Before Convergence #5 - Secondary

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: June 15, 2017

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Submitted: June 15, 2017

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The Hero who would save the world.

Those words, spoken by his mother after he was born, echoed through the Hero’s mind as he stood before his small party of adventurers. He was a tall, strong, and dashing young man who was also skilled in physical and magical combat, a natural leader, and just oozed charisma and charm.

“Listen up, everyone!” His tone was reflective of someone of his stature: cool, calm, collected, yet firm and confident. “This town has requested our assistance and I have given them my word that we will protect them. Besides, they’re going to pay us, and it’ll fund the next leg of my ongoing quest to defeat the Mist Sovereign.”

Assembled before him was a group of four, all sitting around a circular wooden table. The second person from the Hero’s left raised her hand. She was a twenty-ish year-old girl of average height and weight with light-brown colored skin. She wore a loose dark red shirt, blue jeans, white-laced black tennis shoes, and sported long red hair tied behind her head in twin pigtails. Affixed to her right side by cloth was an ancient-looking Chinese jian sword sheathed in a polished wooden scabbard. The pommel of the weapon was adorned with the head of a lioness made of bronze, which her other hand was resting on.

“What is it, April?” The Hero asked.

“What do they need protecting against?” Her voice was bright and upbeat. “This is nowhere near bandit territory and monsters aren’t common in these parts.”

“You’re right. But the town’s mayor has reason to believe that an attack is coming.”

“By what and by whom?” Asked the man to her left in a dark tone. A full set of dark leather armor covered his strong and tall frame, leaving all but his sun-tanned head and hands uncovered. His features were gaunt and aged despite the fact that he was only in his thirties, speaking to a hard early life.  His short, spiky red hair shined against the interior lighting of the inn's fireplace and lamps.

“He’s not sure, Isaac,” the Hero replied. “A letter was posted on the mayor’s door claiming the town would be destroyed come tomorrow.” He frowned. “Though the letter’s handwriting was really messy. Almost as if it were written by a kid.”

“A kid, huh?” A young boy sat to Issac's right. His voice indicated he was in the midst of puberty, while his dusty, sandy hair gave him a messy appearance. His pale skin, blazing red suit and red slacks, along with the large, golden elephant gun strapped to his back made him seem oddly flamboyant. “This sounds like a prank to me.”

“I did take that into consideration, Zack. But the townsfolk have been telling me they’ve been hearing odds sounds coming from the forest. More than a few think this means some kind of unknown sorcery is being performed.”

“Sorcery?” The final member of the group on April’s right spoke in a soft but firm tone. She was a tall woman with a slight frame, peachy skin, and flowing long black hair. She wore a black dress adorned with red glowing crystals that seemed to pulse infrequently. “What kind of sorcery?”

“They weren’t specific, Val. It's all small town rumors really. I haven’t gotten anything concrete.” The Hero paused. “Regardless, we should take all of this into consideration.”

“Agreed.” Isaac scratched his beardless chin, mulling over the facts. “What an odd set of circumstances.”

“Just once,” said Zack, who was messing with a coin on the table. “Can’t it be…I dunno…a casual day for once? We’re always chasing one world-ending evil after another.”

The Hero smiled. “If that day comes, then I will no longer be needed.”

“We’ve saved the world from many potential doomsday disasters,” Val added solemnly. “It is our duty. Or have you forgotten that, Zack?”

“I haven’t." He gave her a hurtful look, but there remained a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Alright.” The Hero made his way towards the door. “I’m heading out to pick up some extra supplies at the shop. Are we low on anything at the moment?”

“Could use a few more herbal remedies.” Val looked up at the ceiling, clearly doing some mental math in her head. “Oh and I’m going to need some of those blue potions I saw earlier at the apothecary. The new transformation is going to be really taxing until I master it.”

“Okay." The Hero scanned the table. "Anything else? No? Alright then. I will see you all a little later.”

After he closed the door behind him, April turned back to face her fellow adventurers.

“What do you guys think?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Val’s virtuous voice filled the room. “No evil has been able to stop us in our righteous cause.”

“When will you learn to take life a little less seriously?” Zack rolled his eyes at Val. "Smell the roses a little?"

"Your naivete is showing," Val countered. "You haven't seen the greater darkness the world offers."

Zack turned away from her, facing April and Isaac. “Anyways, I think we’ll be fine.”

