The moon appears in the sky strangely early, even before the sun has set. It’s been at least two hours since we left the shore. Noah is still clutching to the railing. I’ve alternated between sitting and standing beside him. It’s nice to be out on the ocean for the first time. When I look around I see nothing but brilliant blue waves reflecting the glorious sun. It would have been nice to do something like this with Daniel, but with Noah it’s nice too, even if he is made incredibly sick by the ocean.
After a while, it begins to get dark. Once it’s noticeable I hear Morgan shouting something at the front of the ship.
“I’ll be right back,” I tell Noah. He nods as I walk to where Morgan is. As I approach I see a spec of land in the distance. “Is that the island?” I ask Morgan.
He nods, turning. “Yes, but that’s not exactly why I shouted…” I realise that the ship has stopped moving. Now we’re just gently bouncing up and down. “Lean over the edge. Look into the ocean.”
I frown. A small part of me expects him to push me overboard but I comply with his request. At first, I see nothing but the crashing waves. The rising moon can be seen in the water now as well as the sunset. It’s a beautiful aesthetic.
After a minute of looking, I see an abnormally large shadow dash under the ship! I push back from the edge. Noah is walking slowly towards us. “What was that?” I demand, looking at the island. It’s still so far away! We thought we’d at least make it to the island. If whatever that was strikes, I highly doubt that we will.
Morgan shrugs nonchalantly. “I had heard rumours that certain things guarded the island, but I didn’t believe them.” I have to stop myself from shouting about how this would have been useful information to have before we got here.
“Where are Tessa and Jack?” Noah demands. Morgan points towards the cabin. Noah approaches it and I follow.
“What do we do?” I ask, assuming he saw the shadow too.
Before he can reply, we’re abruptly thrown sideways. We land beside each other with grunts. I help him up as Tessa and Jack rush onto the deck. “What the hell was that?” Tessa asks, sounding panicked. The ship jolts again but we thankfully all keep our footing.
I approach the edge again but don’t have to peek over to see what we’re dealing with. From the water emerges a serpent like creature with slick dark blue scales. It’s about the length of the ship but only the width of a large tree. Its mouth is wide with numerous rows of wicked sharp teeth. Two yellow eyes stare down at us.
“We can take this,” Tessa says confidently, drawing her rapier. The snake like creature darts towards us suddenly. It smashes through the railings and knocks Tessa over.
Noah’s sword appears suddenly in his hand and he brings it down just below the head. It rolls across the ship as the body (or neck) slithers back into sea.
“You are a moron,” Jack hisses. Noah looks as if he’ll decapitate Jack next. “You don’t cut the head off a hydra!”
“Hydras aren’t real,” Tessa snaps as she stands. She turns to look at the other side of the ship. Three more heads are there, waiting to attack. Two pop back up on this side. “Oh. Maybe they are.”
They all strike at once. Two begin tearing apart the ship while three attack us. The sound of cracking wood filled the air along with weird hissing from the hydra’s abundance of heads. I dodge to the side to avoid the vicious teeth of one and see Tessa stabbing another in the eye. Noah slices at one but it doesn’t look phased…
“How do we defeat it?” Tessa screams as the boat tilts to the side. “And where’s Morgan?”
I don’t care where Morgan is right now, all I care about right now is keeping us all safe. “Jack, see if you can recover the row boat!”
He nods and rushes to the back of the ship where it is. One good thing about his sudden change is that he isn’t scared anymore. Maybe of anything.
The ship rumbles again and the sound of cracking wood fills the air. I grab Noah as he stumbles beside me. As a head rushes past me I put my hand on it, praying my plan will work. I feel Noah’s strength coming into me and then into the hydra. The head freezes very quickly, but then begins to unfreeze. Tessa rushes to my side and puts her hand on top of mine.
A magnificent magic fills the air as the hydra turns to ice, almost all at once. It’s a great sight as the heads surrounding and crushing the ship freeze. This thing stood no chance against the three of us; we are a tsunami and it is a candle in a storm.
Noah collapses suddenly into my arms, his sword disappearing as the ship shudders.
“Get to the boat!” Tessa commands, rushing to the side of the ship.
I nod, following her with Noah in my arms. There’s a ladder on the side of the ship that Tessa begins climbing down. At the bottom Jack waits in a row boat. Once Tessa is in, I make my way down the ladder, trying to keep hold of Noah as I do so. It’s difficult to do because the ship continues to shudder. As soon as I’m in the boat Jack begins rowing furiously towards the island.
I don’t know what happened to Morgan. I don’t know what will happen to his ship and the frozen hydra. I only know about my allies and Daniel. They’re all I care about now.
Noah wakes up just as we land on the sand. Nobody has spoken since we got off the ship and nobody speaks now as we get off the row boat and look at the island we’re now trapped on. Trees taller than any I’ve seen before cover the island. They’re thick and close together. I know that once we leave the beach there will be next to no natural light…
“Any chance the sphere is just laying around in the sand?” Noah asks, rubbing his head. I don’t know why he’s rubbing there. It was his energy as a whole that was sapped.
