A Horrific Dawn.
February 27, 2018 at 10:18 pm #25234
The pregnant sky belched a gentle misting rain. Dirty rivulets pattered a ghostly tune on Bannoc’s head, trickling down his grizzled face as he glanced up at the commotion above. Angry black and grey clouds stirred. A storm was brewing. A sign perhaps? Not likely, he surmised seconds later. The damned inhabitants of this forsaken world had been abandoned by their Gods long ago, himself included. Left to carve out a pitiful existence amidst the ashes of all that came before. Any survivors of the Cataclysm now stood alone against the undead legions that reigned over the skeletal remains of Ardenia. If it had a heartbeat, the zombies would eat it alive, stripping flesh from bone with their teeth. Tearing out organs and intestines with their grabbing hands. This was their dominion now.
A familiar whining broke his reverie and drew him back to earth. Up ahead, Hengist had given pause to his scouting duties. The dog buried its scarred muzzle in the soaking mud, sniffing and pawing frantically.
“What is it boy, what do you smell? Dead ones?”
Hengist whined again. A low pitched sound. The Mahlian hunting hound was a shrewd operator, he understood the perils of generating too much noise. Noise acted as a magnet to the undead. Bannoc’s hand flitted instinctively to the sword in his belt, fingers tightening around the bone handle. The feel was comforting. He surveyed their surroundings, scouring for any signs of the undead. Fortunately, there were none. Nothing but the empty rolling hills before them, rising and falling all the way to the turbid horizon, where the haggard silhouettes of a distant settlement loomed. The rain intensified, lashing his battle bitten cheeks. Saturating his soiled travel cloak. He shivered. The rain cascaded like tears of ice, drizzling through the links of his mail, penetrating his simple tunic and seeping into his very bones. If they did not take shelter soon, come nightfall, sodden and exposed to the whims of the elements, they would freeze to death. He unslung his heavy pack. It was a plain but effective piece of kit. Mercifully, his former life as a tribal warrior, then a soldier, had prepared him for lugging heavy gear over long distances. everything he needed to ensure a self sufficient subsistence, save for sufficient food, could be found in that pack. He removed a jacket he had crafted and stitched from deer hide. A crude coat specific to Hengist. It was nothing pretty to look at, but it would keep the dog warm and shield him from the rain’s fury. Hengist waited patiently as Bannoc wrapped him in his coat, tail scything back and forth to display his gratitude.
“Come boy, let’s check out that settlement. Perhaps we will be able to find something to eat.”
Doubtful, but definitely worth scrutinising. They had not eaten for a day now, having exhausted the last of their food supplies. Hengist grumbled, a long, vulpine ear flattening against his skull. Striking eyes of effervescent gold stared up at Bannoc hopefully. The look warmed his heart. Months ago, on the night he pulled the injured dog out from beneath the rubble of a collapsed watchtower, a friendship was forged for life. For many years of his existence, long before the current catastrophe, he had lived the life of a paradoxical inbetweener. A soldier. A brutal killer of men. What felt like a perpetuity of endemic violence had wrought fervid scars on his psyche. Even after his rebirth, after laying aside the panoply of war to walk the path of a wanderer, he was unable to connect with others. Desensitised to the slaughter, people became little more than faces. Faces he sent screaming to the grave, or faces he interacted with out of necessity. Coarse and lacking in etiquette, he had been a lone wolf for the longest time. To a majority, he had always been deemed a barbarian savage. His outlandish looks, accentuated with fading tribal tattoos and marred by horrific scars, often frightened or dissuaded would be acquaintances. But Hengist was never afraid of him. Hengist made no stupid comments. He was reliable. Loyal to a fault. The silver and black hound was also an invaluable asset. Large and sleek, with razor sharp teeth and an unrivalled sense of smell. Whether it be hunting or scouting, guard duty or companionship, Hengist never let Bannoc down, and he was infinitely grateful for it. They were both grizzled veterans the world did not want. If any were made for this desolate life, it was them. They understood one another intimately.
A solid half hour of swift marching brought them closer and closer to the settlement. Through the spitting rain, canals came into view. Then the rundown buildings, which looked to be abandoned. On the surface at least. They were twisted, stacked at impossible angles all around the network of lonely waterways, surrounded by garbage and piles of unspeakable refuse. Hengist whined for a third time. It did not take Bannoc long to see why. The grass here was tall and he didn’t spot the corpse splayed on the ground until he stubbed his toe on it and nearly flew head over heels.
It wasn’t a single body. There were dozens. Men and women alike, their pallid flesh decomposing, bodies mutilated. There was even a child, a young boy, curled in a pitiful ball, lifeless face contorted into a mask of pure terror. His legs had been gnawed down to the bone, sticky blood pooled beneath him. Jagged stumps with malformed tooth marks peered up at Bannoc. Such sights would have stung him in the past, but not anymore. He did not flinch as he took to a knee to examine the carnage. Among the cluster of deceased, he noted a man and a woman who showed no signs of decomposition. It meant they had not been dead long… Were there zombies in the settlements? Survivors? He was not sure he wished to bump into either. Some survivors proved themselves to be more of a threat than the zombies. Calamity could bring out the worst in people, especially when supplies were limited and had to be scavenged from a dying world.
An eerie quiet hovered, perforated only by the monotonous patter of rain…
“Hengist, scout ahead. Go on, Scout.”
Knowing exactly what to do, the hound hunkered down, staying low as he crept towards the settlement. Moments later, he vanished between the jagged buildings. If there was anything worth finding, Hengist would sniff it out. With some luck, the place would be abandoned. They could search for some food, fortify a house and bed down for the night. As Hengist worked his clandestine magic, Bannoc set about looting the corpses, digging for anything of worth in the fight for survival. He turned up nothing.
The rain beat down with increasing ferocity.
That’s when he heard the distant snarling. Hengist had found something…
February 28, 2018 at 4:53 pm #25252
Death had rained from the sky and in a few short months the world had been reduced to a charnel house of fear, horror and grisly death.
Those proselytizers of religious damnation called it Retribution and called for more death to wash away the sins of the survivors. A frightened and hysterical mob was as treacherous and unstable as the wave that was to come. There had been lynchings and burnings while those aged leaders pointed gnarled hypocrisy at the antithetic and divergent and screamed their scripture with lungs that a few weeks later would be torn from their ruined rib cages and consumed while they watched on with windows glazed in abandoned disbelief.
Their Gods had not saved them.
Neither would Sílrien Ranor.
She had abandoned her home when the mob had approached, looking for someone to blame. Those ancient forests held a multitude of buried sins, and they crawled from the roots of arboreal sanctuaries, the fallen of long forgotten battles whose perpetual rest had been disturbed by the phenomenon. Snapping jaws, sharpened finger bones entwining through the flesh of the living and creating ribbons that were blown upon the wind.
She had taken what was needed and left the screams of the dying to fade behind her.
Keep moving. It was the only way. Only her survival mattered now. Scout as best as she could and avoid any place where the hoarde would gather. But the dead outnumbered the living a hundred fold, a thousand. They were everywhere. Some, ancient death that lumbered and crawled. Those freshly killed animated cadavers, still bearing gnawed marks upon exposed bone and festooned with the ruined remains of alimentary organs, ravaged by the ravenous- had a greater will and capacity to give a chase, moving swiftly until long bones snapped and limbs failed.
She had watched, observed.
A calamitous blow to the head would fell them. Decapitation would stop them for good. She would pile them up upon pyres and ignite the flesh that even as flames licked and consumed, ancient flesh and sizzling fat, those bones, efficacious until all sinew and ligament were ash. One could follow her trail by the remnants of smoking bone fires that the elf left in her wake.
There had been surprises.
The scent of rot usually accompanied the presence of the hoarde, that tang of death, thick and cloying and adhering to the nose and the throat so one could almost taste that ragged brawn as though the meal that was served was the dead. This day, it had not. A family of freshly hewn undead, blood still drying upon their cooling flesh and so new that the flush of life still colored the cheeks of the heavily pregnant female- dressed in nightwear that had become a gory banquet for those gnashing teeth. With almost human tenderness, she holds the hand of the child that accompanies her, a young lad whose throat was a ruin of sinew and meat, exposed to the air, still steaming in the freeze of the twilight. He is missing an eye, the remaining glazed and unseeing, partnered with that empty socket, plucked of it’s delicious jelly. They both move their heads as though tasting the air like serpents, detecting her presence and becoming almost euphoric with it, if they still had an emotion other than rage.
The swell of that sanctuary, stretching at the voluminous night gown starts to tremble and bloat, movement as whatever that womb holds smells fresh Elven beef. Sílrien Ranor, wishing to tear her own eyes from her head and spare her the horror, is close to weeping, shaking her head with disbelief at what she is about to witness. A tearing, rending sound, a blossom of darkened crimson soak through those sails of purest white as an unholy foetus claws it’s way free from that which should nurture it and brings further ruin to the reanimated Mater.
Feet almost fail her, transfixed by this horror as with a wetly sucking gurgle, that grey sliver of a potential life flops from a hole of flesh and dangles upon a cord that stretches and then snaps. Vital oozing from an empty hose splashing onto the carpet of pine needles and movement, an ineffective neck, barely holding the swollen grey pate of mewling hunger. The sound that comes from it is both repulsive and heartbreaking, as is the autonomic response of it’s mother as she appears to look for it, blind eyes scanning the ground before her with lips parted in parental concern
So transfixed that she was not wary. The weight of a hand upon her shoulder, frigid and gripping her with the dominant alacrity of the hungry, ragged digits digging into flesh and causing blood to flow. She had forgotten it was natural for there to be a husband.
It became a frenzy.
A scream and her own reflexive action- wrenching her wounded shoulder from its grip, spinning upon the fulcrum of her now active toes and realizing a fireball of such fear driven ferocity, of a magnesium incandescence that left it’s scar for hours afterwards upon her sight, burned into her retina as effectively as that cadaver burned like a roman candle, spitting hair and fat and gobbets of barbecued meat.
A grasp at her ankle, and that pugnacious Get had managed to drag itself as from it’s canal, for it’s first journey to feast upon Elven flesh, the scent of which was a heavenly ambrosia to it’s naively slavering aperture.
It was an impossible horror.
With a twist of fingers and the utterance of words of power, the ground shifted and an edifice of rock thrust swiftly upwards, separating her from the mother and child who were now staggering blindly towards her.
She shakes the infant from her ankle in a terrified tango of loathsome abhorrence, it’s hungry mewlings commingled with panicked screams that she later identified as her own. A Tarantella of Terror as her boots are soon soaked with the foetal froth of brain and bone and blood. The remains are kicked to join it’s father in the conflagration of burning Hel.
Panic clouds her thoughts, the ultraviolet scar from the flash of brilliance prevents clear vision, but she is swift in dispatching the remaining two when they work their way around her defenses. Scythes of Wind cut through the remaining sinewy vertebrae of their necks and their bodies crumple to the ground and soon join their patriarch.
