The City of Dusk: Chapter B
Pristontale: The City of Dusk
Chapter B - The Elected Warriors
A few days later it happened. Melocrie and her mother stood in the front of the stage, where one of the Elders began his announcements. More warriors were summoned to this gathering, held right at the marketplace. The speech went on and on and for about an hour, about how many times warriors had vanished, and how much they wanted to rebuild the Priston lands. Melocrie didn't listen carefully, she was getting impatient. If only he would get straight to the point.
"The Gods above us have made clear again and again, that we are taking the wrong actions, again and again."
Melocrie rolled her eyes. Now they found out...
"The party we will send to Navisko this day will is special, an honour to the Gods, for that they may survive and succeed. And here they are."
Melocrie raised to her toes and carefully watched the warriors climbing up stage. The first one was a tall and elegant woman, with long, purpled blue hair, like a Sirene. Around her hips she wore an open skirt, that hid her shorts by half. Her outfit were in the colors of green, blue and white. She had a javelin tight on her back and many kinds of amulets around her neck. Her boots were up to the knees, nice brown leather boots with only a shade of green.
After that came a pair, also from Morion. A magician and a priestess, Melocrie knew. The mage wore robes of all shades of gold and brown. He had a long staff with red orb on top. His long, golden hair covered the left side of his face, and one of his sky blue eyes. The priestess wore a pretty, but simple dress in the colors of purple and white. Her hair was even redder than Melocrie's, as it was tight into two ponytails on the back of her head. She had a small, but obviously effective, wand, with tiny runes carved in it. It glowed just a bit as she waved at someone familiar in the crowd.
The fourth warrior was heavily armed, but yet Melocrie could see the youth in his face. Emerald green eyes sparkled as he tilted his head to throw off some of his brown locks. Melocrie noticed he had giant teeth and bones attached to his belt. And his sword, that hang on his side, was old and mangled. Yet he greeted the crowd cheerfully as he joined his companions.
When the fifth one came on the stage, the crowd went suddenly silent and Melocrie felt a shiver running over her spine. It was a block of a man, with a skin full of battle scars. His hair was even blacker than the night and his armor greyer than a rainy day. Blood red stones stuck out of the armor every here and there and the axe tight on his back was perhaps even twice the size of Melocrie herself. It was double-sided, and it clearly showed signs of countless battles. He scanned the crowd and Melocrie froze when he fixed himself on her. Then he heaved a sigh and bowed, and the entire crowd cheered loudly. Melocrie didn't understand why.
"And these are them!" the Elder announced with his arms wide open. "These are five great warriors, chosen by the Gods! Only one spot remains in this party, as six there can be joined. One other warriors of the Gods, who must step forward now. Who thinks he is up for the task, who thinks his fate lies within the hands of the Gods?"
This is my chance, Melocrie thought. Of course she had nothing to do with the Gods, but this was her moment. Now or never.
Melocrie turned. Oh no, she was too late. It was a young warrior holding his sword up high, but he was suddenly pulled back into the crowd.
"Oh no you don't!" a female voice cried.
"Think well about this, though fast, my friends," the Elder warned in an urgent tone. "Once you step up, there's no going back."
No going back. Melocrie already knew this. And the volume of voices rose around her, her heart started to pound again. She had been so sure of her decision, then why was she doubting after all? Suddenly, through the many stressed voices around her, she could hear Fylla's cry. The blurs in front of her turned red and yellow, and the Figon stood clearly just a foot away. As if to be woken up from a trance, she shuck her head and stepped forward.
"I will go!"
She could feel the tension pulling at her as the crowd fell silent immediately. Melocrie could almost feel her mother's breath, her fear, anger of something rash. But yet she kept her eyes fixed on the Elder, who stared at her like everyone else. The elected warriors also gazed at her, but more thoughtfully. The crowd was suddenly shook awake when one of them spoke: "Well, why not?"
It was the younger warrior, packed in that large armor. Melocrie barely dared to look at him. She swallowed, and now gazed into nowhere.
