Trust (Part 34)

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Fern awoke on the cold hard floor of the garage. She lay still, staring at the light grey concrete around her. She could hear the vampire’s voice hissing in her head and sense the ebbs of the taxi driver’s blood still mingling with her own. Fern eased herself up, wiping her face and casting a look around. Strangely the garage was empty, expect for the collection of crosses hanging all around her. Though there was enough room for two cars and storage.

She stood up and went to the door, upon which someone had carved and painted the largest cross in the room. She went to touch it, but her fingers recoiled. She listened and heard footsteps coming towards her. Fern moved away from the door, drifting back to the centre of the garage. She looked at the metal garage door as the sounds of the other door being unlocked brushed passed her.

‘Fern?’

She turned at Brook’s voice and stared at him. His long hair was loose about his shoulders and his violet eyes were holding her’s. He was wearing dark blue jeans and a black t-shirt she hadn’t seen before. Fern looked down at her own clothes and the strands of hair she could see. In comparison, she looked a mess and she tried to fix things.

‘How are you feeling?’ Brook asked after a few moments.

‘Fine, a lot better. Are you going to let me out?’

Brook looked her over carefully then nodded.

A small smile flicked on Fern’s lips and she walked quickly over to him.

‘I left all you stuff. You should get changed,’ Brook spoke when she reached him.

‘Why are we going somewhere?’

‘I thought you’d want some fresh air…’

Fern stared at him trying to read his mind and not letting him into her’s at the same time.

I had to do it for your own good, Brook said in his head.

Locking me away like some kind of animal? She questioned back.

You were an animal. I didn’t want you hurting yourself or me.

Did you put all the crosses up? How come they hurt us anyway?

I didn’t put them up, Brook send back, something to do with religion and the devil. I don’t know. Come on let’s go.  

Fern watched him turn and walk out. She followed him through the house and back to the parlour. Her things were still stacked on the sofa and the room smelt heavily of blood. She took a deep breath as she entered the room, aware that the same blood was inside her. The coffee table was covered in a collection of things she didn’t recognise, yet from the smell she knew where they had come from. Feeling Brook watching her, she turned and began to search through her things.

‘I’ll wait for you outside,’ he said and left the room.

Fern paused, listening as he opened the front door and went out. She heard him lighting up a cig and a whiff of smoke trailed back to her. She refocused on looking for clothes and at last settled on a pair of old jeans, a white t-shirt shirt with long dropping sleeves and a purple jacket.

She found Brook leaning against the wall just to the side of the door. He was looking up at the early night sky and blowing smoke upwards. Fern felt herself twitching a little and wrestled the vampire back down.

Soon, soon soon, she thought.

‘Soon what?’ Brook cut in.

‘Oh, nothing. I’m just excited. As much as I love the beach and sea, I do prefer the countryside,’ Fern rushed.

‘You told me it was your escape.’

‘When?’

Brook flicked the butt away and stood up straight, ‘I asked you why you were in the Lake District that night. You told me it was because the countryside had been your escape from the care home as a child and throughout your illness.’

Fern nodded though she had no memory of the conversation.

‘We’re not going far. Just around the fields,’ Brook put in, ‘if you feel up to it?’

‘I’m fine,’ Fern stated and strolled off down the driveway.

She headed towards the gate, keeping her eyes fixed on it as she listened to Brook coming to her side. Small stones crunched under her soft shoes and she thought about asking what had happened to the taxi.

Brook moved passed, reached the gate before her and slipped through.

She paused, wondered how he had done that. She turned the metal bars and found them solid.

‘Have a go,’ Brook called, ‘it’s easy, just push yourself through.’

Fern slipped her arm though the bars then tried to get her shoulder to pass through. She felt the metal scrapping against her and holding her in place. She looked at Brook, removed her arm and let a little bit of the vampire raise within her. She shut her eyes and stepped through the metal bars with no problems.

‘You did it,’ Brook’s voice whispered in her ear.

Fern opened her eyes and found him standing next to her, his arm gently wrapping around her stomach. She smiled and kissed him, even though she could feel the vampire tugging for more control at the back of her head.

Brook took her hand and began leading her off the driveway and over a patch of well cared for grassy land. She looked back at the front gate, which she could clearly see off to the right of them and wondered how to give Brook the slip. As the carried on walking, Fern’s mind raced with possible things.

‘I was thinking that we should put yesterday behind us. We were both tried and it’d been a long night,’ Brook spoke out.

‘What did you do with him and the taxi?’ Fern asked carefully.

‘What I had to do; got rid of them. It looked like he was in trouble anyway, so they’ll probably say it was suicide.’

Fern paused, her hand loosening in Brook’s palm and she looked across the coming up fields and wired fences. She could smell farm animals- horses and sheep, hay and the faint smell of wood burning.

‘And if they don’t?’ Fern asked.

‘Then whatever it takes to keep us out of it, if it comes to that,’ Brook explained and tugged on her hand.

‘I…’ Fern looked up at him through her eyelashes, ‘can I be alone for a bit?’

Brook squeezed her hand, ‘once we get back inside sure.’

‘I’d prefer to be out here,’ she pressed.

Brook glanced around.

‘Where can I go?’ Fern voiced his thoughts.

‘I’d rather have you close, that’s all. The blood is still strong in you though you’re doing good at staying in control.’

‘You don’t trust me?’

‘I do,’ Brook said, ‘I just think that for now, its best.’

Fern pulled her hand away and stepped backwards, ‘Please. I’m not asking for anything else. I just want a few minutes!’

‘Alright,’ Brook sighed, ‘but if you’re not back at the gate soon, I’ll come and get you.’

‘Thanks,’ Fern cried and hugged him tightly.

Brook hugged her back then let her go. He kissed her nose and walked off.

Fern remind still and listened to his footsteps, before walking off towards the brick wall that ran to her right. When she reached it, she stopped and looked back. Brook was nowhere in sight. She looked up at the wall, which rose about five feet above her head. She frowned and pondered how she was going to get over it.

She thought about going to the front gate, even running, by the time she got there and through, Brook wouldn’t be too far away. She looked at the wall again and thought about climbing it. Letting more of the vampire seep through, she pressed herself against the seemingly smooth wall and started to climb up.

When she reached the top, she sat down and looked back. She could just see a trail of smoke coming from beside the second gate. Smiling, she jumped over the side.

To Be Continued…

Trust (Part 33)

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Fern’s laugh was still ringing in his ears, so he found a rock station on the radio and turned it up loud. He sped down to the locked gates, the tires crunched to a stop and he swung open the door and got out. Going to open the lock, he looked back at the dark house and questioned what he was going to do about Fern.

With the lock and gates open he drove the taxi through then stopped and got out to re-lock them. Getting back in, he rushed down to the first set, the car bumping along. Stopping again, he got out and this time couldn’t make out much of the house. He opened the lock and gates, drove through, got out, relocked them and drove on.

‘It really wasn’t meant to be like this,’ Brook said through clenched teeth.

He turned on the headlights and pushed the car up to the speed limit on the empty, dark countryside road. He drove from an hour, just following the road and not really thinking where he could dump the body. A for sale sign flashed up and Brook hit the brakes hard. The car slammed to a halt, flinging Brook over the steering wheel and the body against his seat.

Groaning, Brook sat up and looked at the sign in the rear view mirror.

He reversed back and read the notice fully; farm for sale. Four bed roomed house and fifty acres of land. View by appointment only. Brook tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and gave it some deep thought. Glancing in the mirror at the slumped body, Brook shook his head and drove off.

‘It’s too close,’ he muttered, ‘what else is around here? The old cemetery? The abandon plastics factory? The river?’

Book hummed and as a crossroads came up, marking the farm for sale to his left and a village to his right, he drove straight on towards a campsite. Passed that, he kept his eyes out for the direction signs to the forest. The radio fuzzed out and after a few seconds of trying to find another station, he give up and hit the CD button. The Eagles came on. Brook shrugged and slowed to take a blind bend.

The sign for a humped bridge flashed up and he slowed even more. As soon as he crossed over it, a soft rain began falling. He glanced around the wheel, put the indicator on and off then put the windscreen wipes on. They squeaked loudly, till he had turned them down. Easing back into the seat he drove on and half an hour later spotted the first sign for the forest. A small smile crept onto his lips. At the mini roundabout he took the first exist and carried on following the signs.

Forty minutes later, Brook parked the taxi in an empty car park and turned off the engine. Shadows of tree branches swept about above him and the rain came down heavier. He rested back and shut his eyes for a few minutes. He listened to the rain on the roof and thought about his next steps.

Getting out, he closed the door quietly and opened the passenger door. He grabbed an arm and pulled the body out with a severe tug. It only half shifted. Putting more weight into it and getting his other arm in, Brook pulled the body completely out and down onto the ground. He closed the door gently then locking the taxi, locked his arms around the chest of the dead man and dragged him into the forest.

