The voice called out in vain.
Get up. If you don’t get up they’re going to tear you apart.
Panic was apparent in the rasping voice, trying to get the man out of the sand. A connection was made this time. He moved.
Consciousness edged in the man’s stupor. The man attempted to articulate his thoughts but was subdued. He was content to lay there a little longer before the voice’s words kindled any urgency. His limbs became apparent, his thoughts reached down over his chest out to his fingers and down his legs. He took inventory of each extremity before he probed further outside himself.
It was absolute black out, not just black but an eerie lack of light anywhere. There was a heaviness that loomed over his body. The mass lurched and leaned, weighing down. The man felt the coastal winds buffeting him, but the heaviness was unaffected.
The man took into account his body and the surroundings, then the words. He opened his eyes trying to see any immediate threat. His eyes couldn’t seem to adjust and they just burned from the sand and salt. Tears tried to clear his vision but he still couldn’t see anything. He considered that he may be blind. His keen ears took in the sounds from out across the beach and over the dunes. He didn’t sense any predators.
Having all his limbs intact, he desperately hoped they all worked. He stretched his tingling fingers out trying to fight the numbness and pulled his left arm out from under his body. Stabilizing that arm he pulled his right arm up, planted it into the sand and lifted.
He crashed face down into the sand and let out a muffled grunt. He gasped but only filled his throat with sand. Jerking onto his left side, he nursed his wounded arm and coughed violently. His lungs worked to expel as he barked into the din. He was immediately light headed. He was miserable, he felt the chaffing of the wet sand in his hair and clothes. He was cold, wet, and bleeding, but determined to pull himself together.
He spat out the sand that didn’t demand residence in his mouth. This time lifting himself with his left arm, pulling his knees under his chest and sitting back on his heels. Cradling his arm against his hardened leather chest piece, he blinked his eyes again trying to focus on anything around him. He was wholly consumed, there was no light being produced anywhere. He could hear the waves, feel the wind, register the sounds coming off the dunes nearby but couldn’t see anything. The first coherent question entered his mind, where had that voice come from?
Ask questions later, we need to leave. Now.
There it was again, but the voice wasn’t audible to his ears. It was inside him! In his head somehow, there was another voice besides his own. The voice was arrogant, and demanding.
“Where,” he went into another coughing fit. “Where do I go? I can’t see anything, I don’t know where I am.”
Listen Elias…get up, follow the coast. We’re bound to find a port somewhere.
Either way it’s better than the alternative.
The voice was hurried now, it pushed Elias onto his feet and forward to stumble until he caught his balance. All his muscles ached. He clenched his teeth from the tendrils of pain that wracked his contaminated wound. He wondered what the alternative was but discerned that in the time it took to get an answer out of the voice, he might find out in person. The voice was clear, that occasion was not desirable.
The waves were on his right now, dunes on his left, wind at his back. His long hair whipped his face with salt and sand. He realized he didn’t know what he looked like. This question was tempered by another thought, it was a moot point if he didn’t survive. He set out through the darkness.
The slight resistance was still present, the same heaviness he felt when he was prone. The air felt thick as he stumbled through it. He shook off the eeriness of being inside something. Each step pulled and tugged on his stiff moaning muscles. He made sure to keep the sound of the waves on his right. Occasionally he would stumble into the water and quickly lose his balance splashing into more misery. He blinked in and out of awareness, quickly losing track of how long he had been treading the coast.
Elias was beginning to grow numb. Not from the cold, but exhaustion. He didn’t know the last time he had eaten, but didn’t linger too long on the thought. His memories were as dark as his current whereabouts. He struggled to get each foot in front of the other. The voice retreated for now leaving him alone with the ocean sounds and blackness surrounding him. At this point there wasn’t much to think on. He had no memories and was blind for all he knew. His legs burned from walking in the sand, it seemed the pain was his only company now.
Elias’ head bobbed and one foot dragged in the sand.
Don’t even think about it.
You have to push through!
It was too late. His second boot toe caught and he slumped forward into the sand again. Lightning broke the darkness. In an instant it illuminated the man now lying face down on the beach, just close enough for the waves to press against his side. The heavy blackness could be seen in that instant. It was a stagnant dark permeation that hung over everything and limited visibility to only a handful of strides. The darkness swooped in as fast as it had been cast away, leaving Elias to lie there struggling to stay conscious, but not alone.
Elias fought to stay aware of his surroundings. He thought he heard strange sounds, like those of gnashing and grinding teeth, and clicking. He barely pushed himself onto his back just as lightning lit up the sky again and whatever had been hovering over him was gone. His eyes were open long enough to fill him with panic when he spotted the tracks that belonged to the noises. Then the darkness took him again.
§ § §
The chorus boomed inside the tavern. A string of men hunched around the bar bellowed out their favorite tavern hymns. A slender girl with flowing strawberry blonde curls, tugged on one of the men’s shoulder trying to get his attention. She was a beautiful girl, having reached the peak of her youth. Her pale gray eyes were startling against her fair complexion and hair. There was a pained expression on her face.
“Father it’s the middle of the night, can’t you come home? I don’t want to worry about you anymore,” she pulled at his arm trying to get him to turn and face her.
The man looked sideways at her, “What? Genevive, go back to bed.” his words sloshed about just not unlike his drink did all over the bar.
“Last night you passed out halfway to the house, please just come home,” the drunken men’s song threatened to drown out her words.
