NewsLore WikiMapStories (Novels, Comics, etc.)Artwork GalleryGamesShopForum (Discussion Board)

Jump to content


Photo

ZONE - Swamp West of the Moor


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
33 replies to this topic

#1 Maverick-Werewolf

Maverick-Werewolf

    Alpha Leader

  • Forums Administrator
  • 12,176 posts

Posted 27 February 2016 - 11:43 PM

The swamp west of the Moor was a vast and dismal place... or at least, it was so to most Men. In truth, it hid a vast array of wildlife. During the day, it was mostly quiet, with only the occasional croak of a frog or call of some bird or another. The trees were mostly weeping willows, tall and gnarly, but with long, thin branches and matching, green leaves that draped all the way down to the forest floor, billowing gently in the breeze and brushing over the swamp water and puddles of mud.

 

The land was treacherous and difficult to navigate, with only a few paths safe from having to pass through some pond or puddle or another. Mud was everywhere, and the ground itself was so soft and moist that it was difficult to call anything firm ground. The wooden planks to form roads and pathways didn't exist here, as they did around the Moor. This was pure wilderness... And the smell was even worse here than in the Moor. The stench of the bog was inescapable.

 

However, day was far preferable to night. During the day, one could even imagine it to be a pleasant, almost peaceful place, somehow serene and so removed and untamed that it could potentially feel like some nice bastion of nature...

 

During the night, however, all of that changed. Occasionally, one might see the faint glow of a strange light flickering in the distance like a lantern, though this was rare. The swamp came alive with the sound of its denizens: choruses of frogs, croaking toads, chirping crickets, and occasionally stranger sounds, like the wail of some unknown beast - or was it a beast at all?

 

Movement could be heard throughout the entire swamp at night at intervals, as if things wanted to stir about just enough to disturb wary travelers, particularly as the creatures went unseen. The flicker of wings and the flash of eyes frequented the shadows. Everywhere a traveler went, they felt as if they were being watched...

 

---

 

And it was night when the Inquisitors, Templars, and Venatori chose to delve into the mire.

 

The Imperial officials searching for the witch, meanwhile, still followed the trail of candy. It didn't let up - they could no longer see the Moor behind them for all the fog and swamp mist, coupled with the darkness of night. Yet still the candy trail went on in a perfect little path, one couldn't wander off of or mistake for something else.

 

It was apparent someone or something had made this trail with the distinct purpose of leading someone somewhere - and leading them there safely, avoiding swamp muck, strange pits, the darker shadows, hollows under logs, and every other peril lurking in the darkness around them. Whatever creature had lain this trail, it knew the swamps very well, and it knew how to navigate them safely... Something no one in this group could say for themselves. Were it not for this trail, they would've surely fallen into some sort of danger, or at least ended up in waist-high swamp muck stumbling off the more solid ground, or slogging through some kind of mud that might hide any kind of creatures.

 

Following this trail, however, they were - remarkably - perfectly safe.

 

As they walked, however, everyone noticed that Ben Blackburn had been collecting the candy and stuffing it into a pack. Yaroslava tuned and glared daggers at him.

 

"What in Hades are you doing?" she hissed.

 

Ben rolled his eyes. "I'm getting rid of it so we won't turn around and see a bunch of kids eating it like they're supposed to."

 

Yaroslava didn't respond. Apparently she hadn't wanted his actions to have been a good idea, so she simply nodded and turned around again to keep walking. Ben just snorted in slight amusement and kept taking the candy so that no child would follow the trail.

 

They kept moving until, at long last, they came upon a strange sight: a hut nestled in some weeping willows, their branches hanging down around parts of the home like stringing curtains. The hut itself was made solely of mud, but it was extremely fine craftsmanship in its own way. Although roughly-hewn and stylistically hideous to Men, it was exceptional work nonetheless.

 

The twisted little hut had a long, tall chimney, and from it rose a thin ribbon of winding grey smoke. Even from here, they could smell something cooking. It smelled delicious. Ben sniffed the air and furrowed his brow slightly in apparent concern with just how much it seemed appealing, and Stevan's stomach growled loudly enough that they could all hear it. He cleared his throat to seem innocent of the fact.

 

As they neared the hut, Stevan held up a fist. "Wait," he warned. "Let the Inquisitors go first. If it is a witch, they're the only ones who'll stand a chance."

 

Kristina, Lucy, Evan, and Ben led the way toward the building. Cautiously, Ben opened the door. One by one, the knights, soldiers, and hunters slipped inside.

 

The hut was empty - at least, empty of any immediate signs of life. A few beasts rested here and there in corners: some snakes watching them and flicking out their tongues as if in suspicion, several of which retreated down into the assorted furniture and possessions arranged in the home, and there were several frogs living here and there, along with a rat or two. The animals disappeared when they entered, squeaking or croaking or hissing in alarm to have been so disturbed.

 

As for the hut itself, it was a remarkably nice place. It was indeed strangely furnished, but the furnishings were all hand-crafted with gentle care and an eye for artistry, if unusual. They were predominantly made of dried mud and stone, or else thatched together using reeds and such, though the chairs were also cushioned with finely made pillows that looked remarkably comfortable. There were endless signs of a homely resident: pots and pans, a fireplace...

 

And a giant cauldron in the center of the room. It was boiling, emitting the scent that made their mouths water. It looked to be some kind of stew.

 

The walls were lined in more than just herbs both fresh and dried, however. Their immediate impression upon entering the building was not anything to do with the furnishings, the cauldron, or even the animals that hid.

 

Their attention was drawn wholly to the paintings covering the walls: images of twisted trees, trees like the weeping willows of the swamp, and faceless armored figures, some with swords in their hands.

 

Shade whined and laid his ears flat as they looked around the building. Without warning, the hound suddenly turned and bolted back toward the door, whining. Yaroslava turned in alarm, but Stevan held up a hand to keep her from going anywhere.

 

"It's alright," he said. "I'll take care of him."

 

With that, the Captain followed the hound back outside. Silently, Ben slipped out after him, adding only, "I'll keep watch outside, in case the witch isn't even in here. You guys have a look around."

 

Looking around as told, everyone observed a few other details about the room: there were two doors, both shut tight, to one side of the room. Barring the paintings, everything had initially seemed quaint... Until they suddenly realized the terrified air that hung over the otherwise oddly pleasant home. Not only the walls depicting their strange, twisted images of nightmare, but the walls were boarded and warded with strange runes, and odd patterns of powders lined the floor, like some magic ritual performed to ward off evil. In fact, just a few paces after one entered the doorway was a long line of some strange, blackish powder. However, no one present seemed bothered by it.

 

Then, before anyone could so much as speak, the witch appeared.

 

She emerged from one of the closed doors and strode out into the same room as all her intruders. She was quite large, almost alarmingly so, and yet hunched and wearing tattered, old, brown rags and a long hood that partially shadowed her face. It did nothing, however, to shadow the large, hooked, gnarly nose poking from the front of her face, and her inhuman eyes almost seemed to glow a venomous, bright, yellow-green under her hood. The strands of stringy hair hanging down around her head were very slightly greenish-silver, and her limbs were long and gangly, her back hunched severely.

