Excerpt from Out of the Ice Chapter 1
Please note, this is a sample of a work in progress and will not reflect the final product
The Eye of Isiir cast its glare towards the frigid ground below, undisturbed by a single cloud in the sky. No warmth found the cheek of Garet, as he watched a lazy trail of smoke rise from the chimney of one of the many homes before him. Wind swept up onto the rolling hill where Garet and his two lieutenants sat examining the town. He did not know the name of the town, but from the stench of sweat and soil that were carried upon the winds striking him, he knew this village tunneled deep into the earth for precious ores. Licking his lips, he could feel the silver between his fingers as the sweet taste of bitten gold tickled his tongue.
This will be a profitable haul. Garet thought as he examined the town in the midday sun.
It was a quiet town, almost eerily so, but many days ago his scouts reported a bustling center of activity. A quiet town meant they were less likely to put up a struggle when he unleashed his band upon its streets. Besides having its own successful mining operations, this town acted as a first drop off point for the haul of iron and silver brought down from the north. Which meant its warehouses would be overflowing with the autumn hauls before ice filled the Isindril. The first step for a successful raid was to scare the people, not kill them. If his band were to start killing, the citizens would know they had nothing to lose and the resistance would begin. It was all too risky and was certainly not Garet’s style. He prided himself on the fact that he was not like the other raiding bands, he was just an opportunist. Accepting the fact that he made people suffer was part of what he did, but he allowed them their lives and that was very different from what other bands did.
The sound of hooves upon cold, packed earth approached. Garet spied his scout, Kruth, approaching.
“Town’s quiet, Garet. Ain’t a soul to be seen from the perimeter.” Kruth spit a thick gob of sweet weed on the ground and tucked another thick brown leaf under his lip.
Uryan and Red sat upon their horses to either side of Garet. His lieutenants had been with him since the very beginning of his little band, the Bloodied Fist. They started their small group as three road bandits, robbing lonely merchants of a few silver as they journeyed to sell their wares. Once they made a name for themselves, their group only grew larger. Garet’s officers both raised their eyebrows at Garet who stared down inquisitively at the town.
Garet tapped his chin with one finger and turned Uryan at his side. “What do you think? We’ve heard of trouble up north, to spire, or cold something. I don’t remember the name. You think that this trouble found its way this far south?”
Uryan only shrugged. “If, in fact, the people are gone, we should make haste for the stores and get our haul before any return.”
Red nodded in agreement with a large smile on his face. “Any day there is no chance of fighting and a huge profit, is good by my accounting.”
Garet slowly nodded his ascent as well. “Very well then, we will split. Red and Uryan, you take most of the men towards the stores, I will host the assault on the town and make sure there is no one in the streets. If there are, we will escort them towards the stores to discover anything hidden.” Garet pauses to look at his lieutenants. “Remember, no killing. And do not take everything. If we do, next year there will be a squadron of soldiers waiting for us.”
“Aye, Aye.” Both men responded. They clasped hands one at a time, as they always did before a raid.
“Good luck.” Garet finished and turned his horse towards a group of ten men standing off to the side. Uryan and Red headed towards the opposite direction and met with the bulk of their raiders.
“Beautiful day to get rich, aye?” Garet flashed his white teeth towards the eager looking men. Some of them danced from foot to foot with obvious anticipation of the raid, others were still in quiet contemplation. “Our role today is simple, sweep the streets and escort the remaining citizens towards their warehouses for questioning. Rough up the men who put up a fight a bit. Make them know you are in charge but do not kill them. This is a peaceful trading town tempered by raids such as these. They will simply be happy we are not pulling any of them into our service. Do not expect many heroes.”
His words were met with nods of approval and the men turned their gaze upon the sleepy town before them. Garet watched in the distance as the larger group began their decent from the hill above on the town. Garet’s squad quickly mounted their horses and at Garet’s “Hyah” they charged the streets. The cold, dry earth kicked up behind them as they trampled the brown grass and the town grew larger before them.
Garet dismounted quickly at the front of one of the larger homes which had a line of smoke rising from its chimney. He nodded towards Grem to break in the door. Using the entire weight of his body Grem slammed into the thick wood. Shards of the door exploded inward and Grem fell into the home. Garet leapt over his body and raced in. He was greeted by a finely crafted chair and cinders from a fire that had slowly been burning itself out for some time. The house looked undisturbed but was completely devoid of life as Garet took in his surroundings. Obviously it was one of the richer homes, perhaps of a merchant, thick oak bookshelves lined the walls and a painting of the man, more than likely a descendant, was perched above the fire place mantle.
The sounds of heavy boots and doors slamming open pounded above Garet as his men raided the home. The heavy sounds of the boots slowed and began their ponderous wandering of the empty home.
Garet rounded on Grem who was picking splinters of wood from his beard. “This doesn’t make sense, Grem. A home like this would most assuredly house its own standing guards. This place was just abandoned with no signs of a struggle.” Garet looked around with a baffled look on his face. “Come, let’s move on.”
