The laughter of the Dark Lord echoed throughout the chamber. Allen swung his sword through the laughing fiend and was rewarded with disappointment as his opponent dissipated into a dark mist.
“Face me you coward!”
Allen gave chase as the mist retreated across the room. Clarice raised her scepter and started chanting. I hoped she was casting a spell to restore and keep the Dark Lord in a corporeal form, one we could actually harm and fight instead of this damned smoke. This whole fight was not going well. I was trying to hastily tie a rag around my leg to stop it from bleeding out and praying that at least one of us could survive this.
Clarice finished her chanting just as I was picking up my sword, and smashed the end of her scepter into the ground. A flare of bright light filled the room. I raised a hand to cover my eyes and stumbled back into someone behind me. Unnaturally strong arms kept me from falling. Before I could see who, something knocked the sword out of my hand and I was lifted off my feet.
My companions stopped short a few paces away from me as cold hands held my neck in a tight vice-like grip. I struggled vainly to draw breath through my crushed windpipe.
“A beautiful flower such as yourself should be more careful,” came the Dark Lord’s whispering taunt in my ear.
“Release her you fiend!”
“No, I must insist on extracting a punishment for your trespass. Her life would serve well.”
A wall of flames erupted along the stone floor, separating us from my companions. Horror filled my gut as fangs pierced my neck. I struggled to fight, to live even as the mounting blood loss left me weak. My vision began to swim and I drift off to unconsciousness.
I awoke to darkness and a pang of hunger that clawed at me like a ravenous beast of the abyss. Claustrophobia gripped me when I realized I was trapped within a narrow stone prison shaped eerily like a coffin and I began to scream for help. An unrealistic fear that I been buried as someone taken in by death’s embrace began to take hold of my mind and I frantically started pounding against the narrow confines around me, pleading that someone would rescue me. Out of desperation I pushed against the lid of my prison and was rewarded when I felt it give slightly. Hope shimmered like a dim beam of light through the clouds of darkness and with renewed energy I started inching the lid off.
An immeasurable amount of time passed as I struggled to free myself. It was crushing when my gripped slipped with sweat, and I wondered if I was going to reduce my fingers to bloody stubs before I managed to escape. It came as a relief when a gap appeared near the edge of the lid. A small reward for my efforts. I gave a shout hoping someone could hear and was surprised by how dry my voice sounded. When no response came I continued my efforts into escaping. It became an easier struggle once I could fit my hand through and to get a better grip on the edge. Several prolonged moments passed before I managed to ease the lid off enough to squeeze through.
Gasping for the freedom I pulled myself out and tumbled over the edge of the tomb. My body spilled down the steps that lead up to what had just been my prison. Weak as a newborn, I laid there with my stomach knotting itself in pain from hunger. Eventually, I drew enough strength to push myself onto my feet.
I hugged my arms around myself feeling exposed in my worn and threadbare clothes. I wondered where Allen, Clarice and the rest of my companions had gone. I vaguely recall fighting and...
My hunger seemed to make it difficult to think straight and my mind was a fog of hazy recollections. Wearily I glanced back at the stone sarcophagus that I had just escaped from. I could tell I was in a crypt or a catacomb of some sort. Stone coffins lay scattered about, and some of them looked to be in ruin. It was easy to guess that grave robbers had come to looted and desecrated the place. If I had the energy I would summon up annoyance at such blatant disrespect for the dead.
Shuffling my feet I made for the large spiral stairs that seemed to be the only exit. The climb seemed to go on endlessly till I reached a part of the stairs that was partially blocked off by a crumbled wall. It seemed like someone had tried to seal off the catacombs, only for the graverobbers to uncover it again. For a moment I considered stopping and resting here. Just a brief moment to sit down on one of the loose stones.
With a shake of my head, I pressed on. The flight of stairs continued only for a short bit after that before reaching the next landing. I stepped out into a vast room with large stained glass windows. The whole place looked to be a chapel that had seen better days. Half the windows were boarded up and thick dust had settled everywhere. I felt a sense of deja vu as I glanced around and vaguely could recall having been here before. A sudden surge of vertigo caused me to stumble into one of the rotten benches. It tumbled noisily underneath me and I barely managed to keep from failing along with it.
“Did you hear that?”
I turned my head to the sound of people moving through the dark corridor beyond the chapel. One of them held aloft a torch. The light was blinding compared to the darkness and I stumbled back in surprise and ended up tripping over the fallen bench.
“Over there did you see it?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“It looked like a ghoul!”
