“Theora, how many times have I told you? This will be your last chance to prove yourself to the circle, there will not be another.”
The High Marven scolded her as she threw the glass holding the tincture onto the floor. Its container shattered as the swirling liquid splashed and hissed atop the floor, staining the rich mosaics inlaid there. The Marven’s face, smooth and beautiful as a woman a quarter her age, radiated an aura of blatant disgust.
“I’m sorry, I don't know what happened, I…” Theora stammered, her voice echoing off the stained glass and hard stone statues that adorned the room.
The High Marven’s long staff cracked against the stone of the large chamber, cutting her off before she could explain.
“If you fail it will not be just a reflection on you, but on me as well, do not make me regret...you,” the marven sneered, her voice as melodic as it was cruel.
Her sharp stare made Theora shrink back. Her feet temporarily lost their footing on the staircase leading to the dais where the High Marven stood in judgement, flanked by her silent hooded apostles.
Theora turned to go, holding back tears as best she could.
“I’m sorry mother, I will...I will make you proud.”
“Doubtful.” she retorted as she ushered her away with a wave of her hand.
The painful word echoed in the chamber as much as it did in Theora’s head as she quickly turned to leave.
As the heavy doors slammed shut behind her, Theora ran, her face in her hands.
The morning sparkled with piercing sunshine as Colt woke groggily from his lumpy, well-worn straw mattress. He shielded his eyes with a calloused hand as the light poured in from the lead glass window. He hadn't slept that well in what seemed like forever. He sniffed and took in the smell of breakfast already being prepared. He recognized bacon, eggs and burnt bread. He pushed down the constant worry about their winter reserves as he let himself enjoy the moment. Colt couldn't help but smile as he woke, his mother was going all out.
He swung his feet over the floor and laid them gingerly on the cold, well-worn wood. Winter hadn’t quite finished, the snow accumulated on the window sill outside was proof of that. Colt heard the crackling of fire in the small stone hearth as he got up, the sudden thud of the last of the wood they had prepared being tossed into the flames and the light cursing from his father that followed it. He always put too much on, they were lucky winter's end was in sight.
Colt lurched out of bed, his feet careful to avoid the hoes and shovels stored in his room to avoid the caked-on snow, now just wet patches were all that remained of what had seeped down between the gaps in the floor.
Colt opened the small cabinet that his father and him had made where he stored his clothes. He ruffled through the unfolded mess of his various garments. It's not like he had a lot of choices, but the mess made it feel like he had enough clothes to fill a whole pantry. Colt found his cleanest, least-stained, wool shirt and slipped it over his thin athletic torso. He had taken up the more strenuous farm duties as his father’s condition had deteriorated. Due to the lack of food his ribs pushed against the skin of his chest as he stretched his arms to loosen up the stiff fabric.
After sorting through the cabinet he was crestfallen that there were no pants that he had cleaned, or even taken the time to dry. Now he had to make do with something from the wet and dirty pile that laid at the foot of his bed. The least-repugnant choice was the very same pants he had used the day before, still wet with melted snow.
Colt instantly regretted his choice as he began to thread his feet through the long sloppy fabric legs of the garment. He winced as the cold and wet, but still somehow not frozen, fabric dragged along his calves on the way towards his thighs. With some willpower and after a fight with the leggings he secured the belt neatly around his waist. Once they warmed up near the fire they would be at least manageable for the rest of the day.
Slipping on a pair of stockings over his now freezing feet he made his way to the rough-hewn door that separated the two rooms of their modest home. He grabbed the sharply cold bent-brass handle and began to push it slowly. Colt smiled thinking about his parents being surprised as he appeared in the room, as if by magic, like in one of his mother’s books. His illusion was just as quickly broken as the hinges squealed like frightened geese. He hadn’t planned this very well as the door announced, very loudly, his entrance.
“COLT!” his mother exclaimed excitedly as she dropped the heavy pan on the stove and raced over to hug him in her arms.
“Oh my little boy, all grown up now, ohhhh!” Mary cooed as she ruffled his hair and swaddled him with her body. Her arms wrapped tightly around him like she was saving him from falling off a cliff.
