Chapter 2: Nightmare

          Night had descended, and Adam was tossing and turning: ‘Why do I have to go to sleep at the same time as Emilia!? Mom and dad both know I want to look at the night sky. I have to get out of bed and look out the window by Emilia, and it never fails that I wake her up! If that happens, I’ll get yelled at again! Why can’t they let me stay up and sneak into our room after I’ve had my fill? Everybody would be happy then!’

           Adam couldn’t resist the temptation, and he crept out of bed. Ever so carefully, Adam tiptoed over to the window. Looking out, Adam saw what he considered the most beautiful thing in the world: ‘Look at those colors!’

           The night sky was filled with dancing dim tendrils of colors! Primarily an emerald green, there were also hues of blue and red. Adam stared out, entranced. It was said that those tendrils came from the various spirit planes, that it was spirit essence coming down to the world.

           The tendrils were very dim, though distinct, and hardly illuminated anything. Stars shined through the colorful night sky while the white moon, Lunas, held its constant vigil above the sleeping world. A smile grew wide on Adam’s face as he watched the tendrils dance in the sky. Adam wasn’t sure if he enjoyed watching dancing because it reminded him of the night sky, or he liked the night sky because it reminded him of dancing. What he liked, even more, was that he could almost feel the music those tendrils were dancing to. Before long, Adam couldn’t help humming out a tune of his own. Not long after he had started, Emilia started to stir. With a sleepy mumble: “Adam?”

           Adam broke free from his trance: “Sorry Emilia. I’ll go to bed soon.”

           Emilia mumbled something incoherent as she turned over in her bed. With a slightly guilty heart, Adam turned back to the window while doing his best to resist the urge to keep humming. After a long moment, Adam finally turned away from the window. If he stayed any longer, he would find himself humming again: ‘I can’t keep Emilia up late again… I’ll get yelled at!’

           Just before Adam got back to his bed, he heard something odd. At least, he thought he did. He cocked his head to the side and listened to the silence of the night. The hairs on the back of his neck suddenly stood on end, as he thought: ‘What is that?’

           It was just off the edge of his perception. A sound that felt… ‘Murky?…Black?’ Those were the only things Adam could use to try and describe the sound, as confusing as it was. Before he could figure out whatever this spooky thing was, the air suddenly filled with a sharp whistling as though the air was being sucked somewhere at a fast speed! The sound then stopped as silence filled the gap for just a moment, before a larger Boom! Shook the sky and the earth!

           Adam jumped from the sudden noise and stood stunned for a moment as the house rattled and shook. Then, as the sound of the boom receded, Adam heard the frightened screaming coming from Emilia as she flailed about under her covers. Adam quickly walked over and pulled them off to hold onto his sister when the door to their room was hurriedly opened. Vivienne rushed in with concern written all over her face: “Are you two alright!?”

           Adam nodded as Emilia clung to him. “We’re only frightened from that weird thunder.”

           Vivienne shook her head: “That wasn’t thunder… You two should get dressed quickly.”

           Adam was confused. “Why?”

           With a slight quiver, Vivienne responded: “Just do it Adam.”

           Adam was startled. That quiver in her voice… ‘Is mom scared? Mom is never scared!’

           With newfound fear, Adam and Emilia quickly dressed themselves. Emilia had calmed down from the shock of being woken by whatever that boom was. She asked: “Any idea why mom is having us get dressed?”

           Adam shook his head and made to respond, but faintly heard something. It was a distant scream! Adam’s heart squirmed in fright, but Vivienne entered the room before he could put more thought into it. She was dressed haphazardly and carried a shortsword Adam had never seen before in her hand.

           Adam’s fear was showing on his face. Vivienne’s heart softened when she saw this. She leaned the sword against the wall and then pulled Adam and Emilia into a hug: “Don’t be scared. That boom was probably nothing, but…” Vivienne brought Adam and Emilia’s hands together, “Adam, no matter what happens, just don’t let go of your sister. Do you understand?”

           Adam vigorously nodded his head. A moment later, vicious knocking assaulted the door to the house! Vivienne straightened with a serious expression. She told the two: “Wait here for a moment.” before grabbing the short sword and heading toward the front door.

