A Beginning in the End pt.16

Arabella

Found Journal Excerpts Continued

2012/7/14

They are everywhere now. They just stumble around out there, moaning and searching for something to devour. Their smell permanently fills your nose and I can hardly eat anymore. I am constantly sick with fear these days and the anxiety that our barricade won’t hold.

We know what those monsters are after now. There was a man out there yesterday running, ragged, and tired. He was heading for our gates with a horde of those things chasing him. Despite the risk to our own safety we were going to let him in but we were too late. I watched as he was ripped apart and consumed by those monsters while there was nothing I could do about it.

They devoured him with such ferocity and then seemed to look around for more with such obvious intensity that we can’t doubt what it is they want anymore. They want to us; they want human flesh.

2012/8/15

We’ve been hiding in here for over two months now. We make no noise but I guess the things can smell us. They are aware of our presence now and wander about as if waiting for us to emerge although I don’t believe that they are smart enough for that.

I wonder if we can outlast them in the end. They are just corpses right? Eventually they ought to decay but I’m not counting on anything at this point. All we can do is wait and see what happens. I think most of us are just trying not to think about the future too much.

2012/9/5

One of the children fell seriously ill today. They took him to the hospital and we’re all just hoping it isn’t contagious. The monsters are still lurking out there, moaning day and night.

2012/9/7

The child has only gotten worse and the doctors are afraid that he is going to die. The only good news at the moment is that no body else has fallen ill yet. The rest of the town is still in at least decent health. We’re all just waiting and praying right now.

2012/9/8

Oscar died this morning. Our town doctors still don’t know what happened but they are assuming it was an infection of some sort.

The town has grown even quieter if that is possible. A shadow of mourning has joined the one of fear that already overshadowed us. We are all weeping inside but we don’t dare let it show or make the slightest noise. We keep our dark and fearful silence.

2012/9/9

Something is wrong, very wrong. There is some commotion over at the hospital and I assume it has to do with Oscar. There is a deep dread in my heart even though I don’t know why. Oscar always struck me as a bit odd but I liked him.

I’m upset that he’s dead but honestly I’m more concerned about what could be causing a stir now that he is dead.

2012/9/10

I guess it was nothing after all. They were afraid he was going to reanimate but apparently nothing happened. He was buried yesterday or rather cremated since our graveyard is outside the barricade and full of the living dead.

I stood back in the crowd and watched him burn. It was somehow heartbreaking beyond anything I’d ever seen before although the world had fallen and millions of children were surely dead. Somehow here with Oscar burning it was suddenly so real that I could hardly handle it anymore.

Those moans were still ringing in my ears as they always do now but suddenly I could really hear them again. I turned and left the street, running to my house. The smell of burning flesh mixed with that of rotting. My stomach emptied itself without my permission and a sense of apprehensive dread deeper than any I had ever felt settled in my soul.

2012/9/13

Today I woke up with a bad feeling that quickly revealed itself to be a warning. Several people have fallen ill with whatever Oscar had. Apparently the incubation period is unusual.

The doctors are working around the clock in an attempt to figure out what is going on. The whole town is in a near panic with a threat inside as well as the one constantly lurking outside.

We did so much to save ourselves from the outside danger and now an unforeseen agent of death has emerged from our midst. I suppose, as always, we can only wait and see what will happen to us. I pray constantly that we can just be allowed to live.

 

Dymphna

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Anora Cartwright Chronicles – Book 1

No one noticed the girl who materialized with a thump and a bang outside the Starbuck’s. Those who were outside hadn’t had their early morning coffee yet, those inside were too engrossed in overly sweet over-priced coffee to notice the strangely dressed girl who was dusting off her ruffled skirt. A clever little clockwork monkey whirred and clicked as he hid underneath her mat of curly hair. She adjusted her satchel and checked that her ray gun was still secure before walking inside and up to the counter.

“Excuse me ma’am, but can you please direct me to 19th century London? I seem to have lost my way… again.”

The harried barista looked up from the white mocha breve she was making and did a double take.

“I think you might be a couple of months late for the convention miss,”

“Anora Cartwright,” the girl said.

