Cythera Chronicles: The Puppet Master - Part II
Farlof awoke to the sound of breakfast being hunted. They had brought food a-plenty, but it would not be used unless in dire need. He heard a unicorn being seemingly brutally killed, but he payed no attention and spared no mercy for it, for it was simply food. And plenty of it. The troupe of fifteen warriors and mages would be fed for a few days with this huge creature having been slaughtered -- unicorns provided lots of meat.
As he rose from his tent, he noticed something slightly peculiar: the clouds were moving far faster than he had ever seen. No one else seemed to notice it, either. After a minute of gazing upwards, he got up and put his armour on -- there was no taking chances on this journey.
When he walked to eat breakfast, a red light blinked in the sky, and still no one seemed to notice -- until, that is, Farlof looked at the head wizard in the troupe. He seemed to be muttering to himself, but at closer examination by Farlof, it was found that he was muttering an incantation. Soon two more wizards and one warrior noticed, and whispering began.
Farlof ate breakfast faster than most and was found discussing something that the two eavesdropping warriors couldn't find out with the head wizard. But soon, for the warriors were alert as any good warriors, they noticed the clouds moving exceptionally fast. Whispering went faster.
The camp was packed up in five minutes -- all of the men had trained hard to be able to do this. Everything was padded slightly, so as not to make noises when marching.
Upon the march nothing eventful happened. Nothing, that is, until Mijri, one of the five wizards, noticed that Arklo, one of the nine warriors, was missing. He gave a start the moment he realised it, and panic nearly engulfed the group. Farlof was a good leader; he managed to silence everyone in seconds without making large noises. For one minute at the most Farlof simply looked about. Then he called the order of backtracking. Arklo was nowhere to be found. This was a bad thing, for if even one of the warriors was missing, the journey would be hampered majorly.
"For a rest we shall stop here." These words were spoken by Farlof several hours later. He continued by saying: "Thy tents shall stay down; for only lunch shall we stop. When thou art finished with thine lunch, thou shalt get in a position as such to produce a wide field of view away from the campsite. And there shalt be no flames arising from our camp! -- we are not to be found."
For ten minutes the men ate, and afterwards they marched. There was hardly a word spoken for another three hours, and it was until four hours later the men were beginning to get restless. After the fourth hour of marching, the strangest thing happened to the men.
First, everything was seen as though a red filter had been put upon all the mens' eyes. Then light shadows began flying through the new mist that was arising. The sky turned bright green, and the ground blue, while everything else retained its red tint. It seemed that ghosts were attacking the warriors, but they were simply illusions -- the warriors attempted to fight back but could not touch the illusions. When the head wizard started to mutter more and more, the world became distorted in the eyes of the troupe. The world was as though it was being seen through a bubbling glass wall. The sky began to darken and the warriors began to panic. Only Farlof and the four wizards remained calm.
Farlof drew his bow pack, loaded with the best arrow he had. He knew somehow in a way he could not explain, nor could anyone else, that there was only one creature nearby involved in this. He spotted it briefly, but that was all it took. His body swung in its direction and he pulled back the arrow two inches farther while pushing the bow forwards with his other arm and released the arrow. It slid down the arrow rest cleanly, without any hindrance, and shot at a speed no man could see down the middle of the mutated polyp's beak. A slight squeak was heard, and then silence. The world began to return to normal...but only for a minute.
As Farlof and Gakrl (the head wizard) were inspecting the mutated polyp, the world distorted in the direction the troupe was heading. It turned bright red, with wisps of smoke being tossed about and erupting from a main glow of deep purple. Lightning began to strike it.
When it was all over, the trees near where the lightning was striking was burnt and charred. In the center of that, the body of Arklo lay -- but it was twisted, bony, and grotesque.
Gakrl was the first, last, and only to speak here.
'A lich. He was turned into a bloody lich. And I know of only one man who could perform such an awful deed upon another man.'
Total silence followed for five minutes.
Three warriors broke the silence by falling to the ground and fainting.
Farlof was aghast. He had only heard of tales of liches, and didn't ever think of seeing one.
He slapped one of the warriors on the cheek.
"Awaken, for thou mustn't sleep whilst we bring our swords unto the enemies' hearts. If thy will is weakened by the very sight of a lich, thou were wrong to pick thyself to go upon this journey -- but it is too late to turn and run back, warrior, so you have no choice. Thou must awaken now and strike back before the enemy can strike at us again."
At this the warrior began to awaken, for he was not completely faint. Farlof splashed a bit of cold water upon the warriors face and then did the same with the other two.
"Now...we continue on. We cannot take a break until we are weary and exhausted, for we cannot lose any time we need to stop this blatant evil."
The men continued on for hours upon hours, having small snacks once every hour, though on the march. Silence filled the troupe until nightfall. At this precise moment, when the warriors were beginning to drop, Gakrl noticed a chain-link fence. At this strange sight, for it was out in the middle of forest, Gakrl uttered a single word in a hoarse whisper: "Look!"
The troupe walked 'round the fence until they found a gap. Farlof and Gakrl went in while the others stayed out.
It turned out to be Charax. He was very hospitable, but that was unusual -- he was a nonsocial recluse. When Gakrl and Farlof told Charax what had happened, Charax began to show signs of distress. He had obviously heard of this before. After a few minutes, Charax finally said what he was preparing to say for a while.
"I know where this is being done from, my friends. 'Tis in the Scylla cult...northwest of hear. I wish thee luck in thy quest to end the evil. And you must be gone now, for they are preparing to strike again!"
Farlof and Gakrl quickly left at Charax's words and began to collect themselves.
After four hours of tromping in the wet forests and fighting off small polyps, Mijri sighted a cave. It was obviously, what with all the sculptures and designs in stone and such, the entrance to the Scylla cult cave. Farlof cautiously entered...
...and found nothing stopping him. The others entered, too, and only Mijri remained outside in case of an emergency. Nothing prohibited them from moving along, so they opened various doors and, though finding many skeletons, also finding nothing harmful. Even a crystal ball was found -- these were very rare. Also a few variations on the lightning bold spell were found, and a claymore. But nothing else useful was there...and nothing having to do with any evil or anything as such.
Suddenly Kar (a warrior) noticed the floor -- it had begun crawling with insects. In the corridors, silhouettes of polyps and hydrae were showing up. Parts of the ceilings collapsed and polyps fell from there! The entrance caved in, with the hydrae and polyps attacking the troupe!! And it was obvious that the group had been mislead to go into here; nothing but a man could do the evils that had been done in Cythera. These were obviously not controlled by men -- these were killing men, and fast!!
It suddenly struck Farlof. Charax had lied. And Farlof had to get out of there -- FAST.
(To be continued)
(This message has been edited by moderator (edited 01-15-2002).)
Excellent work, Gwydion! I'm really looking forward to the next part!