Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Scent: Part Four


Reven’s eyes snapped open. Darkness surrounded him. He pushed himself up, onto his feet and moved slowly forward, arms outstretched. He was walking on hay that was ankle deep. He heard heavy breathing, it seemed to come from all around him. He moved faster and his hands made contact with a wall. It was moist, the bricks damp to the touch; the breathing continued. “Hello” he called, “Who’s there?”, no answer came. He turned and pushed his back against the wall. He scanned left and right trying to make out the shape of the room but the darkness was all encompassing. A shuffle in the hay brought his head round. He whimpered as he saw red eyes staring at him from the darkness. He withered under their baleful glare, the strength draining from his body. He sunk down onto one knee, unable to keep his head up it fell forward, his chin coming to rest on his chest. He felt heat radiating from the being before him as it drew closer. He felt and armoured hand close about his shoulder as he kneeled there in supplication, unable to move. The being dug its thumb in easily parting the flesh of Reven’s shoulder. He desperately wanted to cry out but he was unable to. The waves of heat emanating from the thing grew in intensity making Reven feel sick. He could taste vomit in his mouth, and feel sweat dripping down his back. The being spoke, its voice a low rumble like a distant rock fall, “You are our vessel, carry our burden and despair”. The things grip loosened and he fell to the floor convulsing and at last found his voice, screaming uncontrollably as burning pain racked his body.
Reven’s eyes snapped open. He lay on the ground near the city wall, it was night time but the moon was full and its luminescence was enough to see by. He felt groggy, his brow was beaded with sweat and there was a dull ache in his side. The nightmare still raced through his mind as he remembered the fight by the wall. The fur clad raiders and their struggle with the big man Bran. All was still now. He reached to his side and the memory of the sword flashing towards him sprung into his mind. He thought it had hit him, he was sure it was going to. He could feel a hole in his shirt but no break in his skin. He sat up and inspected further. He could feel dried, crusted blood but couldn’t find a mark on him. He shrugged, relived that he’d has some luck at last. Rising to his feet he took in his surroundings. Even though the moonlight was weak he could still the burn on the ground from the lantern oil. The bodies of his would be attackers still lay motionless on the floor but something didn’t seem right about them. Reven moved closer to one that lay on its side facing away from him. He placed his boot on the dead man’s shoulder and rolled him over. Reven gagged when he saw that the man’s stomach had been torn open and his face was a ragged red mess. Moonlight glinted off of the gore that covered the body. Reven slammed his hand over his mouth and backed away almost tripping over a second body, this one belonging to the last man Bran had slain. He was similarly disfigured with much of his flesh missing and bone visible. Reven reeled away, his eyes searching the nearby treeline. Wild animals must have been attracted by the scent of death. Again he counted his luck at not being dragged off into the forest to be a meal for some beast. As his mind raced he realised that his make shift backpack was hanging loosely from his back. He still had the mangled leg of meat he had taken from the city but the hound was gone. Reven was lucky not to have been dragged off into the forest but obviously the pup hadn’t shared in that luck. Reven’s attempt to save the poor animal had led the thing straight to its death. He sighed as he untied the jacket from his back and then proceeded to put it on to keep out the nights chill. He tucked the leg of meat into the side of the jacket resigning himself to the fact it would need a wash before he could cook it, no matter how much his growling stomach protested.
He needed to get going. He didn’t want to be around when the animals came back to finish their meal. He knew this meant going into the very same forest from which the animals must have come but he needed to get away from the city. He fastened the jacket at its front and rolled up the sleeves so he had use of his hands. He looked around one last time in the hope that there was something worth taking but there was nothing. He moved into the forest immediately tripping on something concealed in the grass. He stumbled as he recovered himself and turned to see a short sword glinting at him from the grass. He reached down and lifted the blade. It was heavy but his old Ma had always said it’s better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it. He needed her now, sadness crept up on him but he pushed it aside. There would be time to grieve later. He examined the weapon and noticed that there was something smeared up the blade. He wiped it on the grass before slipping it into his belt. He was tempted to go and check the bodies for a scabbard but thought better of it, not wanting to look on those ghastly half-eaten faces again. He didn’t know where he was going or what direction he should take but he knew that somewhere in these woods was Bran and his companions and he knew that he would feel infinitely safer travelling at the big man’s side than negotiating the forest alone.
Only five minutes into the forest and Reven could already hear furtive movements all around him. The forest was alive with activity. Insects buzzed by angrily and birds called out in shrill voices. There were other things in these woods too. He could hear them rustling in the bushes and the trees overhead. It was difficult to see anything as the branches of the trees overhead obscured much of the weak light offered by the moon. Reven was sorely tempted to turn back and await the coming of the dawn but pressed on anyway. He could hardly see where he was going and there was no discernible path to follow so he trudged on in what felt like the right direction. As he pushed on he could hear something larger moving at speed behind him. The crack of twigs on the floor and the snappy rustle of the bushes told him whatever it was it was moving at speed and heading straight for him. Reven started to run, desperately looking around for somewhere to hide. Unfortunately whilst looking around he wasn’t looking at the floor and tripped on the root of a tree falling onto his hands. He scrambled to his feet again but knew that it was too late. He spun on the spot trying to draw the sword from his belt but the hilt had been obscured by the oversized jacket he was wearing and it prevented him from drawing it free. The sound of bounding feet made him raise his head just as a black shadow raced out of the darkness and sprang at him. He threw his hands up in front of his face in a vain effort to ward the creature off but the momentum of its leap sent Reven flying. He landed on his back, the thing on top of him. It was all teeth and fur and he desperately tried to push it off. One of his hands slipped off the creature as he shoved and allowed it to fall in between his arms. Its muzzle bashed him in the face as it fell and Reven craned his neck away from the beast’s mouth trying to avoid its inevitable bite. He screwed his eyes shut prayed for mercy. But no bite came, in fact no attack at all came. The thing just lay on him panting. Reven grabbed around the things neck and rolled to the side trying to gain an advantage. As he did so his attackers face became visible in the moon light and Reven froze, staring unbelieving into the creatures face. The war hound pup stared back up at him with a comically dumb look on his face. The pups tongue hung limply from his mouth and Reven could feel the rhythmic beat of the hound’s tail on his leg. He couldn’t help but laugh as relief flooded through him. His laughter seemed to spur the pup on and it found its feet and started wagging its tail even more furiously as it licked at Reven’s face. This made Reven laugh even harder and in a heartbeat his fear of death had been replaced with pure unbridled elation.

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