“Alright, well, order a coffee or else let someone else order,” the barista said. Suddenly there was a crash and a startlingly loud bang. A dark cloaked figure rose from a cloud of smoke. Several of the coffee shop patrons screamed. One or two fainted. Several others started looking for the candid cam. Anora shook her head.

“Amateur,” she muttered under her breath. Anora lifted Geoffrey the clockwork monkey from her shoulder and sent him scampering away to hide.

“Anora Cartwright,” the dark shape rumbled.

“Cuthbert the Melodramatic. Still haven’t figured out the Temporal Paradox Manipulator I see,” Anora answered.

“You will hand over the jewel now little girl,” Cuthbert rumbled. He strode forward; his dark cape swirling ominously, his hand held out in a manner suggestive of a man who was not used to being refused. Anora pulled out a deep blue jewel necklace and held it up.

“You mean this jewel?” she asked sweetly. Cuthbert practically dove for the jewel but Anora danced back out of reach. “Fat chance slowpoke. This jewel is going to the queen.” Anora glanced back at the barista – who was gaping like a fish suddenly deprived of water and obviously hoping that this whole thing was simply some elaborate hoax.

“Terribly sorry about all this. You may want to contact whatever local law enforcement you have in this time. Perhaps they will show up before the Vikings start rampaging too badly,” Anora said. Cuthbert strode forward, hands held out like he wanted to strangle the girl in front of him. Anora jumped up onto the counter, yanked out her ray gun, and fired a quick two shots at the lights. The plastic covers cracked and the bulbs shattered.

Cuthbert laughed. “Not quite the effect you were looking for, is it?”

Indeed, the number of windows and the light outside meant that there was no significant darkening in the room. Cuthbert snapped his fingers and a hoard of Viking berserkers landed in the middle of the coffee shop, having fallen from somewhere in the 8th century.

There was a half-second of utter silence before the remaining clientele unanimously decided that the current premises were no longer entirely safe. Screaming commenced.

Anora dodged a hairy fist and leapt from the counter. The berserkers proceeded to destroy the blender, the espresso machine, and half the tables before Cuthbert could get them pointed out the door and after the rapidly disappearing girl and her clockwork monkey.   

Anora ducked into an open empty garage in a residential neighborhood to catch her breath. Geoffrey jumped from her shoulder and scampered off to explore. Anora was not concerned – he always managed to find her again.

Simply by looking around the garage Anora started to piece together where and when her T.P.M device had landed her. 21st century, by the look of the car, although technically it could be a throwback style from the 22nd. The lack of dystopian security ruled that out though. She inwardly shivered. The 22 hundreds were exciting in all the wrong ways. This was earlier though, probably around 2014ish. Not the easiest time to navigate, but she’d been though worse. With a shrug Anora tucked herself into a quiet corner and pulled out her T.P.M.

The matchbox-sized contraption had a host of new scorch marks, and a new crack in the casing. The problem with discount T.P.M.s – they were junk when they were new.  Anora eased the lid open and winced at the mess inside. No wonder the ride had been so rough – half the gears were out of place. Anora pulled her repair kit out of her satchel and started poking around the innards with a screwdriver. She had gotten pretty good at jury-rigging it back together, but she wasn’t sure how many more times she could fix it before it broke for good. When that happened… with luck it would be a good time she got stranded in.

Anora had just finished wrapping the T.P.M. in yet another layer of duct tape when Geoffrey came bounding back in with a squeak and a whirr. He leapt into her lap, turned, and started chattering at the girl who had just entered from the house. The girl stopped short and stared at Anora and the clockwork monkey. Anora lurched to her feet, scattering her toolkit across the floor.

“My apologies Miss, I thought the house was empty,” Anora said.

“Are you some kind of robber?” the girl asked.

Anora dipped a curtsey, “Anora Cartwright, displaced time-traveler and historian to the Queen, long may she reign. This is my companion Geoffrey. We are not burglars, nor do we intend you any harm.”

“Cool. I’m Zoe Holmes.” The girl leaned up against the wall, arms crossed. “What are you doing in my garage?”

“I was repairing my equipment after narrowly escaping the clutches of my nemesis Cuthbert the Melodramatic and his band of Viking berserkers. I am sorry if I have inconvenienced you in any way.”

