White Eyes of the Yard
By Kasmanan D'arth in Dark Ages, Rogue, Deoch 13
I dedicate this work in the name of Gramail, that all that follow my footsteps into that horrid yard be protected through his grace.
As I completed my jouney from Loures to the newly excavated area of Tagor, excitement boiled within my blood at the thought of what lay ahead. A dark ocean of trees spread before me, and a light warm wind played across my hair, filling my senses with the fresh scent of the sea that I so loved, and that I'd soon leave. I looked around nervously, trying to read some expression on the face of the ship's crew. Nothing. Whatever thoughts of Tagor dwelled within their minds, they kept them well hidden to themselves, preferring to keep to their tasks at hand. Nor had I been successful in my several attempts to engage the crew in conversation. Although their expressions did not betray it, I know them to be spooked to the core of their souls, secretly hating that such aislings as I would even request passage on such a terrible journey. Were it so that an open road existed from Suomi to Tagor (though it would be to the horror of the fair citizens of Suomi, I am sure), I'm sure the ship and their captain would happily retire forever from the making of this voyage, telling all who would inquire as to passage exactly what they could do with their shiny weapons and armor.
Still, times were tough in Temuair, and a coin is a coin. Commissioned to give passage to all who would so request, the sailors begrudgingly did so with nary an ill-spoken word. I had to admire them, though I seriously doubted that they held such high regard for myself. I quietly chuckled to myself on this, and looked up abruptly as a gentle thump rose from below, as the ship dropped anchor. Though we still lay nearly a half league from shore, I knew that the fair "Kings Maiden" would carry me no closer. An invigorating mornings swim it would be then, I thought with a slight smile. I released a gentle sigh, as an involutary shiver spread throughout my body despite the warm morning air. Tagor. Hold what it may to my future, I was here at last.
"Horrible monsters. Undead appearing from thin air. Screams of terror from every direction..."
I pushed such childish tales of these forests to the back rescesses of my mind, and journeyed onwards from the beach, such as it was. I'd drawn laughter from many, and looks of puzzlement from most, when I'd announced to those close to me that I intended to traverse the forests in the vacinity of the infamous Macabre House of Tagor alone. Newly married, and wealthy by the standards of most, I suppose I can see why noone could understand my motivations for wanting to come here. Deep inside, in that protected area of thoughts that I save only for myself, I'm not even sure I did. But since childhood, when grandfather had told me of me of the tales of the House of Tagor, and of its fall, I'd vowed that one day I'd visit the area myself, and see whatever it is that may be seen. I'd seen a spark of something in my grandfather's eyes when he told his tales of wonder, something of a mixture of excitement and horror, that seemed to make him seem momentarily Deoch's younger than he truly was. I had to find that for myself. I could not explain it, and cannot still to this day. It was simply something that tugged within my heart.
I moved from the short beach area onto the rough dirt road that stretched seemingly forever into the vast forest. The sunlight appeared to grow slowly dimmer as I trudged onwards, though by the lay of the sun in the sky, I knew it to still be early morning. I shrugged this off as a trick of my vivid imagination, for which I am well known. As I wandered further down the path, the trees closing about me until it seemed that they themselves were some sort of creature, slowly approaching me at a speed unrecognizable by my mind, bent on devouring me, I began to notice a few crumbling wooden buildings appear on either side of the road. As I moved closer to investigate the first and closest of these shacks, a soft moan greeted me from within. My heart momentarily frozen with terror, I halted my progress, listening intently in an attempt to discern what manner of creature or being might be capable of releasing such sounds. After a couple of minutes, the moans subsided and silence returned. Fingering my lotus dagger nervously, and mumbling a short silent prayer to Gramail, I once more continued my progress towards the uninviting wooden abode.
Upon reaching its porch, I noticed that although the building obviously had a door from which entrance to the interior might be gained, the door had been firmly nailed shut in numerous locations, and several glyphs or wards (Sylvan?) had been drawn in varying locations across its face. I gingerly reached out to try the handle of the door, thinking that perhaps time had rotted the wood in a manner sufficient to allow entry despite the nails, but it was to no avail. I lightly pushed against the door itself, and found that not only did the door itself not contain the slightest amount of give, I actually felt as though I were being pushed backwards instead of forwards. It became quickly apparent that whomever or whatever had shut this door so securely had had no intentions of anyone getting inside...or of anything that might be contained within escaping. Obviously something had managed to find an entrance, hence the noises I'd heard earlier, since surely nothing could have remained within the firmly secured confines for such a long manner of time without access to the outside. With a shrug of dismay, I began to look around the house (as I had now determined it to be) for some other possible form of entrance. I was rewarded with nothing but the knowledge that whomever had been responsible for the houses constructin had done an excellent job upon it. Although there were obviousy signs of deterioration as one would expect, the building itself remained solidly erect, with the windows themselves being firmly boarded over, and drawn upon with yet more glyphs. With some reservations, I pressed my ear gently to the window, that I might be able to use my hearing to locate the source of the moaning I had heard earlier.
