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He Who Comes At Night

by Charlie Conlon 6 months ago in Horror
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Dark Fantasy

Standing atop a snow drift peak, I looked down upon the hellish valley, and watched as the earth cracked open and released plumes of technicolored smoke into the air. I was too late. On a stone plateau my mentor stood with hands raised to the heavens, as hell spewed from the ground. I must warn the King. I must warn… everyone.

Menacing clouds in the sky gave way to heavy, acidic rain. I pulled my hood up over my head to shield me from the evil environment, and began my descent down the mountain. Carefully I navigated through the narrow paths of jagged cliffside, and crouched underneath tunnels behind the waterfalls. Until I finally reached the grassy base and entered into the dark woods of Morthal. I must head North. In three days time I shall reach the capital. I must hurry, or we’re all doomed.

Morthal woods can be treacherous if you aren't careful. Huge vine covered sequoia trees grow so close together they suffocate each other. While tall dark wood oaks block out much of the sun, leaving scattered beams of light throughout the mysterious forest. Luckily I am a man of nature. I have traversed these areas extensively in search of mystical relics and alchemy ingredients.

The magnificent dark woods were quiet like death. I walked the rugged trail for hours. Eventually the environment's colour went from a dark green to a wispy blue. It was dusk. I hadn't made it as far as I had hoped, but my body was exhausted. I slid my hulking brown rucksack off my shoulder with ease, feeling relief from the weight. My wooden staff dropped with a clunk against the ground. After gathering some wood I unhitched the brass lantern from my bag and lit a fire using the blue glowstar enchanted inside the lamp. The fire lit just before the sun had fully set. These woodlands were more dangerous at night, with many hidden beasts, and haunting ghouls. This flame shall act as my protector.

The fire danced, lighting my small camp. I sat quietly processing the horrible events I witnessed earlier that day, and what my next steps will be. Ammon. My mentor, and friend. He has opened some sort of ethereal rift, and through it evil things have entered our world. I should have known Ammon was up to something. He hadn't been himself since we found the hidden library deep within the shadowy mountains.

The forest had an unfamiliar aura about it. Through the treetops, radiant colours flowed across the starry sky bursting in an aurora of light. But this radiance was strange, containing the same unusual colours that shot from the rift. The surrounding woods seemed strange too. Nocturnal animals hid, afraid to venture from their homes, and the air felt stale with an eerie quietness. All signs of a bad omen. I could only think about the dangers that awaited all.

It was difficult to sleep that night. As the sun began to rise the woodland sat silent. No woodpeckers chipping at trees, or squirrels looking for breakfast. I had better get moving, the capital city of Feron was still some days away. I put out the fire with a wave of my staff, grabbed my heavy pack and was ready for my crucial journey to Feron. Once I had stepped back on the dirt path, something abnormal crept in the distance. It was Ammon, crouched down, hidden in deep shadows. He was dawned in his sorcerer's cloak but half naked underneath, he stepped between the huge trees in a very peculiar way, watching me. Ammon stopped, and looked up to the sky, then quickly turned and ran. Dumbfounded, I stood for a moment, and stared blankly at the empty spot where he was standing. I took a deep breath, and hurried North to the capital.

The sun sat behind the canvassing tree tops, but I could tell it was midday. I was exhausted from the restless night. The images of Ammon moving strangely through the trees haunted my thoughts. What was he doing wandering the forest? How did he catch up to me so quickly? A thick gloom hung in the air of the woods, like a poisonous humidity. I approached a path that winded around a massive tree, then sloped down to a grey, misty bog. Here I discovered 5 giant craters along the right side of the trail. Muddlin holes. Muddlins; sly creatures that bury themselves half in the earth, with tremendous bolder-like backs covered in moss, grass and occasionally small trees. They sense the vibration of unsuspecting travellers walking near, then burst from the ground and tear their prey to shreds. I continued forward carefully, with my enchanted staff at the ready. Sure enough only a few yards ahead I found 5 Muddlins, leaning on their ape-like arms in a shallow swamp, their stubby rat faces all pointed down. It is highly unusual for a Muddlin to remain still while above ground. I took this opportunity to sneak past them. Ammon, what doors did you open? What causes animals to hide and monsters to freeze? I continued North until dusk.

In the center of a small grass clearing surrounded by ancient oak trees, I lit a fire with my glowstar lantern and set up camp. I felt uneasy, more than I had been previously. Whatever was happening to the land was bad. Is Ammon the cause of all this? Or is it something that looks like him? As the sun set, the forest sunk into a deep blackness. The blue flames from my fire only lit far enough to see the base roots produced by the magnificent tree trunks. Tonight I would rest easier if I had more protection, especially if Muddlins are lurking near. From my bag I acquired 4 fairy ring mushrooms, red moss from the eastern forests, and a small piece of silver meteorite. I placed these in a circle around my camp, the meteorite at the north most point. Grass surrounding my small settlement singed black, I knew my spell was working. This barrier spell would protect me for some time. The exhaustion from the day took me as I leaned against my backpack. Now protected, I quickly fell asleep.