“Don’t be stupid,” Tessa snaps. Noah glares as she finds the map from her bag. “It’s basically at the centre of the island, which by the way is pretty uphill. And full of dead people.”
I shiver at the thought. We could very easily join them. One wrong move, one stupid mistake and we spend eternity on this island…
Jack sighs. “Let’s just get this over with,” he says. His sword appears in his hand. It occurs to me that I should try and get my weapons to appear magically. Sheathing and unsheathing is so last year.
Tessa’s rapier appears by her side and she leads the way, walking slowly into the forest. I illuminate the forest with a mage light, hoping it won’t attract the undead. That’s unfortunately very wishful thinking.
I try to only look at the light and my friends as we walk. Tessa is heroically leading the way which is a big relief. I can hear things moving in the forest. Breathing despite how the dead have no need for air. I suspect my friends hear it too. We all remain silent.
Tessa was right. The island is uphill causing the walk to quickly tire me.
“This is awful,” Noah says quietly after a while. “Now I see why so few people leave Wychelm.”
I mumble in agreement before looking around. I’m not entirely surprised when I see eyes staring back through the darkness of the forest. “We’ve got company,” I whisper, drawing a dagger.
Before we all even get the chance to turn in its direction, a horrific beast pounces at us through the darkness! The beast tackles Noah to the ground, allowing us to get a good look at it. It’s about twice the size of a human and walks on all fours. It has a thick body covered in black, mangled hair. Its eyes are a dark yellow.
Noah grunts as he’s pinned down and puts both hands at the things neck, keeping it from biting him. I rush towards them. With one swift motion I manage to stab my dagger through the neck of the creature. Noah pushes it off and I help him up. “Is that even a Daemon?” He asks.
“It’s more likely something that’s been trapped here,” Tessa says eerily. “Something or somebody who… mutated due to all the dark magic.”
I grimace, not even wanting to think about how that’s possible.
“Whatever it was,” Jack says. “It had friends.”
I look where he’s looking, gasping when I see what Jack is looking at. Several pairs of the same yellow eyes stare at us from the darkness. How many of these mutated creatures are there here?
They all charge in unison, snarling as they do so. I feel my heart in my throat as two charge at me. One knocks me to the floor as the other bites my leg. I cry out in pain as stab the first one in the neck before blasting it away with wind. Gritting my teeth, I kick the second, forcing it to unclench its jaw from my leg. I dare look at my leg as I blast the creature with thick, sharp shards of ice. It yelps as they pierce its skin. The creature drops to the floor.
I turn my attention to the others, trying to get up. Jack is actually managing to keep two at bay, poking and stabbing at them with his sword. Noah is cutting them down with ease as more appear from the forest.
“How many are there?” I gasp, failing to stand upright. My leg is bleeding quite heavily and whenever I put any pressure on it pain shoots up it.
Tessa throws her arm in an arc, sending a few of the creatures flying back. “I don’t know!” She says through gritted teeth. “I can’t read their thoughts.” Do they even have any?
More come towards me but this time I refuse to be knocked down. I stab one in the throat as it pounces and send spikes of ice at the other two. They all drop to the floor, but they’re not dead… Just weakened. Nothing can die on this island.
We go on fighting them off for quite some time before no more appear. We’re surrounded by the wounded creatures.
Once it’s obvious that no more are coming, Noah rushes to me. He has small cut on his neck but looks otherwise okay. “What happened to your leg?” He asks, lowering me to the ground gently.
“Noah, we don’t really have time,” I say, grimacing. “They don’t die; they’ll start attacking us again soon.”
He pulls a bandage from his bag and begins wrapping it around my leg, once he pulls up the trouser. “You’ll bleed out if I don’t do this,” he snaps. “I’m not leaving you to spend eternity in this place. You deserve better.”
Tessa and Jack are watching the two of us. Jack has blood on his face but I don’t think it’s his. “Noah’s right,” Tessa says, looking around cautiously. “Just do it quickly though. We don’t know what else is out to kill us.”
“Everything on this island is out to kill us,” I mutter as Noah bandages my leg. It’s not very well done but it’ll suffice until we get back to the church. He helps me up, allowing me to lean on him as we walk through the forest. We try to keep a quick pace but now it’s considerably harder. Fear propels us but weakness slows us down.
After a few minutes Tessa sighs. “I feel like we’re about to get attacked again, so I’m going to cast a protective spell. Nothing will be able to see us.”
“Is that really the best idea?” Jack frowned. “Damien’s already injured. We don’t need you to waste your energy.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I mumble, gritting my teeth as I accidentally kick something on the floor. “You know, now that you’re capable.” I don’t mean to say it but it just comes out.
