Friday, February 28, 2014

A Decaying World - Chapter 6: Mirage

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Chapter 6: Mirage

After the beast took over I was banished into the darkness of my mind, only able to see blurry images and listen to the monster's thoughts. The world was plunged into an azure abyss soon after and the vampire's control slipped a little while he fought for his life. I was unable to take over just yet but I could conjure imaginary stairs leading back into the center of my mind. The steps spiraled out of control, turned themselves upside down, became as thin as matchsticks, however, none of his attempts were able to stop me and when I finally reached the top I smashed through a door locked by chains of darkness. Behind it lay a spherical chamber housings hundreds of thousands of light-orbs, all showing moments that had long since passed, although I couldn't remember some of them. A smoke monster swirled through the air and accelerated when it became aware of my instrusion.
Return to the depths where you belong! I saved your pathetic life and even obeyed your order by taking the human with me. I deserve to be in control for once!
You deserve nothing! This is my body, not yours!”
It is our body and there's nothing you can do about that! Accept your fate and I won't need to take over again!
Drake materialized a sword in mid-air and grabbed its hilt. It wasn't a shadow sword, though, but one with a crystalline blade. It was bathed in radiant light and started to hum when Drake jumped into the air, ready to battle the beast within.

Drake awoke to the soothing sound of a river and the cries of vultures hunting for prey. Somewhat confused he opened his eyes, catching glimpses of sunlight through the crown of a palm tree. How did I get here? He sat up and noticed that his clothes were gone, having been replaced by a single piece of underwear. He should have felt the chilling temperatures of the shadow he was sitting in before he remembered that vampires aren't affected by such small differences.
His eyes wandered across the area but there wasn't much to be seen: more palm trees, a small pond connected to an equally small river, both surrounded by grass that didn't get very far before it was extinguished by the desert. On the other side of the pond stood a white tent with a wrinkled old man in front of it. He was holding a fishing rod into the water, as if he actually expected to catch anything. He noticed Drake's gaze and urged him to come closer. He didn't seem to be armed, seeing as he wasn't wearing much either. Brown trousers, a white shirt and a pair sandals. Seems a bit risky to expose so much of his body to the desert sun.
Are you coming or not?” the old man yelled with a voice that belied his age.
Drake complied and walked towards him while checking the surroundings for other people but all he saw was a camel resting in the shadows behind the tent. Is he some kind of hermit that he's out here all by himself?
Hello,” was all Drake could think of after reaching his destination.
Hello to you too. Before you ask: your companion is resting inside the tent. I've patched him up as good as possible and gave him a potion to heal his internal injuries. He should be as good as new in no time,” he looked at Drake for a bit before adding: “Your clothes are over there, by the way.”—He pointed towards a washing line beside the tent—“They should have dried by now.”
Thanks,” Drake replied and walked towards it. “How did we get here?”
Lets just say I fished you out of the river.”
You fished us out of the river?” Drake asked sceptically as he put on his clothes. “With a fishing rod that looks like it could fall apart at any second.”
Believe me, it's sturdier than it appears to be. Anyway, it's good that you got out of the mountains when you did.”
And why is that?”
Instead of answering he pointed towards the mountain range. Drake couldn't see anything out of the ordinary but his ears picked up a strange swirling noise and the sound of stone clashing upon stone, which seemed to be increasing in volume bit by bit.
Walk towards the edge of the oasis and you'll understand,” and with these words the old geezer focused all of his attention upon his fishing rod.
Drake obliged and walked away. The closer he got to the border the hotter it got, as if the oasis was surrounding by some kind of barrier that kept the heat at bay. He had never been in the desert before but it didn't seem to make any sense.
He turned around after reaching the edge and saw a black pillar emerging from the mountains and disappearing somewhere in the clouds. It looked like a tornado that was consuming every rock in the area to feed upon as it was growing wider and bigger by the minute. He returned to the old man in confusion.
I don't understand.”
It seems like Dorr'n Selkesch is going wild.”—he noticed the recognition written on Drake's face—“You don't happen to know anything about that, do you?”
Maybe,” he saw now reason to talk about what had transpired with a total stranger.
You mean most certainly, right? Or are you telling me that you just happened to stumble upon this shadow sword?”
Drake's hand went towards his scabbard only to find it empty. The old geezer smiled and pulled Dorr'n Selkesch's blade from beneath him, as if he was ready to strike. Drake snatched the sword out of his hands and plunged it into his scabbard.
How did you know where the sword came from?”
Isn't it common knowledge that the lord of shadows has been imprisoned in these caves? There should be stone tablets at both entrances warning travelers not to use these routes.”
Hm, Maximilian, my friend, mentioned something like that. He didn't know what it was about, though.”
Perhaps the tablet on your end has been damaged. The warning alone should still be enough to deter any merchants from using that route, though, which is one of the reasons the few villages left out here will cease to exist sooner rather than later.”
Why would they depend on merchants? Haven't they adapted to the harsh conditions in the desert?”
They could have adapted if the situation wouldn't deteriorate every few years. A millennium ago this whole area was a lush forest but look at it now!”—he spread his arms, enveloping the whole area in front of his eyes—“Almost everything has been swallowed by the desert and it won't stop till every trace of life has been extinguished. That's why the inhabitants have to rely on supplies from the outside but with the main route blocked by Dorr'n Selkesch all that is left is the sea and there aren't many merchants left who are willing to waste their time. They'll have to pay for the boat, use up a lot of supplies during the arduous trek through the desert and have to hire bodyguards if they want to survive the monster's lurking within it. It's just not worth it. There are other routes through the mountains but they aren't big enough to transport a sufficient amount of goods. And now even those are gone.”
Because I freed Dorr'n Selkesch?” If only I hadn't pulled out that sword.
You didn't free him, else he would have hunted you to the end of the world to reclaim his demonic blade. You did break a part of the seal though, dooming the entire population of the desert in the process, no matter what happens next. He might be able to break the seal by himself, which would lead to the death of everyone in the vicinity as he needs sacrifices to revive Gana Borodem. Or maybe he'll consume the entire mountain, turning it into an impenetrable barrier of darkness that you will have to breach if you want to leave this area. And that will only end with your death.”
But there has to be a way to stop him!
No, you won't be able to stop him. Especially not you!” he had been smiling all this time while catching one fish after another, but now he stopped doing so.
Drake didn't need to ask what he meant. Instead he was grateful for still being alive. There aren't many people out there who would spare a vampire.
There is a chance, though,” the old man continued. “If you manage to cross the desert and reach the swamp at the northern end of the continent, that is.”
Why would there be a swamp in the desert?”
You'll see. In its center is a building, some people call it a temple, and somewhere In its depths is hidden a blade, the so-called Sword of the heavenly warrior.”
I assume it's a holy weapon?”
I wouldn't know, but if the stories are true its power could be just what you need to stand a chance against Dorr'n Selkesch. And if it's not enough to destroy him it could still rob him of his remaining power, leaving behind nothing more than an impotent shade.”—He reeled in his fishing line and placed the rod on the ground.—“But enough of such talk. My quiet haven won't remain untouched for much longer. Lets enjoy it while we still can,” he showed a toothless grin, causing Drake to wonder how he spoke so clearly. It didn't matter, though, as Drake's stomach was grumbling. If only I could make my body believe that this hunger could be quenched by eating fish. No, you will never be free of this hunger! And you won't be able to suppress me forever! You have to drink blood to keep on going and with every little drop I grow stronger while you will never be able to unleash your full potential till you acknowledge what you are! Just...shut up!

