The Village of Yamor'i
Year : 498
Josef’s voice rang loud and clear in the house as he gleefully announced his return. He swung the lantern around in an arc before placing it on the table near the door. Falling to a knee, he held out his arms in a welcoming embrace as he prepare for his two daughters to leap up and hang around his neck. But the greeting never came.
Puzzled, Josef called out for his wife and children. “Neri, Gladys, Brinn? Where are you?”
As he crossed the room to the kitchen, he expected to hear the sounds of dinner – boiling water, a crackling fire, knife on stone – but he was greeted with emptiness. Crossing the threshold, he realized, suddenly, that the normalcy of his life was being thrown askew. He pulled out his knife, a blade he kept on him for cutting ropes and as a last defense should he be caught without his axe, and listened. The sound of the home was unfamiliar and it unsettled Josef. He suddenly found himself wishing he had not worked so late into the night.
A crash outside caught him off-guard and he dropped his knife. Recollecting himself, he slowly bent down and picked up his blade, inching through the kitchen to the back exit. Stopping near the counter, he switched it out for a meat cleaver before continuing. Reaching the outside entry, he took to a corner and peeked around the edge, keeping to the wall as much as he could.
He saw outside, Gladys’s doll, her current fascination, sprawled on the ground, abandoned. Just beyond, near the giant cedarglenn where he had constructed a swing for his daughters, was a body. Hunched over on the ground, it was quivering, shaking in the shadows of the great tree. The moonlight was not enough to penetrate through the leaves and branches, even in its full form, but there was enough light for Josef to see.
“Who are you,” he demanded, his voice naturally raised in a shout. “Where is my family?” He took a courageous step forward into the clearing behind the house.
The body, still hunched, shook violently at the sound of his voice and he saw the head move in his direction. Fearing for the safety of his family, Josef took another step forward, bathing himself in the light of the moon. As he moved, so did the body, though it never stood. It moved across the ground, as if crawling, and Josef had the horrific thought that his family had fallen victim to the wilds of the woods. Yamor’i was far off the traditional maps, and they often faced wild animal attacks, but nothing so ruthless. Anger and vengeance filled Josef as he tore across the clearing, his knuckles white with the fury with which he gripped his weapon. His voice, coated in hatred, rang out across the night.
As he swung, the beast leapt and caught his arm, batting it away as if nothing. Josef pulled back defensively, his mind racing. The creature, however, did not fall back on all fours. It stood there, on its hind quarters, glaring from the shadows. Josef charged in again, intent on tearing the head off the beast, but before he could react, a large, powerful claw ripped open his chest. Collapsing on the ground, he noticed the creature finally fall to all fours and emerge from the shadows of the cedarglenn.
“W-w-wolf…?” Blood spurted out of Josef’s mouth as he uttered the word. The wolf whined and bent its head down, nuzzling the nape of his neck with a tender touch. The approach of armored feet startled the wolf, and it fled into the woods, but not before licking Josef’s face.
Then his world went dark. An Elvish voice, spoke as Josef’s breathing lessened. “Lothandalar was correct; the experiment is a success, at least partially. His Majesty’s troops will grow a hundred fold and there will be none who can stop his rule!”
Josef felt himself being lifted into the air and being dragged away. In the distance, a wolf cried out to the moon, and it was soon joined by two companions. These were the last sounds that Josef would ever hear.