When Magic Ruled The Nine Worlds
" Is Dead Really Dead ? "
Svarthofdi, as always, wished to pause for a moment to contemplate the question, but Vidolf answered the Dwarf quickly and adamantly.
" We will continue through this cursed marshland of the dead to the mountains. " she told them both.
Before either Svarthofdi or Vilmeid could protest, or give an opposing view on the subject, the Giantess began to walk towards the east. Even if the Dwarf and the Elf had wanted to try something different there truly was nothing else they could do but shrug their shoulders and fall in behind her.
As the trio traveled through the knee deep water and over raised dry knolls they kept one eye on their surroundings and the other pointed at the Midgardian sun. For they knew that with each step the great glowing orb was slipping from its great height, and that no matter how much they wished it to remain in the heavens, the star would eventually disappear over the horizon to be replaced by its companion the moon. And within that gray lit darkness a monster of unspeakable evil would once again prowl through these marshlands looking for its next victim.
When the lower rim of the Midgardian sun touched the distant horizon Vidolf raised her left hand, stopped her companions, and pointed a finger from her right hand towards a distant rise that had several trees growing on it.
" We will set up our trap over their on that dry hill. " she told her companions.
Svarthofdi nodded his head.
" Yes ! I believe that knoll would be a very good place to kill the beast. " he agreed.
Vilmeid smirked as he added under his breath :
" Or for it to kill us ! "
Vilmeid thought for a moment before adding out loud.
" How do we even know that this Aufhocker will come again ? " he asked with a bit of sarcasm.
Vidolf turned around and glared at the stubbly little Dwarf.
" It has tasted blood. My blood ! It will return tonight to finish what it has started. " she told Vilmeid coldly.
When they reached the tiny hill it seemed more like the perfect place to trap them instead of the beast. This dry mound was surrounded on all sides by knee deep muddy water which was difficult to navigate through quickly. This would make their escape almost impossible should their plan fail. And here the trees were much younger, and therefore much shorter in height, than the old gnarly tree where they had camped the night before. The branches were much lower and therefore would not afford them much protection from the wolf. Of course if the creature shape-shifted into a, "flying mouse", it would not matter had tall the branches were.
Vidolf, despite the plan being Svarthofdi's invention, took control over the logistics of implementing it immediately.
" I will, as I was last night, be on watch all night. I believe that it will attack earlier this time so as not to be hampered by the early rays of the Midgardian sun. I am also certain that it will attack me first because it knows my scent better than either of yours, and of course because it has already had a taste of my blood. " she commented without emotion.
Vilmeid shrugged his shoulders.
" And what shall we do ? Are we to just stand by while the creature attacks you ? " he asked.
Vidolf stared at the Dwarf, who was beginning to annoy her, as if he was not any part of the equation of their plan.
" Svarthofdi will climb up into the highest branches of the tallest tree, and there chant his resurrection spell. While you, my friend, pretend to be asleep at the base of,.... that tree there. " she told the Dwarf as she pointed to the tree that was furthest away.
Vilmeid placed his hands on his hips and pouted his lips.
" And why does Svarthofdi get to hide in a tree while I remain on the ground vulnerable to attack ! ? " he asked in an indignant tone.
Vidolf had no time for any more of the Dwarf's questions, and answered him in a brusque manner.
" Because the sorcerer needs to have time to chant his spell before it attacks and kills me ! And by the way, the tree I pointed out to you is the furthest away from where I will be on guard, and therefore might afford you a chance, albeit a small one, to escape if we fail ! " she explained angrily.
Vilmeid said no more, but nervously went to the tree assigned to him, and nervously sat there awaiting his fate.
When only a red glow on the horizon showed where the Midgardian sun had once been, Vidolf ordered Svarthofdi up into the tree, and told Vilmeid to pretend to be sleeping where he sat. While the Elf climbed the tree Vidolf reached into her small traveling bag with her left hand and pulled out the blood soaked cloth her friends had used to keep her from bleeding to death that morning. With a deep sigh she placed the rag on her shoulder, near her neck, while retrieving her axe from her belt with her right.
Unlike the night before the trio did not have to wait until the hours of the early morning for the Aufhocker to make its presence known. Long before the moon reached its apex the creature's blood curdling howls could be heard reverberating through the marshlands. Soon afterward they heard the unmistakable sounds of an animal easily splashing through the marshlands that not long ago they had struggled so mightily to navigate.
