Monday 29 December 2014

Scent: Part 31

The flames raged for hours and combined with the volleys from the defenders, managed to drive the raiders back out of range of the missiles. With the morning light came the opportunity to assess the state of both forces properly. The defenders had taken casualties, mainly to the keeps own guards. They had lost seventeen men on the wall. Sanya's troops had fared better, their thick armour deflecting most of the arrows launched at them and only six of them had fallen. The raiders had not done so well. The hide and leather armour no match for the bolts and arrows of the defenders. Goren estimated that four hundred men lay dead or dying at the foot of the keep. The keep itself was standing as stoically as it ever had but the success of driving the horde back had came at a cost. The moat lapped up against the footings of the keep and when it had been set alight the flames had done more than kill and drive away the attackers. The drawbridge had also been damaged by the fire and had been weakened considerably by the flames. Ingerham leaned out of the battlements to try and inspect the state of the door, it was charred black and he surmised it was only the recent addition of the struts to the inside of the door that was allowing it to stay intact. The news didn't bode well for the defenders. A sustained attack against the door would see it shatter under the raiders hammers and axes. The wood that they had piled in the moat was still there. The uppermost pieces were burnt black but where the flames had met the water the wood under the surface  lay unaffected. The raiders would not have to lay much more to make it possible to get across. 

Sanya had pulled Reven aside, 'Have you ever ridden Fang?' she asked, a determined look on her face. 'No, Mistress', Reven replied a little confused. 'You're going to', she said and hurried him to the backside of the keep. Fang was already following by the time they reached the battlements furthest from the keep's entrance. Guards were patrolling, keeping an eye out for any new signs of an attack. Some of the raiders had been seen skirting around the outside of the keep probably looking for an easier way in but there were eyes everywhere and they had soon given up and returned to their kin at the front of the keep. Sanya quickly outlined what she wanted to happen. Reven and Fang would be lowered into the moat and they would make there way away from the keep in the hope that the remaining scouts would see them. Reven was to instruct the scouts to ride to the nearest village and get word to The Order. She made it quite clear that she didn't expect to survive the assault and that the raiders needed to be stopped at all costs. 'We will hold them here as long as possible', she said. 'Once you have delivered my message try and get back to Vardenfell. Keep yourself safe'. She motioned to some troops who moved to tie rope around Reven and his hound. As soon as they had done it Sanya wished them luck and gave Fang a kindly pat before turning and leaving them. Reven and were lowered into the water and Reven immediately sunk. The weight of his armour dragging him down, the rope went taught as the men on the battlements pulled him back up but he only needed their help momentarily. Fang paddled past him and he held on to the war hounds thick fur and hitched a lift to the bank. Once there they shook themselves out and Reven gingerly hopped on to Fang's back. The armour that covered it had a slight indentation behind Fang's shoulders and that's where Reven sat. 'Slowly at first' he whispered into the dogs ear and then pointed to a knot of tree's off to the left, 'As good a place as any to start looking' he said and they trotted off in search of the scouts.

Scent: Part 30

Einder's Keep wasn't as grand as Reven was hoping. The stone walls were thick with vines and the keep itself looked to be little more than a large pile of rocks. From a distance it looked as if a wall had been built around a stone hill. A moat about ten paces wide surrounded the wall and a rickety draw bridge was being lowered as Sanya's Company drew near. The 'keep', or hill as Reven would now always think of it, was three stories high. It's windows were tiny slits without glass. As Reven walked across the drawbridge, trailing Ingerham's troops, he caught site of the keep's door, these at least looked impressive. The wide, dark oak, double doors looked as if they could take a battering from a giant. They slowly and soundlessly swung outward from the keep revealing their thickness. A man that looked as old as the domed keep appeared from the gloom inside and greeted Sanya. It looked from where Reven was that they knew each other but he was too far back in the column to hear what was being said. As Reven made his way inside the walls he noticed the guards atop the battlements. They were armed with bows and crossbows and their numbers were few. They all wore a look of relief on their faces as if their saviours had just marched into Einder's Keep.

Under Ingerham's direction Reven helped the troops stow their gear and help set up tents inside the walls. The scouts were preparing to leave to start looking for the raiders. They had walked their horses to the keep to make sure they were fresh enough to commence the search. They left just before nightfall, riding out in all directions from the keep. Goren wasn't with them, he and the other captains had been called to feast in the keep whilst Reven and the regular soldiers remained outside. After eating Reven and Fang made their bed in some hay in one of the stables. The rest of Ingerham's troops had manned the walls and stood near motionless atop them, staring out into the night. With a full belly and a surprisingly warm bed sleep came quickly to Reven and Fang. They snoozed contently believing themselves to be safe behind the walls of Einder's Keep.

Reven was awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of horns being blown from the battlements. The camp around the keep was a hive of activity and he could hear Sanya shouting orders to her troops. Reven was quick to rise and he and Fang made their way through the camp trying to find Captain Ingerham. When he did the Captain was organising his men and outlining the nights events. One of the scouts had returned pierced with arrows. Shortly after leaving the keep he had run straight into the advancing horde of raiders and had been chased by their outriders. Once his warning had been delivered he had died, the last of his strength spent and his duty done. Other scouts had returned since reporting on the disposition of the enemy force. The numbers they imagined were right. Three and a half thousand raiders were bearing down on the keep who's own troops numbered no more than one hundred and forty heads, including those of the keeps guards.

Ingerham's troops rushed to fortify the walls and lined the battlements with arrows, bolts and rocks that could be rained down upon the heads of the attackers. The keeps artisans busied themselves hammering struts over the main door. Goren was happy that the scouts that had not yet returned would regroup outside the walls and wait until their presence was needed so the preparations for the attack continued in earnest. 

As the horde approached Reven took his station on the walls, bow in hand. He had never seen so many men before and the torches held by the advancing army lit up the ground and the raiders. He knew looking out at them that they would not survive this fight. The walls they stood on looked as if they would collapse if they met with a strong wind, they were outnumbered thirty to one and there was no line of retreat. Sanya and her troops would have to make their last stand here. The horde stopped two hundred paces short of the moat and fell silent. From the centre of their line stepped men carrying long pieces of wood which they piled on the ground before laying torches round it. Goren let out an unexpected laugh and slapped Reven on the back. The boy hadn't even heard him approach but turned to look at the madman in wonder, 'What's funny?' he asked. 'Looks like they found their ships' Goren replied pointing to the wood. Reven narrowed his eyes and could now see what Goren was talking about. The wood they had laid in front of their ranks was made up burnt planks and scorched masts. 

The raiders let forth a deafening war cry and beat their swords and axes on their shields as they were whipped into a frenzy by their leaders. The horde advanced as one and rushed toward the keep. Dragging more wood with them as they came, they held their shields high to stave of the missiles that fell from the battlements. The wood they dragged was tossed into the moat and Reven could see that they intended to make bridge to allow them to get their axes within reach of the keep's door. The defenders volleys were taking a toll on the attackers but they had bowmen of their own and were slowly picking off the troops of Sanya's company. Reven loosed arrow after arrow into the thong below him but it wouldn't be enough. The raiders advance was pushing their own men into the moat and they were swimming across and trying to climb the walls of the keep. The din of battle couldn't drown out Captain Ingerham's commanding voice and he bellowed for the bow and crossbowmen to stand down. Reven took a step back and men barged past him with small kegs in their arms. The kegs were breached and sticky black liquid was poured over the battlements into the moat where it floated on top of the water. A generous amount was poured over the ever growing pile of wood the raiders were trying to bridge the moat with and then Sanya stepped to the fore a flaming arrow nocked in her bow. At once Reven understood. The kegs were full of oil and as Sanya's arrow embedded itself in a raiders head, he fell igniting the black liquid and moat with it. The raiders burned, the defenders cheered; the battle for Einder's Keep and their lives had begun.

Monday 22 December 2014

Captain Ingerham

Captain Ingerham from the fantasy story
Reven's Fang - Captain Ingerham

Scent: Part 29

They left the blazing ships behind them and made their way inland where they were to rendezvous with Sanya's force. They made good time, the rain had abated and as the darkness receded the warm rays of the sun lit up the meadows they travelled through.  The mood of the company was good as they stopped for breakfast. It gave the wounded a chance to cress their wounds and marvel at the fact that the cuts and scratches that Reven had received had all but healed leaving only pink blemishes on his skin. After the skirmish on the beach the scouts had a new found respect for Reven and he was treated as one of their own. Fang had also made new friends and they laughed and joked telling stories of the fighting on the beach until it was time to move on.

Goren's scouts caught up with Sanya and the main body of the force by late afternoon. They had made camp near the battleground that they had fought on and the ground was littered with the bodies of the fallen raiders. Sanya greeted Goren warmly and he gave an account of nights proceedings. The news on the numbers of raiders that had landed troubled Sanya as the force was smaller by half than the thousand strong army that she was expecting. It meant that there could be an army of nearly three and a half thousand warriors roaming through the grasslands. Such a force could have the potential to bring one of the smaller cities to its knees and give the raiders a much sort after foothold in Orland. 

