SFFS

This is the final submission for SFFSat for a while. This is the last part of Chapter 3 of FirstBorn, my YA Urban Fantasy novel. Thank you for those who bought it and left reviews. I’ll be back once I have something I’m comfortable with it leaving my computer or the dark recesses of my mind. 

On a happier note, here is the link to last week’s post, which this piece finishes off: http://enkousama.blogspot.com/2013/03/sffs_15.html
Read them together and there should be a joke in here somewhere. Or not. 
Either way, enjoy.

I opened the door and was greeted by a short young girl dressed in an olive green, Victorian-style suit, complete with an ascot and a cloak. Her platinum-blond hair gleamed in the afternoon sun and her skin seemed to glisten. Her penetrating green eyes matched my own color but burned with an intensity that seemed to weigh your soul and then judge accordingly.
The girl broke the slowly increasingly awkward silence. “Hello, brother.”
I shook myself out of my daze. Just seeing my sister mere feet away from me was enough to induce anxiety. Over the years I had learned that the only way to deal with stress is to laugh and occasionally give in to minor bouts of madness. 
I gave in. 
Glancing toward the sky, as if praying, I said, “Good one.”

Christ Copyright

Easter is coming soon and in this Catholic country of mine, that is a big deal. So before I go into a rant about religion in general I suppose some background information is due.
I was raised Catholic or Christian, whatever you wanna call it. I remained a devout religious person until I was eighteen, when I reached a peek in my jaded views and the idea of worship didn’t sit well with me. Now that I’m older and somewhat wiser, I know better. I still refuse to enter in a Church or any other place of worship but not simply out of rebellion, but rather out of mistrust. Allow me to explain.
I do believe that there is a higher being. And whilst I fully believe in science and the Big Bang and whatnot, I can’t help but wonder. I mean, try humbling yourself for a while – you can see the beauty in anything. Anyone who set in motion a tiny spark of life, enacted the Big Bang, which resulted in the most complicated and beautiful planet in our solar system and in the accident which gave life to all of us and which will probably end in a nuclear war where human zombies eat eachother and some mutant cockroach roams the planet like a boss until 5th dimension aliens populate our planet and tell eachother fairy tales of those funny things called homo sapiens (x3): anything which can do that is surely deserved of the title God.
I know God exists – how else do you explain the imagination and the creativity inside each and every one of us?

My beef isn’t with God – its with the churches, cults and human congregations. The world is a beautiful thing; it’s man with his dumbass vehicles and diet pepsi that ruins everything. Now I have nothing against priests or other men of vocation. I treat them the same way I treat teachers and police officers – with respect and reservation. I am all for people having a belief system but I would humbly ask you not to ruin my life trying to convince me that you are right.
I DON’T CARE.

However. If you are going to practice a religion I suppose it would behoove you to practice it correctly and fully. Let’s understand one thing – if you presume to know what God thinks and how it operates, you’re full of it.
I think it’s high time that everyone moves past the bullshit and understands what religion is all about.
Kindness. Love. Respect.

I know this will upset most people, including some very conservative family members of mine – but I believe in a higher cause. I’m not trying to be a martyr; I’m just telling the truth.

God doesn’t care about your daily life. God’s a little too busy holding the quantum threads of the universe together in ways we can’t even begin to grasp. We know fuck nothing about God.
To presume that God will smite us if we don’t sing anthems during national events or something bad will happen if we don’t abstain from eating candy on a holiday shows the true essence behind these rituals – human fear. This is the same reason why we run to our temples every week because we think that God is taking attendance and will grant us a wish like a genie.

And yet it’s somehow acceptable for those same people to come out of mass and go by their daily life as if nothing happened. The latest reprint of the Bible sold over 2 million copies – yet I will bet anyone serious money on whether even half that amount even bothered to read and UNDERSTAND what they bought. The Bible is a story, as if every other sacred text in existence: Zoroastrian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, all the rest. It’s a story, a fairy tale. And like a real story, it delivers a message.
That message is to love eachother and be kind.

