Beyond the Void

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Two moons and three tens since the Mark of the Other One blossomed.

Alone. For days, Andrew wandered through the wilderness in solitude. He had opened his eyes half-buried under a pile of broken tree-trunks, dirt and a fair bit of snow. His surroundings had been decimated. He stared in awe at the piles of misplaced dirt and trees and the petrified grotesques and piles of ash. He had caused all of this destruction.

Then came the screams. Panic took his mind and did not let go. Several fresh wounds decorated his body. He suspected that one of his ribs might have been broken and across his chest were five parallel slashes. A huge claw had ripped through his chain armour. Screaming and screeching, he seared them all shut. How many times did he pass out trying to close just one of those cuts?

The others were all gone; they had abandoned him. Left him for dead after they had gotten from him what they wanted. That was the only reason they had tolerated him after reuniting. The need for power. He would butcher, he would torture. He would hurt them. But the demons would chase the others? He needed to hurt them! But the freaks! He could not run into those grotesque monstrosities again. Howling with rage and sobbing, he hurried through the forests and rocky crags. Afraid that the next moment he ran into the demons, would be his last.

Each morning he woke up without any memory of falling asleep. Panic made him forget hunger and even thirst. Rage only convinced him he needed neither. His water-skin. How long had it been this empty? Only frozen droplets remained on the inside. Snow was enough, he did not have time to melt the snow any longer, and he did not have time for warmth nor food. The only thing that mattered was getting back at the others. All of it had probably been Becca’s plan.

Rage and fear pushed him for days until one morning he fell down a small gorge. And his right arm had maybe just healed. Or had he forgotten that pain too? His entire body throbbed with pain and he was waiting for darkness to take him. Hour after hour, he waited, he was still on the small cliff, staring at the swirling snow and the branches. The only sound his uneven breathing. The cold would not take him. A furnace had been lit inside of him. Andrew had grown tired of the same old sight. The colours on the barks and everywhere else had turned into a revolting rainbow. In between all that, white crumbling nothingness.

Late in the night, his screams filled the forest once more. I can not die. Sobbing and whimpering, Andrew crawled and crawled. He threw himself down more small cliffs and overlooks until he was at the bottom of the gorge. And he continued to crawl. It did not matter where he slept, any place was good enough to be his final resting place. That was all he deserved. A nameless death in a nameless world. No one to mourn him. The only flowers on his grave would be those borne from his rotting corpse.

Weeks had to have passed. Maybe even months by now. Who knew how many days had passed every time he had passed out. One morning Andrew realised he had forgotten something important. He wandered for two days mulling on the thought. What had he forgotten? He kept reaching out into himself, falling into the ocean and borderless skies. No, he had not forgotten the flow of power. That was not it. When Andrew finally remembered cries and shouts sounded throughout the forest once more.

He had wanted revenge, had he not? It was what had kept him going for all this time alone. Sleeping in forgotten quarries, in the roots of ancient trees, enduring the cold and the hunger. All of it was for the sole purpose of causing pain for the others. Fear and panic returned and Andrew ran for several days without sleep. If he had forgotten, then why had he kept moving forward? What moved him, exactly what purpose did his existence serve? He had resigned once, already. Willing to let the other side take him. Why keep fighting? Why struggle? Why now?

Why remember now? It was easier this way. Each and every shadow caused him to weep out of fear. The terrain had gotten difficult to traverse. But Andrew kept running without caution. I do not want to die. I do not want to die! Why do I not want to die? A large gorge appeared ahead of him all of a sudden. There was no time avoid it, so Andrew ran straight into the vast void. This is it. This had to be it.

The landing was rough. Andrew had landed on his feet as he had tried to roll away as he remembered stuntmen do. Tried to, he ploughed face first into the ground. There was no way he should have survived such a fall. Never mind the bruised face and his earlier injuries, there were no broken limbs or bones. What kept him alive? For what purpose?

Slowly he stood up. Shaky, but still standing, the will to be was there. Andrew stood in the same position for a good while, breathing, looking at all the colours surrounding him, and looking at the swirling snow and the wonderful landscape. Tears ran down his cheeks and laughter filled the gorge.

