Daemons

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


This is a work in progress


Chapter I

Nock.
Draw.
Loose.

There was no space for further thought, apart from occasionally re-equipping himself with a new arrows or stringing his bow tighter. He did his best to shoot the neck of the targets thirty yards away, for it was a small target which made for a hard shot.  Besides, people didn't generally armour their necks. Some hit the neck, others whistled past, many others struck the head and torso, quivering ominously. He was neither pleased nor displeased by where the arrows went. 

Because only one thing was going through his mind in endless repetition.
 
Nock.
Draw.
Loose.

So intense was his concentration that he was momentarily startled by the sharp rap on his shoulder.  He wheeled around, finding himself face to face with a tall, lanky man with a sharp, pointed, almost gloomy face. His nose was long and crooked, the relic of a lost fistfight. He was attired entirely in leather, except his head which was bare of both garb and hair. 

"I hear you've been shooting wooden posts since dawn", grinned the tall man. "I thought you were participating in the melee, not the archery contest."

"I am, but I like to start the day with my bow. It transports me to my own plane, undisturbed by anyone". 

"You're so lost in there that you can't hear me yelling in your ear. That's no way for a man to behave, Alain. When your commander orders a retreat in the battlefield, will you be the only one fighting on?"

"That's a silly comparison. What do you want?"

"You are asked to break your fast. And I was unfortunate enough to be enlisted the task of summoning Your Lordship, Count Garnett of Yalen"

"May I empty this quiver?" asked Alain mockingly.

"No. Come now or I'll wolf down your food." Jeremus, the lanky bald pated man, took the bow from Alain, and shot at the target post. The arrow unerringly pierced the dummy's neck.
 
"There. Now you know how it's done. Try again tomorrow. And remember to gauge the way the wind blows."

"Come at me, mount and blade, and we will see who teaches whom."

"Perhaps. Or not. Meanwhile, your breakfast is getting cold." And with that, Jeremus turned around and went along the path that led to the birthplace of Alain, Castle Yalen. Alain followed him with a sigh

The castle was old, but not big as far as castles go. Yet, any lord would envy the way it had been laid. Twenty metres tall wer its walls, seven metres thick at the base. The moat, which went deep indeed, ensured the walls couldn't be dug underneath and undermind- this was in fact one of the most valuable advantage a moat offered. The stones were so perfectly laid that there wasn't the smallest of gaps in-between them. The wall looked quite like an even piece of stone-looking at them; only reason told you they must be composed of  individual stone blocks, not your eyes. These walls had withstood countless tremors of the earth, most of which were minor. A couple of those had flattened just about everything that wasn't built as the walls, their bastions, or the keep were. The masons of yore truly had perfected their art. There was defensive magic woven into the works, as well, enchantments that had some truly unique workings. 

These were the walls which refused to bend to the power of Prince Yargoklek, reflected Alain as he glanced at the crenellations. It is said that not one arrow from the famed bows of the Fire Prince's warband reached its target. 

Many centuries ago, going back a score generations in the Garnett family, rose a great power in the steppes of the east and north-east. The steppe nomads of that time were an entire nation's worth of wandering, hungry mouths. They had horses in plenty, and maved in bands numbering no more than a hundred at best. One of the fiercest, most intuitive battle commanders had been born in those lands then. A man named Yargoklek, unifier of the nomadic tribes. Of course he was no prince, but historians gave him that title to honour his deeds. Seeking to expand his power, he had brought the greater part of his strength to Yalen, which was on the border of the warring nations. Being unable to build proper siege weapons apart from scaling ladders, he had been forced to employ bow and arrow against the defenders. 

His initial assault of th walls were almost ridiculous. Unaware of how the walls worked, he sent his best archers within range of the castle to shoot down the enemy soldiers, who for some reason stood unarmoured on the ramparts, not even bothering to take cover in their extensive crenellations, nor even wielding a bow themselves. They stood almost like spectators, arms crossed and amusement writ large on their faces. Some of them even had the audacity to openly point at the invading force and laugh, at a force whose encampment covered a good portion of the defending force's field of vision when atop the ramparts.

