Dave Bailey – Page 10 – Welcome

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 10 – Sorry!

Thorgaut walked out from under the shade of the house and trees. He basked for a moment in the sunshine. Then he took a deep breath and exhaled with a loud sigh.

He barely noticed the scent of the flowers wafting up from the garden. The chirping of the purple birds flitting from tree to tree escaped his senses as well.

His mind was spinning a million miles an hour. He tried to process everything he had learned about the shufflers. So, Halldora had created and surrounded herself with a small group of undead corpses. And she could control them at will.

Vriobrum shuffled by on his way to the flowerbed. Thorgaut watched him go past and then followed from a short distance. Vriobrum glanced back once, but then ignored Thorgaut after that. He watched Vriobrum trying to pick weeds from among the flowers.

It was uncomfortable to watch him bend over and work at such weird, stiff angles. Vriobrum’s clumsy fingers often missed the weeds entirely. Sometimes he would even uproot a flowering plant.

Thorgaut drew closer within talking distance and waited until the shuffler looked up. “Hello!” Thorgaut said as he raised a hand in acknowledgment. The shuffler didn’t say anything but did maintain eye contact.

“It’s a nice day. Huh?” Thorgaut said. He looked up at the light blue sky and blazing white sun above him. He wondered if Vriobrum noticed the details of the things around him.

Vriobrum returned to picking the weeds. Thorgaut took a few steps forward until he stood on the opposite side of the flowerbed. The shuffler stopped what he was doing but didn’t look up this time. Thorgaut reached out a hand and picked a few of the ornery sprouts too.

“So, Halldora tells me that you were a mighty warrior once,” Thorgaut said. Vriobrum didn’t answer. He continued picking more weeds.

“It must be frustrating to be stuck like this,” Thorgaut said quietly. “You wanted me to put you out of your misery last night along with your friends. Didn’t you?”

The shuffler didn’t say anything. It stood up without looking at him and shuffled off towards the house. Thorgaut finished pulling a few final weeds that Vriobrum had missed. Then he walked back to the house too.

Halldora was standing in the doorway watching him. He caught her eye and fixed his gaze on her as he walked toward the hut. He admired her slim, lithe figure. The way her dark hair swirled around her face and neck as she swept the floor.

She wasn’t the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. But she wasn’t ugly either. Her only real defect was her height. She was shorter than he preferred. He liked women who came up to his eyes. He couldn’t complain though. Who expected to get lost in the unexplored woods of the North and then stumble across a pretty woman anyway.

He found her to be pretty in her own way. Maybe it was just because she was different than most of the woman in his region. Most of the princesses and royal women he met were all too pale and pasty looking. They looked like they didn’t get much sun. But he could tell that Halldora spent plenty of time in the outdoors by the sheen of her sunkissed skin.

He stood in the doorway and watched her sweep the floor. Each stroke of the broom bringing her closer in his direction until she was directly in front of him. She was so close the swirls of her dress brushed against him. He caught a whiff of her scent and took a deep breath. She smelled like wild daisies. It was intoxicating.

Thorgaut started to reach out and touch her. He wanted to take her in his arms and draw her in close. Kiss her and be kissed back by those soft lips.

Halldora stopped sweeping just inches away from him. She wiped a few strands of hair out of her face and pulled them back to fix them in place. A few stray strands she had missed still hung over her eyes. She jerked her head to the side to toss them back, but that didn’t work either.

The stubborn strands still stuck to her cheeks. So, she tried to puff at them with her breath to blow them out of the way. Her hands were still busy tying back the rest of her hair.

She didn’t break eye contact with Thorgaut the entire time. He stood mesmerized, watching with bated breath. She had an aura of beauty and charm that left him transfixed.

She noticed the intentness of his gaze and blushed. “What is it?” she asked.

It had been a long time since he had felt this way around a woman. Most of the silly girls who came to see him at his father’s lodge bored him. He realized he had been staring and shrugged nonchalantly. You remind me of someone I once knew.”

Halldora smiled revealing a perfect set of white teeth and finished tying her hair back.

Thorgaut reached out and grabbed the few stray strands that were still there. The hair swayed and escaped his grasp. His large fingers felt clumsy like the shufflers he had seen earlier. He didn’t want to poke Halldora in the eye, so he brushed them to the side with a single finger. The tip of his finger trailed along the edges of her cheekbones. Her skin felt so soft and smooth under his touch.

Halldora caught her breath and closed her eyes. She turned her face up and to the side to follow the trail of his finger caressing her cheek and into her hair. He let the rest of his fingers trail into and down her curls. He squeezed his fingers and thumb together to apply pressure as he pulled down on the locks of her hair.

When he reached the ends of her hair, he played with the loose strands between his fingers. He ran his hand back down through her hair several times, gathering more each time.

Halldora opened her eyes and gazed into his. Thorgaut tugged at her hair, guiding her head closer to his. He glanced down at her lips and then back up into her eyes. Then he slid his hand around the nape of her neck and grasped her gently but firmly.

He pulled her in for a kiss, and his lips almost brushed against hers. But at the last instant Halldora pushed the broom that was still in her hands against his chest to hold him back. She turned her head right before he could kiss her.

“No, Thorgaut. Stop,” she whispered in a low, husky voice. “We shouldn’t. I can’t. I’m sorry.”

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 9 – Vriobrum!

Thorgaut was ready to crash. The event of the evening left him feeling wound up and tense. It also felt wrong to lie down in the bed of a man he had just killed. So, he didn’t think he would get much sleep as he prepared to lie down.

But exhaustion got the best of him, and he fell asleep even before his head hit the pillow. He had a strange dream of himself walking around like a shuffler in the forest still looking for his friends.

But the sensation of transforming into a shuffler became more vivid and realistic. He felt unable to breathe as if he was slowly suffocating. When he awoke, he realized why. The sheet had somehow wrapped itself around his face and neck during the night.

Thorgaut unwrapped the sheet and pulled it off his face. Then he laid back down and tried to sleep again. His anxious mind wouldn’t allow it though. It whirled along at a furious pace and refused to let fall asleep again.

The smell of meat roasting over an open fire also didn’t help any, and his stomach started growling. He tossed and turned for a few minutes longer, then finally rolled out of bed to get dressed. He followed his nose to the kitchen where Halldora was setting the table. She smiled warmly.

“Did you sleep well?” she asked as she handed him a cup of tea.

Thorgaut grunted and shrugged as he took the cup.

“Are you feeling okay this morning?” she asked.

He shook his head and sighed. Halldora reached out a hand to touch his forehead. He reflexively slapped it away. He saw a flicker of fear on her face.

“Are you able to say anything, Thorgaut?” she asked him gently.

“Of course,” he growled. “Why wouldn’t I be.”

She smiled and turned around to pour a bowl of porridge. Halldora put it on the table in front of him. She sliced some bread and spread a generous helping of butter across it.

