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The Tale of Thunder - Chapter Three (Uprising of the Shadows - Part Five: The Living Dead)

Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)
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The tunnel began to grow darker, making it harder to navigate as the sunlight spilling in from the cave entrance grew farther away. The air suddenly began to grow stale and damp. It was when Thunder could barely see the unevenly formed cave walls that Kessa acted. Thunder could not see what all she did in the dark, but he heard her crack something sharply against the wall, promptly lighting up the tunnel. The object she held in her hand was a stick with a red stone attached to the top of it. The stone flared brightly, lighting the tunnel up to a eerie red tint.

Thunder smiled thankfully at Kessa and listened for any noises further down. Over the echos of their footsteps, he could only hear the faint dripping of water. Other than that it was silent. The tunnel they were in curved sharply to the right, expanding into a small cavern. Thunder could feel the air grow warmer as he followed Kessa into the cavern.

A thick stench suddenly filled the air. Thunder then promptly stepped on something sickly and wet. Looking down, a few paces away to the left was the carcass of a large spider, easily five feet across, lying in a puddle of green blood which Thunder had stepped in. Several more spider corpses were strewn about the room. Along the walls to the left and right were large holes in which tunnels extended into the darkness.

"Watch your step," Kessa said, easily sidestepping the puddles of blood.

Thunder followed and attempted to wipe the blood off his foot onto the rocky ground with little success.

Kessa lead him down a tunnel that lead away from the cavern, thick spiderwebs laying against the walls, slash marks along them a sign they had been hacked apart. A half an hour passed by Thunder's guess and they passed through several dozen similar caverns. They oftentimes came upon a cavern in which two tunnels branched from them. Kessa would think a moment, as if remembering which tunnel she had used and then would lead them down one of the tunnels. This kept up until the uneven rocky ground, walls, and ceilings formed into stone block masonry, covered in dust with age, a line of footprints the only sign it had been disturbed recently.

The new tunnel they were in extended several hundred feet before opening up into an enormous cathedral-like room. Large stone columns lined the wall as well as the entirety of the room, formed into lines of seven the whole length of the room to the other side. At the end of the room, ten or so paces up from the floor was a set of double doors.

"Be careful in here," Kessa whispered, laying a hand on his arm. "Invisible stalkers wander around in here. These ones can't seem to see you if you keep moving; fairly easy until it comes to the part where you've got to get to the door."

Thunder nodded and began walking across the room, keeping up a leisurely pace. He just about halted in his footsteps when he rounded a column only to find the bloody remnants of a human body, torn entirely to pieces. "One of my comrades," Kessa said as she kept her pace. "When we reach the foot of the door, pace back and forth in front of it while I retrace my steps. I'll then sprint up to you and have you give me the hardest boost you can give and them keep moving. I'll toss a rope down to you."

"Sound plan," Thunder nodded.

When they reached the door, Thunder began to pace back and forth, keeping Kessa in sight so he'd know when to move. Kessa stopped a ways away and then began sprinting. Thunder stopped in front of her and readied himself. With a heave, Kessa flew upward, grabbing a hold of a doorknob.

Thunder suddenly realized he'd stopped moving. The sound of wind blowing was the only thing Thunder head before something that felt like a club slammed into his head, sending him flying into the wall. Spots covered Thunder's vision and his muscles felt like water. Thunder pushed himself to his knees, trying to keep moving. His arms gave out from under him and he collapsed to the floor again. The club slammed into his side, sending him flying into a column. He could hear Kessa's shouting, but it sounded distant and he couldn't make out what she was saying.

Something Thunder couldn't see suddenly picked him up. Thunder then promptly blacked out.


Thunder could hear a voice in the distance which seemed to be getting louder. After a moment he could make out the words.

"... bloody paladins," the voice said, taking on a feminine tone. "Thick-headed oxes can't even remember simple instructions. 'Keep moving!' I say. What's he do? He bloody sits there. Flamin' idiot..."

