Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Decaying World Chapter 14: Across the Sea

At the moment, I'm trying to finish up my horror collection to release something once again, but I really didn't want to spend all my time on it. But I also didn't want to write the next iteration of Loop before I could fully concentrate on the story. So I did something different and simply wrote the next chapter of a Decaying World! That was only possible because it was so short, though. The next chapters will most likebly be longer, although not as long as the final chapters of the first half. At least not at first.


Chapter 14: Across the Sea

Somewhere, in the middle of the ocean, a small vessel was trapped within the grasp of nature. The wind howled like a banshee, swooping down onto the ship, spurring on the ocean. Gargantuan waves crashed against wood, pulling and pushing it in every direction. It creaked and groaned and burst apart, not able to withstand the nature of this storm.
Barely visible figures scuttled across the planks, running and jumping and slipping, doing their best to keep what was left of their transport afloat. But it was a battle they couldn't win. What crew they had was either trapped below deck or had already met the kings of the underworld. Only a handful were still participating in their futile struggle.
A lightning bolt emerged from the cloud that was following them—a cloud so dark that it rivaled the night sky—and it ripped through the main mast, nearly toppling it over. The lone sailor who had held his position in the crow's nest screamed in terror, but it was too late. He was grabbed by a gust of wind so strong that it might as well have been the hand of a titan, and was plunged into the depths, certain to meet the planks head-on.
Cat-like eyes fell upon his flesh, alerted by his screams, and a blurry figure jumped into the sky, catching him moments before his rendezvous with death and laying him to rest in a corner from where he wouldn't meet his end, at least for the next few seconds.
T-t-t-t-t-thank you ….” stammered the man, but his savior had already disappeared.
Another lightning bolt cut through the main mast, snapping it in half. It cracked and lurched, slowly descending onto deck, but two people sped below where it would fall, raising their swords into the air.
A snake made of light and darkness coiled itself around the mast's wood, embracing it like a lover, then destroying it with the force of a supernova. A hole was blown into the deck, but the damage was acceptable. Having a spear made of wood crash into it would have resulted in the imminent destruction of the vessel.
Are we anywhere near the continent?” yelled Maximilian over the raging storm, swallowing raindrops that burned in his throat.
I didn't see anything the last time I checked,” replied Drake, shielding his face from the onslaught of the chaos. “I'll have another look, as long as we still have a mast left.”
Then he jumped into the air and grabbed onto the ladder placed on the outside of the mast. Under normal circumstances, he might have been able to jump all the way to the top, but he hadn't regained his full strength since the destruction of Arlington. And there was no telling where the storm would have pushed the ship by the time he would have arrived at the top.
They'd been in the middle of nowhere for more than a month now—a journey that they began about a week after his encounter with Assar. Most of the trip had been a breeze, until bad memories came surging back to haunt the vampire. The storm that was chasing them was the same that had destroyed his hometown, that had taken his girlfriend from him. It might have been acting its part this time, but a mere glimpse was all it took for Drake to see through the charade. If they stopped for even a moment, time would come to a halt, then loop, then end forever. And if he was trapped within, then everything was lost.
Fucking liar! You said you'd give me time!” grumbled Drake through gritted teeth while he ascended the final rungs.
The ship groaned and screamed once more, precariously falling, almost toppling over. The vampire stumbled sideways, nearly vacating his vantage point the moment he had reached it. Only his strong grip made him keep his position. Not that falling would have mattered. When he peered into the distance, there was nothing to be seen. Just an endless chaos of waves, all of which were focused on their vessel, no matter how little sense their movement made.
Gazing down, he saw Feyadal wrestling with the steering wheel. They'd lost the captain right at the start, had to watch him get burned to ash, and lightning had struck that same spot on a multitude of occasions since then. I'm surprised the wheel itself hasn't been destroyed yet. Are you still toying with me, Assar? Why not get it over with?
A demonic scream filled the air, and a gust of wind as powerful as a hammer slammed into Drake's vantage point, hurtling him backwards and onto the planks, exactly the way he had fallen from Modera's tower after his fateful encounter.