Sílrien Ranor up until that point, had been coping. Survival had driven her journey and her determination to survive had kept her warm in the coldest of nights when movement among the pines had made a cold camp necessary. Following this abominable occurrence, detestation and dismay had numbed her til she felt hollowed out and empty. She moved, one foot before the other, but aimlessly and without care, dazed, anesthetized. Mirroring those horrors that followed and tracked without intervention.
Days later, the elf had wandered into a settlement, a small hamlet in the crux of two hills that spread like thighs, dwellings gathered about a water course that was embittered with the canker of putrefaction. It was humble, no doubt reliant upon timber given the ample open space about it, littered with felled Humanity as much as the splintered skeletons of spar. She took a grave but necessary risk to enter it.
She had no food.
If she had been affected by that blight that had caused the rested to awaken, she would not require to be there. But the abundant fruit of Autumn had paled into a few pine nuts scavenged and pocketed and eked out with a miserable inadequacy, and her stomach growled with want of famine, and limbs were weakened to the point of functioning no more.
Searching through those homes, with broken threshold and devastated homestead, where once families lived and loved, coexisting within the safety of numbers. She no longer registered the rot of fleshless cadavers as she stepped over them with as much care as she would shattered furniture, kicking aside their bones. Others had been here. Many were headless and allowed to corrode where they lay. Travelling from the south, she had seen only the ruination of the hoard, as the population had taken to them with sickle and axe before fleeing before the ever growing numbers.
Cupboards were raided fruitlessly, doors kicked in and locks circumvented but what Humanity had left then rodents had stolen and there was nothing that could be consumed but for the leaves of moldering religious treatise whose words were ineffective at saving their bodies, least of all their souls.
Teeth tore through paper and chewed. The racket that she had created had roused the attention of another mortal beast and curled against a stair, leaning weakly upon it’s risers as she attempts to glean energy from wood pulp, the snarling and slavering form of a great hound stands with hackles raised and gimlet gaze, a great shadow within the threshold.
And so it had come to this. A weak smile at the thought of her throat being torn from her, not by a reanimated corpse but by something as mundane as a feral dog. In another place and time, sweet irony would have produced an hysterical response.
Now- a mere fluttering, her chest heaves a chuckle which confuses the beast but still, it holds, its training disallows it from attack. Words whispered, with barely the energy to cast, the hollowed features of the starving elf fades and flickers into a faintly outlined mirage as though effected by the light of a zoetrope. It was not invisibility- she had not the strength for that, but it may confuse the animal for a few moments more while she made her peace with Seldarine.
February 28, 2018 at 8:44 pm #25253
Dismay was the preserve of the damned these days. Bannoc did not allow himself to be disheartened when the corpses yielded nothing of inherent value. Their pockets were as empty as their eyes. Either they had already been looted, or these hapless souls never possessed anything to begin with. He banked on the later. Scarcity was an omnipresent dilemma, the nightmarish notion of starving to death driving plethoras of forlorn survivors to their graves. Further swelling the undead ranks. Where did it all end?
Hengist’s snarling gave way to that low pitched whining again. Bannoc barely heard it above the intensifying rain. The droplets were lashing him now. That second prompt informed him that whatever the dog had unearthed, meant them no immediate harm. All the same, he decided to investigate. There was nothing but mud and butchered bodies for him out here. That and the hammering rain. Hand at the ready on the soothing grip of his sword, he entered the settlement, crossing a dilapidated board which had been hastily thrown over one of the lightly overflowing canals. A crude, makeshift bridge. The rotting timbers groaned arduously beneath his weight…for a second, he worried it might give way and send him plunging into the icy waters below…that would be one way to guarantee freezing to death. He leapt the short distance to the other side. A winding road festooned with potholes, slick and slippery from the relentless rain, enticed him into the welter of crooked buildings. Between the grasping shadows of structures both great and small, all of which were little more than forgotten shells, putrefying like everything else in this disavowed place. Even the moss ridden stones looked depressed.
At last he spotted Hengist up ahead. The hound was resting on his haunches in the doorway of a downcast domus, one of the two story houses formerly favoured by middle class Imperials. What was he doing? Why had he stopped?
Hengist barked! … It was then, Bannoc knew he was in trouble. Given the sensitive nature of loud noises in the current climate, Hengist knew not to bark unless the need hinged on vital. The lurch in his gut felt like missing a rung on a ladder. Behind him, he heard the familiar cacophony of stamping feet. Those sickening moans, breathless and bubbling with blood. The damned rain had muffled their uneven footfall…
He felt frozen breath on his neck.
The discipline fostered in soldiers saved his life. He whirled, serpentine steel releasing a sussurous cry as he drew his sword! The draw and his attack sang in a single fluid motion. He brought the brilliant pattern welded blade down from upon high! A monstrous blow, cleaving an undead grunt’s skull like a melon, all the way down to its lower jaw. Granted another step, it would have grabbed onto him with those perfidious claws. The hungry crimson light in its eyes extinguished. As it crumpled, Bannoc yanked his sword loose from its doughy cranium. Shards of splintered bone bounced off his chest. Pulp and ice cold blood splattered his face in morbid warpaint. It drizzled into his mouth. Metallic. Sour. Revolting! Refusing to be distracted, he spat scarlet at his boots, swiftly back pedalling to create space between him and his decomposing assailants. Fortunately, prior battle experience had taught him that the monster’s blood would not do him any harm.
Four dishevelled figures staggered towards him. Devoid of all reason, desperate to feed. Decrepit hands and filthy bloody nails reaching for him. This motley bunch were stinking, they had been dead for a long time, evident by their rotting flesh and sluggish steps. Storms be praised, they weren’t the faster lot. Even luckier, this wasn’t a horde. Stragglers maybe. Hengist rushed to stand by his side, soundlessly baring his ferocious teeth! They took them down pragmatically. A slow, methodical slaughter. Hengist struck first, darting in and snapping at the leading zombie’s ankle. Snarling, he thrashed his head, crushing jaws shattering the decaying bones with ease. Incapacitated, the growling monster toppled. Undeterred, it crawled on its stomach, no thought given to its entrails emptying, being dragged like coils of steaming rope through the mud. Hengist dropped back, allowing Bannoc to step forward in high guard, slashing down diagonally, carving straight through one mushy head and into the next! The finely honed steel packed a brutal bite. Two dead humans died again, crashing on their backs in puddles of blood and putrid brain matter. Hengist returned to the fray to grab the final creature by its thigh, forcefully holding it in place for the split second it cost Bannoc to take another step and skewer it between the eyes! Job done. Well, almost done. The monster Hengist had taken to the ground still writhed and clawed at the air, snarling as if enraged by its inability to shovel flesh down its throat. Bannoc thrust his sword into the back of its head… Curtain closed.
And there he stood, the endless rain washing him clean of the blood and the muck. He took deep breaths. Despite the easy victory, his limbs ached from exertion. The muscles were begging for sustenance. He was famished. How could he hope to keep up with this level of physicality without food to replenish his strength? He glanced down at Hengist.
“Thank you, boy.” He pressed a sopping wet fist to his tattooed throat, the ancient Getae mark of respect between blooded warriors. Hengist stamped his paws in response, tail swinging furiously! “What did you find, a rat?”
What a glorious find a rat would be right now. The margin between life and death.
Hengist trotted back to the doorway he had been guarding. Bannoc secured his pack, then meticulously wiped his sword blade clean of gore on a patch of wet grass. It was a traditional Karvosi Tharyx, handed down to the Broadfoot line by his great grandfather, a famous tribal raider called Burroc the Bull. The handle and small crossguard were plain and unadorned, but the blade itself…a spectacle to behold. Bundles of different steel billets had been twisted and folded and forged into a breathtaking blade with a subtle outward curve in the middle, rising up into a needle like brokenback point. Emblazoned with a pastiche of eautiful criss-crossing patterns, as if the steel itself was alive, crawling with veins and serpents. Runes of warding had been engraved into the lower section. Weapon clean, he returned it to its scabbard and set off after Hengist.
The hound was inside the house now, whining all over again. What was causing him so much distress? Bannoc followed him into the gloom. At last he was out of the rain! A small victory. By the fading light, he almost missed the ethereal mirage in the shape of a woman…he had to squint to see it properly. Hengist had found…a person? Was she real, or was his famished brain and exhausted body playing tricks? This time, he grabbed the medium length knife he used for skinning, as it would was more manouverable in tight quarters. He held it in the icepick grip at his side, point down so as not to appear too threatening. He was still in a position to lunge if need be.
“Who are you?” He demaned hoarsely. An edge of suspicion to his gravelly voice. A voice born of pipe smoke and years of yelling.
If the woman was indeed real, when she looked up, she would be staring into a pair of iron eyes, hard as freshly quenched steel. His face had once been described as goodlooking, in a roguish kind of way. That was before age and its accompanying greys had started to creep into his braided hair and shaggy beard. Before the ravages of battle transformed him into a disfigured monster. The scarring was horrific, twisting through his brow and nicking his nose. His bitten lip curled up into a permanent sneer. What wasn’t scarred, was tattooed. Jagged tribal patterns in faded blues and barely-there-blacks. Outlandish to say the least.
Ready to strike if need be, he took a tentative step toward her. He waited for an answer. Hengist stared expectantly…
March 1, 2018 at 6:17 pm #25271
It is strange what one notices in those last few moments of one’s life. The scent of delphiniums from a long forgotten garden drifted in through the empty eye of a window, adding it’s dissension of normality to the fragrances of wet earth and the underlying tones of death. The snarl of that animal was the only sound that broke through the drip of a slowly rotting world.
When the elf had been born, it had been a cause of great celebration. There were few that replaced the elder race and so it was an occasion that happened less and less in a culture that already new it was dying. Sílrien Ranor had lived with her parents and her brother in the northern reaches, the mountainous regions of that great land that was swathed with ancient old growth forest as a blanket about a sleeping babe. They lived peaceably and at one with their environment, taking only what was necessary and leaving little trace of their passing.
It was a solitary existence for the elf-child. Her brother was already mature when she had arrived, and treated her with a love and a care that one would have for a young sibling. But his impatience at their lifestyle oft caused dissent with the family. He yearned to be away, for the excitement of cities and the allure of the adventure of war. She would watch as he argued with his father, those wide misunderstanding eyes unable to grasp his need to leave the idyll of their nook.
Her brother taught her the skill of the bow, all too infrequently taking her into the forest when the boredom of their existence became too great, and they would be gone for days. He would tell her stories that were second hand even to him- told by the Human travelers that would sometimes pass through- of great and golden cities, of palaces, of fortunes to be made and battles to be won. Her childish heart would thrill at such tales. It was all just a dream.
