Monday, January 13, 2014

A Decaying World - Chapter 2: A fateful encounter

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Chapter 2: A fateful encounter

Drake seemed to fall for an eternity before the dreamworld faded away and released him into the real one. His whole body was drenched in sweat, his heart was pounding as if he'd run a marathon and his head seemed like it was about to explode. He'd never felt this awful before and was incapable of standing up, so he just rolled out of his bed and crashed to the ground.

One might assume that Drake's condition had something to do with his meeting in the dreamworld but at least the headache was solely his fault, as could be extrapolated by all the empty beer bottles littering the ground. Emily might have only turned 16 but celebrations like these were rare in a village like Arlin, offering party-goers the perfect excuse to get drunk, especially because Lester, the owner of the pub, was a bit too generous with the amount of alcohol he offered.

Drake, are you okay?!” asked a worried voice from the bed. Seems like his fall had woken up Emily, who had stayed behind to help clean up the house in the morning. Of course that's only part of the reason as she could have done so without staying behind, seeing as her house was right around the corner.

My...head...”, is all that Drake managed to utter before he vomited on the carpet.

I warned you that this would happen if you drink too much! Wait a moment, I'll get a potion and something to clean up the floor.”

Her footsteps vanished in the distance while Drake crawled towards his desk to get away from the mess he made.

If you don't manage to reach the tower before sunrise everything will be lost!”

The voice of the Alp resonated throughout his mind but in his current state Drake couldn't tell if he had actually met this mysterious person or if he was just a figment of his imagination. Not that it would have been easier to believe if he hadn't been hung over, so he would have to make sure if his father was actually gone or not. However, even such a simple task seemed impossible at the moment.

Emily returned soon after but Drake was too groggy to notice her, which led to a coughing fit because he didn't realize what was happening when she dribbled a potion down his throat.

Come on, don't be such a baby!” she reprimanded him, concern for his well-being evident in her voice.

As soon as the coughing subsided she poured the rest of the bitter drink into his mouth and even though his stomach grumbled horribly he managed to prevent himself from puking a second time. His hangover didn't magically vanish from one second to the next but he was already on his feet in a matter of minutes and the world stopped spinning soon after. Of course there are substances that could have cured him instantly but no one in Arlin was proficient enough to brew such high-quality potions and buying them was completely out of the question, especially because the village was located in the middle of nowhere and driving across the bridge to Pagan would have taken hours.

Drake sat on his desk and watched Emily clean up the floor while trying to gather his thoughts. If his father had actually left in the middle of the night he would have to follow him as soon as possible without alerting Emily. She might not be much of a fighter but tended to win most of their arguments and would surely tag along if she suspected that anything was wrong.

Obviously there was still the possibility that nothing out of the ordinary had actually happened, even if his father had left the house. Maybe he was just out for a walk, reminiscing about his wife who had died during Drake's birth. Or maybe he was playing poker with the guards, who tended to fall asleep otherwise as nothing bad ever happened in the village.

However, the mere possibility that his father might be in danger was worrying enough. Drake had never seen magic with his own eyes but he didn't doubt that something like the Alp could actually exist.

I think I'll get some fresh air. I'm still a bit dizzy.”, he said at last and got ready to leave.

Seriously? You're going to let me clean up your mess on my birthday while you take a walk all by yourself?! You could at least wait for me!” she actually sounded a bit mad now.

I'm sorry, I'll make it up to you! But it will only take a few minutes. No point in changing into your street clothes again.”

I'll just take a coat then!” she said matter-of-factly and he knew that arguing would be pointless, so he just went downstairs, stealthily taking his sword with him as Emily went back to work.

As Drake reached the bottom of the stairs he noticed that something was missing: Opposite the door of the entrance hall was a beautiful display case, which normally contained an impressive piece of armor and a sword with a gorgeous golden hilt, both of which were gone now. Checking the bedroom seemed to be pointless but he did so anyway, only to find it empty. The bed appeared to be freshly made, as if no one had slept within it in since the previous night.

Did you really have to take your armor with you?! That makes it even more likely that this Alp told me the truth...

There was no time to waste but he still had to get rid of Emily. He might be able to leave the village before she was done but unless he managed to climb over the walls one of the guards would surely be able to tell her where he went. The bridge to the Paternity-Forest had collapsed years ago and no one had bothered to repair it so there were only three places where he could possibly go and all of them could be reached by going north, so that's all she would have to do if she wanted to catch up to him.

