This is a short story that ties in with the Thorgaut of NorthWorld series. Book 1 is up on my Amazon Author page already. This story is written ahead in the storyline as I play around with some ideas for who the Villains are and what they want. In this story specifically, we focus on Steingrimer, King of the NightWalkers.
A howl echoed off the clouds hanging low in the sky. Rainer could smell the foul stench of the creature before he heard or saw it. His heart pounded.
Suddenly, the putrid figure of ash and heat materialized out of the darkness before him. Steingrimer. King of the NightWalkers. The imposing figure seemingly floating before him. A long, tattered red cape whipping and snapping hauntingly in the wind.
Rainer’s legs felt like jelly. Only a few nights ago, he had laughed when the old crone told him the stories about this foul creature. And now, here he stood. Face to face with the king of the undead armies now sweeping through NorthWorld.
Two empty eyes stared back at him with a wicked furor, and a low, deep growl rumbled in pleasure as it looked around at the evil army that surrounded them.
A shock of black hair struck a stark contrast on the silvery pale skull that sat atop its tall, sinewy body. With each breath, a plume of smoky shadow escaped the creature’s hollow nostrils set within its burly bone head.
Runes and emblems, glowing brightly, covered parts of its torso, but Rainer didn’t want to look closer to inspect this thing any further. He closed his eyes for a moment, hoping that he would wake up from this dream. Hoping that Steingrimer would no longer be there. Rainer could still feel the warm stench of its breath though.
When he opened his eyes again, the creature continued to gaze at him from the dull, piercing blackness of the cadaverous hollows where its eyes had once shined.
The NightWalker moved closer to him, its long legs seemed to be floating over the ground as it walked fluidly carrying its harrowing energy. It looked upon him with a horrible grimace on its face.
Steingrimer took several floating steps forward until it stood just before Rainer. It reached out a long bony finger and touched his cheek gently. Almost lovingly, as if caressing a loved one that it hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Welcome, human,” Steingrimer rasped hoarsely. “I have heard much of your exploits here in NorthWorld. It has been many years since anyone has heard such amazing tales of valor from a human. Fear not. I will not harm you. You will feel no pain. By the time of the next full moon, you will be as one of us. Then, with your new strength and abilities, you will do even greater exploits than these. And one day, you will lead this army in my stead.”
Rainer cocked his head to the side like he had no idea what the King of the NightWalkers was talking about.
“Sorry, pal. I think you’re confusing me with somebody else. I just got here. I was at home in my bed, fast asleep. And one of those things there opened a portal into my room, grabbed me by the leg, and dragged me here against my will.”
Steingrimer hissed angrily. His hair bristled straight out in all directions. The dark hollows of what were now his eyes silently bore into the human before him. Both beings remained completely still. Frozen in time. Watching each other. The only thing that continued to move in the night was its dark red cape.
The undead king floated in a step closer. The stench of his rotting body was overpowering. Rainer took a deep breath and held it as long as he could before letting it out slowly. That wasn’t very smart because then he felt out of breath and had to take a gulp of air to replace it. It was all he could do not to gag.
Steingrimer’s nose was close enough for him to touch. It was the only thing that made the undead monster still look human. Although it protruded up from his face at an angle. But it was nice because Steingrimer didn’t have a hole in the middle of his skull like most of the walking dead cadavers around here.
Rainer wanted to reach out and squeeze it to find out if his nose was real or if it was some sort of prosthetic. But the human held his arms stiffly at his side and turned his face away slightly from Steingrimer.
He waited for the giant corpse to take another step forward. His legs felt weak as the monster siphoned off his energy. Rainer could almost see the aura leaving his body in faint whisps. An overwhelming urge to puke overcame Rainer, but he had to control himself.
“Fear not human. Your flesh is weak. Soon you will be powerful like me because you will not depend on strength that comes from your flesh. Your strength will come from deep within. It will come from an eternal core that I will give you.”
Rainer couldn’t hold back the laughter in spite of his weakness and in spite of the creature’s proximity. Steingrimer floated back a step and demanded to know what was so funny.
“You miss having flesh. Don’t you. You touched my cheeks earlier because you still wish you had it yourself. You don’t fool me. I know that you would trade your power in a heartbeat to have your flesh back. Well, if you had a heartbeat, that is.”
The darkness in the empty hollows of the Nightwalker’s skull narrowed and intensified in fury. The rasp in his breathing deepened, and a rumble rose up in his throat.
“Take care what you say, human. There are worse things that I could do to you than to allow you to become as we are and join our ranks in battle.”
Steingrimer took a step forward. The runes and emblems on his chest began to intensify and glow brighter. Rainer felt his body growing weaker. The NightWalker reached out and took Rainer’s face in his hands to pull him forward.
The human waited until the last possible second to reach under his shirt for NightBlade. He could feel the grip of the weapon wrapped in dull, black deerskin. He wrapped his fingers just below the curved cross-guard that led to the short, narrow, straight blade made of black crystal for such an occasion as this.