 

Instead of cackling or speaking or roaring or any other action they might've expected such a creature to take, however, the witch's eyes instead went wide. She didn't make a sound, but she shook her head rapidly and held her hands, palms forward, toward them to show that she was unarmed and wouldn't cause trouble. Even more, she sank to her knees and backed against the wall, lowering her head and silently pleading for mercy.

 

Finally lifting her head again after several seconds of this, she stared at them with begging eyes, gesturing out toward the swamp to the west and shaking her head again, still showing her hands.


gallery_3_16_497424.gif


#2 Burger Warrior

Burger Warrior

    Hulloo! :3

  • Nova Member
  • 6,353 posts

Posted 28 February 2016 - 02:41 AM

When Mettius got word about the mysterious candy, he quickly armored up, albeit he was somewhat reluctant to go. This sounds more like some petty alchemist than anyone with the Condition… when has magic ever conjured candy? Still, he held his tongue and waited at the start of the trail for everyone to be gathered, unslinging his shield from his back and strapping the heavy metal plate to his arm with practiced efficiency. Wordlessly, as the others finally gathered and began to move out, Tibur followed.

 

The walk was surprisingly peaceful; not to mention safe. The Ebonguard was intrigued by this rather than alarmed, and somewhat amused by the small ruckus Yaroslava made about Ben picking up candy. The Inquisitor was tempted to ask for some, but considering the probability it was designed for a sinister nature, it was better not to risk it. Rolling one shoulder idly, Mettius finally perked up when they eventually reached the hut; not entirely out of fascination at the craftsmanship put into it. He was getting that… feeling, again.

 

There really was someone with the Condition involved.

 

As they neared the hut, Stevan held up a fist. "Wait," he warned. "Let the Inquisitors go first. If it is a witch, they're the only ones who'll stand a chance."

 

Tibur nodded, taking the lead. “That’ll be best.” He said, drawing his sword and keeping his shield ready. He wondered if Lucy would notice his sudden change in conviction… she was the only one he’d actually explained to that he didn’t believe this was a real witch or warlock.

 

In any case, he soon stepped inside, pausing briefly in the doorway at the sights he saw before heading deeper into the hovel. The paintings that covered the walls almost entirely took his attention immediately, a horrible sense of  familiarity crawling up his spine. Each and every one of the pictures matched the tapestry he’d been shown earlier that day, right down to the artist’s style. However, Mettius’s brows knitted in confusion. That woman was locked up in an asylum… so why did he sense her?

 

As if to answer that, the witch appeared.

 

She certainly fit the description, though Tibur was surprised at her increased size… and how much she looked like the much more… human witch back in the asylum. However, as Mettius braced for battle, this witch clearly didn’t want to put up a fight at all. She went down on her knees and begged them for mercy - in complete silence, like her twin - and began pointing West. Just like the other old woman… Tibur thought, lowering his sword. He stepped up to the old witch, holding his weapon off to one side so it was less threatening; but he kept his shield up, just in case.

 

“Don’t play innocent.” He said, frowning beneath his great helm. “Where are the children?” He asked, quietly but sternly. “Why have you been luring them out here?” Mettius cast a second, brief glance around, and noticed the runes and other primitive wards around. At that, he paused.

 

“...Or have you been trying to protect them?” He asked, after a few long moments. He pointed to the figures in the painting. “From them?”

 

-----

 

Irena had remained silent during the journey, but had done her part to gather the other Templars and Inquisitors to join the investigation. Assuming this was the only candy trail, there was no point in leaving anyone behind… even if it seemed risky to the young monk. The journey ended up fairly uneventful, though, with the Inquisitors entering the hovel they uncovered to find out what was inside.

 

As they dealt with those inner threats, Cathas glanced at the potion Grey had given her. She hadn’t seen fit to drink it until it was necessary, since the lighting in town had proven good enough, but now that they were out in the dark, she decided to give the brew an experimental chug, gagging slightly at the terrible taste. She was used to bad, sure… but there was something unnatural - almost purposely - awful-tasting about the liquid. The monk just hoped the effects of the drug were worth that and any additional discomfort it gave her.


tumblr_llkqvk7B7F1qbyfy7o1_400.gif?w=480


#3 Ratcatcher

Ratcatcher

    Yes, I also handle elemental rats

  • Nova Member
  • 801 posts

Posted 28 February 2016 - 09:13 PM

Lucy walked down Candy Cane Lane with the rest of the group, an arrow nocked and her bow steady. She had heard frogs in woods before, but it was nothing compared to this. Occasionally, one in the distance (or close by, she couldn't tell) would wail in what almost sounded like a scream, and she'd involuntarily whip her head toward that direction. She wasn't afraid, but she wanted to seem alert; there was no denying that she was somewhat tired.

 

As they approached a group of willow trees, they found a mud-hut of much finer craftsmanship than any of the huts they had seen at the Moor. Stevan stopped the group, suggesting that the Inquisitors go first. “That’ll be best,” she heard Mettius say as he stepped forward. As a Channeler, Lucy knew she would want to be on one of his flanks, and fell into place accordingly. As they approached the shack, she put her arrow back in her quiver and her bow back around her shoulder, and drew her shortsword in her right hand. Though she had training with it, she was certainly unfamiliar with how to use it under distress.

 

Once the Inquisitors filed in, Augustus marveled at all of the runes and markings that covered the walls and dashed the floor. Though they weren't too similar to her markings, she wondered if they still served some mystic purpose. Her thoughts were interrupted by the delicious smell of stew, which suddenly ravaged her senses. Ignoring Shade bolting out of the door, the young Channeler went over to the cauldron, and as she sniffed it she wished it would be okay to find a ladle and take a small sip at least.

 

When Lucy opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say anything, the witch entered the room, instantly frightened at their presence. Throwing her arms out in passive innocence, she surrendered without uttering a word. She was signaling toward the West somehow, and Mettius stepped closer. 

 

“Don’t play innocent.” He said, frowning beneath his great helm. “Where are the children?” He asked, quietly but sternly. “Why have you been luring them out here?” Mettius cast a second, brief glance around, and noticed the runes and other primitive wards around. At that, he paused. “...Or have you been trying to protect them?” He asked, after a few long moments. He pointed to the figures in the painting. “From them?”

 

Suddenly, Lucy felt something flare inside of her. Something about how Mettius approached it... touched her, oddly. She had no idea he was so insightful, so open-minded... She caught herself looking down. What was that? She felt something really strongly, but she wasn't sure what. She shrugged it off, and quickly turned to get a better look at the pictures. The figures seemed somewhat humanoid, though completely void of appearance. Then Augustus remembered the children. She looked over to the doors, one of them behind the witch. In a passive-aggressive manner, she said, "Let us check on the children to make sure they're safe."



#4 Sareth

Sareth

    Master of Fate

  • Nova Member
  • 1,228 posts

Posted 29 February 2016 - 06:38 PM

Kristina took one of the torches from Stevan, and followed Yaroslava and the others into the swamp —following the trail of candy into the unknown.

 

The smell was terrible, but at least the footing was safe and firm —amazingly so.

 

The silence was broken after some time, when Yaroslava turned to reprimand Ben, who had been picking up the candy as they went.

 

"What in Hades are you doing?"

 

"I'm getting rid of it so we won't turn around and see a bunch of kids eating it like they're supposed to."

