An ice-cold breeze whisked through the street of newly built houses. They were packed tight, conserving warmth. The houses had wooden frames and were either built with wood or stone. Snow covered the wood roofs, and the town slumbered. Fires heated the houses but left the soft powder snow to engulf anyone left outside. Drops of blood turned the snow the colour sanguine. Footprints had left their mark, from the manor-house to the barn. One end of the small village, to the other. A silhouette stumbled through the snow drenched in blood. The cloak would have once concealed him in the snow, but now, he stood out of place like a wine-soaked table-cloth. The fur that covered him was once rich, but now, it had succumbed to the stench of death, and had an energy about it, as if it had embraced the soul of its wearer; as if it were alive. Through his eyes, he could see his breath dissipate into the air. His nose, and fingertips were numb, yet he had been sweating. He looked forward, sluggishly reaching for the white-steel sword that slept in its bed, which strapped to his back. He screwed his bitter, bloodied lips, and stared at the two men standing outside of the barn but a few meters away.
The slow, screeching sound of the sword being wrenched out of its scabbard was clearly heard. The two men stood with wandering fingers which delicately smoothed the heads of their axes. The man stood, exhaling like an enormous beast. He was tired, hungry, and distraught. Masked by a hood, he walked closer. Scrunched lips, and a tightened jaw he began to walk as if he no longer felt pain. It had not been the first time he had suffered such wounds, and wouldn’t be the last. Only the outline of his jaw, and his eyes, which reflected the embers of the burning torch from the inside of the barn could be seen. Other than that, he looked like a bloodied white wolf. The man standing on the right side of the door stared back with an uncomfortable look and spat at the floor revealing a gap in his front teeth. He had prickled skin which appeared brittle and damaged. The one to the left stood taller; he was cock-eyed but shifted his eyes from the cloaked man, and his friend constantly.
“Put it away,” the one said, wiping the remaining saliva from his mouth. “You really don’t want to do that—It’s pointless now.” He smiled, then coughed from the brisk wind.
The man standing in blood-stained white fur two arm lengths away from the men in front looked passed them. He ignored their warning. When he looked through the crack of the door at a pregnant woman lying on her back in a pile of hay, something in him snapped. She was about to give birth, and he could not reach her. His hand started shaking, but his grip grew ever tighter. His eyes appeared to lose their green hue, and his remaining humanity seemed to have left his body. He saw a woman standing over her, dagger in one hand, shaped like a serpent, and a heavy armoured boot pushing down onto her shoulder. Every bone, every muscle—every inch of his body trembled. He had never lost the battle to his own darkness before—everything turned black.
“Thomas, Thomas!” a voice roared, “Wake up!”
A set of piercing green eyes opened and stared at the wall for a second before closing again. He gasped for breath, eyes half-open, as though he hadn’t been breathing. He looked at the wall on the other side of the room, and then up, to face the door. The wooden door swung open violently. Thomas jolted in his bed, “I’m up—I’m up!” he shouted. A man dived into the room. “Thor strike you down! This is the third time this week, Dad.” He said. The sound came quicker than the pain. His hand moved like lightning. Thomas let out a yelp. A bold red mark comforted his cheek—an early morning greeting from his father. His eyes were now wide open.
“Odin’s name did you just say?” the man asked. He closed the door and looked at Thomas with the same green piercing eyes as his son “May Thor strike me… do you never think of the words that spew out of your hog-mouth, boy?” he said. He crouched down in front of Thomas, and they looked like mirror-images of one another, only one who had lived longer. The man had a head of brown hair which tied into a ponytail at the back. He had a strange diagonal scar that started at the top of the left laughing line above his lip and went down to his chin. he forced a smile. He had large curved ears, a few tufts of hair hanging over his fringe, and put his one hand on Thomas’s shoulder. “Did you finish your chores?” He asked, in an over-zealous manner. “Bandages clean?” He pointed to the chest of drawers by the window, “Have you started making your leg wraps yet?” Thomas nodded his head, “have you cleaned the plates from last night, then, and eat the bark I left you?”
“Yeah, of course, I did. I always do it, and I’ve been working on those stupid wraps for ages. But why have I gotta chew that stuff anyway? It tastes like the back end of a horse!” Thomas stood up, “You’re supposed to be teaching me how to fight!”
“Should I teach you how to fight?” the man said, scratching his head, and walking around the room. He saw the linen wraps made, and he knew the dishes had been done already. His son’s behaviour had been perfect over the last few weeks. “You’re eight now,” he said, looking at the freckles on his son’s face and watching the small hidden smile he had which crooked his lips. “Do you think you’re ready?” he asked.
“I-I am” Thomas hesitated, gulping down his words, but still managed to pour them out.
“Okay, okay” the man scratched the stubble on his chin. “Okay, later on, we’ll play a game.” He smirked, and Thomas’s face lit up “If you can hit me—just once, I will teach you how to fight.” The man opened the door and turned his head to look at his son one more time. The smirk stayed, “If you can’t manage that, then you will learn every single trade in this village. Every single one.”
Thomas looked at his father, with a gleam in his eyes as if he hadn’t wondered what would happen if he were to fail “Deal,” Thomas said.