“Is that a gun?” Zoe asked, pointing at the thing that hung on Anora’s hip. Anora pulled the ray from the holster and passed it over.

“A customized V80 Zombie Hunter from the year 3021. Not a good time to visit, but they make a good gun.”

Zoe hefted the mahogany and brass ray gun and glanced down the sight.

“Can I shoot it?” she asked. Without waiting for an answer she zapped a pile of extension cords into a puddle of goo. Anora took her ray gun back before Zoe could hurt anyone.

Geoffrey screamed. Anora shoved the ray gun back in the holster, dropped, and started gathering her scattered toolkit.

“That is Geoffrey’s danger alarm, the berserkers must have almost caught up to me. I’m sorry, but I have to go.” She buckled the last strap and ran to the door of the garage. Already the first of the Vikings were turning down the street, sweating and stumbling in her heavy furs.

“Awesome!” Zoe said. She leaned further out the door to see.

“They keep life interesting. Stay low and they shouldn’t do too much damage before Cuthbert realizes I’ve time-jumped.” Anora started pushing buttons on her T.P.M.

“Wait, you’re leaving?” Zoe asked.

“I can’t stay here,” Anora answered.

“Then let me come, just on one trip.” Zoe grabbed Anora’s arm. Anora glanced at Geoffrey, who shrugged his tiny shoulders.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to get you back to this time,” Anora said.

“I’ve been trying to escape this time most of my life,” Zoe answered. The Viking was getting closer and Zoe would not relinquish hold of Anora’s arm.

“Fine.” Anora grabbed Geoffrey and punched the green button on the T.P.M. With a pop they were whisked away through time.

The Vikings continued their search for another three hours and two thirds of them were rounded up by the police before Cuthbert sent them all back to their proper time. There was head scratching and minor panic attacks for weeks after, but eventually people forgot all about it. Time was like that – it always fixed itself.

Death of Icarus

Thick black smoke twisted into the sky, filling the air with the stench of burning things. Veera watched as the roof caved in on the only home she’d ever known. Sparks flew, catching some of the dry grass close by. Most of the meadow wouldn’t burn though. The ground was frozen, dirty snow left in drifts, filling the hollows she had once played in.

Veera spun around and stalked toward the cliff that curved around the edge of the meadow. Her soot-blackened wings quivered with repressed tension as she stood, facing the thousand-foot drop below.

“Veera, wait,” Cody’s voice, followed quickly by Cody himself sliding to a stop next to her.

“Don’t try to stop me,” Veera said.

“I’m not trying to stop you. I’m coming with you,” Cody said. Veera turned to look. The gangly sixteen-year-old was already dressed in his hunting gear, rifle slung across his back, pockets stuffed with ammo, skinning knife in belt, hover board in hand. He even had her knife belt with him.

“I can travel faster on my own,” Veera said.

“They were moving fast, they might be in the city by now. You’ll need me to track them.” Cody dropped his board, clipped his foot in, and pushed off for the cliff edge. Veera took off and caught the straps they had long ago sewn to his outfit. Her wings groaned with the added weight, but between the two of them they had enough control to avoid the random rocks and trees and make it to the ground safely. Veera touched down and folded her wings as best she could.

“I am not your personal parachute you know,” she growled.

“Miranda was my sister, I have as much a right to their blood as you do. Now let’s go.” Cody shot forward on his hoverboard, leaving Veera little choice but to take off and follow.

They traveled hard and fast, dangerous, the way Cromwell had hated. Both tried not to think of him. Both tried to forget the screams that had echoed through the valley the day before. Veera dodged between trees, pushing her flying ability to the limit as she trailed Cody, who was leaning low over his board, making the kind of split-second turns only he could do.

They startled a herd of deer around mid afternoon, but neither of them turned to chase. They were hunting larger game, game that had almost a day’s lead on them already. Already it was growing dark in the valley. Days were short this late in December, shortened further by the towering mountains that surrounded them. Veera broke free of the trees and gained altitude. She tapped her earpiece to turn it on.

“Slow up while I scout ahead,” she whispered.