Sanya called a meeting of her captains to hear reports on the disposition of the army and outline her plans for the coming days. The warriors that walked the Path of Iron were fearsome in battle and the fact they had only lost three troops was testament to that. There were some injuries scattered throughout the different units but on the whole Sanya's company of warriors were in good shape. The company was to move on to Einder's Keep the next day where they will scout for the raiders troops and use the keep as a central point to conduct their search. Sanya pulled Reven aside as the captains filed out. 'Tomorrow you will report to Captain Ingerham. He will command you when we reach the keep. Stay as close to him as you can, you can learn a lot from him.' Sanya said whilst sitting down and relaxing. 'Thank you Mistress. I will do all that he asks' Reven replied. Sanya smiled, 'See the smith before you go to sleep. I had him fashion you and Fang some armour and it should be ready by now, I fear you will have need of it in the next few days'. 'I will Mistress.' Reven responded. She nodded her head and looked at some maps she had bunched in her hand and Reven took that as his cue to leave. As he reached the flaps of the tent Sanya called out after him, 'Reven'. He turned, 'Well done. Goren said you acquitted yourself well last night. Keep if up.' with that she returned to her maps and Reven left. 

The smith had been busy indeed. Reven and Fang waited at the side of his tent whilst he fetched out the pieces of their armour. Fang's was a smaller version of Kaleth's plate mail. The large crescent shaped pieces of metal overlapping like the scales of a fish to encase his side's in steel splendour. Each plate had a pattern engraved around the sides and they looked to Reven to look like hundreds of small fangs! They put it on Fang and made him run around to ensure it didn't hinder his movement. It was a near perfect fit. The smith adjusted the straps and Reven decided to leave the armour in place overnight to let Fang get used to his new metal skin. Reven's armour was decorated in the same fashion with the exception of the shoulder guards that were both fang filled, gaping mouths. The smith explained that even though he would like to have taken credit for the armour he actually used some of Sanya's own suits and made changes here and there to accommodate the fit. Reven thanked him after the man had helped him into the armour and he and Fang strode across the camp top their tent with a chorus of wolf whistles going up from the other troops. Reven's smile broadened as he enjoyed the camaraderie. He was starting to feel at one with these warriors of Iron. 

Friday 19 December 2014

Scent: Part 28

They set off after lunch and followed the coastline, keeping to the higher ground of the grassland and not venturing onto the beach for fear of leaving evidence of their passing. Goren had brought seven of his scouts along, with Reven and Fang their party of ten was complete. They were not expecting much in the way of resistance, maybe a few sentries that would have been left with the boats to keep guard. Stealth was to be key in ensuring the attack went smoothly and that they met with as little resistance as possible.  

They continued along the coast until late evening. The last rays of the sun were bouncing upon the gentle waves of the sea as they closed on their quarry. The raiders ships lay half in and half out of the water, secured to the beach with ropes and chains.  Fires burned at several points along the sand and after a quick count Captain Goren announced in hushed tones that there were almost forty shops lying at rest. His face flickered with concern as he explained that he had seen these long ships before and knew that they could each carry up to a hundred men.  This meant the force that Sanya faced was only a part of the invaders strength and their numbers could swell if they met with their kinsmen.  It also meant to that there would be greater resistance on the beach making the scouts chances of success dwindle.  Goren went over the plan one last time before they set off under the cover of darkness.  He and his seven scouts would advance along the beach dispatching the raiders with bow and blade as they went. Reven's inexperience meant that he and Fang would toil behind them freeing the boats from their makeshift moorings.  So as not to arouse suspicion from the invaders he would wait until Goren had advanced a way ahead before starting on the first boat. Even if the scouts lost their lives on the beach at least the raiders would be a few ships worse off. 

With orders to keep his bow at the ready Reven set off across the sand and waited for Goren to make his move. He could make out the outlines of the scouts as they stooped low and started their advance up the beach. Reven tailed them, far enough back not to betray their stealthy attack but close enough that he could still see their silhouettes against the light of the fires. 

Goren dropped onto his belly as they approached the first fire. A ring of raiders sat around it drinking and singing, oblivious to their approaching doom. Reven hung back by the bow of the first boat, watching anxiously.  Goren gave a signal and the raiders loosed arrows at their chosen targets. Apart from a few jerking movements it would have been hard to tell the fate that befell the men seated around the fire. The singing had stopped though and Reven saw a few of the dead men slump to the side. Goren's men wasted no time moving up and making sure each man was dead, cutting throats to ensure no one was missed.  Reven lost sight of them after this, the scouts moved out of the fire light to the edge of the beach so they wouldn't be silhouetted against the flames making it easier to be spotted. Reven just had to wait now. He had been told to leave it several minutes before freeing the first boat so he crouched against it, biding his time.

Reven set to work after waiting for a while. He didn't know how things were going further up the beach but he heard no cries of alarm so assumed everything was going to plan. He pulled a serrated dagger free of his belt that he had taken from the smithy. It was a wicked looking blade with a slight curve to it and it swiftly cut through the ropes holding the first ship at anchor. Reven was almost expecting the boat to just slip away once it had been released but it sat there as it had done before. Once the tide came in he was sure the boat would slip away. He moved on to the next, working his way down the line of ships until he reached the fifth boat. This one was a little different from the others he had seen. It was wider and he could see that great carvings covered it's sides. It was held in place with iron chains that weer thick with rust. They were anchored to the beach by six metal spikes tat had been driven deep into the sand. Reven tried wiggling one free but it was stuck fast in the damp sand. He looked at Fang scratching his head and then an idea struck him. He hurried back to the last boat, collecting up some rope and then returned to the chains. He tied the rope to one of the links and then with a series of loops in the other end of the rope he fashioned a harness that he put on Fang. Fang had each of his front legs through a loop and they met at his back. Reven took the rope in his hands and then motioned for Fang to move. He pulled for all his was worth as did Fang but the spike didn't budge. He told Fang to relax and wen't back to inspect the spike, kicking at it in frustration. The others would be well ahead of him now and he needed to keep moving. He decided to move on to the next boat and return to this one once Goren had finished his deadly work. He trotted over to Fang and was startled when a harsh voice called out to him, 'Hey, what are you doing down there.' Reven spun round to see a man looking at him over the side of the boat. A flicker of recognition passed over the mans face as he realised what Reven was doing. Reven had pulled his bow free and loosed an arrow as the man roared a wordless challenge. His cry was cut short as the arrow embedded itself in his shoulder, spinning him off his feet. He was down but by no means out, he shouted a warning that was meant by several angry voices. Reven knocked another arrow and sank to his knees. Men started jumping over the side of the boat, brandishing swords, axes and shields. The first got an arrow through the neck which punched clean through landing with a thunk in the thick wood of the boats hull. Reven got one more shot off that buried itself in a raiders stomach before he had to draw his sword. Fang was roaring behind him but was still tethered to the chain and the spike and couldn't get into the fight. 

The first man came on, swinging his axe in a deadly downward arc. Reven scrambled back, falling to the floor. The axe landed between his legs sending a spray of sand into the air and the man stepped in raising his blade again. Reven slashed at him but the man's thick hide armour turned the weak blow aside and he only just manged to roll to the side away from the mans next attack. He regained his feet and immediately had to parry a sword swing from another assailant. The swordsman swung again as Reven back peddled, this time in stead of meeting the mans blade head on he hoped backwards and smashed the raiders sword on the backside increasing the speed of the mans swing and sending the blade into the onrushing axeman. The sword gouged the raider's arm forcing him to relinquish the two handed grip he had on his weapon. Reven capitalised on the swordsman being off balance by slashing down with his sword that opened up the side of the swordsmans face from crown to jaw. As the man crumpled to the floor the axeman jumped over him and swung his axe one handed at Reven's face. There followed a desperate exchange as Reven parried the man's heavier axe, being forced back with every blow. Even one handed this man was more than a match for Reven and as more raiders joined the fray Reven could see his life would soon be at an end if the odds weren't evened.  His arms were starting to shake with the effort of repelling the mans attacks and he bled from shallow cuts to his legs and arms where the man had forced his blade back repeatedly. He dived to the side as two more raiders came at him knowing he wouldn't be able to parry their combined attacks. He made a desperate dash toward Fang with the raiders hot on his heels. He lashed out with his sword releasing the hound from his bond and with a brief glance Fang knew what was expected of him. Reven turned to face his attackers as Fang raced off into the darkness, 'the hound has more sense boy' the axeman said as he slowed to a stop in front of Reven his comrades panting at his sides. In the distance Reven could see the raider he had struck in the shoulder land awkwardly as he jumped clear of the boat, the arrow still protruding from the joint of his shoulder. The axeman stepped forward, 'You should of kept running but I'm glad you didn't. I owe you for my arm.'. Reven in his typically rash fashion didn't give the man time to gloat further, he lunged forward catching the man off guard and stabbed through the meat of the man's thigh before jumping clear of the mans axe. The wound only seemed to enrage the man more and he rushed forward launching a blistering attack. Sparks flew as Reven's blade met with his, the raider seemed to be growing in speed and ferocity with every strike.

