Friday, July 22, 2016


And there would come a time where evil ran rampant as men prepared for their last days by nourishing the land with the black of their sin and the steel of war's swansong...”

First Winter
The Road to Frostfall

I ran from that place—fast as lighting. I balled up my apron and ran.

“You can't be going at this time of day!” A shrill voice hollers. “You'll freeze in them woods!”

But I'm far gone—in here, anyway. My head. I've got my red hood and cape on. Gloves too, and I'm going—fast as my legs will take me. I'll make it to the tree line, I tell myself, I'll make it to the Wilds and I'll just tiptoe right on through those lurkers and get there the next day.

“I've got a job!” I stop. I cup my hands and yell back. “I won't be back—don't worry bout me, misses!”

I keep going, not bothering to hear what else she's got to say—I've got to get to these woods! Snow's ankle deep and it slows me—but barely. Just barely. I've got nice leather boots and cotton stockings on my legs—this damned skirt does nothing to keep the heat in, but I've got this cloak of red and I can just wrap myself up. I'll be fine. Now—everything's going to be perfect.

She said come immediately. Not tomorrow. Not two weeks from now. She said immediately. Like the job might go away, or she might go away, or the whole thing is just going to be a farce if I get there later than I ought to be. Come immediately, she said. Immediately. So, here I am staring up at the tall oak trees that make up the Wilds. I'm looking into the shadows they make and thinking to myself, I'll be fine if I just go kind of slow. They won't catch me—they won't even realize me. And before they smell my blood and catch a whiff of my scent I'll be gone—through the trees and past the Wilds and into that bitter snow close to Nouis. I'll be at Frostfall and home—not just for a season, but forever. Gods, it'll be nice to stop moving, I think as I plant one foot in the forest—then the other one. Ice crunches beneath my boots and I stop to turn back—to look at the Edgewood Inn. I wave, and then, I am gone.

Maybe I'll see it in another life, but hopefully not this one.

Blue fades dark and soon there is no natural light. I snatch a low hanging branch from a tree with a snap and make fire with the flint from my bag. It takes some time as I kneel and the foliage rumbles—fanning in and out as if god decided to snort a little through it. It's a lurker—gotta be—and I snap the flint and the wood faster—quicker—suddenly I'm boiling hot and my heart's slamming against my chest. Then—fire and I turn on my heel. A rabbit springs out and I sigh. Nothing. It's always going to be nothing.

I can't stop for fear of lurkers—for fear of creatures that scoop you up and take you home for dinner, draining you dry until you're blue in the face and black in the eyes. I know the path—day or night—I've walked it so many times. My own mini-pilgrimage made season after season. When it's cold up there I go down here and over and over until I'm tired of the same darned tree—it's branches gnarled like the hands of a witch; or the same darn sword in a stone, an old grave for a fallen soul. The hilt of the rusting sword sticks up like a cattail, and I kneel down one last time to offer prayers of solitude and peace.

“Tonight,” I tell it, “is my last night stopping by.” I bring my hand to the snow palm first. “Maybe we'll meet again in the next life.”

Hours pass and the road seems longer than before—maybe because it'll be my last time traversing it. The path is almost free of travelers—no one has the guts to walk it at night, not with the lurkers and other creepy things—but not me. Not Sora. I've got my luck and I've got my ways, and I've got my wits about me. I'm not about to be no red blood's dinner tonight, not I. But as the path continues and the snow starts to gingerly fall, I feel the need to sleep as my eyes get heavier and heavier.
And then a song escapes my lips: “Amidst a blanket of stars and a chorus of rain...”

At that I wake as the snow lightly falls. It's cotton and I open my hand to catch it.

“...amidst a sea of white, She slumbers...”

