Read The Hollow: At The Edge Online
Authors: Andrew Day
Tags: #magic, #war, #elves, #army, #monsters, #soldiers, #mages, #mysterious creatures
The Hollow: At The
By Andrew Day
Copyright 2014 Andrew
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Notes on Cover Art.
Images utilised in this
book’s cover art were used under the creative commons licence 2.5.
For more information, please look
The cover art was made
by adapting the following image:
,” by rjones0856.
: The Hounds.
Not for the first time,
Serrel Hawthorne questioned the choices he had made that had
brought him to his current predicament.
From the top of the
tower, he could see the entirety of the city stretched out around
him. The Legion had finally pushed through, and were making speed
towards the fortress where he now stood. The fighting had been
fierce, and fires had broken out in many places. The scent of
smoke, and blood, and death was in the air. Serrel ignored it all,
focused only on the elf in front of him who was, in all likelihood,
about to kill him.
The elf smiled grimly.
“Last chance, boy. Turn around and walk away.”
Serrel swallowed, not
even bothering to pretend he wasn’t scared out of his mind. “I
can’t,” he replied.
“This isn’t your
fight,” the elf said sadly.
“I took the
“So? It’s just a
“How many people have
died? I can’t let you get away.”
“You can’t stop me.
Whether you live or die, it changes nothing.”
Serrel sighed. “Well, I
have to try.”
The elf shook his head.
“Very well, then.”
For a moment, there was
silence. Neither of the two moved, as smoke swirled in the air, and
the sounds of men and women fighting and dying drifted up to
Then the elf’s arm
snapped up, and Serrel’s vision was filled with fire.
It had been... well,
Serrel wasn’t entirely sure, but it couldn’t have been more than a
week earlier when Serrel and his fellow recruits had parted ways.
He reasoned that, since they were all in the Legion together,
chances were they would meet again soon. But it was a sad occasion
regardless. His fellow members of Pond Scum, as they had been
dubbed, had irritated him, angered him, made him laugh, made him
feel like part of a family again. He was going to miss them.
Well, maybe not Justin
so much. He had been an arse most of the time. But the others,
Victor, Kaitlin, Edgar, Bull, Mouse and Greasy Tim, even though he
hadn’t known them for very long, he had considered them to be his
But they had gone their
separate ways, off to different units aboard different ships to
sail across the Dividing Sea to the Faelands. He couldn’t help but
worry about what fate had in store for all of them.
shifted back to his own well being soon after he met his new
They were called the
Hounds. He had heard very little about them beforehand, and most of
that was just rumours and stories. They were supposed to be
trackers and hunters, people who lived in the most wildest of
places. In the Legion, they were the most elite of scouts, leading
the way far ahead of the main army.
In the hustle of Port
Serenity, where the Legion was preparing to depart, Serrel spent a
long time wondering lost along the docks until he finally spotted
the Hound’s banner flying besides a smallish cargo ship. He was
greeted at the gangplank by his new commanding officer and his
sergeant, a scarred woman with pale skin and dark hair braided into
several thick plaits.
“Caster,” said the man
in greeting as Serrel handed over his orders and snapped instantly
to attention. “I’m Lieutenant Snow-”
“Captain,” correct the
“Captain,” she repeated
“Oh, right. Promoted.
Captain. I’m still not used to that. I’m Captain snow,” Captain
Snow went on amicably. “Welcome to the Hounds. I’m glad to have
you. We haven’t had a mage with us for some time.”
“I shall do my best not
to disappoint, Sir,” Serrel said.
“Good lad. Sergeant
Caellix here will introduce you to the rest of the men. Sergeant,
please show our young mage below and get him settled.”
“Yes, Captain,” said
Sergeant Caellix. She gave Serrel an unfriendly grin that showed
far too many teeth and went aboard the ship without waiting for
Serrel rushed after her
to catch up. She walked briskly across the deck, weaving between
the sailors making the ship ready for sail, and made her way down
to the lower decks.
“What’s your experience
in the wilds, boy?” she asked without looking back.
“The woods. The forest.
You look soft and well fed. Not like someone who’s spent much time
“I... When I was
younger I would go with the men from town to catch rabbits.”
“Rabbits. Well, you
proud.” Sarcasm dripped from her every word. “I’m
sure small furry animals everywhere must quake in their burrows at
your scent.” She snorted. “Let me be clear. We don’t want you. We
you. We’ve gotten along fine without a mage for
nearly a year now. If we were going to get one, I would have at
least expected Holland to send us one who could tell his arse from
a hole in the ground. The last thing anyone in this unit needs is a
dead weight, tramping about, making noise and giving away our
position. So you do what I say, when I say, or I will gut you and
leave you for the scavengers. Are we clear?”
“You aren’t one of us.
You want to survive what’s coming, you better learn to move like
us, sound like us, smell like us, or you won’t last a day.”
“What’s your name
She snorted again.
“Well, Fresh Meat, welcome to the Hounds. Don’t get comfortable. I
expect your stay to be short and messy, with a bloody end.”