The arrow sticking out of Bjorn's shoulder grated against the bone as he jogged toward the melee. He could see Ragneth hammering at the boy and slowed as he realised the saboteur would be dead before he reached them. He made another attempt to pull the shaft free of his shoulder but it was caught neatly in the join and wouldn't budge. In addition the pain of touching it was excruciating and each time he touched the arrow more blood was sent spurting down the front of his jerkin. He didn't hear Fang's approach. The soft sand hid the noise of the hounds loping strides. The pain in Bjorn's shoulder disappeared immediately after Fangs attack. The war hound bit through the back of his neck, severing his spine and rendering his body numb and useless. Fang kept moving, angling toward the fight in front of him.

Ragneth's fellow raiders cheered him on as he drove Reven back with another mighty swing of his axe. One of the spikes holding the ship in place was at Reven's back and as he ducked a swipe of Ragneth's axe he spun round it putting it between him and the crazed raider. They circled the spike until Reven was against the chain, as the warrior swung at him he ducked beneath it and then trapped the man's axe against it with his sword. Unable to use his one useless arm the big man let go of his axe to throw a punch at Reven's unprotected face. Reven knew it was coming and ducked low bringing up his serated dagger as he did so. It cleaved through the hide armour on the man's stomach and letting go of his sword he drove the blade up under Ragneth's ribs and into his heart. The big raider died eyes wide,  a look of surprise on his face as he fell to the sandy floor in a heap. Reven stumbled back as the other two raiders came on, screaming in dismay at the loss of their friend. Their screams only grew louder when Fang struck. The hound knocked one to the floor and tore the others arm off at the shoulder. Reven recovered his sword and raced toward the fallen man whilst Fang ripped out the others throat. The man had had the wind knocked out of him when Fang had struck and hadn't regained his senses enough to prevent his doom, he was on all fours when Reven arrived. Reven kicked him hard in the face sending him reeling backwards and then brought his sword down severing the raiders head from his neck. 

Fang ran to Reven's side and they gave each other their customary hearty welcome; Reven patting and stroking Fang's head whilst Fang licked Reven's face. Reven's heart raced and his arm's ached but he was elated by their victory. He was just about to sink down into the sand when he spotted movement in the darkness. He found it strange that Fang didn't but he went on guard. Fang sat and looked at him, tongue lolling out of his bloody mouth. Reven looked at him with a complete look of consternation. Reven was just about to reprimand his companion when he felt a cold slither of steel press against his neck. 'Been busy?, Goren's familiar voice whispered in his ear before Reven was spun roughly round to be greeted by the scout captains gaped tooth smile. 'Looks like you been having some fun' he laughed loudly, stealth obviously no longer required. The other scouts appeared out of the darkness, everyone of them streaked with blood and a few baring grisly wounds that had been hastily bound with bits of cloth. The fury of battle was still very much alive in Goren's eyes as he looked toward the boats. 'We push 'em out they may not go far. Put 'em to the torch lads', he smile broadened even more as he said it and he walked towards the nearest fire.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Scent: Part 27

The march to the coast took several weeks. It was hard going moving so many men and their equipment over so great a distance especially at the pace that Mistress Sanya expected. The going was a little easier once they were free of the forest but the weather had been abysmal and many of the fields and wooded areas they passed through were sodden and made it tough for the carts to travel unaided. The troopers didn't seem too perturbed by the weather and sang songs that were mostly about fighting or drinking to keep their spirits up.

Reven had put his new sword to good use during the trip. When they stopped to make camp Sanya would have several of her troopers instruct him in the use of the sword. Captain Ingerham seemed to have taken an interest and often gave advice on technique and fighting styles. Sanya stayed away where Reven's sword training came in but she did spend time schooling him on the use of his bow and how he and Fang should work in concert when fighting. Reven enjoyed the sword, the close brutality of combat thrilled him but there was something about bow-work that interested him even more. He was a horrible shot when he first starting practicing but he had picked up the basics quickly and appreciated the skill required to hit a target. Anybody could strike a person in front of them with a sword and have a fair chance of doing some damage but with a bow it required a skill that was beyond many. Reven practiced at his bow skills with Fang. When he was good enough to start shooting at live targets he would bring down birds or deer and Fang would rush into to ensure the prey was dead. Sanya was keen that they learnt to work in concert when they fought and the understanding between them was growing daily. It wasn't all smooth sailing though, Fang had a tendency to lay down with the captured prey and eat them. In the short time they had been practicing Fang had eaten three deer and countless birds which was testament to his ever increasing size. Strangely Reven seemed to be growing with him. Despite only being a boy of 12 years old he had grown in stature and strength and was already as tall as Captain Ingerham, but doubted he would ever be as wide. Mistress Sanya put it down to one of the benefits of the bond he shared with Fang but admitted to never having seen its like before. Reven didn't mind though, he was faster and more powerful than he had ever been before. He was a long way off from being as skilled as any of the troopers he travelled with but he was sure he could take the cook in a fight.

They had been travelling fro a little over three weeks when they had their first sight of the sea. Reven had never seen it before and with some of the troops waded in and splashed around. The beach was a sandy expanse meeting the sea at a gentle slope from the grasslands that Sanya's troops had just travelled through. As they made camp Reven and Fang were summoned to a meeting of the captains that was held in Sanya's tent. Ingerham was there along with some other men that Reven didn't know. Reven and Fang sat behind Captain Ingerham and waited fro a few others to file into the tent before Sanya started to speak. She outlined the information that the scouts had brought back and their Captain, a roguish looking man by the name of Goran, filled in any blanks in her information. It appeared that a tribe of raiders had been attacking villages along the coast. Of late they were getting bolder and moving inland laying waste to farms and settlement as they went. There was a detachment of soldiers coming south from the northern city of Bergen but it would be another week or so before they can engage with the enemy. The plan was to attack the raiders head on with the main force and small force would be sent to the boats they had used to get to the shores of Orland cutting off any escape and setting traps for those who attempted to make it back. The confidence in their own force surprised Reven as from the reports the raiders numbered over a thousand warriors, ten times the number of Sanya's troops. Once the plan had been explained the captains were given their roles in the coming attack and Reven was disappointed to find that he was to accompany Goren and his scouts to sabotage the boats.

They had a few hours before they set off in advance of the main force and Reven followed suit with the scouts and had his blade sharpened and his quiver filled with arrows. He and Fang were as ready as they would ever be. Whilst Reven was anxious and scared of what was to come he was excited that he might see some action and after weeks of hearing the troopers stories about their fighting prowess he was keen to see if his story would start being written after this adventure.

Friday 12 December 2014

Scent: Part 26

Reven rushed after Sanya with Fang in tow taking in the hustle and bustle of the camp as he went. Troops and orderlies hurried here and there, seeing to horses, taking weapons to the smith, polishing armour. There was a real buzz about the place but even so, many of the troops had enough time to cast sidelong glances at Reven as he passed. He met their gazes and if he didn't know better would have thought that they looked angry at him. He noted that the camp had been erected in a clearing in the forest. Tents were nestled around fires which were being extinguished by orderlies who had started packing the site up and placing weapon racks, cooking utensils and other camp necessities into wagons. A hundred or so troopers were preparing to move and rushed to make ready; saddling horses, sharpening blades and eating as if they may not get another meal.