“Doubt it. Without a necromancer to empower them they should have collapsed.”
“But I saw something.”
I struggled again to try and get to my feet. Why did I feel so weak? I could hear voices arguing as they drew closer. With effort, I tried speaking up to let them know I was here and all that came out was a muffled moan from my dry throat.
“By the Goddess!”
Some invisible force pushed and buffeted against me like a hot searing wind. It briefly passed over me and I scurried to my feet with a hiss of pain. The approaching group scampered back frightened by my sudden movement. There were three of them. The tallest held a torch as if trying to shield himself from me. Another was brandishing a large knife like a sword. Surprisingly, I could hear the rapid beating of their hearts from where I stood.
I felt an aching thirst well up in my throat as I cautiously moved into a defensive stance. I wasn’t sure of their intentions if they either meant any harm or goodwill. Desperately I wished I had my sword with me so I could defend myself. However, I could use my hands and teeth if I really pushed to defending myself.
The knife-wielder suddenly lunged at me and I shoved the bench into him. He tumbled as I grabbed a splintered piece of wood off the floor and swung it hard across his face. The torch wielder started swinging wildly as he and his friend stumbled to retreat out of the chapel.
“Run for it!”
The knife-wielder lurched to his feet, “Don’t leave me!”
The sharp sweet tang of the smell of blood filled the air.
My mind went blank and time seemed slowed to a single measured heartbeat. At that moment I turned to face the poor hapless victim. A gash of blood was welling up over his eye where I had struck him. Canines stretched into fangs, hands into claws and my body became overwhelmed with a need that could only be satisfied with a singular craving.
I rushed him like a mad dog and wrestled him back to the ground as he tried to scramble out of my reach. I was surprised by the ease I had in restraining him as I straddled him to the ground. Headless to his cries for help, I pushed his head to the side and leaned in to lick the delectable blood that swelled from his head.
It was the first time I had lost myself in the bloodlust. It wasn’t the last either. He struggled frantically at first even I as exposed his neck to my fangs and bit him. I felt his body shudder before slowly weakening as I drank.
I stood at the top of one of the towers. From here I could see the valley that stretched out underneath the moonlit sky. It was covered in thick forests like an elvish green blanket, and flank by tall mountains. Faint clouds of mist drifted on a slight breeze like sailing ships through an ocean of green. The lights of the small town that nestled underneath the shadow of the castle twinkled dimly. Leaning against the wall, I remember the people there. Frightened and terrified while living under the shadow of their dark master. My companions and I chose to rise against him. I made an oath to protect the innocent. To be a light amidst the night.
I felt so alone.
I had wandered the castle after I drank the life of the boy. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, maybe to find my companions, or to seek solace for taking the life of an innocent. As I moved from room to room, and from hall to hall, the darkness hid nothing from me. In spite of that, I couldn’t find anything that would serve as even a hint to the fate of my companions or the dark evil we had faced. Only dust and ruins. I wandered until I had climbed to the top of one of the towers.
For a while, as I stood there, I considered throwing myself from off the top of the tower or staying till the sunrise. Either would be a mercy, a relief from the pain of hurt and loss that threatened to torment my soul. I wasn’t sure how I was going to reconcile my undeath with the life I had, or if I even wanted to try. I was raised to do good, to be a good person. Now I felt tainted and evil, cursed by the gods and the powers of darkness.
Something startled my thoughts for a moment and I glanced briefly skyward in time to see a swarm of bats descending from behind the clouds. For a moment I took a stance to ward off an attack. Instead, the bats flew past me, making for the hollow column that was the center of the staircase I had climbed to reach here.
I didn’t move as they swarmed past and I was eventually left alone again. Almost alone. One of the bats clung to my shirt. I looked down at it. The little creature gave a small squeak and I didn’t have the heart to shake it off. Instead, I gently sat down on the stone floor. Almost absentmindedly I stroked its fur with a finger. I wondered briefly if the Dark Lord had ever taken a moment to pet one of these little guys.
As I considered the mental image of a brooding figure of evil carefully holding the little guy, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurd thought. It ran against the hardened image I had of the Dark Lord. My chuckle turned into a fit of laughter, and the bat squeaked wildly before it took off deeper into the castle.
After my laughing fit subsided I stood up to follow after the retreating bat. The dim light was beginning to reach over the horizon and I figured the sun was well on its way to rising. I couldn’t quite shake the oppressive mood that hung over me, but I decided that I owe it to my companions to uncover their fate and that of the Dark Lord’s.