Wet leafy branches brushed against Brook’s back and he struggled to get through. His mind tumbled with an incomplete map of the forest and river as he tried to figure out the best place to head for. Finally, he decided on the largest of the waterfalls and headed in that direction. He didn’t stop once, but carried on walking backwards for almost an hour dragging the body undergrowth. Around him owls and other night birds were still calling, their daytime relatives still asleep. A fox called for a few moments before being answered by another in the distance. The rain patted on the leaves and ground, adding to the rush of water somewhere in front of them.

Brook sank down at the river’s edge, dropping the dead weight. He wiped rain from his face and shook it from his hair. He looked at the sky and guessed that daylight was a few hours away, which meant he was becoming pressed for time. He turned to the body, now mud covered and with a collection of fallen leaves and branches. The idea of burying him re-entered Brook’s mind, but he had nothing other than his hands and nature’s tools to carry out that task. Instead, he was going to have to risk the water level being high enough to carry the body away.

Taking an arm and a leg, Brook put the taxi man into the river and watched the current swept him away. He saw a flash of colour going over the waterfall and walked as close to the edge as possible. Looking down he could see nothing but the foamy churned up water. Slipping his hands into his pockets, he turned and started walking back the way he had come.

He got into the car and closing the door, listened to the rain and wind once more. He checked the taxi over again and finding nothing else, debated what to do. He thought he could almost hear Fern calling his name. She probably was. A few seconds went by, he put the keys in the ignition and got out, closing the door. He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked away.

The rain grew heavier, soaking through his clothes as he left the carpark. Brook glanced back at the taxi then shook his head. You’d only have to get rid of if later, he thought. He picked up his pace and breaking into a run sped through the night. He followed the roads he had driven and halfway home felt the first sense of dawn. He didn’t pause, but race onwards, making a note to try harder at materialisation soon.

Brook slipped through the first gate and the second one, having no need to unlock and open them now he was alone. He ran to the door, vanished and reappeared on the other side. Fern’s voice rapidly hit him from the garage and shouted in his ears.

‘Brook? Let me out!’

Ignoring her, he climbed the stairs and went to his room. Fern’s voice trailed after him, pleading with him and yet whispering things that sound forbidden underneath. He shook his head and closed the bedroom door. It only quietened the words a little. He pulled off his boots and jacket, dumping them as he went over to a large desk. He switched on the CD player letting the first song on whatever album was still in there blast out.

He undressed, throwing the clothes alongside the boots and jacket. Flinging himself on the double bed, he looked up at the all too familiar ceiling. The dappled pale blue coating of paint still bore the slight marks of sticky tape and blue tack. Beck tried to recall what had once stared down at him on his childhood and teenage ceiling, but he couldn’t recall.

He shut his eyes, listening to the rock music rumbling around him and the taxi driver’s blood humming through him. Below, he could just hear Fern’s cries for release and her fists bounding the wooden door. He sensed the dawn breaking and recalled how the sun lit up the sky. He pulled a sheet over his naked body and wondered how long it would take for Fern to settle down.

To Be Continued…

Trust (Part 32)

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Fern swallowed and nearly purred in delight. The blood was so good, it was making all her thoughts and emotions disappear. Her mind had never felt so clear before. Dimly, she became aware of Brook trying to pull her away and shouting at her. She couldn’t make out what he was saying, but decided to ignore him.

He’s the reason why you’ve never been able to feed probably, the vampire voice hissed within her.

Fern nodded slightly in response and sucked harder at the taxi driver’s neck. She could feel his life ending. A white mist seemed to be flowing around them and she felt herself drifting away. Her eyes and body felt so heavy and full of rich blood. A sharp scream shook her out of a doze.

Is that me? she questioned before releasing it was the vampire inside of her.

Hot pain was cutting into her lower back and sinking down into her skin. Red flashes blinded her and as the pain grew deeper, she pulled her fangs and mouth away from the man and twisted around.

Brook was knelt next to her, holding a bright silver object in gloved hands. Steam and a thin trail of red were coming off the cross. Fern hissed, raised an arm over her eyes and tried to back away from Brook. He waved it in her face, till her vision went blurry and she had to turn her head.

‘You’ve only got yourself to blame,’ Brook snapped, ‘Now, get up!’

Still hissing at him and avoiding the cross, Fern got to her feet. Slowly, Brook made her shuffle out of the room and into the hallway. From there, they walked right down to the kitchen and through a side door into a utility room. Fern kept as much distance as possible from Brook and the cross, her eyes shooting all over the place. Her mind was a spinning wheel of thoughts, mostly about trying to escape and get back to finishing the man off. She could still hear his heartbeat.

Brook opened a side door and backed Fern into the double garage.

‘Now you stay in here and come back to your senses,’ Brook said.

Fern growled and fisted her hands.

‘I already made sure you couldn’t get out,’ Brook added.

With quick speed, he darted out of the door and locked it behind him. Pressing his back to the cool wood he listened to Fern howling and thumping around the garage. The sliver crosses hung on the doors and walls keeping her at bay. He listened to her for a few moments then went back into the parlour.

The taxi driver’s heartbeat was so faint, Brook could hardly here it. Sinking down beside him, Brook frowned and debated what to do, whilst in the background Fern continued to howl.

‘I could turn you,’ Brook muttered, ‘but I’ve got far too much to handle right now.’

As if to confirm this, a monstrous scream erupted from the garage, causing Brook to look through the half-open door and into the hallway.

A soft sighing drew him back as the ripped quietness settled back and Brook watched the taxi driver die. His final breath vanished into the air and his strand of fate was cut. Brook pressed his still gloved hands into face and breathed deeply. He rubbed his head and dropping his hands into his lap, listened to the sudden emptiness.

‘Brook?’ a soft, but untoned menacing voice called.

He shook his head and got to his feet.

‘Brook? Please let me out,’ Fern spoke in that same voice then a burst of wicked laughter.

Ignoring her, Brook started going through the taxi driver’s pockets, keeping the gloves on.

‘I’m so scared and alone. Please?’ her voice teased.

Brook pulled out an old worn wallet and found some folded notes, two debit cards, a number of shop loyalty cards and a half torn photo of two young girls. Putting that on the coffee table, he went back and dug out the keys to the taxi. Then in the jacket he found; two folded letters shouting for urgent payments on house bills, an almost empty packet of mints and a full carton of cigarettes, though not a brand he liked.

Adding those to the wallet, Brook took the keys and headed to the front door. Opening it, he listened to Fern calling him like a siren to a sailor. It sounded so much like her voice and yet an evilness lay under every word. Brook stepped outside, the cold air nice against his warm skin, he hurried to the taxi and unlocked it. Rummaging inside the front car, he came out with two cloth money bags, a mobile phone, some CDs, a metal locked box which he found in the glove compartment, a road atlas, the satnav and cables.

Brook took all that inside and put it on the coffee table with the other items. Heading outside again, he paused in the doorway to listen to a light scratching sound. Had Fern figured out a way to escape? The sound faded, almost as if the person or animal knew he’d heard them. Growling, Brook went back to the connecting garage door and knocked on it.

‘Fern? What are you doing in there?’

‘Nothing, lover,’ Fern uttered back and Brook imaged her lips pressed against the bottom of the door and her forcing the words through the gap.

‘Lover?’ he questioned, ‘I know it’s not really you…’

The vampire laughed loudly and footsteps sounded a spinning dance away from the door.

‘I have to go and clean up your mess. Behave till I get back.’

‘I can’t promise, lover. But hurry back anyway. I’m naked and desperate for your touch. Brook, I want you so badly…’ soft moans and lip smacks followed.

Brook got a sharp image of Fern touching herself and quickly shook it away. He turned and went back to the front door. Outside again, his head started to clear and he searched the rest of the taxi. There was nothing in the backseats, but in the boot he found a box of condoms, a pair of furry handcuffs, a rain coat, two large umbrellas, a map of Europe, a first aid box and a handbag.

Grabbing everything, he went back inside and added to the growing collection on the parlour table. Putting the keys into his pocket, he picked up the taxi driver by the ankles and dragged the body out of the house.

‘What you going to do with him?’ Fern’s voice called out, ‘make him one of us?’

‘No!’ Brook yelled back, ‘it’s too late. You saw to that!’

Fern laughed, a rolling belly sound which didn’t stop even though it should have done.

Brook yanked the shoulders and head out of the doorway then slammed the door shut, cutting off the never ending laugh. He hauled the body to the taxi and shoved it into the back seat. He got into the driver’s seat and started the engine.

To Be Continued…

Trust (Part 31)

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The taxi lights tried to shine through the thick, tall hedges that lined the countryside lane, but failed to penetrate them. The car trundled along cobblestones, bouncing all the passengers inside. Fern looked out at the sky, but couldn’t see anything but darkness. The dashboard clock said it was almost two in the morning. Glancing at the taxi driver, she watched his white knuckles flexing on the wheel. The man was really concentrating as if he thought he was in horror movie and something was about to jump out and kill him.

That idea caused her to turn to Brook, who had his head pressed against the cold and still slightly open window. His eyes were shut and he seemed lost in thought again.