But some people are just to bigotant and blind to realize that. Somehow Christ is on copyright now – selective acceptance. How is it that God, Christ, Mohammed, All the others, have all shown love to the underdog and the misunderstood but at the same time the previous Pope went on record and said that homosexuals are the decay of this society?   
Are we this sad? Are we still judging people by skin, race, gender and sexual preferences? Because if being a feminist, want Gay rights, and wish that EVERYONE will have the right to love whoever they want and have a family with WHOEVER they want, means that I am being a heretic then I’ll gladly switch over to the rebellion.
Here’s a little story which happened to a friend of mine down the block. He decided to stop attending mass. His parents began crying and wailing, asking him where they went wrong with raising him. So lemme get this straight. For these parents, stopping going to mass is the equivalent of doing drugs, having unprotected sex and messing with a good future. Yes, to answer your question this happened a few years ago: in the 21st century.
I still get shut down everytime I try to argue with my friends and family or just classmates, because apparently Christ is copyrighted to only Catholics. God forbid I bring God up in an argument, even if to it is to justify a ritual or perhaps help someone who is a devout Christian understand something in the ways of kindness.

We have the indecency of objectifying God as if we could ever interact with him, her, it or them. God is a concept, created to show the world of just how kind people are. So if you wanna pray, do so and God bless you, but also don’t forget the people around you. If you wanna say grace before you eat, it’s all well and good, but don’t forget the people who made the food and who prepared it. If you know someone who’s in trouble, praying will only get you so far. Try helping out, give some time.
If Christ is copyrighted to bigots and hypocrites, then don’t worry about it.
Kindness, love and respect. Show enough of those and anyone can become God. Isn’t that after all the whole point of religion – to teach us a higher purpose and to become better versions of ourselves?

So this Easter, whether you believe in it or not, whether you believe in God or not, whatever your religion may be, remember what truly matters and spread around some kindness.

Peace.

SFFS

Another snippet from Chapter 3 of Firstborn. Enjoy. (The final line is the build up to a punchline in the next snippet. That way you get to look forward to the final part of Chapter 3( next week) with anticipation of either a really good joke or a major fail. Either way you’ll be entertained.)

I glanced at the door and wondered who it might be. I had just come back from a job for the police and I was certain that I had no more appointments for the day. In fact, I had not put the OPEN sign up yet. The doorbell rang and Amaymon hissed, glaring at the door intently, as if forcing his yellow orbs the see through the door. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he could as he has many abilities I knew nothing about. I knew his reactions to clients even before they stepped foot into my office. Hissing and glaring were sure signs that whoever it was, Amaymon did not approve of them. Chances were that I wouldn’t like them, either. So with a grunt of effort I got up and made for the door.

“Let’s see what pest the universe is plaguing me with now,” I said, smiling at my own wit.

Passive Aggressive Negotiations

And part 11 is here too!!!
Enjoy.

