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The Frozen North – An Abandoned Tower

  Wright pushed them hard to the north for their own safety, but after several hours most of the group was fatigued.  Loki was the most exhausted, life on the streets had not prepared him for long marches over rugged terrain.  Tepic was struggling with unexpected difficulties, such as hidden rocks under the snow, which made pulling the sled an exhausting uphill struggle.  Mariah was fit, but she was more at home on the sea compared to long mountainous treks.

   The others were also growing tired, but Wright had not found a safe place to camp.  Their journey had taken them into a wooded area, which made it difficult to find shelter beyond the trees, and he had seen a white creature stalking them in the foliage.  

   Keeping his brothers old henry rifle ready he turned to the group, who were also keeping their hands close to their weapons,  “We don’t have much daylight left, so we need to find a place to camp fast.  Any ideas from those telegrams or saw something I didn’t?”  

   The group shook their heads, but Yang stepped forward slowly with head bowed, “Mayhaps I can be of assistance?”

   Wright nodded to the short man, “Hope you can.  You’re the only one of us been to these mountains before.”

 “Regrettably I stayed in the township during my stay, and I did not memorize the mountains or the coastline.” Yang explained with even more deference than his usual tone carried, “But perhaps I can find us shelter if we could pause a moment.”     Wright shrugged, seeing no other options, but without understanding what the strange man intended.  Yang took off his pack, removed the wholesaler knife, then approached the trees.  He found the tallest evergreen and removed his shoes.  He gripped the sides and climbed the tree with ease, clutching the sides with his abnormally large hands and feet.  

  “Cor!  And I thought I coud climb!”  Loki and the others watched the ease with which Yang made his way up the tree.  He was soon high above the tree line and scanning the horizon.  He let out a cry they could not hear and then climbed back down facing towards the ground.  Halfway down, Yang wrapped his tail around a low hanging branch and pointed.  “I spied an old tower not far from our position, potentially an imperial lighthouse.”

  “That will do,” Wright called up to Yang pleased with his report. Until now the former Pinkerton had assumed the chef would have been the least prepared for their journey ahead. “You can come down now.”

  As Yang rejoined them, Loki was the first to approach him, “Yer climb like a monkey, Mr. Yang!  Hangin by yer tail and everythin’!  What are ye?”

  The question appeared to make Yang uncomfortable, but he replied, “I am a human, Mr. Gearhead.”

  Tepic looked up and down at his friend who was putting back on his pack and knife, “Err…ain’t no human I ever met as can climb like that or looks like ye.  Didja have an accident in a lab or somefin?”

  Yang sighed and turned to Tepic and Loki, knowing that the two meant well but were treading on a past he wished buried, “If it would please you to think of me as anything, you may simply refer to me as a ‘Whatever’.”

  The companions found this odd, but accepted it as they began their journey towards the tower.  They talked among themselves sporadically, but kept watch as the large white creatures stalking them grew in number.  Wright let out a warning shot once when he felt they were getting too close, causing a small branch to explode in the cold.  The ape-like creatures retreated, but followed them at a farther distance.

  They reached the tower just as the sun disappeared over the frozen gulf and a light snow fell.  The entrance was boarded up, but Wright pulled the decrepit planks aside and tossed them back several feet towards several old stone cairn’s.  He herded the team inside and then shut the door without looking back at the approaching monsters.  “We’ll block the door and barricade any other entrances.  When we’re secure we can get a fire going and eat a proper meal.”

  No one argued with the sound of a proper meal, but there could still be something lurking within the walls.  Bookworm took Mariah and Beryl with her to scout the tower while Wright blocked the door.  Tepic and Loki were the first to discover a kitchen with a useable fireplace.  Yang helped by setting up the kitchen and waiting for Wright to join him.  Though Yang was a sushi chef, their tracker had made claim as the cook for the group.

  The stone construction was sound, created in the days of the empire, but many of the windows were open or broken. But they were able to lock or block them with little effort.  The group was enjoying a meal of canned ham, beans, and carrots.  Loki’s stomach rumbled as he was left with only a plate of beans, carrots, and dried bananas again.

  This was the first time Bookworm had noticed Loki’s meager plate compared to the rest of them, “You will need more than that to keep your strength up.  Why not have a slice of ham with the rest of us?”

