The City of Dusk: Chapter C
Pristontale: The City of Dusk
Chapter C - The Cursed Land
Three more days had passed. The party had fought their way to the entrance of the Cursed Land. There they made camp for the night, at a quiet spot between a few trees. Melocrie had never been so tired in her life and she felt she needed a bath. Even Fylla was exhausted and was now snoozing in her lap. The thought of the huge bone made her shiver, and she just couldn't imagine something so big. Her friends had been nice to her all the way, and she had asked them questions she didn't dare to ask before. Debhora had explained that monster weren't always so evil, though Melocrie already knew that. But now she understood that the monsters were driving insane by the influence of a stronger curse, of stronger cursed monsters. This part of the desert was only meant for Corkisses, Zombies, Cyclopes, Mephits and Decoys. That enormous bird and a Titan had no business there. It happens rarely, Debhora had said, but sometimes monster leave their own region for another. It's unknown why, but probably because they feel to much locked up. Melocrie noticed that her party pittied the monsters more than hated them. She yawned and stretched, carefully not to wake the kestrel. They had to leave the next morning, early, because the sunrise would waken up the wasteland. While Tyrank was making dinner, Urani and Kayleigh were building up their tent. Dylane was out on the watch up north, and Debhora down south. Melocrie had asked if she could help, but Tyrank had said she just needed to take a rest.
"Here, take this," he said and gave her a cup of hot chocolate. "It's not much, but you'll feel better."
Melocrie thanked him and took a sip. She was already getting used to being afraid once in a while and found that it was normal. If she had been alone in the desert through all those events, she would have died from panic. But with these people around she felt saver, as like being back with her father. Melocrie missed him a lot. She hadn't thought much about Navisko, and what they would do when they arrived. But Tyrank had made it clear you should think of all things, but only focus on one thing at the time. Or else it would eat away your energy and you would be left like an empty hole, without courage or hope. Energy was important, Kayleigh had said. That's what connected them all, it's the foundation of magic and stamina.
"Done!" Urani wiped the dust of his hands and smiled proudly. "This will well hold long enough."
"I sure hope so," Kayleigh yawned.
The priestess had to perform magic a couple of more times on the way. Above all, Melocrie loved her healing spell. Sparks of blue energy then formed tiny fearies, swirling around you. Melocrie had needed it when she fell down over a large stone, with her head on the floor. Even Fylla was healed, when she had fought with magic against a Cyclops. The kestrel was more powerful than Melocrie had ever imagined and it made her feel special to have one. She herself had fired some more arrows, and had indeed found those they were swifter, and much easier to aim with. As long as she held her head clear, of course.
Their dinner was North Goblin flesh. It didn't taste very good, but it made your strength return. When Melocrie was full, she finished another cup with hot chocolate and started to doze off. As her eyes were closed, she felt arms shoving beneath her that lifted her up. Voices turned vague and sleep overcame her. She once more dreamt of the Figon, like the other nights before. Everytime it came a bit closer. And this time, Fylla was there too. The two of them were fighting something invisible, but together. A sudden screech made Melocrie wake and she wiped her eyes. It had been someone in her dream, a girl. Still a little puzzled, she stood up and stretched, but then noticed that the tent was empty. It was still dark, but a red light flickered outside.
"Good morning," Dylane said happily as Melocrie joined the rest.
The fire was burning softy and everyone was there, including Fylla. Melocrie sat down in the circle and they all exchanged good mornings. Dylane was in a cheerful mood, probably because of the thought of Bargons. Still Melocrie wondered how he could slay creatures born from stone with that sword he had. She hesitated for a second, but when Debhora had finished her story about a fair at Pillai, she decided to ask.
"Yeah?" Dylane wasn't looking at her, he was poking the fire.
Melocrie sighed. "How come you're able to defeat Bargons what that sword? I mean... it's so rusty and everything..."
She was afraid she had offended him, for he stared at her for a few seconds. But then he broke into laughter, and the party laughed with him. Melocrie understood they weren't making fun of her, so she smiled along.
"This sword," Dylane took it in both hands for display, "is not an ordinary sword." It looked like a normal sword to Melocrie, except for the few razors on the edge. "It's both aged and mixed, with the combined power of the Tempskron and the Morion."
"Aged? Mixed?" Melocrie had never heard of it before.
Dehbora pointed at her sereneo. "Sheltoms have more powers than just regent," she said. "If you draw out the power from a Sheltom, and combine it with a weapon, it becomes stronger, magically."
"You see," Dylane continued. "Because of the mixing, my sword is well capable against stone types. It cracks the bones made from solid rock. And the aging makes my sword more powerful with each battle."
"That's amazing!" Melocrie said exited. "Can I get my bow aged?"
"Haha, not around here," Urani said. "Mixing is only possible in Ricarten, and aging in Pillai."
"I never knew that." Melocrie smiled and was glad she has learned a bit more.
Tyrank smiled too, but then grunted. "We should get going," he said and stood up.
