The light from the great "Moon" orb floating above the library began to dim, until all that was left lit was the huge red leather arm chair and its occupant. The great shelves of books reaching ceiling high around the round walls sucked into the shadows, the lavishly decorated furniture and tables, gone, Robert Farrel sat in his small patch of light, holding the massive wood bound book, staring at the last place Woods had been.
Gazing into the dark, Robert's thoughts were consumed by questions, "where had he gone?, Where was this place? Who were these people to think they could hold him here? What was he doing there and why was it important to read this ancient book??!!", were just some of the mysteries being taken apart inside his head.
He looked down at the book, it was enormous! He really wasn't a reader, sure he had filled his residence at the hotel with books of all description, but had to date never read a single one. The books cover was adorned with a very faded, distorted image, it looked like a planet? A large planet with clouds floating across it, and in large gold print, clear and shining against the orb light, were the words:
Journal of the LOM: Volume One
for one and one alone
Robert stared at the words, the L O M? Ok, that made no sense in his mind at all, then, for one and one alone, well, that made more sense, sort of?! Surely this meant that the book had been written for one person to read, only one person, but that logic in itself defied sense, how could a book, obviously written a long long time ago, have been meant for him?
The book was sealed with a small silver lock, sitting in the lock was a tiny gold key baring the legend L O M. He reached down for the key to turn it, but no sooner had his fingers clasped it, there was a hushed whisper from behind him, inside the room. Roberts head turned sharply, he jumped from his seat and glared into the abyss, searching the source of the whispering, it was quiet, so quiet, he couldn't make out any of what the voice was saying.
Robert reached down and picked up his coffee, he took a sip, his eyes never leaving the room. The whispering had stopped the second he had left his seat, perhaps it was one of the other "guests" as Woods had put it, thinking it would be funny to try and wined him up,
"Whisper all you want, you'll soon learn I'm not easily rattled!", he said in a calm, relaxed voice, but he wasn't relaxed, on this inside he was shaking. It was true, Robert Farrel was not easily rattled, not an edgy person by nature, but this place, this room, that cell, everything that had happened since the gun shot, the last normal event he could recall, it was all putting him on edge.
"HA!", he laughed out loud, he was actually calling getting shot by his one and only friend, the only person he had ever trusted, a NORMAL event!. his foot hit something hard, looking down, Robert saw the book laying on the ground by his feet. He bent down and picked it up, his gaze returning to the little gold key. Clasping it tightly in his fingers again, Robert waited, sure enough, the whispering started up again. He began turning the key, the whispering got louder, as though he were turning the volume dial on a radio. By the time the first tumbler had turned over, he could just make out the words of the voices, they sounded like children?
"we are waiting for you, come back to us, come back, come back!",
The same words being repeated over and over, Robert turned the key and the second tumbler turned, more voice joined, louder and clearer, now there were older voices, deeper, male and female, the same words over and over,
"we are waiting for you, come back to us, come back, come back!",
It wasn't until the third tumbler went, that Robert realized the voices, now almost shouting, weren't in the room at all, they were in his own head! the forth tumbler turned over and Robert flew off the chair to the floor, crashing down on his knees but the pain completely over come by sheer agony inside his head and the book, the book had flown open, his hands catching it automatically, like he had no will over what he was doing anymore, and the voices, the deafening voices screaming and screaming,
"COME BACK TO US! COME BACK TO US!!",
His eyes snapped open.
He was laying face down on the floor, what had happened?
He rolled over on his back and then shot up onto his feet when he saw the ceiling over his families home burning, the supporting beams were falling away from the thick straw and wooden roof of the house, he had to get out, he had to find Mother and Megan, before THEY did!.
He stumbled out into the street, the sight that met his eyes was unbelievable, the town, the whole town was ablaze. From where the house stood, he could see the huge main gates blocking the township from the main traders road, they had been destroyed, smashed to splinters and burnt like everything else. The town itself was made up of two long rows of shops and house stretching up as high as five stories in some cases. All made from wood and roofed in thick straw.
