Medievia Mudslinger

April 8, 2001

The Face of Darkness - By Ortez

As we approached the gates of DeRah I looked around and decided my brother was right, this place didnít seem so terrible. He knew what I was thinking, and gave me a reassuring nudge. We walked through the rusty steel doors and found ourselves in a very cozy looking, small town.

"Did Dad say to give that document to the Mayor?" I asked gesturing to the parchment sticking out of my brotherís backpack.

"Yeah, he said it was important too," answered my brother. He shrugged non-committedly and I felt the same.

Just beyond the gates we saw the townís fountain. It was quite small, and cracked in a number of places, but seemed to be gurgling out plenty of water. It seemed as if it had been standing here for a lot longer than the town. We walked a bit more and had little trouble finding the Mayorís house - it was the biggest house in the whole town. The Mayor of the town was a nervous looking man in his late forties with a bald head. He beckoned for us to enter his home and sit down on the chairs facing him.

"You do not seem to be from around here," he said looking us up and down.

"Weíre not, we have a document for you from our father," said my brother. Trying to get this over with he shoved the parchment into the Mayorís hand. The happiness in his face was unmistakable as he read whatever was written in the document.

"Thank you very much," said the mayor furiously pumping my brotherís hand - and then mine - up and down.

We were used to running errands for our father and we were especially uninterested in the reasons for them, so we made a quick exit from the Mayorís office after being thanked a hundred times. I was still puzzled as to why my father had insisted on sending both of us to deliver a simple document when my brother stopped and gave me an evil smile. This smile had got us in trouble throughout our teenage years because it meant he was thinking of doing something crazy.

"Why donít we explore a bit before we leave?" he said, already running for one of the few taverns he hadn't managed to visit on his adventures.

"Wait up!" I called after him. Out of breath I got to the door of the tavern and went inside. An atmosphere of drunken cries and smoke from cooking fires greeted me as I entered, feeling somewhat annoyed at my brother's enthusiasm.

"We really should get home," I said as I sat myself down at the table he had picked out.

"Oh come on, letís just have one or two beers, then we go," he replied, already signaling the barman.

"Ok fine, one or two, then we leave." I said propping my staff against our table. After all, what was the hurry? A couple of drinks wouldn't harm anything...

A few hours later, our tiny table was covered in an assortment of alcoholic beverages and I was hard pressed to find a dry spot to rest my head in as we had spilled a lot more of the booze then we had drunk.

"How many... erm... drinks did we er, oh yes, how many drinks did we agree on?" I slurred, looking at my brotherís distorted image through the bottom of my empty glass. A warm feeling ran through my body as I managed an awfully sedated expression.

My brother scratched his head and shrugged, trying to figure out which end of the glass he had to pour into his mouth. At that moment everything went dark and I think I fainted.

The sound of breaking glass awoke me, we were still at the bar and I had fallen asleep somehow with my face in a large pool of beer. I glanced around and noticed I had created a little bit of space on the table by knocking over all the glasses. I blinked and rubbed my head, feeling the alcohol tingling in my blood - but I was sobered up quickly by my brotherís scream. I whipped my head around to notice the bartender. I had thought of him as a pretty decent man while he was talking to us earlier but now he looked horribly disfigured. His whole face had taken on a demon-like appearance and he was bent over the body of my brother which was slumped on the floor nearby. I grabbed my staff and raised it into the air and chanted ĎIn Vas Graví. I brought the hammer of faith down onto the bartender - for an instant I felt the blood-chilling evil inside him, then he fell to the floor in a lifeless heap.

I frantically looked around but there seemed to be nothing else in the tavern except my brother, the corpse of a horrible bartender and I. Rushing over to my fallen brother I frantically searched him for signs of life - I felt only a light breath as I pressed my ear against his open mouth. I focused my healing energy at my brother and managed to get him back before death had a grasp on him. An overwhelming feeling of dizziness swept over me, but when I recovered the sight of my brother, whole and hearty, greeted me. Somewhat weakened but breathing. He moaned and slowly got to his feet.

"What the hell was that thing?" he asked, his voice more shaky then I had ever heard.

"I have no idea, seems like that bartender had one too many firebreathers," I replied trying to add humor to the situation - it had not worked. He gave me an ugly look and took his bloodied blade from the floor.

"Ok, now can we get out of here?" I asked, sounding like a worried girl.

"Please, lets," replied my brother, agreeing with me for the first time since I could remember.

The night air was cool as we ran out of the tavern, but I didnít notice because of what I saw as we came out. The small town was desecrated, it had seemed all cozy that morning but now I felt like we were in some bizarre dimension.

"Where... where are we?" asked my brother grimacing as he sniffed the night air. Suddenly he froze, gaping open-mouthed at the sky.

I followed his stare into the sky. It was the moon he was looking at and not the moon I was used to. It was the color of blood. A horrible crimson red.