His mother was tall for a woman, her features worn by the years of hard work. But her blue-green eyes were as bright as ever. She wore a plain gray dress that she had knitted from the fine sacs donated to them by the innkeeper. It was her pride and joy, she only wore it during special occasions. Her slender body held him like he was still her baby. Her golden hair was still streaked with dirt, but Colt could hardly care as he hugged back, although just about a quarter as hard.
“Mom, mom! Its ok, I just woke up!” Colt tried to explain as he squirmed in his mother’s overzealous embrace.
“Hey, how you feeling this morning? Feel like a man now?” his father’s face lit up with a huge toothy smile as he set down another pile of snow-dusted wood near the fire.
His father had a dark complexion and brown beard speckled with gray, which he regularly trimmed short. He claimed he wanted to “be the kind of man your mother deserves,” when Colt asked him why he didn’t let it grow like others in town did. Colt never felt like he had to tell him that his mother loved him for a lot more than how long his beard was. His father was odd, but in a good way. He had never beat him and had always been good to them both. And today his father was in rare form, the deeply concerning coughing that had plagued him had no sway on his demeanor.
His father rubbed his strong calloused hands, trying to suss out the cold. His dark wool gloves stuffed into the pockets of his coat seemingly forgotten as he tried to warm his digits.
Colt managed to escape the endless hug his mother was bestowing on him as he tried to de-ruffle his hair.
“No, not really any different, not really.”
“Ha-ha! Well you didn’t think you would get as strong as your old man over night did you?” his father joked as he flexed his sinewy thin arms. Arms that had a unique strength to them from a lifetime of hard work.
“Well I hope you enjoyed your sleep, we have breakfast all set for you and…” his mother looked down at his wet soiled pants. A look of consternation crossed her face, it looked like she wanted to say something but then thought better of it as her face lit up again.
“Are you wearing the same pants you used to help me clear to the workshop yesterday?” his father interceded. “They smell and look like shit.” he paused before laughing heartily.
“Yeah yeah, well...its all I had,” Colt blushed a bit in embarrassment.
“Come on, can't let you sit in a bog on your birthday!” Duncan proclaimed as he walked over to their dining table and began to tug it toward the fire. The wood made an awful racket as the heavy thing jerked inches towards the fire. His father’s arms strained as his face turned red from the exertion as he was hit with a coughing fit, one of his worst. His back bent forward as he slapped his knees trying to clear it. His face turned puffy and almost purple as he choked back the fit with all his willpower.
“No, no, its ok dad, I don't need anything special,” Colt tried to explain, but he could see his dad wasn’t having it as he resumed his efforts, the hacking reduced to a few small wheezes.
Colt gave up, when his dad was determined and there was little he could do to change his mind. Colt wordlessly went to the other side of the table and helped push. The table was indeed ridiculously heavy. Hewn from a downed oak at the edge of their land, the base was composed of the solid stump their workhands had helped saw out of the ground and rolled into place when Colt was very little.
Working together the table lurched across their small home, close enough to the hearth that it may have started to smolder if his father hadn't done such a bad job constructing the fire. The wet wood he had put on earlier had all but smothered the flames. Colt didn't have the heart to bring it up, as they moved their chairs to the relocated piece of furniture.
Finally sitting down to the breakfast his mother had spent the majority of the morning preparing they all joined hands and said a small prayer to the forefathers before digging in. Colt wanted to rush through and he could tell his parents did too, the smell of the food wafting from his plate was intoxicating. The prayer finished Colt dug his fork into the food greedily.
The eggs were perfect, the yolks runny and sweet, fried in the tallow his mother had stored away for this very occasion. Colt couldn't remember the last time he had bacon, or any meat that didn't need to be boiled to be eaten. Colt shoveled the food into his mouth so fast that the tastes all blended together. He knew he should be savoring it, letting it rest in his mouth, but it was just too good.
His father playfully poked Colt’s belly, making him choke as he made a bad joke about how bad the food must be for him to be eating so quickly. The laughter only made the choking worse, spittle and bits of half-eaten eggs sprayed from Colt’s mouth as he banged the table to catch his breath. As he finished choking he started laughing as he wiped away the small tears that had developed in his eyes; the embers on the stones behind him warmed his legs as he resumed his birthday meal.
