A few mugs of ale and a warm hearth did the body good.

It wasn’t long before Jarrick climbed the stairs and retired to his room, leaving the friendly comfort of good company in the main room.  He dropped his belongings next to the fireplace in his room and threw a few logs on, stoking the flames and warming up his surroundings.

He ran a hand through his long brown hair and took a deep breath.  The journey north had been taxing and if the nightmares that plagued him stayed at bay for the night, he might just find some peace in his pillow.

He made his way to the bed, sitting down on the edge and pulling his shirt off as he retraced the days events.  As his eyes grew heavy he laid back, staring up at the ceiling, watching the dancing shadows cast by the warm glow of the fireplace.  A comfortable silence settled in and before long he drifted off to sleep.

Unfortunately, he would not find peace this night.

It wasn’t long before a strange noise stirred him from his slumber.  He hadn’t moved but his surroundings had changed.  The ceiling no longer danced with shadows and the warm glow that filled the room was replaced with an icy square of moonlight that illuminated the center of the room.  He sat up on the edge of the bed and looked at his surroundings, squinting in the darkness.

It was eerily quiet.

His eyes didn’t have much time to adjust before catching the silhouette of a large creature watching him from the corner.  He could only guess how long it had been there watching him, but his main concern wasn’t how long he had been there.  How had it even gotten into the room in the first place?

His curiosity was cut short as the silhouette moved towards him at an alarming rate.  As it crossed the icy square of moonlight its features were defined; the creature was large, maybe seven or eight feet tall, and clad it muscle.  White fur covered its shoulders and back and the hollowed head of a bear covered its face.  It wielded a large two handed axe that scraped the ceiling of the room as it moved towards Jarrick.

Jarrick rolled backwards off of the bed as the axe came crashing down.  His timing was impeccable; he hit the floor just moments before the creatures axe turned his bed to splinters.

He stumbled backwards as he trained to get his footing, barely catching a foothold before the axe came at him again.  This time he rolled to the side as the axe collided with the bedroom wall, lodging itself so deeply that the creature that wielded it had to wrench it hard before dislodging it.

He took the opportunity to make his way towards his gear, only to find it missing.  His eyes quickly darted around the room but to no avail; his gear was gone.  He changed his plans, immediately looking for an exit strategy and something to defend himself with.  The opportunity was cut short as the axe dislodged and came at him again, full fury.

He ducked the incoming blow, allowing it to crash into the wall behind him.  This time, however, the axe struck the wall with such force that the wall caved, shaking the entire inn.  A blast of freezing air rushed into the room and icy moonlight filled the hole, illuminating the entire room.

The creature roared furiously, blindly sweeping his axe throughout the room in an attempt to strike his target.

He stayed low to the floor and under the deadly weapon, making his way to the door as quickly as possible without being targetted.  Just as he reached for the door handle the stomping of heavy footsteps filled the room, shaking the entire inn to its foundation.  As he turned to face his attacker he was met with the full might of an ironclad train, taking the creatures shoulder and full weight straight to his chest.  The two of them burst through the bedroom door and barreled through the hallway, eventually hitting the stairs and tumbling down together.

The force of the impact was immense and Jarrick felt every step on the way down.  He landed on his back against the cold, hard stone floor of the inn, rocking his head against the floor and knocking the wind out of him, causing him to let out a groan.

As his vision began to return he noticed the main room of the inn was in chaos; tables were flipped, chairs were destroyed, and kegs had been busted and leaking content across the floor.

Shame, that last one.

Once he got his hands underneath him he pushed himself up to a sitting position, looking for his assailant.

The creature roused in the corner of the room, obviously reeling from the fall as well.  It staggered to its feet and let out a primal grunt, looking about the room for its weapon.  Jarrick took the opportunity to crawl over to the table and find a weapon suitable to combat the beast.  He started feeling around the table, finally stumbling upon a pot full of old stew.

Seriously?  This is what I have to work with?

He shook his head at the terrible luck, grabbing the handle of the pot and spinning around, heaving it with as much force as he could muster and striking the creature in the head.

