A Flame Extinguished
A tall stranger dressed in a dark cloak stood just over the horizon. He approached steadily closer to the two guards who stood protecting the towns entrance. Three small black bags swung from either side of his waist and a tall thick red wood staff thumped heavily with every step.
“What’s your business here?” “Show your face!”, both the guards exclaimed simultaneously. Rigid tension thickened the air. Bron slowly removed his hood, revealing the tired face of a well traveled man.
“I am a mage.” The man spoke with a deep calming voice. “One who has heard of trouble plaguing this very village.”
The guard on the left laughed, “A mage huh? Well then I suppose Malachi will be interested in seeing you.” The other guard, dressed in leather with a bow draped around his back nodded in agreement and hastily took off into the city. “Wait here until he returns.” The remaining guard stated, crossing two arms covered in metal against his large torso.
The mage pulled his hood back up, a warm comfort in unfamiliar territory, and waited. Fortunately not for long before the ranger returned with a self important looking bald man dressed in pompous purple robes. He frowned when he saw the hooded man in front of him and scoffed. “Well I suppose you have the outfit right. However everyone knows mages are nothing more myth. However I will allow you to prove yourself through combat. I must warn you though, these two are eager for bloodshed.”
The mage looked over the two guards in front of him, both with a wicked smile on their face, before agreeing. The three walked away from the entrance of the village into a large pasture of rolling green grass. The twilight sky cast a fiery red hue over the surroundings. The mage stood opposite the ranger and armored man, who had his sword and shield drawn. The bald purple man yelled “Begin!” with a look of bemusement.
Immediately the swordsman rushed forward! His shield in front of him and sword looming high in the air. The archer nonchalantly watched, certain this would be over with shortly. Before closing half the distance the mage swiftly swung his staff through the air in a circular pattern, blue flames crackling to life at the end. Once the flame was fully formed he pulled back on his staff and thrust it forward, sending a blue inferno roaring through the air. A scream rang through the air as the flame collided with the armored man in an explosive of blue flames. He fell to the ground in agony, hissing steam rising from the cracks in his armor.
The archer was in complete shock at the sight of his companion laying still on the ground. He had lost sight of the mage, obscured by smoke and fire. Hastily he notched an arrow in his bow and took aim. Only now seeing the stream of blue fire bearing down on him. He rolled to the side managing to avoid most of it, but the intense heat had burned angry red blisters all down his right arm. Grimacing the archer rose his bow up to let loose an arrow only to have it swept aside by the Mage’s staff. “How di-” The archer started to ask before being knocked unconscious by a heavy kick to the face.
“You really are magical aren’t you?” Said the bald man with a greedy look in his eyes. “My name is Malachi and I am the Lord of this village. I must say I’ve never seen an actual Mage, please excuse my paranoia.” He finished with an elegant bow. “What is your name?” He inquired while raising his head.
“My name is Bron.” Stated the mage between deep breathes. “Now that we are done with this test of yours may I find my way into your village. I’m terribly exhausted and need to rest.”
“Of course! Of course! If you’ll follow me I’ll take you to our local tavern, known for clean beds and warm food. You’ll find all your expenses taken care of as well, in goodwill of the urgent discussions to come.” They made their way into town, walking down the main road which led right up to a large welcoming building with a sign out front that read “The Lazy Horse”. Malachi led Bron inside and up to a portly man with a jolly grin spread across his face.
“Aah Malachi my lord, its always a pleasure. Who is this mysterious friend of yours?” The portly man bellowed, eyeing Bron curiously. “This is the powerful Mage Bron! He is my guest and any costs that arise shall be sent to me, understood Sam?” Sam shook his head obediently, thick chins jiggling at the sudden excitement. “A real mage?” Same cooed “Hard to believe such a thing exists. But with the recent troubles of our town I suppose anythings possible.”
Bron ordered some food, avoiding conversation, instead choosing familiar solitude to reminisce on days long past. He first discovered his love for magic through the old legends, told by elders of his hometown. He soon began seeking out book about magic, trying to learn the secrets for himself. He had never stopped chasing true magic, but over time he had gained power through his own ingenuity. Sure he was a fraud, but a damn good one. One that could rival even the myths.
He finished his meal and went up a flight of stairs to his room. Once inside he set his staff down on the bed and removed the bags from his waist. Sighing, he began his routine of preparing himself for the next day.
It started with his staff, intricate carvings on the inside and out of a strong red wood allowed for small flammable projectiles to be ignited and launched through a series of movements. He pulled several small pellets out and loaded them inside a secret opening on his staff. Then he pulled out a small bottle of clear blue liquid so potent the air waved above the now open bottle. He gulped the concoction down and it slid through his throat before gathering in his stomach. Snapping his fingers sparks flew into the air and he regurgitated a small amount of the liquid, spewing it forth in a straight line which ignited with the sparks hanging in the air before sending a small blue flame into the wick of a nearby candle. Satisfied he was prepared for anything, he finally allowed himself to lay down and doze off.