 

"Good thinking" she complimented Ben, to take the sting out of the other Inquisitor's words —she wondered why it seemed like Yaroslava had wanted Ben not to have a good reason for his actions... but such concerns would be best addressed at another time.

 

Eventually, the candy trail led them to a twisted little hut: the abode of the 'witch', no doubt.

 

"Wait. Let the Inquisitors go first. If it is a witch, they're the only ones who'll stand a chance."

 

She gave Stevan a respectful nod in reply —it was always nice to get some professional courtesy.

 

Drawing one of her void-iron daggers —it would be more maneuverable in close quarters than her sword—, she followed Ben, who cautiously opened the door and slipped inside. The interior of the strange structure was hardly more appealing to her than the outside —strangely well-made and well-furnished though it was. Her brow furrowed in thought for a moment as her gaze fell upon the paintings: twisted trees and faceless warriors —just what the mute woman at the asylum had been painting...

 

After a moment, her gaze shifted to other strange elements of the room, taking in the lines of powders on the floor, the runes on the walls —she took a closer look at some of the nearer ones to see if she recognized any, as she knew quite a bit about magical runes and symbols—, and the various hanging herbs and plants.

 

Any further examinations were interrupted when the witch —which the hut's occupant was looking rather likely to be, now— suddenly emerged from one of the closed doors on the side of the room.

 

The witch was alarmingly large —Kristina felt herself reflexively grip her dagger a little tighter—, with eyes of a glowing yellow-green color that she was fairly certain no normal human had ever been born with.

 

However, somewhat surprisingly, the witch's immediate action upon seeing the armed cohort in her home was to drop to her knees and start silently pleading —not a bad idea, but not exactly what one one expect from someone with such an appearance. Then again, luring children from their homes in the middle of the night for Gods-know-what purpose was an exceptionally cowardly, if vicious, act.

 

 

“Don’t play innocent. Where are the children? Why have you been luring them out here? ...Or have you been trying to protect them?”

 

Kristina cast a sharp glare at Tibur as he uttered his last statement. He had to be either a hopeless optimist, or helplessly naïve —personally, she would not give a single iota of presumed innocence to someone who would kidnap a child.

 

"Let us check on the children to make sure they're safe."

 

"Right..." she muttered darkly in reply. This whole situation gave her a bad feeling, she honestly didn't expect to find the children alive —though, in this case, she would love to be proven wrong. "I'll check that room" she said, louder, indicating the door the witch had come from, gesturing for one of the Ebonguards —Evan— to back her up.

 

Holding the torch out before her, she slowly made her into the room that the witch had come out of —alert all the while, in case the hut's inhabitant had set any magical traps.

 

***

 

Sarael had honestly been tempted to sneak a piece of the candy that had been left, until she heard one of the others suggest that it might be drugged, making her frown slightly with distaste; who would pollute sweet delicious candy like that!? Well, anyone who would kidnap kids, especially in such an underhanded way, couldn't be expected to have any standards...

 

Carrying one of the torches Stevan had thoughtfully provided, she accompanied the others into the swamp, holding her flame high to help light the way for the others —something she was able to do better than most because of her height.

 

She was one of the last to enter the witch's hut, and so hardly had a moment to look around —though that was enough to determine that the interior was rather homey for a kidnapper's lair, if rather strange as well— before the witch herself appeared.

 

Well, the old woman certainly looked the part of a witch, from what tales she'd heard, though her first action —throwing herself to the floor and begging silently— hardly seemed to back that up.

 

While some of the others interrogated the witch or looked around the hut, Sarael stayed put and said nothing —this really wasn't her area of expertise... which, to be honest, was mostly how to make a living, or un-living, attacker not.

 

But, as she waited, her stomach suddenly growled embarrassingly loudly —though, she hoped, somewhat muffled by all the armor she wore— in protest over her having missed dinner. The cauldron of food was right there... leaning over it a touch, she looked into the vessel's murky depths; it smelled so good, she wondered what it was made of....


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

Posted Image

#5 Dalton Westmoore

Dalton Westmoore

    Supreme Alpha Male. Also the Last Jedi.

  • Nova Patron
  • 3,105 posts

Posted 01 March 2016 - 06:32 PM

"Wait. Let the Inquisitors go first. If it is a witch, they're the only ones who'll stand a chance."

 

Malvolio bit back a comment and quietly followed the Inquisitors into the hut, where they encountered one of the Witch.

 

He was not surprised by how large this 'witch' was: they had enough small giants in their group that the scarred Templar was not intimidated by the woman.

 

As some of the other Inquisitors began to search the hut, he turned to Sarael and said "I've got to be honest: for something to lure Children into the swamp, I was expecting something like a Willow-the-Wisp or a Pixie, not an old woman making trails of candy."

 

---

 

As soon as they entered the hut, Evan, who had opted for his short-sword, shield, and his rarely used, bucket-like helmet, over his mattock, was reminded of the inside of the old mute's cell at Iason house.

 

This first impression was only made even more striking as the witch - a large, mute giant - appeared, and, looking surprised at their arrival, immediately surrender.

 

"Look's like she wasn't expecting us. Some peasants or some kids at least, but not actual Inquisitors." the Ebonguard thought.

 

Just then, Kristina - one of the channelers, motioned for him to follow. The Inquisitor obliged, following the Channeler with his shield and sword at the ready.



#6 Neyo Wargear

Neyo Wargear

    Gloria fortis miles

  • Member
  • 1,839 posts

Posted 02 March 2016 - 03:11 PM

Cicero didn't find the perfectly safe path odd. If someone was trying to lure someone somewhere, you'd want them to get to the end of the path. The trail of candy led to a well made mud hut. It was nicer to look at then those within the actual village. It was nestled between some willow trees, and a slender chimney adorned the hut. Smoke rose from the chimney, and a sweet smell was in the air. That was odd. Whatever was being cooked, it smelled delicious.

 

A small detachment of Inquisitors went in first, then the members of the other orders. From what Cicero could see from outside the hut, there was strange paintings upon the walls. Cicero's attention was diverted as the hound bolted from the hut, followed by the Templar Knight-Captain, and then Ben.

 

Walking towards Ben, Cicero asked, "What exactly is in there? I haven't got much of a view from out here."


Omnius mille passus expeditio, omnis fossa bellum.

KY0FhTX.jpg
"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

- General of the Army Douglas MacArthur


#7 Harry Monster Princess

Harry Monster Princess

    Not mad. Just disappointed.

  • Nova Member
  • 3,648 posts

Posted 02 March 2016 - 06:08 PM

"It looks like a sword-cut... and it looks like it got infected" Sarael commented, as Hadrian peeled back the bandage of the dead man, revealing the wound. "Maybe it was nothing supernatural after all...?" she pondered aloud. Holt grunted in agreement.
 
"Though, hmm... I can't imagine many people around here have a sword... Would any of those... creatures you mentioned use one?" she asked the venator.
 
"Not likely, but If I ever encounter a giant leach that can hold a sword, I'm quitting." Hadrian harrumphed. "Something else is going on here..."
 
