CHAPTER 5: Echoes in the Night
As Gregums scurries out of the small clinic Venkat Darkrider tries to
focus through the shooting pain of poison. He enters his “Mindkeep” to
shield his consciousness from the poison”s ruthless nerve-venom. All
at once the room becomes still, as if in the dead of night. He can
hear the town at work, but the footsteps grow increasingly further
away. Then, he enters his memories.
The lasso. It looked like just a flash from rafters. But thanks to his
incredible focus, Darkrider discerns that it is covered in the most foul
poison ever concocted: made from a rare jellyfish called the “Gasper”,
this poison melts away your heart until you drop dead three days
later. The worst part is that, aside from the initial shock, the poison
leaves not a trace until it kills you. That”s why the mixture is perfect
“We must hurry,” Darkrider says, finally coming to he senses. The
poison that Tetsubow threw at him was but a paralysis potion. It will
do no further harm to him after the blood has washed clean his tainted
“You have both been infected with a very dangerous poison. I know,
I investigate things like this. You will both be dead in three days if we
don”t find a remedy,” Darkrider says.
“There is no remedy,” replies Tetsubow, still suffering from the initial
shock of the poison. “The Gasper poison has no cure.”
“How do you know this?” Darkrider says, clearly impressed.
“I run this clinic!” Tetsubow roars.
“Don”t you see, he poisoned us for a reason,” the mysterious woman
gets up from the floor nearby. Her knife-hand acts as a cane as she
lifts her knees. “You fools. This is the same reason he asked me to
frame you for Darkrider”s dear secretary”s murder, Tetsubow. Only
Darkrider didn”t seek revenge fast enough, so I had to do another job.”
“What are you talking about?” Darkrider shouts.
“His name is Gregums. He hired me a week ago. At first I didn”t
know what he was after, but I”m not an idiot. I figured it out. He
wants to find the Golden Weed. The cure to all ailments, and he”s
using you two to do it,” The Gumpaler reveals a small vial of “Gasper”
poison. “This was the poison that I was ordered to give to the both of
you. Tetsubow”s knowledge of cures and remedies, along with your
abilities of memory will show us to the destination of the Golden
Weed. The poison is just for motivation.”
“But he attacked you too,” Tetsubow says.
The woman laughs to herself like a sad song and drops her head. “I
should have seen it coming. That he would betray me. The little runt.
Now here we are, both infected with a poison that”s incurable, save for
the Golden Weed.”
“I”m not infected,” Darkrider says.
“But you still want revenge?” The Gumpaler asks playfully.
“Why don”t I kill you now and settle this?” Darkrider takes out a
“I was just a tool to the murder. Not the mind. Like any good assassin,
I don”t care a damn about who I kill or why. It”s just a job. Now, if we
were to work together and get this Gregums, you would have your true
vengeance, and so would I.”
Darkrider thinks the dangerous woman”s words over for a moment.
Then puts away his dagger. “It”s a deal. But I promise nothing of your
life after we find him. You should be of use to help us track him down
once we find this “Golden Weed” you speak of.”
“Then it”s a deal, all around. For now, we search for the plant. If
it even exists,” Tetsubow says, getting his things ready for a long
As evening sets in the travels take to the road. Tetsubow bids farewell
to his wife after telling her of the grim journey he is to undertake,
promising he will cure the villages illness if he succeeds. The three
shadows pass through the valleys of the old world as if cast out from a
dying mist, projections of the past.
Lilee wakes up to a loud scrapping coming from one of the castle”s
many winding hallways. It sounds as though a great metal pendulum
is counting off the hours by grinding against the walls.
“Denisey?” Lilee asks, her voice shivering from cold and fright.
Instead of a reply she hears screams. Suddenly her sword starts to
glow from across the room, illuminating the darkness around her with
a ghostly green. In the light she can see Denisey”s figure struggling
with an unknown force.
“Broderic!” Lilee can hear Denisey”s voice come to her as if through
miles of echo. “Why are you doing this? After all these years?”
Finally, the shape breaks through Denisey”s grasp and disappears into
the abyss of shadows. The scrapping of metal gets louder and louder
until Lilee feels someone”s cold breath on her neck.
“No!” Denisey shouts through the light of the sword. It curtles Lilee”s
blood. The last thing she hears is a discordant voice, as dark and deep
as the shades on the wall.
“Prepare to enter the realm of the dead, child,” it whispers.
Tetsubow wakes up to twigs snapping in the night. His finely tuned
feline ears twitch to follow the sound. The fire died long ago and he
searches for his companions in the moonlight. Darkrider is sleeping
soundly, but The Gumpaler is nowhere to be found.
“What is that infernal woman doing at this hour?” Tetsubow stands,
careful to not bring attention to himself. He then starts stalking the
sound in the distance.
The source is hard to locate at first. It bounces off the trees in strange
directions. Then, Tetsubow finds a figure in the distance, moving the
the rustling of the leaves.
“Be careful, this forest is trying to eat you,” The Gumpaler”s voice
approaches from behind. Tetsubow strikes out, but finds himself
gasping at empty air.
“Why do you threaten me, woman?” he growls.
“I grew up here, you know. When they cast me out of the village.
They said this place was haunted, they said that ancient ghosts
enchanted this forest long long ago, and that monsters were only fit to
live here. They were partly right,” her voice was now in front of him.
“I can see by your scars that you, too, are familiar with being the exile.
To be feared and hated. But you weren”t born that way.”
Tetsubow doesn”t notice at first, but a terrible cold starts grow inside
of his body as if a chunk of ice had somehow pierced his stomach.
“You fool, you want to help the village that secretly despises you,”
she continues. “This is why you will never be happy. If only you could
have lived like me, completely free. Shun those who hate you. Hate
them back and kill them. It”s simple.”
Tetsubow realizes now that he is bleeding. His eyes, usually adept at
seeing in the night, fail to discern anything in the growing mist. It isn”t
a normal fog, it has an eerie thickness to it. The sound continues to
bounce among the leaves and the swaying trees. He starts to run, but
is suddenly pinned to a tree. The strange woman grins at him as she
thrust her knife hand into his chest.
“Like I told you, this is my forest. It taught me how to survive, and
survive I will. The Golden Weed will be for me and me only, not for
you and your silly silly town.”
Tetsubow drops with a roar and claws his way into the dark night
before collapsing in a pool of blood.
“Maybe this place will teach you how to survive as well,” The
Gumpaler laughs coyly. “Or not.”