Warg Part IV

The ride up the lake shore was quiet. Wyatt could swear the other three were watching him. He kept his eyes on the trail. The mood of the riding party seemed to have a chill.

    About midday, sun high over the lake, they noticed a column of smoke to the north. The thick black smoke struck upward into the sky like a dark tower.

    “Welbourne,” O’Hare muttered.

    It was dusk when they reached Welbourne. Wyatt was sore and his horse held its head low. The path had led them into the woods to the west of the village. At the top of a hill where the tree-line offered a striking view to the heart of the village the trail veered sharply downhill.

    The four men led their horses into a square. Wisps of smoke and the sharp stench of fire filled their nostrils and burned their eyes. In the center of the square was a fountain in the image of the water bearer. Its cherubic face blackened by soot a steady flow of water streamed from a flask it held in its pudgy hands to a pool. The water was dark and cloudy. On the other side of the square stood the charred framework of three buildings. The center looked to be an inn and the two to either side could have been the town hall or maybe a mercantile. Wyatt and the others walked their horses slowly toward the dozen or so villagers milling about. As they passed the fountain Wyatt saw a long row of bodies shrouded in white, men, women, and children. A soot covered figure walked among them. Wyatt flinched as the man used a hatchet to chop through the neck of what appeared to be a small child.

    “What the hell?” he blurted out. The man with the hatchet looked at him through red and watering eyes, they were dull, empty.

    “Leave it be Wyatt,” said O’Hare.

     Several of them were looking at them, hands on swords.

    O’Hare approached a large man in front of the burned-out inn, “What happened here?”

    “Wargs,” he spat. “three monstrous beasts attacked us las’ night just after dark. Tore through our town meetin’ like the dark one incarnate.” the man’s voice quivered.

    Wyatt felt Fynn staring at him. When he looked to the older man, there was an unveiled malevolence that made Wyatt’s spine tingle.

    “There was nothin we could do. They’re all claw and fang, they tore our people apart.”

    “Were they stopped?” O’Hare asked.

    The big man could only shake his head.

    “Which way did they flee?”

    He looked up at O’Hare, “Who cares.” he looked over the four of them, “They’re monsters straight out a hell.”

    “Yes,” O’Hare said, “but in what direction did they flee?”

    The big man kicked the debris at his feet and flicked a thumb up the main street, north, “Straight outta town near as we can tell. If yer chasin them yer outta yer mind.”

    O’Hare ignored the man. His face was sad as he thanked him, “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said quietly.

    Turning his horse North, the others followed. The villagers quickly formed to question the big man as they left.

    Looking for any sign of tracks in the well beaten street Wyatt’s eyes drifted to the row of bodies covered in white. His stomach dropped as he passed the body of a brown haired girl. Her face was pale and peaceful in death. A crimson stain covered the white cloth at her neck. He knew her throat had been ripped out. He didn’t realize he’d stopped until the man with the hatchet croaked,

    “Ya alright, boy.”

    Wyatt was shaking, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t tear his eyes away from that still, peaceful face. The face from his dream. Though in his memory her beautiful features were contorted in a in a primal terror.

    “No,” Wyatt whispered. Looking at the man Wyatt immediately keyed in on a dark figure over the man’s shoulder. The darkness seemed a hole, a void. He couldn’t see his face but he knew the dark man was leering at him.

    “Wyatt!” O’Hare shouted his iron hands wrapping around his bicep. Snapping too Wyatt noticed the man with the hatchet watching him.

    “It’s for her own good, lad.” he said, nodding to the red-brown stained hatchet. “Otherwise she would return as one of the cursed.” His voice was a barely controlled rasp.

    Wyatt was startled, he nodded, “Of course,” Looking over the man’s shoulder again there was nothing but a sapling growing in a small yard between two buildings. “I’m sorry,” he told the man and turned away. The others followed, Fynn mumbled something to O’Hare.

    An hour before the sun set they stopped for camp. They were near a bloated creek at the base of a cliff leading to high bluffs above the lake. Once camp was set Wyatt and Lemn went scrounging for firewood. Lemn had long finished and was helping his father with rations when O’Hare noticed Wyatt missing.

    Following the narrow path along the stream he broke through the wood line to see the younger man perched on a boulder staring out across the lake. The horizon a mix of orange, red, and violet. Wyatt didn’t move as he approached. O’Hare noted the teens vacant stare across the water.

    “What you saw in the village today bothers you doesn’t?”

    Wyatt sniffed hard and nodded.

    “They said wargs did it. That we are chasing wargs, shape-shifters. If they attacked our village is that what happened to my family. We’re their…” Wyatt choked back something deep within, “Did they…?”

