Sylvan set his cup down hard on the beaten table of the inn. The clamor of the barkeep and drunken fools yelling at each other with unrecognizable emotions behind their laughs, shouts, and slurs, was overbearing to the his ears. He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the sounds of insanity around him as he took a bite of his steak.
He had come to the drunken disaster of a bar as a last resort, and was not pleased at all. He had spent the better part of the last six months attempting to find suitable comrades for a quest of his that would pay incredibly well to all those backing him. This tavern was his last chance before all hope was lost and everything he had worked for was washed away.
As he slumped in defeat, elbows on the table, a mighty hand clapped him on the back. He jerked his head around to see who dared to interrupt his reverie, but saw no one.
“Down here.” Someone said, irritably.
Sylvan looked down to see his unexpected interrupter, and gazed into the round, bearded face of a mountain dwarf. The dwarf in question was five feet in height, bearing bronze armor and a helmet with grey chain mail beneath. He bore a large, dwarven axe in one hand and a keg of mead in another. Sylvan blinked once and then gestured dumbly to the one of the empty chairs.
“Thank ye.” The dwarf spoke graciously, seemingly not caring about the look he had just received. He then grasped a waitress’ arm and pointed to Sylvan’s food and ordered the same. The dwarf hefted the mighty axe onto the table as he was handed a plate of food mere moments after the order and began to wolf it down.
“So,” The dwarf spoke between bites. “You’re the bum that’s been trying to get a quest through the common fold, eh?” He then took a hearty swig from his mead and belched loudly, the noise drowned out by the clamor. “How’s that comin’ for ye?”
Sylvan composed himself and counted to ten steadily in his mind, fearing the wrath of his new impolite, invader.
“Not how I would put it, but yes.” Sylvan said as he too took a drink from his mug, though not as massive as the dwarf’s. “I take it you have a reason for being here, master dwarf, may I ask?”
“You see laddie.” the dwarf began, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “I, as well as a good friend of mine, have taken an interest in your wee proposition.”
Sylvan’s previous thoughts towards the dwarf evaporated as he nearly spit out his drink. The dwarf smirked and continued to speak, talking with his mouth full.
“I’ve been searching for ye, Mr. Sylvan, and my friend and I have closely examined your proposal and,” he paused and leaned on the table and spoke softer. “We want in.”
Sylvan was dumbfounded, struggling to accept this. He had been waiting for near a half of a year to find members beyond himself to help him in his quest, but no one even considered it when he asked. Yet here was a dwarf, who also spoke for his “good friend”, who had come to and asked him if they could join. Sylvan clutched the rim of the table tightly in an effort to balance himself on the rickety, beaten chair.
“Do you know of what I seek to do? What I truly mean to do in the forest?” He questioned, intensely. The dwarf was unfazed by his stare and simply answered.
“What’s to know lad?” He asked rhetorically. “Yer going on a quest to hunt down goblin treasures that were lost to the dense thickets of the Deep Forest itself. Which you hope to profit from if you can survive that damned forest. The mere mention of tha’ place sends chills down me back. It’s filled with all manner of unholy creatures, curses and spirits that are armed to the teeth with all manner of poisons, weapons, and other unsavory devices. It is certain death to anyone goin’ in there.” He then slapped the table and laughed. “Where do I sign?”
“There is no official document for this matter.” Sylvan spoke. “But before I remotely consider you as a partner I must know one thing.”
“And what is that lad.” The dwarf asked.
“Who are you?” Sylvan questioned.
“Thrang.” He answered calmly, offering a hand to shake. “Thrang Ironforge, a pleasure.”
Sylvan was hurriedly pushed out the door by Thrang as he rambled on about what they needed to get and acquire. They began walking towards the stables where the horses that Thrang had acquired for the journey were.
“First off, we need to find Daman, my partner, the one you should be thanking as soon as you see him.”
“And why would I?” Asked Sylvan.
“He convinced me to come to you to accept this little quest of yours.” He explained gruffly. “We were both interested in it, but he made the push to get me on board. We both share a mutual taste in danger you see, and the Deep Forest is like a ghost pepper chili boiled by dragon fire kind of taste. We wish to fill our bowls with that danger.”
“Is he too a dwarf or should I be expecting a gnome?” Sylvan asked slyly, causing his vertically challenged friend to fake laugh.
“Very funny, lad. Mockery gets you places in this world, but short jokes with a dwarf present is just low.” He said grumbling to himself about the serious deprive of human comedy. “No. He is one of those snooty high elves that prance around in the forest singing lullabies to the roses.”
