Yes, I was the one who bought it. The reasoning was knowledge. I wasn’t trying it out just to try it. Mien was the only one who understood my reasoning. A neth’s reaction to it is intense. We are allergic to it on top of it messing with your head. I wanted to know what it was, how it smelled, how it tasted, and what it did. Sure, I was told. But you don’t know when something is wet until you feel it. I didn’t know what it even looked like until I brought that packet. It was something I needed to know. Like studying an opponent. Everyone else, on the other hand, took it as some sign that I wasn’t coming to terms with myself. I mean, sure, I hadn’t fully accepted that part of me. However, I wasn’t trying to change that about myself. As broken as I felt at that time, I didn’t want to change it.
Mien had only heard stories about husks. And he was told, every single time, he didn’t want to see one. Because if he did, that met someone was going to die. They were the most dangerous drass beasts out there. In fact, one might not even call it a drass beast. They were something else entirely.
There were many stories that suggested what they were. However, only one the order claimed was true. That husk were the corrupted dead bodies of the kanu people. The reasoning was if you were held by a husk for too long, the corruption they held would kill you and use your body. There were no souls in a husk. Just a corrupted body immortal until burned. The only positive thing about them was that they were rare. The drass wall was excellent at keeping them at bay. However, a few managed to sneak through and a single husk could wipe out an entire town corrupting them. The only way to stop the spread was to burn the original and kill whomever it touched. And to do that, one had to trap the thing. And the only way to do that was not to take your eyes off of it. From what Mien understood, it was difficult. They toyed with the mind.
“All the signs were here of a husk,” said Soletus with his gaze fixed ahead of them. “A burned town, a mass grave, and tao stone everywhere.”
“Why don’t we get on our horses and run,” suggested Tyrus.
“We can’t,” said Soletus, becoming a statue with only his mouth moving. “We turn our backs to it; it’ll follow us.”
“But it’s a mile away.”
“Husks travel very fast. As long as you stare it, they travel at a crawl towards you.”
“Then we’ll kill it. We’ve tao stone weapons,” returned Tyrus, pointing to his spear head.
“We can’t. You should know that.”
The half-elf then scratched his jaw. “Well, uh, let’s say you need to refresh my memory on why that is.”
“Tao stone doesn’t affect them,” cut in Doran. “Black steel corrodes when it hits whatever aura is around them.”
Soletus nodded. “So, I can’t do anything with my lunge daggers, and you can’t touch them with your spear.”
Tyrus glanced over at the thin figure easing towards them again and said with nervousness rising in his voice. “What’s about using my three stars to trip it up to give us time or use my lasso to tie it?”
“Can’t trip what doesn’t walk,” returned Soletus, rubbing the bracer covering the scar over his left forearm.
“Then how is it going to follow us,” he exclaimed.
“The damn thing levitates off the ground and appears out of thin air,” exclaimed Soletus, losing his patience. “The most we got for that is our eyes, your lasso, and Mien.”
Mien’s attention fixed on his friend and pointed to himself. “I’m included in this because…?
“Weapons have no use here. The only way to get rid of a husk is to burn it.”
“I’m not at full strength,” he said.
“You can make an orb of light hot enough to burn it, yes?”
“There are no buts about this,” said Soletus, sharply. “We. Have. To. Kill. it. We can’t leave and we can’t let it get anyone.”
Mien’s stomach twisted. “How do you suppose we make that happen?”
“We lure it here,” said Soletus. “Tyrus, I need you to lasso the thing to hold it in place. I mean, once it’s here, it can’t move fast because we will by all looking at it, but I’ve been told looking at one gets more difficult the closer it gets and the longer you do it. Can you do that?”
“Yeah,” he said with his voice an octave higher. “No pressure. Just do what I trained to do perfectly. No do overs, no Pace to help. Just lasso some undead thing all skilled like.”
Soletus started sweating. “Doran, I need you to hide somewhere out of sight close by. If it touches me, I want you to shoot me.”
Doran became appalled with his jaw sagging. He swayed his head slow at first, then sped up rapidly. “No. No! I’m not killing you.”
“Then pray that Tyrus doesn’t miss and Mien is quick.”
“Why are you being so quick to die,” Doran demanded.
“I’m not,” he said and let out a nervous chuckled. “I’m doing the most logical thing here as a grappler. We can’t let it spread it’s corruption.”
Tyrus cursed under his breath as he gathered his lasso.