           While Vivienne quickly made her way to the door, Adam tried to position himself so he would be able to hear what was going on better. Rather than comforting her, Emilia was becoming more unsettled. She asked: “What’s going on? Why’s mom acting so scary?”

           Adam shook his head: “I’m not sure, either. No matter what, don’t leave my side okay?”

           Adam’s words hardly reassured her, but Emilia still nodded her head as she tightened her grip on her brother’s hand. Adam missed what was going on at the front door while talking to Emilia. Vivienne came back to them with worry clearly evident on her face: “Come on, let’s go.”

           Adam led Emilia forward by the hand while asking: “Where are we going?”

           Vivienne looked at her children, torn between the fear that she had and worry for the two before her. ‘What do I tell them?’ She wanted to say something to comfort them, but couldn’t seem to come up with anything good. She placed her free hand that wasn’t holding the sword behind Emilia’s back, to help support her since they were going to be walking fast. The only words that bubbled up were: “Somewhere where it should be safe.”

           They walked out of the house and were greeted by a sight not fit for the time of day. The street was filling with panicked looking people pushing and hurrying mostly in the same direction; toward the center of town. A few carried torches, while most relied on the dim blue light from Starstone lamps along the road, to illuminate their way. Rather than the normal hubbub of a moving crowd, there was panicked shouting with an occasional scared scream within the crowd.

           Adam looked around, perturbed by the strange scene. Looking around, something caught Adam’s eye. Something black was shimmering above the city line. Adam stared at it for a moment before shock hit him: “Is that black fire!?”

           Somewhere off in the distance, possibly just out of the city limits, tongues of abyssal black flames licked the sky! The flames were so dark, contrasting against the colorful night sky, it was as though all light in the world was being sucked in!

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           “Don’t stare, we have to move!” Vivienne hissed at him!

           Adam snapped out of his shock and followed his mother’s lead. Together, they flung themselves into the crowd. Vivienne led them through the areas where there were fewer people to lower the chance of getting separated from each other.

           As they pressed forward, Adam and Emilia were fraught with questions. Every time one of them summoned the courage to ask one of their questions, a scream would erupt somewhere in the distance behind them. Frightened, they could only continue forward at their mother’s behest, even as the screams became more frequent and turned unearthly and savage.

           Running through his head for the hundredth time, Adam thought: ‘What is going on!?’

           Like that, they pushed onward until the way forward was blocked solidly by a throng of people, all trying to go through a road that started to narrow. Hardly anyone could move and those that could, could only move slowly. If the crowd had kept their cool, the situation could have been sorted out relatively quickly. However, they had all started losing their heads from hearing all the screaming that was starting to come closer!

           Vivienne looked at the mess with worry.: ‘I had hoped we wouldn’t encounter this.’

           Looking around, Vivienne saw a dark alley they could cut through. Closer than ever before, a scream erupted some way behind them…. then another, and another, and suddenly screams filled the night! The hairs on the back of everyone’s necks stood on end as they heard the screams. The crowd blocking up the road all started to push forward more fervently. A few managed to move, trampling others in their wake. But the road was too narrow to allow the huge crowd to move any sizable chunk at once, especially with everyone fighting to push ahead of one another.

           Vivienne tightened her hold of Emilia and started dragging her toward the alley, while Adam was tugged along by Emilia’s other hand. Vivienne hissed to them: “We have to move!”

           Tears started to come to Emilia’s eyes as the situation was overwhelming her. She wanted to cry, but was too afraid of the screams… too afraid of the way her mother was acting to do so.

           Vivienne was not oblivious to this, but there was nothing she could do at the moment. Adam also noticed and squeezed his hand in a hopefully reassuring way. “Don’t worry Emilia. Mom will take us away from all the scary stuff. Tomorrow, this will all just be a nightmare you can forget!”

           It was hardly reassuring, but just hearing Adam voice helped to ease Emilia.In response, she merely nodded her head and squeezed her hand in return.

