What hurts more than being engulfed by a giant ebony cloud of claws, talons, and fangs… being dropped about three stories onto a stone slab?

Sure I could have healed myself, but then I figured the Darcarre swarming around me would just feel obligated to hurt me, so I held off, despite the screams of pain running through me.

So, after I shoved my dislocated arm back into its socket, I tried to take in my surroundings and, of course, wasn’t pleased. I was on a narrow piece of stone that jutted out from the jagged stony mesa. A thin pathway, with a quarter mile drop off on each side, separated me from the undulating swarms of Xemmoni. Most were Darcarre, but I could spy the wispy shapes of Glooms and the mangled Caradon dotting their midst.

Directly around me, must have been their high priests or whatever the hell they might call them. Ten men in long billowing robes of darkness stood around a central figure who drew back his hood. A savage unkempt mane of hair and beard surrounded wild bloodshot eyes, which burned with the fever of madness.

That was when something strange happened. I swear I’d never met or ever seen this man before, but I somehow knew his name, “Edgar,” I hissed.

“Correct, my tainted Stalwart.”

“Tainted,” I growled, “no one calls me-”

“Silence!” He shouted. “You were not brought here for you pathetic Stalwart diatribe.” As he spoke, thick tendrils of blackness were forming. Before I could do much more than flip him the bird, I was engulfed with these whipping tentacles and was bound securely to the cold stone altar.

Sweeping his arm to the east, I could just make out the two spires of chimney rock, a greater darkness stabbing into the moonless sky.

“You can’t see our black moon, can you Stalwart, but be assured it is out there. Your life is now being measured in minutes, for as soon as the stygian moon rises between the peaks the last stage of the ritual will be complete.”

He leaned in close enough for me to smell his foul breath. “For the final stage of this Bestow, we need a powerful Stalwart’s blood to complete the ritual and who’s better to use that someone associated with our Dark Lord Vile. This will be one world that shall be free of you, everywhere man of Yig.”

Despite my current level of danger, I was wondering what the hell he was talking about. What taint, what association, and what did he mean about one world being free of me? This was insane. Well, uh, duh of course this was insane.

As I healed myself, I wondered if maybe I was the one that was insane, because I was still plotting on how I was going to escape. Although when I gazed down the shear walks on all sides except for the narrow walkway back to the mesa that held hundreds of Xemmoni, nothing was really coming to mind.

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Drowning in the Darkness

December 21, 2010

There wasn’t even a sliver of moon to illuminate the old dirt road as we slowly trudged up the mountain. At first Ethan had been his usual yappy self, but soon he saved his breath for walking and only the crunch of gravel under our boots could be heard. Now and then the hidden form of Hannah could be sensed as she crept through the wood to our right, doing her best to mirror our movements.

There had been a few guards at the base of the hill, near the ranger station, but we had already taken them out without much problem.

“So how far is it to the top?” Ethan panted. I could tell that exercise and the man of Loki weren’t on a first name basis.

“Somewhere around four miles,” I answered without much enthusiasm. My senses were trying to stay alert to any changes in our environment and this paid off when I noticed an area ahead of us that was far too black. The darkness was moving like a living thing and with the speed of a thousand bats it was suddenly sweeping down upon us. I had thought that it was some Darcarre using this darkness as a shield. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When the inky blackness crashed into us, I discovered it was a living thing, a horrid beast. A slashing whirlwind of talon, claw, and fang.

Ethan didn’t hold back his stream of curses or his explosive fire technique. I was happy to hear the undulating thing roar in pain, but also knew that the light of Ethan’s flaming attack would insure that the rest of the Darcarre would know of our presence.

The game was on.

Still, nothing would matter, and the world itself would die, if we let this beast get the better of us, which seemed to be a real possibility.

Jagged shards of darkness tore away from the colossal flapping thing with each swing of my axe. But despite this, inky tendrils began to wrap around my limbs. Like some sort of Herculean curse, I would chop one off, only to have it replaced by two.

Claws clung to my clothes and fangs embedded into my flesh. Then with a startled gasp, I felt myself being drawn into the air. Like a distance dream, I heard Hannah and Ethan calling out to me as the foul monstrosity flew away from the Earth, taking me with it.