 Volley after volley , the arrows came at the defenders. Barbed arrows, broadhead arrows, arrows shot from a composite bow or a longbow, shot while on foot or from a seat atop a horse, none of that mattered. Not one found its mark. Not one went past the walls. They just burned to a crisp many metres in front of the walls. This was part of the magic woven into the walls of the castle of Yalen. Ladders would slide off, arrows won't go past, and the walls couldn't be undermined because the undermining tunnels would cave in if they came too close. The only way in for Yargolek's sharpshooters was to batter the gates down with a ram. 

 The nomad warchief was too impatient for that. He envisioned Yalen to be little more than a taste of easy victory to embolden his soldiers in the futur battles to come. He came, expecting a siege that lasted no more than a day and a night. He was stalled for more than a fortnight, perplexed by these strange magical walls. A sitting army is a ravenous beast, considering the thousands of men to be fed, and the thousands more horses to be fed and watered. Yargolek's raiders were deserting mere days into the siege of Yalen-the nomadic tribes found sustenance in the fields they trampled down, not the land they encamped upon. In his impetuousness, Yargolek lost before he even began.

Before this young warchief could starve the castle to submission, which wasn't even his original plan, the Silonic King's host had reached the gates of Yalen and forced Yargoklek to flee without exchanging a single blow. They were raiders, not warriors. They did not stand in ranks and march. If they were to be caught sitting by the heavy horse of Silon, they would have been decimated. 
 
 So they scattered to the winds, never to unite against Silon again. 

A pretty poor invasion, when you can't meet the enemy in battle with similar sized armies. Despite Alain's contempt, he was aware that the steppe tribes' greatest advantages were their horses and strong bows- in open combat, they could ride into battle firing arrows, run circles around the enemy while firing arrows, and retreat firing arrows. Sieges were an entirely different story. 

During the time of Alain's, the steppes were now a more unified, and less bloodthirsty nation. They had no king, having only a few  cities governed by ambitious men with a lot of gold. Each region had its council, from which was elected the governor every few years. These titles were, of course, not hereditary, nor was a place on the council.

They had developed agriculture, of course, but owing to the difficulties their land posed to the tilling and growing of crops, they turned to the plains for game and edibe plants, and their cattle for cheese, milk, and meat. In the steppe plains, there sometimes blew gales that could seize a man and throw him back a half dozen paces. No wheat plant could withstand such ferocity. Rain was scarce, the climate far cooler than much of Silon, and the soil was, for the most part, stoney and not conductive to the yield of good harvests. Grass grew aplenty, alongside some sparse tree clumps whose sturdy wood was prized for its durability and strength.

Owing to his longer legs, Jeremus had already reached the moat, where the gates were open and the drawbridge lowered. It was almost always lowered. There was no threat to the inhabitants' security in any matter at all. Alain nodded at the castle guards as he passed under the portcullis. 

The area the walls enclosed was comparable to a moderate-sized village. The modest stone manor, the armourer's forge and workshop, the armoury, a weaponsmith, stables, marketplace, and  a couple score wooden dwellings, alongside an inn, a tavern, and an arena, were contained inside the castle walls. The northern section of the battlements were built on the riverbed, with a small section, the sewer lines, going onto the water.  The river which meandered its way through Yalen was called the Sidewinder by the locals, although it had a more ancient name. It  was a small river, a tributary that eventually joined the mighty Zaux, which connected many a village and holdfast to the captial, including Yalen itself.

The Sidewinder was not deep enough for galleys, nor wide enough to truly be an obstacle to transportation across the river. The people used poleboats to serve their needs- small, navigable boats that were especially useful during the storm season of early autumn, when many trees were violently uprooted further upstream, and came floating down the Sidewinder, only to get stuck at the curves of the slow river. The locals, proving their enourmous resourcefulness, used the larger tree trunks to build temporary bridges across the Sidewinder. They even had contests to see which cowherd could get the most number of cattleheads across these bridges before one of these, or even he himself, fell into the muddy Sidewinder. 

