4: The Wraiths Approach

The night was peaceful. The pale light of the twin-moons peeked through a hazy, but serene sky to cast a dull light upon the temple courtyard. There, sentries kept watch from atop tower posts, their trained eyes scanning for any sign of threat. Below them, dark figures crept within the shadows. Silent, their movement caused no disturbance. As they neared the temple, a sentry thought he spotted something, but before he could call out, he was suddenly cut down in a flurry of strikes from behind. The wraiths continued about the courtyard, taking out each sentry in turn. None ever saw what hit them. Powerful claws dug into stone as the wraiths began to scale the main tower. Meanwhile, the inhabitants slept, unknowing the fate about to befall them.

Elm’s dreams were filled with visions: endless green covering a sea of rolling hills; winding rivers overflowing with honeyed milk and wine. It seemed as if a scene from a time long ago; or perhaps a future that could have been. Elm stirred in his sleep as pleasant dreams took a turn. Glowing eyes leered menacingly through a storm-ridden sky and an unfamiliar voice called out to him from beyond to awaken… awaken… AWAKEN NOW!

Elm snapped into consciousness with a gasp, his heartbeat racing. Had he heard something? He scanned the dark chamber room in a panic, searching for some hidden assailant. Nothing. Just a dream – one already fading from memory. A beam of moonlight spilled through the open window and though dim, the contents of the room were still discernible. Simple, but snug, the chamber was fitted with basic furnishings. Each member of the Order was provided only what they needed and although personal belongings were discouraged, they weren’t forbidden. A small pot plant sat atop a wooden table – a fresh splash of charm in an otherwise sparse and plainly decorated room. Beside the table, a pair of leggings were draped over an old chair and an uncommonly stylish set of shoes had been placed neatly against a wall. This was not Elm’s room.

Elm turned in bed to look at the resting form beside him. Her perfect figure glistened in the pale light. His rival; companion; friend. His angel Fair. If there was ever such a thing as a perfect moment, this was it. He smiled as his thoughts returned to the night’s amorous activities. He longed to wake her now and tell her everything. His feelings; hopes and dreams. He couldn’t remember ever wanting anything else so much as this. But there was no rush. Soon enough the dawn would rise and then… well, then they would see. Elm closed his eyes again and slipped back into bliss.

‘Bonnnng bonnnng bonnnng!’ Elm was jarred awake again. It took him a moment to register the resounding sound of the tower bell – THE ALARM BELL! A sudden chilling scream sounded from the hallway and Elm sprung from bed, Fair at his side, a look of terror in her eyes. Without a word the pair scrambled to ready themselves for whatever lay beyond the chamber door. They burst into the hallway and were met with a gruesome sight.

The grisly remains of a dismembered corpse had been strewn about the hallway – the stone walls covered in a thick sheen of blood and gore. Elm felt his stomach heave, but managed to resist the urge as a movement from further down the hallway caught his eye. A hulking figure knelt low to the ground, its back turned, busying itself with something at its feet. Whatever it was doing made a sickening crunching sound as it did so. At first, Elm thought it was wearing a dark cloak, but then he realised that the thing was covered in thick, mattered hair. The hulk must have sensed it was being watched for just then it turned around to reveal its full monstrosity. Crimson eyes peered from out a ragged, misshapen head; dagger-like canines protruded from an elongated snout, still dripping with fresh blood; and in its massive paw it held the severed head of the corpse it had been feeding on. As it stood upright, its head brushed the ceiling and it filled the hallway with its terrible bulk.

A beast of Gnomn.

– J.S.Worth

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