An excerpt from a novel I’m working on
Leaving piles of undead corpses, or ashes, behind them, in the forest, both men reached the river with relative ease. Freezing water, carrying chunks of ice from the high mountaintops, thrashed over sharp rocks. The river was wide, and in the dark, neither of them saw the opposing bank. They took a momentary pause. Furious water whirled before them, fed further by the incessant rain.
“Now we travel north along this path,” Talbot said, raising his voice.
Dysart looked in his direction. It took a second before he was able to see his companion, an effect of the stealth rune. A high cliff sat at their rear. He squinted at it. Why does it call me? He wondered. With a headshake, he turned to face the path along the river, a rocky mess.
“We must tread carefully, here. Lest we fall into this river, and be swept away towards the cliff behind us,” Dysart advised.
“Agreed. After such bounding from your magic, I welcome a more…human pace,” Talbot asserted.
An hour of treading ground, cautiously, yielded no trouble, and other than the constant rain, which grew more potent with every step, it was uneventful. Too quiet. A flash of lightning popped in the distance. The mountains, a glittering, white, work of art shone for that second.
“Hold,” Talbot whispered.
He reached for Dysart’s arm, but unable to see it, he dropped his hand to his side, and peered into the darkness at his left. The ground leading from the riverbank had turned rocky. Though few hills were visible, there was a steady incline. Both men abandoned their eyes for their ears. The sound of clanking armor was audible, though far off.
“We should move,” Dysart whispered forcefully.
“Someone’s following us,” Talbot replied.
“Perhaps, we may yet leave them behind,” Dysart stated.
“Mmm,” Talbot agreed.
They continued along the river, veering only slightly away. The melody of crashing water over rocks, excessively loud, and aided by the now pounding rain, made it impossible to hear who, or what, was giving chase. Bolts of lightning spider webbed, tearing through the veil of dark skies, and oppressing clouds. Glinting steel drew their attention.
“Come forth, my servants,” a voice uttered, the unmistakable growl of Tygron.
White flames sparked from the ground. They grew several feet tall, and wide. Within the luminosity was a dark oval. Unlike the previous summoning spell, the gate, a unique ritual, held the portal to the Daemon world open for an extended period. All manner of craven beasts poured onto Volgunther.
“There is no time for this!” Talbot shrieked. “We must turn back.”
He turned to run when another crash of lightning erupted, showing a band of armored men, the Ordo et Crucis, led by Colville, a bloodied mess. Dysart snatched Talbot by the shoulder, and pulled him to the riverbank.
Members of the Ordo wasted no time, and clashed with the called Daemons. Screams of battle erupted. Sloshing further into the river, Talbot nocked an arrow. First he aimed at a Daemon, a four-legged, scuted figure with a horned head, and enormous mouth. Then, he pointed to Colville, who was steadily approaching with hands wrapped around a drawn sword, a magnificent, glowing, claymore.
“Sanctus Petri bless me, for I will deliver us from this ordeal,” Colville prayed.
“Stop it,” Dysart yelled, wondering how he was spotted. “We must bring down Tygron to shut his gate.”
“Sancuts Petri guide my hand, and my blade, so I may bring down this treacherous blasphemer,” Colville begged.
Dysart drew his blade as well. Cursing, he ran to the Ordo’s leader, while the skulking Daemon bounded at Talbot. He let loose his arrow, striking it in the face. It rose onto its rear legs, thrashing about then continued the charge. Talbot drew his knife then attacked.
“Come, Dysart, I know all too well who you are. The cleric told me as much, and bade me take you down myself,” Colville proclaimed.
“Then you are a fool,” Dysart rebutted.
Having closed the distance, he brought his sword overhead. A mighty slash downwards was easily parried. With a spin, Colville moved behind Dysart, and he hacked at the man’s knee. Buckling from the pain of the enchanted weapon, Dysart rolled away, into the river. Immediately, he lunged forward. Again, Colville deflected the blow.
“Sanctus Petri has bestowed his will unto me, you foul beast,” Colville snarled.
Next to them, Talbot waded in backwards. He fired three more arrows into the wounded Daemon. It collapsed with a wail of demise, one that made the soul shudder.
“Why do you try to prevent me from killing the Daemon?” Dysart asked.
“There is no Daemon!” Colville bellowed.
“Treachery! You are being lied to by this cleric,” Dysart shouted.
“She is pure,” Colville said, sloshing into the river.
“If she is telling the truth, that there is no Daemon, why then, did she tell me where to get the esper oil?” Dysart accused.
“I…I don’t answer to your kind,” Colville argued.
They clashed blades. Halted by Colville’s superior swordsmanship, Dysart smashed his head into the old man. Blood erupted from his nose. Falling backwards into the river, he gasped.
“I don’t want to kill you, old man,” Dysart said.
Colville slashed from his back. Stepping away from the long blade, Dysart smacked his lips in disgust. Then, he spun his sword to face down, and drove it at Colville. Deftly, he rolled away. Coming forth from the river, he spun round to build momentum, and brought the claymore across Dysart’s chest.