Learning the lore from her mother, the endless lists of herbs and their values. When to plant, when to harvest, which could be combined to create a balm, a potion of healing, or a poison to kill. The weaving of magic. How to gather the energy about her, to concentrate and distill it into the power required to transform, to control nature, the weather, to raise a storm or to use it to kill. She became adept. Ethics was taught be her father. The values by which the long lived existed, instilled in her from a babe.
It was the winters that brought the most joy, for even elves suffer the cold of that season’s chill, and it would be to the Human village of Well that they would decamp for the season, packing what little they needed and residing through it’s harshest months with the population that welcomed them and saw it as an event of great joy and celebration. The Elves were coming!
It was here that she would no longer be alone. Children. And the childish games of the carefree- Knucklebones and Hang The Maiden, and the laughter caused by impish and frolicsome mischief by annoying the adults and worrying the stock of goat and sheep. The scent of drying hound as they fought the children for a place at the hearth of that great Rath.
Those same children grew with each passing year where she did not. Considered a baby at twenty years, she watched her friends mature and drift away, pair up with their childhood enemies and love blossom and soon, it would be their children that would be throwing the dice and the jacks with the young elf-child.
The scent of delphinium would be the sign for them to leave and return to their rightful place in the forest- wishing their comrades a healthy year and promises of a return. But one year- they did not return. One Spring- her mother went to sleep and did not wake. The pale cast of that beautiful face as though carved from stone, she appeared to be only sleeping. Nut brown hair streaked with snow and the light wrinkles about the eyes that were now smoothed into an endless slumber. The pain of her passing was so great, Sílrien thought she would die. Her brother stopped talking, would spend his days staring out from the canopy and she knew he yearned to be away from this place that had brought such joy and was now a constant reminder that their world was disappearing. One day he was gone. A note saying that he would return for her but it was the last anyone ever heard from him. That note, weathered and worn and with the consistency of tissue was folded in a wallet and still kept close to her heart.
Her father stopped talking, then stopped eating. He faded away before her eyes and her life became one of sadness and grief until one day he spoke to say he would be visiting her mother in her place of rest and did not return.
Twin Souls. Neither could survive for long without the other. Waiting for days, and then weeks, there was no point in searching for she knew that he had lain himself down next to the mound of earth that was her mother and allowed the forest to consume him.
Days and then weeks until come the first heat of the summer, she had packed what little belongings they had. The artifacts of their ancestors had barely filled a sack. Taking her bow, a few arrows, a hunting knife, she has left her heart and her home and traveled south.
Searching for years for her brother had been a pointless task, though had shown her where she did not wish to live. The cities were cesspits of depravity where Humans lost their Humanity and all other races preyed ruthlessly upon the week. No elves did she find, and she felt as though she were the last. In her bones she knew it.
Eventually she came upon a place, a place that reminded her of Well. A human village nestled in a valley rich with nourishing soil, surrounded by forest in the foothills of a range that was unknown to her. The people there were welcoming, a farming community that celebrated a healer coming so randomly into their midst. Taking an abandoned cottage some way outside of the village, she had grown her garden and kept a few goats and made herself invaluable as a healer- staving off sickness and death with potions and herbs. A midwife, bringing their new lives into a world that was living on borrowed time. A doula for death, comforting those that were coming to the end of their cycle and fearful of what would be next. She became part of that world. A stalwart, a pillar, for as those babies she dragged from bellies, grew, matured, had children of their own and died, age and time did not corrupt her. She remained as always- Sílrien Ranor.
It was their great great grandchildren that had come for her with torches burning, quoting the deceptions of fearful priests. It was their ancestors that had torn them limb from limb.
Not a particularly exciting life. Uneventful and for the most part, spent in a lull of peace and learning and in the service of others, quietly accepting that burden with a serene resignation. Her one regret- that she had not found her Twin Soul. Her journey would be ended without the joy of a family of her own. She had failed in the most vital of tasks that nature had set for her and that was to breed. Her line would end at the jaws of a slavering beast. better than than the jaws of a rabid cadaver. The elf only hoped that it chewed her neck clean and removed her head from her body.
The form of the elf shook and flickered so violently that she became a faint, misty and quickly moving outline, like the spokes of a turning wheel. The hound ceased it’s snarling. Deep set eyes regarded her with an intelligence and a confusion and it tilted it’s head and released a soft whine. It vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
Death it seems, would have to wait for a few minutes more.
There was a noise from outside the dwelling. More of the hoard she assumes, but accompanied with the growl of violence that did not seem driven by the ravenous hunger of those nefarious monsters.
She was too weak to rise as she finished what little chewed up pulp was in her mouth and swallowed, and she was too tired to care. It had reached that point, the last of her mana quickly consumed by that last illusion. And so, she lay back upon the rudely carved risers of that stair, and that is where the warrior found her.
A woman of indeterminate age whose flickering form had once more became solid before his eyes. Lids closed against the horror that would be her last moment on this plane of existence. Flesh was pale and unblemished and held not the ravages of time and a well worn life that had scarred Bannoc so succinctly, but would be extraordinarily clear, with a translucent quality as bone china held up to the light.
Her clothing, though filthy and ragged in places, held the stitched embroidered patterns associated with elves but rarely seen upon one. Layer upon layer that fit tightly to her form and in shades of grey and periwinkle that marked her as a healer- in some past lifetime that was long lost to them both.
Hair was dark with the damp of the climate and clung to her face, her neck, her shoulders with tendrils as jealous as a climbing vine. Facial features seemed to blur as she phased still, in and out of existence, alighting finally upon a solid ground, and at the movement at the door, almond shaped eyes opened and regarded Bannoc with a clear intelligence, though it was clear the will to survive was missing from those deadened windows as she gazed upon that aging warrior, sliding to the sword at his side. The hound tilts it’s head and whines.
Finally she spoke.
“Do it then, angel” she intones, as though offering a permission that was neither desired or required.
“Make it quick and clean and I beg that you burn what is left.”
A sigh of resignation and a groan as she shifts the discomfort of her position to raise a head that can barely be supported by a neck scrawny with undernourishment.
“I will not rise to feast upon my brethren if I can help it”
March 2, 2018 at 7:16 pm #25280
He continued to stare. A fierce, unwavering gaze, as cold and hard as the metal those eyes mirrored. The savage countenance and disfiguring sneer probably told her that he relished the opportunity to play the butcher.
“Do it then, angel…” She said.
Straight to the grit. Accepting of the inevitable. An attitude Bannoc could respect, especially given the woman’s dire state. It took a consummate kind of courage to persuade one’s self to bypass that intrinsic drive for survival. He knew from personal experience. Ardently refusing to shirk his duty or retreat, fighting for his Queen against hopeless numbers, that had been the bravest undertaking of his first lifetime. It was also his last. Only the truly valiant died with integrity. On past battlefields, he had seen some of the strongest, most well versed warriors soak their boots with piss when they finally realised death had marked them. Most cried for their mothers in the end. Bannoc had so often delivered that end. He was an angel. A harbinger of the only certainty in life… But this woman’s death was far from his thoughts. She had not shown the slightest hint of ill will, and unless her apparent ailments were nothing more than a masterfully construed ruse to deceive him, she did not appear to be in any condition to do him harm. Hengist’s behaviour insinuated as much. The hound was not only the most intelligent animal Bannoc had ever come across, he was an impeccable judge of character, sniffing out diamonds in the dirt from a mile off.
“That is good to hear,” he answered, referring to her desire not to reanimate and become a danger to her own kin.
As his eyes grew accustomed to the cloaking gloom, he was drawn less to her porcelain features than her knife-like ears. The filthy but intricate embroidery of her clothing, proclaiming it the opulent product of Elven ingenuity. An elf. That explained her ability to blur her visage and become ethereal. The Elvenfolk were renowned for an intimate mastery of the arcane arts. Since the days of his hallowed rebirth, Bannoc had nurtured a deep seated suspicion of magic. Loathing the primal beast he became when losing control of himself, and sorely lacking the adequate skill set to fight fire with fire, he had resorted to carving runes of magical warding into the lower strong of his sword, to shield himself from a power he had no grasp of. A man of few words even when they were deemed important, he did not continue speaking to her. In fact, he scarcely seemed to notice she was still present.
“Hengist, will you scout the house? Scout.”
The hound had not moved a muscle since returning. Tall for a dog, his head reached Bannoc’s hips. A muscular but sleek frame had clearly lost most of its former bulk due to lack of proper nourishment. He perched on his haunches, head tilted. Regarding the elven woman with ebullient golden eyes. There was an astuteness to their sharp glow. A perceptive intelligence that went well beyond animal understanding. I trust you. Don’t let me down, those eyes seemed to say.
Distracted from his unspoken conversation, Hengist grumbled and padded away into the darkness. The sound of his frantic sniffing carried throughout the room.
Bannoc closed the door in his wake, disconnecting them from the undead sanctuary beyond. The lock was broken, hardly qualifying this place as a safe haven. No way was he going to consider bedding down here until the premises were secured. Turning his back on the woman for the first time, he ditched his pack on the scummy floorboards and shuffled over to a long forgotten dining table, coated in dust and sharing a berth with knocked over chairs and shattered pottery. Grunting with each precious drop of energy spent, he dragged the table to the door. A primitive barricade. Next he grabbed two chairs, one missing two of its legs, and placed them on the table to lend additional weight. This was no impregnable fortress, but it would do a rudimentary job. If any of the undead blighters did try to push through, the racket of falling chairs should at least alert those taking refuge within. Next on the bill of order…getting out of his waterlogged clothes. Tarrying too long in the rain had saturated him to the bone. He might as well have been swimming at the bottom of a dank old well. His weather worn cloak went first, draped over the barricade table to drip dry. His muddy overshirt next, followed by the elbow length mail shirt beneath. He ditched the lamellar vambraces built of tiny overlapping plates of bronze and bone that guarded his forearms. Last to go was his simple linen undershirt, baring a wiry body, hammered into shape on the anvil of war. Broad shoulders without the oversized bulk. These lean muscles were designed for stamina over brute power. That, and the weight had been shedding off him for weeks. Hunger was a cruel mistress. In comparison to this mutilated torso, his face became an image of the Gods. For any beauty his physique might have once offered had fallen to ruin. What remained span a terrible tapestry of brutal vandalism. Stories told in wounds. Easily over a hundred scars forming a devastated network of vicious stabs, sword cuts and axe blows. A cacophony of catastrophic damage no man could have ever hope to survive. Chest, abdomen, his back, arms, and throat. No inch was spared.
A testament to the Storm-Dragon’s last stand.
Rifling through his pack, he fished out a new shirt. The linen was stained but at least it was dry. He pulled it on and slipped back into his mail.
