I only heard about this yesterday, so I'm not sure I'm picking the best scene for this. Anyhow, the idea is to post a scene of no more than a thousand words that demonstrates high drama. That's pretty broad. DL Hammons is hosting the blogfest HERE.
Putting the whole chapter would be nice, since it builds up the tension better, but I'll play by the rules and start near the action. To bring you up to speed, Edo and Orcbait are a pair of elderly rangers out on a scouting mission to glean information about the mysterious army that is panicking all of the barbarian tribes. The king of the Alsean tribe, who is on friendly terms with the Greatlanders, has lent his best scout Zareg to help Edo and Orcbait with their mission. They have encountered a ton of refugees along the way, and this scene starts after the trio has snuck up on the campfire of another group of refugees one night. Note that the three have a small camp hidden away inside a clump of boulders a short distance away.
Edo silently counted. There were twelve figures scattered about the large fire. These barbarians were different from any he’d seen before. They wore nothing but loin cloths, even the women and children. Their bodies were smeared with white clay and then streaked with black, and more white clay had been used to make their hair stand up in spikes.
One man was more frightening than the rest. He was white from his bald head to his toes, except for a blood red ball painted over his ancient, leathery face. He was the only figure standing, and he pranced around the fire making wild gestures with his arms and speaking a strange tongue in scary tones. The other figures--Edo noted that three of them were women and two were young children--seemed to be half-listening to the man as they went about various chores.
Suddenly Edo wanted to retch. He saw that there was a thirteenth person in the clearing that he had failed to notice. This figure--Edo couldn’t tell whether it was man or woman--was lying on the far right side of the fire and two of the ghostly men were butchering the person with stone axes. He caught the stench of blood on the slight breeze.
Edo stopped another dry heave, quietly spat out the sourroot, and glared over at Zareg, who widened his eyes in warning to keep silent. When he could look again, Edo saw that one of the women was skewering a piece of the victim on a spit. Cannibals! They’re cannibals, thought Edo, his stomach lurching. He glared over at Zareg again, who motioned for them to crawl back beneath the trees.
When they could stand again, Zareg placed a finger to his lips and motioned them onward. They moved on in silence all the way back to their camp.
“Who in the name of Aronis are those people!” Edo hissed once they’d all settled into place.
Zareg scratched at his mustache. “I’ve heard of them before, though I’d hoped never to see them.”
Edo looked over at Orcbait, who looked grim and pale underneath his grime. They waited for Zareg to continue.
Finally Zareg said, “They’re as bad a bunch as has ever walked this earth, no better than goblins if you ask me. They kneel to the red moon; they--”
“What do you mean by that,” Edo interrupted. “Kneel to the red moon?”
“Just that,” Zareg said. “They think that the red moon has some sort of magic powers; that it can help or hurt them somehow. You saw that man with the red face? He’s their…their…well, you don’t have a word for it in your language. They, uh, think he can influence what the moon can do to them.”
“That’s crazy,” Edo said. “It’s just a moon. I know lots of people like to pretend it causes bad luck, but that’s just superstition.”
“Well, not to these people. They think it has magic powers. Anyhow--”
The companions nearly jumped out of their skins as screams and loud crashing sounds split the night, coming from the distant camp. A hideous roar followed, along with more screams. Closer by, the horses stamped and snorted. One of them whinnied loudly.
“Down! Down!” Zareg said. “Orcbait, go settle the horses, quick!”
Zareg dropped down and pushed dirt over the fire. Edo followed suit while Orcbait slid out of the hole and ran toward the frightened mounts. When all was black except for the bright light of the moon and stars overhead, Zareg and Edo sat as still as possible, listening to the continued crashing sounds. Another shriek split the night.
Edo leaned close to Zareg and whispered, “Is that what I think it is? I’ve heard that kind of bellow before.”
“A troll, maybe more than one.”
There was the sound of running feet. Zareg crouched and waved to Edo to duck down. Edo loosened his dagger in its sheath. The sound of running hesitated, and then continued…right toward their hideout.
Edo drew his dagger as a form, glistening white in the moonlight, plunged into the gap in the boulders and crashed directly into the companions in a tangle of arms and legs. Edo heard grunts and a shriek from the figure; a bony arm landed on Edo’s shoulder and a hand grabbed his hair. Edo fought off panic and shoved hard at the figure. He heard a loud grunt from Zareg and a thump, along with another shrill cry from the figure, just as suddenly cut off. Warm droplets spattered over Edo and he tasted blood on his lips.
All was silent save for heavy breathing and a faint gurgling sound from the dying figure. Edo peered hard at the shadows where the corpse lay. It was one of the cannibal women. Zareg yanked his dagger from the woman’s belly and wiped it on her loin cloth.
Edo wiped blood from his mouth and gingerly explored his hair where the woman had yanked it nearly out of his head. He found himself wondering why Zareg had killed the woman, but he knew the answer without asking--they couldn’t afford to attract the attention of a troll.
“We’ve got to get out of here, now,” Zareg muttered. “Trolls can smell blood from miles away; that’s probably what drew them to that camp to begin with.”
“There’s plenty of blood to keep any trolls happy,” Edo whispered, “but I wouldn’t want to stay here now anyway.”