"I saw you smiling," Dylane grinned. "You old grumpy."
The party laughed and Tyrank hit the young warrior on the shoulder for fun.
The minute they stepped into the Cursed Land, Melocrie felt a cold shiver running down her spine. There was no mist there, but it was filled with hills and ancient temples. The party had become more on their guard and had already drawn out their weapons.
"Dylane," Tyrank said quietly. "Please do not jump onto any Bargon you see ahead."
"Of course I won't." Dylane wasn't kidding.
For an hour they walked, when Debhora came to a halt inside a ruined temple. She drew out a map from her pack and lay it on a table.
"If we go west here, we'll come into the open," she said. "I don't know if that's a good idea."
"We have no other choice," Tyrank said. "It's the shortest way to the Dungeon, and we're running out of provisions."
"It'll be fine," said Dylane. "Just don't try to get too much attention."
"Six people travelling through an open desert," Urani mocked. "You don't call that drawing attention?"
"At least we won't get attacked by any other surrounding monsters," Dylane said.
"Is there no way to cross without being attacked at all?" Melocrie asked shyly.
"We're in the Cursed Lands, child," Tyrank said without looking at her. "It isn't safe anywhere here."
Fylla chipped at the western entrance of the temple and Melocrie came for a look. A small group of monsters were lurking near, some they had fought before. But the sight of skeletons carrying bows was not pretty, and Melocrie instantly froze when she saw two huge green beasts roaming ahead, carrying hand axes. They growled at the other monsters, but did nothing.
"Dylane..." she whispered, her mouth was dry. "Are those Bargons?"
Dylane came for a look and nodded. "Yes, those are Bargons." He sounded serious, and not at all happy. "But they're not the problem."
"Those Skeleton Archers are..." whispered Kayleigh, who joined them.
"Can't I just shoot them from here?" Melocrie suggested.
The other ones now joined them as well.
"That's not a good idea," Urani said, as he gazed up ahead. "Arrows won't hurt them. They have no heart, or other organs for fatal hits. The only way is to separate their bones."
"But how?" Melocrie's breath stopped for a second. Was it hopeless?
"We need a shield," Tyrank said. "Urani and Kayleigh, can you do it?"
"You got it!" they said as one.
"We have to move fast," Debhora said. "We don't want to get bitten by those Leeches."
The party planned their strategy and Melocrie watched the one to the other, and tried to save all the information in her head. They would go straight through, Urani and Tyrank on the left, Kayleigh and Dylane on the right, and Debhora and Melocrie in the middle. When they asked Fylla to distract the Leeches, the kestrel cried happily. As Urani and Kayleigh started to prepare their spells, the others drew their weapons and Melocrie held her bow tight in her fists.
"On my mark..." Tyrank said when they were all ready. "... Now!"
All together they set of from the ruins out into the open, and immediately drew attention from the monsters. The Bargons heaved a roar and swung their axes through the air. Melocrie held her breath and tried not to panic. She had to be brave. Urani and Kayleigh raised their hands as they ran, and a magic ball surrounded them. The Skeleton Archers fired, but their arrow bounced back from the shield. Tyrank and Dylane slew monsters on the side and Debhora fired a disc at the monsters up ahead. They were paralyzed for a few seconds, and when they woke, they seemed to be confused. Some began to attack each other, other just fell down like they had been running in circles for too long. Melocrie aimed her bow at a Bargon up ahead and fired. She hit one in his neck, but it seemed to feel nothing at all. They slowly stepped closer to the party, side by side. Melocrie found it crazy that they were running straight into an ambush, but still she remained her position. At her sides, she could hear Tyrank and Dylane crying out with every hit they made, but no word came from Urani and Kayleigh. Melocrie shoot an arrow once more as they drew nearer to the Bargons, and Dehbora fired her disc. This drew the Bargons off guard for only seconds.
"Dylane!" Debhora yelled to her side. "Switch!"
"Okay, but hurry!" answered Dylane, and though running, he and Debhora switches places.
Now the Atlanta slew the monsters and the right at Kayleigh's side, and Dylane ran next to Melocrie, his sword at the ready.
"Melocrie," he said, "Get close to Tyrank for a little while."
Melocrie looked ahead at the Bargons and understood. She nodded and ran back to Tyrank, slaying the monsters at his side. Fylla was flying in and out of the shield again, soared in the sky for a while and dived to peck out the eyes from Leeches. When a Skeleton fired an arrow at her, the kestrel turned and went back into the magic ball. Dylane had positioned his sword beside him and Melocrie could see his face was fixed upon the Bargons. When they finally reached him, Dylane clenched his teeth, still running, and his sword was covered in a red light. His quickened his pace and screamed out, as he heaved his sword above his head, jumped, and it swung it horizontally. The Bargons's roar was too painful and Melocrie looked away, back at her own preys.
"Jump!" Dylane suddenly called.