Hengist’s trademark whine snagged his attention. Making his way over, he watched the hound paw frenziedly at a mouldy carpet adorned with beguiling mosaic patterns in the corner. Unnecessarily large and heavy with dust, the neglected work of art looked out of place in these glum surroundings. Bannoc thought it strange that someone would place a carpet in such an unorthodox position in the room. It wasn’t until Hengist gripped the fraying corner in his jaws and dragged it aside, that he saw the small hatch…
His heart pounded like a war drum in his ears. Someone had gone to pains to conceal that opening. Could there be food down there? He dared to hope. They needed this… He forgot all about the apocalypse beyond these rickety walls. All he could do was wait with bated breath as Hengist descended the creaky wooden steps, delving into the deep unknown.
<p style=”text-align: center;”>…</p>
The hound resurfaced moments later with a large wheel of redolent orange cheese clamped in his jaws. Bannoc could have kissed Hengist there and then. Relief. Euphoria. Words could not describe his feelings. Lady luck had deigned to grace them at last! It was times like these that made him appreciate hound’s companionship all the more.
“Hengist my boy, you are a living legend.”
Hengist’s tail flailed ecstatically! He pressed past Bannoc and dropped the cheese before the Elven woman, where it rolled languidly across the scuffed wood and bumped against her foot. Bannoc watched his friend share their only item of food with narrowed eyes. Hengist ignored him and dropped into the blackness once more. On this occasion he returned with a smaller, luminescent yellow wheel. This one smelled like a sewer drain.
“Storm’s be damned…”
<p style=”text-align: center;”>THUMP!</p>
The unmistakeable ramp of lifeless feet in the distance. Hundreds of pairs? Thousands? The song grew louder and louder. A cacophony of mindless moans. Ravenous screams. Somewhere nearby, a horde was on the march…
March 3, 2018 at 3:03 pm #25290
The elf was ready, but it seemed the champion has other ideas- at least for now. There was a mild disappointment. It would be a permanent respite for the constant journeying from one place to the next, scavenging for whatever she could find and reduced to nothing more than vermin, in fact, in competition with the rats over the last of the foodstuff that could be gleaned from ancient stores, or foraged from the land. His silence was deafening, but his gaze one of hard appraisal that showed he had little time to deal with the histrionic death wish of a stranger.
Carefully, each biped studies the other, until the seasoned soldier breaks the deadlock with action of a different kind. One of self preservation- and is quick to look after his needs. Her death would have to wait. It seemed the appearance of this pair would give her a burst of energy that even she did not know she had and her hand reached to clutch at the pole of a broken banister- rickety, not particularly sturdy but fixed enough to be an anchor as she pulls herself upright into a slouched seated position. She was breathless though even after this paltry effort. Not so the warrior. He was quick to try and shore up some semblance of defense and did so with such a swift response that one could only consider there were more of the unholy army on the way and that he had intimate knowledge of it.
Her gaze instead slides back to the hound. A beast of such grand proportions that she had never seen before, used only to the village dogs that were designed for working certain tasks- the herders of livestock or the nippy and sinuous little terriers that would be used to keep the rodent population under control. This – Hengist? His eyes were bright with intelligence, his eyebrows twitched when his master spoke as though he understood every word, not just the obvious trained commands. The Elf’s presence though was proving a distraction and Hengist reluctantly obeyed the warrior eventually.
When the man started to strip to the waist, the elf was shocked. The warrior having the unconscious attitude of need and caring not for social pleasantries or etiquette. It was as though he did so purposefully, waiting for her to perhaps protest. She would not. Though she did look away, becoming most interested in the passage of that beast who went immediately to the corner of the room and started to scratch and scrabble, clawed paws clicking and catching upon the rough floorboards. He had found something and she curses herself for not seeing the obvious.
The warrior turns his back upon her and her gaze surreptitiously slides back to his form with her own appraisal. She did not think she had ever seen a body so ravaged by war. When he moved, it was swiftly and with a frugality of movement that indicated there was little about this man’s life that had ever been frivolous. As a healer she would assess the scarring, at least a half dozen would have, in a lesser being perhaps, caused permanent disability, a weakness in one of his limbs where muscle had been sliced from bone. There were bulged connections that she could see beneath the skin, lacking now it’s warming layer of fat as undernourishment and hunger has consumed it through necessity. Places where there had been some expert surgery involved, others where malformed muscle replaced as best as it could and would appear asymmetrical and deformed. He turns, pauses in his actions as he regards her with steel grey windows. Silrien looks quickly away, her cheeks coloring with embarrassment at being caught out but their was no lascivious reasoning for this- merely a healer’s curiosity and a surgeon’s adaption. Whoever had worked on this body had done a grand job.
Finally she speaks, though her words when uttered seem pithy as her eyes stayed fixed at the boards between her feet. Her cheeks still aflame and there was little in this world that would rattle one of the Elven folk but there seemed to be a reason for these two being flung together, and that reason could be heard howling out their hunger a few miles away.
“My name is Sílrien Ranor” she says, a tone husky with disuse and heavily accented with the quiet burr and the rolling syllables common to the Elves when they spoke the language of the Human. As her voice spake, she barely recognized it and then asked herself when the last time was she used it in anything other than a scream as she fought off the feral remnants of that once great civilization. Months before perhaps, before all of …this.
That clever hound though! Finding a store and sniffing out nourishment for them all. As Hengist emerges from that hatch the delicate features of that female brightens into a pinched smile and her tone, soft and throaty, speaks words of encouragement and comfort to the hound in the language of the elves.
“Hîr vuin, Á tulë sinomë, Tullen tye-rehtien”
It is indeed a beautiful language, and would have any who heard it immediately reminiscing for the sound of a summer breeze disturbing the rustling leaves of a broad leafed canopy and the trilling of the birds who would dwell in amongst it, out of place in this rude and filthy dwelling, long abandoned by the humans who had made it home.
Bannoc would see the lightness that his companion would bring the elf- an effect that all of his kind would have upon those that were lacking in hope, for who could not immediately fall in love with this erstwhile hound. However at the gift that was dropped at her feet, without waiting for a thanks, Hengist was away again. The elf’s eyes widen and the smile contracts into a pursed moue of awkward honor and her gaze slides back to the warrior as she reaches for this offering, slimy with Hengist’s drool. As though that mattered in the slightest. She looks for an outraged reaction from the warrior, but does not dwell upon it. The elf’s mouth was already watering and fingers deftly dug a chunk from it, breaking it open and filling the small space with the scent of aged nourishment.
Bannoc attention would be caught by Sílrien Ranor, who tosses him the rest of the wheel and does not wait for Hengist to return as she falls to it. Filthy fingers leaving grey trails in the dairy as she picks apart one mouthful and then two. The effect of the food is immediate. Cells and tissues that were screaming for sustenance immediately snatch at what this food offers, and the elf recovers with a swiftness that would scarce belie how very close to starvation she was. A flush of energy and the woman is hauling herself to her feet and moving hastily to the window that offers little light or cover, the shutter broken and hanging by one rusty hinge, the other missing completely. The coat swirls about her calves with each long stride and the floorboards creak and complain with disuse.
The elf doesn’t even concern herself with picking at the cheese now, holding a hunk the size of her fist she takes mouthfuls directly from it while she studies the treeline, past the other houses. There! Movement at the corner of a house no more than 50 feet away.
Her only words. “They come!”
<p style=”text-align: center;”></p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”>The food is dropped to the sill. The window is wide and low. The aperture may be enough to cast and so she takes a step back from the light, just as three hulking and staggering beasts move into the light, their heads raised and sniffing the air like a pack of wolves for a scent that draws them to the township as avidly as nectar draws a bee. They were in such a state, what flesh remained was in the latter stages of corruption and hung in strips and ribbons of putrefaction. The breeze brought that stench to them, a familiar perfume.</p>
Suddenly, the weakened woman was no more, and arms stretched out beside her as drawing those energies from the air with a bare hug. Her inexplicable movements could be curious to the warrior, but surely, a man of such experience had seen a Mage at work. It would be inconceivable judging by his profession that he had not. Tendrils of her hair rise as though effected by the coming of a storm and Bannoc himself would feel the almost palpable crackle of power. The hairs of his arms and upon the nape of his neck would raise in the same way.
A sweep from first the left then the right arm before her with fingers twisting in a complex series of gestures that would be accompanied by the uttered words of power.
“Pelekta yassen runya!” her voice taking on an unnatural echo that did not seem possible given the enclosed quarters of the dwelling.
The gesticulation of her arms ended as she flung out her right and pointed with fingers that formed a dagger of flesh directed at those three flesh eaters.
There was a flash, a deafening crack of thunder. If Bannoc was looking out into the daylight from another sight, he would have been temporarily blinded by the intensity of that explosion, as though nature’s forces had come at her bidding and wreaked havoc upon the pustulent remains of those cadavers. Where those creatures once stood was a smoking hole in the ground and the remains of limbs that had been shattered by the force of the strike, sending splinters of bone into the air to shower like rain. And all from a little cheese.
In that moment- the elf’s expression was graven with concentration and Bannoc would see an otherworldly cast about her features that would confirm to him, if it was needed, that she was most definitely not human. She remains for a few seconds in that attitude, arm thrust out before her with accusation and knees bent as though about to launch herself through that barely adequate porthole. Finally, her arms relaxes and slowly returns to her side, her legs straighten and a tilt of her head towards Bannoc would show him that the creature that she had become whilst casting was no longer present. A curt nod.
“There are more” she reports. “Many more. This place is not safe. We cannot defend it” and looks to the open eye of the hatch from which Hengist emerges at full pelt with a stinking cheese, brought hastily to the surface by the noise of her spellweaving.
Swiftly, she turns lightly upon toes and with an elegant lope moves to that hatch. Down she goes, just enough to review the space with eyes that could discern it was a fair sized cellar and a sensitivity that would feel the light touch of air movement upon it and suspected it was not just a cellar but led elsewhere. Bannoc might even wonder what the elf would be up to. Especially when he hears the sound of wood and boards being kicked in. What she hoped was a reality, the cellar, a dry place for suplies through the winter, was in actual fact, a ruse for something else. No doubt there was a switch or a catch that would have swung those shelves away from the earth and opened a door for them, but they were short on time and she had little patience for a search. He would hear a cry of triumph and then, the elf emerged, clambering nimbly from that small hatch.
“A way forward” she announces as she crosses the floor once more to the stairs, for her sack and her bow and then to the window for the remains of that cheese. A hand drifts, clenched into a fist she offers it’s back to the hound for a sniff and congratulates Hengist on saving them from more than starvation.
“Clever dog you have there!”
March 3, 2018 at 4:48 pm #25291Adam SieghartParticipant
What a putrid stench. One that invades the mind and fogs the brain. A stench that causes one’s nose hairs to even curl in disgust. The decaying body of one of the undead lay before a young male beheaded. It’s head laying, mouth agape, a few feet away from the decomposing body. A body that suggests that the person was an elderly fellow before falling to the curse that plagues these lands. He thought it comical how the zombie had half a beard due to having half it’s jaw missing. Though his short break to appreciate the finest of comedy even in a rotten world is soon interrupted by the sounds of breaking twigs and disturbed fallen leaves.