Above, the stars are little rocks of crystal flung into a huge blue deep. Between the branches of stretching trees and the curled brown leaves of some that cling to what little trinkets they have left, the stars wink and they glitter. Like a million little eyes. Snow dots my vision and I blink it away. They are cold tears that bring feeling to my numb face. I'm numb everywhere. The fire on my little branch is dying and I need to create a new one. Throwing it to the snow, I stomp it out and reach for a new branch. Light gets rid of the shadows again as the snow lightly crunches around me—I don't know where that noise is coming from—and I freeze like a little mouse. In minutes it's silent again as I feel my heart slow. So I go on walking.

I go on singing: “Within a forest asleep...within His needlepoint teeth--”

A whinny—a neigh. The hard stomp of cold hooves on frozen ground and I run to the side. My flame does not go out and the horse does not come—it is far behind. Wheels of a carriage—a hard, “Gettup!” and the snap of a whip—the bite. I flinch when I hear it—oh, that poor beast. It stomps, it sighs and the movement stops. The creature is petting the ground—loudly, but what isn't loud in absolute silence? And I hear foot steps, a pair.

“Foot steps went this way.”

“Are they alone?” The voice of a woman. High pitched. She squeaks.

“Yeah. Definitely.” A man. Low and rumbly.



“I heard a singing.”

“Mansa here did too.”

I lay in wait. Could they be searching for me?

“Probably lost.”

“Probably tired.” She sighs. “Here, kitten!”

They're looking for me and I shiver. They sound human enough but I can never be sure. Even monsters seem human at times. Snow breaks like crushed ice and I shiver. My fire will alert them and the foot falls tread ever closer—so close and my flame hisses as it scorches the snow black. Fire crackles and hisses—shadows grow as tall as the towering trees and I hear them walk ever so quietly. One begins to whistle as their horse sighs heavily—it wants to get back on the trail. It knows this is no stopping point. Why do they search for me? Do they wish to help me? It would be nice—I realize as I shiver—to have some food in my belly and a blanket around me. This red cloak does nothing now to keep out the chill and it's cold—oh, so cold. My teeth clang together and they clatter as I hold my body close.

“Bring Manse up.”


And the creature trots. A man whistles. Bushes rustle and birds take flight into the night.

They're whistling my song.

Within a forest asleep...

“Within His needlepoint teeth, within a blare of silence, She slumbers...”

Feet fall all around me and the snow brakes—it cackles and howls in it's cold and icy way. There's more than two of them—maybe four—maybe ten or more as the night attacks me with rustling bushes and fleeing vermin. But I hear two voices. I hear one whistle and one sing and another set of foot falls—more snow falling and trees rustling—the forest is attacking and I have no way of defending myself. What could go wrong if I showed them where I am, right now? If they are not my only attackers—if there is some lurker in the forest while they search for me, what harm could these human lookers pose? What harm? I shiver, I shiver, I shiver and I'm numb as the forest spins.

“And with every cut.”

A hard crunch, a swift bite of snow.

“And with every slice.”

I gasp — my lungs can't take it and I cough. A hand—cold and icy—slithers around my mouth and for a moment I do not breathe.

“And with every howl,”

A curt shush. I bring shaking hands to a hand larger than my face and attempt to pry but the hand only squeezes harshly.

“...brought silent.”

He turns me around and I stare into eyes colder than a wintry dawn. His face is pale—his beard sporting a coat of glittering snow. A hard face, a grim set of shoulders with the hilt of a large sword peeking out from behind. He brings a gnarled finger to his lips—shhh!

“She slumbers.” The woman finishes. “Oh, Mother Sun, she slum--”

The man is silver lightning—jumping out in a flurry of motion—a twister of silver and blue. Peeking from the bushes, I see them. A man and woman, their hair ashen, their faces beautifully grotesque as they twist in anger at the hunter. He draws a single sword and the scabbard hisses like an angered snake.

“You weren't the blood we smelled.” The woman hisses, arching her back. Her hands extend and claws erupt from gnarled, pale, fingers. “You aren't the meat.”

“Don't you get it?” Hisses the other. He stands erect, hands free, his feet planted sternly. “He's trapped us. We won't survive this. Get on, Sara! I won't be fightin' no sicarius today.”