Mien’s attention sat on the disturbing figure in the distance. The compulsion to burn a drass beast started to grow inside him. He could feel the warmth of a light globe in his hands. The phrase hanging on the tip of his tongue. The older he got, the more compelled he got to destroy them. This was the strongest he had ever felt it. Drass beasts were nothing that deserved mercy.
They were born out of the folly of the ancient kanu and their vast civilization of magical technology. All that they discovered as had wasn’t enough. They wanted the power of Dias in order to cheat death. To become immortal. They created something known as The Engine. It was a trick whispered by the Maw to introduce corruption into the world. Chanters became one of the few ways to combat it. He couldn’t say no to this and back down. He then felt his magical heart flaring up.
“I can do this,” he said, more to himself and then heard the phrase of protection in his mind’s ear. This had to be a part of his edict.
Tyrus looked at him. “The lights are really burning now.”
“You can,” asked Soletus, still with his gaze fixed ahead.
Soletus smiled a bit. “Okay. We need to set-up. We are between buildings correct?"
Doran nodded. “Yes.”
“I need you and Tyrus on the opposite side and protected by something. I want you two hidden.”
“There isn’t anything on Tyrus’s side,” said Doran. “However, there’s a wall I can crouch down at and shoot from. But, my arm isn’t fully healed yet.”
“You’ve enough for a shot or two. If it hurts, Mien can tend to it after this,” said Soletus. “Tyrus reposition your horse so you can hide behind it. Don’t look at it. Same with you, Doran.”
Concern etched Tyrus’ brow. There were beads of sweat on Soletus’ brow. “You’ve been staring at that thing this entire time. Sure, you don’t need help.”
“I’m the grappler,” Soletus reminded him. “I need to be in control of this beastie. If one of us is looking at it, then it’ll come closer, quicker.”
“Do you have enough nerves for that,” he asked.
“Do you,” he said still fixed ahead.
“Tits no, but wouldn’t,” he pointed to Mien. “Be better for this?”
That was true.
“Yes, but I can’t move. It won’t let me move,” said Soletus.
Mien’s stomach sank. The seriousness of their situation was made even stronger. If he couldn’t move, he couldn’t get away from the husk if it reached him.
“It might be all in my mind, but we don’t have time for me to work through it. So it is what it is. Mien, go where Doran is at.”
Mien looked to where the young man had indicated. The spot was nearly twenty feet from where Soletus was standing. It was close enough.
“The sooner we kill it dead, the sooner we can leave.”
The three of them settled into position.
“I’m going to close my eyes,” explained the young monk, gulping. “I’m just shut them for one second and see how close it gets in just that time. But be ready.”
Mien didn’t like it, but stood beside the Doran ready to act. The young man had his bow in hand and an arrow notched and raised it.
“I’m ready,” he said with his voice wobbling. His right arm trembling.
“I’m ready,” said Tyrus.
“Go ahead,” said Mien and the young chanter saw him shut his eyes and say, “One,” aloud and opened them. He clinched his fists.
“It’s closer. Not close enough. I’m going to try two,” he said. His eyelids went down and in the count of two, Mien felt a tendril of cold touched his mind. There was a timbre off of the husk. It didn’t sing, ring, buzz, or chime with warmth. Instead, there was something scathing about it. It crackled and hissed all at the same time. It was unlike anything he heard in the natural world. Whatever it was, he didn’t like it. He watched Soletus take a step back.
“Have faith in Dias, hear his voice and he’ll show you his love and offer his protection. Do these things and evil won’t harm you,” muttered Soletus and the blood drained from his face.
“Is it closer,” asked Tyrus.
“A lot closer,” he said, with the cords in his neck bulging.
Mien heard something dragging across the ground.
“Going to close your eyes again,” asked Tyrus.
Soletus swayed his head. His body rattled as if a deep winters chill enveloped him. When he spoke, even his voice shook. “I’m drawing it to you. It’ll be in you field of view soon.”
Tyrus caught sight of it first and the blood drained from his face. When Mien caught sight of it, he felt every hair on his body rise. Calling it a husk was accurate. It was nothing more than skin on a skeleton, dried, cracked, and veined with purple. Its eyes weren’t white but dark empty voids that looked at nothing but look at everything. Mien could feel it’s presences in his mind as if it’s physical one wasn’t enough.