The young male stands rolling his shoulders. Red eyes scan the surrounding ancient forest. The tall brown guardians that keep watch of everything below taunts him with the little protection they provide. More sounds of rustling leaves catch his attention. It was as if he were surrounded by them. The sounds bounce from tree to tree creating a chorus of echoes that deludes the brain. A nasty trick that nature pulls on him.
A smirk forms on small thin lines that are his lips. His white bleached hair flows backwards on his head as the wind blows more of that putrid stench of the undead into his nostrils. Anger shows on his pale face as his red eyes darken with color as the body before him is suddenly set ablaze. A show of emotionally fueled magic that is instantly regretted as the stench of the body increases ten-fold forcing the young male to immediately leave the area. His feet carry him quickly away from the burning zombie as the fire he has just created with his mind leaps onto the dead leaves of the forest.
A fire. The repercussion of his actions that he feels no guilt for. Better to burn it all down then allow such vermin to roam carefree devouring all they deem fit for consumption.
How long has he walked now? An hour maybe. 30 minutes. Strangely, no other species of undead have crossed him. Strange indeed, but a look up into the sky, and one will see a blacken sky. Ashe rains from the sky overtaking the natural smell of the forest, and the unnatural smell of the undead. All one’s nostrils could register is the burning sensation caused by smoke. The fire is spreading quickly fueled by the forest’s lifeless floor. Escaping as quickly as possible is one’s best option. The young lad does not think of any other survivors that may be swept up into the fire he has created. Better dead than undead.
He continues looking for an escape from the forest that soon will be no more except for a few tall trees that trunks prove to tall for the fire to climb. A cleansing that is needed. Soon a bush is pushed to the side as the male suddenly arrives in a small valley. A valley with a small lake of water that used to be clear and sparkled in the sun. Now it sits polluted by the raining ash. Its once clear surface darkened. Dead fish litter the surface killed by the poisonous qualities of the ashes. Disgruntled, the male makes his way over to the water and looks down. His dirtied reflection stares back at him.
A young face scarred and lined by the toughness of living away from civilization. As if there was a choice though with the undead quickly overtaking even the most well defended of cities. His bleached hair greyed by ash. He finally sees the tiredness in his blood red eyes. A chuckle escapes from his soar throat scratching his windpipe. Immediately, he dips his hand into the water bringing up the grey water to his lips and drinking. The taste was horrific as the ash gave the water a smoky burning taste. Though, he drank more and more giving in to his body needs for the substance. After filling himself enough to stop his bodies whining, he immediately retches into the lake as the ash proved too much for his body to handle. The black tight shirt he wore dirtied even more as he emptied his stomach yet again.
His eyes investigate themselves as he looks back into the rippling water. Memories come. The day he portaled into this world expecting it to be a normal adventure where he sates his desire for excitement. Quickly after that, it rained strange meteors that began this undead nightmare. The dead did not stay dead. He remembers seeing a slain rouge rise back up shortly after and attack his killers. He, not wanting anything to do with the undead, tried to portal back home but find himself stranded in the world. Something had, and still is, affected his connection to the god-like energy that he can call on. Still though, his pyromancy remained proving that it only affected magics not connected to his body. Now, he finds himself striving to survive like everyone else sticking to forests and plains where defending one selves prove easier than staying within a town. Still, the problem with nutrition came into play. He can open small portals and pull out small items such as a bottle of water or some random meat. Recently though, the strain of doing so has been too much. It seems fighting off the undead is taking too much of his energy and mental concentration to focus on such an endearing task of creating items.
Finally, the end. He had left behind the lake to continue and escape from the forest before the flames that devour all catch up to him. Now, he stands on the edge of the once great foundation of nature. Before him, down the hill he rests on, is a town. A town that is no doubt barren of life and full of undead. Though, he needed supplies. Something to sustain him, so down he goes towards the town and into what hell it may contain.
March 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm #25317
Silrien Ranor. That was the elven woman’s engimatic sounding name. The emollient manner in which it rolled off her tongue, so gracefullly fluid, so stark in its contrast to Bannoc’s coarse as coal lilt. He found it almost musical. He too possessed an accent, courtesy of his iron shod native tongue; Urga-getae. Unlike the rest of their fellow humans, the Getae tribes, sometimes touted as the descendants of Ardenia’s first human population, conversed with a series of savage sounding snarls and feral, grunting words, more reminiscent of predatory animal hunting calls than functional speech. He recalled that the Imperial’s of his day lent their ‘barbaric’ language the moniker, ‘Bearspeak‘.
“Bannoc,” he had answered her. True. Simple. More direct than a dagger to the heart. And that was that. More would prove unnecessary, so he saved his breath.
Silently he munched on the hunk of cheese Silrien had tossed him. Tangy but nothing to shout about taste-wise. It would do. Hungry beggars could hardly snub a lifeline. He ignored the pungent aroma that brought an abhorrent stench of sweaty leather boots to mind. Unflinching, he wolfed his share down like a starved urchin. No mind for etiquette, he tore up chunks with his teeth straight from the lump and chewed vigorously. Bite, chew, swallow. Bite, chew, swallow. Gone. The meagre meal, if it could be called that, was not enough to restore his strength to full primacy, it was a sorely needed start. He collected the smaller yellow wheel that Hengist had fished from the cellar and stuffed it into his pack. The hound emerged from the cellar, chomping profusely on a string of small salted sausages. Bannoc was about to congratulate Hengist for his stellar work, when suddenly, Silrien’s warning ripped his focus from the dubious sausages the hound had claimed as his prize, to the window. More mutilated monsters out there to carve into ribbons.
Here we go again.
His hand dropped to the sword sheathed in his belt again, but he might as well have never bothered. It fell away…The sudden emission of tangible power stopped him dead in his tracks. Intrigue rather than shock when faced with such ineffable energy, summoned by the elf in a heartbeat with such blithe insousiance. As if an eminent electrical current now pulsated in the dank air between them. It was the only way he could describe it. His body hair stood to attention for the static surge. While he had felt similar spikes in power when magical was flung across the battlefield, this example boasted a taste all its own. He observed as Silrien elegantly swept her arms and hands back and forth, writing her magic into existence. Her voice taking on a stalwart cynosure, as if some venerated angel had spoken through her mouth from beyond the veil. He did not understand a single word, but he did not need to. What began as a scintilla of arcane energy mounting in the room, culminated with a booming clap of thunder! A sight stealing flash of pristine white light. He winced and clenched his teeth. Momentarily, he was rendered blind, retinas searing behind his leathery lids.
Hengist yelped, then snarled!
When Bannoc reopened his eyes, a different woman was looking back at him. She nodded.
“Heh,” he grunted. It was more of a growl. He held no love for magic, though hers felt somewhat more natural. Its signature was unique, yet reminded him of the tribal shamans back in his inhospitable homeland of thigh-deep snows and jagged rock. Potential ally or not, he would have to keep an eye on this elven mage. She had wiped those zombies from existence in the blink of an eye. Impressive, but dangerous…he returned her nod, rubbing his eyes with his forearm to ease the stinging sensation.
He glanced down at Hengist. “You all right, boy?”
Seeing as no harm had befallen either of them, Hengist yapped, dipping his head in confirmtion. Sometimes Bannoc felt the cunning hound understood every single word he uttered.
The elf was right. The few undead wanderers she had already destroyed would not be the last, not with that thunderous song of dragging soles and bloodthirsty moans descending on the town. Hopefully the canal networks would slow the horde down. Guarding silence, he gathered up all his equipment as Silrien dived down the hatch. By the time he had refitted his vambraces, she was back again, head peering out of the hatch.
A way forward. Excellent! Luck continued to beam down on them.
As Silrien returned to them, Hengist nuzzled the back of the fist she offered him. Sniff, sniff, sniff! He grumbled his approval.
“Aye, smarter than me. He likes you.”
As Bannoc was incapable of seeing in the dark, he motioned for Silrien to take point. She had located a path in the darkness, meaning night vision was an inherent trait of her kind, or her magic had helped her along. Either way, Bannoc had no intentions of starting blindly down a pitch black passageway. Zombies might crop up in his path that he would not see until their fetid teeth were sinking into his flesh. He would take the rear and fend off anything that dared follow.
But where would they end up? Only time would tell.
March 5, 2018 at 11:52 pm #25334
A delicate sardonic arch of an eyebrow at his comment. Nothing more is said. A pat of that huge head and a scratch behind the ears of Hengist the hound and then she is disappearing down the hatch, still finishing off the cheese as she goes. Already, she feels rejuvenated. Just the smallest amount of nutrition is all it takes. It is how she was able to survive for days on a handful of pine nuts. What was really required however- was the deep meditative state that would refresh her completely. There had been no opportunity for such since the day she left her cottage. An hour here, an hour there- stolen time in between running and dispatching.
And what of her new allies? She could not tell if Bannoc was stoic through nature, nurture or merely responsive to the current crisis. Time would tell. There was an immediate friendship between the Elf and the great hound. Certainly his presence had lifted her spirits moreso than that of the seasoned warrior. The jury was out on Bannoc. It made sense that they stick together- for now, for is it not said that in a crisis, be aware of the danger- but recognize the opportunity.
Disappearing into the gloom of the sub-level, the claws of that great beast clattering on the steps directly behind her, she kicks her way through the splintered wood that litters the floor to the void. Once more, fingers twist and turn in the air, and a low muttering of “Pela tanya tempa aiguldur” that results in the cramped and low space being lit by a faintly pulsating globe that hung in the air before her face.
The void was beyond, like some blackened unseeing eye. Now she was down here, with Hengist whining softly just behind her, she was suddenly not so sure of her assertion. There was a faint feeling of foreboding. But was either this or wait for them all to be overwhelmed by the approaching horde, and she wasn’t about to sit around and do nothing, not when she now had the energy to crack onwards.
A hand raised to almost touch the globe, drawing back as though resisted by water and an elegant push would send that globule of light heading into the darkness and giving meager light to show the way. She follows, aware that the ground has a softness about it, and damp cold coming up through the soles of her boots. A rude tunnel, carved from the earth and braced with rotting timbers but in the distance she could hear the drip of water on stone and an echo that would indicate open space. Hengist was suddenly reticent concerning exploring and kept well behind her, though she could hear his snuffled breathing. It gave her comfort.
Maintaining silence, the Elf cautiously followed the globe around a hundred feet. In the peripheral darkness, she could hear the scritching of tiny creatures, the drip became louder. Fingers dragged along the walls of the tunnel. Damp earth and dry timber. Given the presence of the canals, she would have estimated a very high water table and found it unlikely that there would be a tunnel at all, and yet it seemed to incline down into the earth and the breath of cool against her cheek brought the dank of rot and mildew.