Reven followed Sanya as she made her way out of the camp and into the trees of the forest. The earlier rain had stopped and the sun was starting to peak through the clouds promising a brighter afternoon. Sanya brought a small whistle she had around her neck to her lips and blew. It let out a piercing high pitch note that was greeted in moments by the distant sound of something crashing through the trees. Sanya turned to Reven and smiled whilst Fang stood rooted to the spot, his muscles bunching as he tensed. The noise continued to grow closer and Reven could at last see its source. Barrelling through the forest was the biggest creature Reven had ever seen. It was several feet taller than a cart horse and about three times as wide. It came to a halt in front of Sanya, wagging it's tail frantically as it saw Fang. 'This is Kaleth' Sanya said to Reven and Fang, 'Kaleth, meet Reven and Fang' she indicated to each of them in turn as she spoke. If Kaleth took note of Sanya's words she gave no indication. She continued to stare at Fang. Reven just stared at her; her head was the size of a large boulder and her mouth was filled with large razor sharp teeth and her body covered in rich deep brown fur. Over the fur were carefully crafted armour plates that ran down her spine and fanned across her sides. Her shoulders were completely covered in spiked plates which matched the dark metal helm that adorned her head. Kaleth was instantly the most terrifying and wondrous thing that Reven had ever encountered. He noticed that her eyes shone with the same brilliant green that Sanya's did, she was captivating. 'Offer her your hand' Sanya said, giving Reven a gentle nudge toward Kaleth as she did so. For the first time Kaleth's focus drifted from Fang and settled on Reven. With a mixture of fear and excitement Reven reached up and offered his hand to the war hound that towered over him. She bent her head down and sniffed at the proffered hand, eventually licking it and lowering her head further still so that it was within Reven's reach. Sanya nodded at him encouragingly and he lay his hand on the beasts huge snout. Kaleth's fur was short, stiff and wiry. Reven's heart raced, the hound could have bitten him in half if she wished but she stood there patiently as Reven stroked and patted her head. 'Thank you' he said to Kaleth as he drew back his hand and motioned for Fang to come forward. Reven's hound moved toward him, his lips curling into a snarl but Reven silenced him. Looking into Fang's eyes he simply said the word 'Friend' and with that Fang relaxed. Kaleth once again bowed her head and she and Fang exchanged sniffs, greeting each other as hounds do. Suddenly Fang dropped down, front legs stretched out in front of him and barked at Kaleth. The bigger hound also started barking and in no time they were both wagging their tails furiously, tongues lolling from their mouths. Fang broke into a sprint and Kaleth gave chase. They raced through the trees stopping and staring at each other before again  racing onwards. Reven and Sanya watched them disappear into the forest, playing as they did. 'She hasn't seen another war hound in many years. They'll keep each other busy for a while.'

Sanya slipped an arm over Reven's shoulder and walked him out of the forest. He couldn't help but look over his shoulder to see if Fang had returned but he wasn't there. 'They'll be fine, no need to worry. Kaleth won't let any harm come to her new friend and anyway, we need to speak before we break camp.' This gained Reven's attention immediately. Sanya guided them over to a fallen tree at the edge of the camp and sat down indicating Reven should do the same.

'Do you know why you were sent to me?' Sanya asked. 'So that you can train Fang Mistress' Reven replied. 'Hmm, and how much do you know about Fang? How did he come to be yours? she enquired. Reven went on to tell the story of the attack on Rosholt and how he and Fang became travelling companions. Sanya made some enquiries, especially surrounding the meeting between Reven and the travellers, Aisha and Reynard. 'You've bonded with your hound already. That's why you share the same eyes. It is dangerous to bond with a pup but you seemed to have suffered no ill effects. Fang is also lucky to be alive, from your description his mother wouldn't have been much older than a pup herself, I'm not surprised his brothers and sisters perished. Illegal traders will wipe the bread out, fools.' Sanya rested her hand on her chin lost in thought and then seemed to remember where she was. 'OK, here's what you need to know. You have been assigned to me and you will learn from me until I release you. You have a gift that will allow you to benefit from your association with Fang. War hounds are very hardy and heal remarkably quickly. This will apply to you also. In time you will be able to read each others thoughts and some beast masters have even been able to see through their beasts eyes. There are many benefits to your bond but it all comes down to your mastery of the gift you have been given. Whilst you are here I will train you to fight and shoot for a beast master must be skilled in both sword and bow. You are the first aspirant to have earned three badges in all the history of The Deep, sword, bow and hound. I predict great things for you Reven, expectation weighs heavy on your shoulders.' Reven opened his hand to respond but Sanya started to speak again, 'We are headed east to the coast. Raiders have been pillaging villages there and we have answered the call for assistance. We would have been away days ago if you had hurried and you may not get as warm a welcome as you would expect from some of my men as a result.', I've noticed' Reven responded looking a little embarrassed. 'As soon as raider blood starts flowing all will be forgotten. Speaking of which, you need to get rid of that practice sword. You will need a keen blade and a keener eye if you are to survive the coming months. Go and see the smith before he is completely packed up, introduce yourself and he will arm you with sword and bow. Then we'll be off.' She stood and smiled down at Reven, 'You and your hound have much to learn.'; she said in a gentle voice. 'He is still young but he'll grow to be as big, if not bigger than Kaleth. If you don't know how to be together by the time that happens you will take ruin everywhere you go.' With that she turned and walked away, shouting encouragement to her men as she did so. Reven waited for her to disappear behind a tent before racing off to the smith, grinning as he went. A new sword of his very own! He couldn't wait.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Mistress Sanya

Mistress Sanya from the fantasy story

Scent: Part 25

As Reven and Fang broke camp the next morning the sun that had been there to greet them the past few days was replaced by grey clouds. The forest took on a more gloomy aspect and Reven felt more alone somehow. The travellers he passed were few and far between and as the road continued into the forest it lost some of its width with every turnoff he came to until it was little more than a footpath. The morning wore on the heavens opened sending fat blobs of rain hurtling toward the ground. Fang didn't seem to be bothered by the weather at all, continuing to race through the trees with complete abandon. The wounds on his head that had been inflicted by the hunters had almost completely healed and he seemed in high spirits. Reven on the other hand was not so keen on the rain. He slipped and slid up and down slopes as the water quickly pooled in ruts in the ground and turned the path into a muddy quagmire. His cloak was soaked and seemed to have at least trebled in weight as the rain soaked it through. Reven didn't need much of an excuse to find some shelter and when a twinge in his stomach told him it was time for lunch he gladly climbed in to the low branches of a nearby tree and shrugged off his pack. The leaves kept the worst of the rain off and he settled in the boughs of the tree chewing on dried meat and the last of his cheese as he watch the deluge continue all around him.

It was several minutes before Reven realised that Fang hadn't returned from his latest foray into the forest. The hound had been overly attentive on this trip ensuring that Reven was always within sight and his absence left Reven feeling uneasy. Reven called out hoping to see Fang burst through some bushes but the only sound he could hear was the steady drumming of the rain. He dropped from the tree into a crouch so that he could see beneath the low branches, there was nothing. He called out again, louder this time but there was no movement in response to his call. 'What trouble are you in now?' Reven said as if Fang were standing next to him, wondering where he had last seen the hound. The crack of a branch behind Reven brought his head round and he could see two pairs of armoured feet stomping towards him. A rustle from the opposite direction demanded his attention and two more sets of boots marched through the sodden leaves on the floor of the forest. Reven drew his wooden blade and scrambled up the tree. It was obvious whoever these feet belonged to knew where he was as they had all converged around the tree he was now in. Reven crawled along a branch that was well out of reach of any would-be attacker and watched as four heavily armoured men ducked under the outer branches of the tree and then stood below him. They all looked at him and each one had a smirk on his face. Reven appraised them quickly, they were all armed with swords with shields clung across their backs. They wore plate armour on their upper torsos and chain linked mail on their legs. They all had the look of seasoned warriors and Reven knew that no child with a puny wooden sword would prevail against them. Three had their helmets tucked under their arms. The one who spoke first, who even though he was short seemed as broad as he was tall, had no helmet but carried a broad double bladed axe in the crook of his arm. 'Come down boy. We're soaked through and in no mood for games', Reven stayed where he was. The warrior spoke again, 'I am not used to repeating myself. We have your hound, now you...', with the mention of Fang, Reven struck, his rage boiling over. He leapt from the tree whilst the man was still in mid-sentence and landed next to him smashing him on his bald head with the pommel of his sword as he did so. The man reeled back but did not fall, Reven spun lashing out with his practice blade at another of the men. The element of surprise had been lost though and the man parried smartly, using his helmet to deflect the blow. Reven made to strike again but was spun roughly around to be met by the metal clad fist of the axe wielding warrior. Reven flew backward through the air losing his grip on his sword and his consciousness as he landed roughly on the ground. 'You alright Ingerham', said the man who had parried Reven's blow with his helm to the shorter warrior. 'Aye, I'll be fine' he said as he dabbed at the blood that was trickling from the wound in his head. 'Pick him up. Quicker we get him to the mistress the better.' , the taller man obeyed the order, 'Yes Captain.' Captain Ingerham continued to dab at his head as he and his troopers made their way through the woods to where they had camped and where Mistress Sanya waited for her new student.

When Reven came round he was lying in a tent and Fang was fast asleep beside him. His face throbbed and he reached up and felt where Ingerham's punch had split the skin of his jaw. He shook Fang awake and the hound immediately started licking the wounds on his face. Reven batted him away, 'Stop. We need to get out of here.' he whispered to Fang. 'Why would you want to do that Reven?' a woman's voice said. Reven spun around to find the owner of the voice lounging on a chair at the back of the tent. She wore ornate armour plates but not enough to cover her ample bosom or her shapely legs that were crossed, revealed through a slit in her heavy mail skirt. She idly played with a dagger as she smiled down at Reven who was dumfounded by the woman's beauty. 'Enough games, I am Mistress Sanya. I will be your tutor for as long as much time as I can spare. The men under my command are Warriors of Iron and active. This means we will be seeing our fair share of also means you will have to accompany us until I release you back to The Deep.' Reven just sat his mouth gaping. He was on his way to meet this woman but had never thought it would happen under these circumstances. Reven continued to stare and only managed a mumbled, 'Very good Mistress Sanya'. She smiled again and stood, 'Come. There is somebody I want you both to meet, Kaleth has been getting more excited with each passing day.' With that Sanya walked from the tent, pushing the flaps that acted as the door wide as she exited. Reven hurried after her and stepped out of the tent into his first camp of Iron.