  Loki made a sick face again and turned back to his carrots, “I don’t eat meat Ms. Book.”

  Bookworm didn’t press him after that, but she had been shocked by his admission.  An urchin that didn’t eat meat or anything lying on the ground wounded was a new experience for her.  Though he had spoken quietly the rest of the team had heard him too.  Now Tepic understood why Loki turned down his offer for vole milk every morning.  Out of respect for his friend he did not tell him how daft that would be when they began to starve, but instead offered him some vole cheese.  He gave up in a huff when Loki turned cheddar down too.

  Bookworm examined the travelers each in turn and then asked each in turn how they were feeling, and what weapons they had brought should the monsters attack.  

 “Well, oi brought me knife and a special flare gun.” Loki said, carefully avoiding the other question.

  Tepic decided to answer the first and forgot the second, “Bit tired, but after some ham an’ a nap should be alright fer mornin’.”

  “I have to get used to hiking on two legs, but I am alright,” Beryl said quietly as they enjoyed their meal.  “I only brought a sword and my claws though.”

  “Don’t worry about me or a lack of firearms.  I’m loaded enough for everyone.”  Wright indicated his rifle and then his dustier with its holsters and weapons on the inside.  

  “I have only my maguro bocho, the wholesale knife,” Yang explained as he drew the unweildy blade. A cooking instrument meant to be wielded by two men.  “And I am afraid that I have never tested it in battle except against the Serpent of Clockhaven years ago.  It may well break in the Yeti outside.”

  “The ape-men are Yeti’s?”  Bookworm had heard of the ice traveling hairy monster stories before, but she had thought them only tales for children.

  “Perhaps, perhaps not, I simply do not have a better name for them.  They could just be polar apes indigenous to the area.”  Yang did not sound convinced, nor were the others.  

  “You know any more local tall tales?”  Wright asked as he finished his ham and wiped his plate down with a towel.  “Trouble we can anticipate instead of blunder into again?”

  Yang smiled, he always enjoyed sharing stories with others, “Well the people of Wuldram Shores often spoke of dangerous and unnaturally large wildlife in these mountains.  Even their rabbits could be considered dangerous to unwary travelers. But the most unnatural of these creatures were the dreaded Koudra.”

  “Koudra?” Mariah tested the pronunciation of the odd word.   “Weird names for an Imperial territory.   Hildskal mountains, the Gulf of Heimneif, the Kona Snaer.  I take it this area settled by vikings before the old empire?”

  “They were at that,” Yang replied rather cheerfully as he cleaned his plate.  “You can find evidence of their ancestors predating the empire throughout the area.  The empire changed the names on their own maps, but they are gone and the names remain for the people who live here today.”

  “So what’s so terrible about them Koudra?” Tepic asked as he leaned in expectantly.  

  “The Koudra are terrible monsters with elongated limbs and terrible bloody horns that hunt only at night in the cover of snow.  It is said they are faster than a cheetah and can crawl along a ceiling like any spider.  Some say they are impervious to injury, or at least difficult to injure with conventional weaponry.  People traveling along the roads will see nothing, and then the beast will pass like the wind and carry away one of them into the darkness never to be seen again.  You may know them by another name, the Wendigo.”

  Yang’s horrific description made Bookworm lose her appetite.  One of Avariels letters described an encounter with a creature with long limbs.  Failing to drive it away with shots she had been forced to impale the monster.  “If they only attack at night then I suggest we stop early tomorrow and find a defensible location like this one as soon as possible.”

   The group agreed with this precaution as they started for bed.  Tepic yawned and stretched his back, “Well, hopefully we’ll get through all of these monsters, over the terrain, find Miss Avariel in one piece, and just tell them scientists off ifn they’s even still alive.”

  The companions nestled into their blankets as Wright surprised everyone when he took out a harmonica.  He serenaded the group to sleep as he took the first watch.  Despite Tepics statement, even he did not believe their journey would be that easy.

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One Comment

  1. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon January 31, 2016

    Meanwhile in the mountains Professor Falcon and her soggy trembling bunny companion wander about in circles following wisps who lead them to safe places with plenty of crunchy sticks to eat each night…

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