The globe appears to bounce along the surface of the tunnel roof as though drawn by that breeze and suddenly disappears, drifting upwards into a larger space and inadequately illuminating with a grey wash what appeared to be structures. A hand rests upon the transition and she finds carved stone. Her toe steps from the soft, damp marsh onto a solid base and she turns, to find Bannoc in the gloom and whisper with a sibilant hiss what has been discovered. Before she can do so- Hengist barrels a rolling bass growling deep within his chest.
There was movement in that space, rodents disturbed by the light perhaps, it did not sound anything more sinister than that. Silrien peers into the gloom but can see naught but shadow and hear naught but the drip-drip-drip of water carving a niche into flagstone. There was the approaching sound of Bannoc moving to follow her, the first that she had ever heard of him, so careful and cautious was her concentration as she led the motley bunch into the unknown. She was suddenly comforted by the sound.
“Lanta en’ kalale!” she whispers, building the energy that powered the ineffective globe and it suddenly brightened revealing the space beyond.
Catacombs- carved from the bedrock by ancient hands. It did not appear to be a style of anything in the last 500 years of culture. One could see the grooves of the chisel or bone that hacked the rock into a bright dome that cast away high above her head. Arches, again of a rude and naive art form to the north and to the east and they had approached from the south, led the eye into the shadow beyond. Water had found it’s way into this space and created a stain of darkened mildewed slime upon what was a pale limestone. There was also the jagged teeth of tiny stalactites hanging above them from the roof. Hacked from the walls were hollows where human bones of thigh and ca;f were stacked into a self supporting herring bone pattern, interspersed with the empty eyed glare of human skulls, silently and jealously judging these bearers of vitality.
There was again the sound of movement, but now it could not be mistaken as the scurrying of small animals, but the step and drag of what could only be more of those infernal creatures. Her stomach dropped when she saw what appeared from those secretive arches. Hengists’s growl increased in volume and it would be illustrated, yet again, that there was no mercy for those believers of the Gods. No appeasement would save them. No amount of prayer or fast or flagellation could prevent the inevitable. And as those robed figures was spat from the dark, heads bowed as though filing to matins, the lightness and hope of finding allies was swept away, and the inevitable sinking sensation that accompanied the thought that none were safe. There was no sanctuary. This was never going to end.
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March 6, 2018 at 11:27 am #25335
Hengist had loped ahead in order to share point with the light bearing Silrien, lending her his acute sense of smell, which acted as a finely honed early warning system. Bannoc scrounged some measure of relief from his hound’s faith in the Elf, as Hengist possessed an uncanny prowess in discerning the darker persuasions of one’s heart, almost as if his penetrative powers of scent delved beneath outer flesh to dig away any soil and expose the soul. Could he rely on this? Potentially, no. A realist, Bannoc pondered the answer through the cynical filter he had obtained on a past battlefield. Precisely which, now lost to the greying embers of time. In the end, they all came to look the same. Pessimism? No. Pragmatism. It was possible magic could disrupt Hengist’s judgement of character. Regardless, adversity had drawn them all together. Two swords would forever hold greater value than one.
He stole through the impreganting darkness, following Silrien, whose orb of light pierced the blackness, inducing a pristine pillar of luminosity to guide them. As they moved, jostling lashes of light splashed upon the walls in their wake, illuminating derelict arches and bygone coffins of cobweb covered stone. Twisting shadows danced over piles of bones and rags. An eternal chill flourished in the deep. Clammy limestone walls and musty air. This forgotten cradle of death. They had ventured into a crypt…
Realisation struck him like a mace to the jaw. He froze. Hengist’s growling confirmed his suspicions. So much for lady luck. They had blundered straight into the demon’s malformed maw! Cue the irregular footfall and rasping groans. The undead among them, baying for blood. Cloaked in the penumbra…
They were coming! Step by step. Growl after growl.
Composing himself, Bannoc whirled, squinting through the scant tendrils of light cast down by the cut away dome above. A swift glance to gain a more innate understanding of their surroundings. An arch to the North where Silrien and Hengist had come to an abrupt halt. A stream of cowled monsters spilled through the opening, stumbling vaculously. Automatons grasping for flesh! Another dusty archyway to the East. As far as he could tell, nothing awaited them there. The din had not yet drawn any of their unholy hosts from that direction, leading him to conclude that it might possibly be clear. Possibly. He did not dare to hope, for hope was a forsaken luxury these days. With no time to spark a fire of his own, yet again, charging down a passageway void of all light was less than appealing.
“Let me handle this lot,” he urged. It was not hunger for glory he sought, for there was none to be found here. It was his desire to go on breathing. If they worked with their abilities as a cohesive unit, they drastically increased their chances of squirming out of the crypt. It was imperative they get above ground before they were surrounded and overwhelmed. Bannoc did not wish to be cannibalsed in this subterranean Hell-hole. Forever forgotten to a dispassionate world. “That Eastern passage looks dark. You have the light, and Hengist the nose. Try to find a safe way out together. I’ll hold them here.” It seemed that the dire predicament finally brought out the voice in the otherwise impassive warrior.
By Bannoc’s reckoning, he still had the strength to make a screening stand here. Should the Elf and hound find the path clear, he could easily outrun these long deceased monsters. There was barely anything to them. If the path proved fruitless, then he could hold off long enough for his companions to rush back and aid him. Whether Silrien agreed or not, and without waiting for her answer, Bannoc rushed to the fore! As he closed in, the garish features of their undead foes loomed. Sunken sockets and desintegrating faces. Filthy teeth clacking ravenously! His sword hissed as it ripped from its scabbard. The vicious blade, writhing with silver veins, shimmered as it scythed the air, decapitating a zombie at the neck. Panting from the stress of his tired toils, he reached down and hauled the headless, decomposing corpse the back of its ragged stump neck. Using it as a shield of sorts, he rammed into the next creature! Claws swiped at him. Dirty dentures flashed! Thankfully, the headless shield, pumping gouts of frozen blood like some haunted fountain, weathered the storm of blows. He released his shield, the weight dropping another foe. He caught another attack on his left vambrace, stepped in, and plunged his sword up through a rotting chin, straight into the brain.
A brutal twist and pull saw the scarlet slaked sword pull free. The weapon was awkward to manage down here in tight confinements, so he used it as a short spear to keep the pressing zombies at length. His knife came out to fell them at close quarters. In spite of his waning strength, the man fought with unrivalled ferocity. He relied on the mindless nature of his enemies and his own strict training to deal each one a clinical death. He conserved his energy as best he could, holding them off with the sword, then stabbing into their mushy temples with calculated thrusts when they got too close. One fell. Then a second and a third. Slowly he back pedalled, channeling his relentless foes over the mound of corpses to stumble and slow them. The desperation. The rage at an utter inability to find anywhere safe in this damned world, combusted within him! His love of battle began to consume him. He flew into frenzied bloodlust, roaring and howling like the banshee’s of a man’s most sordid nightmares! A bear unbridled! He forgot that his bellowing might attract more to him, that his animalistic noises had no psychological effect on the undead as they did with sentient adversaries. Habit was a hard master to kick. He lost himself to the one thing he did best.
Kill. Slaughter. Butcher!
Sticky blood splashed his face, painting a crimson mask on the fearsome barbaric features. Bones shattered. Flesh torn asunder. Moans firing left and right! He slashed and stabbed and hacked without remorse! Fearless in the face of doom.
“Kalur Kharak Osh-Uroc kanan!”
Eat the Storm God’s ire, you bastards!
What felt like hours of butchery, had in fact spanned only sevral minutes. Then he was spent. Moaning as hoarsely as the creatures he had carved to shreds, he fell to his knees in the blood and the guts. Gasping for breath. Slowly coming down from the euphoric battle high. Every muscle burned. Each bone ached.
What a resounding victory! How many had he slain? Hard to tell. The bodies stacked high all around him. He thanked Uroc for this triumph. He had needed this , an opportunity to vent his rage at a dying world. After months of running, of scavenging for scraps. He had needed meaning. A reason. Anything.
That’s when he heard the scratch of iron against stone. The clink, clink, clink of chains. Heavy, pounding steps. Thunderous growling…
Panting profusely, sweat cascading down his beaten brow, Bannoc looked up. Into the eyes of doom…
Emerging from the gloom ahead was a hulking beast, at least eight feet of barely there strips of sinew and decomposing green flesh hanging from massive bones. Rusted mail dangled from thick extremeties. This was no human, but a monster from the distant Ashlands. The Ungori. An undead orc! Perhaps an ancient body slave, buried with its masters, tasked with defending them in the afterlife. Ironic. The beast stomped slowly, ROARING violently! It’s boarlike tusks for teeth dripped with yellowing goo. A single blood red eye promised Bannoc his death.
Bannoc’s heart sank. For all of a second. Death in combat was nothing to fear. He struggled to climb to his feet, but he was too slow. A meaty fish crashed into his mouth, sending him hurtling a good three feet into the wall. He felt his teeth crack as he slid down into the dirt, blood drizzling from his lips. His weapons clattered harmlessly either side of him.
The undead orc advanced…
March 6, 2018 at 4:54 pm #25338Adam SieghartParticipant
“Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.“
Steel armored boots stepped over the dry ground that once used to be a street. No more though. The cement under him cracked and horribly worn while other parts of the road were barren of any form of pavement. Vegetation protrudes from many of the cracks foreshadowing the future of the world around him. Is the age of men coming to an end? Will the fauna rule once more as in ancient days when people were no more than fish? Well, you’d have to believe in evolution first to conclude such things. His strange thoughts brought a soft chuckle from his thin strangely dry lips. He should be more worried about surviving now then of the future of the hopeless planet.
So far there has been no signs of life or unlife. No movements or sounds easily detectible by even his trained ears. Truly a ghost town by his description. Thwack, the sound a falling door onto the porch of the home it used to be attached to pulls his attention. Such a sound could attract dormant undead nearby that hide within the town waiting for some fool to make their presence known. The repercussion of such a loud noise is immediate. Suddenly, his ears picks up the scratching sounds of claws running against wood. A soft yet very audible noise in amidst the silence of the town of moaning. Though some very clearly louder and closer than others. A single disturbance in the once still town, and now he’s suddenly in the center of a zombie wonderland. Great. He didn’t even get to search and loot anything yet.
“Got to find someplace to hide.”
Hurried steps as he quickly makes his way into a hopefully abandoned house. The wooden structure stood tall amidst its neighboring structures, but he had no time to marvel, for the undead do not discriminate between beauty and grandness. They simply hunt to feed. Maybe a living creature would make hypotheses on where he decided to hide, but luckily for him, zombies did not have such a complex thought process.
Within the home, he notes the lack of visibility. No lights. Great. A simple solution would be to open the blinds, but that would be very foolish. The undead may not be keen on detailed searches, but once they spot you, they’re not likely to let you escape without a lengthy chase scene. He sighs grumbling as another alternative light source comes to mind. One that requires him to waste energy, but a much needed sacrifice. His left hand is lifted palms up as a small flame flickers within it much like a lantern. The light creates a haunting red hue around him giving names to strange shapes he could not define before lighting things up. First thing he does after being able to see clearly, barricade the door. Chairs are leaned onto the doorknob. A couch is broken down, and the pieces are then melted, yes melted, onto the door making it near impossible to open unless one is of quite high strength.
