by jack bauer
1276, northwestern Blocktir wilderness.
It happened so fast. It felt as if it was only a fortnight ago that the fishermen would come home with an abundance of fish and the farmers would cry in joy at the plentiful harvest and the larder would sing happily while churning his curd. But now, now there was no joy.
The village, which was no more than a messy cluster of huts, cabins, tents, watchtowers, and campfires, had only one defense. A barely-stable wooden wall made of sharpened wooden poles haphazardly tied together with rotting ropes. The ground was mostly uneven plots of charcoal colored dirt with sheets of ice and frost coated over them. There was only an occasional sprout of frost-covered dark green grass, but they usually wouldn’t last long before being trampled, whether by human or by Mother Nature.
Chief Erik stormed sternly towards the front gate. “HUGO!” His thunderous voice shouted. As he walked, his menacing silhouette of broad shoulders and meaty arms burst into view, the end of his fur cloak darting behind him in the wind. Even though his mouth was buried in a majestic black beard, his ferocious words booming in a deep, rich voice could be heard without fault. The most fearsome of all though was the massive battle axe gripped in his large, beefy hand.
“Yes Erik?” A somewhat sarcastic and deadpan voice returned. Hugo was everything Chief Erik was in reverse. Tall and lanky with sandy blonde hair turning silver-grey in the roots. His face was like an owl, round with a small pointy chin. Observant, skeptical eyes sat on a large, beak-like nose perched over thin lips surrounded by wispy pale facial hair that probably once resembled a beard and mustache. He wore a lengthy reddish-brown robe with silver emblems of Norgic symbols and dragon imagery all over it. He also held a small leather-bound book in his left hand.
“What’s the situation?” Erik said as he walked directly past Hugo, not even looking him in the eyes.
“Three men we found coming from the south,” Hugo responded.
“Galidonians?” Erik spat somewhat hatefully.
“Most definitely,” Hugo replied. His voice, unlike the chief’s, was soft and raspy with a sophisticated tone and elegant mannerisms. The two approached and the crowd of maybe three dozen villagers parted from them to walk through. The chieftain inspected the three men in the center, all standing with their hands tied together with ropes. The crowd came to a silence as everyone watched Erik anxiously.
“What are your names?” The brute of a man said at last, breaking the silence with a boom.
“Sir Tobias, imperial cadet of Galidon,” the one on the left said. He was a very young man, 18-20 years of age, with golden blonde hair and a skinny but well built body. He was also fairly handsome and the most confident of the bunch, albeit the youngest.
“S-sir Edgar, imperial sergeant of Galidon…” the middle one said nervously in a groveling voice. He was a pudgy and stocky man with a wide neck, rotund cheeks, and a round chin. A dark brown mustache, neatly shaven, was tucked under his fat nose and beady eyes buried in cheek fat looked fearfully at the chief. He looked maybe 35 at the oldest, but it was hard to tell with his fattened build. The chief looked at the man on the right.
“You?” He said. The man did not respond. The chief turned menacingly and pointed the axe at the man. In a terrifying tone that could strike fear into anyone, with a deep voice, the chieftain said, “When I ask you a question, you answer. Name.” The man shot a glance at Erik. His eyes were bloodshot beyond belief, dreary grey bags hanging lifelessly under them. His hand started twitching subtly. Filthy black hair hung down over his face, and his swollen purple lips quivered. The chief paused, complexed by the boy’s face, but then turned his attention back to Tobias.
“What are you doing here?” He said.
“Yesterday we learned that 4 knights sent from Galidon had not returned from a patrol mission. Me and Edgar were sent to find them, but all we came across was Casper, the guy with us who isn’t talking. Apparently, the rest of his squadron was killed in an undead ambush along with two Norg prisoners they captured. Casper was the only one to survive. He hasn’t talked since last night and has been coughing and twitching a lot since. I think he may have trauma after the attack. Earlier today though, while heading back, some of your villagers on a hunting party found us and forcefully dragged us back here,” Tobias explained.
Erik took another glance at the men. Before he could say another word, Casper, the man Tobias and Edgar were sent to find, fell to his knees and began violently coughing, his hands now twitching much less subtly than before. The crowd flocked away from the man and murmurs began to slowly arise.
“Stand back,” Hugo said as he approached the sickly soldier and knelt beside him. “Are you a doctor?” Tobias asked. “No,” Hugo flatly responded, inspecting the man’s twitching hands.
“Well….what are you?” He asked. Hugo turned his head apathetically and said in a sarcastic and dry voice “I’m the resident village old wise guy. Now shut up.”
