The Origin Story of Monsters Book 1: Ogre Hunt
They say Knowledge is power, in this instance it is true.
Ogre Hunt snippet –
Off the Coast of Newfoundland, 953 A.D.
Brother Amdi gritted his teeth against the violent rocking of the drekar longship. By all rights, he shouldn’t have been here. His wrists were bound roughly behind his back, and his gut lurched in agony with every rise and fall of the cresting waves. Blood already stained his cassock through.
He didn’t have much time. That was perfectly clear. His fellow monks had even less.
All Brother Amdi had to do was hold on a little longer. To wait for his chance to do what the entire monastery had been trying to achieve.
I am the only one to survive. The responsibility falls to me.
The longship’s deck echoed with raucous laughter as the thump and drag of heavy weights scraped across the wood. Brother Amdi lifted his head. Two massive Vikings hauled the fallen, lifeless bodies of their two other prisoners toward the portside rail of the ship.
All these men were huge, battle-scarred, and heartily provisioned for the homeward journey after plundering the monastery in Denmark. Most of them were tattooed. None seemed the least remorseful that two of their three captured monks had expired less than halfway through their journey.
Brother Amdi couldn’t look away as the Vikings unceremoniously tossed the bodies overboard.
“No room for these ones in low storage, eh?” The Viking with a huge gut of solid muscle turned away from the rail and dusted off his hands, chuckling.
“Not unless you want to give up your own rations, Algeyr!”
Another round of blistering laughter rose from over two dozen men moving about the deck. Some trimmed the sails while others hauled great armloads of plundered loot into one massive pile toward the stern where Brother Amdi lay propped against the center mast.
“Trade your rations with the monk’s,” another man shouted.
The Viking who’d cracked the original heartless jest glanced at Brother Amdi and sniggered. “Not a fair trade. This one’s more likely to meet his end before Drengr opens the next barrel.”
More laughter followed, but the amusement died down as the crew steadfastly returned to their work. The ship was never willing to let anyone’s attention slip for long.
They still had a long way to sail back to wherever they’d come from. Even with the drekar’s long, slender build slicing across the waters of the Labrador Sea with staggering speed, now that the sails had been fully turned into the brisk winds.
Brother Amdi bowed his head, which wasn’t difficult to do with his strength so quickly leaving him. He sent up a silent prayer for the souls of his brothers lost to the sea.
“Don’t look so aggrieved, monk.” The Viking who’d been ordered to stand watch over Brother Amdi since they’d set sail stood four feet from the monk and the pile of stolen treasure. He glanced at Brother Amdi with a raised eyebrow, then nodded out to sea. “Your men got what they wanted, after all.”
“Oh?” Brother Amdi coughed, his gut raging with pain from the stroke of a Viking blade that had buried its teeth into his flesh. A dribble of blood escaped the corner of his mouth. It bubbled as he drew in a ragged breath. “What do you know of what they wanted?”
“To join your one god, eh? Or does meeting their end on a Viking ship prevent your people from reaching their final resting place?”
The monk had no reply to that. Perhaps Brother Langsom and Brother Thermund had come to believe in the Christian god through their work in the monastery. Many of the other monks had, merely by default. However, Brother Amdi knew the difference between centuries of studious devotion and the ultimate purpose for which his monastery had stood.
With great effort, he shifted his weight to the side and craned his neck to peer into the clear skies over the sea.
In the early evening of the day that would most likely be his last, the sun still hung high in the sky.
We are close to the peak now. The Summer Solstice is at its height, and here I am in the center of it all. Only a little longer…
He had to keep this Viking guard beside him interested. Perhaps even willing to listen to a few stories, the most important of which would reveal itself as the only truth Brother Amdi had ever known. As long as he lived long enough to fulfill it.
“Your tribe is powerful,” he muttered.
The guard shot him another sidelong glance. “What does a monk know of power?”
“Not much.” Brother Amdi coughed again, and another gurgle of blood rattled through his chest. “My brothers never stood a chance. We both know this.”
