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Chapter I

The Curse Mark: Scene 1

The story beings with a scene of the village of Drywood that has burnt to the ground.

Ketrian looked up to Mialdin’s Star twinkling above him, with its Amethyst Light shining a faint violet hue upon the ashened scene of the town of Drywood. The star returned him no guidance he seeked.

He sat on a stone bench in front of what used to be the old cobbler’s house, rubbing his darkened eyes and then along his rough unshaven face. The ogre mask in his hands was fumbling between his fingers. His feet tapped very steadily pushing up dust and ash onto his boots. And all the while, his right hand ached under its glove. 

Attack. Loot. Eat. Burn.

“We’ve found him, Our Brother.”

Ketrian turned his head to his left and there stood one of his men. He mistakenly referred to them as his “men” often for which he always disgusted himself as the Folam were never ones to be considered on equal morality with any Alaun or even Ovella. His Folam lieutenant was broad chested but with a gaunt and skinny face with pointed bat-like ears. What humored Ketrian the most about these creatures were their melted looking faces covered with boils and a many other contusions that made Ketrian always imagine them being forced to crawl through some giant kiln when they were born. And with the gray charring and camouflage paint on their armor and faces that night their appearance resembled much like the burnt logs of the surrounding houses that were blackened and broken.

“Is he alive?” Ketrian asked.

The lieutenant nodded.

Then Ketrian rose slowly as the Folam turned to lead him down the charred street.

The lieutenant trotted through the smoke–a smell that seared Ketrian’s nostrils. Ketrian strapped on his mask again which the inside was laced with sweet smelling oils.

Along the way through the smoke, Ketrian spotted two of his Folam trying to restrain a massive wolf in an alley off of the street. One was trying to lure the wolf out with a whole cow’s leg while the other held a giant harness, large enough to wrap around a rhinoceros’ neck, ready to slip it on the beast at the right moment. The wolf snarled and growled at the two Folam as they inched closer to her. 

Ketrian stopped to watch and ordered his guide to do the same. He noticed a third Folam had slumped against a broken house post gasping for air and holding on to his side tightly, which was bleeding profusely. Large punctures in a half-oval formation on the Folam’s side were leaking blood which had already soaked through his tunic and onto the pavement.

Then the giant wolf snapped and launched herself at the Folam holding the harness. She sank her teeth around the Folam’s head and lifted him into the air. Screams were emitted, but what could only be heard were the hollow echoes inside the wolf’s mouth. The beast shook the body violently, and when done inflicting pain, she spat the corpse out at the second Folam, who toppled over underneath the bloody mass.

Several other Folam sprang out through the smoke after hearing the commotion, holding spears and shields with the intent on not recapturing their own wolf, but to bring it down. The wolf roared at them with an ear-splitting clamor and saliva flying from her mouth. Before either of them could act, Ketrian had stepped in between them and raised his hand to the wolf. Then he said:

“Calm yourself, she-wolf! These creatures know not how to handle you. But I am here now. Please excuse my servants for like you, I do not favor them. You will be home soon if you settle.”

But he did not say it in his common tongue of Alaun or the hard words of the Folam. He had spoken in a different language that no other man could. It was a speech that sounded harsh and fast, but it flowed smoothly like a howl. The wolf looked directly into the Ketrian’s eyes and he stared back. The angry wrinkles in her forehead smoothed out and her face now calmed. With his hand still outstretched, he strode over to the wolf and petted her gigantic head.

The Folam around him lowered their spears and shields. Some of them watched Ketrian tame the beast gracefully in awe, while the more experienced bystanders walked away as if nothing had happened.

“My lord,” the guide interrupted. “The boy...”

Ketrian held the wolf’s head in his hands so he could look her in the eyes and said again in the same speech as before, “Go back to your children. But stay close to the village. He’ll be ready soon.” 

The wolf took one last look at Ketrian, exhaled a sigh, then turned around and charged out of the smoke.

Ketrian turned back to his guide and motioned to lead on.

They charged out of the smoke and into the ruins of the town square. From what he could tell, what with all the debris and dead villagers littering the ground, the square was all cobblestone with the nearby houses and shops surrounding it. The area seemed larger and more open with all the buildings around smashed and burned. Most of the fires in the village were now being lit in just the square making everything outside of it a dark abyss.

Folam all around them were still dragging corpses into massive piles on the corners of the square leaving trails of crimson behind. As Ketrian walked further into the square, many Folam paused what they were doing to turn to their master who gave them looks of restrained disgust. They returned passive stares. When Ketrian looked away from them, they returned to pillaging.

Attack. Loot. Eat. Burn.


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