Thorgaut realized why she had seemed so interested in his silence.

“You thought I was becoming a shuffler. Didn’t you?” he asked her. He stared at her intently as she took a bite of her bread.

She chewed slowly and swallowed her food before looking up at him. “It could have been a possibility, I suppose, after your fight with them last night?”

“How so?” Thorgaut asked. He continued to watch her for any sign of reaction.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” she asked. Halldora pointed to the bowl that he hadn’t yet touched. Thorgaut shook his head. He no longer felt hungry. A mix of smoldering anger and burning curiosity took hold of him. Curiosity about how she created and controlled these creatures. And at the same time, anger that she had put his life in danger.

“I dreamt that I had become one of those things,” he said.

She looked at him in shock. “Really? What happened?” she asked.

“Nothing much. I was out looking for my friends in the woods, but I couldn’t breathe and woke up.” He continued to watch her, but couldn’t read any of her expressions. She hid them well.

“It’s possible that you’re in the process of turning.”

“Turning?” he asked. “You mean, like becoming one of those things myself.”

“Did any of them bite or scratch you in the scuffle? Or did their vomit and blood splatter on you?”

Thorgaut stirred his porridge slowly as he tried to remember the events of the night before. He looked up at her and shook his head.

“I don’t think so,” Thorgaut replied. “They weren’t very fast, and they weren’t armed. So, they didn’t harm me. One did throw up near me though.”

Her face showed no expression, and she still displayed no sign of emotion. So, Thorgaut couldn’t get a read on what she was thinking.

The idea that he might be turning into one of the shufflers terrified him like no battle ever had. His father had raised him to fight to the death.

Death was not something he had been taught to fear. His people believed that death was merely another step forward into the afterlife. One more step in his life experience and journey.

But the thought of not being able to die. Or worse yet transformed into one of those things was horrifying. If Thorgaut were unable to fight and die a warrior’s death, he would continue to suffer on forever. And once turned, he would no longer be able to fulfill his duties and earn his position as a warrior worthy of Odin’s hall.

Everything around Thorgaut seemed to slow down and come to a standstill. Even time itself seemed to slow down and pause to allow the realization to sink in. His life was ending, and there was nothing he could do. Everything became crystal clear, and his senses seemed to magnify everything around him.

The buzz of a fly around the bread was deafening. The smell of the freshly baked bread and roasting meat made his mouth water. The glint of the sun rays shining through the window reflected in Halldora’s bright blue eyes. The taste of the herbs on his tongue that lingered on his taste buds long after he had finished drinking his tea.

Every cell in his body suddenly seemed to come alive and pulse with rhythm and life. The moment seemed to stretch on as fear and denial swept over him.

Then the rage began to build. Thorgaut wanted to slam his fist on the table and then throw it over. He wanted to grab Halldora and choke the life out of her, and then chop off that stupid shuffler’s head. But he squeezed his fists and tried to control himself.

“How do I know if I’m turning into one of those things?” he roared. He looked down at his hands and realized he was shaking. Thorgaut took a deep breath and placed his hands on his lap. He looked up again and saw that Halldora had backed away. There was fear in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said and sat back. “I just don’t want to become one of those things.”

Halldora stepped forward and placed her hand on his shoulder. “I don’t think you are,” she said. “I only asked you that because you didn’t answer my questions this morning. Inability to speak is one of the first noticeable signs. Shufflers can’t talk, so I just thought…” Her voice trailed off.

Thorgaut gave a sigh of relief and chuckled nervously. “You gave me a real scare there for a minute.”

She smiled back at him. He noticed that her eyes twinkled in a way that took his breath away. Halldora turned away under his gaze and started to clear the table.

“So, how did you create these shufflers?” he asked. “You just collect some shuffler vomit and sprinkle on your friends as they lay dying.”

She returned to the table and shook her head sadly.

“Creating a true shuffler is an ancient art of the necromancers among my people. My father grew up among them and learned their ways. He made sure my brothers and I all learned the ancient arts as part of our education.”

“So, you chant a spell, wave your hands, and voila. Out comes a shuffler?” he asked.

“Not exactly. It involves invoking Hades and making a blood pact. Hades is a bloodthirsty creature and always requires a sacrifice. He is the original shuffler master.”

“You invoked Hades and sold your soul in exchange for the lives of your friends?”

Thorgaut shook his head in awe. “I knew you had some real gumption living out here in the woods by yourself, but that’s crazy.”

Halldora had her head down and sat quietly.

“So, what did Hades demand in exchange?” he asked.

“Everything. Hades required everything I had and even what I didn’t have,” she said glumly. “But at the time, I had already lost my family and everything I held dear. I didn’t think I had anything left to lose. All I wanted was to avenge the deaths of my family and friends.”

“He’s coming to collect his due,” Thorgaut stated. He knew. He had heard the legends and tales of old. Halldora would pay the ultimate price. He didn’t know what it was yet and wasn’t sure he wanted to. So, he changed the topic back to the shufflers.

“So, when shuffler blood or vomit touches someone, they turn into a shuffler as well?” he asked?

“Yes,” she replied. “The true shufflers are the reanimated corpses of the dead or almost dead. But the second generation of shufflers turned by blood or vomit are still living souls. The effects aren’t as strong in them, and they can’t be controlled as easily.”

“That’s why Vriobrum is different from the other shufflers,” Thorgaut exclaimed.

She nodded. “The effects become weaker with each passing generation. After several generations, a person doesn’t fully change. They just get sick. I’ve even heard that a seventh generation shuffler eventually healed himself.”

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 8 – Halldora!

Thorgaut cleaned his sword and gathered up his stuff that had been scattered around in the scuffle. He wasn’t about to yell out or make any more noise that would attract another horde of these nasty things. Then he tied a bundle of sticks together to make a torch and then set off down the trail. The shuffler followed him and Thorgaut stopped.

“Now, wait! You can’t walk behind me. I don’t trust you. You stay. Got it?”

The creature continued to stare at him without saying a thing. Thorgaut sighed. He took off running to put some distance between himself and the shuffler. After running a little way, he looked back. It was following him at his normal shuffling pace. So, he ran a little more just to put plenty of distance between himself and the creepy creature.

Thorgaut followed the trail all the way back to where it had ended earlier. He stopped when he came to the dead end again. He walked around trying to find a way to get around it. Thorgaut didn’t find anything though and came back to the trail.

By this time, the shuffler had almost reached him. Thorgaut waited for him to catch up with him and then stop, but this time it kept on walking. It stepped right into the bushes and pushed on through until it disappeared.

Thorgaut kept watching and listening, but nothing happened.He waited for a bit to see if the shuffler would return. Nothing. Thorgaut pushed tentatively at the branches. They gave way fairly easily. He slipped through and came out into a small clearing.

He saw a woman in the middle of the clearing with a broom in her hand. She was sweeping the ground around the fire. It was such a surreal sight that Thorgaut couldn’t say anything. He just looked on and observed the strange and unexpected scene.