    O’Hare kicked a loose stone, orange and gray and black into the small tide lapping at the shore. After a long moment he said, “I was the one ta do it. Theirs, my own, Annie, and others. That task fell to me.”

    Oh God, “I…” Wyatt tried to say but O’Hare waved him off.

    A long silence hung between the two men until Wyatt said in a low voice, “I saw them,”

    O’Hare didn’t understand, “Saw who?”

    “I saw them, the Wargs.” he said quietly. “They were in my dream. They were at the village. I saw…I ran with them in the woods and there was a man. He wore black, and hid his face, but I knew it was a man. He led us, the pack. Led us through the woods to the edge of the village then…” Wyatt’s voice was a quivering whisper. The rest wouldn’t come out. He could see her face, hear her scream cut off as he tore her throat out. He felt sick. “I saw them, the girl at the village. I saw her die.” Taking his eyes from the boulder, he stopped tracing the crack and looked up. “I think I killed her. I think I’m one of the cursed.” Wyatt wiped at his eyes.

    O’Hare stared grimly at the shoreline. To hear a boy, he’d known since birth say so rationally, that he was one of the cursed? Strangely, O’Hare couldn’t bring himself to be surprised. He was the one to pull the monster off him. The monster’s blood that had run over him like a fountain. It was a miracle he survived at all, much less to rise from the bed unscathed. O’Hare hated himself the minute he saw him on the stairs at the inn. He’d hoped for his own sake the boy would die. He’d known then what needed to be done yet he stopped Fynn and the others. The boy was touched by the beast. Shared blood with the beast. He closed his eyes and could see their faces, the whole crowd. He was squeezing the pommel of his sword.

    “What am I to do?”

    The simple question snapped him back. In the growing darkness the two men stared at each other. Finally, O’Hare opened his mouth to speak…

To be continued…

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Warg Part II

       Wyatt awoke to the tangy twinge of iron in his mouth, his lips sticky. He didn’t know what had happened but he felt clinging fur on his chest. Jumping and thrashing thinking the beast was still on him. He tried to free himself from the heavy musky blanket crushing him. There was some yelling in the distance he couldn’t understand. Terror drove him like a wild animal kicking and tearing at the heavy corpse until finally he was able to worm his way out from under it. Once free he scrambled backward until he banged into the heavy timber wall of the tavern. The impact must have shaken something loose for at that moment he realized it was dead. He stared at dull black eyes and a massive red tongue lolling out of its mouth. Wyatt’s head dropped between his knees and he vomited all over himself.

    The world swirled like a dark storm as he sat there spinning. He couldn’t fight it when he suddenly felt himself heaved upward. His toes dragged along the floor as he was carried off.

***

    Light off the fire flickered and hot tendrils of air licked his cheeks. Eyes cracked and blurry fire mites performed for him, dancing and leaping in the flames. Another pop, and he was awake. Wait…he rolled over, the bear-skin rug was warm beneath him…

    Leaping from the rug he skipped and fumbled until collapsing on the floor. His heart pounded so hard it hurt his ribs. Shadows pranced along the walls as he tried to get his bearings. Muffled voices came from below. He noted a small, neatly made bed in the corner, wash basin and dresser and realized he must be in a room at the inn. Someone must have brought him up there after the attack from those things. It sounded like an argument was going on downstairs.

    Rising from the floor Wyatt noted his body’s complaints with a grimace. His legs felt as if he’d just finished a back to back of the Spring event. The trials never punished him this badly. His forehead felt tight and his hand brushed against a flaky, cracked scab covering gash in his scalp. He found stitches under his blood caked brown hair. More exploration revealed another set across his ribs, almost fifty in all. His left hand was dressed as well, it was tender to the touched but it still worked.

    Slowly, like an old decrepit man he inched his way down the two flights of stairs, the railing ended in a jagged mess six steps from the bottom. Negotiating the destruction with his battered body was and excruciating exercise. The light hurt his eyes and he put a dressed hand up to shield them. There were maybe twenty people crowding the remains of a wide oak bar. The arguing abruptly ceased. Hushed whispers snaked through the air. All eyes were on him.

    From behind the bar stepped Mrs. Darrow. A large woman wrapped in a soot-blackened dress. She gently checked his wounds.

    “Didn’t ‘xpect ta see you so soon Wyatt, ya alright?” she asked, her hand feeling his forehead.

    “A bit sore mam,” he answered, “Where are my folks?”

    The plump woman shot a nervous look back toward the bar. Out of the crowd came O’Hare, his father’s cousin. Wyatt had never seen him without a beaming wild grin shooting out from his thick red beard until this moment.

