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The Shadow Walker Chapter 1 by Liam Cotterill
Lightning flashed across the Bekon Forest, throwing distorted, inky shadows across the barren, snow covered valley floor. Far bellow the deafening waves of thunder, a lone figure weaved between the twisted pines. For many nights this being had ventured the endless snow squall of the forest, desperate and never tiring in his search. Cloak billowing as he ran, the coldness a constant hindrance, yet also a reliable ally. With the perpetual snow whipped valley surrounded by mountainous terrain, through which stalked beings he dare not imagine for fear of losing his sanity, he knew he could run no further. No further, that is, unless the old one was speaking true.
Many years had past since his chance encounter with the one his people call The Elder. Stories ran like wildfire between the tribes of the north, the people who once freely roamed the vale he now traversed. Some of the more eccentric referred to The Elder as the son of a god, who has walked the Earth since it was first created. Others spoke of him as a powerful practitioner of the old arts, with power that rivaled that of the God of Magi himself. Yet to him, he had appeared as nothing more then a crippled old man, with hardly the power to lift the oak branch on which he entrusted his weight. He spoke of the old days, when the People of the Gods, and specifically his tribe, had populated the Bekon Valley.
Many years on, his conversation with the old, crippled man still haunted him, even now in his waking thoughts. Back then he had been young and foolhardy, wasting his gift on impressing young and fanciful tribe girls around the fire, with pathetic vanishing acts always accompanied by his trademark puff of smoke. This image sent fresh tears rolling down his already ice caked face. Yet hardly had they left his eyes before they froze and added to those of the past few days. For it was no more then a week after that same display that those very girls' lives were ended, their spirits joining the Great Ones Above. He shook off this vision before it reduced him to the pitiful wretch he wished to escape. The horrors of that night had already taken so much from him, that he would not allow them take anymore.
He replayed the conversation over and over, as the storm slowed in it's ferocity, even showing a sign of possibly lessening in the near future. Suddenly, from high among the pines above, a shrill cry that tore the very fabric of his consciousness rent the air, endlessly echoing from the mountain walls. Quickly he turned, and in a smooth fluid movement drew this bow, a weapon that had claimed more then it's share of life in it's time. Having not eaten in a week, this bird was a gift from the God of the Hunt for certain. He raised the bow as he notched an arrow to the string. The small black raven looked considerably under fed, but considering it was the middle of winter, he could not be choosey. As he sighted the bird down the shaft, a soft quiet voice startled him and he sent his arrow meandering of into the distance, well wide of the hoped mark.
"I beg you sir, please don't hurt my friend." Turning sharply on the spot, he nearly sent the small girl flying from where she stood.