The next morning the snowing had stopped. Once again Andrew had no memory of falling asleep. However, today something was awfully wrong. For the first time in ever, he lit a fire. The last time he had made camp was with the others. He was still down in the gorge. The air was warm. He was hungry. His right shoulder hurt. He could think clearly once again. His body felt weary. A swirling fog of branches and wooden tunnels was all he could think of about the days before. Where exactly was he now?

Food. He needed food. Anything at all would do. Andrew closed his eyes and reached out to the forest around him. Small embers scurried about, some around the bend of the ravine. But after finding food? What should he do? How many weeks had he run like a madman? Should he find the others? It was probably impossible by now. It was better to assume he was on his own.

Andrew opened his eyes and set off in search of prey. For a while, he felt good, his thoughts were clear, he had a purpose, and he got lucky. A small group of rodents scurried around in the moss. He captured two. A far cry from a hearty meal, but it would do. But he kept stopping and looking around. Something was definitely wrong here. He could not figure it out.

This continued the entire time Andrew was preparing his meal and melting snow to fill his water-skin. Something bothered him but no matter how many times he looked around, he could not see anything out of place. He tried reaching out, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Only the small embers scurrying around, no spots of nothingness hovering around him.

He needed to get out of this gorge. Maybe find a higher place to see if he could recognise anything from the map. He pulled out his compass and chose a heading somewhere between west and south-west. This ravine was heading in the right direction. Sooner or later he might find a way out.

Lucky, again! The ground was rising somewhat and soon enough there was a manageable way up the cliff. Everything was going too well. And everything about this place rubbed him the wrong way. Reaching the top of the cliff, he paused. The entire landscape was filled with small cliffs and ledges and in between them ran countless gorges and ravines. Trees still grew everywhere. A particular kind of evergreen tree with a reddish bark dominated the area and clung to any surface it could. Finding a way through this mess would take some time.

The rocky outcrop Andrew was ascending seemed to be one of the taller ones in the area. It was a good idea to go even higher. Above all, he was hoping that he might find a clue as to what was bugging him so much. But as far as he could see the only thing of note were the forested badlands Andrew had reached. He was about to head downhill when a gust of wind caught him off guard. The cold wind carried something warm within it. Something familiar.

Once more Andrew closed his eyes and reached out around him. Again, nothing for who knows how many kilometres. Nothing but small embers and animals. But he felt the warmth return with another gust of wind. He faced the direction it had come from and reached out as far as he could. Beyond a certain distance, everything turned into a noise of undistinguishable fuzziness, not too different from white noise. But something was reaching out from the edge of that fuzzy mess of presences. It felt human.

Heart pounding, blood rushing in his ears, Andrew stood in place and again and again caught the sliver of that warm presence that slowly trickled towards him with the wind. It was not the others, but it was most definitely human. Andrew pulled out his map and stared at the bottom edge. Crags and ravines decorated what little had been documented on it. He had made it. He had reached the south.

He did not need to bother with the compass, all he needed to do was follow the warmth flowing towards him. The closer he got the stronger the presence would get. And now an even greater fear struck him. If he was this close, he could not afford to lose himself now. Not to the invader in his mind, not to the demons. He was on his own, hopefully the others were away from harm and away from him.

Andrew had spent three entire days navigating the maze of badlands surrounding him. Ravines twisted around islands of cliffs. It was impossible to go in a straight line. Here and there, he saw bits and pieces of ancient bridges and long gone pathways. He had wandered further west than he had managed to reach south. High and rocky hills now stood in his way, he would have to find a path through these passageways.

He was definitely getting closer. He could feel an even stronger warmth coming south-south west. Each step he took, took him closer than before. Do not give up now. But the deep silence had returned, it was unmistakable, the demons were close by. Would he run into the others? He did not want it. Most of all, Andrew was afraid of what he might do. Did he want to hurt them? He was not entirely sure, but a small nagging doubt told him he would have a hard time not letting the worst part of him do as it pleased.

