“Stay on the Path”
The trees blocked the light of the sun and cast deep shadows as if they were intentionally hiding something. Ungruk was pondering this from the driver’s seat of the truck when he thought he heard the first howl. The rumble of the engine made it impossible to be sure but he tried to listen more carefully now. Hugrew was about twenty steps out in front, looking for a clear path that the truck could follow through the sentinel Pines that covered this side of the Range. They had followed the girl death spirit’s trail up from the ravine and through the foothills. They lost it at the foot of the range of mountains and knew that they could not turn back without something to show Dathan. So they had moved further into the Range that had loomed along the horizon since before they had left that last fortified village.
Ungruk was unsure of the restless and relentless nature of how Dathan moved the horde of Brothers he had amassed. This was not the first time that he had found a solid looking shelter and shortly after the gluttonous orgy of violence he pulled his brothers out and moved on. None of the brothers seemed to know what he was moving them towards. For many of them, as long as they continued to win and have their moments of destruction, death dealing and rape then they would follow him. Others had begun to question what the point was of leaving behind good strong shelters to move on towards the unknown. For Ungruk those questions had started when he cleaned the remains of Bloored’s head off his cheek in that ravine.
When they had lost the girl death spirit’s trail they knew that it was probably for the best, as she surely would have sent them all down the path. But now they could not return to the safety of the horde where the rest of their tribe was. It was Hugrew, who had always had a certain way as a pathfinder, who looked at the mountains and saw the pass. Ungruk was not sure he saw anything where Hugrew pointed, so he rounded up his men and they decided together to try for the pass. Maybe if they returned with the way through the mountains that Dathan wanted so badly he would let them back.
There had been some roads that snaked their way into the Range that they were able to make use of. They followed Hugrew’s nose for paths until they did find a pass through the Range. There was even a road that wound up the slopes and through the pass. Ungruk was careful heading into the pass after what he had seen in the ravine. Since they had lost the trail they were all on edge that the death spirit was now following their own trail. Here the sides of the mountains rose up sharply on either side of road and there were numerous cliffs with shelving atop them that would make perfect spots to rain down death on anyone attempting the pass. The North men moved through the pass as quickly and carefully as they could, watching the cliffs all the while.
Once through the pass they came into the head of the valley and knew that they had found what Dathan was looking for. A morning mist lay over the mountains and the valley that they sheltered. Standing at the end of the pass and looking down in the broad valley the men were all happy. At least until Hugrew spoke up. He saw no other pass out of the valley making it a dead end. This started them arguing as to what to do. Some questioned how Hugrew could know this since they could not see the whole Valley through the mists. His response was to ask which one of them saw this pass that he had led them too. They were silent since none had seen it and they had followed his lead on faith of his skills. So there argument turned back to the situation that they were now in. Do they leave their tribe behind and run? Could they shelter in this valley? Urthew then suggested that they go back to Dathan’s horde, but not to him. The camp was massive and they could sneak in and collect their tribe and then come back to this valley and build a life here. That had them all thinking it through, but Ungruk was certain that Dathan would definitely come to wipe them out. It was then that Hugrew suddenly stood up and climbed up the side wall of the pass to one of the cliffs. He called down to them that he saw something on the far end of the valley. Something massive was out there in the thinning mists. They decided that they should see what was out there and then decide what to do.
The road through the pass quickly disappeared and they found themselves slowly crawling their two trucks over rocky terrain that was more and more filling with tall pines. Hugrew had finally gotten out and walked ahead of the lead truck that Ungruk was driving to help him navigate the path. The trees now rose up all around them and blocked their view of the mountains surrounding them. They were maybe halfway through the valley near as they could tell when Ungruk heard that howl.
Hugrew had heard it as well and raised his rifle as he scanned around the shadows cast by the sentinel pines all around them. After the second howl echoed the first from an entirely different direction, Ungruk called for Hugrew to get back in the truck. Ungruk was relieved when Hugrew started back towards the truck.
That relief was quickly shattered when a massive hound erupted from the trees behind Hugrew and snatched the man by his neck. The beast easily pulled Hugrew down and with a sharp twist snapped his neck. Ungruk stared in stunned horror as Hugrew was dragged back into the trees and a third howl erupted. This time the howl came in unison from all around the trucks and it was very close.
So what do you think? Will Ungruk survive? Do you feel bad for Hugrew? Who is the Death Spirit they were tracking?
Sound off in the comments.
Also this is an excerpt from what is shaping up to be chapter 3 of part 2. Read Part 1 here http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DD4HY3Q