The next day came overcast and humid. Legin had awoken drenched in his own sweat and the very air he drew tasted moist and heavy. The dark clouds blocked out much of Inüer’s light and made it dark beneath the trees as they continued to walk along the ancient road. Even the colours of the day seemed dull and washed out to Legin’s eye. But the bleak atmosphere and humid conditions did little to effect his moral. Though, the same could not be said for his companions.
“These damn flies.” Pip grumbled loudly as he tried to swat the insects.
“Think of it as a game Pip,” Legin smiled. “Like an exercise to improve your speed and accuracy.”
As he spoke Legin’s arm snapped out quickly, catching a large fly and squishing it.
“How can you be thinking of exercising in this stifling humidity?” Vhindr remarked as he uncomfortably adjusted his top.
“It’s not that bad,” replied Legin haughtily.
Both of his companions disagreed with that statement and their moods stayed as dark as the low hanging clouds and shadows amid the trees.
The morning went by incredibly slowly and the road they trod began to wind around small hills. The ruins of the ancient city were still crumbling by the road side and in the dense foliage.
“How big was Braydoss?” Legin asked curiously as he absently kicked a small stone down the white brick road.
“History states that it was the largest city of Essinendeür in its time,” Vhindr replied as he looked around at the ruins. “It sprawled many miles across the land and around the hundreds of lakes that were in the region. Lakes of water so clear you could literally see the bottom and every fish that swum beneath the surface. Or so history says.”
“Sounds like nonsense,” Pip said.
“It sounds wonderful,” Legin corrected, “Like my kind of town. Imagine how great it would be to go swimming and fishing in one of those lakes. What happened to them all?”
“What do you think happened?” Vhindr asked in reply, “They were destroyed when Gornl was destroyed.”
Legin sighed and looked back to the trees and broken buildings. As the day passed the humidity and heat increased, and the dark clouds lingered like a blanked in the skies. Midday came eventually so they stopped to rest at an old and broken bridge where a cool river ran.
Legin was the first to dive into crystal clear waters and wash the sticky sweat from his body in the cool water. Pip also joined and he laid back in the gentle currents with a contented smile on his face. But Vhindr seemed hesitant to get wet.
“Come on Vhindr,” Pip encouraged.
“The water is perfectly refreshing,” Legin added with a wide smile.
“Perhaps there is another bridge along the river which is still intact.” Vhindr wondered out loud.
“What’s your problem?” Legin asked in confusion, “It’s only water. Cool, refreshing water, at that.”
“But I shall ruin my vest,” Vhindr shook his head, “And the rest of my clothes.”
“By The Five,” Pip exclaimed in disbelief.
“Are you saying you are not rich enough to buy new clothes?” Legin raised an eyebrow.
“But this was made by the best tailor in Port Na’brath.” Vhindr replied, indicating his gold and black vest.
“Get him to make another one,” Legin rebutted and Vhindr finally sighed and shrugged before he waded into the waters.
The river was only waist high at its deepest but all three of them dived bellow the surface and swam to the opposite bank.
“If we could only stay here all day,” Pip lamented as they climbed back up to the road.
“Come one Pip, we got things that need doing,” Legin replied as they continued along the broken road.
“What things?” Pip asked, “I am beginning to wonder why we are even here.”
“You know why,” replied Legin.
“But there is nothing here,” Pip said emphatically. “Let alone evidence of who you are.”
Legin fell silent then and looked to the open area they had walked into. The placed seemed a remnant of town square with a broken stone spire standing at the center of a paved plaza. The top of the giant spire had long since fallen to the ground and what remained was covered in vines with red flowers.
“You’re right Pip,” Legin said despondently and he stopped walking. “There is nothing here that will tell me who I am. Nothing at all.”
It seemed like hours to Legin as is eyes fell to the stone at his feet and he stood there with the sudden realisation. All his bright optimism gone in a second, and replaced by crushing reality. His chest felt tight and his breath shallow as a lump formed in his throat. The dimness of the day closed in around him and all light seemed to be swallowed up by his despair.
