Chapter one of a book I am working on. Let me know what you think!
There was an unnatural stillness to the woods. The blood of the dying day painted the skeletal trees a pale shade of red, and not a single animal was there to bear witness. The sad wind blew its lament softly through the branches, carrying its chill to the young boy sitting alone on a fallen log. He shivered and wiped tears from his cheeks. It was a warm day, but it would be a cold, dark night.
The ogre watched from the shadows, hungry and impatient. Hair covered his body, brown and matted, thinning from disease. Red and yellow pus oozed from cracked skin on his neck and dried into a crust on his shoulder. He hunched behind a tree not far from the boy, and the smell of the young flesh made the ogre's mouth water. He wiped the drool from his chin with the back of a crooked claw.
The sun finally died, taking all the color in the world with it. It was time to feed.
The ogre moved silently from tree to tree, closing the distance to his prey. He kept his yellow eyes locked on the child as he crept, his mouth slowly curling into a toothy grin. The long hunger would finally be sated.
The boy looked up into the sky and smiled. He started to sing a haunting melody.
"When midnight plays upon the sun-washed field," his words echoed unnaturally around the forest.
The ogre froze in place, confused.
"The power shall be his to wield." The boy raised his right hand out to the side, palm down. "When sunlight fades to black of night," he slowly turned his palm up to the sky.
The ogre felt himself walking toward the boy. He tried to stop himself. He wanted to run away. He was suddenly colder than he should have been.
"The Nightchild shall rise to destroy the light."
Try as he might, the ogre could not control his own body. He walked around to stand before the boy, fear rushing out from the dark places in his mind.
The boy stood and looked up into the ogre's eyes. He then laughed and shook his head. "This is the first time I have seen what fear looks like in an ogre's eyes." The boy's voice was a mixture of child and man, as if two separate people were speaking through him at the same time. The ogre wanted to scream, but could not make a sound. "It is nothing like I had hoped it would be."
The boy laughed. It did not echo in the still air. The ogre screamed inside his mind.
"Calm down, ogre." The boy said.
He couldn't calm down. His mind raced as his heart threatened to break through his chest. He wanted to run as far away from this human child as he could. He wanted to hide in a tree trunk for the rest of his life.
The boy stepped closer. His eyes turned completely black, and he suddenly didn't look human any more. "I can see your fear," he whispered. "I can see what it looks like, cowering in the darkness of your mind." He placed his left hand flat against the ogre's chest. "Let me take care of that for you. It won't do us any good if it won't come out and play."
Suddenly the ogre felt like he was losing control of his mind. Something inside him started to screech and howl. His fear reached a new level, and he felt his bones threaten to crack as he fought against whatever bonds held him in place.
"Almost there," the boy whispered inside the ogre's mind. "Let us see how far your mind will bend before it breaks."
With a loud crack, the ogre's left shin broke in half. The force holding him in place kept him on his feet as the pain exploded through him like lightning.
"You thought you were going to feed on me, didn't you, ogre?"
The ogre's right shin snapped just below the knee. The pain caused the ogre's vision to go white. Every inch of his body felt like it was on fire. Only the magic from the human child kept him conscious.
"You should have tried while the sun was still shining."
In a series of quick pops, several bones in the ogre's body shattered. That was when his mind finally broke. He was swallowed into exquisite agony, swirling into the darkness of a welcoming abyss. He was fire, ice, air, earth, bone, and blood. He was no longer an ogre . . .
He was a hawk flying high above a plain. Every tiny creature moving on the earth below lived only because he allowed it. In the distance he saw smoke. He angled his wings to allow the wind to carry him in that direction. Soon, he saw massive army sprawled across the hills and valleys of the land below. He circled higher into the sky as the visions faded . . .
He was a wolf bounding through the woods. He felt his muscles flex and stretch with his strides. There was a sound in the distance. He slowed to a trot and silently made his way closer to the source. Humans were speaking.
" . . . Not nearly enough men. We can not survive this."
"We have more than enough men, Logan. Have faith in what I provide."
"He is right, Lord. How can we hope to defeat an army that size?"
"When the sun rises on the morning you will see what I . . ."
He was a squirrel jumping from branch to branch in a tree above the forest floor. A strange smell filled his nose. He jumped to the trunk of a tree and climbed down below the leaves to have a look around. Human corpses littered the forest floor all around. A soldier clad in simple trousers and a light brown tunic stood over several broken bodies, a bloody sword in each hand. The soldier was crying . . .
He was a bee flitting from flower to flower. A woman lay on the ground amongst the flowers. She coughed and called out to someone. Her body was covered in blood and flies began to gather . . .
He was a vulture circling high above. He watched the dying woman below, waiting for her to stop moving. A large man burst from the woods nearby, sprinting towards the woman. When he reached her he fell to his knees at her side. Another man emerged from the woods, walking slow, as if sneaking up on the others.
The vulture flew lower and landed on the branch of a dying tree. He watched the humans with interest. He could not make out their words.
The large man kneeling at the woman's side wore gleaming body armor. The blood spattered all over it did nothing to diminish the shine. The woman lay motionless before him.
The second man crept closer, a white spear held ready in his hand.
The armored man put his hands on the woman and a bright light shot up into the sky. The ground shook and sent birds to the sky all around.
The man with the spear faltered. Once he caught his balance, he ran up behind the armored man and ran the white spear through his back and out his chest. Blood dripped from its tip.
