29 August 2012
Twilight was upon us. The clouds rolled and rumbled, sending birds crying in flight. It was eerie, but a place my friends and I had seen too many times before. The four of us had regrouped after nearly a week of waiting and planning. We figured we were ready this time. It was hard to believe we were really going to do this again, since the last time failed so miserably. We figured we were ready.
Captain was in charge, go figure. Real names weren't important, only aliases, and Captain made sure that was followed. He was the leader, highest swordsmen skill among us and all we knew. Range was the archer, practically the best there was. Silver held our speed, quick like a superhero and even faster with a dagger and gun. I was the youngest, stuck as the medical man, making sure everyone was top health and all that. They figured I'd be ready.
"Range," Captain began roll call, which he was growing accustomed to doing.
Range, an almost completely mute fellow, nodded. This barely revealed his pale face, just showed his deep eyes glaring through his hood. He offered his bow to show he was ready, but as always didn't say a word. Captain nodded.
"Silver?" His tone of voice was slightly stifled, hiding the aggressive tone he wanted to use.
Silver, the only woman of our group, smirked and nodded. She was something of a daredevil. Captain once called her rambunctious, especially after she changed her uniform to a standard suit into the barely visible cloth she was wearing now. She tapped her foot, practically rolled her eyes, offered her blade, and turned away. Captain sighed, nodding.
When he called my name, I barely moved. My nerves were running high, to say the least. I offered a wave of my medical kit, which was simply a bag on my side with an assortment of things in it. Captain gave a warm smile, trying to reassure me. It did enough to calm me.
"We all know the plan, right. Stick to it, and we should do fine."
Silver jumped in last minute, grabbing Captain by the arm. Her little laughter, stifled to keep it in, told us she had something big to tell. She dug into her side bag, keeping as all in a moment of suspense.
"Captain, check it!"
Silver pulled out a long blade, made with the strongest elements of the land. It glistened in the moon light, reflecting in our eyes with hope and confidence. Nothing could go wrong with the Sword of Victory. Captain took it with a bow, holding it up for all of us to get a better look. We figured we were ready now.
The fortress towered over us in the dark. The grass refused to grow green, turning a hideous shade of purple and brown. Bare trees clawed at the sky, stretching out their dreadful limbs. I could hear Silver gulp. She hated this place most. The castle of Lord Yin was rumored in whisper, only the foolish enter and only the dead and lame exit. Captain put his hands on the door, and looked back to us.
"All hell will break loose when I open these doors. You all ready?"
Range nodded, preparing his bow. Silver smirked, nodding as well. I gulped, looking around for any possible exit. With my luck, there was none. Captain turned away, shoving the doors with a groan. The monstrous steel doors fell open, revealing the dark cavernous internals of the castle. Nothing happened after that. We stood in awe in the doorway, awaiting anything and everything. Weapons on high, eyes and ears attentive, we waited. Still nothing came.
"This isn't right," whispered Silver, looking to Captain.
"I know. Something should've happened by now," he answered. "Lord Sin's soldiers, demon dogs, anything!"
"I don't know, I kind of like this. It's nice," I remarked, stepping in first.
Just my luck.
Captain shoved me out of the way as an arrow just narrowly missed us both. He mumbled a curse, and quickly looked around for any more traps. Silver stepped in carefully, racing around to check where Captain couldn't. Range entered slowly, without a word or thought otherwise. I watched them examine the entrance hall carefully, practically looking under the main carpet. I felt ridiculous.
"Maybe we're at the wrong castle," I offered.
"Impossible…" sighed Captain, looking up the grand stairs. "The battle must just lie upstairs for once."
"I'll check it out," Silver nodded, dashing up the stairs before Captain could disagree.
"She'll get us all killed," he grumbled, chasing after her.
I stood beside Range, but we didn't sit idle for long. I followed Range, not sure what to do otherwise, when he trailed up the stairs. The grand stairwell parted at the top, leading to the right and left. To the left, we knew, there was nothing but empty rooms that would take hours to search and merely wear you down for the fight ahead. To the right was but one room at the very end of the hall. The doors were wooden, coated in red handprints. The only noises on the other side would be screams and cackles. Range led me to the door all the same. I glanced behind us, hoping Captain and Silver would return so we could enter as a group. I just wanted to quit this mission.
It shattered our silence and sent shivers down our spines. It was a scream that never seemed to end, echoing off the walls and ringing in our ears. Range pulled his bow string tight, aiming around for the source. I knew the source. I'd heard it so many times before. It was beyond the door, leaving with the last breath of our beloved Silver. I could hear Captain howl in abjection. We thought we were ready.
Range kicked the door open. I remember the throne room from my nightmares. The long carpet, once white but stained red, which ran up to the skull crested throne. If one was stealthy, one could see the Lord Yin upon his throne with pure white skin, hair of night, and eyes of fire. If one was not stealthy, all you'd see was a shadow killing off your companions one by one until you were all that remained. Captain stood before the shadow king, sword out and eyes burning with vengeance. We had lost Silver and, with her, the plan.
Range fired three arrows before the shadow claimed Captain. They struck the shadow's hand, forcing it to let out a chuckle. It tossed Captain to the side. I hurried after our fallen leader, pulling out what medical supplies I could without dropping all of them. Our fearless leader struggled to stand, but waited for me to come before rushing out again to avenge Silver. I patched him up as best I could, but I was hardly a good medic. Captain glanced at me and sighed.
"That'll do, kid."
He lifted his damaged blade off the ground and charged in to assist Range, who was in way above his head. I watched them battle, curse and call. I was no solider. I was no fighter. I was barely a medic. I slowly backed up against the wall, watching the red cuts forming along my comrades. Comrades? I barely knew these people.
Range called me over. His arm hurt from the bow, getting his arm bloody. I wrapped it up, cleaning off the part of the bow that held splinters of blood and flesh. Range shook my hand, dashing off into battle again. His arrows did barely anything to the massive creature that devoured whole teams. With Silver, our plan meant nothing and any new plan would be too late. We thought we could do this, but it became obvious that we couldn't.
Captain offered me a weapon, a small knife with the word Hope written on it in a different language. He said it gave strength. I tried to convince him that he needed it more than I did, but his mind was set and he had taken off before I could return it. I still have that knife. I keep it on me at all times.
The longer the battle went on, the more my optimism failed me. Captain was at low health. Range refused to talk of his pain. His bow was ready to snap in half, and his number of arrows was now less than half. Captain's sword, which at the beginning of this looked bright and awe inspiring, was reduced to a cracked and soot-caked stick on a handle.
I couldn't keep watching. I couldn't stay here and survey this horrific display. My breath was shallow and my steps were light. I glanced around and, seeing as none of them were coming to address me with their wounds, I tiptoed toward the door. I stopped in the doorway, glancing back one last time.
"Kid, help us out!"
Captain kept calling me out, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He glanced back at me, weary and broken. His sword was ready to shatter, and Lord Sin was only getting started. There was no way out. Captain must have seen this, how could he not? I saw it, and I wasn't even as skilled or leveled as he was. We couldn't survive. I knew we weren't ready. There was only one option left.
The rumors say only the foolish enter and only the dead and lame exit Lord Sin's lair. There is another group that exits. They're slimy, incredibly cowardly beings. They have many names and many types. Some can't even be seen until it is too late. When I gave one last look at Captain, I made a choice. With a sigh, I turned away, and with a slow gesture, I pressed a button, and turned off the game.