Without time to think, Melocrie jumped as high as she could and when she looked back, she saw the two huge bodies of the Bargons fading from sight behind them. She looked back at Dylane and found it wonderful. The young warrior had slain two Bargons with one hit, at the same time! He truly was amazing.
"Melocrie, watch out!"
Tyrank grabbed her around the chest and pushed her to the floor, he lying on top. The clattering of stone arrowheads was overwhelming for a minute and Melocrie had no idea what just happened.
It was Kayleigh's voice. But Melocrie couldn't see anything, for her face was pushed to the floor. When the clattering stopped, Tyrank stood up and pulled Melocrie to her feet. She breathed heavily and looked around puzzled, hoping to get an explanation.
"What happened?" Debhora cried out. "You almost gave us all heart attacks!"
"But I..." Melocrie started. She had no idea what to say.
"Look out," Tyrank said to her, as he pronounced every letter clearly. "Never, I repeat, NEVER let your guard down like that. You will not only get yourself killed, but others too." Then he turned and motioned the party to move. When they ran for another few minutes, they had passed the danger behind them.
When Melocrie was staring at Dylane, she had left the shield for a second. In that second, many arrows were fired at her. Tyrank saved her life, but with danger to lose his own. He was really furious, and Melocrie was so ashamed. She wanted cry, to thank him, apologize, but it just didn't seemed to be the right time. And tears would be no help, she was sure about that. The party had to come back to cover them with the shield, but with that, they had lost precious minutes of escaping. That's what Dylane said. A few hours later, with mostly just silence among the companions, it was already getting dark. After a while it was time to make camp and Tyrank had chosen another ruined temple as their refuge.
Melocrie sat on a stone staring shyly at her friends. None of them were looking at her, none of them spoke. Fylla carefully tucked on her tunic and Melocrie smiled vaguely. The tents were all set, a fire burned softly, well hidden within the walls. As they sat around the flames in a circle, Dylane poked the wood slowly and Debhora was giving out cups of hot chocolate. Melocrie watched Tyrank from the corner of her eyes. She couldn't take it anymore.
"Tyrank..." she said carefully, and immediately tears sprang into her eyes. "I'm sorry, Tyrank."
Now the silence was almost painful. Everyone stared at her and then to Tyrank, who was still busy with cutting the meat. Melocrie understood that it was no use and as she fought her tears, she looked back into her cup. She didn't even dare to look at the others.
"It's alright," Tyrank said after a while.
Melocrie looked up and gazed at him hopefully. But then she realised it wasn't alright and sighed. "I messed up," she confessed. It was hard to say it. In the past she had always been acting tough and she would rarely say sorry to anyone. But this was different. This was life and death, but above all, the strings of friendship. "I'm really sorry. You were right." Another thing she would never had said so easily.
Tyrank heaved a sigh and put the meat and the knife on the side. He looked at Melocrie intendly as he leaned his arms on his knees. "I know you are sorry," he said, "and that is enough. I'm sure you have learned from this."
"I have!" Melocrie was so relieved he wasn't so furious with her anymore. "I promise, I won't make that mistake ever again. From now on, I'll have my guard up for one hundred percent!"
It was unbelievable, but Tyrank laughed. "I do have faith in you, child," he said and nodded. "But you must be careful. After all, this is no place for children. You must find your strength if you wish to survive."
Melocrie fully understood. "I will," she said, very much determined. "I will try to release myself from my childish side, and learn to trust on my strength."
Those were the words her father once said to her. Melocrie hadn't listened then, but to hear it again now, it was more than just destined. Suddenly, Dylane started to laugh, and eventually the others too. Even Tyrank smiled, before going back to his work. Kayleigh, who sat beside Melocrie, hugged her and laughed.
"Don't worry," she said comforting. "We all have faith in you."
"To be honest," Dylane said, "we never had any business with children before. And that's really no offence!"
"What Dylane's trying to say," Debhora said, grinning, "Is that we already had faith in you. That's why you could come along."
"Really?" Melocrie was surprised. "But why is that?"
"I don't know..." Urani said, thoughtfully. "But there's something about you and your kestrel. I'm not sure what, but it's something big."
Melocrie had no idea, but she smiled softly. The rest of the night they all talked about their homes, and places they had been. Melocrie was so happy that everything was back to normal. Dylane with his high self-esteem, Urani and Kayleigh poking each other, Debhora joking on Dylane, and Tyrank grunting as he watched the others.
The dream of the Figon returned. Fylla was there, screeching at something unseen. Everything was in fire. Then the girl screamed again, followed by an explosion. Melocrie shocked awake, but then noticed that everyone else was still asleep. Puzzling about her dream, she sat up straight.
"Are you alright?" Kayleigh whispered, a little sleepy.
Melocrie startled a bit, but smiled. "Yes, I am fine," she whispered back. "It was just a dream."
Kayleigh nodded and turned to go asleep again. Melocrie repeated the words, 'it was just a dream' in her head and lay back down as well.
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