The tiny river also enriched the surrounding lands, and it was dammed further downstream to power a mill. These fertile lands regularly yielded good crop, except during those rare years when snows fell. They were usually light snows, which disappeared within a couple weeks of their arrival. Then there was the truly threatening locust swarm, which could eat through an entire year's harvest in a couple days' time. The weather during certain months provided hints to the villagers about either snow or locusts, and usually the villagers were well prepared for either, though it had been many a year since either calamity had struck.

The last time there had been a snowing, Alain was a baby, not quite a year old. And the snows receeded without any remarkable events unfolding.

The Lord of the castle had his quarters in the castle keep. The keep resembled a stone manor built with fortification in mind-it had luxuries of its own, yet was walled in, a place for the defenders to make a last stand in, if ever the castle itself fell. The keep's walls were taller than the castle walls, and the keep's towers rose, at regular spacing, even higher than the outer towers. The purpose of the sentry tower was to elevate the defenders, giving them a greater firing range and line of sight while minimizing the threat of arrows, although there was nothing to be done against trebuchets or similar engines of destruction. These towers did not have space enough atop them to mount ballistae or catapults. The keep's walls made a neat quadrilateral, and since when any two walls intersect at an angle, a tower or a similar fortification must be placed, these four corners were large, round towers. And these could, and did, house ballistae and scorpions, capable of firing arrow-like bolts metres long that could skewer multiple people.  The keep walls, unlike the outer walls, possessed no stone throwers.

The keep had living rooms which were fairly spacious to accomodate the Lord, his family, and any exalted guests he might host. It had dining rooms for the Lord and his kin, and rooms for the servants to dine in. Similarly there were also rooms to host the servants in, 
and rooms for the soldiers and their commander. These were more cramped, and their occupants slept bunched up and on the floor. Serving women had their own apartments, and the castle guards had a seperate set of connected rooms which served as their armoury, sleping spaces, and dining rooms. The keep also boasted of a great hall. It was in the great hall that feasts were held, and it was big enough to accomodate everyone inside the keep, as expected from a place named a 'great' hall.

Alain's mind was on breakfast when he walked past the gates and toward the chamber the Garnetts usually dined in when not hosting extravaganzas. He was well into his second round of a heavy breakfast when he heard his mother.

"Alain, we do have archery ranges inside the castle. Why go all the way outside and set up your own targets?"

He took his time chewing and swallowing, as his parents took a very stern view upon talking with one's mouth full. They had informed him multiple times that it looked disgusting, and moreover whatever was said becomes nigh incomprehensible. There is a level of 
decency to maintain and a decorum to follow, his mother had told him more than once.

By the time he was ready to answer, his mother had drawn up a chair for herself and was seated opposite him, summoning a serving girl for her own meal.

"I like being away from people sometimes. Especially in the mornings, it is very calming. And the bow is a far more interesting companion than tomes on history or a row of numbers to tussle with."

"Boys always love starting the day with violence. Your father was much the same as you. Back when we were newly married, it was customary for him to march to the training grounds as soon as he was awake. Before the morning meal, he simply had to knock 
someone insensate. Sometimes he had the same dealt to him. And the rest of the day I would spend trying to make him remember his name. When I began to think he was back to normal, he, very politely and sweetly, would ask me who I was."

Alain almost choked, coughing and spitting out the last morsels back onto his plate. His mother was disgusted and amused in equal measure. "I believe I have regaled you with this story once before."

"Its still as funny, and will continue to be so. Now I stop and consider it, annoying you sounds a very pleasant way to pass time. I already have a few pranks planned, Mother, so be on your toes and ever vigilant."

"Just so long as they don't involve revolting frogs hidden in my slippers. Those moments were some of my most un-lady-like."

"There is Father. I will ask him exactly what you did!."

"Finish eating and then ask. Don't throw up on the dining table. And please don't kick things when laughing. That is such a peculiar habit."

Amaud, father of Alain, husband of Isola, Lord of Yalen and a loyal vassal of King Harald of Kinon, sat beside Alain with a wide grin on his face.

