The Frozen Warrior By Lothar Tuppan
He had expected to have fallen by now. Part of him wanted to but his feet kept trudging through the snow. The cold had stopped bothering him and all he wanted was to sleep but some stubborn, thoughtless, and uncaring sense of survival kept him walking southeast across the arctic wasteland.
His sword hung reassuringly on his back. The furs he wore sheltered his body from the sharp bite of the cold. Only his face was unprotected and this he covered from his nose down with a strip of blanket. His large pack was lighter now that his tinder and food were almost depleted. He was starting to feel as empty as his meager supplies.
The powdery snow stretched out in all directions. It beckoned to him with the promise of a peaceful rest, pretending to be a comfortable down mattress instead of the frozen death he knew it to be.
With my luck I wouldn’t die. He thought with a self-mocking smile, I’d wake up with my leg frostbitten having to crawl.
His laugh drew frozen air into his lungs, turning quickly into a harsh cough. He spat bitterly into the snow, resigning himself.
“I don’t know why I’m such a fucking masochist.”
He kept walking.
After a while the landscape started to rise and the slight incline turned into a hill. He struggled to the top as the soft unpacked snow gave way under his weight, making him work to keep any ground. He wondered if the snow was conspiring against him since most of it had decided to nest in his boots. Reaching the top, he sat down, pulled off his gloves, fumbled with the straps of his boots, and pulled them off to evict the cold and the wet from them.
Just as he began to pull his boots back on, the wanderer’s balance shifted and he cursed as he fell over backwards, tumbling down the other side of the hill. The snow now proceeded to find its way into his pant legs as he rolled down the slope. He thought briefly of the proverbial snowball rolling down a mountainside, gaining mass as it rolls.
Coming to a rest at the bottom of the hill, the wanderer looked up and saw two figures not more than fifty feet away. An old man wrapped in furs similar to his own (except that the old man’s were quite a bit drier) was holding the remains of a staff in a defensive stance. He was fighting a Pyakani. Pyakani are particularly vicious lesser demons with a taste for human flesh. Despite superstition these demons do not like heat. They thrive in the cold.
The old man kept his back towards a stone shelter that was on the side of a hill larger than the one that the disheveled warrior had just come over. The old man tried to strike the demon’s windpipe with the staff but the swifter Pyakani grabbed the staff and pulled the weary defender off his feet. The adventurer realized that the Pyakani would finish the old man at any second. He quickly got to his feet and drew his sword. His talismans were lost and the pwinyan that the Jhokor had given him was used up. He would not have any allies to help him in this fight. His only magic was in his sword.
At first the Pyakani looked puzzled at the appearance of the wet and barefoot man wielding a sword that radiated power. Enough power to kill the demon. Instinct quickly took over and the mouthless snout quivered as challenge came back into the kill. The swordsman settled himself into a ready stance as he saw the bloodlust in the creature’s obsidian eyes.
Lucky for me that Pyakani never were very bright. He mused.
The demon lunged for him but the warrior was ready, parrying the lunge and following it with a downward slash that removed one of the six fingered hands from the demon’s arm. The Pyakani wailed as it stared in disbelief at its wrist that flowed like a fountain in a town bazaar.
“I’ve always wondered how Pyakani manage to howl like that without mouths.” the adventurer said as he thrust his sword through the chest of the demon. The wail became louder until the body of the demon turned to smoke. The Pyakani had only been sent back to one of the myriad Hells. The swordsman knew that it took more than a sword to actually kill a demon.
“My thanks sir,” said the old man as he came to where the warrior stood. “I’d like to repay the favor if I could. It looks as if you won’t make it too far in the shape you are in now. Come on inside and let’s get you warm and fed.”
“That sounds good. Thank you,” said the swordsman with a thick foreign accent as he started walking away from the old man; towards the way he came.
“Where are you going?” asked the old man.
“I have to go get my boots.”