William Redret hated going on patrols. Sure he was a knight and it was one of his many duties to go out and patrol the realm but really who enjoyed the idea of circling around the damn Iron mountains for a whole day.
With the sun beating down upon you and a arrogant gryphon that would peck you in order to show its anger at the stinging rays of the sun. On any other day the cold winds and high dew made condensed water roll down your spine and get into your trousers. It irritated more than anything he could manage to describe.
"Hey boy, you okay?!".
Around him large gryphon's hovered in the skies. Their golden lion fur glistening from the sun, upon their backs were massive ten feet wings outstretched as they kept the beasts and their riders in the air. Upon them were his fellow knights in different types of armour that stood apart from his crimson red armor.
The woman who had asked him had a giant grin upon her face as did his comrades. He wondered what they found so amusing. That was soon revealed as he realized the hold his scowl had upon his face.
" Don't look so mad kid, at least you aren't on guard duty at the shadow cities " she chuckled as he looked away to hide the red embarrassment upon his face.
The shadows, that name made his skin crawl and he prayed to Deus that he was never shipped to the shield fortresses.
He had heard of the cold lands, were the sun was always blocked out by fog, smoke and ash. It was the most cursed place on Jord and all manner of horror stories came from it.
"You served upon the Shield fortresses Argentum Gray?" He asked his superior officer as they once again circled the iron mountains for the tenth time that morning.
" Unfortunately i have. The place is twisted in every way, it makes you sick to your core and deep within the shadow are old things, unholy things that we slay should they try to leave their eternal prison" his superior officer answered him with a shadow upon her own face.
Argentum Ellen Gray was one of the best knights he knew of. She was the only Argentum knight he knew, he had seen immense skill from her and bravery against all sort of monsters. To see her shudder and show a slight pass of fear in her eyes was unnerving.
"Now i really want to see it" the booming voice of a large elf behind them declared with a near obnoxious sense of bravado over flowing out of him.
"Speak for yourself Oakhurm, but when you look into the shadow cities, when you have to walk through those evil ruins of black rock and breath the foul air, don't come back crying to me again" Gray said with a chuckle and William couldn't help but join his fellow knights in laughing at Oakhurm as the implication of her words hit them.
"It was one time Ellen, everyone has stubbed their toe before, you all know the pain so stop laughing!" Oakhurms usually strong voice cracked through multiple decimals further increasing their laughter.
"Oh, don't be like that Edward, you know that she is just pulling your leg brother. By Deus above, is your ego so easy to wound from the simplest jab" the slightly smaller sibling of Edward Oakhurm spoke to his brother behind a few poorly held back chuckles.
"Of...of course i...i know that Michael" the big elf's nervous stutter made him laugh.
Oakhurm cough nervously as he tried to get over the embarrassment that his yellow helmet thankfully hid. Something about seeing the big confident elf brought low by shear embarrassment made Williams ribs hurt from laughter.
"Stop laughing boy!, i served upon the five towers overlooking thousands of Lunar kingdom soldiers and war machines, what would the shadow lands and their long dead cities mean to me!" Oakhurm made sure to beat his breastplate as he boasted.
This revaluation came as a surprise to William. He knew that the Oakhurm siblings came from up northern Gray lands, but he didn't imagine that they ever served upon the five towers.
"Served in the northern strip i see, you must have seen a lot of them Lunar kingdom punks. You guys over there at the towers ever fought any?". another knight asked. William couldn't quite remember his name.
" Unfortunately not, the coward's were only good at intimidation tactics with flying their crafts a little to close to our lines and the likes, we usually sent a thunderbolt or a heavy engine into the air to remind them who we are. The only guys who ever fought the moon worshiping punks were the imperial knights and those lucky enough to have been in the capital to get into the action " as he explained William remembered seeing the events of the attack of Prime on the urgent news.
The sight of the great pyramid hovering over the skies, blanketing the entire city in it's dark shadow. The sight of bombers and artillery weapons shaking the skies between the city and the pyramid filled him with dread and then as soon as it came it left into empty nothingness, with king and queen gone.
"Must have been a couple hell's of fights that they had here and in the Nexus. Deus i wish i could fight them" Gray had a smile as she spoke and William could sympathies with the want to cave in some Lunar kingdom skulls over their attack.
"The prince fought them. The mission reports and the singers have painted a picture of the conflict. What have the people been calling it again?" Oakhurm asked.
"The Clash of Three Armies. Though going from what i have heard about the Lunar kingdom prisoners freed, i imagine that it should be the clash of a hundred armies or something" William himself answered, gaining a few chuckles from the others.