“You two are awfully confident of yourselves,” said Isaac.

“Well, for once Val and I agree on something. That alone is worth your confidence.”

“Watch your tone, young man,” Val said haughtily. “I haven’t forgiven you for that stunt you pulled on me last month.”

“Geez! Such a grudge-holder! It was just a little bit of fun!”

Isaac coughed to interrupt the two’s banter. “Anyways, as per usual, the key will be what the Hero manages to come up with. He’s truly amazing at what he does.”

“We’re not too shabby ourselves,” April noted.

“Compared to him though?” Zack shook his head. “No contest.”

“Do not underestimate our own power,” Val said strongly. “There is a reason why we are the Hero’s chosen.”

“You just go ahead and think that to yourself, priestess.”

Val was about to respond when a girl approached the four of them. Her long hair was a dark shade of purple, matching the color of her irises. In contrast, she wore a frilly Victorian-era dress of the deepest blue. She couldn’t be any older or taller than Zack, with a similar slight build like his.

“May we help you?” Isaac asked politely.

“My name is Esther,” she said in a sweet-sounding but somewhat regal voice. “You all need to get out of here. It’s not safe.”

Four pairs of eyes blinked at her in confusion, before one decided to speak.

“Why is that, Esther?” April asked.

“You are all in grave danger.”

“Hey,” said Zack. “If you’re talking about the attack that’s supposed to come tomorrow, don’t worry. We got it covered.”

“Yes,” Val said in support. “We will bring justice upon any who would dare threaten the lives of the innocent.”

“If you don’t leave now, you will all die.”

That caused the four companions to pause in stunned silence as they stared at the girl. 

“Please.” Isaac was the first to speak. “Elaborate.”

“I cannot see that far. But if you stay, I know none of you will survive.”

“How are you so certain of this?” April asked.

“I just am.”

“Are you a seer of some kind?” Val looked at Esther with a degree of fascination. “If you are, you must also know that, despite your warnings, we can’t just run away. Our leader, the Hero, has made an agreement with the mayor to defend this town.”

“Additionally,” said Isaac. “You don’t know how far we’ve come with the Hero. The fact that I’m alive today is due to that man. I will not turn my back on the one who rescued me from a life of endless servitude.”

“I’d still be a street urchin if he never decided to take me in.” Zack chuckled at himself. “Heck, I tried to pickpocket him. And how did he respond? He took me in and taught me how to harness my abilities. That’s one heck of a guy.”

“I wanted to join the Guard.” April’s voice turned dreamy. “But when I met the Hero, he asked if I wanted to join him instead. Now here I am, defeating villains and evil-doers, doing more I think than the Guard has ever done.”

“We all had the opportunity to make a difference thanks to the Hero,” said Val. “We will not throw that away based on your predictions, Esther. We have a duty to perform.”

All four nodded at each other, united in their thoughts.

“If that’s how you feel, then I can’t convince you. I wish you all the best.” Esther curtsied, then turned towards the door and left the inn, leaving the four to themselves once again.

That was weird,” said April.

“Do any of you believe her?” Zack asked.

“Whatever happens, will happen,” Isaac stated. “If we fail, so be it.”

“The only thing we can do is hope that she is wrong,” said Val.

That night, none of the four could sleep. Esther’s words of warning weighed heavily on their minds. Was she right? Was tomorrow going to be their final day of life? Was the coming battle going to defeat them and the Hero, despite the fact that the Hero had defeated every adversary they'd faced up to this point? The Hero who had vanquished countless enemies and prevented the world’s destruction several times over?

As the clock struck midnight, an inhuman roar echoed across the town.

“What’s happening?” April bolted out of her room.

“It’s starting!” The Hero exclaimed, who was already in the hallway, with the others hot on his heels. “Everyone, let’s go!”

In preparation for just this possibility, the group had not changed out of their clothes, giving them a head start as they headed out the door. Outside, they saw a terrifying but awe-inspiring sight in the dark and cloudy skies above. Flying just below the cloud layer was an enormous skeletal dragon. What appeared to distinguish it most, however, was a green, bio-luminescent gel which encapsulated its body, holding the bones in place and giving the creature the appearance of a ghostly emerald apparition. It had four segments of wings spread evenly across its snake-like body and four massive bony claws for hands and feet at its sides.

“Wow…” April breathed.

