Authors: Kevin Hardman
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Horror, #Coming of Age, #Myths & Legends, #Greek & Roman, #Paranormal & Urban
He was tied up when he came to, his arms firmly bound behind him. He heard an odd undulating chant as he opened his eyes and looked around. He was still at the fire marsh campsite. The chanting stopped.
“You’re awake,” said a vaguely familiar voice. Errol looked in the direction that it came from. His vision was a little blurry, but he blinked a few times and things slowly came into focus.
“Jarruse!” Errol exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“Just reclaiming what was rightfully mine,” the man said, tapping something next to him. He stood over by the campfire, which was almost out now. Looking closely, Errol could see the monstrous skeleton of the Wendigo in the dying embers; shockingly, the skeleton had turned completely black. Errol also recognized the item that Jarruse had tapped: the odd book of magic from Tom’s pack.
“I have to say, you Magnuses are incredible examples of manhood,” Jarruse continued. “I was impressed when I saw your brother escape from the Wendigo, but you! Actually
one! I’ve never even heard of such a thing. Hell, I hadn’t even known escape was possible until Tom.”
Tom was alive???!!!
“What happened to him?”
“The Wendigo, of course. It chased him from the cabin, through the marsh here, to some fields nearby.”
Jarruse chuckled. “A roc. That’s what happened.”
“A rock? Like a boulder?” Errol was perplexed.
. A giant bird. It dropped out of the sky, grabbed your brother’s horse and flew away with it. He had tied himself to the horse, so it flew away with him, too. The Wendigo was furious.”
“So my brother got lucky?”
“I’m not sure luck had anything to do with that roc showing up. I think your brother summoned it.”
Of course! Tom had that ability!
“Why would you say that?” Errol asked anyway.
“Because I’m a sorcerer, and I felt magic in the air before it happened.”
“A sorcerer?” This was worse than Errol thought.
sorcerer now that I have this.” Again, he tapped the book.
“What is that exactly?”
Jarruse laughed. “The consummate book of magic. It belonged to my great-great-grandfather.” He mumbled something, then brought an axe down on the Wendigo skeleton, chopping an arm free of the remains.
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “although he was an extremely powerful sorcerer, Great-great-grandfather was also a bit of a do-gooder. So, it was only natural that he would get involved when he heard about some unstoppable monster terrorizing this region and eating people.”
“Yes. But even with the power of the book, he wasn’t able to kill the thing. The best he could do was put it to sleep, make it hibernate forever. So that’s what he did, and he put a spell on the Wendigo’s cabin to make it impossible to find. But there was a price: the book had to stay with the monster to keep the magic effective.”
“So you came back for it, took the book, and woke the Wendigo up.”
“Not exactly,” Jarruse retorted, as he continued dissecting the skeleton. “I didn’t lie when I said I’d hired some men to come here with me to retrieve some items for my work. But yes, after I broke the spell hiding the cabin, I sent them into it – the Wendigo’s lair – to get the book, and in doing so they woke up the Wendigo.” Jarruse chuckled. “I suppose they would have had a better chance if I’d told them what would happen.”
“So, they took the book, then it woke up and killed them?”
“It’s more like they
the book, woke it up, and it killed them. Which compounded my problem, but that’s where your brother came in.”
“My brother? You set him up to be killed by that monster?!”
Jarruse seemed to consider for a moment, but answered honestly. “Yes, but I’ve caused the deaths of dozens in my quest for the book; what was one more? I had hoped that - after he found its lair - the Wendigo would leave to pursue him, which would allow me to enter the cabin and get the book.”
“Except Tom found it and took it with him.”
“How did the Wendigo get Tom’s pack?”
“It wasn’t far away when the roc swooped down to grab him. Wendigos are fast, and it raced into the field after him. It leaped at your brother, trying to snatch him back down, but only managed to get a grip on his pack, which he let drop. It took the pack – with the book in it – back to the cabin, putting me back at square one.”
“And that’s when you sent me in, hoping like before that the Wendigo would pursue me and leave you to get the book from the cabin. Except this time, I took it with me.”
“And how is it that, through all this, you managed to avoid getting killed by the Wendigo yourself?”
Jarruse touched one of the bracelets on his wrist. “This charm helps shield my presence from predators like that. As long as I didn’t come into direct conflict with the Wendigo, the charm’s magic made it ignore me. So all I’ve had to do is sit back and watch, waiting for my chance.”
Errol became silent as Jarruse continued hacking up the skeleton. After a few moments, he asked, “What are you doing with the Wendigo remains?”
“In actuality, powerful weapons can be forged from the bones of a Wendigo - arrowheads that can pierce anything, blades that never dull - but you only have a limited amount of time to make them. You see, burning the body was the right idea – it makes it harder for the Wendigo to resurrect – but it also turns the skeleton black. After the bones cool, they will harden to such an extent that they will be almost impervious, so you have to chop the skeleton up and forge your weapons before that happens.”
“Which is what you are doing now.”
“Yes. Now be silent so I can finish, or I’ll cut out your tongue.”
Over the next two hours, Errol sat in total silence while Jarruse chanted and read from his book, performing dark magic that warped the Wendigo bones and shaped them into various armaments and weapons. He struggled to free himself, but to no avail; he was solidly bound. Forgetting his own fate for a moment, he looked around for Gale, but she was still nowhere to be seen. He had been tempted to ask Jarruse about her, but now he was happy that he had been ordered to be silent; maybe the sorcerer had forgotten about her, meaning there was still a chance that she could survive all this.
As to his own fate, Errol had no doubt as to what would happen. The only thing that had kept him alive was that Jarruse was on a very tight time frame with respect to the Wendigo bones.
