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PIRATES!

Sarah and Little Bear met near the shoreline where the woods ended and the beach began. There had been talk of a strange ship bearing no flags sailing towards Boston, but one of the hunters at Little Bear’s campfire spotted it anchoring just out of site of town and Sarah and L. B., as she had come to call him, wanted to see for themselves.

Concealed from the shore, the two were surprised to see that the ship had sent a party ashore not 50 yards from where they looked out onto the beach. The men had made a small fire and sat around it passing around a bottle of dark glass. The men were filthy and obviously drunk though it was only 9 in the morning on Tuesday!

“What sort of fools are these?” L.B. wanted to know. “They are hiding but they make a fire for all to see. They post no guards, but they all are armed heavily. They are dressed in tatters, but once those clothes were fine. It makes no sense”

“They’re Pirates!” hissed Sarah in sudden realization. She hadn’t noticed the weapons or that their tattered clothes were fancy, but it was indeed so. L.B. was good at spotting things like that right away. She had come to find that the natives weren’t stupid or savage. Sarah was learning that many of the things the town elders said were simply lies.

“What is a ‘pirate’? A wandering band of drunkards?”

“Well there’s more to it than that. They’re thieves. They attack merchant ships at sea and plunder them and then waste their booty on women and drink. They are bound straight for Hell for sure. But in general, the English ones attack Spanish ships and vice versa.”

“There are raiders among our people too, but they raid tribes we are at war with to weaken them, and the bounty goes to all the people to strengthen the tribe of the raiders. I have never understood the difference between stealing and raiding.”

The two instinctively hushed crouched low as a few of the men wondered up the beach near their hiding place. They were indeed quite drunk, and Sarah could smell the rum from where she hid and wrinkled her nose as the alcohol stung her nostrils. There were three of them, and they whispered conspiratorially amongst themselves. The tallest of them was doing the talking, “Suppose the old git has word of what we’re on about? What then?” he said. Sarah noticed he had a tattoo of a woman wearing only a brassiere and a skirt of some kind of twine through which a thigh emerged most immodestly. Sarah blushed to see an Englishman with such a mark upon him.

“He won’t hear nothin’ unless one of you two goes and blabs it around!” Said the short, stocky one, who appeared to be wearing a stripped sock on his head. When he said, “around” he stretched out the “round” part and made a circle with his finger for emphasis. Then he pulled out a dagger that was long and filthy. Anyone blabs and they will have a visit from the surgeon!” he said.

“Yes, well; that would include you, Mr. Guernsey.” said the third man. Of them all, he was the least tattered, the least drunk, and was of middle height, and middle disposition. “Now put that thing away before it flies out of your hand and into the woods.”

Guernsey reddened, “It’s not going to fly out of my hands…” was as far as he got before the Middleman, with lightning speed and no warning slapped it out of his hands, and as predicted, into the woods. Although it landed some distance from Sarah and L.B., they both cringed and disappeared down lower into the bushes they were using for cover. It took Guernsey a good 5 minutes to find his knife, during which, neither of them so much as twitched. His companions had already gone back to the fire by the time the short buccaneer had quit the woods, and Sarah and Little Bear wasted no time hightailing back towards Salem.

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Requiem’s Memory

The dragon Requiem rose before dawn, his polished blue hide glistening silver in gibbous moonlight, the scent of pine and earth filling his nostrils. A mist clung to the valley that encompassed the lake he had bedded along side of for its cool water. He drank now from its refreshing depths, taking in the flavor of the leaves, and needles that had been steeping in it like a tea. The stars began to fade as the sky began to gather light in the east. Requiem thought of another predawn sky so long ago when he had encountered a wizard of might and ambition.

The wizard’s staff had illuminated the landscape in an eerie light that gave the lie to Requiems simple hillside disguise; the blood coursing through his veins glowed a luminous golden fiery orange, giving the dragon the appearance of being engulfed in pulsing shimmering flames. Requiem had been caught asleep and was surprised by the sinuous figure dressed in satiny robes of yellow & orange. That wicked staff through which he channeled his enchanted power glowing like cold star at one end & the other sharpened like a sword blade. The enchanter’s face swung into the light of his staff, his own shadows crawling across his face as if trying to escape. His hair was faded and frayed and whipped in the swirling wind that was the result of poorly contained energy.

