So it has been a really, really long time since I've posted anything. Sorry. To make it up to you, here is another sample from Wind & Snow. That's my working title right now, don't think I've shared that on here yet.
I'm not going to give any context to this scene. That would ruin all the fun. If you've read any of my other sneak peeks you'll recognize the character in this scene. And just be aware that I almost cut this scene in half to leave it on the world's worst cliff hanger, but I didn't. You're welcome.
By James Jakins
Aafrin looked down from the hollow in the tree. The red moon shone down on the game trail below him. Two men were walking down the path, guns in hand.
Aafrin had seen guns like theirs before. Able to shoot six rounds before reloading. Maviern revolvers. Most countries only had guns that could fire one at a time, then the process of reloading was very time consuming. But the alchemists in Maviern were considered to be the best in the world, and for the right price they were willing to share their creations.
He forced himself to think like a merchant. To consider the guns as very expensive commodities, and not as something that could blow his brains out the back of his skull.
One of the men looked up at the tree and Aafrin closed his eyes, waiting for the gun to fire, but nothing. He was still hidden. It had been luck and luck alone that he had found the hollow in the tree. He let out a slow, quiet breath as the men continued past.
He reached into his pocket and gripped the Fire symbol he had ripped off the fence. He jokingly told himself he would have to convert and join a fire shrine when he got home. Gripping the small piece of forged steel made him feel safe. He offered a prayer to the Unborn God, just in case.
He adjusted himself slightly, and a loose piece of bark by his feet snapped off and fell to the ground at the base of the tree. He stiffened, grimacing as he tried to peer down the path the men had just gone. He didn't hear anything. He let out a sigh.
"You hear that?" A voice said down the sloping path.
"Sounds like breathing."
"Oh Mother of the Unborn." Aafrin whispered.
"You say something?"
"Yeah, I hear breathing this way." Aafrin heard the crunch of dead leaves and sticks move farther away.
He blinked in surprise and relief. Then he heard screaming. And growling. He stood up without thinking, and grabbing an overhead branch he peered out of his hiding place.
Down the shallow incline, by the light of the red moon he watched as an enormous, something, tore through the underbrush and tackled one of his pursuers. The thing was huge, at least twice the size of a man, covered in fur.
The man screamed as giant jaws closed around his head and pulled him off the game trail into the thicker brush along the side. The second man screamed as the creature passed within inches of him. He pulled his gun up, and began to fire. From what Aafrin could see, at least one round should have connected with the flank of the beast, he wasn't sure though. The man kept pulling the trigger, any remaining shots were fired at the ground after the creature had passed.
The man stood in place, still screaming, the hammer of his gun snapping back and forth uselessly. A moment later another creature, even larger than the first leaped from the brush lining the trail and with the swing of a large, clawed hand took off the screaming man's head. It was a hand not a paw Aafrin thought, oddly disconnected from the moment. Four fingers and a thumb.
The creature snorted. Picking up the headless body with one hand. It sniffed the stump of the neck before looking up, it's nose in the air. It looked almost human, the ears were just a little pointed, the mouth just a little too wide, with teeth, fangs, just slightly too big. The nose was a snout, wide and black. The nose twitched as the creature sniffed at the air, its eyes closed. They opened when it was facing Aafrin.
The eyes were a deep green. Far too human. A white scar running down from the left eye to the corner of the mouth stood out in the moonlit night. Aafrin froze, he had moved out along the branch without thinking and was now standing directly above the game trail.
He looked the monster in the eyes and screamed. The creature's mouth pulled back from its teeth and it roared, dropping to all fours, charging up the trail.
Aafrin tried to step back, forgetting he was in a tree. He fell into open air. The fall seemed to take forever. As he fell he looked down. Framed between his feet was the charging beast.
He hit the ground and his scream cut off as all air was pushed from his lungs. He opened his eyes and watched in horror as the creature above him raised a clawed hand, four fingers and a thumb. He pulled his hands up above his face. A final, worthless defense.
He didn't feel the claws slash his skin. Instead he felt a steadily growing, not totally unpleasant heat in his right hand. He heard a snarl from the beast. He opened one eye to find the creature wasn't in sight. Scrambling to his feet he saw the monster down the trail, pacing back and forth, a few paces on all fours, then it would rise to its back legs for several steps.