“What is the matter Legin?” Vhindr asked, his voice piecing the veil of depression around Legin. “Did you really think you would find others like you? You have always been a rare oddity created by nature.”
Legin looked up from the ground and gave Vhindr a confused expression.
“The natural order has always created singularities, mutations if you will,” Vhindr explained, “The reasons for which baffle even the most knowledgeable Magi and scholars. But it is always for a reason, some purpose unknown. Maybe it is to advance the natural evolution, or maybe it is to combat something untoward to the species. Who can say?”
“I wasn’t created by nature,” Legin snapped back, “I am not some animal in the wilds, both my parents of were of Men. Are you saying that in a century’s time everyone will have tail like mine?”
Vhindr shook his head, “I am saying you are unique, created by the process of the natural order. Your mother washed ashore from the Gornl Sea, which is heavily infused with Fog, she was dead. But for some reason you were not. What I am saying is that you have been touched by the magicks of the Fog, and you are not of another race of people. For whatever reason you were born, be happy that you were.”
“Easy for you to say,” Legin was quick to reply.
“My ancestors were from Nevārance,” Vhindr stated, “Do you really think that is something I am proud of, especially considering their recent invasion of our country? Be happy for your life. What does it matter where you are from? Can you honestly say that if you were to discover something terrible or amazing about your ancestry that it would change who you are?”
Legin looked away from Vhindr and to the red flowers of the vines.
“I guess not.” Legin replied after a few seconds.
“And do not forget that the real reason why we came here was to discover what happened to Arell and the culprit behind the murders.” Said Vhindr and he gave Legin a slight smile.
“Yeah okay,” Legin conceded, “But even with that we haven’t found any clues. An’ we got to be near the city center by now, right?”
Vhindr glanced around the large square and nodded.
“Maybe that is something,” Pip remarked as he pointed passed Legin and Vhindr.
“What?” asked Legin, and he looked to see what his friend was indicating to.
“What in the Abyss is that?” Legin suddenly exclaimed and pointed the disgusting creature out to Vhindr.
Vhindr instantly recoiled a step as he laid eye upon the pale and twisted creature. It was naked, but had no genitals. Its pale skin was covered in blue and purple bulging veins. Across its body were grotesque tumors. The things face seemed to have a twisted snout of a dog, and its bare teeth were pointed and yellow.
“It’s like what washed ashore in Pentra along with the women’s bodies,” Vhindr gasped, his eyes wide.
“There are more of them.” Legin stated warily as many more shapes appeared from behind the ruins.
All three of them backed towards the broken spire as dozens of the mutated creatures clambered out from the broken buildings and from the jungle plants. All of them were different in some way, with different disgusting mutations. Some had bulging arms with sharp claws; others twisted spines and club feet. But many of them seemed almost normal in appearance and twitched uncontrollably, their eyes lusting for blood.
“That one has a tail,” Legin exclaimed as he spotted one of the more normal figures, but its face was distorted horrifically.
“Whatever these things are they are nothing akin to you Legin,” Vhindr replied quickly, “These were created by no natural means.”
“What?” Legin turned his gazed to Vhindr who stood ready for battle with a Fog long sword in his hand. “I thought you said no magicks?”
“Not like we have a choice.” Vhindr stated seriously.
“There’s too many of them,” Pip said suddenly, his breathing rapid, “More are coming. We can’t win, not against this.”
“Sure we can Pip,” Legin smiled and readied his fists. “We have never lost a fight.”
“This is not like before,” Pip said quietly and backed away a step, “We … there’s too many … we have to run.”
“Pip?” Legin looked to his friend curiously, “Focus, come on. There is no way we are losing to these mutants. See that one with the tail? I’m going to smash him in the face.”