“Thank you, Thrang.” A voice spoke as a tall elf dressed in hunting clothes stepped out from behind the corner of the tavern. “Let us not get into the laughable,, false myths of my kin without one here to laugh at when his face turns red in fury.”
Thrang laughed and walked up to the man and slapped on the back like he did Sylvan. Sylvan chuckled at the joke the elf made about his own race as Thrang began to introduce the forestborn.
“This is the high-browed, pointy-eared bastard who thinks he’s better than everyone who took first interest in your little quest.” He laughed then sighed. “But he prefers his actual name, Daman.”
The elf rolled his eyes and the three started to walk towards the stable together.
“I already procured the provisions and weapons needed for our adventure, master Sylvan.” He informed with practiced cordiality as he offered him a longsword from his sheath. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance at last.”
“Thank you, but I have my own” Sylvan said shaking the elf’s offered hand like he did the dwarf’s and continued to walk towards the stables.
“Of course. Unfortunately, I was only able to rent a horse and a stiff donkey for myself and my stout friend, respectively.” He apologized. “You may have to ride with one of us or go on foot.”
Sylvan smiled with little care of what the elf said. He had a little surprise that no one, not even his previous candidates for the adventure knew about. And it was big.
“Not a worry, master Daman.” Sylvan spoke with a smirk that confused the elf. “I brought my own.”
The elf blinked in surprise, a momentary confusion overtaking his face before he composed himself with a light smile. They rounded the final corner and were nearly upon the town’s stables.
“Where might we retrieve this fine horse?” Daman questioned to which Sylvan’s smirk deepened.
“I never said she was a horse.” He spoke as the dwarf and elf looked at each other with caution. Sylvan then turned to his new quest mates. “Now whatever you do, don’t attack her or look like you’re hurting me. That is a death sentence around her.”
“What is this beast then?” Thrang spoke up.
Sylvan unlocked his rented stall and threw the doors open wide. Thrang and Daman froze at the sight behold them. In the stall, lying upon a bed of hay, was a massive silver-furred wolf nearly up to Sylvan’s ribs in height. It suddenly jumped up in surprise at the intruders, revealing muscular legs and a long muzzle filled with needle-sharp teeth. It snarled at them and glared menacingly.
“F-f-f-fenrire.” Thrang stuttered as Daman stepped back a few paces in utter fear.
“Hi girl, did you miss me?” Sylvan spoke in a voice meant for toddlers. The large fenrire suddenly noticed her master and lunged at him, tongue flying in the wind. She landed on him with a heavy thud that would’ve knocked the wind out of him had it not happened to him several times in the past. The canine licked his face with fervor only used between equals, not master and dog.
“Good girl. Now get off me.” He spoke as his ribs started to ache. “I need to breathe.”
The she-wolf obeyed and sat on her haunches, standing straight and began to stare at her master’s two companions, growling as if she didn’t trust them. He noticed this and pointed at them.
“Friends.” He said simply, but forcefully to ensure the point got through to her. Even wolves can only be so intelligent.
She snorted and her gaze softened. Thrang was shaking with a hand on the hilt of his shouldered axe.
“This lovely canine friend of mine is my ride, companion, and protector, but you can call her Silver.”
“You have a fenrire.” He said shakily, ignoring what he just said. “As a PET!!”
“This is m-most unusual.” Daman stuttered, his innate silver tongue leaving him.
“Well partners the road is long to the deep forest and we had best be off.” Sylvan replied with enthusiasm. He was finally on his way to the Deep Forest, the place that haunted his waking dreams, he couldn’t wait.
On the morrow the trio left the town and began their journey to the cursed forest, the anticipation was in the air. Sylvan was grinning like a fool. His long months of strife had finally come to fruition and the trials of the road ahead loomed upon the horizon. Daman reached into his hunters jacket and pulled out a map. He glanced over it and pointed at it for Sylvan to see.
“We make for the ancient path, it will take a matter of hours to get there.” Daman spoke.
Sylvan didn’t mind the fact that Daman was leading the group. All he cared about was the end goal; killing goblin scum that plagued the land and retrieving the treasure they had amassed.
Thrang finished saddling his and Daman’s animals, but looked warily at the fenrire and glanced at Sylvan for guidance.
“Don’t worry Thrang. You need not concern yourself with saddling her.” He spoke as he took the remaining saddle from the dwarf and proceeded to mount it to his furry companion. “She’d probably bite your arms off if you tried.”
