This is a derivation of an older story concept that came up with but scrapped and instead wrote this.
Darkness… is all that I could see when I awoke.
Turning my head left and right there was nothing but pitch black darkness. I could barely make out the outlines of my hands. The first thing that came to my mind was: "Is this a dream?"
But before I could elaborate my own thoughts, the surrounding darkness started to form. Upon looking around I realised that this is an ancient Greek theatre. But I wasn't alone; in fact the entire theatre was full of people. Like me most of them looked confused, while some were worried. Not to soon a loud chatter began, I couldn't hear my thoughts anymore.
I looked toward the stage; there was no one and nothing to be seen. But a moment later on the stage an implosion of sparkling yellow particles was concentrating into a shape. It finished with a blinding flash of light, there stood a figure. The figure was wearing a dark blue cloak, with a… pointy wizard hat? What is this? Was I kidnapped to watch some magic show?
The audience went silent. The figure opened its arms in a welcoming manner and said:
"Welcome… Right now all of you one thousand two hundred candidates are in the Forgotten city which is located in the valley of fallen kingdoms."
The voice was of an older man. But a greater concern of mine was: „Where is this city? Where in the world are we?"
"Your objective is to reach the exit of the 12. valley. Each valley is connected to another with a canyon. But beware; the canyons are blocked by a gate and guardians."
As the clocked man finished his statement, the audience started to protest:
"Who are you, and where have you brought is?"
"Why should we do anything you say?"
"Why have you glued our butts to the seats?"
In all this chaos, the last question made me realize. I couldn't get up from my seat; it's as if I'm glued to the stone seat. I struggled, but it was in vain. I directed my attention at the man on the stage.
The man on the stage raised his hand and everyone's mouths were shut tight.
"Why should you listen to me? A good question, with an obvious answer. The reason you should listen to everything I'm about to say is because it's in your best interest to stay alive."
Everyone in the audience gasps in shock and some trembled in fear, including me.
"When the sun sets on the seventh day, the portal that stands before the gate will open, and let out the first of many enemies. Till then you should all search this city for anything you can use to your advantage. The portal will do so every seventh day until it is destroyed"
"Everything you find in this and the next 11 valleys is yours to take. But heed my warning; any who attempt to leave the valley by climbing the mountains shall meet their end."
Wait, this guy wants us to fight enemies through 12 valleys? But what for?
"When you reach the exit of the final valley, any of you who remain alive will be freed. But if your progress toward reaching the next valley stops for more than a month without advancing toward the next, every extra day will result in the death of three weakest lives.
The audience was visibly stunned, and soon a quiet chatter could be heard.
As I sat there and listened to the words of this… madman, I tried to absorb all that was said in the last few minutes. But in the midst of all this craziness, I still have one question: "how did I get here?" ; not 5 minutes ago I was standing in the middle of the town square, and now all of a sudden I'm here. My thoughts were cut off by someone shouting from the audience:
"Who the hell are you, and why did you do this to us?"
The man on the stage looked up at us and said:
"What? Do you not remember me. Have you forgotten; you all signed up for this."
With that the man raised his hand and snapped his fingers. Another implosion of particles followed by a blinding flash of yellow light appeared behind him, but this one was larger.
After the light faded, the stage was now occupied by another five people. All of them were wearing the same robes. Then they all grabbed their pointy wizard hats and took them off.
The group of six mysterious people appear to be two women and four men, all in either their forties or fifties. They all looked at us, in silence.
The silence was broken not a moment latter as I could hear loud gasps from around me. When I examined the six in front of me… suddenly it dawned me… One of the men standing on the stage is the same man who was giving away invitations to a game, the invitation being a colourless crystal, I took one out of curiosity (and because it was free). He told me that it is my invitation to a game which would have taken place at the town square. But the man interrupted my thoughts:
"We asked you if you wanted to participate in the game; we gave you the crystals that were your invitations. You all willingly agreed to this."
