Harsh Sunrise

When he awoke, the world was black and wet and cold. Shivers ran through his body, his hair stood on end, and there was a peculiar taste in his mouth. The fire was out, and in fact, it smelled like there had never been one. His blankets were gone and the wall against his back was not mud, but wet stone. Arcturas stood in alarm and cracked the crown of his head against a low rocky ceiling.

He screamed and then swore and curled up in a ball holding the top of his head. He could feel a serious dent in his skull and warm wetness quickly covered his hand. Feeling suddenly vulnerable, he got to his hands and knees and felt out into the darkness around him, realizing at once that he was no longer in the place he'd fallen asleep.

He crawled and groped with his hands to avoid falling into any holes or hitting his head again. His eyes pierced the blackness looking for even the slightest glimmer of light to give him hope, but there was nothing for him.

His mind lit on the stories he had heard, especially the vivid stories told by Kelun, about the mythical creatures that were supposed lived in the Salasian mountains they had entered. A huge, mossy man-like beast with the speed of a lightning flash and the strength of a hundred men, breath like the deepest pit of carrion and teeth like knives, it was reputed to the flesh of men like it was a delicacy, beginning its meal by tearing a man's limbs off. He had paid little attention to such stories, but now he could not get them out of his mind.

And then, in the darkness, he heard a shuffling. It was not a quiet noise, but Arcturas was so frightened, he refused to believe what he had heard until he heard it, again. Something with weight enough to vibrate the earth beneath was only a short distance away and he was certain the beast had smelt him and heard him.

He leapt to his feet, again, intending to run and snapped awake in the gray dawn.

Not immediately certain he'd returned, he glanced at the coals of the fire he'd set last night. He toed them to be sure they were real. He inspected the trees and the mostly-grey sky and finally reached out and grabbed up a clump of wet dirt and squished it in his hand.

Another dream like that will kill me, he thought.

The End

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