There was a bright explosion of white light and the earth jumped. The sound of thunder rolled off into the distance. When the light faded, the armored man was gone, a pile of glowing white stone in his place. A male child stood next to the pile of stones, looking confused and lost.
A small, glowing form rose up from the ground where the woman once lay dying. The vulture lost interest and too to the sky once more . . .
He opened his eyes and gasped. He was back in his own mind and body, lying on the ground. His body was broken. He coughed up blood and began to choke.
"You have only begun to see what I have to show you, ogre." The child was close but out of sight. "You need to understand before I can take the pain away."
A new pain exploded through the ogre's head. Black waves threatened to drown him in darkness . . .
He was a dog trotting along behind a young girl in a small village. The girl carried a clear stone in her hands, being careful not to drop it. She turned down an alley between two houses. The dog happily followed.
The girl approached a door and reached up to knock. Before she touched the door, it opened and a boy of the same age stepped out.
"Hi, Alani!" the boy said.
"Hey, Bastian." The girl's voice was a whisper. "Can I come in? I have something I want to show your father."
The boy stepped aside and raised his arm to the side in invitation. "Sure! He is in the back working on something." When the girl went in, the boy followed and closed the door. The dog was left sitting outside . . .
He was a cat sitting on a stone window ledge, cleaning his paw. Around him, people in fine clothing rushed about. Guards in shining armor stood guard to either side of a massive wooden door.
The cat stopped cleaning himself and jumped down from the window. He padded silently over to the big door, drawing disinterested glances from the guards. There was a small opening between the floor and the bottom of the doors just big enough for the cat to reach a paw under. He lay flat on his stomach and did just that, reaching for whatever might be on the other side. Voices inside the room argued, oblivious of the tiny, clawed intruder.
"It is not to be used by the likes of you!"
"You insult me, old fool. Who are you to decide how it will be used?"
"Both of you be silent!"
There was a loud bang, making the cat jump. He ran down the hall and away from the noise. The voices faded away behind him.
"It will be kept . . .
He was an owl high in a tree, minding his own business. The night was dark and cold. The silence was broken when a human girl cried out in pain from the forest floor. Curious, the owl hopped down a few branches to have a look.
Lying on the ground was a young naked girl. She was filthy and covered in blood. A boy stood over her, a knife in his right hand.
"Tell me where the stone is." His voice was strange, like two people talking at once. The girl tried to scurry away from him, but her arms and legs did not seem to move the right way.
"I have it!" she cried. "It is in my room, under my bed." She spoke quickly between sobs. "It is in a cloth sack."
"I hope you are telling me the truth." He spoke in an almost soothing tone. The sound was frightening. He leaned down next to the girl and placed a hand on her chest. "Lay back, girl." He said. "This will be over soon enough. Do you recognize this?" He held the knife close to her face. Her eyes went wide. "I believe your friend, Bastian is going to miss you quite a bit before he is accused of your murder."
The owl watched indifferently as the boy used the knife on the girl. The smell of her being opened up would surely attract the attention of other animals. There would be nothing left of her by morning.
The boy stopped his work on the dead girl and stood. He turned his head and locked eyes with the owl. His eyes were black as night.
The owl tried to take flight, but was suddenly unable to move at all. The boy smiled. He turned his right palm up at his side. Pain exploded through the owl's body as his bones snapped.
His eyes snapped open. His entire body throbbed with pain and he tasted metal. He was still on the ground, lying in a pool of his own blood.
The boy crouched down, close to the ogre's face. His eyes were no longer black, but completely white. "I believe now you understand."
He did understand. This child was not human. He was a powerful creature, capable of terrible things. He was the Nightchild.
"You have a choice before you, ogre." The Nightchild said. "Obey me," he reached a hand out and placed it on the ogre's forehead.
Every inch of the ogre's body felt as though it were on fire. He cried out in agony, the sound echoing off into the night.
"Or live forever with this pain." He took his hand away from the ogre's head.
The pain stopped. There was suddenly nothing the ogre wanted to do more than anything this creature demanded. "Please," he rasped, "no more pain."
The Nightchild stood up. "Wise choice, beast." His eyes began to glow. "But I am afraid the pain has only just begun. We have to get you ready."
The pain exploded through the ogre in wave after wave. He couldn't scream. He couldn't move. He couldn't think.
The world went white.
The ogre stood tall before the Nightchild. His body was no longer broken. His mind was clear. He felt strong and powerful.
"You understand all that I have told you, ogre?"
He nodded that he understood.
"Remember what I will do if you fail me."
"I will not fail," the ogre said.
The sky to the east began to lighten with the coming dawn. The Nightchild stepped up close to the ogre, looking up into his yellow eyes. "I have given you what you need to lead your horde. Use it."
The ogre stood taller. He flexed his muscles, relishing the new strength running through his body. "They will follow Grik," he growled.
"Grik?" The Nightchild laughed. "It has a name!"
Grik pounded his fists against his chest. "Grik!"
"Very well, Grik." He stepped back, smiling up at the ogre. "My name is Levi. Now go gather your army, then return to me here. I will be waiting. We have a lot of work to do."
Grik howled into the dying night, then turned and ran.
Levi stood watching the death of the night. The sun slowly crept over the horizon, chasing Levi's power from the land. It was his curse, and he would have vengeance for it.