For the longest time I was greeted with nothing but the eternal sound of silence, and I had begun to think my efforts in vain, when I a noise came forth from within that sent my heart fluttering at a pace that it had previously been unaware that it could obtain. This was not a moan, no, not in the sense of the moaning that you or I might emit when wounded or when we've a pain of the stomach from eating too much beef with our ale in the tavern. This was not akin to the noises that I'd heard from afar when I'd called upon the desperately ailing child in Loures Castle, to give to her, as so many others did (may Gramail shine upon them for their efforts), a single Sevti flower, which had been obtained in the dark maze-like swamps of Mehadi. No, the sound that filled the forest that day, and indeed my entire body, mind and soul, was unlike anything I had ever heard previous to that day, and filled me with a sense of horror that I find my words simply cannot explain. It was in that instant that I knew, simply knew, that whatever was on the other side of those walls was not natural, that it was not of the natural order and balance that exists within Temauir. When a fighter travels forth to battle a young Draco deep within the confines of Pravat, both he and that Draco are a part of a natural order that serves to sustain our world, and whether fate and his deity decree that upon that day he should slay the Draco, or be slain himself in a valiant attempt, that is natural balance and order. We are all apart of it, young and old, good and evil, Glioca and Sgrios alike. It is the energy and life and order that our world consists of, for better or worse.
But this sound was different. It in no way resembled anything that should exist upon our world. I stumbled backwards in sheer terror, the horrible moan coming from so near to me that I was firmly convinced that whatever it was was already upon me, and would any second devour me with its presence alone. Realizing that should whatever was within suddenly burst forth upon me, hell-bent on attacking me, I would be at a distinct disadvantage having no knowledge of what I was even facing, nor what the creature was capable of, I did what every man and woman does at least once in their life, faced with danger unknown, or obstacles that they simply do not feel prepared to face, whether they will later admit to it or not. I ran. I ran and ran hard through twisted trees, with no attempt to keep to the road, through dark and shaded vales, through murk and mire, ignoring thorns that ripped at my armor and face, oblivious to my surroundings, though I now recall catching glimpses of pale grey faces on several occasions looming before me, seemingly as oblivious to me as I was at the time to them.
Onwards I ran still, until at last the sheer weight of my marauder's hide armor bore me to the ground in exhaustion, panting and gasping for breath. I lay for what must have been an hour, or very nearly so at the least, until at last I was able to sit up and recollect myself. It is not a boast when I tell you that it is most unlike me to panic in such a fashion, always having been known to my comrades as the vigilant hunter. I ran a hand across my blood-streaked face to wipe sweat from my brow, at last looking around to contemplate my surroundings. I knew immediately, of course, that I was rather lost. A road ran nearby, if you could call it that, but I recalled having crossed several such pathways in my blind flight, and seriously doubted that this was the one that my journey had originated upon. A breathed a gentle sigh, having fully recovered, and freshly avowed, both in shame and anger, never to run in the face of such danger again. Having devoured a simple meal of bread and honey, washed down with a sip of wine to calm my nerves, I again took to the road, this time remaining every vigilant of my surroundings as I traveled on. Never again would I flee in such a manner. Never again.
Rotting corpses. Men, women, children alike, all dead now. The horrid evil of the House of Tagor, the undead terror, it spreads, it spreads, it spreads....
I'd thought little of the raving words of the forlorn beggar I'd seen outside the gates of Piet a week past, little more than to toss the customary copper coin to him, and wish him to the mercy of the gods. His words came back to me with startling clarity now, however, as I walked along in the growing twilight. What had he meant? Was it possible that this ragged man had actually known something of whatever evil now lay all about me? I cursed myself for a fool. When the gods hand you a gift, and you throw a coin at it in distain, mayhaps it be then that they will leave you to your fate. Undead terror. My mind raced back to the pale grey faces that I'd seen as I'd ran, the unseeing eyes that stared off into eternity. Zombies. The word itself hung upon my lips even as in involutarily uttered it. I drew in a sharp breath, and tried to recall what little knowledge I had on the subject of zombies, or more generally, undead.
I'd once encountered a wraith deep within the confines of the Crypt which lies upon the outskirts of Mileth, but that encounter had been at a distance, and with the use of my developed ability at hiding. I'd recognized the wraith from teachings of lore I'd had as a child, and cryptic drawings set down on parchment by adventurers of days past. It was upon the 27th level of the crypt that I'd encountered it, in the midst of seeming hordes of marauders (a small creature with a rather uncanny ability to freeze you with terrible magic, and then quickly send you to your death with it's sharp claws). Having seen no obvious manner in which to progress further into the crypt, and having no wish to risk the precious cargo that I held (several scalps from succubi that I had cleverly trapped earlier that day from a hidden location), I had opted not to risk combat with this assumedly dangerous foe, and had simply used a scroll that was bestowed upon me at the temple of Gramail to teleport to the gates of Loures Castle, near the shrine itself.
