Alastor continued the journey, steadily leading his mules deeper into the wooded country, further than he had ever ventured. He kept to the road and that made him uneasy. It was midday but he had not encountered any other travellers. News must have spread regarding the wolf pack.

He guided his mules up a slope and sat behind a low grassy rise. From this vantage point, he ate his lunch and watched the road.  

Suddenly, riders came up the road from the direction of Theron’s Cross, as the junction had come to be called. They rode at a fast trot.

It was Sabas and his two companions, the same men whom Alastor met a day earlier on the path near the hills. For men tracking wolves, they were headed in the opposite direction.

They stopped at the spot where Alastor had turned off the road.

‘Hello there, Alastor, my friend,’ called out Sabas. He looked this way and that. ‘Hello!’

Alastor was hidden, seated as he was behind the rise, but Sabas must have guessed it to be a good spot to rest. 

‘Hello Alas—ah, there you are, my friend,’ said Sabas. Alastor had stood up.

‘What brings you this way,’ said Alastor, remaining behind the rise.

‘The wolves,’ said Sabas, ‘their tracks led us in this direction.’ He grinned, exposing his yellowed teeth, and his companions smirked but fidgeted as they tried to calm their nervous horses. It was obvious the animals smelled fear.

Alastor moved to the top of the slope, one hand grasped the sword handle, the blade resting on his shoulder, and the other gripped the short bladed kopis. He was ready for a fight and that wiped the grins off the faces of the three men.

‘We mean you no harm, my friend,’ said Sabas.

‘As you said, there are wolves about,’ replied Alastor. He was about twenty paces away and had stopped at the crest, giving him the advantage of height.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***

Context: During ancient times, meeting strangers on the road can be froth with risks.

Note: I shall borrow a word, phrase or the theme from your comment—a maximum of five primary comments or until the next post, whichever the sooner—and develop this story via my replies. Thank you for your assistance.

***

 

14 comments

  1. Sabas is determined to find Alastor. That, and his grin and his companions’ fidgeting, suggest Alastor is only sensible to get into a defensive position. Trust can only ever extend so far when one is set on a quest.

  2. Thank you to: Paul, Willow, Jane, Windy and Ian – that makes it five primary comments and contributions.

    Comments are now closed. However, if you wish to participate, look out for the next installment on Friday 19 Jan 2018.

    Have a great weekend, all,
    Eric

  3. My understanding is there were more than wolves to fear in prehistoric Europe. Cave drawings depict many dangerous animals that were eventually hunted to extinction as populations increased for survival of settlements and for their hides. Let’s see what shape the wolves eventually take. 🙂

    1. Perched on the tree, Alastor was confident he was safe from wolves but sooner or later he had to climb down. Seeing how panic stricken Sabas and his companions had been, Alastor harboured no illusions that they will return soon. In any case, why should they, since their encounter had almost led to blows.

      Life was harsh and he did not regret having to kill the molly. But he wondered whether the other two mules were safe. When the animals bolted, he had not heard any howls or sounds of chase.

      That meant the—and where were the wolves? Or, wolf.

      His situation had turned dire. He could not possibly remain on the tree. The horizon would devour the sun within hours. And darkness always conceded advantage to the predator.

      What manner of beast was stalking him?

      Hello Ian,
      You are right about the numerous predators that once roamed Europe. Sadly, many had been hunted to extinction.
      Wishing you an enjoyable weekend,
      Eric

  4. So who is the real “wolves” ? Did Sabas get wind of the lodestone and map, because his grin can’t be anything good? Or is there something larger and fearsome than mere wolves in the wood? I am loving this dangerous turn of events.

    1. Alastor untied and removed the baggage. The mule, knowing full well its master, sensed his intention. The poor thing’s eyes rolled in fear.

      He bent and the kopis in his hand flashed, stabbing the molly hard through her heart. The animal uttered a harsh bray and its knees collapsed under its weight. The legs stretched taut. Then, with a sharp blubbery breath, she died.

      A terrible howl erupted all around Alastor. He stiffened, weapons again ready. He waited for the attack. None materialized and he had still not caught sight of a single wolf. Not even their scent. If the pack was circling him, the wind would have carried their smell.

      It was now or never.

      He dashed for the nearest tree, a pine, and clambered up to the highest branch. Heaving from the sudden burst of exertion he looked down. Nothing. No wolves. The grassy ground hid most of the blood leaking out of the dead mule. And the hastily discarded pack-bags lay where he had dropped them.