So this is… the game he was talking about… a game of life and death.
"Before we leave, I should mention that the crystals we gave you will be of use to you later"
"That is all you need to know for now"
The six people on the stage grouped closer together, and the man spoke again:
"I wish you best of luck, and remember only the strongest will survive."
Suddenly they all exploded into tiny yellow particles. They were gone, and the theatre was left in a loud chaotic mess of people filled with panic, trying to get out of this theatre as soon as they could. I can't say I was any better, but for some strange reason I felt oddly less worried than one might expect. Sure I wanted an adventure that I may one day tell my children, or anyone for that matter; but despite of that I felt oddly calm in a situation like this one.
After almost half of the people left the theatre one man stepped down onto the stage and yelled:
"Hey! Everyone calm down, this is not helping anyone."
Almost everyone was now looking at the guy on the stage, the remaining few continued to run out.
"Listen! We don't know if even any of the stuff that guy said is true, but I think that at this point we should all calm down as much as we can, and just do as he said. It's not like we have any other options; just look behind me if you need proof."
I looked above the small "backstage" building behind him. The only thing that could be seen behind the building were clouds which were lower than the height were at, which probably means that this theatre is built on the edge of a cliff. Besides that all that could be seen was an endless abyss.
Everyone seems to have calm down a bit, and the guy on the stage continued:
"Now that everyone is a bit calmer, I suggest we split into groups, help each other and… that's about it. Ohh, and I suggest all of us meet here again on the third day, if this all is for real, so that we asses our situation and figure out where we are. Are we all in agreement? Raise your hand if you are."
Almost all of us raised our hands.
"Then it's agreed, we meet here on the third day in the morning."
The man walked off the stage, and started talking with some other people. Everyone continued on their way out of the theatre, and many were discussing about forming groups. As I made my way up the stairs that lead to the city, I saw more and more of the mentioned city we were in.
The said city appears to be from the Middle Ages; nearly every building was made of grey stone blocks, with thatch roofs. As I finally reached the top of the stairs, I saw what one might expect from a town built in the Middle Ages; dirt roads, wooden carts, the houses were built poorly with some being run down, others seemed to have burnt down and some had no roofs . In the distance I saw a tall structure with towers in its corners, and to its left was a connected building with a red roof almost as high as the main part. In the background I could see that we were indeed in a valley surrounded with tall mountains covered in lush vegetation, and some stone peaks rose above the clouds.
As I walked along the street, I remembered that I still have my cell phone; but sadly as I expected no reception, I looked at the time and it was 13:36. I decided to turn it off so that I save battery life for later when I might need it.
Walking along I took two turns, and came to a conclusion. Traveling blind like this won't get me anywhere, meaning I had to get up somewhere high above the roofs and look around to see what there is in this city. Luckily there was a house with a balcony on its roof, I ran toward it. When I got to the door, the door was hanging on one of its two hinges, so I pushed it aside and entered. Upon entering the first thing I noticed was… skeletons. As disturbing as this sight was I tried not to pay much attention to it, so I walked between the human remains, trying not to step on any bones I made my way to the stairs. When I got on top I looked around and saw pretty much what I expected, more thatch roofs. But in the distance I saw a slightly taller group of buildings. These had tiled roofs, and were different from others. I concluded that I might find something more useful in a house that belonged to someone who was wealthier than a commoner; at least I hoped that that's what that building is. I made my way back down, and ran through the streets, avoiding everyone else.
When I got to the said group of structures I was well surprised. What I thought were wealthier households was actually a garrison. Looking around I didn't see many people. Which was a bit surprising, but I had more important matters at hand which are finding food and weapon to defend myself; because that man did mention enemies. As I walked along the grounds of the garrison I looked for a weapons storage, but all I saw was a blacksmith, the soldiers quarters, the command post and an archery range… wait what am I thinking, a bow would be better than nothing right now. I hurried to the range and when I got there I saw the whole place in a mess… just like every other place. There wasn't anything useful on the ground, but there was a small shack to my left that might have something. As I went toward it I started to think.
