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The Tale of Thunder - Chapter Three (Uprising of the Shadows - Part Three: The Watchers)

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227

Thunder's sword cut deep into the back of the monster's neck. It gave out a gurgling howl as it slumped to the ground. Before its wound could heal fully, Dengar swung his large axe, decapitating the beast entirely. They both stood over the unmoving corpse, waiting for something to happen.

"Werewolves," Dengar spat. "There be bloody werewolves 'ere!"

"Thunder!" Kyrian shouted, racing into camp. "My father wished for me to tell you he saw five strange beings moving towards camp."

Several wolves suddenly howled and were replied by half a dozen more. Thunder cursed.

"It is time for us to leave," Thunder said, racing to put on his armor and sword belt.

"We will not be able to go on fur long, paladin," Dengar said. "We have had little sleep."

"I shall deal with that when we are safely away from here," Thunder replied, quickly rolling up his sleeping pallet.

Dengar, Kyrian, and Lavinia helped in clearing up the rest of camp. As soon as Thunder wondered where Girishin was, Girishin came racing around the corner, his large v-shaped sword out. Following him closely were three werewolves, all of them closing in quickly.

"Follow me!" Thunder shouted and raced for the stairs.

Thunder ran as hard as he could. Looking briefly over his shoulder, he saw the werewolves closing in at a fast rate. Lavinia was beginning to fall behind, but Girishin quickly dropped back and grabbed her by her belt and resumed his sprinting. It looked uncomfortable to be carried by one's belt, but no one could be picky at a time like this.

Thunder looked back ahead of them and spotted the staircase. Once he reached the stairs, he raced up them, fumbling to get out his rope. It would be a long fall from the top of the wall and he wanted to make it as soft as possible. A split second before they reached the parapets, Thunder dropped the grappling end of his rope and got a tight hold on the other end of it. He then leapt into the air, flying right over the parapets. The ground quickly moved to meet him. The rope suddenly jerked in his grasp, then went slack. The rope had caught on something, but his weight had torn it loose.

The ground suddenly slammed into him full-force. This was the part about retreating Thunder disliked. It was very un-dignifying in the end and was oftentimes painful physically. Thunder dimly heard several more sounds, like rocks hitting the ground. Spots flashed across his vision as he opened his eyes and sat up, the back of his head throbbing with pain from the fall.

Dengar lay flat on his back, moaning slightly. Kyrian was on his back too, head shaking slightly side to side and Girishin was getting to his hands and knees. Lavinia was the only one not moving and lay face down several paces farther from the wall than everyone else.

Thunder painfully got to his feet. Moving from person to person, Thunder used his divine powers as a paladin to heal everyone. Lavinia had of course been knocked unconscious from the fall and was not pleased at Girishin for throwing her straight over the wall in his own haste to get over it. Dengar was fine, as was Girishin and Kyrian. Everyone then brushed themselves clean of dust, trying to maintain a hurt dignity from an undignified retreat.

"We must get moving again," Thunder said. "We have little time."

Thunder then located the horses and dropped the invisibility spell he had going on them. Everyone got onto their horses and traveled back into the mists. Thunder's healing was supposed to have re-energized everyone so they would be able to travel for several more hours before needing any rest. Unfortunately for Thunder, he was unable to heal himself, for paladins are not able to heal themselves. That was one downfall about not having a cleric in their group. Thunder was the only one who had to keep the wounds he received.

He could somehow tell this would be a long night.

*******

Thunder held in a sigh of relief when the ruins came into view. It had been several hours since they had passed the second city of ruins. For the past several hours they had practically battled their way here. Lizardmen had been in abundance here and kept attacking them in groups of a dozen or so. Thunder had several cuts, but that was about as bad as their injuries had gone.

This city was actually just abandoned rather than in ruins. It seemed to dwarf the last two cities in size. The walls surrounding the city were easily a hundred feet high, arrowslits lining the whole length of it. Towers even higher than the wall sat at several hundred foot intervals along the walls. Thunder was startled when the came up to the gates which stood wide open, the large metal-framed "siege door" raised.

It was when they entered the city that Thunder realized how enormous the city really was. The buildings were all made of a coarse, brown-orange stone that looked more of dried mud than anything else. Every building was at least five stories in height. The streets were covered in rocks and bits of rubble and the doors to houses ajar. Despite the height of the buildings, he could see an enormous building which dwarfed all the others; a castle of sorts.

"Ah don' likes the looks 'o this," Dengar said, shifting uneasily on his mount.

"What makes you say that?" Thunder asked, making sure there wasn't any sarcasm in his voice.

