Winter War

Posted: June 6, 2012 in Featured Stories

I’d like to take a moment out of the Blog and lift up another storyteller and DeviantArt member, her name being Hannah or WanderingArcher as her DA profile is named, she’s currently writing a book called The winter war along with several other works.
So with out further adieu I’d like to present the first chapter of the Winter War.

 ___

Chapter One

As the fletchings kissed her cheek, Alana sighted along the smooth shaft. The waxed string pulled against her fingers, fighting for freedom. Alana closed her eyes for an instant, imagining the moment of release. Then, loosing the breath she had been holding, she let the string roll off her fingers. The arrow leapt away, solidly embedding itself in the trunk of the tree Alana had been aiming at.
“Good shot.” A broad smile on her face, Alana whirled and threw her arms around her Master, careful to keep from hitting him with the longbow. His stick-thin arms encircled Alana, squeezing tight.
“Thank you so much, Master!” Alana exclaimed, taking a few steps back. Her Master’s smile mirrored her own, his silvery-grey eyes glinting with wordless laughter. She turned her gaze once more to the bow and ran her hand down the smooth, flawless wood of the shaft. “This bow is beautiful. I know this work isn’t from the bowyer here in Imara. Where did you get it?”
“I made it with magic. I’m glad you like it, Alana.” Master smiled fondly at her, moving past to the tree she had fired at. He yanked the arrow out and passed it to Alana, who returned it to her quiver. “Do you want to eat?”
“Of course.” Alana slipped her leg against the belly of the shaft and unstrung the bow. “Just let me put this in my room.”
“I’ll be waiting.” After quickly embracing her Master once more, Alana hurried into their small house. It was one of about two dozen, just outside the ring that formed the main plaza of Imara. One hand on the door frame, Alana looked out over her home with a smile. Smoke curled up from the chimneys almost gracefully, illuminated by the glow of the sunset. The village was ringed in by the golds and crimsons of the birch trees that filled Silmaturea.
Alana nudged the door open and entered the druids’ house. She wended her way through the different chambers of the house to her simple room. A small bed, a row of hooks, and a chest of drawers were the only furnishings. But, despite the functionality of the room, a bright vase of flowers and a colorful quilt on the bed added a little personality. She shrugged off her quiver and hung both it and the new bow on a hook on the wall. Her old bow, a simple yew shaft worn and fitted from so many years of use, was on the hooks beside them.
Tossing her bracer on the bed, Alana hurried outside once more. Master had already laid out two bowls of stew, splitting a small loaf of bread between them. He was sitting at their table waiting for her. The sharp, cold air made the dying sun seem all that much brighter as Alana sat across from him.
“When are you leaving tomorrow?” Master asked, his thin fingers wrapping around the bowl to leech the warmth from it.
“Dawn. I hope to reach the lake by the day after tomorrow, before the days get too short. I’m eager to try hunting with that bow.”
As the glow lit Master’s eyes once more, Alana nibbled thoughtfully at her bread. She was quiet for several moments, watching while the elder druid ate. Several times, she opened her mouth, but she always took another spoonful of stew in rather than expel the words that weighed her down. Finally, she lowered her spoon to the empty bowl, her face hidden behind a curtain of hair.
“Alana, what’s bothering you?” Master asked finally, pushing aside his bowl and resting his bony elbows on the table. He steepled his fingers, his eyes seeing through her discomfort into Alana’s heart. She returned his gaze, thinking on all that he was to her: teacher, father, family, all she had ever known in the world. Yet the thoughts that had long haunted her would no longer be ignored or pushed aside.
“A long time ago, you told me that my mother gave me up to you, so that I could be your apprentice, learn to be a druid like you.” Alana wrung her hands, head bowed so that she wouldn’t have to meet her Master’s penetrating gaze. His eyes were soft, solemn as he predicted her coming question. “I’ve wondered for years: who was she? Do I have any other family?”
“It is too soon to tell you that, Alana,” he murmured, taking her hands in his. His skin was dry, paper-thin against hers.
Alana pulled her hands away, frustration in her every movement. “Why will you not tell me? Are you afraid I will leave if you tell me?”
“I have always feared the day we would be parted, Alana, but I swear that is not why I keep this from you.” Despite the sincerity of his promise, he could see that Alana was still upset. He took a deep breath and continued, “Change is coming, Alana, and the world we know is about to fall apart. If I tell you now, the future will be disastrously altered. I cannot risk that, not now. But once the danger is passed, I promise I will tell you the name of your mother.”
Alana brushed her hair back, biting her lip as she dropped her eyes. After only a few seconds, she reached out to take his hands. “I trust you, Master. You are my family, and you always will be.”
Master squeezed her fingers, then stood. Alana rose with him, stacking her bowl in his. “You go to bed, Alana. I’ll clean up. You’ll need your strength while on the hunt.”
Bidding him goodnight, Alana once again entered their house. Once within her chambers, Alana once again took her new bow in hand. It was truly a fine weapon, of superior quality when compared to her old one. As she ran her fingertips down the shaft, she felt an engraving against the belly of the bow. To my dearest Alana, I give you this bow. With it, I present my love, which I hope is enough to help you on whatever journey life may take you.
Reading the message, Alana felt her heart close in on itself. The engraving was more like a farewell than anything else, and that frightened Alana more than she would ever admit aloud. No matter who she had been born to, her Master was her family.
Forcing down her suspicions, Alana returned the bow to the hook and stretched out on her bed. It took a long while, but her mind eventually dissolved into grim dreams inspired by the message of the bow.