Passive Aggressive Negotiations
Wraith slowly stood up, his hand tentatively in the air. As he turned around, minding the lightsaber quivering at his throat, he eyed the tousled brown haired Jedi. As he gazed into his eyes, Wraith remembered a vision he experienced in jail – but it depicted this man in a twisted malefic version of himself, clad in black armor  A dark Jedi plagued by guilt, anger and suffering. How could such a noble heart sway so deep into the Dark Side? Should he strike this Jedi down and prevent years of suffering?
“Anakin, hold him steady,” came a voice behind the young Jedi. An elder Jedi with a lighter complexion and sporting a thick beard followed up, his eyes cautious.
“I am not your enemy,” said Wraith, eyeing back the elder Jedi.
“You’re Sith.” The voice belonged to a third Jedi, a young Togruta female, who moved impatiently on the spot clearly itching for a fight. “That makes you our enemy.”
“I was Sith,” said Wraith. “That made me your enemy,” he told the young Jedi sweetly.
“And you expect us to take you on your word?” asked the elder Jedi.
“Not quite. But I’ll have you note that I have just saved your platoon twice and healed two of its members. Whereas you are holding a lightsaber to my throat despite my telling you that I mean no harm.”
“Trickery,” spat the first Jedi. Anakin. Wraith took a deep breath and stepped through the blue lightsaber. His body’s structure became intangible and the weapon passed harmlessly through his body. He kept walking until he stood face to face from the elder Jedi. Clearly he was the leader here, or at least with something akin to diplomatic mind.
“Master Jedi,” he said calmly. From his peripheral vision he saw the younger Jedi moving in, both of them holding a lightsaber. Wraith flicked his hands across his chest, sending both Jedi flying backwards.
“Whilst it is clear that none of you can harm me,” continued Wraith, “it is clear that the same cannot be said for me.” Wraith extended his arm, his hand clear in view.
“So how about we start over. Civilly, this time.”
The elder Jedi motioned for the clones to lower their weapons and stop the other Jedi from assaulting Wraith.
“What is your name Sith?” he said. Both men shook hands and then let go hastily.
“Tell me your name Jedi, and I’ll tell you mine,” said Wraith.
“Obi-wan Kenobi,” said the Jedi. “And you, Darth?”
“Wraith,” said Wraith. “The ‘Darth’ is merely a tool.”
“What do you want? Why the courtesy?” asked Kenobi.
“I wish to speak to your Grandmaster. I want an audience with the highest ranking Jedi.”
“You’re insane!” exclaimed Anakin. “We can’t bring a Sith to the Temple.”
Wraith turned and looked the young Jedi dead in the eye. He felt a lull in his eyes, as in sating down a kaleidoscope: Wraith could see deep within this Jedi: his identity, skill, potential, power . . . and his destiny. Wraith had no control over whatever was happening – it was as if the Force within Wraith reacted with the Force inside the Jedi: like two ends of a power cell creating a current.

Both men remained frozen on the spot, their eyes interlocked.
“Master?” said the female Jedi tentatively.  “Master? Are you OK?” She lit her lightsaber and assumed a fighting stance.
“What are you doing to him?” she snarled at Wraith. That was when Anakin snapped out of it and halted her.
“It’s OK, Ahsoka,” he said. “I don’t know what happened,” he continued, still glaring at Wraith. “But I don’t think he means any harm. Not even sure he is Sith.”
“I told you, didn’t I?” stated Wraith as he opened his arms. “I am quite unique. Not dissimilar to you, Anakin Skywalker.”
The Jedi’s eyes darkened. “You know my name,” he growled through clenched teeth. “But all I know is your alias. Wraith. What is your real name?”
“I don’t have one,” replied Wraith. “I was raised in the Dark Side, trained to become an assassin for the Sith. I have no name, no identity. I am just a wraith, a remnant.”
Obi-Wan spoke next. “So what changed?”
“Illumination,” replied Wraith sweetly.
“Illumination?” echoed Kenobi. “Hardly. Enlightenment is a higher echelon Light Side power.”
“I am as confused as you are, Master. It’s part of why I seek an audience with your Grandmaster.”
“What’s the other reason?”
“I have information on the Sith Lords.”
“We already know of Count Dooku and his backers,” said Ahsoka.
“Good for you,” replied Wraith. “Did you know of a Darth Mortris too?” he asked mockingly.
“And who would that be?” asked Kenobi.
“My former master. A Sith Lord, hidden deep underground and brought out only to deal with remote civilizations. Have you noticed how various systems in the Outer Rim slowly turned Separatist? That was my master, doing the job of an army nearly singlehandedly,” replied Wraith.
“And where is the Master now?” asked Kenobi, somewhat mockingly.
“Dead.”
“How convenient,” muttered Skywalker.
“It is. I killed him. You’ll find his lair on Korriban.”
“And if I don’t believe you?” challenged Skywalker.
“Then I couldn’t care less,” said Wraith with a shrug. “I simply need to speak to the Grandmaster. I would like to offer my services and information to the Jedi Council. Your call now Master Kenobi.”
The two locked eyes for a full minute. The only sounds were the hum of Anakin’s lightsaber and the minute clicks of metal and polymers from the clones as they stood there, weapons at the ready.
Kenobi let out a long breath. “Fine. I’ll take you to the Temple. Do not expect and audience. Or a warm welcome.”

