Phthora I - Once Again

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Four seasoned adventurers had just finished another dungeon. They reside in a small town only to be met with oddities in the people that resides in it. They later found out about a mysterious dungeon near the town and decided to explore it.

Submitted: June 11, 2017

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Submitted: June 11, 2017

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I—ANOTHER VICTORY

 

 

 

 

The dungeon roared and shook as the creature reached the ground. Dust and debris filled the air and made it thick. A blue glow emitted from the ashen grey. “Are you okay?” Marien uncovered her hood with her left hand and peered over her shoulder.

“That thing went down faster than I thought. Maybe it was just a big tree that got lost from the woods.” The thin man snickered while combing his long white hair away from his face. His pale forehead smattered in sweat and tinted blue. “Thanks for the shield. It’s so rare for me to see your kindness Mar.” He set a playful punch on the mage’s shoulder, enough to make her step forward. His smile quickly went away as he noticed the barrier was gone, and the bright blue etching on Marien’s staff made way for a dark red shimmer.

“You’re very welcome, Vile. But maybe next time I’ll just let you feel the pain and figure out how to siphon off of this barren land.” Marien’s voice was gentle but sharp. The etching on her staff began to retreat back to her right hand and it no longer glowed. “Let’s group up with Alexander.”

 “I see you’ve become one with the dungeon, Alex. It’s nice to know that we don’t have to split the Artifact earnings into four anymore.” Vilexi teased.

Alexander’s shadow resembled a large boulder inside the dust. The knight stood, separating his shield into two smaller ones as he lowered his arms. He rested the shields comfortably on his back. “Ah! It is good to see you as well, Vile!” Alexander spread his arms in a grand gesture. The knight looked down at the smaller man below his chest and laid his gauntlet on Vilexi’s head, almost covering it entirely. He tousled the white hair playfully then leveraged himself towards Marien, pushing the siphon into a bowing position. He smiled and bowed, “For what king did I earn a favor from to be in the presence of you, my lady?” His deep muffled voice through the helmet forced a smile to sneak on Marien’s lips, but she turned her back to him before he could catch it.

The dust had settled around the corpse and revealed a dark green creature. It was lying on its chest. The earth beneath it was shattered by its fall. The bottom of its lower jaw had a gash, the rest of its body riddled with cuts not deep enough to draw blood and charred skin. The three approached it with caution. “It should be dead, right?” Vilexi forced himself to smile, a tremble snuck into his voice and his question went unheard. They lowered their defenses as they reached the man standing by its shoulder. His black armor was not as bulky as Alexander’s. It looked lighter. His hair was dark and neatly kept. He held a long and slender blade with his left hand, the arm itself was bare except for a bracer. “Aravon!” Vilexi shouted.

Aravon turned to face his team, his sword swayed with him naturally. “It was the spot.” He pointed at the underside of his jaw. “I was already suspicious, seeing how it was moving.” He laid his free hand on Marien’s shoulder and smiled, “I didn’t really bother with it until you pointed it out as well, Marien.” She smiled back as he continued, “The thing made it abundantly clear, going crazy when I tried to jump its neck.” He passed Marien, Alexander, and then Vilexi, scanning them each meticulously. “It’s been a while since I had to use my glyph this much.” He nodded. He was the only one that seemed worn.

Marien managed to catch Aravon’s eyes when he turned around. They were a dark and dull red, and they were far away. “You need to rest.” Her voice was heavy, firm and demanding. Her eyes were soft and worrying, “Let Vile take a look at your glyph. I’ve never seen it this bad.” A thin line drew across Aravon’s lips, preparing a breath to speak. “No,” Marien interrupted, “you pushed passed the limit of that thing. You’re tired and slow. This particular Artifact loses value the second it gets out of the dungeon. We don’t need to be slowed down.” Her eyes were now as heavy as her words. For a moment Aravon’s eyes darted to the stinging pain collecting around the glyph on his left shoulder. He nodded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

II—A MIXED BAND OF MISFITS

 

 

 

 

The moon was high in the sky when the four emerged from the dungeon. The exit led them up a torch lit staircase, out into a small patch of plains, surrounded by a forest. The moon shone a thin, white light on them, and a gentle breeze brushed passed the trees and caressed their faces.

Vilexi stretched his arms high in the sky. His loose sleeves fell to his shoulders, revealing reams of patterns along his arms traveling to his chest and back. Vilexi was born with them, unlike most people. He became curious of them in an afternoon when he was younger and had fallen down a hill. He woke up unscathed, his patterns glowing purple, and he was surrounded by rotting plants and several bodies of birds that had gotten too close. Vilexi lowered his arms, his head turning randomly at the scenery around him.