They couldn't ponder the mystery of the man's murder any further, a fellow party member called them out to pursue a lead. A Candy trail leading into the swamp. Hadrian cursed to himself, dropping the bandage. Venturing into the swamp in the middle of the night was absurdly dangerous, but they couldn't let a lead like that go. When everyone was gathered, Hadrian pulled on his hood, and ventured with them into the Swamps.
 
* * *
 
Despite dreading leading a hunt into the swamp, the path led by the candy was completely safe. The Witch obviously wanted her prey to arrive unharmed. Walking along, Hadrian almost felt a certain peace to the swamp. The stir of wildlife, the impenetrable wall of the darkness, the fear in the air. He was in his element.
 
In time though, the path ended, and they entered a strangely constructed hovel. Well made though. Curious. Hadrian pondered it. It'd be difficult for an old woman to make this, magic user or not. The Inquisitors moved in first, and when they declared it safe enough the rest of the group moved in. The place was actually rather quaint, and Hadrian had to resist the urge to take a seat on one of the comfy looking chairs after such a long walk.
 
Before long though, the witch herself emerged. Hadrian lurched back in surprise, reaching for his weapon, but the old crone simply fell to her knees, mutely pleading for mercy. Hadrian's eyes widened as he got a better look at her. Gnarly features, greenish skin and hair, large stature and strange eyes... she could have some Troll blood in her. The Venator grumbled. This could be good or very very bad.
 
The Inquisitor Mettius stepped up to the old witch, holding his weapon off to one side but he keeping his shield up.
 
“Don’t play innocent. Where are the children?” He asked, quietly but sternly. “Why have you been luring them out here?” Mettius cast a second, brief glance around, and noticed the runes and other primitive wards around. At that, he paused.
 
“...Or have you been trying to protect them?” He asked, after a few long moments. He pointed to the figures in the painting. “From them?”

 

"Don't be daft, boy, there's nothing to find." Hadrian scolded as he strode forward to stand beside Mettius and the witch. "And put that thing away before you poke somebody's eye out," he demanded, glancing angrily at his sword. Brandishing weapons would only escalate things. "All of you, put your weapons away. Picking a fight is foolish, be civil and we can resolve this peacefully, the Venatori have done it before."

 

Hadrian sighed to collect himself, then slowly approached the old woman and offered her a hand, pulling back his hood so she could see his face. "We're not going to hurt you. Here, why don't you have a proper seat," he helped her up, trying to lead the old woman to one of her comfy looking chairs. His tone was a lot more pleasant than it usually was talking to the others, "I'm Hadrian. I'm sorry that we intruded on your home, but I'm sure you know why," he said, casting a glance to her pot on the stove. He took a seat opposite her, steepling his fingers. "Food shouldn't be too hard to come by in the swamp, so why have you resorted to this? Tell me what's been going on."

 

 

----------------------

 

Mina hadn't been able to finish her conversation with Mason before she was called of, but she promised him it wasn't over. But now that she was seeing the witch herself, Mina wasn't sure if she could blame the man for his poor treatment of her. Mina gasped when the horrifying woman emerged. She had never seen a person like that in her entire life. Lady Tamaria looked away from her for now, letting the Venator handle the situation.

 

Instead, she noticed Sarael investigating the pot, and Mina's eyes went wide. She walked over to her, not daring to look at the horrors the pot could contain.

 

"That isn't, she isn't..." Mina started, but she trailed off, placing a hand on Sarael's arm for support. "Is it one of the missing children?" She whispered.

 


^^ Click to see my Art Topic! ^^

Or check out My DeviantArt!


#8 Maverick-Werewolf

Maverick-Werewolf

    Alpha Leader

  • Forums Administrator
  • 12,176 posts

Posted 02 March 2016 - 09:30 PM

The witch ceased her pleading as Mettius began to speak. Her eyes kept darting to the sword he held by his side, but she still said nothing. She stayed there on her knees, her head slightly hung, as she watched all the armed and armored strangers poking around in her home.
 
Hadrian spoke up, however, and approached Mettius. The witch watched him silently as she told everyone to put their weapons away. Reluctantly, Sebastian frowned but sheathed his blade, and Yaroslava scowled and put away her weapon, though she kept her hand on a knife on her belt.
 
As Hadrian helped the witch up, she stayed quiet. She allowed him to lead her over to a chair, and she took a seat, fidgeting.
 
"I'm Hadrian. I'm sorry that we intruded on your home, but I'm sure you know why," he said, casting a glance to her pot on the stove. He took a seat opposite her, steepling his fingers. "Food shouldn't be too hard to come by in the swamp, so why have you resorted to this? Tell me what's been going on."
 
Slowly, the witch nodded. Reaching to one corner of the room with a rather long, very skinny arm, she lifted a large, intricately woven tapestry. Turning back to Hadrian, she spread it out before the two of them, laying it on the floor so he could see it clearly.
 
The tapestry showed what looked like a series of images. The first was the swamp, full of life, vibrant and colorful. There were creatures everywhere: lots of fish, various birds, assorted other ordinary animals. The witch gestured to the creatures, and then to the pot. She gestures to an empty bowl resting on a table nearby, and then back at the creatures on the tapestry.
 
And then she shook her head.
 
Next, she pointed at the second frame of the tapestry: it showed the swamp full of life - only this time it also included an image of her hut.
 
But all too soon, she moves on to the next part of the tapestry: the same images all over the walls... the strange, faceless, armored figures. The swamp around them was devoid of life. The willows had no leaves, the swamp was twisted and dead. There were no animals at all.
 
The final image she pointed to showed a swamp devoid of life - utterly devoid, even the trees were gone. The faceless figures were everywhere, wearing different outfits, some still armored. All that remains of the land around them is darkness.
 
The witch stood slowly. She reached for a set of crude paints and a small brush. Taking them up, she began to paint on one of the few blank places of the wall...
 
She painted an image of herself: young, charismatic, kind, protecting the animals of the swamp - she helped the pregnant mothers, she healed their sick, and she returned to her hut. She painted herself hunting sparingly, catching her own food, walking amongst the trees, living happily in the swamp...
 
And then she began to paint again. She painted herself now, old and haggard. She painted herself with no food, there were no more animals to hunt. She painted herself approaching the Moor, trying to trade her medicines for food - and she painted the villagers casting her out. She painted herself trying to hunt, the few animals around running away from her in fear. She painted the swamp again, dark and full of fear, animals hiding - very few animals. She painted pictures of the animals running away, fleeing the swamp.
 
Then, she moved to one more blank part of the wall. Here, she started painting something far more colorful, switching paints frequently. She finished with alarming speed...
 
It was another image of the swamp, only this one was truly beautiful. It was breathtaking - colorful mushrooms, flowery vines in the trees, cranes stalking the waters, flocks of birds flying up from the trees with shocking white feathers against the bright blue sky, snakes in the reeds, fish darting in the waters that gently rippled in the wind. She painted wolves stalking in the tall grasses, playing with their pups, turtles with long necks poking up from their burrows in the mire mud...
 
She finished and took a step back. It was a painting anyone would be proud to call their masterpiece. But she gestured vehemently outside and shook her head. She pointed to the figures on the walls, the faceless, armored men, at the encroaching darkness that killed all the animals or made them flee, killed the trees, made them disappear - and then she whirled and slashed her long, claw-like nails over the lovely painting she'd just finished.
 