Turn Coat

Part 10 (Yes I remembered to number them) of my Star Wars short story. 
Enjoy.

Turn Coat
For the first time in months, he was nervous. The right thing for a Sith like him would have been to use his power to control and destroy. He could track down the Sith controlling Grievous and make him pay. He would be night unstoppable.

But that was not the will of the Force.

He had chosen his path: that of balance. He had evolved into an avatar of the Force, not just a Sith. True, those were his origins but his enlightenment showed him the one thing which Mortris had promised but could never deliver: harmony. Wraith yearned for more harmony, drawn to it like a moth to flame. He relished in the peace and power: not separate, but both being one thing. He sought harmony and the Force provided it.

From his position he could see the two clone troopers scouting ahead with mine detectors. A battle had taken place here recently and it was routine to check for leftover traps. They checked on the dead clones scattered around, checking for survivors. Wraith had to approach them, to say something, to seek council with the Jedi. He wouldn’t surrender; maybe pretend to be an innocent bystander and influence their thoughts. Although that would never work on a Jedi worth his salt.

As his senses wondered about, seeing the energy that no detector could pick up in time.
“TRAP!!” he yelled at the top of his voice. The clones readied their weapons at him. But before either party could move, the battle ground shook and massive crab droids erupted from the ground.
“Bombs,” yelled the leader pointing at the booby traps strapped to the droids. They began retreating toward a hill where Wraith sensed were other troopers camped. But the two scouts were too far behind to fully avoid the blast. Their comrades could only watch from safety as they were thrown into the air, their white armor half shattered with the blast. Fire spread all around them, incinerating everything, and everyone, in sight.
The clones felt a large pressure around their necks and the world snapped black as if someone had flipped off a switch. Wraith teleported in the midst of the clone camp holding the two clones by the scruffs of their necks. Force gripping their necks as they were blasted off the ground had proved incredibly difficult to coordinate, and teleporting behind them and back to the camp had taken a lot out of him. He dropped the clones down and doubled over. He felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. The clones at the camp all snapped their weapons at him, their training taking over.
“Tend to the wounded,” he said extracting his lightsaber and igniting both ends.
“Sith,”barked the Captain who extracted twin blaster pistols. But he found himself speaking to no one, as Wraith was no longer there.

The clone captain ordered the medical droids for the scouts although he could judge by the severity of their wounds that they weren’t likely to survive the day. He turned his visor towards the battlefield.  He saw a figure clad in worn dark robes and an unkempt appearance, wielding a lightsaber with two blades opposite each other. The Sith dashed from droid to droid, leaving only a slight trail of crimson wherever he swung his weapon.
“Is it a Sith, Sir?” asked the clone closest to the captain. The clone too was peering through his visor as well. The Captain pondered on that for a second. This Sith had saved two of his men. Yet Sith were the very personification of deceit.
“I don’t know Corporal. Whatever it is, it’s fast,” he finally said. Lowering his visor, the captain gave an order to his subordinate.
“Contact General Kenobi. They’re the only ones who can deal with whatever this is.”
                                                ***********************
Droids fell easy to his lightsaber. The real trick was avoiding the explosive blast and shrapnel. He cut down the final droid and spun at the faint beeping sound. A rocket spat out from one of them and headed straight for the camp. Wraith bent space again, teleporting at a point where he would intercept the incoming missile. With huge concentration, he sent out a blast of condensed wind, hitting the rocket. It spiraled in mid-air and exploded shot of its mark, showering the troops below with bits of scalding debris. Wraith stumbled forward, the world spinning.
This time they noticed him immediately amongst them.
“Don’t move,” ordered the first clone trooper. Wraith simply raised his lightsaber, holding the blade horizontally and with an exaggerated display, he deactivated his weapon and attached it to his belt. All soldiers held their weapons steady, unsure whether to shoot to kill or arrest him. Smiling at the soldiers, he raised both his hands innocently.
The medic droids sent out a flurry of beeps, indicating their patients, the two scouts, were on the verge of death. Wraith took one step towards them only yo have half a dozen commandos yell ‘Freeze!’ simultaneously.
“Get out of my way you fools. I can heal them,” said Wraith still walking towards the injured. The clones did not warm a second time. They squeezed their triggers, shooting down the Sith. Only, their laser bolts never reached him.
He erected a Force barrier around him, deflecting anything approaching his person. The dome surrounded him like a force field, absorbing and dissipating any laser bolts. He knelt down between the injured, his Force powers extending to cover the injured clones. At this point, the clones ceased shooting and just watched in frustration. Wraith placed a hand on their chests and channeled the Force.
“Level of trauma: critical,” uttered the droids. As the Force flowed through them, the wounds on the clones healed and they slowly regained consciousness.
“Level of trauma: severe.”
Moments later the same monotone voice said “Level of trauma: moderate. Critical condition avoided. Patients are stabilized.” The droids confirmed the actions of Wraith. Seeing this, the leader of the clone motioned for his troops to lower their weapons and aid the scouts. Wraith dissolved the Force barrier and remained stationery, trying to regain his strength. Unless he rested soon, he would black out and possibly fall into a coma. He felt like jelly and his eyes couldn’t focus properly.