As Requiem took in the scene, he noticed the malevolence in the wizard’s eyes. Suddenly the blade of the staff arced towards Requiem, and with unnatural speed ripped open his chest directly over his heart, which beat visibly in the light of the enchanted staff. Furious, Requiem reared onto his haunches to his full, towering height. He saw the wizard pull back; preparing to launch the staff like a spear, and Requiem grabbed the tiny mortal in his right hind talons, balancing his weight on his left with his tail and spreading his great webbed wings, blotting out the rising sun from the sky.

He saw the wizard swing his staff again, this time to jab Requiem’s thumb talon which held the man like a little girl holds a doll. The dragon tightened his grip forcing the air from his lungs and causing him to drop with weapon. “Why do you attack me?” he said aloud in his deep, gravely voice.

Unable to speak until his breath returned, the man sputtered and coughed, his bluster gone. Finally, he spoke; “It is said that a wizard who possesses the heart of a dragon can defeat the Evil Incarnate.”

Requiem almost felt sorry for the defeated wizard. “That is a metaphor you fool! Do you not know how to read your own teachings? While you had the upper hand by surprising me & were able to magnify your strength through the talisman of that staff, your heart was mighty, but now in defeat you have lost every ounce of courage. One with the heart of a dragon would remain brave even in defeat. He would not rely on tricks and gadgets to give him courage. He would remain determined long after others have given up. Impossible odds would not dissuade him. Strength is not a physical adjective, it is a spiritual one.”

Requiem still bore the scar from that encounter, though it was hundreds of years old. Now he was embroiled with another wizard who wanted to defeat Incarnate. This one has heart, true enough; but is it the heart of a dragon?