Assar clutched the vampire by his throat and raised him into the air, crushing his useless windpipe.
I could kill you right now, just need to plunge Abolitor into your flesh”—he raised his crimson katana into the air, caressing Drake's flesh with its blade—“but that would be like crushing a helpless ant under my boots. So I'm going to give you a chance … or rather an ultimatum.”
The vampire slammed into the ceiling, without seeing Assar's knee connect with his stomach, and hit the stone floor with a loud thud. His front teeth broke, their remnants digging themselves into his flesh.
Finish what Modera started and I will give you the chance to test your destiny.”
Drake rose from the ground, clutching his belly and groaning in pain. “What are you talking about?”
You were only the first step. One person alone could never stand up to me, to the Calamity! So gather the heroes of the prophecy and come visit me. Then we can end this.”
About to stagger to his feet, one more blow connected with Drake. His face smashed into Assar's throne, taking it with him into the wall.
But don't think I'll let you take your merry time! I will be coming for you, and if you fail to repel me, then your life will be forfeit. But I'll be generous and will allow you to find the next comrade in your fruitless journey before I seek you out once more.”
What comrade? What heroes? How am I supposed to find people who only Modera knew about?” Drake wanted to scream, wanted to let all his anger be free, but Assar had broken him.
You've already seen where they are.” Assar spread his arms, presenting the upper chamber of Modera's tower to his opponent. “Right here, not long ago. That's all the help you will get. So go”—he raised his hand and Drake flew into his clutches, unable to withstand his power—“and reunite with Maximilian. I'm eager to cross blades with him once more.”
The vampire's body was flung backwards with so much power that he broke through the wall. His fall was accelerated far beyond what gravity could muster, and he plunged into the pond behind the tower, and then into the muddy earth at its bottom.
Assar sneered as he watched him vanish in the depths. Part of him knew that destroying Drake would have been a more sensible course of action, but another aspect of him refused, told him to keep him alive, if only for a little bit longer. And instead of fighting with himself, he simply gave in. Why finish such an interesting game before it has even begun?

What the hell is going on?” were the first words that reached Drake's mind when he returned from below deck. Some sections of it were already flooded. It was a miracle that their transport was still plowing through the waves instead of sinking into the dank abyss.
Feyadal ran past him, with his hand moving back and forth into his quiver. One glowing arrow after another pierced the storm, trailing off into the darkness, but Drake couldn't see what he was shooting at. Maximilian, on the other hand, had switched places with the elf and was now fighting with the steering wheel. A faint dome of light was engulfing his form, an extension of Elegnis' power. He had trained day in, day out since their battle against Modera, so as to make the most of his new-found power. But in the end, the sword was just a copy, unable to ever reach the same level as its original.
Screams of despair were carried over the storm, followed by a sickening smacking sound—like the lips of a giant slamming into each other.
Drake turned and turned, then slithered away, momentarily losing his balance when the ship was once again hit by an enormous wave. And then he saw it: a gray body longer than the ship itself was moving through the water, swimming in circles, slowly tightening itself around its prey.
What is that?”
A leviathan, a guardian of the deep sea,” yelled Feyadal, who was still busy trying to hit the beast, but its wriggling flesh moved faster than light itself.
Then why is it at the surface?”
Well, if this Assar is really controlling the storm, then it wouldn't be out of the question for him to summon such a beast.”
Drake unsheathed his shadow sword and blasted the beast with its power, but it faded away long before reaching its silver scales, as if sucked dry on the way.
Isn't there anything we can do?”
Maximilian already tried to slice it apart, but our attacks seem to be useless. Not much of a surprise, given the size of the beast.”
The grotesque head of the leviathan surfaced when the ship turned once more, and its snake-like tongue picked the remaining sailors from deck or out of mid-air, swallowing them whole.
It might be older than most cities on Meceruun, which means that its body has absorbed an immense amount of magic over the centuries. We'd have to get really close—like inside its body—or somehow absorb his power to do any notable damage.”
The beast's body coiled itself around the ship's hull, slowly crushing it. It was only a matter of moments until their journey came to an end.
It's already too close!”
Bright flashes pierced the sky as lightning bolt after lightning bolt slammed into the water, hastily inching towards the ship. It was the same phenomenon that had turned Arlington into dust, making it obvious that the loop that Drake had witnessed was nothing but a mockery.
The sky rumbled, exploded, while the ship's wood did the same. Drake cursed, screamed, shot wave of darkness after wave of darkness into the ocean, but it was pointless. There was nothing they could do.
His body fell forward, accompanied by that of the elf. Only Maximilian was still clinging onto the remnants of the ship, prolonging his life by a couple of seconds. His head shot left and right, hastily searching for something, anything, while his heart danced in fear, pumping adrenaline and blood through his veins. But only a miracle could save them now.

Far across the sea, there is a land untouched by civilization. Its inhabitants have been living in harmony with nature since the dawn of time. Their homes are located within trees. Not ones hollowed out for that purpose, as they'd never stand for such cruelty, but ones that thrive on magic and allow the forest-folk to live within themselves while sapping a small amount of their power.
Long ago, that land was protected by the World Tree, Mimeidr. It is one of the Asen, one of the guardians of Meceruun, and it is the mother of all plants on the world. But vile forces tried to destroy Mimeidr, to plunge the elves into chaos, and when the War ended, thousands of lives were sacrificed, leading to the destruction of the most magnificent city above the world. Its ruins are scattered across the vast forests of this land, but only the sanctuary of the World Tree is still intact.
But the tree is dying, and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop it. The spirit trapped within is wasting its power nonetheless, even if it didn't need to. And when it felt the Eternal Darkness' approach, it sent out a shockwave, strengthening the barriers of its realm, if only for a while. A move that would only accelerate Mimeidr's demise, but without Drake, there will be no future.

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