Read the beginning here.
I jerk my head to the side, and teeth graze my cheek as the beast lunges. I feel the hot sharp slice and a trickle against my skin on the side of my face. The stench distracts me from my pain.
I grab at its neck as it pulls back to lunge at my face again. I squeeze. Its fur is stiff and wiry against my hands.
Another dog snaps at my wrist, grabbing it in its jaws.
I don’t hear my own screaming.
I feel something pulling at my foot. Another dog is struggling with my boot.
The first dog, the beast on top of me, pushes against my hands. His breath is hot on my face. The warmth feels so good. He edges closer. I’m not strong enough to push him back, and the other dog is still chomping on my wrist.
I kick. I twist. The dog on top of me is too heavy. His teeth come closer. Closer.
My left hand stops working. My right hand slides up from the beasts neck to its eye as it plunges toward me. I feel wet and warm as my thumb plunges into its eye socket.
The thing jerks back. It helps. I roll and use the momentum to hit the thing that’s still chewing on my wrist. It jumps back with a snarl. I find my club in the snow and swing it, hard, taking it on the side of the heat. It backs away. The one that was tugging at my boot is gone.
I struggle to stand in the snow. It’s knee-deep here and stained crimson where my head was. The warmth is oozing down my face. It’s keeping me warm. At least, I think it is.
I turn. Where’s Tannen? Where’s my mentor?
He’s on the other side of the pyre. He’s snarling just as much as the dogs. “Get back! You can’t touch him!”
I call out, “I’m fine!”
The tall man glances back at me. “I wasn’t talking about you!” He has time to gesture to the pyre before he swings his club at the dogs again.
I huff. What? He doesn’t care about me? He was protecting a dead body instead of his apprentice?
A little dog – the little sick one I had started trying to drive away – he’s nosed his way into the pyre.
I don’t care. Who cares about what happens to the dead body? He’s dead already.
“Aydrik! Stop him!”
Oh. Tannen noticed.
I take a step toward the mangy thing. I heft my club. The dog sees me and whimpers. It backs toward the coals. It’s limping.
Protect the dead. That’s what Tannen would say. We must honor those who have gone before by giving them a clean pyre. That’s why we bother trying to protect the bodies when we burn them.
The dog whines.
I drop the club. “Git!” I shout.
The mutt runs out into the cold, cold darkness.
Tannen rounds the pyre. “They’re running. Did that one disturb anything?”
I glare at him. “I’m bleeding.”
“Yes. Put some snow on it. Did it damage the pyre?”
I yell, “The dogs tried to kill me! Look at my face!” I try pointing. My hand flops at the end ofmy arm. I look at it. I scream.
Tannen snaps, “There’ll be time to take care of that later. We need to watch the fire!”
I swear at him. A lot. A stumble away.
I don’t care about the dead. I need to find help or I’m going to be joining them.
Read the next part here.