Monday, 13 October 2014

Scent: Part 2


Reven awoke in agony. His left shoulder flared with pain. He reached up and felt for the source of his discomfort and could feel slick blood that covered his chest and arm. He could feel he had a hole in his shoulder at the join and that the blood was sticky. He could see nothing but the dull outline of the gate, the darkness beyond it was not as all-encompassing as that of the darkness of the room he now found himself in. He was lying on straw, he could feel that much. The room stank and the air was heavy with moisture. He tried pushing himself up and pained surged through his damaged joint. His head ached from the blow that he received when he fell, not that he could remember much of the fall. A sound behind him snapped his head round. Suddenly he was acutely aware that he wasn’t alone. Whatever is was it moved towards him, the sound of its movements gave the impression of something huge and he could hear the thing start to sniff the air. Reven tried to pull himself away from the sound as fear gripped him sending an icy chill racing through his veins. The sound grew closer until the he could feel the heat of the things breath in his face, it pinned him to the ground using one of its feet; Reven felt claws dig in as he was forced flat. The thing sniffed again, it was like having bellows blown in his face. Reven thought that his life was over when a peculiar thing happened. Instead of feeling teeth sinking into his flesh to rip him to pieces he felt a rough fleshy tongue run across the wound on his shoulder. The animal continued to lick his wound and finished off by running its huge tongue up Reven’s cheek a few times for good measure. Confusion warred with fear in Reven’s mind until a sound from above brought both his head and the beasts round to focus on the gateway. He could hear shouting from above and see the glow of torchlight fill the curved hall beyond the gateway. The beast that towered over Reven moved toward the gate furtively. Against the light he could now make out the true epic proportions of the animal and immediately knew where he was and what he was sharing the room with. These were not stables but kennels. The animal that had just shown him such tenderness was in fact a born and bred killer; a war hound, a creature related to and similar in appearance in many ways to normal dogs. Similar in all but its size. They were as big as cart horses with teeth the size of daggers, and adorned with thick slabs of muscle. Bred to be taken to war as either mounts for noblemen or for use as an alternative to cavalry, they were fearsome opponents and rightly feared by the sane. The beast stalked closer to the gate as the light and sound from above grew. The war hound placed itself in darkness next to the gateway and waited. Reven moved away from the light now spilling into the room noting that the pain in his shoulder had eased greatly. Finding his feet he moved to the opposite side of the gate to that of the hound.
“Hold up lads, somebodies down here”, a gruff voice came from just beyond the gate and was followed by a flaming torch that spiralled in through the gateway and landed in the middle of the room, immediately setting some of the hay ablaze. “Get out of there you wretches, come and face justice”, the man’s voice sounded even nearer than before. A head appeared through the gateway, “Come out, come out, wherever you a…..” a snap from the hound’s jaws took the man’s head off in one clean bite before he could finish his sentence. The headless body fell to the floor spouting a crimson fountain as it did so. Reven was transfixed, he had never seen anything so horrifying yet so completely irresistible in his short life. The war hound bolted through the open gate and barrelled into more men that were coming down the hallway. Reven was frozen to the spot. The beast charged through the men and up around the corner and an ear shattering sound of splintering wood told him that it had made good its escape. The men picked themselves and raced after the hound. The flames from the torch that had been cast into the room were creeping across the floor, spitting and dancing as they went. Reven knew he had to move. He looked down at the corpse of the headless man at his feet and noticed a pouch at his belt. He untied the bindings holding it in place and attached it to his own belt. He also unsheathed the dagger at the man’s side and slid it into his boot. The site of the neck that was still oozing a trickle of blood onto the floor made him feel queasy. He looked around the room again and was surprised to see movement in the corner. He glanced at the ever glowing flames in the middle of the room then made his way to the corner where the movement had caught his eye. He was greeted with a site that filled him with sadness. A group of small bodies littered the corner. The war hound that had briefly shared this room had obviously recently become a mother. For some reason she hadn’t been able to keep them alive. As he looked closer he saw that they lay huddled together, all motionless except for one. Reven knelt down and pulled the pup from under the bodies of its siblings. It wasn’t an easy feat as the pup was almost the same size as he was. As smoke started billowing across the room Reven dragged the heavy pup across to the gateway. It moved feebly in response to his actions and its breathing was laboured. Again he turned his attention the decapitated corpse and started to relieve the dead man of his jacket. He sat the hound against the wall and pushed him back so he sat upright. Reven slipped the jacket down the hounds back until it came to the top of its hind legs. He then sat in front of the pup and tied the bottom of the jacket around his waist. The jacket was made for a man so could easily fit a boy and what was for all intents and purposes a large dog in it without too much of a struggle. Reven tied the arms of the jacket around his neck and lent forward taking the pups weight on his back. He got to his feet and unsteadily made his way up the sloping hallway. He made his way out of the huge hole that had been made in the side of the kennel by the mother hounds escape. Smoke was rising freely from the building now and looking around he could see that it wasn’t the only building in this part of the city that had been put to the torch. He could see no sign of the larger war hound or its pursuers. He decided to start moving to the edge of the city hoping to try and find some way of escaping the madness.
It was late and Reven had no idea how long he had lain unconscious in the War Hounds kennel. He also noticed as he walked that he felt no pain from his shoulder and upon inspection was amazed to see that the wound had scabbed over already. The burden of the pup also didn’t seem to bother him as much as it should have done. He marched on into the cloying darkness, away from the fires and toward what he hoped would be freedom from this city of death.
He scavenged what he could as he travelled. It looked like looters and already been busy in this part of the city, taking advantage of the insanity that gripped the frighten city after the arrival of the besiegers. He managed to gather up some bits of stale bread and a filthy leg of some animal from a butchers. It had been trampled all over and obviously in their haste the looters hadn’t considered it worthy loot. He recovered a lantern from a house that had the door busted in and turned the flame low so as to save its light. As he neared the city wall he looked back to see if he could make out the keep. He couldn’t, all he saw was a pall of smoke that had a slight orange glow to it, lit by the fires that raged through the homes and businesses that once made up the mighty city of Rosholt.

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