The sword’s glow flashed brightly, cutting through the leather, and leaving a modest wound, thanks only to the Cayneian’s brands.
“Fall, you blaspheming brute,” Colville accosted.
“Go to Hell, Colville,” Dysart replied, thrusting again.
Colville blocked with the wide guard of his sword. He immediately brought the hilt up with both hands, smashing it into Dysart’s chin. He stumbled back, and tripping over rocks, crashed into the river. The mighty current pushed him downstream a short way. Scrambling at the stones, he recovered. Colville, sloshing through knee-high water, continued the attack.
He swung downwards, but Dysart side-stepped. Being left handed provided an easy opening, so he stabbed, sinking the spatha, deep into the old man’s flank. He gasped before falling over. For a second, his heavy armor caught on the rocks, he lied face down in the river. Why does he not turn to ash?
A groan came from the Ordo leader. Slowly, he pushed himself over. Dysart shrugged, exhaled in pity, and drove his sword into Colville’s chest. To his dismay, the old man gripped it, and pulled himself up, water spilling from his armor.
They fought to hold their footing. Colville, inexplicably undaunted by such grievous wounds, smashed the hilt of his sword across Dysart’s face. Having no alternative, Dysart locked forearms around Colville’s massive neck, and pinching his elbows together, cut the flow of air. The warrior twitched. He tried to pull from the Cayneian. Unable to fight him off, he dropped his sword to claw at Dysart’s face.
When that failed to halt Dysart, he drove his thumbs into the Cayneian’s eyes. Screaming, he ripped away, dropping Colville, who snatched his sword from the rocks. The old man spat crimson while coming up from his knees.
Dysart capitalized. Gripping Colville’s thick hair, he drove a knee into the man’s face. The potent blow destroyed his jaw. He careened back into the water following the impact. Quickly, Dysart stomped through the river. With strong fingers, he seized Colville’s throat, and held him under the raging waters.
“Salamandrus!” Dysart bellowed. “Salamandrus! You have turned this man against me. You are scared, and you are weak.”
Colville’s hands fluttered about for seconds. Then, they fell limp. The strength of the old warrior passed. Dysart let go. Thundering currents swallowed the Ordo leader.
A hurried glance at the unfolding situation revealed much. Daemons tore at fallen members of the Ordo. Some ate their hearts, or intestines, slowly removing bleeding organs by way of gruesome claws. Other Daemons, like the voluptuous, half-woman serpent, lifted the barely living off the ground with her barbed tail. After crushing a solider into the ground, she spat a blotch of acid at another, melting his face.
In confusion, Dysart scanned for Talbot. A moment passed then he noticed him, perched on a tall rock, protruding from the river. His quiver devoid of arrows, he clutched his knife, but was safe. So Dysart scurried about the water to recover his spatha, and Colville’s claymore.
In a flash, Tygron manifested from the darkness, behind Talbot. He threw his cloak over the shocked individual then lifted his scythe. With a war cry, Dysart flung the spatha. It halted in the air. Tyrgon barely turned to him, a grin from his ogre-like mouth.
Dysart leapt several yards, only crashing through falling rain. When he landed, at Talbot’s position, Tygron was unseen.
“Ugh,” Talbot spewed.
He cradled the large rock to hold himself upright. Dysart glanced at him for wounds. Talbot removed a red hand from his flank. A smile flickered then he snatched the spatha, which fell after Tygron’s disappearance, and ran into the fray.
Slicing one way then other, he cut through several Daemons. Most of them went up in smoke. A member of the Ordo pointed a crossbow at him. Upon firing, the bolt flew over Talbot, and struck the serpent-woman. She hissed, clutching the bolt protruding from her waist. Dysart ran by, and with Colville’s blade pointing forward, ran her through from behind, lifted her off the ground, then smashed her back down.
“Tygron,” he yelled out, the rain pouring over his face. “Tygron!”
The gate yet allowed more Daemons to crawl onto the island.
“Damn him to Hell! Talbot,” Dysart called. “Talbot! I’ve no way to close this gate without slaying Tygron.”
As he spoke, a mammoth of a gray man with four arms crawled from the gaping hole inside the white flame.
“Breh ko tesh,” it thundered while reaching for Dysart.
He swung high, cutting the hand off. Bleeding, and screaming, the giant stomped around. Dysart kept a vigilant eye, searching for Talbot.
“Here, I’m here,” he moaned.
He held the head of a dying Ordo member. Her face was red with blood. Dysart bolted over to them. Darting eyes accepted the grim circumstance.
“No time,” Dysart said, and stabbed her.
“Why?!” Talbot cried out.
“She’s already dead. I spared her suffering. Come, can you run?” he asked.
“Aye,” he answered.
So they fled from battle. On the winds, as they raced along the riverbank, a guttural laugh droned on.
“Hah, hah, hah, haah. Run, Dysart,” Tygron scoffed.
Behind them was a pile of corpses. Before them was the base of the mountain range, where rain turned to freezing sleet.
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