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The Guardian - A Tale From the Land of Argyle

Author: 
Wayland (Marc Morgan)
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
235

The man trudged on along the edge of the mist; his boots wearily crunched through the hard snow that lay on the rocky ground, the rim of a battered round shield poked out from behind a tattered cloak. How many times had he crossed this path? How many seasons had he spent circling the edge of the Shroud, challenging the foul, undead creatures that braved the edge of the mist? Four? Five? Even he was not certain anymore.

In fact, he could no longer recall his name or country. He could remember only walking, always walking. In spring the landscape was no better. Long, brown sawgrass would take the place of the snow, with here and there a patch of sickly, washed-out wildflowers. At least in winter he ate better. The icy air and barren ground soon wore on even the wariest of predators. A man could eat for three or four days on the worn corpses of the wild dogs that preyed upon the few small rodents that scampered away too quickly to be caught.

He would never step inside the bounds of the Shroud. He was no fool! No one in living memory had walked into those treacherous mists and walked out again alive. But, from time to time, evil creatures would creep out and wander across the landscape seeking living flesh to devour. Someone had to keep these fiends in check. Why had he taken this burden on himself? He could no longer remember.

A low, keening moan sliced through the icy air and interrupted the man�s reflections. His demeanor changed at once from that of a foot-sore, road-weary traveler to that of a battle-hardened warrior. His sunken gray eyes swept back and forth across the mist, seeking the source of the unearthly howl. His gnarled hand gripped the well-worn, leather-wrapped hilt of his ancient, notched broadsword.

There! Out of the mist stumbled a misshapen, shuffling form that may once have borne a human soul. Its carrion stench hung in the air, seeming to cling to the very lungs with every breath the man took.

Swiftly now, the man fell into a crouch and approached the vile form with quick, crab-like steps. He held his shield-arm low and leading, sword-arm bent and high; his sword barely rested as it lay over his shoulder.

By this time, the zombie had scented blood on the wind and set its shuffling gait toward the warrior. Its clawed, filthy hands outstretched as if to wrest the wanderer�s very essence out of the air; a vile, green light backlit eyes that should have seen their last millennia ago.

The distance between living and dead closed quickly. As the ancient jaws of the walking corpse began to creak open, the man�s sword snapped out in a flat, sweeping arc that connected with the remains of the beast�s left ear and continued it�s passage completely through the skull cavity.

The grizzled swordsman knew this would not be enough, however. In one fluid motion, he brought his hand and sword blade over to cut through his undead assailant�s right shoulder and out through the left hip. Again the man reversed his swing and brought the sword backhanded through the plane of the zombie�s thighs.

With a sigh that seemed to vent a thousand years of rot and disease, the ancient corpse collapsed in a cloud of ashy dust. Brittle bones smacked into the snow covered rocks to shatter into a thousand pieces. Shreds of ancient cloth hung momentarily in space before being swept away by the wind.

For a moment the man stood over the remains of his opponent, waiting for� what? With an unvoiced curse, he slammed his broadsword home in its sheath. Slinging his shield over his shoulder and wrapping the worn threads of his cloak around himself he began again his slow, tortured trek across the rock-strewn moor.

 

The Guardian - A Tale From the Land of Argyle © Wayland (Marc Morgan)

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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