by jack bauer
The decrepit wooden gates of the village towered menacingly, casting a swollen shadow on the snowy ground below. Korin teetered on his horse as it slowly crept down the frost-covered cobblestoned path. Not a single human noise spurred from the ghastly village, only creaks of old wood and groans of settling buildings and quiet shrieks of birds could be audibly heard.
Korin’s staff clanked against the ground as the horse steadily eased its way past the old, deteriorating huts that lined the sides of the path, sitting atop dirty snow mounds. Suddenly the horse veered back and began trembling, taking the old man by surprise.
“Settle down, settle down. What is it?” Korin said while stroking his beard. He suddenly felt something grossly brush past the hem of his robe draped over the sides of the horse like a curtain of dark fabric. He looked down to see, under the horse’s body, the gruesomely mauled body of a man. While there appeared to be several grotesque wounds sprawled across his tattered body, what stuck out the most, both literally and figuratively, was a rusted iron short-sword pierced deep in his side. A puddle of dark blood now mixed with mud and snow engulfed the man, the tip of Korin's robe wetted with it. Korin glanced back up, and several yards forward another lacerated body lied in an even more horrendous condition than the last. And then another ahead of it. And another.
There was a whole trail of bodies leading to the center of the village, where an entire mound of mangled corpses lay. While most of the bodies closest to Korin looked like they had died there, the ones located in the center piled up were not.
“WHO GOES THERE!” A vicious and abrupt voice shouted from somewhere down the road. Korin stood silently, both in shock and contemplation.
“Answer me! I-I’m warning you!” The voice stammered with great fear and angrier. That time Korin could identify where the voice was coming from, about a dozen yards down to korin’s left, behind one of the huts near the center of the village.
“I will tell you my name if you show yourselves! I am not here to cause more harm to you,” Korin spoke with poise and immense stoicism. After a moment in which Korin could faintly hear inaudible mumbling coming from down the path a lumbering, hairy figure emerged, another, slighting shorter one closely following. The larger one pointed a spear in Korin’s direction, saying, “Now tell us your name old man! And step off your horse!”
“I would like to be acquainted with your names first if you gentlemen don’t mind,” Korin said rather politely.
“He speaks like a nobleman but looks like a vagrant” the shorter one muttered.
“Well that’s not very thoughtful of you to say now is it?” Korin said, this time with a slight bit of dry humor to his tone.
“I am called Brynjärr, the man beside me is Ingolv. Why are you here?” The larger one shouted again.
“Well let’s slow down here, shall we. First my name. Korin Ry’Vane is what they call me. Mm, yes, indeed,” the old man said, almost talking to himself as if reminding himself of his own name.
“Aye, I once knew a guy named Korin. Galidonian Jackass, split his head open with an ax,” Ingolv said.
“That was Gorin, not Korin fot hode,” Brynjarr sputtered.
“Eh, same difference bror,” Ingolv replied with little enthusiasm.
“Well if you’re done bickering over nonsense, I came here looking for my son. He was taken by Galidonian knights policing the area earlier this week. I’ve been scared half to death for him,” Korin said in a change of tone.
“Well, if he was one of em’ knights those feigt noblemen took, you’re out of luck,” Ingolv said.
“Noblemen? What noblemen?” Korin questioned.
“Some wide eyed ridderlig bastards who came prancing out of the woods right after a swarm of undead started attacked the village. They just swooped in, grabbed a couple of our men, and went scurrying off like skog-alver,” Brynjärr uttered, his words barely understandable to Korin due to his thick, Norgic accent.
“Hm, interesting. Let me inspect the bodies. I pray to the gods my son is not one of them,” Korin said as he dismounted his horse and tethered it with a rope to a nearby stake. He walked forward and the two men followed. Korin skimmed through the bodies with his eyes, sorrow clouding his emotions as he realized the scale of the massacre. A dozen yards away on the other side of the courtyard, Korin noticed another man kneeling beside a small pile of bodies. Korin took a step in that direction to approach the man but was stopped by a heavy hand clasping his shoulder.
“That’s Ulf. Don’t disturb him. Let him mourn his wife in silence,” a now solemn Brynjarr spoke. Korin took a moment to honor the dead, another wave of sadness spreading over him, and then continued in the other direction. After a minute of glancing through the dozens of bodies, something interesting caught his eye. A body different from the rest, bearing galidonian armor with the royal blue crest imprinted on it.
