• Chapter 7: A New Terror

    The last hour went by fast. I hadn't found anything so far. I could still see the soldier far off in the distance to my left, which meant no one else had found anything. I was becoming bored. The last six miles seemed more like fifty. If I were going at such a pace I'd reach Harken in no time. Harken is a HUGE triangular walled city, where the Emperor resides. I had never been there in all my life but, those who have come back with amazing tales of marvelous buildings, monuments and, people. I spurred Enclave. He snorted and sped up. I continued searching the fields. I double checked rocks to make certain that they were indeed rocks. I had an impulse to want to head off a little to the south. I traveled a little ways making sure I could still see the soldier, who was now just a grey dot in the distance.

    We were getting to far from the other soldier but, I had a gut feeling something was to the South. I slowed my pace, looked behind rocks, nudged up close to bushes and brush. Nothing... what a waste of time! Maybe the knights from Marnim never came, maybe they got lost in the forest. So much for a parade in my name... I spurred Enclave and turned back towards the Southeast. As I turned something appeared in the corner of my eye. Off a little ways to the South I spotted a large brown lump. I couldn't tell what it was. I'd have to ride over and see, even if it meant losing sight of the other soldier. I spurred Enclave back to the South.

    The Brown lump became bigger as we got closer, it was now the size of a quill pen's tip. No longer could I see the soldier, they would come to see what I had found soon. As we closed in on the lump it began to form a shape. It wasn't a rock it was some kind of animal. Then it hit me. This was a HORSE! We got nearer. Enclave screamed, snorted and stomped his hoofed feet wildly. I spurred him into circling the horse. The horse lay on it's side, blood trickled from it's nose to the dirty ground. It was not common that a horse just fall and die. The only thing in these parts that could be considered a predator would be us humans. ''Enclave enough, let me off.'' I patted his right shoulder blade. He stopped but, protested going any closer to the dead steed. I dismounted, made my way over to the steed and looked for a clue as to how it died.

    Blood pooled around the steeds head. Deep, jagged and bloody claw gashes lined the horses bare side. Flies gathered and the stench was overwhelming. The horse still bled and no maggots were yet present. This was a fresh kill! What the HELL could of done something like this?! Mountain Lion's reside hundreds and hundreds of miles to the North, up in the Iron Gorge Mountains. I covered my nose from the overwhelming stench of death and knelt beside the steed. There was a saddle! This had to be a steed from one of the Marnim knights. I opened the saddlebag and peered in. Some bread, a flask of water, and a quiver of arrows. The gashes were deep, the flesh of the steed was torn to the innards. The sight was making my stomach turn. My head began to spin, I almost fell but, caught my balance. I staggered away from the stench. That was a first, I had seen dead men but nothing like this. The steed was here so where was it's rider? I squinted, blocked the sun from my eyes and searched the area around me. I didn't see anything, other then rocks and brush. I climbed aboard Enclave, spurred him into making a few more go rounds. I searched the plains as we headed a bit to the East. Nothing, we headed towards the south. A flash of light blinded me for a moment. Adjusting my eyes I could make out a little further to the East two objects which shined in the bright afternoon sun.

    The two objects reflected the sun's rays. Beams of light were thrown in many directions. As we got closer the rays became brighter. I was blinded a few times. Rubbing my eyes worked as a cure. We were close enough now. I dismounted and pulled Enclave along with me as we approached the objects. I shielded my eyes with my hands. Close enough now to determine what these objects were. I lifted my hand, squinted and peered at the first object through the sun's rays. It looked like armor... I maneuvered to the left of the object to try and see if I could avoid some of the blinding light. A symbol of a wolf's face was etched in the armor. The wolfs face etched red and it's teeth were etched in gold. I squatted and investigated. It was a knight in the armor! I fell back onto my a**. Were these two the Marnim knights!?! They had to be!! I recovered to my feet, rushed to the knight. Leaning over him blocking the sun's rays. I lifted the knights head and removed the helmet. The knight was male, though I shouldn't of been surprised, women are forbidden knighthood. He looked to be in his thirties. Short brown hair and a few old scars here and there. I checked the man for injuries. Maybe he was unconscious. The right of his belly was torn out. A hole in the man's armor the size of my fist was missing, along with a hunk of the man's stomach. Claw marks left long strands of missing armor in their wake. What kind of monster could tear a man's armor just with it's claws!? This was bad really bad! Fear filled my heart as my stomach knotted. Quickly glancing around my surroundings... There was nothing. This thing may still be around here! Enclave however was quiet and would alert me of incoming danger. I searched the man for the stone. Reaching my hand under his silver armor, into his pocket. I felt around and found a pouch. It sounded like coins. Loosening the tie I peered in. Maybe 20 gold coins and a few silver. He no longer needed this. I would make sure it was divided for alms to the poor. He didn't have anything besides that.