Monday 8 December 2014

Scent: Part 24

Fang led Reven through the thick brush. The torch Reven had taken from the scrawny hunters had made this night time journey through the forest easier but it was still hard going. They were unable to scramble back up the slop Reven had slipped down so were having to navigate their way around the slope to try and get back on a road so that they can find their bearing's. Fang's head had stopped bleeding and the cuts had already started to scab over. He had truly turned the tables on his captors; he was to be their dinner but as it turned out they were his. Reven had chosen not to watch Fang as he ate but instead tried to study his map which proved difficult by flickering torch light. In the end he had decided he wouldn't get very far staying in one place and he didn't like the prospect of meeting any more hunters on this trail so they moved off in the vain hope of that would be able to trace their way back.

As the night faded away Reven and Fang were starting to have a better time of it. They had got back onto higher ground and the bushes and dense undergrowth had started to lessen making passage through the forest simpler. They rested for breakfast and Reven used the sun and his map to figure out a heading for them. He thought that if they kept heading north they would come to the road that they needed to be on to make their meeting with the Beast Master. He was disappointed that he would miss out on his night in The Red Griffon but he needed to get back on track which meant travelling for as long and for as far as he could.

It was late afternoon by the time they had found the road. Reven was tired but he wanted to keep moving while they had the light. The path wound through the forest and despite the unrest of the previous night Reven felt quite at peace as his senses were assailed by the natural wonder of the forest. The animals darting in and out of tree branches, the bird song, the scent of wildflowers and leaf mulch all made Reven smile. His cheeriness was not going to last long...

Friday 5 December 2014

Scent: Part 23

Reven made his way east from Vardenfell. His instructions told him to follow the road to the city of Hrune until he came to an inn called The Red Griffon. Once at the inn he was to take a branch off the road that would take him deeper into the heart of the Freemarch Forest. The road he was on was much the same as the one he travelled into Vardenfell on. Travellers and merchants made their way to and from the city and many offered a cheery hello to the boy and his hound. Fang loved the open space and occupied himself by tearing through the leaves that covered the forest floor. He barely stayed on the path always seeming to find something more interesting under the canopy of the trees but he never strayed far enough from Reven that he lost sight of him. Since Hannibal's attack on Reven the war hound had been very protective, accompanying the boy everywhere.

As the day wore on the sun started to droop in the sky and Reven new it would soon be time to make camp. He didn't relish the idea of spending a night alone in the forest but Master Powel had said it would be a good test of his mettle and Reven wanted to prove himself to the man. Powel was fearsome to behold and rarely had a kind word to say to anyone but Reven had grown to like the man, even admire him. He was a scarred veteran of many battles and during his time at The Deep, Reven had decided that he too wanted to be a warrior and follow the Path of Iron. Reven came to a crossroads and decided to camp away from the road but close enough that if any danger did present itself he would have four routes of escape and potentially a greater chance of finding an ally against the peril.

Reven found a small clearing and collected firewood and heaped it in the hollow bole of an old tree. He looked through his pack and pulled loose the flint he needed to start a fire and also set aside some of the dried meat and bread that would make up his evening meal. Fang was busy digging a hole in the forest floor. Reven spoke, 'Fang, hunt!' and with that Fang's head shot up and he started running off, pausing to have one more look at Reven before departing. It took an age for Reven to get his fire going. Despite Master Hultz's instruction it wasn't as easy as his diagrams had indicated. At last he got it burning and with sore hands from the effort Reven had a small fire going in the hollow. He sat down pulling his cloak around him and taking a swig of water from a stoppered flask, wondered how long it would be before Fang returned with his kill. He started tucking into his meat and staring into the flames of the fire listening out all the while for his friends return. As the evening wore on and Reven heaped more wood on his fire, the warmth of the flames and his full stomach started to take it's toll. Reven stretched out in front of the fire and before long his head started to nod as he struggled to keep sleep at bay.

Reven woke with start. Night had crept on and it was pitch black in the forest. His fire was little more than dying embers and as he wiped the sleep from his eyes he discovered that Fang hadn't returned. Reven panicked, what had happened to the hound to keep him out in the forest so long, was he hurt, lost or worse. Reven gathered up his things stuffing them into his backpack. The moon offered little in the way of light but weighing the options, waiting in the dark of the camp for Fangs return wouldn't help him if he was in trouble. He shouldered his pack, pulled the hood of his cloak up and headed off into the woods in the same direction Fang had taken off in earlier.

It was tough going. Reven's eyes quickly grew accustomed to the gloom but it didn't make his journey any easier as he struggled through the thick undergrowth. His journey took him away from the roads and the further he travelled the denser the forest became. He tried to find signs of Fang's passing by looking for broken branches or recently disturbed ground but he was no tracker and the information imparted by Hultz hadn't covered stalking through woods in great detail. He pressed on regardless, thorny bushes tore at his face and clothes and many times he was thankful that he was only a boy and not fully grown as an adult would have struggled squeezing through some of the gap's in the closely knit bushes and trees.

Reven slipped as he tried to negotiate a muddy slope and slid down a steep incline stopping only when a tree caught his arm, almost wrenching it from the socket, but his descent had been halted. He took a moment to catch his breath and try and understand the lay of the land better. The slope carried on below him ending at some rocks. Reven counted his lucky stars that he had stopped. From where he was he could see that to his left and right there was very little in the way of anything else to hold onto. He would have crashed into the rocks below if it hadn't been for this tree. His arm ached but as the tree had caught through his sleeve it had done him any lasting damage. He righted himself, leaning against the trees trunk which stuck out of the ground at an odd angle due to the slope. He looked beyond the rocks and thought he could make out a light moving away from him in the night. He concentrated, yes, he was certain. The light from a torch was flickering through the trees of the forest. Reven lowered himself to the ground and managed to control the short slide from the tree to the rocks well enough that he didn't crack his head on them.

The light bobbed along in front of him growing feint as it moved away. Reven didn't know what compelled him but he scrambled over the rocks and into the trees beyond desperately trying to keep the light in sight. He raced through the trees with reckless abandon, crunching leaves and twigs as he went. Tripping, slipping and falling over tree roots and rotten branches, something in him willing him on to catch the light at all costs. As he got closer he was aware of how much noise he had been making and slowed his pace trying to tread lighter and muffle the noise he was creating. Whoever the torch bearer was they were in no hurry and as such could now be followed with ease.

Drawing closer still Reven could see that it wasn't only one person he pursued, but three. They were all men, one of them out in front held the torch whilst the two behind him carried a pole between them that rested on their shoulders. Reven looked more closely as he neared and his heart sank as he saw a net suspended from the pole and within the net a very angry, frustrated looking Fang. The hounds legs were sticking through the net at odd angles and he thrashed in the net jerking it, and the men carrying it, from side to side. Reven's eyes met with the hounds and in that brief moment he could almost feel the hounds panic and rage. Fang renewed his efforts seeing that Reven had arrived and writhed ever harder against the net that held him.