The sight was like something from a nightmare, everywhere he looked. bodies of the towns guard and men, the women and children were scattered like leaves,
"MATTHEW!!", someone was screaming his name? Someone close to the gates. Matthew was about to dash on, recognizing his Mothers cry of despair, when something caught his attention, an image, an image powerful enough to wipe his mind of everything else. Close by was a large Horses watering trough, the contents reflecting the burning buildings behind it, and his reflection, except, it wasn't him?
The man staring back from the water was utterly different, he had short ebony black hair brushed back over his head, he wore unusual clothes? A black coat and leg coverings, a shirt whiter than he had ever seen, and strange boots? Shiny black and laced up the middle. On his wrists he seemed to be wearing sculpted metal? His aspect was cold and harsh, emotionless and blank, but his eyes were intelligent, he was no fool, cold, calculating, deep set gray eyes thin lips, high cheek bones that narrowed his eyes.
Matthew held his head as it suddenly ached from where the beam had fallen and knocked him down, he remembered now, the attack had just begun when one of THEIR warriors had thrown a lit torch into the house's thatched roof, he opened his eyes, the reflection had changed, now stood a young man in his late teens, he had light coloured brown hair which flopped over his eys and reached down just passed his ears, he features were kind and hansom. He wore a "dirty" white shirt with laces running down half the front, dark brown trousers which reached just past his knees and a dark brown waist coat, old brown buckle shoes on his feet. It was his own reflection.
"MATTHEW, MEGAN!! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?", his Mothers voice again, she was near, somewhere beyond the town fountain, the once beautiful statue of the town founders daughter holding her hands out to the main gate, welcoming visitors and returning travelers, she had been decapitated, a slump body laying half in her pool and half across the ground had turned the water blood red. Matthew saw her, his Mother, she was stumbling around behind the decimated fountain, her head was bleeding.
"MOTHER!", he called racing towards her, the pain in his own head throwing him off balance as his stopped in front of her. His Mother put her hands on his shoulders to stead him, he looked into her eyes, she was terrified,
"Where is Megan?!", she asked franticly,
"I do not know!", Matthew replied, he then noticed her red dress, it had been ripped across the chest, her silver white hair was tangled and loose across her shoulders instead of tied back in a tight bun,
"Mother, what happened.....?", but he was interrupted by her plees,
"You MUST find her Matthew, I think she went....she went..!", her tears stopped the end of the sentence, Matthew knew what she was trying to say, Megan had gone to join the guard, to fight! Ever since their father had died had infection two years before, Megan had taken the role of protector and head of the family, she was four years older than Matthew, head strong and sensible but with a firey temper that often got her into trouble.
"I will find her, you must hide Mother and trust in us, we are not Children anymore!", but his word were forced, and his Mother knew he was scared,
"They are to strong my Son, I could not bare.......", from the other end of the town, someone screamed a scream unlike anything they had every heard,
"Mother i am going! Take yourself to the edge of town and hide behind the tavern, go, NOW!", Matthew watched as she took flight for the main gates. He wiped his brow, sweat that had nothing to do with the roaring fires around him was trickling down his face. It was ahead, the fight, the last of the towns guard and men, the warriors, such as they are, and...THEM. He had no choice, Megan had never failed to be there for him, he could not let her down now, if only he had a weapon, if only he could fight!
With one final, deep breath, Matthew ran, or he tried to, his heart was racing, his head screaming at him to get to Megan, but his legs and feet weren't listening, they were heavy and clumsy, he was also having trouble focusing, his head still throbbing from the impact of the falling wooden beam. Shaking his head to clear it again, he failed to notice the dead town guard until he fell over onto his face in the mud. Matthew picked himself up onto his knees and looked back at the body. The guard had been sliced across his stomach, his organs had fallen out onto the ground. Matthew stared at his empty eyes, knowing that any second he may look the same as this poor soul.
That was when he noticed the sword in the guards hand, the blade shining at him, Matthew reached for it, he managed to pry the hilt from dead guards hand and help it up in front of his face, he had expected to fell sudden strength or bravery, but none came. A hand his wrist, a strong hand, it was the guard. Matthew screamed and dropped the sword, he stared blankly at the guard now stretching out towards him, begging for help Matthew couldn't give.