The witch then trudged back to her chair and sat back down.
 
---
 
Kristina, Evan, and Lucy poked into the room the witch had been in and saw only an old bedroom. It looked very cozy, relatively small and with a few candles, with a large and comfortable bed. Kristina certainly found no traps.
 
Meanwhile, Sarael checked the pot. There was nothing much in it - it looked like quite a few ingredients were still missing, so she'd still been cooking, apparently. However, it smelled as delicious as ever. All she saw in the stew itself were vegetables.
 
---
 
Walking towards Ben, Cicero asked, "What exactly is in there? I haven't got much of a view from out here."
 
Ben shrugged. "I didn't look much, I left. Couldn't stand the smells in there. Bunch of weird herbs and shit all over the walls." He glanced back at the hut. "Go in and check it out if you want. Door's still open," he added casually.
 
---
 

 

Irena quaffed the potion Grey had given, and she felt sick. But it did indeed enhance her senses - her eyes were sensitive to the darkness of the swamps outside and she knew she wouldn't need the torches to see out there quite as well, though her eyes also began to glow softly. Her hearing was sharpened, her sense of smell was sharpened... It was oddly incredible, although smelling the putrid swamp outside would surely be awful. As it was, the pleasant smells and the stew of the witch's home weren't bad at all.

gallery_3_16_497424.gif


#9 Harry Monster Princess

Harry Monster Princess

    Not mad. Just disappointed.

  • Nova Member
  • 3,648 posts

Posted 02 March 2016 - 10:45 PM

Hadrian watched intently as he took in the heartbreaking story the witch wove before him with her beautiful tapestries and stunning paintings. He couldn't help but jump a little in surprise when she slashed her final painting in frustration over the tragedy that had befallen her. As she sat back down, Hadrian let out a long sigh. He hadn't even realized he had been holding his breath.

 

"I understand, we're here to eliminate the darkness that's been poisoning this land, or at the least the man responsible for it," Hadrian said at last to reassure her. "Do you think you could paint us a map to lead us to the source of the corruption?"

 

The Venator grumbled again, pondering the old woman's situation and scratching his beard. "One other thing. I know you only resorted to the children out of desperation, but we can't allow you to do that anymore. However, I bet we can find a compromise," Hadrian drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. "You helped people in the past, maybe you could do so again. I'll talk with the villagers. Maybe you could make them medicine, or candy, or maybe even some of your beautiful art in exchange for tributes of food." Hadrian shrugged. "I'll negotiate with them and come back to you. In the meantime though, in exchange for that map, I could teach you some trapping techniques as a backup for food. When I come back I could set a few up for you myself." Hadrian smiled at the old woman. "Deal?"

 

-----------

 

Noticing Sarael's obvious lack of a horrified expression, Mina peered into the pot herself, and was relieved to see it was a harmless vegetable stew, devoid of children. She sighed in relief, thanking Astra, and she relaxed considerably as she saw the grizzled old Venator sit the old witch down for a talk. She watched in awe as she wove an intricate story with her breathtaking artwork, clearly showing the evil darkness that had taken root and festered in this place. The odd shadowy figures in particular perturbed her. 

 

"Sarael, did you notice those strange figures this woman's been painting?" She asked her fellow templar, "Do you think those might be what attacked Julius's entourage... the ones that drove him mad?"


^^ Click to see my Art Topic! ^^

Or check out My DeviantArt!


#10 GhostlyCheese

GhostlyCheese

    Don't touch my SunnyD

  • Banned
  • 1,504 posts

Posted 02 March 2016 - 11:05 PM

((Snipped. Harry Ninja'd me...))

Edited by GhostlyCheese, 02 March 2016 - 11:07 PM.

21.jpg


#11 Sareth

Sareth

    Master of Fate

  • Nova Member
  • 1,228 posts

Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:36 PM

The room was disappointingly empty of children, or any sign of them, being merely the witch's bedroom. "This one looks clear!" she called back to the others in the main room.

 

She almost turned and left, before a thought struck her, and she mentally chided herself for laxness —best to be thorough. So, dropping to her knees, she ducked her head down to take a look under the large bed, in case anything was hidden there.

 

***

 

"That isn't, she isn't... Is it one of the missing children?"

 

"What!?" Sarael squeaked softly in shock and surprise at the thought, blanching and reflexively shying back an inch or two from the pot. But, thankfully it didn't appear to be the case —the pot seemed to contain nothing but vegetables and whatever spices were producing that alluring smell. "N-no, it doesn't seem so..." she replied to Mina, before noticing that the woman had already taken a look for herself. "Do you really think she's been eating them!?" she asked her fellow Templar, thoroughly disturbed by the suggestion. Kidnapping was one thing, but that... that was just... Still, now that the idea had been put in her head, the stew, though apparently wholesome, did look rather incomplete....

 

Her train of thought was broken a moment later as the 'witch' began to paint on the walls... only to return again with a vengeance as the old woman's illustrated story showed the swamp becoming more and more devoid of food. Without anything else around to eat, could she really have...?

 

"One other thing. I know you only resorted to the children out of desperation, but we can't allow you to do that anymore. However, I bet we can find a compromise..."

 

'Resorted to...' Did Hadrian also think... did she really... and he was okay with it...? But... if she had... and the kids were... they... they couldn't just let her go, right!? 

 

"Sarael, did you notice those strange figures this woman's been painting? Do you think those might be what attacked Julius's entourage... the ones that drove him mad?"

 

"Wha-huh?" she muttered in reply, having only half-heard Mina's question. "Um, maybe? I don't know... they don't look that scary but then they are just paintings..." she said rapidly, still thoroughly distracted.

 

Whereas before she'd been hungry, now she just felt nauseous thinking what might have happened to the children —unconsciously chewing one corner of her lower lip in worry.

 

"Anyway, I have to... I should go look. Yes, look..." she said to Mina, too distracted by her confused and disturbing thoughts to notice that she'd stopped speaking in comprehensible sentences, before promptly turning away and heading for the closed door that the witch hadn't come out of.

 

She needed to find the children, or at least some sign of them... some sign that they hadn't been...

 

Muttering a prayer to Astra —a simple one, one of the first she'd ever learned as a child— under her breath, one hand anxiously rubbing at the golden head of her warhammer, she reached out with the other to open the door —dreading what she might find inside, and praying that she wouldn't....


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

Posted Image

#12 Neyo Wargear

Neyo Wargear

    Gloria fortis miles

  • Member
  • 1,839 posts

Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:26 PM

Ben shrugged. "I didn't look much, I left. Couldn't stand the smells in there. Bunch of weird herbs and shit all over the walls." He glanced back at the hut. "Go in and check it out if you want. Door's still open," he added casually.

"I see, well, if that's all, it's not worth going in then. Crowded as is in there already," said Cicero. Looking around for anything, Cicero sighed. He was itching for a fight, he hadn't had one in a while. Looking back at Ben, "Why'd you join the Inquisition? Sorry if you've been asked this a lot already, but I don't think I've taken the time to know everyone in our group other than names."

Omnius mille passus expeditio, omnis fossa bellum.

