Chapter Four: Soon to be Corpse
Otis had alerted the others and they all ran over to Jamal who was slowly drowning in his own blood. They’d gathered around him, all throwing around ideas and questions as to what they were supposed to do to save him. Even the citizens who’d been celebrating beforehand looked over with grave expressions.
June looked down at him and then his wounds, covering her mouth when she thought she would throw up.
“Please don’t throw up on me,” Jamal said through a wince of pain. Despite being covered in his own blood and having several additional holes, the thought of dying covered in June’s vomit terrified him the most.
V listened to his plea, easing June back just in case she ended up repeating her reaction to the decapitated head from earlier. V supposed June’s studying of the divine arts hadn’t been too practical.
Otis crouched down, his eyes darting in between Jamals deep and horrific wounds. Perhaps he could keep his winning streak and heal him? He pulled out his wand and started a healing spell they’d taught him at the wizardry academy. Someone grabbed his wand cutting his valiant attempt short.
“No offence, but I don’t want to explode,” said Jamal. It was him who was holding his wand, and Otis tried his very best to heed his advice and not get offended, a hard task when all he’d wanted to do was help. Jamals hand went limp, his grip becoming looser until it dropped to the ground, they had started to lose him.
“What are we supposed to do?” asked Otis, his eyes refusing to move from Jamal and the growing pool he was in.
“I can help,” said June, trying her best not to gag when spotting Jamals wounds again.
Both Otis and V turned to her, glancing at each other, knowing this was the best option and only option they had. They parted, letting her pass through to look after him, but they could only hope for the best.
June knelt down on the mud, she’d given up on keeping her robes clean when the shade had used her as its playtoy before. She leaned in close and inspected Jamal’s wounds, trying her best to drive the sick feeling down as best as she could. The wounds were unlike anything she’d studied before, a thick black puss had started to leak out from where the shade had taken a bite out of his shoulder. June wasn’t surprised he’d passed out, the shades had certainly done a number on him. She wasn’t sure how much she could help him, her divine magic could provide miracles, though, from the look of Jamal, and seeing how much blood he’d lost, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to provide one. It was worth a try though.
Taking a deep breath and placing a hand onto one of the punctures on Jamal’s chest, she readied herself, she was still tired from trapping that shade before, and this spell wasn’t going to be a cakewalk either. She began to whisper the incantation slowly, the orb on her staff glowing brighter with every word she uttered. Soon the light travelled down the staff and then through June’s Veins and eventually through Jamal’s.
Otis and V looked on and watched hoping it would work, despite the fact they hadn’t got a great introduction to Jamal. Especially Otis, who, less than a few hours ago, Jamal had tried (and admittedly failed) to slice to bits, couldn’t help but cross his fingers.
Bellkeep was completely quiet then. The terrified screams and sounds of doors being broken down had ceased. It seemed like everyone had made their way to the street, quietly observing the four who had defended their town; even if it hadn’t been entirely on purpose.
June had been using the same incantation for what felt like forever when in reality it had only been five minutes. He was healing. The bite marks had started to fade, though it was a slow process.
V supposed he’d at least have his first battle scars to show off afterwards, though that’s if June’s magic actually worked. She just hoped her bragging back in the jail had some merit, for Jamal’s sake.
June kept at it, channelling all the power she could, no matter how tired she got. If it felt like forever for everyone else, to her it felt like an eternity. Soon that eternity would pass, and Jamal would become relatively wound free. June lent on her staff for balance as she finished. She looked drained, almost looking as bad as Jamal had before she healed him. Jamal didn’t move though, and June’s heart sunk. Had it all been for nothing?
Otis and V moved a little closer and knelt next to her, doing their best effort to support her. Not that she accepted it.
The silence in Bellkeep was deafening now, only being broken up when the footsteps of a family who approached the four. A little boy split from them as they stopped, walking toward Jamal carrying a minor piece of signed parchment in his hands, one that Jamal had hastily signed that morning when he arrived in town. The little boy went to place it on his chest. Jamal’s eyes shot open as he leapt forward for a gasp of air, almost head-butting the kid in return.
June let out a sigh of relief, glad that all her work hadn’t been for nothing. The crowd of citizens that had been silently watching now burst into a thunderous cheer.
Jamal’s head shot around as he tried to make sense of quite what people were cheering about. When he gave up on solving it by himself, he turned to the three kneeling by the side of him.
“Did I die?” he asked casually. The three looked amongst one another and after a lengthy pause, settled on the thought-provoking response of “sorta?”.
Jamal got up with the help of Otis and the kid, who immediately regretted their attempt to help when Jamal almost knocked them over several times.
V helped June, or at least made a considerable effort to, which June quickly refused. Unlike the others, she hadn’t forgotten how they’d ran off and left her beforehand.