Also different this night was the direction that the creature seemed to be coming from. The night before it had come up from behind where he and Svarthofdi lay, but tonight it appeared that it was coming from the side, which Vilmeid estimated was from the south, judging by where the sun had set. The Dwarf tried not to be selfish, or cowardly, but he could not help but be relieved that the creature would not have to pass by him to attack the Giantess. The Dwarf's contentment did not last long however.
From the top of the rise to the south two sinister red eyes suddenly appeared out of the darkness. In the dim light of the moon Vilmeid could just make out the yellow canine teeth of the creature as it bared them in anger, and in preparation to attack. No light was required to hear the low growling sounds emanating from the creature, which sent a cold shiver up his spine.
As the Aufhocker stood midway between himself and the Giantess Vilmeid could hear the sorcerer begin to chant :
" Rise up, rise up, return to me from the dead,
Rise up, rise up, walk here where I've tread,
Breathe in, breathe out, let life's spark again glow,
Breathe in, breathe out, allow your blood to flow.
Flutter open your eyes, give your mind its sight,
Turn your back on death, return here to the light,
I command you to obey, my power cannot be refused,
Let the dead, and the living, in this moment be fused. "
After Svarthofdi repeated the spell a second time the creature became confused, and its eyes no longer glowed red in the murky darkness. Vilmeid, for one, was happy to see that the Aufhocker had apparently returned from the dead. But now, however, he saw something much more sinister in its eyes. To his great horror the creature's eyes were now transfixed on him, and him alone !
As Svarthofdi continued to chant Vidolf suddenly realized what was about to happen. With a grunt she thrust her right leg forward to hopefully reach her friend before the hungry living wolf could sink its teeth into his flesh. At the same time the creature bolted towards its seemingly helpless prey. Despite the enormous gait of the Giantess, the wolf had four legs to propel itself, and it easily reached Vilmeid before she could defend him. In that split second Vidolf realized that distancing herself from Vilmeid was a miscalculation, and regretted her decision immediately.
Vilmeid screamed as the great wolf lunged at him. Realizing that the creature was aiming its massive jaws at his neck he wrapped his right arm around that vital area to keep it protected. The wolf, however, saw this not as an impediment, but as an opportunity and quickly sunk its sharp canine teeth into the appendage. Their eyes met for only a moment but in that short time frame the Dwarf knew what was coming and screamed as loud as he could.
Vidolf reached Vilmeid just as the wolf ripped the Dwarf's arm out of its shoulder socket. Despite the horrific image of the creature snarling at her with her friend's bloody arm in its mouth she found the courage to raise her axe high over her head, and swung the stone weapon at the wolf with all her might. As she watched the events transpire they slowed down to a crawl as she stared directly into the eyes of the beast.
" Die you ugly son of a bitch ! " she cried out as the blade of her axe struck the creature's head once again.
To Vidolf's great relief the creature's eyes remained as they were and did not glow red again. The wolf, stunned by the blow which penetrated its skull, dropped Vilmeid's arm, and staggered backwards a few steps before it came to the realization that it could no longer shape change, and that it would soon die. Vilmeid continued to scream, but his agony was lost to the Giantess as her hearing dissipated into silence while she watched with hypnotic fascination as the wolf fell over onto its side and changed shape one last time. The being that lay before her on the ground still had four limbs, but they were much like those of a Dwarf, Elf, or Jotun, only much thinner. The facial features of the creature were not those of a bat, or a wolf, but that of an evil looking being with long ears, narrow eyes, and a long hooked nose.
Vidolf was shocked out of her hypnotic state when the creature suddenly, and most unexpectedly burst into flames. It burned for only a few moments and afterwards what remained in the smoldering mess were the creatures misshapen bones. As the smell of burning hair and flesh made her wince she thought to herself :
" Is dead really dead ? "
The Giantess tried desperately to stagger back to reality, but her mind was having trouble understanding what she had just witnessed. It was not until she once again was able to hear Vilmeid's desperate pleas for help that she could finally react to the situation. And what she saw was not good. No, not good at all !
- End Chapter 16
- Next : Chapter 17 : " We Must Go On ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2019.