Chapter 5: Lurking Darkness

When Jim woke Marie for her watch everything came flooding back. The temple, the fight with the frog, and the disappearance of Bender and Diarus. She picked her way through the sleeping bodies, careful not to step on anyone. So far, their journey had been silent. Despite the battle with the frog and their odd meeting, Marie couldn’t help but feel something worse was on the way.

Stretching her limbs for a bit, Marie wandered down the path, back to the main room. She extended her torch in front of her, nimbly leaping over Bender’s spike trap. She gazed around the dark places until her eyes caught something glinting where Jim had fallen earlier. There was something there. Something watching her. She could see its face closely and she immediately recognized its expression. It wanted her dead.

nixfollower1

It began snaking up the side of the wall until it stood where the golden frog once had. Marie placed the torch aside and held out her morning star. It hissed and Marie realized that the other were sound asleep, should she fail to drive it away they’d be attacked. Besides, it’d be much easier to destroy it with the help of her companions.

“Jim!” she shouted, knowing he’d be the most awake of anyone. With that she rushed forward, barreling down upon the creature.

Jim opened his eyes wide. Some female voice had yelled for him to come, who was it? He remembered Marie and jumped to his feet. Around him, Adalos and Haro had already heard her cry. He roused Chrom and took off down the tunnel. A lone torch illuminated the scene. A misshapen black being flickering through the shadows and leering at Marie. With a mighty war cry, Jim rushed in. His companions followed suit and they bared down at the creature.

It hissed and clawed at them, striking Haro across the chest. Unphased, the halfling rose to her feet and began hacking at it with her rapier. It was quick, but the soon had is surrounded. It’s attempts to destroy them grew more feeble as the party refused to relent. Adalos, rushed forward and hit it with a mighty blow. The being exploded into what seemed like black snowflakes.

“What on earth was that?” Adalos asked.

“I’m guessing it’s part of the evil that attacked this place,” Marie said, searching through the ash like substance that had settled finely onto the floor. Her hand found what she was looking for an orb she’d seen the creature carrying. nix orb

“What’d you find?” Haro asked.

“I’m not sure,” Marie turned the orb over and ran her hands along the runes etched in them. She knew what it meant and it made her wary.

“Let me see,” Adalos said. Marie shrugged and handed it to him. As soon as he saw the runes, he recoiled dropping it. Marie picked it up and stared at him quizzically.

“We have to get rid of that!” Adalos insisted, he’d paled looking at the thing. “It’s evil!” he insisted.

“It’s a stone with runes on it,” Marie retorted.

“Do you know what those runes mean?” Adalos asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Then get rid of it!” Adalos cried.

“I don’t understand,” Haro butted it, “what does it mean?”

“Y-yes,” Jim agreed, “we won’t know what to do with it if we don’t know what it means.”

“Ask her,” Adalos pointed accusingly at Marie, “I don’t think she actually knows.”

“I know more than you,” Marie returned angrily.

“What do you know of the god of death?” Adalos scoffed.

“I know plenty of Nix,” she said through clenched teeth, “now quit throwing a fit and leave me alone.”

“Abrasive laughter filled the air causing the tension to triple. They turned to see a halfling, the exact likeness of Haro, staring down at them from the staircase entrance to the dungeon. In her hand she wielded a blue rapier that she was twirling with ease.

“Who are you?” Haro asked, confusion plain. Evil Haro

“I’ve come to kill you,” the figure said, smiling cruelly. She lunged forward, lashing out a Haro. The whole party sprung into action. Immediately Jim made his way between Haro and her attacker. The doppelgänger easily sidestepped Jim’s blow with his broadsword. Nimbly, she walked up the blade, swiping at Jim’s face with her rapier. It clinked off his armor, but it didn’t matter. The evil Haro had made her way to her quarry.

Haro moved out of the way as the figure swiped at her. Adalos and Marie took up positions behind the evil one and began throwing whatever they could at her. Nothing landed, the small creature was much too agile. Her rapier reached up and cut Haro’s arm. Jim tried again to reach in, but the halfling pushed him back causing him to stumble onto his back.

Chrom sent a fireball her way. Without even a sweat, the halfling twirled her sword and the fire disappeared leaving only a few strand of her hair singed. Marie looked closely and saw it. A mark she recognized. She understood who they were up against and they weren’t going to win this fight. Their only option was to run. She heaved Jim up and pushed him toward the path they hadn’t tried yet. Understanding, Jim grabbed hold of Adalos and dashed away. Chrom was close at his heels, lighting the way with his staff.

“Already running?” the evil halfling sneered.

Another light erupted in the room, it blinded the halfling just long enough. Marie grabbed Haro, dragging her along. In such a small time so much damage had been inflicted. Haro was blinking in and out of unconsciousness. Their only hope was losing the other Haro somewhere in the dungeon.

“Let them go for now,” Marie heard a voice that sent shiver down her spine, “I have another task for you now.” He was here. She had to hide.

“Fine!” the other Haro shouted angrily. Then she was gone. Hopefully her dubious master with her. Marie set Haro down, her dark blood was seeping through her clothes. Unconsciousness had finally caught her.

“Jim,” Marie called faintly. She was out of breath and there was no use in running further anymore. The clatter of footsteps and the eery light from Chrom’s staff brough their companions back.

“Stand back,” Jim instructed, his voice not sounding unsure for once, “I’ll heal her.”

The party stood back and waited while Jim worked.

“What was that? A magical trick?” Adalos asked.

“That was no magic,” Chrom muttered, rubbing his temples in frustration.

“So she was real? She looked just like Haro,” Adalos grumbled, “And why has she stopped chasing us?”

Marie shrugged, she didn’t want to talk about it. Jim had finished bandaging Haro and he stood up, “The bleeding’s stopped. She’s not bad off, but she’s fallen unconscious.”

“We have to keep going,” Chrom said, “I don’t think staying here is a good idea anymore.”

“And Haro?” Marie asked.

“I’ll carry her,” Jim offered.

“Let’s get out of here,” Adalos agreed. They marched onward, into the dark.

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