by Wes Penre, November 16, 2020
This is a short excerpt of the first draft from Chapter 1 of “The Book of Secrets,” the first volume in the trilogy called “Ismaril’s Journey.” Book 2 has the work title “Journey through the Underworld,” and Book 3 will possibly be called “The Final Battle.”
It was extremely discouraging to see this small group of Wolfmen boldly approaching their village with a larger legion waiting behind, greatly outnumbering the poorly armed villagers. Their leader, riding in front of the Wolfmen, was even scarier in his manner than they were. He was not a Wolfman, and he was riding on the back of a tall and shaggy Giant Boar. The beast looked like something coming straight from a nightmare, and almost half of his fur was missing, exposing big, pink areas with black spots. The beast alone, even without its rider, was scary enough to make any decent person want to run for their lives. It was anything but tame, although it still seemed to abide to its master’s will. Just like the Wolfmen rode bareback on their Ulves, so did this Boar rider.
The people of Eldholt were usually rather tall, but the man who rode the Boar was at least a foot taller than any of them. His entire presence emanated strength, entitlement, and grandiosity. He was dressed in a silver-colored armor, and a brown cloak hung from his shoulder. Not wearing any headgear and with his hood tossed back, his long, sandy hair was flowing with the wind. His face was clean shaven, and the steel-blue eyes were frosty and completely emotionless.
The small troop was slowly riding into the village without paying much attention to a group of unarmed villagers standing by the roadside, giving leeway to the riders, who stopped about twenty yards from the armed crowd of Eldholtans. The Ulves were growling and showing their teeth, and the Giant Boar was unpleasantly restless. The man on the beast looked at the crowd and started to talk with an authoritarian, derogatory voice.
“Listen up, citizens of Eldholt! We come with a request, and if you meet it, you have nothing to fear. We will then leave your peaceful land alone. Who of you is in charge?”
Llodaim stepped out a little bit more from the crowd and approached the leader, being careful not go get too close to the Giant Boar.
“I am the Chief,” he said, straightening his back, trying not to show how intimidated he was.
“Very good, old man,” said the leader with a smirk. “Then you are the one I need to talk to!” As he spoke, Llodaim noticed that the man held a thick branch in his hand.
The Council Chairman took a deep breath to be able to keep his voice steady.
“Who are you, and what is your errand here in our peaceful village?”
The rider of the Boar looked amused, while penetrating the old man with his cold eyes.
“How rude of me.” His voice was soft but slippery like grease. Llodaim got goosebumps. “You can call me Yongahur, and I am the Captain of these merry men. I am here in business. Accept my business deal, and you will suffer no harm.”
“What are you proposing?”
“We are looking for a young man, whom we know is here among your people. His name is Ismaril Salandruin. Where can I find him?”
If Llodaim was frightened before, the stranger’s request nearly made his heart stop. How did he know his name? he thought. Does this have something to do with Ismaril’s earlier soldier career? I am glad he is not here right now, but how can I protect our people from these villains? I don’t know how, but I need to somehow be clever and diplomatic. Our people don’t know how to fight an army like this, and I know they all count on me to help them out of the dilemma.
“Why would I tell you the whereabouts of any of our people?”
“Because you seem like a wise man, and wise men tell me what I want to know. I reward compliance, so I will give you a choice as my part of the deal: you tell me where this young man is, and we will take him with us. In exchange, no one will get hurt and we will have no more reason to return to this…adorable village. However, if you refuse, many people will unfortunately die before this day is over.” The stranger, who had called himself Yongahur, bent forward, and his piercing eyes alone told the Village Chief that he didn’t accept any nonsense. His voice got harsher. “And don’t play games with me, old man! We know for a fact that Ismaril Salandruin is of this tribe, so don’t complicate things!”
Llodaim hesitated. “What do you want from this supposed Mr. Salandruin?”
Yongahur sneered. “I told you I’m here in business. My business with Ismaril Salandruin is between him and me! The deal between you and me is different!”
“If you are going to take one of our men with you against his will, you can rest assured it’s my business, too!” Llodaim said.
Yongahur’s voice turned deep and monotonous. “You don’t know who I am, and if you did, you would understand that I get what I want—one way or another. So, how are we going to do this? Are we in business or not?”
Llodaim pretended to resign, and he let out a big sigh, which also released some tension inside him. “Ismaril Salandruin is not here. He has left the village—”
“Where did he go?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say—he rarely does.”
Yongahur showed his teeth. “You’re lying!” he spitted. “We had a talk with your friends down in Exióne, and after a little argument, they told me that Mr. Salandruin lives here these days! And you know exactly where he is! You can’t fool Yongahur and trying is not a healthy thing to do!”
“I don’t know what else to tell you…Yongahur!”
“Very well then, you have made your choice, but you’re a liar. You know where he is, and you won’t tell me.”
“We are not defenseless,” said Llodaim, using all his willpower to face up to Yongahur. “We are armed, too!”
The Wolfmen who accompanied Yongahur started growling, showing their yellow teeth, reaching for their swords and crossbows.
“You’re making my friends here impatient,” Yongahur snarled. “We are not afraid of you people. Defenseless prey is what you are. Pathetic!”
Llodaim knew the stranger was right, and his heart sank. He is accompanied by a couple of hundred warriors, who certainly have been in battle many times, he thought. They are at least twice as many in numbers and four times our strength, while we are ill armed and without fighting experience. May the Goddess have mercy on us—for they intend to kill us all! I know most of our men expect me to tell Yongahur where Ismaril is to save the village, but I know this evil pack. They are incapable of compassion and mercy. These savages eat their own women and children—and they are known to eat their enemies alive, too! Even if I tell them where Ismaril is, they will catch him and still kill us—it’s their nature. My people, if some of them survive, will never understand my reasoning because they don’t know these monsters.
“We won’t fall for your threats, Yongahur!” Llodaim said, now in a more authoritarian tone. “However, you are correct on one point: even if I did know Mr. Salandruin’s whereabouts, I wouldn’t tell you. Why? Because I know the nature of your kind, sir. You will kill us either way!”
Yongahur sat quiet for a moment before he replied, “You have my word.”
“…which means nothing!”
“Don’t challenge Yongahur!” His Boar seemed to feel his master’s rage and started to squeal eerily, eager to attack the crowd of villagers.
“And don’t project your own lies on me, stranger!” Llodaim added. “You are the liar here!”
Yongahur turned around and signaled to the army waiting further down the road, and the entire legion started charging. “For Eldholt!” Llodaim shouted and drew his sword. The rest of the villagers drew their weapons, too. “May our Goddess help us!!!”