The woman looked up and smiled pleasantly. “Come on in,” she said warmly. “Sit here by the fire and have a cup of tea with me.”

Thorgaut walked forward numbly trying to process what was going. Who was this lady? What was she doing in the middle of the forest at night? A witch? Was this a dream?

“Hi!” he stammered. He was at a loss for words. The woman pointed to a seat on the ground and picked up a cup to pour him some tea.

He took the cup and then sat down. He looked at it suspiciously. She smiled when she realized what he was thinking.

“Oh, c’mon now. You don’t think I’m going to poison the first good-looking guy that shows up in my forest in over a year do you?” The woman laughed again and took the cup from his hands. She took a sip and handed it back to him.

“See! Perfectly good tea made from freshly plucked forest herbs. Nothing deadly enough to kill a nice big man like you.” she said ominously. Her eyes flickered over to the shuffler that was still standing off to the side. “I’m Halldora Grimardottir of Dysjǫrð. It’s nice to meet you.”

Thorgaut burst out laughing. Deep spasms of nervous laughter that he couldn’t have stopped even if he had wanted to. She just stood and watched him with a smile on her face until he got himself under control.

“It’s okay. I understand. You must be a shy guy, and get nervous around a confident, self-assured woman. No?”

Thorgaut shook his head vigorously. “No, that’s not it at all. Sorry. I’m Thorgaut Kabbisson of Jorundarfell. I really don’t know why I laughed. This whole situation is just so surreal.”

“I understand,” she said with a mischevious glint in her eye. “It’s not every night that you meet a shuffler.”

Thorgaut grunted and glanced over in the creature’s direction. He turned back and scowled at her. “Dysjǫrð the Grave World? Huh. I guess you take that quite literally. Huh?”

She looked down at the ground and sighed. “Yeah! Well, the forest can be a dangerous place for a woman on her own. They help me keep the place up and protect me from strangers.”

“Strangers like me? Is that what you mean?” he asked angrily. “You just send your minions out to kill anyone who enters your forest without question.”

“No, of course not,” she replied. “I heard someone screaming, and sent them out to see what was going on. You were the one who attacked first and killed Vriobrum.”

Vriobrum,” he said. “You mean you actually give each of these things a name? What? Are they like pets or something?”

“No. They’re not pets, but they are real people with a birth name.” she retorted. “Do you think the undead are just born that way?”

Thorgaut put his cup down and stood up. He paced around the fire in silence. “This is messed up. You living all alone out here in the woods with a bunch of these undead creatures.’

“They were my friends,” she said softly. “Our kingdom was overthrown, and my family was put to death. I alone escaped with their help. They died defending me. I felt guilty that they died for me. They could have stayed behind, but they chose to follow me. So, I brought them back. And now, you’ve slaughtered them.”

“I’m sorry.” he stammered and hung his head in shame under her gaze. “I didn’t know that. I just assumed that they were coming to kill me.”

Halldora smiled sadly and shook her head. “I understand why you did it. It’s best for them. Their souls have been released to the afterlife again. But I will miss them.”

Thorgaut sat down in shock, trying to wrap his head around the events of the evening and the information he had just learned. Not that he felt guilty. He was a warrior, and warriors killed. But learning of the existence of the shufflers and how they came to be, just blew his mind.

Halldora wiped a tear from her eye and stood up. She walked over to a hut and went inside. She stepped back out through the door and motioned him over.

He had so many questions whirling through his head. Thorgaut opened his mouth, but she shook her head and placed her fingers on his lips.

“Please. Let’s talk about this tomorrow.” Halldora said. “I know you have a lot of question, but it’s late. We should get some sleep.”

The door was low, so Thorgaut had to duck to get through. But on the inside, the house was much bigger then he expected. The floor slanted down below the level of the ground and opened into a spacious living area that looked fit for a queen.

A bit more rustic than what she would have been used to having in a palace. Nothing made of ivory and marble. She was alone in the forest of course, but everything was still very nicely made.

Thorgaut let out a long, slow whistle as he looked around at the surroundings and decoration. He glanced at Halldora out of the corner of her and she was beaming with pleasure at the genuine admiration that was so evident on his face.

[Rise of the Drakemen] Infiltration: Chapter 1 – Welcome to the Topside

When the Drakemen begin to infiltrate our world Anna dreams of taking power dominating all mankind without them even realizing what has happened. But when Rumwold and Valagnar find someone as powerful as she is, she must do whatever it takes to turn their weapon to her side.

This will be up soon…as I am currently writing the first chapter!

Read More Of Dave Bailey’s Stories

NorthWorld: Thorgaut Kabbisson – A Viking Fantasy Saga where you can follow Thorgaut Kabbisson on his journey to become king of the North and a young Viking boy’s growth into manhood to become the hero of legends and campfire tales.

Edge of the Universe: Art Journals – A naive, young scientist creates a DNA-splicing machine with the potential to eradicate sickness and disease. But when an ancient alien race tries to use his technology for evil and to enslave mankind, a desperate father must do whatever it takes to stop them and save his daughter.

Ectype Reports: Karina & The Clones – In a secret underground lab full of cloned bodies, an ambitious, Brazilian scientist develops a project to back up memories and transfer the souls of paraplegic soldiers into a new body to heal the sick, change the world, and win the Nobel Peace Prize. But when a conniving general manipulates her into using the technology to hijack the president’s body and take over the white house while building himself a personal army of cloned soldiers, Jenny must do whatever it takes to return him to his own body, put a stop to his evil plan, and shut down her life’s work before anyone else can get their hands on it.

[Edge of the Universe] Art Journals: Chapter 1 – The Accident

Art pulled into the driveway in his Beamer. He waited for the garage door to open and then pulled in. He shut off the engine and waited for the top of the convertible to close. When it finished, he opened the door and got out. He grabbed his briefcase and entered the house.

He walked down the hall and saw Karen in the kitchen.

“Hey, Hon! I’m home.” He said. “Hmm. That smells good. What’s for supper?”

Karen turned and smiled. “Hey. You’re here early. What happened?”

“It’s not early. I clocked out at 5.” He retorted. Karen didn’t say anything. She just smiled as if to say, “Yeah. Right?”

“Okay. So, I am a bit earlier than usual.” He said with a shrug.

“Well, your supper is in the oven. Jenny and I already ate.”

“What? You didn’t wait for me?” he asked sounding genuinely hurt.

Karen laughed. “You never get home before nine.”

“That’s not true. Don’t exaggerate. I was home early last week. By seven..ish I think.”

Karen rolled her eyes and walked towards the door. She placed her hand on his shoulder and patted it lightly as she went left the room.

Art shrugged and opened the oven. He pulled out the plate of food and put it on the counter. He opened the dishwasher to get a fork and knife. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. He dug in and ate with relish. He loved Karen’s cooking. If she would just stop nagging him all the time about everything he would be a happy man.