"The lass two cities we've passed 'ave been full 'o beasties," Dengar replied. "What's ter say there's nothin' 'ere?"

"That," Lavinia said innocently. "And the gates behind us have just been closed and the siege door has been lowered."

Thunder spun his mount and looked back where they entered, trying not to let his startlement show. The entrance was now blocked, an enormous thick wooden door framed in metal now sitting in its place. They were stuck in the city now.

A parchment suddenly flew in front of him, carried by a breeze which blew through the street. His hand shot out and grabbed a hold of the parchment. The parchment was worn, yet the writings scrawled across it in ink looked to be brand new. It read:

Fear the silence,

Fear the shadows,

The beasts of the dark are hence.

"What do be written on the paper, paladin?" Dengar asked, studying Thunder's expression on his face.

"We are being hunted," Thunder was sure of it. They were locked in an enormous city where strange creatures lived. They had been the hunters, hunting for the relic, but now they were going to have to be the hunted if they wanted to find it.

"We are also being watched," Lavinia said, looking at Thunder as she loaded her crossbow. She suddenly lowered her voice. "Up on the rooftops to my left. Don't look right at it! Just look through the corner of your eye."

Thunder looked up to the rooftops through the corner of his eye in time to see a black shape disappear from the top of a house. Thunder quickly scanned the rooftops, searching for any more of the watchers. He thought he spotted another one, but it was gone as soon as it caught his eye.

Thunder's attention was suddenly pulled from searching for the dark watchers when a beastial roar echoed through the streets. From around the corner of an adjourning street, an enormous shadow began to extend from it. It was the shape of a large being, lumbering slowly towards the street they were standing in. Thunder reached for his sword, but Misty suddenly reared, making him grab her reins tightly. Images shot through his mind, telepathically sent by Misty, warning him of great danger ahead. Despite his soothing words, she neighed and began to move backwards. Looking about briefly, Thunder could see the others were having as much trouble with their mounts as he, if not more.

It was when the source of the shadow emerged from the nearby street that Thunder nearly lost his grip on Misty's reins. The beast looked like an oversized minotaur, except that a leathery hide covered it rather than lots of hair. It's face came out like a muzzle and two horns jutted out of its forehead. Its arms were large and muscular, long claws extending from its fingertips.

The creature gave out an earsplitting roar when it spotted them and began to move towards their small group, slowly gathering speed.

"This way!" Thunder shouted, kicking his mount to a gallop.

Thunder quickly rode down the street, opposite of the direction the beast was, the sound of horses' hooves hitting the cobblestone streets the only way of him knowing the others were following. It was when he saw a four-way crossing ahead that an idea popped up in his head, a crazy one at that.

"Split up!" Thunder shouted. "Head for the castle! If the demonspawn follows you, try and shake him, but head for the castle!"

"Are you crazy?" Lavinia shouted. "He's sure to go after me because of all the bolts I pegged him with! My mount can't run fast for long!"

"Just do it, burn you!" Thunder shouted back.

As soon as they came up to the four-way crossing, Thunder turned his mount to the right and kicked Misty to a gallop down the street they were now on. Thunder looked over his shoulder. Girishin and Kyrian both raced down the street to the left and Dengar and Lavinia went straight ahead. Sure enough, the minotaur-demon went racing after Lavinia and Dengar, several bolts stuck in its face.

The next street Thunder came up to he took a left on to put him back on track towards the castle. The streets were unsettling with how empty they were of life. Misty's hooves hitting the cobblestone echoed through the streets, breaking the silence entirely. It stayed like this for several agonizing minutes. Even in this amount of time, the castle didn't look any closer, giving Thunder a good idea of how large the city really was.

Thunder was jerked from his observations when Lavinia and Dengar turned onto the street he was on from one on the right, heading the same direction as him. Thunder wondered if they'd shaken the minotaur off yet as he came up to the street they'd just come from. As soon as the question had formed in his head, it was answered. The minotaur suddenly reached the street they were on and turned onto it, less than a dozen yards behind Thunder. He gave Misty another kick, urging her to greater speeds.

Up ahead, Dengar and Lavinia turned down a street to the right. The minotaur didn't follow them. It gave out another road which made Thunder's ears hurt with how close it was. Slowly, Thunder noticed, he was getting farther ahead of the minotaur. At the last second, thunder turned Misty left down a street. The minotaur-demon turned too, if not a little slow, smashing its shoulder into one building, breaking through it entirely. It didn't break pace though, relentlessly pushing on, leaving the crumbled remains of part of a building. Thunder had hoped the demon would be too slow on the turn and miss the street entirely, but he had thought wrong about this thing. It was quick and agile on its hooved feet.