"Because I forbid it! That's why!" It was mother. She knelt down and turned her daughter around, to look at her in the eyes. "Melocrie! Don't say things just like that! Think before you act!"
"I have thought about it, mother!" Melocrie was surprised that she could actually speak. "I don't know if the sixth elected warrior is me, and neither do I care, but..." She stopped for a second when the crowd held their breath at the words 'neither do I care'. "But I know I must do this. I was right, weren't I? You all said it! And, maybe I'm too young, and all that dish dash. But it's proved, without a doubt, that elders aren't old enough too, for they still vanish. So why not?"
"You're my daughter." Mother's eyes turned wet. "And I don't want to lose you."
"But you did want to lose father?" Melocrie knew she crossed the line as she looked at her mother's face, but she held her tight expression. It was good for all them adults to be spoken directly too, and to finally hear some truth. "You're lifes are all filled with lies and false hope! How many honost warriors have disappeared? And how many lessons were learned? I say quite a few to the last one."
"But you have no plan!" mother cried.
"Yes we do." It was the younger warrior again who spoke. "We will go to Navisko to find this girl's father, and everyone else. This mission is different from any former ones. We're not set off to enter the Bellatra. That's a lesson we've learned."
Melocrie was speechless. Someone actually stood op for her, and answered one of her questions at the same time. The young warrior came forth and kneld down on the platform in front of Melocrie.
"What's you name?"
Melocrie swallowed. "Melocrie... Melocrie!" She wanted the entire crowd to hear.
"And you feel like you have to go, Melocrie? Even though you're not sure whether you're elected or not?"
Melocrie nodded. "Yes. I know I have to. Things... things have been happening. Things I feel that I can't explain, but I always seem to be right."
"Like with the Warpgate." The Elder scratched his beard in thought. "You couldn't have possibly known it was broken, yet you did."
Couldn't have known? It had been so obvious...
"With all due respect, sir," Melocrie answered insecure. "That was common sense..."
A loud laughter sounded from among the warriors. It was the Atlanta, who shuck her hair away and also knelt down.
"We could you use some common sense among here!" she said cheerfully.
"But, but!" Mother objected. "I am her mother! If I say 'no' then it's NO!"
The younger warrior stood up. "But if a child of the Gods says 'I do', you know that it's TRUE."
Mother was totally distressed and she looked powerless. Melocrie quickly ran to her and embraced her. "Mother..." she said as caring as she could. "I am sorry, but I have to go. I won't ask you to understand. I'm asking you to have faith in me."
"But my child..." Here comes the preach. "I do have faith in you." What, no preach?
Melocrie looked up at her mother, but she didn't look at her. "Do be careful, my little girl."
"I will!" Melocrie promised. "And I will return. I will fulfil this promise, and all the others the warriors made. We will make them all come home safely."
"Is it decided then?" the Elder asked a little puzzled.
"We'll watch over her," the mage and priestess said. "We promise!"
"Come on, kid." The younger warrior held out his hand and pulled Melocrie on stage.
"Who is this?" the Atlanta said while poking her finger at Fylla.
"That's my kestrel!" Melocrie said cheerfully. "Her name is Fylla. Say hello, Fylla!"
Fylla spinned around in the air and cried out happily. She seemed to be really exited.
"You will have more time to get to know each other this afternoon," the Elder spoke. "For you must leave tomorrow."
Mother's face was wet, yet Melocrie could see a smile. She waved softly at her, and mother waved back. Fylla's cry sounded once again, as the warriors descended from stage, into the cheering crowd, and beyond.
"Why did you say I was a child of the Gods?" Melocrie asked Dylane, the younger warrior, as they sat around the fire.
"Strategy," he answered as he chewed on his bone. "People have great faith in the Gods, but at the same time they fear them. Using them in a sentence simply encourages the convincing rate."
"Please talk in words we all understand, without thinking for days," the Atlanta laughed. Her name was Debhora and she had won sixteen medals in the Morion throwing-spears-contests.
The mage was called Urani and the priestess Kayleigh. They were brother and sister, and really inseparable. It was fun listening to them telling stories. The one would fill out the other and they knew exactly what the other one was thinking.
