For five thousand years, the Horror's have held sway over the world, terrorizing and slaughtering any unfortunate enough not to have found shelter in one of the Great Kaers. The Horror's have begun to retreat from the world, allowing the Namegiving Races to begin reclaiming what once was theirs. Magic and swords have carved out great swaths of the known world, but still, evil lingers, hiding in dark caverns, and deep forests, or hiding in the shadows of cities and towns, twisting those inside.
The shadows raced past. The man avoided each carefully, seemingly without thought. His jogging pace was completely silent, and only ragged breath betrayed his presence. Perspiration had left tracks down his filthy face and hands, but had long since dried up. His tongue was thick from dehydration, and his eyes darted back and forth, open wide, on the verge of panic. He was alone now. He had left his friends behind, and they were most likely dead. He'd seen one of them stretching obscenely in one of those things' claws.
Bile crept up his throat, his stomach long empty of anything else, and he kicked himself mentally. He could not let himself think about it, could not let himself falter. Sometimes the Horror's did not kill you, but changed you. They would set you after your friends, soulless, helpless, robbed of your Name. If he thought about it, he would go mad. He could not even let himself remember their Names. Not now. Now there was nothing else save placing one foot ahead of the other, and avoiding the deepest shadows. There was nothing else, no stars, no sun, no rain, no moon. Just the Darkness, and the things that moved within.
The Scourge had never ended here, and likely wouldn't, not in his lifetime, even if he survived this ordeal. Had it been hours? days? He no longer knew. He heard the whispers of things unnameable, the rustling of chitinous scales against rock and knew that if he slowed or stopped, all manner of Horror's would pounce. He knew too that sometime soon he would fail to make the next step, and he wondered if it was time to make his final stand...No...the thought alone made his skin crawl and bile rise. He would not stand. He would flee until he could flee no more, and then if all else failed, he would fall upon his sword. There were things in these infested caverns and ravines which would not let you die, which would feed on your fear, suffering and loneliness, or turn you into a mindless version of themselves. He did not want to ever hate life.
It entered his perception slowly, an inexplicable buoyancy coming into his step. He slowed his shambling, quiet gait, but never stopped. Light. He could not see the source, but it was steady, unwavering, and he dared to hope he might regain the world he had lost. He truly looked at the shadows surrounding him for the first time in what seemed like years. The shifting shadows were still there. He tried to tell himself they were not real, but he knew better. They were even more terrifying in the dim light. He had been stupid to stop, so stupid. They were moving in. His sword flashed out, and he rushed forward, threatening with his blade. He was gratified to see them shrink back, showing the same predatory uncertainty a panther might being faced by the ferocity of a cornered weasel. The creatures did not pause long, but the man was already wheeling, and making his way towards the light, a final mad dash. Howls and hisses followed, the creatures angered at having been even momentarily challenged by such a puny creature. But they did not follow, to the man's surprise...he let out a cry of triumph, but it rapidly became a choked scream of terror. A lightning fast, huge shadow blotted out the light. It was huge, and completely black, with chitinous black scales covering its back, gleaming darkly in the faint light. It had over forty limbs, and it's strange but quick gait made it difficult to tell whether they were legs or arms...indeed, if it were not for being completely black in colour, the limbs would appear to be borrowed human arms, of varying sizes and lengths. Nonetheless, the creature rushed in with astonishing speed, rearing before the man, screeching and hissing it's challenge. The creatures in the darkness chittered excitedly. It was obvious they had been waiting for this, and had deferred the kill to their superior.
The man stared a moment, in frozen fear, as the creature seemed to bask a moment in confident assurance of it's victory. But then the man screamed...not in terror, as expected, but in grief-stricken rage. The man charged, roaring in challenge. He could not lose the light now. Not now, not ever again. The many limbs tried to entangle and tear the man apart. He smiled as black blood coated his blade, and the creatures hissing, screaming challenge changed to a note of pain. It reared up higher, onto it's ten hindmost limbs, and prepared to strike.
The man rushed, not towards the creature but away, finding the cavern wall, and leaping up, avoiding the first strike of a black pincered maw, with a toothy gap behind. He got a good look, and it appeared the creature had no eyes to see with. He could not hope to blind the creature, not if it lived in darkness. The pincers brushed close, narrowly missing his leg as they snapped shut. He kicked downward, not to damage the creature but to push himself up to a ledge, long and narrow, almost a path leading up, though it ended far too soon. No matter...at least now, he matched the creature's height somewhat. He stood, grunting with the effort, breath coming in gasps...he'd wounded the beast, the darkness on his blade proved it. He would not go quietly. He could see the light once more, and could see the source. A city, carved into the stone, with thick stone walls...Hope surged once more, almost distracting him from the creature's next attack. He barely avoided the pincers this time parrying with the blade....The creature's strength knocked the man back, crashing him painfully into the cavern wall behind. Though the breath whooshed from him, the man saw his opportunity as the creature reared to strike once more. He used the momentum from crashing into the wall to bounce forward, and to leap, sword overhead, inverted downwards...He thrust hard, into the still hard, chitinous scales of the creatures underbelly. Nonetheless, it's belly was far less defended than it's back, and the sword cut through...the creature screamed, and continued screaming, for the dwarf did not let go of the blade and kept it pointed down, gravity opening the wound more than sheer strength could have. The dwarf rolled free, as the creature suddenly went silent, and thudded to the ground, throwing him free...he gasped on the ground, unmoving a moment, but heard then the other creatures coming forward, curious as to whether the man had given his last in the battle....he surged to his feet, and roared, sending unknown evils scurrying back.
However, he had lost his sword in the fall. It lay plunged within the creatures...chest, carapace, whatever one wished to call it. It twitched, and the man took a step back. He backpedalled quickly without the weapon. He cautiously moved forward again, and poked at the Horror. It lay still. He stepped on the creature's limb, which twitched again, but made no other movement. He reached and grabbed hold of the sword, pulling it free with great effort. The creature thrashed suddenly, and curled inward on itself like a caterpillar curling in to protect itself, or, in the eyes of the desperate, panicked man enclosed within, like a python constricting his prey. It curled tight and stopped. One of the limbs grasped tightly the man's beard, and his sword arm was pinned. The creature's stench choked the will right out of him He heard voices, unintelligible, and saw a light as he slipped into unconsciousness or death's embrace, he knew not which. He dreamed his father's face, and reached out...
"He's not one of us. He has the size of a child!"
"I tell you he's from the Outside! He's come to bring us hope!"
"He is a Construct! He is not human! He was found in the belly of a beast! His ravings are gibberish, he cannot even speak! Kill him now!"
"He is 'Dhuar"! Out of legend he has come. The Time of Darkness is ending. We can visit the Sun!"
"Myths spread by fools! You cannot possibly believe such...."
"I most certainly can! Tendris'Al weakens! His minions falter! I tell you he is from the surface and I will bring him back."
"You bring death, sire..."