“Stay in contact,” Cody answered. Veera watched from above as he spun his board 360 and stopped. He’d be ok for a few minutes. Veera angled her wings and started spiraling out, eyes scanning the forest below  for any sign of danger and any place to spend the night. Already her hawk vision was growing useless though. She wasn’t an owl, not even close. And it was cold. She could feel her wings already starting to lag as the battery froze, and the altitude wasn’t helping. She took one more turn and spotted a clearing just big enough for a campsite.

“West about five minutes. I’ll meet you there, gotta land,” Veera said.

“Copy that,” Cody answered. Veera folded her wings and plummeted toward the clearing.

Cody stopped his pacing and turned to orient himself. He hadn’t been paying much attention to direction throughout the day, except to know that they were roughly paralleling the road that ran out of the valley. It guided him, he knew that the killers were using it, but there was no way he’d ever step foot on it. Cody found the setting sun and started up his board. Slower now than before, darkness fell fast up here. And they’d need a fire, even from that short time of inaction he could feel his core temperature dropping. Hopefully Veera had found water. They’d need to hunt soon too – both had been too much in a hurry to pack well. If Cromwell could have known he’d have killed them both – after yelling for half an hour. Miranda… Miranda wouldn’t have said anything. She never could accuse. Cody wiped his eye. Must have run into a branch in the dark, causing it to tear up.

A Beginning in the End pt. 15

Arabella                                                                                                                   

Excerpts from Found Journal Continued

2012/7/3

We started the barricade today. The epidemic hasn’t reached us yet and I think we might still have some time. Even so you can feel fate closing in on us and there is no escape. We’ve already lost the T.V. and the internet is crawling. You can still make some calls but they are hardly going through anymore. Soon we shall be completely cut off from the outside world.

2012/6/17

The barricade is almost finished and just in time. We saw the first of those things over the top of it today. I never could have imagined something like that. It was literally a walking corpse. It ambled along, jerking its limbs and moaning. I’ve never heard such a horrendous sound from any creature.

I don’t think I can do it justice with words and I’m not sure that I want to. It’s like living in a nightmare now whereas before it was just sort of surreal. I will admit that I am personally terrified.

No one knows exactly what is going on or when it might end. We are trapped here even though as yet we have only seen one of those things. We have enough food to last us several years if we ration correctly. Maybe we really can survive but will it be worth it?

2012/6/20

It’s been quiet here for the last several days with no sign of the creatures. It feels like the calm before the storm. Everyone is quiet as if speaking will bring all of hell upon us. Maybe it would, who knows? All I know is that we are waiting for something and whatever it is, it is not good. It is just the opposite.

2012/6/30

Several of those things passed by today. Nobody made a sound, everyone just listened to the unearthly moans and held their breath. I don’t know if the things can hear or smell or if we were just that good at hiding but they didn’t detect our presence. They moved on and left us alone. I wonder who they used to be?

2012/7/7

I can hardly believe what I saw today. I can’t think how else to describe what I saw today. I can’t think how else to describe it except that a herd of those monsters cam through today. I was the most terrifying thing I could ever have imagined and then beyond, far beyond.

The smell! Just that was enough to make me vomit in the street. The stench of rotting flesh was everywhere in everything and it still lingers in the air. I refuse to count the number of times I have emptied my stomach  today. Sometimes it is by fear of the monsters that my stomach lurches and then it is by fear of the future itself that my insides turn.

Then there were the moans. You can’t even imagine them until you hear it for yourself. Their tongues don’t work anymore so it is different from the moan of a sick person or something like that. It is different and it is absolutely horrifying. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It’s not something that I had ever heard the lie of back before all of this began.

I can still hear the sound echoing through my brain, pounding in my memory. What could do that to a body, bring it back to life like that? What kind of unforeseen horror has descended upon this world?

 

Dymphna

 

 

The Heart of the Night

A breeze blew over the tiny cottage that summer night; and though the man who owned the cottage slept soundly with his wife beside him, both exhausted from the day’s work, their son of about seven winters, moved restlessly on the animal skin that was his bed.  For the breeze did not bring cool refreshing air, but instead more heat, and with the heat came dark dreams to trouble the boy’s sleep.