      A fleeing prey usually triggered a chase. But the wolves had shown unnatural self-control. There was something else that bothered him. Something that he only now realised. The sound of the howls.

      There was only one animal!

      Hello Windy dear 🙂
      I notice some of your comments are fashioned to steer the story into the realms of mythology. I had been trying to resist that – LOL! Let’s see where this takes Alastor.
      Thank you for your constant presence and comments,
      Eric

  5. Your story is moving along nicely. It reminds me of Robert Cole’s medieval journey across Europe into Asia as depicted by Noah Jordan in his book ‘The Physician”. He traveled in a group as protection against marauders feared even more than wolves. I love your verdant image which visually draws one into the journey.

    1. Alastor feared wolves. He respected their clanship, their perseverance and resourcefulness. They knew when to attack, to withdraw and lick their wounds but they never gave up. They always brought down their quarry. Always.

      He moved slowly to his agitated mules and released two of the three animals and shooed them down the road. The mules, much cleverer than men gave them credit, galloped away in the direction of Theron’s Cross.

      Alastor watched, but no wolves emerged to give chase.

      He turned to the remaining mule, an old faithful nearing her end. She would not have the stamina to keep up with the young males. And if the wolves caught up, she would face an agonising death—ripped apart and eaten alive. He had to save her from that gruesome death.

      Hello Jane,
      Thank you for your ever encouraging comments. I am not familiar with The Physician – looked it up – not in our local libraries.
      My Friday posts are turning out to be quite a challenge but I am enjoying it.
      I hope and trust you continue to enjoy how the story develops.
      All good wishes for the weekend,
      Eric

    1. The fleeing men had the advantage of speed. But Alastor, left alone, had to act fast.

      What was that? Did something move behind the trees or was it his fevered imagination?

      Wolves were unlike bulls, they never struck headlong. When stalking, the pack always circled and tightened the knot. Cautious, studying their quarry, seeking weakness, smelling fear. Instilling—fear.

      Another howl.

      Alastor’s blood ran cold. He threw up his lunch, coughed and tasted the sour. He sucked in deep breaths and gradually felt better. He had overcome the initial panic, and grew confident. It will be a good fight. A good death.

      Hello Willow dear,
      You’re right, wolves are not always dangerous. Unless they are hunting, protecting their young and so forth.
      Have a great weekend ahead,
      Eric

  6. ‘Alastor noticed the two with Sabas carried xiphoses in their baldrics but Sabas–like himself–opted for the better slicing blade of the kopis.

    The horses remained restless and the mules, huddled behind Alastor, fidgeted. Something, somewhere in the woods, frightened the animals.

    Sabas paused and stared at Alastor. The irony of his comment was not lost on him.’

    Hi Eric!

    Not sure if that is the way to respond and, if not, please disregard. Great story so far, quite engaging. It’s fascinating to learn new words from the old world.

    Take care, my dear friend, and I look forward to the next installment!

    Warmest wishes,
    Paul 🙂

    1. Alastor noticed the two men with Sabas carried xiphoses in their baldrics. But Sabas had opted for the better slicing blade of the kopis.

      The horses remained restless and the mules, huddled behind Alastor, fidgeted. Something, somewhere in the woods, frightened the animals.

      Sabas paused and stared at Alastor. The irony of his comment was not lost on him.

      Just then, a howl rose and filled the trees around them. The fearsome sound was much closer than Alastor had heard back in the hills.

      Sabas’ stallion reared in panic, throwing him heavily to the ground, and shot off in the direction of Theron’s Cross.

      Instinctively, Alastor crouched, his weapons ready as he scanned the trees. The mules had turned decidedly unruly. He had tied them to a small tree but knew the knots will not hold for long.

      Sabas, who had been stunned by the fall, recovered. And amidst much shouting, one of the men lent a hand and pulled him up to his horse.

      Another long drawn out howl surrounded them. Alastor could not locate the source. He turned slowly, seeking shadows and disturbed brushes.

      Sabas and his men, taken by surprise and giving in to primeval panic, urged their horses and raced off after the fleeing stallion.

      Well, hello there dear Paul 🙂
      I did not quite expect an actual continuation but welcome it – and decided to use it.
      Thank you for the beautiful contribution.
      Best regards, my dear friend,
      Eric

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