He finished his plate off quickly and washed it down with a glass of root beer. He felt hungry still, so he raided the fridge. He pulled out some apple pie that had been leftover from his weekly Wednesday night poker party.

Art sniffed it. “Still smells pretty good.” He had forgotten about it all about it otherwise, he would have eaten it before. He grabbed a box of butter pecan ice cream from the bottom shelf of the freezer. He piled several scoops on top of the pie.

He put a spoonful of the cold, sweet treat in his mouth. Art closed his eyes and savored the moment. “Absolute perfection. Why does cold food that’s leftover, often taste better than when it’s fresh.” he wondered.

Art carried his bowl and continued eating as he walked down the hall to his bedroom. His feet padded softly in the lush, blue carpet. He loved the feel of the soft material under his feet and always walked barefoot around the house.

He had never had carpet in a house growing up as a child. He had grown up in a low-income family that didn’t have many extras. His father paid the bills and spent the rest on booze. His mother had done crochet on the side to make a little extra money buy clothes and for herself and the kids. That was when she had any left over from buying groceries when her husband had run out of money.

But it wasn’t just because his family was poor, that he hadn’t had grown up with carpeting. Hardly anyone in his country installed carpeting in their home. Most of the people in his community only had dirt floors. If they were lucky, they had cement floors. And if they were rich, they had ceramic tiling.

Life hadn’t always been easy for Art and his siblings growing up in northern Brazil. His mother had struggled to keep twelve hungry mouths fed. She had to work hard and be creative to make money and food stretch each month.

So, Art had learned to appreciate all the fine things around him. The little things that most people took for granted. Things like carpeting, apple pie, and butter pecan ice cream. He savored them at every opportunity, like now as he walked down the hall to his bedroom.

He considered himself lucky to escape his little rural community. The cycle of poverty engulfed those of his family who were still alive. His father had died of liver cirrhosis when he was still thirteen. Not that Art had cared when he died, nor missed him after he had gone.

The family did miss the little money that he didn’t spend on liquor, but that was about it. His mother had soon remarried, but her second husband hadn’t been much better. He drank too and often beat the children over the slightest thing. Art had started working when he was fourteen just to have an excuse to get away from the house.

He went into the bedroom to change his clothes. Art put on a pair of swimming trunks. He finished off the bowl of ice cream and washed his hands. Then he headed off to find Karen and Jenny in the pool. He looked at the picture of the gringo framed on the wall. He touched the photo and said thank you as he went down the hall.

He worked for the gringo who lived on an enormous cattle ranch in the area where Art had grown up. Art spent most of his time out in the country to stay away from the city and avoid his step-father’s lashings. He did go in on the weekends, but just long enough to check in on his mother. He would drop off some food or a little money for her and the kids.

Art always drove by the local bar to make sure his step-father was there and away from the house before he went to see her. Art had been a hard worker and managed to impress the gringo. Art took advantage of the opportunity to learn English with him and his family. He pretended he didn’t speak any Portuguese and forced himself to speak only English.

When he was seventeen, the family returned to the United States. They invited Art to come along for a visit. He ended up getting into a good university program. There he had met Karen, and well, that had been fifteen years ago. He was now here in the good ol’ USA living his happily ever after. Art had never looked back or returned to Brazil.

He walked back to the kitchen and put his bowl in the dishwasher. He mentally patted himself on the back. See, he was a good husband. Why did Karen have to nag about the little things like what time he came home? She should know that he was out trying to provide for the family.

He heard Jenny laughing and looked out through the window. He sighed in exasperation. There she was running around the edge of the pool again. Their dog was chasing her, and she wasn’t paying much attention to her surroundings.

Art had told her a million times not to run on the slippery, wet edge of the pool. And Karen didn’t back him up or try to make Jenny stop. Art thought she spoiled Jenny by letting her do whatever she wanted. That was the price of growing up without any significant cares or worries.

People didn’t realize what they had. They let their kids do whatever they wanted and get away with murder. He didn’t want his kids growing up like that. Karen didn’t understand his background or how he had been raised. He needed to have a serious conversation with her again. At the very least, keep her safe by not letting her run around the pool.

He opened the door and yelled “Jenny! What have I told you about running around the edge of the pool.”

She quit running and turned her head to look back at him. The dog didn’t stop though. It kept right on running and barking. It barreled right into the back of her legs. Its forward momentum knocked Jenny off balance, and she started to topple over. His worse nightmare playing out in slow motion right before his eyes.

Chapter 2 is coming soon…

Kindle Unlimited

Or you can jump way ahead and read ‘Art’s Final Battle‘ on Kindle Unlimited. This was the original short story that I wrote about Art and his daughter Jenny.

Read More Of Dave Bailey’s Stories

NorthWorld: Thorgaut Kabbisson – A Viking Fantasy Saga where you can follow Thorgaut Kabbisson on his journey to become king of the North and a young Viking boy’s growth into manhood to become the hero of legends and campfire tales.

Ectype Reports: Karina & The Clones – In a secret underground lab full of cloned bodies, an ambitious, Brazilian scientist develops a project to back up memories and transfer the souls of paraplegic soldiers into a new body to heal the sick, change the world, and win the Nobel Peace Prize. But when a conniving general manipulates her into using the technology to hijack the president’s body and take over the white house while building himself a personal army of cloned soldiers, Jenny must do whatever it takes to return him to his own body, put a stop to his evil plan, and shut down her life’s work before anyone else can get their hands on it.

Rise of the Drakemen: Infiltration – When the Drakemen begin to infiltrate our world Anna dreams of taking power dominating all mankind without them even realizing what has happened. But when Rumwold and Valagnar find someone as powerful as she is, she must do whatever it takes to turn their weapon to her side.

[Clone Chronicles] Ectype Reports: Chapter 1 – Going Home

Alfred looked out the lower edge of the window. He hated flying. It was his third time on a plane, but it never seemed like it got any easier.

He hated the pressure in his ears. He hated the turbulence. And he hated looking out the window and seeing everything so small below.

It reminded him of how high up they were. If anything happened and the plane crashed from that altitude…

Well, let’s just say that there wouldn’t be any survivors.

Including him.

Al avoided watching the news for a week before his trip. The last thing he needed was to hear about a plane going down somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Or worse yet, while trying to land.

If he had heard any of those reports before his trip, he would have chickened out and refused to go. He had finally gotten the courage to buy a ticket. Then he had made the mistake of telling Juan not to relay any news of airline crashes.

See, Juan was a news addict. He watched the news morning, afternoon, and night. And when he wasn’t able to watch the news, he had his headphones on. Tuned into some 24-hour news broadcasting station.

Everyone knew that if you needed an update on something, you just asked Juan. He was like an up-to-the-minute walking news channel.

