The morning came quickly as the first gray rays of light entered the valley. The gray overcast skies loomed overhead but a fresh light covering of snow seemed to cast the valley in a dazzling display of sparkling light. Kiera was the first to rise. She had sat and watched the early hours of dawn transform from darkness to light. The gray skies still existed but a new day had dawned. The fresh snow seemed to have given the world a different perspective, one that did not go on noticed by Kiera. She felt a new sense of purpose an urgency that forced her to press on. She smiled and thought of her mentor.
“Belief… that’s where it starts, from there everything else grows…” Icardan stood behind her as he spoke. She turned to him in surprise and wondered how the priest could have known her current thoughts.
“How could you know what I was…?” She was interrupted by him as he turned and headed down the rock strewn ledge.
“Did I read your mind? It was all over your face… I have seen it a hundred times before…the moment one realizes that the day is new as is the journey…”
He turned and beckoned her to follow.
“Come on, let us leave the dreary talk behind and set forth on the adventure of a life time… I have a feeling that this quest of yours will be one that makes the tales of old seem to pale in comparison.”
Kiera smiled and pulled her pack on, she felt the sense of excitement in her grow as they headed down the valley.
They had traveled for several hours before they came across the burnt out settlement. The small wooden huts smoldered in the cold valley air, as the smell of burnt flesh still lingered in the air. The bodies lay piled in a gruesome heap in the midst of the small settlements center. The ground was covered in blood and entrails as if the settlers had been butchered and then the mangled remains just left where they fell. Kiera leaned over the edge of a rock and vomited at the gruesome sight. These weren’t soldiers or rebels they were old men, woman and young children. The Erahaim flag was pitched in the middle of the gruesome tower of flesh, proudly fluttering in the cold breeze. Kiera dropped to her knees as the tears welled up in her eyes. She had wanted a reason to justify her fight against the Erahaim and now she was given it. She hated them now more then ever, her fear and hopelessness seemed to suddenly melt away under the intense flare of hatred and anger.
Icardan drew his sword and slashed the flag down. He picked it up with the tip of his sword as if it was infected and vile smelling. He dropped it into the nearest smoldering fire. With solemn determination he went from each burnt out hut gathering any wood or oil that he could find. He stacked the wood at the base of the pillar of flesh, while he soaked it in oil as well. Kiera joined as well and they went methodically and silently through out the village gathering what they could to create a funeral pyre.
Several hours later they stood silently watching the flames roar and engulf the bodies. They stood for as long as they could in silent reverence until the stench and smoke overwhelmed them. Icardan stood at the edge of the village looking back one last time before they headed down the road.
“Someone will see the fire and come to investigate” His tone was emotionless as he merely stated facts. Kiera was taken a bit back by his emotionless response but she said nothing, she herself felt numb and emotionless as well. The Erahaim and their hosts of demon warriors had declared war against Shadora and now all those that refused to worship and submit would suffer the fate of those in the village.
“We best move on and get as far from here as we can then. Hopefully no one was near enough to get here before we are long gone.” Kiera drew her own sword and kept it gripped tightly as she ran off down the road. Icardan looked at her for a moment and followed.
Excerpt from Ancient Darkness – A novel by R.K. Souliske
Available where ever books are sold on August 20th 2013