Thunder opened his eyes, eyelids heavy and fighting to stay shut. He was laying on the ground, head propped up against a rock. Sitting next to him was Kessa, hands tangled up with strings in a game of cat's cradle.

"So, the dozing child is awake now, is he?" Kessa said, bundling her strings up into a small ball and the nstuffing it into one of her pouches. She then pulled out a potion bottle filled with a sparkling red liquid. "Here. Drink some of this."

Kessa pulled the cork and held the drink up to his lips. Thunder drank thankfully, realizing how dry his throat really was. Kessa then took the drink away after a few large gulps.

"That should help heal you up right," Kessa said, tucking the potion back in her pouch.

Thunder could feel a cold tingling inside, the pain in his shoulder as well as head beginning to dull. He then slowly stood, the aching feeling inside him surging before disappting entirely. They were in a long corridor, one way ending with a set of double doors and the other one extending on into darkness.

"How long was I out?"

"About fifteen minutes. I gave you a small dribble of a healing potion to wake you once we were safely out of the stalker room."

"Where are we?" "Just outside the room you blacked out in," Kessa answered, looking pointedly at the double doors. "You feeling up to going on?"

Thunder felt a little tired, but not enough that he couldn't last a few hours more. "Yes. I have little time to find the relic."

"The way you keep going on about that, one would think all of Toril depends on your finding it."

"Our entire future depends on my finding it," Thunder said, staring down the hall.

"Are you really serious about this?" Kessa asked, pickup up her sunrod which still glowed dully and hurried after him. "Or are you just making that up so I'

ll help you find it so you can use it for your own personal gain?"

"I am a Champion of Helm," Thunder answered. "Helm himself gave me this quest. Does that not make this sound important now?"

"forgive me if I sound a bit sarcastic," Kessa said. "But trust never comes easy with me."

"If you don't trust me yet," Thunder said, a hint of annoyance creeping into his voice. "Then why are you still here?"

Kessa was silent after that. The two of them hurried down the hallway silently. After what seemed to be an hour or walking down the straight corridor, Thunder could finally see light at the end of it. Speeding his pace slightly, he hurried towards the light.

The source of the light was a circular room, torches lining the wall. The ground was covered in rocky, moist, dark brown dirt. At the other end of the room was another corridor.

Kessa grabbed his shoulder and stopped him before he could enter the room. "Careful. When we entered the room, undead began emerging from the ground."

The floor in the room was empty of anything with the exception of a body laying facedown on the ground, covered entirely in chainmail. Protruding from his middle was the blade of a sword and in his outstretched hand was a rusty longsword.

Thunder nodded and took a step into the room. Something cold and hard grabbed a hold of his foot, nearly knocking him to the ground. Looking down, he saw a white bony hand protruding from the dirt, holding tight around his ankle.

Movement ahead of him made Thunder look up. Several skeletons were emerging from the ground, baring the way out entirely. Each was armed with a different weapon and several wore suits of rusty armor. Several more skeletons suddenly began to emerge from the dirt.

The hand stuck around his foot was getting tighter with every passing second. Wit ha hard pull, Thunder tore his foot free, severing the hand off entirely, yet it held tight as if it had a mind of its own. Thunder sprinted for the armor. He grabbed the rusty sword from its former owner and faced the skeletons blocking the door. They now numbered five, each armed with deadly weapons. They all began to move towards him with unstable grave, lifeless and empty eye sockets on him.

Skeletons were pretty much pushovers to Thunder. He moved to met them, sword in hand. Thunder seemed to slow down as he tore into them. His sword cut from the shoulder of one skeleton crossways down to his opposite side. He spun, evading a sword and a mace that were thrust at him unskillfully. Swinging down hard, he cut one skeleton down the middle which collapsed into a pile of lifeless bones once more.

Thunder moved about on his feet numbly, slamming his shoulder into one, hacking into another with his sword. A few seconds more passed before the last of the skeletons he fought fell.

