Beck kept his head down as the snow storm whistled around him and urged his black stallion, Nightstorm on. Grabbing the reins tighter with his numb leather gloved covered fingers, he prayed the old warhorse didn’t stumble. Breathing deeply, Beck risked peering out of his dark green cloak’s deep hood and took in the winter swept forest around him.
Trees were frozen above him, their branches clawing at the dark grey sky in desperation. He couldn’t help but think that they were praying the winter to be over, just like he was. To the left of them the river was iced over and snow covered. Deadly treacherous for man and beast. Beck blinked away snowflakes and looked down at the edge of the river. He could hardly see it, but worried Nightstorm might get too close, he steered the horse away and closer to the trees.
The warhorse snorted and stomped off to the side as he carried on forward. Beck patted Nightstorm’s long neck and tried to search through the trees. He couldn’t see anything but white peppered tree trunks and freshly falling snow. The forest offered them no protection at all, but Beck knew that somewhere close by was an abandoned elf outpost. He urged Nightstorm on and tried to spot any arrows sticking out of trees or anything else that would signal the way.
The snow crunched loudly under the heavy horse and Nightstorm came to a sudden stop. Beck rose up from the saddle and looked around, but he couldn’t figure out where they were. He swing down and threw the reins over so he could lead his only friend through the blizzard. Nightstorm neighed softly and nuzzled into his leather padded shoulder. Beck patted the horse’s nose and tugged the reins as he started walking.
‘I know it’s around here somewhere,’ Beck mumbled and the wind snatched his words away.
Easing his hood back for a clearer view, he regarded the forest once more. Frowning, he slowly looked in all directions, but the snow blocked his keen eyes and ears. Nightstorm breathed a hot breath on him and Beck rubbed the warhorse’s forehead. He moved up and scratched his ears, Nightstorm’s long black mane tangling around his fingers.
‘Good horse,’ Beck breathed, ‘come on.’
Tugging the reins again, Beck led Nightstorm into the trees, hoping they were going in the right direction. A few feet in and the trees thinned and shorted a little. A smile crept onto Beck’s face and he urged his warhorse on. Something flapped from a tree in the distance and Beck almost slowed Nightstorm down, but then he saw it was only the tattered remains of an old flag.
They walked under it and Beck saw the elf outpost in the distance. Pushing through some struggling saplings that were being dwarfed by their parents, Beck picked up his pace and hurried to the neatly hidden stone building. As he came closer and even through the snow, he could see how hard the elves had tried to hide the structure. Of course that hadn’t worked thirty years ago when goblins had raged in the forest and taken over.
Beck brought Nightstorm to a stop outside the broken wooden door. He tried to listen to see if there was anything hiding inside, but the wind was too loud. Pushing against the heavy door, Beck led Nightstorm inside then tried to fix the door back into place. A soft crying sound made Beck stop and he peered through the darkness of the open ground floor room.
‘It could just be the wind,’ he muttered.
In the gloom, he patted Nightstorm and ran his hands down the side of the saddle. He felt his wrapped up great sword, bow and quiver then a large leather satchel. Beck dug through it and pulled out an old lantern. Next he found his flint and lit the candle inside. Holding up the small flicking light in front of him, Beck caught sight of the blood splatted walls. Pulling out a short sword at his belt, he made the light dance off that instead.
‘Hello?’ he called.
He heard a small female gasp and the crying stopped.
‘Who’s there?’ he called.
Shuffling in the darkness then nothing else, except his and Nightstorm’s breathing and the snow storm outside. Beck waited then moved slowly across the stone floor. He searched the room but found nothing. He came back, checked the horse was well then climbed up the worn stone steps in the corner, knowing he wasn’t alone.
To Be Continued…