Short Fiction. Part 7.

Catch parts onetwothree, four, five  and six here.

Time stands still outside Arcadia. The adjoining landscape of grass and wood was blissfully unaware of the nightmare held within its walls. It was a refreshing change from waking up to bloodcurdling screams.

Nonetheless we weren’t taking any chances. Walking by the day and laying in wait at night lest we encounter any undead escapees from paradise recently lost. Days become nights become days. An endless cycle of the mundane. Rather than indulge my demonic companion in meaningless banter I preferred the sound of silence. After all, it could read my mind anyway. So I rather not bother.

We were close to the shores and a boat to take us to our destination. The spire in the middle of the ocean. Just as I was growing accustomed to this unexpected lull, fate felt the need for me to humour her.

It was daybreak. The ground was strewn with fresh tracks, as if a caravan were en-route to Arcadia from the northern kingdom. Reaching this conclusion was easy as a little ahead, we saw the aforementioned carriage. Albeit decimated. Smashed to smithereens, littered with newly made corpses which were a moments ago, living breathing people.

Suddenly the bright sky lost its light and the woodland air turned stale. The freshly deceased began to twitch. This did not bode well.

“Go hide now”

“Is that how you treat guests in your realm, mortal?”

“What?!”

“It’s been nearly a week since we’ve trodded this path. You haven’t said a word let alone  inquire of my name. Quite inhospitable of you.”

“Now is not the ti-”

The words were cut short as my body was struck by calamitous force. It felt as if being throw off a cliff  by a giant troll. The pain was blinding.

Before I could gather myself or my senses, a black cloaked figure stepped into my vision, walking around each of the dead, invoking a strange chant and bringing them back to life in a way my blade is quite familiar with.

I drew my sword and stood my ground as these newly minted monsters circled me, felling them one by one. Steel meeting bone. A tumultuous marriage of glaive and gristle. Dark blood spewed unchecked like water bursting from a broken dam. Gibs and sinew peppered these once untouched grounds of tranquility, drenching the green grass with shades of murky black.

So much for time standing still outside Arcadia. For even here, death and pestilence followed. The first moment of this endless hell seemed like a lifetime ago and the apparent period of rest, a fever dream.

All this while, the mysterious cloaked figure shielded this part of the woods from the sun, allowing his automatons to go about their mindless carnage.

They all met a gristly end by my hand, till only this destroyer of light, this necromancer if you may, remained. With his army obliterated, daylight returned to the forest, his purpose served.

The robed enigma spoke,“What brings you here oh, Chance of the Brotherhood?”.

These were last words I heard before a cobalt bolt hit me. It wasn’t pain but absolute stasis. Movement and speech were impossible as this foul trickster came closer. His wizened face rife with the marks of satanic ritual.

He knew my name.

I too knew his as one of the yellow bellies of the council who fled Arcadia at the very first hint of despair. His true purpose now revealed. Inching closer, knife in hand, ready to deliver the killing blow.

In a way, it was embarrassing. Having defeated hordes of monstrosities only to die in the hands of a conjuror and a coward. As he was about to deliver the coup de grâce, the little girl possessed by powers beyond her ken rose and stood between the dagger and my chest.

“What? A mere child dare defy my will?”, he bellowed.

She folded her hands around the sharp edge of the blade, blood trickling from her palms as she retorted, “The will of pretenders rarely stand in the way of gods or demons.”

Her eyes glowed red. We were bathed in white light. Our nemesis was reduced to ashes.

I was free from his spell. Before I could get up she loomed over me and said, “It took the death of a peddler of parlour tricks for me to know your name, Chance.”

“And yours is?”, is all I could muster, still trying to process what just happened.

“Charity.”

I thought I was humouring fate. However it turns out she was humouring me.

Catch parts onetwothree, four, five  and six here.

Short Fiction. Part 6.

Catch parts onetwothree, four and five here.

An eternal moment. This was one of them. Assuredly, the last of them.

Demons are known to be have a penchant for bloodlust and I knew I was at the end of my journey, ready to surrender to the elements and powers that be, I closed my eyes.

Before I knew it I was overcome with a sense of calm that this mortal existence was almost over.

And like most things in my short,  unremarkable life, I was wrong. Tremendously so.

“Indeed, a man is dead when he has nothing left to lose. Which is why you’re perfect for the nightmare that lies ahead.”, she rasped.

“What?”, I was perplexed.