Well, after that, it didn’t take long for everyone on Al’s unit to know how terrified he was of flying. Not that Juan tried to rat him out. He had heard some bit of news that was airline related.

He told the other guys in the barracks. Then he mentioned it to the other guys as an afterthought. “Oh, but don’t mention anything about it to Al because he’s terrified of flying.”

And that was what started it all.

Poor Al didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the week. Every time someone came across him, they would tell him some crazy, made-up story. First, a plane crash on a deserted island. Then there was the story about some plane hijacked by terrorists. And it went on and on. For the entire week.

At first, it freaked poor, ol’ Al out. He thought all those things were really happening around the world. Then he caught on and realized what they were doing. He got pretty upset at Juan. Juan apologized profusely, but Al refused to talk to him for a couple of days.

He almost canceled his ticket home, but Juan finally talked him back into it. Well, it probably wasn’t Juan’s talking that convinced him.

It had more to do with the fact that Sheila was going to be back in town for the holidays, and Al did want to see her. That was the only reason he had planned this trip in the first place.

Sheila was his high school sweetheart. They had grown up together. But about the time she had gone off to start college, he had ended up joining the army. Well, not by choice. He had enlisted as required by law when he turned eighteen.

He was somewhat skinny and generally considered a nerd in high school. He didn’t exactly believe himself to be full grade military material. He figured that they would sign his release forms and let him go. But for some reason the officers on duty that day had taken a fancy to him, and ordered him to stay.

Al had a job and was studying which should have given him a free pass. But the onery admissions officer wouldn’t accept any of his excuses. Just plain ol’ dumb luck he figured at the time. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But little did he know what they had in store for him. Whoops! I can’t tell you about that yet. I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, Al thought all he had to do was put in his two years of hard work. Then he could get his life back on track. Or so he thought.

He hadn’t planned on leaving town either. Al figured they would station him at the local battalion in his city. But for that same reason you and Al don’t know about yet, they had chosen him for some specialized training program.

Right away, they had shipped him overseas. That had been two years ago. He did his time without complaining, and he thought he was leaving soon. But a week before, his commanding officer had called him in for a meeting.

The officers there went on and on about the training they had him in. They praised him for all his diligence and hard work. And they buttered him up about his presence having a significant impact on this particular mission.

Al had no idea what they were talking about because he didn’t do much of anything. Some days they had him keeping post at the front gate. Other days they had him on kitchen duty. But most of the time he just sat in his barracks twiddling his thumbs because there wasn’t much to do on this island.

Well, not twiddling his thumbs because he liked to read. He usually had some sci-fi or fantasy book to read on his Kindle reader. But you know what I mean. Al had a lot of time to kill.

They said something about him being a vital part of the process and needing him for another six months. Blah blah blah. Typical army spiel for giving you orders but making you feel like you had a choice.

Al didn’t ask any questions, he just said ‘Sir, yes sir!” and signed on the dotted lines. He didn’t mind too much. Sheila still had three more years of college, and he didn’t have anything else lined up for now. Plus the cash bonus and four weeks of paid leave would be a nice consolation prize.

He used the money to buy a ticket home. He also bought Sheila a new car. They weren’t married yet, but he already sent her money every month. He told her to put the money in their savings account until they had enough to make a down payment on a house.

Al made pretty good money out here. He and his colleagues knew that their salary was way above the pay grade for most soldiers at their ranks. No, one knew why of course, and they talked about it in hushed tones when they were alone. But in general, the money was enough to make them keep their heads down and not ask any questions.

They didn’t want to rock the boat and get knocked back down a pay grade. Al had heard of that happening to a few other chaps before he had arrived. So, no one brought it up in any of their meetings.

Al just cashed his checks and enjoyed the money. But he had kept his eyes and ears open the whole time. He knew a lot more than he let on.

He had also earned the trust of his commanding officers. They often talked freely when he was around. He pretended to ignore them and focus on his work during their meetings.

It seemed like they were doing some high-tech research together with the US army. They talked about working on some highly-classified technology.

No one ever came out and said actually said what it was when he was around. But from what he gathered, it had something to do with a sort of cloning process using alien technology. It seemed like they wanted to find a way to give wounded vets new, fully-functioning bodies. From what he gathered though, they didn’t seem to have been successful yet.

He didn’t know all this for sure of course. Most of it was just hearsay from the bits and pieces he picked up. Al never actually came out and asked his commanding officers any questions point-blank.

But Al was a likable guy, so they often invited him along to their parties. He had been to a few where the officers had a little too much to drink and spoke a little too openly. Especially that Colonel Smith chap that requested Al drive him home a week or so back.

Anyway, Al enjoyed being the only one in his unit who thought he knew what was going on. And he knew better than to say anything or let on that he knew more than they did.

He just let them speculate. At night when they were alone at night in the barracks, he pretended to ask questions along with the rest of them. He didn’t want them getting too suspicious about what he knew. So, he played dumb.

Anyway, that’s how Al ended up getting the time off and the extra cash bonus. Money that he used to buy himself a first-class ticket back home. Al decided that as much as he hated flying, he deserved the perk for surprising his girl like this. Besides, if the plane crash, he wanted to die in style.

He chuckled at the thought of his mother seeing him like this. Surrounded by all these fine things the first world had to offer. He smiled when he imagined the look of surprise on her face when she saw him first thing tomorrow morning.

Al hadn’t told anyone he was coming. Not his mother. Not his girl. Not even his best friend. He planned on surprising everyone when he rolled into town in that fancy new car to give the love of his life.

He also planned on proposing of course. He knew it would still be several more years before they could be together. But there wasn’t any way she could refuse. He had a good job, made good money, and was going to give her the car of her dreams.

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 7 – Burn!

The fourth shuffler that had stopped to help its ‘friend’ had managed to pull out a part of the arrow. The shuffler pointed the arrow in Thorgaut’s direction as it charged him. Thorgaut wanted to laugh because it was shuffling in slow motion.

He imagined that it may have been a soldier at one time before becoming undead. He deflected the arrow with his sword and sidestepped the creatures attack. The creature turned around and stared at him. He could have run it through with his sword, but Thorgaut actually felt sorry for the slow shuffling thing. He hesitated for a moment.

It looked at him with eyes wide open. This creature wasn’t as decayed and disgusting looking as the others. It looked like it was aware of what it was doing. Its eyes seemed as if they were pleading with him silently to put it out of its misery.

Thorgaut wasn’t quite sure what to do. Should he just stab it and run it through with his sword. That felt so heartless and cruel. Maybe the creature would just turn around and move on back into the forest where it could live out the rest of its days in peace.

The shuffler leaned forward a bit, and Thorgaut took a step backward. He shook his head when he realized what he was thinking. The Viking prince had never felt like this before over killing an enemy. He had always enjoyed killing those he fought. Especial when using his sword. The feel of warm blood running down the hilt of his sword and over his hands. Maybe it was just because this creature was unarmed.