Thrang paled a bit and grunted, excusing himself as he climbed onto his donkey. Sylvan chuckled and mounted up on Silver’s saddle and they were off.
They traveled from dawn to midday, stopping only for a light lunch and to water and feed their rides. When the sun was nearing the horizon and evening was to turn to night, they stopped and beheld the entrance to the cursed forest.
“We should stop here for tonight.” Thrang stated. “The forest is terrible enough as it is in the daylight. I’d rather not find out what is nestled in the darkness of that damned wood.”
“Agreed.” Sylvan spoke. He dismounted Silver with practiced ease and patted her on the head. “Good girl. Get some rest.”
Silver understood and padded over to a stray tree and lay down by it.
“I shall retrieve firewood.” Stated Daman as he walked briskly to the edge of the forest and began to collect sticks.
After several minutes Daman brought back a bundle’s worth of wood. Thrang took out a match and set it alight, before creating a rotisserie and mounting a chicken on the thin pole. Silver visibly drooled at the bird, the smells overwhelming her heightened senses.
“No girl, that’s for us.” Sylvan scolded. “Go hunt near the forest edge.”
Silver grumbled a bit, but proceeded to hunt as the trio began to eat. They ate a hot stew and waited for the fenrire to return before going to bed in anticipation of the next day.
Sylvan awoke as a hand covered his mouth. He reached for his sword at his side but it was only Thrang. He put a finger to his lips and pointed. Sylvan squinted in the darkness of midnight, and was horrified. Going into the forest about a half-mile away was a dark cart being led by ash-grey horses and armored guards. The guards wore crude armor and appeared misshapen in the shadows.
Daman crawled over, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible. He pointed at the escort and uttered a word that sent shivers down Sylvan’s spine.
“What are they doing so far outside the forest?” Thrang wondered, whispering as quietly as possible.
“No idea.” Sylvan spoke, his mind whirring with the thought of danger. “Let’s follow them.” As he was about to wake Silver, Thrang grasped his arm and shook his head.
“No,” He whispered, “,We enter the forest and prepare an ambush in their path.” Daman explained. “We knew these things were tromping around the region, but we weren’t able to find them until now. You want to try to slay a goblin escort head on with their current numbers? I don’t believe you do. We will intercept them and ambush them.”
“Fine.” Sylvan said. “Let’s enter the Deep Forest of all places at midnight to intercept a goblin escort. That’s a great idea.” He grumbled sarcastically, but still agreed.
They gathered what gear they could spare without making noise, but were forced to let go of some of the pots, pans, and unfortunately the donkey and horse.
“Return to your master, go.” Daman whispered, as he pushed the animals into going home.
“They were fine beasts, tis’ a shame to let them go.” Thrang stated, sullenly. “But they’re far too noisy for an ambush. Only Silver can come, but we must go on foot.”
The three adventurers and Silver ran through the plains of grass on padded paws and plunged ahead into the darkness of the Deep Forest. The sky soon become unseeable with the roof of trees overhead. The forest groaned as the three entered, but silence resumed once they came through.
They traveled for hours in the darkness, their only guide being the light of the lanterns from the escort far off on the Ancient Road. Thrang muttered to himself mostly about how much the place freaked him out while Daman kept silent, as if trying to not accept the reality of where they were. Sylvan thought to himself about the legends of this place, that it was cursed by a long-dead sorcerer to never rest until the curses were broken. The animals mutated over time into hideous aberrations, bent upon causing death to anyone they found. The people that lived in the once peaceful forest vanished and were never seen again. This forest was tainted by magic older than the three of them combined.
Suddenly a screech broke through the air. The group jerked around to see the source of the disturbance, but could only gaze on in horror. Standing before them was a figure draped in spectral robes, its skeletal, torn hands and feet visible. Atop its head was a goat skull. It stood there, just staring at them.
Sylvan was having a heart attack. He knew of this dreaded monster before them. It was a creature of the unliving plane of death, an echo of the Dark Age where millions died in the oppressive fires of yore. A wraith. While it could not touch them physically, it could send them images of their worst fears and only through conquering them could they banish it.
“Stand your ground.” Sylvan spoke, his voice quivering slightly. “Hold firm and s-show no fear.”
The wraith looked through the goat skull’s sockets to look upon its prey. It glanced at the his three companions and raised a hand and clenched it. Daman, Silver and Thrang slumped to the ground as a deep slumber overtook them. Sylvan looked at the aberration once more. He was alone.