Mary smiled as she saw the two men of her life enjoying the food she had prepared. Their mouths full of food as they as they broke off pieces of bacon and audibly savored them. They both moaned as the delicious pork fat melted in their mouths. Duncan and Colt, fixed as they were on their meals, didn't notice that there were few morsels she kept aside for herself. She wanted them to enjoy this day, that was all the nourishment she needed. It was only when they were finished, reclining in their seats that Colt noticed her plate.
“Oh no, mom, you didn’t.”
“No, no, no, this is your special day, not a day for you to be worrying about others,”
Colt’s brow furrowed in concentration as he looked at his thoroughly cleaned plate. He couldn't, wouldn't allow this. He would’ve kicked himself if he could, how could he not have noticed? He was so concentrated on his own plate that he hadn’t noticed his mother’s.
“I’ll make you some more, where are the eggs?” he asked getting up. “We have to have some eggs!”
“Colt, please, your mother…” his father said weakly before doubling over, his hands over his mouth as his chest convulsed out of his control in another fit.
“No don’t, you know we need to sell those,” his mother pleaded as she pulled at the arm of his shirt. Colt shrugged her off as he looked through their stores, which were much sparser than he had expected. His eyes teared up as he opened and closed cabinet after cabinet, the search became increasingly futile.
“Colt, Colt, honey, stop…” her eyes had grown wet with the beginnings of tears seeing her son so distraught as his father continuing hacking unable to help the situation.
Colt turned to face her, tears of his own had made their way down past his nose, weaving through the layer of fine dirt they all wore.
“I’m sorry mom, I shouldn’t have...” Colt sobbed as they hugged.
“It’s alright Colt… once I get the windmill working we won't have to worry about eggs, or anything else” his father added as he recovered and joined in the hug, his thin body heaved slightly as he held back the aftershocks of his fit.
“I love you both,” Colt sputtered, embarrassed at his outburst as much as his admission. His parents hugged him tighter.
“You will make a girl very happy someday,” Mary sniffled, wiping away her own tears. “Maybe Margaret even,” Mary poked.
Colt’s couldn't help but chuckle roughly through the tears. “The innkeeper's daughter? Not if the king himself proclaimed me to marry her,” he joked, trying to lighten the mood.
“Well you better find somebody soon, I need some grandkids to help me clean out the workshop or it will never get done!” his father laughed as he patted Colt on the back. Colt didn’t notice speckling of blood on his father’s hand as it soaked into the fabric of his shirt.
“So what do you want to do today, birthday boy? We already did sleeping late and a real high-class breakfast…” Duncan trailed off, his smile did a bad job hiding how dire his situation was, before resuming “Anything you want!”
“Well…” Colt looked up at the timbers that held up their low ceiling as he thought. “After I help move the things back...” he mused. He knew how many chores they were ignoring to give him this day, he didn’t want to tell them he rather be outside helping tend the horses than let them take on more burdens than they had already. It was important to him that his parents enjoy this time they had together as much as he did.
His decision made, Colt looked across the room to the small chest where they kept their most prized possessions. “Mom, could you read me....The Hammer of Keale Thuros? I haven’t read that one in a while.”
Mary was a bit flustered, she hadn’t read to him in a very long time. “Wouldn't you rather read it yourself? I spent all that time teaching you for a reason you know!” she emphasized with a tinge of admonishment to her voice.
Colt smiled shyly, “I like the way you read it.” And he did, but he wanted to give his mother something too, he felt terrible about breakfast and he knew her books, those stories, were everything to her, to them both.
Mary sighed and smiled, there was nothing she would deny her son. She shooed him to go help his father move the table as she walked to the small bed she shared with Duncan. There sitting atop one of the high wooden shelves was the chest. She pulled it down as she blew the dust and soot that had accumulated off. Setting the heavy container on the bed she retrieved the key she kept safe on a necklace tucked against her bosom. She fitted her key to the lock. It was old and well-worn from their many readings when Colt was still just a boy but it still worked like the day it was made.
Opening the chest Mary’s fingers traced the books’ upward-facing spines as Colt and Duncan pushed the table back into position with heaving grunts behind her. The books weren’t much, but in a town where nobody but a few nobles could read they were as valuable as a bag of gold coins. They kept them locked away to deter theft but also in fear that some visitor would discover that she, a woman, could read them. She shared her secret with nobody, that is until she found Duncan all those many years ago.