Not even breathing hard, he turned to check Kessa's progress. Strewn about her were piles of bones, only one skeleton still standing. Her fist smashed through the skeleton's shoulder, its arm falling to the ground. She then spun around, foot flying high, smashing the skeleton's head to pieces. The skeleton's body still moved though. Kessa dropped low, kicking its feet ouf from under it and then slammed her foot into its abdomen, smashing the remainder of it to pieces.

"Nice bit of work you did over there from what glimpses I caught," Kessa said, brushing her arms off. "Thanks, Thunder said, moving to prop his sword against the ground so he could lean on it before realizing half of the sword was now missing.

"Good work. How much farther to where your group was stopped?"

"It's still a pretty good ways away," Kessa answered. "This next tunnel will end up ahead back up at the surface. We'll have to go through the ruins of a city where undead wander the streets. In the basement of one building is a door which leads to a large room with illusionary treasure in the middle of it. The treasure actually covers up a hole which dumps you down into some catacombs. I had a bloody hard time getting out of that. In the catacombs are some strange lurkers. They tore through my group when the group's sunrod died out. It was luck that I survived to escape."

"This may be very difficult then," Thunder sighed.

Thunder then bent over and grabbed fairly sturdy sword that showed little signs of rust. Gripping the sword tightly, he headed down the tunnel. A few minutes passed before the tunnel ended, dumping them off at the edge of a city of ruins.

Surrounding the ruins were the faces of a cliff which extended upward several hundred feet. Walking the streets from what Thunder could see were skeletons and zombies, moving about in small groups.

"I certainly hope you remember where at the room is, otherwise this will get very tiring very fast," Thunder said, moving towards the ruins.

"Do you think I have a short memory or something?" Kessa said mockingly, tapping her temple. "What comes in up here is hard pressed to get out for a while."

Kessa hurried up to a rubble covered street, the cobblestone paving cracked and broken with age. Thunder followed her closely, keeping an eye about their surroundings. The sky overhead was heavily overcast, yet what little light got thought made the area bright enough to see in. Ruins of buildings crowded the sides of the street, some just the framework up, and the other buildings consisting of just a pile of rubble.

Further down a few streets, Thunder could see several skeletons just standing there, still as stone. As they made their way across a four way crossing, Thunder gripped his sword tightly.

A single skeleton flanked by two strangely cloaked beings were about fifty feet off down the street to the left. One was dressed in the rags of a red robe, its eye sockets glowing a brilliant green. Flanking the robed skeleton was two tall thin beings. They wore strange charcoal colored robes with hood pulled over their heads. Longswords with runes inscribed across the scabbard hung from their belts.

All three of them looked up at Thunder and Kessa suddenly. The skeleton let out an eerie high=pitched scream and raised both of its hands. Both hands were suddenly engulfed in blue flames. The two creatures flanking the skeleton suddenly began encircling around Thunder and Kessa, one going left, the other going right, both moving quickly with a serpentine grace.

The skeleton flung both of its hands to face them, balls of flames flying from each hand.

Thunder and Kessa leapt to the sides, the balls of fire smashing into the ground where they'd been moments before, pieces of cobblestone flying into the air.

Rolling to his feet, Thunder turned in time to see the tall, slim creature upon him, sword drawn and runes on it blazing. Thunder ducked, its sword passing over his head. Bringing his blade up, the darkly clad being's sword clanged loudly against his. Thunder and the creature fought back and forth for several seconds, blade ringing against blade. Suddenly, the being's sword slammed into his, shattering it to pieces, knocking him backwards to the ground. The shock of the blow and his sword shattering sent pain shooting up his sword arm.

Thunder quickly rolled aside when the man swung his sword downward, intending to chop him in half. The sword slammed into the cobblestones sending pieces of chipped rock flying. Getting to one foot, Thunder spun around with one foot stretched out, knocking the being's legs out from under him. The creature fell to its back in an undignified and ungraceful heap. Thunder spun around with his foot again to slam the heel of his foot into the being's stomach. The creature's hand shot up though and grabbed a hold of it tightly.

