Seraph In The Wall (III)
Collection: Of Greater Shadows - Chronicled by Valhel
Recommended Listening: "Myotis", "Barbastella", and "Agent of Chaos" by Hans Zimmer
"End the world?", Lore began to discover new depths of distrust for her hosts.
"Forgive my urgency, there have been signs...' whispered Ardenn turning away in attempt to be disarming, 'Signs...and other portents that we had not foreseen."
Lore was now standing next to the table upon which the blade rested. The window let in an oddly chill wind that, for a moment, caused the candle fires to shudder. She wondered what cult had she been found by, what fate had they envisioned for her. Lore had heard tales of ancient religions that practiced diabolical acts of sacrifice below the darkest vaults of the Wall, had they reemerged? Had some erratic and foul prophecy told her host of doomfires stored up for the world? It mattered little this instant, she concluded, all that need end now was her stay...
"We would have sought you out more gently had it not been for the star..." said Ardenn.
Before he could continue the thought a crash usurped the silence and a wretched and guttural howl shook the house.
"Brother!', cried Nycerra, 'We are found!"
Something monstrous began to hack at the oak door with malefic intent, its bellowing now nearly a gleeful croaking. Ardenn withdrew a long silver blade from beneath a fold in his robes and Nycerra began throwing furniture in front of the door. Gleaming sword in hand, Ardenn positioned his defense at the top of the stairs, he glanced over to see how his charge had prepared for the intrusion, but Lore was gone.
Snatching up the mysterious blade, she had leapt through the window and from the eaves down to the stony streets. Lore wasn't sure what to make of it all, the cryptic guardians, that terrible thing at the door, but she was sure that the sword would either serve as her last defense or currency for her next few meals. Onward she ran, trying to weave in and out of sight all the while looking back hoping that torchlight may reveal any pursuit. Lore heard Ardenn call out to her and then more terrible baying before she quickened her pace. Again, Lore looked back to the house, there was a glint of silver and then an extinguishing darkness. Lore stopped. Nothing moved in the street. Moonlight had turned the stones of the city a shadowy blue while torches cast an orange glow from the edge of the Wall. Lore began to step backwards, toward the shadow of an alleyway. Something began to stir within the house, terror kept Lore from turning away, and then it emerged from the window.
She had lingered too long, Lore finally pulled herself away and began running again to the alley. And the thing in the window followed.
Lore dashed up a wall and ran along the rooftops in an effort to spot the creature. It may have guessed Lore's path, for the beast crashed through the back alleys barring its prey from escaping deeper into the city. Another great and horrible howl came and Lore's heart sank into panic. Turning again Lore could see the creature was nearly upon her. The beast's form was difficult to make out, it moved like a great cat. Its hide was like smoke and broad shoulders bristled with quills. A clattering came from hooked claws upon the stone as the creature thundered toward Lore. The guttural croaking grew louder as the beast caught up.
Lore's eyes darted from shadow to shadow searching for some place to hide. A snarl and crash came from behind, the beast had taken a swipe at Lore as it struggled to lift itself upon the roof. Distracted, Lore hadn't noticed the edge of the building, tripping, she tumbled into the cluttered alley below.
She dragged herself behind baskets and broken boards. The thundering ceased, it was on the roof now searching for a scent. Lore held her breath and held the stolen blade close wondering whether or not to draw it and if it would make a sound. A shadow moved over Lore and she looked up to see the creature slowly pacing the rooftop. It was at least four meters long, and when the smoke rolled away from the hide a pale sorcerous glow appeared to flicker beneath the skin. The massive paws were crowned with taloned digits. Bony plates created over the shoulder and rear legs. The head of the beast was more teeth than anything else. Wolflike fangs ran down its terrible jaw from snout to neck, all exposed. Above the maw rounded an eyeless temple with two nostrils that ran nearly the length of the hideous jaw.
Lore grasped the handle of her sword but dare not draw it. The beast moved away from the rooftop but then jumped down to the alleyway across from Lore. Cautiously Lore began to stand, slowly pacing toward the wall. She thought she could hear whispering, voices softy calling out from the shadows where the beast stalked. The creature turned down Lore's alley with gleeful croaking. The air turned foul and the blast of the fiend's nostrils brushed Lore's hair across her face. The light within the creature died down and the darkness of the smoke grew with its breath. It began to throw aside debris with it round fanged maw with a growl that sounded more akin to cackling.
Now only a few meters from the beast Lore realized that there would be no where to run. Left and right was only open road and at her back the the cliff of the Wall. Suddenly the moonlight grew fierce and exposed both Lore and the monster. The beast bellowed with a metallic roar and charged. Lore dashed for the edge of the Wall. She turned attempting to draw the sword but already the beast was upon her. Lunging out the stalker swept both itself and Lore over the edge of the Wall.