The darker warrior perhaps had the most beautiful and yet fearsome name of all: Tyrank. In spite of all this, he was rather friendly. He had fought many, many battles, especially against the undead in the desert lands. His name was known all around Priston. Even though all this, he had never been to Navisko. He wouldn't tell why, but only because it wasn't a pretty story. Melocrie was sure she didn't even want to hear it.
It was a good thing that Fylla liked the other warriors and Melocrie felt like she was making friends. Even though they were so different, but perhaps that was a good thing. The sun was setting and they should be leaving next morning, early. But none of them felt like going to sleep. Her companions had promised Melocrie over and over again that they would look after her. She even had to proof her skills of archery to them to make them less worried.
All day long the warriors had told each other tales of all kinds, and Melocrie had listened intently. Dylane was actually a Bargon hunter, he had slain thousands of them. Those teeth and bones were actually from Bargons and Melocrie was highly fascinated by the stories. Dylane was still young and sometimes seemed to have a high self-esteem, but other than that he was the best. He was making jokes, and yet he found his moments to be serious. When it was already past midnight, Melocrie felt herself dozing off, and startled awake from the hissing of water covering fire.
"It's time to rest," Tyrank said, mentioned to all. "Especially for the child. You would need all your energy and strength."
Melocrie understood that he wasn't mocking with her, unlike she was used to. Normally when people said stuff abound her still being a child, she would turn angry. But with her new friends it was different. She yawned and nodded at Tyrank, and as she walked slowly back to their cabin, she exchanged goodnights with her new friends.
And finally the hour of goodbye had arrived. The sun had just risen above the hill tops as the party left for the Warpgate. They would go through to portal to Ruinen, and go on foot from there to Navisko. The reststops had been set ready for the travellers. Songs of horns and trumpets mixed themselves with the cheering of the crowd and the party waved to their beloved ones as they walked onto the platform one by one. But Melocrie couldn't see her mother anywhere. She had already sent Fylla into the air in search, but there was still no sign. She felt sad about leaving without a goodbye and felt she didn't even want to leave at all without her mother being there. But suddenly there she was, high on balcony, waving wildly. Melocrie waved back and was highly relieved. Her faith rose as the Golden wing was placed into it's holder. A white light covered the party and one loud cheer was the last thing Melocrie heard as they vanished through the portal.
She felt light as a feather. A feeling somewhat familiar, yet different. She had only taken the Warpgate to Pillai, but now they were going to Ruinen, a place she had never seen before. Yet she felt more comforted than afraid. Through the light pillars became visible as they all rematerialised at the Warpgate in the desert. After taking a few deep breaths, Tyrank led the party down the stairs, out into the open.
"Everyone stay close," he said urgent, as he gazed into the distance, where small lights burned. "Ruinen in just up ahead as you can see, but we can't take any risks."
"I agree," Dylane said as he scanned the area. "There are ghouls all around us."
"Over there!" Kayleigh whispered as she pointed to the right.
A flat, blue creature with sharp teeth was chewing on a piece of meat and Melocrie felt sick. Then suddenly it turned and two great yellow eyes spotted them.
"It's a Corkis!" Urani said. "And it's seen us."
"Let's move," Debhora demanded and they all followed Tyrank to the red lights up ahead.
The Corkis moved and out of the dark more appeared, slowly following them.
"They're going after us," Melocrie whispered. "Shouldn't we run?"
"No way," Dylane said and laid a hand on her shoulder as they walked. "That would only encourage them."
"More incoming," said Kayleigh and Melocrie indeed saw more creatures around them. They were people, yet entirely different. Their eyes were ruined and their skin burned. They walked as they had a heavy load on their bodies.
"Zombies..." Urani whispered.
Suddenly a loud roar made them all jump and Melocrie turned. Two giant, blue creatures with large clubs and shields came running straight at them. She was horrified by the only one eye either one had, blinking and watching them.
"Now we should run!" Debhora said as the creatures came closer with every second. But not only that: the monsters all around started to cry out and motioned even faster toward the party.