The books themselves were in poor shape despite her best efforts to protect them. The bindings were coming apart and the gold inlay in the covers was worn with their repeated readings. Despite their value her father had once told her that when a book turns to dust in your hands it is well-loved. She reached for the largest of the tomes. She loved the feel of the book in her hands, the weight of it, the way the pages ruffled. There was little time for books on the farm as much as Duncan encouraged her to keep up her reading. He would bring her small scrolls written by bards to nobles whenever he could find them on his trips to town. Gathering herself she brought the book to the hearth as Colt and Duncan positioned their scratchy stiff blankets on the floor..
“Duncan, don’t you have some work to do?” Mary winked, surprised that he was settling in.
“No, no, this is much more important,” he smiled as he shuffled the blanket into a makeshift headrest against the nearby wall so he could sit and watch his wife read. His hands covered his mouth to stifle a cough as he lay back. He admired his wife’s face as the glow of the embers washed over it. Her face was as beautiful as the day they met.
Duncan had lost his father when he was very young and knew there was little more valuable than the time he had with his family. He had little time to sit down and appreciate it. The coughing, as much as he had tried to hide it from Colt, it was only getting worse. Here on Colt’s birthday was one of the few days he could give himself permission to take in all that he had. It was hard not to get teary eyed looking at his son, who he had raised from that little crying bundle to the man that sat next to him there at the fire.
“Remember you used to sit with Colt on your lap teaching him his letters?” Duncan’s laugh ended in a few small coughs. He quickly regained his composure as he continued. “You were the size of a small sack of potatoes, and now look at you!” he grabbed his son’s shoulder and shook it playfully before settling into his blankets.
“Yeah yeah, I remember,” Colt replied embarrassed.
“Well if you two are finished, we can start,” Mary laid down the law a the two men quieted and sat to attention. She sat on the good rocking chair, the one that didn't creak with every beat of her heart as she wiped the dust from the cover of the book and flipped through the stiff, fragile pages. She didn’t need to look in the index to know where she was headed as she arrived at the story of the knight that had never known defeat.
“Ahem!” Mary tried to put on her old airs as she opened the book. Her legs went together and her back upright, like a proper lady, but that way of talking, of being, was so distant to her now, it felt like somebody else's life as she relaxed again.
“In the long forgotten lands of the Orsathius lived a great king of men, and in his kingdom five cursed knights roamed. Cast out for betraying their lord...”
Colt and Duncan settled in for a tale of honor, adventure and sacrifice they had heard and read many times, but with Mary reading it each time felt new and alive.
The story made the day pass like a blur. They had stopped several times to trudge outside to the bathroom and to prepare tea from evergreen that they had stockpiled in a hanging basket near the cast-iron stove. The day seemed to go by more quickly than when they were working.
The sun quickly set through far away trees, its last golden rays reflected off uncleared snow into the few windows they had. Mary was obviously growing quite tired as she continued to read the epic, her voice growing increasingly hoarse.
“Ser Aetrean swung ahem swung his hammer to…” Mary stuttered, clearing her throat. Colt took it as a sign that they should stop for the evening as he stood up, stretching his arms towards the sky.
“You need a break?” she asked, interrupting her cadence as she peered over the book, the gilded page caught in her hand to hold her place. Her own eyes were bleary with tiredness from reading, but it was her son’s special request and she didn't want to disappoint. She would read all night if that's what he wanted, she wasn’t sure how many more chances she would get before he left them to make a life of his own. Mary knew Colt’s kindness wouldn’t let him leave, which made her stomach ache. She grimaced as the ache was compounded by a sudden growling. The reading had silenced her hunger for a time, but now it surged back with an intensity she knew all too well.
“I think we had better end it for now, I want to get the fire going again before bed,” Colt said before noticing his father had fallen asleep in a pile of blankets on the ground next to him.
Carefully Colt retrieved the logs and sticks his father had brought in earlier, thankfully they were dry despite the melted snow penetrating one side and arranged them in the fireplace. He blew into the embers until small flames licked the smallest of the sticks.