Now with the only way in barred shut, he decides to scope the building out. Clear out any undead that may be within the dwelling while scavenging anything useful.
Time passes, and he’s pretty much searched in every nook and cranny. How tiresome too. The place has three floors, a basement, and an attic. Whoever lived here must have been quite wealthy. The best part though, was the food. The basement was filled with water, and non-perishable food: breads of different types (although some appear stale), peanut butter and jelly, fruit in jars, etc. It seems he has hit the motherlode. Finally, something good has finally occurred for him. He sits below in the basement stuffing his face with bread and drinking much needed water. This is probably the most full he’s felt in a while. There seems to be enough provisions to last him a while. Who knows what else he could find by searching the rest of the town. He’ll have to be careful though. No telling what other living beings may appear or what lies within the other empty homes. Though, with his immense magical power, he should be able to handle anything that dares threatens his life. Avoiding conflict would be the best option though. No need to get into needless fights.
“Boom. Boom. Boom.”
He looks up from his spot with his mouth full.
“Boom. Boom. “
He jumps up from his spot as the house shakes slightly. Oh my. Seems there is something big outside, but what exactly could it be? His feet carry him up and up to the third floor where he peeks out a window to the streets bellow, and right before his eyes is a troll. Not a small troll either, but a massive specimen of toned muscle and hard fat. It has to be at least 15 feet. The creature waddles through the town with heavy steps that shook the foundations of the homes around it. Its greyish-green skin is ripped in certain areas, and blades and arrows stuck out from its body. What a horrid thing to look at.
He kneels down decided to let the thing pass. No need to battle it. Actually, with all the noise and vibrations it is creating, no doubt it will draw the undead’s attention to itself. That is perfect. If they follow it out of the town, the place will become that much safer. He also congratulates himself on starting that fire. The smoke from it has finally reached the town keeping the troll from sniffing the air thanks to the burning sensation of it. He’s perfectly hidden from it. Now, he just waits for it to leave. Hopefully, nothing completely random occurs that puts his plan into turmoil.
March 8, 2018 at 11:22 am #25361
There was no protest. The seasoned warrior spoke good sense and with a curt nod, and a last glance to those approaching abominations, fingers twist and turn once more and Elven arcanery produces another luminescent globe. A flick of a hand and this in turn starts to slowly bob, away and through the archway to the east, quickly followed by the Elf and her erstwhile companion, Hengist.
Haste is required. She did not doubt Bannoc’s skill for a moment and was almost rueful that she would not be there to witness it, for the sound of his effort and the thud of his blade sinking into long dead tissue and bone echoed along the passage, soon to be greatly reduced in volume as the thoroughfare twisted and turned until it was hard to tell in which way they travelled.
Quickly, her footsteps rang out in the gloom, and the scratch of claw on stone and the hound’s enthusiastic panting and they headed into a space that was different again. The tunnel was different from that which brought them here. It appeared of later design, and contrived by selective engineering. Stone flags, dressed stone that made up the walls and the low ceiling and an intricate carving about pillars that held up the roof in the first room. Lit by the globe, the elf could discern ancient stone sarcophagii that lined the wall, denoting, that if indeed this was a crypt, this was the resting place of those that could afford a more comfortable eternity.
The globe phased in and out, pulsing. Bannoc would be aware of the globe that lights his killing field, slowly starting to dim, the farther the elf travels from him.
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The room was a fair size. Stone coffins stacked in their places, engraven with the names of those contained within, and those columns, a spiral pattern from base to chapiter, with a decoration of a quartered circle on each of it’s faces. And so- it was as she had suspected- this was part of a human place of God worship. The chamber before seemed to predate this by many centuries, predate even the God, but it was not unusual for the human culture to layer one God’s temple upon another as one sunk into obscurity and another rose to prominence. A capricious people. Lacking in faith and loyalty it would seem. But this was not the time to consider the vagaries of Humanity and so, satisfied that those dwelling in those heavy cells were nothing but dust and would not be rising again- she moved through this room, through an arch and followed the passage further to another.
This one was of more recent construct again, perhaps only two or three centuries. The architecture had changed to show a more sophisticated style and tooling. Pilasters that supported the abacus were finely worked and with the carvings of vines, the delicate leaves and rounded globes of fruit appeared of such skill it were as though nature had been turned to stone. Again, more tributes to those that no doubt had paid handsomely for the privilege of being separate from the bone sanctuary where Bannoc battled the undead in ever increasing gloom.
But it was a door that drew the elf, set deeply in an arch made of carved stone. Closer the globe bobbed until it lit the seal. Tall, broad, constructed of ancient, blackened oak with an iron skin, highly ornate and hung with heavy rings, chain and a lock set into the wood. The ring turned in Silrien’s hand but it did not budge. The Elf stepped back and was about to cast a spell to unlock when suddenly the great mastiff threw back his head, howled and then wasted no time in galloping back the way they had came.
She did not hesistate but followed him. The sounds of battle become ever clear, and then a roar of something that was most definitely not Human. Sprinting now til she breeched the ancient reliquary and saw with some horror, a huge creature, it’s back turned to her and hiding the form of Bannoc that was no doubt stood at the other side.
Light brightens the space now as both globes take to lazily circling each other way about their heads, but clearly illuminated the grotesque creature before her.
Hengist did not need any prompting and his growls, angered at the threat of his Master, filled the space as the mastiff attacks the ogre, tearing into the back of it’s ankle, with obvious training it has been instructed to worry and distract and nothing distracted more than a hobbling as it attempted to chew through that heavy band of tendon that joined heel to calf.
A few steps into the tomb for whatever she cast would require a firm cordon of space, and as always when she would have to spring into action- that clench in her guts as cold fear attempts to take hold of her senses. There would be time enough for fear. She could not see Bannoc. Assuming him trapped against the wall by the approaching beast that now, with Hengist’s contact, roared and turned to find that which was causing such pain and gore. Luckily it was slow but the action caused it to espy the diminuitive elf, a much preferred target perhaps.
Angered and in pain, with the hound shaking it’s head and tearing through that tendon, taking a great gobbet of meat with vicious teeth, the ogre’s left leg appeared to become useless, the elastic remains of it’s Achillean band travelling up into it’s calf now that tension was released. The hound goes back for more, blood dripping from enraged jowls, attacking that same useless leg.
Elven muscles tense, concentration and so this time, not just her fingers would dance but her toe scrapes across the rock in a wide arch, her arms twist and undulate as though caught in a moment of triumphant dance. The light in the space from the globes brighten intensely casting everything in stark relief. The ogre was confused, with the pain from the dog, the elf dancing before it, then looking up to the illumination that would be blinding it not realizing that the elf was ready to cast. Bannoc would know- again that statically charged tension. Hair raising on the back of his neck.
It was hard to cast any of the more obvious offensive spells. An enclosed space, with other protagonists within it, it would need to be something that would not harm them if it ricocheted from this creatures body, which even now was raising it arms to strike out at the woman, enclosed in the clanking chains of it’s oppression.
Long, striated syllables of almost musical beauty accompanied with an intense blinding light from the globes.
“LOVA POLDARA!”, the tongue rolling over the R and seeming to stamp the space with an authority that effected the ogre immediately. It’s arms drop as though it has not the energy to hold them up any more, becoming as heavy weights, it’s knees start to sag as all dynamism is stripped from it, even it’s expression, transforming from murderous rage to what appears a weary sadness.
“Quickly!” Bannoc hears the voice of the elf from the other side of the ogre. “It is weakened, finish it!”
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March 21, 2018 at 9:53 pm #25546
As the monstrous undead orc churned to a juddering halt beneath the vice like grip of Silrien’s spell, Bannoc scrambled frantically to his feet. A tinny ringing bounced from wall to wall within his skull. It took a few seconds for the muddled daze to wash away and allow his senses to return. He blinked back into the crypt. Spat another wad of dusty blood and a dislodged molar! Ignoring the dull ache assailing his jaw, he Pushed his ravaged muscles to their limits. He snatched his sword from the ground and brought it to bear in both haggard hands. Launching at the constrained monster, he swung with all the furor he could muster! The titanic blow chopped through rotten flesh and age old bone like a hot sickle against corn, decapitating the beast at the neck. A gout of black blood gushed. The beast’s broken body jerked with anger as it folded.
It twitched one last time. For good measure, Bannoc impaled its grisly severed head as it bounced on the cold hard stones underfoot. The deed was done. Gasping for breath, he seized this moment’s respite. He only needed a few seconds…
It was too much to ask. In the distance, strangled moans and garish growls spilled down the passageway they had just fled. The song of the dead pursued them. Was there no end to this living fucking nightmare? The dead never ceased. Like harrying hounds baying for blood.
“Thank you,” he mouthed to Silrien. “There are more on their way!”
Hengist barked softly, the blood of their foe still fresh upon his scarred muzzle.
Without waiting for the denizens from the bowels of the crypt to gain ground, Bannoc sped down the tunnel Silrien had taken before she came rushing back to help him. Hengist chased his heels. His footfall was heavy, growing painfully uneven. Bones throbbed violently. Each and every muscle seared like flesh sizzling on a stove. But there was no time to stop. No room for rest. Guided only by the scant tendrils of light supplied by Silrien’s orb, he barreled through the great chamber of mighty spiralling pillars. He tried not to pay too much attention to his surroundings. If there were more monsters lurking in these crevices, he did not wish to face them. What little energy he had left was better directed straight ahead.
Run, run, run!
His heart pounded, reminiscent of the hallowed drums of war. He could almost taste the organ in his mouth. He just wanted out of this accursed place. Out of the gloom. Away from the must and forgotten relics of ages long past. Outside, into the fresh air. He no longer cared that the rain outside crashed down by the bucket load.
He almost slammed face-first into the gargantuan iron door! He tugged desperately on the ring. To no avail…
March 22, 2018 at 3:15 pm #25547
The chamber was a chaotic mess of broken cadavers and ancient rot that should have stayed sleeping. The stench of soured adrenalized sweat filled the nostrils, dripped from the aging warrior. Bannoc had proved his usefulness, and for the first time, she was witness. Muscle strained and hard, carved from oak, ripped from scarred skin, he moved with deadly ferocity despite bone aching weariness- fuelled by fear, driven by self preservation.
“There are” the elf answers simply and without emotion and merely follows him down the tunnel. She can hear them coming, smell their decay, lagging back from the warrior and his companion hound. Now that the odd couple are out of the way, and they had a way forward, she would raise such a conflagration that the rest, had they a cogent thought in what was left of their festering brains, they would wish they stayed dead.