“Look around you, oh accursed knight. Your town is in ruins. Your family. Your friends. Your order. All dead. Most by your sword. What exactly do you have to live for. Absolutely nothing.”

“So end my misery!”

“Not so quickly, tormented one.  I walk this earthly realm due to this sack of meat and bones. Thanks to the magical blood she possesses I am able to exist in this dimension without being obliterated. However, her powers haven’t fully manifested themselves to take my journey forward.”

“What do you plan to do?”, I said whilst propping my aching body on the town square wall wondering where this would lead.

“There lies a spire across the waters.”, she said, pointing towards what was known to be an abandoned tower in the distance carved out of rock.  The sun’s rays danced on the obsidian. It stood out on the white seas that surrounded it like a brand on the forehead of a heretic.

“Go there? Why?”

“To destroy the cause of your world’s catastrophes, this rot that defiles your existence and so that I may open a portal into my world and return whence I came.”

“That would mean…”

“Yes, blademaster, we’re going to slay your love.”

Demons have a penchant for bloodlust. But never could I imagine that they could read minds as well.

Here I was on the precipice of certain death, only to be saved so I may take the life of the witch responsible for this madness, who I was more than well acquainted with. Saddled with a mind-reading hellspawn to boot.

It has been a strange day.

Catch parts onetwothree, four and five here.

Short Fiction. Part 5.

Catch parts onetwothree and four here.

“When is a man truly dead?”

These words were repeated by a little girl in a voice that was not hers. Her eyes bathed in a fiery red as she spoke, the embers forever singeing my brain.

Her question echoed in my skull as I relived a lifetime of pain in that one, fragile moment. It was familiar. It was mine.

And though it was just a mere fraction of a second, all my greatest failings had resurrected themselves. Much like the undead that now populated Arcadia, the ghosts that made up my personal hell resurfaced into conscious thought.

There were many. With each one cutting at my psyche a little deeper than the last. The deepest incision however, was her. Towering over the others like a dragon laying an entire citadel to waste in a hellish inferno.

It was her. It was an age ago. Simpler times. She being the most promising of mages, I but a fledgling knight of the Order. But it mattered not. We were happy.

That is of course, until she was summoned by the Witches South. Only the strongest willed of spellcasters were invited by the coven with the purpose of further testing their mettle through the toughest trials of the mind and the soul.

Coming through unscathed granted unimaginable powers on the condition that they be used for the betterment of your people. Failure meant death. Naturally, she was up to the task. In spite of my darkest fears, she emerged victorious. But the relief did not last for long.

She came back a changed being, returning as a newly minted witch. Forsaking her old identity, her staves, her friends and even me.

They say that the trials can break the most resolute, driving them to madness. This seemed unlikely to the wise men that ran this city. My pleas to the council went unheeded. I had no say in their decision to allow her to continue her work. It was for the good of Arcadia after all. Or so they thought. It was a decision we all lived to regret. Well, at least me.

For there was but one single cause of this outpouring of wanton death and pestilence.

It was her.

Using art most maleficent, she summoned a plague that turned my fellow brothers and sisters into walking corpses, devoid of sentience. Her arrival was supposed to herald a new age of prosperity.

All I got was remorse, having to behead many a kith and kin, destroy countless members of my order and be one of the rare few to be cursed with the misfortune of having to live through the oblivion of my people.

I have lost everything.

And it was in this instant that I had my answer for this spirit that faced me. Eking out the last of my strength, I managed to utter what I would be my last words.

” A man is truly dead when he has nothing left to lose.”

No sooner had these words escaped my lips than the ground trembled. The pall of gloom was cracked by the sun’s rays. My vision was filled with a blinding white light.

Was this heaven or another deception?

Catch parts onetwothree and four here.

Short Fiction. Part 4.

Catch parts onetwo and three here.

The shadow of the wailing form loomed closer.

Much like the pale vestiges of humanity I had dismembered, the silhouette indicated that this too was a shambling wreck, devoid of life, worthy of nothing but a quick, painless death by decapitation.

It all seemed too easy. Except that while the nightwalkers that I had slain, as the term would endear itself to, made themselves present from dusk till sunrise, this could be something a lot more sinister.

Arcadia’s square was replete with small passageways and spots that would allow me to avoid the impending danger that grew closer with each mind-numbing screech.

But, this is not our way. We never believed in hiding. Facing menace head on was our way, nay our destiny. I will stand my ground.

