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  1. #21
    Senior Member

    EXP: 113,151, Level: 14
    Level completed: 62%, EXP required for next Level: 5,849
    Level completed: 62%,
    EXP required for next Level: 5,849

    Revenant's Avatar


    William Arcus

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    “Spirits’ damnation,” I snarled as the blank-faced not-bird leaned out to spray another gout of sour liquid at Atzar. The carnivorous plant reacted to the fluid, snapping in the direction that the fluid sprayed. I pushed Atzar aside before the next gout could splash onto him and slapped at the bird’s spewing orifice with the flat of my scythe.

    A sharp, metallic tang filled my nostrils as the vomit gushed against the flat of my blade, spraying in half a dozen directions. The man-eater quivered for heartbeat as it tried to figure out where it was being directed to attack. Uncertain, it fell back on its instinct and went for the largest concentration of the vile liquid, the drenched not-bird itself. The not-bird only had time to give a single high-pitched hoot before the plant’s thorny jaws clamped down upon it.

    “Come on,” I said, hauling Atzar bodily from the blanket of moldy lichen he’d fallen on when I knocked him aside. We moved as quickly and quietly away from the thrashing of blood and feathers as we could, not bothering to look back. A minute later we pushed through the undergrowth and emerged in what looked to be an open field populated only by shirt stalked weeds with massive puffy tops. Atzar and I looked at each other and shrugged. We’d keep our eyes open for new signs of danger but this was as close to a place of safety as we’d found yet in this bloated realm.

    Bloated was a term that they could only use in the loosest sense. Truth be told, William was completely unexpected to find the sheer overwhelming mass of rampant life growing in the realm of Pestilence. He’d expected blasted rock and pools of stagnant, swampy water akin to Dragon’s Folly. In his mind he’d arrive to find Pestilence seated on a throne amidst a barren wasteland that was too blighted for anything to properly grow. Instead he found that the Horseman’s home was more akin to the jungles of Dheathain than the deserts of Fallien.

    It made a twisted sort of sense, he supposed. Pestilence was elementally represented by water, which was not entirely unknown to house all manner of things lurking within it. And when a plague struck, didn’t it often take deepest root in the over-crowded slums? And since Death was elementally represented by earth, the opposite of water, then it made a twisted sense that Pestilence would be a life-analog. The portion of William that had spent too long scouring libraries and ancient textbooks was fascinated by the implication but now was not the time to dwell on matters of philosophy, he reminded himself. There were far greater things at risk.

    “Did you say your magic was gone?” William asked Atzar once the two of them had taken a moment to catch their breaths. “What in all the levels of Haida does that mean?” Atzar shrugged in reply and William grimaced. The man moved with the strength and surety that he’d shown before entering Dragon’s Folly, but he still looked as pale and sickly as when in the throes of the fungal plague. But the worst of it was the haunted look of loss in the back of the mage’s eyes. It was one of the most tormented things William could remember seeing, which was saying a lot. Without magic Atzar was more of a dead-weight than an asset in this strange, hostile place. And yet as heartless as William was often accused of being, he’d come to respect the man who’d till minutes ago knowingly and stubbornly faced his own demise with an almost inhuman level of stoicism.

    Before he could make a decision, something moved near to them at the edge of the glade. Both men froze and locked eyes on the disturbance, muscles tense and ready to react. Neither of them expected to see a shimmering, pearly white horse enter the glade. The creature shone so brightly, and its edges were so sharp that it hurt to look at it, and yet William found that it was almost impossible to look away.

    The horse strode fearlessly into the glade, puffs of crimson and violet kicking up as the horse’s hooves burst the puffed stalks apart. It settled up just outside the reach of William’s weapon, a fact William noted was done deliberately. It was obvious to him that the creature was no normal horse from the intelligent, appraising way that it looked at the two of them. It appeared that there was a definite reason that Pestilence was known as a Horseman of the Apocalypse. William turned to say something to Atzar but the horse spoke before he could.

    “The Lord of Hosts wishes to extend his greeting to both his brother and the supplicant. It is my lord’s wish to know if you wish to accompany me back to the Presence or if you wish to slay me and be left to drift in the endless wastes of the master’s garden?”
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  2. #22

    EXP: 22,896, Level: 6
    Level completed: 42%, EXP required for next Level: 4,104
    Level completed: 42%,
    EXP required for next Level: 4,104

    Atzar's Avatar


    Atzar Kellon
    “We’ll follow, horse,” William answered curtly.

    The gleaming horse bowed its head in acknowledgement. “A wise decision. The master will be pleased that his guests are beings of reason. This way. It’s not far.” With that, it turned and walked back the way it had come.

    The creature set a leisurely pace, and clouds of pollen puffed and swirled about their knees as they crossed the glade. Atzar was reminded of the oppressive miasma that engulfed the valley from which they had come. In a way, he found the realm to be more hospitable than he had expected; he had nearly been eaten immediately upon arrival, but at least he could breathe comfortably here.

    “My lord has watched your worldly deeds with interest,” the horse said to William. “He has awaited this day with great anticipation.” The mage recognized the tone of small talk, spoken to bridge the silence as they walked. It was strange hearing it from a horse, though.

    “I’m glad to be welcomed,” the revenant said curtly.

    “And have you greeted your other kin as of yet?”

    “They’re next.”

    “I see. I wish you good fortune in your pursuits.” The horse chuckled, and Atzar was again reminded of the strangeness of this encounter. “At least insofar as they don’t conflict with my lord’s.”

    He swung his shining head toward the mage. “My master has no such familiarity with you, I am afraid. I hope you’ll pardon our ignorance.” A gentle hill rose in front of them, and they made their way up. The powder-filled pods gave way to short, tough grass interspersed with wide-brimmed mushrooms of deep violet.

    What does one say to a talking servile horse expressing contrition? Atzar didn’t know, so he didn’t answer.

    “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation as I approached. Your power has been absent since you entered my lord’s domain, as I understand it?”

    Atzar simply nodded. Revealing his uselessness to an enemy was daft, but it was too late to lie.

    “An unfortunate happenstance. Fear not, however. I have confidence that my lord will know more about your plight, for he is the master of all things in this world.”

    The mage stared at him until the bright light forced him to avert his gaze. “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth,” Atzar began bluntly, “but you’re aware of why we came here. Why so… polite?”

    The horse gave another of its unnervingly out-of-place chuckles. “I was instructed to deliver the liege’s greeting and to escort you to his presence. In the meantime, civility is in my nature. Regardless of what may loom on the horizon, it would not do for me to behave like an animal.”

    Here was a sparkling horse that understood wordplay. The mage wondered if he was hallucinating.

    They crested the hill and looked over a wide valley. An orchard grew on the easy slopes in orderly lines, a marked contrast from the wild and untamed lands all around. Amidst the fruit trees and adjacent to a small pond rose a cottage, smoke puffing from its chimney. Atzar lifted an eyebrow in perplexity at the peaceful, domestic scene that stretched out before them. Pestilence was a demigod, or so William had suggested. This looked like the last place such a being would dwell.

    “The master’s abode,” the luminous horse confirmed. “He is expecting us; we shouldn’t keep him waiting.”
    Last edited by Atzar; 11-21-2017 at 02:06 AM.

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