Blades of Treachery - Excerpt 3
Cole Hunts for Boar

This was originally Cole's first appearance in the story. That has changed, but the importance of this piece has not. His hunt is interrupted by a familiar sound, and the dwarf sets off on a path that leads him, unexpectedly, to the destiny he left his people to seek out.

Cole sat in the saddle, motionless, as he and Krill clung to the slope of the mountain. Colored as they were, and wearing clothes in dark earth tones, he knew that they would probably go unnoticed by most passersbys. He was counting on it, as a matter of fact, because the ridge he overlooked was almost certainly a boar trail.

He listened for the sound of hooves against stone, as he had for the past several hours, but heard only the sound of the rain, the breeze, and Krill's rhythmic breathing. Cole looked down at his mount and almost didn't see him, scales striped brown and gray to blend with the rock face. He probably would have missed Krill completely if he hadn't been sitting on him.

Refocusing his eyes to the trail, Cole steeled himself against the rain for about the fortieth time that day. The sun had been high when he and his saladon had chosen this position for their hunt, and he was beginning to think they might be sitting there until it was so again.

He shifted his grip on his spear almost imperceptibly, fighting against the slick of the rain, and closed his eyes. He focused all of his energy on listening, trying to expand the range of his hearing by forfeiting his other senses. The effort paid off after a few moments as he caught the first, familiar scrapings of a pig's foot against stone.

Cole opened his eyes slightly, and glanced in the direction of the noise. He didn't see anything at first, but that didn't mean there was nothing to be seen. He didn't move, even the slightest tilt of his head might warn his quarry, so he just continued to survey with his peripheral vision.

After several minutes, he saw movement in the shadows. After a moment or so more, a boar formed from within that darkness and stepped out into the cloud-dimmed moonlight. It moved forward, grunting quietly, until it was fully into the dim light. Cole squinted against the darkness to gauge its size and was satisfied that it would be a worthy kill.

And he waited, remaining as a statue on the cliff face while the boar continued on its trek across the mountainside. Krill, sensing the imminence of the kill, began to ripple beneath him, the saladon's excitement reminding him of the joy he once knew from the hunt. Now, after so many years, it was simply another duty, but one he continued to fulfill without complaint.

Finally, the boar was in position. Cole raised his spear slightly, and lifted his feet into the stirrups. The slight scuff of boot leather on steel brought the beast to a halt, and it began sniffing the air in search of the source of its sudden, inexplicable distress. With a pull of the bridle, Krill's head was aimed for the proper course, and Cole braced himself for the charge.

Then a scream cut through the air, and the boar was off like a bolt. Cole urged Krill toward their prey, but reined him hard as another familiar sound broke the night. The howling of a pack of Kro brought a shiver to his spine, and his mind brought the scream of terror together with the sound of the baying pack. Someone, nearby, was in a great deal of danger.

Watching the boar turn around a boulder in the distance, Cole heaved a heavy sigh and turned Krill toward the sounds of the Kro. The saladon leapt down from the rock face and charged forward with the bursting speed for which the creatures were famous, a suddenness of motion that would have thrown a less-skilled rider.

Cole held tight to the reins and allowed Krill's keen senses to see them safely through the treacherous landscape of night. After a little more than a minute, they arrive at a low cliff, and the hunter set his gaze about finding the pack.

All characters and events depicted herein are © 2000 by Edward Robinson. Any resemblence to people living, dead, or living dead are purely coincidental. No part of these pages may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the author, except in the case of review or short quotations for report purposes. All rights reserved.