Soooooooo, for my English class unit final, we had a week to write the rough draft of a creative essay about anything we wanted, as long as it followed the whole “Hero’s Journey” story structure. I felt a sense of inspiration having not written anything substantial (or even worked on my book) for what seemed like a decade, and thus this 47-page monstrosity of an essay was born. I’ll never forget finishing and staring zombie-like at my laptop screen and asking myself out loud: “Why the heck did I do this to myself?” Honestly, though, this was a lot of fun to write; especially since I had to sprint to get a rough draft done in a week while also trying to develop a solid plot as well.
I took a couple of nights to edit this and fix some grammar and to take out the cheesy “school appropriate curses” that I used to keep from getting an earful from our teacher. If you see any grammatical errors I missed or have any advice about anything, I’d be glad to hear it.
Also, if you have any questions or something is unclear about the story feel free to ask me.
Ok, onto the story!
Warning: This story contains mature language and a bit of violence, but not anything too over-the-top.
The moon shone brightly, the night was high but quiet. The port-town of Magnuum was never really known for its nightlife. Its population was made up mostly of sailors, working hard to earn their wages, and travelers looking for a place to rest. The town had an Inn, a mead hall that doubled as a store, two stable barns, a guard barracks, and, of course, a port. Although, the port was mostly vacant; rendered nearly useless by the capital’s port, which is located just North of Magnuum.
Chapter 1. The Drunk
The kick was sharp and accurate, in the ribs just under his armpit, though Den hardly felt it.
“Get up and get out of here you lazy scumbag, this ain’t some hotel.” A man said curtly.
Den looked up at the man, or were there three men standing there? He was in such a drunken stupor that he couldn’t tell. Either way, he wasn’t in the best position to put up much of a fight, the world was already spinning as it was. The man picked Den up by the arm, set him on his feet, and promptly kicked him out of the alley. Den stumbled and flopped face-first in the street; he decided it was comfortable enough and fell asleep right there.
Memories flashed in front of his eyes. Relentless, unending memories of war and danger. He was forced to watch his own history.
One particular memory vividly stuck in his mind.~~~
Crouched behind thick brush, he could see a fire flickering from the camp, illuminating the surrounding tents with red light. Armed to the teeth, he crept through the trees, silently stalking the men sitting around the fire. As he moved closer, he spotted the soldier he previously identified as the commander of this troop. The man tossed something behind him and stood with his arms crossed.
He moved into range, drew his bow, and aimed to kill.
It was amazing the amount of damage a single arrow could do, especially to a man unaware of danger; nobody would ever expect an attack this far behind enemy lines. That was Den’s trick, to track down and strike where the enemy least expected, and THAT’S why his name was so feared.
He’d done jobs like this numerous times, each just as successful as the last, there were no exceptions, only perfection. Stalk, kill, report, simple as that.
~~~But, if Den’s memory served him right, this job was different…
His bow drawn, his eyes tracked the target, an opportunity presented itself, he was a split second away from releasing the arrow and completing the job. The commander clutched his throat, but there was no blood, no ‘twang’ of bow throwing an arrow, no split-second rush of uncertainty as to whether the arrow would strike true or not; Den didn’t release, and the man sounded like he was choking.
He let his bow go slack and tilted his head.
What the fuck?
The men around the fire rose and inadvertently blocked Den’s view. With a few swift movements, Den climbed the nearest tree.
The commander was splayed out on the ground, convulsing and gasping for air; another man from the camp was trying to get whatever he was choking on out of his throat.
Something isn’t right, I didn’t see him eating anything so what could he possibly be choking on?
The soldier who was trying to help the commander scrambled back frantically, looking down at the struggling man in horror. His fits grew quiet and a hush came over the camp. All the men were staring at the commander; some sort of a hole was forming in his throat. A few seconds’ grace was all that was given before the creature leaped into the light of the camp. Den’s heart stopped at the sight of the beast.
It was the size and shape of an average man, dark hair covered most of its body, short spikes rose from its back, and it had two large ebony horns protruding from its skull. It was unlike anything Den had ever seen before, and it terrified him that he was stalking the same forest as this thing was, let alone being this close to it. Muscles rippled on its body as it drew two massive blades from its back.
