Dire Forest, of all the terrible places to be lost and alone, this was surely the worst. Of course I had heard the tales, that all who had entered had never returned, as well its infamous reputation as the place where all evil was said to originate.
Despite this, I simply has to enter, although I am slowly forgetting why. It must be the influence of this infernal place! Nevertheless, I will surely know what I have came for, when my eyes glance upon it. Presently, I continue upon my nebulous and twisting path, the blackened and seemingly lifeless trees seem to lean ever inward, plunging the already unnerving place into eldritch shadow.
I eventually come upon a small, gray stream. However, I know not to drink the water in this foul place, nor to eat of any of the fruits, no matter what beguiling aroma they give off. To do so is essentially a death sentence, as a demonic virus will turn anyone foolhardy enough to taste the resources of the forest, into one the living dead.
The process is both excruciatingly painful, and incurable; the only way to purge the disease being the complete and fiery immolation of the host, or purification through silver weaponry, both methods proving fatal, of course. Nonetheless, I continue to forge ahead, the almost inaudible crunching of dead leaves underfoot my only companion in the accursed place.
A bit further on, I see another temptation set up by this place to trick anyone brave enough to make it this far. A small, glowing, yellow gaseous ball of light floats just off my path, to beckon me off the path, and to my certain demise. I had heard of these tempters, little demons called will-o-the-wisps, that attempted to lure travelers off the beaten path, and to a bottomless bog, or inescapable quicksand. Regardless, I knew to ignore these terrible creatures, lest their powers of allure overwhelm me, and eventually they give up on me.
I walk for a good distance without incident, and stop in a large clearing. Just when I was beginning to believe that the forest had no more tricks up its sleeve; I see something that stops me dead in my tracks. Assembled a little less than 100 meters away are approximately 10 undead abominations. Some of them were in a greater state of decay than others, these being the ones with little more gleaming bone remaining, the skins and muscle having atrophied long ago.
Others had more flesh and sinew intact, although all of them can be deadly to the unprepared traveler. I realize then that I’m going to have to fight to survive, so I draw my two pure silver short-blades out of their sheathes. The foul creatures take notice immediately, and begin hissing malevolently.
can sense the cleansing power of silver, and know it can put an end to them. They too, drew weapons, but theirs are blades soaked in blood of the slaughter of many. They also bear demonic powers, as evidenced by the pulsing, dark red aura surrounding their rusted blades. I knew not from whence they obtained these weapons, only that they were supremely evil relics of a bygone era and war.
As I would expect from a mindless adversary, they all begin lumbering in my direction. Without hesitation, I plunge my right blade into the upper torso of the first undead, this one having more skin than most. The result is immediate, the creature begins screaming in ever-increasing pitch, shock-waves rolling through its disgusting body, until naught but black ashes are left. Despite my small triumph, the other creatures remain unfazed, and continue to attack relentlessly.
I continue to fight in a flurry of limbs and blades, until only two remain, the duo looking decidedly skeleton-like. The pair lunge upon me at once, and I skewer the head of the first, and cleave the second in two. I do not escape unscathed, however as I receive a large laceration on my left forearm. Even worse, the wound burns far worse than it should, and I know I absolutely have to find what I came her quickly, lest I perish here, or join the legions of the undead.
Luckily, the Dire Forest seems to have exhausted its resources against me, and I finally reach the place, where the object I am after is enshrined. Lost memories pour into my mind, as I glance upon it, and I remembered everything that I had forgotten since entering this accursed place. I had come here to protect one of the last vestiges of human civilization left in this broken and scarred world.
Ever since the undead appeared seemingly out of nowhere, the world slid steadily on the path to destruction, with the undead greatly outnumbering the human population at present. I was chosen as the last hope to defend the city known as Excelsior, even if few other bastions of human population existed elsewhere, these were little more than ruins, and ours was always considered the strongest and best fortified; even if they are in great need of help now.
Thus, with new-found conviction in my mind, I looked upon the object I had come so far for, a seemingly innocent, small, metallic bell. Of course, I knew its true nature, as a powerful force that could condemn or save a world, depending on the wielder. The bell was also known as “The bringer of judgment” as it could mete out justice according to its wielder's desire. I wanted to ponder this longer, but the searing wound was turning a ghastly green color, and I knew that I needed to grab the bell quickly, for it had the potential to heal most, if not all wounds.