Home after home they repeated this cycle. As Garet exited the third home Grem approached him quickly.
“Garet! We’ve found someone.”
Garet’s spirits rose as he quickly mounted his horse and saw three men staring at a lone small woman or girl in the middle of the street. He stopped directly behind his men and dismounted.
“She’s not moving. She’s just standing there, we’ve called to her three times but we’ve gotten nothing.”
“Are you afraid? Just approach her!” Garet barked.
Grem laughed at the men and pushed past them. “Three brave raiders of the Bloodied Fist and you can’t handle a small girl.”
He continued to chuckle as he got closer and yelled at the figure in the center of the road. “You! Turn around now and come with us! The Bloodied Fist have this town and you will show us were your people keep their valuables.”
Garet was filled with an uncomfortable ache in the pit of his stomach as Grem slowly closed the distance between the group of raiders and the young girl in a white linen night gown. Her hair was stringy and matted as if it hadn’t been brushed in years, it seemed to wrap around her entire head hiding any feature they may have seen of her face from behind. When she didn’t respond to Grem, he drew his sword and lowered it in her direction. Dangerously, he waved the steel behind her with the point just barely grazing the filthy linen night clothes.
“Listen up girl-y! I don’t have time for this! Turn around now or I’ll make you shorter by a head!” Grem began to scream.
Garet knew this was only bravado, but he was amazed at how motionless this woman had become. Something seemed off and unnatural about this entire scene. In the past, this girl would be screaming and crying at Grem’s feet, begging him not to kill her. She would show them everything they required, they would walk out with riches, and she would have a terrifying memory to share with her future betrothed. This was not happening the way it was supposed to at all. He continued to watch Grem prod the girl even further with the point of the blade.
Grem, growing frustrated, jabbed the point of his blade into the girls back and blood began to ooze through the dust and grime covered gown she wore. Grem looked back at his companions with an odd look on his face. It was a mix between anger and confusion, but Garet could clearly see that he shared his bewilderment of this entire affair. He knew it was time he intervened and drew his sword to approach Grem.
Grem turned back towards the girl in the linen gown and lowered his blade. “Now listen here Missy, its time you listen to us.” He reached out his hand and grabbed her bloodied shoulder jolting her entire body.
Immediately, the girl turned, locking an iron-like grip on Grem’s forearm. Grem let out a very unmanly scream as her face came into view and the white, torn flesh revealed itself. Her teeth clamped down hard, biting through flesh and muscle, deep into the marrow of Grem’s forearm bone. A gory hunk of flesh tore free from his arm and the girl’s milky white eyes locked with Garet’s. Fear spread over him as he felt his muscles go cold. He had seen a lot of terrible things in his days, as a conscript he had been forced to put entire cities to the sword. He had looted families of all their worldly possessions and watched them sob as he knew they would starve. These things were not within his control as he was forced to do them. But nothing could compare to the chilled, icy feeling that spread through his veins as those milky white eyes locked on his and, in one brief moment, he became a coward.
Immediately, the men in Garet’s company, without a command from their gaping commander, drew their weapons and charged the girl. Falling to the ground Grem attempted to shake their girl’s gray fleshy grip from his arm to no avail. She clamped down like a vice on Grem’s arm as blood spurted onto her face and the ground around her. Finally, the girl released her grip only to lunge forward and continue her assault on the soft skin of his throat. The charging band of men reached her and thrust their blades deep into her flesh to no effect. She continued her gory feast on the ever weakening Grem, who flailed his legs in vain as his hands continually slipped on the blood and gore that covered her face. One of the men kicked her hard in the head with an armored foot, which sent the girl sprawling backwards taking a good portion of Grem’s throat with her. A bloody spray was sent into the air and Grem ceased to move. The men’s resolve was clearly shaken by the fact that a dozen sword wounds had not slowed this little girl’s assault, but they encircled her cautiously with their blades pointed forward.
Garet watched all of this in horror as he charged forward with his blade drawn. The girl awkwardly placed her feet and hands upon the ground and rose in such a manner that looked as if she did not have a spine. Her back arced at an odd angle as her tilted head rested her milky eyes on the men before her, all the while her jaws still chewed upon the pieces of Grem that remained in her mouth.
“What in the name of the Aelaar is she sir?!” Screamed one shaken man. Garet only wished he had an answer for him.
The creature finally rose completely, as its armes lurched upwards to begin another assault on the men, Garet burst forward between them and in a single motion landed an aimed sword strike into her neck. The blade struck true and cut deeply into the girl’s grayed flesh. Her head lifted from her shoulders and plummeted to the ground a few feet away. Her body seemed to halt a moment while it came to the realization that it had been dismembered and slumped lifelessly to the ground.
Garet breathed heavily as he waited for both pieces of the girl to rise on their own and continue its terror upon the band. After a few moments without any movement, he relaxed his sword arm, only then did his men follow suit. His gaze passed over the surroundings and the white stricken faces of his men. The realization struck him immediately, the town was empty because this creature was a part of the town.
“Meet up with the other group! Now!” Garet commanded.