KY0FhTX.jpg
"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

- General of the Army Douglas MacArthur


#13 Maverick-Werewolf

Maverick-Werewolf

    Alpha Leader

  • Forums Administrator
  • 12,176 posts

Posted 05 March 2016 - 06:04 PM

"I understand, we're here to eliminate the darkness that's been poisoning this land, or at the least the man responsible for it," Hadrian said at last to reassure her. "Do you think you could paint us a map to lead us to the source of the corruption?"

 

The witch paused and glanced around at everyone in the building. After a moment, she glanced back out into the swamp - and shuddered. But she turned to Hadrian again and nodded.

 
As he discussed making a deal with the villagers, the witch listened silently, looking thoughtful. Slowly, she nodded again and rose to her feet. She scratched about in her things until she found a large piece of blank old parchment. Reaching for a quill, she began to draw a rough map...
 
And, after a few moments, she finished it and gave it to Hadrian. Examining it, he found it to show what seemed to be a safe path through the swamp - deeper into the fen, heading in a westerly direction. She'd even drawn a compass rose in one corner to make sure they stayed on the right path. The hut was marked, and so was the Moor, though the words she had scrawled were illegible to Hadrian and everyone else present, and they had to wonder what sort of language it was.
 
The witch, however, pointed to the path she had marked to get Hadrian's attention. Once he was looking at her again instead of the map, the witch kept a long nail pointed at the path and then shook her head and shrugged.
 
Pausing, she reached for her paints again and painted a small picture on the back of a chair: first she painted what looked like one of the safe swamp paths, as they had just followed to reach her hut. Once Hadrian had seen it, however, she took a darker paint and smeared it over the path, then shook her head again and shrugged slightly. She looked worried and unsure.
 
---
 
When Kristina peered under the bed, all she found was an old trunk covered in dust. It had a heavy, rusted lock on it.
 
---
 
Sarael pushed the door to the final room open and found a somewhat small study full of books. There was also a large rocking-chair fit for someone the witch's size, and at the back of the room was a window overlooking the swamp outside... only the window was boarded shut.
 
---
 
"I see, well, if that's all, it's not worth going in then. Crowded as is in there already," said Cicero. "Why'd you join the Inquisition? Sorry if you've been asked this a lot already, but I don't think I've taken the time to know everyone in our group other than names." 
 
"It's... a family profession," Ben replied at length, his gaze wandering across the swamp.
 
But before he could say any more, they were interrupted by a harsh scream and a cry for help. The voices sounded familiar - like some of their fellow Inquisitors. In a second, Ben unslung the axe from his back and charged around to the source of the cry, with Cicero hot on his heels. Stevan and Shade both appeared from near the hut to follow as they ran around the opposite side of the witch's hut...
 
---
 
Everyone within the hut heard it as well: a familiar voice screaming, and another familiar one shouting for aid - Tobias and Inghus, two of the Inquisitors in their team.
 
The witch's eyes went wide - and, with a wave of her hand, all the candles in the building went dark. They could see only by the light of their torches, and in this, they could make out the witch frantically gesturing for them to leave.
 
---
 
Outside, on the opposite side of the hut from the entrance, Ben, Stevan, Shade, and Cicero all came to a halt. They saw nothing. There was no sign of Tobias or Inghus anywhere.
 
All they saw - and all anyone who joined them there saw - was mists in the night. Some seemed strangely colored... in it, they could make out a blue ball of light hovering in the distance, like a single eye silently watching them from afar. The swamp muck on this side of the hut was deep green and looked thick as tar, almost more like sludge or the contents of a mudslide than any kind of swamp water. It would be extremely difficult to navigate, and they could not easily see a path from here.
 
Ben, who currently wore no helm, whirled around several times in search for the two missing Inquisitors before he cursed loudly and released one hand from his axe. Again he cursed, growling, "Nyx's breath..."
 
Shade sniffed around and trotted about, looking confused. He whined and glanced back at Stevan.
 
"No sign of them," Stevan said, glancing around the swamp.
 
Ben sighed. "A damn Inquisitor-General doesn't just disappear," he said. After moment, he added darkly, "And they were still wearing their void iron. Both of them. One set of void iron missing to Letom was bad enough."
 
Stevan stepped up by Ben's side. "Not sure this was Letom - unless Letom can make someone suddenly lose their scent," he gestured to how Shade was still pacing this way and that, sniffing in confusion of the dry ground they stood on near the hut.

gallery_3_16_497424.gif


#14 GhostlyCheese

GhostlyCheese

    Don't touch my SunnyD

  • Banned
  • 1,504 posts

Posted 06 March 2016 - 01:08 AM

The witch looked the part, but didn't act as Grey expected, she didn't look like a monster bent on devouring children. She presented tapestries that made it appear as if she was a medicine woman rather then a witch. His sketches and small art looked like the doodling of a child compared to her's.

---

The scream broke the odd silence of the hut that hung in the air as the witch drew the group a map. When the lights fell, Grey reached into his satchel and brought out a vial, and made his way outside with the others. He was one of the first out of the door and into the strange air that filled the night. "This swamp just feels... wrong." Grey said as he tried to drink the potion fast enough to avoid the smell.

"Not sure this was Letom - unless Letom can make someone suddenly lose their scent," said Stevan, the Templar Captain.

"I've heard stories of the will 'o' the wisp luring men off the swamp path with their light..." Grey said, trying to avoid gazing at the orb hovering eeriely in the distance. "But those are just stories, right?" He asked Ben.

Edited by GhostlyCheese, 06 March 2016 - 01:12 AM.

21.jpg


#15 Ratcatcher

Ratcatcher

    Yes, I also handle elemental rats

  • Nova Member
  • 801 posts

Posted 06 March 2016 - 03:02 PM

The room the witch came out of was empty, revealing no sign of the children. Several of the others discussed in hushed tones the possibility of the witch eating the children, causing Lucy to feel much less comfortable being in there. As the witch unfolded her tapestries, Lucy wasn't entirely sure what it all meant. She postulated that it's drawings showed that the swamp was once a peaceful place, and has since lost its color. Still, the vegetables alone she was growing had to be plenty...

 

Before she could disbelieve the rumour, two screams sounded outside. Lucy rushed out, her shortsword readily held in both her hands, but nothing appeared out of the ordinary... except... the General was gone. And Inghus. In the distant fog, she saw a faint blue light.

 

"I've heard stories of the will 'o' the wisp luring men off the swamp path with their light..." said one of the Venators. "But those are just stories, right?"

 

"You tell us," Lucy replied, "Venators are experts on monsters, right? What's a... willow wisp... anyway?" She said with unfamiliarity as she looked out into the fog again. "And can it kill us if we try to go after it?"



#16 Dalton Westmoore

Dalton Westmoore

    Supreme Alpha Male. Also the Last Jedi.

  • Nova Patron
  • 3,105 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 04:02 PM

"I've heard stories of the will 'o' the wisp luring men off the swamp path with their light...But those are just stories, right?"

 

"Obviously not," The Templar said, as he looked at the Blue Flame burning in the distance "I know I said earlier that I was expecting to see one here, but I didn't think I'd get my wish..."

 

---

 

To say that Evan was terrified would be an understatement.

 

The Inquisitor was so afraid that it was all that he could do to stop from shaking.

 

He stared at the Blue Flame, then turned to Ben and asked "Do...do...you think we should go after it?"