A piercing scream echoed through the cool night air. Startled awake, Bron was unsure if what he had heard was real or part of a now distant dream. Then another scream tore through his daze accompanied by shouting and crying. Rolling out of the cot he lazily opened the window and peered outside.
His arms went stiff, fingertips biting into the wooden windowsill. A few men and women were crowded around, some crying, some paralyzed by shock. Before them stood a mess of small pink bloody corpses. Each one stripped of its skin everywhere except the face. Horrible faces with sunken hollows instead of eyes and a long intimidating grin. “What the fuck is going on here…” he whispered as he closed the window and stood rigid with shock. He slowed his breath and forced himself to calm down. Warm waves rolling through his body, eroding away the tension. He pulled back bloodied fingertips from the window and tied his bags back around his waist before grabbing his staff and making his way outside into the chill night.
Bron arrived at the crowd surrounding the four desiccated corpses. Malachi was there and began speaking to him, but the sound of his own heartbeat and the cries of several villagers in the crowd drown his words in a cacophony of noise. Bile scratched at Bron’s throat, threatening to escape before being stifled with a single gulp. He turned to Malachi and asked “What the hell is happening here, I had heard rumors of disappearances in the town but nothing this gruesome.”
Malachi had a gentle look of empathy as he spoke, “The first time I saw it I had a similar reaction. I imagine everyone around here has. It’s frightening to witness, and difficult to believe. This happens every few weeks, and has been persisting for nearly a year now.”
Bron had turned back around to look at the horrible scene again for any clues as to how this came to be. Only to be shocked by the sight of the four corpses rising from the ground and clumsily walking towards the towns exit. Malachi placed a calming hand on Bron’s shoulder. “It’s best not to try and stop them from leaving. We have tried in the past… and lets just say it never works out well. The real threat is in the swamp they travel off into. We’ve sent armed guards in to try and find the evil causing this madness, but none have ever returned. If you help us rid ourselves of this evil I promise you wealth you’ve only ever dreamed of.”
Bron said nothing, only watching the four pink bleeding corpses walk away. When they were out of sight past the village’s only exit he looked to Malachi and nodded. Determination overcoming fear. Curiosity coursing through his veins at the thought of real magic. Then he headed off after the walking dead.
The night sky was clear and provided a soft blanket of warm light over the surroundings. Several organs had fallen from the corpses exposed insides, spread here and there through a trail of fresh blood that led to the nearby forest. The trees were sparse, but a dense fog permeated the air, making it difficult to see very far. Bron entered and cringed at sucking of wet mud pulling at his feet. The air was filled with a rancid smell and an orchestra of buzzing insects. Laughter echoed through the chill late night breeze, sending tiny needles of fear through his blood. Nevertheless he continued forward into the dank marsh.
He walked for nearly half an hour like this. Noticing the ground underfoot gradually sinking in more and more in a wet mess. Dark shadows darting back and forth just out of his line of sight. Shrill whispers carried through the air, too quiet to make sense of, just loud enough to eat away at his nerves. Then he saw it. One of the corpses from before, standing on a large rock that was surrounded by wet overgrowth and moss. It glared at him fiercely with hollow eyes across the marsh, before leaping from the rock and onto another. Then it jumped rapidly forward and landed this time on the exposed root of a large tree. Steadily it continued this, closing in the gap between itself and Bron.
He stepped forward, readying his staff while never looking away from the creature. His foot sunk down into a murky puddle that was obscured by thick moss, lodging itself firmly and causing him to trip. Bron lost sight of the monster while he tumbled forward and threw his left arm forward to try and catch his fall. Realizing his mistake too late as his hand too sunk into a thick muck of cold mud writhing with insects. He looked up to see the corpse had significantly closed the distant and was about to attack him. In a panicked hurry he dropped his staff and snapped his right fingers together, creating dazzling sparks in the air. He spewed forth all the blue liquid from his stomach which causing a roaring ball of flame to engulf everything in front of him. Immediately the skinless corpse caught fire and let loose an ear piercing shriek that echoed throughout the woods before clattering to the ground in pieces.
With wide crazed eyes and adrenaline burning through his veins he pried his other hand from the thick mud, only to realize three large black leaches had stuck themselves to his hand and were greedily sucking away at his blood. As he pulled them off they began screeching shrilling until he repulsively flung them back into the swamp. Several rows of tiny cascading teeth marks dotted his hand, swollen and painful to the touch. He dislodged his foot, a sick suction gurgling in disapproval as he did so.
Mirroring the movements of the corpse that attacked him used, he began forward through the swamp over the tops of rock and large exposed tree roots. The laughter grew louder as he drove deeper into the wooded swamp. Some of the corpses screamed and cried as he entered further, but they always stayed just out eyesight, never fully showing themselves.
