Reaching #WritePhoto

The five adventurers had been walking towards their quest for weeks now. They had across woodland, swamps and moorland, through sun, rain, snow and darkness, fighting goblin night raids, giant raven attacks and other monsters.

Stepping through a clump of wild brush that had been sneakily trying to ensnare them, the group saw they were at the base of sweeping hills as far as the eye could see. Weak sunlight fell through the cloud cover, causing beams of light to touch the hills.

In the dim light and under a dead tree, they gathered and talked quietly.

The elf ranger was certain this was the right way. The two men- one an aged wizard and the other a hardened solider- agreed with him for the elf had yet to lead them wrong. The dwarf cleric and the halfling thief weren’t so sure.

Nobody really knew what was beyond The Reaching Hills, those that went there didn’t often come back and when they did their minds were lost. It was said that evil ghosts and outcast Gods walked the hills, snatching souls and murdering. The hills were always cast in gloom and no normal light could break though the darkness that lay in patches providing perfect cover for enemies.

‘We must go on and see,’ the wizard spoke, ‘I can give us the magical light we need to see by and stop anything sneaking upon us.’

‘We don’t need to go through The Reaching Hills!’ the halfling cried, ‘we can go around them. To the west they only go as far as the Red River. We can cross the Long bridge there and go around!’

The elf shook his head, white hair spilling around his shoulders, ‘it would take too long.’

‘We could die!’

‘We could have died back there!’ the dwarf shouted, ‘we barely got out of that poisonous man-eating plant patch!’

‘We go forward then,’ the solider said and he started walking up the first of the hills.

The rest of the party followed, wondering if the tales of The Reaching Hills were true and what they would encounter there.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/09/12/thursday-photo-prompt-reaching-writephoto/ with thanks).

Uliginous #AtoZChallenge

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Uliginous: growing in wet or swampy ground.

 

Euric knew the Swamp of Maidswell wasn’t a place anyone should go, yet here he was trying to pull his knee length leather boots out of a boggy patch. Swearing, Euric give his right boot a hard tug and tried to move forward. There was a loud slurping sound and the mud returned his boots though they were covered in dark brown and green slimy mud.

Stepping onto a thick mossy bed, Euric caught his breath. The stench of the swamp filled his nose and mouth, it smelt like rot, dead animals and bad gases. It was something no one could ever get use to and the thick cloth Euric had wrapped around his face didn’t help much.

He took a few extra moments to look around. There seemed to be nothing but little islands of green or brown moss surrounded by green- grey waters. Sometimes there was a small tree, being dragged down by draping moss, reeds growing out of the murky pools and skeletons.

Euric had seen plenty of bodies and skeletons before, the life of an adventurer came with all that. He had even fought undead skeletons once but he was hoping on this quest they wouldn’t appear. He guessed the remains around him were from people who had gotten into difficulty out here which was easily done.

Turning, Euric looked and saw his two companions coming over to join him; the druid Alibus had tied his long white robes up and was wadding though a pool to the right of Euric in new knee length boots which had taken lots of persuading to convince the druid to buy.

‘You can’t go into the Maidswell Swamp with sandals on!’ Euric had cried at the market two weeks ago before they had set off on this quest.

Using his long staff for support, Alibus stepped up beside Euric and began getting his breath back too. The druid looked drained and the large bug bite on his neck was weeping pus again. Euric patted Alibus’ shoulder, hoping his friend was going to be okay.

A loud spitting sound and cursing in elfish, made Euric and Alibus look over their shoulders. A tall, golden haired elf female struggled to shake a giant grey slug off her thigh length red boots. With a high kick, she sent the slug flying and stomped over to join them on the mossy mound.

‘I think this is the most stupidest thing you’ve ever agreed to, Euric!’ the elf snapped.

‘You knew the risks, Nimue,’ Euric said in a controlled voice.

There was light flapping of feather wings and a small brown owl appeared out of the darkening grey sky. She drifted down to the group and landed on the druid’s shoulder.

‘What news, Kiko?’ Alibus asked then leaned in as the owl began twitting away.

Euric and Nimue waited then Alibus translated for them, ‘the skull is close by, we are heading in the right direction and there’s a storm coming.’

‘Good to know,’ Euric said and started walking again.