    “Come with me son,” he said taking him by the shoulder.

    There were at least a dozen pyres poised for remembrance on the hill at the end of the village. Many wept and prayed at the feet of the deceased. O’Hare said nothing as they walked through the village. Even when Wyatt faltered at the foot of the hill O’Hare remained silent; his firm grip on Wyatt’s shoulder gently pushed him on.

Wyatt stood silent, head bowed in front of three waist high pyres. Numb, Wyatt stared at the three shrouds. They were tightly wrapped so he could not see what had truly happened. His father and mother lay to either side of Nina, his little sister. Glistening white cloth streamers connected the three bodies. He stared at them, his mind distant, coldly replaying his last memory of them. His father had been hurt, but he was alive. His mother and Nina had stood amongst the rubble, not a scratch on them. How?

    “You killed the creature that attacked your father though from what we can figure as you were fighting in the tavern, more entered your home. That’s where we found them.”

    They were just preparing for supper…“Did you get the beast that did this?” Wyatt growled.

    O’Hare sighed and kicked at a rock, “They escaped us,” he replied hoarsely.

    “What were they?” Wyatt asked.

    “Don’t know, never seen anything like it.” The older man’s voice faltered.

    “How many did they kill?”

    O’Hare coughed clearing his throat, “The twelve here, three more are still missing, Bennet, Fiino, and the Bruche girl.”

    Wyatt nodded slowly, his burning eyes were locked on the three funeral pyres. Slowly, he limped to each one starting with Nina then his mother and finally to his father. He kissed each one softly on the forehead then stepped back. Wyatt’s eyes flowed like the twin rivers and he could barely breathe. After a long moment he took up an unlit torch and flint from the base of his father’s pyre.

    At the center of the three pyres he knelt. He lit the torch and bowed his head. It wasn’t until the dressing on his left hand began smoldering did he finally stand and step to Nina’s pyre. Gently the flames caressed the kindling until it ignited. He lit his father’s last, laying the torch at his feet.

    “Find your way safely home and be welcome back to the source from which we come.” Wyatt prayed for their souls. He stayed with them until the heat of the three engulfed pyres forced his retreat. O’Hare was standing stoically as he watched three gray-white plumes commingle and the disappeared into the night.

    “I leave at dawn,” Wyatt said softly. He did not wait for the older man to object.

To be continued…

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Warg Part I

“The beast growled and swiped at him. Leaping back, a banister caught him at his waist. There was nowhere to go. The beast took a playful step forward, pawing at him. He swung with a grunt catching it in the shoulder. The beast yowled and barked but the blow had little effect. “

So since I have been playing around with the fantasy genre as of late I figured I would share a short I came up with. While I was editing it occurred to me that this might work well as a serial so I’m going to release this story in segments. ‘Warg,’ is a horror/fantasy read following Wyatt a young villager who survives a viscous attack by a pack of giant wolves. His family is killed, his friends are killed. Left with nothing he decides to hunt the monsters down. I hope you like it. Here is part I, I will release a new segment every two weeks.

Warg


     Wyatt dropped the last load of wood next to the forge then stretched and groaned. Pulling his arms across his chest one after the other his muscles tingled and burned. He dunked a ladle in the water bucket hanging from a thick support beam and gulped down it’s contents. The water was warm and stale, but it felt like a crystal spring after a long day of stoking the fire and pounding metal with his father. They had started the fires before sunrise and it was now dusk.

    Horses needed shoes and four plows needed blades. With the planting season in full swing farmers all over the lake country were snapping tools on the stones and shale hidden in the dark lake country soil.

    A sharp hunger pang answered the water as it hit his stomach and he noticed a plume of gray white smoke rising from the chimney of his family’s modest home. If his nose had not been so full of smoke and soot the smell of the stag stew his mother and sister were cooking would have reached him. His mouth watered regardless.

    Walking through one last time he found a lone horse shoe resting on the second anvil, his anvil. There would be hell to pay if it was there in the morning when they started up again. Waylon, Wyatt’s father, had been the Smithy in Albion since before he was born. Waylon insisted that a sloppy forge led to sloppy work; rule number one was tidiness. Wyatt could not remember how he’d managed to leave it out like that. He and his father had been so busy the last month that there were a lot of things he’d missed, not to mention the call ups.

    Early spring was the yearly call up. When every male of age was given the chance to serve in the regent’s forces. Wyatt was arguably the fastest, one of the strongest, and possibly best with a bow in all the lake country. A season never passed where there was not a new award adorning his bunk in the family’s small cabin. And never did a stag pass within reach of his bow without ending up on his mother’s table.