Night had already fallen. Drake was observing the starry sky from atop a rock, wondering what Emily was doing right about now. I hope she didn't try to find me and crossed paths with Modera. Who knows what she'd do to her. Perhaps she's already been kidnapped to keep me in check, since it must appear like I actually ran away. If only that bitch would answer me!
Where are we?” came Maximilian's voice from behind. He looked around in confusion, one hand pressed onto his stomach.
It's an oasis close to the mountain. An old man saved us and patched you up.”—he grabbed the basket next to him and held it towards Maximilian—“Want a fish?”
Instead of answering he dove right in, gulping down one after another till none were left. Gosh, I could have never eaten so many cold ones. Maximilian burped and fell into the sand.
Are you okay?”
Drake was about to come to his aid but Maximilian shook his head.
I'm fine. Just a little bit tired.”
You slept for hours.”
That must be why. Thanks, anyway...for the fish and for saving my life. Although grabbing me by the neck kinda hurt,” he rubbed it in accordance.
I couldn't have lived with myself if you had gotten killed. If only I hadn't pulled out that sword. Or even tried to kidnap you in the first place...”
They remained silent for a while, listening to distant noises in the desert. The mountains were strangely calm but the black pillar was still there, evident by the lack of stars in that direction. It had already doubled in size but seemed to have slowed down for now.
Maybe you're not so bad after all.”
Drake smiled and looked at Maximilian, but he gazed straight ahead.
It doesn't change what you are, though. If you give in to your beast or whatever I will cut you down!”
I understand...”
Good,” he tried to sit up but a painful grimace flashed over his face. “Yeah, that was a stupid idea. Seems like we've got some time to waste. What's the plan?”

The sun was barely up when our heroes got ready to leave. Maximilian gulped down another potion before he donned his armor. They also received two desert cloaks, items enchanted with a cooling spell to make treks through the immense heat easier. The old man couldn't offer much in terms of provision, however, just a small bundle of fruits and enough water to last them a few days.
There's a village about a dozen miles to the north. You should be able to purchase enough food for a round trip. And don't forget to buy a map, unless you never want to get anywhere.”
Thanks for all your help,” said Drake and shook the old man's hand.
Yeah, thanks for patching me up.”
It was only natural. No need to thank me. Now of you go! The cloaks might be good but they won't neutralize the heat entirely,” he smiled and waved while they walked away. “Drake, you can do it!”
Do what?”
Strange guy,” is all Maximilian replied.
After walking for about a minute a strange thought entered Drake's mind. Did I ever tell him my name? He looked over his shoulder and was stumped.
What the?”
Hm?” Maximilian turned around and was as confused as his companion. Behind them was nothing more than an endless desert in front of a mountain range. They tried retracing their steps but the oasis was gone for good.

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