COMPONENT 05: NIGHTFALL
The forge called Angon rested on a stone in their campsite. On his first evening, he examined the sky. The ball of fire, the sun, was disappearing beyond the ocean and he wondered what might happen when the significant light source vanished.
“The light is going away.” Angon stared at the sky, at the vibrant colors, a mixture of pinks and blues.
“Yes.” Gavin poked a stick into their campfire. “It does that. Every day!”
Angon learned to ignore most of the Gavin. He made little sense and never spoke had words. It was better not to speak with such a rude sol elf. He hoped regular elves were not so cruel.
“Angon, at night the sun goes down and the moon rises.” Lavina sat near to the fire, cross-legged. Every few minutes she’d put her palms together, twirl her thumbs and blow. She did so again, and when nothing happened, she sighed. “Oh, fuzzle!”
Gavin leaned against a stone, still poking the fire; bored. He was glad they’d found the campsite, but they were out of food since Lavina ate it so fast. He didn’t understand how she stayed so thin—even full-blooded elves, who were never overweight, might have a belly after eating two ten days worth of rations. She tried her spells to conjure a roast for them, but it didn’t work and he didn’t know who was more frustrated out of the two.
Angon studied the sun once again. He wasn’t sure what Lavina meant by night, but the sun leaving meant darkness was on its way. A few feet from him, Lavina twirled her thumbs again, and blew hard. Again, nothing appeared to happen.
“Fetter!’ Lavina fell flat on her back. “Why isn’t it working?”
Gavin’s ears twitched, and he gawked at the half-elf, wide-eyed. He’d never known her to use such language. A common curse was one thing, but the word that the gods themselves forbid—that was another! He thanked his lucky moons that there were no gods now; for many dark moons.
Lavina didn’t notice Gavin’s shock as she now lay on the ground, staring at Angon, who looked back with a cocked head.
“What?” She reached for him.
He leaned in toward her beckoning hand. “Things are so confusing.”
“Well!” Gavin stood, stretching and grabbing his longbow. “Before Lavina wastes all of her energy trying to conjure us a meal, I will go find something to hunt!”
Angon and Lavina exchanged glances and looked around the grassy plains and hills. They both wondered if there were living creatures within miles—It was so silent. Not even a wind blew. The forge didn’t know why the Gavin hunted. What was the point of eating? He wanted to try it though. The sol elf marched away across the fields to the east.
“Is he always this angry?” Angon regarded Lavina, hoping Gavin to be out of earshot.
Lavina stretched and reached her hand to his smooth face. She poked her index finger onto the tip of his metallic nose.
“He’s just a grumpy grump!” she sang.
“Why did you do that?” Angon tilted his head, as she poked him again, and he reared back, rubbing the spot she’d chosen.
Her touch was dull; it had no texture or warmth of her skin. He’d only received force, an uncomfortable sensation.
“Because, I’m bored and hungry!” She rolled over onto her stomach, kicking her legs behind her. “Aren’t you?”
“I do not understand. But I think you are strange.”
She laughed and jumped to a squatting position and then sprang to her feet. She sat on the stone next to Angon. “I’m just still in disbelief, I think. A working construct, or a forge, I should say. I wonder if there are more.”
“More of me?” His eyes widened. “You mean there may be another Angon?”
“No, silly!” She pushed his arm. “Not more Angons, just more forges. You can’t be the only one.”
“I only know, I woke up in that hole crushed, so I dug my way out.”
She sighed. “If the Orcs hadn’t been hanging around, we might’ve dug deeper and figured out your origin.”
“Will we ever return?” Angon hoped the answer to be no. After seeing vibrant colors, he never wanted to witness white again.
She smiled. “One day. But with more numbers so we won’t have to worry about stupid Orcs!”
Well, he liked that. He didn’t think them too friendly either.
Angon looked back into the sky just as the sun vanished and a green light zipped across, leaving darkness spotted with many tiny suns. “Glorious.”
She giggled. “You’re the strange one.”
“Because I’m new to everything?”
“No, but I have to agree, it’s amazing. And the night sky is so beautiful. I grew up in a large city called Sencia. There were so many lights, we weren’t able to view stars so.”
“Stars?” Angon stared into the night, his jaw hanging.
She patted his knee. “Yes, and they say if you view one shooting across the sky, you are to make a wish to Ellania, and she will grant whatever it is.”
“You mean the stars move?”
“Sometimes.” She shrugged. “You must have keen eyes.”
“What is this phenomenon called?” Angon pointed. “Where day becomes night? And how long does it last?”
“It’s called the Star Wave, and it depends on the season, but tonight, I would think it lasts about ten cycles.”
“Is that long?”
“No, we’ve already been together about that many.” She gave a close-eyed smile.
He liked how she used the word: together.
Angon’s curiosity steered him. “Who is Ellania? You said to wish?”
“Oh!” Lavina beamed. “She’s the goddess I worship—Keeper of the stars. I guess I’m odd.”