           Vivienne quickly led them down the alley. Out the other side, the scene here was the same as the road before; people clustered together blocking the road and making it hard for anyone to move forward. The screams that were echoing over from the previous road was already whipping the crowd into a frenzy before screams started to occupy their own road. Adam looked in the direction of the screams, but there were too many people on the road to accurately see what was happening. Vivienne pushed her way forward to cut through another alley. A few started to see what she was doing and made to copy her.

           They started cutting through alley after alley, avoiding the crowds on the streets, even as more screams filled the air around them. Before long, sounds of battle also filled the night. Adam and Emilia were becoming too scared to even think about what was causing all of this. They could only shudder as Vivienne led them forward, cutting a path to safety.

           Going down one alley, Vivienne suddenly stopped for the first time since they left the crowd. She placed herself in front of Adam and Emilia, blocking their vision while raising her sword with a shaky hand.

           In a way the screams had not done, Adam’s heart sunk into a bottomless pit. With his throat squeezed in fear, he barely squeaked out: “Mom?”

           After Adam spoke, low guttural growls drifted over. It was soon followed by a beastly screech as a dark form charged at the three! Vivienne screamed in a voice filled with both terror and anger. Thrusting her sword forward, the dark creature was skewered by it! Even as its steps faltered, the momentum of the creature caused Vivienne to stumble back into Adam and Emilia. Just barely, she brought the sword to the side, forcing the creature to land next to them.

           Adam stared at the twitching creature with wide eyes as the dim light from the night sky palely illuminated it. It was once human, but the veins in its body were turned black! Around the black veins, the skin turned necrotic and oozed a sickly puss. The rest of its pallor skin clung to its emaciated form and, well, it looked plain evil!

           The thing was twitching as black blood bubbled out of its mouth. The sword had impaled it just above the clavicle, neatly severing its spine and disrupting its blood flow. It was a sure kill. Adam wasn’t sure what to think of this, but his body did. Adam retched his stomach out onto the ground.

           Emilia asked with fright and concern: “Adam?”

            Adam couldn’t respond, but Vivienne quickly said: “Don’t look!”

           She hadn’t been able to stop Adam, but she had been able to prevent Emilia from seeing the twitching creature. Vivienne made sure Emilia was turned away from the creature while guiding both her and Adam a few steps away from it. “Watch over your brother for a moment, okay?”

           Emilia nodded while trying to look over her shoulder at the same time. Vivienne forcefully turned her head back. Looking directly into Emilia’s eyes, she sternly said: “Do not look over there! Do you understand!?”

           Emilia nodded with quivering eyes just about ready to cry ‘I don’t like this! The way mom is acting. The scary screams. When is this going to end!?’

           Emilia tightened her hold on Adam’s weak and shaky hand. That sensation brought Adam out of his shock a little. With what little strength he could currently muster, Adam squeezed her hand back, the act comforting both of them.

           Vivienne quickly went over to the creature. An odd squelching sound echoed out as Vivienne sawed out the sword that was stuck in the dark creature. Adam’s face paled as he heard the sounds and Emilia reflexively made to turn to look at what was going on. Adam pulled on her, forcing her to look back at him. In a weak voice, he said: “Don’t look at it.”

           Adam’s words frightened Emilia. ‘What is so scary that they don’t want me to see? And it’s right next to us!’

           However, Adam’s words had more concern to them whereas Vivienne’s were more commanding. Emilia couldn’t help herself stepping closer to hug Adam. Everything was too scary, and holding hands was no longer comforting enough.

           With Emilia hugging him, Adam could see over her shoulder. He saw Vivienne tear a strip of cloth from her shirt and deftly clean the blade of black blood. She didn’t bother spending much time on it, though. She turned to her children and said: “We have to continue.”

           Emilia weakly said: “Can’t we just go home and leave all the scary things here?”

           Vivienne warmly placed her hand on Emilia’s head and gently said: “I wish we could do that, but we can’t.”

           The trio continued on, leaving the dark creature behind. Adam couldn’t help but ask: “What was that, mom?”

           Vivienne gave a heavy sigh. “That, Adam, was a ghoul.”

           “What’s that?” Emilia asked with trepidation and a small amount of curiosity.

           Vivienne simply responded with: “A creature of nightmares.”

