A portion of “Nightwalkers” by Holger of Enghor. ‘Tis one of the many works in Oberon’s vast library. I recall a day long ago when I read this piece for the first time. All I can say is that it truly stuck with me throughout my travels. I shall never forget the day in which I first encountered a feranox.
…At that moment, a new world revealed itself to us. We exited the Weitwood Forest in near pitch darkness; there was nothing but the light of Caelus to lead the way. I could hardly believe it; there I stood, little ol’ Holger from Enghor, at the base of the Eastern Mountains with Rüdiger and Anton on either side of me, and Otto pullin’ up the rear. After days of exploration eastward, we had finally reached our destination. These mountains stood remarkably taller than those back in Enghor, with much more jagged cliffs and steep drop-offs above. Unbeknownst to us what lie ahead, we journeyed on.
It was not so long after our departure from the forest that I heard the noises that still haunt my dreams to this day. Shrill squeals and hisses rang out around us. The sounds closed in, faster and faster, and all I remember before the onslaught was what Rüdiger yelled. It was the one word that changed my life forever, “Nightwalkers!”
They jumped down from the trees, bolted from foliage, and crawled out of caves in the cliff-side. They were next to impossible to differentiate from the darkness of the night, but I drew my old man’s sword and managed to behead the first one to reach my position. Otto had his bow drawn, and the zipping sound of arrows flew by, followed by thuds as the arrows took out a few nightwalkers closing in from the front. Anton and Rüdiger peeled off of their positions beside me, Anton with his two swords and Rüdiger with his axe.
From the corner of my eye, I watched as Rüdiger was gradually engulfed by the foul beasts. He swung and hacked at their soulless bodies, but their jet black claws tore apart his armor and ripped into his flesh. My closest friend was being mutilated beside me, but there was nothing I could do, for I found myself bogged down as I held off what must have been at least four nightwalkers. I was forced to fend for myself whilst listening to his screams of utter agony. I grew enraged, but was left helpless as even more nightwalkers flooded onto the scene with the scent of fresh blood in the air.
I saw Otto dashing forward, trying desperately to load an arrow whilst running at top speed, but it was too late for him as well, for the possessed creatures easily caught up to him and brought him to the ground. I refocused my attention and cut down yet another beast, spilling his tar-like blood onto the foreign ground. When I looked back, bloodied limbs were being tossed around, and the carcass of my cousin Otto was quickly devoured. I have no words to describe how I felt at the sight.
Anton and I reared toward each other and stood back to back. He was drenched in a mixture of sweat and nightwalker blood, as was I. Our only hope was for the sun to peak over the top of the mountains, but with upwards of fifteen beasts closing in on us, all hope seemed to be lost. I told Anton, I said, “Looks like the end, pal. It has been an honor to be your friend.”
That’s when he spun me around to face the forest. He showed me the shadows of the mountains slowly retreating from the trees. He simply stated, “If we can hold them off for but a moment longer, we can get outta here.”
“Right.” I remember saying. I turned back around as a group of savages turned in my direction after finishing off Otto’s remains. His blood stained the faces and bodies of the horrid beasts, and it was then that I knew I wasn’t going down. As long as Anton had my rear, and I his, we could get out alive. I would not let my companions die in vain.
From behind, I heard what could only be described as a warrior’s yell from Anton, and I joined in harmony while charging forward. My blade quickly found its way into the belly of a damned nightwalker and, as I pulled out my blood soaked sword, I swung it upward to meet the face of another charging toward me. As it fell, I cut down the next two with ease and had a brief moment to check on Anton. I could see him blocking claws and slicing torsos with his dual-welt swords. The steady thuds of iron on bone, accompanied by our enemies’ cries of death, were satisfying sounds. My satisfaction was short-lived, though, for I was forced to turn back around and welcome another three nightwalkers. I kicked the first on its back, spun to slice the torso of the second, decapitated the third, and impaled the first as it sprung back up at me all in a single, fluent motion. My years of training were paying dividends.
As the beasts’ black blood rained down upon me, I turned to help my friend and was met with a worrisome sight. As I turned, a nightwalker jumped from the back of a fellow beast getting impaled below, and tackled Anton to the ground. Anton was unable to withdraw his right-hand sword from the nightwalker he had gutted and, as he fell, attempted to swing across his body with his left-hand blade. It was too late. I sprinted over as fast as I could, but the nightwalker ripped his face in two and plunged its free claws into his neck. The involuntary, bodily sounds alone were more than I could bear, and what came next continues to plague my thoughts from time to time, even more so now as I recall it. The nightwalker reached its thin, leathery arm down Anton’s neck from the gash in his face, felt around for a moment, and slowly pulled out his heart through what was left of his mouth. I closed my eyes in horror as the heart continued to beat furiously in the claws of the beast.
From my world of darkness, I could hear the sounds of fangs sinking into the fleshy ball. I knew my time on Friedünn would soon come to an end as well. I fell to my knees on the unforgiving ground and dropped my sword in despair, and, not a moment later, the nearly one dozen remaining nightwalkers turned their foul heads in my direction as my sword rang out. They charged toward me, but, at this point, I welcomed their onslaught. I could bear the thought of my friends no longer. As they closed in, I clenched my eyes shut and gritted my teeth.
I could hear them coming, but as quickly as the sounds had neared, they stopped, and I felt a warm sensation creep up my spine. Was this death? No. I opened my eyes to see the nightwalkers retreating. The sun had come at last, but, in my eyes, it was a moment too soon. It did not save me; it tormented me, for its rays illuminated what remained of my fallen comrades and left me as the sole witness to their gruesome demise. I buried my face in my palms and wept as hard as a newborn weeps upon birth. The thoughts that then flooded my mind frighten me. They were not necessarily appalling at the time, but, thinking back, I recall thoughts of suicide. I remember looking intently upon my blackened sword lying silently by my side. The light of the sun reflected off of any metal that had not been doused in blood, and I considered, for a long moment, ending my suffering right then and there. Alas, the outcome is obvious, for you would not be reading my story now if I had gone through with it. Even still, I remained trapped at the base of the mountains alone, helpless, weak, and afraid. Those next few hours were by far my longest. As the sun rose high in the sky, the stench of death became too great to bear, and I knew I must move on. I did what I could to honor my fallen companions, but it wasn’t much. After what seemed like an eternity, I reentered the Weitwood Forest by myself and began the daunting journey back to Enghor as such…