“Every hour wounds. The last one kills.”
It's a saying very familiar with the adventurers of Fantalius. Where every day comes with its new struggles, its new dangers, its new ways of fighting death.
And for the veteran adventurer, Bradock, it seemed this would be the last hour.
The situation looked grim. The aging warrior had been separated from the rest of his group; the group that was sent to the damned Restless March to get some fool “Chosen” and bring them back to the Mage Tower. His long, greying, hair was matted down from the rain that was falling in this small, open, area surrounded by twisted trees. He had been injured while escaping from a group of Ghouls; zombie-like creatures who were faster, though less durable, than their undead kin.
Knowing he would never be able to fight them off on his own if he didn’t find some solid ground he had rushed towards the first, rare for the swamp, clearing he had come across.
Panting heavily, clutching his wounded sword arm, Bradock turned to face his pursuers.
Two average, for a human, sized figures crashed through the treeline. Their skin was a mottled brown, full of sores, and oozing blood. While their shape was human their faces were decidedly less so.
Long, oval shaped, heads with large, lidless, eyes and unnaturally wide mouths that showed two rows of sharp teeth as they hissed and groaned. The noises they made were low, eerie, and seemingly designed to unsettle.
They didn’t look strong, but Bradock knew from experience that if those clawed hands got a hold of you they’d tear you apart in moments. He had only barely escaped such a fate earlier, and only by tearing his arm out of one of these creature’s grip. This had left a serious wound on his upper arm that limited his ability to raise his sword due to the intense pain he felt whenever he attempted to.
Yet he had to bear with it. Even wounded his right arm was better with the sword than his left and these monsters wouldn’t give him time to patch up his wound.
In fact that they hadn’t rushed him yet was a miracle. Which made Bradock uneasy. Miracles didn’t exist in Fantalius.
A slight noise, a splash, from behind alerted him to the truth. He turned to confirm his suspicion. The two ghouls in front of him weren’t attacking simply because they were waiting for their third ally to attack from behind. The monster was already too close for Bradock to defend himself and he knew he would die right then and there.
The ghoul was suddenly stopped as a whip wrapped around its waist and yanked it off its feet. As Bradock looked on in disbelief he noticed droplets of water hovering in the air for a moment before falling.
Out of the woods came a young, brown haired, girl with a witch’s hat. She said nothing as she approached Bradock. Instead just moved her hands in a rhythmic fashion and the water from a nearby puddle rose up. She flicked her wrist and the water crashed into the waiting ghouls, knocking them over.
“What are you waiting for.” She said in a voice which cracked with the effort of speaking.
Bradock nodded. He didn’t know what she was doing here or if she was actually on his side but she was right. There was no time to waste, now that there was an opening.
He hurried towards one of the downed ghouls and stabbed through its chest. He pulled back and stabbed again through the head, knowing these creatures needed to take enough damage to their bodies that they wouldn’t be able to regenerate from. So two kill shots usually was the only way to ensure they don’t get back up.
The other ghoul hadn’t been as stunned as he’d hoped and it grabbed onto his leg and went to bite it.
Then the creature suddenly paused and Bradock thought he saw a glimpse of what seemed to be a jellyfish appearing above the ghoul’s body.
Whatever the case, the ghoul was staring into the distance with a slack jaw and wide eyes, sufficiently distracted, and Bradock took the opportunity to lop the creature’s head off.
As soon as he did the young girl came up to him and walked past. She paused, and motioned at him to follow, before going into the trees.
Shaking his head, Bradock headed after her. “Who are you? You don’t seem like no witch I’ve ever seen.”
She didn’t respond, beyond glancing over at him, and Bradock surged forward to touch her shoulder.
Pain shot through his arm, coming from his wound, as he raised it and he hissed at the sensation. The girl paused and turned to him and raised her hand towards him.
His grip tightened around his sword and she looked at it with an annoyed expression.
She mouthed some words silently and water from a flask at her hip came out and hovered in front of her hand.
Bradock narrowed his eyes but did nothing as she raised it to his wound. After a few moments he felt the pain leave him and he let out a sigh of relief. “Healing magic, just what the doctor ordered.”
The girl shook her head. Bradock gave her a confused look and she sighed. “Temporary...”
Bradock nodded. “I’ll go with you for now girl but I gotta know who you are. I’m looking for the Chosen, was here with some others but we got separated, you have any idea where they might be?”
The girl stopped, gave him a strange look, and pointed at herself. A moment of silence passed and she groaned. She gestured to her side, seemingly pointing at nothing. And then a creature appeared. A strange, slightly glowing, jellyfish. The pieces started to fall into place and Bradock began to laugh.
“Well fuck. Ran right into that one.” He gave an exaggerated bow. “I am Bradock, a mercenary from the council. I’m supposed to bring you to the Mage Tower, Miss Chosen of Water.”
The Mage Tower. Keres leaned back and looked out of the wagon as they approached the massive structure. 50 stories tall, each large enough to fit a hundred people, and made entirely out of a special black, magic-resistant, stone. It was an imposing, impressive, and commanding structure.
And Keres was not happy to see it in the slightest.
She had saved Bradock because she thought him a simple adventurer without realizing he was an envoy from the Mage Council. She wasn’t surprised they didn’t send a Templar after her, given her history with them, but she wouldn’t have guessed the escort would have been someone like that.
Granted she learned he was a very capable man, as was the three others that they had regrouped with while leaving the swamp, but it almost felt like an insult. Perhaps that was the point “You may be a Chosen but you’re still a witch.”
Whatever the case she had gone along with them because it fit her plans. She was just on her way to search for the other Chosen when stumbling across him, and if they were all going to be here, it was for the best.
She had found that Bradock and his group were quite friendly despite that she stayed as far away as possible while observing them the whole trip. She hadn’t seen many actual people in a long time and it was oddly fascinating to watch them go about their day.
Whatever the case was, had they Council meant to mock or not, Flux seemed to be quite excited about the tower. However what he was excited about, which the others besides Keres couldn‘t hear, was a bit off. ”Look at how the sun reflects off the wall, isn‘t that cool...ooooh the grass looks so green!”
“Well here we are. That was one hell of a ride.” Keres had noticed that Bradock was constantly emitting this air of calm, despite that of the five people who had left the swamp, only three had made it here. “Guess I’ll knock on their door then eh?” He shuddered. “I know it’s important but this place gives me the creeps something fierce I’ll tell you what...” Keres hopped out of the wagon and followed Bradock to the front of the tower.
The wall was entirely smooth but for an indentation in the shape of a door. Bradock placed his hand on the indentation and spoke. “This is the mercenary captain Bradock here to deliver the Chosen of Water.”
There was a pause, and then a voice sounded from inside the tower. “We accept your delivery. However until the other Chosen arrive we will not open the door. You may camp outside our walls until that happens, after which you will receive your pay.”
Bradock stepped back and sighed. “Damn paranoid bastards...Well whatever we could use some rest. Why don’t we set up camp, eh Chosen?”
“Keres.” The girl said without explaination. Bradock nodded, having started to get used to her way of talking.
“Finally got a name eh? Well Keres let’s hope these others show up soon, time’s money after all.”