He was not tall, but neither was he short. His hair was coal black, both on the head and his face. Like his eyebrows, his moustache and beard were thick and carefully trimmed. He had a slightly pointed chin, above which was a mouth ever ready to laugh. His eyes too, 
told a tale of his jolly character, green eyes which shone with amusement more often than not. Near his eyes were those characteristic lines, what we call laughter crinkles. His son looked almost the exact same as himself, the same middling height and lithe build. But 
Alain's ears were prominent where Amaud's clung to his head. And Alain was of a much more serious demeanour, these variants being inherited from his mother.

"Are we talking about the day Isola displayed her extensive vocabulary?" asked Amaud cheerfully.

"The slipper-frog incident, yes!  What vocabulary are you talking about?"

"Hmm..your mother, upon discovering the frog, and I am talking about the first time I put it there, she screamed, as anyone would have predicted. What followed was a little more surprising. She sprinted out of her room with one bare foot and let out a string of the 
most imaginative curses I have ever heard. Why, I even adopted some of them. Unfortunately for her, half the keep heard her and got a very good idea of what had transpired, and were invariably too busy laughing to help her for a few minutes. Poor woman was 
standing there, dazed and shaken. After things had quietened down, I asked her where she learnt those highly amusing curses, and I am yet to receive an answer."

Isola looked mortified, and repeated quietly, "Half the keep heard me?"

"No, sweetheart, not half. More like, most of them."

Alain burst out laughing, and his mother went back to her soup in dignified silence.

A few minutes later, the subject of the upcoming tournament and Alain's participation in it were brought up. 

"Melee? Why not something more civilised? Archery, horsemanship or even the tilt?" enquired Amaud.

"The tilt does sound exciting, but I am not ready for any of them. They require a level of skill I do not possess. Melee, however, is more to my advantage. The chaos is what I intend to capitalize on. Others will have similar plans, too, but melee is a good place for me to distinguish myself."

"Perhaps. You definitely need work on your technique. Shall we have a mock melee this afternoon?" Isola was horrified by this notion, fearing her son would sustain a head injury or worse. She approved of peaceful activities like archery and riddling but was illogically apprehensive whenever Alain trained for close combat.

Alain was excited. Finally, he could unveil something he had been training toward for years on end. His father heartily disapproved of Alain's style, and had even knocked him down multiple times to demonstrate the futility of the style Alain had chosen, but to no avail. Alain was only more determined to master the dual wielding technique, fighting with a sword in either hand. Both could be used to parry, slash and thrust equally effectively.

His swords were twins. Straight, standard swords whose spines where used for parries. The right sword was slung across Alain's back while his left sword hung from the right side of his hip. This made drawing them very easy. He had tried keeping both of them on his hips, but when he tried to unsheathe them at the same time, he  almost cut one of his arms with the other sword. And this business of injuring yourself before combat commences is plain silly, so Alain opted for his alternate plan.

The primary problem with a sword in either hand is that an exceptional amount of skill is required to wield them efficiently. The arms had to work in cohesion, but they needed their own independant moves in order to win a combat. Swinging with one arm while the other is stationary, or swinging in the same direction with both arms, is a plain waste of an arm that could otherwise have a shield strapped onto it. The body is not good at telling the arms to individually do different things at the same time, and this was what Alain trained toward. Then there was the controversial topic of blocking. 

Blocking with a shiled is exactly that, blocking. Stopping dead an opponent's blow, sometimes deflecting it. The shield generally has a large surface area and so blocking is much easier than with a blade. And, with a blade, blocking edgewise is a big no-no. When hammered together edge on edge at great force, both swords took serious damage. In the end, either sword would be too notched and worn to cut soft cheese. This was where the spine of Alain's sword comes into play. By twisting his wrist a slight bit, Alain could easily deflect another sword, and even blocking wouldn't do any harm to the sword as it had been thickened along its spine. Attempting to block a hit sometimes resulted in the sword being knocked out of the hand due to the sheer power behind the swing. On the other hand, deflecting did not pose a similar threat, but it did require sharp reflexes and a keen eye.