He was outside searching for his friends who were hiding in the dark shadows of the night.  Whomever he found first would have to take his place in the seeking and it would be his turn to hide; he was good at that.  Before he had sufficient time to find anyone, however, he began to hear screaming.  He did not know where it was coming from, it seemed to come from everywhere, all around him, the village itself seemed to be screaming.  Then he recognized the screaming to be coming from his friends … and then … from the women of the village as well, the men were shouting; but above all those horrible screams and sounds of frightened people the boy could here another sound, a terrible sound of crackling laughter.  He ran from that sound, the sound of death, destroying everything it could, simply to bring pain to the living.  It was a hungry sound, a hunger that could never be satisfied.  The boy tried to hide, but the cottage in whose shadows he hid betrayed him, its timbers snapping apart exploding and cackling with the horrible laughter, the creature of which, the boy was suddenly in front of, a horrifying bodiless thing that glowed of red heat with only a mouth open ready to devour him.

His eyes snapped open as he sat upright in the single room of the tiny cottage; he was breathing hard and his clothes were drenched in sweat.

It was quiet.  Or so he thought at first, but then he realized that there was a noise coming from a distance, from the opposite side of the village he thought, then, to his terror, he recognized it as screaming, and it was becoming louder and louder.  He jumped to his feet and ran to the nearest window to escape, but when he got there he stopped, there, at the opposite side of the village, he could see a bodiless red hot glow.

He heard his mother and father sit up, awakened by him.  “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”  His mother asked.  He turned toward her and pointed out the window.  She came beside him and as she looked out he saw concern mixed with fear fill her face.

“What is it?” he heard his father say.

“Fire,” she answered in a hushed voice, “The village is on fire.”  Suddenly the screaming was all around them.  The cottage next to them burst into flames and dark figures darted about killing anyone who escaped the burning cottages.  His mother, terrified, dragged him quickly to the window facing the woods; his father had gotten to his feet.  But before she could lift her son out of the window the door burst open and a nightmare stepped into their home.

It was in the shape of a man covered in a pale silver armor his helmet in the shape of a skull and a sword that curved and twisted like steel fire.  Death himself had come for them.

“Run!” his father shouted rushing at Death while at the same time two soldiers dressed in the same pale armor stepped behind their evil lord.  With a speed that almost seemed lazy Death thrust his wicked sword deep into his father’s belly dispatching him easily and pushing him to the floor.  A scream escaped his mother’s lips, and with a desperate strength lifted her son out the window in an attempt to save his life.  It wasn’t enough.  Before she could lower him to the ground the boy saw the twisted sword rip through his mother’s breast spraying him with her warm blood as he fell from her arms to the ground.  As he got to his feet he could see through his hot tears the skull helmet at the window in place of his mother’s face.  A sharp whisper came from its unmoving jaws, “Kill him!”  And as the boy turned to run he saw Death’s soldiers coming for him.

He ran as hard as he could up the hill towards the woods wiping the tears from his eyes with his sleeve so they could not blind him and make him trip.  Still the soldiers were faster and stronger than he and were catching him quickly.  He had the lead, however, and if he could make it to the woods he could hide from them in places he knew they could not get to.  Now he was up the hill, only a little farther and he’d be in the shadows of the trees; but just as he thought he had reached his goal and would be safe among the trees a strong hand grabbed his shoulder, twisting him around and throwing him to the ground in the same action.  He knew it was the end, so the boy closed his eyes and waited for the soldiers raised sword to bite into him.

It never happened.  Instead, the boy heard a crash and opened his eyes in time to see a huge black horse flying past him trampling Death’s soldier beneath its powerful hooves while its rider leapt from its back crashing into the second soldier with force enough to bring the hilt of his sword in direct contact with the soldiers breastplate, the rest of the blade protruding from the back squirting his blood on the ground.

Once the knight had taken care of the soldiers of Death and seen to it that no others were close at hand he whipped his sword clean and approached the boy whom he had just saved.  The boy noticed that the knight was still rather young, only about twenty-five winters; he wore solid black armor and had no helm on his head.

“Are you alright?” the knight asked in a loud whisper.

