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Winternight (standard:fantasy, 16567 words)
Author: Jared MichaudAdded: Nov 05 2008Views/Reads: 1703/1349Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The lines were drawn thousands of years ago. The first battle of the age-long war sundered the world. Now, after the world has forgotten, the darkness walks once more... Winternight... The Final Epic Has Begun

The Lifting of the Veil Book 1: Winternight 

Copyright © 2004 by Jared Michaud -- Some
rights reserved. This story may be reproduced for personal, 
noncommercial purposes. This is a work of fiction. All the characters 
and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to 
real people or incidents is purely coincidental. 

—Part 1— Winternight 

The inn nestled among the giant trees of the forest; its seasoned
timbers and weathered stone a reminder of old times and old storms, now 
long gone and forgotten. The black of night pressed close to the 
ancient structure; its thatch covered in a heavy blanket of fine, white 
snow. The snow still fell, and despite the heavy cover of trees the 
wind whipped it about until its descent was more horizontal than 
vertical at times. It was the sort of night in which finding shelter 
was the first concern of anyone unlucky enough to be caught out in the 
raging storm. Inside, a fire crackled brightly in the hearth, its 
orange hues vivid against the dingy backdrop of the soot-stained 
lime-plaster walls and the dark furniture of the common room. The room, 
however, was far warmer than the wind which, as if to prove the point, 
howled around the eaves and across the chimney. A few guests sat around 
the room, talking little and laughing not at all. A wary, oppressive 
silence hung about the place, making conversation seem an uneasy 
business at best, despite how much busier the inn was than usual. An 
old man sat by the fire in a rickety wooden chair, dozing with his 
long, white beard on his chest; a tobacco-stained pipe hanging loose in 
his jaws. The other occupants, travelers all, unlucky enough to be 
caught in the storm, huddled in small groups whispering among 
themselves occasionally. Three trolls sprawled at a low table in one 
corner, watching the room with hooded eyes, while in the opposite 
corner, by the door, a lone figure reclined, feet propped on a chair 
with the hood of his plain, brown cloak pulled low over his eyes. By 
the hearth the old man shifted, making his chair creak; and at the same 
moment the wind gave an especially loud howl. Awakened by the noise, he 
started, then shivered uneasily and looked around as the wind howled 
again. He started to close his eyes, but the inn door opened, letting 
in a blast of freezing air and snow. A moment later three cloaked 
figures stepped through, stamping the snow off their boots and closing 
the door behind them. Heads turned as people sought the source of the 
cold, but a moment later attention returned to within the various 
companies; interest in the newcomers dwindling as quickly as it had 
appeared. As the scant conversation resumed, two of the inn's occupants 
seemed to shrink back into the darkness in the corner furthest from the 
door. The three newcomers, their faces hidden in the shadows of their 
cloaks, conferred for a moment then picked their way between the tables 
in the room to where the old man sat watching them with a half-open 
eye. When they reached his table they stopped, one of them facing him 
with the other two flanking, their eyes raking the occupants of the 
room. The leader spoke, his voice low, "May we sit down, old one?" The 
old man considered a moment, "Who claims your sword, stranger?" The 
three shifted away from the table a bit and the leader sneered, "You 
ask dangerous questions, old one." The old man shrugged, "Age teaches 
one not to fear questions... This inn is a freehold. Sit where you 
like." The leader nodded and the three quickly seated themselves in the 
remaining chairs, their motions fluid. The old man seemed about to 
speak but their leader asked, "What news is there in this place?" The 
old man stared into the fire for a moment; putting up a hand to stroke 
his beard, then chuckled, "You ask dangerous questions, dark one. 
...But news? ...I don't know that there is news...though..." He 
twitched his shoulders in a shrug, "there are always stories." "Yes?" 
The newcomer's voice, though still low, had taken on a sharper quality, 
and his eyes shone like diamonds from the depths of his hood, seeming 
to bore into the old man, who raised his bushy eyebrows, still looking 
faintly amused. "Well, rumor is that a war has begun far to the south. 
They say the king of Trusk has sworn vengeance upon the Jahazi trolls 
of the great plain. There was something about a lost hunting party I 
think, but I don't pay much attention to such. By the time the news 
gets here, it's almost as old as I am." He made a throwaway gesture 
with the hand that was not holding the pipe. The newcomer scanned the 
room again and, sounding faintly disappointed, murmured, "I see." The 
old man turned his eyes again upon the leader, and his voice had a 
slight edge, "Who claims your sword, stranger?" One of the man's 
companions cursed and reached for his belt, but the leader raised a 

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