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 Ch. 37: Fear

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Dye
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PostSubject: Ch. 37: Fear   Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:56 pm

Jake woke up. A hand went to the side of his head, where a large bump had welled up where he had hit the wall of the 13 Lord of Chaos base. He looked around. Dye was nowhere in sight. He opened his mouth to call for him, then stopped, feeling his throat crack as he opened his mouth, gasping for air. He needed water, fast. Earlier, the bog water had filled him with disgust; now he didn’t hesitate to lie down at the water’s edge and gulp down the pungent liquid. As he swallowed his tenth mouthful, he felt something sticking in his windpipe. Reaching down his throat, Jake pulled out…a black feather. As he stared at it, chilling, mirthless laughter echoed from inside the enemy base, prickling the hairs on the back of his neck.



Dye could only stare as his opponent laughed and laughed. He couldn’t comprehend what had happened earlier, and the mist and the stink clouded his mind. One moment the creature had placed its palm on the side of the giant wooden pillar in the middle of the circular courtyard. The next moment, he was completely healed, and a blue mist had settled over the base. Was the source of this strange magic coming from the pillar? Well then, no choice…He raised his sword, ignored the creature’s laughs, and charged. The stench of death was stifling, and it slowed his movements by a hairbreadth. Even so, he was still much faster than his opponent. It barely had time to move out of the way as Dye smashed through the wooden pole, sending splinters flying everywhere. The pillar creaked as it toppled over, crushing a pile of half-burnt tents. At the same moment, the blue mist around them seemed to thin a bit, and Dye could think clearly again. The creature glanced over at the ruined pillar woefully, then turned to look at Dye.



“Finally stopped laughing have you? Well then, it looks like I found out what matters to you. You can’t do squat without that thing, can you?” On the raven-head’s face, the fleeting look of woe was replaced by one of bemusement.



“What, my totem pole? That only replenishes my magic. I’m still running hot right now. Hot enough to deal with you!” The creature spread its wings and flew up into the air, the bird skull on its staff glowing with sickly magical energy. About it, black feathers danced as a whirlwind kicked up high in the air, just strong enough to release pent up magic without blowing away the blue mist below it. As its newfound strength invigorated it, the raven-head opened its beak to crow loudly to the world, “I am the third strongest mercenary in the world, you hear me? The third most powerful being in the world of Lore, Wendigo, the bird shaman! All beings of the air and all forms of weather are mine to control! Mine!” Dye could only stare as Wendigo drifted across the bas on his black, molding wings, the stink of death trailing him like a disease. As he flew out of sight, he turned for a moment, feather falling like black snow.



“I seem to remember that you are a fire-based magic warrior. Well guess what? That blue mist you’re standing in happens to counteract all magic. So tough luck trying to hit me with any fireballs! Not that you have the brains to summon any.” He turned, paused, then turned around to face Dye one last time. “Oh, and another thing. Remember how I’m a bird mage? I can summon birds using these feathers of mine. Each one has the ability to transform into a raven, and once it forms, that raven’s feathers can in turn become new birds. It’s a self-replicating magic that nothing can stop! You’re dead!” Dye gaped as the sky of falling feathers became a black sky of birds, rustling, cawing, closing in on him with deadly speed. He swore. There was nothing he could do against a flying opponent, let alone one who could summon birds and nullify his strongest magical attack. He raised his scimitar, knowing it would be in vain.



Jacob jumped as the black feather he had been holding in his hands a moment ago transformed into a black raven. It turned to face him, cawed once, then went for his eyes. Without thinking, he grabbed the bird by the throat and shoved it into the murky water of the bog. He felt it struggle for a few seconds, then it went limp. As he let go, it spiraled down into the dirty depths of the marsh. What was up with that feather? Jake thought about it for a moment, couldn’t reach a conclusion. A loud rustling distracted him. He turned around to confront a swarm of birds gathered about his swordfish, freshly fried by Dye’s fire of anger earlier on. As he watched, the pair of swordfish were decimated by hungry beaks.