"Iím not sure where we are - all I know is we are very far from home," I said whimpering slightly. I could smell burning in the air and I sensed an evil presence hiding in every shadow.

"Quick!" snapped my brother. "Get us out of here."

Wanting to argue very little I raised my hands into the air and chanted ĎVas Ex Porí. Nothing happened. I tried again, concentrating on the little gate outside of our home that I knew so well, but we were still standing in that awful town.

I frowned and shook my head at my brother. He snorted and peered around. Suddenly, off in the distance, the frightening howls of wolves could be heard. We had no choice; we had to go somewhere, so we started walking very quietly. We had only gone a few paces when I stumbled over something - it was a humanoid wolf's corpse! I bent over and examined it gingerly...

It was very reminiscent of the townís people we had seen that morning - the body had on bits of bloodied clothing that looked like the style of dress around here, but were now on the back of a beast that once had evil in its blood. The werewolf had claw marks running across its face, a lot deeper then any normal animal could make.

"What do you think killed it?" I asked as my brother knelt down beside me.

"Seems like it was clawed to death by something, but what?" his answer hung in the night air - just like that awful moon. "More of them?" he asked hoarsely.

I was overcome by a sense of panic, but I didnít let it show, my brother had always been the brave one.

The fountain we had passed some hours ago was clearly visible in the distance, illuminated by the ruddy light from the moon. No longer was the clear water flowing, instead it was spurting a thick, dark liquid that splattered and oozed rather than flowed. It was a dark night but I could see it in the glow from the moon, a faint light that also illuminated a frail woman standing beside the fountain. A pair of werewolves that resembled the corpse we had found were at her feet, looking around as if they sought something..

"Look over there," whispered my brother, gesturing to the woman.

"I see her," I whispered back. "Should we go talk to her? Maybe she knows how to get out of here"

"Oh very clever," snapped my brother. "Itís night and the woman has wolves running around her, we might as well wave to her and tell her weíre tourists."

"So what do you suggest we do?" I asked getting a little frustrated.

"Do you remember how we got into the town this morning?" he asked brushing his sweat-covered hair out of his eyes.

"Yes, the gate just beyond those tour guides," I said gesturing to the woman and her werewolves.

"Looks like we have no choice, then," he whispered grimly. "We have to take them out - I canít see any other way to the gate." He drew his flaming blade which had burned away all the traces of the blood from his earlier battle.

"Now wait just a minute, youíre sure there isnít a better way?" I said, feeling that fighting werewolves and old women in a bizarre dimension should be put off until further notice.

"You obviously didnít try to reason with the bartender after he mutated into... into that thing. I had, and believe me it didnít work," he said, shivering slightly. I knew this was an argument I could not win.

We began to creep silently towards the growling werewolves; the adrenaline pumping through my bloodstream was making me twitchy and my staff rattled in my shaky fingers.

"Would you stop that?" asked my brother finally, irritated by my apparent cowardice.

"Weíre about to go up against crazed werewolves and some old lady who looks like she hasnít had a happy thought in decades, excuse me if Iím a little nervous," I replied setting my staff down and wiping the sweat off my palms.

"Just try to keep it down," mumbled my brother, obviously concentrating on the werewolves.

Creeping silently, sticking to the shadows created by the houses on either side of the narrow street, we made slow progress because I had to check every now and again that my staff had not slipped out of my sweaty fingers. We were pretty close to the werewolves now and I could just see the sharp claws on their paws and their spiky blood-stained fur. They seemed to be frantically sniffing the night air, I prayed they could not smell us. Our objective neared and I could feel my pulse racing in my throat. I glanced over at my brother who seemed to be completely calm and was actually sharpening his weapon with a special rock that he had had ever since I could remember. When we were about twenty yards short I raised my staff into the air and created an aura of holy light around my brother.

"Hey!" he snapped. "Donít make that stuff too bright, I feel like a walking torch."

"Sorry," I muttered and reduced his unearthly glow a bit.

The next part would be the most difficult because we had no cover. I knelt in the shadows while my brother sneaked towards the werewolf because I might alert the woman to our presence. Using skills that I could only hope to one day understand, my brother crept up behind one of the werewolves without being heard. He leapt at the werewolfís back with his flaming blade but the wolf had smelt him and whipped its head round revealing snarling incisors. My brother fell short - missing his target by inches. The werewolf growled dangerously and lunged at my brother with a clawed paw striking him on the side of the head, I saw a faint trickle of blood escape and run down his ear. He ignored the pain and caught the werewolf in the solar plexus with such a massive kick that I felt the ground tremble slightly under my feet. Grinning wickedly my brother plunged his blade into the werewolfís stomach and removed it with a horrible "shwweth" sound.

