Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 137

staff, it seemed to take on new energy and become a hot tornado that cut a swathe through the snow blocking their way. They shielded their eyes from the swirling mix of snow, water and steam as they quickly moved forward, seemingly walking on air. I might as well have erected a large neon sign, saying Manfred is here. assailed their nostrils. They collected snow and ice and made tea on the fire. It was the first warm food or drink they had taken since leaving the Impenetrable Forest. The terror of the forest seemed mild compared to what they now faced. All of them would gladly have gone back into those trees rather than face the howling wargs. They didn’t stop until they made the hut at the base of the Ice Stair. It was close to dark. The hut was built from grey stone, without windows. It had a chimney and a doorway, which had contained a sturdy oak door. The door was now broken and splintered. The hut was empty, a cold rock floor with a few wooden benches. The cupboard doors were smashed and the cupboards were empty. The beds had been destroyed. The walls were covered with obscene graffiti, drawn with something particularly obnoxious. As well as the foul obscenities, there were many symbols scrawled on the walls. They looked like an A in a circle, with the bar of the letter extended to form a diameter. The room smelt putrid, like a battleground latrine. The three drew lots and Kris drew the first watch. Aglaral and Gamying lay down beside Manfred and tried to get some rest. Both of them slept fitfully, with hands on the hilts of their swords. Kris tended the fire and examined the sword he had been given before they left Elannort. He was a writer not a fighter and had never used a sword in anger before. He wondered whether he would have the skill or courage to use it when the time came. It would make a wonderful story, if he slew a warg. The howls grew louder and more frequent. Each time he jumped and the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He wondered why he had volunteered for such an adventure. Then he remembered why. He figured it would matter little to the wargs as they tore out his throat. He almost jumped out of his skin when all of a sudden he felt a hand on his shoulder. Manfred collapsed on the floor, totally spent from his exertions. “I must sleep, I cannot help you now. Build a fire. Defend the hut.” May the Balance preserve us; I am too exhausted to do it. The silence was suddenly filled with raucous howling. Gamying, Aglaral and Kris needed little more motivation to do as Manfred had urged. “It would appear that since we have made our presence known, the wargs have chosen to do the same. Let us hope their fear of Manfred keeps them at bay for a while,” Gamying said. The three men quickly gathered wood from the shattered door, cupboards and furniture. They soon had a small fire burning close to the doorway. “We must be careful to make sure we have enough fuel to last all night,” Aglaral said. They made Manfred as comfortable as they could and the three men huddled around the small fire wrapped in all of their clothing. The hut kept the cold wind mostly at bay, which was some consolation for the disgusting smell of urine and faeces, which constantly PAGE 136 “Take some rest.” Aglaral said. “I’ll take over now. They won’t attack until just before dawn, when it’s at its darkest. Until then they will torment us with their howls and hope that fear will win their battle for them. They are cowards at heart. Our fire and steel will be a match for them. Fear not, we’ll be in Devil’s Mouth before this day ends.” Kris simply nodded and shuffled off to take his turn for whatever rest he could find. Aglaral’s words did little to improve his mood. As he drifted off to sleep, he heard a voice in his head. Soon. Very soon. Aglaral was restless. Despite Manfred’s assurances, he was concerned about his family. Would Velacourt keep his word? He was also worried about the symbols on the walls of the hut. He had seen them before, burned into the tortured flesh of escaped slaves amongst the refugees he had processed. Their stories were too gruesome to recall. They found the refugee internment camp like a luxurious inn, com &VBv