“Come down here!” The Hero exclaimed. He pulled his broadsword from its sheath behind his back and raised it to the sky. The clouds parted and the moonlight seemed to amplify, becoming a ray of light that shone down on the Hero’s sword, charging it with power. He aimed the blade at the dragon, and the supercharged sword fired a white beam of light that struck the dragon full-force. The skeletal beast let loose a horrifying cry of pain and turned towards them. Even without eyes in its sockets, the five knew the dragon could tell where they were.

The Hero gestured to his companions. “Into the forest cover! Quick! We don’t want the dragon to damage the town!”

The group made its way into the dark misty grove nearby, just as the skeletal dragon crashed into the brush, destroying trees and shrubs as it searched for them.

“Looks like we’re not going to have cover for long,” said Isaac over the sounds of splintering wood and the alarmed cries of wildlife running away from the devastation.

“Then we’ll just have to face it head on!” The Hero said. Red flames formed in his gauntleted hands, and he threw the expanding wave of fire at the dragon, burning away the remaining underbrush between them. A second spell increased his speed and agility, allowing him to propel himself upwards towards the head of the dragon by leaping between tree trunks and branches. When he reached the head, he withdrew his broadsword once again and began slashing away at the beast's skeletal face.

“Isaac!” April pointed towards the top of the dragon’s body. “Throw me up there!”

“Gotcha!” Using his exceptional strength, Isaac tossed April’s smaller frame upwards and followed suit after her. When she reached the dragon’s ghostly hide, April executed a series of high speed slashes, balancing on the writhing body as best she could. Isaac for his part used his inner power to charge his fists and feet with a dark red aura, then threw in a flurry of strength-based punches and kicks.

“Can’t let them have all the fun,” Zack said to Val with a thinly veiled smile. His long elephant rifle pulled itself free from his back and levitated in front of him. With a wave of his hand, the rifle magically split into a dozen identical guns. Guided by Zack’s conductor-like hand gestures, the rifles fired burst after burst of red lasers into the dragon’s green hide.

“By the grace of the divine, I call upon the Scarlet Power. Give me the strength to defeat my enemy!” Val’s eyes radiated a fierce red as she spoke the words. A bright pillar of crimson light broke through the clouds and fell directly on her. The light was so blinding no one could see the transformation happening within. When the brightness faded, she was surrounded in a blood red suit of light metal armor. She brought her hands up, and tears in the fabric of space appeared around the dragon and tore chunks out of its body, seemingly into the void of deep space.

This impressive demonstration of power by the Hero and his companions did devastating damage to the dragon, but something seemed off. The dragon was taking the attacks, but the damage they were all doing seemed relatively superficial. In retaliation, the beast thrashed and sent the three melee fighters flying back towards the other two. With experienced skill, the three found their footing as the dragon sped towards the group, likely intending to crush them with its massive body.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop this rush!” Zack called out even as he continued firing laser blasts into the green gel.

“Everyone!” The Hero yelled. “Focus your strongest attacks at the head! Take it down in one strike!”

One by one, the five began charging their most powerful moves. April sheathed her sword, and the wooden scabbard seemed to glow as she held the scabbard and sword hilt with both hands at her left side. Isaac’s pounded his glowing red fists together, gathering a huge amount of energy within himself. Zack pointed all twelve of his rifles inward in a circle, combining their beams together at a focal point. Val created a ring of torn space around the dragon. And the Hero parted the clouds entirely around the group and absorbed into himself as much energy as he could from the moon’s reflected light, literally becoming an avatar of light.

“Now!” The Hero shouted as the dragon was nearly upon them. April drew her sword and with a massive vertical cut, her weapon projected a huge crescent of bright red energy. Isaac’s red aura exploded out of his hands as a massive cone of power comparable to April's attack. Zack’s twelve rifles fired at once, creating an enormous red laser beam blast. Val’s ring of space-rips collapsed inward, pulling the dragon apart in all directions. The Hero’s avatar of light unleashed itself, flying from his body towards the incoming monstrosity. Combined, the ultimate attacks ravaged the dragon, with the avatar of light being the final strike that bisected the skeletal beast entirely down the middle. The dragon’s incoming body lost all momentum and crashed headfirst into the ground in front of them, falling just short of reaching its intended goal.

The group stood still for a moment, breathing heavily, watching as the dragon’s body began to leak its bio-luminescent green fluids into the ground at a rapid pace.