While the pot struck true it only worked to enrage the beast.  Another furious roar bellowed from its belly and it abandoned the search for its weapon, charging Jarrick outright.

Thanks to the space between him and his assailant, he had the upper hand.  As the creature closed in, Jarrick dodged to the side, allowing the creature to tear through the front door and into the frigid northern air.

He took the opportunity to catch his breath before exiting the gaping hole.  As he emerged, frigid northern air blasted him from all directions, stalling the breath in his chest.  It was at this moment that he realized the clouds had parted from earlier in the evening and the moon lit up what was left of the camp he had docked at just hours earlier.

The camp had fallen under silent attack in the night and the casualties were clearly enormous.

Ships burned on the shoreline, the only lifeline south severed.  Butchered bodies of both soldiers and workers were spread throughout the camp, severed, decapitated, and burned.

A particularly large pile of bodies held a familiar face that met a gruesome end; the head of the Sergeant skewered on a pike.  It was when he noticed the Sergeant’s demise that he was hit with the overwhelming stench of death that carried itself upon cold northern winds.

Jarrick quickly surveyed the camp for any survivors holding out.

There were none to be found.

There was a silver lining though.  Most of the raiders that had ransacked the camp seemed to have dispersed.  The downside was that two remained; the one he found himself struggling with in the inn, and another that was pillaging through tents and personal belongings.

As the first raider recovered, it stood up tall, rolling its shoulder with a sickening crack.

Behind it, the second raider diverted its attention from the treasure before it and turned its gaze on Jarrick.

The second raider was roughly the same size as the first, the main difference being the lack of furs and the presence of thick leather straps that could barely be counted as armor.  Two axes were slung at its side and a large spiked mace was strapped to its back.

The second raider stepped up in line with the first, letting out a primal grunt and sizing up the opponent before him.

Jarrick grabbed the sword of a fallen soldier at his feet, changing his stance to deal with both enemies at once.  The odds were clearly not in his favor; not only was he facing off against two enemies twice his size but aside from the pants he wore he was damn near naked in the frigid north.  He could feel his muscles tightening with every passing moment and it was only a matter of time before his fighting ability would be severely hampered.

The first raider rushed and Jarrick dodged.  The second raider rushed and Jarrick parried the dual axes, throwing the raider off balance.  The first raider bellowed and rushed Jarrick once more, this time in a rage.

This was the golden opportunity that Jarrick had been waiting for.

He feigned a dodge and forced the first raider to move in a predictable fashion.  He drove the sword between the knuckles of the raider, severing tendons and piercing deep into the muscle of the forearm, lodging the blade tightly.

The first raider let forth a furious roar, flailing wildly and writhing in pain.  Jarrick rode the raiders pained movements until he found himself in the ideal position, withdrawing the sword from between the raiders knuckles and landing on his back.  The raider grasped for Jarrick but his range of motion fell short, allowing Jarrick to plunge his blade deep into the base of the raiders neck, severing its spine and halting all movement.

The raider fell to its knees and collapsed in a heap on the ground.

He withdrew the blade and turned on his heel to face the second raider.

Clearly infuriated at the death of his comrade, the second raider dropped his axes and drew his massive spiked mace, rushing headlong at Jarrick.  As Jarrick braced for the incoming assault, the sky above him burst into a brilliant orange as a fireball streaked over his shoulder, landing square in the chest of the raider, staggering him.  Shortly after a second fireball struck, and then a third.

The onslaught of fire continued, granting a window of opportunity for Jarrick to strike at the heart of the raider, felling him in one swift movement.

He twirled his blade and splattered blood in the snow.  His chest fell with a hearty exhale and he turned to see who had come to his aid.

Standing against the tree line was the same woman he had seen earlier in the day; silver eyes that danced in the flame from the burning ships and royal blue robes that were adorned with white and gold intricacies that rested on a delicate frame.

How she had managed to survive the onslaught of raiders where so many others had not eluded Jarrick but this was clearly not the time to ask questions.

“Come with me.” she said, her silver eyes stared intensely into his.  “We must move now.”

Author Jarrick
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