Freakish dreams filled my mind that night. Nightmares showing Ammon lurking across the land with dark entities beside him, while fire rained upon the kingdom. I awoke in a fright with gooseflesh skin and sweat dripping from my face. It was still night, and though I had escaped my nightmare, the horror of reality was much worse. Between two trees at the edge of the clearing, Ammon ambled out from the darkness, looking peculiar, and gaunt. He approached my shield. I stood to face him. With his finger he pressed hard against the barrier, burning his flesh for some time, but he was unfazed.

"I know you. Ezer. Wizard, banished from Feron by the king and church," He said quietly.

"And who are you that takes the form of Ammon?" I said, while he stepped uncoordinated around my camp. The reality around him shifted in a way that made the grass and trees look like swirling waves, flowing in colour.

"I am a traveller." He said.

"Where do your travels take you?" I asked. Long tears in his skin pulled across parts of his chest, arms, and neck, as if his flesh was tattered clothing.

"This world is strange," He said looking up at the trees. "The land is open, and the people are plenty." Through the rips in his body I saw moving colours on a spectrum I have never witnessed before.

"Who are you and what do you want?!" I yelled, gripping my staff. "I saw the rift, and the evil that crawled out of hell."

"Hell?" He laughed, "Hell does not exist. Not yet at least." He continued to circle around me, walking with a clumsy step. He poked and prodded at my shield, looking for openings, burning himself with each touch.

"What have you done with Ammon?"

"Ammon has been rewarded. He received the gift to be my vessel" He said.

"You stole Ammon's body." I said.

"No. He offered it to me. With his body I walk this new reality."

The blue flame from my fire cast his shadow against the trees surrounding the clearing. The night dragged on.

"What will you do in this new reality you have entered?" I asked. He turned and faced me.

"I will devour all living beings and shape this realm into a fiery pit of my own design," His eyes shone like galaxies of colour. "I will rule over all other realms and wash away the filth."

Through the trees, rays of light flickered into the forest. The sun was rising. The beast in Ammon's body nervously stepped away from the light, and backed into the shadows.

"I'll be close behind you Ezer," He said, entering back into the dark woods. "I liked this little conversation." And with that he was gone.

It was as I feared. Ammon summoned a monster, hell bent on gaining power over our world. His body appears to be in a weakened state, but becoming stronger each day. If I hurry I can warn King Othid, so they at least have a fighting chance. The church will have defensive cantrips powerful enough to exercise entities from this land, back to hell.

The sun had risen and my magical shield flickered away. The red moss now dust, the fairy mushrooms shrivelled, and the meteorite cracked and powerless. I grabbed my bag and continued my journey.

I couldn't stop thinking of the words the demon had said. "Ammon has been rewarded. He has received the gift to be my vessel." For 80 years I have learned the ways of science and magic under the teachings of Ammon. He always taught that the practices, and knowledge of the occult are to be used for helping others and pushing the world forward. He would never willingly bring forth such destruction. Until we found the library.

Ammon and I both knew the stories surrounding the shadowy mountains. Rumours that an old sorcerer named Raynell campiled a vast collection of books and scrolls there. Knowledge for us to gain. After we left the capital city we searched long for these archives, and ultimately discovered the caves, and the dangers within them.

A smoky fog blanketed the forest, drifting up from the earth, it stung my senses. My pace was slow navigating forwards. I need to be careful, or I will lose my way. The trees and grass had turned a faint grey as if the land were poisoned, and I was sad to find small woodland critters deceased along the path.

I had been walking for some time, only half sure I was headed in the right direction, when suddenly my foot slipped down into murky water. I stood at the edge of the Creeping Marsh. Normally I would travel around these wetlands, but if I cut across the marsh, Feron was only one day away. I slid into the cold, muddy water, and pushed forwards, through the mist and tall grass. I mustn't go fast, or make too many ripples. There are more than frogs and turtles in this marsh. As long as I continue straight I should be able to reach the other side before nightfall. Regrettably I had underestimated the mysteriously tricky mist and became lost in the dreadful marsh. I wandered the wetlands until the sun started to set. If I don't hurry, the demon who greets me in the night will catch me without my barrier.