But it was too much for the boy.  Now that he was safe everything that had happened rushed in upon him and he could no longer keep the tears from falling.

“Stop that!” demanded the knight.  “I did not save your life just now so you could weaken yourself through weeping like a little girl.  I have come to give you a chance; the same chance your mother gave you when she lifted you out of the window; the chance to avenge her death and your father’s.  My name is Nox and you are coming with me and I will protect you, but until I have taught you to take the life of the one who has destroyed yours you will know me as Domine, or Master.”

Seeing no other option left open to him, the boy followed the knight finding a purpose to this new life that had replaced his former one which had so suddenly come to an end; the purpose of taking his revenge on Death.

Delving the Deep. Chapter I

            The deafening crash of thunder, coupled with the sound of the heavy oak doors banging open, forced everyone in the room to look up from their drinks, books, and games as the outline of a man was framed against the storm outside. As the man staggered in, rainwater and blood mingled and dripped to the floor from his cloak, trailing a crimson path behind him as he struggled to maintain his footing.  His clothes were torn to shreds, his armor in pieces, and one of his boots was completely missing, as were two of his toes.  His eyes stared wildly about the room as he gasped for air.  Fear, anger, shock, and disbelief played across his face in a rapid and violent dance as he stared around the room like a wild man.  Several of the men in the room leapt to their feet and ran towards him, concern in their faces as they asked: “Are you alright Roin?  What happened?  Where is everyone else?”  Roin opened his mouth, twice, trying to say something before he finally managed to gasp out on his third attempt: “I… I failed.”  With that, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed to the floor in a crumpled heap, too quickly for anyone to try and arrest his fall.  As he hit with a sickening thud, a small, odd shaped emerald stone rolled out of his hands and came to rest a few feet from the unconscious man, almost unnoticed by everyone in the room as cries for a healer went up, unheard by Roin whose mind had drifted to a dark place free of pain, misery, or memory.

 

            That had been three weeks ago and now, Roin was in his infirmary ward, tapping his foot impatiently as a man reached his hand out towards Roin and closed his eyes.  After a few moments, the man lowered his hand and said: “Your body is healed up now, but your mind is still shattered.  If you truly wish to leave you may, but if you stay I might be able to bring back your memory.  Something is holding it back from you, but I’m not sure what or why”  Roin looked the priest in the eyes and said: “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, but regarding my memory, I want it to stay fractured.  I know who I am, where I am, and what I am.  If you had been with me, you would understand why I don’t want to remember everything that happened, because what little I do remember, I am trying to forget.  Now if I may go, I need a pint of ale.  Maybe two.”  The priest placed a hand on his shoulder and replied: “Just take it easy for a few days and think about it.  If you change your mind, I’ll be here.” 

Memories flashed chaotically through Roin’s mind of tendrils of darkness, fangs, and a terrifying laugh, causing him to shudder slightly before answering stiffly: “Nothing could make me want to relive that experience.  So long Thomas.”  He walked out of the building and headed straight to his quarters in the King’s Lodge, headquarters for the King’s elite explorers and adventurers. For years this building had housed those that the King saw as having unique skills both in war and peace, and from here many had gone forth recovering ancient relics, saving villages, and speaking to restless warlords about the importance of peace.  As he reached for the Iron handles, his memory flashed back to the last time he had opened these doors, only three weeks ago, and he was forced to shake the rising memories off as he forcefully pushed them open.  The room looked much the same as it had always looked, minus the expression of shock on everyone’s face he had seen last time.  Now, when people looked up and saw him, they looked relieved and offered him a seat by the fire and a free mug of the King’s finest ale, asking him how he was doing and what had happened. 

Roin said nothing at first, choosing instead to down the entire mug in an instant and enjoying the taste and the slight burning sensation as it swished down his throat.  After a few more drinks, he finally began to explain that he was fine, but that he was not going to talk about what had happened right now.  Most of the men in the room respected his privacy, but a few tactless individuals kept pressing him for information.  Apparently, rumors had spread far and wide about his most recent adventure and the tales of what may have happened were travelling faster than Roin would have thought possible.  Stories of dragons, ancient magic swords, beautiful princesses, and more had traveled through most of the King’s Lodge.  Still, despite what had been said, Roin knew in his heart that they were just rumors, because he wouldn’t, nay, couldn’t talk to anyone about what had really happened.  Some of the new recruits who didn’t know him very well continued to bother him until wiser heads dragged them off, scolding them as they sent them off on menial errands. 