One of the men dropped his end of the pole, 'Bollocks to this, I'm trying again' he said as the other two halted. 'It's no use Franc, this dogs got the thickest skull I've ever seen. You'll never knock the sense out of him', the man with the torch shook his head as he spoke. 'I don't care, I'm trying. Knew I should've bought a bigger bloody blade than this skinning knife' replied Franc speaking more to himself than to his companions. He unhooked a cudgel from his belt and moved towards Fang. Reven knew what he was planning even before he struck. The way Fang had been thrashing it must have been slow going for the men and now he could see them up close he noticed how drawn and thin they were. They wore normal clothes but they were covered in filth and muck. They all sported shaggy beards and their dirty clothes were ripped in dozens of places. Fangs struggles must have been exhausting for these wiry looking men. If they had a blade that would of kept their hands out of reach of Fang's jaws Reven had no doubt they would of already killed his beloved companion. As these thoughts spun through Reven's mind Franc brought his cudgel down on Fang's head with a crack that sounded like a lumberjack chopping at a brittle tree. Then he brought it down again a second, third and forth time. Fang whelped and snarled in response but was powerless to fight back as he was so tangled in the net. Blood spurted from the hounds head as Franc continued to bludgeon him. 'Leave it, you're wasting your time' said the torch bearer but a madness seemed to have taken Franc. Reven could watch no more. He ran from his hiding place sprinting toward the men. Bursting through bushes and snapping branches as he ploughed through the forest. The men all moved toward the sound, readying themselves with their cudgels as Fang still struggled against the tangled net. Reven ran straight at them and they readied their weapons to meet his charge. He drew his practice blade and ducked straight under Francs swing, barrelling into the man and knocking him from his feet. Franc landed hard and threw his arms out to steady himself. His right hand hit the muddy ground, his left met Fangs waiting jaws. The hound bit down with such force that his razor sharp teeth bit through the net and Franc's flailing hand in one go. The man screamed in pain and clutched at the bloody stump with his remaining hand. Reven was already rising to his feet, trying to parry blows from the torchbearer as his companion came at Reven from the side. The man who had thrown his torch to the ground swung wildly at Reven who turned the blow aside and smashed his wooden blade into the mans face, smashing his teeth down his throat. The other man lunged in and hit Reven across the forearm, numbing it so much that he had to drop his weapon. He back tracked as the men came on, one spitting the remnants of his teeth out in bloody gobbets. Franc was back on his feet and was turning his full attention to Fang, beating him mercilessly with his cudgel. Reven looked around desperately for a weapon. Anything would do and then he spied the pole the men had been carrying Fang with. He bent down and scooped up the end of it, dragging it toward him. It was too heavy, he couldn't lift it and as he backed away one of them men stamped on the other end sending it crashing from Reven's grip. 'You're dead' sputtered the toothless man through broken, bloody lips. As they rounded on him a scream went up from Franc that the men couldn't help but turn to investigate. Reven saw his opportunity and took it. The toothless fairy in front of him was holding his cudgel ready to strike even though his attention was elsewhere. Reven jumped up and grabbed the cudgel from his hand, bringing it back down with a gratifying crunch as it met with the mans nose. At the same time Fang was separating Franc's head from his shoulders freed when Reven had pulled the pole free of the net.  The hounds thrashing had finally paid off, setting him free to take his revenge.

Toothless was motionless on the ground bleeding heavily from his face. Franc was pumping blood in to already sticky mud and their companion was left to face Reven and Fang alone. As if he could sense his fate he turned to run but too late. Fang darted after him and brought him down with a bite to the leg. Reven pounced on the mans back and put a crack the width of a thumb through the mans skull sending the life from him. Reven turned and threw his arms around Fang once the hound had released the dead mans leg. Fang also showed his relief at the reunion in his customary way of licking Reven's face, in the process cleaning off the blood that had splattered all over it.

As Reven was inspecting the wounds on Fang's head with the assistance of the dropped torch, a murmuring brought both of their heads round. The toothless man was coming round groaning through his shattered mouth. Reven walked over to him with Fang at his side and stood on the man's chest pinning him to the floor. The man tried to push his foot off but was weakened by the pounding he had taken and his feeble shoves had little effect. 'What were you doing with my hound?' Reven demanded, glaring at the pathetic man. 'Please...'the man said, holding up his hands as if he was trying to ward off Reven's gaze. 'Please....young sir....we was only going to eat the thing. We found him in one of our nets...he...he's meat.' Reven glanced at Fang and removed his foot from the mans chest. At the same time Fang stalked forward and with one gigantic bite of the mans throat ensured that he would never go hungry again.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Scent: Part 22

Reven didn't have to wait long before excitement came calling. A few days after the altercation with Hannibal Master Powel summoned Reven and Fang to his chambers with instructions to bring their possessions with them. When they arrived ,Master Powel informed them that the Beast Master had arrived but was not coming into the city. Reven and Fang were to travel outside the city walls to meet her and he would train under her tutelage for as long as much time as she could spare. An orderly came in to guide Reven out and as they were leaving Master Powel rose from where he was seated and followed, 'I'll miss you boy' he said. Reven stunned, turned at Powel's words, touched by their sincerity only to find him patting Fang's head. The hound wagged his tail at Powel and followed Reven into the corridor.

The orderly had fashioned a leash for Fang and gifted Reven with a scabbard for his practice sword and a heavy cloak to keep out the chill of the night as well as a backpack with some provisions in it. He also gave him a map and some written instructions on how to get to his rendezvous with the Beast Master.

Reven squinted, his eyes already unaccustomed to the sunlight. Before long he was walking through the bustling city that was a  lot more lively than when he had entered the city. He held Fang's leash loosely in his hand and marvelled at the sights and sounds that surrounded him. Beggars pulled at his cloak asking for money but soon relented after a warning growl from Fang. Street merchants bellowed from behind wooden carts that were stacked with all manner of wares, imploring people to purchase their goods. The wealthy walked with compliments of bodyguards, servants and hangers on as they conducted their business. Reven passed many inn's, the smell of beer and cooked meats wafted from the door ways enticing people off the streets.

He would have liked to linger in the city longer but he was keen to meet his new trainer hurried outside the huge city gates. The Freemarch Forest was before him once more. He removed Fang's leash and strode off down the road with a smile on his face and nervous excitement buzzing in his belly.

Scent: Part 21

The cloying darkness surrounded Reven. He hissed, his shoulder flared with pain as he tried to roll onto his side. For a moment he thought he was alone and then the eyes loomed out of the darkness. The armoured monster came at him and knelt, pushing him down so that his back was once again flat on the floor. Some how that one hand held Reven completely immobile and he froze in place. The figure pulled a small knife from his belt and started chanting over it. He then pulled three small pots from beneath his cloak and placed them on the floor next to Reven. A surge of heat came from the things hand and Reven's  body was racked with new levels of pain. The figure withdrew his hand but Reven remained pinned. He couldn't scream out though, couldn't fight back, he just lay there and endured. The armoured figure took his knife and dipped it into the first pot and then starting carving rune symbols into Reven's flesh. His arms, legs, head, chest and back all had symbols drawn on them as the fiend pulled him around to do his work. He repeated the process using the contents of the second pot and Reven thought he would pass out the pain was so severe. When finished the thing emptied the contents of the third pot over his hands and rubbed it over the freshly incised wounds. Where the slimy substance touched the runes glowed bright red and then faded as if they was never a mark there. The armoured bulk of the creature collected up its instruments and receded into the darkness. As it disappeared Reven was able to move again but he was too weary to try and stand. The voice came out of the pitch black, 'You are our vessel, give life to our wrath, be our bloody handed reaper.'

Reven's eyes snapped open. His body was slick with sweat and his breath came in ragged gasps. It was just before dawn. Reven could tell as the orderlies hadn't yet been in to light the torches and stoke the braziers. After the fight with Hannibal he had found Master Hultz and told him of what had transpired. At first Hultz was sceptical that event's had happened as Reven had explained them but when Master Powel joined them and they were taken to the scene of the attack the pools of blood and the smashed door gave credence to his tale and it was accepted. Some of Hannibal's co-conspirators were called before the Master and told all. The boy who had his leg ripped off by Fang was taken away to an infirmary somewhere in The Deep. Hannibal's cronies all were allowed to return to the dorm with a sentence for their crimes pending a decision by Hultz and Powel.

Reven was surprised his head didn't ache after the battering it had taken the evening before. In fact nothing ached, his pulse still raced from his nightmare but overall he seemed in good health. He lay there flexing his muscles and stretching them out and wondering what the coming days would bring.


Monday 1 December 2014

Scent: Part 20

 The uneasiness continued throughout that evening. The kinship that Reven had found with some of the aspirants had disappeared since Fang had despatched Shenk. They were wary of Fang now. Where before they had treated him like a pet they now looked at him with a mixture of reverence and disgust. Even Fang could sense their unease and often gave voice to a low growl of warning to turn aside third judgement filled looks of disdain. Reven would comfort him and if anything being ostracised by the majority of the group had brought them even closer together.

Over the weeks that followed Reven, Fang, Dodger and Essen had formed a tight bond. The training had continued and both Master Hultz and Master Powel had been driving the aspirants hard. Powel had not made Fang fight again in the bouts as the number of aspirants were uneven. This however was the only kindness he had shown, driving the children hard on a daily basis. The aspirants were learning then hard way but they were definitely learning. They underwent challenges involving balance where the training hall had been transformed into what looked like a forest full of tree's with no leaves and no branches; just trunks with flat tops. The aspirants balanced atop these for hours whilst Powel and some of the orderlies whacked the tree's with clubs to make them wobble and unsettled the child who perched at the top.

On the third time of doing one of these tests the odd number of aspirants were made even. A girl named Freya was balancing whilst Powel used his bare hands to shake the trunk she stood on. The girl tried to change her footing but misjudged it and slipped. Her neck snapped with a loud crack when she hit the floor. This happened the day before the bouts and it meant that Fang would be fighting somebody on the morrow. Tension mounted in the dorm that night as the aspirants turned there thoughts to tomorrows battles.
Dinner went by much the same as it had done the past few weeks with Reven sitting at the end of the table with Fang, away from the other aspirants. Dodger and Essen sitting on the other side of the table. A boy called Hannibal sat on a stool he had taken from the washroom at the head of the table. He had a group of cronies that huddled round him casting glances at Reven. Dodger would openly meet their gazes and they would look away, returning to their meals and their whispers. After dinner Reven took Fang downstairs to exercise him in the abandoned hall near Hultz's old classroom. Fang ran around with complete abandon, sprinting and then stopping before pouncing on an imagined enemy. Reven smiled as he watched Fang. The hound was almost twice as big as he had been when they met. The definition of his muscle had increased greatly and some of the longer fur he had around his neck and shoulders was being replaced by shorter, more wiry growth. He still played like a youth but his strength had grown with his size making him more than a match for any of the aspirants. Reven was growing too, in skill and in size. Despite his young age he was learning fast from Master Powel and was enjoying the training more than he ever thought he would.