    All winter the debate raged. His father served a tour, and was decorated. Why should he be any different? Waylon argued there was no time, the family needed him at home, at the forge. That was bunk, four years is the commitment, Wyatt argued. Four years is a life time his father would rule.

    On the day of the call up his father had forbid it, and his mother had cried. At the door of the cabin he stood, duffel on one shoulder, bow and quiver on the other. The standoff was unlike any ever seen in the Smither home. It ended with Wyatt backing down, like he always did. There was no arguing with Waylon Smither, he was always so calm and cool that he just drove his opponent mad. Thinking of it still made Wyatt boil. Three of his closest friends had gone, Ried, Terr, and Glenn all accepted and were now off doing God knows what. They weren’t stoking a fire all day; That was damn sure.

    He was undoing the knot of his heavy leather apron when a distant snap echoed from the wood behind the cabin. Every fiber in Wyatt Smither ignited at once and he froze, stretching his hearing. Slowly he gently draped the apron over it’s hook and stepped out the wide double doors of the forge. He could hear a heavy rustling and snapping. Something big, a stag. He gave it another second. A big stag. Quietly, he retrieved his bow and a quiver of arrows from the doorway. He slung the quiver over his shoulder and was knocking an arrow when he felt rather than saw three huge bodies shoot past the door heading into the village. He was barely out of the forge when he saw a giant brown beast crash through the door of his cabin. It happened so fast he was stunned. A monster just shattered the door to his family’s home. His mother and little sister were screaming. He didn’t realize he was moving until he noticed the fletching of an arrow at his cheek. He was in the doorway of the cabin and staring down the shaft of an arrow as his father roared and crashed into a wall under the massive battering of a thick fur covered limb. He fired. Another arrow was knocked, the first lodged deep between the beast’s shoulder blades. He and the beast met eye to eye as it turned its attention on him.

TWING!

    The second arrow entered its gaping jaws and punched through the back of its head. With a choking gurgle it collapsed in spasm on the splinters of the family dining table.

    Wyatt’s mother and sister whimpered and held each other. His father was groaning and moving very slowly. There was blood staining the back and shoulder of his tunic. Wyatt’s ears were ringing. Wait, his mind scratched the thought through the shock of the past few moments. There was something else…

    There were three of them!

    Stumbling over the wreckage of the cabin door. He heard hysterics, and yelling throughout the village. He ran toward a cacophony of destruction that seemed to come from everywhere.

Halfway down the path he found Master Tambey laying on his back. The man was starring wide eyed at the darkening sky. His bowels were showing. As Wyatt reached the village center at the tavern three men flew from the window adjacent to the front door. A powerful roar pierced his ears. He heard wood splintering inside.

    He entered quickly and broke to the right, his bowstring taught, arrow ready for flight. A lamp had broken and started a fire on the other side of the room. He thought he noticed a torso sticking out from under wreckage on the floor. Somewhere he heard pleading,

    “No…”

    Another beast had master Brauer cornered, it followed him, playfully swatting at him as it walked along the bar. He shot as soon as he saw it and chided himself for being hasty. A rushed shot is a wasted shot. His father’s voice echoed in his mind. The arrow protruded from the beast’s belly. It turned and ripped it from its side. With a berserk shake of its head the reddened arrow flew across the tavern and the beast sprang at him. Wyatt dove out of the way before being skewered by glistening black claws. He hit the floor of the tavern hard and rolled over something soft that grunted beneath him. He bounded to his feet and found Talmadge, a farmer from up north. The older man spewed frothy blood and reached for him pleading. A massive paw drove the man’s head to the floorboards with a wet crunch and Wyatt was face to face with the monster.

    Monster was the only description Wyatt could use to describe this thing. Similar to a wolf but on all fours, it stood almost as tall as a man. It’s jaws were like pincers lined in glistening needle-like teeth. Covered in brown fur two tall pointed ears stood on top of its head. Its eyes were ebony orbs so black and cold they froze his blood.

    The beast paused, it seemed the thing was savoring what it had done to Talmadge. Was it amused..? Wyatt’s bow was gone and his arrows were strewn about everywhere. His hands floundered blindly behind him for anything he may use as a weapon. Grasping something wooden almost the width of his arm, Wyatt hefted an oak table leg. A splintered peg protruded from it about two inches.

    The beast growled and swiped at him. Leaping back, a banister caught him at his waist. There was nowhere to go. The beast took a playful step forward, pawing at him. He swung with a grunt catching it in the shoulder. The beast yowled and barked but the blow had little effect. Wyatt fought a desperate panic rising within him. The beast reared up on its hind legs, paws wide, jaws gaping and collapsed on him like a tsunami of fur and teeth.

To Be Continued…

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.