I heard a low whimpering - and then the werewolf collapsed to the ground. My brother had not noticed the second werewolf sneak up behind him, but I had. Reacting in split seconds I chanted ĎBan Vas Corpí and a black aura started spinning about my body. The werewolf lunged at my brotherís neck with drooling fangs, but was melted in an instant by my bolt of magical energy before teeth could meet flesh. Whipping his head round, my brother noticed my silly grin and was thankful for it. He sneaked back into the shadows from where I had been watching and sat down beside me.

"Nice kick, you really think he deserved that?" I said, examining his brimstone boots for traces of blood and fur.

"Yes, he ruined the hair over here, the bastard!" he said pointing to a small break of bloodied flesh above his ear.

I examined the cut and recited a minor healing spell, watching in approval as the wound healed up.

"Thanks, hope you got a lot more where that came from, because I think I hear a frail old woman coming up behind us," he said leaping to his feet and landing in a combat stance.

I cocked my head around to look in the direction he was now facing and saw the demonic glow in the womanís eyes. She was wearing a gown of crumbling animal fur, she clasped a staff with a silver wolf engraved on it and I could see the aged skin on the corners of her mouth.

The woman pointed a withered finger directly at me "How could they kill a defenseless old woman? How could they?" she said, spitting out the last syllable. She didn't seem to be too sane, matching the warped town perfectly.

Suddenly she began chanting magical phrases that I had only heard in my most secret magical training. A massive shockwave struck me in the chest and toppled me over. I felt pain ricochet through every bone of my body. I was stunned momentarily but my brother was not - he leapt forward and slashed at the woman boldly. She dodged all his attacks and sent another crushing shockwave at him. He toppled to the ground a yard from where I was.

"What the hell are you looking at me like that for?" he shouted dragging me to my feet. "Run!"

We fled from the woman running blindly down the street, every footstep echoing in the silent night air. We turned a corner and leapt into the shadows created by an abandoned old house a few moments later. We collapsed to the ground panting loudly. My brother gently felt the area where the shockwave had struck him and moaned as quietly as he could. I had been so oblivious to everything during the run that I only now felt the pain from the blast I had received.

"What the hell was that? Please tell me you know that spell," he groaned feeling himself for broken ribs. I knew the spell but it left me heavily drained the first time I used it.

"Itís a very new spell for me, Iím sorry, I donít think I could focus enough to actually cast it," I said, seeing the disappointment in his eyes.

I heard a small footstep echo only a couple of yards from where we had slumped down into the cold pavement. I glanced over at my brother and saw the panic in his eyes.

"Donít worry my pretties, I will ensure your death is as painful as possible," came the frail voice a few feet short of where we were hiding.

The voice startled me and I nearly swallowed my tongue. My pulse raced as I felt a wave of nausea sweep over me, drawn out by panic.

"Your bones will make fine treats for my wolves, they love the taste of humans," came the voice - closer this time.

I noticed my brother raise his head as if he was going to give her a real mouthful of a soldier's best curses, but then he lowered it, deciding he should keep his mouth shut. Aggravating this woman further wouldn't be of any use.

Finding my feet I got up slowly, I looked over at my brother and gave him a nod. The only time we ever nodded at each other like that was when we were in serious trouble and we knew we had to face up to it. I remember my brother had nodded this way the day we were being stalked by zombies in that awful graveyard so many years ago.

My brother caught my nod and jumped to his feet, he brought out his dried zombieís head from the backpack; he seemed to draw courage from it and it served as a reminder of the day we had triumphed over the zombies.

"Come and get it you hag!" he taunted. For an instant the night air seemed to become deathly silent. I could hear my short, shallow breathing and then the sound of rock being demolished and metal being twisted swept over us. The building against which we had been leaning lay in fine particles of dust and bits of metal all around us - shattered by powerful magic.

We heard a slight cough and turned to face the leering woman. My staff nearly slipped from my trembling hands as I raised it into the air. I uttered the familiar prayer and a shimmering ghostly warhammer appeared above my head - I concentrated deeply and gasped for breath as I felt some magical energy drain into the hammer, I slammed the hammer down onto the woman and I saw her drop to one knee from the force of the blow. She quickly recovered and began to chant. I felt the magical energy in the air drain into her staff as she raised her hands to send a nasty spell at me, but she was cut short as my brother charged his shoulder into her back - he had used my diversion as a way to sneak up behind the woman. She slammed into the floor almost losing grip of her own staff.

"Imbeciles, youíre no match for me," she shouted with a slight crackle in her voice. Once again I saw her staff come up, but this time the spell was less complex, I had no time to react before the shockwave struck me in the chest. I was thrown backwards and I felt my skull cracking open as my head struck the wall of a house. I was only conscious long enough to see a zombieís head roll and stop in front of me before giving way to the evil claws of death. I only wish my brother had used his head instead of a zombieís.

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