The Last Witch Hunters: Chapter Ten

  • The rickety carriage ploughed through a fierce snow storm and up the snow covered trail, the barrel shaped horse leading the wooden carriage was desperately forcing his frozen hoofs down into the snow, pulling the carriage up the steep horizon through the blinding storm.

    In the cover of the storm a single figure dashed out into the dying trail ahead of the carriage, he was made almost invisible by his thick white-fur cloak that shrouded his body and blended him in with the storm. As he reached the trail he pulled a glass vial of blood from his cloak and uncorked it hastily before quickly splashing the contents of the vial over the snow, he then quickly dropped flat to the ground, looked towards the thick treeline at the edge of the path and nodded to an unseen onlooker, his attention was brought back to the path as he heard the horse straining up the hill and saw the faint silhouette of the carriage through the storm, then he threw back his cloak so he was no longer hidden.

    Shawk gripped the side of the carriage tightly, the wooden frame swayed from side to side as the horse struggled upwards, Roach let out a soft whine and looked up at Shawk desperately, his eyes looked pleadingly at the old Witch Hunter, Can’t we walk there? He seemed to be saying. Shawk forced a smile and patted the muscular war dog before playing with his ear, “You’re only complaining because you don’t like me training you.” Shawk stated. The dog looked back up at Shawk with his intelligent brown eyes and let out a loud sigh; we both know I don’t need any training! He seemed to be saying. Shawk smiled at his companion realising he was talking to an animal, he wondered if other owners talked to their dogs.  Shawk began to adjust the brown leather cloak that hung over his sleeveless armour, he pulled it tight around his body attempting to keep off the cold, he missed the wolf fur pelts he’d worn as a Witch Hunter, as soon as this was all over he’d have to remember to go hunting a few grey wolves.

    Before he could make any more plans for the future the carriage driver called out for the horse to stop, the weary animal looked back at its driver and huffed before reluctantly planting his hooves into the ground causing the wooden frame to jolt suddenly. Shawk looked towards the carriage driver however the question on his lips was answered when he looked out to the snowy tail ahead of them, a few paces in front of the horse a figure lay in the snow surrounded by a pool of blood.

    Shawk’s hand fell to one of the short blades strapped to his stomach however after scanning the horizon he decided whoever had killed the man was long gone, the carriage driver looked back nervously at Shawk, “I’m go have a look sir, see if he gone need my help.” Shawk nodded his acknowledgement as the driver dropped to the snowy floor, Shawk watched as the driver faced the same problems the horse had encountered, the storm was battering against him and he slipped up several times onto the snow, the progress was slow and the flailing driver was covering very little ground, the horse watched all this with a smug look obviously satisfied at his masters expense, however Shawk could see the strain on the animals muscles it was taking to hold the carriage up on the steep hill.

    Shawk was still watching the driver as he tried in vain to reach the bloodied body when a low growling sound became apparent, the sound resonated from Roach and Shawk’s hand fell once again to his short blade, the growl was a sign Shawk had spent time teaching the dog, Roach was to growl if he sensed danger or someone unknown close by. The sound alerted Shawk that this might not be a simple butchered body and now he was looking for the clues he noticed them; the body was not covered in snow, meaning he’d only been exposed to the storm for less than a minute, using his acute sense of smell Shawk could tell now that the blood was not that of a humans and in fact was a domestic animals, either a horse or a goats blood, then there was the most obvious sign to Shawk, he could see the frosty breath forming in the air surrounding the man’s mouth, despite his best efforts the man couldn’t stop his breathing completely. Shawk made a split second decision that the driver was in no real danger, the man probably intended to use him as a human shield against Shawk whilst he waited for his comrades in the thick tree’s that were visible to the vampires keen eye sight. Shawk bent down one knee and lowered his mouth to Roach’s ear whispering one of the many command words he’d taught the dog on their way to Windhelm, Roach showed no sign of acknowledgment and Shawk momentarily feared the dog may have forgotten the word, however his fears were put to ease as Roach silently turned from Shawk and dropped to the snow, his belly pressed low against the ground as he scurried towards the tree’s, unseen from the bandits.