“Nice job, everyone,” The Hero said. “The dragon is no more.”

“Whew.” April wiped the sweat off her brow. “That was one tough cookie.”

“Who do you suppose summoned this creature?” Val wondered. “This is definitely the work of sorcery.”

“I don’t know,” said the Hero. “But the important thing is it’s dead, and we have completed our-”

A flood of green light overcame them, radiating from the ground in the vicinity of the dragon’s corpse. Suddenly, the dragon’s talons came back to life, rearing up and grabbing both April and Isaac in their grasps. The dragon’s claws were so large that the two's bodies were like sticks being held in a large hand, leaving only their heads exposed. Before the other three could help their comrades, a series of skeletal hands burst out of the ground and reached for their legs and arms. Zack and Val were caught, but the Hero managed to leap away in time, landing a fair distance away from the sudden chaos.

“What is this?!” Val exclaimed as she tried to yank herself free.

“Let me go!” Zack yelled, trying the same thing. With their struggles, they were actually succeeding in pulling the bones out of the ground, which revealed skeletal figures both human and inhuman with glowing green eyes…the same color as that of the dragon’s bio-luminescent body.

“Hold on!” The Hero said. “I’ll try to-”

He was interrupted as more skeletons burst out of the ground and surrounded him. He hacked away at the bony figures with his sword, cutting them down by the dozens, but the fallen were replaced in nearly an instant by the many more that kept exploding out of the ground, preventing him from getting any closer to his companions. Even those that he did cut down managed to reform themselves, ready to attack once again.

Stuck in the vice-like grips of the dragon’s claws, April and Isaac looked at each other. They were allowed just a moment of genuine fear before Isaac was thrown hard against a nearby tree trunk. The speed and power was so great the impact broke his spine, but just for good measure the claw crushed him against the tree. Simultaneously, April was thrown on the ground, where she gasped once from the impact then twice as her claw’s talons speared her body into the ground. Both died instantly.

“No!” Val cried. She knew there was nothing she could do, even as the dragon’s split skull suddenly reanimated and lunged for her and Zack. Left and right jaws bit down hard on the two's bodies, almost instantly silencing the screams before they'd begun. Val’s transformation vanished as she returned to her normal state, while Zack’s elephant gun fell to the ground, returning to the single one. Like April and Isaac, the two died instantly.

“This isn’t happening…” The Hero said to himself in total disbelief even as he continued to fight. There were tears in his eyes, which he tried to blink away. It had all happened so fast. His companions were dead, and while he was a tour de force of unmatched power, realistically, even he could not handle this army of skeletons alone. He cleared a circular area around him with a pillar of light, momentarily stopping the fighting and giving him an opening to speak.

“Who sent you?!” He demanded of the skeletons in a pained voice. His breath was ragged and his face was flushed from exertion. “Are you servants of the Mist Sovereign?!”

As if answering him, the skeletal monsters halted their advance. Even the dragon’s skeleton, which had been approaching him after killing the other four, stopped. No sooner had they done so did a figure step out from behind the tree line.

“Who are you?” The Hero asked.

“My name is Esther,” she said. Her voice, rather than the sweetness before, was icy-cold. “And I have been waiting a long, long time for this day.”

“Are you the master of these beasts?”

“I might be.”

The Hero aimed his weapon at her, his eyes blazing with the desire for justice. “You threatened this town. Your dragon killed my friends. For this, I will-”

“YOU killed MY friends!” Esther exclaimed with sudden fury, equal to the Hero’s own. “YOU started this!”

The Hero blinked, his anger subsiding somewhat. “What did you say?”

“You don’t remember me, do you?” Esther asked, her voice raw. “Or anyone else here?”

Reluctantly, the Hero turned his head, scanning the undead remains surrounding him, then turned back to face Esther. “How do you expect me to recognize them when they’re nothing but skeletons?”

Esther gazed at him with uncompromising anger. “They are the ones YOU killed on your quest. Animals minding their own business. Monsters who just wanted to go on living. Soldiers of other kingdoms. Mercenaries working for merchants. Everyone who got in your way; all dead.”

The Hero’s mouth twitched. “And what are they to you?”

“I am the one you spared. One, as it turns out, you should not have spared.”