Outside of that, I had only the knowledge,, taught to me by the elders of my village of Abel, that undead were supposedly creatures, be it human or animal, that have been reanimated after the point in which the spirit leaves the body bound for Sgrios domain. Whether or not the undead corpse itself actually contained the spirit of the deceased, or was just the empty husk of that which once was, I did not know. Having personally visited Sgrios domain on several occasions myself, and having tasted the bitter pain he is so well versed in handing out in delivering his infamous scars, I could only shudder in the imagination of being trapped in such a place for an endless period of time, unable to return to the body which has been consumed by an abhorant evil. It simply did not seem of the natural order to me, and the part of me that clings vigilantly to the teachings of Gramail welled up in rage that such an unnatural violation of balance and order could take place. I believe it is this rage that led me onwards, onwards on this dusty road, despite the growing twilight, and I soon found myself trudging on, deep within the forests of Tagor, on a dusty road seemingly to nowhere, as night swallowed me in her embrace.
I never saw it coming, you know, I only felt the pain. One minute I walked along thoughtfully, wandering truly where this road would take me, occasionally letting my thoughts drift back to my wife Alora, and the next moment the entire left side of my body exploded in a pain that both cleared my head instantly and purged me of any doubts I had as to the hostility of the creatures of Tagor. Twice previously I had again spotted what I now firmly convinced myself to be zombies, as the description could simply fit nothing else, and I'd even seen some form of hooded creature well off in the woods that vaguely reminded me of the wraith I had encountered in Mileth Crypt, this creature embracing some form of dark staff rather than the scythe that wraith's are so well known for. But none of these had shown any interest in me despite the uneven sprawl of light that my torch set upon the forest. I had thought that I'd seen the hooded figure look my way just as I moved further off down the slightly overgrown path, but I'd just as quickly left it behind, out of my line of vision, and decided it most prudent not to investigate it further in the boundless darkness.
It had been at some point only minutes later that the attack took place, and were it for my inane apptitude at dextrous actions, and my nearly inpenatrable armor, I would surely be dead even now, and never would this tale have been set forth, as the mind has an amazing manner of quickly shelving to the farthest recesses of the mind the horrid details that one suffers in death, upon a successful return from Sgrios realm. Even in the midst of the mind-numbing pain, I was able to whirl about and face the creature that had launched such an assault upon me. Again, it was this action that saved my life, as I barely managed to dodge, I jest you not here, the bloody claws of a large, evil looking rake of some kind. A smirk may have crept upon your lips upon reading this, but I assure you, the apparatus which this creature carries is nothing to laugh at. And, in particular, the speed and power with which it uses it. Merely one blow had caused an immeasurably painful injury, and I had little doubt that several such blows would result in a rather swift ending to the encounter.
The one thing that I shall never forget of this encounter is the eyes. The horrible, horrible white eyes. Dereft of pupils such as you and I have, the white eyes of the red-clad zombie stared off into eternity, glistening back the reflection of my torch. Though I felt both mesmerized and horrified by such an appearance, I had little time to stop and contemplate it further. Even as I moved backwards as quickly as I might so as not to fall, the zombie ambled after me at a pace that I would have believed impossible had I not been witness to it myself. I attempted a slash with my dagger in desperation, but I managed to inflict little more than a nick, and nearly received a nasty gash myself for the efforts. Truly, my hour of desperation was at hand. There was little at hand that I might use to hide myself with, but I felt little choice in the matter. In a move that pushed my honed reflexes to the very limit, I twisted myself around and left backwards towards a nearby clump of growth. Even as I did this, the horrible rake came down upon my right shoulder, ripping open the flesh, and rendering my arm useless. I bit down hard upon my tongue, silencing my scream of pain, as I completed my attempt at hiding.
Even now, as I lay wounded and bleeding, hopelessly pinned by a foe that I know not how to combat, all bearings lost, my pack ripped from my back and nearly all possesions lost some time back, I do not regret my journey. Though I have lost my pack, even now my eyes wander to the growth surrounding me, my mind desperately racing in an attempt to figure out a manner in which I might devise a way to set traps for the beast, using the sticks and trees about me. Whether or not I shall succeed, I know not. My thought is only this: should I succumb to this terrible creature that has beseiged me, and my spirit seperated from my body, I only pray that I might not be subjected to the same fate as these zombies which even now surround me. Oh, a thousand deochs in Sgrios purgatory should be preferrable than such an existance. Be warned, confident reader, be warned. The terrors of this place are not such that an aisling should travel alone. I came here on a journey of personal fulfillment of the spirit, and with Gramail's grace, it is still yet possible that I might return. I must end this hastily written journal now, as I hear the creature approaching my spot of hiding. It was the foresight of the gods, and much luck on my part, that allowed me to place this journal in such a place as I might not lose it when the creature attacked. Thus, I've been able to share with you my tale, leaving out only those mundane details which I haven't the time to include. It comes, I must go, even now I see the eyes, the horrible white eyes....