The wraith stepped closer and stretched out its tattered, bony hand and grabbed Sylvan’s face. He tried not to cry out, remembering that the escort was just a mile ahead at best. It growled at him and Sylvan shouted in pain as he was assaulted by memories of his past.
He saw his village burned to the ground by goblin mercenaries, his mother and father impaled on spikes as he ran from the scene with a puppy Silver in hand. He saw his mentors, who taught him everything he knew about fighting, dying of age or steel. He saw everything that ever plagued his thoughts from his failures to get a quest through to interested people to being jeered at by his peers for being weak as a boy.
The wraith glowed with power as his despair fed it. Then Sylvan suddenly thought of the burning of his village, but focused not on the death and bloodshed, but of the vengeance he had craved from that day on. He thought of his fenrire, Silver, as he carried her to safety from his burning house. Finally, he saw Thrang and Daman, taking an interest in his quest and him finally knowing what friendship was again.
Sylvan roared in fury and sent his powerful emotions through his mind into the wraith’s. It screamed in unearthly agony as it tried to pry its hand away, the bony appendage starting to burn. The wraith’s cloak caught fire at random sections, the flames licking the fabric and sinew of the wraith’s spectral form.
He sent more and more of his friendship and love for his new friends and canine at the loveless thing before him. It was poison to the wraith, it needed hate and despair to live. He almost felt sorry for the being, not wanting to try to imagine living off evil emotions to live. But he pushed those thoughts aside and sent every happy memory, thought, and reverie towards the monster.
The wraith burst into blue hellfire as its screams pierced the night in agony. Sylvan pushed the burning creature back as it flailed around the darkened space before bursting once more into ash with only the skull remaining. It was banished back to death.
His three companions awoke with a start. Silver got into a pouncing position, Thrang reached for his axe and Daman his short sword, but found only Sylvan staring at them tiredly.
“Where’s the abomination?” Thrang asked, eager to try and destroy it.
“Gone.” He replied. “Banished back to whatever hell it came from.”
“You faced a wraith on your own… and lived?!” Thrang asked with Daman staring dumbly at him. He nodded and began to walk away towards the light of the escort.
“Where are you going?” Daman asked, still trying to process the information.
“We have an escort to ambush remember?” He said. “Come on the light is dwindling and we must follow.”
The two companions nodded and picked up their dropped belongings before setting off towards the escort. Thrang picked up the skull and muttered about unholy things before stuffing it in his pack claiming it as a trophy. After hours of running they passed the caravan and continued on, traveling another hour or so before finding the perfect spot for the ambush.
“Now, we wait.” Daman spoke in an ominous tone.
Sylvan crouched in the bushes to the side of the dirt road with his arm on his sheathed sword, waiting for his prey to come. He glanced at Silver crouched beside him who, like he, had a stoic face of canine determination on her muzzle. Someone tapped him on the shoulder causing him to flinch.
“Shh!” whispered Thrang beside him, “Here they come.”
Sylvan nodded in understanding and turned back to his eye hole in the thicket. The thundering of horses and clanking of iron drew near. Sylvan gulped nervously. This was it, the first trial of the long road ahead.
The dark cart came into view, led by even more goblins then before they had first tracked it. Sylvan looked up to the ceiling of trees, attempting to spot Daman. The elf met his gaze from his branch perch and held up a hand as if to say, ‘Not yet’. The noise grew louder as the goblin-lead procession marched towards them. Sylvan was getting anxious, would they be killed if they were found or worse? But he steeled his nerves and held strong.
“Now!” Thundered Daman.
Thrang charged out of the bushes, axe held high, shouting dwarven curses of all manner at his foes. The procession stopped as the goblins beside and on the cart stopped in surprise, fear overtaking them for the briefest of moments, the mistake that would cost them their wretched lives.
Sylvan breathed deeply and leapt out of the thicket of branches, drawing his sword and grasping it firmly in hand as he charged one of the stupefied abominations.
“Die for the glory of the forest!” Shouted Daman as he leapt from his perch with twin hunting daggers held in his hands. He landed on top of the cart roof and thrust the blades into the head of the goblin pulling the reins of the halted stallions. It screeched and slumped, falling forward over the edge of the seat and landing face-first on the ground below, black blood staining the ground.
Silver pounced onto one of the three goblins on the side, biting down hard on its helmed head, crushing the metal and skull to bits. Thrang ducked under the middle goblin’s swing before plunging the axe through its crude armor, death taking the creature as it fell to the ground in a mesh of vile flesh and iron.