On the fourth day, the silence was crushing. Andrew moved slowly through the ravines, expecting to run into the demons after each bend. He could still not sense their presence. He had not managed to find any fresh food today. All the scurrying embers had hidden themselves deep into the ground and all else was avoiding this part of the forest. The demons were definitely here.

Take it calm and slow, do not make a mistake now. Do not let the flow take you. But as the demons had drawn close so was the veil brushing his thoughts again. He felt it, the tugging and clamouring of the chains and the coarse cloth brushing his thoughts. Ignore it, ignore what your body needs, do not give in to the flow. It does not matter that you are hungry and your body screaming from the pain, do not let the flow take you.

His heart pounding from the constant excitement and fear Andrew was pleased to see that the ravine he was following would keep heading further south. High above a lone bridge still stood intact. The clattering in his head was getting louder and despite the obvious way south he was hesitant to approach the bridge. Small patches of snow were falling down all around him and the silence on the cliffs above Andrew felt alive.

As he drew close to the walls of the ravine, quiet shouts and a brief rustling noise sounded above him. The urge to call out or even whistle was overwhelming. Help me, please! I am here. But the fear before the flow forced him to keep his mouth shut. He stood still, observing the cliffs high above, hoping to see anything at all but once more everything lay silent for the longest moments. Without warning, the forest burst into life.

Shrieks and howls rang through the air, muffling the sounds of nearby thrums of explosions. Andrew had caught up with the others. His worst fear had come true. But the others were there. Anna was there! Eric, Kauri, and Robert. A wave of ice and shards rocked the bridge and small pieces of it showered down into the ravine. Jess was there too, along with Sarah and Mai, Becca and Lenna.

If the bridge came down on top of him, Andrew would be in a bad spot. He took off running, ignoring the commotion on the top of the cliffs. He passed under the bridge and made it further into the ravine when a sudden rumbling noise made him stop. Looking behind him the bridge was gone and a shower of rubble covered the ravine. After the avalanche was over, for the briefest of moments, he saw Eric desperately peer down into the ravine. And Eric must have seen him too.

Andrew was about to turn around when something caught his eye on the cliff wall. It was Sten, desperately trying to climb back up. All of a sudden, several huge grotesques jumped across the cliffs towards where Eric and the others had disappeared. Two grotesques, however, did not aim to make it across. They wedged their bladed hands into the rock face and were determined to reach Sten, who had begun a hasty descent. And Andrew was once again under the vicious onslaught of the flow.

There was no sound here other than the chains. The pain subsided and without warning, he was standing on top of his own dark sun opposing the other one. It faded and what remained was his world of endless skies and oceans. He was still sitting on the small piece of ice from when Jess had been here. His legs were in the water, but he did not dare let go. Despite the piercing cold, he held on. But deep in the ocean he noticed something. A woman with a blood-red blade. She held her hand towards Andrew. Andrew knew that woman. He hesitated for only a moment more and then plunged himself into the deep, dark ocean.

Andrew could feel the flow rushing into his head, swirling around his brain and an urgency spreading out alongside. His fingers felt restless, and the inside of his head was buzzing. Yet this time he remained. The flow did not take his thoughts. One of the grotesques was nearly upon Sten once an arc of lightning tore it from the cliff wall. The shower of debris barely missed Sten. Andrew paid him little attention as he tore the second grotesque off the cliff face. His knees buckled and he fell on all fours. He was still in a bad way.

Already the two grotesques were recovering and turning their attention towards Andrew. These ones were even bigger and each of them had sprouted an extra set of arms. Actual arms with fingers and claws. The blood-red blade appeared in Andrew’s hand the moment he thought about it. He plunged it into the ground and a firestorm enveloped the two grotesques.

He had wanted to crush them between the cliffs, why did he make fire? However, it was enough, shrieking, the two giants crumbled and did not stand up again.