“Can’t wait,” Serrel
Waiting for Caellix
below were two huge black and tan dogs. They bounded up and down
and weaved around her legs playfully. Caellix snapped at them
loudly in some language Serrel didn't recognise, and the dogs
dropped to their haunches side by side, tails wagging and tongues
“This is Vost and
Ripper,” Caellix introduced. “Don’t pet them, they will kill you.
Boys, this is Hawthorne, our new mage.
The dogs looked at
Serrel hungrily, and he hoped that last phrase Caellix had said was
“No Eating.” From what she had said to him so far, that seemed
The rest of the men and
women of the Hounds were at the forwards end of the ship, stowing
their gear for the voyage, resting, playing cards, and generally
killing time. They looked up briefly.
“Who’s the Fresh Meat?”
asked a man with a huge messy beard. He grinned, revealing black
“This is our new mage,
Dogbreath. See he gets settled, and stays out of the way. Don’t eat
With that, Caellix
turned and left. Dogbreath rose from his seat and came over to give
Serrel a closer examination. He poked Serrel roughly in the
“Hardly any meat on him
at all,” Dogbreath said. “I bet he’s all chewy.”
“Leave the scrawny kid
alone, Dogbreath,” said a girl nearby.
“Just saying hello to
the new Fresh Meat. Heheh,” Dogbreath chuckled to himself. Up
close, Serrel quickly understood the reason for the name. His
breath was rank.
“Yes. Well. Hello,”
Serrel greeted the others, and instantly felt like an idiot. He
could feel twenty pairs of eyes boring into him, quietly assessing
his worth and judging him. He saw a couple of head shakes, a pair
of rolled eyes, and more than a few laughs of amusement.
“There’s a spare spot
in the bow,” said the girl helpfully, before she returned to
sharpening her sword and ignoring him.
“Um, thanks.” He
stepped around Dogbreath, who had started sniffing him, and
carefully wound his way through the mass of animosity that was his
new unit to the very front of the ship. The Hounds had all seen
their share of battles. Their weapons were all worn, but reliable,
clothes frayed and patched. Most of the men were thick and
muscular, either bearded or in need of a shave. The women were lean
and athletic. Everyone had a look of a hunter, or a ranger. People
who had spent the majority of their lives outdoors and knew what it
meant to be a survivor. In his new and neatly cleaned uniform and
with his polished new warstaff, Serrel felt so out of place.
There was an empty
hammock right up against the curve of the prow. There was very
little space to move, but Serrel made the most of it. These people
didn't care about him, and would care even less if he made a fuss.
He decided that for the foreseeable future, the best option was to
just shut up and stay out of the way.
And Holland thought
this was the best place for him?
Serrel shrugged off his
pack, and sat down with his back against the hull. He held onto his
staff. He had just got it, and was feeling protective. Then he
noticed the man opposite him. He was neater than the others, with
brown hair and a beard that was actually trimmed once a week, and
sat cross legged on a large chest, hands on his knees, and a look
of peace and harmony on his face.
Then man opened his
eyes, and smiled airily at Serrel.
“Ah, the new mage,” he
“Evening,” Serrel said
lamely. The man’s smile creeped him out. “I’m Serrel.”
The man ignored him.
“You have any of the Elixir?” he asked.
“Yes. Have any?”
There was a glint in
his eye Serrel liked less than his smile.
“Just say no,” said a
man nearby as he secured a group of bows for transport.
“No,” Serrel lied.
“They didn’t think we’d need any.”
“Pity,” said the man on
the chest. He closed his eyes and went back to meditating.
“Ignore Morton,” the
second man told Serrel. “He’s a bit...” He twirled his finger
around the side of his head, “Weird. As long as he stays off the
Elixir he’s fine.”
“Good to know.” Serrel
adjusted his coat, making sure the pouch containing his small flask
of the Elixir was covered.
“I’m Brant. Brant
O'Kellin,” said the man, offering his hand. He was younger than
most of the other Hounds, probably only a few years older than
“Serrel Hawthorne.” He
shook Brant's hand. It was rough and calloused.
“I remember when I was
Fresh Meat. This lot aren’t exactly the most inviting, I know. Just
let them get to know you.”
“Sure. Then they can
really hate me. Is it because I’m mage, or because I’m new.”
“Mostly because you’re
new. We haven’t had a mage since old Barnaby went and got himself
“Et? Something ate
“We did tell him not to
pet that jackalope. But he just wouldn’t listen. “They're
herbivores” he said. Ha! That's just what they want you to
“All right then,”
Serrel said slowly. “See, I just assumed Sergeant Caellix had
“Well,” Brant looked
about dramatically to see if anyone was listening in. “There are
those of us that say the sergeant was seen talking to the jackalope
moments before the whole unpleasant incident occurred.”
“Uh huh.” Serrel
“And she never did get
on with that Barnaby. He kept trying to change her dogs into
“Right. Is this part of
the initiation? See how gullible I am?”
“No harm in trying,”
Brant said with a grin. “If you were a complete blithering idiot,
better we find out now.”