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Howling Against The Dark
Prologue
Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Heartache and Solitude

6 Years Later

Ryder stood in the back of the schoolroom staring out of the window at the children walking into the classrooms after lunch. Today was the day he had been dreading for the last six months. Ever since he'd been told what they were planning to teach in history lessons in the second semester. They were to study the time around and the event known only as "The Colony Disaster".

His classmates were all excitedly discussing the afternoon's lesson and what they would learn. The children all knew the story of the Colony Disaster, in the years since it had happened the disaster had become a tale to frighten children into obedience. 'Bad boys and girls will be sent to the Colony.' Ryder had snorted with derision when he had been threatened with the tales. Some tall tale to frighten children was nothing compared to the memories he'd had to endure.

The bang of the classroom door stopped Ryder from falling back into the dark memories he kept locked away deep inside. Mr Hanlon took his place at the front of the classroom as the students took their seats once more. "Good afternoon class. Today we're going to look at a pivotal moment in the history of Tamin. That being the Colony Disaster of 6 years ago." An excited buzz went around the classroom whilst Ryder felt his mood darken further than it already had. "The Colony Disaster came from our first attempt to make a place for ourselves to live outside the great wall since The Harg Reckoning."

Mr Hanlon turned and wrote on the chalk board 'Colony Disaster'. "Can tell any of you tell me, why the attempt to build the colony came about?" A hand shot up into the air, belonging to a girl in the front row. "Yes, Daphne?" The girl grinned eagerly "It was overpopulation, there was a famine and too many mouths to feed."

"That's right Daphne, the great famine made things hard for everyone. There wasn't enough food to go around and people were starving. So the government decided the only way to have a chance of us all surviving, was to build a new colony on the plains. Making it into a farming colony to provide food for us, it also meant that there would be less mouths to feed." He pulled up out a map of the continent and hung it up on the chalk board.

"The colonists were sent out to here to the Apvian Plain. This was chosen because of the large amount of flat land and the reports that the Harg had no been sighted there in a long time." Ryder let out a single derisive laugh and the class turned to stare at him before turning their attention back to Mr Hanlon. "The government called for volunteers for the project and there were 6,000 people who took the chance to build a better life." Mr Hanlon looked out at the sea of expectant faces. "Can anyone tell me what happened after they arrived?"

Every student threw up their hand, except Ryder who was staring morosely out of the window. "Hadrian, tell us." The overweight boy in the second row was practically bouncing with excitement. "The Harg came for them in the night!" The teacher nodded seriously "That's right, The Harg crept up on them in the darkness and attacked."

He picked up a text book and flicked to a specific page. "What we know about what happened there comes from the evidence they found, when a search party was sent out." Ryder felt a pang of anger at the statement and felt the memories he tried so hard to forget come to the surface like a searing tide in his mind. He could still vaguely hear Mr Hanlon speaking to the class. "The evidence showed that the colony managed to fight for a whole day before succumbing to the Harg, but no one was able to escape them."

The class all jumped as a dark, mirthless laugh echoed around the room. They all looked around to see Ryder resting his head on his hand. "If this is all from evidence they found, how do you think they know they came in the night? The troops arrived 5 days after it was all over. How could they know that?" Mr Hanlon looked annoyed "They checked the fire..." Ryder immediately cut him off "And no survivors? How do you think they knew to go check on the colonists? Why would they send out a search party two days after the colony was founded?"

Mr Hanlon slammed his hand onto his desk making the students jump in fright. "So you know better than all the historians now do you Mr Vale?! You can't have been more than six years old when this all happened." Ryder glowered back at his teacher. "If you look at the public records there's a report from the main gate. A six year old boy staggering up to the wall the day they sent out the search party." Ryder slowly pointed to his own chest and the room was filled with gasps as what he was implying dawned on the students.

Ryder picked up his satchel and threw it over his shoulder. "Just so you know, them holding out for a day? It's bullshit. We didn't even make it through the night." Mr Hanlon's jaw dropped and Ryder opened the window by his desk. "I'm taking the afternoon off, see you around." He stepped onto the window ledge just as Mr Hanlon found his voice again "Now wait a moment..." Ryder didn't. He stepped out of the window dropping down from the first floor to the ground outside. He could hear his classmates all talking excitedly as they watched out of the window, but at that moment he didn't care. His mind was burning with shouts for help and the blood chilling screeches only Harg could make.

Nightfall

Ryder was sat on a rooftop overlooking the army quarters still brooding over the afternoon class. It was his favourite spot to go to when he wanted to clear his head, something he'd become used needing to over the years. His single minded determination to fight the Harg had him dead set on the path to becoming a soldier, yet he wouldn't settle for being a simple squaddie. His pride wouldn't let him be anything but the best.

He was the last Alaran he knew about, a proud and powerful warrior species who had safeguarded the peace of the continent for hundreds of years. Ever since he had returned to Tamin he had lived by the Alarn Warrior Creed. It was the only way he had known how to live and it kept the good memories of his family alive in his mind. He continued the family tradition of making a

"I had a letter from your teacher today" The gentle voice spoke behind Ryder "He said that you contradicted the history books then jumped out of the window." Ryder felt a warm hand come to rest on his shoulder. "You told me you could handle the lessons Ryder, what's going on?" Ryder looked around at the kind face of his adoptive mother, Lilith.

Lilith had only been in her mid-twenties when she had taken Ryder in, she had worked hard to provide for him and never even asked that he call her 'mum'. Lilith had pulled him back from the brink when his memories had resurfaced, had helped him stay sane and come to terms with it.


Prologue
Chapter 2
Howling Against The Dark

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