The guards hand dropped again, with one final splutter of blood, the man was finally dead. Matthew couldn't stop looking at him, he knew him, they had said hello to each other ever day, his name was Marcus Prentice, a good man, a kind man. Megan, the name smashed its way through the barrier Marcus's death had built in Matthews head. He got back up to his feet, the sword was laying by Marcus's dead hand, Matthew picked it up, turned to stare down the town and said out loud,
"Halfway there, I'm coming Sister, don't be dead, please?!".
Buildings were beginning to crumble under the weight of the fire, he could hear screams coming from the houses where the old and very young had hidden, they were burning to death. Matthew came to the bend in the village, blocking the main gates view of the rear gates, Matthew readied himself for what lay beyond, he could hear it already, the sound of pitiless laughter and blades clashing together. Just as he rounded the bend, something hard and large smashed into his face and he fell backwards to the ground, standing above him, dressed in cloths covered in mud, blood and leather stirrups holding all manner of blades and cutting tools, was one of the warriors.
The warrior stared down at him with lifeless black eyes, empty of reason, compassion, soulless eyes. Matthew was frozen to the spot, he had never even been in a fight before and now here he was, face to face with one of those who had taken the lives or everyone he had ever known and had no clue what to do next. The sword! Where was the sword?? He had just been holding it, the warrior swung his fist at Matthews head again, cackling an inhuman laughter. Matthew managed to duck his punch and stumbled backwards, trying to put some distance between himself and death.
The warrior looked at him, drool dribbling from between his mangled mouth and rotten teeth, Matthew had never seen one up close before, these warriors were as fabled as their masters. The not dead nor living servants of....of Them! Legend had always told that after a city, tow or village had fallen, the final few would be turned into one of these creatures, kept alive only by the will of their masters. Whoever this man had been, he was now a creature of darkness, an emotionless killer.
Matthew watched as the warrior raised his own sword, it was rusty, covered in dried blood and smelt almost as foul as its owner. Then he saw his own sword, it was laying between the warrior and Matthew, he must have stepped back straight over it, Matthew cursed himself for not being observant enough to retrieve it then. The warrior had also seen the sword, his black eyes were daring Matthew to try and retrieve it.
Matthew was just becoming used to the fact that no matter what he tried, he was about to die, a sort of calm realization, then his heart skipped a beat. The warrior stood strong and ready, Matthew had heard stories of how they felt no pain, that no wound had ever slowed them down, but maybe, just maybe, he had a plan. Sticking out of the right knee of the warrior, was an arrow, in seemed to have embedded itself in his knee cap. This was it, all Matthew had as a plan, he would have to move so quickly though, and his timing had to be perfect!
Matthew wanted to wait, the thought of making the first move towards the warrior terrified him. The warrior seemed to have picked up on his fear, the menacing smile on his face broadening. Raising his sword high above his head, the warrior lunged forwards, swinging his sword out wildly, Matthew knew it was now or never, and took his chance. He rolled hard to his own left and sank to both knees, the blade of the warriors sword missing him by inches, it struck the ground and sank into the mud. Matthew reached over two the warriors right knee, grasped the arrow in both hands, and pulled at it with all the strength he could muster.
The warrior showed no sign of pain, but the sheer force of the arrow being ripped from his knee caused to much damage for his leg to stand anymore, and the warrior fell tom knees. Matthew lept to his sword, pulled it up from the ground and held the blade high above his head, ready to bring it crashing down against the warriors head. Something was stopping him, something had caused a moments pause in Matthews strike and he now did not know what to do.
Matthew looked down at the warriors face, muddy and blood stained, scars from battles past lined his face, some much deeper than others, but it was the expression on his face that had frozen Matthews actions, it was empty, no sign of pain or regret, no sign of pity for those he had helped slaughter, this angered Matthew beyond compare but still he could not bring himself to kill.
Those deep, black eyes were staring into his, even without being able to see his pupils, Matthew knew he was searching Matthews gaze, trying to predict his next move, this creature was now pure killer, no matter who he had been before, that soul was gone and now all the remained was a murderous beast. The warrior was trying to stand up again, already reaching out for his own blood soaked sword, but the damage to his knee cap wouldn't allow it, he tried to stand and there came the most sickening sound Matthew had ever heard.