Alain adamantly stuck to this very difficult course of swordsmanship because of a story he had heard when he was a mere child. The story spoke of a legendary warrior, a peerless warrior who fought with twin swords. Legend went that this Wilhelm of Lerdry could taken on a score of the best fighters in the land and win without receiving a single scratch. He could swat aside arrows whizzing toward him. He could pull off the most amazing of acrobatic moves in combat, with such speed and ferocity that whomever he was fighting had no time to even admire his handiwork. He was an honourable man, and fought only to end the injustice rampant in the land. The best victory, he often said, were the ones where no blood is shed. He was not a battle commander or a seasoned military strategist, for he commanded nothing more than the respect and love of those whose rights he fought to win back. While there did exist many outlaw bands which stole from the rich and gave to the poor, the figure of Wilhelm has never historically been verified. Alain adored the fictional Wilhem not just for his combat ability but also for his noble ideals, his compassion, his sense of duty and justice.

Alain possessed a pair of wooden twin swords, as close to being replicas of his actual swords as possible. The wooden, blunted and heavier blades were for training purposes only, as nobody practiced with real edged steel without grave consequences. He retrieved these fro the armoury, and there donned a hardened leather vest, a steel halfhelm (greathelms or even helms with nasals impeded his vision overmuch) with neckguard,  metal vambraces and leather greaves and boots and made his way to the grounds.

The mock melee pitched Alain and four of the guards against Amaud and four other castle guards, making an even five on five combat. Of course, actual melees had around forty individual combatants who were not seperated into formal teams. They could, and did, team up in the later stages of the melee, but Amaud felt that mimicking something like that would be too intensive. The ten men, similarly equipped with sword and shield and armour (with Alain being the lone exception) faced off in an area thirty paces long an twenty wide. The combatants were to disarm their opponents or get them to yield. The fight would go on till everybody got too tired to continue. They would take a short break, then continue. Such rigourous exercise greatly built up their stamina.

At the signal for the start of combat, a simple clap from the castle's master-at-arms, Alain made straight for Amaud, determined to prove that twin swords were not a waste of time. Amaud saw this, and waited with shield raised.

Alain jabbed with his right at Amaud's head as soon as he was within range.  It landed on the shield, and at the same instant he deflected a horizontal slash. He spun toward his left and brought his left sword around in an arc at blinding speed, again aiming at the head, and brought his right in an overhead swing with the same momentum. Amaud avoided this two pronged attack by leaping backward, then stepping forward swiftly to try and catch Alain off balance with a well aimed thrust. Alain's overhead swing now placed him in a kind of a crouch. His left again deflected the sword point, and he slashed once, twice, thrice with alternate arms, all of which were blocked by the shield. The speed and mobility of the twin swords had Amaud on the backfoot, something Alain had never managed before. He continued the offensive, attacking from different directions each time, spinning and feinting with abandon. The feints worked especially well because two swords meant there was twice the opportunity to mask the direction of the actual hit. The spins of Alain's had the advantage of building up great sword speed, but left him disoriented when attempted continuously. And all this while, Amaud never could go on the offensive.

This dance went on for half a minute, by which time, unbeknownst to Alain, three of his teammates had been knocked down, and they themselves had gotten two of their opponents to yield. This pitched Alain and one another against Amaud and his two. Short of breath, slightly lightheaded but well toward winning his first victory over his father, Alain stepped back to both catch his breath and take stock of the situation. And what he saw was not too good. Fighting multiple opponents at once was near impossible, despite what the bards and their songs of glorious heroes would have you believe. As if to prove this point, everyone on Amaud's side rushed Alain, seeking to overwhelm him.

Which they did. 

Alain dodged the guards' blades with an adroit bit of footwork. The soldiers, who had swung and missed, were vulnerable and off-balance for a split second, an instant which was all that Alain required to knock them both down. But he still had his father to square of against. Alain's dodge had brought him too close to Amaud, creating a cramped space where Amaud did not have time or space to use his sword effectively. He did have his shield securely strapped to his forearm, and this he used as a weapon. He bashed Alain across the head, hard, with it.

Alain fell, and did not stir.

Chapter II

Alain saw his own body fall through a blackness. A blackness that was more than just a mere absence of light. It pressed on him from all sides. He was falling, his body in a peaceful, almost sleeping posture. But he was watching his body, as if from above it, a couple 
metres away. He gave little heed to this confusing fact. He was in no position to carry out rational thought.