The sight of hovering in the with only its toes touching the ground. It could’ve looked like someone’s morbid trick of suspended mummified body if it wasn’t for the dusky purple aura of smoke surrounding its body. Tendrils of it lashed out towards Soletus. Mien gaped at the thing in front of him in shock.
The husk stopped suddenly and in a blink of an eye, it turned its entire body towards Tyrus instead. Soletus stubble backwards suddenly. Whatever held him has snapped, and he crumbled to his knees. Horror grew on the half-elf’s face and the lasso slipped from his fingers. He backed away from it, shaking his head saying, “No, no, no.”
He took his eyes off of it and dropped to the ground in a ball. Mien recovered himself and the phrase of protection spilled out of his mouth. A golden filmed surrounded him like a soap bubble just in time as the husk hand reach for him. The bubbled cut off its wrists and smoldering hand fell on the ground. Smoke rose from it’s stump and the husk let out a hollow hiss. Doran raised his bow and released an arrow, hitting it the right eye socket. It was unfazed.
Mien help his position, the husks crackled in his mind, he kept it at bay closing off whatever channel it was using. He could feel it scapping against his protections. And instead of scaring him, it made him disgusted and angry. He chanted up a globe of light and tossed it at the husk’s chests. He couldn’t will the globe to explode, he hadn’t recovered enough of himself to do it. However, he could hold it there and push it against the husk. In response, it started to float backwards.
“Oh no you don’t,” snarled Mien and forced the globe of light against the husk until it was against the shield where Tyrus was curled under the shield.
The shield of light caused the back of its legs to smolder. The globe at its chest started to smoke and Mien willed the light as hot as he could make it until heat combusted into flames. The light sunk into the husk’s chest cavity where all at once the corrupted monstrosity flashed into flames and consumed. It collapsed down into a heap of soot and ash.
Mien felt its presence no more and his knees became weak, but he managed to still stand. The waved the shield over Tyrus away. The half-elf jumped up and shook himself as if he willies and danced around with his eyes wide to the remains of the husk. He looked scared enough to bolt.
Soletus righted himself and took hold of him and held him. “It’s dead now,” he said. “It’s dead.” And then his knees buckled.
Tyrus gripped him, keeping them both upright.
Soletus coughed like he was going to be sick. Then stopped. He gulped hard and straightened up and ordered, “Move out!”
Doran and Tyrus scrambled to their horses. Mien reached for the one that he was riding and offered it to Soletus. He took it, got on the saddle, and scooted forward. He held his hand for him to get on as well. The four of them dove into the forest, traveling north. The entire time, Mien could feel his friend shudder every-of-often and his posture became more and more slump. He was only using his right hand to hold the reins of his horse. His left was held close to him.
“Are you okay,” Mien whispered.
“No,” he growled and said nothing else.
His left arm had to be hurting him. There was nothing Mien could do. Lionel was the one who could ease pain and he would’ve done everything to have the young tod with him. Soletus didn’t have long before he couldn’t travel anymore. He was surprised they managed travel at least two miles before he let out a groan and pulled the horse to an abrupt stop.
“Get off,” he told Mien.
The young chanter slid off and Soletus jumped off the horse. He rushed toward a small tree and started heaving. There was nothing in his stomach to come up, so he slid down on his knees, coughing.
Tyrus and Doran dismounted and rushed towards him but hung back with Mien. Tyrus nudged him forward with his elbow.
“Give him a minute,” mouthed Mien. He had seen this before when he was doing his training with Ealdred. He was still intolerant of drass beasts. Normally an elf who was wouldn’t dare get near one. There was a fear instilled in them after being poisoned. However, Soletus fought it. But the husk didn’t have venom. But it possessed a huge concentration of corruption. So much so, that it was visible. Neither him nor Kiao had never given thought to how that would affect the young monk.
“Sol,” he called, taking a step forward.
The young monk rose to his feet with the aid of the tree. He turned around and wiped the sweat off his brow before he crumpled to the ground.
“Sol,” cried Mien and slid to the ground beside him. “Soletus.” He called again, this time slapping his cheeks. “Dammit Sol, wake up,” he said, forcing his voice at him. The young monk head rolled limply to the side.
Mien felt his neck and felt his artery pulsing under his fingers. His pulse was fast. He pulled one of his eyelids up and was met with white.
“We need to get him up,” he said and wiped his palm on his trousers. ”And find some place safer than this preferable near water.
Doran ran for his horse. Tyrus lifted Soletus up grunting the entire time until he positioned him across his shoulders.