“Hey!” Jake yelled, rushing over, arms waving. All of the ravens looked up from their feasting, blinking in unison. Jake took advantage of their temporary inactivity to crush five of them under foot. The rest scattered into the air, cawing loudly. Jake looked down at the five ravens he had killed. Before his eyes, their feathers exploded into new ravens, their tearing beaks going for every inch of Jake’s skin. Yelping, he dived down, hands over his head to ward them off, found his nose just inches from freshly picked swordfish rib bones. An idea sprang into mind. He snatched up a handful of spiny rib bones, then shoved one through the neck of the nearest raven. It coughed, then went limp. Immediately he chucked it into the swamp. The rest of the ravens backed up at the smell of blood. Using the temporary respite, Jake shoved the rest of the feathers lying on the ground into the swamp water. His plan was to keep the feathers somewhere where they could not turn into ravens, as the swamp water would drown them the moment they transformed. Then he went to work.



Picking up the skeleton of one of his swordfish, Jake began to take long, sweeping slashes at any bird that dared to come close. Pieces of rib bones flew everywhere, impaling any birds they met with. As quickly as they died, Jake shoved the bodies into the bog. Minutes later, panting and covered with cuts, Jake sank to his knees, dropping the empty spine of his used-up swordfish. Not a single black feather remained in sight. He heaved a breath, then turned towards the entrance to the enemy base. Dye was in there somewhere, and he probably needed help.



-----



It was late morning by the time Saint arrived at the entrance to the 13 Lord of Chaos Base. But he didn’t know that. Fatigued with lack of sleep and wounds from his encounter with Direbane, he couldn’t care less if it were noon or midnight. Looking up, he quickly decided that this was probably the worst possible place in the world to be at that exact moment. A thick blue fog seethed inside the walls of the base, possibly poisonous or something worse. Above the base, blotting out the sky, was a rustling swarm of black ravens, gathering about the base in droves, just above the wisps of deadly blue fog. And among the birds, barely visible, was a dark, cackling figure, black wings spread wide about it. Saint went through his archive of knowledge on the mercenaries. A bird shaman, able to summon vicious birds to do its bidding, in addition to basic control of the weather to enhance its own magical power or lower its opponents’ ability to fight. In addition, this creature was able to fly, suspended by two enormous wings. It could only be Wendigo, the infamous shaman whom had brought death and despair to whole villages. His power was legendary, and comparable to that of a demon’s. If he was here…



Saint took a breath, then smelled the blue mist issuing from the entrance before him. It didn’t smell poisonous, but the stench of death was ever present, and it filled Saint with a feeling he hadn’t felt in a long time: fear. It sent an uncontrollable shiver down his spine, but he steeled himself, twirled both of his reverse-curved daggers, then entered the mist. For about five minutes, he walked this way, looking about him for any potential enemies. Not that looking helped; the mist clouded anything further than ten feet away, reducing his senses. If any chaos soldier were to pop up on him right then, he wouldn’t be able to react in time. Suddenly, in the distance, he saw a giant, dark figure approaching, lurching from side to side as if blinded, clanking with each step as it plodded along in black metal armor. Saint raised his daggers, intending to kill it before it had a chance to see him. Then, it did seem to see him. It raised a large black roundshield, embossed with a blue eye.



“Nathan…”



“Who’s there?” Nathan drew a longsword and settled into a defensive stance.

“Nathan, it’s me, Saint.”



“Oh. You had me worried for a moment.” Nathan sheathed his longsword, but kept his shield out. Saint likewise put away his daggers.



“I can’t tell friend from foe in this fog.” Nathan complained, glancing from side to side.



“I know, it’s creepy. And the smell, it gets to my head.”



“It sure does. I keep seeing things around me that aren’t supposed to be there.” They both paused for a moment and looked about them. Spectral figures seemed to mold themselves out of the mist, elusive, taunting, waving with skeletal fingers before fading into the background. Saint could recognize the faces of people he knew; here was Sal, there was Ino…Nathan was similarly spooked. One figure, young and slim, approached him, longbow in hand. Through his head was a giant hole, bits of brain sticking out. Nathan shuddered and closed his eye, memories of Skell still branded into his mind.