The monster let out an unholy howl while it stood before the stunned men, not far from where Den was hiding a bolt of light shot out from the shadows and crashed into the fire, casting amplified flames across the entire camp. The soldiers began to draw their weapons just as more of these creatures emerged from the wood, bearing various amounts arms and armor. The men from the camp shouted frantic orders and attempted to defend themselves against the assault coming from the shadows, scrambling around in panic as a unified force attacked them from all sides. Den was frozen with fear, he was used to combat and the likes of such, but these monsters were something entirely different; they had an aura as if their very being was incorrect. The soldiers were falling left and right from magic blasts and freakishly swift strikes coming from the monsters. It was strange, there were less of the monsters than Den initially thought, and even fewer so since the soldiers had managed to kill a few of them. The monsters had killed more than a few men, though, and by now it was clear to Den this wouldn’t be an ordinary escape after all was said and done.
The question is when would be the best time to escape? I certainly don't want to be caught with my back turned to these beasts, and I'm sure all of this noise will attract the attention of any other people around here. Dammit! I should have left during the conflict!
Den sat silently in the tree, watching the skirmish and making mental notes on how the monsters behaved in combat. He straddled the branch he was sitting on with his legs, leaning back against the trunk as to make his profile as inconspicuous as possible. He coldly watched the last of the soldiers fall to the monsters, who then turned their attention to ransacking the camp. The corpses of the soldiers had strange black burns along their bodies, much like the ones the commander had in his throat.
Boils… and black burns….I read this somewhere……magic comes to mind….“Sick?”…..no… “Disease?”….that sounds closer……..wait that’s it! Plague magic! That must be! These aren’t mere monsters, they’re Demons! Holy shit!
The fight was over, the men had lost, and now Den had to leave as quickly as possible.
How the hell do I get away from Demons? I can’t just run, they’d hear me. And I can’t fight them, they seem a lot stronger than Orcs even, let alone in groups like this.
He began counting the Demons that were still alive and making note of how alert they were of their surroundings. There were about four Demons left; the first one that came from the shadows, seemingly the leader, was standing patiently next to the raging fire, poking it with one of his swords nonchalantly.
What’s he waiting for...
A large, bestial hand gripped his left leg and ripped Den from the tree, painfully stretching his ligaments. He was thrown to the ground, a dark mass aggressively charged and collided with him. The next thing Den was looking at was a face whose red-glowing eyes’ shine was beginning to fade as he came to a sliding halt. A Demon’s eyes rolled back as it’s heavy mass slumped down onto Den’s body, lifeless. Den noticed the muscles of his right arm were in a full flex and burning. He withdrew his hand from under the Demon’s jaw to reveal a dagger in his grip, now covered in hot purple blood. His instinct had taken over when they tumbled, sliding the dagger out of its sheath and plunging it deep into the Demon’s skull as it grappled him. He pulled the clawed hands from his throat, regaining the air they took away momentarily.
An unsettling silence followed.
Did they hear that?
A twig snapped to his left.
Den quickly removed himself from the corpse and retrieved his bow from the ground whilst running for cover. He reached for an arrow in his quiver but found only one.
“Human! We will find you if run! Why not make easy for us, you give up? Adviiskaru?” a garbled voice called.
Den was far away from the camp now, standing at least fifty yards from the fire, as the voice called he looked back and saw the leader looking his direction as it yelled.
“What your answer!?” The Demon called again.
Den decided what he would do with his last arrow. He drew his bow far, centered his eyesight on the monster, and released the string. Nearly two seconds passed before the arrow finally met its mark. The Demon’s head threw back with an audible crack.
How’s that for an answer mother fu-
The Demon remained standing, it returned its head to looking at Den, an arrow was protruding from its forehead and blood was gushing out.
“Hard way then.” It said.
“What in the name of the gods?” Den said to himself.
He turned to run but was met with a blast of fire that threw him backward. He rolled to recover, drew two daggers from their sheaths, and took to running in a different direction. He heard something whistle through the air to his left and ducked. The tree just behind him cried out a dull crack as a heavy club came into contact with it and became stuck. The wielder yelled angrily at its failure and kicked at Den with a clawed foot. Den received the kick as gracefully as he could, and then swung a dagger past its throat and made contact. The Demon crumbled backward, motionless. Den stared at the dead Demon, more than a little shocked that it was actually dead.
Can’t stay… Gotta go… Go go go go go...
As he ran he glimpsed a house shining in the night.
No safety there, or anywhere nearby. Still in enemy territory…..Gotta keep running…
Just how fast are these things?
Out of the corner of his eyesight, he caught the dim light of magic conjuring, he darted behind the nearest tree as a blast of magic lit up the dark of night. A shrill scream echoed through the night.
Was that…...friendly fire? Did a Demon just kill another Demon?
