Dom plodded slowly onwards as Jum led the way. Each member of the team was trying to drive aside the thigh deep mud that plagued this part of their route. With a high cliff on one side and a steep rift on the other side there was no alternative path. The mud covered a multitude of rubbish every now and then Dom would hear a cry of pain as either a jagged stone or some other discarded item scored a leg, but there was no going back. For behind them lay conditions worse than hell itself. The way ahead might not be much better but nothing could be worse than what was following them. Yesterday’ events still rebound on them all. The impact of the [explosions] which had temporarily allowed them to escape their pursuers still echoed in Dom’s head.
Tomorrow should see them reach the high plains then they must turn east to find Neuk, the fiddler had told Carlson that at Forsida they would find a stone from Svolvaer, a stone engraved with ancient runes. Runes which could guide them in their quest but only if they could reach Forsida and find the stone before the hordes that had already past this way destroyed the stone in the name of enlightenment. Whilst the team continued their struggle against the appalling condition of the eroded track their trailblazer Carlson had been stopped in his tracks. When he had reached the summit of the pass the vista that had open up sent a shudder down his spine, the green plains of Neuk had been transformed. The once rich grassland had turned white, a sterile wilderness of brilliant white bathed in a harsh cold sunlight, a glittering inhospitable world that offered no [refuge] to his companions. To retreat was not an option but there would be no shelter, no safe haven for those who travelled with him, the early onset of the winter snows had seen to that. The snow had built up into vast deep drifts like the waves of an angry ocean. Carlson realized that his companions would have difficulty protecting their young from the extreme cold, worse still everyone would stand out against the spotlessness of the snow; there would be no concealment from those who hunted them. At last Carlson realized the stark choice facing him now he must either abandon his friends or stand and fight. The fiddler had advised him to move alone of the need for speed and secrecy. But Carlson simply could not abandon so many to die, yet that now appeared the only choice open to him.
Whilst those who followed him had no choice moving slowly forward, confined by the ever narrowing path with their way forward impeded by winters blast, it seemed to Carlson a no win situation. If he allowed himself to be hindered by his companions, his aim to release Yiva would surely fail, Carlson moved off carving a path for those following him, and hoped that Dom’s instinct would encourage him to follow. Dusk was arriving when Dom and the others reached the summit, without Carlson being there to determine events Dom and the others settled down to rest. Behind them as darkness fell the black wolfs looked to the stars and then raised their voices. When Dom heard their cry’s he led his team out into the drifting snow, anything was better than waiting for the wolf pack to reach them.
Far to the east Yiva wondered what her fate was to be, she had scoured her cell in an attempt to find something anything that she could use to defend herself, she had managed to work a nail free from the worn door frame, it would have to do for now.