Drops of fat rain drops began to fall and a rumble of thunder echoed over the near flat land. The water of the swamp rippled and the all ready wet ground welcomed more water. Frogs and toads began croaking loudly.

The three adventurers pressed on for a few minutes as the rain around them grew thicker. Lightening forked the sky and the thunder rumbled closer. Then Euric pointed ahead and shouted, ‘there’s the giant Hangant’s skull!’

Just though all the green and rain, they could see a white-grey skull growing larger ahead of them. They hurried on and struggling through a deep pool, they made it to the giant’s skull. It stood as tall as a castle tower above them, the huge empty eye sockets seemed to be looking down on them and judging them. There was a large, jagged crack in the forehead which widened as it ran all the way down the back of the skull.

Through a missing tooth, Euric, Alibus, with Kiko hidden in his robe’s hood, and Nimue stepped inside. Darkness swallowed them for a few moments then the druid cast light on his staff and they could see they were not the first to use the inside of the skull as shelter. The reminds of a fire from months ago was in the centre and landed out against the back of the skull were two human skeletons.

‘What happened to them?’ Nimue asked.

Alibus inspected the skeletons then give a shrug, ‘don’t know. But their things are here,’ he added pointing to two leather bags and a few other things left in a pile.

‘Can we get a fire going?’ Euric asked, kicking the ashes of the last one.

Alibus nodded and using his staff, he created a real but magical fire.

Euric sat down, dug in his pack for a water bottle and some food. Nimue began looking through the abandoned things for anything useful. Alibis walked around, his light showing that there was nothing else inside the skull then he joined Euric by the fire and let Kiko dry off.

‘Sounds bad out there, I’m glad we made it inside,’ Alibis said.

‘We shouldn’t let our guard down though,’ Euric answered, ‘the stories might say that the Maids of the swamp hide during storms but we all know they aren’t the only danger around here.’

‘The bugs are!’ Nimue cut in.

A smile flickered on Euric’s face, ‘anything worth taking?’

‘No. If they had anything worth taking, it’s gone all ready,’ Nimue answered as she came to join them, ‘right. What do we do now?’

Euric looked up at the massive domed roof of the skull above them, ‘we look for the Trailing Fumewort,’ he spoke, ‘it should be around here somewhere. Remember not to touch it or breath it in.’

Alibus nodded, ‘it has small orange flowers that let off a poisonous scent, pin like purple spikes which are also poisonous, black leaves and a thick twisting vines. Death comes within minutes from it’s dual poisons.’

‘Lovely,’ Nimue muttered sarcastically.

‘The white roots, however are the opposite,’ Alibus continued having not heard her, ‘they bring life and cure all illness.’

‘That’s why the wizard Thuneas wants it then,’ Euric spoke.

A boom of thunder went off outside startling them all. Nimue drew her long bow, arrow notched in a blink and moved towards the closest gap in the teeth. An unsettled feeling rose the hairs on her skin.

The lightening flashed and in the few seconds of light, Nimue didn’t see anything through the cloud of heavy rainfall. It was hard to tell if there was anything about even with the elf’s sharp eyes. Perhaps, the feeling was because of the current nature of their shelter?

‘What is it?’ Euric whispered.

‘Not sure. Let’s look for the Fumewort and go. I really don’t like this place.’

Euric nodded and their search continued.

Postcard #52

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Dear Santa,

This year I’ve tried to be good but sometimes it’s been too hard like when my brother pulls my hair or Mummy says my way of helping is the opposite. I know I should be trying harder in school but its been tough as I’ve had to be on the same table as Rebecca Bentwood and we really hate each other. I hope she’s on the naughty list this year!

I’m trying super hard to be good and helpful now that your elf has appeared to watch me. He has been sitting on my bookcase for the last few nights now and each morning he has left me a chocolate to count the days down with. I have started my list which I hope to send to you soon, this is just a postcard to remind you about me and wish you well.

Mummy said it would be a good idea as you get lots of letters every year asking for presents but not many children ask how you are. Daddy said it was a nice thing to do. I drew you a picture too of your reindeer getting ready to help you.

Hope you are well, all the best,

Sophia Locke

Stuck #TwitteringTales

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Santa sighed and deeply regretted eating that second mince pie. He wiggled but felt  wedged against the sooty chimney wall.