Walking in the front of the group, Aravon had been rubbing his shoulder absentmindedly with his right hand. He was reminded that the glyph he had was given to him. He remembered that no matter how much he trained, it was still exhausting to use. “Which way are we heading, Alex?” Aravon tilted his head up to look at Alexander, his dull red eyes still remembering. He wasn’t as fortunate as others. He wasn’t born into magic. He caught himself staring aimlessly up the giant suit of armor measuring the sky. He noticed Marien watching him from the corner of eyes. He noticed his right hand and lowered it. “Alexander?”

“Patient now!” Alexander moved his palm away from the sky so it faced Aravon. The armored giant stood three heads higher than the average man. “It’s always tougher when the moon is too high.”  He moved his hand so it faced the sky again. He was raised by mercenaries. That meant he knew how to read the skies and kept his path straight; he knew how to protect others as well. He pointed, “There should be a trail in that direction.” He was very proud of himself.

Marien lowered Alexander’s arm with her free hand. She was respected and feared by most mages in her generation. They would say that she was fierce. She only commanded. She had no weaknesses. But here, she stood looking up at Alexander, a strand of curly brown hair brushed the side of her face and moving with the slow wind. Her eyes and lips were smiling gently and her voice was warm and sweet, “Could you kindly seal that exit before we go, dear?”

“Kindly!” Alexander made a humble bowing gesture and made his way to one of the larger trees nearby. The forest echoed with loud sounds of banging for several long moments, then the crackling sound of breaking wood. His smile leaked in through his voice, “This should be good!” The knight forced the broken end of the tree down the length of the staircase. The torch holders made sharp, metallic sounds as they were torn off their hinges and pushed down the stairway. Aravon’s lips perked, a puff of air blowing out of his nose. Marien had a proud smile. Vilexi grinned like a child getting to see his favorite act at a festival. Alexander didn’t stop until he was covered in mostly leaves and the wood broke under his palms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III—CELLURAN

 

 

 

 

The four met the trail when the sun met the horizon, and from there it took them another day to reach the nearest town. The road that led into the town transitioned roughly from dirt to stone. A metal lamp post highlighted the signs that pointed in two directions, “North Bound” and “Celluran.” There weren’t many people on the road the group was on. The wind stretched and the lamps hanging from their posts swung lazily. Vilexi feigned a big yawn, his eyes were wide open, begging Aravon.

“The moon is only a quarter in the sky, Vilexi. We need to look for a merchant.” Aravon gave the white-haired man a quick glance, “then we can rest.” They continued walking until they reached an intersection, watching the flow of the few people that were there on the road. “There. The streets are brighter down that way.” Aravon pointed his blade down a road on their left.

 

This road was better lit than the other. It carried more people. They all watched the four silently, unwilling to fully turn their heads or shift their eyes. Aravon tightened his grip around the hilt of his sword, as if realizing something, and finally clipping it to the side of his leg.

 

They approached a building that had windows for walls, littered with shadows of small objects. Its brightness mostly came from the inside, the outside only a lamp where the sign hung, “Celluran Goods and Trinkets.” The door made a ringing noise as Marien pushed it open. “Welcome to the Cellure ‘n Goods and Trinkets!” A man shouted from behind the counter. His laugh and gesture were energetic and springing with youth, although his voice and receding hairline suggested the opposite. “We sell and buy things from fire lamps to fireless lamps! What can I do for ya-” He was interrupted when a loud thump followed by the chaotic ringing of the doorbells surrounded the room. “Having a bit of trouble there are ya?” He flicked his eyebrows, his mouth opened in amusement watching the armor plated man struggle through the door. The merchant’s amusement was cut short when Vilexi almost dropped a glass bottle he had been playing with.

Marien stepped up, placing a small leather pouch on the counter, “We have something to sell.”

An expression close to disappointment flashed across his face. His smile became more forceful than before, he slouched down to grab a seamless black box. He held it familiarly. He placed it on the table, “Let me see.”

Marien opened the pouch and shook the contents on the table. . The Artifact floated a finger length above the table and was the size of an apple. It had a glyph on it. The pattern shone a blue that was almost white. She saw the merchant’s eyebrows furrowing, his hand touching his face. He placed the black box near the sphere and they rushed to each other. The box wrapped around the sphere and shrunk to roughly the same size. The same white-blue glyph appeared on one side of the cube.

“That’s a really rare one I tell ya.”  He looked past Marien at the others, profiling them. He tapped the box, “Here.” Ten coins fell from the bottom and the glowing stopped. Marien slid back two before giving the rest to Aravon, who pocketed them. The merchant’s smile became natural again, “Thank ya kind heart.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV— WESTWARD

 

 

 

 

They decided to rest the night in the town. The four found the inn to be too small for any meaningful conflict to happen, but still big enough to not be boring while they were there. The inn let out a strong scent of liquor and stronger sounds of drunken men. It was lively, more than any other part of the town. But as soon as the group came in, there was a sharp and still silent hidden behind all the drunken laughter. There were fear, hatred, and something else in the men’s eyes.