Thorgaut relaxed his stance and shifted to the side. Suddenly, he heard a noise behind him. It was the shuffler he had shot in the shoulder. It walked toward him with its good arm stretched out in his direction. It was so close that its fingers were almost touching his shoulder. He leaped back out of the way and bumped into the other shuffler.

It roared when he touched it and tried to grab him. He threw himself off to the side and away from either of them. He lost his balance and tripped. He stumbled and fell off to the side. He kept right on rolling and got up as fast as he could. Both creatures were approaching him and he kept moving backward while stumbling over himself as he tried to get back up.

After gaining his balance, he managed to get his feet under him to stand up again. Thorgaut had somehow managed to keep his grip on the sword. He readied himself and pulled back into an attack stance.

Both the shufflers had stopped and were now standing in front of him. It was really eerie. Almost like the expected him to do or say something. Again, he stood there silently watching them. And they watched him back.

The shuffler he had shot in the shoulder started to gag and vomit at his feet almost without warning. Thorgaut snapped his feet apart to prevent any of the vomit from spattering on his boots. But when he looked down, Thorgaut noticed that some of it had dirtied his shoes. He made a mental note to not touch them and to dispose of them as soon as possible.

The shuffler looked like it was about to puke again. Thorgaut was already upset that it had ruined his shoes. He pulled back his sword and let it fly. The blade seemed to sing as it swung through the air and sliced cleanly through the shuffler’s neck. Blood from the sword’s arc splattered across the other shuffler. It did nothing, but just continue to stand there as if it was waiting for something.

“What do you want?” Thorgaut asked.

The creature didn’t say anything. It just continued to stand there.

“That’s pretty creepy you know,” Thorgaut said.

He backed up slowly toward the fire. The shuffler continued to follow him. It matched his pace and took a step forward for each one he took backward toward the fire.

Thorgaut reached the fire and jumped over it to the other side. The shuffler stood there looking like it was trying to decide what to do. He took a few more steps backward, but the creepy creature remained still.

Thorgaut noticed the smoldering remains of the shuffler that he had kicked into the fire. Most of his body had burned up and completely disintegrated. They burned up so easily in the heat. He pushed the logs and pieces of wood together, and the flames started to grow once again. The shuffler moved back a few paces but continued to stand there watching Thorgaut and the fire.

Thorgaut picked up a medium-sized piece of wood from the fire. He walked around the fire towards the bodies of dead shufflers he had killed. The standing shuffler took a few steps toward him but stopped when he waved the fire in its face.

It watched him as he touched the flame to the body of one the dead shuffler. The shuffler’s body caught fire easily and started burning where ever he touched it with the flame. Whenever the flame came into contact with blood, there was a small explosion as the flames burst up even higher and hotter.

Thorgaut turned and moved over to the other body. He touched the flame to the stump of its neck where he had beheaded it. The whole pool of blood that had run out exploded into a fireball that knocked him back. The heat singed the hair on his head and body. He pulled himself up and watched for a minute as the entire body was quickly engulfed and consumed by the flames. He also burned up the arms he had cut off one of the shufflers as well.

The living shuffler watched him intently and but didn’t move around after he started burning the corpses. Thorgaut kept a close eye on him though to make sure it didn’t try anything. He got the impression that the creature was waiting for him to do something, but he had no idea what it was. There was an alertness and awareness in his eyes that the others hadn’t had. There was something different about him and it piqued Thorgaut’s curiosity.

“What is it?” he asked. “Is there something you want to tell me. You seem fresher and more alive than the others. You’re still not totally taken are you?”

Thorgaut took a step closer and stretched out the stick with fire in front of its face. The shuffler didn’t flinch or move.

“You just joined this clan recently. You’re under their control,” he said. “If you are still aware of what’s going on, go ahead and blink twice.”

The shuffler didn’t blink, but it did keep staring at him intently. Staring at him in a way that unnerved Thorgaut.

“That’s creepy. Stop it. Go back into the woods and do your thing.” he commanded, but the creature just stood there.

“Better yet, let’s go find that woman,” he muttered. “Where is she? And how many more of you are there?”

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 6 – Slice!

Thorgaut watched the creature moving slowly and methodically across the camp. It glanced up in his direction and he held his breath. One eye was missing from its socket, and the other was covered with hair. No wonder the ugly thing hadn’t been able to see him very well earlier.

He let it walk around the camp for a bit and then watched as it started to shuffle off in the other direction. He threw a stick out into the middle of the camp near the fire. The noise attracted the Shuffler’s attention.

It walked back towards the fire with its back to Thorgaut. It was time to see what this thing was made of. He pulled back an arrow and let loose. The arrow found its mark and dug deep into its back right about where its heart should have been.

The Shuffler let out a loud high-pitched scream that sounded almost like a squeal. It clawed around madly, trying to grab the arrow coming out its back. But it didn’t fall down. It kept moving around in circles as it tried to get a grip on the arrow.

It managed to reach around far enough to get its hand on the arrow. It tugged at the arrow but screamed at the pain. It was facing him now, and he fired off another arrow directly into its throat. The Shuffler tried to scream, but this time only a gurgling rasp came out.

Thorgaut waited, but it didn’t fall. So, he fired another arrow directly into his forehead just above the bridge of the nose. This time the creature fell backward onto the ground. It tried to get up again, but was unable to and fell back over into the dirt. It continued to move it’s hands and feet around though as if it were trying to get up.

Thorgaut climbed down the tree by grabbing on to the branch and swinging his legs down over the edge. From there it was just a short drop to the forest floor.

He walked over to the undead shuffler and circled it slowly. The stench coming up off this thing was awful. Thorgaut had to cover his face to keep from puking.

It realized he was there and reached out in his direction. Thorgaut stepped back and was careful not to let it touch him. The Shuffler moaned loudly and started chomping its teeth as if it were already biting him.

The creature tried to roll over, but the arrows in its throat and forehead prevented it from turning over. It started to vomit and Thorgaut backed up even more.

The stories he heard as a child said that the vomit was how they killed their victims. It poisoned them and paralyzed all who came in contact with it.

When it had finished puking and doing its thing, Thorgaut raised his sword and sliced off its head. The shuffler lay there twitching as he drove his sword into the soft dirt to clean the blade of blood.

Thorgaut grabbed the arrow shot into its forehead and pulled it over to the fire. He tossed the head into the flames. The blood that dripped from its neck and head burst into a fiery mass as soon as it hit the flames. He had to step back and let it settle down a bit before moving back in to finish up. He pushed the ends of the logs together to refuel the flames.

Then he wiped off his hands on his pants and smiled proudly at killing his first Broken Shuffler. He hoped that it would find peace and make its way into the afterlife. Technically, it had died in battle, but he didn’t know if the Valkyries would allow it into Odin’s hall.

Thorgaut turned around and froze at what he saw. Four more of the same foul creatures all coming his way.