Downward into the fog they plunged, the beast, as if unaware or uncaring of its near doom, swung its fingered claws at Lore who was just out of reach. Fear dazed Lore, she tumbled through the night too panicked to scream, but still clutching the haft of the sword. As she spun Lore could make out the field through the mists below and the monstrous predator above, but then there was something else. Moonlight glinted from the Wall and a bolt of silver whistled through the sky striking the beast through one of its foremost paws. The creature bellowed in rage, still furiously clawing at Lore, a silver arrow stuck firmly between its claws. Another moonlit arrow flew down the wall, this time glancing off of one of the creature's plates. What little could these arrows do for Lore plummeted nearer and newer death. Again there was the ground below, and again the beast now with a new silver pinion stuck in its thrashing neck. Lore closed her eyes anticipating the blackening embrace of earth. She tried to steal one last glance at the stars but something had blocked them out, not the beast nor the mists, but something else that moved behind them. A dark shadow of many wings, six wings, stretched out and folded as the shadow dove. Lore, now wide-eyed with fear and hope, looked on. A fire flashed in the fog and a mighty spear ornamented with the crowns of woodland beasts plunged into the black hide of the snapping stalker. As the monster attempted to dislodge the spear the wings swooped past it and Lore was caught up with them. Two of the wings wrapped around her, the feathers were broad and felt like iron. At the crest of each wing appeared more branched horns. "Hold on!" commanded a voice.
Stone and earth burst up into the air as the three smote the ground. The winged creature quickly cast Lore aside just as the beast crashed down. Astonished Lore looked on, before her stood Ardenn, a crown of antlers behind his head of wild hair, robed in six great wings, adorned with leaves and bladed iron, two of which were shattered. The beast had also survived, it coiled and thrashed before pulling the spear from its hide and snapping it in twain by the crush of its maw. Ardenn charged forward, drawing a silver sword, but the beast gnashed at the blade preventing a blow. Ardenn reached out with his left arm for the head of his spear while slamming two of the barbed wings down upon his foe.
"Run!", he roared. Another glint of silver shot through the fog striking the beast in the back. It bayed with a horrendous sound, and its pale light grew to a luminescent green revealing six eyeless cavities in its head beneath the skin. The earth trembled at the roar and again Ardenn urged Lore to run. She had nearly forgotten to she if she could move. Everything ached yet nothing was broken and her hand was still on the stolen sword. Ardenn lay hold of his spear head but the beast tore at one of his wings. The defender cried out and his six wings furled up into a shredded cloak upon his back. The whispers surrounding the hound shrieked and the beast lunged at Ardenn with a grievous howl. As it pinned it's prey to the earth Ardenn buried the head of his spear into the creature's chest. "Lore!' he cried out, 'Run!" The beast crashed its fangs together snapping at Ardenn's head, but the spear kept him just inches away from death.
Lore quickly gained her feet and realized that even if she did run there was nowhere but open fields to hide in. Lore gripped the hilt of the sword tighter, and upon drawing it forth something cold and powerful washed over her from the blade. Lore leapt through the mists at the beast bringing her weapon clean through one of its forearms. The beast relented in pain and Ardenn threw it from him leaving the spear embedded. Unable to stand, the beast thrashed toward Lore gnashing it's mangled fangs. Suddenly it rolled and caught Lore with its left paw, and it dragged her to its jaw. Lore, in one final act of defiance, swept the throned blade up at the beast. As she did a darkness sank into her skin and then curled up the length of the thrumming blade. As the sword struck the open jaw of the monster so too did the darkwield and it tore through the diabolic hound. Letting go, the beast howled in torment and Lore let go of the blade, collapsing to the earth.
The hound, half of its jaw hanging by pulpy sinews, roared at Lore, the smoke rolled away and its foul hide rippled with green lights. With its terrible roar the whispers shrieked and Lore covered her ears in pain before it all became suddenly still.
Lore looked up and two silver arrows shown in the skull of the creature.
Kicking her legs, Lore pushed herself away from the corpse. As she recoiled her hand lighted upon the blade, now quiet and cold. Her curiosity held her eyes upon the sword, wondering, disbelieving.
"So...' coughed Ardenn, 'the blade does remember you."
Lore turned to see Ardenn bleeding out behind her.
"You must listen.' smiled Ardenn, 'Find my sister, she will help you. Find Nycerra. The world must come to its end."
Ardenn began wheezing and Lore reached to lift him up.
"No, Lore!' he sighed, 'This is not- not the-" Ardenn's eyes held the reflection of a pale star and something like fear over came his face before he gave up his last breath.
Lore fought back tears, only losing to one or two of them before she looked up at the same pale star and then down to the Wall beneath it. Moonlight there played upon a silver crescent and a woman high up with golden hair. Nycerra kept vigil over the scene, a ghostly arrow notched loosely upon her bow.
Lore looked back down to the sword, it chimed and the moonlight played strange tricks upon its blade. Finding the scabbard and wrapped, Lore sheathed it and started for the city gates. Looking back the Ardenn and the beast had vanished, and so too had Nycerra within the Wall.
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