‘Misty-Bell? Sparkle?’ he called, ‘I’m stuck!’

The elves giggled and white-gold glitter drifted downwards. The chimney expanded with a swoosh noise and Santa fell into the fireplace with a bang.

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/11/20/twittering-tales-111-19-november-2018 with thanks).

The Grotto (Part 3)

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We walked back down the queue which was full of chatting children and parents. Willow hugged the present as if she was never going to let it go. I really hoped there was a unicorn inside of there. Glad that was over, I realised I needed the bathroom and a drink.

‘Hey, how’d meeting the Big Man go?’ the male elf said loudly.

I stopped and grabbed my niece’s arm as he suddenly stood before us all green and bells tinkling. There was a huge grin on his face and he was just too happy. He reminded me of the Grinch after he’d stolen everything.

‘It’s fine thanks,’ I muttered.

‘I got a present,’ Willow said proudly and showed him the box.

‘Wow, that’s just great! You must have been good this year then!’ the elf said in fake shock.

‘I’ve been good! Can I have a present?’ a little boy’s voice shouted from the queue.

The elf turned and replied, ‘of course you can!’

We slipped past him and hurried away into the crowd. I’d had enough of this. Heading into the toilets, there was another queue to join but at least it wasn’t as long. I sighed and lent against the wall. Feeling tried and fed up of all these people. I shut my eyes but still the sounds came. A baby was crying loudly behind a closed door, a child was singing Jingle Bells, a young couple were having an argument and there was a constant chatter of other voices.

I felt Willow tug on my coat and I looked down at her.

‘That elf was a bit weird, wasn’t he?’ Willow asked.

‘He was just really happy, that’s all. It’s how they are, I guess…and I really needed the loo,’ I added.

‘Auntie Angel, tell me the truth, is Santa real?’

I rolled my eyes at her use of my name. God, I hated it with a passion. Like how people hate the taste of fish or the sight of a spider or the same Christmas song on repeat. And how I was meant to answer her question? I didn’t want to be the one to spoil Christmas but I hated to lie.

‘What did Santa say?’ I asked instead.

‘If I believed in him then he was real,’ Willow replied slowly.

‘Do you believe in fairies and unicorns and magic?’

‘Yes, I do! but Santa is just different…somehow.’

‘He’s more magical then the rest?’ I suggested as we become the head of the queue.

Willow shrugged and studied the colorful wrapping on the present.

After we’d been to the toilets, we went to a coffee shop, got drinks and small cakes then we walked to the bus stop. I avoided going anywhere near the Santa’s Grotto which meant we went the back way out of the shopping outlet and had to go around. Willow was quiet for the rest of the time, lost in her thoughts.

The bus was busy and I had to stand. A kind, older lady moved her shopping so Willow could have the seat next to her. I placed the bags at Willow’s feet and hung on tight. The bus driver must have been running late as he zoomed off and raced the traffic. The bus smelt like sweaty bodies, dirty water and oil. People were trying to keep to themselves with headphones, newspapers and phones whilst a few chattered about this person or that present or how they were tried of Christmas already!

‘Have you been to see Santa today? the older lady asked.

Willow nodded.

‘And that’s a present from him? You must have have been good girl then,’ she added.

Willow smiled a little and with a quick glance at me, said to the lady, ‘yes.’

‘Your sister’s so nice to take you shopping isn’t she? Did you buy a present for your mum?’

I pulled a face but held the words back in. I was too use to people guessing the relationship between us now. At least no one had called me Willow’s mum today! That’s always the worse, especially when you then work out the age difference.

‘My Auntie,’ Willow corrected, ‘she took me shopping for my family. We are best friends and she’s far more fun then my parents or baby brother.’

‘I bet she is!’ the lady said and smiled more brightly at me. ‘Are you going to save your present till Christmas day?’

‘Maybe…Do you believe in Santa?’ Willow asked.

‘Willow!’ I snapped.

‘It’s fine,’ the lady waved away, ‘yes I do believe still. It’s hard with all this technology and growing up so fast now. But Santa’s out there still, a symbol of hope and happiness for anyone who keeps believing.’

‘I like that,’ Willow said then under her breath, ‘but I’m still not any closer to the truth!’