‘We’re not going to kill him are we?’ Fern whispered.

‘No. But we’ll take some of his blood,’ Brook answered without opening his eyes, ‘then I’ll send him on his way.’

Fern frowned, but didn’t say anything as a large gated turn off appeared on her side.

The Satnav flashed an arrow towards the gate and the driver turned in.

‘I’ll open it,’ Brook said and got out of the taxi.

Fern sat back, watching him unlocking and opening the gate. The drive slowly drove through then waited for Brook to get back in.

‘There’s another one further up,’ Brook pointed at.

The driver nodded and drove for another few minutes through dark bumpy land.

‘Your family own all of this?’ Fern asked, having pressed her face to the window to look out.

‘Yeah,’ Brook responded, ‘I rent some of the back fields to another farmer and some of the side ones go to people who own horses or want to store stuff. Extra money and its’ not as if I’ve got any use for the land.’

‘Your parents had a farm?’ Fern questioned.

‘No…’

She turned from him as the car slowly arrived at another gate. Brook got out, opened it and waved the taxi driver through. He got back in again and quietened Fern’s next questions with a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close. He kept their lips together for the next few moments, as the taxi drove up to a large converted farmhouse and out buildings.

When he let her go, Brook slide from the car and opened the driver’s door, ‘get the stuff out and into the hallway.’

The driver nodded and got out.

Fern undid her seatbelt, opened the door and stepped out into the cool countryside air. She sniffed and smelt damp soil, plants, animals and smoke; gone was the salty breeze and sound of the sea. I’m going to miss it, she thought. She stretched, rubbed her face and walked to the front of the taxi.

The house loomed over her, abandoned and unwelcoming. She counted three floors then a fourth which looked like a converted attic. Large, curtained windows looked out of all floors like a blind man’s eyes questioning her. Fern noticed the massive white stones making up the house’s front wall and the fact there was no front porch or steps leading to the door and it was just flushed with the ground and the top foundations. Two large plant pots holding fruit bushes stood to either side of the door and there was a wire rack for boots next to the one on the right.

Brook had gone to the front door, opened it and stepped inside. A light came on and shone out of the door and Fern saw Brook disappearing into a room his left. She shuffled her feet, half-temped to go around the side of the house and find out how big the place was. However, the taxi driver walked past carrying her bags and she changed her mind.

Fern went to the car’s boot and pulled out some of the lighter thing. She took them inside the hallway and had to pause to admire everything. The walls were brick, just like the outside, but a lot smoother. There was a large hallway table to her right which was covered by a cream table cloth and held a phone, some framed photos, a bowl with keys in it and a bible. A rug covered the wooden floorboards and ran down towards a large dark wooden staircase and a closed door. Fern counted four doors to her right and three to her left.

The taxi driver came out of the first room to her left and she stepped to the side to let him pass. She couldn’t help but notice how his face looked frozen, almost zombie like. She watched him go back to the car and grab some other bags. She turned away and stepped inside the room.

Brook was piling up her stuff on a deep, dark red coloured sofa which sat in the middle of the room facing its twin across a cherry coffee table. Fern put her stuff down and walked around the room. A large fire place took up most of the back wall, the mantel above draped with a fake Christmas style green wreath which added a blast of colour to the dark room. Also on the mantel were a few photos of a couple’s –Brook’s parents? – wedding, a baby girl, a boy child-Brook ?- and a very old photo of what the farmhouse originally looked like.

‘Does the rest of the house look like this?’ Fern asked as she swept her fingers over the top of the other sofa.

‘No,’ Brook replied, ‘it’s the parlour and hardly used.’

Fern frowned and moved around the sofa as the taxi driver walked in and put some more bags down. He then hurried around again as Brook began adding those things to the pile.

‘It’s meant to be used by guests when they first arrive and as an overflow for parties. My parents never used it, but couldn’t come up with anything else to do with it,’ Brook explained.

Fern looked up at the ceiling and saw a sliver chandelier with dangling white crystal drops. The walls were covered in white wallpaper which had a red velvet fler design on. The carpet was a dark red plush, deep pile and hardly worn. Fern sat on the edge of the sofa and watched the taxi driver bringing in the last of her things.

The man stood awkwardly and out of place beside the sofa and Fern wondered if she looked the same. Feeling tried from all the traveling, she rested back on the sofa, sprawling out and sinking down. She watched Brook pushing her suitcases against the other sofa then turning to the man.

‘One last thing, before we pay you,’ Brook said.

The man just shrugged and held out his wrist.

Brook moved forward, wrapping his fingers around the man’s lower arm. He lowered his head and Fern watched Brook open his mouth, releasing his fangs. She smelt the blood before her eyes had sent the image of Brook biting down into a vein. She stopped up, unable to resist the lure of it and went over to them.

She thought about pushing Brook out of the way and taking the man all for herself. She paused at that thought, caught up between vampire mind and human. It was Brook loudly gulping and breathing, that drew her back. Fern saw him offering her the still bleeding wrist and eagerly she switched places with him.

Fern pressed her lips over the bite marks and sucked hard. Blood danced on her tongue, rich and salty. She swallowed and felt the hungry raising faster in her stomach. Two heartbeats echoed in her ears and for a few seconds all she could think about blood.

‘Don’t take too much,’ Brook hissed from behind her.

She ignored him and carried on. A voice in the back of her head whispered, this man is nothing but food, your survival.

Fern swallowed and almost hummed in delight. The warm blood was soaking though and tingling on the way down. She wanted, no, she needed more. She sank her teeth in harder and drew more blood. The man moaned and swayed, but stayed compliant.

‘That’s enough,’ Brook stated and grabbed her shoulder.

Fern tried to give a little shake of her head to show him it wasn’t, but Brook was already pulling her off. Instead of easing, Fern planted her feet more firmly into the carpet and lend harder into the taxi driver. She felt Brook’s hand tightening and pulling harder.

I’m much more stronger now, the vampire voice spoke.

I won’t let you kill him!  Brook shouted inside Fern’s head.

Why does it matter? We’ve killed before, that same voice stated.

We shouldn’t. It makes surviving more difficult, Book explained, then aloud, ‘Fern stop!’

She opened her eyes and glanced at him, understanding but not able to obey. Blood filled her mouth, feeding a hunger that had felt unknown for so long.

Brook took his hand off her shoulder and wrapped both his arms around her stomach. He yanked her away, lifting and spinning her like a dancing partner as he did so. Fern cried out and wildly waved her arms. Brook shoved her down onto the carpet, but then had to sit on her to stop her from scrambling up and feasting again.

There was a loud thud and they both looked over to see the taxi driver slumped on the floor. He was face down and breathing shallowly, blood flowing from his wrist.

‘Look what you’ve done! He’s going to have to stay here now!’ Brook yelled.

Fern didn’t reply, but threw herself around under him, making loud animal like cries and growls.

‘And you gave into your vampire side,’ Brook added, ‘this is what you become when you lose control, an animal! We can’t live like that anymore.’

Fern growled menacingly and scratched at the carpet. Brook lent over and grabbed her hands, bring his face close to her’s as he did so. Fern strained upwards and tried to bite him. Brook pulled his head up just in time, his eyes glancing at the ceiling before going back down to her.

‘You have to fight the vampire,’ Brook said firmly, ‘you mustn’t give in. You can’t let the power consume you, Fern. Do you hear?’

She stopped struggling and looked at him with a determined expression on her face. Her body relaxed under him and Brook eased off some of the pressure. He caught a flash of a smile on Fern’s lips then she flipped him over and flew to the taxi driver. Brook hit the sofa and suitcases, pain ebbing through his back and legs. Quickly, he scrambled over to them, but Fern had her fangs buried in the man’s neck, draining him.

 

To Be Continued…

Winter Wanderer (Part 9)

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Beck opened his eyes and looked up at the flat, plain wooden ceiling above him. His back was aching from sleeping at an odd angle and his fingers still felt numb. He went to ease himself, but found that Olwyan was using his stomach as a pillow. She was curled into a ball within her cloak and blanket which was covering them both.

‘We have to get up,’ Beck said gently, ‘Olwyan?’

She moaned softly, but did not full awake.

Beck pulled his part of the blanket off his chest and made it into a ball. He slipped it under Olwyan’s head then lower both the floor. Standing up, he stretched then went downstairs to check on Nightstorm. A cold wind blew around the steps and he hurried down them as the wind whistled lonely to itself. He found Nightstorm laying on the ground, dozing in a corner.

Beck approached slowly, giving the horse time to wake and get up. He patted Nightstorm, arranged the woollen blanket over the warhorses back then slipped the bridle and reins on.

He gave Nightstorm some oats then carried on with the rest of the tack, whispering softly to him.

Olwyan soon joined them, bring some items down with her. Beck thank her and began packing them away. He then went up for the rest and when they were ready, he led Nightstorm outside with Olwyan in a safe distance behind. Beck’s feet slipped through the icy snow, the sound echoing through the forest. He patted Nightstorm and they headed back to the road.

‘How’s the wrist?’ Beck asked.