Legin grinned widely at his friend before he turned his eager eyes back to the coming horde. Wisps of Fog began to curl around Legin’s arms and he shot forwards, straight for the middle of the disgusting creatures and straight for the one with the tail. Legin covered the twenty meter distance in a flash of Fog coloured light, his balled fist connecting with the creatures face. Legin felt bone crumble and flesh explode as the tailed monster went flying backwards from his strike.
Instantly the rest of the creatures were upon him, swinging with their clubbed and clawed hands and trying to tackle him to the ground to bite at his flesh. But Legin was too quick for them, too skilled and far too powerful. With each punch bone crumbled, flesh rendered and the abominations of nature were sent flying through the air.
Spinning down low Legin took out the swollen legs of two, his was up in a flash with a powerful kick to the ribs of each of them before they could even tumble to the ground. There was such strength behind each kick that both monsters almost folded in two before they went rag-dolling into the air.
The next mutant in line collected a punch to the gut and a palm to the chest that sent it backwards into three others, causing all of them to fall to the ground.
Out of the corner of his eye Legin saw a clawed hand slice for his head, he easily twisted under the attack, causing the creature to fall to its hands and knees. Before it could regain its feet Legin kicked it in the ribs and catapulted it into another creature.
None of the beasts could lay a hand or claw upon him, but Legin noted that more and more began to crowed him as they tried to overwhelm him and drag him down.
Falling to a crouch Legin summoned the power of the Fog deep within him. Eyes closed he felt the energies gather and the creatures close in. But he waited. The mutants were virtually upon him now, but still he waited and gathered his strength.
Suddenly his eyes popped open and he jumped high into the air. He seemed to levitate fifteen feet above the horde as the energy he had gathered pooled into a ball around his fist. Lights of Fog flickered and Legin thundered back to the ground with a heavy punch into the white brick of the plaza. The ground shook and a wave of energy burst out from the impact sending the fiends into the sky and ripping them apart. A large crack shot across the ground as the wave of energy rushed outwards, knocking the mutants from their feet and turning their organs and bones to mush.
Slowly Legin stood back up, flashes of Fog darting around him and across the surface of the pavement. All the fighting around the plaza seemed to suddenly stop and all who were still on their feet turned stunned expression towards Legin.
But the spell broke quickly and the grotesque creatures who still lived got back to their feet and charged back in at him.
In that brief respite Legin caught a glimpse of how his companions fared. Vhindr was doing well with his Fog sword and magicks. But Pip seemed to be running away more than fighting. Legin also noticed that many more of the creatures had come from hiding in the ruins and were joining the fray.
They would be over whelmed, Legin knew it.
Gritting his teeth in determination he charged back at the creatures, the Fog streaming from each blow. With each twist and strike Legin worked his way towards Vhindr and Pip who had grouped together. Perhaps if he could reach them they might be able to repel this onslaught.
Spinning low Legin came up with a devastating upper cut, blasting a dog-faced mutant under the chin and sending it back flipping through the air. Darting low again he pummeled a large fat fiend in its bloated gut several times causing it to stagger back several steps. Without slowing Legin brought his hands together at his side and summoned his Fog magicks once again. The sphere of power formed quickly between his palms and setting his stance wide he thrust the ball of energy into the wall of creatures. A beam of Fog magicks thundered forth from his hands, blasting through the closest mutants and eviscerating them. The beam of light catapulted into the fat creatures gut, ripping through flesh and bone and out of its back into the rest of the horde.
As the beam of energy dissipated Legin’s eyes widened as he saw a hole right through the large fat mutants body and the line of carnage behind it. Surprisingly still, the fat mutant took a set towards him and raised its swollen arm to club him. Hand up high the obese fiend stopped before it fell forwards onto its face.
But there was not time to marvel at the scene for half a dozen of the other mutants climbed over the fat body and towards Legin.
Clenching his jaw in frustration Legin skipped back a few steps and fell in beside Vhindr and Pip with their backs to the broken pillar.
“Any clever ideas?” Legin asked with a slight laugh.
“You seemed to have it under control,” Vhindr replied with a smile.
“You alright Pip?” Legin glanced to his friend who was holding his side.
