DEPARTMENTS

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hoo? Uhul...

The silent trees cast their skeletal shadows across the still, winter snows blanketing the forest floor. Clear sky and a nearly full moon allowed his eyes to see near as well as daylight, but the pallor of the land at this time of year and the confused crosshatch of shadows broke any shape into an unintelligible jumble. Arnkor, The Hunter tightened his grip on his spear and took his next few steps forward, followed by Nikapik and the dwarf Skafor.

The tracks and remains of their missing herd had led to this place but it was no place he or his fellows wished to be. At the sight of a tree, naked except for the tussle of trophies, scalps, bones and charms, Skafor let out a low whistle of amazement.

“Curse you, dwarf,” spat Arnkor. He knew of the creatures who called this place home and it was just such sounds he had been taught to listen for before they came.

Skafor grumble out a misty series of muttered curses and drew his oaken shield in close, the silver inlays sparkling in the moonlight.

Nikapik, a lanky youth and a member of Arnkor’s hunting band drew up close to his elder’s side and whispered, “This is their place.” His eyes darted about to make sure his words had not carried and been noticed, “We should not stay here.”

Arnkor understood the youth’s hesitation and respected his fear, but if anything remained of the missing score of reindeer, he owed it to his people to find them. Winter had already been harsh and deadly. People starved in other villages and stories moved, with travelers, of villages reduced to unspeakable means of survival. He would not see his children and kin reduced to ghoulery. He would brave the tangled wood that was their hunting ground and home knowing that they too must be starving and hungry.

A shrill, scraping shriek broke the still and sent the trio spinning to find its origin. Casting eyes from one limitless shadow to the next, fighting hard to not lose their focus in the tangled thicket of mooncast shading, Arnkor and his party froze as they finally saw what they feared so much.

Looming unseen save for the glowing circlets of their unblinking eyes they surrounded the party. Whistles and ghostly hoots passed from one hidden foe to another, shining eyes bobbing and wavering like bedeviled fireflies. Though he knew they drew closer, Arnkor could hear nothing that marked their passing. Even his best hunters could not pass so close without some sort of noise.

As they grew ever closer, Arnkor braced himself, setting his eyes on a cluster of glowing eyes that marked three of them. He felt Skafor and Nikapik close in behind him, forming as close as they could manage to a circular formation. It was as he feared. They were surrounded. He gritted his teeth, filled his chest with cold night air, muttered words to his totem spirits and ancestors, hearing his fellows do the same. Skafor grunted something in his people’s tongue that almost sounded insulting in its tone and directness.

“Do not let them wear my bones…” whimpered Nikapik.

6 comments:

  1. Hoohoo, love it! Never found owlbears scary until now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Stay tuned. They aren't quite owlbears in the classic sense, but you will see :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. How many whacks does it take to get to the center of a human, a human and a dwarf? Ah-one. Ah-two. Ah-thrrrrrrrrree!

    ReplyDelete

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