The warm fire and the cold outside mixed just right that the tiredness of the day affected them all equally. They all slept where they lay, his mother’s head uncomfortably slumped backwards in the chair as his father sprawled across the floor, snoring loudly. Colt was nearest to the fire, his back uncomfortably warm, but it felt good too as he drifted into and out of slumber. It was a good day.
The distant sound made Duncan moan quietly and turn over as he coughed in half-slumber, covering his bare arms with a nearby blanket. The rest of his family was unaffected.
It was only the second lowing that woke Duncan almost immediately; his mind wiped clean of sleep in that instant. None of their neighbors had cows. Maybe one wandered in from... It sounded like… Duncan shook his head, it was impossible and then he heard it for the third time.
“MRUUUHHHHH!!” the roar was closer, accompanied by a rejoinder of equally powerful bellows.
“Wake up!” Duncan was in a panic as he shook Colt awake before reaching for his wife’s chair.
“Wha?” Colt moaned as he tried to blink the sleep away, his eyes had a hard time focusing in the darkness of the room.
“Honey, honey wake up.” his father’s voice was strained as he roused his mother, Colt immediately knew something was wrong.
“What, what is it?” Mary jolted awake, the book precariously positioned on the edge of her lap flopped to the floor with a loud thud.
“We have to get downstairs,” his father implored as Mary and Colt’s eyes locked onto each other in alarm before looking to Duncan. As if to answer their shared question a piercing roar came from the road that led to the farm.
“Whats?” was all Colt could muster before Duncan put his hand over his mouth, his eyes wide in fear.
Duncan pointed silently at the floor. Colt and Mary knew exactly what he meant. Mary shook her head and pointed out towards the workshop. Duncan wordlessly shook his head and re-emphasized the down direction. Colt acquiesced as he took his father’s lead.
Duncan laid one of the blankets that made up his makeshift story-listening bed over the fire, smothering it. The light in their home immediately extinguished save for a few candles. Duncan realized his mistake but it was too late for second guessing. They were lucky that the moon was out enough to see by as their eyes adjusted.
Duncan immediately began moving things out of the way to get to the cellar door laid into the floor. They could always use to the entryway outside but fear of what the roars signaled made the small interior door the safer option. The hatch was large enough for a person to comfortably fit through, but not much else. Duncan’s grandfather had over-dug the cellar, resulting in a precipitous distance to the cellar’s hard-packed dirt floor from the opening.
Duncan tugged on the small round handle secured to the oak boards of the door, revealing that the door was frozen shut. Colt tried to help him but the metal ring was too small for more than one set of fingers to hold. His father’s body lurched, pulling with all his strength over and over. Duncan released the ring as he began to stomp on the door. Wood cracked and splintered under his boots, but despite repeated attempts it wouldn't give. He began coughing from the effort. He cursed his malady as the adrenaline of the moment allowed him to push through and choke down the usually immobilizing fit.
While his father frantically tried to open the door Mary did her best to gather what few valuable belongings they had. A few trinkets made of silver passed down from generations past and of course the chest of books.
“MMMMRROOO!!! MRROOOUUHH!!!” the roars got louder, and much much closer.
“Dad, we have to go!” Colt whisper-shouted, it sounded like the herd was on top of them. The few plate glass windows they had shook in their frames.
“I’m trying!” his dad was desperate as he tried yanking the handle again. His chest heaved from the exertion as much as his inability to get enough air. With a series of cracks the door edged upward, out of its frame.
“Get in!” his father cried urgently as Mary stumbled with the chest. The hole he had opened to the cellar looked like a maw made only of darkness.
Mary tried to organize herself somehow to transfer the heavy chest down with them. Duncan didn’t waste a moment as he wordlessly took the chest unceremoniously threw it into the hole. Mary opened her mouth to protest and then closed it just as quickly, she knew they wouldn't have any value at all if they didn't weren't around to read them.
“Hold onto me,” Duncan held her hand as he guided her towards the hatch. She edged herself towards the opening, her long dress made it hard to kneel properly as she scooted near the abyss. She draped her legs over the edge of the floor as she scooted towards the opening.
