Griever groaned as he tried to sit up. His vision was blurry, so he couldn’t make out his surroundings, but he didn’t care. All he saw was his last moments conscious. They had made it to the cliff, only to have found archers set up on the other side of the Devil’s Palm. Abysman had taken out the Left Tusk. And then they had taken Griever’s men out…
Before his eyes, Nathan, Kirk, Jabe, Hecter, Gaebron, James, Luck, and so many more people Griever had drank, battled, laughed, cried, and lived with for over ten years died. He even remembered how they had died. Nathan took an arrow for Griever. The man never did look out for himself enough. Kirk lost his head trying to keep an eye on the cliff. Jabe took an arrow in the back. The list went on…
“Dammit…” Griever said, cursing Abysma. How had they set up an ambush around the White Boar’s ambush? How had they gotten so many men? The reports said the only concentration of Abysman soldiers in this area number just below a thousand! They had had enough to take out the Left Tusk and set up before the Right Tusk had been harried to the cliff. It had been a slaughter!
Griever groaned, somehow knowing this was the end of the White Boars. The Captain had probably escaped, so it wasn’t all bad, but this wasn’t like other defeats. It was crippling. And still one question bubbled to the surface of Griever’s mind, taking precedence over his worries and inquiries.
“Why am I still alive?” Griever had asked this before. After his first battle at the age of fifteen, he had run looking for adventure and found it in the madness of battle. His first employer had put him in the front lines and, against all hope, he had survived. He was the only one of the mercenaries to do so, making the lord who hired him annoyed. It had made him wonder if he had some uncanny luck, but he knew it was just coincidence.
Now, he wasn’t so sure.
The world cleared up as Griever’s eyes adjusted to the bright midday sun. He couldn’t move, but still he saw all the bodies surrounding him on the slope leading down to the Devil’s Palm. Not just a few, he noted proudly, were Abysman blue. The rest, of course, were his own brothers in the White Boar. Not a single one showed signs of life.
And then the pain hit.
It started all over his body in the form of bruises, then exploded from his right shoulder until Griever cried in agony. He had been stabbed, shot with arrows, and even bashed in the head by an unfriendly bar basher who couldn’t take a joke, but never had Griever felt this kind of pain. He only had enough time to register his missing arm before the darkness of sleep – or, more likely, death – took him.
When Griever next woke, it was night time. Memories once again flooded his head. His brothers, dead, his arm, gone, his family, probably disbanded. Tears tried to well up in his eyes, but a movement stopped them instantly. Old battle instincts kicked in, only to be stopped by Griever’s numb, unresponsive body. He couldn’t even move his head.
But he did notice he was in a forest clearing now.
“The prophet was right,” a voice said, “She told me ‘The one you seek will be held by the Devil, surrounded by Death, Decay, and Treachery’ and I find you, Bloodfist.” From the voice, because Griever could not move even his head, Griever guessed the man who was talking to him was at least in his forties and knew him. Never a good sign unless the man was part of the Travelers.
Griever swallowed to clear his dry throat and tried his best to be intimidating. “I don’t know who you are,” he said, voice cracking slightly, “But you better kill me if you’re my enemy. There are more valuable things than life.”
A chuckle escaped the mystery man. “Well said, Survivor. No wonder it chose you.”
Tingling in Grievers face told him whatever drug had stopped him from feeling his body and moving was wearing off. Now all he needed to do was buy enough time to escape. Even with one arm, Griever was confident he could take on at least twenty men by himself. Or was that his ego talking. Bah, it didn’t matter either way, he was getting out of here. He needed to find Captain White if he still lived.
“What chose me?” Griever asked first, deciding to humor the man into rambling. He could almost turn his head. Was that a campfire? And was he cooking rabbit. A rumbling noise came from what Griever assumed to be his own stomach.
“The Gear, of course.”
“Gear? The hell you talking about?” Was it some kind of new machine or something? How would a thing chose Griever anyway?
Another chuckle sounded off, making Griever realize he was going to punch the next man to chuckle like that if he could. Defenseless or not, it was ticking him off. “I didn’t think you would recognize it,” he said, “But you will in time. Can you hear it’s voice?”