‘Place it… Free her…’ A lone voice whispered sweetly in his ear. For a moment, he felt his hands move on their own. “Desmond!” Navara had followed him but didn’t go on the platform, checking out a strange skeleton hidden under a Golem’s body instead. She had just glanced at Desmond when she saw him shiver before reaching to put the tablet piece into the hole!
But before she could even stop him, the piece fell into place and Desmond blinked with confusion at what he had done. Before he could even think about what happened, the tablet glowed and hummed before exploding with a blue blinding light and a concussive wave sent the two flying backward.
The concussive wave echoed through the mountainside. The statue that once was covered in moss and vines now stood bare under the sunlight. The face of a beautiful young girl around Desmond’s age stood valiantly in armor with a single etched paw on her chest armor. The paw on her chest glowed blue before turning a smoldering black, dripping with death magic that zizzled with each drop that landed at the statue’s feet.
Desmond rolled a couple times before coming to a stop when he landed onto the grass and cobblestone floor below. Navara fared slightly better, only being flung a few feet. Dazed, both of the mages shakily got to their feet, but Desmond’s wand had been disappeared from his hand. His attention lifted to the statue that had flung him from the platform and saw the beautiful face. For a moment, he was enamored – Until Navara pulled him up by his arm.
“Desmond! Get yourself together! D-Death magic!”
She said, frightened, as her arm extended out to point to the dripping black mana pouring from the statue’s chest. Blinking away the last of the confusion. Finally, he too felt a fear creeping into him. Desmond had never encountered Death magic, at least, not out of the academy where it was encased behind protective barriers and displayed as a sample of the Forbidden magic of the Demon King.
The mana here was even more potent and suffocating. Growing. Spreading. Black veins pulsed further and further with each drip. “Desmond, I hope you got something for this!” Randol was at his side a few seconds later with the rest of the group. “Death magic is spread- ” His eyes fell on the statue. He felt the concussive way, but before he could bother about that, the old skeletons began rattling, trying to pull themselves together.
“I-Isn’t that the… Hearth Mother…?” Randol said. His confusion was rightfully placed as the Hearth Mother wasn’t known for her death magic, but holy and fire magic among other things. Navara was the first one to notice the difference as beast-kin had more acute senses. “I was wondering what felt wrong about it… I don’t feel its presence!”
One of the students turned to her “What do you mean, presence?”. It was an apprentice-knight who wielded two war axes. “I mean, I’ve been to a few of her shrines. There’s this subtle feeling, a calming feeling. The aura that repels monsters! It’s not there!” Desmond was the first to come up with an idea. “So this statue is corrupted..?” His eyes never leaving the statue as the knights and apprentices formed a defensive circle around them.
“Wait! The tablet!” Desmond yelled, remembering what set off this whole mess. “What about it?!” Randol growled without turning as skeletons began to fully rise around them. “When I was at the foot of the statue, the tablet piece tore itself from my hand and merged with another piece! Let me go to it!”
Before anyone could even reject that crazy idea to go towards the source of the death magic premeditating through the clearing, Desmond pushed through and sprinted towards the statue. Curses and shouts chased after him as the group moved on Randol’s command after him. Now the skeletons were atop of them.
Shambling moss and plant covered skeletons lunged for them or swung broken rusted swords or rocks at them. Steel, stone, and bone clashed in sparks and clouds of dust. The statue was only twenty feet away, but while Desmond had already begun to mantle up the platform, hordes of skeletons already filled the clearing.
The students chased after him like dogs with tails between their legs. They were just kids whose fighting experienced stopped at duels at the Academy. Under watchful eyes, they had never faced the threat of death. Until now. They weren’t so blind to notice that the knights were struggling against the skeletons. Normal skeletons were stupid and slow, but these ones were on par with the knights.
Most of the students cowered behind the knights. The knights spit and cursed at them, demanding them to pull their weight, a few of the girls managed to throw a few fireballs over the knights’ heads and into the horde of undead. Flames engulfed nearly a five-foot radius and sent bits of charred bones soaring in every direction – killing nearly twenty skeletons.
Desmond crawled onto the stone platform that now was wrapped in a spiderweb of death magic. There was a three footpath clear of the magic that allowed him to narrowly crawl directly to where the tablet had been set. And the once stone tablet was now a pulsing translucent gold and black orb. A glowing blue inscription sat beneath it…
[Here slumbers the child of Death and Life, Gods of Moon and Sun.
Rejected from their original, they created EOS to embrace her.
Yet, now she slumbers after protecting it. Embraced by Life and Death.