“None of you fought back.”
“It is not…our way. Even if we had, your tribe would still have taken everything.”
The Viking chuckled. “From a village of men who never learned how to fight? Of course.”
“We are—” Brother Amdi grimaced at a flare of debilitating pain as he tried to readjust his position against the center mast. “We are artisans. Our strength lies in the recording of knowledge.”
“Knowledge did not save you from the sword, monk.”
“No. Yet history has a way of protecting us from past mistakes.”
It had been a long shot, of course. Still, that one statement seemed to stoke the guard’s interest. Brother Amdi nodded toward the haphazard sprawl of plunder around his feet.
“What mistakes would a monk not wish to repeat if he spends his life hiding away behind walls and scrolls?”
“Not my own.” The monk sucked in a searing breath and risked a quick look at his overseer. The guard raised an eyebrow, and Brother Amdi took his chances with the Viking’s patience, hoping it would be long. “Have you heard the story of the elemental humans and their blood human rivals?”
The Viking snorted. “We take your treasures, monk. Not your stories.”
“Ah, but when stories are all we have, those may be the greatest treasures yet.”
A deep frown darkened the guard’s brow, then he folded his arms and nodded. “I’ll be the judge of that.”
Good. He’s interested. Please let me live long enough for the rest.
Brother Amdi grunted against his pain. “Long ago, two tribes from my homeland possessed powers that may have rivaled even the strength of Vikings. Elemental humans wielded control over earth, fire, water, and air. Blood humans were known to force new shapes onto the creatures of the land.”
The Viking clicked his tongue. “Death delivers a different shape as well, monk.”
“No, I do not mean death. This was the creation of monsters. Imagine a frog swelling and taking the form of a beastlike man.”
A low chuckle escaped Brother Amdi’s guard. “This power does not sound useful.”
“Oh, it was. For sowing war.” The monk spat a glob of blood onto the deck, though most of it dribbled down his chin to join the rest soaking his cassock. “These tribes battled for ages until the elementals had enough. They wished to end the devastation. In a moment of final retribution, they discovered how to do this.”
The Viking gazed out across the sea. While he remained silent, Brother Amdi noticed the man’s thoughtful frown.
He wants more. Give him more before he ends you.
“The most powerful of the elemental tribe gathered to stand against the matriarch of the blood humans. They imprisoned her in a silver coffin and buried her in the coldest waters of the sea. The Circle of Creation. Elemental magic was strong enough in this nexus of both tribes’ power to keep the matriarch at bay, dreaming for ten thousand years. When that was finished, the elementals covered the world in ice and snow and deadly cold.”
“To rule the world without their enemies, ah?”
“No.” Brother Amdi leaned his head back against the mast and closed his eyes. “Such a surge of power to end the war killed most of the elemental tribe. The survivors fled south in diminished numbers, thinking their duty fulfilled in their attempt to save humans from the warring tribes. The age of ice brought peace to the land, but the blood humans have not forgotten the betrayal. Or their queen buried in the depth of the ocean’s heart.”
The Viking chuckled. “And you believe this history of mistakes?”
“Yes.” The monk peeled open one heavy eyelid to glance at his captor. “My brothers and I come from the last few remaining blood humans.”
“Ha!” The man slapped a hand against his thigh and pointed at his prisoner. “You tell a fine tale, monk. It will not save you.”
He thinks it is a lie. They all do. As long as it keeps them dull until they witness the truth.
Brother Amdi glanced at the sky again, gauging how far they’d come since setting sail and how much farther the drekar had to go until it reached the perfect place within the sea.
His Viking guard squatted beside the pile of stolen treasure to rifle through the trinkets. He lifted a silver goblet and turned to smirk at the monk. “Such treasure kept by men who do not use it, eh?”
“We gathered and cared for some valuable items, yes.” Brother Amdi slowly slid his gaze to a battered, worn scroll, rolled up and tied with twine. “The most precious of what you’ve taken today lies in that scroll.”