Aafrin looked down at his right hand. He had the fire symbol grasped firmly in his fist. A gentle blue flame was burning in the gaps between his fingers, a small jet of the same flame was escaping at either end of his closed hand.
With a startled gasp he dropped the symbol. The amulet fell to the ground, the fire extinguishing itself, The heat slowly fading from his hand. The beast let out a triumphant snarl as the symbol hit the ground. Aafrin looked up in time to see the creature mid-flight, claws stretched toward him. He dropped to the ground, his body reacting faster than his mind could reason. He grabbed the leather strap attached to the symbol and swung the amulet as he rolled to his back. The metal symbol struck the creature on the hand as it was coming down on top of Aafrin.
There was a loud crack that filled the air followed by a bestial roar of pain. Aafrin opened his eyes to see the creature staggering back, its right hand wreathed in flame. It tried to cradle the hand in its other, but that one caught fire as well. The beast began pounding its hands against the ground, snarling and roaring, until the flames went out. It looked at Aafrin, still on the ground, amulet in hand. It nodded its head, as if conceding defeat, and then loped into the woods, silent as ash on the wind.
"Holy," Aafrin began a curse, but stopped when he heard footsteps behind him.
"What was that?" A man was shouting. There were a lot of them. Multiple voices were shouting out now, the whole band of assassins was on its way.
Aafrin scrambled to his feet. He considered a moment, then ran into the woods after the foe he knew how to face.
"You can fight them, son of Earth." A voice spoke. He stumbled to a stop, glancing around. The voice was close, he dove behind the nearest bush.
"I can give you strength. I would give it. This world will need it soon." The voice continued. It sounded just as close as it had been before, as though Aafrin had not even moved.
"Who," he began.
"Do not speak, Earthson. Merely think your words. Your pursuers are close now."
"What is happening?" Aafrin thought.
"I am offering you my power." The voice answered. It was a low, smokey voice. Warm, caring.
"Who are you?" Aafrin thought back.
"I am Fire. The eldest of the gods. Last to enter your world through the doorway. I am He who protected your ancestors from the wrath of a jealous Wind, taught you the art of creation and allowed you destruction when it is needed."
Aafrin almost fell over. Fire. The god Fire? Impossible. Every child would hear the stories growing up. How in ancient times a Mage was called by the Elements. That instead of a priest just tattooing an
individual granting partial control over the element, the god itself, or one if its children, would appear to an individual and give them full power.
"The ancient times are over." Fire said, "But a true Fire Mage is needed again. I teach you a word now. A word that none on this world know. It shall be your name. Take my symbol."
Aafrin raised the amulet to eye level, "Place it in your right palm." Aafrin did so, his mind not allowing him time to doubt the voice claiming to be Fire.
The amulet began to blaze with the same blue fire. As Fire continued to speak, the flames wavered and grew in time with his words. "I name thee, Aafrin Beth'het. Thou shalt be Hell."
The word burned itself into Aafrin's brain. Hell. He could picture the meaning behind the word. Punishment was its true meaning. Fire wished him to punish his enemies. Aafrin began to scream in pain as the amulet began to burn into his palm. A sickly sweet smell began to waft up. Cooking meat. He grabbed at the burning right hand with his left, falling to his side as smoke curled up through his twitching fingers.
"Destroy thy enemies, Hell. Command those that fear me. Save this world, my home, and thine." Fire shouted into his brain. Aafrin was given a vision of another meaning for Hell. He saw a field, flames higher than the tallest mountain, a lake of melted stone filled with the screams of the wicked. "Fire is yours!" Fire screamed.
Aafrin rose to his feet, screaming. All around him were the surprised faces of the men hunting him. One leveled a gun at Aafrin, "Fire and stone you scream like a woman."
The pain ceased and Aafrin opened his eyes to consider his assassins. Behind the men was the beast with the green eyes and the scarred face. It was considering Aafrin. None of the men aiming guns at him noticed. The beast cocked its head to the side, asking a question. Aafrin understood. He nodded.
"Fire and stone?" He looked at the man. He sounded much more confident than he felt, but he knew what to do. Fire had given him enough for this. "Just fire, I'm afraid." He held out his right hand. a soft glow, like coals in a hearth, smouldered from within the seared ridges of his burn. "Fire is mine." He said. He met the man's gaze and saw his own fear reflected back.
Then the night was filled with howls and screams and the snapping of burning bone.