“Let’s move. We won’t do any good by standing here.” Saint nodded in agreement, glancing briefly at Nathan.



“Hey, what happened to your…”



“My eye? It was shot out by an archer.”



“Bremen?”



“Yeah.” Nathan had a black strip of cloth bound over his left eye, but from underneath, a thin line of blood ran down his face. Saint winced and looked away. They both began to move. Suddenly, a white figure loomed out of the darkness, moving swiftly, almost running into them. Saint took a step back, instinctively drew a dagger. The figure looked up, saw them, and yelped, raising a hand to draw a swift and simple rune spell in the air with his fingers. Nathan quickly grabbed the white figure’s wrist; the spell petered out without being finished.



“Fire calm down. It’s us, Saint and me.”



“Oh.” Fire relaxed, taking off his hood. His white robes were stained with mud, as if he had been dumped into the bog.



Nathan let go of Fire’s wrist and stared out into the mist, keeping guard.



“Did either of you guys see those birds over head?”



Saint nodded. “Yeah. Those belong to the bird shaman, Wendigo.”



“Wendigo?”



“Yeah. One of the top mercenaries out there. It is said that he isn’t human, and that’s how he manages to control birds so effectively.”



“So he has a bird head or something like that?



“Yeah, how did you know?”



“The guy I had to fight on my way here had a duck head.”



“A WHAT!?!?!?”



Nathan put a finger to his lips. “Be silent. I think I hear people approaching.”

Everyone turned to watch as a pair of black-robed figures strode towards them. They both carried scythes. Saint went for his daggers and Fire went for his claymore, but Nathan waved both of their weapons down.



“Who goes there? Name yourself!”



“Ergent Seth and Tradewind Creed of Requiem…Nathan, is that you?”



Seth and Creed came clearly into view. In his right hand, Seth carried a large, blue scythe that screamed with spiritual energy. His left hand was bandaged. Creed had his large, black wings folded about him, covering his bare chest, where his black wind tattoos were clearly visible. His black scythe gleamed with similar runes in silver.



“Nathan, what happened to your eye?”



“It was shot out by…”



Saint interjected. “We can exchange war stories later. Right now we have a job to finish.” Everyone glanced about themselves nervously. Wounded though they were, there were still people out there to be killed.



Then Seth piped up. “Hey guys, did any of you see any soldiers in the tents as you entered this base?” One by one, everyone shook their heads. “So where did all the soldiers go?”



Saint cursed under his breath. “Kobi probably already moved them out of the base.”

“How? Did they get pass any of our men?”



Saint looked around. “We’re still missing Jake and Dye, and those five new recruits I sent through the southern entrance are still not here. Either one of them could have been killed. But right now, let’s get rid of this fog.”



Creed went into action. “Easy enough,” he muttered, closing his eyes for a moment. A whirlwind of magic formed around him, then exploded outwards, blowing the mist to bits and clearing up the entire base. Feelings of death and despair passed from everyone’s minds as they concentrated on the task at hand. With the passing of the mist, all senses returned to the members of Requiem, loud and clear. Now, the sound of ravens was clearly audible above their heads. Fire looked up.



“I got them,” he muttered, drawing a large fire rune in the air above them. After adding a few constraints and specifications, he launched the spell. Moments later, a shower of meteors rained down, taking the cloud of birds with them. Charred chunks of bird rained down about them, then were consumed as the magic that bound them to this world was erased. The battlefield was beginning to even out.



-----



Dye smiled as he saw the meteors raining down on the ravens. It meant his friends were finally here. Now he could focus on Wendigo, who drifted out of the air to settle among a cluster of tents in the distance. Dye reached for any strands of anger he had left, but couldn’t find any. The fire inside of him did not rekindle. Oh well, might as well do things the old-fashioned way.
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Ch. 37: Fear
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