Tyrank and Dylane drew their weapons. "Guide them to Ruinen!" Tyrank called. "We'll hold them off!"
"Come on!" Debhora thucked on Melocrie's shirt and she followed hastily.
"What are they?" she cried out.
"Cyclopes!" Urani answered. "We could handle them with ease, but not with all the other monsters around."
Behind her, Melocrie could hear the rattling of metal and painful roars. She didn't dare to look back, but only hoped that Tyrank and Dylane were winning.
When they reached the poor gates of Ruinen village, Melocrie finally found the courage to turn, and saw the two men running their way.
"Did you manage?" Kayleigh asked, breathing.
"We did," Tyrank said and growled.
"What happened?" Urani asked.
"I'm not sure." Dylan frowned and looked back, but the mist was covering their view to the distance. "Something was angering them. And I don't think it was us."
"But we're here," Debhora said and motioned the others to enter the village. "Let us stock up first for the road to the Dungeon."
Melocrie watched one warrior to the other as she didn't understand. She followed them through the gates and puzzled. Fylla was high above scanning the area carefully. Monsters were monsters, right? Did they need a reason to be aggressive, to attack people? She wanted to ask more than anything, but felt she was being stupid. For the first time she truly realised that she knew so little, compared to her new friends who had been through so much. Maybe she would acquire the same knowledge in time. She hoped.
Ruinen village was about deserted, though the atmosphere was a lot calmer than just outside the gates. Melocrie took a good look around as the others stocked up medicine and bought their proper equipment. The houses were more like tents, and yet ruined. A few people wandered around, reading scrolls, maps, or were polishing their weapons. The clanging sound of the smid's hammer could even be heard by the grocery store. The sand was hard underneath their feet, other than just in the desert. It was like a whole other world, nothing like Ricarten or Pillai. This was the true face of Priston, Melocrie understood. Ruined, devastated, wasted, but yet hope lingered all around. When she had the feeling she began to understand her mother, she shook her head stubbornly. The journey would be dangerous, but with her 'guardians', and running every now and then, they would be fine.
Melocrie looked up as Tyrank handed her a bow. Shyly, she took it and thanked him gratefully. The bow was beautiful. It had many runes carved in it, and by the looks of it, it was made of Maple tree wood. The string was bright white and tiny red stones glittered near the handle. She also got a new set of arrows, in the same design as the bow.
"These are swifter," Tyrank said. "Use them well and don't loose them! You might not get anything like this again soon. These are your shields now."
Melocrie nodded and thanked him again. She cherished her bow for another hour, and then they had to be on their way.
"We'll go to the south-east from here," Dylane explained, as he pointed into the distance. "We'll enter the Cursed Lands, the wasteland desert."
"There lies the Ancient Dungeon," Urani continued. "It's the long way around, but we can rest and restock there. Then we'll head south again to the.."
"The Forgotten Land," Tyrank interrupted and growled again. "Land of the Bargons."
"That's right!" Dylane grinned. "Leave them to me!"
"Don't be so tough," Debhora said and poked him on the shoulder. "Even you couldn't take six Bargons at the same time."
"Oh, I could!" Dylane raised his shield up to his back. "But it's the other monsters I'm worried about."
"Together we'll be fine, as long as we don't loose sight of each other," Tyrank said, in an annoyed voice. "Across the Forgotten Land lies Navisko, so it doesn't end with Bargons. And now we must be off."
"Yes sir!" Dylane grinned. Clearly, the thought of Bargons truly made his day.
Melocrie smiled. She loved listening to the party and their arguing. She couldn't help but not to worry about any dangers. Somehow she knew that Dylane was right: he could take six Bargons at a time. With ease. Melocrie called Fylla down from a tree and she followed through the air.
"Please keep your bird low," Urani said friendly, but seriously. "We don't want to be seen so easily."
Seen? Melocrie could barely see anything through the mist, but still she did was she was told. Fylla sat down on her shoulder and plucked her mistress' hair.
While they slowly walked the mist cleared a bit, and Tyrank told them the history of Ruinen.
