XVIII – A New Threat Is An Old One
“That’s six and four. I win, yet again” laughed Havel as he picked the pair of die up from the sand and held his other hand open out before him.
“Fine, here you go” said Logan as he slammed two gold coins into his hand and he huffed and puffed angrily at his losses.
“You want another go?” said Havel.
“Better not. My pouch always gets lighter whenever I play against you” he replied and he looked towards where the inn was at “I wish I was there with the others. Not standing here freezing my cheeks off.”
“Jubrain’s orders” said Havel, resting against the door “Believe me, I’d rather be drinking some of their fresh ale too and chatting with that blonde barmaid but what are you going to do? This is what we signed up for when we said the words.”
“I think we could leave” said Logan resting on his swords hilt “I mean, he’s locked up in there, he isn’t going anywhere now is he?”
“I’d rather take my chances with the desert than face Jubrain’s wrath if we’re found out” said Havel “Look, if it makes you feel better, I’ll offer you one as soon as we’re off duty, how bout that?”
“Yeah, that sounds good” said Logan.
That’s when they saw the person running down towards them, screaming at them incomprehensibly, waving his arms about and they quickly drew their weapons before them as the young dirty boy approached them, holding his knees as he stood before the pair of them, completely out of breath.
“Hekriam…where is he?” he managed to blurt out.
Logan turned to Havel and back to the boy, who’s eyes were wide with terror “He’s inside here but no visitors boy. We’re under strict orders. Comeback at sunrise.”
“You don’t understand” said the boy looking behind his shoulders “They’re coming…they’re here…there’s not enough time.”
“What are you talking about?” said Havel.
“D…Demons” said the scruffy boy, his eyes darting down the street and towards every building “Demons, they’re right here, you’ve got to let him out, right now or we’re all in great danger.”
Havel turned to Logan and they tried suppressing it at first until they burst into laughter. Havel walked forward and pushed the boy’s chest, sending him stumbling down right onto his arse.
“Looks like you’ve had a little too much to drink lad. Come on, get out of here or we’ll throw you in with him” said Havel.
It was then he heard the clicking sound.
He looked round to see a beast leap into the air before him and in one swing of its arm, he was dragged down onto the ground.
“Havel” yelled Logan as he watched his friend being dragged away into the darkness, the beast’s fangs were deep in his arm and it pulled Havel away like a little girl’s doll. Logan readied his sword.
“Havel! Havel!” he cried out as he started running towards where his friend was being taken.
That’s when he saw them.
First their eyes emerged from the darkness and then they almost seemed to slid out of it, as if they were one with the darkness.
Twisted creatures, humanoid like they stood on two feet but their was no skin on their bodies, only muscle which had turned black and stretched over their bones. Their legs and arms were abnormally long and suddenly, they opened their enormous mouths, their long fangs shining in the darkness and let out a bark.
“They’re already here” cried out the boy who darted past Logan and pulled the iron ring of the wooden door, opening it and stepping inside and turning round to face Logan.
“Quick, in here” he yelled to Logan as he gestured for him to retreat.
Logan turned to the boy and he stepped forward but he couldn’t Havel behind and he hesitated.
Something wrapped itself in that brief moment around his leg and he found himself being slammed onto the floor.
The boy was getting further away as he was being dragged on the sands. His sword fell out his hands and he tried digging his fingers into the earth but was unable to do so as he was being dragged to fast.
He managed to turn turned round and he yelled like a newborn baby as the last thing he saw, were a pair of yellow orbs in the darkness.
The inn was buzzing, just about everyone was in high spirits, also thanks to the abundant food and drink and it seemed there was at least one person from every corner of Aludin in this small building, from the north of the north to the most remote of islands. It filled her with a little pleasure that despite the outer differences, everyone was treated like a fellow brother and sister of the same big family.
Yet Dasha found herself separated from it all and she looked down at her drink, her mind swirling and not because of its contents.
Dakar was the liveliest of their group, discussing with the Knights about their new order and letting them know his father could be up to helping them out in supplies. Every so often, they shot her a question and because she wasn’t rude, she answered them, however they were quick responses and in a matter of seconds she was normally back to brood in her silence.
Wex had started a conversation with a couple of scholars from the Temple of Saganuey and she overheard them say how amazing of a construction it was and boasting of its collection of ancient tomes, as well as the skilled doctors and treatments not found anywhere else in the known lands.
She spotted Isa was quite distant too, glancing about every so often, looking around the inn.
She herself wondered where Daygon had gone off to. It had nearly been an hour since Hekriam had been taken out the pub and she had never felt so embarrassed for someone as she had done at that moment.
For everything he had done, it had always seemed his words were truthful and he had, seemingly, been genuine in his motives. She wondered whether what she had wanted, to escape Hekriam, was the right choice or whether Dakar had made a terrible mistake.
She thought she had glanced Manny at one point, hanging about the pub’s counter but she wasn’t too sure. He had disappeared from sight ever since they had arrived to the inn and she now wondered whether he hadn’t slipped away from them.
He had fulfilled his promise after all, he had helped her out in Lemekia and had been put through more than he must have ever bargained for. However, she thought he would have stayed with them, even if for a little while longer.
She turned her head round as she heard yells coming from outside and she didn’t know why but she was immediately off her feet, pushing through the crowd of people towards the exit of the inn and charging out.