With a gruff laugh, the guard unburied the aforementioned scroll from the piles. Rolls of cloth and a scatter of coins fell away as he lifted the parchment and shook it at the monk. “This is precious to you?”
“Not the physical scroll. The recorded knowledge within.” The monk swallowed thickly. “See for yourself.”
Smirking at the whole ordeal, the Viking jerked off the twine to unravel the scroll. “Your stories amuse me, monk. Perhaps this is the value of your people.” His smirk faded when he fully unraveled the parchment and studied it with a deepening frown. “What is this?”
“This is nothing.” The guard flicked a finger against the scroll, making Brother Amdi wince. “I had traveled half the world before I was twenty years on this earth, monk. I recognize languages you cannot fathom from where you’ve been hiding away inside stone walls. This is no language.”
“It is.” Brother Amdi nodded.
“Then tell me what it says.” The man shuffled toward the monk, still lowered into a crouch, and held the fully unrolled scroll before him. “If you have such knowledge, prove it.”
For the first time since seeing the Viking tribe rip through the monastery with their impressive strength, their whistling swords, and their complete lack of fear, Brother Amdi cracked a small smile. It was only a flicker at the corner of his mouth, all he could manage beneath the pain consuming his body and the rattling in his chest that came with every breath. Yet it was genuine.
He glanced one more time at the sky and envisioned their location within the sea. It was then he felt the nexus of magic wash across the deck of the drekar, unnoticed by the warring Viking tribe stealing his people’s treasures back to their home.
“As you wish.” Brother Amdi took one final glance at the Viking’s scowl, then turned his attention to the scroll.
Of course, it was no language the man or his tribe had ever seen before. The words had been lost to the human race for centuries, but Brother Amdi had spent his life studying and mastering the text. Like the others of the remaining blood human tribe before him.
His lips moved quickly as he read the incantation buried beneath millennia of history, waiting and hoping for the right moment to seize power once more.
As he read aloud, a cold, thick fog rolled across the waters like an oncoming storm. The light was blotted from the sky as the fog rose to the top of the highest sails, concealing the waters from these seafaring warriors journeying home.
Beyond the longship covered in mist, the Labrador Sea churned. Great, breaking bubbles rose to the surface, growing larger and rippling across the otherwise calm waves. The longship rocked violently above the watery chaos. Huge, thick vines of ancient seaweed rose from the ocean floor, unfurling across the tumultuous surface like a clenched fist slowly opening its many-fingered hand.
When Brother Amdi reached the end of the incantation, the waters stilled. The fog parted as swiftly as it had enclosed around the Viking drekar. The deck fell silent as over two dozen warriors gazed in awe and trepidation around them, wondering why the sea had acted this way for the first time in all their years of voyaging.
The Viking holding the scroll before the monk shuddered and tossed the parchment onto the pile of loot. “This weather makes as much sense as your story, monk.”
Brother Amdi nodded as his energy seeped from him. “My people never learned to navigate the waters like yours. We had need, yes, but no power over the seas. However, we did learn the value of patience. Centuries of it.”
The guard snorted and rose to his feet. “Your wounds have made you mad.”
“Yet they have brought me here.”
“Kapitan!” The cry rose from a Viking by the starboard rail. “Something in the water!”
Men left their stations to crowd around the one who’d shouted, trying to see what had caused the alert.
A long, slender rectangle of bright silver bobbed on the surface of the water, held up by a network of seaweed and vines spreading across the ocean as far as the eye could see.
The kapitan, a fiercely tattooed Viking with his head shaved on either side of a thick braid and missing his left ear, stomped across the deck to have a look for himself. “It seems someone lost their spoils at sea.”
The crew chuckled.
“Bring it in,” the kapitan ordered. “See what has been so generously left for us.”
These fierce warriors don’t know what is about to hit them. Find out on January 16th when The Origin Story of Monsters Book 1: Ogre Hunt comes out. Until then head over to Amazon and Download it today.