The Gnawing Cold

Discussion in 'Lore' started by HittmanA, Dec 11, 2019.

  1. HittmanA


    Jep warmed his whisker covered cheeks as he sat next to a radiant fire. A group of children sat around him, enjoying assorted Wenternighten treats. Most of Clemens had come to gather around the enormous bonfire that marked the beginning of Wenternighten celebrations. The bonfire, a symbol of unity and giving during the winter season, also served as a place for grand story telling.

    Though he was not a native of Clemens, Jep still eagerly participated in the festivities. His knack for telling stories was popular with all the residents, especially the children. Tonight, the children had asked for his best Wenternighten story. They wanted something exciting – something unlike the other stories he had told before. Jep, delighted by the appreciation of his skills, was all too happy to oblige.

    Standing and making his way closer to the crackling bonfire, Jep began with a twinkle in his eye. “This story comes from Islaya. The Islayan Queen herself told me this tale that took place many years ago. In the days when the Islayans still hunted in the frigid mountains of Eturia...”

    A lone Islayan trudged through the snow while wishing for a nice meal of fat-rich birch fish. Oh well, it wasn’t worth having to sneak into a town for a meal. He would just make a meal out of some ice rabbit.

    His already sour mood was further spoiled by remembering his town. They could go to the Graves for all he cared. Being exiled for stealing was such a fatless farce he still couldn’t believe it. After all, why should he go hungry just because he didn’t want some low-class job marking trails for the town hunters.

    He shook his head. I don’t need them. May the cold gnaw their bones! At least the silent forest didn’t hurl accusations at him. On the other hand, this forest reminded him of Gala’s warning concerning winter forests.

    Bleh, he thought. That little street urchin was as useless as using an ax for a fishing pole. At least that food she had given him before he left had served a purpose.

    After a few more minutes of trudging, the subtle sound of a slow stream filled the air. Maybe he would have a chance to catch some fish after all. The thought of a succulent birch fish, named after the tree which the fish’s skin resembled, caused him to salivate.

    He rushed forward, eager to finally have found a potential source of food and fresh water. A sound like a woodpecker hammering on a tree began to fill the air. Seeing as it was winter, the oddity of a bird out in the freezing cold inclined the Islayan to investigate.

    A short jog later, he stumbled onto the bank of a broad stream covered with a thick layer of ice. On the opposite side of the clearing, which surrounded the river’s banks, a red glow shone through a thick hedge of birch saplings.

    For the first time since his exile, the Islayan smiled. Now was his chance to warm up! Maybe somebody by the fire would give him food. Even if the fire’s owners refused, he could simply strangle them in their sleep and take everything for himself.

    Crossing the river, the Islayan noticed the red glow lacked the flicker of a fire and was not the correct color, but he was too cold and hungry to care.

    By the time he reached the hedge of birch saplings, the clicking sound had grown louder. Must be coming from the fire. The Islayan could practically taste a hot meal as he peeked through the hedge.

    A frown changed places with the Islayan’s previous smile as his hopes for a fire were crushed. Three long, thin crystals sat atop a pile of something that looked like pine straw. They were the source of the bright red light illuminating the clearing within the hedge.

    The clicking sound continued as the Islayan stepped through the hedge. Angered that there was no fire, the Islayan kicked the pile of pine straw. His foot hit something hard inside the pile of pine straw, and he froze.

    The clicking stopped, and a jarring quiet filled the clearing as the pine straw began to move with measured slowness. The Islayan now gaped in horror as he realized the pine straw was, in fact, very rough hair. The creature to which the hair belonged twisted itself around to stare directly at the fool who had fallen into its trap.

    For days now, the Islayan had grown used to the biting cold and driving wind. Neither of those had prepared him for the cold rush which curled around his heart as he stared at the creature before him.

    Having horns and a thick tail, it vaguely resembled an Islayan, but it must have come from the pits of the Graves. Flesh hung loosely from all its bones, as if skin was a cloak worn to ward off the cold. Three bright, blood-red Islayan horns, two more than the blue-tinted one the Islayan possessed, protruded sharply from the crown of its head. The creature’s arms, folded fully around its waist, were out of proportion with its body. Long talons, rather than the pointed nails of an Islayan, stretched like daggers from its fingertips.

    The Islayan backed himself all the way to the edge of the hedge. Seeing the one who had awakened it from slumber, the creature opened its yawning, fang-filled mouth. A shriek enveloped the forest, as if darkness itself had turned into sound. The creature’s elongated neck stretched high above the small Islayan before it.

    The Islayan broke his stare and ran into the forest with all his energy. The loud whump-whump of the creature’s footsteps followed as it gave chase over the snow-covered forest floor.

    The creature began gnashing its teeth together, making the clicking sound from before. This time the clicking was loud and rapid. It pierced the terrified Islayan to the core as it approached. Sliding down a small embankment, the Islayan attempted to remain as quiet as possible. His only hope was losing the creature.

    Click... Click... The clicking slowed down as it approached and grew louder. The Islayan held his breath and remained absolutely still.

    Click...... Click...... The clicking now softened and slowed, but the Islayan could tell it was coming from above the embankment. Red light showered over him as he remained in the shadows.

    Suddenly the light disappeared and the clicking with it. The Islayan dare not move or make a sound.

    After several minutes of waiting, the Islayan could take it no longer. He peeked over the embankment, prepared to flee at the first sign of trouble. Slowly he gained more confidence as he saw nothing unusual lurking in the forest.

    Stepping over the embankment, he started to wonder if he was going insane from hunger.

    However, a few steps into the forest, the Islayan realized his mistake. The clicking sound returned, followed by a laugh. The laugh grew in volume and seemed to fill the entire forest.

    Fetid breath flowed across his neck. As he turned, the creature slow exposed its full form. Arms as long as the creature’s body reached out and held the Islayan by the shoulders. A long, red tongue lolled from its mouth down to its chest as it continued to emit a guttural laugh.

    “Thiiiissss ooooneeee iiiis huuuungry...” said the creature to the forest. Once it had finished speaking, the forest came alive with similar, smaller creatures. These creatures had two horns, and they all laughed, their voices joining into one resounding chorus. The creatures, which sat and hung from every tree branch and covered the space in between, rushed forward at the paralyzed Islayan.

  2. GhostOfRelevancy

    GhostOfRelevancy Noble

    It pierced the terrified...rapidly approached. Also since you already use “rapid” in the sentence before, I suggest changing the adverb.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  3. HittmanA


    Thank you for pointing this out; I’ve made appropriate edits.
    • Friendly Friendly x 1

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