    Something was wrong. The other's in my group should have been here by now! Why was I here alone? Damn! I knew this plan wouldn't work! I'd have to go back and find them when I was done. I placed the man's arms over his chest. I searched for his weapon, a few feet away lay a broad sword. I grabbed it and placed it in the man's hands. ''Live by the sword, die by the sword.'' There was nothing else I could do. I made my way to the next knight, who was just a few feet away. He wore the same armor. His black hair was a mess on the dirty ground. The man's neck was crooked and at an odd angle. Blood trickled down the man's neck from what looked like several bite marks. He hadn't worn gauntlet's like the other man. His fingertips were charred black. The work of some kind of inferior spell casting maybe. A silver chained necklace dangled from the his neck. A gold locket lay broken in his left hand. I reached, grabbed and examined it. It was a common locket, some kind of gem was missing from it. On the back a name or phrase was engraved, I said the name aloud. ''Agate'' I placed the locket over the man's heart and folded his hands across his chest. ''Live by the sword, die by the sword.'' Reaching into his pockets as I did the other knight. I found a pouch that was strangely warm. I untied it and peered in. Two stones lay inside. Both oddly shaped and pointed at their ends. One a green emerald, the other a dull grey stone shaped identically like the emerald. I lifted the emerald gazing at it's beauty through the sun's ray's. This was the stone that was embedded into the man's locket. It must of fallen out on this man's journey here. I placed it back and lifted the grey stone. It was warm to the touch, my hand felt as if it were waking from sleep. It was soothing. I had to force myself to place it back into the pouch. This must be the crystal the Captain was talking about! So maybe there will be a parade in my name after all! I laughed and giggled. I have found two of the five men and recovered the crystal that was suppose to be delivered to Clovis! A huge smile erupted from my face. I had almost forgotten the dead men and it surprised me when I looked up and saw the man's helpless look.

    I whistled, Enclave galloped over. He didn't want to get near the bodies so I made my way to him. I tied the pouch to my right side. I petted him and, smiled. ''Well boy, we found em, maybe we will be FAMOUS! Hahaha Who am I kidding, finding a few men and a stone won't do us much huh?'' Enclave became restless and began screaming and stomping his feet madly. Foam formed at his mouth. ''Enclave whats gotten into you! Stop RIGHT NOW!'' He screamed loud. Never have I heard such a cry from a horse and especially my horse! ''Whats wrong damn it! A stone stuck in your hoof?'' I knelt down to check, his hooves were fine. A sense of dread seeped into my heart. My stomach tightened and my right side began to twitch. My fear filled eyes wanted to wonder towards the east, towards the Owlcrest Forest. Back turned against the blinding light,. I looked out and in the distance a dot of black approached. It zoomed at a rate I'd never seen before. My body refused to obey my commands. I stood frozen watching this little black dot grow and get closer. I began to shake. What was happening to me!! Enclave stood still now as this thing approached. His eye's too were as wide as mine.