At least he had accomplished his task: the Force had given him enough strength for that. He felt obliged to saves the scouts’ lives, as if they were some form of atonement for the people he killed as a Sith. It felt good to help preserve life rather than take it. Perhaps this was the key to a higher power. Whatever it was, Wraith felt serenity deep in his heart and that was worth the pain he felt now due to over exhaustion.
Taking a deep breath, he suddenly felt great danger behind him.
“General Skywalker,” he heard one of the troops say. Sensing more accurately, he inclined his head and the tip of a blue lightsaber quivered very close to his ear.
“Do not move,” came a menacing voice from behind. 

SFFS

Another part from Ch 3 of Firstborn. More Erik and Amaymon banter. 

Enjoy.


“There. Can I have some quiet now?” I asked.

“Sure; can I have some beer?”

“You’re a cat! I am certainly not giving you beer. Don’t want you getting sick all over my office.”

“It will certainly improve the décor.”

“Shut up and eat; Did anyone call while I was out?”

“No,” was Amaymon’s muffled response as he stuffed his face with the biscuit-like substance. A few seconds later, however, his ears twitched and said, 
“Someone’s coming.”

The Ranger

A short story in celebration of the 17k+ people who looked at this blog: cloeyk.blogspot.com which features an interview by Amaymon. 

This is a story inspired by the long hours I spent playing Dungeons and Dragons Online. Try to guess my class. Hint: its in the title. Also I threw in there some Lord of the Rings. Bonus points if any of you can guess from where I got the direwolf’s name. 

Enjoy.

The Ranger
The deer was getting heavy on his shoulder. Living at the edge of the forest had its perks, but it was not without its difficulties. He had killed this deer perhaps a few hours’ stride from his usual hunting grounds, chasing after the large specimen.
Animals had gotten sparser in the past few weeks: he would have to head out again after he deposited his catch and restocked his quiver.

He had gotten to the edge of his hut when he suddenly heard the shriek of birds and saw a flock emerging from the west. That bode trouble. Animals in these woods lived comfortably alongside wild predators, man-eating flora and fauna and platoons of knights either brave or desperate enough to venture through these parts. Local wildlife was not easily intimidated and whoever, or whatever, had done so, had been new, unknown and terrifying. The Ranger checked his equipment and, setting the deer aside, he ran towards the disturbance.

It was the mark of a real hunter: stalk and observe your prey before taking any further action. He leaped over branches, bobbing and weaving amongst the trees. The movements were instinctive, his body and mind honed by years of living in the forest. Halfway through he saw a shadow emerging; a beast running alongside him. The direwolf was as large as a bear yet it moved with stealth and grace. It ran alongside the Ranger, fangs barred and spittle mottling random leaves. Man and beast got closer to the disturbance and the sounds escaped neither’s ears.

