Newsletter exclusive - Meet the Wraith Hunter
Below is a scene from Book 2 of The Tales of Territories series, Monsters in the Mist. This scene is from the point of view of the Wraith Hunter. Enjoy!
He had planned the incursion into Shadow’s Reach down to the second. It had gone well. Just as he thought it would.
Even the surprise that had come his way had little impact on his timing.
His Scouts had done exactly as was required of them. But that was to be expected.
They were the best of the Horde.
The humans on the wall behaved no differently than they had every other time his Scouts had tested them. They were focused on his Wraiths to their front.
No creativity. No vision. No real grasp of what was really happening.
They never thought that one such as he might sneak by them. They never worried that a single Wraith would scale the wall on his own during the larger attack and enter the city. They never realized that he had slipped through their defenses before the fight on the wall even began. They never considered why he might take the risk.
If he chose, he could clear the balustrade of the soldiers in seconds. All on his own. That’s why he led. Because of what only he could do.
The humans wouldn’t understand that they were under attack from behind until they were breathing their last.
But there was no need for him to do that. Not yet.
His Scouts could kill the humans just as easily as he could. Yet they had restrained themselves. Just as he had ordered. Because that hadn’t been their purpose.
The tall, almost emaciated figure in the mist snorted in disgust.
He stood at the edge of the Murk, the fog that sustained him, that nurtured him, that gave him his strength, slowly retreating to the north.
Toward the Wyld.
Toward his home.
He shook his head in disappointment. There was little challenge here.
The humans were such fools.
So easily tricked. So easily distracted. So overconfident.
He had slipped over the wall right between two soldiers, the humans completely unaware that he had passed right by them. The only reason that those fools had learned that his Scouts were there on the wall was because his Scouts had allowed the soldiers to discover them.
It had been necessary if he and his Scouts were to achieve their larger objective, even though they chafed at the deception.
He had scouted Shadow’s Reach several times before, testing the city’s defenses. Finding them lacking. Confirming time and again that when he brought the Horde, conquering this city and putting its residents to the blade would offer little challenge to his Wraiths.
Today was supposed to have been one of the last tests. He had wanted to make certain that he hadn’t missed anything that could affect his larger plan.
The Wraith Hunter had learned nothing new the last few times his Scouts had scaled the wall, other than the fact that the humans offered a weak and unimaginative defense. He hadn’t believed that there was anything more for him to learn.
Not at the wall anyway. He knew how the humans would fight. He had mastered their strategy and their tactics.
As a result, he had sought to explore the city. He had wanted to walk the main boulevards himself and put his eyes on the fortress being built in the center of the town, from where he assumed the bulk of the soldiers defending the city would emerge.
So that when the Wraith Horde came, they would know what to expect once they scaled the wall and entered Shadow’s Reach. They would know how to kill the soldiers before they even reached the wall.
When he had gazed through the faint wisps at the towering Northern Peaks to the south, the Wraith Hunter had admitted to himself that all this preparation likely wasn’t necessary. In every way the soldiers defending the city were inferior to his Scouts.
The humans would fight bravely. They had demonstrated that, and more credit to them because of the limitations they faced in the Murk. Unfortunately for them, courage could take them only so far in the battle to come.
Slaughter more like.
Even so, the Wraith Hunter had felt the need to do this. To take the risk.
He had tasted failure for the first time not too long ago. And from a quite unexpected source.
He had no desire to taste it again when so much was at stake for himself and the Horde he commanded.
After leaping down from the balustrade to land silently on the cobblestoned alley, the Wraith Hunter, hidden within the gloom that had blanketed the city, had walked along the bottom of the wall for more than a hundred yards before finding what he was looking for. A larger boulevard, this one broad enough for three wagons at a time.
He had planned to walk down this avenue until he reached the fortress.
He had little to fear from the residents, all of whom had been hiding away within their homes, doors barred, perhaps even some kind of weapon held in their sweaty palms. Believing that they were safe from him.
They wouldn’t realize that their belief that they could protect themselves was false until his Wraiths broke down their doors and slit their throats. And that wouldn’t take long at all.
The only way to escape his Scouts was to escape the Murk. But these humans wouldn’t escape. When the Horde came, the Murk would settle over the human lands forever.
It would be a glorious time for him. Even more so for the Wraith Lord. But not yet. Not until he was certain that the time was right. Thus, his decision to scout the city on his own.
While his Scouts attacked the wall for a specified period of time, the residents would remain off the streets, allowing the soldiers to fight for them.
Yet even if he hadn’t been back over the wall before his Scouts returned to the north, the Wraith Hunter wouldn’t have been worried.
The fog would have blanketed the city for however long he remained. The Murk wouldn’t return to the north until he did. He could explore his strange environs for as long as he deemed necessary.
Because of that, he had been looking forward to the task he had given himself.
Yet he had glided no more than fifty yards down the wide street when he had been forced to stop abruptly.
A lone man had stood in the center of the avenue, blocking his way.
Peculiar, he had thought.
The human hadn’t been dressed in the garb of a soldier.
He had stared at the man, trying to determine his purpose. Yet there was little that he could discern about him. The man was no more than a dim shadow in the gloom.
The man stood perfectly still, not making a noise.
Strangely, this lone human had made him uneasy. The man had held a gleaming sword in his hand, obviously well maintained. And by the way he had been standing, the human had appeared to know how to use it.
He hadn’t been concerned at first. But appearances could be deceiving, as he well knew from his humiliating experience in the Murk while chasing the boy. The only quarry to ever escape him.
The Wraith Hunter had grinned. Somehow, this human had known that he was there.
Nevertheless, the Murk would hide him, just as it always did.
The Murk would hinder the human. Because the Wraith Hunter was a part of the Murk. Came from the Murk. Lived in the Murk. Drew his energy and spirit from the Murk.
Because of all that and more, he believed that just like all the others, the combat would be short. Still, the Wraith Hunter had looked forward to it.
He hadn’t engaged in a real combat since he had faced the boy.
He had pulled his daggers from the sheaths on each hip. He had glided through the fog, barely disturbing the billowing grey.
And then the unthinkable happened. Thinking about it now infuriated the Wraith Hunter, making him reach for his aching thigh.
Despite the Murk, the human had displayed a remarkable skill, fighting based more on instinct than on sight. The human had made the Wraith Hunter work during their brief combat. More troubling, the human had wounded him, the shallow slice across his thigh still burning.
For a second time, he had been bested by a human.
Just like the boy had not so long ago, this man had scarred him.
His failure to kill the boy had shamed him, his wounded foot a constant reminder, still not completely healed and throbbing during the cold nights.
He had thought his hunt for the boy an anomaly. A lesson, in fact, not to become overconfident. To tame his arrogance so that it didn’t guide his decisions and his actions.
The man he had fought on the street in Shadow’s Reach had reminded him of that lesson.
He had not learned all that he had wanted slipping over the wall. But he had learned enough.
Before he invaded Shadow’s Reach, he needed to kill the boy and the man with the blade.
Only then could he regain his honor.
Only then could he ensure the victory of the Wraith Horde.