The warrior was back on the ground, blood pouring from the wound caused by his shattered knee. Matthew swallowed hard and stepped forwards, the sword clasped in two hands. He found it hard to maintain a firm grip on the hilt, his hands were sweating and shaking. The warriors eyes never left Matthews as he approached the fallen figure, the creatures face showing no sign of pain or fear, it, he, was still trying to pick himself up,
"You'll realize you can not stand soon..", Matthew thought out loud,
"and then you will just try to kill me from there won't you, you will never stop, never give up...then it is now, or never", he looked into those empty black eyes one more time, Matthew raised the sword high above his head, the glint of the fire caught in the blade, the warrior opened his mouth and an inhuman scream echoed around them both, barely muted from those ahead by the noise of killing and blades crashing together, Matthew closed his eyes, squinted them tight shut, and thrust down at the warriors head.
The butt of the hilt smashed into the warriors skull, in one swift jerk his eyes shut and his body fell limply to the ground, he was down, but alive. Matthew didn't know how to feel, he certainly took no pleasure at the thought of killing, but this beast had been one of the many responsible for destroying his home, but was it his fault? Was it any of theirs? They had no will, no morality, controlled over by those....things! Maybe he was rash in letting the creature suffer further, something deep down inside told him he would not have long to worry this point....the sound of fighting had stopped.
Matthew reached the rim of the roads curve and stopped dead, the sight ahead was more terrifying than any other he had witnessed that night. Moving in front of the rear village gates, a dark mass of shapes swirled over the corpses of the dead, every now and then, one of the bodies would shift, begin thrashing over the ground before laying still for a moment, then rising to their feet and joining the warriors in their continued search of the last buildings, then burning them. It was the shapes Matthew was focused on, every inch of his body shook even against the roaring heat of the fire around him.
The legends of these creatures had been told at evening gatherings for years, "Ghost Stories" for the village children, he could remember his own Mothers fury when a town guard had returned him home in the early hours of the morning, he was six years old and had snuck out to explore the village,
"DON'T EVER LEAVE THE HOUSE AFTER DARK AGAIN!", she had screamed at him, "THE SHADOWS COME LOOKING FOR NAUGHTY CHILDREN WHO SNEAK OUT AFTER DARK!". Up until this very moment, Matthew had never believed the stories of The Shadows, creatures of utter darkness, who's only recognizable features were their outlines, the shape of a head, shoulders, sometimes legs, and arms, arms that reach down for you and make you like the warriors, soulless, murderous animals. They drifted along the floor like black wind, rearing themselves up like men and women to face their foe, or prey. Nothing could stop them, nothing ever had according to legend, but for Megan, he had to try.
Where was she??, he hid behind a cart left in the middle of the street, the load of straw it carried burning, the smoke was choking Matthew but he dare not get any closer until he knew where Megan was, and if she still lived. The Shadows were coming together over the remains of the dead and dying, the ones to weak to be taken. The warriors were forming a circle around the Shadows and the bodies, the breathing loud and ragged, their bodies catching up with the sheer mass of exertion the Shadows forced them to under go. Matthew watched intently,
"what were they doing?", he thought , the Shadows had begun swirling around each other, becoming a tall pillar of black smoke, unclear whispering was floating towards Matthew on the wind, he couldn't make out any clear words, it was a ghostly noise, sending shivers of terror and panic down his back,
"What do they want? Why aren't they just leaving? WHAT ARE THOSE VOICES SAYING?!?!", the voice in Matthews head was confused and frightened, it made him want to leap up and run, but something in the back of his head was still speaking to him, a tiny voice, his own voice,
"stay there, do not move, you know its to late Matthew", the whispers grew louder and louder, now a maddening mass of hisses in his ears, he was so scared, he saw her. Megan was standing in front of the group, the warriors and Shadows seemed unable to see her?
Megan's long blonde hair blew in the breeze, her beautiful brown eyes stared into his lovingly, her features so close to his, yet thinner and more pronounced, she wore her favorite blue dress, and a black belt holding a short sword. Megan beckoned to him calmly and happily. Matthew was waving at her frantically, he had no idea how she had not only survived but was now remaining unseen by the enemy, but if she didn't hide soon they would both be found and killed.