‘A lot better, thank you. That mixture seems to have worked,’ Olwyan replied.

Beck nodded, ‘there will be healers in Erwood. Hopefully it’ll mend correctly.’

‘Me too,’ she spoke, ‘how far do you think it is?’

‘We should be there by the evening as long as nothing else happens,’ Beck tacked on.

‘Let’s pray it does not.’

There was a pause then Beck pointed out the road and they hurried on. Once there, Beck let Olwyan ride Nightstorm again and they journeyed on. Thankfully, nothing else crossed their path, even though they had a few rest stops. The gloomy grey sky, which thankfully did not shower down more snow, changed darker as the late afternoon arrived.

Olwyan noticed the trees moving back from the road and thinning out more. A upright stone came into view on their left and Beck, dropping the reins, hurried over to it. Patting Nightstorm, Olwyan got him to carry on walking and soon came along Beck. He had scrapped the frozen snow off the snow and was tracing the written upon it.

‘Can you read it?’ she called.

‘It’s the marker for Erwood,’ Beck answered back, ‘a few more miles and we should be there.’

Olwyan smiled, ‘good.’

Beck stepped back and took the reins again. He looked up at Olwyan.

‘What?’ she asked after a few seconds.

‘Nothing,’ he replied with shake of his head.

He led Nightstorm on, allowing the silence to cover up the words that had stuck in his throat.

Twenty minutes later, Olwyan pointed out the lights in the distance, ‘look.’

‘Erwood,’ Beck breathed.

‘We made it!’

‘Of course, we did.’

‘Good boy, Nightstorm,’ Olwyan added as she patted the horse’s neck.

Beck looked at her, slowly down, but she did not say anything further. He fixed his eyes back to the road and the lights head. The heaviness that had been growing in his chest seemed to be reaching a peak. Glancing down, Beck saw the snow becoming more disturbed around them. People, horse, carts and other animals had all been walking and digging the snow. He focused on that for a few minutes, chasing his thoughts and feelings back down.

A gate house loomed before them and all too soon, Beck was stopping Nightstorm before it.

The soft sounds of laughter and voices different over to them. Somewhere a door inside the town a door banged shut and a dog started barking. Nightstorm shifted and Beck stroked his face.

‘Who goes there?’ a loud voice disembodied shouted.

‘Seekers of shelter,’ Beck shouted back.

The light in the doorway was covered as a large man walked in front of it and came out to them. He carried a lantern and was wearing a grey cloak which was tossed back. His huge stomach hung over cloth pants which his shirt was barely tucked into. The lower half of his face was completely covered by a long black beard which mingled with his even longer hair.

Olwyan blinked away the bright light and clutched the saddle tighter. She thought about saying who she was and what had happened, but Beck spoke out before she could.

‘We are travellers. We had a run in with some Treomun and a forest ogre.’

‘Where are you going to?’ the guard asked.

‘To Breland. Yes, I know it’s in the other direction. This poor woman’s party was attack and she is the only survivor. I rescued her and are now trying to help her home,’ Beck explained.

The guard brought the lantern closer, leaving the warmth and safety of the gatehouse.

‘The Wanderer. I thought it was you,’ he muttered after a few moments, ‘welcome. Please go through.’

‘Thank you,’ Beck said.

The guard turned and going back inside, he opened the wooden gates and waved them through. Once inside the gates closed behind them and Beck head for an inn. Olwyan looked around at the town which was settling down for the night. The air smelt of burning wood and rich food. Light poured from a few windows and the dog finally stopped barking.

A sign for The eyed Ogre, creaked above them and Beck led Nightstorm around the back.

‘You have been here before?’ Olwyan asking, seeing how familiar he was with the town.

‘A few times,’ Beck replied.

At the back of the inn was a large stable. The doors were open and spilling light out on to a small courtyard. Beck led Nightstorm in then helped Olwyan down. As her feet touched the floor the sound of hurried footsteps came over and she looked down the stable to see two young teenage boys running down.

‘I shall take your horse, sir!’ the first one cried.

Beck thank the boys, but then did most of the work himself, leaving Olwyan to sit on a bale of hay. He came back to her when he was ready and they walked into the inn together. The front room was middle size, with a large fire roaring in the fireplace and a scattering of chairs and tables. A handful of men were sat around, drinking and talking. Beck went straight up to the bar and the innkeeper.

Olwyan walked to the fire and stood before it, holding her good hand out to the flames. Beck called over a few minutes later and she saw the innkeeper slipping coins from the bar and moving away.

‘I got us rooms and a hot bath for you and some food,’ he said.

‘Thank you,’ Olwyan gushed and nearly threw her arms around him.

Beck led her upwards and they found their rooms. The rooms were small but clean and next door to each other. Beck put his things on the floor and went to the shuttered window. He opened it and peered out into the main street below. He breathed in the cold air then feeling Olwyan’s eyes on him turned.

‘Till the morning then?’ she asked.

Beck nodded, ‘Goodnight.’

She smiled and went to her room. Beck closed the door and began thinking about the trek to Breland, he would have to get Olwyan a horse. A soft knocking the door had him opening it again and one of the innkeeper’s daughters was there with a jug of water and flagon of beer. He took them and thanked her, feeling the tiredness sinking in. He drink the beer, washed and changed and enjoyed a warm bowl of stew.

He thought about checking on Olwyan, but the bed was too soft underneath him. He sprawled across it, feeling completely warm for the first time in weeks. Shutting his eyes Beck fell asleep before he even knew it.

 

In the morning dawned clear and bright coming through the coloured glass windows of the Inn. Beck sat in the corner, watching the town’s people going about their business. Before him on the wooden table were the empty pots of his breakfast. He’d asked some food to be sent up to Olwyan, thinking she would rather eat in her room.

The door opened, sending a breeze of cold air and a flurry of snowflakes into the inn. Beck watched the two tall men dressed in Ravenglass guard uniforms go up to the bar. He kept his head turned away, but listened to their conversation.

‘We are looking for a small party of people, they were meant to send word when they had arrived here,’ one of the men spoke.

The innkeeper shook his head and mumbled, ‘I have not seen any large group of people arrive.’

‘Any reports from the forest?’ the second asked.

‘Perhaps, you should talk to that man over there,’ the innkeeper said, ‘he’s known as the Wanderer.’

Beck felt eyes on him, but kept still as the guards came over.

‘Sorry to disturb you, but the inn keeper says you might be able to help us?’

Beck turned and looked at the men, they both seemed identical with their short beards and hair.

‘Depends,’ he muttered.

‘We are searching for a party that were traveling through the forest,’ the first spoke.

‘Two carriages and with twelve mounted guards?’

‘Yes.’

‘There was only one survivor, a woman. She said they had been attacked by bandits. She’s upstairs resting,’ Beck replied.

‘You should go and get her.’

Beck stood up and walked passed them. He went upstairs, knocked on Olwyan’s door and she opened it, told her about the guards. They went downstairs then muttering something, Beck went back up. He packed up his things and took a back door to the stables. He took his things to Nightstorm and began preparing to leave.

The soft running of footsteps made him look up as he was leading Nightstorm out of the stall.

‘Are you leaving?’ Olwyan cried.

‘You should be fine now. Those guards will take you home.’

‘No, they want to take me to Ravenglass! I don’t want to go.’

‘I don’t think there’s a lot I can do about that…’

‘Take me with you,’ Olwyan declared.

‘It’s best this way,’ Beck stated and brushed passed her.

He led Nightstorm into the courtyard and down the side of the inn without a backward glance. Though he found it hard to resisted, he could still hear Olwyan’s heavy breathing coming from behind him. He stepped out on the street and turned.

‘It’s not worth it,’ he muttered to himself.

‘Beck!’ Olwyan shouted.

He gave and turned, ‘come on then!’

****

Small Note.

Hi and thanks for reading this story. As you might have guessed if you’ve read the whole thing, I’ve had trouble keeping it short because it seems the characters were too interesting. I’ve had lots of ideas and other thoughts that just haven’t made it in. And unfortunately due to wanting to publish other stuff and not being able to come up with a better ending, I’ve left it open for more.

So, I was wondering if I wrote some more in the next few months or so, would anyone be interested in reading more of Beck’s and Owlyan’s story? Please let me in the comments and if you have any other feedback which will help me improve the story please let me know.

Winter Wanderer (Part 8)

.:

Beck led Olwyan on a wide loop back to the road. The snow came up her knees in places and twice she had to talk Beck into stopping. Her body ached with the bruises from the fight and the cold, but it was her broken wrist that hurt the most. Both times they stopped, Beck suggested she rest her arm in the snow and pile more on top. The first time she refused, but the second time she agreed and found the freezing snow give some relief. Kneeling on the floor, her arm and hand wrapped in snow, Olwyan looked up at Beck through the falling snow and studied him. From all the stories she had heard about elves, she wondered about what he could do. Clearly, he was not magical and he seemed more like a hunter than anything else. Breathing deeply, she pulled her arm out of the snow.