He found himself in front of an old shack, overgrown with moss and thorns. The windows, though only two were visible, were shattered by thick prickly vines that spiraled up and around the roof. It was completely dark inside, the only light seen through the open doorway was the reflection of soft moonlight over piercing black eyes. Eyes that held his undivided attention for several minutes before he was able to snap out of his trance.
Bron turned away and began observing his surrounding, checking the ground to make sure he would not fall in again. He began trembling with fear though as he soon realized he was surround by dozens of corpses. Some fresher than others, with faces still visible on sinewy skeletons. Others only old slimy skeletons, held together by moss. Several leaches could be seen writhing inside them, teeth bared and screeching.
Several of the corpses launched into a mad run towards Bron simultaneously. He planted his feet firmly on the large stone underneath and held his staff high into the air, bring it down in a warm familiar pattern. A large flame appeared at one end of the staff and he flicked it into the direction of the biggest oncoming corpse, roaring through the air and engulfing its target. The ball of brilliant blue flame exploded, scattering fire and remains of the skeleton into the three other corpses. The moss covering their body quickly inhaled the breath of the flame and roared to life as they ran wildly towards him. He held his staff out firmly, keeping the monsters at bay while they grasped hungrily for him before crumbling apart and falling disheveled onto the ground in putrid burning piles.
Bron maneuvered his staff again in a flowing pattern and this time both ends of his staff ignited in flame. He withdrew a bottle of clear blue liquid from one of his pouches and drank it before taking another bottle and readying it in his left hand. A shrill cracking voice emitted from the dank recess of the shack, “So you are a mage? My, my… I haven’t seen one of you in some time now.” The witch stepped out from the shadows of the shack. A small pale white body, riddled with boils and open sores. Pitch black hair stuck flatly against her head with patches of mud. Black soulless eyes, with the mouth of a swamp leech agape in a terrifying smile.
All at once the remaining corpses launched into a frenzy, sprinting at him from all directions. Bron opened the bottle and spun it through the air. The blue liquid spiraling out as a ball of fire from his staff connected with the spinning glass. A monstrous explosion crackled through the night air, dissolving the mist and throwing shards of glass in every direction. The liquid that had escaped the bottle roared to life, spreading out like spiraling napalm. Most of the monsters had caught fire, breaking into haphazard shards of bone. But four had survived and were within range to attack him.
He smashed one with the still burning end of his staff which sunk slowly into the creatures head before engulfing it with flames from the inside. In the moment his staff was stuck an iron grip locked his right arm staff firmly in place. Another corpse clawed at his face leaving deep bloodied scars, angry and swollen. Then the third wrapped its decaying arms around him from behind. All but completely immobilizing him. The one at has back had started viciously biting into his shoulder and neck.
He brought his left hand up and snapped, several dazzling sparks flew into the air. Bron took a large breath and exhaled a roaring inferno. The blue flames engulfed the three corpses in front, sending them clattering to the ground in heaps of fire. The sleeve of his cloak disintegrated, leaving crisp red flesh bare. The arms holding him from behind squeezed hard, causing loud cracking sounds as his ribs gave way. Several sets of small teeth bore their way into his back and he screamed in agony, dropping his staff which made a dull thud before being swallowed up by the thick swamp.
With his hands now free he reached into one of the pouches at his waist, producing a handful of the small pellets he often loaded into his staff. He threw himself backwards into the monstrosity that was holding him tight, sending them both into a nearby tree. The shock of impact loosened its grip on him just enough for him to turn slightly and slam his palm holding the pellets into its face. They sunk into the rotted mossy corpse easily. He smiled grimly as he rose his hand up and snapped his fingers. A blinding light flashed and Bron was hurled away from the explosion.
He reached a grimy hand up and felt the swollen scars and burning flesh covering his entire body. Fresh blood coating his dirty black fingers. Three circular bite marks on his hand had a deep purple bruising around them, in the moonlight it almost appeared to be glowing. His robe had been all but completely burned away. He looked around but saw his staff nowhere. Coughs sent blood freely into the air, and caused pain to course through his broken body. The whole time the witch just eyed him with coy amusement.
He looked up to see dark eyes glaring down at him, demanding all his focus. Trapped in an unwavering glare. He didn’t notice the bodies rising up around him, fresh patches of moss holding the disfigured corpses together. He could hear them… pulling themselves up from the thick swamp. He could feel hands grasping him and pulling him away into the murky water, but had no strength left to resist. They lowered him in gradually, feet first. Cold mud and insects intruding every intimate part of him. Panic shot through his veins, his heart threatening to break free of his chest. Still he found himself unable to resist.
The swamp greedily devoured him. Deeper and deeper until he was fully submerged. A terrified scream roared through him, only to be drowned out by thick insect riddled mud. Pain seared his body as leach after leach tore through his skin. All of Bron’s thoughts and emotions faded to nothingness as he spent his final moments suffocating under the surface of the overgrown swamp.
Submitted April 16, 2019 at 01:38PM by NILhorror