"If she can run", he mused, "we can run back up the town, meet with Mother and find a away out through the main gates!", this was his plan, Megan was still smiling, still waving him to her and the whispering of the Shadows was getting louder and louder, whatever they were going to do, it was soon. Matthew, shaking from head to toe, moved away from the cart, first just enough steps to be sure Megan could see him beckoning her, then a few more, still she simply stood there, staring and beckoning.
Matthew's head was spinning from the whispers, he stumbled off balance, only catching his footing at the last moment, he shook his head, holding it in his hands, all he needed was one moment of clarity, just enough to get to Megan and start running from these foul, evil things as they could! He managed to get his vision back, everything was clear again despite the continued noise in his ears. Matthew took his chance and ran at Megan.
"What are you doing?! In the name of God Megan we must run!", he was pulling her by her left wrist, staring back up towards the front gates and away, but she was standing firm, unflinching despite his being much stronger then she,
"Megan what are you doing?!", he turned back to her. Megan's right hand shot up to his throat, gripping it so firmly it could have been the grip of a man twice her size,
"m..e..g...a...n....!", he coughed, "w...h...a...t.....!"?", then he saw her face properly, the emotionless look on it, she still stared at him, but her smile was gone, her mouth was hanging half open, drool spilling out onto her chin, her face was covered in cuts and what looked like bite marks and her eyes were jet black.
Matthew wanted to sob, he wanted to fall to the ground and cry for his family, his home. There was shuffling and movement behind him, the warriors were blocking any chance of escape, he could hear them breathing still, almost smell the foul breath. The light was dimming, the air thinning, the whispering had stopped, he tried to remember when? When Megan had grabbed him. They had lured him out, their swirling and whispering made him panic, made him see what he wanted to see, not another vicious evil killer, but his own dear Sister, one of the Shadows broke from the pillar and swirled over behind Megan.
Matthew watched the Shadow move, its movements quick, precise, yet its floating was hypnotic, almost relaxing to watch. He thought of his Mother, waiting for him at the main gates, waiting for Megan and himself, he knew he would never see her again. Megan let her grip go, and Matthew fell to the ground, he slumped onto his knees, his legs stretched out behind him. Matthew was staring at the ground, just the mud. He didn't want to look up, looking up meant taking note of that was about to happen and he didn't want too. A black shape shifted into view, it looked life the outline of a leg, he could not help himself, he allowed his gaze to follow the leg up.
A thick black mass made up the Shadows stomach and chest, two almost unattached arms floated at its side and at the top of the shape was what was once a head, a man from what Matthew could make out from its form, its bulk and shape. The Shadow tilted its head down towards him, lower than any man could manage without falling on his face, it was looking at him.
Matthew wanted to speak, to be brave and tell it he wasn't scared, but no words would come. The centre of its head, where it once had a face, was almost touching his nose, if it had breath ,Matthews lungs would have been full of it, but it had no breath, made no sound, it was nothing, yet here it was. The Shadow lifted its right arm, a slight shake and finger like shapes whisped from the arm, it wiggled its new formed fingers in front of his face before slowly lowering them to his heart.
They did nothing at fist, just floated in front of his heart, Matthew wondered what the creature had planned for him, would it give him to their warriors, or turn him into one? Suddenly, the fingers went ridged, small points appeared at the tip of each, like arrow heads. They lunged forwards and pierced his chest, Matthew found his voice and screamed out in agony, the pain was unbelievable, he would surely die any moment now, but he did not.
Matthews head snapped back, he could still hear what was happening, the warriors were roaring at whatever was happening, the other Shadows were swirling excitedly all over the street and walls, Matthew looked up into the night sky, his mouth still open, screaming a scream that had already died out. The fires were dancing in his eyes, reds and yellows, blues and oranges and even greens, but the lights were becoming dimmer? The edges of his vision becoming blurred by darkness, an unnatural black, in his very last moments, Matthew held out his arms, as if reaching for the heavens, then saw what the Shadow was doing to him, his arms and hands had lost all feature, they were now black slivers attached to thin arm- like strands of smoke.