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INTO THE WILDERNESS

That morning, Sarah had dressed herself properly after bathing with the fine ewer her father had only recently succumbed to letting her use. Previously he claimed that she was too young to use it, and might break the expensive porcelain. But she was older now and her father had consented to her bathing with it some months ago. In her estimation she was becoming a proper young lady, and would one day be the talk of all Salem. She had made sure her soft golden hair was modestly secured beneath her starched linen cap.
After helping with the morning chores, she had sat down to a light breakfast of bacon, porridge, eggs, fresh milk, & bread. Her mother had commented on the beauty of the rising sun as she broke her fast with her parents. It had been a typical morning with the promise of a new and enchanting day lain before her.
Now she enjoyed a morning constitutional walk as she had some free time before the afternoon chores. A mist had settled on the coastal village in the night, and it was presently lifting as Sarah followed a well worn path into the woods surrounding the village. She loved to hear stories of the hunters and trappers and their encounters with wild animals and wild natives. The stories were frightening and thrilling, and it scandalized Sarah to imagine herself embroiled in one of these adventures. There were stories of pirates and Indians; even cutthroats from the colonies themselves! They were surely the devil’s servants as the minister said. At least the natives and the beasts were ignorant of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. Only the children of Adam bore the sin of their forefathers. Some said the natives were men and in need of salvation, others said they were little more than beasts themselves. Sarah’s grandfather said the great Calvin had surmised that only a select few could earn passage to paradise, most were consigned by the Lord Himself to damnation from birth. Surely the naked savages were among the damned.
The fog was thicker in this part of the woods. Sarah couldn’t see her house from here. She couldn’t see any houses. Was that a war whoop she heard? Just a bird, surely. These trees; they hung on to winter longer than the others. Their long, leafless fingers seemed to beckon to her. Perhaps this part of the forest was enchanted? Sarah thought she had best not think such thoughts but they came to her unbidden. Had she no control over her own mind? Perhaps she should be getting back to the house. Through the whispering mists emerged a beautiful purple bush. What plant was this? It was like lavender, but smelled differently. What lovely flowers! Sarah had never seen any blossom so tempting! They must be safe, they weren’t apples as had tricked Eve and Adam so. Maybe with some nutrients in her stomach she could make sense of her surroundings. She picked several blossoms and gathered them in her skirt like she did when harvesting from the garden. She had seen the cunning folk gathering herbs out this way. Maybe these were some of their healing plants.
With something in her stomach, Sarah felt better. She began to hum a tune to herself that she had heard her mother sing. It was a mournful song about the Angels coming to gather a dying man to heaven. Though they sang a Capella, Sarah could hear the soft, distant drums of the natives and subconsciously sang in time to the earthy rhythm.
Sarah emerged into a thicket of ferns that were strikingly green after such deadened terrain. Sarah heard the crunch of a branch nearby, and let a gasp escape her lips. After a moments hesitation, she saw a boy her own age emerge from a crouch where he had been hiding. He was a native Wampanoag, naked except for a slim strip of leather which hung between his legs. Sarah could see it did little to cover the boy. He was dark brown and his skin glistened in the hazy light. His eyes were deep black and so beautiful! He had lashes like a girl, thought Sarah. His straight black hair framed his face and his lips parted in an unspoken question. Had he been following her?
“Were you spying on me?” she asked. She put her hands on her hips trying to take charge of the situation the way her mother did. She gripped her hips to steady her shaking hands. She wondered if the naked savage could hear her heart pound in her chest. As her mind whirled at the huge consequences this could have for her, she involuntarily took a breath to scream. The boy brazenly leaped right up to her and put his hand over her mouth, making her panic more acute. With his free hand, he put his finger to his lips and she could see that he was about as scared as she was. He took his golden hand away and motioned for her to crouch down as he did the same. He pulled aside a fern branch and she saw a group of naked savages armed with bows, knives and spears creep silently away. These were grown men on the hunt, she realized and this boy had just saved her from being discovered by them.
“Wuneekeesuq,” he whispered to her.
“Hello,” she replied. Everyone spoke a few words of Algonquin, and most of the savages spoke a little English too. He pointed in the opposite direction from the way the hunters were headed and the two crept silently in that direction. Sarah was fascinated by the naked boy. She had dreamt many times of meeting a native, and now that she had she could hardly believe it. He smelled of earth & pine; clean but aromatic somehow at the same time.
After a time, they came to a copse with a little hidden clearing in the middle hidden from view. Sarah felt safe here. “I’m Sarah” she said, motioning to herself.
“Little Bear,” said the boy, mimicking her motion.
“How come you’re naked?” she said in a scandalized whisper.
“How come you are not?” asked Little Bear.
This was a ridiculous question, Sarah knew, but as she was about to say this, she realized that it must be what all the Indians thought about the Puritans. “God has commanded that we cover our selves to hide our nakedness!” She hissed. She was sure that she would get a lickin’ for having such a conversation with a boy, let alone a naked savage boy. She was thrilled.
“The Great Grandfather of all has not shared this instruction with our people.” said Little Bear, “But most of the women do wear the two hide dress.” he conceded. “We all wear clothes in the winter.” A moment went by and the children began to look around for something to talk about. After a moment, the boy said, “Want to see some magic?” Sarah’s heart did a flip flop. She was both fascinated by and scared to death of real magic. This was a compelling blend of emotions that seemed to coming to her in wave after wave today. She swallowed in her suddenly dry throat and managed to nod. They sat facing each other with a little space between them. He reached behind her and pulled a leaf off of a plant and showed it to her. Little Bear put the leaf in the palm of his left hand and then cupped his right hand over it. “Aquit, Nees, Nis.” he said. “Now blow!” He held up his cupped hands for her to blow into, which she dutifully did.
Little Bear opened his hands and a butterfly with leaf shaped winds flew out and fluttered away. Sarah gasped and clapped her hands. “That is wonderful!” she said. Little Bear beamed happily.
“Now you.” he said.
“Me?” asked Sarah. “O.K.” she said. She thought for a moment. She didn’t know any real magic. But she had played games with her friends behind the neighbor’s barn after supper sometimes. The girls liked to cast the future and see who they were going to marry. Sarah drew a circle in the dirt between them. “Spit.” she commanded. She had learned from these games that it was important to act the part when it was your turn to cast a fortune. Little Bear spit into the circle causing an irregular, organic shape to form on the packed, damp earth. Sarah stared at the circle wondering what she should say. Boys liked mystery over romance, she was pretty sure. Indians sought adventure and glory.
“You will grow to be a powerful warrior.” she said. She saw his chest swell and he smiled. He was magical. “Your people will hold you in high regard. But there is one who will be your enemy. You will be rivals for the same woman. I cannot see who will win. You will face many dangers. In your old age you will be a tribal elder but you will still be bitter that you never vanquished the rival of your youth.” Sarah looked up to see the boy looked stunned. In fact, he was a little bit frightened. “Well,” she said, “What did you think?”
“That is almost word for word the same fortune the old shaman told me at my last birthday.” Little Bear said. He looked pale. There was another awkward silence. “I had better return to camp.” he said.
Sarah suddenly became aware that time had passed. But she also felt she had done something wrong. She hadn’t meant to frighten him. “Will I see you again?” she asked.
“Yes. Tomorrow. Same time if you can.” He was getting up to go.
“How do I get back home?” she asked.
“Your village lies toward the setting sun” he said smiling, and was gone.