Sylvan charged at the last one of the three, he stopped in front of it and swung his sword. The blade sailed through the air but suddenly stopped mid swing. Sylvan looked up in horror; the goblin had grabbed the blade with its gauntleted hand and was growling at him. Sylvan smiled weakly, fear overtaking him. It snorted at him and the goblin headbutted him with its war helmet.
Sylvan fell to the ground dropping his sword, his vision doubling as all thoughts of battle draining from his concussed mind. He clutched his head in agony, praying for salvation from his pathetic failure at killing the abyssal monster.
The goblin raised its weapon, blade faced downward to impale with through the chest, smiling cruelly. Sylvan closed his eyes in grudging acceptance, then lightning flashed across his mind as a very good thought struck him; “I don’t want to die.”
He rolled away as the sword plunged into the blood stained earth. He picked up his sword and sliced the goblin across the chest, counter attacking the near fatal blow. The goblin screamed in unearthly pain as he clutched his chest in agony. Sylvan stepped forward and placed his hand onto the goblin’s armored shoulder. It looked up in confusion, and he gave it a cocky smirk.
“Enjoy the abyss.” He said driving the blade through his foes chest. The goblin made a strangled noise as it gargled blood, crumpling to the ground.
Sylvan turned to see how the rest were faring in the raid, while still clutching his swelling, pained head. Thrang had killed a second one and was moving onto his third yelling curses and generally inciting terror into the goblin guards. Sylvan looked up to see Daman leaping from the roof of the cart into the mass of goblins behind the it, daggers sheathed and his short sword drawn from its sheath.
Sylvan heard a screech from behind him as a mass of silver fur shot by him and leaped onto a goblin that was seconds away from decapitation him. Silver bit down hard and shook the goblin’s limp body around for good measure. She looked up at her master with pride as her tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth, a wolf smile.
“Good girl. A special steak for you tonight.” He said giving her a brief head rub, “Let’s finish this.”
Sylvan gazed at the remaining guards adding up to about seven left and sighed. He twirled his sword in one hand and muttered something like “I’ve gone mad” before rejoining the fray, with his furry companion close behind.
He crashed his blade into the crude armor, sending its misshapen owner stumbling backwards as it tried to breathe in the crushed chestplate.
“Move!” Daman suddenly shouted.
Sylvan threw himself to the ground as the elf raised his arm and threw both his daggers at the goblin, lodging them deep within its already destroyed chest. It sputtered and grasped the daggers with one hand weakly and spoke in a garbled tongue, pointing at them both with its blade before falling to the ground with a clank.
“Little more warning would do!” Sylvan shouted at the elf, irritated at the closeness of the blow to which Daman flashed an unapologetic smirk.
“Less talk, more blood.” Commanded Thrang as he pulled his axe out of the armored collarbone of his latest victim.
Sylvan’s ear twitched and he swung around just in time to bring his sword to meet the dark blade with of one of the remaining defenders with a loud, sharp clang. The goblin then spoke in perfect common language, sobering him of the fight’s bloodlust.
“The master waits for you in the Deep Forest.” It spoke forebodingly. “He said that we should make sure to put adventurers like you on the right track, though I doubt you’ll make it that far.” Giving Sylvan a twisted smile at that.
“What master?” Sylvan questioned. “Your kind have no master.”
“We serve the Dark One himself.” It said, expanding its grin even more somehow. “You’ve stepped into his forest, boy. You’re all doomed!” It then began laughing as Sylvan’s face paled.
“Duck, lad.” Shouted the dwarf. For the third time Sylvan threw himself to the ground as Thrang drew back his arm and threw his axe at the horrified goblin. The axe blade plunged perfectly into its chest as the armored brute fell to the ground. It then turned to Sylvan still lying on the ground.
“You will all burn and serve him.” It rasped as it gargled blood. “Everyone… does… in this… forest.” It then went limp as its life force was sent to the eternal abyss.
Sylvan stared at the corpse for a second, deeply troubled. Was it telling the truth? Was there a master of the goblins and the Deep Forest itself? Who or what was he? The questions revolved around his mind before the clash of Daman’s sword and a scimitar brought him out of his stupor.
Three of the defenders remained and were engaged with several of his team members. Thrang was pinned on the ground by a thin, sickly-looking one, attempting to slap away its sword with his axe. Daman was trading blows with a bug-eyed, green one with one his curved daggers lodged in its club. Silver had an exceptionally ugly one with a lumpy face on the ground, biting down on its sword as she tried to get to the owner of the crude weapon.
