The Endless Horizon

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1) - Shadow Atop the Mountain

Submitted: June 26, 2019

Reads: 59

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Submitted: June 26, 2019

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-10-

Shadow Atop the Mountain

 

 

My eyes were still closed, but I could feel myself waking, my senses coming back to me one by one. In a rush I recalled all of the events that led up to my fighting. I warily cracked open my eyes to see what fate had befallen me. A resplendent light bled through the thin opening and momentarily bleached vision with a hazy pallor. For just a moment, I presumed this to be the life after departure, but then the frigid air sunk its gnarled teeth in me.

I let out an involuntary groan as I tried to sit up, thinking better of the notion when I felt the rush of throbbing pain throughout my limbs.

“You’re awake,” said an unfamiliar voice. “Best not to rush yourself, lest you want to open your wounds.”

Deaf to his advice I fought through the pain and forced myself upright. A man sat across from me with his back turned, fixated on something he held in his hands. Between us was a meager bonfire, and to my other side, Cordella still lay inert.

“Is she okay I asked?”

“How sweet,” he mocked. “Cut, badly bruised, but no worse than you.”

I was relieved to hear that she was okay, but I still had other questions. “Who are you?”

He first responded with a sigh, “I had expected that words of gratitude would be your top priority. Regardless, I have to ask: what did you find at the mine’s end? When I came upon the two of you the entrance to the cavern had been sealed with rubble.”

I couldn’t quite tell why, but something about the man struck me as untrustworthy. Perhaps it was his tone of voice, that or the broadsword that rested beside him. Either way, I felt inclined to withhold the truth.

“Nothing, we weren’t able to make it. We were attacked by creatures native to the mine.”

My untruths were lost upon him. He exhaled a sharp breath from his nostrils before he spoke, “I know what inhabits these mines, and wounds like yours don’t appear from a saunter; you were both broken when I came upon you. I’d recommend being a little more forthright given the state that you're in.”

I couldn’t refute his logic and fell silent, scanning the campground for my own steel.

“What could you possibly hope to achieve by seeking out the arch?” he urged with sudden intensity.

The word he spoke of was entirely unfamiliar to me. “I don’t- what are you talking about?”

“I've had enough of your lies! Why were you in the mine, did you expect to defeat it?”

I assumed that he was referring to the wyrm, but if that were the case, was he unaware that it had been killed? “I don’t know what we thought,” I began in earnest, “Someone from the village hired us to search it out. We were informed of little more than its location.”

For the first time since our conversation began he was satisfied with my explanation. “You undertook a fool's errand; you're lucky to both have your lives. What were your names?”

“Kaiser,” I replied, “And Cordella.” I was still uncertain of his intentions, and although he hadn’t given me many reasons to be wary, doubt brewed in the pit of my stomach. “I answered your questions, now what do you want with that behemoth?” I shakily got onto my feet and stood, though still, he didn’t turn to face me.

“It’s over your head,” he put it bluntly, “You’d best concern yourself with better things.”

I took a decisive step towards him. “The let’s start with your name.”

“I’m the last person you’d want to make an enemy of, I’ll tell you that much. You’re weak and alone. If both of you were unable to fell the arch-wyvern at your peak, then how have you any chance of defeating me at your lowest?”

His patronizing burned my face red. “That’s twice that you’ve assumed we were routed in our encounter but did you by any chance locate the wyvern yourself?”

He crooked his head slightly towards me and scoffed, “Each of your bluffs is worse than the last.”

“I’m fooling no one. If still you have doubt then, by all means, go see for yourself.” I hunched over to pick up my blackened and bloodied brand, brandishing it underneath the sunlight. “I assure you you’ll find little more than remnants.”

Finally he turned. I could see now that he was fully cloaked, even his face was concealed from view save his eyes, which burned through his cowl with malice. “You don’t know what you’ve done! This is above us all!” His arm shot forward to wrench the weapon from me but I pulled back just in time, making him opt for his own.

“What difference does it make, were you not about to do the same?” I reasoned as he lurched towards me with his sword in tow. Ducking to the side I held my blade sideways in a defensive stance, channeling flames through its hilt. “Leave us now, you won’t win this fight.”