Den kept still for a few seconds, no sounds followed. He crept out from behind the tree, but as he did he was hit with a ball of fire that came into direct contact with his body, singeing the skin under his thin armor. He didn't fall this time, but the light from the magic fire coupled with the concussive force of the impact left him blind and disoriented. Den staggered blindly into what he thought was a tree.
What sounded like a scream erupted in his mind as two clawed hands lifted him from the ground. Den opened his eyes to the sight of two burning orbs.
He yelled loudly into the night and kicked the Demon in the chest. The monster laughed at his effort, and then refocused on Den. Den felt his mind start to fog, a blind rage manifested artificially, as if planted there and he had no choice but to act upon it. He tried hard to fight back and succeeded only in kicking the Demon in the face, causing it to lose focus for a second. The rage came back and Den was doing battle in his head again, he started to lose track of time, and himself...
No...NO NO NO!!!!!!
It wasn’t me.
I didn’t mean to.
I’m a monster.
I’m…..I’m so sorry!
Current Identification File: Ki'lar Personel
------ Den’Naski “Den” Avin -------
Class: Scout, non-magi
Subclass: Assassin, non-magi
Assignment: Covert assassination, Ki'lar-defected-to-Dereus commmander.
Reports: Target apparently eliminated: No report
Casualties: Scout considered dead: No sightings
Synopsis: Enemy camp decimated, no survivors. Signs of magic use found. 34 Arrows found near camp. Odd dark-purple stains found near camp. Nearby household murdered.
Status: M.I.A. -Case considered closed.
~~~~WAKE UP! WAKE UP! THIS IS A DREAM! WAKE UP DEN!~~~~
Den woke up with a start.
Where am I?
He looked around, he was in a cell. Sitting up, he noticed he was in a bed, a dull pain ran through his ribs and he grunted.
“I was wondering when you were going to wake up. The next time you get drunk don’t fall asleep in the street or you might get scraped up by a less-than-lawful trader. If you know what I mean, Den.” Korey said.
The tall man approached Den’s cell and procured a set of keys from his pocket.
Korey was Magnuum’s Guard Regiment commander, he stood at about six feet seven inches and had the body of a jungle ape. Den sometimes poked at his intelligence compared to his muscle mass, bringing light to his resemblance to an Orc. He spent most of his time patrolling the port and keeping up with all the travelers coming and going. He and Den had a history as friends.
“I wouldn't have been on the street if that damn bartender would have let me sleep in the alley,” Den said.
“Yes because the alley is much safer than the street, man what a jerk.” Korey bit sarcastically as he unlocked the cell door. “I don’t plan on being too busy today, so just leave when you’re ready.”
“Hmph,” Den responded.
“Oh, you're so welcome, good sir, anytime,” Korey said, and turned and walked away.
“Hey. Thanks.” Den said reluctantly.
“Don't thank me, go thank the trader that brought you in,” Korey said.
“Who, what now?” Den asked.
“It was a lady, actually. She doesn't look like much, but she dragged your sorry ass all the way from the street to here by herself. I think she's staying at the Inn for a couple of nights if you're feeling brave.” He explained, adding a wink to top it off.
“Hmph, what’s her trade?”
“Arms, I’ll have you know.”
“I could use a drink to dull my hangover,” Den said.
“Just don't end up on the street again, and for the sake of the gods bathe once in a while would you?” Korey said.
“Fine, help me up.”
With a shove, Den was up, and he walked out of the Guard's barracks into the doorway. The sun was just above the horizon, the day was still young, the streets were just beginning to fill with commerce. Den looked toward the port, a ship was docked there.
Hmm, that must have docked last night, I didn’t see it yesterday. I wonder if they carried any of that new imported beer? Hmmmmm….
Den was nudged from his fixation on the ship by a ruckus coming from the Inn, it sounded like a fight. His curiosity took hold and he strode to the Inn. A few people came out of the doors, some with worried looks on their faces and others with rather annoyed expressions. Den went through the doors and observed what was causing the ruckus. A dark-haired woman was facing down what looked like two armored mercenaries. They had some short swords at the ready.
“Those wolves would have killed you if we weren’t there!” One of the mercenaries shouted.
“Not to mention the raiders we scared off.” The other said.
“Funny,” The woman said, unintimidated. “as I recall you two nearly soiled your garments when I WOKE you during YOUR watch rotation to tell you about the wolves stalking around our camp. Oh and thanks for scaring them off, but I'm pretty sure I could have handled those ‘dangerous’ gnome fisherman we passed by yesterday. Huh! As if they even had a violent bone in their small bodies.” She shook her head. “Some guards you were, you two louts aren't getting any more than we initially agreed on.”
“You brought this on yourself, lady.”