"The Tempskron searched the lands for survivors, but when they reached the far north, they were surprised by a beautiful land."
"They were getting closer to Pillai," said Kayleigh. "But they didn't know. When they did, they joined forces with Morion. Ruinen was build as a reststop between the two nations."
"But then the Warpgate was invented," Dylane exclaimed. "And Ruinen fell into ruin. Still it is used these days, by people like us."
"Why don't they rebuild it?" Melocrie asked curiously.
"They can't," Urani explained. "There's a curse all over the world, Melocrie. And it's preventing Ruinen from any prosperity. Yet we need it, and that's why it's still there."
"I think that's enough for now," Debhora said. "You're scaring her."
"Ha ha, sorry!"
Melocrie smiled faintly, but indeed she was felt herself shivering for a second. He thoughts dwelled again to the Figon, though she didn't understand why it had made such an impact on her. But then again: her life was saved by a creature, dressed in flames. That was something pretty amazing.
"By the Gods!" Dylande suddenly cried out and he ran up ahead.
"Dylane!" Tyrank hissed after him. "Come back here!"
And he did, but he was carrying a huge bone with him. He held in both arms as he examined at, and then stared as his companions. Melocrie leaned a bit to the left for a closer look. It looked indeed like a bone, but it was enormous. The party gasped and Debhora knocked on it with her fist.
"It's a Bargon's?" she asked.
Dylane shook his head. "No way. Bargon are more muscle and flesh than bone. This comes from something even bigger."
Even bigger than a Bargon?
"Let me see it." Tyrank took the bone and lay it on the floor. He tapped on it with his steel gloves and moaned. "I really don't like this."
"Me neither." Kayleigh turned as if she heard something. "It's getting cold already. It's not even yet noon."
"We have to go." Urani said. "Now."
Melocrie couldn't finish her question, for Fylla suddenly took off and cried at something in the mist. As if answered, a high-pitched screech sounded from the distance, followed by the hollow sound of flapping wings. Huge wings, Melocrie could hear and she attached an arrow to her bow as the party drew their weapons.
"What is that?" Kayleigh whispered.
Tyrank dropped the bone and a cloud of dust appeared as it fell hard to the floor. Another screech sounded and from all directions everything came in movement. Monsters appeared but did not come close, as they all watched the sky and hissed.
"I think we're about to find out.." Urani said as he also watched the sky closely.
Fylla's cry sounded again and Melocrie looked up when her kestrel suddenly began to shine out a light in red and purple. She spread her wings widely and raised her chest. The light created a magic veil around the party and Melocrie vaguely recalled seeing it before. Fylla was a ascendant of an old kestrel family, which had been in property of Melocrie's family for generations. When Morion joined with Tempskron, many years ago, the birds had received a little magic of their own. When all of a sudden stones, twigs and poisonballs were shot at them from all directions, the magic veil blocked it all. Fylla answered one more screech with her own, before the flying monster became visible through the remainders of the mist. It was a huge bird, in black and green, with sharp talons and a pointy beak. It pecked the air as it screeched and then it dived, with his talons at the ready. Fylla spread her wings even wider and hissed, but did not move. When the bird came closer and closer, with great speed, Melocrie aimed her bow up with trembling hands.
"Fylla!" she yelled, and fired.
The arrow hit the bird in the chest and it's painful screech was even higher than before. The party screamed and they covered their ears, as the bird rose again and disappeared. Eventually, the other attacks from the surrounding monsters died away too and Melocrie finally found the courage to breathe. She quickly looked up, but their veil was gone, and so was Fylla.
"Fylla?" Melocrie stepped forward. "Fylla? Where are you!?"
"What just happened?" Debhora demanded to know. "What was that bird?"
"Frankly," said Tyrank, "I have no idea."
"That kestrel protected us," Urani said. "By the way, Melocrie, nice shot." He winked.
Melocrie wasn't capable of being proud. She searched the sky for her friend, but she was nowhere in sight.
"That was Morion magic, wasn't it?" Kayleigh asked.