Ahead of me, a sound omitted from the haze, something slopping in the marsh. I readied my staff, listening for more movement. A splash of water echoed behind me. Fiendfish; Horrible aquatic creatures that look like scaly humanoid fish. I turned right, and ran, labouring through the swamp as fast as I could, splashing loudly. Fiendfish are dangerous, especially if you are outnumbered. A cacophony of splashing water uproared behind me. The putrid monsters gained on me as I marched quickly through the grey, muddy bog. Their slimy tentacles reached out, and nipped at my legs. Finally, I found land and dove from the water. The Fiendfish let out a horrible screech and turned tail, back to the murky waters of the Creeping Marsh.

The sun had almost completely set when I placed my enchanted items around my camp, and again formed my magical barrier. While the fire dried my body, I thought more of Raynells lair, where Ammon and I faced traps, protective spirits and huge rock golems enchanted with life to protect the mountain. After conquering the dangerous trials, we found Raynell, sitting on a throne in front of his vast collection of books and scrolls, stretching out for miles. He was nothing but a skeleton wearing sapphire robes lined with gold. He had been dead for ages. Here Ammon and I lived for years. That library, I fear, is where Ammon was seduced by something through old texts. At first we studied together, learning new enchantments and the secrets of medicine. It wasn't long until Ammon was spending countless nights in the darker caverns mulling over archaic books and scrolls, muttering to himself. I now know he was muttering to someone else. I heard Ammon speak its vile name.

The ominous fog eventually lifted, and late into the night the horrifying beast occupying Ammon's shell, floated silently out from the trees.

"It’s nice to see you again, Ezer" He said with a coyotes grin. His skin was more shredded from the last time I saw him. The colours inside his body swirled around beautifully.

"Hello. Vanthallus" I said. He winced at his name being spoken out loud.

"So, you know who I am." He said, and the air outside became colder.

"I know who you are, and I know that we will stop you," I said defiantly, "I will get to Feron and warn the King and the church..."

"The church!" He laughed, "You think religion has anything to do with me, and my masses?" Sounds began omitting from beyond the trees, strange booms on the ground, like a thousand horses stampeding through the trees.

"I am from the Blood Realm. My homeworld under the 4 moons." Vanthallus said, pacing around the edge of the woods. "Ammon opened the gate for me to pass through, with my legions of horrible beasts." hairy insect-like legs reached out from the trees, at the edge of my fires light.

"The King also has legions, knights ready to do battle." I said, trying to keep my nerves.

"And why do you trust they will believe you, Ezer?" Vanthallus said, again with a mischievous smile. "King Othid and the so-called church cast you out for practicing magic. For healing the sick"

"That's not true." I rebutted.

"Not true? They called you and Ammon evil sorcerers, practicing witchcraft." He said stepping closer to the protective barrier. I could see his nightmare body more closely now. Faces appeared within the moving designs under his ragged anatomy, hidden throughout his magnificent colours.

"They'll believe me. They must have noticed the changes to the land." I said.

"They are only interested in gold, and power. They have failed to notice anything beyond their noses." Vanthallus said. "What makes you think they will open the gates of the city to an outcast like you?"

He was right. Why would they heed my warnings? Ammon and I went against everything they believed.

The night transitioned into early morning as the sky turned light blue. The dark shaped monsters moved in the distance and were clearer to see. I remembered the first night Vanthallus came to me, he was bothered by the sun. If I could keep him talking maybe the morning rays will damage him.

"So what will you do once you've taken this world?" I asked.

"I will move on to the next, and take that one too." He said.

"Then what? Move to another realm? Then another?" I said, "It seems like a pointless life to me." Vanthallus was angry at these words.

"You know nothing of my power!" He yelled.

"And when you take all the realms, and have all the power, what then?" I asked.

Vanthallus paced around, when a single beam of sunlight cut through the treetop and pierced his shoulder, burning him horribly. Vanthallus cried out, hiding his body under his cloak. He gazed at me with ferocious anger, then darted into the woods, along with his beasts.

By the time my last piece of silver meteorite cracked, and my barrier lifted, the sun was up. A beautiful day, overshadowed by evil. Vantahllus. The demon lord who rules the Blood Realm. It was he who found Ammon through ancient texts and the shine mirror. A trickster force, cunning and evil, warping Ammon's mind slowly over time. I will reach Feron city today, but I feel Vanthallus may be right. I had been banished from the capital for magical practices and the exploration of science. Why would they listen to me? I had to try.

The trees became less dense as I got closer to the border of the woods. For a while the road was calm, and easy going, but just as I began to relax I was met with a terrible fate. Shadows cast across the sky, draping the land in a strange, noon twilight. I looked up to see the moon gradually drift in front of the sun, transforming the forest's light to a heavy gloom. The woodlands were now almost as black as night. The darkness throughout the woods slowly faded into a menacing colour, as if slowly increasing the flame to a lantern in a dark cave. Dreadfully, when the light returned, the world was now illuminated by a deep red glow. A solar eclipse. This was bad. Now with the sun hidden behind a cosmic veil, I’m afraid Vanthallus may have the ability to travel the land freely. I ran as quickly as I could, hurrying helter-skelter along the blood red path between crimson tree trunks. To the south, rumblings echoed like an earthquake, with jackal screams in the wind. Just as I had feared, Vanthallus was advancing with his hordes of hideous monsters during this darkened eclipse.