What happened here?
From the looks of it the entire city is "dead", nearly everything is in ruins, and there are clear sings that this place was invaded. Some buildings had their roofs burned, while others have black walls and broken doors and windows, that house… with the skeletons it all points to this place being invaded.
When I opened the door of the shack, I found no bows but instead there were a bunch of crossbows. Most of them were broken, but a few were still in one peace. I took one that looked like it was in good shape. Looking around I spotted a quiver with a few bolts in it. Seventeen bolts, that should be enough for now but I will need many more. I took the crossbow and quiver, and closed the door. Looking down the range I saw a few targets, some of them had arrows stuck in them. I decided to try out my crossbow. I pulled back the string and inserted a bolt into the bore and aimed at the target. When I pulled the trigger the bolt flew across the range and hit the target. The bolt hit the third ring, which is not impressive accuracy compared to what I achieved back home with my crossbow, but it will do for now. I went to retrieve my bolt and pull out any other bolts if there were any. To my surprise all of them were crossbow bolts, and including the ones I already have that makes thirty seven bolts. This should be plenty for some time.
I went back the way I came, and went into the command post. Someone was already in here, but it seems that they left. Looking for anything that may be of use to me I stumbled upon a note on the table which most likely belonged to whatever rank the commander of this post was. The weird thing is, the note was written in modern English, which was surprising because I was expecting either Latin or an incomprehensible mess of some old language variant. The note reads the following:
The greed is merciless, it swept through the forest.
It took anything of value and we couldn't stop it.
When there was nothing left to take, it started taking lives.
For the sake of the city close the gates and beware, for the greed will
make the tallest walls small and the strongest of gates weak.
This left me with chills and two theories: 1. someone destroyed this city out of greed or 2. someone was trying to be poetic(in a surprisingly creepy way)
I decided to not dwell on this for too long. I folded the note and saved it so that I can read it when we meet again at that theatre on the fifth day, because this sounds important. When I got out, I decided to check out the blacksmith to see if there's anything of use there. Inside the smiths workshop I found nothing but the usual: coal, tools, an anvil, chunks of metal and broken weapons. Where to next? Standing in the courtyard of the garrison I looked toward the sun to estimate how much time I have till night. If I'm right I should have about 4 more hours of daylight. The best action right now would be to look for food but where would I find a granary. Given that I don't know this city at all that means I'll have to just have to settle with what I can find anywhere.
Concluding that my best bet was to walk in a direction and check every building I decided to head toward a tower that looked like a church bell tower. On my way there checking all the houses was a pain to say the least especially if you count in that I didn't find anything useful. After twenty or so houses I gave up and decided to check the buildings if they looked interesting; which was none. When I got to the tower I mentioned, it turned out I was right it was a church but I didn't expect the town square to be right next to it.
The square was filed with people; they were mostly minding their own business. They were all likely looking for food like me. Walking across the market place I came to the front door of the church. Pushing the door open I looked inside; there were several people already looking around. Joining them in their search I can safely say it was not worth it and that I should have known better.
We found absolutely nothing; seriously what was I expecting to find. If one was to find something of value in a church that would only be seats, ceremonial objects and clothing. This was ridiculous at this point, if I want to be sure to find food, I'll most likely have to head outside of town and either find wild animals roaming around or some berries or something.
Heading toward the nearest visible wall I thought about another problem I'm going to face. I'm going to need a place to sleep, and I'm pretty sure the average house in this city is less than welcoming; I can't just take a nobles house to myself, there are bound to be many more who would want to spend the night in a more comfortable place than a rundown house.
Following the wall I eventually reached a gate. Looking ahead of my destination, the wall seems to have been torn down and parts of it collapsed onto a house. Safe to say who ever lived in there did not have a great time. Passing the city gates I admired the terrain around me.