They walked on in silence, listening to the sounds of the winter forest. The strong wind blow heavy flakes around them whilst rattling the tree branches together like bone dice in a cup. Sometimes icicles chimed in or else fell with a muffled thud in the deep snow. Olwyan heard a touch of bird song in some places, the distance cries of the forest demons in others and low growls that could have been wolves or something else.

‘We’re not far from the road again now,’ Beck said.

Olwyan rubbed her wrist, which she held pressed to her chest and looked around.

They went through some thinning and smaller trees then the slope up to the road was before them. Beck helped Olwyan up and they stood on untouched snow. She could not see very far in the small blizzard and left Beck to paw around for tracks. Stepping off to the side, she buried her wrist in the snow again.

‘This part of the road does not seem any different. Are you sure we did not double back on ourselves?’ Olwyan called.

‘Trust me,’ Beck responded over his shoulder, ‘we haven’t been here before.’

Olwyan bit her lip and watched him. A few moments later he came back to her and helped her up.

‘It doesn’t look like Nightstorm and the forest ogre have been here. We shall have to walk back.’

‘It cannot be much further to Erwood. Could not you come back for him? I really need a healer and a hot bath and some food,’ Olwyan added.

Beck looked carefully forward down the road then back along it, ‘no.’

‘He is only a horse. I am sure he’ll be fine.’

‘Nightstorm is more than that,’ Beck stated, ‘and with this snow he won’t make it.’

Olwyan sighed, the breath misted before her, ‘Maybe he will. Please, Beck. I do not want to be in this forest anymore.’

Beck huffed, his hand going to the top of his great sword, ‘I didn’t leave you behind, did I?’

‘I…You could not,’ Olwyan stammered.

‘I could have easily,’ he snapped, ‘go to Erwood if you want. I’m going to find my friend.’

Beck turned and marched off down the road, hand still on the pommel of his sword.

Olwyan glanced around and shivered. She pulled her cloak tighter and felt tears welling in her eyes. She looked down the road and wiped them away before turning back again. Beck’s figure was fast disappearing.

‘Wait!’ she shouted then hurried after him.

Her feet sank into the snow and she struggled to run. The movement made spikes of pain shoot through her wrist. The last of her tears ran down her cheeks and snowflakes melted on top of them. She stumbled, failed to save herself and slammed into Beck’s back. He spun and caught her, wrapping his arms around her waist to keep her up.

‘I’m sorry,’ she babbled, ‘it’s just after everything…’

‘I understand,’ Beck replied and pulled her up into a hug, ‘I really wouldn’t have left you.’

Olwyan nodded her head into his shoulder as her arms wrapped around him. Her fingers brushed against the quiver resting against his back.

‘And we cannot leave him.’

Beck lifted her chin and wiped her face gently.

Olwyan dropped her arms and moved out of the hug. Her wrist was throbbing. She rubbed it and thought she felt the broken bone moving. Beck rubbed her shoulder then stepped off into the trees. He came back with some short branches and dropping them at her feet, pulled up the layers of top clothing he was wearing.

Olwyan looked away then back again as she heard a ripping sound. Beck was tearing strips of his undershirt off with a dagger. She frowned and wondered where he had been hiding that blade. The strips fell on top of the branches then Beck made a splint and wrapped her wrist up.

‘Thank you,’ she muttered.

‘It should help,’ Beck replied, ‘let’s go.’

They got back to walking and the snowfall seemed to let up for a few minutes, giving them a clearer view. Olwyan peered through the trees, but could not see anything. She trailed behind Beck, unable to keep his pace. An hour later, Beck stopped and even through the snow had started again, Olwyan could see what he was looking at. Before them on the left side of the road something large had ploughed through the snow going down the slope. Beck went over and crouched down inspecting the disturbed snow carefully. Olwyan lingered beside him.

‘I can’t be sure, but this looks like a horse. There’s dried blood spots here too,’ Beck spoke.

He stood and looked between the trees. The snow had fast filled in the trail the animal had left behind.

‘It’s getting dark,’ Olwyan whispered.

‘Wait here and I shall follow the trail.’

She looked into the forest then back at him.

‘It’ll be faster and you can rest up. Here,’ Beck said and gave her his short sword again, ‘take my cloak too and the bow and arrows.’

Olwyan tucked the sword under her arm and let him wrapped his cloak around her. He left the long bow and quiver at her feet.

‘I won’t be long. Scream if anything happens.’

She nodded then watched him disappear into the trees. For a few minutes, she stood and looked around then picking up the bow and quiver went to a nearby tree and lent against it. She watched snow falling against the already covered tree branches opposite her and tumbling to the ground. Finally she gave into her tried limbs and sat down, wrapping Beck’s cloak tighter around herself, though the coldness still seeped through. She shut her eyes and huddled over, thinking warmer thoughts.

 

Beck moved through the trees swiftly, snow crunching under him and sinking. Every so often, he would stop and look for the trail. The fresh waves of snow were burying it all too fast and he was painfully aware that he had to find Nightstorm but not leave Olwyan for so long. His burning, frozen fingers moved the top layer of snow and looked for hoof prints and blood drops.

Luckily, the trail went in a straight line between the trees and he was able to catch up to the animal. He peered through the trees and saw a large black warhorse kicking snow and ice from a stream before him.

‘Nightstorm!’

The horse’s ears twitched back then the head swung to face him.

Beck darted over and grabbed the bridle. His other hand stroking the long neck and patting the horse. Nightstorm whinnied and brushed his check against Beck. In response, Beck buried his face in the warhorse’s neck and breathed in the smell of sweat.

Letting go, Beck checked him and saw there was a few scratches and bite marks from the forest demons, but nothing more. Seeing that his packs were still secure, Beck drew his great sword and hacked through the iced over stream. Water bubbled up and spilled out. Nightstorm lowered his head and drink. Beck joined him then led him back to the road.

 

Olwyan raised her head at the sound of movement coming from behind her. Slowly, she tightened her numb fingers around the short sword. Peering out from the hood, she saw Beck coming through the trees with Nightstorm. She stood and went over.

‘He is fine,’ Beck said.

Olwyan pressed her head into Nightstorm’s shoulder and stroked his soft damp coat.

‘We need to make for the next outpost now,’ Beck cut in.

‘How far is it?’

‘Two, three hours perhaps, maybe more, but it is closer than Erwood.’

Olwyan nodded and went to give his cloak back to him. Beck first went to get his bow and arrows, then having sorted everything out, headed back to the road. They walked for a few minutes then Beck helped Olwyan on to Nightstorm’s back and led them to the tower.

 

She was not sure how much time had passed when they arrived, but the sky was almost black above them. Beck helped her stiff body down from Nightstorm then drew the lantern and a fresh candle. Olwyan watched him light it then hold it out to her. Taking the lantern, she went to the doorway and looked in.

‘There’s snow in here,’ she said.

Beck came to her side and peered in. The tower looked identical to the last one, only the front door was missing and snow had gathered in the ground floor room, almost reaching the first step of the spiral staircase.

‘It’s better than out here,’ Beck said and gently pushed her in.

Olwyan walked forward and heard him leading Nightstorm in. She shone the light on the wet walls and thought she saw patches of dark stains. She turned back and held the lantern so Beck could take Nightstorm’s tack off and gather the things they needed.

 

To Be Continued…

Winter Wanderer (Part 7)

.:

Beck’s hand tightened on his great sword and he looked around Nightstorm. Taking shape from the trees were small dark green skinned demons. Most of them walked on two feet and carried sharped sticks in their hands. The rest were on all fours, snapping black mouths full of fangs and showing off short pronged horns. Their large eyes were red and glowing in the shadows of the trees. Their chittering noises changed to loud howling cries.

‘Treomun,’ Beck hissed, ‘forest demons. We should get out of here.’

‘But what about-’ Olwyan started.

‘They have a taste for horse flesh and an even greater one for humans,’ Beck cut in.

Olwyan glanced at the frozen face of her husband to be then at the demons, swallowing her words and tears. She went to touch Nightstorm, but the warhorse was shifting uncomfortably, his nose flaring at the scents drifting from the demons.

Beck threw the reins up to her, but she failed to catch them one handed. Olwyan scurried after the leather straps and almost tumbled off Nightstorm. Beck bet her to them, grabbing them and steadying her with a single hand. She looked at him, marvelling at his speed and strength.

The howling stopped from the trees and Beck tore his eyes away from her’s. He moved swiftly around the horse, coming to a stand a few steps before Nightstorm and the forest demons. He two handed his sword, spread his feet over the snow and prepared to meet them. Beck’s eyes scanned across the enemy, he could not pick the leader out and there was too many to count.

A sharped branch whistled through the air, but the wind caught it and pulled it off to one side. A loud chittering went up then a small group broke away from the front and charged him. Beck swung his great sword to meet the first one and sliced through three almost at once. The small bodies tumbled into the snow spreading black blood as the five survivors jumped as one. Beck swung back, cutting down two more. The other three sunk their teeth into his arm, stomach and legs.