“Titfire, this lad…” he said between his teeth. With Mien’s help, they slung him to the back of the horse he had been on. Mien made sure he wasn’t going to fall.
Doran wordlessly got to his horse and hurried away. It didn’t take long for him to come back and told them to follow him. He found them a spot by a shallow fast moving stream. Soletus hadn’t regained consciousness when they settled down, instead he gained a fever. Mien had to unwind his sash from his waist so he could take off his jerkin but left his shirt on. While he did that, Doran and Tyrus pulled up the tarp and started a large fire so they could see all around them when night fell.
“I thought he was cured of this,” said Doran, feeding their fire.
“He wasn’t cured as much as he strengthened his resistance to drass beasts,” Mien explained. “However, the corruption from a husk appears to be different.”
Tyrus cursed under his breath. “It got into my head, making me thinks stuff— and I…” he trailed off.
Mien nodded. “I know. I felt it in my mind too. I blocked it, but it was really insistent.”
Soletus then let out a whimper. His eyes cracked.
The young chanter slapped his cheek gently.
“Come on! Fight this, wake up.”
Soletus raised a hand up and pushed his hand down. His eyelids fully parted revealing two dark glassy orbs. Even with deepening shadows, his pupils were far too large.
“Sol,” said Mien and picked up a tin mug of water mixed with an herbal powder that Kiao gave him just in case Soletus was bitten by another venomous drass beast. ”I don’t know if this will work, but it could help.
The young monk shook his head and held his left forearm tightly. His only words was a weak cry of pain.
“What do we do,” spoke Tyrus.
“Get me a cloth soaked in water,” he requested. Tyrus handed him one and Mien placed it on his friends forehead. Soletus stared up towards the tarp, looking dazed.
Mien presented the mug again. “I really need you to drink this. There is pain relief mixed in.”
Soletus gaze shifted meeting his. “No, I don’t want to take it,” he said hoarsely.
“You need too.”
Soletus shut his eyes. “I won’t be able to hold it down.”
“Ya don’t know if ya don’t try,” said Tyrus, shuffling from his spot and rested close to Soletus’s side. He touched the side of his knew. “You need something because you feel like a hot brand right now.”
Soletus clenched his teeth. Pain attached him again.
“Tyrus, get him up,” said Mien and Soletus flayed his good arm around to keep them back. “It’s going to continue with this until it stops and that might take hours.”
Soletus’ arm dropped. His jaw muscles slacked and then he pushed himself upright. He caught the cloth that feel from his forehead and reached out for the mug.
Tyrus handed it too him and he gulped it down. Some laid down and muttered, “Let’s not do that again.”
“We shouldn’t’ve come this way,” lamented Doran.
“And I’m in favor of not going back,” said Tyrus.
“I’m in favor of Doran scouting ahead tomorrow and find a road. Any road,” said Soletus.
“Okay,” Doran listening.
“Roads lead to people. And people mean supplies. And places to rest safely. I need it,” he said, his face twisted from pain. “Once you find something, we can make towards that direction.”
“Can you even travel,” asked Doran.
Soletus’ face relaxed as well as his entire body. He passed out.
“We’ll see by tomorrow,” Mien answered. “Don’t count on it. This takes a lot out of him.”
It could possibly take days for Soletus to recover. A set back that made it clear that they weren’t going to make it back before Kellas.
Sorry for the late post. I forgot it's Thanksgiving week and I've been busy. So there isn't going to be a chapter this Thursday. I'll see if I can finish it this weekend.
Well, there is a lot of inspiration here. If husks sound familiar, they are inspired by the weeping angels from Doctor Who. You can thank my husband for that. And they are a lot more terrifying. Well, I used to think weeping angels were terrifying until they were essentially used too much.
As for Drass Tarn, well, think of The Engine(which didn't have a name until this year for reasons) as Chernobyl Power Station. Think of what happened was a magical meltdown. The core of the engine exploded and opened a way to the Maw so it could spew out corruption. Corrupting what used to be Dias' most loyal race.
At this moment, the engine is no longer running. It hasn't been for many centuries. The hole closed up and what the elves are dealing with is just the aftermath. So this world is kind of post-apocalypse. Because everyone had some degree of magical technology. Kaun had the most. Their advance would spread to the Fen elves. The Dyne elves are anti-tech. Humans were the least advanced, with Giants who don't really care for it. Most magical tech stopped working after this event, and this world hasn't been able to regain it for reasons.