Thorgaut pulled his sword out of the ground and gathered his stuff quickly. The shufflers moved slowly. Two of them paused and bent over to vomit. That was what worried him. He knew he could kill them easily because they were so slow. The only thing he had to be careful of was to not get any vomit or blood on his body.

He knew he could outrun them and hide in the safety of the darkness. He considered it for a moment. They wouldn’t be able to see him. And he could just wait for the darkness to pass and the sun to rise in the morning.

He wanted to turn and run into the woods. He could take them on later that day after it was light, but his Viking training and upbringing was ingrained too deeply. He had been taught to always stand his ground against his enemy.

It didn’t matter that these were undead beings, nor that he had nothing to defend. It was his duty to fearlessly fight anything and anyone who opposed him.

He whipped out an arrow and notched it in the string. Thorgaut pulled back the taut with all his strength to get as much power out of it as he could. His fingers pulling back on the string touched the base of his ear and trembled from the force of the bow waiting for release.

Thorgaut leveled it in the direction of the closest shuffler and let go of the arrow. It hit the one-eyed shuffler and drove deep into the creatures cheekbone below the right eye. The blow stopped its forward trajectory. It stopped and stood still turning its face back toward the Viking. It shrieked in fury and then started walking again.

By this time, Thorgaut had already notched and released a second arrow. He had aimed for the second shuffler’s heart, but the zigzagging walk caused it to hit its shoulder. The first one was walking faster and pretty close. So, Thorgaut shot it again.

The arrow found its mark directly in it’s one remaining eye. It screamed again and threw it’s head down between its legs as it tugged and pulled at the arrow.

One of the other shufflers had stopped to help pull the arrow that was still stuck in the shoulder of the second creature Thorgaut had shot. That left only one shuffler that was an immediate threat to Thorgaut at the moment. So, he took his time aiming right between its eyes like he had done with the first shuffler he had killed.

This time, the arrow found its mark and sank deep into the creatures foul head. Thorgaut expected it would fall over, but it didn’t. It still kept coming. It was too close to get off another shot, so he pulled out his sword. The shuffler had raised its hands at an awkward angle. It looked like it wanted to shake his hand, but had a sore shoulder.

When it got close enough, Thorgaut dodged out of its reach and sliced off its right arm. That didn’t seem to phase it because it just kept right on coming at him. Thorgaut spun around to the other side and sliced off its other arm. It still kept walking at him even though it didn’t have any arms.

It paused and gagged in preparation to vomit. Thorgaut spun around to the side and raised his sword high into the air. He brought it down with all his might across the back of the shuffler’s neck just as it started to puke. Its head rolled off into the darkness, and its body fell into a mess of blood and vomit.

Thorgaut didn’t pause to admire his handiwork. He turned towards the original one-eyed shuffler that was now blind. It was still stumbling around close to the fire. Thorgaut walked around behind it and kicked it into the fire. It stumbled and tried to catch itself. Unable to keep itself upright, it fell into the fire and rolled out on the other side. Its body had burst into flame and kept right on burning even after it had rolled out of the fire.

He heard something behind him and spun around.

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 5 – Shuffler!

Thorgaut froze for an instant. He ducked and moved to the side while looking around quickly. Nothing attacked him which was a relief. So, the Viking warrior resumed walking after a few seconds of bated breath.

He reached his little camp clearing without incident. Thorgaut had never felt so happy to see a fire before. The flickering flames made him realize how cold he was.

Thorgaut rushed to sit down beside it so he could warm himself up. He placed another log of wood in the fire. Then stretched out his hands to bask in the warm glow of the coals.

He heard the woman scream again and sighed. But this time he didn’t move. He sat there and watched the flames dancing in the darkness.

Thorgaut wanted to help her. He really did. But deep down he had a feeling that this was a ruse. Someone trying to get him deeper into the woods.

He peered into the darkness and realized that the creature could be out there looking for him. He pulled the logs away from each other so the flames would die down. He sat there and continued to warm his hands over the embers that glowed red and hot in the cold darkness of the forest.

The woman continued screaming, but Thorgaut tried to ignore it. After a while, she stopped. Thorgaut pulled his coat tighter and lay down.

He curled up as close as he dared to the embers to suck up their warmth without bursting into flames himself. That was the last thing he needed tonight out here alone in the dark.

Then the woman started screaming for help once again. He sighed and rolled over trying to block out the sound. He realized her screams didn’t seem to be out of desperation. At least it didn’t sound like the kind of noise someone made when they were hurting or in pain.

He figured she had been tied up and held against her will somewhere. That is if she really did need help. He didn’t like to think about what kind of person would do something like that to trick someone else.

Thorgaut closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep so he could get some rest before morning. He would head out as soon as there was light enough for him to see what was going on. There wasn’t much he could do to try to find her in the dark anyway. That dark creature would attack him again if he made any noise.

He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but a thought kept nagging at the back of his mind. What if the screaming woman didn’t survive until morning.

Thorgaut tried to rationalize the feeling away, but it kept bugging him. He knew he would never forgive himself if she did need help, and he hadn’t done anything to save her.

His friends would call him a coward for sure. Not that he cared what his friends thought because he would be the first to hold himself responsible.

Besides, what if this was an opportunity in disguise. Maybe a challenge from the fates to test his mettle and courage in the face of danger.

Or what if was his soulmate, and this was Destiny’s way of drawing them together? He smiled into the darkness. His mother always said he was a hopeless romantic.

The screaming and yelling started up again. Thorgaut knew he couldn’t lie there all night and wait for the light. He had to take action, and it had to be now. He stood up and worked speedily on the execution of his plan.

Thorgaut gathered his stuff in preparation for battle. He piled the rest of the wood he had cut earlier onto the fire. He broke and tore several more branches off the dead tree to toss into the flames as well. He knew the noise would attract the dark thing in his direction, so he worked as fast as possible.

When he was ready, he pulled out his pouch of mushrooms and took a large bite. He would need all his courage to fight this thing. Whatever ‘it’ was. Thorgaut knew this would be a fight to the death for one of them. He was ready for it.

He pulled out his canteen and took a swig to wash down the rest of the mushroom in his mouth. He felt a wave of fresh courage and boldness wash over him. It had been several weeks since he had been in a good fight. And he was ready for it.

“Hey! I’m over here you ugly monster.” Thorgaut yelled into the woods. “Come and get me. What are you waiting for?”

Thorgaut picked up the bow and quiver of arrows that he had left leaning against the tree. He turned away from the fire and walked into the darkness of the woods.

He went in the opposite direction from which it would come. He wanted it to walk through the light of the campfire to get to him. He wanted to see what it was that he would be fighting.

Then once he killed it, he would find the screaming woman. If she were in trouble, he would help her. Otherwise, he would kill her himself for all this trouble she had put him through.

Thorgaut hid behind a tree and waited outside the circle of campfire’s light. Everything was silent and still. Even her screams had subsided.