It suddenly pulled his foot with amazing strength, flinging him over it entirely. Thunder bounced off the ground, rubble cutting open his back as he slid to a stop. Thunder propped himself up on his hands.

The robed being had dropped its sword several yards away and was rushing towards it. Leaping to his feet, Thunder charged it. The being bent over and had grabbed the sword and had begun to turn around when Thunder slammed his shoulder into its side, making the sword fly from its grasp once more.

The two of them crashed to the ground. Thunder smashed his fist into the beings face as it began to stand, the force of his punch breaking a knuckle. He then scrambled to his feet and lunged at the sword. A sense of dread filled him when his fingers closed on the sword's handle. He quickly worked a Purging spell on the sword, enchanting it with a holy power as well as cleaning it of all evil as he spun o face the robed being. The sense of dread dissipated.

The hood on its robe had fallen back, revealing a bare, wrinkly, white head. Its eyes glowed an eerier blue and its face was long and bony, its lips drawn back in a painful grimace. The being was already charging Thunder, a strange clack, smoky sword in its grasp now.

Thunder hit the being's sword aside and spun with a follow-up attack, slicing its sword arm off entirely. The arm slowly began to turn to dust as it fell to the ground. The being paid no mind and flung its other arm at Thunder. Thunder brought his sword up to block, severing its limb off at the elbow. Thunder swung high, chopping off a section of the being's face as well as skull. Thunder then hacked low, taking the being's legs out. It fell to the ground wordlessly and lay limp, slowly dissolving into dust.

Thunder turned to check on Kessa's progress. She and the darkly clad creature both moved with lightning=quick speed, attacking and blocking each blow with skill even though Kessa was unarmed and the white-skinned being had a sword.

Something suddenly exploded on the ground a yard away, sending him flying. Thunder's left shoulder promptly smashed onto a rock when he landed, breaking his shoulder and rendering his left arm nearly entirely useless. The skeleton mage was still where he'd last seen it, hands still engulfed in flames.

Cursing himself at forgetting about the mage, Thunder hurried to his feet and began sprinting for it. The mage then began a swift barrage of fireballs at him. Thunder ducked and dodged, leapt into the air and rolled to avoid each deadly blast, getting nearer to the mage with every passing second.

As soon as Thunder was upon the mage, it pulled out a sinister jagged-edged sword and swung at him. Thunder's blade shot up and met it, sparks flying from the force of their swings. Blow after blow was exchanged, the two of them realizing how skilled each other really was. Knowing this would be no easy fight, Thunder began recalling special moves he had not used in years since he had been a knight for the Western Alliances.

Thunder then began to commence in performing moves which he'd learned years ago, moves very difficult to counter if one had never seen it before. This far west, it would be near impossible for anyone to have seen any of these before.

Thunder quickly executed Rising Moon in which the skeleton barely blocked. He then followed up with Blinding Frost and then did Pillager. The skeleton was not fast enough in recovering from Blinding Frost, so Pillager tore clean into the mage's shoulder and down into its chest. The skeleton gave an ear-piercing shriek before exploding into millions of tiny shards. Thunder was sent flying from the force of the explosion, the tiny shards opening dozens of tiny cuts on him.

Pain engulfed his entire body as he heaved himself to his knees and lifted his head. Kessa hurried up to his side, leaving the disintegrating corpse of the mage's guardian.

"Can't I leave you alone for one bloody minute without you nearly flaming killed?" she growled as she fished her healing potion from her pouch.

Thunder took several more swallows of the potion, the pain quickly easing and all the miniature cuts on his body healing. Kessa took the near empty potion and tucked it away.

"Now don't you be getting into too much trouble now," Kessa said in a mocking motherly tone. "There's not much of this potion left."

Thunder nodded and got to his feet, picking his sword back up. Wordlessly, the two of them continued onward. Lightning crashed overhead, lighting up their surroundings before disappearing as soon as it had appeared, followed by the rumble of thunder.

