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The Long Way Home

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Doran Ruric’s arrival to the fabled cavern on his adventures through Arcas

The Long Way Home

    Upon the footstep of damnation itself, I stood at the precipice.  My gaze outward at the great unknown my own long-ship had brought me unto.  My journey through the Serpent’s Sea had been tumultuous to say the least.  Hellish creatures of unknown origin and descent bore down on my vessel like a drone upon a drum.  The crash and thunder of the waves upon my resolve shook me to the very bone and yet here I stand.  Here, between the path of doubt and reclamation, I raise my hands up into the air.    I had lost everything to make my way to this place, I walked away from my people and my clan..  the actions of my kin no longer did I feel accountable. I raised my hands up to my gaze.  I can feel them shaking now before the beginning of my journey, as I strode forward towards the wreckage of four long-ships.  After spending years in an attempt to recover the Red Scrolls, I had obtained only small fragments that contained  simple inklings of the prophetic future for Arcas.  It was with these fragments I had obtained a clue to bring myself here.  A single mention of a sunken forest with a decrepit cavern entrance.. Such a place may just be the very thing I stand before today.  Right here, right now, my journey could finally draw to a conclusion. My breath became heavy as I began to pass the first of the wreckage, surveying the damage with a careful eye. I had to calm my nerves before I entered whatever laid before me. I set upon my pouch to locate the relief I sought, an old half-drank bottle of honey mead made from the long forgotten Krag of Axios.  The water-logged mead tasted of salt, the hint of honeysuckle unrecognizable behind the bitter after-taste of this beverage.  My lips were dry and already salty enough from my journey but my belly became full, the beverage calming my nerves almost instantly as I corked the last swig back, setting aside the olive green glass bottle into my pouch.  Gripping my axe I continued my stride through the wreckage, examining the tattered sails.  I looked for any resemblance of sigil or icon to identify these ships, to no avail.  Perhaps they had been free-lance merchants?  Perhaps adventures as myself?  Both of these seemed doubtful, but upon further inspection of the most intact of the four vessels I found no bodies.   No blood.  No remains what-so-ever.  As if any trace had been swept away beneath the waves.. Or perhaps by another source.  This had set my nerves back aflair as I walked past the vessel towards the half-sunken cavern that laid before me.  Why were these ships here, so far out?  To whom did they belong and why?  Why here?  I did not know, for these thoughts continued to trouble me as my boot sank into the mud of the entrance, the cavern ominous and foreboding before me.


    I continued forward into the dark cavern, my eyes darting back and forth across the hallowed walls.  A strange chime would resound every so often as my trek continued, my boots sinking further and further into the muddied waters with every step.  I gripped my axe tightly, the noise setting me on edge as my shield rose to meet my belly.  The sound of moving stones and water ripples suddenly bounded against my eardrum, the direction behind where I strode inward.  I was being followed by whatever dwelled within.  “SHOW YOURSELF, THERE IS NO HONOR TO YIELD FROM HIDING IN THE SHADOWS BEAST,” I roared across the cavern..   No answer.  No further movement.  Silence.

    I was not to play this game further with some sort of shadow-dweller.  I banged my axe against my shield, once more shouting into the unforgiving dark.  “SHOW YOUR FACE! LET ME STARE INTO YOUR EYES AND DELIVER YOU PERSONALLY TO THE FATHER’S FEET!  YOU SHALL BE REDEEMED WITH BLOOD!”  I roared once more, this time the thunder of my axe-head against the shield roused the lurking shadow, an outstretched claw dug deep into my shield-face.  I buckled my knees upon impact, weighing myself down into the thick mud as the strike nearly blew me off my balance.  “SO YOU COME AT LAST!”  I roared into its face, my axe flung over my shoulder and through the weight of it’s strike my aim to sever the limb that attacked my defense.  It would not prove to be so easy as I felt the connection instantly fail within the arc.  The strike I had withstood, the attack I made in retaliation... the assailant was no longer facing me.  I quickly turned and looked about.  My breath became heavy and coarse, my heart racing as my eyes beat side to side in a futile attempt to locate the attacker.  “You cannot play this game forever! I have come for you and all the secrets you hide!”  I shouted into the distance, the sound of water splashing could be heard directly behind me.  I closed my eyes as I gripped my axe tightly once more, a 180-degree arc to my rear proved to no avail as I sliced cleanly into the air.  A total miss.  I steadied my hand upon learning of my failure.  I could not face a beast of the shadows without the light.  