Sten had reached the bottom of the ravine, and sought to flee when Andrew stood up.
“Stay the fuck away from me, you freak!”
“What?” Andrew had trouble concentrating on Sten. Small ripples of a tangled yarn kept catching his attention on the top of the cliffs. He started to back away from Sten, all the while looking at the cliff tops. Soon enough more horrors jumped across the gap and some jumped straight down into the ravine.

“Come on, you idiot! Run!” Andrew shouted at Sten who was staring at the scene behind him in stupor. Getting ready to plunge the blade into the ground for a second time, Andrew was praying that this would work. It needed more power.

The ground rumbled and split and two massive cliff faces jumped forwards, crushing all the demons in between them. An avalanche of rock and dirt and trees was flying in every direction. Andrew waited Sten to pass him before running south down the ravine as fast as he could. Several more thuds behind him told Andrew that more of those horrors had come down. Something warm was running down his face. He realised he was bleeding from his nose and mouth. Not good, now he was feeling really light-headed. He spat and wiped the blood off and pushed after Sten who was running full tilt.

Any moment those things behind them would be right on their shoulders, slicing him and Sten apart. But something was wrong. Andrew glanced behind him. The freaks were coming, but not as fast as he expected. They were shrieking ferociously, but instead they did not close the distance. They could have easily done it. Andrew kept glancing behind him until he had enough. He stopped and turning around, slammed a massive arc of lightning behind him. The force of it ran throughout his entire body. Would he be able to move after this? It left him breathless and open for a counter-attack.

He saw a juggernaut of a beast, almost like a rhino with two shields for hands, take the brunt of what Andrew had hit them with. Grotesques and juggernauts behind it hurried forward to brace the beast. After the torrent of power tore through the ravine walls and subsided, none of the beasts approached. They shrieked with fury and made threatening gestures, but none budged forward.

Wait up damn it. The woman kept sinking faster and faster. Andrew could not breathe, he could not see a damn thing besides her and the blade. He was going to drown in this ocean. Everything was starting to fade until all of a sudden his legs touched a bottom. The woman was right in front of him and without warning, she grabbed Andrew’s throat and tore his mouth open.

Andrew struggled, feeling the water fill his lungs. He was going to die. The woman shook her head and pushed him away. Andrew gasped and sputtered. He should not have been able to do that. It dawned on him where he was. There was no water, no ocean. Countless small black cubes shuffled and moved around in the walls. He could breathe without problems or did he even need to breathe here? Everything was shrouded in darkness that was perfectly visible. No light should have been able to reach this place. A shimmering veil of chrome covered everything but as soon as he concentrated on it, it vanished. But those countless cubes, what were they?

Looking around he saw that they made up even larger cubes shifting around like the smaller ones. The woman said something, but her language was incomprehensible to Andrew. She shook her head again and threw the sword towards Andrew. It slowed down in the air, ending up hovering around Andrew. Those small black cubes would not leave his attention alone. There was something about the way they moved. The chaotic order of it. And all of it clicked. For the first time in months, the inside of his head felt at peace. He grabbed the blood-red blade by the handle as it passed by in front of him again.

Several arcs of lightning thrummed into the bony shields of the juggernauts, but to little effect. The visions made Andrew swear out loud. Although, he did not mind them this time. An eerie feeling of contentment spread in Andrew. He pulled off the earring and threw it on the ground.

“What the fucking fuck are you doing, you lunatic!” Sten had hurried to his side. “We can’t take them on by ourselves! We need to run you goddamned husk! Does anything even hear me behind those empty eyes of yours?” Sten was dragging Andrew away from the demons.
“Save it.” Andrew yelled. He pushed Sten to the ground. “Look.” He pointed north up the ravine.
Like a wild animal, Sten’s eyes darted all over the place and he kept glancing at Andrew but finally, you could see realisation dawn in his eyes. “They aren’t coming? Why are they not coming?”

“We are already in their trap. Barking dogs, hounding us to their master.”
“Trap?” Andrew turned around and leisurely walked south. “What damned trap? Is there something waiting for us down there? Then why are we going that way? Why not take care of those things and find a way after the others? You could do it!”
“Because there are more of them in the north than south. If we turn north and go through them, more walls will appear ahead of us.”
“So we have a better chance of going south. Breaking through there?”