Colt was in shock, unsure what to do. He couldn't help but notice his father's arms and legs quake as his mother’s weight was loaded onto them. His lanky body at its limit as he put everything he had into lowering his mother down to safety. In that moment Colt felt frozen, powerless to help.
“Hold on...it’s not too far.” Sweat poured down his father’s face as his mother was almost entirely suspended by his arms.
“I’m letting go, be ready.”
His mother shook her head in agreement, her jaw clenched, clearly as scared as all of them. Despite her fear, without hesitation or a sound, she let go of his father’s hands and disappeared into the hatch.
There was no time to check how she had fared before Duncan beckoned Colt to come next. Colt could didn’t want to stress his father further as he waved away his father’s helping hand away and lowered his feet into the hole. He got his feet over the edge easily enough, but now his arms suspended him above the hole as his upper stomach grazed the edges of the opening.
He realized too late he had put himself in a precarious position and all he could do now was quickly retract his arms and fall. Colt felt sick to his stomach, his arms quaked as they struggled to hold his body’s weight. Colt looked up at his father, Duncan had put on a unsurprisingly brave face to hide the urgency of their situation from him. It made Colt feel better as the quasizness in his stomach dissipated a little. Colt decided with a grim determination to be brave like his father as he retracted his arms.
He moved as quickly as he could, but not quick enough as he fell. His right arm scraped against something sharp before his feet smashed into the cellar floor some distance below. He felt a lance of pain through his ankle as it impacted the hard-packed dirt. He crumpled over, his face hiding some hard. The wind was knocked out of him as the pain made him want to cry out. But he bit his tongue. He would be brave. Dragging himself by his arms in the dark he cleared the way for his father.
“Colt, are you ok?” Mary whispered, dragging her feet across the dirt with her arms outstretched to avoid tripping as she felt for her son in the dark
“I’m ok, come down! Quick!” Colt couldn’t disguise the mix of fear and urgency as he bit back the pain coming from his ankle; if his arm was hurt he didn’t notice. The thumping was close now, coming from just outside, it sounded like they were already on the porch.
Duncan went to edge himself down and paused, against the pleas of his son from below. Looking around he had to cover the hatch somehow. Moving as quickly as he could, he grabbed the blankets, assorted furniture and whatever he could find nearby, positioning it around the door haphazardly. There was no time to second guess himself as he positioned himself over the edge of the opening. His hand grabbed the small brass handle under the door as he leapt down. The door crashed shut as plummeted, the handle breaking off in his hand as it took his weight. He landed painfully on his rear as not a moment later the door of their home was kicked off its rusty hinges.
The crash made Duncan scramble as he tried to find something familiar to orient himself. The darkness of the cellar was not something he could adjust his eyes to. He had wished that he hadn’t been so hasty to put out the fire in their hearth. As if to answer his plea the creatures above furnished fire of their own. Light flickered and weaved through the floorboards above as it entered their home. The clacking of hooves on the floor was unnerving as the house creaked to accommodate its immense weight. Duncan held his breath as the light moved with the creature. The faint shafts of light momentary illuminated Colt and Mary huddled in a corner of the cellar where the floor was dug deepest, near the few remaining jars and sacs of the previous summer’s harvest.
Duncan was afraid to move, for fear of discovery as the floor above him groaned. Fine dust filled the cellar’s confines. Colt and Mary looked at him, shaking their heads, as Duncan reflexively felt his throat tighten. He couldn’t afford to cough now. Another creature joined the first, the floorboards began to crack as they made their way across the room. They were both breathing heavily, their snorting and huffing audible even through the floor. Duncan cringed as he heard them crash into their worldly belongings, the splinters fanned out across the room.
They were getting close to the hatch now, the fire casting light directly from above where Duncan stood. His knees felt weak but yet he stayed standing, as he wordlessly mouthed “I love you” to his son and wife kneeling in the corner. Colt couldn’t stand to look as he turned away into his mother’s vice-like embrace. Duncan didn’t blame him as he slowly craned his head upward where the hooves had clamored. There was no hiding the hatch itself, not with so little time. He hoped against all hope that they would miss it.