"It was," Melocrie answered absently.
In the meantime, Dylane had joined Melocrie as he gazed into the air. After a few minutes of slowly inhaling and exhaling, the sound of flapping wings returned.
"Get close now!" Tyrank ordered and the party stepped into a tight circle, with weapons at the ready.
Knowing that she could do it now, Melocrie drew another arrow and held it at the ready. Fylla's cry sounded through the mist and then she appeared, the monster bird in hot pursuit.
"Fylla!" Melocrie cried out. "Get out of there!"
But nothing like it happened. Fylla screamed out a warning and the party ducked just in time when she and her pursuer soared right over their heads. When they had passed, Melocrie looked up and aimed. She fired, but only just missed. Hastily she drew another arrow, but dropped it from her trembling hands. Dylane laid a hand on her shoulder.
"Be calm," he said urgent. "You're bird is doing fine. Just look."
Melocrie saw it. Fylla was avoiding every attack like a professional. Tyrank grunted and withdrew his axe.
"Can you take this one, Kayleigh?"
Kayleigh nodded. "Sure thing, leave it to me. Please step back."
Urani motioned Melocrie backwards and Kayleigh took her wand in both hands. She positioned herself in good balance and closed her eyes. When Melocrie looked to the sky, the monster bird had turned their direction and Fylla wasn't able to distract it. She cried at the party and Melocrie desperately looked at Kayleigh. What was she doing? But then a soft wind appeared around them and began to move in a circle around the priestess. A soft, blue and white glow came from the tip of her wand, as the monster came closer and closer in on them. Melocrie's patience was about to die. She anxiously watched the monster to the priestess and tightened her muscles. The others seemed so calm. Debhora was only gazing to the sky, and Urani to his sister. Tyrank stood as a tree, his face expressionless. Dylane had begun to polish his sword with a piece of cloth. Melocrie didn't understand what was going on, but something was happening. The wind became harder, and the light brighter.
"Come on, sis," Urani whispered.
"It's time," Tyrank said suddenly. "Step back everyone."
He drew the party toward him and Melocrie stayed close to Debhora.
"Kayleigh, go!" Urani said and his sister opened her eyes.
They were pure white, blank. The monster advanced from above their heads, screeching loudly. Melocrie covered her ears, as did the rest, but Kayleigh seemed to have no trouble. When the monster was incredibly near, Melocrie gasped, but Kayleigh spread her arms and cried out as she cast them down. A loud cracking noise came from the heavens, and Debhora pulled Melocrie further back as beams of blue lightning came crashing down. The monster was caught right into them and Fylla had made her avoiding turn just in time. Cries of pain reflected against the ruins and when the lightning stopped, the monster turned and soared away, clearly wounded. Fylla came down and Melocrie noticed a scratch on her chest. Nonetheless, she hugged her friend tightly and thanked her.
"That was amazing, Kayleigh!" she said happily.
"Thank you," Kayleigh smiled. "But the spell is still too slow."
"You bet it is," Dylane sighed, but laughed. "We were almost bird food!"
Melocrie laughed loudly with the others. She had already understood that humor was one thing that kept the party together. Thankfully... It kept her spirit high and her motivation solid. She had been terrified when Fylla had gone, but it seemed so far away already. Urani's words made her feel proud and confident. Fylla tucked on her hair and chipped happily. Her party's mood made the ruined wasteland around them less gloomy.
"I still wonder what it was..." Tyrank said and scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I don't think I've seen anything like it."
"What's this bone thing, then?" Urani asked as he pointed at it.
"I believe it's from a Titan," Dylane said.
"What?" Debhora sounded unbelieving. "What is a Titan doing here?"
"What's a Titan?" Melocrie wasn't afraid to ask anymore.
"It's like a Bargon," Dylane explained. "They're both born from stone by the curse, but a Titan is much more dangerous and bigger."
"It's not supposed to be here," Tyrank said, as if coming down to the point. "Neither is that huge bird."
"Well, let's go to the Ancient Dungeon first," Debhora suggested. "Maybe they can give us an explanation."
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