 

 

 



#17 Neyo Wargear

Neyo Wargear

    Gloria fortis miles

  • Member
  • 1,839 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 03:06 PM

"It's... a family profession," answered Ben as he gazed at the swamp.

Cicero nodded, but before he could converse further, the natural sounds were interrupted by a scream and cry for help. Ben led the charge as he unslung his axe, Cicero did the same with his greatsword. The voices were familiar, they were Inquisitors.

When they reached the other side of the hut, there was nothing. Not a sign. Looking about, Cicero saw a blue flame. It seemed to be watching them. Cicero didn't like it at all, but there seemed to be no path or tracks for the two missing Inquisitors. Not even Shade had an idea, as he went to and fro searching for anything.

Other members of the group wanted to go after the blue flame, others asked if it could kill them. Shaking his head and grunting, Cicero headed over to Evan. "It's not smart to chase something in the dark in a place we don't know much about, then again, it might be our only lead on our missing comrades. We can't lose another two sets of Void Iron armor, and an Inquisitor-General."

Omnius mille passus expeditio, omnis fossa bellum.

KY0FhTX.jpg
"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

- General of the Army Douglas MacArthur


#18 Sareth

Sareth

    Master of Fate

  • Nova Member
  • 1,228 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 04:52 PM

When Kristina peered under the bed, all she found was an old trunk covered in dust. It had a heavy, rusted lock on it. She couldn't help but feel disappointed and frustrated; it had been a long-shot, but... there was still no sign of the children. Where in Hades' name were they!? Of course, the more cynical and realistic part of her mind reminded her that they were probably with Hades by this time...

 

She glanced at the lock thoughtfully. It was pretty rusty, perhaps one of them could break it off —or simply get the witch to produce the key. It was a long shot that the trunk contained anything useful to their search, but they didn't have any other leads —unless they could get the witch to admit what she had done with the children. Maybe...

 

Her thoughts were shattered by the sounds of a scream and a cry for help from outside —both terrifyingly familiar: General du Edrimark and Ebonguard Casperius. Immediately she darted out of the bedroom, through the main room —too preoccupied to notice the room's sudden darkness, though some part of her mind did note the witch's presence and seemingly-terrified expression—, and outside, coming to a stop alongside Ben, Stevan, and Cicero.

 

There was no sign of her fellow Inquisitors, merely strange mists... and a floating ball of blue light in the distance. And the ground that way looked like sludge —there was no way they could safely follow, at least not with any speed.

 

She swore darkly —a rather rare occurrence for her, given her typical ironclad professional demeanor.

 

"No sign of them."
 
"A damn Inquisitor-General doesn't just disappear. And they were still wearing their void iron. Both of them. One set of void iron missing to Letom was bad enough."
 
"Not sure this was Letom - unless Letom can make someone suddenly lose their scent."
 
"Magic —Arcane magic, anyways— can do many strange things; I wouldn't be surprised" she replied to Stevan, anger and frustration turning her voice into something resembling a growl.
 
"I've heard stories of the will 'o' the wisp luring men off the swamp path with their light... But those are just stories, right?"
 
"I can't believe they'd be that stupid —especially not the General" she retorted testily. "And... Gods damn it —little balls of light can't make people vanish!" she shouted angrily, taking out her frustrations by lightly punching the outer wall of the witch's hut —achieving nothing more than slightly bruising her knuckles.
 
She was losing her temper, something that almost never happened... but, then again, it wasn't every day that two of her comrades just dropped off the face of the earth —not to mention their failure to find the missing children, or any definitive sign of their fate, on top of that.
 
"Do...do...you think we should go after it?"
 
"It's not smart to chase something in the dark in a place we don't know much about, then again, it might be our only lead on our missing comrades. We can't lose another two sets of Void Iron armor, and an Inquisitor-General."
 
"We don't leave our people behind!" she snapped at Evan and Cicero.
 
This wasn't helping... She paused for a moment, struggling to shove her emotions back down where they wouldn't get in the way of rational thought. When she next spoke, to the group at large, her voice was much softer, though still with a slight harsh edge remaining."We have to find them... at the very least to recover their bodies and gear. And if Letom was behind it, we might find a lead to him, as well."
 
"But before that, I think it's past time we got a straight answer from that witch about where the children are —or what she did with them" she said grimly. As much as she longed to rush after her missing comrades —or who or what -ever had taken... or killed... them— they, like herself, put their lives on the line to protect innocents. If there was any chance the children were still alive, it had to take precedence. They would understand...
 
***
 
Finding the room she entered to be a simple study, as opposed to a cell with child-sized furnishings or some macabre slaughter house, eased Sarael's concerns a bit —though not by much, as there was still no sign of what had happened to the children, one way or the other.
 
However, these worries were promptly superseded —and yet, at the same time, compounded— when she suddenly heard the sound of yelling and screaming coming from outside. She immediately rushed outside in the wake of the others, to discover that apparently the Inquisitors' General, and another of their number, had gone missing.
 
She stared in fear and confusion at the ball of light in the distance, while some of the others talked about 'willow wisps' —which supposedly lured people off into swamps. Could that have been what happened to the children, instead of... anything the witch had done? But, the candy trail had led right to her hut... She didn't know what to think.
 
She had been so excited but now... Her very first mission had hardly begun, and already they had failed to find a group of missing kids, and now two of their own were missing —possibly dead. She was practically in shock, staring blankly out into the mists. "Wh-what do we do now?" she asked softly, of no one in particular, sounding utterly lost.

"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

Posted Image

#19 Harry Monster Princess

Harry Monster Princess

    Not mad. Just disappointed.

  • Nova Member
  • 3,648 posts

Posted 15 March 2016 - 02:15 PM

Hadrian observed attentively as the witch sketched out the map, pointing out the paths and warning them of danger obscuring the swamp even further. The Venator nodded solemnly, carefully rolling up the map. "Thank you," he said. "We'll put things right."

 

It was then that two horrible screams came from outside. The witch was terrified and immediately doused the nights, gesturing for everyone to leave.

 

Hadrian immediately bolted outside, rushing to the source of the cries. He found nothing but the other Templars and Inquisitors investigating in vain, finding no trace of the missing men, with only an eerie ball of blue flame shining in the distance. The Venator had to bite his tongue to refrain from roaring in frustration. "Damn idiots," he muttered, "Fools must've wandered from the group." 

 

"No sign of them," Stevan said, glancing around the swamp.
 
Ben sighed. "A damn Inquisitor-General doesn't just disappear," he said. After moment, he added darkly, "And they were still wearing their void iron. Both of them. One set of void iron missing to Letom was bad enough."
 
Stevan stepped up by Ben's side. "Not sure this was Letom - unless Letom can make someone suddenly lose their scent," he gestured to how Shade was still pacing this way and that, sniffing in confusion of the dry ground they stood on near the hut.
 
Hadrian grumbled angrily, squinting at the map as he got his bearings. "If the hound can't get a scent, then no beast did this. It must be Letom's sorcery or whatever fell presence is haunting this swamp." Hadrian looked up from the map for a moment, thinking. "Unless it was a ghost..."
 
"I've heard stories of the will 'o' the wisp luring men off the swamp path with their light..." Grey said, trying to avoid gazing at the orb hovering eeriely in the distance. "But those are just stories, right?" He asked Ben. 
 