Without warning, Casper lashed out and swiped his arm at Hugo, but the old man managed to dodge it by falling back. Edgar, who stood beside him, quickly swooped down and grabbed Casper's arms. “You! Fat boy! Restrain him!” Hugo shouted. Edgar began to fearfully stammer, “C-Casper!? W-What’s the matter with you-”
CRUNCH. Caspers head jerked to the side and sunk his teeth deep into Edgar's neck. His jaw then contracted with great force, tearing a massive meaty chunk of the man’s flabby neck off with a gruesome bite. Edgar fell to the ground, grotesque quantities of gore spewing onto the ground. Erik quickly raised his axe up and smashed it down into Casper's chest with a THUD, sending a streak of blood splattering across the snowy ground. But before the ghoul crumbled to the ground dead, he let out a massive, ghastly shriek. “By the fist of Odin,” Hugo murmured.
Immediately, a dozen undead flooded through the gates. A middle-aged woman named Thurid who had been standing near the gates became the first to be devoured. Chaos ensued as the loud sounds of battle only attracted more undead. Erik swung his axe violently at every zombie he saw, the blood of the undead splattering all around him like rainfall. All of the sudden, from the back, he heard Hugo scream, “ERIK GET DOWN.” The chieftain spun around and was pushed to the ground with a powerful, unexpected push. The last thing Erik saw before his head hit a rock and everything went black was Hugo, who had pushed him out of the way, being knocked to the ground by an undead Sir Edgar.
One day later
Erik awoke, dizzy and confused. Everything was a hazy blur of sickening motion, and all sound muffled together in a fuzzy crescendo of inaudible sounds.
“Lord Drepson, one of the prisoners have finally awoken!” A nearby voice shouted joyfully. “Well goodie, ‘bout time,” another voice chuckled.
“Where….where am I! Who are you!” Erik shouted as he wrapped his fists around the iron bars in front of him and began shaking.
“Relax ya big norg mutt, you’re in the custody of lord Drepson and his company,” said the same person who had talked the first time. Erik looked around and realized he was in an iron bar cage mounted on a wagon. Around the wagon were about a dozen men, give or take, riding horses. Although all of them were armored, it wasn’t the imperial iron military armor knights would wear. It was fancy and ornamental, more meant for looks and a show of wealth than actual protection. That was especially apparent for the one who led the group, most likely the lord Drepson they referred to, who wore large, elaborate, expensive, and fancy-looking armor made of gold and red jewels, along with a lavish red cape and a massive golden sword at his side. Even his horse wore armor of gold, silver, and expensive red fabrics. Erik looked to his side and saw Tobias was also in the cage with him.
The knight riding next to them asked “what are your names?” Neither of them spoke. “You DARE not respond to Sir Fredric of Agvilis!? I have enough power to have you hung and then convince the devil in hell to hang you again!” The knight spat in a nasally, weasel-like voice.
“Don’t talk to the prisoners Fredric” said a stern voice coming from near the front of the group. “Ah, Ruining the fun as always Byron,” Fredric murmured.
“Shut your trap, everything that comes out of your goddamn mouth is utterly useless” the snarky Byron snapped.
“Well SORRY that not all of us lack a sense of humor,” Fredric replied saltily. One of the knights chuckled at the statement, so Drepson, in the first words Erik heard from him, quickly snapped back by saying in a deep, menacing voice, “don’t chuckle at Fredric’s words Trudgen. It only encourages his antics.”
“Sorry m'lord '' Trudgen mumbled back. “Prisoners! Identify your names or we will kill you. If you doubt that claim I’ll be happy to oblige,” Drepson shouted ruthlessly. He slowed down his horse so it was side to side with the wagon. Once it was, he removed his big and fancy gold helmet. He was younger than Erik expected, but just as scary. scowling lips spread across a prominent, sharp jaw. Eyes of steel with arched black brows sat above them, wielding a sort of merciless sophistication. black tousles of hair bounced on his shoulders, hanging like tassels on the end of a curtain. A jet black, cascading, slicked-back curtain of hair that is. After a moment of thinking, they responded.
“Erik, village chieftain,” He said spitefully in a deep tone. Tobias took a bit longer to respond. “Otmin, resident of the village,” Tobias said in a lie. “Don’t lie to me boy. When we found you you wore Galidonian armor. Now, real name,” Drepson replied coldly.
Tobias took another pause. “Fine, I was a cadet soldier from Galidon captured by the villagers…. But my name is really Otmin,” Tobias finally said, still going with the fake name.
“Hm….alright then. Otmin, Galidonian cadet, and Erik, the village chief. A strange pair, but I think it will be worth our time.” Drepson said. “Next stop: the frightened forest.”