Sylvan jumped up, firmly clenched his sword in hand and threw it like his comrades at Daman’s. It wasn’t perfect, but the flat of the blade smacked the helmet causing a loud metallic bong as the sword shattered on impact sound. Daman saw his chance and slashed his short sword down its front in a lethal blow. As it crumpled to the ground he turned around to help Thrang, Silver had already taken care of hers. But his friend’s goblin was nowhere to be seen. Thrang noticed his team member’s gaze and spoke.
“It’s gone. Fled off into the forest like the coward it is.” Thrang stated.
“Over here.” Daman shouted, gesturing for them to come over to the cart. “The reward is about to be reaped.”
Thrang slung his axe around his back and walked over with an eager smile with Sylvan following close behind. The cart was now fully visible to the foursome. It was a carriage-like vehicle, completely black in color with runes painted on every side of it.
“Let’s see, what do we have here?” Thrang asked himself as he fingered the lock to the lid of the cart, kicking a dead goblin’s corpse that was in the way. He touched the lock all over, pausing several times on the immense runework inscribed. He then threw his hands down and grunted in frustration.
“It’s warded.” Thrang stated. “And it’s beyond my knowledge of spellcraft. You’re up, elf.”
Daman knelt by the lock and began muttering words of ancient magic. The runes began to light up as the words of power unlocked the intricately decorated mechanism.
Then Sylvan had a thought.
“Wait,” He said suddenly pausing to think, Thrang gestured to go on. “The goblin that had me said something to me before he was killed. He spoke of ‘The Dark One’.”
“And… got it!” cried Daman, with immense joy in his voice, as all thoughts of the master of the goblins left them.
The lock clicked and turned and a previously invisible door in the cart swung open, smacking Thrang in the face. Sylvan and Daman chuckled at this before all three entered, with Thrang rubbing a slightly flatter nose than usual, leaving Snowfox to pear in through the door in interest. Sylvan gaped at the contents of the cart. It was like an arsenal of the High Kingdom and their treasury had an extended cousin. Piles of gold coins and gems lay about the floor and shelves mounted to the sides. Random bejeweled weapons lay about the interior, each one weighing in at thousands at a mere glance. Mounted on the wall opposite the door was an skull with a sword pierced through it, acting as a terrifying wall mount.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Shouted Thrang, laughing smugly as he picked up a fairly big ruby and stuffed it in his beard.
Then the room went cold. The light from the door slowly started to fade as the shadows deepened. Everyone’s breath was suddenly caught and they were struggling to maintain air.
“Put it back! Put the gem back!” Sylvan shouted.
Thrang fingered the jewel a bit greedily, but put it back in the same spot on the floor. The room warmed and the light returned. Sylvan struggled to breath as air returned to his hungry lungs.
“We need to destroy this cargo.” Daman stated.
“Aye.” agreed Thrang. “This entire chamber is cursed.”
“Who would curse their own treasure?” Sylvan said as he stepped out of the cart and turned to face them. Thrang and Daman quickly exited and began to seal the door. Suddenly Thrang turned to ask Sylvan something, but his breath caught and he shouted.
Sylvan heard a grunt behind him and swiveled around to meet his foe. The previously occupied goblin had a crude dagger in hand blade down. Sylvan’s eyes widened as the goblin thrust the dagger through his right shoulder, the blade sticking out the other end.
Sylvan groaned in pain, unable to voice his screams as the white-hot burning sensation overtook him. He clutched the handle of the dark iron weapon as he slumped to the ground in twisted agony. He heard Thrang and Daman shout in fury. The growling of Silver turned to snarls and barks as she launched herself at his would-be assassin. She batted its remaining weapon away with her large paw and pressed her remaining paw on its throat, choking it. Daman rushed over to his bleeding comrad, dropping his still drawn sword.
“Sylvan, Sylvan. Sylvan!” He shouted increasing in volume. “Can you hear me?”
Sylvan managed a brief nod before grunting in agony as the pain set in even more. Daman pointed at Thrang.
“Thrang, see to it that the wolf doesn’t kill the it.” Daman ordered, pointing at said canine who was attempting to strangle the would-be-killer. “We need him alive.”
Thrang nodded with a frown of concern for his friend and one of contempt for saving a monster from a deserved fate. He sprinted over to where Silver had the fiend, who was blue in the face from lack of air. He put his hand on her tensed shoulder and spoke in his gruff voice, but soothed his tone a bit.