Readying my blade, bloodied and caked with the flesh and gibs of the infected, I prepared to strike whatever peril that was around the corner. This shall be my final stand.

All the courage in this mortal coil could not prepare me for what presented itself.

It was a small girl. A child. She wasn’t one of the many walking dead that the populace of our fair town had turned to. No. This was far more malicious.

Decked in royal vestments of the staff bearers, she was obviously of magic blood. Yet she moved as if a marionette in the hands of an invisible and rather inept manipulator.

As she stumbled closer the sun’s rays seemed like a distant dream. Darkness hit like an arrow to the heart. This was definitely not any witchcraft from this realm.

Lost in my thoughts, I was taken aback as this robed infant cast a spell on me. One that resulted in me writhing on the ground in abject agony. It was now clear, she was but a medium for something particularly demonic.

Grey clouds gathered forth, she hulked over my body and spoke in an otherworldy, raspy voice that was clearly not her own.

“Tell me, oh last of the sovereigns of steel, would you humour a demon traveler on his way?”

I did not have much of a choice. Gathering my strength, I tried to warrant a response. However I realised my mouth was sealed shut. More foul spellcraft at play.

“It matters not, you will play along. I have but one question. Answer correctly and I shall spare you and this insolent vessel I control. Fail to do so and you and this entire village shall bask in an eternal flame.”

My sword was nowhere close.  It lay amidst the corpses that peppered the plaza. It appears that I was left with no option but to indulge this fiend.

“So answer me, brethren of the blade, when is a man truly dead?”

Here it was. My last stand. No weapon sight. The foe from another dimension. And the battlefield, existential questions.

This will not end well.

Catch parts onetwo and three here.

Short Fiction. Part 3.

Peace is but a distant memory. One that is quickly fading amidst a sea of corpses and bloody streets. Daybreak comes. With it, a golden tinge to the pavements laced with genocide. Just enough in this wintery frost to give a faint glimpse of what was not too long ago a city of prosperity. This wooded sanctuary, this Arcadia, was home to tribes belonging to various disciplines.

From the east were the staff bearers. Practioners of magic both foul and pleasant. From the north, sovereigns of steel. Masters of the blade with no equal. And finally from the isle west, venturers. Merchants adept at minting coin. All of them traveled far and wide only to make this nestled part of the forest their home.

Once at odds with each other until an entire generation was ruined in a never-ending war. It was only then that better sense prevailed. With their spells, swords and coin they made this fair land prosperous. A council formed with representatives from the three ensured that the peace was kept.

Between these houses of power, Arcadia was bereft of crime, poverty and violence. There was order. There was law. There was life.

We were free from the covetous gaze of the Kingdoms south. Goblin hordes never dared to come close to our borders. The foul demonspawns that once walked this realm would think twice before laying siege if they were ever to return.

All this changed in the blink of an eye. And it all happened the day we allowed a witch refuge into Arcadia.

My reminscings were cut short by a shrill sound that pierced through the icy air, like acid on flesh, it melted every instinct except that of utmost pain.

The shrieks were getting louder to the point that I could not hear myself think. What ever it was, it was getting closer.

By now the beams of the sun had emanated every crevice and narrow pathway of the town. And yet it felt like the night had never ended.

Short Fiction. Part 2.

Each thrust into their wretched bodies painted the ground with gristle and sinew. Blood, if any petered out grimly. In a slow march to the ground. Like sludge from smelting ore. Except in a wretched black hue.
 
Things weren’t always this desperate.With every parry, riposte and slash I’m flooded of memories of what once was.
 
A strong city led by a council, nay a brotherhood. A lineage forged by indomitable trust, courage and absolute secrecy, spanning over generations. Established by once warring chiefs with the inherent understanding that peace is ever fragile and only the utmost discretion can sure its everlasting survival.
 
My thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of more foul monstrosities. Slipping in and out of the past whilst dismembering these creatures as is now a habitual occurrence. By daybreak of what seemed like an eternity, the ground was bathed in ebony.
 
I am the last of this tainted brotherhood, this accursed bloodline. This is my story.
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Short Fiction. Part 1.

Just like the others that showed up, these too shall fall by my blade.

Ragged, shambling, spectres of what once was a proud people. It is up to me to deliver them salvation.For no one else dare to venture down the old twisted road but those with no hope for redemption.

And in their deliverance, I shall find mine.