*** In a shameless bit of self promotion of my Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow fantasy series, I hope you enjoy the following excerpt. ***
He was Kress Startooth of the Flint Folk, war cleric, bush priest, but before that he had been a hunter and warrior of great renown. He mouthed a silent prayer to his gods, the Great Mother and the All-Father, to impel his enemies, “Come on, follow the path before you”.
The soldier got his way, almost shoving the scout auxiliary ahead of him to continue, threatening him by placing his palm on his sword pommel. They would have to climb the steep deer path; the soldier would find it hard going under the sun in that heavy armour, the watcher above mused.
Kress prepared himself; he took off his cloak and bag, loosened his steel knife in its sheath and unhooked his flint axe from his belt. He risked another look down the escarpment edge. They were climbing the path towards him, but would take some time to reach his position. He crept back from the edge and sat down behind some waist high rocks set away from the escarpment edge. He took a swig of water from his gourd and reached in his bag for some dried meat and a hard crust of bread. He would need energy for the coming fight. Using the water in his mouth he worked at the meat and bread and chewed slowly to release as much nourishment as possible. He took his time, breathed deeply and cleared his head. He took in every detail of his surroundings. He would need to spell weave the air, the grass and the earth of this place. When he was done he wrapped his bag and gourd in his cloak and hid them between some rocks.
Kress grasped his flint axe in his right hand and with his left clasped the Sun Shard. He quietly prayed, “Great Mother Earth shield me, protect your own. All-Father Sun, blind my enemies, guide my axe, grant me the strength in my arms as I used to have.”
Once again he sang softly in an ancient tongue that spoke of grass and earth; the rocks and air. The Sun Shard flickered as he gestured about himself reshaping this small corner of the world. He sat atop one of the rocks. He stopped his song. The light in the crystal faded. There was a moments silence and stillness before the buzzing of insects and song of birds filled the noiseless vacuum.
The hunters were getting closer, Kress could hear they were still discussing the situation. He first heard the younger voice, that of the scout. “Captain Tollend, we should go back down and find the Commander, our quarry is close, I’m sure of it”.
The Captain replied in the gruff voice of a veteran, “Go back and tell the Commander what exactly? That once again we have chased shades? The track split you said, the second time you told the Commander that. I tell you boy, I’m sick of this bollocks. You’ve had us going around in circles. I’m amazed the Commander let you drag me along this fool’s errand. If it was me I’d have broken one of your legs for leading us this merry dance, aye, and left you for the mountain lions. You saw how the tracks took off at speed going back down the valley. He made a break for it. The main force have probably caught the old bastard already and are having some fun with him.”
“Captain, those tracks seemed too obvious. This is a Flint Father we’re tracking. Those other tracks were out of character. I don’t like this. These tracks lead up here but we ought to see him climbing up that exposed ridge by now”.
“Flint Father you say? That’s heresy. Don’t ever let Commander Kaziviere hear you say that lad. He’s a savage, nothing more. You northern filth are all half breed bastards yourselves. Maybe you shits have forgotten the lessons we taught you long ago? You know nothing of the real world, but you will when we march south. You’ll serve your Emperor boy. If you’re lucky you’ll survive your first battle you snot nose shit.”
The two figures crested the hill onto the grassy plateau. The scout squatted down on his haunches and ran his fingers over the grass.
“Captain, the tracks stop here, they just disappear!”
The scout looked troubled and pushed back his helm to cool down, his fair fringe plastered on his forehead. His eyes were glued to the ground looking for signs. The burly soldier looked around at the virgin, un-trampled grass and spat thick phlegm in disgust. He was breathing deeply from the exertion of the climb. He span around at the scout who was still attempting to read the signs in the grasses. “Why you little goat fucker, where is he then? There’s bugger all here. We’ve climbed this hill for nothing, you bastard. Right then, I need a piss. You either find them tracks again or think very carefully about what you say next, sunshine. If it isn’t good enough, then I will leave you crippled for the lions. I’ll tell the commander you fell off the mountain.”
“Captain, you saw the footprints on the path back there as clearly as I did.”
The soldier was about to bark out an insult in reply and then thought better of it. He knew this tracker was highly skilled, much better than he was himself, although he would never admit that to the world outside his mind.
The soldier stomped to a stand of rocks. He leant his matchlock musket against one and took his helmet off and threw it to the ground. He was sweating profusely after that pointless climb. He had to blink as it ran into his eyes. He undid his drawstring and pulled down his breeches. He let out a sigh of relief as his stream of urine splashed against the rocks.
He was barely aware as a boulder to his side seemed to shimmer, rise up and take a man shape. What was moments before air, rock and lichen, congealed into flesh. He hardly had time to mouth a surprise as a wicked flint axe, wielded by a sinewy arm, slammed into his face. His jaw broke and fell slack. His left eye and cheek exploded in a welter of blood, bone and torn tissue. He barely gurgled as a sharp steel knife slashed out his throat and he fell backwards onto the sward, his stream of urine still flowing like a fountain in a palace courtyard in Taleel.
Kress sprang over the fallen soldier. He uttered no war cry. He needed shock and surprise. He thrilled at the kill; it had been fast and perfectly executed. He ran towards the auxiliary who hadn’t fully registered what had just happened. Kress swung back his arm for a deadly blow, his axe leaving an arc of gore in the air. The auxiliary raised his head from his reading of the ground, his mouth agape in surprise. Kress swung his axe; he looked into the blue eyes of his victim, set in sharp features, which shone fearfully as death approached. The world suddenly seemed to still, as the boundaries of the waking and dream worlds blurred and became one. Kress instantly recognised the scout’s features as the Sun Shard flashed brightly.
** Now if you enjoyed that excerpt then you'd like to know that The Sun Shard is currently available at a promotional rate of 0.99p! Its available here at Amazon. Oh and keep your eyes out for Book 2 - The Dead Gods - coming soon. ***