What She Heard

(11 Jastatos 5114: Wehnimer’s Landing)

I awoke to warnings that the town was not safe. I remained indoors at Helga’s, hoping that it would prove to be safe. Helga was unflappable. She was more concerned about her stew and her glasses. I guess she has seen many things in her life.

Me – I was not feeling that same calmness at all. But I took my cue from her and composed my face with a deep breath. I drew my instrument up to my lap and played a jaunty jig to lighten the spirits in the place. It helped me, if no one else. None of the usual patrons were in the bar.

Wails of shadows filled the night air. I shuddered, unsure whether to find a better place to hide, or try to flee somewhere. I was alone, it did not feel anywhere near as secure as the last time there had been trouble in town. Perhaps another song to ease the heavy mood, and so I picked out a strong, stirring version of a heroic ballad for those gathered with me. It is a proven fact that it is difficult to huddle in fear when you are tapping your toe and smiling in pride.

Suddenly, several spikes of crimson lightning streaked across the sky, clawing like gnarled fingers against the purple clouds. Followed by a rising chorus of tortured wails filling the night while a deep rumble of thunder echoed all around. Maybe it was to do anything but stay.

I rubbed my telepathy amulet to see if I could learn what was happening. City defenders were talking about increasingly more fearsome creatures appearing at the city’s walls and gates. This was when I learned that many of the most skilled people had gone to help defeat a ship of krolvin. Laudable, but it left the town somewhat … vulnerable, some people thought.

My heart was sinking. If a lesser orc kills me in two swipes, what could I possibly do to help? I was going to keep inside, and keep the body count down.

I heard a woman’s voice out of nowhere, and it was everywhere; piercing and shrill, ringing out across the night, “All are food for the Shadow!”

Townsfolk ran in from the streets, crying out, “Help us!  They’re inside the gates!”

I heard guards along the walls cry out, “Man the gates and the towers!  Keep the invaders at bay!”

Rumbling thunder echoed throughout the area, as if in answer to the city’s resolute defiance. I had no idea what was inside the gates, but my anxiety level was increasing with each boom.

“They’re attacking the temple!”  A woman’s voice shrilly cried, and several guards head in that direction. The Temple was quickly secured by the guards and defenders and the forces along the walls were fortified so that they couldn’t get in so far to the city again.

The heavy thunder clouds overhead seem suffused with a crimson glow, and tendrils of shadow begin to leak from them, coiling in the air like a mass of writhing serpents. Hundreds upon hundreds of yellow and crimson eyes flare to life at the edge of the forest, and howls rise into the air. As unliving creatures filled the forest, the roltons ran in fear, and the kobolds tripped over themselves running for cover.

I am pretty sure I whimpered aloud as those reports came through. Now I knew it was too late to flee anywhere.

Shadows seeped from the clouds overhead, falling in heavy, black drops as that woman’s disembodied voice echoed through the night, “Come, my pretties, come and feast on the sweet meats!”

“I bet I’m one of those sweet meats she means,” I thought to myself. Now I was scared. Through the window, I could see a darkness was creeping along the ground and oily black tendrils lashed at the air from time to time.

The sound of heavy footfalls echoed from the direction of the forest, and a low thrumming sound rises above the marching. Legionnaires hurled themselves, one after the other, at the north gate until their numbers began to overwhelm the barrier.

Outside, I could hear many alarming noises of clashing, booming, and wailing. When a tall dark-haired man with obvious injuries came in. I recognized him as one of the regulars. He is a quiet one, and I knew he did not speak often. But about the time I was going to ask him if he could tell me what was going on outside, he turns to speak to me.

“Don’t go outside,” he tells me. His tone of voice alone was not one to be argued with. As he applies herbs to his wounds, I remember I did learn a small spell to help keep people a little bit safer, and I cast it on him, asking if that will assist his efforts. He nodded, and thanked me.

More thundering booms seemed to underscore his advice as the floors of the building rattled. No worries there, I might be curious, but I was not that curious. I was going nowhere.

On the very city streets there were gargoyles, legionnaires. I don’t know where they came from, but the noises were all around me now, very loud. I am not sure when my brief companion slipped back out into the fray, but when I looked up again, he was nowhere to be seen.

The taste of fear, of dread, of very bad trouble was everywhere. As the defenders communicated and coordinated, word reached us that the krolvin ship was burned and sank. There were reinforcements headed back to the Landing!

Once they got here, it was more than enough to turn the tide, and soon the clouds overhead began to disperse, though puddles of dark water and shadows alike remained on the ground. Before long, a guard called out, “They’re on the retreat!  Clear out the town!”

Block by block, everyone in the Landing banded together to seek out every fearful thing that had attacked the city. I could hear the clashes of battle for a good 20 minutes more as the enemies were dispatched. The dead and walking wounded were being cared for in other parts of town.

We will all live free to see another dawn in the morn. I have much to learn yet, I don’t know who is attacking, or why, but this was the scariest one yet.

Perhaps because I was alone when it started. Or perhaps not. Maybe it was as bad as it seemed to me. But who would I ask?

Author: GSBardess

A young bardess named Luxelle is currently learning her trade and hoping to one day make a name for her songs in GemStone IV. Follow along with her adventures in life and song.

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