Alrune
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The night enshrouded the barren woods, the many trees’ rotten, moss leaden, branches reaching out into the night sky, as if trying to grasp at the lazy light of the midnight moon that slipped through their claws and down onto the toadstool covered forest floor. The moonlight’s empty glow mixed softly with the velveteen blackness that clung silently across the grove, lending the area a gentle, stagnant, grey illumination that whispered of hollowness.

The raven preened its dark feathers and flapped its now grey wings restlessly, giving a light caw of impatience as its beady eyes looked up at the cloaked figure that held it softly in its hand.

“Patience Samuel.” The dark shadow spoke soothingly as a deathly white finger gently stroked the crest of the raven to calm it. “Patience.” The soft red eyes of the figure moved away from the restless bird and back up to the sky, his dark hair flowing gently over his ghostly face. “Two paths lay before the world this night… Resting in the hands of only a chosen few. Their actions this evening will decide the course of the future.”

The raven followed the figure’s silent gaze up to watch the restless moon… Dark shades of its turmoil clearly seen in the open sky of dark, isolated grove. Building. Rising. The shades and light softly mixing in as an unseen struggle passed by its surface…
Suddenly… the moon flickered. Vanishing into the darkness only to reappear again smaller… Weaker… The raven and the dark figure watched as it flared up in the empty night sky, and three streaks of light coursed out from it, scattering off into different directions through the chill night air.

A wan smile appeared on the thin white lips of the figure, previously unseen tension sliding off his willowy body as he closed his tired eyes and gave a soft sigh. “And so it begins.” He whispered gently to himself, his tattered cloak billowing slightly in a soft night breeze.
The raven shifted impatiently on his hand and cawed lightly as the figure’s eyes opened to look at the small creature once more. “Indeed Samuel… It is time for us to visit family.”

The raven gave a slight nod and opened up its wings, flapping them gently as easily as it lifted off the figure’s hand and into the dark, open, night sky.

The cloaked figure’s red eyes watched as the raven’s dwindling form as disappeared over the canopy of the dead trees, his small smile hovering across his lips gently in the cold of the night as he turned to address the rotting grove with kind words, “Goodbye brothers and sisters… May you all feel the peaceful slumber settle upon you and give rise to the new.”

His tattered cloak billowed up softly as he finished, wrapping and swirling around him as it broke apart into a cloud of softly buzzing flies. The figure dissolved gently into the swarm as his body slipped away, flowing and trickling from the grove with the flies as if dark speckled water.


20 YEARS AGO

Floating…
Cold…
Darkness…
It seemed to expand forever… Never starting, never ending…
Black.
Nothingness…
Empty.
Pulling away and disappearing into the shadowy folds…

Away from what though?

The thought lingered softly in the quietness… Nothing more than a brief whisper in the void.

What is it that is leaving?

The words appeared again, struggling softly in the encompassing blackness… trying to form despite being tugged away into the hollow emptiness… trying to define its thoughts.

The darkness settled in thicker into the softly fading words… pulling them apart.
It’s nothing to worry about… the darkness seemed to whisper back as the words began to dissolve within it peaceful emptiness. There is nothing important now… Nothing big… No worries… Just rest… Just sleep…

The words seemed to sigh gently along with the soothing darkness… flowing away and going along with it. Easing down… It was right… Nothing of concern… No problem… Only to let it fade away… to become part and one with the blissful nothing… Rest.

You know that isn’t true.

The new crystal clear voice was different. Defined. Sudden. It caught the drifting words off guard.

What?

You know that isn’t true… You know there is something more.

The words focused their attention on the new sound, pulling themselves together once more to answer the voice.

Something… more?

Yes…. The warm voice spoke, each gentle understanding word becoming more defined and it continued, like a soft chime of a friendly bell ringing out through the emptiness, There are still others in need… A crisis to stop… You are needed to protect me…You need to go back…

Before the words could answer back and join with the voice, flashes of scenes appeared in front of them. Images of dark sadistic figures outlined in the blackness of half formed memories ebbed and flowed into each other as the scenes played out a cruel dance… Individuals dying… Screaming wordlessly in horror and lost… In desperate pain…

But is pain there…

The words cringed as it reeled away from the images, trying its best to answer through the soundless wails.