When we dream, the craziest things happen but we don't stop and question them. It is as if the reasoning part of our brain is, like our body, asleep, allowing for the experiencing of the most fantastical of visions. We also do not remember where we came from to the location we are in inside the dream. When we are awake and recollect our fragmented dream memories, it feels like we landed in the middle of the dream, and we simply accept it.

Something very similar was happening to Alain. Whatever was happening, was strictly not real, meaning he did not 'sense' the things around him with his sensory organs of sight, touch or hearing. More accurately, whatever was transpiring, his mind was 'trying to 
make sense of' by translating the ongoing events into something it could understand and vaguely make sense of.

After some time, Alain got to wondering how he was above, and not inside, his body. As soon as this thought hit him, he found he had closed eyes, which he opened gingerly. Presently, he also became aware he possessed a body. He raised his hands to inspect them. He found nothing out of the ordinary about them. As he lowered them, he noticed the blackness around him was undergoing a change. The blackness he was falling, or rather, drifting through, was taking on a yellow tinge, which very soon morphed into an orange much like the setting sun's light. This orange-ish fog intensified, to the point where it was like a thick, murky liquid. Alain now felt seemed to be sitting upon something solid, no longer floating like a feather caught by an errant wind. Yet there was nothing but this smoke all about him.

Alain closed his eyes, hoping he would be back in his own world when he opened his eyes, hoping to observe something sensible when he reopened them.

Of course his hopes were dashed.

He found himself sprawled on a table that went on endlessly on either side of him. Just as oddly, he found himself next to a dish of..worm like somethings. This plate of food was large. Big. Gigantic in proportions, and clearly he was not in a room where humans dined. 

He looked up and saw a giant humanoid creature.

It had arms and legs and ears and other general features normal humans have. There ended the similarities. Its skin was a dark red that bordered on black. This creature was huge, as big as the giants who called the Jarleck mountains home. It had a long nose that was slightly turned upwards at its end, resembling a pig's. Its eyes were horizontally lengthened and more narrow than what is seen on human faces. The eye was entirely black, without any trace of whites that is seen in human eyes. It had a face rounded much like a 
human's would be, but its jaw was thick and square. Its mouth was long, and there protruded upwards two enormous tusk-like teeth from the lower jaw. The ears looked like an elongated human ear, so long that half its ear seemed to flop backwards and fold on itself. It was the only ridiculous sight on this otherwise terrifying behemoth. There, atop its head, sat a kind of helmet. Except it was a horned helmet, the two horns being thick as Alain's arms, and curved in a seemingly random manner, occupying a space as large as the creature's head itself. The neck was very thick in comparison to the head, which it probably had to be to support such a humongous weight as the head. This neck stature made Alain wonder whether the horns were a part of the creature, a natural growth. 

The creature was armoured as if for combat. Heavy plate metal, with strange inscriptions etched on the chestpiece. These markings glowed yellow, flickering in luminosity, never presenting an unvarying glow yet always the same.  The metal itself seemed to move, flowing as slowly as honey, remarkably similar to molten metal, yet would have been cool to touch had Alain actually been brave enough to reach out and touch this terror.  The metal was very dull, bordering on grey. It was not transparent, yet Alain felt this metal possessed very little colour. It was like a void in the otherwise orange world, but not black either, a kind of colur that seemed to draw in and not radiate away any light falling upon it. The shoulder plates ended in sharp projections that stuck out above, and outwards, of the shoulder. Its arms, even its fingers were encased in the same, slowly pulsing metal. 

It extended its arms toward the dish beside Alain, the one containing the worms, when it noticed Alain standing open mouthed next to the dish. The creature's finger was as long as Alain's foot, and if they both stood side by side, Alain would at best reach its lower 
thighs. It noticed Alain only then, standing there beside its food like a very large candlestick. 

