Wolf Born: Sample only! The dull thwack of a crossbow, followed by a flash of steel from the undergrowth, merely emphasized Norarl’s general pessism life was a sinkhole that led to an early grave for those without immortality. Norarl deflected the oncoming bolt with the blade of his hand. It nicked his skin as it turned end-over-end before sinking into the soil tip first, quivering like a struck lance. Fool didn’t even use iron. Preparing for another assault, Norarl strained every sense, using his own skill as a tracker to sift through the ambient noises of the wood, filtering out everything, until, there was nothing, only silence. Something had changed to force his murderer to withdraw or perhaps lay in wait? Norarl scowled, no scuffle to suggest his assailant scarpered. It was as if the wood held its breath now, but for what? Oh yeah, this one was talented, knew when to hide, or run, when to shoot a crossbow, but neither him, or those of his friends not already dead, were trained, they didn’t even have the proper tools. All they ever had was opportunity and a bucket load of rightous anger. Norarl’s mood soured,even when they killed his horse like a common pig for the dinner table, he’d offered to leave and just forget. That’s when the villagers made it pretty clear how they felt about that. Norarl touched the back of his skull where the hair was matted with blood. No, they’d wanted him nailed to the stockade. Now they were going to find out just how annoyed he was at being stoned and getting that first nail driven into the palm of his hand, which was a screaming pain to draw out, while running for his life. Slipping his good hand into the ragged folds of his dark blue velvet coat, patched in several places with the dull brown contrast of leather and the odd trinket of rusted chainmail that softly jingled as his fingers fought with all of the collected junk in his pockets, until they grasped what he was looking for. Norarl pulled free a palm-sized steel plate that was plain to the point of starkness. The only thing to lend the device any sort of beauty was the blooded gleam of rubies, and garnet, set alongside black sapphires and quartz that shimmered like pale moonstones against the hardened grey of polished metal of a tool…If he dared walk that path once more. Norarl gripped the heavily weighted artefact… Damn! With his free hand, Norarl opened his coat and undid the top few bone buttons of his shirt, ignoring the fact that he was smearing blood all over the linen from the gore-leaking hole in his palm. Exposing the steel disc latched onto his sturnum like a parasite, allowing the crystals access to his blood, his body, even his mind, Norarl lifted the matching plate and pressed the device onto the disc. The two plates clicked together like interconnecting magnets and a surge of what Norarl could only describe as a burst of powerful static that ran from down his spine like a lash of burning energy. Standing straighter, Norarl took several deep breaths as the world around him shuddered into sharp focus of heightened sound, sight, taste…Damp earth, acrid copper…even musk…sweat or fear? Norarl blinked as the stark monotone of winter stung his newly cleared eyesight, a shaft of sunlight almost blinding him as it pierced his gaze with a fierce bright light lancing through the trees. A rustle had him reaching for one of two jet-carved knives sheathed at his waist, before he realised the noise was further than he thought and the foraging animal dwelling there was no danger anyway. Dismissing the shallow cut to his wrist, and which was already healing thanks to the device fixed to his chest, Norarl strode further into the shadowed gloom that was no problem for his night vision. Now to find his would-be killer and kick the living daylights out of the half-brained idiot who’d been stupid enough to let him live.