Reven was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't he the footsteps. He leaned against the door looking into the hall. Fang was racing in circuits around the hall. The first Reven knew of his danger was the whoosh of air behind him as the wooden blade cut through the air, it's edge catching him on the temple with such force that it drove his head into the frame of the door. He swayed then dropped. He felt hands pulling him out of the doorway and then they were closed, his mind fogged by the blow he had received. His vision swam but he could make out figures standing over him. One of them leaned in close and Reven knew immediately who his attacker was.

Hannibal loomed over the prone Reven with his cronies in a rough circle around him. 'Time to uneven the odds again my old chum' said Hannibal. He pulled a carving knife out of his belt that he must have taken from the dinner table and sat on Reven's chest, pinning him in place. He held the blade to Reven's neck and hesitated. 'Go on Han' said a girl's voice, 'Do it. Before someone comes, kill him.' Hannibal's eyes flickered up towards the girl and then down again at Reven. His hesitation proved to be his undoing. 'You're in trouble', Reven gasped with a wry smile on his face. Hannibal sneered at him and pulled the knife back ready to strike and then the wooden doors of the hall exploded in a hail of splinters and fangs.

Fang burst through the doors smashing his head straight into Hannibal's chest sending the boy flying backwards. The other would-be attackers fell back, the closest covered in wooden pins. Reven pulled at Fangs neck to get himself up  and then kicked out at the nearest catching him straight between the legs. He drew his blade and hacked down at the back of the boys head. Fang grabbed at another's leg and tossed him around in his jaws. Reven lashed out at another spotting that Hannibal had recovered himself and rushed at Fang. He jumped on the hounds back and sunk his knife into the thick muscle of his shoulder. Fang yelped letting go of the mangled remains of the leg he had in his mouth and turning to face his assailant. Hannibal clung on, using the blade as a hand hold and spun with Fang. Reven rounded on Hannibal and thrust forward with his practice blade. In his haste he couldn't aim the blow but despite it's dull point Hannibal's eye couldn't resist the force of Reven's lunge. The tip of the wooden blade plunged into the boys head through his eye socket only meeting resistance when it hit the back of his skull. Fang reared and Hannibal's dead form fell to the floor with a wet smack as his life blood gushed from his mortal head wound. Reven gingerly pulled the knife free of Fangs shoulder and then turned to face the Hannibal's associates. Fang snarled at his side as Reven dropped into his fighting stance, sword in one hand and knife in the other. The aspirants shrunk away from him and then turned and fled, only the one legged boy and Hannibal's corpse remained.

With the fight done Reven slumped against Fang as his rage subsided. Fang licked at his face and gave a wag of his tail. 'Thank you Fang' Reven whispered and he probed the hounds shoulder for the wound. Reven pushed a hand against the cut and walked along side Fang down the corridors to find one of his masters. He and Fang left bloody footprints in their wake, spreading Hannibal's crimson failure through the halls of The Deep.


Friday 28 November 2014

Revens Fang - Scent: Part 19

Reven drew his blade in time with Dodger. As soon as he did so Fang pushed into the ring snarling and baring his teeth. 'Hold', Master Powel walked into the ring and went to grab Fang by the rough of the neck but Fang turned to face him snapping at his hand. Powel flinched away and then smiled at Fang. 'Boy, tell your hound to sit out of this one'. Powel stepped out of the ring as Reven led Fang to its edge. He made him sit and then looked him in the eye's, 'Stay here boy' he said before stroking under his chin and returning to face Dodger.

The bigger boy struck without Reven being ready. His wooden blade crashed against Reven's shoulder and he let out a howl of pain. The sword chop was rapidly followed with a knee to the stomach that doubled Reven over. It was immediately obvious that this wasn't the first fight Dodger had been in. He grabbed the material of Reven's shirt at the shoulder to stand him up as his sword arm pulled back for another strike. Reven couldn't catch his breath and he felt his body quake with expectation as violence was done to it. As Dodger pulled him up Reven stabbed up with his sword catching his opponent under the arm. Dodger yelped and spun, releasing Reven's shirt. He still managed to strike Reven on the arm but it was more of a tap, much of it's vigour having been spent recoiling from Reven's thrust. Reven followed with a two-handed downward swing of his sword which crashed against Dodgers blade with such force that it pushed it back letting Reven's sword tip strike Dodger in the face. The boy cried out but instead of swinging his sword in return he dropped it, throwing a punch at Reven with the other hand. Reven saw stars dancing in front of him as the punch connected with his cheek. He staggered to his left reeling from the unexpected fist and was struck with a clumsier punch from Dodgers other hand. Dodger was so close that Reven couldn't swing his sword, instead he reversed his grip and brought the heavy pommel of the hilt straight up into Dodgers chin. The blow landed with a gratifying smack and Dodger stumbled back. Reven capitalised on the opportunity and stabbed the point of his sword into Dodger's midriff with as much force as he could muster. His opponent dropped like a bag of stones. The air knocked out of him he fell to his hands and knees and then collapsed further till his cheek lay against the cold stone of the floor.

Powel stepped forward clapping his hands as he did so. 'A good bout, we've some scrappers in our midst it seems.' He pulled Dodger to his feet as if he weighed nothing. 'You both drew blood, but you fell', he said pointing at Dodger who was still sucking breath. Powel turned to face Reven, 'If those would have been real blades though your arm would be decorating the floor with crimson boy.' then he struck Reven on the shoulder to emphasize his point making him wince. 'Out', Powel pushed both boys aside as he motioned for two other aspirants to take their place. Reven stepped out and stood next to Fang and was surprised that Dodger shuffled through the other children to stand as his side. Reven turned his head to watch his approach and was even more surprised to see a maniacal grin across Dodgers bloody face. He spoke as soon as he sidled up, 'By the Great Bull's balls, you hit like a lad twice your size' he said clasping Reven's hand. 'Reven chuckled, 'and you hit like a hammer' he reached up with his other hand wiping the blood from his cheek which has split neatly across the bone. 'Think we'll get on fine' said Dodger as he released Reven's hand and turned to concentrate on the next bout.

The other aspirants all fought under Master Powel's gaze. Most of the bouts were clumsy affairs that ended up with the combatants rolling on the floor pulling hair and gouging eye's. None of them were particularly gifted fighters but then again not a one of them were more than 16 summers old. A hushed silence fell as it came to the last two aspirants. A tubby boy by the name of Shenk and Fang. Reading Shenk's worried look Master Powel stepped into the ring and addressed the class, 'This animal is worth 100 of you. We have sent for a trainer for the beast but it will take many weeks for her to arrive and as such I have decided that the hound will train whenever possible with us.' he looked around as some of the aspirants faces dropped, none more so than Shenk's. Powel's face was alight with mirth seeing their misery. Reven walked Fang into the centre of the ring as Shenk drew his practice blade. The hound stood there his tongue lolling out of his mouth appearing to quite enjoy the attention that he was getting. As soon as Reven stepped away Fang sat and gazed stupidly at Shenk. Shenk looked to Master Powel, pleading in his eye's. Powel simply shouted 'Fight!' which scared the chubby boy into action. He ran screaming at Fang and smashed him across the snout with his sword. Fang yelped and looked at Reven and it was now his turn to shout, 'Fight Fang'. With that the hounds demeanour changed completely. He skipped back from Shenk's next swing and then jumped forward, landing with one fore-leg on either side of Shenk's head. Fang tore the boy's throat out before he had a chance to react. With no life in him he slumped to the floor as Fang growled and nipped at his corpse. There were gasps from some of the aspirants and many turned their faces away from the scene that was unfolding before them. Master Powel's eyes were blazing, not in anger, but in pure unadulterated adulation. Reven rushed to Fangs side and pulled him away, both arms around his neck. They hurried away from the ring and stood away from the rest of the group. Powel strode in inspecting the bloody mess that had once been Shenk and then stood, his booming voice rang out. 'We will have these bouts weekly. You will all need to be as efficient as the hound if you wish to survive, only the best may join the ranks of The Black Veil. Stop snivelling and prepare for your first lesson.'

