EXODUS IN ICE
In the vast Fralorian landscape the tribe of giants were hunched over against furious winds. Kraglar, the tribe leader for over ten years since he challenged and defeated the previous head, marched at the front, taking the brunt of the blizzard. From the beginning of his rule over the tribe, the people had respected and trusted him completely; but now, after long days of misfortunate trekking, he could feel tension growing in the group. Even his most devoted warriors were showing signs of discontent. Kraglar couldn’t blame them; their journey had been accompanied by hardships since its onset, and Fralorians were brutally intolerant of incompetent leaders.
He had made the difficult decision to move the tribe from land that they had held for over forty years because of the increasing frequency of earth tremors in the area, and as if to validate his decision, after only five days of travel, an earth tremor struck, splitting the ground beneath one of the tribe’s best warriors. Morale immediately dropped, while the crack the warrior fell into filled within minutes from a sudden blizzard. They had now been trekking through that blizzard at an excruciating pace for six days; the exhausted children and elders were being carried on the backs of their equally exhausted but more abled tribespeople.
Kraglar was unusually atheist, for a Fralorian, and he’d only indulged in the religious practices of his tribe in order to promote unity. Now though, his mind was plagued with stress laden superstition, and he had come to believe that the storm was a manifestation deliberately created, by the gods of death and eternal frost, to hinder his duty to protect his tribe members. The swirling snow made haunting hollow sounds and morphed into visions of phantoms, so that although it was the middle of the day, Kraglar could hardly see anything beyond arm’s reach. Using his long spear, he quickly swiped at the shadows; most of his strikes glided smoothly through the air, but a couple hard impacts let him know to avoid large boulders and stray trees.
“It would be great if we could send out scouts,” Bagol, his right-hand man said laughing as he checked the tip of his spear for damage.
“What good are scouts if they cannot find their way back,” Kraglar replied tersely. He knew that the man was speaking facetiously, but he was too frustrated to indulge the comment.
The trees he’d struck had caused his heart to drop in trepidation at the realization that they were approaching a forest. In the original course they had mapped out, he had made sure to avoid any forests within forty days walk, especially the one nearest to them. Now, Kraglar could hardly believe how far they had strayed from their course to end up at Giltan Forest.
Even given the best circumstances, Giltan forest was to be avoided for many reasons, but now, in a blizzard, with a fatigued tribe, arriving there was another great misfortune Kraglar could add to his list of misfortunes they’d faced on their journey. Not only did various vicious beasts fill the forests, but part it was within the territory of their neighboring tribe. A significant part of Kraglar’s motivation to move, was to create distance between his tribe and Apuli’s. They were now deeper in the forest, and the trees were blocking almost all the snow and wind. Kraglar noticed the immediate relief in most his tribe, except the warriors who grew more tense and alert for potential dangers.
He called a stop for an hour to let them rest, then quickly began moving again, ignoring their protests and complaints. They couldn’t afford to linger, and he wanted to get back on track as soon as possible. As they wove through the forest, Kraglar consider whether he would prefer to encounter rapid beasts or Apuli’s tribe; although, he thought he’d probably have a better chance reasoning with the wild beasts. After they walked for some time, Kraglar saw a break in the trees, and got a chance to find an answer as they walked in on a pack of aglun devouring the carcass of some creature at the center of the clearing. He quickly and silently raised a hand to stop the group, then began signaling a retreat cursing his wretched luck and carelessness; a moment too late. The wind changed direction and as one, the pack lifted their heads, catching the scent of the tribe.
For a moment, the eight beasts watched them. Each had two pairs of glassy blue eyes and blood and meat still dripped from their fangs, staining their blue-tinted white fur that perfectly blended with the snow. Kraglar hoped the beasts would simply go back to their kill, but as expected, he could almost see the various degrees aggression and maliciousness creeping into their hungry eyes. The entire tribe stood still; even the youngest children knew the smell of impending death. With deliberate slowness, the alpha aglun flung the meat hanging in its mouth to the side. It opened its wide mouth, and let its split tongue roll out, then began inching its large body forward, ears perked up and fur standing. The others followed it in an instinctual formation.
Kraglar sighed inaudibly. He had spent weeks planning the journey, sent multiple scouts to check the route, he had even reluctantly allowed the head seer to hold a week-long group prayer. He’d done all he could in hopes that the journey would proceed with as little conflict and issues as possible, but this was the final confirmation that his wish was impossible. But he was surprised when rather than more frustration, he felt his body relax and release all the tension and stress he had been holding in since their journey began. He nodded and smiled in resignation, then raised his spear. The rest of his warriors followed suit, smoothly forming a defensive line between the agluns and the tribe who had already began inching back to give the warriors enough room. There was no Fralorian old enough to walk that didn’t know what to do in a conflict situation: fight or get out of the way of those who could. A few of the elders even smiled in anticipation. There was no greater joy for them than watching their young ones in battle.
The agluns roared and sprinted towards the group. Kraglar stepped forward and raised his spear, not pointing it in the direction of the charging beasts, but up to the sky. His twelve warriors stayed behind him and prepared to throw their spears. The agluns cracked the ground as the charged forward. Kraglar did not flinch. The agluns pointed their curved horns forward, their heads low to the ground, and bodies hunched to leap. In one motion, Kraglar twisted his spear and stuck the ground. Mid leap, the agluns appeared to freeze, and snow hung unmoving in the air. In reality, everything remained in motion, but they were slowed down beyond visible perception. The tribe, unaffected by Kraglar’s abilities, cheered as the warrior threw their spears, each dealing a fatal hit to the agluns. Kraglar released his powers, and the bodies fell.
The warriors retrieved their spear and usually they would immediately skin the animals and perform hunting rites, but being in Giltan forest, they quickly left, taking only two of the agluns with them. The use of time freeze was perceptible to all Fralorians, and with Kraglar’s potent powers, it wouldn’t be long before Apuil’s tribe arrived. Kraglar was exhausted from the use of the skill, but he increased their pace until they were out of the forest and could no longer see it. After twelve days of difficult travel, the persistent blizzard had finally calmed to a light flurry and the tribe walked with ease, back on their planned route. They traveled for a few more days before arriving at the edge of a mountain range. The trees opened up to clear skies, and Kraglar looked down beyond the rugged mountains to a frozen valley. It was unfamiliar land, but he was confident that within the valley, they would find their new home.