The group made their way through the room. Aravon had spotted a table for them in the sea of drunken men. They were greeted by the serving girl almost immediately as they sat. They each ordered a drink and something to eat.

Aravon’s eyes were a vibrant red. They were focused. Fixed. They moved around the room and to the faces of his teammates, but their corners remained on the serving girl. He sighed and touched his face. Her hair was black and long and smooth, it swayed as she moved away, her neck peeking through with every step. He brushed his hand through his hair to tidy it. Her body was slender.

“If you want I can get you her name. No need to be sneaky, you can only hide so much if you can’t control your legs, Aravon.” Marien’s teeth were showing through her smile. Aravon sat forward, stopping his legs. Vilexi and Alexander stared at the two for a moment before bursting into laughter.

“Old habits die hard, Marien. I observe things that are interesting to me.” Aravon was too calm. He glanced at the serving girl as she moved gingerly through the tables. He caught her eyes and smiled, she smiled back. Marien squinted at him.

Aravon was still watching the serving girl with the edges of his eyes as she was setting their plates down. “Now that I think of it…” Marien trailed off. She sat forward in her chair, “You chose this spot on purpose, didn’t you?” The other two stopped laughing and curiosity filled their expression. Marien looked at the doorway behind the counter of the bar. The way the tables were set, how the men sat. Then she looked at the serving girl, “You have a perfect view of her.” Marien sat back in her chair and folded her arms, her head shook and her mouth made a disapproving line.

Aravon smiled and said nothing. He put his elbows on the table, knotting his fingers together. He looked at the serving girl as she was finishing, “Thank you.” She fumbled before going away, her face flushed.

Marien shook her head again. Vilexi had the same childish grin he had watching a giant suit of armor forcing wood down a hole. Alexander had already started drinking and eating. Then they all started drinking and eating. Then, as if noticing the quiet eyes that surrounded them for the first time, they started talking of nothing and everything.  They didn’t finish until the bar was empty.

“What stories lie beyond the eyes of the people in this town?” Aravon looked over at the inn keeper, who stopped polishing the counter. The serving girl stopped sweeping the floor as well. “They’re not the looks of folks who have never seen or heard of adventurers.” Aravon took a sip of his drink; his eyes became a dark and hard red. His teammates nodded approvingly. “They’re quite the opposite, actually.” Aravon stared at the inn keeper.

The inn keeper shared a concerning look with his assistant. He came out from behind the counter and pulled a chair up to the group’s table. “I feel like we should introduce ourselves first,” the inn keeper wore a timid expression, “just to ease the tension.” He swallowed, “I’m Feldman, the inn belongs to my family. She’s my assistant, Dahlia.” He motioned at the girl and she gave a smiling nod. “She’s the girlfriend of a close friend of mine. She’s working to feed both of them since his business isn’t going well.”

“He’s Vilexi. He’s the group’s healer and cryptographer. No glyph he can’t read. No wound he can’t heal unless you’re dead.” Aravon nodded in Vilexi’s direction. The thin man showed his teeth awkwardly and waved. “She is Marien.” Aravon’s left hand was presenting her, “She was admitted, expelled, and later asked to teach for the University of Magic for the same reasons at different times. She handles most of the magic, some of the bargaining, and half of the planning for the group.” Marien nodded satisfyingly. “Alexander is our shield.” Aravon smiled when he saw Marien putting her hand on the giant’s shoulder plate, “He’s in charge of keeping the creatures off of them, while distracting them for me. He keeps us safe and straight.” Alexander puffed his chest as far forward as he could, grinning. Aravon looked back to the inn keeper, “I’m Aravon, and that’s about all you need to know.” He looked at the inn keeper, his eyes were still hard.

Feldman cleared his throat and fidgeted in his seat, “There’s a dungeon that popped up west of here a while back. All the adventurers that spoke of going there mentioned the word ‘Phethora’ a few times. They would pay for boarding and leave their backup gear here then never come back for it.” He swallowed, “The folks didn’t think much of it until one of them did came back. He was all torn up. He looked broken, like a soulless shell. He was quiet until an unfortunate bloke asked him about his teammates. He started shrieking and lunged at the guy. One of our bigger guys had to put him down, wasn’t easy either.” Feldman stared down at his folded hands, “It kept happening, too. Adventurers came here, have fun, then left for the dungeon and never came back.” The inn keeper was shaking his head slowly and then looked up at the four. His eyes and mouth went wide.

Aravon and his company were all smiling. “You all heard it as clear as I did, yes?” Aravon turned to look at his team.

“We are heading West!” Alexander wove the words through laughter that filled the room. Marien was patting the knight, as if to make sure he doesn’t get too excited.

Aravon took out four of the coins from earlier and slid them as close to the inn keeper as possible without them falling off the table, “A few rooms for the night. Then some food made for travelling, some clean water.” Marien gestured at him with her eyes. “Right.” He put another coin in the pile, “and a map of the area.”

 


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