The creatures stopped suddenly. One of their hooves was on the hatch above. Duncan’s eyes went wide as he saw it begin to give way under the weight, it was no match for the creature’s heft. The hoof moved off the failing door as the creatures began to converse. Their voices were so deep it was hard to make out what they were saying over his own rapid heartbeat drumming in his ears. Duncan’s feet shook as he began to inch his way over to Mary and Colt by what little light the creatures had furnished
The conversation above was the slim chance he needed to make his way over. The creature’s voices rose as he arrived within an arm’s distance of Mary, her own hand outstretched to grab hold of his. The creatures' volume and timbre changed as their conversation turned audibly hostile. All eyes below were cast at the ceiling as they held their breath. Their bodies simultaneously jumped as they heard a heavy thwack. The creature roared in pain as it staggered at what they could only assume was some sort of attack. Hooves pounded the floor as the creature tried to balance itself. The sound occurred again, even more violently, like a giant fish connecting with flesh. Then there was another impact, and another. The creature above bellowed in pain so loudly that the jars nearby shook on the shelves. It said something, something that sounded pleading. The aggressor roared in response as the onslaught continued.
The attacked creature’s hooves moved erratically over the floor, cracking timbers as it went. The torch it carried dropped to the floor as it retreated, casting more light into the cellar. Its massive body stumbled and finally fell with a heavy crash in the center of the room above. The floor boards under its body so badly broken that they bowed downward as if pregnant.
The crashing didn’t stop as the remaining creature began to destroy anything nearby. Wood splintered and cracked as the creature above bellowed, the floor buckled as furniture was hurled across the room. The legs of Duncan and Mary’s bed pierced the floor nearby as the creature bellowed. Their precious glass windows shattered as the creature threw something massive across the room. The house shook from the onslaught. The creature’s breathing was ragged as it snorted and huffed madly. The torch from the now movementless creature had set the floor ablaze, the old dry wood ideal kindling as flames wormed their way through the cracks and licked the underside of the floor.
“We have to get out of here,” Colt whispered as Ducan made the last few steps to join his terrified family.
Ducan wholeheartedly agreed, but the doors to the cellar were across the room, an area where the floor was already engulfed in fire and caving in.
“We can’t make it, we have to…somewhere” he looked around frantically. There was an old stone archway on the other side of the shelves, one of the only parts left of his grandfather’s grand plans for their small wooden house. It wouldn’t be a castle, but it could shelter them.
“To the arch, we have to…” he beckoned before he felt his chest begin to burn and tighten. His heart felt like it was beating too fast as the coughing started.
He couldn't hold the coughing back anymore as he gripped his chest and doubled over. Colt and Mary got the idea as they grabbed him and quickly escorted him to the archway. Colt’s leg was on fire as he dragged it behind him. Mary whispered encouragement, which seemed futile given the circumstances but he appreciated it anyway. The creature above persisted in its unknowable rage as the house quaked. Sparks and embers rained down from the sections of the floor fully engulfed in fire. A large burning ceiling timber landed in the corner where they had huddled just moments before as they reached the archway. They nestled as deeply into the confined space as they could, right to the cold loose dirt wall of the cellar. Mary did her best to shield them from the debris raining down on them with a blanket. The cellar was awash with light and smoke now, no crevice was free of it as it filled the room.
Colt urgently patted his father’s back trying to help him through the fit as they huddled there among the growing conflagration. Colt momentarily forgot about the sharp stabbing pain in his ankle and the blood coursing down his arm as he comforted his father.
Duncan felt like the fit would never end, he tasted the metallic flavor of blood on his tongue as he struggled not to bite it. After what felt like an eternity he finally caught enough of his breath to recover his faculties. His face’s skin was red and veins protruding from his forehead as he gasped for air in the smoke-filled archway. Even as he choked he tearfully grasped and held hands with the two loves of his life. If this was the end he was happy to have it end with his family by his side. As he looked into the wide, scared eyes of his only son, his only regret was that Colt wouldn’t have the opportunity to live his life, far away from their farm, far from what he was able to give him. Duncan held the most precious things in his life close as the house gave way above them.
Hi everybody I am back with an all new story series! It will be quite a ride, full of heartache, transformation, hope and a whole lot of sexiness too. I don't want to give away too many plot details here, but it will go to a lot of places!
(This chapter is SFW but future ones will be very NSFW).