A dark mood fell over the Forge when Lavina spoke of a goddess. Something had shifted in his inner workings, making him angry. His chest became heavy, but why? Why the word goddess? The large machine’s fingers clenched into a fist the more he focused on that word.
“Angon?” Lavina noticed him tense. “Are you all right?”
He snapped from the prison of his mind. “Yes, I’ll be fine.”
He lied. Goddess hurt his insides.
The sneaky Elf edged up over the closest hill. Gavin had picked up something grunting, and he didn’t care to scare away the meal. He was starving. As quiet as an elf could move, which was near silent, he crawled on his knees, and peeked over the lean of the hill.
His luck was awe-inspiring! There stood a big fat bullypig, nibbling on a large patch of weeds. The horse-sized pig hadn’t seen him, which was perfect. Gavin rose on one knee and nocked an arrow to his bow. He pulled back the string and aimed along the shaft, right for the creature’s brain. One shot was what he needed. But the Bullypig’s ears shot straight.
Gavin held his breath. How in the Abyssal Queens had it perceived him? Bullypig’s weren’t known for their keen senses. They didn’t hear, see, or smell well. What they sensed were vibrations in the ground.
It stood there on its four legs, frozen. If it had perceived him, he’d have a hard time out maneuvering the great beast, and not being skewered by its massive tusks. But the animal’s ears lowered, and it continued to gobble away at the plant life.
He thanked the gods of the hunt and drew back his arrow once more. The bullypig didn’t even move its ears this time—it took off, top speed. Its hooves thundered across the next small hill.
Gavin lowered his bow. “Fetter!”
What had scared it away? He was sure it wasn’t him. He’d made no noise, or even moved from his spot. Gavin spat. Dinner was long gone now, and he’d never catch it or any other creature with the noise it was making, squealing and oinking. If Lavina hadn’t eaten the entire damn bag of rations.
The bullypig’s hooves went silent, and it screeched a scream of death.
“What the…?” Gavin rushed over the next hill to find the bullypig on its side with three huge gashes across its belly. Its innards were falling out as it thrashed and kicked, only pulling them further apart. He lifted his arrow and fired into its skull. The pig stopped moving. He didn’t want suffering, but what had caused it? And where had the culprit gone?
What Gavin didn’t see was the near-skeletal, humanoid corpse with long white hair. Bearing oversized vicious claws, it snuck up right behind him.
Angon tore his gaze away from the stars. Had he heard something? A creature? He guessed the Gavin must have caught something. He hoped he’d need not help kill it for them to eat. The forge winced at the thought of the poor thing although he couldn’t picture how it might look. He told himself that Gavin might put it out of its misery without hesitation.
Lavina was leaning up against Angon with her head in his lap. She mumbled something, he thought it might have been that name again, Daneel. Every time he heard mention of Daneel he became sad and had a tightness in his chest. It wasn’t the same sensation as at the mention of the goddess, but it was not a pleasant emotion.
A scream tore open the night. It was long and drawn out, and of pure terror. The forge jumped straight up, sending Lavina toppling backward off the stone.
“Ow!” She rubbed the back of her head. “There are nicer ways to wake a girl up, you know!”
But then she saw Angon’s serious stare. He looked worried, and ready to run.
“It’s the Gavin!” Angon didn’t give a moment’s hesitation. He charged across the plains in the direction their companion had gone. Lavina gave chase as fast as her small legs could carry her. The forge was much faster, and she ate his dust. She drew her magic rod from its hip-band.
Gavin held back the snapping maw of the vicious corpse. Its fangs were each as long as his thumbs and its eyes were alight with green balls of fire in dark pits, the telltale sign of most undead. The seasoned traveler realized it was a ghoul, a cursed creature that turned undead by eating the flesh of its closest loved one in life.
The putrid saliva dripped from the ghoul’s mouth and landed on his forearm, eating through his leather armor and burning into his skin. He cried and pushed hard on the creature’s jaw, trying to shut it before anymore of the gunk could seep out. The elf recognized he was in trouble. Ghoul’s never traveled alone. There was almost always another. Often the loved one the ghoul devoured became a ghoul, so he knew due to this one’s regal wedding clothes, that the bride was not far away either.
The feral undead reached out its claw and dug its nails into the defending elf’s cheek, just under his eye. It worked its tips lower, leaving three red gashes. Hot blood dripped from his chin.
With a loud crack, the Ghoul vanished, screeching as it flew. Gavin looked into Angon’s yellow eyes.
The forge offered his hand, but the stubborn elf smacked it away. “I was fine and had everything under control!”
Lavina appeared next to the forge, and grabbed Gavin by his shirt collar, tugging at him. “Get up, hurry!”
Angon tried to assess the scene the best he could, but as far as he knew this was his first real battle.
He spotted at least three other of the rotting creatures running over the hills in their direction.
