Excerpt: Emergence – Part I

*** Author’s Note: This would have been published yesterday, but the weather has been too nice to be stuck indoors! Now that the weather is shifting again, some intense gaming will be done over the next few days, along with a lot of live-streaming – tune in for the fun, anytime!

😎

The portal vanishes behind her with a soft whoomph sound. She stands in the secluded glade, the moss-covered statue of the Forest Lord standing tall before her. The night is darker than it was when she’d first entered the portal, as clouds now blot the sky and a soft rain falls. She isn’t sure how long she’d been in the realm between the worlds – a day? A week? Two? A whole month? Time had slipped away from her.

She looks down at her armour. The reinforced leather pieces are badly rent and ragged, scorched in some places. She undoes the bindings and lets the worn bits fall. Clad only in breast-halter and loin-cloth, she closes her eyes and lets her senses reach out to the world around her. Everything is so alive! Her mind is clear for the first time in what seems like aeons. Her departure from home seems a lifetime ago; what she endured with the Withered Hand seems to have lasted for an eternity. She feels newly born and has the ability to truly appreciate the sensation. It washes over her again, as it did many times during her plane-walk.

She breathes deeply of the fresh air. Recent rainfall lends a dampness and clarity to the scents around her. The breeze shifts slightly, bringing her the pungent musk of the nearby giant troop and their herd of mammoths. She breathes deeply, scenting the heavy mammoth cheeses fermenting in their containers of hide. The guttural grunts and grumbling of the giants reaches her ears and she realizes that she can understand their crude, primitive language: Wolves loud. Wolves close. I scout. You watch herd.

She sidles backwards down a short slope, away from the noise of the giants; when she feels that she is at a safe distance, she stands and moves off in a westward direction, keeping close to the cliffs. She isn’t interested in fighting the giants or startling the mammoths; not out of any sense of fear, but out of respect for the ancient, prehistoric race. Meeting other travelers is also of low priority at the moment, and there are few others out here in the wilds.

Sudden thunder cracks loudly overhead, as if an unseen pair of titanic hands clapped together. No lightning…there must be a dolmen nearby. Sepultur’a grins in the dark, orienting herself in the direction of the thunder. This will be as good a test as any of her freshly-acquired, newly-tapped skills. She breaks into an easy jog and soon spies the glowing runes marking the sides of the central, circular sacrificial structure. Already, a ragged figure hangs helplessly in the air above it while robed forms dance and caper madly, chanting words of evil. She hears their ugly speech: “Bring forth the blood-sacrifice! We use the blood of this innocent to do thy bidding and chain this world to yours, oh great dread lord!” The clouds roil and coalesce, then spin madly and separate, whirling as a blinding white beam of light spears down, obliterating the doomed captive. Poor soul, she thinks, angered that she is never in time to save them. The necromancers always hasten their ritual whenever a potential rescuer appears; even whole parties of 25 or more are never swift enough to save even one individual.

The beam of light vanishes as three massive hooks fall from an unseen height, attached to long chains of unbelievable proportions. The ground shakes as the hooks fall to the center of the dolmen, then rocks violently as the chains pull taut. The necromancers shriek giddy, mad laughter as they bow in supplication. Sepultur’a closes her eyes, attuning herself to the earth under her feet and the pain radiating from the dolmen. Power gathers around her as she calmly walks forward, allowing the light from the now-blazing runes to wash over her, announcing her presence to the mages. There are seven of them, and they turn as one to face her, readying foul magicks to wield against her. She crosses her arms in front of her in an X, and great wings beat a powerful gust, knocking two of the mages off-balance. Three of them unleash black spells from their staves. Sepultur’a braces herself against the impact. The spells surround her momentarily – then are reflected back against their respective casters. Two drop to their knees, stunned by their own spells of paralysis, while the third screams in terror and flees into the night, helpless against her own spell of fear.

As this happens, Sepultur’a grips the air with both hands and pulls upward. The very stone of the earth rips from the dolmen, forming into a solid sphere of rock. She hurls this at a blade-dancer who is sharpening his daggers for a surprise attack. The projectile knocks him flat on his back, leaving him helpless as Sepultur’a falls on him with noxious fire erupting from her mouth. The skin on his face blisters and melts away as he vanishes with a shriek. The others have recovered and surround her, blasting her with spells and slashing with swords. A spell of fear temporarily touches her mind and she screams, running from the horrid memory that the spell evoked. Recovering quickly with a battle-cry, she turns and makes a grasping motion with her right hand. Five of the mages are suddenly frozen, gripped by massive talons clutching their feet. Flames lick at their boots; as they struggle, Sepultur’a inhales deeply, sucking in all air in a 5-meter radius. The mages in her grasp clutch at their throats as the wind is depleted from their lungs. They suffocate and burn like paper as she expels the oxygen in a massive blast of fire.

The last necromancer raises one of the dead bodies in an attempt to distract her as he tries to flee. Sepultur’a chuckles to herself as she flicks her left hand in his direction. A chain of fire seems to extend from her index finger, latching to the back of his robes and hooking tightly. He is instantly face to face with this woman whose eyes blaze like the sacked city he was rescued from when he was a boy. How did I get here? is his final thought as the woman’s lips purse as if to kiss him. Bright flames surround him. He feels heat, then brief pain…then nothingness.

She stands, clad in stone, eyes blazing. Thunder erupts around her as creatures begin to fall from the swirling bright light above her. I have to break the chains, she thinks, even as a hideous, lumpy form towers above her, swiping at her with a massive arm which ends in a steel, spiked maul. Poison drips from spike-tips, and she feels a bit of trepidation as the words of her benefactor echo in her mind: You will also be more susceptible to poisons, but immune to any and all diseases – including that of the blood-fever. You will be able to sense infections in others, even the unseen ills of the mind, and cure some of them – but, be mindful that you don’t deplete yourself in doing so. It is almost as if the creator of these sky-chains can sense the weaknesses of those who dare attempt to break the anchors and thwart their unseen machinations. She smiles again, fiercely, and turns to face the ugly creature. Nothing worth having comes easily, she thinks as she hurls herself at the bloated, lumpen torso. She needs a real challenge to put herself to the test. It has now presented itself, and she welcomes it wholeheartedly…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: