Monday, April 6

Meanwhile, in another part of the world… (Original Fiction by Xan)

Continued from Part 1

She fell hard into the snowdrift, her midnight hair dripping with sweat and melted snow. In a panic she shook the snow from her head, clutching her swollen abdomen as she clambered back to her feet, looking behind her for any signs of pursuers. Her clothes, nothing more than tattered rags, insignificant protection from the driving snow as it pounding mercilessly on her body. She got back to her feet and continued running, her throat burned as she gasped for breath in the cold. Her body ached, scars and open sores alike now a deep purple in the frozen air and yet she continued like a fox running from hounds. She neared the crest of a hill and could see through the blowing snow, lights. The joy of seeing civilization raced through her body, her heart leapt seeming to push her on with a newfound energy.

Numerous howls came from behind her, seemingly from every direction, as they echoed in the cold air. A hunting horn seemed to gurgle in the distance as well. Fear took hold of her heart as she began her descent to the lights below. She felt as though she was a fox being chased by hounds and hunters. Her legs felt like frozen iron and her feet as lead bricks. Although the destination "Safety" was in view, every step seemed to take all of her willpower but she continued on. Her heart and mind were willing but her body ached in the harsh cold. She felt as though she was about to fall forward when a heavy mound of hot fur hit her square in the back. Her body snapped as the mass hit. She could no longer feel her feet. "Was it the cold?" She thought to herself as she lay in the frigid snow. Her eyes pressed shut as the tinge of pain surged through her body. Darkness seemed to close in around her. She fought desperately to focus on the lights of the village and to find her attacker.

The blackness that encircled her vision slowed for a moment as she saw the terror that stood before her. A beast the size of a lion stood before her. Its white fur with black specks nearly camouflaged it in the snowy wind. It loomed over her while several others lurked just out of sight in the twilight. She could feel its warm breath upon her face. It almost seemed inviting in the frigid winds. The monster's lips began to curl back revealing long fangs stained pink from previous kills. The lips didn’t stop curling at the gums, but continued to curl back completely from the monsters head, revealing a mass of thick bone and sinew.

Just outside of the ring of looming beasts a larger humanoid figure could be made out in the twilight. “Dear Skadi,” the woman prayed to her goddess. “They sent Grrlum and his krenshar after me!”

The macabre face of the krenshar opened its mouth and moved towards her as if to taunt her, it suddenly shot to the left. Its grotesque teeth scraped like razors on her frozen skin as it nearly missed her face. Warmth trickled down her face. Her mind thought she should be feeling pain, but the heat from the wound actually felt comforting.

“Protect the woman!” a shout came from a distance.

She looked at the fallen krenshar as it lay in a heap. An arrow the thickness of her thumb protruded from the monsters neck. The other beasts scattered as the ambush of hunters moved in. The large humanoid turned on his heels, blew a mighty blast on his horn and disappeared into the blizzard.

“Thank you Skadi for protecting me and my unborn child.” The darkness closed in around her as she held her enlarged stomach. A large bearded man fell next to her and cradled her head in his lap.

His thunderous voice boomed. “Bring some blankets, quickly!”

She looked into his eyes. “Save my child.”

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