One of the grotesques was getting impatient and broke ranks. It sprinted towards Sten who was screaming at the top of his lungs. It simply slashed the ground near Sten and Andrew. Dirt and pebbles flew around, but that was it. It shrieked at Sten who this time roared back at it.

“Don’t bother reacting to it. It’s what it wants.” Andrew ignored the giant behind him and kept walking.
“What the shit do these things want anyway?” Sten shouted and a chorus of howls responded to him. “So what’s our plan?” Sten grumbled.
Andrew merely shrugged.
“Andrew?” Sten growled. “What is our plan.”
“We have none.” Andrew looked at Sten. Sten glared at him in disbelief.

An odd group to travel with, Andrew mused. A thought struck him and he pulled out the map and the compass. “Why did you give me these? You never told anyone else, did you?”
“I had to make sure we stood a chance in the wilderness. That we wouldn’t lose our way should something happen or should we get split up.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone? And why did you tell the others that you did not trust me, when we set out? And then gave me these like that.”
“As if I could trust you! There was something off about you, the moment you stepped out from one of the pillars in the gateway.”

“What?” Andrew looked at Sten, but his face was full of anger.
“Everyone else appeared in the centre of it, but you strolled out from one of the pillars. No one believed me, but I know what I saw. Dust came to life and looked at me with dark eyes and a mouth full of nothingness. The way you kept to yourself, the way you silently watched us struggle for days, letting us tire ourselves out before springing the “news” on us. All of this was your plan!” Sten was breathing heavily.

“Why did you give me the map? Why didn’t you tell the others?” Andrew demanded.
“No one else saw it! But I know what you are! You are not us! You are not from our world, you are one of the freaks from here. Becca did say not to let it out! We did let you out! You needed us to let yourself out! I know why those things are chasing us!” Sten gestured behind them. “They are like antibodies fighting a virus, fighting something that should not be here! You should not be here! The rest of us were caught up in this! It’s you they want! That’s why I am in this trap! Because I found out! Because I was close to unveiling the truth to the others! You made sure that I would fall down here with you!”

Something was really off with Sten. His eyes kept darting around and his face was twitching. “I gave my all to protect them! To keep them safe! So we might have a chance of escaping you! But even when you started showing your true colours they still wouldn’t listen. You thoroughly managed to corrupt them in the end. At least I made sure to get them away from you! You still followed us! You still followed us through the ravines! Like a crazed ghost, we heard you night after night! What do you need from us?” Sten was foaming at the mouth now and he seemed to barely register his surroundings. The voice of a woman interrupted this tirade.

Surrounded by demons and freaks on all sides and cliffs they had reached a larger clearing in the middle of the hills. The weak sounds of a waterfall sounded from nearby. Andrew stopped, but Sten kept marching forward towards the woman dressed in a blue dress. She kept speaking, yet not a word was recognisable. Sten laughed. “Finally! Here he is! I am just a bystander. You can let us go now! I do not belong here!” Sten was gesturing wildly as if trying to make the woman understand.
“Keep away from her Sten!”
“Shut up! They are here for you! I am going to leave and let you get what you deserve!”
“Sten! She is not human!” Andrew was ignored. Sten only stopped after reaching the woman. He knelt before her and seemingly froze.

All this time the woman kept talking, with great passion and anger she addressed those monstrosities around her. Her gaze kept ending up on Andrew. Had she even noticed Sten there? All of a sudden she shrieked something and pointed straight towards Andrew.

A grotesque from the rear ran forward and without thinking twice, swung at Andrew. He stepped to the side to avoid its bladed arm and let lightning roar from the skies into the beast right next to him. Swiftly he closed in on the confused thing and drove his blade into its head. Immediately it turned into dust.

The woman in blue shrieked and grabbed her head. There was no doubt. Andrew had heard that same shriek following them throughout their journey. All of a sudden she smiled and placed her hand around Sten’s cheek. Slowly she brought him upright and turned him around. Then she placed her hand on Sten’s head. It was odd how much taller she actually was than Sten.

