Friday, September 6, 2013

"Warden" by Kevin Hardman (Novella)

Genre:  Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Part lawman, part tracker and part magician, the Wardens are monster-hunters - tasked with protecting the people from the various, nightmarish creatures that have invaded the world of men. However, despite being descended from a long line of Wardens, 16-year-old Errol Magnus believes it to be the absolute worst job on the planet: How could a single occupation simultaneously be the most boring, abominably stupid and extraordinarily dangerous profession imaginable? 

But when his older brother Tom - the current Warden for their region - goes missing, Errol has no choice but to enter the Badlands, where monsters abide in mind-boggling numbers, to find him. During his search, Errol crosses paths with - and finds himself stalked by - the legendary Wendigo, a monster with preternatural strength and speed, as well as enhanced senses of sight, smell and hearing…and an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

Now Errol must do the impossible and not only escape from the monster (something no one has ever done before), but also avoid the unearthly legacy it leaves on all its victims - a terrifying curse known as Wendigo Fever.


“Good Lord!!!” Gale shouted, going pale and bug-eyed, as well as placing a hand over her heart. Errol followed her gaze to the window, where he caught a quick glimpse of something…horrid. Ruinous, desiccated flesh clung lazily to a nightmarish, skeletal face. Small wisps of gray-white hair hung in random clumps from a dome-shaped skull that housed two lidless eyes.

It was only in the window for a second, and then the thing - some sort of ghoul - was gone, its footsteps clumping audibly as it apparently walked down the porch towards the edge of the house.

Errol grabbed his crossbow, already cocked and loaded, and raced out onto the porch. The skeletal thing was almost at the corner of the house when he fired. The bolt took it in the upper right shoulder, sinking in deep. Knocked off-balance and sent spinning by the shot, the creature fell off the porch and into the dirt.

Errol stood still, breathing heavily, with Gale behind him as the ghoul started to get up. He could now see that the bolt hadn’t just gone in deep; the head had travelled all the way through and was actually sticking out of the monster’s chest.

The thing reached up and gripped the arrowhead. With a grunt, it yanked the bolt out, spewing an arc of green ichor from the wound. Still holding the arrow, it began walking towards them. Belatedly, Errol recalled that he hadn’t brought any more bolts outside with him (not that he would have had time to cock and load the crossbow anyway). Reaching down, he pulled his throwing knife free of its scabbard and threw it in one smooth, seamless motion.

The knife flew true, straight at the monster’s throat. Almost absentmindedly, the creature batted the blade aside with the arrow it still held. The knife went into one of the porch’s supporting posts with a metallic twang, vibrating.

The thing closed the distance between them in surprisingly quick fashion, so fast in fact that Errol only had time to place himself protectively between Gale and the monster before it was standing right in front of him. It thrust the arrow at Errol…

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