The first mercenary violently swung his sword at the woman. Den flinched, waiting for the report of the sword making contact, but no such sound came forward. Instead, the scuffle of clothing and armor was in its place. He looked up to see a body fly over the woman and land hard. The woman held onto the, now grounded, first mercenary's arm, but then turned and kicked the other in between his legs, bowing him over. She then brought her elbow down on the back of his head and with a dull thud, he fell flat on the ground, unconscious. The first had stumbled to his feet by now and swung his sword again at the woman. She tried to dodge it, but it caught her shirt, Den didn't see any blood, though. The mercenary withdrew his sword and slashed wildly. The woman stepped to the side and grabbed his arm, ripping the sword from his grasp in the motion. He howled as she pushed his arm farther and farther up his back.
“You know what? For wasting my time and effort, I’ll actually cut your pay.” She said.
She kicked the first mercenary toward the unconscious one.
She tossed them five gold coins and then sat down at a table. The mercenaries gathered themselves and then left with the insults and curses of the guests who remained following them. Den was impressed, she didn't even look tired after that fight, this lady was no doubt the one who dragged him to the barracks last night. Den approached the woman, and sat down across from her at the table, she was looking down at the mug of ale she was drinking.
“You wouldn’t happen to sell weapons would you?” He asked.
“Is that what you ask every woman tha-” She stopped talking as she looked up. “Wait a minute, you’re that drunk I carried to the cell yesterday.”
“So you do, then.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then you have my thanks for picking me off the street, let me buy you a drink,” Den said as he reached down for his coin purse. He found empty air in its place.
“Looking for this?” The woman said as she held Den’s coin purse up.
Den was shocked at first, then he glared at her before reaching for it. She took it away just before he grabbed it.
“Listen to me, I don’t want another fight, I could have just kept this and let you ponder instead of showing you that I have it, but if you’ll just hear me out I might let you earn it back.” She said quickly. “Sounds like blackmail to me,” Den said bitterly.
“You’re half right, but if you’re all that that Korey fella says you are, this should prove mutually beneficial.” She said.
“Hmm, go on,” Den said curtly.
Korey told her about me?! Told a stranger?! I’m going to kill him after I yell at him.
“Well, if you couldn’t tell, I just lost two of the worst guards the world has to offer. The only problem is, I have yet to travel through the dangerous parts of my route. Fortunately, I seem to have stumbled into a bit of coin, so I tell you what. If you travel with me to Nil, I'll give you YOUR money and I’ll also pay you for the trip.” She said.
Den leaned back in his chair and thought.
Hmm, she wants me to escort her to the village of Nil, which is East of Magnuum. I know the terrain and wildlife of the plains in that direction, although I haven't actually been to Nil. Nonetheless, it would be easy enough, it's not like I have much to lose. I am loathed to leave this town, though; I can drink myself to death so long as I have the coin, but it is the coin that I lack right now; even what she cut from me was menial. Hmph, I do grow tired of the drink being the sole purpose of my day, maybe it will do me good to see the roads of Ki'lar again. She seems like she would be honest to her deal as well.
“I'll do it,” Den said finally.
“Oh great! My name’s Emolynn by the way.” She said, standing.
“Den.” He said, extending his hand to shake.
“Hold on. Since I don't have an actual contract around, I'd like to do this the old way,” Emolynn said. She drew a short, gleaming blade from under her shirt and cut a line across her right palm.
Blood pact, interesting. Wait, she had that knife the whole fight?
She handed the blade to Den, incriminating him to do the same. Den took the short knife and quickly drew a line across his right palm, sending a quick sting through his hand. He then shook Emolynn's hand and sealed the contract with blood.
“Glad to have you aboard, Den.” She said.
He nodded his head at her in silent reply.
I guess that’s that then, I wonder how my equipment has kept?
Den noticed the guests at the inn had taken interest in the conversation that just occurred, all of them were looking at him. He shot a scowl back at them.
“When do we hit the road?” He asked Emolynn.
“Tomorrow morning, right at dawn. If you need a place to stay until then, you're free to stay in my room, it's the third on the left.”
Den raised an eyebrow.
“Don't give me that look, we are going to be around each other for the next week or beyond so you might as well get used to the company,” Emolynn said, not impolitely.
“I have a comfortable cell in the barracks I can sleep in, but thanks for the offer. I have to prepare myself for the road, I’ll meet you here tomorrow.” Den said.
“Alright. Don’t be late, don’t run away, and don’t even think about getting drunk tonight or you’ll be sorry.” She said sharply.
Den nodded to her, turned around, and exited the inn.
Ha, I bet I would be.