the twilight. “So, the Gelft are cutting a direct path to our door. But what do they mean to send – a messenger? A gift? An army?” He sighed. “I wish it was just the pigs again. Well, our friends down there won’t do anything until it’s full dark, we have maybe an hour before then, and much to do.”
Jemi stirred. “No, there’s no time. They’re coming now.”
Samuel looked aghast. “But it’s not even dark yet.”
“Down there. Listen.”
From far beneath their feet came the echo of large machinery, and beyond that, a shrill ringing.
Samuel swore in a language that made black flames crackle briefly around his head. “I don’t know if that noise is a doorbell or a siren, but it’s getting closer. Jemi, run. Get back to the house, do what you can. Get George. Wake the stones.”
She nodded and disappeared.

Samuel took a careful step away from the door, clasped his hands together in the manner of an ambassador, and tried not to think of how the plants around him had been so effectively and quietly guillotined.
Within minutes the ringing was echoing from just under his feet, and he could feel the vibration in his teeth.
Then it all just stopped.
In the sudden, shocking silence came a soft hiss, like steam escaping. Then with an abrupt drop the door sank a few inches into the ground and slid aside.
There was a flash of movement, an after-image of streaked light and colour, and then the strange black door was grinding back into place again. It had only been open for the length of a heartbeat, but something had come through.

“Are you master of the stones here?” A woman’s voice, heavily accented, and with the hoarse timbre of someone who didn’t speak often.
Samuel turned, slightly unnerved that she was somehow behind him, and faced her: a Gelft woman with lavender skin and armour as green as a beetle’s wing. Her hand was pressed to a wound in her side from which glowing blood flowed freely.
“Your wound-”
“Are you master of the stones here?” She repeated.
“I’ve summoned him, but-”
“Have him block that door. Then set your people to guard it. Those who opened the way will be here soon, and it cost me much to be here before them. Please, they must not get through.”
Samuel regarded her gravely. “I will do these things, for now. But you must come to the house, we’ll tend your wound, and you’ll tell us what strange events are passing below to bring such sudden turmoil to our door.”
She gave a stiff bow of agreement. “This is the purpose I was sent for. I bring news from the Underground City: We have been betrayed. And so have you.”

Other characters mentioned in this snippet include:

Samuel (his bit of story is here),

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