The Ranger slowed down, motioning with his hand to placate the direwolf. Garruk, the most faithful of companions, came to a halt, his slender legs still quivering. He crouched besides his companion, awaiting the signal to leap and rip out the throat of whatever dared instil fear in his beloved home. But the signal never came.

It was a small battalion of orcs and barbarians, men who long ago shed their honour and took up arms for the sake of baser desire. From his perch, the keen-eyed Ranger saw them escorting a wagon. He heard the familiar clink of metal, chucks of wooden flasks and the thump of powder barrels. It was a supply wagon and, judging from the direction of the tracks, it was headed for the Western Banks. A wagon of such size could support a legion of warriors. The Ranger saw the warriors surrounding it: most carried swords, cleavers, spears and axes. Two walked with only a staff and a small intricate club respectively; the weapons of magic-users. Scouts had already departed forward, their tracks too evident in the vegetation. Whoever these men were, they were not accustomed to the ways of the forest.

And that would be their downfall.

The Ranger motioned for Garruk to follow him. They ran through the forest, trying to keep their pace silent. The direwolf took the lead; his keen sense of smell serving as a compass. Ahead he could see the first of the scouts. Orcs, despite their mountaineering lifestyle, could navigate to forest better than most men. But they could not escape the Ranger and his companion.
Notching an arrow, the Ranger let loose the missile. It whistled softly for a split second before burying itself in the back of the orc’s neck. The monster lay dead before his mind could process another thought. Garruk growled softly and turned his head. The Ranger followed the direction with his bow and saw a small shadow. He let loose his arrow and heard the thump of another body.

Five men lay dead in total, an arrow in each of them. The Ranger searched for the wagon tracks in the soil. He was certain it would pass from here on its journey. Further along the tracks, he presumed, would be the camp but he had to deal with that later. First, he had a wagon to sabotage.

Their march through the forest was as loud as the beat of a drum and blow of a trumpet. Grunts, swear words, clanking of metal and stomping of boots were aplenty as the wagon passed by. The garrison was letting their guard down, confident in their numbers and blades. And an overconfident soldier is the best victim of a trap.

The first arrow struck a particularly large and ugly barbarian wielding a double-headed axe. The body slumped down with an arrow sticking out from its eye. The rest of the garrison heard a whistle and from the surrounding trees dozens of direwolves burst out, leaping on the first man or orc in sight. A mage leapt forward, his spell hitting a wolf on its flank. Beneath him the rock crumbled and he found himself falling in a pit. His waist was still above ground and a look of relief washed over his face as he made to hoist himself out of the pit. He heard slithering and hissing and saw a dozen serpents coiling around his boots. He screamed as the vipers sank their fangs in his flesh. He waved his wand around but no amount of magic could save him from his fate now. He soon ceased his flailing and fell motionless.

The Rangers notched another arrow and slew an orc. Garruk had left his side, eager to taste blood with his kin. The Ranger got down from the hill he was on and let go of his bow. Unsheathing a longsword, he struck down a barbarian before he could swing his axe at Garruk. He spun low, grabbed the handle of a long knife inside his boot, and thrust the blade inside an orc who snuck up behind him.
Soon the entire garrison lay dead.

The Ranger cut the horse loose, sending the scared beast running. He pried open crates and barrels with his knife, spilling their contents. The direwolves assaulted any food and provisions the Ranger threw away, their hunger rarely satisfied. The powders were buried in the soil, forever ruining them. He opened a crate of weapons and inspected them. The arrows he took for himself, having nearly exhausted his own. Some knifes he traded, discarding his own for better ones. The weapons were not of superior quality, which was better for a Ranger’s lifestyle. A weapon too finely crafted would be too expensive for the Ranger to trade for pelts and meats. And even the best of blades atrophied over time and use. Besides, a princely weapon would be a waste in such a wild environment. But a poor weapon would not do either. Durability was the key element of a Ranger’s equipment: a finely crafted weapon with a durable blade and nothing else was what suited the Ranger best.