The city was surrounded with wheat fields that stretched all the way to the forest, but most of the wheat is trampled. Between all the trees in the forest I saw a few fences which meant that was an orchard. Walking along the path I looked at the majestic mountains that were surrounding the valley I was in but my attention was swayed when I saw a small flag just peeking above the treetops, it was white with a little bit of red in it, I couldn't make out the details because it was simply too far away.
Other people also seem to be having the same idea as me since they probably had just as much luck as I did. When I got to the forest I was correct, this forest has orchards built amongst the other trees. It seems that the fruit of choice were apples and cherries. I picked several apples when I realised that I have a small problem.
I didn't have where to put them. It was either eat them immediately or come back here another time with a bag of some sorts. I decided to eat them since I was a little hungry and I didn't really have a bag nor did I know where to find one.
After finishing my meal I wondered where I should go next. In my train of thought I looked to the right of where I was going. There I saw a gap between two mountains; that's probably the canyon that leads to the next valley. Going there now would be dangerous and I really didn't have a reason to go there yet, and I was curious what that flag out in the forest was and decided to check it out.
Walking along the forest path, I felt much more at ease despite the fact that I was alone. But that didn't trouble me because I can finally enjoy the bliss that is silence.
"Aaaaah, help us!"
I spoke too soon.
Looking to my left I saw two girls climbing a tree and a… wolf (at this time of day?!) not far behind.
When they got up high the wolf tried to climb after them but failed as it was kicked down by one of the girls.
The wolf circled around the tree, until it noticed me. But while the wolf was busy with them I already prepared my crossbow and inserted a bolt. Taking aim at the wolf's head, I was about to pull the trigger when the wolf started running toward me. I waited for the wolf to get close so I don't miss. When the wolf got about ten meters from me I fired. The bolt hit the wolf square in the face, moments later if fell to the ground in front of me.
Looking at the tree where the two girls were:
"You can get down now, it's dead."
They quickly made their way down. When I took a better look at them, one of them was around my age while the other seems to be younger.
"Thanks. For saving us. " the older one thanked me
"Don't mention it. What are you two doing in the woods?"
"Shouldn't I be asking you the same, plus you're alone?"
I quickly realised the mistake I made.
"I meant without a weapon… Why did you go into the woods without a weapon?"
The older girl showed me a… flintlock pistol (where the heck she'd get that thing?).
"We have a weapon, but…"
"You don't know how to use it?"
"NO… I just don't know how to refill it?"
She's crazy… heading off into the woods with a weapon that she can't use. I've got to help them; I can't just leave them alone with basically no way of defending themselves.
"Listen, I'm heading down that path to see whatever's in that direction and if you join me I can try and help you figure out how to use it. Assuming you have the bullets, gunpowder and a ramming stick"
She looked at me funny, and then realised what I'm talking about.
"You mean these?"
She grabbed the pouch she had and showed me the contents of it. Inside were as I said two small bags of gunpowder, small round bullets and a short metal pole.
"Yes that's it."
As I turned around she stopped me.
"Despite the fact that I don't know you, we will join you because we were headed that way anyways."
"You saw the flag too?"
"Alright then, just give me a second to retrieve my arrow."
I turned going toward the dead wolf to retrieve my bolt. Despite telling her that it is an arrow, I wasn't in the mood to be discussing why it's called a bolt, but I most likely will in the near future. I pulled the bolt out of the wolf's head and wiped the blood of with several leaves.
We walked back onto the path, then I spoke:
"Since well be traveling together for some time, we should introduce ourselves."
I held my hand toward her.
She shook my hand.
"Klara and this is my younger sister Lucija."
I shook hands with her younger sister as well and we continued down the path, deeper into the woods heading towards our shared destination.
End of chapter 1.
Thank you for your time.
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