The man gives them no choice when he charges sword first, grunting as he takes his first swing at the woman who smacks him — nails first. Her head goes rolling and I duck down—unable to see anymore as a wet gurgle seeps through the silence of the falling snow. The woman's partner lets out an inhuman scream as he too is cut down. Hot blood hisses through the cold snow and I'm about ready to let free yesterday's dinner as their horse nervously pats the ground and whinnies as the blue eyed stranger stomps back towards my hidey-hole and offers a hand.

My mouth's open—I'm frightened as my heart juts from my chest in rapid beats. “W-why?” I manage to stutter out.

He looks to his hand and I take it. “Good money.” Is his answer.


Taking hold of the spotted mare, he cuts what connects her to the old carriage and pulls himself up onto her back. “Where ya headed?”


He gives me a look.

“The Inn up the road. I'll show you.”
I ride second, keeping hold to him and to the horse as we careen down the trail towards my final destination. My final walk through these darned woods and I witness a murder. Snow slops onto my head and I shake it away. Those...people obviously had a sour deed on their minds if this man—this Sicarius—decided to cut them down were they stood—defenseless, I might add. The woman changed though—transformed into something monstrous—but her partner...

They smelt my blood.
The path diverges and the tree line ends.

“There!” I point and we take the fork in the road as it leans towards the right. The inn is a speck on a snow laden hill and as we ride closer and closer, I see the old, two story, place and think—home. It is a welcome sight as the sun climbs into a white sky—brighter than all the rest of the stars as they fall from their places. Snow peppers my eyes again and I blink the flakes away. A door slams, wooden and rickety, and I notice Vena waving like a little girl. I try and fail to stifle a grin, I chuckle and I catch myself as the rider looks back at me. A single eyebrow raised as though to question, are you and this elven kin? Her ears stick out brazenly because she is not afraid to show what she truly is—and she should never be.

We ride a bit closer and I hear him murmur, “Non-human sympathizers...”

Vena is close enough. Her eyes are dancing, her smile wide as she looks up to the stranger and plainly states: “The Frostfall accepts all kinds—anyone and everyone who needs a warm bed. We will always oblige.”

I jump down into her waiting arms and she hugs me tight. “You came!”

“Not fast enough?”

“Too fast.” she giggles, pulling me away so she may get a good look. Vena is the blanket of snow the ground clutches tight on cold, cold, nights. She is my sister—my one anchor in this world. “Every season I miss you...but no longer.” Once again, she pulls me in and I smell cinnamon on her breath...nutmeg. My grin is so wide that it hurts.

Vena is a good host. She takes the sicarius' horse into the old stable around back and serves him. I step into Frostfall's halls and immediately take a seat at the large fire Vena has already stirred up. The floor is stone—cold to the touch—but the benches are warm as I take a seat. And soon the stranger is sitting across from me with a mug full of spiced ale as Vena takes a seat right by me.

“It's on the house!” Vena grins, clapping her hands. “For escorting my sister.” she says, her voice becoming low. “Thank you.”

“That too,” The stranger replies as he points at me, “is on the house.” Before downing his mug, tossing a few silvers Vena's way, and abruptly standing. His cheek is bleeding and we stand with him—unsure as to if we should offer help exiting or some sort of medical aid. I follow Vena's lead.

“Would the kind stranger like to offer his name? So that we remember to give you a free mug whenever you stop by again?” Vena offers as he slides on a coat of leather. His boots have tracked mud upon the stones. Blood too.
The stranger thinks for a bit, mulling this over as he slowly slides on his thin coat.

Vena nods expectantly as I stand dumbfounded.

Stalking to the door, Vena and I inhale expectantly as he pulls at the handle and the door creaks.

“Terragon.” He grunts and the door closes with a wall shuttering slam. 

Thank you all for reading this! I will post a chapter every Friday! I hope you look forward to the next!

All the best,


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