Another small spear was launched and Beck dodged it, but the wind blew it off course again and it land as aimlessly as the first had done. One handing his sword, he plucked the forest demons off and threw them back at their companions. The demons were as light as the branches they were throwing and landed just as weakly amongst the others, still though it caused a small disturbance. They hurried to rearrange themselves and the stronger ones pushed through to the front ranks.

Beck stole a glance at the warhorse then slapped his flank to get the stilled animal to move. Nightstorm jumped into a walk then a trot, heading down the road. Snow kicking up in his awake and the Treomun yowling after him. Beck rushed forward to meet the new front line, districting them from splitting off after the horse.

Olwyan twisted desperately to look back, tightly clutching the reins whilst trying to unsheathe the short sword at the same time. She felt a wave of sickness and was tipped forward as Nightstorm stumbled over something. She went to grab the saddle, missed it and pitched forward into the horse’s mane.

Crying out, Olwyan struggled to stop the short sword from slipping from her sweaty hand. A small pain kicked into her chest as Nightstorm recovered and carried on. She straightened and the sheath fell off the short sword. She looked back at the black leather lying on the crisp snow and saw the end group of forest demons breaking off towards her.

Whipping back, she urged the old warhorse on with a slap of the reins. Nightstorm picked up his pace into a full run causing Olwyan to flatten herself down as best she could and hang on for dear life. The white forest blurred around her and she shut her eyes as an icy wind hit her face. She felt Nightstorm running into something and heard his panicky cry loudly as they tumbled into the snow.

Olwyan instinctively rolled away as she fell off the horse, desperately trying to keep hold of the sword. She slammed into a tree trunk and saw blackness dancing before her as pain jabbed into her stomach. Groaning, she eased herself on to her back and looked up at the grey sky above, heavy with more snow. She looked to the side and saw Nightstorm picking himself up.

She went to ask if he was hurt then stopped herself. The warhorse shook his snow covered coat and walked back up to the road. Olwyan thought he seemed fine. She sat up, breathing deeply, one hand pressed to her stomach were pain throbbed. Using the tree for support, she pulled herself up and looked up at the road. They had not fallen that far from it. Trying to follow in the horse’s hoof prints she walked back up the small slope, her feet sometimes slipping.

Olwyan found Nightstorm standing, head lowered and almost, she thought for a fleeting moment, as if he was waiting for her. Then she saw the approaching Treomun and realised that he was watching them. Quickly, she went over and tried to lift herself into the saddle. She planted her hands in the middle of it and jumped up. Her feet scrapped over the stirrup, missing it a few times before she lost the strength and had to stop. Landing back down, she looked at the forest demons, they were closing fast.

‘Olwyan!’ she heard Beck screaming in the distance.

She screamed his name back as the Treomun rushed her and Nightstorm then screamed again. She swung the sword out wildly in front of her and felt the blade connect with crunch. Shooting a look down, she saw a green body tumble into the snow then sliced out again. She heard Nightstorm neighing loudly and felt a rush of wind. Glancing over her shoulder she saw him mount up, kicking his front hoofs.

Fear shot through her and Olwyan rushed forward, forgetting everything as a terrible memory played out before her eyes. She felt small fangs sinking into her hand bring her back to the forest. She flung her empty hand away, but the demon did not let go and she met its red eyes as she brought her hand back. She felt other small bits and scratches all around her as she turned madly around.

Beck shouted her name through the haze of snow then appeared before her. She watched him kicking the Treomun aside and slicing his sword through them. They chittered and mustered around him, a few luckily enough to get close to biting at his legs. Beck grunted and flung them away into others close by.

‘Get back to Nightstorm!’ Beck yelled.

‘I’ll try,’ Olwyan cried and turned around.

She saw the forest demons clustering around the horse and biting into his legs. One had even climbed up onto the saddle and was starting to crawl along the warhorse’s mane. Feeling determination filling her, Olwyan lashed out with the sword and freed herself from the surround enemy. She rushed over to Nightstorm and began jabbing at the demons before him.

The warhorse was twisting, almost dancing about as he stomped and bucked. He turned around and Olwyan stumbled backwards as a Treomun that had been clinging to his tail flew off and hit her in the chest. Nightstorm reared then broke into a run.

She called after him then cried out as a sharp biting pain shot into her already bleeding hand. She looked down, saw the little demon and pierced him with the sword. He gurgled, spit black blood at her then slipped limb from her hand. Another came at her, jumping from the ground and to her knee. She twisted and it smacked into her side instead and fell back into the snow.

Something landed on her head and she blinked away a melting snowflake. Stealing a look up, she saw it was snowing then her eyes slide across to Beck. He was still fending off the Treomum, who did not seem to be depleting in number. Olwyan felt a tug on her skirts and looked down to see the demons crowding around her once again.

‘Go away!’ she yelled and brought the sword down on the first one’s head.

The blade easily sliced through the thin skull and the creature slipped to the floor. She swung out at another, dispatching that one too then carried on cutting them down.

‘Run, Olwyan!’ Beck roared.

She looked up, shaking snow from her hair and saw that something else was looming out of the forest. Beck ran passed her and grabbed her right wrist, narrowly missing the blood stained blade of the short sword. He yanked her into a run and somehow, she managed not to fall over as she turned to follow him and swapped hands. Beck swung his sword at any Treomun that got in the way, but it looked to Olwyan as if they were running too.

Beck cut down his final demon and the road opened before them. Pulling the woman behind him, he rushed on, hoping that Nightstorm hadn’t gotten far. He risked a look back and saw passed Olwyan the last of the Treomun scattering before a huge forest ogre. He decided not to tempt her in looking back. Beck urged her on instead, ‘come on! Hurry! We can’t lose Nightstorm!’

Gasping, Olwyan pushed harder, trying to ignore the pain that now seemed to be all over. Snow landed thick and fast around her, building up to a blinding blizzard. She smelt something rotten and damp that caused her to start gaging.

Beck swore then yelled, ‘we have to get off the road!’

‘But Nightstorm!’ Olwyan shouted back.

‘We don’t have a choice!’

He twisted to the left and jumped off the road, dragging Olwyan behind him. She cried out in pain, feeling her wrist sparking up in deep agony then her mouth was full of snow. She lay still, breathing deeply, tears running down her face. Her body throbbed and ached with the cold. She tried to move her left hand and felt sharp shot of pain. Coughing out snow, she cried then felt a hand wrapping around her month.

‘Be quiet,’ Beck hissed in her ear, ‘and kept still.’

She nodded, he took his hand away and she felt him throwing snow on top of her. She pulled up her hood and lay cheek down, trying to stay quiet. She forced on the trees, slope and road ahead of her trying to spot Nightstorm. Silently, she prayed the horse had gotten away and he was safe. She felt Beck patting the snow down around her then heard him began to bury himself.

Olwyan sniffed and felt her nose growing wet, but couldn’t move to wipe it. A growling drew her attention and she looked up to the road. A large creature was stood there against the gloom. She could make out huge bent shoulders covered with moss and sticks and a large rounded head with sprouting black hair and when it turned, she saw the face had squashed features. The nose was large and flat, the nostrils flaring quickly and the eyes were small and beady were scanning through the trees.

A maul mouth full of flat teeth was hanging half open, drool dripping from it as the remains of a Treomun tumbled out. She looked at the trunk arms and legs, seeing patches of pink flesh colour underneath all the green moss and plants that seemed to be growing on the body. The creature sniffed and with a low groan, ambled forward along the road, dragging half a tree trunk behind it.

Olwyan shut her eyes and let her face slip further into the snow. She breathed deeply and waited for Beck to dig her out. A few minutes went by and listened to her own breathing and the fading callings of the forest demons. A soft scrambling and movement close behind her, made her wonder if Beck was moving then she felt the snow shifting around her.

‘Olwyan? You must stay quiet, the forest ogre has good hearing as well as smell,’ Beck’s voice whispered from above her.

‘I think my wrist is broken,’ Olwyan muttered.

She felt Beck’s breath on her nose then cheek as he lightly pulled back the edge of her hood. He was laying over her through the snow and she could feel warm air coming off him. His rough fingers touched her left hand and moved it. She bit back a wave of pain and pressed her head into her hood to hide the tears. Beck’s fingers went down and moved her wrist. She sank her teeth into the fabric of her hood and moaned.

‘It is,’ Beck replied, ‘I’ll dig you out some more, then we must find Nightstorm.’

Olwyan murmured and felt him moving more of the snow. With her right hand she helped him then he pulled her upwards. The short sword slipped from her and fell back into the snow. Beck picked it up, sheathed it and attached it to his other hip.

‘You got the sheath?’ Olwyan asked.

Beck nodded and reached for her wrist, he looked at it then cast his eyes around.

‘There’s nothing I can use here. We need to get back to the road. This way, we will loop around first and avoid the ogre. He’ll turn when he losses the scent and come back here.’

‘You’ve faced one before?’ Olwyan asked.

Beck nodded, ‘they are almost un-killable. Here take my hand.’

Olwyan took it and together they walked through the fast falling snow and the trees.