Roin was grateful for the assistance, but more grateful to be left alone for a few moments.  Ever since he had gotten back, he’d been pestered by priests, wizards, chroniclers, and others who hadn’t given him a moment’s piece.  Finally, he was able to close his eyes, lie back and listen to the crackling of the fire, and forget about the past in a mug of ale. 

As he sat there, drifting off into sleep, a voice jerked him back to the real world as it said with authority cutting through any fog of alcohol or dreaming: “Roin, get up.  William demands your presence.” 

Roin opened his eyes just enough to see a man in very formal attire, with a short sword at his side.  Roin suppressed a moan as he remembered the number of messengers William had sent while Roin was in the infirmary, demanding he come and make his report about what had happened.  William was the sort of man who didn’t have a single compassionate bone in his body.  For him, all that mattered was that people followed the rules, one of which was to report what happened on any of the King’s errands immediately.  Roin knew he couldn’t ignore the messenger without experiencing repercussions, so with a loud sigh of frustration he stood up and followed the man out the door and down the street to William’s lodgings.  The building was not exceptionally large, but the ornate decorations made it clear that this was no commoner’s home.  Two golden lions, their jaws opened in a silent roar, flanked the marble stairway to the front door which was decorated with a coat of arms depicting an elaborate shield flanked by an owl and a snake with both an over-sized pen and a sword crossed behind the shield and a family motto in Terran scrawled along the edge.  Roin half-grinned when he saw the design because the many conflicts he had been in meant that he recognized that the shield’s design was utterly useless in a real battle.  “Much like the man inside” Roin thought as two servants opened the door and ushered him in.  He made his way through the fancy vases, portraits, and up a spiral staircase to a door with a large placard on it that read ‘Office of Sir. William Graves.  Please knock before entering.’

 Roin banged as hard as he could on the door and immediately heard an annoyed voice bark out hurriedly from inside, “Alright, damn you!  You can come in.”  He pushed open the door which swung open easily on its well oiled hinges and revealed a short, heavy set man sitting at a desk with stacks of gold coins on his left and stacks of papers on his right.  Behind him were shelves upon shelves of meticulously organized books, scrolls, and maps of the world that Roin knew were not to be touched without William’s express permission.  In front of William’s desk was a wooden chair, which Roin plopped down into as soon as he had entered, leaving the door wide open behind him. 

Sir William’s face scrunched up as he said with forced courtesy, “Please… Have a seat.”  He then flicked his hand, magically closing the door for Roin and glared at him for a moment in silence before saying coldly, “Well, it’s been two weeks since you returned from your mission, and I haven’t heard anything about what happened, what was lost, what was gained, nothing except rumors and this.”  He pulled a silk bag into view and carefully emptied the contents onto the table.  All that was inside was a small emerald stone that seemed to glow with an eerie green light, which Roin immediately recognized as his only souvenir from the caverns below.  William continued, “I don’t know what it is, under what circumstances you found it, and none of the books in my expansive library can tell me anything, why, not even my magic seems to work on it.  So, I summoned you here to tell me what happened and what this thing is, so I can get the records straight.”  He reached for his quill, dipped it in the pot of ink and waited impatiently for Roin to start.  For his part, Roin just shrugged and said, “I have no idea what that thing is.  I know it was down in caverns me and my team went to investigate, but to be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened down there.  I know something dangerous was there and I know I am the only one who escaped, and I know that I had that rock when I left, but beyond that…”  He shrugged, keeping his face as emotionless as possible and hoping that he would be able to leave before William made him really angry. 

William sat there a moment, as if he expected Roin to continue his tale, but when it became obvious that there was nothing more to be said he asked, “And your gear?  Your team?”  Roin glared back at him, restraining his growing anger on an increasingly weaker leash as he replied in a cold tone of voice that hardly felt like his own, “I.  Lost.  Everything.  Never ask about the Cavern again.” 