He took what he needed and motioned at Garruk. The direwolf growled once and trotted back amongst the trees, his pack following him. The Ranger retrieved his bow and followed suit. Garruk led them to the main camp. It was Spartan as camps went: a small clearing, with a tent at the side and a fire in the middle. Two empty wagons lay uselessly at the edge of the camp. A large reindeer spun on a spit. A small pile of dead animals sat on a side, with the occasional orc ripping out a leg and eating it raw. The Ranger felt enraged and disgusted at such barbaric behavior  He notched an arrow, took a breath and observed.
There were far fewer warriors here but they could still overrun himself and Garruk’s pack. Stealth and cover were key here.

On the Ranger’s signal, Garruk and his pack leapt at the camp, assaulting warriors and barbarians alike. The Ranger remained hidden at the surroundings, thinning down their numbers with arrows. Before they knew it, the campers found themselves short in numbers and courage. Some tried to flee but none could escape the direwolves’ fangs or the Ranger’s arrows. Just when the last of the camp warriors were killed, a mighty roar emerged from the small tent and the canvas was ripped apart.

An orc emerged wearing a headdress of feathers, pieces of leather around his chest with symbols drawn in blood and paint and carrying a club with what looked like a skull on top of it. The orc shaman had piercings and bolts of metal in various parts if his body. When he moved the necklace of bones clattered against the metal on his chest and other ornaments. He roared and swung his club. A flash of fire shot at a direwolf, incinerating it to the bone. The beast kicked another wolf, throwing it away, as if the large direwolf weighed nothing more than a pebble. The Ranger shot arrow after arrow at the orc shaman but to no effect. Most fell away harmlessly and those that pierced through his magic could not penetrate deep enough through the thick, leathery hide.
The orc threw a lance of fire at the Ranger who ducked and rolled. Reaching across his chest, the Ranger let loose two throwing daggers in quick succession. One fell short of its target; the other embedded itself in the monster’s thigh. The beast roared in pain and fell to one knee. Garruk leapt and sank its large fangs into the orc’s shoulder, trying to drive it into the ground. The orc raised its club and brought it down on the direwolf’s head.

The Ranger’s sword slid in between the club and Garruk’s skull, deflecting the lethal blow. The Ranger swung his sword, carrying the club away from his companion, and plunged his long knife into the orc’s throat. The shaman swung his club once more and the Ranger lost the grip on his sword, leaving it embedded on the ground. He wrestled against the orc’s arm and managed to grab hold of the massive forearm. Pulling out a skinning knife, he sunk the blade inside the orc’s arm and sliced along the beast’s forearm, splitting it wide. The orc dropped his club.
The Ranger let go of the knife, leaving it inside the orc’s elbow, and spun, grabbing the hilt of his sword in one sweeping motion. Using the momentum, he slammed the pommel of his sword against the hilt of his long knife, thrusting the blade even deeper inside the shaman’s neck. Sensing what would follow, Garruk relinquished his grip and backed away.
The Ranger grabbed the handle of his knife in reverse grip and wrenched it to one side savagely before pulling it out. The orc’s head fell lopsided, nearly cut cleanly off save for a small patch from where it dangled. Not taking any chances, the Ranger yelled and brought his longsword down on the severed neck, cutting the beast in half along the chest.

Wiping the blood away, the Ranger sheathed his weapons and made towards one of the empty wagons. He loaded the shaman’s body on the cart along with any weapons he found. He would take the road back and load the rest of the other wagon too, the one left in the middle of the path.
He walked inside the tent and found a small altar there. Beside it was a small chest and, with his skinning knife, he pried it open. Inside were a few jewels, handfuls of gold and silver coins and a robe of fine silk. Clearly this was a treasure meant for a prince or a warlord. The barbarians must have stolen it and planned to exchange it for whatever suited their fancy. This treasure would supply the Ranger with weapons and food.

It took a few hours but finally the Ranger was on his way. He had found the horse again: the poor beast returned to the camp of its own volition, only to find the camp had been set ablaze and was now in ashes. The Ranger tied the wagon to it and rode it towards the nearest town. Garruk accompanied him towards the edge of the forest before trotting back amongst the trees.
The Ranger made for the village, intent on showing the world his find. He had to alert the High Council to the threat; the enemy was rising in the North.

A storm was coming.