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1ST BATTLE

They came at him fast, weapons out. He ducked as he moved to pull out his sword, but he still hadn’t gotten used to how long it was, so it still wasn’t drawn by the time they were on him. There were two on his left, one on his right, and one in the middle. They were burly. They had armor, and that didn’t seem to slow them down. Yendor could smell them, rust and freshly sharpened steel, with sweat and bad breath. The sound of their chain mail was deafening. In another moment he would be dead.
Still crouched, he lunged at the small gap between the middle and the right. As he sprang from the crouch, Yendor pulled his dagger from his boot. He came in under the attack and locked his arm using the force of the lunge to propel his dagger, instinctively knowing there was more force in his two legs and combined weight than there was in a stabbing thrust. He aimed for the man on his right. Luck was with him, as he had got it under the mail shirt and the dagger sank deep into the abdomen. Yendor had successfully picked off the weak link of the attack.
Yendor spun to the remainder of the pack. They had crowded themselves when Yendor lunged and had been unable to slice him up. One or two would have succeeded. Briefly Yendor was reminded of a comic stage routine where three oafs bumbled around onstage. He had his sword out now, and had the alertness of one who had just escaped death. The soldier on Yendor’s left thrust the one next to him at Yendor. This one was the tallest. He came at Yendor in a berserker rage, quickly evaporating the advantage he had of superior reach. The soldier swung his blade like a hammer clearly meaning to crush Yendor who was thin and wore no armor. Yendor stepped aside at the last moment and as the man stumble into the space where Yendor wasn’t anymore, Yendor sliced his blade through the air and into the man’s backside.
Now there were only two. The leader who had shoved the last one at Yendor and he was the burliest one of the bunch. Naturally, the leader motioned for the big man to attack. This one was cautious. His weapon was a battle axe. The kind that had a space behind the sharp part of the blade. Yendor had thought that gap was to lighten a heavy weapon but now as he faced off he realized that a skilled warrior could use it to wrench his opponents weapon away. That can go both ways thought Yendor. As he attacked he aimed for where he thought that gap would be. He guessed right and skewered the axe instantly yanking back as if on a fishing line, pulling the axe free.
This caused the brute to lose his temper, abandon caution and come at Yendor with his fists; each one like a sledgehammer. Yendor began to swing his weapon between himself and his foe but moved too slowly, too late. One massive fist collided with the side of Yendor’s head, followed almost instantly with the other to his ribs. Yendor nearly dropped his blade as he fell to his knees. He focused on not losing it. His vision blurred and his body felt rubbery. He squeezed hard on the blade. It occurred to him that up until now he must have been moving with a kind of time defying quicksilver. His vision came into focus in time to see the giant smile as he raised his fists for the coup de grace. Yendor raised his sword with both hands in front of himself and became a conduit. Lightning leapt from the sky and struck Yendor’s sword. The energy flowed into Yendor and pulled him to his feet. Yendor felt as if he had become a passenger in his own body, and observed as he lopped the head off the enormous brute like fruit from a tree. He let the sword pull him in a circle as he continued to swing and came to rest facing the dumbfounded leader, who slack jawed turned to flee. Before that could happen, Yendor slid the sword into the man’s chest and pulled it out so quickly that his foe was still turning to run as he fell lifeless to the ground. Yendor had somehow tapped into the flow of the moment. He had learned to get out of his own way.