William didn’t seem not realize how close he was to getting Roin’s fist planted firmly in his pale face and merely sat back in his chair as he closed his eyes and said with a disappointed sigh, “Well, I guess the mission wasn’t a total loss.  Now that I have my report, I can send this thing to a higher authority and hopefully they’ll know what to do with it.  As for you,” he stood from his chair, disdain in every feature of his face, “you had better get back to the Lodge and get some more training in before your next mission, the gods know we’re not a charity organization!  The gear you lost was very expensive and won’t be easy to replace, never mind the cost of training new recruits to fill in the gaps your failed mission left within our ranks!” 

Roin stood up violently from his chair with every intention of smashing the man through at least two walls before beating him to a pulp, but he restrained himself and merely allowed himself to say through clenched teeth, “I lost three of my closest friends down there.  Don’t talk to me about gear and replacements.  I would greatly enjoy smashing your head through a wall, but I don’t think any of the walls here have done anything to deserve having someone so dense smashed against them.  Pray I never find anything that has earned such a punishment.”  He then turned and strode purposefully towards the door as William sputtered behind him about how he had more questions for him.  Roin didn’t care to listen though as he yanked the door open and slammed it behind him, leaving the building as quickly as he could and ignoring the servants who glared disgustedly at him and his dirt-covered outfit.  He made his way back to the chair he had been forced to vacate back at the Lodge, and upon arriving, he found a Halfling, sitting there studying a map, who must have come in after Roin had left.  Without a word, Roin plucked him into the air and set him down roughly in a nearby bench before retaking the seat for himself and turning his face away from the stunned Halfling who had begun to sputter interjections such as, “What the heck?  What’s your problem?”  He continued his protest on how unfair life was, but Roin was done listening to people for the day and he drifted off into a deep sleep despite the chattering complaints that continued to stream from the indignant fellow for several minutes.  His dreams though were far from restful, for in his dream he found himself trapped, unable to move as a half elf looked at him pleadingly.  Her daggers hung uselessly at her sides as her entire body became wrapped in a dark tendril, choking the very life from her bones with a sickening crunch.  Beside her, there lay a broken quarterstaff, its owner’s severed hand still clinging to it as acid continued to eat away at the wrist.  Just in front of Roin was a pile of bones and the red hot head of a great axe, all of which were still smoldering from the ray of intense fire that had engulfed the half-orc that had moments ago been standing there with his arms crossed in front of his face in a vain attempt to save himself from the inevitable.

 Roin stared in helpless horror at this scene as a cold sweat broke out on his brow.  After a moment, his strength returned and he tried to run, run as far from this terrifying place as he could, but as he turned he found himself encased in a dark cocoon of thick strands of webbing.  It was suffocating him, restricting his movement and he thrashed wildly, trying to become free, sheer terror lending him strength he never knew he had.  As he furled about, the vision passed and he realized that the web was nothing more than a bedspread someone had thrown over him to keep him warm after he had fallen asleep.  He sat there a moment, gasping silently with terror and feeling the cold sweat that had built up on his forehead, before wiping it off with his sleeve.  “Tomorrow, I’m going to see Thomas again, maybe he can at least make the nightmares stop.”  With that, he got up and headed to his room to clean up his spare weapons and armor.

Humanity

             Humanity

Hidden in neural synapses.

Experience never lapses.

Limitlessly running wild.

Beautiful working brain child.

Contains all and nothing.

Oh what mind can bring!

Nature’s clockwork doll.

Yet somehow not at all.

A will that’s all its own.

The power to smile or frown.

A muscle contracts with thought.

The conscious movement is sought.

Elegant resulting contortions.

All in perfect proportions.

Capacity for great achievement.

Anticipating the next event.

Something to map not see.

Pathways of things to be.

The thoughts remain blind.

Endless things to find.

Digging ever deeper.

An imaginative sleeper.

Dreams more glorious than life.

A strange sort of strife.

Forgetfulness bringing relief.

It depends upon belief.

Theories abound everywhere.

Nobody is yet there.

Many parts all connected.

Every last inch is effected.

The mystery may never be solved.

The whole human race is involved.

 

Dymphna