Thorgaut wanted to yell again. But the memory of that the dark thing attacking him mid-yell earlier held him back. He didn’t want to make it too easy for the creature to find him.

He realized he would be safer in the tree and climbed up it. He sat there for a bit, but nothing happened.

“Where are you? Come and get me you ugly creep.” Thorgaut finally yelled.

He continued to sit there for a bit, but still no movement or sound. He stood up on the branch to change position and stretch his legs.

Thorgaut had just taken a deep breath to yell again when he noticed some movement at the edge of his camp. He lowered himself back down on the branch to get a better view through the leaves.

He couldn’t tell what it was at first in the low light from the fire but continued to watch as it moved closer to the fire. The flickering light from the flames revealed more of its features with each step it took.

It was a man, or at least it used to be a man at one time. Now, it looked like a walking corpse. It walked hunched forward with its arms pointed out and down at a stiff, awkward angle.

“Broken Shufflers,” Thorgaut growled. He never understood why they were called that before. Now that he had seen one though, he realized the name made perfect sense.

These were the undead walkers who were controlled by wizards of old to do their bidding. He had heard of such creatures when he was a child. His mother and others had spoken of them. There were other names.

Venom vomiters. Scuttlers. Swarmers.

But he never actually believed they existed. He thought they were just old wive’s tales told to keep children in line and make them behave. At most legends of old that no longer existed.

Yet, here it was. One of these creatures was right there in front of him. The strange-looking being filled him with morbid fascination and dread. According to the legends he had grown up hearing, these creatures couldn’t be killed. They were already dead. The only way to destroy them was to cut off their heads and burn their bodies.

Thorgaut watched as the slow creature shuffled towards the fire. He found the sight of the strange creature fascinating.

The skin around the lower half of its face was gone exposing decaying yellow teeth. Its matted black hair was missing large chunks, but other parts of it stuck out wildly in all directions.

It was horrid looking. No wonder the poor woman had been screaming for help. He, Thorgaut Kabbisson of Ulfvergr, would kill this creature. He would save the damsel in distress. And he would make his mother proud.

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 4 – Attack!

Thorgaut gripped his sword tighter. He spread his legs wider and crouched lower into a fighting stance. He cocked his head to the side and listened intently into the darkness.

Listening for the sound of footsteps. Listening for the sound of anything strange that might be going on out there in the darkness.

“Are you still there?” he yelled out to the woman. “Come over here. I’ve got…”

Something large and dark came barreling out of the woods straight towards him. He could sense it before he heard it or saw it. It rammed right into him and knocked him over.

Thorgaut fell on the ground several feet away. The blow dazed him for a minute. The dark, bulky creature shuffled around the area where he had been standing. It was making strange sniffing sounds like it was trying to catch a whiff of his scent in the dark.

From his position where he lay, Thorgaut could see the massive dark form outlined against the sky. He couldn’t tell what that thing was, but it was no woman. He was sure of that. There was no way a small woman could have knocked him over like that. Thorgaut figured that whatever this thing was, it must be at least as big as he was, if not bigger.

Thorgaut’s dark clothes must have blended well into the ground in the dark. He was grateful for that. He raised his head and saw a glimmer of light in the darkness. His sword. He stretched out his hand. It was out of reach.

Thorgaut rolled to the side and pulled himself up. A twig cracked under the movement, and the creature stopped snuffling. It turned in his direction and took a step forward.

He stayed still for a minute, and the creature continued snuffling around in the darkness. Closer this time than before.

Thorgaut couldn’t see the sword any longer from his current position. He knew it was in front of him though and kept his hand still so as not to lose his place.

He felt about in the dirt for some small pebbles and twigs. His fingers found some in the darkness and he picked up a small handful. Thorgaut tossed one as far as he could into the darkness beyond the creature.

The pebble bounced off a tree trunk and made a loud thunking noise. The foul creature immediately stopped sniffing. Thorgaut caught whiff of the creature, and it really did stink. The stench emanating from it was horrible. He almost gagged and covered his face to keep from making any noise.

The foul-smelling creature whirled in the direction of the pebble’s sound and crouched down a bit as it listened for the sound. Thorgaut threw another pebble in the same direction. Only harder so it would go farther. He wanted the creature to think that he was moving in that direction.

The ruse worked, and the creature began walking back into the darkness of the forest the way it had come. Thorgaut stretched out his hand quietly in the direction of his sword. His fingers touched the blade, and he was able to pick it up without making any noise.

Thorgaut wished he had brought his bow and arrow with him, but he had left back by the fire. He rose from the ground with the sword grasped tightly in his hands. Thorgaut waited for a minute.

He couldn’t hear the creature moving around in the underbrush which was strange. He wondered how something that size could move around in the dark without making any noise. Especially since it hadn’t even seen him lying on the ground close by.

Thorgaut shook his head. That crazy woman screaming must have been a ruse to locate him. But who would be trying to get him? And why did they want him?

A dark cloud rolled out from under the moon which shined a little more light for Thorgaut to see. He took a slow, careful step forward while trying not to step on anything that would make noise. But that would be almost impossible till he got back onto the path.

So, he knelt down and felt around with his hands to remove any dry leaves or twigs from in front of him. When the area in front of him was free of debris, he crawled forward on his hands and knees.

Thorgaut felt silly for sneaking around in the dark. He was a Viking warrior by nature. He had never flinched when facing his enemies. Even when staring down the blade of their sword.

He had never been afraid to fight. He did not fear death. He wanted to die in battle so the Valkyries would take him to Odin’s lodge. He wanted to feast with the mighty warriors of old.

But this felt different. He felt like a thief sneaking around in the dark stealing someone’s chickens in the night. This wasn’t how he wanted to die here because this wasn’t a battle. If he died here, he doubted any Valkyries would come to take him to be with Odin.

This was ridiculous. He couldn’t even see his enemy to challenge him to a fight. He didn’t want to be murdered in the middle of a dark forest all alone at night. There would be no one around to give him a proper funeral burial.

So, he continued clearing the area in front of him quietly and crawling forward little by little. Thorgaut found his way back onto the path again. He breathed a sigh of relief and stood still in the center of the trail to catch his breath.

Thorgaut walked back up the trail ever so carefully step-by-step. Putting one foot tentatively in front of the other. Feeling his way along for anything that might make noise.

It took him awhile to get far enough back up the trail to see the fire. The flames had died down quite a bit in the short time since he had left camp.

He felt like it had been a lifetime since he had left the camp, but then everything had seemed so strange that day. He saw the fire and felt encouraged.

Thorgaut breathed easier at seeing he was back in his camp and hadn’t gotten lost again. Once he got back up into the light, he would at least be able to see what that thing was if it tried to attack him again.

He picked up his pace and started walking normally again. Then, halfway up the path, Thorgaut stepped on a small twig that cracked loudly under his feet.

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