The captain removed his cap and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Seems, lad, that this man was expecting you, almost as if someone told him you were coming.”
“Are you implying it is a trap?”
“Implying nothing. Just getting you to think and prepare is all.”
“I can’t turn back now.”
“Why don’t you go below deck and get some rest. If there is a beast out there, you will need your energy to slay it.”
Ronik nodded and walked below deck. He washed up with a bowl of hot water and fell into the hammock half clothed. If a beast is responsible for your disappearance Elizabeth, it will die tomorrow. He covered his eyes with a hat and slipped into darkness.
When he awoke, they had just finished anchoring a mile off shore. He fastened the dagger and sword to his waist and placed the mementos into a small pocket in his utility pouch.
“Alright lad, time for the prize. Two days, that is the longest I can wait.
Ronik tossed the captain an amulet he had been wearing around his neck. “That’s for the ride, and the company,” he said while jumping over the railing and into the water. It wasn’t a hard swim for him. He had to swim to many islands during his sellsword days; a lot of rum running meetings took place on random, remote islands.
When he finally hit land, he removed his boots to empty the trapped water and re-adjusted his weapon belt to fit a bit tighter. Just beyond the shore stood a tree line of sky-scraping Dragon Woods. Ronik removed his sword and entered the woods, cutting away some overgrowth as he did. The woods were dark, wet, and completely abandoned of life.
He had no idea where to begin, so he just started walking. No sense of direction, no clues, no anything, just the sounds of the trees whistling in the wind. He removed a skin of water from his belt and leaned up against a tree. Desolation is more deadly than any blade. He returned the skin to his belt and headed back in the direction of the shore to attempt to start a new path. As long as you know which way you came from you can never get lost.
When he came upon what he thought to be the shoreline, he was not greeted by sunshine and open water, but instead, an open field that led to a rock face. In the rock face was an opening in the shape of an arched door. Around the door was a trail of blood, as if someone dipped their hand and smeared it around the edges.
“That looks promising,” Ronik said as he removed the dagger with his left hand.
When he approached the entrance, a gust of wind, like an exhalation, came from the opening.
“Elizabeth!” Echoes replied. He took one last deep breath, and entered the darkness. Once the light faded from the world outside, it was black. The ground he walked on was mush and cold. He did not even want to think what it could be.
Ronik traversed so far into the cave there was no turning back, even if he wanted to, there was no way to retrace his steps.
In the few moments he had been in the cave, he had crawled through the mush, walked hunched over in low ceiling areas, and ran into more walls than he bothered to count. The darkness began to cloud his mind in addition to his sight. “Elizabeth!” He finally heard something. With his hands out in front of him he pushed forward. “William!” The reply was still unclear, and he upped his pace to a run. “ELIZABETH!” He finally saw the flickering light of a torch in the distance. Sword and dagger out, he was now in a sprint.
The flickering light grew brighter and larger, as if someone was walking with a torch in his direction. He was screaming with rage now, a battle cry. When he finally rounded the corner from where the light was emanating, his battle cry fell silent, along with his hopes.
On an altar table before him, lied his wife and child, dead. Ronik fell to his knees. “I am too late…I am too late.” Ronik’s sadness turned to anger. He wielded his sword and swung it around wild. “Where are you beast? Show yourself to me. FIGHT ME!” Not even a whisper replied. Ronik fell to the ground and closed his eyes. When he opened them, staring back at him through broken pieces of glass scattered about the floor, were two blood red eyes, a twisted pale gray face, and ragged black hair. This was not the beast he was suspecting…it was himself.
Like a switch had been flipped, his memory returned to him. He felt the struggle within as the beast possessed his body but struggled to keep possession of his mind. Ronik was able to take back his mind and body from the beast for a short while but knew he would lose control eventually. So he put in place a trail of breadcrumbs to thwart the plot when the Night ended. The beast would never leave his body, and would always return during The Eternal. He told a man in the Silver City that one day he would return, and he is to tell him of the beast and how to kill it. He paid the man and continued down the path under the control of the beast.
His family was on the table screaming. The beast allowed Ronik a bit of sight so that he could see what he was about to do. The beast slit their throats and laughed. He returned to the current situation. The dagger the Hand’s of god had created in his hand. He knew what he must do to end the beast once and for all. Ronik stood on the altar in
between his wife and son. “I will see you soon.” He raised the dagger above his head and thrust it into his heart. Black blood poured from the wound. The beast screamed inside his head, and as a result made Ronik scream. The blood turned from black to red.