 

To Be Continued…

Winter Wanderer (Part 6)

.:

Beck led Nightstorm and Olwyan to the road. Stepping on the raised, crushed stone way which was covered by untouched snow, they looked both ways. The dwarf and man made road created a straight line through the forest and joined the two towns at the north and south edges. Beck let go of the reins and pulled up his hood, knowing he was best not be seen here.

‘I’m not sure which way to go,’ Olwyan said in a quiet voice, ‘I do not think I ran in a straight direction.’

Beck crouched in the snow and began sweeping away the top layer. Slowly, he moved to the centre of the road and went either side of Nightstorm. Olwyan which him, but could not see what he was searching for. She patted the warhorse, who restlessly pawed the snow. Beck came to a pause and stood up; wiping wet snow from his hands on his leather pants.

‘How many were in the party?’ Beck asked as he came back to them.

‘About twelve horse guards and two carriages with four horses each,’ Olwyan replied thoughtfully.

‘How long had you been traveling for since you entered the forest?’

‘A day. We arrived in the morning and were attacked in the evening.’

‘And did you see or meet anyone else on the road?’ Beck questioned.

‘Not that I remember, but I did fall asleep for some time mid-afternoon.’

‘Then I think you passed this way. The horse hoof prints seem to indicate that,’ he added as Olwyan looked slightly confused.

Beck took Nightstorm’s reins and walked the horse on again. The snow crunched less loudly under them, but the sound still broke the quietness of the forest. They heard birds singing in the distance for the first time and the wind continuing to huff through the tree branches. Olwyan looked at the small trees on either side of them, trying to remember if she had passed this way before. However, all the snow covered trees looked the same and with the ground freshly covered also, she could make out any land features.

‘What if we do not find them?’ she asked.

‘Then we make for the next outpost for the night and head to Erwood in the morning,’ Beck replied.

Olwyan kept quiet and breathed out heavily, to watch the breath mist before her.

‘You can ask them to set up a search party there. Though, if anyone did survive they will not make it another night out here.’

‘What if they found shelter, like I did?’ she pressed.

Beck looked at her over Nightstorm’s head and shoulder, ‘perhaps. If they did we shall meet them at the other outpost, for there is no other shelter around here now.’

‘What about the elven city? Surely you know where that is?’

‘It’s miles, days from here,’ Beck muttered, ‘if you can find it. I have only seen it twice after a month’s search both times. It’s too well hidden and the few others that knew the way have passed on now.’

‘I heard it’s haunted with the ghosts of elves and goblins that were killed there. They are locked in a battle to the end of time,’ Olwyan declared.

‘That may be so, but I have never seen any ghosts there.’

They fell silent for a few moments, till Beck spotted something ahead in the snow. He slowed Nightstorm then let go of the warhorse’s reins and came alongside him. Olwyan watched as Beck first drew a great sword and belted it around his hips under his clock before pulling out a long bow and a quiver of arrows.

‘What is it?’ she dared to ask in a whisper.

‘Don’t know. Hopefully, your party. Stay here and take this,’ Beck said and handed her his short sword.

Olwyan took it and unsheathed it slightly to see the silver blade beneath, ‘is this elven steel?’

‘Yes. Do you how to use it?’

‘I am not sure…’ she trailed off.

‘You might need to defend yourself,’ Beck cut in, ‘just go with your instincts and do not trust Nightstorm to do all the work. He’s more into fleeing then fighting now.’

She nodded and sheathing the short sword, stroked the top of Nightstorm’s shoulder.

‘Looks like you are getting better with him now,’ Beck pointed out.

‘Just a little,’ she replied shy.

Beck smiled and set off. Avoiding looking back at the young woman, clutching his sword and atop his stallion, he kept his eyes forward and stole glances to either side every few seconds. He saw nothing but bare trees and snow piles. Slowly, he approached the blue cloth he had seen buried in the snow, listening all the while.

He unsheathed his great sword as quietly as possible and reached the tip out the blue cloth. It felt frozen solid under the blade. Beck pulled it back, holding it in one hand as he moved the snow around with his foot. More the blue cloth appeared until finally, he picked the cloak off the ground with his fingertips.

He turned and went back to Olwyan with it.

‘Do you recognise this?’

She lowered her hood and looked at the cloak, ‘yes, all the guards were in blue.’

‘Then I think we have found your party.’

Olwyan gasped and made to get off Nightstorm. Beck stopped her, by laying a strong hand on her ankle.

‘No, don’t. Stay on Nightstorm, it’s safer,’ Beck hurriedly said.

‘But, Eric!’ Olwyan cried.

‘That was his name?’

She nodded and went still. Nightstorm shifted under her and she quickly gripped the saddle. Settling back on him, she looked down the road and could just make out the top of a carriage. She pointed a finger to it and Beck followed her gaze.

‘Come on,’ he said and carefully led Nightstorm over.

A few inches away from the snow buried carriage lying on its side just off the road, Nightstorm sudden stopped. Beck felt himself yanked backwards and his feet kicked up snow. He looked down and saw brown matted hair laying on the disturbed snow.

‘What is that?’ Olwyan uttered.

Beck crouched and rubbed some of the hair under his fingers, ‘its horse,’ he breathed.

Coming back to Nightstorm, he pushed a shoulder against the warhorse’s and moved him on with a wide berth. Olwyan looked back as a harsh wind started up and blew the top snow away, showing more of what was underneath. Her hand flew to her mouth and she swallowed a scream.

Beck looked up at her, attention drawn by the rasping of leather on leather. The hand in which Olwyan was holding his short sword was shaking badly. He muttered to Nightstorm, who lowered his large head to listen closer. Beck moved his hands further up the reins and they carefully walked on.

Moments later, the wind wildly picked up and threw snow into their faces before blowing the trees in a laughing like sounded. Beck felt something hard under his boot, but didn’t stop to find out what it was. Scanning the ground he made out more dead horse like shapes and few that could be humans. Gritting his teeth, he walked on, hand tightening on his great sword.

‘They are all dead,’ Olwyan finally forced out.

Beck did not reply and led them over to the second carriage, which as he worked out with a glance back had actually been in front. He let go of Nightstorm and walked over to the upside down carriage. Scrapping away the snow, he tried to look inside, but couldn’t see anyone. He dug faster and his fingers hit the sharp edges of a sword, he pulled it out and tossed it to the side.

‘There,’ Olwyan pointed out a few moments later.

Beck paused in his digging looked at the red cloak that had popped out of the snow. He brushed the soft powder away then dug some more. A face began to appear. He heard Olwyan gasped and snapped his head up to her’s. She had tucked his sword under her arm and had pressed both her hands to her mouth.

‘It’s him then?’ he asked.

She nodded as tears blurred her eyes.

Beck stood and went to her. He reached for her knee, but a low chittering sound stopped his hand. He quickly glanced to the trees and saw a number of small figures appearing from behind the trunks.

 

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

Winter Wanderer (Part 5)

.:

Beck finished putting on Nightstorm’s saddle and bridle. With a glance over his shoulder, he led the horse through the broken door and a few steps away from the abandoned elf tower. The snow crunched loudly around them and once again Beck and Nightstorm sank a little in the white drifted. Leaving the warhorse listening and smelling the air, Beck went back and held his hand out for Olwyan.

She stood in the doorway, peering out uncertainly huddled in her riding cloak. She looked down at his hand then the depth of the snow and the footprints he and Nightstorm had created. Olwyan picked up the side of her skirts, lifting them clear of the snow then took his hand and stepped into one of Beck’s footprints. Her smaller booted feet sink into the snow. She took another step and found the going easier then she had first thought.

Beck led her up to Nightstorm and reached for the back of the saddle.

‘I shall give you a lift up.’

‘I cannot,’ Olwyan stated, ‘I have never ridden a horse.’

‘That does not matter,’ Beck replied.

‘I will walk, thank you.’

She turned and took a few steps away, still using Beck’s footprints. Behind her, she heard Beck clicking his tongue and walking Nightstorm on. She stepped onto fresh snow and her feet sank into the softness, she stopped looked into the forest, the task of walking back to the road now daunting.

‘It’ll be easier,’ Beck said close behind her.

‘I can’t!’ Olwyan snapped.

She turned and saw that Beck had come to her side with Nightstorm two steps behind him, standing still. The huge black horse stood proudly out against the white snowy scene, an ink blot on white paper. He flicked his tail and looked off into the forest, his ears pricked for any sounds.

‘Give me your hand,’ Beck said gently.

Olwyan held it out, but did not look at him. Beck moved her hand towards Nightstorm’s nose. She shut her eyes and tensed, holding her breath. She felt a hot breath then warm velvetiness on the back of hand.

‘He’s soft and he wouldn’t hurt you,’ Beck whispered, ‘turn around.’

She did, but kept her eyes shut. Olwyan felt her hand being flattened against the horse’s muzzle and moved upwards. The velvet feeling changed to one of silkiness as she felt his short hair under her fingers.

‘See? That’s not so bad.’