As Drake closed the bedroom door he lost control over his legs, forcing him to grip onto the door knob as hard possible to prevent himself from crashing to the floor again. He regained his footing seconds later but it was obvious that he still needed some time to recover...and with that thought in mind he smiled.

Emily was sleeping on the couch in the living room, an empty glass lying on the floor next to her hand. Drake wasn't proud for what he'd done but he wasn't about to endanger her life.

Cleaning vomit from a carpet wasn't an easy task so it seemed only natural to offer a glass of water to his girlfriend before they went outside. How could she have know that he would spike it with a sleeping potion that he found in the same cabinet that she must have sifted through earlier to help him sober up? Maybe she had realized that something was wrong the moment it had started to take effect but it was already too late at that point. She would be really mad, maybe even break up with him, but if that's what it took to save his father he would take the risk. You could always try to mend a broken relationship but resurrecting the dead was nearly impossible.

He put on his armor, which paled in comparison to the one his father owned, seeing as it was only made out of leather, picked up his sword and kissed Emily on her forehead before he finally stepped outside.

An ominous fog engulfed the village, which he hadn't even noticed earlier despite walking past a couple of windows since he woke up. Maybe the whole situation had simply distracted him from such an obvious fact, as it seemed impossible not to register the fog. He could barely see the ground in front of him and the street lights were completely hidden from sight even though they managed to illuminate the village just fine on a normal night.

A stranger might have had a hard time to find the exit but after living here for 18 years Drake could have done so blind-folded. He did so in less than a minute and noticed that something else was missing: the guards.

Well, I suppose no one wants to stand guard under these circumstances. It's not like they could see anyone approach the village before it's too late.

It still seemed a bit reckless, though. Just because nothing bad ever seemed to happen in Arlin it doesn't mean that nothing dreadful will ever occur. This would be the perfect opportunity for a group of bandits to get in, loot the village and get out before anyone even realizes what's happening.

But Drake didn't have the time to worry about Arlin's security. The absence of guards would at least assure that no one could tell Emily that he had left. The potion should keep her out of commission for at least half a day but that's only if he hadn't messed it up.

He took a deep breath before he began to jog towards the forest in the north, which was the only obstacle between him and the tower. He still had a few hours till sunrise, which would have been more than enough time to walk the whole route twice, but the fog might make it nearly impossible to traverse the forest, as he wasn't entirely familiar with its layout.

I hope the fog clears up before I get there...


It didn't. Actually, it got even worse! Now it was utterly impossible to see the ground and when Drake stretched out his arm he could only see half of it. To make matters worse it actually felt as if the fog was holding him back. Imagine walking through a hallway lined with pillows that aren't much of an obstacle but still impede your every step.

Come on! I don't have time for this!!” he screamed in frustration while stepping into something squishy. Mere seconds later a slimy substance covered his face, robbing him of the remaining visibility he had.

Goddamn slimes!” he screamed and swung his sword around, aimlessly.

What he had stepped into was a baby slime. Normally those creatures are perfectly harmless, but if you manage to piss them off they could make your life a living hell as they can produce an endless amount of mucus, which wasn't just sticky but acidic at the same time. Not enough to scar you permanently but it still hurts like hell. Luckily the slime contented itself with attacking Drake just once before it moved on. He wouldn't have been able to kill it with a mere sword anyway.

According to legends most of these creatures have been spawned by a Queen that can be as big as an entire house but monsters like these haven't been seen since the Golden Age. Maybe they lived in the landmasses that have sunken to the bottom of the ocean, which would have meant certain doom as slimes dissolve when they come into contact with water. However, according to old records there are also specimens that have adapted to specific environments, meaning that you could find them inside volcanoes, ice caves or even above the clouds. That would also mean that their attacks wouldn't be acidic in nature. The records don't indicate if these are more aggressive than their normal counterparts though.

It took Drake a couple of minutes to wipe his face clean but as he had forgotten to bring any potions or ointments with him he had no way to get rid of the burning sensation. Water might have helped but he didn't plan to crawl across the ground to find any, although that might have been the more sensible option.

Instead he just stumbled through the fog, running from one tree to the next while trying to move towards the tower whenever possible. However, he had already lost his orientation when the slime attacked him and was more or less running around in circles. He didn't notice at first but after running into the same tree for the fifth time he felt that something was off and marked it with his sword.

Goddammit! Why did I have to leave without a compass?!” he screamed when he ran into the tree once more, angry with himself for being so hasty. That's when he heard a strange rustling noise, followed by a hissing that seemed too close for comfort. “Hello? Is anybody there?”