The surrounding people all wore different emotions, some of relief, some of fear, and some of sorrow. Although they’d fought off the shades, there had been those who hadn’t had time to barricade themselves in. They had become the casualties of this slaughter. All four of them must’ve seen at least a dozen of those unfortunate people as they ran through the streets. Some of these people probably hadn’t realised they’d been missing someone during the moment, but that was when it had started to settle in.
“Well, I should get going, I don’t want to be around when that guard sees we’re not in that cell,” said V quickly, trying her best to avoid eye contact with the three as she started to saunter away. However, her exit was cut short as a white light attacked her eyes. The beams wrapped the other three, and they tried their best to cover their eyes. The familiar tapping started again, dimming the light until they could see once more. This time though, as it dimmed, getting smaller in size, someone caught it. It was an ancient woman, wearing an even more ancient-looking robe.
“Sorry, I don’t know what’s up with that thing, it never used to be so bright,” she said, placing the orb into the leather satchel she had on her side.
“Why does that woman sound like the orb from before?” whispered Jamal, somehow unable to put two and two together.
“She was speaking to us through the orb,” explained June. Jamal responded with a drawn-out “ah”. She hoped that she’d just missed out on healing a head injury or something, because there was no way he was actually this slow; little did she know this was him on a good day.
“I see that the four of you kept true to your promise and I am thankful, I couldn’t have expected anything less from you four,” said the ancient lady, adjusting the large goggles she wore. “I am the Great Sage, I was tasked with containing the darkness.”
“And doing a marvellous job of it too it seems,” V cut in, crossing her arms to punctuate the sarcasm.
“I’d like to see you contain an evil force for a millennium. Plus, this is a relatively new gig,” replied the Great Sage, snapping back with surprising sharpness. “Nevertheless, the time has come where darkness seeks to regain its grip on our realm, and the realm is in need of a new age of heroes.”
V didn’t attempt to cut this time. Perhaps she’d learned her lesson.
“It’s cool that you’re telling us all this, but can I ask why you’re telling us of all people?” asked Otis.
“Well, I didn’t choose you four for no reason and, in fact, I’ve got another job for you,” she said, leaving the four to wait for her to continue, dreading what she was going to ask them to do. “I want you four to travel to Glasshall, when you’re there, head for the castle, within is a chamber which contains the only thing we can use to combat the darkness.”
V laughed, and, guessing by the Sages face, it hadn’t exactly been the reaction she’d been expecting.
“Nah, I’m sorry lady, but I think I’ve seen enough of those things, I’m out,” she said, leaving with a kind gesture.
“Wait! There is more!” shouted the Great Sage.
V stopped, letting out a long groan before she turned. She supposed that it may humour her to hear what the Sage had to say.
“This attack, it’s nothing compared to what waits for you. The shades, their mere lapdogs to the being that lives outside of this realm. Centuries go by for them in the blink of an eye. If we allow the wall between our world and there’s to grow any larger, they will block out the sun, dry out our oceans and cleanse the earth below it of any life.”
Now the Sage had got V’s attention. You can’t exactly set sail when there’s no sea to sail on. The other three were also taken aback. They didn’t understand how such a creature could even exist, and why they were being tasked to stop it even more so.
“There must be someone else you can get to do this, I was basically dead five minutes ago, and if things are only going to get worse, I probably won’t even make it to Glasshall,” Jamal said, making a valid point, one that seemed to stump even the Sage.
“Yeah, sorry mam but I think you’ve got the wrong people,” said Otis, bowing his head.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” replied the Sage. Surprising everyone with her persistence. “Don’t you think it’s funny? That you ended up here at the same time? All for the attack to happen?” she listed, each one only seeming odder.
The four hadn’t stopped to contemplate the strange series of coincidences, maybe because they hadn’t had much time to think with the world beginning to end and all that.
“You’ve heard stories of the Great Four haven’t you?”
Jamal and V nodded, they’d been told stories about them by their parents to put them to sleep. But they were just stories, weren’t they? Meanwhile, Otis was questioning something else. He’d never been told many stories as a kid, but he knew enough to wonder why everything was always so great. Wasn’t there enough brave heroes that saved the day, honourable knights who rescued beautiful princesses... couldn’t there be the mediocre four?
“When things like this add up, it’s because destiny’s hand is at play. At the first battlefield where the darkness rises, so do its contenders,” continued the Sage.
“Could you quit all the dramatic shit, and get to the point?” said V abruptly, she clearly hadn’t learnt from her attempt to question the Great Sage beforehand, but the others were glad she’d told her to get to the point.
“Way to ruin the moment, but fine. I’ll get to the point if it pleases you,” said the Great Sage. Luckily for V, the sharpness she’d had before was dulled. “I believe you may be the newest incarnations of the Great Four.”
What the Sage said took them all by surprise, all for different reasons. Although V had regretted asking her to get to the point, perhaps easing into this might have been ideal.