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THE KEEP

The rainy season had persisted late into spring. As Yendor crested the tree lined hill early that morning, it was difficult to make out the sunrise in the foggy, cloudy morning. In the valley below, emerging from the clinging mist and rising into the sogging clouds above, stood a black tower. There were three of these throughout the Land of Phan Tao Sea: One carved from a deadly precipice a thousand feet above jagged, lethal rocks, whose windows emit eerily colored flickering lights on long winter nights. One shrouded in mystery, said by some to be accessible only through an underground labyrinth perhaps beneath a mountain, perhaps beneath the sea of Tao itself. And this: a lone tower in the center of a low valley surrounded on all sides by primeval forest. Blacker than night, it was Incarnate’s special sign; the total absorption of light. No magic could penetrate it. It was unknowable. The field grass ceased to grow within a thousand yards giving the lie to the idea that nothing living can exist in such a place. Yet these were Incarnate’s dwelling places for a millennium. The air tasted brackish, polluted. The light was dim. There was no birdsong, no crickets no sound of any kind.
Yendor fought the urge to cloak himself with invisible spells. That would be a beacon to Incarnate. Instead, he humbled himself, repeating that he was no better than the lowliest beggar, no more than a wanderer; tossed about his life like a leaf in the wind. He reminded himself that he was a part of the earth; that he belonged wherever he was needed and was not out of place in a palace or a dungeon. He was needed here and so he belonged. He was not out of place. These things were better than spells. This true knowledge was real invisibility. Yet still he crept close to the ground as he approached the castle “Trust in God, but tether your camel” as the saying went.
Once he was close enough to the keep, Yendor straightened up, but could feel an energy coming from it that kept him from touching it. It felt as if he would burn himself if he touched it. But not from heat; from cold. It was so cold it made the hairs on his arms stand up and if he passed an extremity too close to the structure as he began to circle it, that limb developed an ache as if it had been strained.
After a complete tour of the circumference, Yendor had been unable to find an entry. He began to circle the tower again, this time not looking at the structure, but at the ground and area immediately surrounding it. He was on his second circuit engaging this method when he noticed a corner in the earth perpendicular to the keep. He brushed the area with his foot revealing a step. Although there was obviously plenty of energy immersed in the building, there was apparently nothing actually masking the entrance to the castle, conventional means were all that had been employed. Yendor realized that this was the same logic that he had applied to his approach; magic would actually be more visible to someone with experience than simply covering up the step with dirt. Since no light penetrated the stone of the tower, it was impossible to see an entryway.
Yendor picked up some of the dirt and tossed it at the tower directly in front of the step. To his surprised it passed through and landed on the floor inside the entrance hidden by the light eating composition of the stone itself. Now Yendor felt a fetid breeze waft out of the door way. He realized a lantern would be of no use to him in such a place. He stepped through the threshold without a plan, trusting in his ability to meet whatever challenges he might face. He realized that the sensation of impending burning and limb aching gave him an accurate mental picture of his immediate surroundings. He was even able to “see” a table ahead of him as the malevolent energy coming from that area had a table shaped dead spot there. In this way Yendor gained confidence he could move around as if he were in a lit room.
In his mind’s eye, he saw his surroundings as if each object gave off a faint blue glow. He could differentiate between the bricks and the mortar, which was a distinction he couldn’t make outside with his eyes. He could see a faint wood grain to the table, and upon closer inspection, he could see fingerprints fainter still. They were made by fingers of incredible length, and were smeared as if the hand that left them had caressed the table. Yendor had the sensation that he didn’t know how long he had been examining the minor details around him, and felt he should concentrate on the matter at hand. He could become mesmerized by the sheer unreal magical elements of this place and be caught unawares.