In this key lays her soul, brought back from the fringe of the Abyss.
When the time is right, the arms of Death and Life will open with it…]
Then there was another inscription made beneath it, but it glowed with the black mana of death…
[Thy spite my only child, reject her love and destroy her shrines… I will destroy this world I made for her.
No one shall awake her to this world. Those who do shall die in vain..]
“Desmond, we need to go!”
Navara’s soft hand appeared on his right shoulder. He turned his head quickly and found her face was deathly pale, “H-How much mana have you used!?” She shook her head. “Just four D-class fireballs. You know me, I should have picked a warrior class rather than mage” She grinned sheepishly, despite the situation, soothing over Desmond’s surprise. “Stop casting and just back up melee then. This orb though, it appears to be a key so-“
Desmond turned his head to the orb. Navara was just suffering from mana depletion, but she was a strong woman, stronger than him. She’d pull through so long as she didn’t use any more magic. He picked up the orb at the statue’s feet, but a beam of mana shot from it, beaming through the air and towards the mountain. The moment it nearly reached it, the mana collided with something and a glossy black shield covered the mountain.
” Use the orb… To open the barrier…” A voice whispered in his ear. He turned to Navara, but it hadn’t been her that spoke. With a quick thought, he realized it was the same voice that spoke to him to place the tablet.
He didn’t hesitate. The clearing up ahead was still clear as the death magic seemed to be looking for something behind them. “Randol! Move to that barrier!” His shaky voice called out to the group below. Against his better judgment, he scrambled across the other side of the platform. His boots smoked with contact from the death lines that pulsed across the platform.
Navara cursed Desmond. The boy she liked wasn’t the courageous kind, but the smart and quick thinking one. She had always tried to build up his courage, yet he had to pick this moment and charge towards that monolith barrier made from pulsing death magic. She turned behind and saw Randol had turned back to glance, hearing his name, but not knowing why. With a quick curse, she pointed to the black barrier that now covered the mountain.
“Desmond ran towards that damn barrier!” Navara hollered over the sound of battle before bolting after him. Randol cursed his brother for picking the worst time to finally be a bold kid as he ordered the group to begin moving to the right, going around the death-magic wrapped platform. The students dug their feet into the grassy stone beneath them when they saw the black barrier they were being herded towards, but with the reminder of undead in front of them; they quickly moved with renewed vigor.
The group barely held itself together as a patchwork of knights, apprentice knights, and mages as they began to move haphazardly. Seeing as the group was beginning to spread thin with the mages unsure how to move as a group, the apprentice-knights took up the rear on the left and tried to help herd their fellow students. Until a sudden gust of wind blew through them…
They felt it before they could even turn. Warm flesh and blood splattered against their backs and cheeks. A young pretty human girl with auburn hair and delicate peach skin stood frozen as the smell of iron filled her nostrils. It wasn’t until her friend next to her screamed did she snap out of the trance. The earth magic that swirled at the tip of her wand swirled angrily, begging to attack only dissipated when the wand dropped from the girl’s outstretched hands as she mechanically turned her head to her left.
“J-James… S-Sweetheart…” One of the apprentice-knights was a tall stout boy named James. Her eyes looked at the sudden gap in the defense where he and his friends stood, but they weren’t there. Even her friends weren’t there. Half their group had disappeared in a gust of wind, replaced with broken limbs and pools of blood that caked them, the platform… And them.
The group had suddenly been halved. In their place was broken limbs, blood, and the broken remains of a Golem. Before the mage girl could utter another word, a rusty sword pierced her skull. Her body crumbled like a marionette whose strings had been cut. “Fuck!” One of the knights had turned to see what that crash was, but he was also busy not trying to die either as the skeletons attacked relentlessly. “Run! Run! Just run!” Randol cried as he too noticed what had happened.
Randol felt a deep fear begin to grip his heart. ‘Had we not moved, that golem would have hit us dead center…’ he thought to himself as he slapped a skeleton with the flat of his sword. Just as he was trying to find what through that, it wished he hadn’t. A large towering skeleton, standing nearly three stories tall – was the Skeleton remains of the Gaint from earlier.
“You… Shall… Not… Touch… Her…” A deep, raspy voice filled the air from the giant. Black ghost fire burning in its hollow eyes. That was when all hell broke loose.
The students broke through the knight’s defensive half-circle and bounded towards the mountain, with a few weaker ones pulled into the skeleton horde as they shambled after their now fleeing targets. Two apprentice-mages were pulled by the ends of their cloaks and torn limb from limb by tens of skeletons who almost seemed to be laughing at their anguish. Their clattering jaws mocked them as they died.