Thunder's heart sank when he saw he'd turned down a dead-end street. A large building sat at the end of the street where it would have continued had the building not been there. Thunder suddenly noticed and alleyway at the side of the building. A small spirit of hope sparked inside of him as he got closer and closer to the alley.

Thunder's hope was suddenly shattered when he heard the minotaur-demon behind him roar. He looked to its shadow which blanketed him, seeing it draw one of its hands back before swinging it. Thunder knew he was well ahead of it that its hand would just fly right past him without hitting. Confidence left him when Misty suddenly jerked out from under him, flying to the left. Thunder was airborne until he suddenly slammed into the cobblestones, rolling for a while before stopping, laying flat on his back.

Trying to clear his mind of the dizziness he felt, Thunder lifted his head to get his bearings. Misty lay on the ground at the foot of a building, crack marks along its wall the only sign of where she'd hit it. She didn't move. Thunder quickly sent out a telepathic message to her. He never did that often with Misty, but she did it a lot to him to let him know of any danger or developments. Silence answered his mind as well as an emptiness. She was dead.

Thunder pushed his anger into the dark recesses of his mind when he suddenly remembered about the minotaur. Looking up, he saw it towering over him, its hoof jetting down towards him, its intentions quite clear. Reacting quickly, Thunder rolled out of the way. The ground shook with the force of the demon's hoof.

Thunder leapt to his feet and darted for the building that blocked the street off. He then leapt through a window, shattering it entirely and rolled to his feet.

He was in a dining room of sorts, the dining table split in half and the chairs all in pieces. Thunder darted through a doorway which led into a hallway, his plan being to find a way to the other side of the building, safely away from the demon. A loud crash behind him let thunder know the demon had smashed its hand through the wall in an attempt to smash him. At the end of the hall, it opened into a room with an empty fireplace with a rocking chair in front of it. When Thunder reached the end of the hallway, in the dim lighting from the outside, he saw an arm swing around the corner before it smacked him across the jaw. The force of the blow sent Thunder crashing into one of the hall's walls.

His assailant suddenly stepped out from where he'd been hiding around the corner. He was entirely humanoid, build the same way and the same shape as a human. The only troubling thing was his skin was pitch black and his eyes glowed bright red.

Thunder pulled out his sword and thrust. The being easily parried the attack with its forearm. Thunder tried swinging overhead quickly, meaning to split the thing's head apart. Its other forearm shot up, blocking the attack. Sparks flew when Thunder's sword hit its arm. The hallway was too cramped for Thunder to fight in as he quickly realized. Moving quick and mercilessly, Thunder charged the being, meaning to make it retreat into the next room.

The being suddenly did the unexpected. It sidestepped Thunder, laying flat against the wall. As Thunder began to pass it, its foot lashed out, taking his feet out from under him. As Thunder flew to collide with the ground, the being's knee suddenly planted itself in his gut, knocking the air out of him. The blow was so hard Thunder bounced off the ceiling. But his assailant wasn't done yet. Its fists suddenly crashed into Thunder's back, slamming him into the ground. The force in which he hit the ground made him bounce several feet in the air. The being's foot suddenly slammed into his side, sending him into the wall on the other side of the room.

Thunder was not able to move from where he lay he was in such pain. It was either the black man had hit him extremely hard, or he had hit several nerves. Air was finally working itself back into his lungs. There he lay, waiting for his senses to clear, the pain to dull down, and the black man to attack, whichever came first.

The attack did not come though. Thunder opened one eye. His vision was blurry for a few moments before it cleared enough for Thunder to make out his surroundings, the man with the glowing red eyes was no where to be seen.

Thunder got to his feet, clutching his side in pain. Pain shot through his side as he staggered to the back door to the house and opened it. This door appeared to be at the end of an alley that connected with a street. He staggered up to the mouth of the alley and looked into the streets. The sun was nearly hidden behind the large houses, leaving the entire street nearly entirely pitch black. He could see the castle towers, still extending well over the buildings in front of him.

He had to hurry if he was going to get there before it got too dark. Thunder stumbled into the streets, sword in his hand, his other hand still clutching his side. A beastial roar in the distance reminded Thunder that the minotaur-demon was still about in the city.

Something suddenly hissed from behind Thunder. He spun to see a lone black man there. Several more black men suddenly stepped out from behind it, making their numbers four. Thunder gripped his sword tightly.

 

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

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