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Rise of the Nightmare Crestmaster

Chapter 3 A Not So Normal Morning

The year: 2462 A.A.C

Vorian, Drnaine, Wakefield

First light shined splendidly on Wakefield. But the wind carried an icy chill as if it would rather bear snow. The wind beat on the cloak of a young man.

The young man walked leisurely, if not sluggishly on the small hills of the pasture some of which were only half-green in clear stalemate between winter and spring. Behind him trailed a semi-neat row of sheep. On regular bases he would stop and allow the sheep to graze here and there, and then move on.

The young man would stop watching the sheep and look over his back once in a while as if looking for something and seeing nothing out of the usual he would get back to shepherding the sheep. And he would go over his actions again soon after.

? Gusts plastered Aldrich"s cloak to his back, then streamed it out behind him. He wished his cloak were heavier or that he had a fireplace out in the field to draw out the cold off his bones.

More than two years had passed since the incident, everything returned to normal and Aldrich never dared to try something like that again.

He ran his hands over his eyelids drowsily, he barely had any sleep last night, and when he did, he dreamed of terrible nightmares. If only he could remember what they were about. Suddenly he could feel himself shivering, uncontrollably, perhaps it was for the best that he couldn"t remember after all.

As a particularly strong blast tugged the cloak out of his hand, he looked over at Dan, the farm"s yellow dog. He did not feel foolish to have to reassure himself that the dog was still there, it was that kind of morning.

Ever since he woke up he felt jittery as if someone was watching him, making him look over his back only to see nothing.

The nightmares themselves were not unusual. Rather the increasing frequency was. Moreover he was certain it was the same nightmare repeating but he couldn"t remember what it was about.

Nonetheless dwelling on nightmares won"t serve him any, certainly it wouldn"t fill his empty pockets or his dry belly.

It was pointless to keep jumping at shadows all morning and work is work. So rather than trying—without success—to return to sleep, he decided to start the day early.

The wind howled when it rose but aside from that, quiet lay heavy on the land. Too quiet he realized with a start.

His hand unconsciously reached for his bow, nocked an arrow and ready to draw. No birds sang in the forest, no squirrels chittered from a branch, not that he expected them to, not this early into spring anyway.

But he knew something was wrong when he didn"t hear the sheep bleat. Sheep bleated all the time, even at midnight and especially when they were taken for grazing.

Today was the same, but at some unknown point while he was busy with his thoughts, they went completely quiet.

He looked left and right hesitantly. The only time something like this happened was last year, that was when a wolf attacked the sheep, his arrows were useless the wolf was too close by the time he noticed, and too fast.

This time it was not the same though, last time the sheep went running everywhere but now they were only shivering in place like something plastered them there. Cold sweat covered the back of his neck.

Ever since the ruins incident he promised himself he would be prepared for anything. And today he was indeed prepared, at the first sign of any such danger he would immediately flee.

What happened last time was just a fluke, his luck was just good enough to survive that time, and he had no intention to put that luck to the test again.

His Crest had not awakened in the last two years, pity, so long as he was an ordinary human it would be idiotic to put his precious life in danger.

However after a while nothing happened, and Aldrich began to feel foolish. He didn"t intend to run at shadows, it would be hard to explain to Mr. Isger why he abandoned the sheep.

He felt he was being watched since he started on his chores this morning and kept looking behind his back only to see nothing, the stress was clearly wearing him down. This was an awkward morning made for unpleasant thoughts indeed.

That feeling was so persistent he almost got used to it, he did try to shrug it off and evidently failed. Such sleepless nights would take a toll on any man.

He looked around again, nothing moved or made a sound among the trees, except the wind. The sheep were just taking a break, he ought to take one too, before he made more of a fool of himself.

But the feeling not only persisted it grew stronger. This hair raising dread, he was extremely familiar with it. The same feeling he had when he awoke from the nightmarish sleep. The hair on his arms stirred, he looked over his shoulder.... and blinked.

Not even three meters to his left, a cloaked figure stood, dull and unglamorous. It was more habit than anything else that kept his hand from loosening on the arrow. The stranger"s cloak covered him from head to toe, no part of him showed.

The shadowed opening of his hood fascinated Aldrich. He could see only the vaguest outline of a face but he had a feeling that he was looking right at the man"s eyes. And he could not look away.

There was only shadow to see in the hood, but he felt pure hatred, hatred for everything that walked the land. Hatred for him most of all, for him above all things.

He took a step back, a stone caught his heel and he stumbled, falling on his butt, breaking his eyes away from the dark figure.

Bow and arrow fell out of his hand, breathlessly he pulled himself upright. Bare-branched trees offered no hiding place, but the stranger was gone.

Heart pounding against his chest, without a look to spare to the sheep, he only managed to tell Dan to keep guard.

He ran with all his might, vaguely he could tell that he probably never was this fast before. And not nearly as fast as he would like to be.

A minute later he wished he told Dan to protect him not the dammed sheep! But it was already too late, his legs will not turn back or slow down even if he wanted to.

But his attention was mostly on the Evergreen woods that he knew all his life, he explored most of the surrounding area and he knew it like he knew Mr. Isger"s farm, he knew every field and stream and lake, but today these woods were not the place he remembered.

He decided to focus on the slippery path back to the farm, it was empty and there was not a sound to be heard.

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