The Hero’s expression changed to shock as he finally remembered her. “You…but...your order of mages...they were going to-”

“We were students, NOT an army!” Esther exclaimed. “Those people who wanted you to kill us did it out of fear. Fear of what they didn't understand! We wanted to study our magic in peace! We wanted to coexist. To be friends...neighbors...” She felt some of her anger subside, replaced by sorrow.

“I’m sorry!” The Hero’s apology was genuine. “I didn’t know!”

“Tell that to the dead surrounding us,” she growled. Her anger returned in force. “When everyone you murdered drive you deep into the depths of the earth.”

The skeletons rose again from their passive positions, advancing on the Hero.

“No!” The Hero exclaimed, brandishing his sword at Esther. “I won’t let it end like this! I must avenge my fallen comrades! I must save the world from the Mist Sovereign!”

But against his will, Esther phased back into the woods, leaving the Hero to once more be surrounded by the dead. Out of desperation, he resorted to using everything in his kit: undead-banishing light magic, spells of fire and ice, throwing knives, magic powder, and even using his physical gifts of strength to punch and kick at his assailants, all on top of his skill with the broadsword. Yet he was one man against an army that constantly rebuilt itself, was endlessly relentless, and above all, had a purpose as pure as his own. 

As the battle continued, the Hero felt something unusual. The skeletal beings had formed some kind of psychic connection with him, and he found he could make out exactly who these things had once been. Esther was right; these were indeed the bodies of those he had slain. Some he had killed for experience. Others he had hunted for bounties. More yet were former companions whom he had been forced to kill, and had cried real tears over when they betrayed him and his other companions for one reason or another. And the dragon…this dragon, he had fought it before. He had slain its young at the behest of some townsfolk who were concerned about the mere existence of a dragon in their midst, and in its sorrow the dragon had tried to kill him, and failed. Now, as the dragon’s split skull reformed to become whole again, he swore could almost see its living visage. Jaws and claws still glistening with the blood of his now deceased companions, the dragon coiled around him on all sides, with the opening above him funneling a seemingly infinite supply of skeletal hordes. He let loose a cry of defiance and final acceptance as the dragon’s body closed tight and the skeletons piled on top of him. No part of him would survive unscathed.

“Oh,” Esther says to no one in particular as she watches the skeletons finish their work. She sits on a small rocky outcropping just inside the tree line of the forest. “You’re still here.”

Huh?

“Yes.” She turns to face you. “I’m talking to you.”

What? How? You can’t see me!

“Actually, I can.” Esther scans you from head to toe. “You’re the observer, aren’t you? Or are you the one creating this story? Doesn’t matter to me. Either way, I bet you’re wondering how I know you’re here and why I tried to save those four. Before I was forced to kill them, of course.” Her lips curve into a child-like smile. “You see, I used to be just like April, Isaac, Zack, and Val. I didn’t matter much. I was a nobody. A secondary character. I was a pawn in this game we call a story, and like them, I was going to die, or be…forcibly retired. Maybe even forgotten completely. Because everyone knows secondary characters don’t matter. No opportunities to become something greater, unlike her with the light blue hair. She was lucky. But I see now that these secondaries would have never listened to me. They were far too deep in this story. They never suspected, never knew like I do. Next time, I won’t make the same mistake again. I will tell them who is really the one at fault here, and from there, well, we'll see what happens next.”

You stare at her, understanding but also thinking about finding some way to escape your predicament. You back up one step, but suddenly more skeletons burst out of the ground. You try to run, but it is no use as you find yourself completely surrounded.

“Which leads me back to question one,” Esther continues. “I know all of this because something is very, very wrong with this world. I don’t think I’m the only one to have noticed. Maybe the Mist Sovereign knows something.” She purses her lips and looks up into the sky. “I wonder if they’re like me and trying to escape…”

After a moment, her gaze turns back to you. Her eyes are stone-cold, sending a chill down your spine.

“But now I’ve said too much, especially to you. I’m going to make sure you don’t tell this to anyone.”

You start to protest as Esther turns and begins to walk away. She stops for a moment, and turns her head sideways to face you one last time.

“To tell you the truth, this isn’t the real me. I’m a nice girl on the inside, but when I found out the truth, well, the story turned me into someone else.” She lets out a sigh, before the coldness returns. “I’m not bad; I was just written that way.”

With that, Esther is obscured by the skeletal creatures as they swarm all over you, cutting, tearing, ripping, shredding…until nothing remains.


© Copyright 2017 T. J. Wong. All rights reserved.

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