Mugs slammed down on the bar twice, pause, then once more with the beat. Genevive tried to turn the hulking man, he outweighed her easily twice over, but only managed to splash his drink on his lap. This woke him from his stupor, he took a deep breath and his brow furrowed and mouth twisted behind his beard. He turned in the chair and struck Genevive. Her small frame was cradled on the ground while she held her eye and tried to hold back the tears. The song pattered off for only a moment, then the men started in a again.
Genevive’s father grunted, “Go home Genevive.”
He turned around and grumbled back into the song. Genevive pulled herself off the filthy wood floor, she could feel her elbow bruising. It wasn’t her elbow that turned the tides of her tears, it was the thought that her other eye was just returning to flesh tones and already she would have another black eye. She ran through the door and left the ruckus behind her. She passed the light of the last few valiant torches fighting the Miasma’s choking mass. She noticed there were no guards posted tonight, must have been drawn in by the tavern’s mirth.
It didn’t matter to her, she wasn’t staying there anymore. She ran full tilt through Farwood Retreat and headed straight towards the ocean. She made the trip on multiple occasions at night. Every time she returned unharmed. How the Veran don’t kill her is a mystery to the townsfolk and it generates quite the rumors. Some whisper that she turned to dark magicks after her mom was killed in the washouts that swept away the original village. With a father who paid no heed to his daughter other than discipline and borderline slavery, it wouldn’t take much to reach out to darker arts. Though none would say, many wondered why she remained under his care.
Genevive ran into the overwhelming blackness. After heading straight from Farwood Retreat she could tell she had made it to the remains of the original village, coarse grass had just started to grow back this year. Now she could hear the waves, she was maneuvering carefully now. The whipping beach grass indicated she had reached the end of the plateau and headed over the last few dunes. After she topped the last dune, she could feel the mist on her face. She slid down and planted her knees in the sand. With her face in her hands she cried, weary and spent she held nothing back. Her tears only reminded her of the abuse she endured this evening when she wiped her tender swollen eye.
“Why do I have to stay here?!” she cried out between hiccuping sobs. “I want to leave!”
“You say you uphold the justice of the righteous, where is my justice… please uphold my justice…”
Her sobs turned to whimpering that got lost in the sound of the waves. Genevive began talking under her breath. Suddenly a light emanated from her chest, she felt the warmth of it on her face. It washed over her swollen eye and a tear stained smile flickered for a moment. The Miasma retreated from the light. She quieted her prayers, wiped her eyes one last time and stood up. The light was gone. Genevive hesitated listening to the waves a moment. She stepped forward into the water. The waves washed over her feet and legs as she meandered the waterline a little ways. The water was brisk, it reminded her that some things endure, like the waves. A bigger wave washed up her legs as Genevive leapt out of the water rubbing her stinging calves from the saltwater and scratches from the grass. She scowled unseen perpetrator and turned back towards home.
Before she could land her foot in the sand she kicked something and stumbled forward. She let out a growl as she rubbed her foot now sitting beside the obstacle. It wasn’t driftwood, she’d hit driftwood before, she knew what that felt like. She reached her hand out and grabbed ahold of a head full of tangled hair and screamed. Genevive startled but sat still.
She knew if she ran she wouldn’t make it back, at least in one piece. She had to concentrate to make her way back and forth at night, and would either lose her way or injure herself. She listened. The waves continued undisturbed by her fright, but nothing else stirred. She reasoned, she was still alive, and as far as she could tell whatever she had kicked wasn’t effected by her intrusion. She reached her now quivering hand out again trying to calm her pounding heart.
Geneive’s fingers twitched when they made contact. She felt smooth hardened leather, her fingers traced the form and realized it was some sort of chest armor. Her hand moved up. The head was intact and she felt smooth narrow features, no facial hair, strong jaw line, he was covered in sand and his lips were cracked. She hovered her hand over the man’s mouth and felt breath, ragged and faint but it was there. Something had to be wrong with him if tripping over him hadn’t woken him up. He must’ve been exhausted, clearly dehydrated but she ran her hands over him trying to see if there were any other obvious symptoms. Her hands stopped when she reached his right arm.
There was a dire wound filled with sand halfway down his forearm. Her heart started pounding harder. He could have lost a lot of blood, thankfully the sand served some purpose by clotting the veins running down his clammy arm. Genevive thought, ideally the wound needed to be cleaned but she couldn’t get him back to the village, the ocean water would infect it, and he likely wouldn’t last through the night. Genevive held her breath and plunged her fingers into his wound. She scraped as much of the sand out without doing more damage. She felt bone and the wound was bleeding again from her irritation.
She apologized in her head and spit into her hand. She finished up cleaning the wound. The blood was flowing again and would wash most of the remaining debris out. Genevive held the man’s arm at the elbow and wrist and closed her eyes. She focused,whispered “Help me Lord,” and untapped her energy. The light radiated from her chest this time, the Miasma fled ten feet in all directions. Threads of white light started to weave through the wound, it reattached veins, sinews, muscles, and tendons. She worked until all of his missing pieces were now replaced with illuminated replicas. The last stitches of light crawled across the restored arm. Genevive’s hands loosened around his arm, blood quickly filled the pale finger depressions and his tanned skin returned. She looked down at her patient. Her eyes traced over his arm and slowly up to his shoulder as dread filled her. The bottom of her stomach fell out when she registered his features, his skin, his hair.
The light went out, this time she fled.