The air is dry and unusually warm. Clouds of dust rise from the trail upon each step. “Only the vultures dare that far into the hills”, he recalls hearing in the village while drinking with the unshaven brutes the night before. “You´ll get yourself killed up there, lad!” But a promise is a promise. Even though given to a tavern wench begging on her knees in the calm of a dark bedroom.
He lifts his head and feels the wind through the visor of the helm. He can still remember the soft scent of the wench as she sobbed beside him. But now there is a stench of rotting meat in the air and faint barking sounds can be heard coming from the rocky terrace above. Something is lurking there. Beyond that old mud-brick wall. Something uncivilized and unclean. A wild dog perhaps, or a scabby wolf with a broken tail-bone. Whatever it may be, the missing child is up there.
Or what’s left of her, anyway.
Suddenly, a cracking sound from the left. In the corner of his eye he sees seven grimy apparitions charging down the slope, weapons in hand. They approach drooling and barking, like beasts in heat. The dog-people of which that old fool with an eye-patch was raving about back in the village. He realizes that venturing this far into the wilderness may indeed have been a mistake.
But a promise is a promise.
He draws his steel and turns to face them. Continue reading “The Shrine of Ni Ussa Mah”