A minute later, she emerged from the antechamber, accompanied with a roiling wall of momentary heat and the stink of an unholy barbecue.
“No more” was all she said, before arching an eyebrow at Bannoc’s panic. Hengist greeted her with a welcoming bark and was rewarded with a faint smile from that stoic elf.
What was behind the door? She hoped safety- a breathing space til they could formulate a plan. There was a sense of hollow emptiness when she looked forward with senses that were extraordinary. She could not see life but then, these monsters didn’t register so who knows- there could be an army. When she looked back- well- whatever the religion, bad things had happened in these crypts, bad things to the innocent. It was just as well they burned, finally the fires of Hel had caught up with them.
“We need you strong” she mutters to the warrior, indicating the door. “I can open it, but what lies beyond…” Her words hung in the air unfinished accompanied by a shrug.
Hengist trotted to her side, placing his head up and under her hand for a pat. Another smile as she looks down to the brave hound and a distracted scratch upon that skull.
“I can give you strength” she says, still engaged with the mastiff, lips pursing slightly as he twists his head to get that attention behind his ears and does as he demands.
“It has a cost”
The elf finally returns her gaze to the breathless warrior who was sagging against the door as though it was the only thing keeping him upright. Silrien was more than aware of the suspicion carried by the mundane of users of the craft- would Bannoc be the same?
Again, she reiterates. “We need you strong” and Hengist seems to echo those words with a deep whine of pleasure as those broken nails find just the spot behind his ear.
She did not know what was behind that door, but it was their only option now, and whatever was there- if anything- Bannoc would need that sword arm to protect them all.
March 26, 2018 at 8:32 pm #26132
A deluge of foul smells gushed into the chamber. Smokey stone. Charred flesh and burned bone. It did not take a genius to discern what had just happened back there. Ignoring the acrid scent, Bannoc took a knee before the great door. He let his panicked rage at not being able to open the door dissolve. As he caught his breath, he found himself examining the intricate markings that wrought their twisted patterns into its metallic skin. He had never seen this script before, perhaps it hailed from a forgotten civilisation, far older than the Imperials. Maybe they had unwittingly built over its ashes. For the moment, the danger seemed to have passed. Groaning, he pulled his pack from his back and fished inside for some cheese and his precious water skin. The pungent lump of dairy delight was crammed straight down his throat, chased by a few sparse drops. The latter cleansed his mouth, washing away the blood and dust. He felt a little better, but far from full strength. He required the luxury of laying down. It was too much to ask for in their current predicament.
It was then, as if by some miracle machination of fate, his Elven companion seemed to offer the salve to his woes. She could provide him with strength…but it came at a cost. What cost? “Offer me strength?” He parroted. He could hear his already coarse voice had grown hoarse from his earlier exertions. Braving the open road for days absent nourishment had exacted their toll upon him well before he worked his way down into this accursed crypt. Burn the candle at all angles, and the wax would swiftly wither away. Could he trust Silrien to do what she claimed? A large part of him believed so. They were both mired in this desperate bog together. If she had wished to harm him with her potent magic, she had missed ample opportunities to do so; at times, they had been raised on a golden platter. It was not pride that prevented him from agreeing straight away. There was no pragmatic use for pride in his eyes. The brutal, thousand yard stare of unflinching steel he had harvested over the centuries was bereft of superciliousness. Hubris held no place in his heart as it had in the past. It meant nothing when the final curtain closed, a truth he had seen reflected in the dying eyes of many sent to the afterlife by his hand. It was innate suspicion that stopped him from giving Silrien leave to weave her magic. One thing was having magic cast upon you by a foe in the frenzy of battle…it was another entirely to willingly subject yourself to it. The pair had met each other less than hour ago…He mulled the offer for longer than he should. In the end, it was his assertion that they were both paddling in the same ill fated boat, with the same rotting oars, that eased his mind. That, and Hengist’s immaculate judgement of personality. The hound was positively besotted with her.
He stowed his items and shouldered his pack, struggling to his feet again. His ornate sword was still clenched in a gnarled fist like squeezing it with all his might would permanently attach it to his arm. Point down, so the lethal, blood-slaked blade engraved with Getae runes of warding would not accidentally lop off a leg. He pointed the cast iron pommel shaped in the head of a raging boar at Silrien. His hand trembled violently. Further proof of his famished condition.
“I give permission. But first, I want to know the cost.” Gruff and sharp. Straight to the point. Whether by design or not, he sounded like he would rather eat her alive than hold a civil conversation.
Hengist planted himself on his rear at Silrien’s side. Staring up at Bannoc with those perspicacious golden eyes. All of a sudden he looked every bit the imploring puppy.
March 30, 2018 at 2:33 pm #26217
It needed no genius to know that the man was almost entirely finished. She did not need to scan auras, seek with Spirit or assess by arcane means to see that he was done. Weariness had carved deep lines across his brow and made his appearance all the more craggy. And yet, he prevailed. Such strength of spirit, such determination, she had not seen a survival instinct like it and thus was in turn, determined to attach herself to him so that she too would survive, because- her story was littered more by good luck than intelligent design. It was luck that had kept her contact with the undead creatures at a minimum, stowing away in the mountains, taking the game trails rather than the roads, and keeping away from— well, from situations such as these.
Silrien? Well, it was clear she had stopped feeling anything, if she had ever. The elves were an inscrutable race and could have been experiencing extreme agonies and yet their facial features would remain in restful repose. It was their way. But if she was honest with herself, she felt a bone weariness that was equal to Bannoc, who did wear it like a medal, but once more, the drive to survive surpassed any thought of a quick death. She had come to far to give up now and she was damned if she would become like those dusty creatures, driven to feast upon the flesh of the living.
She would answer his question, stood there with one hand rested upon the thick roll of pelt that hung about the mastiff’s neck. A slight female, that would appear as easy to break as a wintered twig, but that belied such power that he would have little comprehension.
“As with all magic there is a cost”
Her words fall like rocks in the echo of the crypt like chamber.
“I am borrowing strength and giving it to you. It will give you temporary strength and vitality but following it, you will feel weaker than you do now, need to sleep- be compelled to sleep.”
Neither of them knew what was behind that door. The elf was making assumptions that it would be more of the same. All she knew is that it was a big and cavernous space, her arcanery would be limited to mainly defensive measures. There would certainly be no lightning strikes and any firewall would be reserved, as illustrated, to the monsters once they had stopped moving. A safety measure to stop them rising again.
“It is your choice”
The elf transfers her gaze from Bannoc to the door upon which he leans.
“Make it quickly and let us move on”
The stoic nature of the elf would not instill the warrior with any confidence. Frugality of words and explanation, as much as his own, the elf then looks down to the one thing that would give him reason to accept her offer. Hengist.
Dropping to one knee, she curls an arm about that thick neck and receives a wet tongue up her cheek for her trouble. There is laughter at this, incongruous given the perilous nature of their quest for safety. It is the only time he has seen genuine emotion from this creature, wrapped up so tightly with every loose end tucked away so that none could reach her, making herself as invulnerable as possible. This was the first time he had seen anything akin to responsiveness and would perhaps be surprised at how human she appears.
Perhaps there was hope for them all, but whatever it was- ither glory or agonizing death-it lay behind that door
April 5, 2018 at 7:11 pm #26281
In spite of his flint-like demeanour and stoic attitude, Bannoc was not utterly incapable of seeing the emotions of others, nor was he devoid of them himself. Not entirely. Not yet. He gleaned what he might call emotion in the elf whenever she interacted with Hengist. The hound had that effervescent effect on people, igniting sparks where once there was sheer darkness. Bannoc had been alone for years he had lost track of until Hengist crossed his path. Even before the skies rained fire and the planet descended into madness, he was a self-sufficient, self-reliant one man wolf pack, shunning the wider world that feared and despised him. Rather cynically, he loathed the inhabitants of the world too. Their racket and destructive nature. Their decadence. At last Ardenia had got what it deserved. He wondered if the way Hengist fawned over the Elf was a treacherous machination of her magics…
No, stop thinking that way, or you will have nothing to believe in. No reason beyond primal survival to go on living.
He marshalled his wandering thoughts. Fatigue had begun to claw at his concentration. Was it worth taking Silrien up on her offer? Was it worth gaining strength only to later buckle twofold with exhaustion? Nothing was guaranteed anymore, so how could he be certain that he would not pass out at some inadequate moment? He couldn’t. But sometimes, a warrior could not rely on his heart alone. Sometimes he must gamble. If there were any horrors lurking on the other side of that door, his martial prowess would be needed.
“Alright,” he relinquished. “Give me strength. Unlock the door.”
He twirled his sword, restoring it to a point up position. The blood-slaked utility knife clutched in his left hand followed suit. Come what may, he would be ready…
April 26, 2018 at 4:58 pm #27036
A hard commodity to find these days. These were trying times.
The elf would not treat this with disdain, she knew how much it would cost him if he was wrong. A curt nod from where she crouched at Hengist’s side and then slowly stands. The hound whines as he detects something that perhaps the warrior cannot- hackles spike to attention as the air fair zings with gathering energy. The elf was the eye in the midst of this storm.
Sílrien Ranor underwent a transformation. The painfully emaciated nature of this half starved elf was apparent when the light from the globe seemed to change, dim, as though viewed through a filter. A contrast as the elf’s face, appeared hollowed under cheeks and eyes, the light casting it to appear something – otherworldly- picked out in grey and black.
Even Bannoc would start to feel something now- a familiar tickle as the hairs upon the back of his neck acted as like with Hengist.
With arms spreading wide, she gathers power about her, from the stone of the walls, from the air, from the prayers of those that worshipped in this place- it was all there. Her hands entwined through the air in an intricate dance, picking and plucking and weaving the spell.
“Aman tel’ Seldarine”
As those words were uttered, the warrior would feel a sense of calm, of surety that everything was going to be a’right.
The light brightened from the globe- in a few seconds becoming so bright that it hurt the eyes and one would have to look away or shield the eyes. Those twitching fingers direct towards both Bannoc and Hengist and with an almost guttural rasp, words of power were uttered.
The light went out and darkness descended upon the three with the finality of death.
Cells fired into life. Mitochondria blazed with activity with one single unanimity. Bannoc would feel nothing at first. But then, as though approaching from a great distance, a wave of energy that would refresh each muscle fiber, coursing through it like lightning from branch to root. The old warrior would feel an almost heady euphoria, as endorphins and serotonin flood his brain.
“We have a short time only” – a voice in the darkness.
“Panta tangwa!” and a flash at the door as the sound of an internal lock releasing and magical energy slammed it wide against the wall. The globe slowly reappears above them, bring a feeble light- enough to show the cost to the elf of her weaving. The shine was gone, her skin appeared grey and pasty and she staggered to the wall, and leans against it to take a breath. She waves to Bannoc.
“Go- I will follow”
It was clear that she was now struggling, but still persevering. There was no other option.
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