Dark Land
Dark Land – Part 1 [Preview]

Dark Land – Part 1 [Preview]

Dark Land
Part 1 – A Cut in the Mist

(Dark Fantasy / Horror novella)

On the shore of the Mist River there’s a dangerous city, where eerie creatures roam at night and corpses return from the grave. A rip in the fabric of reality marks the border with the netherworld – The Dark Land, as it’s called by the Knights of Dusk, whose duty is to protect the city and its people with weapons and rituals.

Asher was one of them, before his fateful encounter with a Daughter of Darkness shook his world and caused him to go rogue.

But when you’ve sworn an oath, you can’t get rid of your legacy so easily. The city still needs him. There’s a new creature creeping around with a long serpent tail and a thirst for blood, and the necromancers are looking for Asher too.

A dangerous journey awaits him.

Will he be ready to face the realm of death?

But most of all, will he be ready to learn the truth behind his most painful loss?

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The gate of the cemetery was swinging in the wind, battered and twisted like the sticky branches of dead autumn trees. The rusty hinges squeaked a spooky melody.

Asher had to make his way through the brown shrubs that trapped his legs like skeletal hands. He freed himself kicking, and felt the heavy amulet that hung from his neck slam against his chest, as to impress on his skin the mark of the six-petals flower enclosed by a circle, a symbol of protection against danger – a gift from her.

Within two steps, he regained his balance. He brushed a tuft of black hair off his forehead. He adjusted the strap of the small crossbow on his right shoulder, and stroked the hilt of the single-edged falchion on his left side. Then he gazed deep into the slight white mist that covered the surroundings like a haze.

It was a gray day. Gray was the cloudy sky, gray the rusty railing that surrounded the cemetery, gray the tombstones scattered on the ground. The air was cold and damp. Everything was dead and silent, except for the gate that kept swinging and repeating his shrill note.

At the center of the lot stood an old mausoleum, probably belonging to a noble family that had moved away after a change of dynasty. The name of the owners was half-canceled by the erosion of time.

Asher passed by the statue of an angel, whose head had fallen and lay nearby, among the rotting leaves, covered with withered shrubs.

That kind of gloomy places had become for him somehow familiar. Better go hunting for necromancers by himself, rather than them finding him, in a place crowded with innocent people. Besides, this time it was personal.

He slowly approached the mausoleum, a stone construction about seven feet tall, wide enough to let in a couple of coffins. The heavy bronze door, wrought with a leaf pattern, was slightly open.

Asher tilted his head, to better see through the darkness inside. The daylight, seeping into the dusty room, only gave him a glimpse of a stone sepulcher, whose cover was broken by a big crack and removed from its place, so that half was lying on the floor.

It wasn’t a good sign.

He put his hand on the cold metal and pushed to fully open the door, which resisted with an annoying squeal.

Asher squinted, and when he opened his eyes again, he found one of them in front of him.

A possessed.

He jumped backward, startled. He tripped over stone debris and fell to the ground.

The creature rushed on him.

A puff of dust rose from the ragged clothes that covered what was left of its body. After a few hundred years locked up in a sarcophagus, it was reduced to nothing but dry bones, held together only by the spiritual energy that had taken possession of its remains.

Asher found a grinning skull a few inches from his face. Skeletal hands with sharp fingers craved for his jugular.

He somehow managed to shield himself with his forearm and pushed the creature away, rolling to the right and regaining the space to stand up.

The body collapsed to the ground, and the bones collided with each other, resounding like a macabre instrument, but it immediately stood up, emitting a resentful hiss, ready to attack him again.

Asher reached for his belt and drew his falchion.

While the possessed body pounced on him, with its hands outstretched, Asher moved to the side, raised his arm, and swung the blade, beheading it.

The skull, sprinkled with sparse hair like spider webs, rolled on the ground, while the rest of the body collapsed on itself, falling apart.

Asher rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand, wiping away the cold sweat, then put the falchion back in its sheath, watching around to see if something else was lying in wait, ready to attack.

He was not at all sure that a beheading was enough to stop a body made of bones. In fact, until a few minutes before, he wouldn’t even have believed that it was possible to take control of a body in such a state of decay. The idea made him shiver.

He rummaged in his bag and pulled out a bottle of blessed oil. He poured it all on the remains and then used his tinderbox to start the fire, giving eternal rest to those miserable bones.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

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