NightBlade had one sharp edge to cut and slice. The other was thick and solid. Perfect for defending oncoming attacks. But tonight, Rainer knew he wouldn’t be strong enough or fast enough to stand up to the NightWalker.
His attack had to be quick and sure. A single strike was all he would have time for. Rainer was careful to keep his fingers away from the blade. Careful not to slice himself. A single cut was all that was needed to bleed his energy completely and utterly.
Rainer squeezed his hand tighter. He could feel the deer’s head etched into the pommel. A reminder of Halldora’s assurance that this was the right tool for the right job. The one thing that could kill a monster like Steingirmer.
If he failed to defeat the undead king, Rainer knew he would have to kill himself to avoid being transformed into one of these monsters himself. He most likely would anyway since Steingrimer was already beginning the process of sucking out his soul and replacing his soon empty vessel with whatever it was that fueled these mad NightWalkers.
Rainer swiped NightBlade from under his shirt and pushed it behind Steingrimer to try and keep it out of his peripheral vision till it was too late. The human flipped the knife up and around so that the blade was pointed in. Then brought it up towards the Nightwalker’s exposed neck just above the protection of his armor.
But just before the tip of the knife struck its skin, Steingrimer’s hand stopped Rainer’s wrist. A wicked smile crossed his face, exposing his large, bony teeth. He twisted the blade from the human’s grasp and threw his body back across the grass.
Rainer landed on his back in the grass and skidded to a stop. He scrambled weakly to his feet and tried to stand before Steingrimer reached him. Rainer’s heart sank. He had failed to kill the NightWalker and failed to kill himself before he was transformed.
“Sneaky trick, human. One that would make any NightWalker proud. If I had any doubts that you would make a fine member of our ranks, this has removed them all.”
Just as Steingrimer stepped forward to float in his direction, there was a flash of light. A portal burst open beside Rainer, and a familiar figure leaped out in his direction with fire in her hands.
Halldora launched a fistful of sparks and flames in Steingrimer’s direction. But he easily dodged it by flipping backward and floating out of the way. Thorgaut leaped through the portal behind her and launched fistfuls of fireballs at the hoards of NightWalkers that rushed them.
The disgusting monsters quickly burst into flaming balls of fire that ran madly around in circles lighting their fellow NightWalkers. Steingrimer began screaming for them to back away before the whole army burst into flame. He separated the packs of NightWalkers that could get away while sacrificing the ones that he knew were already lost.
Thorgaut and Halldora took advantage of the confusion to race to Rainer’s side and help him hobble through the portal. After pushing Rainer through, they turned back and launched fireball after fireball in Steingrimer’s direction. A few came close, but none of the blows were solid enough to stick. Unlike the others of his kind, the NightWalker king didn’t burst into flame.
They kept it up as long as they could, but soon grew weaker. It was impossible to hit Steingrimer, and the other NightWalkers stayed out of the reach of their fireballs.
Halldora closed the portal down after they leaped through, while Thorgaut helped Rainer to his feet. He realized that they were back in the safety of the castle for now, but it wouldn’t be long before Steingrimer came up with a way to protect the NightWalkers from fire. Then it would be game over for all of them.
“I’m sorry,” Rainer whispered hoarsely. “I wasn’t fast enough to even nick his skin.”
Halldora sponged his face off with a crisp, soothing mix of water and herbs. She smiled knowingly and glanced up at Thorgaut.
“We never expected you to actually kill him with that knife. Especially not with that new armored protection covered in runes that he wears. It would have held his energy in and healed him immediately even if you had managed to cut him.” Thorgaut rumbled in his deep voice from across the room where he was pouring a goblet of scented wine.
Rainer sat up, angrily, “What? You sent me in there knowing it was pointless?”
Thorgaut walked across the room and handed him the goblet.
“We need him to think that was the reason we sent you and make him believe that was the NightBlade. Now, he’ll wear it, and we can track him wherever he goes. And when we’re ready to really attack, we’ll have a direct connection to portal in right where he is at.”
Rainer scowled but drank the wine anyway. Then lay back down. He didn’t like feeling that he was a pawn in their game, but everyone around here seemed to be a pawn in someone else’s game. He didn’t know where one game started and another ended.
“So, what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to be a full-blooded NightWalker by time the next full moon comes around?”
“Steingrimer did a real number on you, but I’ll do my best to stop it,” Halldora said confidently.
“Yeah, and all we have to do is kill Steingrimer before then. You should be fine.” Thorgaut said.
“Just kill Steingrimer,” Rainer mumbled. “That’s easier said than done. But right now, I’m happy to still be alive. Thank you for pulling me out of there in time.”
This was the end of this short story because I don’t want to give away too much. I’m playing around with the Thorgaut storyline to see where we can take the upcoming series. If you like the concept, let me know in the comments. Your feedback lets me know which stories to invest more time on. Thanks for reading.