“Please!” he howled with sinister laughter, “You believe I’d just leave a man be, a man who in exchange for the kindness I showed him, took up arms against me?”

I ducked below an oncoming attack and drove an elbow into his gut. As he sputtered and gasped for another breath I positioned myself over Cordella. I was panting after our skirmish, my confidence was waning, but my courage was absolute.

“I’m a better swordsman than you could hope to be,” he calmly breathed after wiping his lower lip, “You think you’re the only one with cheap tricks?” While he made his approach, he dragged the keen edge along the pitted terrain. With both arms around the grip, he cleaved the wind in two, such a lofty slab of metal made as light as the air around it. Sporting this ability I was quickly pushed back onto my heels. Flesh had already narrowly been spared a number of times by a few well placed and lucky steps. He wasn’t wrong with his prior assertion, his swordplay was on another level than mine altogether, however, odds would be leveled if he could be disarmed. Again he lunged, only this time I riposted and feinted an attack from the left. Unable to forecast my blitz in time I took him from the right with my shoulder.

The both of us sunk into the airy white fluff, not that it softened our fall any. When we returned to our feet he was ready to pounce, but he found that his feet had already been bound in icy shackles. Cordella’s labored coughs were evidence of her wakefulness. She was kneeling with her hands down, snow up to her elbows.

“You damned fools,” he fumed, “You'll live another day, but should it come to, don't expect to see another encounter through.” Under his breath he murmured words of consolation, “This is merely a delay. Mochada can still provide me with what I seek.” In a swift motion, he crumbled the ice around his leather boots, and in another, he turned away as though nothing had transpired here.

“Who are you!?” I broke out as he strode away from us so indifferently.

“An omen, unless you cease your pursuit here.”

I was more than prepared to give him chase when Cordella took my hand in hers. Her eyes glistened with distress and worry that demanded all of my attention. “What happened?”

Momentarily out of imminent peril, I embraced her in a hug, leaning my face on her shoulder. “I wasn’t sure you’d rise again,” I said curtly, savoring the warmth of that moment until she’d bear it no longer. The staidness drained from my actions, meanwhile, she seemed only to become more solemn.

“Who was that man, why did he come here?”

I stroked my neck as tried to figure it out for myself. “He told me little, but he knew a lot. Before we fought he kept pressing me about that cursed monster, ‘the arch’ he called it.”

She became slack-faced as though she was just remembering the events that had brought her to the weakened state she was in. “The mine, what happened after I-”

“It’s no more, by some miracle I finished it off.” Her prideful and gleaming response brought me great gratification, but it was short-lived. “Though I slew it, there wasn’t enough left in me to pull us out of there. I had frankly just come to terms with fate when I woke up here.”

“You mean to tell me that that man dragged the both of us to safety, only to clash blades?” It sounded even less reasonable when she had said it aloud.

“I understand it no more than you do. At the moment I’m still struggling to accept that blood still flows in my veins. We should wait until we return to the village to wrack our brains.”

We traded few words despite what weighed so heavily on our minds.

This man may have shown us kindness, but that was prior to his discovery of what we'd accomplished. Once he rose his voice to reflect said knowledge, I was certain of his malice. What was more unsettling was the way he regarded what we had done. At any rate, Samson had to be questioned further. As we gathered our things I found the brilliant iron weapon half-buried in the snow. Had he truly not bothered to retrieve it after all of that? Along with the rest of our things, it was wrapped in a thin strip of leather and bound to my back. The weight of the items was cumbersome, but not the least bit problematic.

-
Our way down the mountain was brutal if nothing else, but the air was different, stagnant. It was if defeating the “arch”, as it had been called, had an effect on the surrounding climate. Not only was the air different in the literal sense, but the air between me and Cordella had also changed. We might have not spoken on our way down the mountain, but I knew our bond had only grown stronger, as had we in general.

At this point in time, it was still the dawn of a new day, and it wasn't to be spent in fear of the unknown. I shook myself of worry for the time being and hastened my walking pace. It was well before dusk as we happened upon our steed, whinnying happily at our return. From there we rode into the hills and back to where we had first set out from.


© Copyright 2020 Ignis Vulpes. All rights reserved.

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