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Challenge #14: Darkest Hour

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#1 Ranya

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 01:27 PM

Darkest Hour

The darkness is blinding.

There is no moon in the sky tonight, no light to guide us on our way, and even the stars are cloaked in infinite darkness.
So we stay.
For some hours, until the break of dawn.
Waiting for an end we do not know.
At least not yet.
With my eyes sightless, all my other senses seem strained, overly alert, keeping me constantly on edge. The rustle of dead leaves in the chilly wind, the many-voiced whispers all around, the creaking of an open gate ? tonight, everything seems more dreadful, more alive than ever. Each shuffle behind me has me spinning, blades drawn and ready, as if awaiting the inevitable ? as if expecting the shadows to grow fangs and claws and tear me apart.
It has to be this very night that is driving me mad.
As every starless night would do.
I would not call it a phobia ? I do not fear the dark because it cannot cause me any harm, because it can be diminished with the tiniest of flames.
It is not the state of sightlessness I fear.
It is the things unseen.
Those hidden in the shadows of night.
And the inky sky of Suldanesselar does nothing to ease my mind.

In the light of day, we may seem an epitome of fearlessness, archetypical adventurers with nothing left to be afraid of due to courage and prowess.
It is in these uneventful nights when the invisible is obvious to those who know where to search ? to those who see into our souls.
And then, when the sun disappears in the distance and the light is fading, we are nothing but mortal.
And afraid.
Everyone has his or her own demons ? and in these deceitfully calm hours of obscurity, they haunt and taunt us.
Never letting go.
And the end seems closer.

Somewhere in the darkness I can hear a lone owl, its hoarse voice echoing trough the unceasing symphony of the elven city, trailing away to become a part of tonight?s requiem of lost souls.
Our requiem.
There are many things I do not know ? and yet most of them never bothered me. In fact, I was always fascinated by those things I could neither understand nor explain. There are still so many wonders for me to see ? why should I fear them?


?My Lady, this is sheer insanity.?
?I?d rather say ?dinner?, but of course you are free to call it whatever you like, Anomen.?
?You intend to eat this foul abomination??
?No, but I intend to eat the stew Edwin is in charge of.?
?I do not wish to joke ? for the situation is dire indeed. We are likely to die should we misjudge the matters at hand. And this risk I cannot abide.?
?I don?t see your problem ? what is it that unsettles you tonight? Is it really the content of the cooking pot you fear??
?Yes, my Lady. I am concerned about this threat to any living being.?
?I thought you were the one suggesting a proper dinner before we face Irenicus when the sun rises? And if you ignore the stench, you might even believe it could look all right.?
?It truly does. It just happened to look me straight in the eye. From seven different angles.?
?Then don?t be such a coward ? smile back at it and hope that it doesn?t call you ?mommy?.?
?But my Lady- ?
?Just eat it, okay? Take a spoonful and think of something less disgusting.?
?And this is where I see the problem ? the miscreant food seems to enjoy biting off any spoon.?


I am not afraid of the unknown ? even though some mysteries do not need to be resolved.

The campfire is flickering. A bit of luxury even though no one knows what kind of monsters it might attract.
Like moths to a flame.
Like scavengers on a battlefield.
Perhaps the world is just that ? an unlimited battlefield that confronts us with new horrors wherever we look.
A fresh wound on my forearm, the torn remnants of our last enemy still about, I can only wonder whether I should be afraid of the beasts that might wait for an opportunity to kill us as soon as we fall asleep.


?What a sullen stare you are directing at your poor sparrow!?
?Rather bored than sullen, but unpleasant in any way, I suppose.?
?Then allow me to entertain you.?
?No singing, no whistling and no abuse of any instruments as long as there are enemies about.?
?Alas, it was never my intention to attract any undesirable attention.?
?What then do you have to divert me??
?A riddle, perhaps??
?Pray tell.?
?Well then, my raven:
There?s someone all gloom,
still fussing about,
and declaring aloud
this city to be our tomb.?
?Far too easy, dear: Xan, damning the man-eating stew and the lack of inns in Suldanesselar. But I also have a nice verse for you:
In the wondrous bouquet
Of foes seen today,
There?s but one specimen missing.?
?This I cannot guess ? tell me, my raven, what could it be we have not faced today??
?Turn about and you?ll see
What is threatening thee.?


I do not fear the monsters that might be hiding under my bed ? for there are none.
They prefer lurking behind our backs.

Every now and then, I think I have come to realize that my keen ears are not to be underestimated for I have heard far too many things I should have never known about.
And now, lying in my tent, waiting for sweet Reverie to come, I find myself listening to the voices both outside and in my head. Some of them will vanish with the first rays of light the early morning sun sends over the horizon, yet others will stay, will torment me, laugh at me and my failures. One of them is whispering to me, breaching the wall of self-control around my mind.
I remove the source of my dismay from where it is strapped to my backpack, toss the babbling blade into the darkness, hearing the welcome sound of Lilarcor slipping over the edge of a nearby bridge and disappearing into the depths below.
Let the voices be gone for this night, let me rest.


?What is it, Aerie??
?There is s-something outside the tent.?
?Trees, buildings, wind, a pot full of anthropophagous stuff and Anomen keeping watch. Never mind the rattle of armour when he tries to move. Just go back to sleep.?