Olwyan nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She felt her hand being dropped and movement beside her. Beck’s mumbled words reached her, but she couldn’t full hear them. When he came back to her side, she cracked open her eyes and saw that Nightstorm had moved and she was now looking at his saddled back.

‘I’ll lift you up,’ Beck said, ‘put your foot here and your hands here.’

‘I shall try.’

She felt Beck hands on her hips and her feet leaving the ground. She placed the right on into the stirrup and her hands on top of the saddle and helped him lift her up. Moments later, she was surprised to realise she was there. Straighten her skirts and cloak, she patted Nightstorm at the base of his mane and looked over his head. She had a higher view of the forest now.

‘Where are you going?’ she called to Beck as he moved away.

‘It would be unfair to ask him to carry the both of us and my things,’ came the reply.

Olwyan wiggled in the saddle, ‘I have changed my mind. Get me down.’

‘Sorry, but no, your highness,’ Beck tacked on as he grabbed the reins.

He grinned up at her and clicking his tongue, tugged Nightstorm into moving. Olwyan swayed forward and grabbed the top of the saddle, her legs knocked together and a sick feeling hit her stomach.

‘Tell me about your bracelet,’ Beck called up.

‘I want to get down!’

‘Trust me. It is easier and faster this way. Talking will take your mind off it.’

Olwyan pressed her teeth together and sucked in a deep breath. She felt Nightstorm moving under her, the warhorse not seeming to notice her fear. She shut her eyes and thought about anything else other then what she was doing right now.

‘When we get to the road you can get down. The snow might not be so deep there,’ Beck’s voice drifted to her, ‘the passing carriages and horses will have helped too and we are lower here. We need to make to the next outpost before we lose the light as well, even if it does not snow again, it’s too cold to travel at night now.’

‘Do you know where it is?’ Olwyan asked.

‘Roughly.’

She opened her eyes and mouth at the same time, harsh words dancing on her tongue.

‘Don’t worry about it. Now tell me about you.’

Olwyan was silent for a moment. She slid the sliver bracelet around her wrist, looking at the detailed pattern and words etched across it.

‘You know don’t you?’ she said softly.

Beck didn’t answer, but carried on leading Nightstorm through the snow.

‘I wanted to a be City Priestess,’ Olwyan breathed, ‘but I could not learn the magic. I barely got into the Order, but I thought being there, practising and learning would help. But it was beyond me. I did not want to leave, so they said I could go to help set up a new order in Ravenglass. Of course, that meant being married off and having babies. I did not mind, I was doing it for the Order and if I had a child who could weld magic then I would have been happy.’

‘Do you believe that?’ Beck asked.

‘Yes. And my suiter was so nice. He was tall, not as tall as you though and he had black hair and a young face. The first time we meet he presented me with a dried flower from the mountains. I thought…well, that we would get on. We were in separate carriages,’ Olwyan dropped her voice, ‘I do not know what happened to him.’

‘We should head back then and see if we can find anyone.’

Olwyan nodded and looked through the snow covered trees. She could see nothing resting against their trunks or tangled in their branches. A gently wind blew some snowflakes about and soft chiming coming from the movement of the icicles. Nightstorm snorted underneath her, but ploughed onwards. She patted his neck then wrapped her fingers around the leather saddle again.

 

To Be Continued…

Winter Wanderer (Part 4)

.:

Beck shifted slightly from his stretched out position on the floor. He twisted his head up and looked over at the arrow slit. A thin trickle of yellow light was leaking in. He glanced down and saw that Olwyna’s head was on his lower legs. Her blonde hair was cascading around her and her high cheeks were flushed rosy with sleep. He felt a half-forgotten excitement inside of him and the urge to sweep her hair back grew.

Instead he moved slowly, took her head in his hands and lowered it to the floor. She moaned, making him pause. Her eyelashes fluttered and she stirred, coming awake. Beck took his hands away and shuffled across the floor. Leaving Olwyna to sprawl out as she rolled over and began moving her stiff limbs, Beck tossed the blanket away and got up.

He crossed the floor and tried to look out of the arrow slit, but it offered no view of the outside. Checking his weapons then seeing that Olwyna was dozing, he went to the staircase.  He headed down and as he passed the quarters a soft, sleepy voice called his name. He stopped and peered into the first room almost as if he expected the ghosts from his past to be beckoning him. He heard his name again and this time realised it was Olwyna.

‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ he called out and carried on down the stairs.

Beck found Nightstorm on the ground floor nuzzling at his saddle.

‘Morning. You want some oats?’

The warhorse neighed and Beck dug the sack out for him. Leaving the horse, Beck went to the door and pulled it open. A winter blanket greeted him and the early morning sunlight shone down on frosty snow. Beck squeezed his way out and his feet sink into the crunch snow. He made his way around the back of the tower, his breath misting in front of him. The young trees surrounding him were dripping icicles from their snow topped branches. He watched the sunlight glistening off them and marvelled at the silence of the forest.

Reaching the back of the tower, he dug a small hole and relieved himself. Keeping alert, he shot looks through the close trees and listened out for approaching footsteps. No one, not even an elf or fairy could move silently on snow like this. Finishing, he kicked the dug out snow back and walked in his trail of footprints. Beck went back inside and fixed the door to try and keep some of the cold out. He went over to Nightstorm and patted the horse’s side.

‘It’s cold out there, but at least the storm is over,’ Beck said, ‘looks like you’ve had enough oats.’

He slowly pulled the sack away from the warhorse then tied a knot at the top. Whilst he was putting it away and straightening the tack out, Nightstorm went to the door. Beck heard an iron hoof scratching against the wood. He looked over his shoulder and saw Nightstorm trying to move the door with his head.

Stilling a laugh, Beck went over and slipping under the tall warhorse, helped him to open the door. Nightstorm stepped carefully out into the snowy banks. His nose flared and breathes misting before him as he scented the air. The frosty packed snow crunched and moved under his heavy weight, causing him to sink a little.

‘Don’t wander too far,’ Beck called after him.

Leaving the door, Beck went back up the spiral stairs. At the top he found Olwyna folding the blankets up. Her head shot up towards him as he appeared and fear sparked then faded from her tried eyes.

‘Morning, I was just sorting out Nightstorm,’ he said.

Olwyna nodded and turned back to the blankets.

‘The storm seems to be over, so I’m setting out soon,’ he added.

‘What about me?’ Olwyan questioned as she handed him the blankets.

‘I would not recommend staying here,’ Beck answered.

He went over to the fireplace and picked up the lantern. The candle inside had pooled into a circle of wax. Tucking the blankets under his arm, he picked up the water skin and dried meat leather bag with his other hand, before walking over to Olwyan.

‘I guess I can’t leave you here….but I cannot take you to Ravenglass.’

‘There’s no point in going there now,’ she muttered, ‘can you take me to Breland?’

Beck thought about it, ‘I’ll take you as far as I can,’ he stated then went to the staircase.

‘How far is that?’ she called after him.

He shrugged in the doorway, gave her no answer and started downstairs. He heard Olwyan muttering behind him, flapping out her skirts and pacing around. The notion of why he decided to be alone entered his mind and for a few seconds he thought about setting off without her.

‘But then what would she do?’ he said in a low voice, ‘she won’t get far without a horse and a guide. If she stayed here she would not survive. Even if a few a locals did know about this tower, they would not come. They would think she had been kidnapped or buried in the snow. Looks like I do not have a choice.’

Beck sighed as he reached the bottom of the staircase. He glanced upwards and his darker side questioned leaving her to die. He shook his head, the last remaining shreds of honour would not allow him to do it.

He put everything away in the saddlebags then went outside to look for Nightstorm. The warhorse was easy to track in the snow. Beck found him, drinking out of a small stream which he had broken the ice away from. Nightstorm raised his head as Beck joined him. Patting the horse, Beck crouched down and cupped some of the freezing water in his hands. He sipped it and decided the sweet, piney taste was fine.

Nightstorm nuzzled him and they walked back together, the snow crunching loudly underneath them. The tower appeared between the trees, snowflakes crystallised on the freezing stones. Beck lead the horse back inside and began putting on the tack.

Olwyan appeared at the bottom of the stairs, arms crossed in front of her small chest.

‘I’ll only come with you on one condition,’ she stared.

‘You do not have much of a choice,’ Beck pointed out without turning to face her.

Olwyan huffed, ‘I need to know. Are you an elf or not?’

Beck spun, closed the gap between them in fast strides and grabbed her wrist. She cried out, but didn’t twist away from him as the sliver bracelet jingled down her arm.

‘Only if you tell me about that bracelet,’ Beck growled.

‘All right,’ Olwyan snapped.

Beck dropped her wrist and took a deep breath, ‘I’m only half.’

‘But…’

‘My father was or so my mother used to tell me,’ Beck spoke bitterly, ‘do not tell anyone or…’ his hand closed around the grip of his short sword.

Olwyan followed the movement and nodded with a small gulp.

‘Now you.’

‘It is a long story. Can I tell you on the way?’

 

To Be Continued…