They trained for the rest of the afternoon as Powel instructed them on stance and the importance of posture. Most shot disturbed glances at Fang throughout the training but not Dodger. He stayed close to Reven and Fang and patted the hound whenever possible in a show of solidarity to his new found friends.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Master Powel from Scent Part 18

Warrior from the fantasy story

Scent: Part 18

The next day Reven woke refreshed after the best sleep he'd had since the calamity at Rosholt. The previous nights meal had left all the aspirants with full bellies and had given them a chance to know more about each other. It had seemed that tragedy had befallen all of them in one way or another and everyone of them was alone in the world. This new kinship continued in the morning and the aspirants chatted freely as they dressed and made ready for the day ahead. Fang was now wearing a sash of black material around his neck that had the dogs head badge on it. This is what passed for a hounds clothes Reven surmised.

Hultz came to collect them and led them upstairs to a new classroom in the main house. Reven was overjoyed to see that the room had a window and despite the day being overcast he couldn't contain his happiness and rushed over to the window as the wind slowly swayed the drooping green branches of the trees outside. The morning flew past and come midday the class were led back down into The Deep to a large hall. It was carved out of rock and had several braziers that were suspended from the ceiling. The size the room was overwhelming and Reven wondered how the world above didn't come crashing in through the ceiling despite the two vast columns that sat a third and two thirds of the way in respectively. Master Hultz ushered them over to the side of the room and they sat on benches whilst still gazing around the room. He left them telling them that their trainer would be with them soon.

Only minutes had passed when a powerfully built man walked across the great hall towards them. His dark brown hair was long and pulled back into a ponytail. The olive skin of his face was marred by scars and his nose looked as if it had been broken at least twice. A scar ran the length of the left side of his face, over his eye down his cheek and across his lips ending on his chin. A huge wolf's skull sat on his right shoulder and he wore a wolf's pelt as a cloak. He wore a richly detailed steel breastplate and a sword at his side. In one of his hands he carried a shield that again featured the wolf motif and his muscular arms were bare below the elbow where they met his black undershirt. He stood in front of them casting an appraising eye over them paying special attention to the badges on the aspirants shoulders. He cocked an eyebrow as he came to Reven and his multiple badges. When his eyes settled on Fang they lit up and a broad smile appeared on the mans face. He walked straight toward Fang who stood at his approach. He fell into a crouch in front of the hound and offered hi his hand. Fang sniffed at it and once he had stopped the man moved it to the top of Fangs head stroking it gently. He whispered words in a tongue that Reven didn't recognise before ruffling his fingers behind Fangs ear. The man stood and moved to stand in front of the aspirants again. 'I am Master Powel. I am here to tutor you in the art of defence and to my mind the best defence is to annihilate your foe' his face dropped into a snarl as he spoke. 'Most of you will break under my ministrations like so many twigs. The next few weeks will test you. My aim is to mould you into warriors or destroy you in the process.' Powel smiled at this enjoying watching the young aspirants squirm.

He walked over to a wooden chest that sat against the wall and heaved the lid open. He called for the aspirants to form a queue and proceeded to hand out swords that had wooden blades. Once everybody had one Master Powel explained that these were their practice swords and they should be taken with them everywhere. Crude sword belts were handed out that had a loop of leather in place of a scabbard. Reven secured his sword at his side and noted that hilt and cross guard were made of solid metal; iron he thought from the faint glow of rust on it. It added a real weight to the sword making it only a little lighter than the short sword he had procured whilst escaping Rosholt.

Powel moved the group into the centre of the room and stood them around a circle that was drawn in red paint on the floor. 'Time to see what the youth of today are made of. You' he said pointing at Dodger who was the biggest of the aspirants, 'and you' he pointed at Reven. 'Move into the ring. On my command you will battle until one of you bleeds freely or until one of you falls.' With that Powel stepped away from the ring. Reven drew his wooden blade and readied himself. The aspirants newly found friendships would be sorely tested in the coming moments.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Scent: Part 17

The training continued this way for a week. Everyday the aspirants were ferried into the classroom and each evening they were ushered back to their cells. They sat and listened to Hultz as he spoke about the world and the various races that lived within it and how different countries were ruled and governed. They rarely paused and were not allowed to speak when they did so. Occasionally people would appear at the back of the room and listen to Hultz and then disappear off somewhere.

Reven was given a slight reprieve as Fang was allowed to be exercised in a hall that was further down the corridor from the classroom. It was only ten minutes a day but Fang appreciated it and Reven enjoyed running around with him knowing that the other aspirants would already be secured in their cells. Reven was growing tired of the constantly flickering torches and braziers that decorated the halls and rooms of The Deep. He longed to feel the wind on his face and the suns rays upon his skin. Each time he attempted to broach the subject with Master Hultz he was shushed into silence. Reven was contemplating this very thing whilst Hultz talked about the many cults of the world and the threats they posed to decent people. He was so lost in his daydream that he didn't notice that Hultz had asked him something until he realised the whole room was looking at him.

Reven's face burned with embarrassment and he squirmed under Hultz' withering gaze. 'Are you going to answer me boy or shall you just sit there gazing at the wall?' Hultz spat. Reven stammered 'I....I....sorry...' before being cut off yet again by one of Hultz' raised hands. 'Bah' he shouted, 'Useless, the lot of you. You will never learn if you never listen.' Master Hultz' composure seemed to reassert itself and he relaxed his shoulders as he let out a long sigh. 'Maybe that is enough for today', the aspirants looked at each other, confused. There were hours of the day left yet. Hultz continued to speak, 'Today you will be moving from your cells to one of the common rooms above. You will enjoy your first meal that isn't gruel and be given the opportunity to bathe. Beds will be allocated to you and you will be given new clothes to wear. Say farewell to your old clothes as they will be burnt.' Hultz let this news sink in before continuing. Reven had never seen the other aspirants smile before. 'As of tomorrow the nature of your training will change. You will all attend lessons with me in the mornings as you have been, but your afternoons will be spent learning the more physical aspects of life in the order. Weapons training will commence at midday.' This news was not as well received as the promise of a proper meal but Reven for one could not wait to see more of The Deep and to have a sleep in a proper bed.

Reven made his way upstairs with the other aspirants. Hultz led them into a large room that had ten beds in it, five to each wall. Each bed had a wardrobe next to it on one side and a small chest of draws on the other. The centre of the room was dominated by a long table that had chairs on either side. Hultz addressed them as they moved into the room. 'Beyond the door at the far end of this room are washing and toilet facilities which I suggest you use before donning your new clothes.' he motioned towards the beds. Each bed had a neatly folded pile of clothes on it and a pair of boots tucked under their foot. 'When I call your name you will report to your bed then you have an hour to wash, dress and get used to your new surroundings.' With that Hultz walked to the corner of the room and started reading out names as he made his way round the room indicating a bed each time he did so. With only two beds left Reven listened as Fang's name was read out. He trotted over to where Hultz pointed and jumped onto the bed. He circled around and scratched at the blanket before settling down to rest. Some of the aspirants giggled including Reven but Hultz silenced them with a stare. 'Reven. This is your bed.' he said indicating the corner bed. 'Your hound will stay with you here until he outgrows the room at which time we will find somewhere else to keep him'. Fang tilted his head and raised an eyebrow without ever moving his head from the blanket at Hultz' words whilst Reven responded with a curt 'Yes Master Hultz.' Hultz nodded as if satisfied with his work and lefty the room leaving the door wide open. 

Reven sat down on Fang's bed and stroked his head and leaned in to whisper in his ear 'They won't separate us again Fang. Don't worry.' Reven wasn't sure if Fang heard this or not as he promptly started snoring as soon as Reven drew his head back but he smiled anyway, his own words reassuring him. 

The aspirants made there way in to the wash room and went about cleaning a weeks worth of dirt and grime from their bodies. One of the older boys who announced himself as Dodger groaned with pleasure as he lowered himself into the hot water of the communal bath, 'Ahh, the Great Bull's ball's that feels good.' This drew sniggers from two girls that were on the other side of the bath, fully clothed to hide their modesty. 'The great who?' asked a wiry framed youth who was climbing in. 'The Great Bull! Zorn! God of the harvest and fertility' Dodger responded. The wiry youth paused at the top of his climb, 'Never 'erd of 'im' he said with a raised brow. He moved to swing his trailing leg over the edge of the bath but caught it and fell face first into the water. All of the aspirants laughed at this and they relaxed in the warm water swapping names and the tales of how they came to at The Deep.

Reven dried himself using one of the rough blankets provided as he walked back to his bed. Fang still slumbered in the berth next to him as he looked at his new clothes. They were made up of black trousers that had leather patches on the knee and at the side of the thigh. A white undershirt and a loose fitting black shirt that was fastened by thin cord at the neck. The shirt had three badges sewn onto the shoulder facing forward. All red rimmed with a white background but each sporting a different image. One had a bow and arrow stitched on to it, another a sword and the final one a dogs head. He looked at some of the other aspirants as they dressed and others sported the sword or a dagger on their shoulder. The wiry boy who Reven had learnt was called Essen had a skull on his. As far as he could make out only Reven had three badges and he made a note to ask Master Hultz about this next time he saw him.