The rest of the bus journey was normal and we got off before the lady did. We said good bye and merry Christmas then found ourselves stepping into a sleet storm. As the doors closed the bus pulled away, we hurried up the street we both lived on. My older brother’s house was first and the house I currently shared with my grandparents was close to the end of the street. Willow ran up the pathway and rang the doorbell. I had a key somewhere…

The door opened and we both rushed in.

‘It’s almost snowing!’ Willow cried to her dad.

‘It’s really meant to start tonight,’ her dad added, ‘what’s that? a present for me?’

‘No! It’s from Santa!’

‘Another one?’

Willow giggled and ran off to find her mum without taking anything but her boots off.

I looked at my brother, we were so alike we could still be mistake for twins at a distance. Same brown hair and brown eyes, same slightly over weight bodies, though he looked better then I did at the moment. There was four years between us but we’d been through everything together.

‘Hi Alex,’ I said, ‘it was hard to say no to her! but at least all the present buying is done now.’

‘Thanks, Angel. She’s really attached to you,’ he replied.

‘I should go…’

He pulled me into a hug then we said our goodbyes.

To Be Continued…

Beacon

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They had been travelling for two years when the wood elf spotted one of the last beacons. He dismounted from his bay horse and on long legs ran up the hill. The adventuring party watched him go, wondering what he had seen before realising themselves. Three of them dismounted from their horses; the two human fighters and the half-elf wizard. Whilst the dwarf healer and halfling thief stayed on their stout ponies.

The elf came to a stop before the burnt ruins. He nudged an untouched wooden plank with his deer hide boots, flipping it over and staring at it. His hand rested on the  jewelled pommel of his magic sword, ready for a possible ambush. He could hear the wind howling through the long moor grass and the small valleys of the hills.

His companions came to join him, but he ignored their whispers for something had caught his sharp eyes. On another hill, higher then this one and a good few miles away he could see another beacon raising. It appeared unlit. He frowned and looked farther around, but he could see nothing other then the moors and the coming storm clouds.

‘Can you see the other beacon? Is that it?’ the half-elf asked at his side.

‘I think so,’ the elf replied.

The two men came to stand beside them and the elf saw they had drawn their swords.

‘What’s going on?’ a voice yelled up to them.

‘It is definitely one of  Abacros beacons,’ one of the men yelled back.

The elf heard the dwarf and halfling dismount and trudge up the hill. the rest of the party began moving around again. Their boots crunching on burnt wood and dry grass. The elf kept his eyes firmly fixed on the other beacon in the distance. Something didn’t feel right. The more he looked the more his eyes confirmed that the wood had not been lit.

That would explain it, he thought, if the chain had been broken, the city of Abacros had been doomed from the start. 

‘This is beacon forty-two,’ the half-elf announced.

‘We have to go over there,’ the elf cut in.

He turned and saw his companions gathered around a tatty map and a large rock. Without saying anything else, the elf went down the hill and back to the horses. He mounted his bay mare and headed in the direction of the other beacon. Disgruntled words tickled his ears, but the growing wind swept them away.

He glanced up at the sky and saw the storm clouds were rolling in fast. This was really not the place to be caught in bad weather. He urged his horse on, knowing the others had joined him. However, the soft, sinking ground was hard going and it took awhile to reach the tall hill. The rain had started falling as the elf dropped from the saddle and walked to the beacon.

The pile of wood towered above him. It was built in a large square with a cone at the top. His eyes had not lied. The thing had never been lit. He looked down and saw something in the grass. Poking it with the toe of his boot, he saw it was a dirt covered dagger. Just above it and still reaching out for the blade was a dead hand.

‘He’s been here years,’ the voice of the dwarf rumbled, ‘crude arrows Outlanders, maybe.

‘So the guards were attacked then?’ the first man said whilst the other just shook his head.

‘That would explain it,’ the elf answered, ‘and after all these years we now know what happened. The guards were slay before they could lit the beacon. The line was broken and that’s why help was too late.’

‘And Abacros fell,’ the halfling whispered.

Thunder rumbled, drawing their attention away. The horses whined, a few stamped their feet and shook there heads. The elf took a last look around and knew they should be on their way. At last they had an answer for the king.

 

Photo prompt from; https://scvincent.com/2016/09/22/thursday-photo-prompt-beacon-writephoto/

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)

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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…