He heard an ephemeral whispering in his head, as if it were slightly out of sync with the present; it seemed to echo ahead of itself and then smear across his consciousness. He realized it was Danse’s voice he heard in his head; that the shell of the place had shielded it from reaching him clearly before he had entered, yet still that had been what had brought him here. He knew it was a trap, but he also knew it was genuinely her. It rang true to him once again that the most powerful magic uses what is real, not what is illusory. Her thoughts were almost nonsensical: “cold..ugh, sweating. Hungry. Mother? Is that you? Why are you mad at me? I know you’re not real! I’m sorry mommy! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it! No. no please don’t make me do that! Don’t leave me! Mother!?” She was clearly in agony. Incarnate and his lackey’s must be torturing her to get her to call to him more strongly.
His anger and hatred made him aware of his weapons as if they were alive on his person; aching to avenge her. His dagger, it had been so useful and he had thought it would be a back up. He felt it in his boot, it sang to him: “let me kill for you, my master! Let me swim it their dying intestines. The grotesque thought must be a product of this place, he thought. The place itself is goading me, getting in my head. His sword vibrated in its scabbard and his bow hummed on his chest. His arrows? Appropriately, they quivered.
Yendor felt the air becoming more dank, and had the sensation that he was descending into the bowels of the keep. He felt the weight of the place above him as if it might collapse just to be rid of him. Yendor became aware of a panting ahead of him, perhaps around the corner. It was that of a heavy beast, a dog or some demonic version of one. Even from a distance he could feel the fetid heat of the animal’s breath rising up at him from the floor. Yendor had been being careful to be quiet, but he doubted he was so quiet that the beast was unaware of the only other living creature in the immediate area. Perhaps there was a master keeping it at bay. At that moment, there was a low growl, as the animal became aware of Yendor. Yendor paused assessing the situation. He should dispatch the beast as quickly as possible so as not to cause a racket that might alert the whole castle to his whereabouts. Yendor pulled his dagger, and rounded the corner.
It was grizzly. It’s fur was matted and bald in places, it slobbered in thick, stringy strands, it had long, ragged claws and sharp, glistening teeth. But its eyes were what drew your attention. They were red. In a world where everything was blue, they were red: glowing, angry, red. The stink of the thing was a concentration of excrement, disease, and vermin that thrived in filth. It growled from deep within itself. Remarkably fast, it leaped to its feet and lunged as its growl turned into a vicious barking snarl. Although he had been prepared for it, Yendor flinched and his heart stopped for a beat before it commenced to pound in his chest as if it were trying to escape.
Yendor overcame his initial hesitation and took up a defensive stance against the attack only to see it fall short as the dog reach the end of a heavy chain, caught itself and yelped at the sudden choking sensation. It coughed and barked and drooled but ultimately, Yendor was outside of the creature’s range. The beast strained at his confinement, further choking himself and enraged at his own impotence. Yendor wanted to shut the beast up, but felt pity for its predicament. Sheathing the dagger, Yendor pulled his sword, meaning to knock the beast unconscious with a blow from it. However when Yendor raised the sword to strike the dog stopped barking and backed away whimpering. Confused, Yendor cast a glance over his shoulder to make sure there wasn’t something more threatening behind him. Perhaps the only other being the dog had ever encountered had been his cruel master, and so he expected to be beaten. On an impulse, Yendor brought the sword down with force on the chain, severing it.
“Let’s see what you have to say about that.” he said to the beast. If Yendor thought the dog would be so grateful for being set free, he was mistaken. The dog leaped at Yendor with a snarl and the lightning speed he had displayed earlier. Yendor brought his sword up just in time and struck the dog in the nose with the flat of the blade. It was more an accident than a calculated blow; if he had reacted more quickly the dog would have had his head removed. As it was the dog landed stunned and shook its head and sneezed in an attempt to get its wits back. Yendor held the blade over the dog’s head trying to bring himself to kill it and be done with it, but again the dog cowered. Perhaps they could reach some détente.

