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|Winternight (standard:fantasy, 16567 words)|
|Author: Jared Michaud||Added: Nov 05 2008||Views/Reads: 1657/1315||Story 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 -- www.winternightproductions.com 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 Click here to read the rest of this story (1278 more lines)
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