The creature smiled at Alain. Owing to its tusks, this gesture looked closer to a snarl, but Alain stood there fearlessly, albeit very curious. Having regained his reasoning capacity, he concluded this was a particularly vivid dream. Looking around, he spotted very similar 
monstrosities along the table Alain was standing on, the table that stretched as far as Alain could see. . And there were countless such parallel tables, with these metal plate people talking and laughing and feasting. None of them had noticed Alain.

Alain did not hear anything, though, He saw, but no other sense seemed to be functioning properly. His hearing felt hollow and without any clarity, like he was underwater. His body was numbed by now, somehow, so he couldn't even feel the table beneath him. He opened his mouth to scream but no sound came. 

The creature spoke, but its voice reverberated within Alain's skull, they were not perceived by Alain's ears. His mind was making sense of something supernatural, by introducing what he experienced to Alain through senses he used everyday.

The voice Alain heard in his head was his own, distorted and much, much deeper, yet recognizable as his own.

"A human! It has been a long time since we had visitors from your plane. It has been longer still since a visitor made it back alive to his own plane. But wait! Do you understand me? Puny humans never make it out of Caladrym, and your bones will be perfect for picking my teeth."

Alain was supremely confused. Why was this creature talking to him in his own voice? However his daze cleared up as soon as the monster's threat registered. He was quite annoyed now. A creature, ostentatiously in a dream of his, threatening to make toothpicks of 
him? This was ignoble! Even being eaten up was somewhat bearable.  It was more than his ego could stand. 

One moment he was standing, disoriented and mouth agape. Next instant, he saw red and rushed forward. He ran up the creature almost as if it were a ladder. One foot on its forearm, the next on its shoulder and a mighty vault to sit on its head, using the horns to 
support and balance himself, he screamed "Where am I and who are you!". This shout was a mental one, for Alain was neither breathing nor even able to open his mouth, but he didn't notice this. He was far too preoccupied trying to ascertain his sanity continue his survival.

The creature was very surprised when the docile, simpleton-looking Alain (he did look a tad stupid with his mouth hanging open) suddenly went on the offensive. It recovered after initial shock and disbelief, and presently was highly amused. It reached up with both arms and plucked Alain from atop its head and placed him gingerly on the table, laughing all the while.

"You're the fiestiest I have ever met! And quite agile too!" boomed the voice in Alain's head. "You're in what your people used to call 'The Planes of Caladrym'. You are here because..to be honest I don't know why you're here. The how of you're presence here, I am 
aware of. You, possibly while sleeping, managed to detach your soul from your body and send it to a completely different plane of existence. You generally can't control your first soul projection. I am quite surprised that you are this coherent your first time in this 
plane. You will learn more from your daemon, provided you're strong enough to Summon and Bind one to yourself. Now, shoo." Alain did not realise the audience was at an end. The giant creature waved its hand dismissively, and Alain was once more floating through 
a dark nothingness. 

In a few moments Alain had gathered enough of his wits to realise one thing.

I'm a Summoner..was the one thought that dominated his disbelieving, awed psyche. What was that thing saying about Summoning and Binding a daemon? Whatever is a daemon? Yet..

He had heard tales of the mythical Summoners when he was a child. He remembered nothing of the stories themselves. What he did remember was one vivid image. He was propped up on his father's knee, looking with starstruck eyes up at the dark night sky, gazing 
at that one very bright speck of light, the brightest in the eastern sky. An arm, his father's, was outstretched and pointing at that star. Look, son, said a faint voice, that object there, so very bright, that one is called the Red Messenger. Its real name is Lorna, and it is 
the only star in the Summoner constellation visible to us. 

Alain remembered that scene, and a few bits of information that were all jumbled up like how old people's memories are. When he thought harder, he remembered his father. And he remembered something else.

His father had just knocked him unconscious and sent him o another Plane. Or..had he actually died of that blow? Alain was none too sure. He couldn't even feel his own body, but he could see his body, there in that deathly silent darkness, when he twisted and turned to bring different parts of his anatomy into view. He had to get back to the land of the living. He saw, in his mind's eye, his father peering closely at Alain, saying his name, trying to shake him out of his temporary torpor, sprinkling water on his face and pumping rhythmically on his chest. 