"Obviously not," Malvolio said, as he looked at the same Blue Flame burning in the distance "I know I said earlier that I was expecting to see one here, but I didn't think I'd get my wish..."
 
"You tell us," the Channeler Lucy replied, "Venators are experts on monsters, right? What's a... willow wisp... anyway?" She said with unfamiliarity as she looked out into the fog again. "And can it kill us if we try to go after it?"
 
"I can't believe they'd be that stupid —especially not the General" the Inquisitor Kristina retorted testily. "And... Gods damn it —little balls of light can't make people vanish!" she shouted angrily, taking out her frustrations by lightly punching the outer wall of the witch's hut.
 
Grey had sparked hysteria throughout the group. Hadrian sighed, mournful, long, and deep enough to rattle his bones. He pinched his brow, strongly considering breaking his Venator's oath to drown the boy in the mud. Some of the other Inquisitors were deeply rattled from two of their own disappearing into thin air.
 
"Wh-what do we do now?" The Templar Sarael asked softly, of no one in particular, sounding utterly lost.
 
"Do...do...you think we should go after it?"
 
"It's not smart to chase something in the dark in a place we don't know much about, then again, it might be our only lead on our missing comrades. We can't lose another two sets of Void Iron armor, and an Inquisitor-General."
 
"We don't leave our people behind!" Kristina snapped at Evan and Cicero.
 
Hadrian gritted his teeth. "Enough!" he roared at the lot of them. "You are Imperial Inquisitors and Knights Templar. You are trained for combating the supernatural evils of this world and you all willingly signed up for it. You are soldiers. So swallow your fears, steel your nerves, and start doing your jobs." He glared down at any of the Inquisitors and the Templars still simpering. And their orders had the gall to look down on the Venatori.
 
After a few moments to recompose herself, Kristina spoke again to the group. "We have to find them... at the very least to recover their bodies and gear. And if Letom was behind it, we might find a lead to him, as well."
 
"Finally," Hadrian complimented. "At least someone is thinking sensibly."
 
"But before that, I think it's past time we got a straight answer from that witch about where the children are —or what she did with them." she said grimly. 
 
"There's no time, and no point either," Hadrian sighed, reluctant to explain the horrific situation. "The presence in this swamp drove away or killed all the game in this swamp, it cut off her food supply and left that woman starving. She had no choice." he restated. "There's nothing we can do for those children now, nothing to be gained from going after the witch, and a lot to lose if you're foolish enough to attack her. Right now, we have far bigger concerns. Our comrades are in danger, and the evil corrupting this swamp is a far greater threat to all life in that town, and beyond if it's Letom's doing."
 
"And we have a map straight to the heart of this darkness, so let's get to work." Hadrian finished sternly. He lit up a torch, and held it high above his head as he turned and marched down the path, consulting the map with his free hand. "Follow me, stay alert, stick together." He cast a sidelong glance at the floating blue flame in the distance. "And don't touch those."
 
--------------
 
Lady Mina Tamaria was scared out of her mind. If two experienced inquisitors could disappear without a trace, what chance did they have? Would they find the inquisitors, as broken and mad as Julius? They were risking their lives for some ungrateful backwoods villagers, how could this be worth it?

Many of the others were similarly losing their nerves, but with a roar the Venator Hadrian silenced them, and spoke to everyone before leading the way into the swamp.
 
Bolstered by his words and filled with determination, Mina followed, putting on a brave face and gripping her spear and shouting back encouragement to the group.
 
"C'mon! We have a village to save!"

 


^^ Click to see my Art Topic! ^^

Or check out My DeviantArt!


#20 Maverick-Werewolf

Maverick-Werewolf

    Alpha Leader

  • Forums Administrator
  • 12,176 posts

Posted 15 March 2016 - 02:48 PM

Ben turned to Grey, about to ask the same question that Lucy asked just afterward.

 

However, when Evan asked him if they should follow it, he got to answer before anyone else cut in, even if Kristina gave her adamant answer. "No," he said. "Two of my best friends are Venatori, and they told me about one of their hunts in Rognosst Swamp. The last thing you want to do is follow a will-o-wisp."

 

"But what if it leads us to the others?" asked Sebastian.

 

"It'll lead us into a trap," Ben replied firmly. "Even if the others followed it, it won't take us on the same path."

 

Stevan, meanwhile, drew his blade in his free hand, still carrying a torch in the other as Hadrian spoke and then proceeded to lead. Yaroslava looked rather annoyed by his passing judgment on her entire order based on the behavior of a few present Inquisitors, but she said nothing and quietly called for Shade to follow, which he did eagerly.

 

Using the map the witch had given Hadrian, they found a lone path through the swamp. Everywhere they looked, the strangely thick, dark green muck covered the ground. It smelled like something rotten even worse than the rest of the swamp did, and the path down which they walked felt like it became narrower at parts, the muck threatening to envelop the solid ground entirely.

 

Ben made a noise in his throat, muttering something about how he didn't want something like that on his armor. Naturally, it included several curse words. Stevan set his jaw briefly, but said nothing.

 

As they went along the path, the swamp seemed to become even darker, even more devoid of life. The swamp muck was everywhere, some of it even coating the trunks of trees around them. It looked absurd. Several trees were half collapsed into the swamp sludge, and they saw no birds, no animals, and not even any insects. Here, the swamp had no songs. The frogs were silent, the toads uttered not a croak, and no cricket broke the stillness.

 

Lucy, Grey, Irena, Hadrian, Augustin, and Mina stayed even more on edge than the rest of the group, though they noticed Ben, Stevan, and Shade behaving similarly, looking almost jumpy. They felt as if they were under constant threat, seeing things move from the corner of their eye - yet, when they looked, it was just as lifeless as everything else.

 

Then, Stevan stopped in his tracks, staring openly out into the swamp. It drew everyone else's gaze as well. Ben muttered a curse, while Stevan muttered a prayer.

 

There were figures out in the swamp - humanoid ones. From here, in the dismal mist of the night, they couldn't make out much about them, but one was holding what looked like a sword. They moved slowly, almost jerkily, looking unnatural, like animated puppets. Their heads seemed to turn in their direction, and they stopped, staring.

 

"Greetings!" Sebastian attempted to call. Ben winced at the sudden breaking of the silence. "We come in peace!"

 

The figures kept staring. After a moment, they seemed to shorten - and descend into the swamp muck. They slid down, motionless, like statues sinking into the sea, straight downward. Within a second, they disappeared.

 

The group froze. The figures had been in the swamp off to their left, far off into the thick muck.

 

To their right, a will-o-wisp floated in thin air, a strange ball of glowing blue flame in the middle of the otherwise grey fog. Looking closely, they could observe a narrow path through the muck that looked like solid ground. It would be hard to traverse, and they would have to move single-file, but it looked like it led straight to the strange, floating flame.

 

However, straight ahead of them lay the path the witch had marked, broad enough for at least three of them to walk abreast, even their larger members, such as Ben. The witch had claimed to Hadrian that this path alone would lead them to the source of the swamp's corruption.

 

It was up to them whether these sinking figures with their swords or this ball of flame were worthy of risking investigation above simply following the path.


gallery_3_16_497424.gif





0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

,