The cold night air swept her clothes and prickled her skin and that’s when she saw Wulf standing before her, beside the bonfire and Daygon riding atop. He leapt down, his blue sword shining brightly on his hip as he ran up to her.
The Knights of Alluanda, as were the others, were right behind her as people stepped back from the Titan Warthog, most in fear as the festive mood has been disturbed by its sudden presence.
“What’s going on here?” said Jubarin as he strode past Dasha towards the incoming Daygon “What are you trying to do, scare everyone to bloody death?”
“Listen to me” said Daygon and he spoke up so everyone around him could hear him clearly, yet his voice slightly shook and he felt uncomfortable with so many people’s eyes on him, their attention hanging on his every word.
“Now everyone stay calm. You all need to immediately find the nearest shelter and stay hidden. Do not leave until I say it’s okay to do so.”
Everyone looked at him in stunned silence and the buzz of the festive mood had been definitely killed as some started pouring out into the small square from inside the inn to see what was going on.
“No need to worry everyone” said Jubarin waving his arms trying to keep everyone calm “There is nothing to be alarmed about, the boy is clearly…”
“You must all go, right now” said Daygon looking behind him and Dasha saw him breathing heavily, something was troubling him and that’s when she heard it.
A clicking, very faint but she could hear it though it seemed she was one of the few who could, as only a few people started looking around them and seemed to be able to hear it.
Suddenly she knew.
She could sense it somehow. She had that same feeling she had felt back at the Sanctuary and the words Daygon had said back then made sense now.
They were out there and not just one or two of them.
She could feel their energy all around them, it felt like heat entering her very being and though it wasn’t clear to her mind, she could sense movement around her which her eyes couldn’t see.
She looked at Daygon. They caught one another’s eyes and nothing more was to be said.
She ran up to Jubarin and whispered so no one else could hear “Jubarin, please, you’ve got to get these people to safety we’re all under danger, any second now…”
“Danger from what?” he said loudly and she tried to shush him but he only grew angrier, drawing more attention from the onlookers “What is going on here? What are you kids talking about?”
“Demons” said Daygon bluntly and if someone had dropped a needle, it would have echoed around the entire Mu, following the silence after that one word from everyone present.
“Demons” he repeated pointing behind him “They’re right out there and they’re getting closer. Please everyone stay as calm as possible and…”
“Enough” bellowed Jubarin, a vein pulsating on his forehead “What is this talk about Demons? There are no such things, it seems…”
“Jubarin” yelled Nickal who drew his sword and they all turned round to see at the end of the small square, emerging from one of the dark streets, a horrific creature had emerged.
Tense transparent muscle over a skeleton, it stood on two legs and its face was a skull, it walked slowly towards them and that’s when another emerged to his right, this one’s arms were longer, its hands resting on the sands, holding a club in it’s hand and then an orb of light emerged from the darkness to their left, a one eyed one, hunched over and hissing as it emerged from the darkness.
Suddenly a long wail erupted from the darkness and it seemed as if hundreds of candles had been light at once, with eyes shining through the darkness as they drew forth from the darkness, becoming outlines becoming horrific figures and once they stood in the light of the moon and the inn, the twisted creatures were there for all to see.
It was a woman’s scream that started the stampede. Everyone tried to charge inside the inn at once, people fell under the crowd and some were smashed, pushed up against the walls. Food and drink fell to the earth as people begged for their lives in the name of the Seven Gods.
Only a few of the bravest stood their ground, drawing out their swords and Jubarin could only stammer as the creatures inched closer, hissing and grunts surrounding them.
The Knights of Alluanda drew their swords as they seemed to be pouring in from every angle, every street was blocked, every roof filled with a dozen of them peering down at them and they only grew in number but still they withstood from attacking, only slowly advancing and keeping their distance, as if waiting for something.
‘They’re delighting in this’ she realised. It was like a cat with a mouse, when they kept playing with it before killing it. This was a game to them.
“What are we waiting for?” said Jubarin coming to his senses and lifting his sword into the air before his fellow Knights.
“Isn’t this why our order was reborn? Who are we?” he yelled out over the chaos of the fleeing crowd as they desperately all tried to fit inside the inn, his fellow Knights quickly gathering before him.
“The Knights Of Alluanda” they said, their voices shaking as did their armour.
“I can’t hear you?” he yelled again.
“The Knights Of Alluanda” they said, a little louder this time.
“And who are we?” he demanded to know.
“We are the Protectors Of The Poor, The Quenchers Of Thirst, The Saters Of Hunger and The Healers Of Body, Spiritual & Physical” they all said, their courage growing with each word and the voices uniting in chorus until they were all one single voice.
“Who are we?” he repeated once again, spit flying before him.
“The Knights Of Alluanda” they roared back.
“Now let’s kill them, protect our fellow brothers and sisters” he roared beating his chest and he turned round to face the incoming army of creatures.
“Stop” said Daygon leaping before them all, stopping them in their tracks “You can’t attack them.”
“What are you talking about?” said Jubarin, utterly baffled “You’re the one who told us too.”
“No” said Daygon “I said to hide for cover. You can’t attack them.”
“But you said they were Demons and look at them” he yelled angrily pointing his sword forward “We can’t not do anything, we have to protect the people.”
“I was wrong, in a sense” said Daygon looking between the Knights and towards Dasha and Isa and Wex and Dakar “These aren’t Demons.”
“Then what the bloody hell are they?” said Jubarin.
Daygon took a moment before he replied “They’re human.”