His imagination was getting more detailed by the second. He could see the concerned guards behind Amaud, perring closely at Alain, with one or the others jumping to follow Amaud's orders, bringing water or a pipe through which to blow air into Alain's mouth and 
lungs.

It was so very vivid now, that Alain could see a bead of sweat roll down his father's forehead, down his straight nose and hang there, suspended from the tip of his nose. Then that minute drop fell and landed on Alain's  face.

Alain opened his eyes and took a deep breath of air, the most refreshing he had ever taken. His chest was burning, his head was pounding and there was a sharp pain behind his eyes. He saw Amaud's entire frame relax with a huge sigh. Then, someone yelled. 

Many people did, like part of some morbid chorus. An almost animalistic scream that went to the bone, conveying the terror that the screamer felt. A visceral scream that made Alain want to get up and run from whatever was nearby. The screamer themselves wished nothing more than crawl into a hole and never come out.

Alain pushed himself up into a seated posture and looked around, his heart pounding, his ears ringing. He saw a guard turn and sprint away. Two other guards were backing away quickly, their eyes focussed on something behind Alain. Their faces indicated that the guards were too horrified to even work up a yell, or even a squeak. Amaud, who had not moved from his place since Alain had woken, was looking up with wide eyes at..something. Then he looked back at the guards, intending to say something to them. Instead, he roared, "NO!"

Amaud wanted to tell his men that the daemon was Alain's, and possibly a friend. He did not have the time to think of the ramifications of this piece of information. He saw, as if in slow motion, a soldier draw his bowstring to his ear, an arrow already in place, an arrow that might end up lodged in Alain if the soldier missed badly. He was well and truly into his cry when the soldier shot his missile.

The shot was true, whistling toward the head. It was the daemon, resembling a smaller version of what Alain had encountered in Caladrym, that was standing behind Alain. It calmly watched as the soldier nocked, drew and let loose the dart, smiling all the while. The arrow, by amazing luck, would have lodged in the daemon's right eye had the daemon actually stayed stationary. It did not, though. It cocked its head like a dog would when someone talks to it, and the arrow went past harmlessly. The daemon's smile grew wider, and  it was almost grinning as it straightened its slightly tilted head. Very slowly and deliberately, it raised an arm whose fingers were curled into a fist, and extended one lone finger at the errant archer, pointing threateningly at him. The soldier paled, his knees gave way and sent him facedown onto the floor. It was not mere fear which was affecting the archer. The magic of the daemon was playing a much more major role. 

Chapter III

 Isola was horrified when they brought Alain to his rooms with his head caked in blood. She went into a frenzy and vehemently insisted that Alain was never to enter any melee ever again. She wanted to say so much more, working herself up to soundly tongue lash Amaud's guards, and readying an even more impressive one for Amaud himself.

 She idn't get that opportunity.

 The daemon struck her dumb.

 He strolled in casually behind the guards, nine feet of alien armour, a misshapen head and frightening horns, walking right beside Amaud. Was this horrifying spectre real? Was she losing her mind, seeing things, imagining phantoms? 

 She was staring at the beast, openmouthed, hoping someone, anyone, would confirm or banish her hallucination. No one did, they were enjoying this scene too much. Isola had never been struck dumb, nowhere in living memory.

 "Hey ma. Meet my Daemon. I'll soon learn his name and tell you. In the meantime, keep calm, and definitely don't bite Dad's head off. Also refrain from murdering me, my daemon won't take it too kindly. Apparently his existence is tied to my life force."

 Isola screamed, a long scream that drained her lungs. It felt good. A good scream is what is needed to clear one's head. After yelling to her heart's content, she followed this strange group into Alain's chambers. The guards bowed, and left the family. This had been a very interesting day for them, and they couldn't wait to tell everyone they met how THEY had been the first to witness the first act the legendary Conjurer performed on this plane of existence.

 Alain wasn't in a very bad shape. All th blood was from a gash to the forehead, and these gashes bleed far out of proportion to the cut they indicate. Alain was actually in fine shape except for the dried blood, which Amaud presently set to sponging off with a wet cloth. 

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Submitted: April 09, 2018

© Copyright 2021 LordShoebox. All rights reserved.

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