There was nothing quite like the image of the sun setting behind the horizon. As Christopher took his last breath of fresh ocean air and savored the moment he started heading back home. It wasn’t the most successful fishing trip, but he did not mind. The smile never left his face for the entire time he was there. His fishing spot was the only peaceful place in the entire village where he could go and live in the moment. All of his troubles floated away in the ocean.
For all intents and purposes, Chris had a decent life. Strann was a quiet and secluded village at the southwest side of the kingdom of Macendar where nothing much ever happened, apart of the random brawl here and there but even those were dying down, considering the fact that more and more were moving away. On top of that, his family, most of his friends and pretty much everyone he knew remained there too. Strann was all he knew. Apart from a few trips to the neighboring villages and towns he had never seen the outside world, and judging from the stories that villagers told, nothing was ever as good as Strann. Other places were either too violent or too corrupt. The funny part, or sad, depending on how you look at it was that most of the hearsay that he had heard about other place was applicable to his home as well, but mention that to a villager and he would throw a gaze at you as if you killed his child.
His smile slightly lowered as he approached his house. No one seemed to admit it, but the village was slowly dying. Even if he did not love living there, it was still his home. With the recent support and expansion of the Mendaxian empire things were changing rapidly. Many people were leaving their country to go and work in the ever expanding cities for better pay and this resulted in many job losses, and worse, empty villages. One of them was Warren, one of his oldest friends who only a few months ago left to pursue a job as a horse trainer for some noble, the name of which he could barely pronounce.
“It’s not the best job but I will work my way up, and don’t worry, I’ll wait for you. Just don’t take too long, or else I will be the one employing you.” – Warren had told him before he left.
Christopher wanted nothing more than to join his friend on his endeavor but he was unable to. Or so he said. Although he had listed many reasons as to why he could not yet go with him, for the most part, the reasons were sounding more like excuses rather than explanations. Something was still holding him back, but he was too afraid to face whatever that was. So he just moved on with his regular mundane tasks during the day, keeping himself busy, keeping his mind off things. However, nothing could keep his mind off the memories that this night would bring him.
“Chris, wake up you lazy bastard!” – A voice echoed from the darkness surrounding his bed.
As he started to come to his senses, the voice became more recognizable.
“Brann? What are….” – he barely let out any noise, but it still managed to show a distinct tone of annoyance.
“There is no time, another one of the sheep just went missing, if we hurry up we can still get to the bottom of this.” – Brann said as he pulled him up from out of his bed.
Seeing as how Brann was another one of his oldest friends, he knew how to sneak into his room. On top of that he was much larger than Chris so he managed to pick him up off his bead like it was nothing.
“And just what exactly do you plan on doing once we catch up to those bandits?” – Chris spoke as he slowly came to his senses.
“You know, I can call you all sorts of things… Hell, it would take me all night to list them all, but if there is one thing that you aren’t, it’s a fool. Now, we both saw that pig last week. There is no way any bandits, or any person could have left a mess like that, I don’t care what anyone says.”
It’s been a few weeks since the first pig was found dead on the outskirts of the village. After a sorry excuse for an investigation, most of the villagers had ruled that it was the work of some rogue bandits passing through the village. The false sense of relief while thinking that the only victims was an animal left most people with a peace of mind. However, bandits were not known for gutting pigs, leaving most of the meat and taking off with the brain, so some people were justifiably skeptical of the claims. And as much as he did not want to admit it, Chris was one of those people.
Combine that with Brann’s stubbornness, there was no escaping this nightly chase. In the rare instances where he would set his mind on something, Brann was as stubborn as an ox. So, Chris climbed out of his window alongside his friend and followed him into the woods.
“I’ve been keeping track of where all of the incidents happened. This route seems to be the closest to them all. Following it should lead us to the culprit. But we need to be fast, let’s go.”
One would think that for a man of that size, his speed would be his disadvantage, but seeing as how he left Chris in the dust, one would be wrong.
As they ran through the forest they could not help but reminisce of their older days, fighting and training together, all for the dream of becoming a knight. Something Chris always dreamt about, at least when he used to have dreams. Courageous, disciplined, powerful and more. They embodied everything that a young boy would strive to be. Seeing his childish self run alongside him as he tried to catch up to his friend reignited a fire in him which he thought was gone.
The trail was pointing to the old lumber mill. As they got closer they began to notice the decaying plants surrounding the mill. Was it from the overwhelming stench of rotten flesh? Whatever it was, they were moments away from facing it.
Without hesitation, Brann quickly signaled to his friend to stay back while he assessed the situation. Taken back by the welcome surprise of the showcase of initiative, something that he never showed, so Chris awaited with anticipation to see what happens. After a few minutes though, the anticipation changed to worry.
Seeing as how there was no movement, he decided to get closer to the window from which his friend was peeking through. As he approached him, he was greeted by a look of panic. Brann desperately tried to gesture to Chris to stay away but it was too late. Before he could say anything he heard a frightening screech followed by heavy footsteps approaching from the front door.
A familiar figure came out of the mill. At first glance it looked like it was Warren, which was odd considering he should have been far away from the village, but once his face became more visible they were greeted with a ghastly image of something that barely even resembled him. The decomposed state of its body resembled an almost inhumane like figure. It did not even have any eyes, only darkness.
Because of that, it seemed like it only reacted to sounds. Brann attempted to signal to his friend again an order to retreat before the creature could find them but it was too late. As much as they tried to remain calm, their heavy breathing and shaky legs gave their location away.
Quickly the figure was making its way to Chris, but he could not do anything. The image before him had immobilized him. It felt as if he was holding up a boulder and his legs were firmly planted into the ground. Seeing as how he froze, his friend chose to greet the monster head on, bashing its head with a rock.
As the dust settled, Brann reigned supreme. The creature laid motionless on the floor. He got up from its bloodied corpse to embrace his worried friend who was still unable to move. But unbeknownst to him his friend had seen something he could not. The familiar figure had towered behind him, still bloody and lifeless, yet it took ahold of his head picking him up as if he was a baby. As he let out a horrible scream, Brann’s body started to twitch.
Overwhelmed by the sight in front of him, Chris started to run. He ran away from his friend, from his village, and most of all of himself. He could not bear facing anyone at that point so instead of confrontation he chose evasion.
After a minute or so, Brann’s screams were gone. He had hoped that maybe the creature had died from his injuries or that someone helped him but deep down he knew the truth. His friend was dead and his blood was lying on his hands.
And so with that in mind he continued to run. He run as far as he could until his legs could not carry him anymore, collapsing on the ground, not knowing where he is or what awaits him in the morning.
So, I took a small break yet again to focus on writing a new story, I wanted to improve my style a bit so it took a little while and although I am not completely happy with the result I do like it a lot more than my other stuff. I am hoping that this will be a part of a bigger series, be it a book or just a D&D campaign remains to be seen.