"Seriously though, what do you guys make of this little princeling?" Oakhurm asked and William knew from the words used in the question that the elf didn't think highly of their fellow knight and prince.
"The songs call him one of the greatest swordsmen in the realm, though i haven't seen him fight to see if such claims are true" Gray answered.
"I have seen him fight" another knight to their left added " He is pretty good, though not as a good as those songs make him out to be. I am sure that i could take the green cub".
"I would be hesitant to call him green, Truder. He fought during the breach, against Zodiacs first attack and then in the Nexus were he struck the killing blow against a foe not even the king and queen could best. I am certain that Christian the valiant isn't green behind the ears" it was Oakhurms brother, the clearheaded one amongst them who spoke.
"And i have fought all manner of monsters for many years, even before Christian the " valiant" was cursed by his mothers dark half. I know more about combat that the little princeling, his title means little " Edward Oakhurm scroffed at the name.
"That's what Victaria thought too dear brother, he too was a veteran knight like you and he found himself knocked down over and over by the prince in their spar".
" I am no Victaria, for i am..." The words that came out Oakhurms mouth were drowned out by a unnatural sound.
It was like a nails upon a chock board but amplified in power and intensity. William and his fellows would have fallen from their mounts had they not secured themselves well to their saddles as they hands left the reigns and made for their pained ears.
The gryphon's like their riders were driven mad by the sound and they began screeching themselves as they flew around in constantly maddening circles, making deep dives and high climbs.
The sound ended and relief returned to the knights hearts, unfortunately this relief was short lived.
A million lightning bolts made of a dark purple energy shot from the mountain side, striking into many gryphon's who all rained down upon the earth with scorched fur or burnt wings. Williams gryphon was amongst the unlucky that lost it's right wing to a blast.
The wing of his gryphon went from a healthy mixture of bone, muscle, feathers and skin to nothing but blackened chard bones attached together by thin straps of cooked flesh.
He never understood much of what happened next, but he could remember falling from the skies with the high pressure of the wind beating against his flesh and eyes that made every second of it unbearable.
His fall was much quicker than he had expected. Him and many others came down upon large trees, the twenty meter high trees broke their falls with hard bark and twigs that irritated the skin. His fall finally ended as he came down besides his gryphon that gave out one pained whimper before it's fires burnt out.
When he freed himself from the creatures body he found that it's ribs had been broken so heavily that they turned inwards certainly damaging many important internal organs.
"May you ride into the green field's and crystal skies of Deus, brave soldier" he thought in silence as he bowed before his now deceased companion in respect.
"What the hell is...ahhh!"
Some knight was shouting until from the deep and twisted shadows of the forest, some creature that was like a wolf. It was larger than any man and covered in black inky fur that left a black inky substance across every surface it passed, leaped out and knocked the knight to the ground.
It's great fangs were like knives trying to bite through the armor but failing. The wolf finally found some space under the knights arm were armour could never reach. The knights screams further increased as his wound wetted the earth that they stood upon with his crimson life essence.
William didn't stand by for so long as his axe cut through fur, skin and the wolf was dead with it's mouth finally freed of the knight, who was still screaming.
He knelt by the man and he began to speak kind words to the screaming man as he focused on sealing the bloody mess that was his mangled mess of a arm.
More and more screams began to fill the fill the forest as all sort of foul twisted shadows spawned in masses. As many of them as the knights managed to cut down, five more grew in their place.
"Kid, get him out of here!" Gray shouted as her spear was driven through the skull of a beast that looked like half decomposed gant pale horse with fangs for teeth.
"But what about you guys!?" From around he could see more and more knights being overwhelmed the night terrors.
"It doesn't matter!" Gray was a blur as she put hundreds of spear stub's and slashes in all manner of abominations in mere seconds "Someone has to warn the fortress about this!".
"But Rook is the communicator, where is he?!" William was not completely unfocused, another beast had tried to sneak up on him and the twisted ox had its head split in two by his axe.
"Rooks gone kid" she looked back at him with sadness "Please go, save yourself and him. Make it all worth something".
He understood, by Deus he understood. It didn't make it fare, a large potion of his heart begged him to show some spine and fall alongside his comrades, but he simply grabbed the fallen knight.
" I am sorry" he whispered to her as he began dragging his wounded companion from the mixture of knights and beasts.
He knew that he couldn't out run them on foot with a broken man besides him, he needed a gryphon and many of them were either too wounded to fly or to busy fighting viscously against swarms of purple shadows.