Darkness fell and the winter cold once more engulfed the forest, but Master did not stir from the table where the two druids had eaten. His mind drifted through thoughts as dark as the sky he watched so intently. His vision haunted him, though it had been nearly a week since he had first seen it. Since then, it had become a nightly occurrence.
In the dream, darkness reigned, the world torn apart by the shadows and ghosts. Many had tried, but none managed to escape the evil that ruled over Krealon. The few with the strength to oppose the shadows were scattered to the winds, split by betrayal and distrust. And Alana was one of those, a candle in the darkness. Her flame was slowly dying, suppressed by the shadows all around her.
Master put a hand over his eyes, dropping his gaze to the dark village. Any lights from the windows had been extinguished hours before. His words to Alana earlier had been born of the dream: change is coming. Yet, even he could not begin to understand how true his prediction was.

The pre-dawn light was harsh and cruel, the air colder even than the day before. So early in the autumn, and the world was already cold enough to be in the depths of winter. Fingers already growing numb, Alana lashed her new bow to her pack. Master stood in the door of their house, his fur-wrapped form untouched by the cold.
“How long do you think you will be gone?”
“I’m hoping for three days, though it may take four.”
“Come back as soon as you can. Winter is quickly returning, and you should be home before it gets too cold.” Master adjusted Alana’s cloak as she shouldered her pack, wrapping it close around her.
“You worry to much, Master,” Alana chided gently, embracing him. “I’ll be home before you can begin to miss me.” Master smiled again, but it did not reach his eyes that time. But in her excitement for the upcoming hunt, Alana did not notice his unusual solemnity.
“Just promise me you’ll be careful.”
“Always, Master. I’ll be home soon.” Squeezing his hand once more, Alana turned and hurried toward the woods, readjusting the straps of her pack as she went. Master watched long after she had disappeared into the fog that hung between the trees. He had an uncomfortable feeling that it would be much longer than a few days before he saw her again, if ever. That uneasiness brought his mind again to the dream. With a shudder of fear, he thrust that thought away and returned to the fireside.

___

If you would like to read more about the Winter War or any of Hannah’s other works you can check her out at her deviant art page
http://wanderingarcher.deviantart.com/

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