So much for that damn plan I worked so hard on.

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Being one with Yig has odd advantages, like being able to stretch a piece of bark so wide that it can create a giant map. Since I knew we still had some time before moonrise, I waited until darkness before over viewing my strategies. Those Darcarre can be such pansies.

“Alright, I’ve had all day to think this through and I’ve also reviewed the terrain we will be heading over. I’m also fairly confident that Vile’s Darcarre don’t know we have Hannah back, so she will be my Ace in the hole.”

She rewarded me with a smile.

“First off, Klich, I want you to pick four of your men. They don’t have to be your best men, just make sure they know how to drive. Now this is how its going to go. I want to keep them in the dark,” that made Klich smile, “about how many we are. For all they know it’s just Ethan and I and that’s the way I want to keep it.”

Looking around for a moment, I then continued. “So to start, Ethan and I will be heading up the main dirt road to the site, alone.”

“Oh crap,” Ethan replied before burying his face in his hands.

After gasping, Hannah cried, “Jack no!”

“Don’t worry, you’ll have my back, baby.”

She crossed her arms. “Good.”

“This is how I see it. Ethan and I head up. They will have guards and they will try to waste us. When they do, Ethan and I will make enough noise to cover the vans racing up the road behind us. These will be driven by your boys. And you Darcarre are immune to your own Black Veins Bestow, right?”

“Oh yeah,” Klich answered. “But where will me and the other loyals be?”

“I’m getting to that. So your men crash their vans into the guards. They will be taking us pretty seriously by now, especially when Hannah starts blasting them with her holy light. Those dark lovers will be sure to hate that. But Hannah, don’t attack to early, no matter what is happening, because your job is to make sure we are all able to get into the van that Ellis will be driving.”

“I will?”

“Yep,” I smiled. “And you will be taking us to the top. Because I’m sure Klich is going to need us, because as you can see there is a trail that heads up the northern side of the mountain here.”

“You want the twenty of us to take on two hundred?”

“No and there won’t be two hundred by that point. I want them to think that your group has been sent to stop them.” There was one more smile from me. “But this is a double ruse, while they switch their attentions from me to you, thinking you are the real threat now. I will be me driving right up on their asses throwing their party straight into Hell!”

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I felt  a bit sick and tainted letting the Splinter Darcarre heal me, but what’s a guy going to do? I tell one thing, camp life sure got a hell of a lot stranger. Ellis and Kimberly were super put off by all the creepy moping figures in black that lurked in every shadow, but then again, so were the rest of us. Ethan seemed the least disturbed, especially when he busted out the cards and started winning their money.

It was a long strange night and a big part of me wanted to stay up so I could keep an eye on our so called ‘allies,’ but exhaustion won out and we crashed in the van. Or at least the two couples did. Luckily, I was able to have a little fun with Hannah before the others arrived. I wasn’t too tired for that.

The next day a few things happened. Upon waking in the cold morning, I found the Splinter Darcarre wrapped in their cloaks like corrupted moths malingering in their dark cocoons. It also didn’t take long too notice that they had, from the looks of things, tortured Bucky to death. Oh well, I hated that guy anyway.

After filling myself on a lovely breakfast of bacon and peanuts, I went over and kicked Klich’s boots. “Huh, what?”

“I think we should have a little talk.”

“What, now, in the middle of the day?”

“Yeah dumb ass, in case you haven’t remembered the world could end tonight.”

Sitting up, he tossed some dark sunglasses over his brown eyes and said, “okay, what’s on your mind?”

Jerking a thumb towards the tattered corpse of Bucky, I said, “You learn anything useful?”

“He told me they will be gathering every Darcarre that supports Vile from all over the country. There will be Caradon and Glooms there too, and probably even a few Nexus and who knows what else. My guess is that there will probably be over two hundred Xemmoni there with many of them being quite powerful. Some of my men want to just hide, thinking that if we stay on the run we might have a better chance to survive if only for a while.”

“That sucks.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I can use all the help I can get.”

“You still want to go up against them even when they are so many?”

“Of course, what other choice do we have?”

“I hope you have a plan.”

“I’m still working on that.”

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