?Let me guess ? some shadow creeping about??
?Yes, b-but ??
?It is talking.?
?What does it say??
?I? I don?t know, but it sounds familiar.?
?Something like ?It is time for more...'experiments'...???
?N-no ? it said something else.?
?See? Then it?s at least not Irenicus attempting to murder us in our sleep. No need to worry.?
?B-but ??
?It sounded like ?fireball?.?
?Sheesh, now you?re really hearing strange things. Better get some rest.?

?My Lady??
?My Lady??
?I hear you well enough. Just spit it out and be gone ? or face the wrath of a dead tired demigoddess.?
?There is something I must tell you.?
?I thought we were through this ? Anomen, I do not love-?
?This is not what I meant.?
?I need your help to deflect some ultimate horror.?
?This particular shadow outside??
?Yes, and ??
?Did you hear that??
?And I think I already know far too well what caused the ruckus.?
?Then, my Lady, what are we to do??
?Leave him be. One must not wake sleepwalkers. Especially those who are both red wizards and standing on a deserted balcony in a city full of enemies.?

?Will this torture never end??
?Don?t you see this??
?I do. And I have to say it would be even more hilarious if I were not about to fall asleep any moment.?
?S-should we not be helping??
?As long as he is high-spirited enough to call me a simian in his sleep, he does not need my assistance.?
?But look?!?
?Aerie, I assure you, he is fully awake now. Tumbling over a balustrade tends to stir even those who are sound asleep. Let him sort this out alone. G?night. ?


I do not fear the shadows.
But I do fear the results of their sleepwalking.

There is no moon in the sky and the sun is veiled in mist so thick I cannot see my comrades who seem to bustle about, decamping in the hurry we have all grown accustomed to. My head aches, my back hurts and there is a mischievous voice residing in the very back of my skull, telling my mind to go back to sleep.
To unleash the slayer and finally find some rest.
And I feel bitterly tempted.


?Good morning, Ilyanna.?
?Beware, my dove, for this is a bad omen. Do you not hear the murderous intent in the way she is rummaging around in her backpack??
?Shut up, Haer?Dalis ? or else you will find my dagger in your face. If the mist ever fades.?
?L-let us hope it does not.?
?How utterly pointless?and yet we live to see another day and a horde of monsters that will- !?
?W-what happened??
?It seems to me, my dove, that our cloaked bird just took flight.?
?Over the lip of the bridge. Straight down??
??Tis what you call the ?fall of man?.?
?Shouldn?t we h-help him, Ilyanna??


I do not fear the end.


?My raven, there is something you need to see.?
?There is a ??
?Golem behind my back. Great.?
?And it asked its merry friends to tag along.?
?Just kill me, will you??


I fear the morning after.


?I told you. We were doomed from the very beginning.?
?Oh, stop it down there!?

Well, written in quite some flurry after having read the new challenge and therefore surely not as elaborate as I would like, but well...
Comments and advise are more than welcome, and if you should you feel like pinpointing the neverceasing flow of spelling and typing errors, please do, so I can correct them. :)

Edited by Ranya, 24 October 2008 - 04:54 AM.

#2 Shadowhawke


    Starlight Seeker

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 12:26 AM

Wow. Loved the interspersing of the humorous and the frightening. You managed to capture your group dynamics in here really well for such a short piece. :D

Through lightning, travel shadow,
Through hell and all above,
Surviving sword and arrow,
Bound stronger by the love


And in the end a witness,
To where the death has lain,
Silent through the sorrow,
Where innocents lie slain

#3 Aliya


    Pink-Eyed Menace!

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 12:59 AM

:P I love it! "...?". ?

#4 Ranya

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 04:55 AM

Thank you very much, Shadowhawke and Aliya - it started out as an attempt on something serious, but it wasn't meant to be, so I resorted to something else :blush:

#5 Kellen


    Earn a person's heart, and they'll die a thousand deaths

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 09:26 AM

I just finished it, and I have to say I like it. You used the asterisks well to switch between ruminations and characters, from the more serious to the more humorous. Marvelously placed.

Also, after having played WoW for a bit in NE cities, I can definitely see how Xan and Edwin fell off.
"She could resist temptation. Really she could. Sometimes. At least when it wasn't tempting." - Calli Slythistle
"She was a fire, and I had no doubt that she had already done her share of burning." - Lord Firael Algathrin
"Most assume that all the followers of Lathander are great morning people. They're very wrong." - Tanek of Cloakwood

we are all adults playing a fantasy together, - cmorgan

#6 Ranya

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 03:41 PM

Thank you very much, Kellen! :blush:

This kind of 'switching' between more serious and humorous parts was caused rather by accident: Since I really despaired of writing the passages between dialogues and descriptions, I left them out... ahem...

When seeing Suldanesselar for the first time, it occured to me as strange, that my party was able to set up camp on a bridge while being in a city full of foes. I always wondered why none of the NPCs or the protagonist ever rolled over in their sleep and found themselves in full flight or bumped into a golem due to lacking infravision, since in the game nothing alike happened (never minding the occasional 'wake up, there are fiends to be killed, then you can go back to sleep', which all of the characters take far too much in their stride for my liking...).
Therefore I decided that these accidents did happen then and there - but 'between the lines', when the players are not watching and the screen shows you the lovely image of a silent camp. :whistling:

(Do I need to say that when my brother and I first played the Playstation-BG, we were like :blink: when our characters managed to get killed by slipping off a ridge in the middle of nowhere? I was... shocked... to say the least. <_< )

Edited by Ranya, 31 October 2008 - 02:49 AM.