    The dot was indeed not a dot anymore. It was someone or something on a black beast. As it approached it's form manifested into a black armored soldier on a steed darker then any I had ever seen. It's eyes were black no pupil's were visible. My heart sank lower. In one swift movement the soldier leaped from his horse, while it was still running and landed with ease upon the ground. His horse circled us. The soldier approached and halted a moment to take a look at me. I did the same. The soldier's armor was pitch black and engulfed his whole body. The only skin I could see was around the soldier's eye's. It's design was one I had never seen or heard about. Gauntlet's with pointed fingertips. Greave's that were pointed at the toes. The Breastplate skeletal. The armor appeared to have black rib's and a breastbone. A long black cape hung from the mantle on the soldiers black spiked pouldrens. A Helmet consumed his face. Two large black horns pointed towards the sky. The helmet's design was that of a praying mantis. It appeared light weight as the soldier moved in it with ease. He approached me, I managed to move my hand, nothing more. He came at me in an angry walking rush. He was going to plow into me if he didn't stop! He halted in front of me with ease. His eye's gazed into mine. They were cold, vacant and seemed to drain my very soul like an endless abyss. It felt draining I diverted my gaze. He stretched his hand with palm facing the sky. In a harsh tone he said. ''The Crystal NOW!'' I struggled within myself to try and draw the sword which hung from my back. No use s**t!! He continued. ''What am I saying you can't move!'' He laughed hysterically. ''My casting will not be so easily overpowered.'' He gazed towards the North. I turned my eye's, not being able to move my head due to this man's spell. The elite knight's were coming, their silver armor gleaming in the sun. The man chuckled. ''A little fun will do me some good. Now stay put and be a good boy.'' He patted me on the head like I was some kind of animal. WHAT THE HELL!! I struggled and struggled, nothing gave. I tried to talk but, my mouth wouldn't obey. The elite knight's would deal with this man. He turned his gaze back to me. ''You will want to watch this.'' His hand raised to his waste. It started to glow faintly purple. My body levitated a few inches above the ground. My body began turning towards the North. The seven elite knight's drew closer. The man's hand lowered as did my body. My feet were once again grounded.

    The elite were a few feet away when they stopped and dismounted. They gazed at the man. I tried to yell but, still nothing gave. Squirly led the elite to where me and the man stood. He called out. ''Simon, who is this?'' The man in the black armor responded with a friendly laugh. ''Me and... Simon go way back, come now.'' No! I fought and fought as hard as ever. Enclave stood motionless beside me, foam still trickling from his mouth to the ground. What was this man doing? I didn't have one clue as to who he is and he says he knows me? It's a bluff! Squirly get back!? They looked the black armored man over, a little nervous to get any closer. Squirly looked bewildered, he shook it off and stepped closer. He gave the man no attention. He walked straight towards me. In the black armored man's hand, a black mist began to form. He took a few steps forward, hiding the mist which grew longer behind his back. Squirly came a few feet in front of the man and as he passed the mist behind the man formed into a black sword, spiked at the hilt. He swung his sword with ease. The blade swiftly glided through the air, slashing Squirly across the chest. His silver armor was like butter. Blood spewed from the impact as he fell to the ground. The elite knight's charged at the man. It all seemed so slow to me, maybe it was the spell that was cast on me. The six elite surrounded the man. One cursed and yelled. ''You b*****d! You will pay for that! Squirly are you all right!'' Squirly lay there on the dirt coughing up blood. The man spoke. ''You fool's... You risk your lives for a single man? Haha! You Western scum!'' One of the elite ran, jumped and tried to cleave the man's head off. The armored figure dodged with ease and countered. He thrust his blade through the back of the knights armor. The blade erupted from his stomach. He fell, as blood pooled around him. The remaining five knights decided to take him on all at once. They charged in. The man laughed. The elite began swinging their swords. He evaded each and every one. He spun, swung his sword from the ground upwards. It caught the elite in front of him. The blade sliced upwards through the man's chin, teeth flew from his mouth. Another swift jab to his chest ended his life. He fell to the ground.