“There, there. I know.” The dwarf consoled. “I want to do it to him too, but we need him alive. Let him live for a minute longer, please?”
The large wolf seemed to have an inner struggle. Sylvan looked over and managed a snort as he could practically see the decisions in his wolf’s mind.
In her mind, Silver had two options. She could get off the demon and help save her master, or she could just flay it alive. Both were very appealing to her, but she then gave a slight tilt of the head to signify her understanding. She turned to her captive and roared loudly at the blue-faced hellspawn, before stepping off its throat. The goblin gasped clutching its slightly crushed throat as its normal putrid colors returned slowly. Thrang then held his axe to its face and spoke.
“Tell me what you did to my friend.” Thrang spoke, emphasizing on each word, getting his point across to his ugly foe.
“The blade is not poisoned.” It finally spoke, in a slightly garbled, raspy voice. “I would never resort to such cowardice to take down a weak human like that.”
“Yet stabbing them from behind is more honorable?!” Sneered Thrang.
“No I stabbed him in the front, whether he was ready or not isn’t my concern, hurk!” The goblin cried cut off as Thrang’s axe nearly drew blood.
Sylvan focused his attention back to the wood elf in front of him. Daman was attempting to remove the dagger with a surgeon’s finesse. He spoke an apology to Sylvan who nodded, before removing the bloody dagger from his shoulder. Sylvan screamed in agony as the pain took over his mind. Daman muttered elven blessings of health and spells of mending on the arm. The edges of the wounds closing a bit, but mending less than the spell should.
“My magics are not effective on the wound!” He cried out to Thrang. The high elf lifted the dagger to his nose and sniffed it, careful to avoid the blood. He wrinkled his nose in disgust and threw it away.
“The blade was enchanted with black magic, I can do nothing about this wound.” He shouted again to Thrang.
Thrang turned on the goblin once more with renewed fury etched on his bearded face.
“Tell us how to undo the curse and I will give you a swift end.” He ordered.
The goblin spit on the axe and muttered a curse in its native tongue. Thrang held the axe closer to its throat now.
“Tell me, now!” He thundered, before pointing to the bloodthirsty wolf beside him. “Or you tell her!”
The goblin flinched as Silver growled and brought a hand to its throat on reflex. It darted its eyes around like a lizard for a moment, before holding its hands up in surrender.
“Alright, alright.” It spoke. “Don’t get your skivvies in a bunch. The blade was enchanted to cause unhealable wounds.”
“By who!” Shouted Thrang.
“Th-the ruler of the Deep Forest! The Dark One!” It cried frantically. “He sent us here to guard and escort the cart. I don’t know him or what he looks like, just that he controls everything in this forest, and is graced with darkness.”
“What kind of darkness?” Thrang asked forcefully, masking his concern as to who they were dealing with. “I want details, creature! Details!”
“There are stories everywhere about him. Some false others true. No one knows, but the Dark One himself.” The goblin answered in a hushed ramble. “But all the stories have one thing in common… necromancy.” It then glanced around like a caged animal as if expecting the sorcerer to appear.
“Then our this escort has been a trap.” Thrang thought aloud, then he remembered his original question. “Is there a cure to the curse?”
“Yeah, the curse is on the blade itself.” The goblin said compliantly. Thrang looked to Daman who was checking the blade as he applied a strip of his tunic to Sylvan’s wound to stop the bleeding. After a half a minute Daman nodded in confirmation of the goblin’s statement. Thrang turned back to see the creature with a nervous grin.
“I helped you out.” It said. “Now let me go.”
“Not quite, goblin.” Thrang spat. “Why was the treasure trapped with a curse if it was being escorted.”
“It was a trap for you all.” It said as it laughed slightly. “The Dark One makes it his business to know everything about everyone who enters his forest. Now let me go. Free me!”
“As you wish.” Thrang said coolly, as he let the goblin get up and start to leave. He waited a moment before shouting to Silver.
“Sick em, girl!”
The goblin spun around in terror as the fenrire charged at the creature who nearly killed her master. Sylvan looked away as he heard the screams of his attempted assassin.
“Good dog.” He muttered to himself.
“I’m unraveling the curse, Sylvan,” Daman spoke as he touched the blade, unseen runes glowing as they began to fade from the blade. “I will be able to heal you once the runes on the blade are destroyed. I’m not letting you survive a wraith battle and then succumb to mere enchantments like these.”