As they traveled the rubble-covered roads, Thunder recalled his time back in Achim, in the arena. After all these years, the lightning, the thunder, the smell of burnt flesh was still fresh in his mind. He could still remember seeing the charred remnants of the half-orcs he'd killed, the electricity flowing freely from his hands. Thunder had never been able to do what he had done there ever since.

Thunder's thoughts came back to Killian, wondering where he was and what he was doing. He could imagine what Killian would look like when he was done with his training: hard, well-built, skilled, and knowledgeable. Most of the key traits for the ruler of a world/ When it comes to that.

Killian would be hard-pressed at first, but hopefully the relic Thunder was looking for, when he finds it, will be of great help to him.

Thunder was pulled from his thoughts when Kessa pointed silently at a building a short ways away, an inn from the looks of it. It looked to have once been two stories in height, but the second floor had collapsed in. The inn sign hung on one hinge, the picture on it too covered in rust to see the picture on it. Thunder's attention was suddenly pulled to the figure barring the single doorway in.

The being was about seven feet in height and extremely well-built. It wore no shirt, showing off its well-muscled chest and arms. Slung over both its shoulders were two curved swords. It also wore night-black pants and dark brown calf-high boots. Its arms were crossed across its chest and its perfectly bald head lowered, the shadows covering its face.

Thunder could feel his sword beginning to pulse slightly with evil and cast another Purging spell on it. Strange. The first time he Purged it should have cleaned it of all evil. The pulsing evil diminished until it was no more once again.

The being blocking the door, as if sensing eyes upon it, raised its head, regarding them with cold, hard, and silent eyes. Thunder' gripping his sword tightly, cautiously approached the being. As he got closer, he could make out its facial features. Its face was that of a male human's, the only irregular feature a long flab of skin across its forehead, extending from the middle of one eye to the middle of the other eye.

"Approach," an immensely deep voice echoed through his mind. "And meet your doom."

One glance at Kessa's expression told Thunder Kessa had heard the voice as well. Giving Kessa one nod of his head, he and Kessa charged the man.

The man spread both of his feet apart. Suddenly, the flab of skin on his forehead moved. It lifted up to reveal a large third eye that glowed a dull green. Spreading his arms out to his sides, he hunched forward slightly, bringing his right hand up to his forehead, placing his index finger on one side of the eye and his pointer finger on the other side.

The man suddenly separated into two separate beings, both mirror images of each other. Then, in unison, both reached up and pulled out their twin swords and awaited Thunder and Kessa's approach.

Thunder moved towards the original man on the left while Kessa went after the mirror image on the right. Thunder dodged the first sword and parried the second sword. He then leapt into the air as both swords flashed low. Thunder sung at the man's exposed shoulder, opening a large cut along it.

The man relentlessly pressed into Thunder, throwing attack after attack at him. Slowly, Thunder could tell his arm was beginning to tire as well as hurt from the force of the being's attacks. A thought suddenly occurred to Thunder, a strange, if not ridiculous thought. It was a serious gamble, but it just might work.

Thunder rolled between the man's legs and kicked him from behind, sending him stumbling forward a few paces. Getting to his feet, Thunder rushed up to the mirror Kessa was fighting. Coming up from behind, Thunder swung hard at the nape of the mirror's neck. There was a loud crack as the mirror shuddered before falling to the ground and faded away.

Thunder turned to look at the other man. The man was holding himself up with one sword, a hand holding onto its third eye which was now closed. Blood was trickling from under the eyelid.

Thunder rushed the man who raised his sword feebly. Thunder knocked the sword aside and ran his sword into the man's upper chest. The man slumped to the ground dead.

"I don't recall running into this person," Kessa mumbled.

Thunder nodded in understanding silently and beckoned her to follow. Thunder entered the ruins of the inn, ready for anything.


The Tale of Thunder: Chapter 3 - Uprising of the Shadows - Part 5 The Living Dead © Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)

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