“See! I knew it! I KNEW IT! They are here because you should not be here!” Andrew was worried. Something terrible was about to happen. He could feel it, the insides of Sten suddenly alighted into a storm. That small presence of his suddenly inflated and burst out around him.
“Sten! Let go of her!”

“Stop talking, you freak! She told me what you are! A murderer! You are at fault here! You! You killed all of them! Gave empty promises and let all of the humans slave away for you! You pretended to care for them! You let them exalt you as a god!”
“Sten, for the love of god, let go of her! Do not let her touch you!”
“You murdered a child! You let them use her, you are the one at fault here. They left her broken and twisted. Without any choice for what came next! You killed her!” Sten’s voice was no longer human.

Sten’s flesh was being ripped to pieces, but he did not seem to notice. He was bursting out of his clothes and armour. His flesh grew and rearranged itself. Something was trying to burst out from inside of him. Bones shattered and pierced his skin. And so was the flesh of the woman changing. She was shedding her human skin.

There was nothing else Andrew could do. She was still small compared to the other monstrosities around here, although not by human standards. She had sprouted wings similar of a butterfly and multiple pairs of arms. Four? Five pairs? It was hard to keep track of them. She had horse hooves for legs and her knees were bent backwards. Her wings kept growing with sickening speed. Their edges became rugged and flappy. As if skin had been torn off her back and shredded against a grater. Her face disappeared and only a single purple slit remained where the eyes should have been. All around, her body was decorated with spikes, pieces of spines and bone plates.

Before he could properly think about it, Andrew had thrown his sword toward Sten and the woman. In fact, it had already travelled over half the distance once he realised. Immediately the woman had blocked it with a large bone blade that had formed out of her hand, sending Andrew’s sword swirling up into the air above Sten. But that would do.

The entire world shifted and Andrew felt his hand close on the sword handle. For the briefest of moments, he saw the woman and Sten’s abnormally hulking form below him. Lightning thrummed into the two of them and Andrew landed harshly in the crater below. The woman had disappeared and the hulking monstrosity had received a direct hit. Andrew did not hesitate, but plunged his sword straight through its chest.
“Traitor!” The monster shrieked and made a grab for Andrew’s throat. A moment later its head was flying through the air and everything else around Andrew was swallowed by a raging inferno.

A blow to his back nearly knocked him unconscious. Several bone spikes were flying past him from all directions and a few of them caught. Andrew tore some out and sent a wave of ice in the general direction. Several grotesques and their blades appeared from within the dwindling inferno.

As he lie on all fours, Andrew plunged his sword into the ground and made several walls of stone appear. The bone blades crushed stone easily and Andrew was sent flying. He bounced painfully for several meters, only by some miracle managing to stumble upright.

A group of hulking rhino-beasts stood before him, some had shields for hands, others scythes. He did not hesitate, but tore through them with lightning. It was enough to leave them incapacitated for a moment.

Swiftly he dispatched three of them with strikes into their heads. Something struck him out of balance from behind and he was forced to catch two massive bone blades on the small blood-red sword. How did it not break? How did he not break? It took both of his hands on the sword to stop the blades, but already a new contender stepped forward.

The woman in blue had raised all her arms and was heading straight for him. In desperation, he grabbed skyward with his hand. Andrew let a steady stream of lightning course down and through his body. He felt the impact and the power tearing through his flesh, the pain was barely tolerable. The surge needed a way out.

The bone blades he had blocked were disintegrating; one creature was about to lose its arms and howling, it staggered back. Andrew let a stream of lightning escape from his body towards it. It tore the beast into ashes and bounced to the woman in blue. She caught the edge of power on her blades and resisted.

No matter what Andrew did, he could not break the surge between the two of them. If he were the one to give in to the power connecting the two of them then it would not end well for him. Other demons around him were approaching him. Out of desperation, he threw the blood-red blade towards the closest demon. The demon bashed the sword into the ground with its bony shield.