The knights wanted to help them, but they didn’t have the luxury as the Giant had thrown another Golem and it crashed into the horde of undead, missing the survivors by three feet before stopping in the empty clearing at the other end. Seeing as their wards finally broke free from their predicament, they too fought their way free before sprinting towards the mountain as well before any more undead came to block them in.
The knights silently apologized to the dead students who drew the skeletons on the right end away as they tore them apart. The guilt didn’t last long as another golem was flung high into the air, but soon broke into two pieces. The upper part of the golem spun as it crashed into the clearing, sending up grass and stones as it rolled end over end. Three knights and the last remaining apprentice-knight were smashed. Unable to dodge in time, their blood watered the moss and grass below them now.
The upper part of the golem arched harmlessly over the buildings to their left and crashed in a cloud of dust. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Randol cursed that he couldn’t sprout wings and disappear from these god-forsaken ruins. Ahead of him, the black barrier fizzled away, revealing a beautiful mountainside with a stone-stairwell that hugged up against the side.
Desmond held the orb that whispered instructions to him. Why or how, he didn’t bother with thinking about such things. He felt courageous and brave holding the orb. It was slightly faint, but he could feel the immense power held within it. Like a euphoric high, he did whatever the orb whispered just so he could hold onto it longer. It brought him to the north side of the clearing where a strange skeleton altar stood and against his better judgment, he placed it on it. The death-magic barrier instantly crumbled. The sound of glass shattered pieced his ears.
“Go…” it whispered. By now, his brother and the group… Or what remained of the group, which was only just under ten members now, sprinted up the steps only to be greeted by six large imposing Golems that ignored them and marched down the steps. “No… I… Will… Kill… You… All…!” The giant struggled to voice those words with magic as the death magic began to infuse with the minor skeletons. Their shambles became small struts than turned to A walk then jogging.
Randol looked back to see the situation. To his dismay, the clearing was filled with hundreds of skeletons, if not over a thousand, as they clamored for their lives only to smash into the six golems that swung their mighty arms around. He was tempted to just watch those Ancient golems battle it out until another ruined golem was flung high into the air towards him.
He cursed that damnable Giant as he scrambled after the group as it crashed into the steps where he once stood.
Every three hundred steps, there was a small landing which held two golems. Each time, the orb glowed and they whirled to life. By now, the Giant had already dealt with the six below and nipped at their heels with the horde beneath it. “Come… Let… Me… Kill…. You!” They could feel its rage, but the steps wore at them. One by one, members fell from exhaustion until only Desmond, Navara, Randol, and Randol’s second-in-command ran for their dear lives.
And at each landing, the Golems managed to put up a decent fight for a few seconds before the Giant was able to swat them off the side of the cliff. On the opposite side of the cliff, they could see the Demon-lands, grey and unforgiving as plumes of smoke billowed high, yet once they nearly reached the top. Desmond noticed they long past the cloud line and the light blue skies slowly turned dark and the night sky hung overhead.
The Nebulas painted the sky with thousands of scattered stars. Even the plants around them began to change. From the normal green oaks to pink leafed trees with blood-red like lilies lining the edge of the path. “No!” The Giant roared as it grabbed a tree on the edge, but just before the roots were freed from the dirt, it panicked and placed it down and tried to put it back gently.
Randol, who looked back to see why it was screaming, was stunned to see this. He kept running though. He wasn’t a battle-hardened knight like the army, but it didn’t take a scholar to tell him that if he stopped, he wouldn’t be in this world for much longer…
With the Giant no longer nipping at their feet, it bought the survivors some breathing room as the horde was slowed down by the giant blocking the entire pathway for its tree. As they reached another barrier, the blue skies were no longer visible. Only the galaxy in all its glory stretched out all around them. Coming to a halt as the barrier stopped them, the orb no longer whispered and even the rest of them could hear it. “Press me against the barrier, child.” The whisper was now the soothing, motherly voice of a woman. Sweet and calming as it hummed with magic.
“O-Okay.” Desmond rose the orb towards the barrier, pressing it gently against the barrier. Randol and Navara wanted to question Desmond about the orb, but with the undead now within sight – they pressed him to do whatever he was doing quickly.
The orb shimmered before the barrier began to be sucked into it. The hordes clanked with laughter as they were almost upon them. The Giant saw what was happening though, and charged them, throwing the skeletons at its feet at them to stop it. “No!” But it was too late as the orb finished sucking the barrier and an explosion of gold erupted from it . . . .
Author Note: *Sweats* 2,900 words . . .