“I’m so glad a blunt, bloodthirsty dwarf and a magical elf with a peculiar idea of how worthy my cause of death is were the ones who were interested in my adventure.” Sylvan said, attempting to laugh despite the pain.
“Very funny, lad.” Thrang muttered, secretly happy that their friend was returning to his old, annoying self. The process took several minutes and they were agony for him, but Sylvan held strong as Daman muttered a spell and the dagger crumbled to ash. The wound began to dry of blood and the rent flesh sewed itself together.
“Thank you.” He praised. The wound has still burning, but the mark was but a scar and he could move his arm with a slight pain. “I was probably crippled.”
“Elven magic is at its strongest when a person needs help.” Daman explained, pulling Sylvan to his feet as the healed man leaned on the black cart.
“What do we do now?” Asked Thrang, curious as to where they would go from here.
“The goblins spoke of a master of the forest. The ‘Dark One’, they called him.” Sylvan spoke. “They also claim him to be a necromancer of all things. Do you know of anyone bearing such a title?”
Daman’s face was white as a sheet, as if he had gazed into the abyss. He then gulped in nervousness and twiddled his thumbs a bit, avoiding his question. Sylvan’s eyes narrowed.
“What do you know of this person?” He asked.
Daman took a deep breath and spoke in a hushed and worried tone.
“We need to leave this forest now!” He rasped. “We’ve been lucky to not come into contact with more traps and monsters of that vile sorcerer.”
“So you do know of what the lad speaks?” Thrang stated. “Who is this necromancer?”
“He is an ancient horror. A commander of life and death that can summon the wraiths and aberrations of the Cursed Realm itself!” He cried, his face contorted in utter fear. “He has caused the death of thousands over the course of his millenia-long life.”
“How have we not heard of such a monster?” Thrang questioned, voicing both his and Sylvan’s question. “Such a figure would be hailed in infamy in the halls of hell and below.”
“He has changed personas over the years.” Daman explained. “He took on many different forms; elf, dwarf, man, once even a satyr if I remember correctly. The point is that only the elves themselves know of him as he is to this day and it is safe to say that they are terrified of him.”
“So we find this guy and we kill him then.” Thrang stated, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.
“One does not kill a necromancer!” Daman shouted. “They are immortal, all-powerful, endlessly superior in magic, he’s the strongest one to date too.”
“Then we find a way.” Sylvan said speaking up. “We’ve slain goblins and faced down a wraith together.”
“You faced a wraith.” Thrang corrected. “We took a near permanent dirt nap.”
“But we know how to face them now.” Sylvan insisted. “We have to overpower them with happiness, love, friendship, whatever. Good memories and emotions are like acid to them.”
“That still leaves the nigh unstoppable, immortal psycho who rules the living and the dead.” Daman said, looking at him as if he were talking crazy.
“I know it will take months, years even, but we’re in this now.” Sylvan proclaimed. “We came in here with a purpose to murder and loot from murderers and looters. Now we have a better option on the table. We slay the greatest dark force of all time.”
“Why do we care about this abomination?” Daman questioned vigorously. “All stories of him end in death for all who serve or oppose him!”
“That is precisely why we must destroy him.” Sylvan rebutted. “We came into this forest for goblin blood and treasure. We can’t do that with a force such as him controlling the forest. We would go down in history for such an achievement.”
“It could be done.” Thrang said, his voice rising in hope.
“We would die in weeks, maybe a month if we’re lucky.” Daman said sullenly, wavering slightly.
“We will fight the good fight for the better of everyone.” Sylvan reasoned. “He will continue to kill, murder, and resurrect those he slays, turning them into puppets of his own. If we end that we won’t have just become legends, but a force of good marked in the books of history themselves!”
“I’m liking this more and more.” Thrang said.
“All we need to do is try.” Sylvan insisted. “We may go down in flames, no one even knowing out names, but we will have gone down fighting as a force for good.”
“Certain death guaranteed, zero percent chance of success, I’m in.” Thrang said sarcastically, but was on board nonetheless.
“Silver?” Sylvan asked, said canine barking in agreement, ready to serve. Dwarf, dog, and man alike looked at the elf standing indecisively. Daman finally shrugged in defeat.
“Why the hell not. I’m in.”
“Then prepare for the chance of a lifetime lads.” Thrang spoke grinning madly. “We’re about to meet the abyss in epic battle. Let’s get there early.”
The four set off into the forest, soon to prepare for the upcoming battle that would cleanse the Deep Forest of evil and corruption, or be their own end.