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Sookie eventually began to lose track of how long they strolled for. She kept her eyes glued on the man's hood, as he walked on foot beside her, guiding his horse along as she sat astride it. Sookie wasn't used to riding on horse-back; Her legs began to grow stiff and cramped. But she would have preferred to ride the magnificent stallion any day, other than have to walk afoot as the man was. His name was still a mystery to her, as was many other things about him. She kept herself on-guard regardless of his sworn word not to hurt her; He had done nothing as yet to win over her trust. Trust is a gradually earned thing, Sookie knew. It would take time and gestures for her to completely let her guard down around him and consider him worthy of faith in her books.
They must have trudged on up high slopes of hill silently for hours, because brighter daybreak slowly started to settle in. She noticed the man kept his hands covered in thick gloves, and his face concealed in his hood, as orange rays of sun started scanning before them. Sookie wondered if he had some type of skin ailment that rendered him allergic to the sun.
After a while, they rested for a brief space of time. The man took a swig of his flask, but he did not offer any of what he called the 'life of essence' to her, probably because he already knew she would decline again out of wariness of him. She watched him as he appeared to search the ground; Apparently finding something, the man crouched down a few steps ahead of her and examined the ground. Sookie ground her teeth, wondering what he was doing, when he cast his head to the ground and pressed his ear against the earth. He seemed to be listening intently, and she held her breath as she observed him wipe a scoop of dirt off the ground, smoothing it between his fingers pensively.
There were tracks; Four-footed prints laid on the earth. Eric knew what it meant. Wolves were near, probably a large clan of them. He began to grow uneasy. His lips curled unpleasantly, as he recalled certain events that happened years and years ago.
Eric was startled awake at the sound of footsteps among his kingdom running frantically. There were loud cries. The house servants ran for cover. Immediately, he drew his sword to go investigate. He went into the main room, where feasts were served, and found it disturbingly quiet. His bright steady eyes inspected the room. Pots and pans where strewn everywhere among the ground. His mother's body lay in an odd position. His father was somewhere near.
He caught sight of a long shadow moving about in the house. Wolf-dogs slithered around the house; their coats glistening. Raising his bright sword and grinding his teeth, Eric crashed into the room, prepared and ready to battle for his family. Were-dog's turned their heads into his direction at his stealthily movement; Their yellow eyes bright and their teeth bared at him. Several wolves growled at him, and he lowered his sword aimed at one of the dog's chests.
"Who are you, and what are you doing in my family's land?" he asked the blurred-figure that stood a while away. The figure was long and slender, and he wore a dark cloak around his form. A hood covered his head and disturbed his features beyond distinction. Eric gasped as his eyes took in his beloved father's crown glistening in the man's hand.
"Don't be a hero," the figure spoke. "You lack a warrior's heart."
Eric lowered his blade as he heard an alarming noise. His father coughed and spluttered from where he was laying.
He turned his eyes back onto the figure holding his father's crown. His eyes hardened. "Who are you, I said?" He demanded. "Answer me."
Eric strode forward, keeping his feet width apart for better movement with his sword. His grip on the hilt tightened, as he got himself into a defensive stance.
"Do not be a fool," the figure said coldly. "It would be unwise to attempt to go against me."
"Eric, my son," his father breathed hoarsely from his position on the floor. "Come. Come bid me farewell, my lad."
After the shadowed figure disappeared, he finally remembered his father was lying on the ground. He was sitting with his back to his wife, and Eric's mother's body, as if he was only resting from a lengthy battle that had taken place. But as Eric approached him cautiously, he quickly saw different. He had been pierced by a sword directly through his chest. The blade responsible had been pulled back out the instance the man guilty fled. There was blood puddled everywhere.
Eric laid beside his father's body. Ulfrik opened his eyes slowly and endeavoured to speak to his son. Instead, blood gurgled and incoherent words choked on the back of his tongue. Eric bent over him, pressing his ear against his lips to hear him. Not a single word came, so he lifted his head and peered down at his father. His father's moist gaze strayed to the ceiling above him. He was drifting.
"Father," Eric whispered desperately, taking his hand and kissing it. He wiped his father's long matted hair away from his sweaty brow with care. "Father, speak to me!"
His father's eyes closed wearily. Then he opened them and attempted to speak. "Farewell, my son. I feel the end is near. I am dying."
Eric felt a sudden fear gnawing within; He was suddenly terrified. "Nay!" he cried tremulously. "Nay! You can't leave me!"
"You know what to do, my lad. You know what must be done." Ulfrik smiled at his only son. Eric kissed his brow, and leaned in closer to listen. "Vengeance..." Was his last and final words.
"Vengeance? Vengeance on who, father?"
But Ulfrik did not speak again.
Eric sat for a while, bent over his father's body, weeping, his head bowed with intense grief. And then a rage started boiling within him; Anger so intense, so crippling, that he began to shake all over.
'They all deserve to suffer,' he thought to himself bitterly that day, 'Everybody. They failed to protect my father. Damn the whole kingdom! They, who let the enemy into the house like cowards; they, who did nothing to assist their king and my father. Vengeance will be brought on all, worthy and unworthy of it. Where is loyalty? It is non-existent now!'
And he kept loyal to his father's word ever since. He got his vengeance on burning village to village, but nothing presented him more satisfaction than the idea that along with burning each village to the ground, there was always the possibility wolves were burned along with the ash.
It wasn't regular townsfolk he had intended to kill; Most got in the way of the wreckage and perished in the hellish flames he brought onto the town. He never knew the name the murderer of his family went by, but he prayed eventually, one of these days, he would be consumed in the flames; That sole notion brought onto Eric immediate comfort and clarity.
He did not burn village to be a villain. He did it out of his father's last, undying wish for vengeance. As he inspected the footprints of wolves marking the lands, he had confidence that he was growing closer into succeeding and accomplishing his father's last wish.
Eric was a different man now, than he was those years ago. He no longer feared death, as it was a mighty-some possibility for him. He was not a mere mortal that could easily be struck down by a blade, or hammer now. No, he was immortal. He now considered himself a worthier competitor against the man responsible of slaughtering his family.
He brought the stone attached to the necklace he had removed from his father's corpse to his lips, and spoke into it in hushed, fervent undertones, promising his father he would fulfil his prophecy very soon. He turned and looked up at his distrustful companion as she sat on his horse. He felt his heart swell with many sensations he hadn't felt in years; Quiet admiration, and a certain pride that he had found the very being that had captured his heart years ago. He noticed she was watching him, with an expression matching both curiosity and suspicion.
Then he swooped to his feet, said to her, "Come," and continued after the tracks printed on the earth. Slowly, his horse pushed forward, and she followed.