    Once he was sure Roach had made it to the cover of the tree’s without detection Shawk turned back to the driver of the carriage who was bending down to examine the corpse, Shawk saw the sudden flurry of movement as the figure scrambled to his feet and wrapped his arm around the carriage drivers throat, an iron dagger appearing in his free hand and pressing itself against the carriage drivers throat. The man let out a shrill scream of fear that was cut short when the bandit dug the blade deeper into the man’s flesh, Shawk rose to his feet slowly, making sure not to make any sudden movements, the bandit called out to his comrades however his shout was met with no reply, the bandit looked around nervously he was exposed out here and he guessed the passenger of the carriage didn’t care much for the life of someone he barely knew, he needed his back up.

    Within the tree’s Roach was bent low to the ground, letting out a truly menacing growl at the four bandits in front of him, he’d intended to catch them by surprise however the bandits were skittish and they’d been wary of their surroundings. Roach heard the lone bandit call out for back up and saw one of the bandits open his mouth intending to respond, Roach darted forward and scaled the man’s body in a heartbeat before sinking his teeth into the man’s throat and tearing it open. The other bandits fell backwards in shock at the sudden flurry of speed shown by the dog, they knew better than to try shouting for help after what had happened to the last man and they simply stood stock still in fear.  Roach watched bemused as one of the bandits slowly edged towards him, rubbing his forefinger and thumb together and attempting to coo the dog with soft words, Roach took a step forward then noticed one of the other bandits slowly drawing a bolt and placing it on his steel crossbow, realising he had seconds to act Roach shot forward again; past the closest man who was still cooing him, and straight for the arbalest, he lunged upwards knocking the cross bowman off his feet , they both landed in the snow Roach’s paws on the arbalest’s shoulders, the crossbow fell from his grip less than a second before he was mauled to death. Rising from the butchered corpse Roach turned and saw the surviving two bandits running towards the trail, screaming in terror.

    Shawk smiled as he heard the terrified screams of the two bandits among the trees, he saw the lone bandit stare at the treeline, fearful of what had happened to his comrades. Seconds later the two bandits burst from the cover, draped in various hides and furs, they sprinted towards the lone bandit, one of them waving a steel crossbow in his hand and preparing to throw it to his comrade. As the weapon sailed through the air Shawk un-sheaved his twin short swords and stepped towards the back of the carriage, noticing the threat Shawk posed the lone bandit; now with crossbow in hand, turned the weapon towards the Witch Hunter, and released the bolt. The projectile shot through the air with remarkable speed however the shot was rushed and it flew low, towards the front of the carriage and straight into the horse, the one thing stopping the carriage from tumbling down the hill.

    The horse collapsed with a cry of pain and gravity began to act against Shawk, pulling the carriage down the hill at an alarming rate. Shawk had no time to think, he ran towards the front of the carriage, his heavy leather boots crashing against the frozen wood planks, as he reached the head of the cart he pushed upwards off of the driver’s seat, leaping clear of the cart, moments before it vanished from sight, dragged into the snows embrace.

    Shawk landed in an expertly timed forward roll and was on his feet and rushing towards the bandits before they even knew he’d jumped, as he got closer the bandit holding the carriage driver called out for Shawk to stop, Shawk carried on running. The bandit cursed loudly before pushing his dagger deep into the carriage driver’s throat and splashing blood across the snow, he then clutched the standing corpse with both hands and used all his strength to throw the body at the approaching Witch Hunter.
    Shawk saw the body stumbling towards him, not yet fully dead and still able to remain standing as he fell limply towards Shawk, the Witch Hunter didn’t have time to dodge the body so he was forced to grab it and guide it to the ground beside him. When he looked up again two of the bandits were facing Roach who had emerged from the tree’s, they were both clutching rusty iron swords and were in the midst of a standoff with the hound, the third bandit had used the time to recover a mace from his comrades and now flicked it about his body experimentally.