As I carefully stretched out my hand to retrieve the Judgment Bell, I felt an evil presence directly behind me. I immediacy jumped to the right, and not a moment too soon, as a shaft of lightning struck the ground where I was a second ago, leaving naught but scorched earth. I quickly turned around to face my attacker, and was met with a sight so horrifying, that no amount of words could begin to capture the true terror I saw before me.
The being in front of me appeared in the guise of a man in a long, black, hooded robe. He held a sharp, bloodstained, scythe in his right hand, or rather the bones that had once been his hand, as they had not the slightest bit of skin, muscle, or tissue on them.
The being had his left hand held out in front him, and it was cracking with a nexus of multicolored energy that could come from nowhere else but the netherworld. The being then removed his hood, and I saw that his face was nothing more than a grinning skull, complete with a malevolent grin, and dual yellow flames where his eyes ought to have been.
I recognized this being for what he really was immediately. Back when the world had more hope, he used to be the leader of a deranged cult known as the Necromancers. The Necromancers would perform satanic rituals and numerous sacrifices, in order to bring an end to the world quickly, as their leader thought it was beyond saving. However, all the members of his cult were hunted down and exterminated, while he was banished from civilization and took refuge in the Dire Forest.
It had been said that he made pacts with numerous malicious entities and otherworldly spirits in order to gain great, and terrible powers, so that he might end the world himself. Now a radically altered version of that man stood before me; all things from his previous life discarded and forgotten, including whatever name or title he may have possessed. He was known simply as Lich, to the few who knew of him, and only then in hushed whispers, and never alone. Lich stood in place and began to speak, every word accompanied with the grinding of his bones.
“So, you're all that stands in my way from bringing an end to this wretched world? How pitiful, this forest is a child's playground compared to what I am capable of doing!” shouted Lich.
“Mwahahaha, no matter, you are nothing but a mere insect to me, unworthy of trying to save that which is beyond aid” continued Lich. “I know of the silver blades you carry, and they are beyond useless when facing an adversary of my caliber!” exclaimed Lich.
I knew I had little time before he would attack, however, I had heard tales that his seeming invulnerability was not complete. According to legend, Lich could be killed if the object that held his soul was rent asunder by a weapon with the power to purify, and thus kill the undead. I subtly glance at the Judgment Bell, and make the startling realization that that is the object that holds Lich's soul! Yet, if I destroy it, the world will be doomed to oblivion.
I have no time to ponder this however, as Lich suddenly bellows at me, saying “your time is at an end, now you shall know death's sweet embrace!” He then charges at me and his scythe makes a whooshing sound at the place where I had stood a moment earlier.
I continue blocking and parrying his attacks as I slowly make my way to the pedestal where the Judgment Bell is. However, just as I am about to reach it, my left arm goes numb due to the progressing infection and drops the silver blade. Seeing his chance, Lich laughs manically and conjures up a twisting black flame in his left hand, piercing screams emanating from the inferno. With all the strength I could muster, I bring the remaining silver blade down upon the Judgment Bell.
The effect is immediate, Lich starts caterwauling inhumanly and drops his scythe and his black flame is extinguished. His screams continue to intensify as blood I didn't know he possessed started to pour out of every orifice in his body. An inter-dimensional rift began to form under him as a giant, pitch-black 6-fingered hand reached through it and grabbed Lich.
The hand squeezed Lich and broke most of his bones, all the while Lich was still screaming and bleeding profusely. From where I was standing, I could see magma, fire, and distorted human bodies through the portal, as well as smell brimstone and feel the intense heat; it was obvious where Lich was going. The enormous sable hand and Lich went into the rift, and the hole in space-time closed.
Yet, all was not well. The infection was quickly spreading through my body, and my vision was already beginning to blur, and only the Judgment Bell, which was likely destroyed, could save me, and the world. If the bell rang, all would be well, if it remained silent, then all would soon perish.
With the last of my energy, I gingerly picked up the bell with my right hand and shook it back and forth. Yet, my world was eclipsed in the purest white before the bell's notes could have reached my ear. If the world was saved, I had died a martyr. If the world would die, then my sacrifice was worthless. I no longer belonged in the living world, and no matter the outcome, I had passed on; the fate of the world for others to know.