Tessa sighs again, stopping. We all do the same. I lean against a tree to give Noah a much needed rest. “I’m getting so fucking sick of this bitterness,” she snarls. “I’m about to weaken myself for you three assholes and you can’t even be nice to each other!” Noah goes to stop her but she continues. “Damien, we are all here to help you get Noah and we’re all more than willing to help so just calm down, alright?” I nod, not bothering to correct her mistake. “Jack,” she continues. “We get that you’re a changed man but we’re still your friends… We’re still here to help each other out so show a little respect. Okay?”
He nods, looking ashamed. “Okay…”
“Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest,” Tessa mumbles. She starts saying the weird words to a protective spell. I feel a calming magic surround us as she does so. My leg starts to feel better too but I know it isn’t healed. Once she’s done with the spell, it’s as if all the noises of the island have ceased. In a way it’s kind of eerie. It feels as if everything has silenced itself so it can listen out for us.
“How long until we get to the sphere?” I ask, standing again. Noah helps me remain upright. I hope I’ll actually be useful if we have to fight anything again.
Tessa examines the map. “Maybe an hour or two,” she says. She seems a little out of breath. “I’m really hoping that the Daemonic-Queen won’t be here… I don’t want to deal with that.”
“I get the feeling she is here,” I sigh. “She’s probably watching us right now. I doubt the magic keeps out something so strong.”
Tessa glares. “Are you doubting my power?”
“Tessa, I would never doubt you.”
The compliment improves her mood which is a relief. Everybody does better when they’re happy.
We walk for a long time in the darkness. The light that I created feels as if it’s dimming but nobody comments on it. The darkness that surrounds our immediate area is somehow getting darker as we approach the centre of the island and the sphere. I feel like this darkness is going to become all so familiar to me. To us.
Tessa stops after about an hour and a half, panting slightly. “It’s just ahead,” she tells us. “Can you feel it?”
I nod, shivering. The magic from Tessa’s spell has been weakening as we’ve gotten closer. The feeling of dark magic has gotten stronger. I dread to think what we’ll do if we have to fight the Daemonic-Queen.
Noah pushes through a bush, showing a large clearing. It’s a large circle free of trees, covered in blood covered stone. In the centre of the stone is obviously an altar. It’s covered in skulls, weapons and of course- the sphere. The sphere is hollow, made of black glass. Inside floats white smoke.
“Do you think it’s a trap?” Jack wonders. It is weird that the sphere is so out in the open but then again, the only things on this island other than the Daemonic-Queen are her weird, undead minions. With the exception of the four of us.
Tessa shrugs, walking onto the stone. “Check the perimeter,” I tell Noah and Jack as I follow Tessa. They nod and begin walking around the centre of the circle.
“The sphere looks underwhelming,” Tessa says, not reaching out for it. “How can something so small keep so many things stuck in a weird, undead state?”
I laugh. “Looks can be deceiving, Tessa,” I tell her. “When I first saw you I thought you’d be useless, and look at you now. You’re carrying us to victory.”
She blushes, smiling. Before she can reply however, Jack shouts something and rushes towards us. “There’s something out there, it knows we’re here.”
“Noah,” I hiss. He comes to us too.
I squint into the darkness, trying to see what Jack warned us about. From the forest emerges a rather terrifying Daemon, I’m assuming it’s the Daemonic-Queen that inhabits the island. Black chains envelope her body, wrapping around her like a belt. They’re wrapped entirely around her lower legs and act as a platform of sorts for her to stand on. She’s human height but made taller by her chain pedestal.
“What a perfect metaphor for sins,” Tessa mumbles.
The only part of her not covered is her head. Black hair and eyes. Pale skin. Prominent veins. A shiver goes through me when she speaks. Her voice is as cold as the chains that surround her. “How dare you invade my island,” she snarls. “You will pay!”
She raises her arm, pulling a chain that ends with a horribly sharp hook. She swings it suddenly. I’m quick enough to jump back, but Jack isn’t! He screams so loud I want to cover my ear as it stabs deep into his thigh. The Daemonic-Queen begins dragging him quickly towards her…
Noah rushes forward towards her, his sword drawn. I don’t know what he hopes to achieve.
“Tessa, get the sphere and the crystals ready,” I command, rushing to help Noah.
He hacks uselessly at the chains that surround her. She raises her other arm and hits him. Even such a minimal effort attack sends Noah sprawling back…
I grab Jack, ignoring both his screams and the pain in my leg as I clumsily get the hook out of him. Tessa runs to us, throwing us each a crystal. We both catch and turn our attention to Noah. He’s rushing towards us, dodging a chain. Tessa tosses him a crystal as she shouts “Bartholomew’s church!”
As everything spins out of proportion it occurs to me that a similar thing happened when we were leaving Asherton. Hopefully not every mission will end in such a humiliating retreat…