Never ever try to get a response when you hear strange noises, especially not if they are coming from inside your own home! Drake nearly paid the price for his stupidity as something huge shot past him, barely missing his face but taking down an entire tree instead.

What the hell?!” he exclaimed in disbelief, his eyes widened in shock. Still, he readied his blade to defend himself against another attack. He might not be the best fighter Arlin had to offer but Glenn, his father, had started to train him when he was only 12 years old.

He had served under General Garland in the army of Pagan many years ago and even though Drake didn't actually know anything about this general he seemed important enough, meaning his father couldn't have been that bad of a knight. The beautiful armor in their house only strengthened that belief, although he could have just purchased it somewhere and lied about his career in the army. However, it didn't matter if his story was fake or not as the training seemed to cover all the essential tactics needed to defend oneself. Drake had never fought anything big though, only a couple of wolves, some oversized bees as well as a few bats. There were no dangerous beasts lurking in the general vicinity of Arlin, at least not that he knew of, unless the story of the vampire proved to be true.

The hissing resumed as whatever had attacked him wriggled itself out of the remnants of the tree. Drake gripped the hilt of his sword, ready to swing it at the first sign of danger but as if on cue the fog cleared up. There was no gradual transition; however, it just vanished in a matter of seconds. Drake had no time to think about these strange turns of events though as he was finally able to see his attacker: a monstrous snake as big as a tree, with 2 giant fangs which could crush his skull with a single bite.

His jaw dropped in disbelief, his legs wobbled dangerously and his heart seemed to skip a beat before he sheathed his sword, turned around and made a run for it.

You've got to be kidding me! Where did a monster like this come from?!

He heard an otherworldly scream before something zipped right past him, splintering a tree a few feet away.


He had no time to confirm his suspicion, especially because the whole tree exploded seconds later as another snake emerged from it's center. Drake had barely enough time to react before it hurled itself at him with the speed of an arrow. Time seemed to slow down as he stared into the darkness of it's mouth as well as the fang that would rip through his skin in a matter of moments. He might have been able to side-step the attack but throwing himself to the ground looked like the more reasonable option.

Drake tumbled to the ground as he evaded a few seconds too late. His skin remained unscathed but the impact shredded the front of his armor, turning it into a useless piece of junk. He only had enough time to get rid of it before a hissing shadow descended upon him, forcing him to roll to the side to prevent himself from getting crushed.

Leave me alone!!” he screamed in rage, drew his sword and slammed it into the snake's head with a powerful strike. His jaw dropped once more when it bounced off harmlessly, which nearly made him lose the grip on his blade.

Completely distracted by this awful turn of events he didn't notice the snake opening it's mouth, only realizing what had happened when something was thrust into his abdomen, forcing him to his knees.


One of the needles he had seen earlier was buried in his body and although he pulled it out in the blink of an eye he felt his entire body going numb.


Tears were streaming down his face when the gravity of the situation dawned upon him. There would be no escape! He'd die in a matter of seconds, his father would perish soon after and Emily would never realize what had transpired on this fateful night. From this day on her birthday would always remind her of the moment when her boyfriend and his father had vanished without a trace.

I'm...sorry...”, he spoke with a slurred voice while his consciousness faded away.

Darkness was about to engulf his mind when he heard someone moving towards him across the grass.

Are you serious? This is the extent of your abilities? Pathetic!” remarked a deep and angry sounding man.

The snake hissed at the intruder but was silenced before it even managed to propel itself at him. Forcing his eyes open one last time Drake managed to catch a glimpse of someone wearing a brown coat, who was just about to sheath a katana with a red blade. Turning his head to the side he saw the body of the snake, which had been cut into two with a single strike.


He finally fell forward, having exhausted his remaining energy. 

His savior stared at him for a couple of minutes before he pulled out a potion and forced it down Drake's throat.

I'll give you one last chance. Don't disappoint me again!”

He was about to leave when he noticed the remnants of Drake's armor below the snake's corpse.

You were planning to fight her wearing this? Are you genuinely this stupid? Maybe I shouldn't have saved you after all...”

He spoke a single word of power and the tattered armor pieces reconnected themselves. Then he bit into his finger and drew a pentagram made out of blood on it's back. A red glow engulfed the armor but nothing seemed to visibly change about it.

That's all the help you will get from me.”, he uttered, obviously disgusted with himself, and threw the armor to the ground before he vanished into thin air.


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