   This key step I was missing proved to be my grace as I clipped my axe upon my hilt, my bag slammed down into the puddle I stood in-front of.  Quickly, I began rummaging through my satchel until I had found it.  My flame-brand.  With this tool, I rose it forward and began to utter the words of the Father.  “You must be the flame in the dark, the warmth in the cold...” My lips became dry, but still I carried on.  I could feel the anxiety grow within the enemy I faced… “I beseech thee, stand fast against the dying light. That which lurks in the shadows, on the edges of the fire on a still night…” The noise of thrashing water could be heard all around the cavern.  There was not just one creature or foe.. But many.  The sound of a swarm was all that bore down upon my ears, and still I stood before the shadows I faced, continuing my incantation.  “That which rots and soils all that is holy and bright. The forces of decay must be rooted out wherever they are found…”  I could feel the presence of many staring directly over me.  Their towering strength, their ominous power.. I could feel the enemy as if they were standing vile and true before my very eyes… “Thus I say unto thee, of the Holy Fire…” The flame-brand within my hand began to ablaze, the decrepit eyes of pale white beaded in-front of my face as they saw the power I held. “I STAND AGAINST THE LONG DARK!”  I screamed as the flame-brand completely engulfed with flame, the weapon lurched forward in the dark as the cavern walls lit up to reveal what lurked behind the dark.  




   These grey parasitic creatures appeared to resemble the remains of sailors, perhaps even pirates.  The first one strode forward, an angled arc of it’s demented claw bore down upon me.  The foul noise it let loose from it’s barnacle-crusted lip was harrowing, but I rose to the challenge as I whipped the flame-brand toward it. The spiked mace crushed and set ablaze the first of these horrors, the two adjacent to the left and right becoming fearful as I whipped the weapon in a figure-eight.  The flames spread, engulfing the three that were directly in-front as they charged forward.  I could hear the sound of mass footsteps, more Vodnik approached my location.  More than I knew I could handle.  Still, I hunkered down and solidified my stance as my shield rose nearly to eye-level.  The horrors rained down upon my location as I swung wildly and without recourse, the blazes engulfing those that were unfortunate enough to come in-contact with the holy weapon.  I could feel masses of bodies and stench being crushed and emblazoned, tossed aside as they were defeated.  Two more strode forward, both lurching forward, one down, one into the air.  Their vile claws I felt sink into my left rib-cage and right shoulder, two had broken through my stance.  I clenched my teeth and bit my tongue as I felt blood gorge my mouth.  The lash of my flame-brand whipped the one stuck into my shoulder away, as I beat the other back with the edge of my shield, bringing the flame-brand back around to smack it upside the head, its body engulfing subsequently in flame from the holy weapon.  With the final blow struck, I saw three Vodnik still flailing in an attempt to douse their engulfed corpses they inhabited.  To no avail, my foes had lost and the battle was won in the name of the Holy Light and the Father whom cast it.  Two wounds for seven dead Vodnik… “Not bad,” I muttered to myself as I clutched my side feeling the deep holes it had made.  

   I felt a tinge of pain as  I touched the area in question.  “Broken,” I sighed as I felt my body heave and my right knee fall into the mud.  Again I set upon my pouch to find gauze, bringing the flames towards the wound to cauterize.  I began to bite my tongue, the pain immense as my flesh seared together.  The broken rib would have to be addressed, but further I must go.  My journey does not end for a few servants of a greater foe to face.  I stood and began my limp forward, deeper into the sunken cavern, my breath coarse but softened.  What had sent forward these creatures?  To this I knew not, but my resolve was unshaken.  The scroll’s prophecy had led me here, and I have come to find answers that my father, and my father’s father failed to find.  For every age, there is a time of trial.  And this would be my test.  A bright light suddenly filled the room I walked into, my jaw dropping.



To be continued.

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