“What was a galidonian doing here?” Korin asked.
“That’s a long story,” Ingolv responded. Korin skeptically approached the body and knelt down next to it. He was a larger man and had a massive chunk of flesh missing from his neck, a brutal, infected wound being all that remained. The man looked as dead as dead can be, but the old man reached out his hand and placed it on the corpse’s cheek. His eyes slowly closed, and a slow-moving energy suddenly washed over him. It was inhuman energy, a spark of life in its rawest form merging with power from somewhere far beyond this world. The two suddenly became one, thoughts and memories blurring into a haze. A single consciousness, as sentient as a human, but much more powerful. The metaphysical state of consciousness passed over as quickly as it came, and Korin opened his eyes. But he wasn’t seeing through his eyes anymore.
He was on a horse, in the midst of a group of knights poised on a hill. At the bottom of the hill, a dozen meters away was a tattered, dark-haired man sitting on the muddy forest ground wedged between the shadows of two large boulders. A voice suddenly spoke from beside Korin, or at least beside the person Korin was now embodying.
“My name is Sir Isaac Quintin, and you are under arrest by the Imperial forces for years of excessive plundering and looting of imperial cargo,” the voice said. To Korin’s relief and surprise, a familiar voice spoke up.
“Don’t worry, I got caught in the woods too. We are gonna be best friends!” It was korin’s son, Barran, standing nearby, hands chained together.
“Quiet you peasant,” a knight spat. “It’s Barran!” He shouted back only to be met with a shove to the ground. Korin couldn’t stand watching his son get beaten, but he couldn’t do anything. He could only see through the knight's memories.
“We are gonna have a lot of fun with you in the pit,” Sir Quintin said with a wicked grin.
The man at the bottom of the hill muttered something as the knights walked down to him and hauled him back up the hill aggressively. Sir Quintin then turned to the man Korin embodied. He had a weasel-like face, sharp and unresting. His polished goatee stuck out of his chin like a thorn on a branch, a pointy black mustache sitting above scowling lips. A distinctive widow's peak hairline separated his short, neatly combed charcoal black hair from his large, pale forehead that was accompanied by hawk-like brows.
“The four knights have still not been found. We found the corpse of one of their horses farther down from here in the southeast. Edgar, Tobias, head down in that direction and search for them. If you do not find them within two days, return to the company and we will report them as dead. If you do find them, head directly back here and I’ll take it from there,” the man spoke in a nasally voice.
“Yes sir Quintin!” The person Korin embodied, apparently named Edgar, said.
“Good. I will return to Calbourne Stronghold with this... 'Barran' peasant, to take him to the pits. Take as many supplies as you need. Godspeed men,” Sir Quintin said as he turned his horse and began tromping off into the forest.
“Let’s get moving shall we?” Edgar said again. It was an extremely strange sensation, having words of another person speaking from your mouth. What Korin was seeing were memories from several days earlier. Suddenly, everything faded to black, and the sensation was gone. Korin opened his eyes, back to his true body, kneeling next to the knight’s corpse.
“What in Odin’s are you doing?” Ingolv said from behind him.
“Oh, um, it’s nothing,” Korin said. “Well, I better get a move on.”
Korin mounted himself back on his horse, and just as he was about to leave, Korin remembered something.
“Do either of you know where a place called Calbourne Stronghold is?” He asked.
“Northern Willbridge in Galidon, along the Chastershire highway. Why?” Brynjarr asked.
“Hm. Well, thank you for letting me look around gentlemen. My deepest condolences for what has happened here, but I must be on my way. My son is still out there,” Korin said, avoiding the question.
“I hope you find your son. One last question before you go,” Ingolv stated.
“Yes?” Korin replied. The two men looked skeptically at one another.
“Are…are you a sorcerer? Were you doing something magical ‘er somethin’ with that corpse? Do…do you come bearing Ragnarok?” Ingolv hesitantly questioned.
Korin smiled. “All in due time my friend. Goodbye and farewell,” the old man said rather ominously, not answering any of the questions. The two men stood in confusion as they watched him ride out of the village.
Eventually, Brynjarr broke the silence. “What the hell just happened?”