>>>>> This story start righty after the Malign Portent story "To End the Everwinter" <<<<<
“Bjorgulf was no more.”
His words carried a heavy tone of grief, shared by everyone on the dimly lit hut.
Háma sighted heavily. He is tired of this. For months he could barely rest, the non-stop dreams troubling his already troubled sleep. His back aches, more than it ached during his long life. He is used to pain since he was born, but the piercing stabs on his malformed bones are reaching new levels… He must endure… For he is The Hands…
The assembled council stays silent, as if waiting for his next words. “I told him not to go. It was too early. I told him that if he wants to go, he must stay true to the true enemy. He was too reckless…”
“Who felled him, Wise One?” asked Hartha in his rumbling voice, already baring his gold plated teeth. The Frostlord was huge, a giant among giants, standing quickly as in defiance to an unseen foe. “The Carrion God?”
“No Hartha. The Carrion God still lingers in his black fortress, doing his dark deeds. His foolishness felled him. He picked up a fight where he should have picked up allies.”
“WHO… FELLED… HIM?” the tone now full of threat and spite. Everyone backed up, as they know that Hartha’s anger can be like an avalanche. Everyone but the hunchbacked ogor in the middle of the hall, still staring intently at the huge amber crystal glowing on a bone armature, ignoring the angered brute.
“Calm down and sit, Frostlord. We don’t need a second Bjorgulf…” The voice was husked and dry, but carrying a commanding tone. The hulking ogor grumbled with himself, looked around for support, and founding none, sit again in a dark mood.
“Something is amiss...”
“What?” this time the question came from Hrothgard, the Hunting Hand. Covered in pelts, his Blood Vulture perched on his shoulder staring intently with beady eyes as the conversation unfolds. The First Hunter pointed at the crystal. “What are you seeing, Háma?”
“The Everwinter. The storm is still raging. Bjorgulf’s Allfrostum doesn’t walk the paths of the living anymore, but yet his storm still lingers. They walk in the twilight, between life and death. That is an abomination.”
Everyone looked around in disbelief. For the curse of the Everwinter always follow their kin, but abates when the cursed ones fall.
“Badoun, cast your bones. We need to see to where this leads.” As if waking up from a dream, the huge Gargant sitting crouched on the corner of the hall grabbed a pouch from his belt. Covered in bones and fetishes, the giant shaman threw at the floor a handful of carved skulls from his oversized fist, looking intently at some unfathomable pattern they formed.
“Hummmm… Ommmph… Hummmm… Me sees deff… Dat ya ‘now… but…” with a finger the size of an arm, he moved around some skulls “Foul magicks workin’… Ole Bjorg will ‘now… Even ded… Me sees him ‘ere… We need him ta speek… He found sumfing…” and absentmindedly the Gargant start carefully to collect the skulls back into his bag…
Háma started walking on the hall, with his peculiar shambling gait, leaning on his staff, thinking. “To Shyish we shall go. Find Bjorgulf. Or what was left of him. Hrothgard, ready your skals. Small group, take some sledges with you, we need to move fast. You must find him. If there is one that can do it, it is you”
“Aye, Wise One. I shall be the Hand that Hunts! Should I bring him… whole?”
“Yes. And for that part Hartha will be going with you.”
With a snap the Frostlord moved into action, with a speed that defies his bulk “My spear is yours, Wise One! We shall bring him!”
“Bring him… Whole! Take Blackrock with you. Stay back until Hrothgard finds a lead. Then bring the husk that once was Bjorgulf here. I shall see what he has to tell me, and will give him a proper rest with the Winds.”
“Svard, how much time we have until the Howling Gate opens again for the Realm of Death?”
Adjusting his prized duardin-made googles over his nose, the old Hand of Winds searched into the satchel hung on his shoulder, bulging with books and scrolls, and grabbed a well-worn leather-bound tome on one big hand and started looking at it. “According to my calculations, if the Amber Moon is really at the peak, then the gate will open for Shyish by next night. Of course this may change depending on the tides of…”
“Enough time” cut Háma, before the old and wizened ogor started once again one of his endless speeches over the winds of winter “Hasten the preparations, the Horandrár shall ride soon!”
Háma walked into the pens. Hartha is preparing his mount for the long and dangerous journey, the enormous black Stonehorn impatient to be released.
“I remember when you brought Blackrock to the encampment… Only you to tame such a foul tempered beast…” said Háma in his usual rasping tone.
“Yes. It was a little difficult to tame, but here it is…” replied Hartha, without turning, still concentrated in placing the many leather straps of his big saddle.
“Little difficult? When it came crashing to get you he only stopped after you put your spear through one of his eyes! And even so you barely managed to mount him!”
“Nonsense. Everything was under control… Besides, now I have only one eye too… Heh, don’t they say that the rider became like his ride?”
“Yes. Only that you lost ours not to a spear, but to that Orruk you was choking.”
“It was well worth it! If you could feel the sensation of that ****** kicking in your hands you would know what I am talking about…”
“It surely do, as you kept choking him even when he was gouging your eye with his finger!”
A sound like two big rocks scrapping together came from the big ogor. It was a long time since Háma heard Hartha laughing. “That ******!”
“That ******!”, agreed the Wise One, laughing too.
Háma came closer to put his hand on the beast long black fur. Stonehorns normally have white or pale grey coats, to better blend on their icy surroundings… Not that the creatures had many natural predators, but this one is pure, jet black. This is very rare. A king among his kin. A giant among giants. A survivor. Like Hartha.
“Why all this talk about the past? If you came here to command me to be cautious on my mission, Wise One, there is no need. I will be. I will bring what was left of Bjorgulf back to you. Whole. No unitended fights…”
“No Hartha. I am not here as the Torr Kønig, the Wise One, commanding his Frostlord. I am here as your brother. Asking. Please. Be careful, we need you.”
Turning to stare back for the first time, his face becoming a little softer when he gazed at the ruined body of his twin “Aye, Little Brother. I know. I don’t want to end like Bjorgulf. We will prevail. The Winter will end. You will see.”
“Yes… The Winter shall end…We shall see…” replied Háma, already lost in thought…
The Hunt, a story by AJ ( @Antonio Rodrigues )