The Last Witch Hunters: Chapter Eleven

  • The derelict city of Winterhold rested quietly, the streets were empty and few buildings showed any sign of life, the slow falling snow was illuminated under the rising sun and each flake twinkled hypnotically as it fell. The town played host to maybe a dozen weary citizens now; not including the mischievous mages, and it was common for the whole town to spend their days numbing the cold and depression of the city with ale from the tavern, as a result they all knew each other and were naturally weary of strangers as one such outsider had discovered that morning.

    The sound of raised voices could be heard from outside the tavern and a lone guard stirred from beneath his concealed post in the skeleton frame of an old house. The guard eyed the tavern with a tired stare; this city saw little need for raised voices, no one had the life to argue over anything unless it was with mages. And there had been no sign of those troublesome meddlers in months; they’d locked themselves in their college to the relief of the whole city. However the guard had heard of the scarred traveller who had entered the town earlier, ragged and armed with a bestial look about him, gossip spread fast in such a small city and everyone knew of his coming before he’d even rented a room for the night in the inn. The guard reached for his rusty spear, propped against the side of the house, slid his arm into the straps of his wooden round shield, adjusted his brown fur cloak, checked the straps on his cone shaped helmet then began to pick his way through the ruins of the home, towards the inn.

    The guard edged slowly through the snow, his fur boots leaving deep tracks behind him, he was near the bottom of the steps and there was no mistaking the sound of conflict inside the inn, he heard the loud insults thrown across the small building and the scraping of several chairs. He knew he should burst into the inn and stop whatever was going on before it turned into a fight but his mind flashed back to the look of fear on his fellow guardsman’s face when he recounted the description of the outsider, he remembered the wide eyed guard had said the outsider wielded two short blades and a long, robust silver sword, big enough to cleave a giant in half he’d said. Now the guard looked down at his rusty spear clasped in his right hand, a mere twig in reality, with a sharpened point. It didn’t look so impressive now.

    There was a loud crash inside of the inn and a groan, several more sounds of violence quickly followed and adrenaline flooded the guard’s body, he shifted the spear smiling determinedly down at it. It may not be pretty but it would impale a man just the same. He began to think about what would happen if he stopped this man, he’d be famous, a town hero, he may even get a chance to move to Windhelm, work for Ulfric himself, this was the chance of a lifetime. Courageously he began to march up the stairs of the inn, he was a few steps away from the door when it crashed open suddenly, sending splinters of wood flying across the snow. Among the splinters was a resident of the town, he was thrown clear of the inn and crashed straight into the guard knocking his spear from his hand and sending both of them cascading down the wooden steps, onto the snow.

    Letting out a loud groan the guard tried to sit up however the unconscious body had landed straight on his chest, trapping his arms and pinning him to the glimmering snow. Raising his head he looked to the tavern door, he saw the heavy stacked silhouette of a large man stepping out of the door frame a smaller shadow skulked at the strangers’ feet, most likely a dog, the guard desperately reached for his spear but it had landed several feet away and he couldn’t free his arm. Looking up again he felt a surge of hope as he saw the thin frame of another resident charging after the muscular man. But a warning bark from the outsiders dog destroyed his last traces of hope, the outsider reacted instantaneously, he swung his body around in the blink of an eye and grabbed the man by his collar; stopping him dead in his tracks.  In the same motion the outsider carried on his turn, spinning a full 360 degrees and flinging the feeble vigilante with all his weight around and sending him crashing through the sturdy wooden bannister that stood outside the small inn. The outsider shot a challenging stare back at the entrance to the inn, daring anyone else to follow. When no one did, he turned from the building and casually stepped down the wooden steps leading to the guard. Seeing how effortlessly this outsider had dispatched of two men the guard began to tremble. He was next. This was it. The end. He shut his eyes and waited for the sound of the man’s footsteps to stop, that would be the signal that he was about to die. Crunch, Crunch! They continued through the snow, Crunch, Crunch! They got closer, Sniff, Sniff! That must have been the dog, the guard imagined its razor sharp teeth, he squeezed his eyes shut willing it to go away, praying to the nine divines.

     Crunch, Crunch! Now they began to move away, getting quieter as they continued out of the range of the guardsman’s ears. Disbelief fell upon the trapped guardsman as he opened his eyes, the outsider must have seen him; there was no doubt, however he’d walked straight past and continued out of the city, he sighed with relief. He was alive.

    .  .  .

    Shawk trudged through the snow, towards the frozen waters of the sea of ghosts, Roach at his heels. He passed close by packs of bears and wolves however they recognised his scent and hurried off in the other direction, they had no qualms with a vampire, and they could smell he was very angry. An angry vampire was enough to scare even the largest bear.

    Shawk reached the end of the, soft, crispy snow; from now on out he would be crossing ice. He whispered a command to Roach and began to stride forward, planting his right foot onto the ice. However as soon as he transferred his weight onto the frozen waters he heard a sharp cracking sound and his boot was submerged in freezing cold water. Shawk let out a cry of shock and desperately dragged his leg from the waters before falling back onto the firm land of snow.

    Regaining his composure Shawk pulled himself to his feet. He frowned at the empty hole in the ice; last time he had been here a whole fleet of Witch Hunters had managed to move across the ice with ease. Why was this time any different? Whatever the reason Shawk needed to cross the ice and pondering on the reason as to why the ice was thinner would get him nowhere.

    Shawk may not have been big on brains but he knew he would need to lighten his load to have any hope of crossing the ice, he looked down at Roach, seeing the look of anxiety on the small dogs eyes, weight wasn’t a problem for the dog, it could pass over the ice with ease however the loyal beast had felt powerless at the sight of his master plunging through the ice and he didn’t want to experience that again. Shawk drew his steel sword and discarded it to one side, the weapon was powerful however it held no sentimental connection with him, it was a tool and a tool could be replaced. He then drew his twin short blades and planted them both in the snow. Travelling the ice without weapons would leave him feeling naked however it was unlikely he’d be attacked in the crossing. After discarding of some supplies that were weighing him down and stripping some of the plating from his leather armour he drank a vial of blood from his pouch, he’d had one only an hour earlier at the inn however he needed another to cool his rage, he always did after a fight.

    Once he was ready Shawk moved towards the edge of the ice, he chose a different entry point, far away from the hole he’d created earlier and stretched a booted foot out hesitantly. He hovered over the ice then slowly shifted his weight onto his outstretched foot… Nothing. Shawk let out a sigh of relief then moved his other foot forward, balancing his weight equally between the two feet, the more surface area he transferred his weight to the less likely the ice was to crack, absentmindedly he spread his toes apart, unconsciously trying to cover more area within his leather boots. Looking back at Roach he made a small gesture with his thumb and fore finger, the dog recognised the command and slowly began to pat across the ice until he was at Shawks’ side. Shawk took another step forward, then another, and another. Until he was at walking speed and moving across the ice, it would be slow going but it was the safest way, even at this speed taking extra precautions he could feel the ice beginning to give under his feet however he moved on before the ice had a chance to crack. “Baby steps,” He muttered to Roach through gritted teeth. "Baby steps..."

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  • Soneca the Exiled
    Soneca the Exiled   ·  February 27, 2014
    I feel you man
  • Ramah
    Ramah   ·  February 27, 2014
    No matter how many times you proof read something there's always something you miss. Thanks for pointing it out
  • Soneca the Exiled
    Soneca the Exiled   ·  February 27, 2014
    Nice one, good to now you're back! Btw, in the first paragraph you say "Windhelm", you might want to correct that to Winterhold