Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2008 All Rights Reserved


You cannot afford to tarry here any longer, the metal collar at your throat is too effective a reminder of the urgency of your quest. The boy has gone but you call out to the air anyway that you cannot wait, and turning to the south survey more closely the way ahead. In the distance you can see that a number of Kalborean Army units have begun to make their way in your direction. For a thief who has only recently been the victim of their brutality this is the last thing you need. Most of your adult life has been spent avoiding men such as these, and it will not be a good start to your quest if you are stopped by any of them. Such an encounter can only end in violence.
As you watch the line of soldiery making its way up the road towards you, you know that a decision will need to be made quickly. Kalboreans have always been most comfortable with the Dwarvendim located far away on the frontier. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak. A Dwarvendim such as yourself, armed and riding a steed of Pallenten's calibre, will be too noticeable to go unchallenged. Not wishing to confront a large force of armed soldiery you decide it will be better to get off the road. It is best that your passage south remain as unnoticed as possible.
Choosing to move forward quickly you spur Pallenten on and head out at a gallop over the grasslands that lay between the road and the forest to the west. As you ride you feel you may have missed an important opportunity provided by the boy's appearance, but your task cannot allow undue delay. It is better that you get out of sight of the the road as quickly as possible, skirt the village ahead and keep to the safety of the forest. In this you believe caution will serve you best.
Luckily the undulating hills keep you out of sight as you gallop towards the line of trees. Overhead the sky is an untouched vault of blue, the suns of morning burning bright in the eastern sky. The trees stand as a dark line of shadow that looms up before you as you ride, and with Pallenten's remarkable turn of speed you make their embrace within less than a half hour. It is only when you disappear into the forest's gloom that you rein Pallenten to a halt and look back towards the road. In the distance you can see large numbers of soldiers clogging the highway, many of them struggling with heavy equipment as they move ponderously north towards Maenum. What you see tells you that you have made the right choice. Even if they did not challenge you their sheer numbers would have made rapid progress impossible.
Keeping to the forest is hard going though, it takes some time to pick a path along the boundary of the trees, between copses and patches of undergrowth that keep you out of sight and unchallenged. The exertion required for such difficult travel quickly takes its toll on both yourself and Pallenten. After an hour you decide to rest your horse in a small clearing amongst the trees, and take the opportunity for a break yourself. Within the clearing you let Pallenten graze and as she nuzzles the grass you find a comfortable position for yourself against a large Oak. As you rest you can hear the steady tramp of soldiers boots and the squeak and rattle of their carts. There is considerable noise being generated by this mass of moving men and equipment, and every so often you here above it all the faint bellow of an officer urging his men on. Like the soldiers on the road you have a job to do so your rest can only be brief. Taking the time only to drink some water and tend to Pallenten's needs you dust yourself off and resume your path southward. It is while you are winding your way between the trees that you make the first of what will probably be many unsettling discoveries on this journey.
At first the strange marks appearing on the trees about you seem unimportant. With the number of soldiers that must have been foraging in the area it would have only taken a few careless individuals to cause some damage to the forest. As you go further, and your path cuts deeper into the trees, you find the frequency and ferocity of the marks increasing. No longer are they just a random strike here or there, whole trees have been hacked apart and the bark taken almost to shoulder height. This seemingly pointless vandalism is strange enough to make you stop and dismount. It is only then that you see the footprints. Small and four-toed they are like nothing you have encountered before. And there are more of them than you can count. It appears that a large band of creatures has passed this way, and judging by the state of the prints this passing has only been recent.

Do you wish to track these creatures and determine their purpose? If this is your choice turn to section 421. If you can see no benefit in doing so, turn to section 480.

This book, and its associated books and other documents in the Chronicles of Arborell series are the intellectual property of the author, Wayne F Densley, and all rights are reserved by him. Windhammer is best viewed at 1024 x 768 resolution. Any questions regarding the Chronicles of Arborell can be answered by emailing the author at densleyw@shoal.net.au
Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2008 All Rights Reserved