    The knights tried their hardest, each trying to land a lethal blow. One of them did land a blow slashing the man's back. It left no mark. The man's armor was a piece of work. The man ducked at another strike, spun, recovered to his feet spinning. His blade catching the elite behind him. He was beheaded. Blood spewed into the air as the body fell. This was horrible this man was a monster?! He's killing the elite as if they were flies! A tear rolled down my cheek, as I knew my fate. The remaining elite backed off, knowing their tactic had failed. One of the elite removed his left gauntlet. He made a fist, raised his hand into the air. Flames engulfed his hand, he spoke. ''You may be able to dodge and dance BUT! Let's see how you deal with this!'' He unleashed it. A fireball flew through the air towards the man. The man laughed as the fireball came close. It stuck him on the shoulder. His shoulder became ablaze. He laughed harder now. ''Your spells are WEAK!'' Another fireball flew through the air, impacting the mans chest. He stumbled backwards and recovered. His shoulder and chest were ablaze. However, They didn't seem to be effecting him. Only making his appearance more frightening. The black armored man raised a hand now, a blueish flame erupted from his gauntlet-ed hand. The two elite charged to stop the man's casting. It was too late . He threw the blue flame, it sped through the air. The elite on the left ducked. It was no use the flame making contact with his face. He screamed as the blue flame consumed. His face charred, as the metal of his helmet glowed red. I turned my eye's I couldn't bare the sight. The man threw his sword through the air towards the one remaining elite. The elite slashed his sword to dislodge the weapon form the air but, missed. The sword made impact into his skull. He fell, hit the ground and let out his last grunt.

    The blade in the elite's skull exploded into black mist and was gone. ''To bad... I wanted to play a little longer. Oh well.'' He turned, returning his gaze towards me. He rushed over to me. ''So you are the last one, well... not for long.'' His hand raised and grabbed me by the chest. The sharp fingered gauntlet dug into my chest as he pulled me off the ground. I was helpless. Another tear rolled down my cheek. He looked to his right. An arrow caught the man in the head. His helmet was flung off. Long, wavy, red hair flew in the few gusts of wind. His skin was ashen white. Squirly had sent the arrow. The man scowled, dropped me to the ground and made his way over to Squirly who was still coughing blood. The bow dropped from his hands. His hand's fell to the ground. Squirly! You stupid fool you should of played dead! I struggled. I was able to shake and wiggle nothing more. The man stood over Squirly. ''Know this before I kill you. Your family and, friends will be with you soon.'' He wrapped his right hand around Squirly's neck. He lifted him from the ground. His hand tightened, Squirly's face turned red. Goodbye Squirly. Tears rolled down my face. I wished I'd never given him the name Squirly. It was a joke damn it! The man lifted his left hand. Made a fist and swung it where it smashed into Squirly's face. Blood flowed down his nose. The man tightened his grip. A loud cracking sound followed. Squirly's lifeless body fell to the ground. The man dusted his hand's off, which weren't dirty. He returned to me. He lifted me by my tunic. His gaze trying to meet mine. ''You are quite young aren't you?'' His left hand grabbed my chin. Turning it left and right, he examined me. ''I may just let you live, give me the crystal.'' He stripped my sword and bow from my back. ''I will release my spell. If you don't want to give me what I ask... You will die.'' I felt the life flow through me once again. My stomach still tight. My body shook as I reached my hand down to the pouch. He eyed my hand. I undid the tie on the pouch and reached my hand in. I grabbed the crystal. It's warm touch settled my stomach. I let it go, dropped it back. I reached for the emerald which was cold and looked identical. I pulled it out, raised my hand, and presented it to the man. He quickly grabbed it. His gauntlets scratched my palm. He grinned and spoke. ''I will tell you my name. The people of Seets will become very familiar with it soon.'' He laughed. ''Remember it, for it is, Void.'' He punched me in the gut then tossed me onto the ground where I slid across the rocks and dirt. He whistled. His horse ran up side him. He ran along side it, matching it's speed. He jumped and managed to mount. He raced toward's the Owlcrest forest.

    Enclave snorted, he was free of the spell now. I stumbled to my feet, and fell. My head began to spin. Enclave nudged me with his nose. I tried to raise again but, fell. My stomach turned. My chest was killing me, blood slowly seeped out of the five puncture wounds. Enclave laid beside me. I began to lose consciousness.