Andrew reached into the shifting world yet he did not reach the sword. A surge of power coursed down from the skies leaving Andrew breathless and tearing through the growing clearing. The surge shattered and Andrew flew away from the sword. Something solid stopped his tumbling about.

As the world focused another juggernaut was about to crush him. Andrew placed both hands on the ground and spikes of stone impaled the beast from below. The world shifted and his hand closed on the sword-handle this time.

In the background, he could see a tiny marble of distorted air and lightning causing havoc. Tearing through solid rock as if it was butter, turning dirt and wood into glass and shredding all the demons that came into contact with it. A sudden arc of lightning from the marble bounced towards Andrew and glanced his hand. The pain made everything fade into darkness for a moment. He must not get hit by it.

A couple of disoriented beasts rose from the ground next to him. One was caught directly on the path of the marble. In an instant, the beast was turned into dust. Andrew barely managed to direct his flow against the marble, trapping it in place but also leaving himself vulnerable. With one hand, he was frantically searching for a way to release one of the scrolls on his back. What on earth had his shifting conjured?

Without warning, the monolithic fang burst into existence. Andrew placed his free hand on its surface and power tore throughout the clearing. Cliffs shattered and the earth shook. The cold marble started phasing around the ravaged clearing and ran amok through the demons. It called down lightning arrows and decimated everything in its path. The demons were torn into pieces everywhere it appeared. It ran out of fuel with a shower of crystal shards that dulled in moments.

The woman in blue was closing in on Andrew. She seemed completely unaffected by the destruction caused only moments ago. She spared no thought for her panicked and falling pack. Andrew tore power loose from the monolith and directed it all towards the woman. A wave of jet black lightning tore into her, but still she resisted. Her hands and blades began to glow silver as the torrent of power was diverted all around her and the landscape rent asunder over and over again. She was shrieking.

Andrew could not let this power flow through him for too long. He could see tiny pieces of his right arm start crumbling into black ash. He threw his sword towards the woman and felt the world shift. He managed to slice off several of her limbs and felt the remaining jet of power wash over them both, but the next moment he was slammed into the ground and something tore through his armour. He was thrown into the air and slammed into the ground again. Something grabbed his neck and was crushing it into a pulp. He could feel liquids rushing around where they were not supposed to be. He had lost his sword and he could not reach it. Choking, he fumbled a dagger loose from his chest.

Blindly, he sunk it several times into the bitch until the blade broke. This was enough to fall free. Sputtering and coughing he scrambled upright, afraid of what was coming if he stopped moving. Andrew released a second dagger and plunged it into the woman’s forehead. Then into her chest. He was pleased to see that thing carried a heart inside of her. Again and again he butchered the creature’s chest, so much that he could see the wounded and shredded heart appear from the layers of rippling flesh. The creature had been weakened, but she was still struggling.

Andrew reached out with his left arm towards the monolith. He felt the flow of the power even from this distance. Thunder roared across the skies and a torrent of power tore throughout the clearing, shattering more cliffs and displacing the entire clearing. He felt something tear through his armour and into his body again. A jet-black wave roared onto Andrew and the grotesque woman and he felt himself flying away. All strength had left from his body as he came to a stop and lay there. A screeching noise was all that remained.

Through the swirling dust, he saw a pale dot of distorted air pulling the few beasts and grotesques that had remained towards it. They did not have time to react before a shockwave tore throughout the clearing, turning each and every one of the horrors into stone. The monolith slowly sunk back into the scroll beneath it and silence settled.

It was finally over. The way was clear. With the end of the flow, pain and panic returned. Andrew began to sob and weep. His cries turned into shrieks and howling once he had mustered the strength to sear and wrap whatever wounds he found. His armour was broken and shredded all over. Several bone arrows had pierced through it and into his flesh.

He kept seeing flashes of darkness, but Andrew knew he was moving forward. The only thing in his mind was the warmth that came from the south. Just right there. Down this slope and around these cliffs. It was good he had remembered to pick up what little he had brought with him. The scrolls! He needed the money now! Through the forest. Step by step, you only need last a little longer. They were close now. Someone was coming!

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