    Continuing his charge, the vampire raised his two swords ready for combat and ran straight towards the mace wielding bandit. The bandit had a long reach with his large hilted club and prepare to strike this trouble maker down before he got close enough to do any damage with his tiny blades, as the hooded, cloaked man was within striking range the bandit swung a deadly strike directly at the man’s chest, if it connected it would shatter most of his ribs and crush his lungs, however instead of hitting the leather armoured chest, the weapon whistled through the air as Shawk barrel rolled into the snow. The weight of the mace that had been directed at Shawk now pulled the bandit off balance as he stumbled forward; behind him Shawk quickly rose to his feet and speared his short sword through the back of the bandit’s skull, the tip of the blade slowly emerging from the bandit’s mouth.

    The two remaining highwaymen turned for an instance to watch their comrade fall to the ground, in that split second Roach rushed forward and fell upon the closest bandit, burying his teeth in the man’s neck, Shawk pulled his sword from the bandits skull and accompanied the attack by roaring like an ice-bear and ploughing straight into the remaining bandit’s chest with his shoulder, knocking him off balance and back onto the snow, standing over the dazed figure he plunged both of his blades into the man’s chest, spraying blood across the fresh layer of snow and finishing the bandit off.

    Shawk stared at the body beneath his blades; his breath was coming out in heavy pants as he gripped the cold hilts of his twin blades, Shawk’s eyes were transfixed on the crimson red blood that had splattered across the white snow. The red liquid had landed in a beautiful pattern, it was delicious to look at, delightful, enticing, Shawk admired how it swirled through the snow, just waiting for Shawk to clean it up, oh how it swirled, round and round and round and round and round and round…

    Shawk dropped to the ground, willingly bowing his head towards the body of the dead bandit; he gripped the man’s head in his hands and turned it to one side, exposing the milky white flesh of his throat, It had been so long since Shawk had tasted fresh blood, why had he ever rejected it, this was who he was… Just one sip wouldn’t hurt him, better than bottling it away in vials until it lost its flavour, its salty, delicious flavour.

    It was a soft whimper that stopped Shawk, it was the sound of fear, turning his head he saw a small  brown dog standing beside him, the dogs eyes were wide with fear and they seemed to plead with him, Snap out of it! Shawk laughed to himself, the poor hound must have lost its master, more blood for Shawk then; he looked into the dogs eyes again and saw something else. There was a strange figure in the reflection of the beast’s iris, a haggard figure, with glowing orange eyes and pale skin, pulled tight, exposing the sharp definition of his cheek bones, the man in the reflection was a horrific monster, Shawk slowly slid a hidden dagger from his boot, the monster must be directly behind him, spinning quickly Shawk plunged his blade upwards… nothing.

    Shawk looked around, confused, shocked. The creature had been right behind him, where had it gone?

    Another whimper. Shawk looked down at the dog again and a sense of recognition flashed through his mind, he knew this dog, the dog saw the look on Shawk’s face and barked happily, desperate to have his master back. It worked, Shawk remembered where he was, what he was doing. He fell backwards in horror realising what he’d been about to do.

    Scurrying to his feet Shawk edged forward nervously towards the bandit, careful not to look at the blood in case it took hold of his animalistic side again. Unclipping a clean vial from his pouch he pressed it to the wound created by Shawk’s sword, the blood leaked freely into the glass container and as soon as it was full Shawk turned quickly, desperate to get away from the corpse. Shawk walked towards Roach and bent down, playing with the shaggy dog’s hair, “You saved me there boy,” Shawk said, his voice croaky and dry. “Fresh blood would have taken hold of me, I’d have become addicted to it and I’d have murdered just to get the taste.”

    Roach glanced up casually at Shawk, That’s what I’m here for, to save you, the dog seemed to be saying. Rising from the ground Shawk looked up the hill, “C’mon boy,” He beckoned towards Roach as the dog dropped into line beside his master, “We’ve got a long walk ahead of us.”

    The dog let out a deep sigh, unhappy at the prospect of walking all the way to Winterhold.

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1 Comment
  • Soneca the Exiled
    Soneca the Exiled   ·  January 26, 2014
    Nice chapter man, always nice to see the struggle against a curse