           Adam shuddered a little. Jannic had spoken of them before, during history lessons. Adam recalled what he knew of them: ‘Dark creatures that are corrupted by spirit essence. They will attack anyone not corrupted on sight! Their blood can infect others and turn them into ghouls as well!’

           Adam worriedly looked at his mother. She seemed fine, and she had cleaned most of the blood of her sword.He vaguely recalled that the ghoul’s blood has to enter your body for it to affect you, so she should be fine. Still, he couldn’t help but imagine her turning into a something like that dark creature they left behind. Shuddering he thought: ‘Mom should be fine, she has to be!’

           Then Adam’s thoughts continued to turn: ‘Wait, human ghouls always roam in hordes. Where there is one…!’

           A horrible thought entered in his head. All the screaming they heard that was still echoing around them: ‘We’re being attacked by ghouls!?’

           Adam was now well and truly frightened. It was then that the trio heard a faint clanking sound of metal. They turned around, hopeful at there being someone dressed in armor to help. But it was no shining knight or paladin. Instead, a pale-faced oily man, that was dressed in pitch black armor, approached them with an evil grin on his face: “And here I thought patrolling the alleys was going to be boring!”

           The three of them were momentarily stunned as horror started to sink in deeper for Adam and Vivienne: ‘Behind a ghoul horde is a commander, a ghoul that keeps its intelligence and leads the horde… a Ghul Kommendant!’

           “Run!” Vivienne yelled.

           Quickly turning back around, Adam and Vivienne took off running while dragging Emilia with them! A maniacal cackle echoed behind them followed by the ominous sound of clanking metal that was quickly closing on them! The end of the alley was close by. Vivienne could only pray: ‘Please, let there be someone there to help us, I can’t fight that thing on my own!’

           Just as they were about to reach the street, the Ghul caught up with them in a shoulder charge! Adam, Emilia, and Vivienne were all knocked out of the alley and flat onto the road. Emilia finally started screaming and sobbing as her mind started to catch up with what was happening. She was calling out to the one person she knew could vanquish any evil that threatened her: “Daaad! Daaadddyy!”

           The Ghul couldn’t help but shudder with maniacal cackling. “Ke ke ke. I think I’ll leave you for last, kiddo. Let’s see if your daddy comes before the end!”

           The force of the shoulder charge had separated the three of them apart. While Emilia was sobbing on the ground, both Adam and Vivienne were stunned and had only just started trying to figure a way out of the situation.

           Adam blindly grabbed around while his mind was slowly turning and coming back to him. He was seeking to find Emilia’s hand again, but instead found something hard. Looking at it, it was the short sword Vivienne had been holding! She had apparently lost hold of it when they were thrown to the ground.

Only allowed on

           Firmly grasping the sword, Adam looked up to see Vivienne stumbling backwards along the ground as the Ghul Kommendant advanced. To their horror, its steps were faster than Vivienne’s attempts to back away, allowing it to firmly stamp down on her shin. A sick crack echoed out as Vivienne screamed in pain. A seditious smile broke across the Ghul’s face as it said: “I wonder what face you would show me if I killed the other brat first?”

          Fear coursed through Adam’s body. Nonetheless, he quickly got to his feet and held the short sword that was just the right size for him in the best stance he could muster. His father’s words, about when he was going to finally be serious about training, echoed in his mind. Deep hatred and anger boiled away Adam’s fear, as he mustered himself. He then ran forward shouting: “Get away from my mother!”

          The Ghul turned its twisted smile to Adam: “Looks like you’ve got some spunk, little man!”

          Adam gave a battle shout as he swung at the Ghul, who drew his sword in a smooth motion that easily deflected the attack, before bringing his sword back across Adam’s face with a flick of his wrist! Adam merely saw a black line rush across his vision before everything turned black and intense pain assailed him! Dropping his sword, Adam fell back while screeching in agony! His hands filled with warm liquid as he grabbed his injured face.

          Adam’s mind began to fade from the intense pain. He could barely hear the Ghul speak in a derisive tone: “Guess you’re still just a kid.”

    Faintly, Adam could hear someone screaming as he stretched his hand out. He weakly thought: ‘I must protect mom and Emilia!’ Then everything turned to darkness.

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