Exhausted, I finally finished my journey through the dark woods of Morthal. Thankfully, beyond the grassy plains, small in the distance, sat the stone walls of the capital city of Feron. Sounds of chaos behind me grew hauntingly closer. I knew I was never going to make it to the gates. Even if by some miracle I reached the city and warned the people, Vanthallus and his horrid legions were close behind. I looked upon the land, lit red by the blood sun, the wind was fierce, and the ground shaking. I realized Vanthallus was right. Why would King Othid believe me? Why would the church heed my warnings of impending destruction? They were the ones who cast me out. And for what? Helping the sick? Helping the downtrodden?

I sat on the edge of the woods looking down to Feron city, the red sunlight amplifying my vengeful hate. I could let it burn. I allowed the intrusive thoughts to gnaw at my brain, when an epiphany manifested. Burn. The sun. I now understood what I must do to defeat Vanthallus. Swiftly I pulled Angelica root out of my large rucksack. From the fields I gathered sunflowers. All I needed was oil from a birch tree, which was. Yes! Growing right against the forest. With a pestle, I ground these ingredients while speaking the rhythmic enchantment. The forest swayed as Vanthallus and his army charged forwards dangerously closer now. Finally I placed the blue glowstar from my lantern into the mixture, setting it aflame. It burned bright with all the colours in the spectrum. Powered by this flame, I could absorb the sun. The trees crashed as demons barreled through the woods. I picked up the vibrant orb, and ate it whole. It scorched my insides as it dripped down my throat. Just as the spell started coursing through my body, Vanthallus floated out from the dark forest. His wicked army of insectoid beasts surrounded me. Vanthallus glided over like a god. The reality around him became untethered, shifting and changing like an oil painting melting under a hot flame.

"Hello Ezer. No protective shield?" He asked calmly. "It's ok. I feel we are as familiar as friends by now."

"I am not your friend, Vanthallus." I said. He grimaced at his name. Not much of Ammon remained on him. Vanthallus showed his true form. He was forged together by a constantly moving river of souls and shapes, vibrating in bizarre colours.

"It looks like you failed to complete your journey. It wouldn't have mattered anyways," Vanthallus said, gesturing to the evil hounds among his ranks.

"No. But you were right." I said.

"What do you mean?" He said with a smirk.

The flame inside my body burned intensely, but I held strong, hiding my secret from Vanthallus.

"You were right. They wouldn't have believed me anyways," I said. "The king and the church cast me out. They would never open the gates."

"So you abandon them?" He said, putting his cold hand strangely on my shoulder, visually shaping and reshaping my skin and bones.

"I abandon myself. I see there is no victory against such a force," I said. The monsters around me were getting restless, and biting one another.

"I’m glad you see it now. Humankind is doomed to the chaos that I bring."

I clenched my hands into fists, fighting the pain burning inside me. For my plan to work, I needed to act fast.

"So I offer myself as a sacrifice. Take me, and leave everyone else." I said. His galactic eyes peered into mine, then at Feron in the distance.

"Ezer, I've already taken so much. Small villages, creatures, your pesky sun." Vanthallus said. "What makes you think I will stop at your small sacrifice?"

"You're right again. But there is no getting away now. I am defeated." I said, dropping to my knees, the fire in my core was almost unbearable.

"I will accept your silly sacrifice." He said, pulling my face upwards to look at him. "I just want you to know that nothing will be left after your death."

"I don't wish to see such a thing." I said.

"You won't." Vanthallus' hands on either side of my head slowly connected like a cold moving gelatin. His body became wide, shooting whipping tendrils around me. Then finally he absorbed me. But within me was the power of the sun. Once Vanthallus consumed my body it wasn't long until the effects of my sun spell began burning him from within. His appalling technicolor body pulled apart as he lost control of his form, and his conjuring abilities. The moon revealed the shining sun, and its rays shot down upon his army as they scattered in each direction, evaporating from the light. Vanthallus screamed horribly while his flesh was pierced by light, until there was nothing left but a pile of white ash.

Feron now sits quiet and peaceful across its grassy plains. King Othid and his people living happy and careless lives, oblivious to the chaos that almost fell upon them. The people will ever know of Vanthallus. They will never know of my ultimate sacrifice. Ammon always did say that the best way to use magic and knowledge is to help people. Even if they don't know it.

Horror

About the author

Charlie Conlon

Horror writer and creator of the

Knowing My Nightmares Podcast

https://www.kmnpodcast.com/

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