Should he grab Lavina and the Gavin, then run? He’d lift them both with ease. Or was it better to fight even though the monsters outnumbered them? More appeared in the distance and as the next one popped its head over the hill Lavina aimed her rod. “Firebolt!”
The air sucked into the rod in a visible shower of sparks and then blasted outwards. A beam of fire, the length of Angon’s arm, fired right into the ghoul, leaving a smoldering hole in its chest. It stopped, looked at the wound and collapsed, but another replaced it.
Gavin was on his feet now, unleashing an arrow each time a monstrous creature popped over the slopes; a deadly archery game. But he’d soon be out of projectiles. Angon didn’t have a weapon—what could he do? He’d have to use his own body, but that was putting himself in danger; the center of at least half-a-dozen ghouls. He decided.
Angon took a step back and summoned his courage. He charged at such a speed the one and a half elves didn’t see him leave his spot beside them.
The mighty forge went straight for a ghoul dressed in a long white wedding gown. He pulled his fist and launched it into the unfortunate creature’s skull. The head shattered into fragments of bone.
A ghoul leaped onto Angon’s back and tried to sink its teeth into his steel shoulder blade. It screeched as its fangs snapped.
Angon reached over his shoulder and grabbed the ghoul, pushing it straight into the ground, and stomping on its head, ending its existence. Two more ghouls leaped at the forge, flanking him on each side. He couldn’t fend off both! A ball of lightning flew past, striking one ghoul, then bouncing over his head and blasting the other.
Angon looked to see Lavina standing with her legs spread apart, rod before her. She looked even more magnificent and fierce amid battle. The sorceress pulled the rod and the two ghouls flew high into the air.
“Lightning Bomb!” Both ghouls exploded as lightning bolts struck them from the sky.
Only a moment after the brilliant display another ghoul appeared behind Lavina. Angon saw this and grabbed a broken ghoul leg from the ground. He hurled the sharp end right at the sneaking enemy at the same time Gavin fired an arrow. Both projectiles hit the unsuspecting undead in the chest, sending it flying. It had to stay dead this time.
Another ghoul came at Angon and slashed its claws into the steel of his leg, leaving three long scratches. Angon roared and grabbed its head. As it flailed, he squeezed his massive fist and crushed its skull.
They stood in a triangle in case of more ghouls. But none did. So, they took a few moments to catch their breaths as the ghoul bodies crumbled into dust.
“Angon!” Lavina hopped from one foot to the other. “That was amazing! You ran into the middle of them!”
He liked the praise, but then the Gavin ruined it as he pulled an arrow from a pile of ghoul dust. “Reckless!”
Lavina gave a sly smile and poked his side. “You sound like you care about our new friend!”
Gavin’s brows creased “I do not care! I was pointing out a tactical mistake that could have gotten us killed!”
Angon smiled; the Gavin cared. A sudden jolt came from his leg and he cried out. It was not a comfortable sensation. He looked confused. “Why is it so horrid?”
Lavina gasped as she saw the gashing wound on his leg. She knelt beside him and examined it.
“Are you okay!?” She sounded worried, which didn’t make Angon better.
Silver liquid seeped from the deep scratches. Was this his blood? Wooziness flooded him for a moment but snapped out of it when Lavina’s fingers touched the wound. A jolt of electricity jumped into her digits and she screeched. She fell, her hair flying in each direction, and eyes darting back and forth in her head.
“Lavina!” Gavin grabbed her and held her tight. Before he examined her further, he turned to Angon with a baleful gaze and shouted. “Stay away from her! Can’t you see how dangerous you are?”
The forge’s jaw dropped. He had done nothing and didn’t understand. How was he bleeding. He had no flesh. No skin. No muscle. Wasn’t he steel? The anger within Angon simmered once more. He found the Gavin’s words unfair. But had he hurt Lavina? Was it his fault?
Angon had the urge to smash something. He wanted more ghouls to appear so he could punch, kick, and snap them into pieces. His fingers twitched, and his fists clamped closed. Gavin noticed this and stood, drawing his dagger from his boot.
“Do you want to fight? End this here and now?” Gavin slashed his blade before him.
No, Angon didn’t. He looked at Lavina, who still appeared stunned, her eyes half-open. He hadn’t meant to harm her. And didn’t want to hurt the Gavin either. But he needed to hurt something.
Angon lifted his head to the sky and roared. He let out pain, confusion and sadness; pent-up emotions he didn’t even know he had, or understood. And as he did, he noticed tingling flowing through his arms and legs; he felt a new strength emerge from his being. It felt good, no, it felt amazing!
The forge roared again and extended his arms, flexing every coiled muscle. The elf’s eyes widened, and he stepped away. Within, Angon’s thoughts became hazy. He glared at the pair, not recognizing them. But the puny elf with the dagger; he was a threat. The forge’s hand shot out and grasped its wrist and squeezed.
The blade fell away, and the elf cried. “You’re crushing my arm!”
But Angon didn’t know why he should care.