Sadness… Regret… Tragedy… Lost…

The words separated slightly… Jarring away from one another…. Trying to fade away and disappear from the disturbing shades.

But that isn’t the only thing there, is it? The voice countered gently, like a mother speaking comfortingly to a fearful child, there is more to it than that…

And the images began to reshift to take on new forms…
Laughter…
Friends….
Joy….
And a familiar picture the now distinct soul remembered quite well…
A picture smiling, happy family…

I need your strength my child. Guard me. Protect me…
Help me.

The body’s eyes snapped open… It’s pale lips opening in a reflexive sudden gasp to taste the wet gentle rain that sprinkled down from the dark night clouds… It’s hands grasping at the soft mud that lay under it as it twitched and spasmed to activity on the damp forest floor.

“Eheh heh heh heh.” The sudden old, cackled laughter faded into a dry, dusty cough that rung softly in the gentle downpour. “ I knews ya was a strong ‘un right when I saws ya. Te prophecy was right.”

The once elven corpse tried ineffectually to sit itself off up the muddy ground it lay on, the arm that attempted to support the rest of the body losing strength halfway through.

“Up. Don’tcha push yeself to ‘ard lad.” A withered and bony arm with surprising strength for its apparent frailness and age caught the young elf’s body from falling back down, supporting it up into a sitting position… “Wakin’ oop from ta dead ain’t easy, ya know.” The grizzled voice chuckled dustily from its own statement.

The deathly pale elf turned his now red eyes to stare blankly at the kneeling, ancient Halfling who helped support him, the black goat hide headdress shadowing the sunken red eyes of the hunched halfling’s meeting the elf’s own.

“I-I’m dead?” the young looking elf finally spoke once he had regained the use of his voice.

“Aye. That ya are lad. Ya can remember, can’t ya?”

“I..” the elf lifted up a mud covered hand to clutch his head as memories of the recent events came flooding back… “I remember taking a job to help the resistance… They… they needed someone to help scout for Seriade troops trying to infiltrate the forest… W-we had finished scouting the area and camped for the night when… when…”

The memories of a gunshot being fired filled the young elf head in a sudden burst, his head lowering simultaneously to look at his bare chest… At the bullet size hole in his now pale and cold flesh that was centered over his heart. His treasured golden locket swung gently next to it… Its usual gleam dulled from the stain of his dried blood.

“No…” his small whispered intoned softly… his horrified eyes locked on the hole in his chest.

The ancient and bony hand patted the elf’s young shoulder consolingly as the Halfling creaked into standing position, his aged and hunched back giving him little change in height as he leaned against his ornate staff.

“Don’tcha fret young ‘un.” The thick Verrainian accent wheezed softly, the thin trails of wispy white beard dampening in the small droplets that sprinkled. “Take solace in the fact that ya otha’s managed ta escape alive. As fir te soliders though…. Ahn Dol ‘in I put their rotted lives ta rest.”

The young elf turned his head to follow the gesture of the skeleton-like hand of the halfling, his eyes falling on the tall and imposing hide covered shadow of the female giant standing silently and patiently behind him, towering over him. Her one red eye gleamed gently with impassive and quiet understand as it met the elf’s own gaze.

“Who… who are you people?” the elf spoke hesitantly, his gaze returning to the small figure standing beside him. “What-what have I become?”

“Eheh heh heh heh…. Us?” The grizzled halfling cocked his thin neck slightly, his own sunken red eyes looking into the freshly revived red eyes of the young elf, “We ar part o’ a group called ta Keeper o’ Death, lad. Te protecta’s of te natural end of the cycle o’ life and te beginins’ that come from it. As fir ya second qesti’n ” The cracked lips of the halfling spread wide… The stained and near toothless mouth turning up into a knowing smile against the cool curtain of incessant rain, “Ya ‘ave become te newest member oof our family. Welcome.”

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