At last, the sorcerer let out a weary breath. He seemed exhausted by his efforts, as he should have been. The black magics have a tendency to suck out pieces of your life, your soul. Small wonder then that Jarruse’s conscience was unbothered by the thought of all the men he had sent to their deaths.
“You’re done, I take it?” Errol asked.
“Yes,” Jarruse answered, holding up an odd dagger to the light. It was all black, but seemed to be inlaid with streaks of silver along the handle and the blade. “Unfortunately, the end of this effort for me also means the end of life for you.” He gripped the blade and came at Errol.
Suddenly, something whizzed by the sorcerer’s head, so close that it left a bloody scrape from his right temple to the back of his skull. Errol recognized it immediately as a bolt from his one-hand crossbow. Jarruse froze, looking intently in the direction the shot had come from.
“Don’t move,” said a voice that, just a few days earlier, Errol would have sworn he preferred never to hear. “Stay right where you are, or the next one is through your heart.”
Standing still, Jarruse raised his hands, and suddenly Gale was there, striding forth with the crossbow aimed – as she had mentioned – at his chest. She also had Errol’s pack slung over her shoulder.
“Drop the dagger,” she said, and like a smart man, Jarruse complied. “Now, come over here and untie him.”
Jarruse came forward as directed. Gale tried to back up, to keep distance between her and the man, but she slipped. Jarruse took advantage of the opportunity to rush her. He tackled her hard, and they both went down, the crossbow firing wildly to one side. Errol’s pack popped open, and its contents spilled along the ground.
Jarruse, being stronger, wrestled himself on top of Gale, then pinned her arms with his legs. He pulled back a meaty fist, preparing to hit her, when a strange look came over his face. He opened up his fist, and Errol noted that he was holding the gemstone from the revenant bracelet. The soulgate.
The sorcerer cast it aside in anger, then pulled back again to hit Gale. As before, however, the expression on his face changed, and when he opened up the same fist again, the gemstone was there once more.
Something in Jarruse must have recognized the jewel for what it was, because he gasped as he stared at it, then flung it away again. But when he looked at his palm a third time, the gemstone was back again. At that point, Jarruse screamed.
At the same time, the air behind Jarruse began to shimmer and glow, taking on the vague semblance of a man as the revenant appeared. The sorcerer seemed to sense it behind him and turned, scrambling to his feet and whimpering.
“No, no,” Jarruse muttered, almost inaudibly. “Please, no…”
“Revenge!” said the revenant. “Death! Revenge! Death!” Apparently it was one of the many who had met their demise at the hands of the sorcerer.
It closed in on Jarruse as he backed away, pleading. Now Errol knew why the revenant had materialized on the Beverly farm, what the connection was. Somehow, it had known that Gale and Errol would cross paths with Jarruse - the person responsible for its death.
“Gale!” Errol shouted, as the revenant shot towards the sorcerer. “Don’t look!”
Errol shut his own eyes, but couldn’t block out the terrifying screams, or the nauseating, wet sounds of slaughter that took place just a few feet from him.
It felt like a long time, but he kept his eyes squinted shut until he felt hands tugging at the ropes that bound him. He rubbed his hands as they came free, trying to improve circulation. Then he did something that was probably a shock to Gale - who had untied him - as well as himself. He gave a long, lingering hug to one of the Beverly women.
He escorted Gale back to her family’s farm. By the time they arrived, she had essentially recovered from the effects of the Wendigo Fever. Apparently, while he had been battling the monster, its hold on her had – for reasons unknown - compelled her to leave the campsite. By the time she found her way back, Errol was in the hands of the sorcerer. However, while Jarruse was preoccupied with his weapon-making, she had been able to get her hands on Errol’s pack and weapons.
As to the Wendigo weapons themselves, there were ten arrowheads made from the monster’s claws, the silver-inlaid dagger, and a few other blades. Errol debated, but decided to keep them when he realized that they were indeed powerful arms. (He also decided to keep Jarruse’s book of magic, as well as the sorcerer’s charms and personal effects, although retrieving everything after the man’s death had been a grisly affair.)
Aware of the fact that Wendigos can occasionally resurrect themselves, Errol had spread the creature’s remaining bones far and wide. Knowing flame to be one of the monster’s weaknesses, he buried a number of the bones randomly around the fire marsh. He put a compulsion on an eagle to fly several to faraway regions, dropping them over land and sea. He buried many in out-of-the way places, adhering silver to them with the epoxy. He even left one of its bones at the site of the Wendigo’s cabin (which he burned to the ground, along with all the human remains he found in the area). In short, Errol found various ways to get rid of the monster’s remnants.
The only item that he took special care with was the creature’s skull. That he placed in a jar with silver and buried beneath the Station House porch. It was unlikely that the monster could be resurrected without its head, and if the creature ever came for it, the Wendigo wouldn’t be able to take possession of the skull without the Warden being aware of it.
Errol sat on the Station House porch his first day back, watching the sun go down. To say the past few days had been difficult would be a major understatement. That he had survived was essentially a miracle, but nothing that he himself could take credit for. Everything that he had accomplished had been because of his brother Tom. Tom’s teaching. Tom’s training. Tom’s words of wisdom. Tom had saved his life without even being there.
Moreover, Tom was somewhere out there, alive. Tom would never have given up on him, so Errol knew he’d never give up on Tom. He’d keep searching until he found his brother, alive or dead. In the meantime, he would honor Tom’s memory, Tom’s legacy, here in Stanchion Ward.
Errol looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. He had retrieved it from a raven just a few minutes earlier. It came from the Pierce farm and read:
STRANGE ANIMAL ATTACKING CATTLE
Errol scribbled out a message and sent a bird back with it, saying he would be there first thing in the morning.