CHAPTER 1: TÓWEARD CWEALM, or THE LOOMING DEATH
20 YEARS LATER
The Keep of Eskillian and the village that backed up to its great western wall, were silent as the warm summer day became steadily colder. Doors were shut and bolted from the inside, shutters and boards were nailed closed against the once open windows. No child uttered a single sound, no laughter, no singing, no jovial noise; only the insane inducing silence that is fear, marked the village for it’s huntress. The keep, too, was less than lively. Servants went not about their normal business, instead they stayed in their rooms, huddled in small groups with whispers of nameless terrors on their tongues.
The only ones who made any outstanding sound were the omen like birds in the air, calling to each other and flying in the scent of the peoples’ fear and the knights who gathered in heavy armor with tight grips on their swords to do as their captain bid.
For twenty years, Eskillian had been crippled by the nightmare that had attacked them with frost and chill. The Ice Lurkers had traveled to their lands and upon what has been known as the Field of Wæterhelm, was where the Battle of the Ís was held; man against Lurker.
They never forgot the strong blow the humans had caused them. The Eskillians killed all but six, so they had assumed, and took a child from their clutches as proof of their evil ways. Eskillian thought the war was over, but truth be told, it was only beginning.
Every ten years, they returned, on the very same day that the human race tore away from them more than half of their kind. The few remaining traveled from the north, and before them came the impending freeze in summer known as the Tóweard Cwealm or The Looming Death.
This was that day. The day that all feared for that entire decade. It crippled all in fear except for one: Freya.
Freya tossed her brown braid off her shoulder with a short flick of her hand, and began running toward the northern gate. None moved about the keep this morning, for everywhere, people were frozen with fear and huddled in their bolted chambers. That gave Freya leave to do more unladylike things in the absence of company. She ran harder, her lungs burning in the oddly cold summer air. A shawl was wrapped around her arms, and she could feel the nip of the icy air on her nose and ears.
She turned the corner, her golden dress billowing behind her in her haste, toward a group of knights set at the Northern Door leading to the outside courtyard.
“Where is my father? I must speak with him!” she exclaimed without a thought of proper decorum or ladylike fashion.
The four knights immediately straightened their stance at her presence.
“I’m sorry, my lady, he is out among the battalion,” the one on the outer left said, his hand twitching nervously on the hilt of his sword. She mentally sighed. Everyone let fear take hold and choke them to death it seemed.
“Take me to him then,” she commanded with force, lifting her chin just a notch in order to remind them of her elevated status.
The one knight that answered looked at his comrades with a glance that showed his uncertainty.
“Absolutely not!” said a strong, deep voice behind her. She immediately knew who it was, for he made it his sole mission to make life as hard as he could.
Freya spun around, her braid whipping back in a motion that mirrored her impudence. Before her stood a man with a large yet fit build, with gray hair and sharp eyes.
“I do not take orders from you, Conrad! I said I want to see my father, and I intend to do so!” she said defiantly. She wasn’t normally outspoken, but it was imperative she see her father. She would not allow a man that seemed to have hated her from birth keep her from seeing him.
She slipped through the group of knights and opened the heavy wooden door and began running to the lines of knights that were set in the large cobble-stoned courtyard of the Eskillian keep. She could hear Conrad behind her, but she knew that even in a dress, she would be able to outrun him. The air was even colder outside, the wind whipping through her shawl and skirts as if she were naked, creating gooseflesh on her whole body.