There was only gryphon free from deep wounds and having finished tearing apart attacking night terrors limb from limb. He whistled and the gryphon noticed him, it cawed and came to him as fast as it could to him, though seeing it run a limp upon it's left leg showed that even it was no untouched by this battle.
But it didn't matter, as long as its wings could work and they did. He slang the wounded knight over it and with a slight tap to its side, the wings outstretched and flapped over and over again. With each flapping of it's wings they rose higher and higher from the earth, some beasts came their way in the hopes of stopping them, but his axe cut them all back down to the earth.
Looking down he could see only ten remaining knights standing over the corpses of more than a hundred night terrors.
The earth was soaked in the red blood drawn from the knights and the inky black blood of the creatures of darkness that had turned the earth into a shallow pool of blood.
More and more shadows came out of the tree's in masses but Gray and the others held firm, cutting down and all opponent's from great golem's that stood at ten meters in height to small devil foxes with equal fury.
Soon the dark sight was hidden away by green tree tops and he felt his heat sink even more. Grabbing onto the gryphon's reigns he taped its side and the creature took off forward from the place that would haunt his dreams for as long as he lived.
The cold silence of his flight was cut short by the roaring sound of thunder...no it wasn't thunder, the skies were slightly foggy but clear. His gryphon seemed to into a panic at the sound as it cawed over and over further increasing it's speed forward.
The sound came once again and he looked around but found nothing in in the air and down upon the earth. He could feel the trembling flesh of his gryphon beneath him as it cawed some more with wide eyes that beat around in fear.
What was it?, he wondered as the anticipation built up inside him like water pressure against a dam ready to burst open. He was answered as a much louder thundering sound shook the world and from the forest emerged a monster.
A black horse with bat like wings that was more shadow than solid. Its eyes were dead green infernos that bore into him and its teeth were rotten with the putrid smell that assaulted his nose from even from where he flew.
Though the most unsettling thing was it's rider, a Dullahan it was. Though much bigger than any Dullahan that he had ever seen before. It's armor was much better kept than the others, the bronze metal had a few cuts and dents upon it like most Dullahan armor.
The head tied to its side was unlike any Dullahan as well. Unlike the others that were skulls, this one had sickly yellow flesh that was drained of any life and blood. It's eyes had bright green pupils that all kept their unblinking stare on him and it made his skin crawl. Its beard and hair were stringy gray unkept manes.
Though strangely enough upon its head was a iron crown with black jewels placed across the cold iron brand.
The Dullahans mount opened its mouth showing it's saliva covered rotten teeth. From its cursed mouth the sound of thunder came as it got closer to him and William could feel sweat soaking his first and clothes as he could almost feel the creature behind him.
The knight behind him saw it too and he began to scream out in terror. Though William wondered if it had more do with the pain caused by the rough riding by the mount.
He should not have looked back at the creature, but some sort of morbid curiosity grew through him and he just had to. His eyes locked with the Dullahan that was smiling wide, showing its blood covered teeth, it almost seemed to be salivating at the prospect of tearing into his flesh.
He tried to reach for his axe but his body from the neck down was numb in fear, he tried and he tried but his body would not listen to him. He simply remained there looking into the eyes of the monster that with every passing second neared him.
Time slowed down as he finally realized that the Dullahan at it monstrous mount was no more than a meter away from him. Its horse was snapping at the tale of his gryphon that cawed louder than ever.
The Dullahan smiling stopped as a spear tore through its chest from behind. The force of the spearhead thrust rattled the creature and whipped its smile away. Behind holding onto the spear was Argentum Ellen Gray.
Her armor was covered and dented all over, it was smeared in purple inky wet blood and looked worse for wear. Her exposed body parts had big purple bruises and cuts that let out a flow of her own blood.
"Damn it kid run!" She shouted as she recoiled her right arm and her fist came back crashing upon the Dullahans head as hard as she could. The force of her blow knocked her and the Dullahan downwards from him.
That was all he needed, he focused his eyes forward and he escaped the danger of the night terrors... though no matter what physical danger he had escaped, he would never escape what he had seen when the monsters attacked them and what he heard.
The sound stabbed into his ears and soul, it was Gray and she was screaming. He didn't know if it was pure terror or the screaming of a person who was being gutted.
William would never tell, it didn't matter anyway. The sound would never leave him until the day he too was taken from this life.
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I am a 21 year old law school student at the National Institute of Public Administration. My dream is to one day publish my story phantom ddriag and hopefully get a show made from it.
I also have a youtube account that hundels web fiction content, here is the link https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCFz-mHywXBJnLF8uyofcLAw/videos