The New Patron - Part 2
Ezra clambered over the stones, following closely behind the Knight Valiant and his squire that lead the way. The peaks and valleys of Ezra’s home county were a beautiful and welcoming site to him. Having just spent the last several years away in training had made him terribly homesick. He flexed his fingers and rolled his wrists, the joints cracking.
“Come along now, we are less than a half day away from where the Clairvoyants are staying and I don’t want to be stuck out here for another night.” The Valiant said, never turning to look at them. Ezra had forgotten his name already. The Valiant had been as they always are; cold, distant and scary in a mystical way. The Valiant’s squire, Serena, was another thing all together. She was welcoming, cheery and warm. Her and Ezra had done most of the talking these past days traveling into the mountains. They were headed to an encampment of several Knights Clairvoyant where Ezra would shadow them for several weeks. His magical capabilities were almost that of a master and yet here he was just over two decades old.
“I don’t know how you guys survived out here during the Nocturne,” said Serena exhaustedly, “When it’s not impassable pine forests its impassable mountains!”
“We made do as all Helians did back in those times. It helped, too, that the terrain made it hard for the monsters too.” Ezra said, giving Serene a soft smile.
“Makes it hard,” The Valiant sternly corrected. “There are still creatures that lurk in these mountains that could kill the lot of us without much trouble. Which is why I don’t want to risk another night out here now that we are deeper in the valley.” The Valiant turned to face them before looking up at the dwindling sun. “We need to pick up the pace.”
The sun continued to dwindle and the floor of the valley began to become an abyss, the darkness creeping up the mountain cliffs like tendrils. Only the very center of the valley clung to the remains of the sunlight from the setting sun positioned directly behind the party.
“I don’t think we are going to make it before nightfall, Sir.” Serena said to the Valiant.
“I am certain we can make it out of the valley if we do not come across any obstacles along the path. The worst case is we spend the night in one of the cave openings around here and seal ourselves off until dawn.” The Valiant replied, missing the cold and bored tone he had kept this whole trip. Instead he sounded… concerned. Ezra looked around and also noticed, hidden by the shadows on the mountain sides, the many holes that littered the cliffs. He had heard the ancient tales of the kinds of beasts that lurked in the depths but the County had been relatively safe for decades now, although they were well away from any real roads. As Ezra returned his gaze forward towards the Valiant he noticed that something was missing. Serena.
“Where did Serena go?” Ezra said glancing around, “She was just here a minute ago.”
“What?” The Valiant said, with audible concern in his voice as he turned around, “What do you mean ‘Where is she?’?”
“I mean where is she? I can’t see her anywhere. She was here a moment ago and then..”
“Get close boy!” The Valiant commanded, unsheathing his sword he ushered a golden light to radiate off of the blade. Ezra jogged up to the Valiant and as he did he saw boot prints in the dirt going away from them and into the shadows at the base of the cliffs.
“Here!” Ezra pointed, the Valiant turning and allowing the glow of his sword to illuminate the way. Boot prints trailed to the mouth of a cave before completely disappearing, as if she had simply vanished once at the entrance.
“Boy, I am told you are skilled at magic. I need you to collapse this tunnel. Now.” The Valiant said, never taking his eyes off the entrance and reaching for his helmet that was clasped to his belt.
“But didn’t she go in there? Why would I..”
“I said now!” The Valiant said glancing at Ezra. Almost as if it had been waiting for that very moment an enormous bug-like creature leapt from the cave entrance and latched onto the Valiant while his gaze had left the cave. Ezra fell back and the Valiant shouted again “I said do it!” as he and the monster wrestled on the ground. Ezra faltered for a second watching the two tumble along the dirt, their shadows dancing along the cliffs cast by the glow of the Valiant’s sword. Then he got up and rushed to the cave entrance and began the necessary signing and chants. As he did he could hear the sound of chitinous limbs clicking and striking the stone inside the cave towards him. He struck the side of the cave mouth with his hand and a large, immaculate, sigil of the sun began to carve itself in the stone with golden light. Ezra ran and dove away as the rune exploded and the rock wall tumbled. He thought he could hear a terrible screeching coming from inside the cave as the heat and soot whirled by him. He got up a moment later and noticed the monster and the Valiant where still grappled but now standing. The bug standing on it’s back legs as its other appendages tried to wrap around the Valiant, keeping his sword hand at bay. It rose as tall as he was, even taller in truth, but they stood locked to one another. The bug began to bubble and spit up a sickly yellow slime from its mouth which landed on the Valiants armor, sliding off the now glowing plate. The Valiant smiled in the ‘face’ of the creature, freed his left hand and reached behind him, going for his dagger. The Valiant swung his hand back towards the creature and drived the dagger into its side. As it reeled he freed his sword hand and went for the head, but the creature was a hair's breadth quicker and spat the yellow substance into the Valiants unshielded face. His screamed and his swing missed. In an instant the bug was back on top of him and pried into the Valiants collar, ripping out his neck and throat as if it were desperately trying to find something inside.
Ezra stepped back and disturbed some of the rubble he had created a minute ago, drawing the creatures attention in a heartbeat. Ezra tried to begin the first chant he could think of but the nerves and his fear made him tremble. Before he could react the bug leaped upon Ezra knocking him to the ground with its massive chitinous body. He held his arms up in defense and the creature latched to his right arm, it’s mandibles peeling and stripping the flesh away from the bone. Ezra shrieked in pain and in horror as whatever substance leaked from the creatures maw and onto him began to dissolve his clothes and skin, his arm being digested before even being consumed. The pain was unbearable and Ezra felt his vision narrowing, the monsters ‘face’ pushing closer and closer to his. As the blackness began to claim the last of Ezra’s ability to see he began to sign, unconsciously, with his left hand and murmur the words. With the last bit of his strength he brushed his free hand along the side of the bug. As his hand fell away golden lines appeared where he had touched along the carapace of the creature and a radiant sigil of the sun formed, it’s radiance lighting the area around them in spectacular glow, before the rune detonated.