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INTO THE DEPTHS

armor
Yendor was momentarily disoriented by the presence of actual light. In comparison to the mental blue image that had been being projected in his mind, this small candle was incredibly bright and ethereally orange. The immense dramatic shadows flickered and grew across the walls only to shrink and grow in the other direction. His nostrils were filled with the scent of familiar sweat and as he fought to get his bearings, he saw Danse in the corner. His vision tunneled to her and the rest of the world melted away for a moment as he recognized her. She was huddled up with her knees to her chest and her arms wrapped around them, hugging them tightly to her self. She rocked back and forth and was unaware that someone had entered the room.
He rushed over to her and scooped her up before he knew what was happening. They were out the door and racing back the way Yendor had come in such a mad rush that it was with some surprise when Danse said to him; “What are you doing here?” She seemed to slowly be coming to her senses as if just waking from a dream.
“We are getting the damned hell out of here!” he said.
“You’re bringing the dog?” she asked, and he noticed that indeed, the beast was loping along just behind them, not growling, just part of the group.
“I guess.” he said. “I take it you two know each other?”
“He’s been my only friend for so long now.” she said and Yendor remembered hearing stories around the campfire how captors could come to feel like friends to their prisoners who were robbed of all other contact and affection. Yendor wondered how long they had been separated. He had taken up the chase immediately, but had had many interruptions and side tracks along the way. Also, she had been under the power of Incarnate and perhaps time had passed differently for her.
Just then the beast began to growl. Yendor thought it was in response to their conversation, but it wasn’t. The beast stopped and barked, whimpered and growled a frightened growl. Yendor was inclined to ignore it and carry on, but before he wonder why such a malevolent creature should be frightened of anything, a giant battle axe nearly took Yendor’s head off. Yendor had stooped to look at the whining dog, so technically the dog saved Yendor’s life. Danse, weak as she was leaped out of Yendor’s arms and he drew his sword to face a fully armored knight. The knight had its sword out also and was pressing the attack. The two swung their swords simultaneously and Yendor was struck by the force behind the knight’s blow. The knight pulled his weapon back for another swipe with lightning speed. Yendor lunged to tackle his assailant and was surprised when the armor simply fell empty to the ground. The plate armor clattered around the narrow hall and Yendor wondered briefly if it had been occupied by a ghost or if it had been the puppet of a sorcerer hiding somewhere safe.
Around the bend of the curving passageway came two more haunted knights. Yendor decided that his presence was known and the time for restraining from magic was over. Pulling energy from the very air, Yendor felt it swirl around his arm up to his shoulder and then shoot down the length of his arm as he threw circling, crackling rings of blue white lightning at the knights. It struck their armor which absorbed the energy like a lightning rod, and the armor collapsed into sizzling pieces. There was a rumbling in the floor and Yendor saw with horror ghastly glowing green corpses emerge incorporeally from the stones beneath them, pulling on pieces of the armor as they came.
Yendor counted three ghosts. He could smell their rotting flesh. They were semi transparent and he could make out various anatomical workings going on; joints twisting, muscles constricting, semi digested materials floating in the digestive tract. Yendor began swinging his sword at them and kicking away armor as they clawed at him and hissed as they were thwarted in their attempts to gather the armor. Yendor could see some kind of mist rising off of them. Although they could pass through objects like the floor it seemed they solidified as they appeared and though his sword didn’t have the same effect as it would have on a living thing, it definitely bothered the ghost corpses and they were perturbed when they had the armor kicked from them. There were more coming through. They were coming through the walls now too. There seemed to be countless ones and even the ones who had been kicked or sliced with the sword kept coming. Yendor’s sword would pass through them like a knife through soft butter pulling a disintegrating stinking trail of
Beasty voice background - original sound included
Rising and sinking hand
ectoplasm with it. It was part solid, part liquid, part gas, and really not any of these things.
They were in various states of decomposition, missing jaws, noses, one was had no legs and dragged itself toward Yendor by its arms, its exposed spine writhing like a tail.
Yendor realized he was going about this battle all wrong, and scooped up Danse, and reluctantly grabbed the beast’s chain and the three of them fell out of reality.
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