The Battle of Dread Valley Part One By: Adam Janus


The Battle of Dread Valley
Part One
By: Adam Janus

The border patrol and the warrior priests had found the waylaid caravan, but the silver had not been stolen. Instead it had burned--burned so hot that rivers of crude ore ran from the ruined wagons like lava from a volcano.

Also in the ashes, they found the remains of the caravan workers and their escort. It appeared as if they had been ripped limb from limb, with bones gnawed, before being consumed by the flames. Most mysterious of all was that there were no discernable tracks leading to, or from the scene.

"Why would outlaws melt the silver, and not steal it?" Conall asked Talorg, not for the first time. "And what, besides dragon fire coulda melted all that ore?"

"Wizard's spell gone badly, maybe," the Gaelged replied, spitting. "We're like as not looking at an outlaw band that's employed some half crazy mage outa Ghan, what went nuts from sniffin' all that sulphur from them volcanoes. For all we know, the reaver's scorched bones were among those we found. Hell, it coulda even been sanctioned by Ghan!"

Conall guessed Talorgís speculation could be right. There had been border disputes between Reban and Ghan for centuries, and Ghan's volcanic western regions were infamous for spawning half mad, darkly ambitious sorcerers. And demons had not walked the earth for thousands of years--not since the Great War--but even out here, in the wilds of Rebans's south western border, rumors of strange happenings all over the continent reached the mercenary Commanderís ears.

Studying the approaching outriders with his pale green eyes, Conall noticed the tension in their demeanors, and instantly got flutters in his gut. Alrik Kloengr must have noticed something also, as he joined the Commander and Talorg, anticipation etched on his lined face.

A large man dismounted and removed his helmet, revealing long white hair that still retained some of its former yellow. Hair and braided beard framed a scarred, weather beaten face and the hard blue eyes of a man from the north. He walked toward the trio with an obvious limp, his leather armor and leggings creaked only slightly.

"We found sumthin', Commander," the large man said, eyeing Alrik warily, not wanting to reveal his information in front of the priest until commanded to do so.

"Spit it out, Skorri," Conall said impatiently. "The priests of Beordin are here to aid us, so the quicker we get this over with, the better."

Skorri noticeably relaxed; the big Norseman had been torn between his loyalty to his Commander and company, and his loyalty to his god. Beordin was widely worshiped in the northern climes, but this far south, the followers of the demon hunting legend turned god, were viewed as fanatics and zealots.

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