“It’s just a scratch,” Pip replied and he winced. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. Destroy these freaks bro.”
Legin chuckled, “I think I’m out of things to do.”
“Another one of those energy blasts could help,” Vhindr remarked dryly.
“To be honest I kind of exhausted,” Legin laughed in embarrassment.
“You mean …” Pip said with disbelief.
“I’ve got nothing left, no energy.” Legin said, “My legs feel like jelly.”
“I still have a few tricks left,” Vhindr said with determination and readied his glowing Fog sword.
The horde of mutants moved closer in around them, slowly cutting of any escapes routes as if they knew they had the companions defeated. But there came a sudden gust of wind from above and the creatures fell back in horror. The mutant turned away and scrambled over each other awkwardly as they ran for the cover of the ruins and jungles.
Legin relaxed his guard and shot a curious eye to Pip and Vhindr. Suddenly a dark shape dropped down from the top of the broken spire and landed in front of them. It’s wide leathery wings sending out a gust of wind and softening its landing. Slowly the beast turned to face them as its wings folded behind its back. Its yellow glowing eyes glaring at each of them.
Legin’s mouth fell open as he looked upon the terrifying creature, and that familiar sickly sweet smell filled his senses. The things nose was flattened against its dark skinned face with large slits for nostrils. The creature sneered, showing its elongated and pointed teeth. Spreading its strong and fur covered arms out wide the beast glared at them.
But there was something more about this creature that set Legin’s nerves on edge. It was an otherworldly aura of power and utter darkness. Those yellow eyes glowed with such malice and dark clouds seemed to literally drift around the fiend.
“What in the Abyss?” Legin breathed in horror.
“It’s that thing we saw in Pentra.” Pip exclaimed in terror.
“What in the Abyss indeed,” the creature croaked, and a guttural laugh crackled from its throat.
“It is a minor ghoul,” Vhindr stated, “But how? How can it be in this plane of existence?”
“Someone was nice enough to let us out of the Abyss,” said a heavy voice as a lumbering form moved from around the pillar.
If Legin was scared by the ghoul this next demon was truly terrifying. Its massive arms stretched out before it like front legs as it seemed to crawl beside the ghoul. But crawl would have been a poor description as the beast was twice the size of the ghoul with bulking muscles and grey skin. It was hairless and both its mouth and eyes seemed too big for his bald and vein covered head. Wearing tattered pants on its short and stumpy legs the creature grinned at them hungrily. Its grey gums and teeth turning Legin’s stomach.
“A cabāl.” Vhindr said softly, his hands shaking slightly as he gripped his Fog sword tightly.
“I’m guessing these guys are worse than the last lot,” Legin remarked dryly.
“They are demons. Spawn of the Abyss,” Vhindr replied, “Manifestations of evil, malice and cruelty with power beyond mortal ken.”
“You flatter us,” laughed the ghoul.
“They look tasty,” the cabāl remarked disturbingly.
“By The Five, what are we going to do?” Pip gasped, still clutching his side.
“I know.” Legin smiled and turned to address the demons confidently, “Take us to your leader.”
“Really?” Pip remarked, “That’s what you are going with?”
Legin shot his friend a sly glance before looking back to the two spawns of the Abyss who were looking to each other curiously.
“I say we just eat them,” the cabāl said and liked his fat lips and eyed Legin greedily.
“No,” the ghoul stated, “He will want to see them.”
Legin shot Vhindr a curious glance who nodded slightly in reply as his Fog blade dissipated.
The ghoul looked to the companions, “Start walking that way,” the demon commanded and pointed with a clawed hand behind them to the opposite side of the plaza.
Nervously Legin nodded and he and the others moved slowly from the pillar and towards the path leading from the square.
As they began the ghoul flapped its large wings and took to the sky leaving the cabāl to stalk behind them, all the while eyeing them hungrily.
“Now we learn the truth, Legin.” Vhindr said softly.
Legin nodded slightly before turning his eager eyes towards the path ahead of them.