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Book excerpt

The two prone figures lay in the centre of the scorched field. Any grass or trees were either ashes or twisted souls looking on at the slaughter. Bodies lay all around as tendrils of smoke caressed their cold limbs, moving slowly across the horseshoe-shaped crater. The southern edge of the landscape gave way to a dense forest, whose trees were melded together in a brown and green weave that looked impenetrable.

The walls on the east and west of the crater rose high over the death and destruction, slowly falling at the northern edge where a raging river cut through the land on its way to the sea. The sunset, obscured by a thick blanket of cloud gave the crater a claustrophobic effect. The birds that circled overhead or that sat in the branches of the trees, looked on with interest, their caw-cawing the only noise to be heard apart from the crackle of tinder.

A giant rook landed on a blackened, twisted limb of a tree near the centre of the field, its beady red eyes searching out the best option for a quick meal. It knew what lay around him - meat was meat whether dead or undead. The bird hopped down from his perch onto a headless corpse, poking his beak into the cold yellow flesh where the head once rested. Slithers of meat were pulled away from the ragged stump as the rook feasted as fast as he could - before something saw him as a meal option too.

The rook ignored the two corpses further on that lay almost touching, their capes and tunics distinguishing them from the rest of the carnage. Both bodies were missing limbs. One had lost an arm and both legs below the knee, along with several gaping wounds across the body. The head almost severed - only the spinal cord barely held it in place as it lolled unnaturally to one side.

The white tunic was now no more than a bloodied rag. The eagle emblem across the chest covered in chunks of flesh and smears of charred earth. The other corpse had lost a hand and half its left leg. Its body was almost free of punctures, except for one in its chest that still had the sword that inflicted the wound lodged there. The black tunic was also covered in blood, the large blade had skewering the red spider in the centre of its chest.

The battle was over for now. The next stage of the war was about to begin.

Hibernation.

On opposite ends of the tree line, two groups walked through the smoke towards the cape wearing bodies. Their heads bowed as they trooped towards their masters. Two figures split from the packs, coming together in front of the bodies, one dressed in red, one in black.

“Looks like a dead tie. Pardon the pun, Elias,” the figure in black whispered.

“So, it would seem, Torg,” the red clad figure said. They removed their hoods to address each other face to face.

White skin meeting grey skin. Fangs facing tusks.

The larger black figure looked at the pitiful remains on the floor.

“This will take some time. Let's hope next time they meet it's finished once and for all. Then our Master will rule both lands, and maybe one day the other places too. When that day comes, my dear Elias, you'll bow down to him.”

“In your dreams, Torg,” the red figure spat. “Next time we'll be ready. He'll be stronger. Things are already in place. The race is on to see who wakes first, my friend.”

They beckoned their respective groups forward, hurrying to their masters, a stretcher being laid next to each of them. Carefully, they hoisted the bodies into the gurneys before setting to work binding the lost limbs back into place. The severed head was bound with strips of damp cloth and two wooden splints to hold it in place for the journey home, the limbs likewise until both groups gave a series of satisfied grunts and nods. The sword that protruded from the black figure's chest was left in place for fear of doing more damage by removing it.

“Deliver that back when the time is upon us, for Korgan will not miss the mark next time. Once he's slain his brother, he will close the doors to your land for eternity. Then you can feed only on the mutant beasts that roam that place. Let's see if that satisfies your hunger.”

Both groups parted to sneers and hisses as they made their way in opposite directions across the crater. They would not return here until the brothers were ready to finish the feud that had festered for millennia.

After Armageddon

After Armageddon

The Turning

The Turning