Nov 4, 2011

Tales of Tyria - Chapter Three: Cracktooth

If you missed it, here's a link to the previous Chapter.
Skoldur awoke the next morning and was pleasantly surprised to find that the storm had passed during the night leaving behind a gorgeous blue sky.  Wanting to get started on his journey, he had a quick breakfast of porridge and then began packing.  After taking stock of what he had, he made his way to the artisan's and merchant's districts to purchase a few items he was lacking.  He already had his Greatsword and a pair of daggers so he was set for melee.  He had a hunting bow that he mainly used to catch lunch and dinner with, but he was down to just two arrows.  There were several fletchers in town and after some haggling, Skoldur got two dozen arrows with which to fill his quiver.  He was intrigued by a stall selling rifles and pistols, but never having used one before he concluded that now was not the time.  "Besides", he thought to himself, "they're awfully noisy -- and if there's one thing a Hunter knows, it's that you have to be quiet to surprise your prey".
After getting some hard biscuits, a recent map and a new waterskin, along with a new pair of gloves, Skoldur felt prepared for his duel with Cracktooth.
He set out early in the morning in high spirits.  As he crossed the snow-covered meadows north of town though, his thoughts turned to the countless corpses that lay buried under the snow.  These fields are where the town would fight the various creatures corrupted by Jormag.  Although it looked pure and pristine, the snow hid the remains from many a battle.
Shaking off his melancholy thoughts, Skoldur entered the forest.  He spent the rest of the day heading roughly NE, switching between forests and glades.  He was acutely aware of how much less life there was compared with the lands south of Hoelbrak.  He saw no tracks from any large mammals, very few from rabbits or squirrels and the woods that would normally be filled with birdsong were oddly silent.
When Skoldur finally decided to stop and make camp, he was glad for the biscuits he had bought as he hadn't found anything else to eat.  He made a simple lean-to between some trees and laid out his fur bedroll to sleep on.  He debated making a fire for warmth, but decided that the risk of attracting unwanted attention wasn't worth it.
The next day dawned clear and bright.  Skoldur made a small fire to melt some snow so he could restock his waterskin, then made himself some porridge.  All the while remaining attentive in case the smoke was detected by something else out hunting.  His caution was unnessecary though and he cleared camp and continued on his trek.  Today, he had to climb up to a large valley between two peaks.  This alpine valley was the home of Cracktooth.  
As he neared the base of the trail up the mountainside he saw the unmistakable plume of a campfire up ahead.  Curious as to who would be out here, Skoldur advanced cautiously towards the source of the smoke.  His path lead him through a thick stand of aspen.  As he reached the edge of the trees he spied three Norn sitting around a large fire in the middle of the clearing.  Skoldur was about to stand up and hail them when one of the men turned to face him, causing Skoldur's blood to freeze.
In an instant, Skoldur realized that these were barely Norn anymore.  Their skin was pale and their hair was trimmed with hoarfrost.  These were Sons of Svanir -- Norn who mistakenly chose to follow the dragon Jormag thinking it would bring them great power.  This was a lie -- what really happened was that the Norn would slowly lose their minds until they were Icebrood, fully in the thrall of the dragon.
Despite the quickly approaching dusk, at least one of the Sons of Svanir must have spied Skoldur because he got up and took a few steps towards the forest in Skoldur's direction.  As he debated pulling his bow or gambling on how much of their minds these Norn might have left, there was a sudden "Ka-caw" from the tree directly above him as a raven suddenly took to the air.  The Norn who had stood up stared a few more long seconds in Skoldur's direction and then decided that he'd been tricked by the raven into thinking he had seen a man where there obviously wasn't one.  He returned to the fire and sat with his companions again.
After silently thanking the spirit of Raven, Skoldur made sure that the three were engrossed in whatever they were doing and then slowly backed away.  Once at a safe distance he turned towards the slope up to the valley and began to climb. 
By the time he reached the top of the slope and saw the valley stretched before him, night had almost fallen.  He began looking for a suitable place to camp, but instead of a campsite, he found bear tracks that we're twice the length of his own feet!
Skoldur knew they were fresh tracks too.  The bits of plants that showed through the snow were still trampled, not having had the time to spring back up.  Even though the sun had just about set, Skoldur knew he wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.  He was too excited and the situation was too dangerous.
He drew his bow and began to slowly follow the tracks.  As he walked, he studied the spacing of the paw prints and the patterns of disruption to the snow.  He quickly deduced that the bear had to be a good 20 feet long from snout to tail and was probably at least 10 feet tall at the shoulder.  It was moving slowly, probably foraging for berries frozen under the snow.
And then Skoldur heard a grunt from in front of him.  Just as quickly, he realized that he had made a mistake.  So intent was he on tracking the beast that he had neglected to pay any attention to the faint breeze blowing through the valley.  As the grunt turned into a roar, Skoldur knew that he had lost the element of surprise.  The roar had changed to a huffing as something large charged towards him from the darkness.
Skoldur saw a thick tree and hurriedly climbed it as high as he could.  No sooner had he secured his legs and drawn his (now pitifully small feeling) bow than a huge, hulking shape appeared below him and stopped.
As Skoldur drew back his arrow, the great bear Cracktooth turned his head to stare at the tiny Norn, trapped up a tree.
You can continue reading the next Chapter here.

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