In the Darkness

Part 6

"This is almost too easy." The man laughed as he sliced through another creature which collapsed to the ground in a puddle of black liquid.

His companion, a blonde man, nodded, "I do not know what your brothers were going on about." He agreed, reducing one of his own enemies to a similar state, "If anything they are weaker than before."

The first laughed, whipping his sword through two of the creatures at once, "You know Ea and Ro, they’re just being overprotective."

The blonde man grinned, allowing his sword to relax at his side as his friend downed the last of the creatures. "It seems our work here is done, Aiden."

The dark haired man nodded, "It would seem you are right, Marc."

They laughed again at the thought of these monsters being any challenge for them and began walking away from the now dark valley. As one the two men froze.

"Um… Aiden?" a tinge of fear accentuated the man’s voice.

"Yes, Marcell?" the same tinge was to be found in his friend’s.

"Did you hear what I just heard?"

"If you refer to that unnatural sucking noise I just heard, then yes, Marcell, I think I did." Aiden replied. The two men turned slowly around.

They exchanged glances, seeing the army they had just vanquished renewed before their eyes. They hesitated only a moment before once again throwing themselves into the fray.

"Aiden?" Marcell managed a while later between gasps as he slaughtered demon after demon only to see them regenerated.

"Yes, Marc?" Aiden replied, hastily wiping sweat from his brow before continuing to swing for his life.

"Do you think, perhaps, they’ve won this one?" Marcell finished hesitantly.

"Yes, Marc, I think you might be right." Aiden agreed, feeling his arms ache as he plunged his sword through another black body.

"Right, then." Marcell disemboweled a creature coming at him from the right and it dissipated into a puddle at his feet.

On some hidden signal the two men turned as one, sprinting as fast as they could away from the hoard of enemies, slicing down any that happened to be in their way. They ran on until the sounds behind them faded and at length they became too weary to run any farther and collapsed to the ground.

"Well, that was fun." Aiden panted.

"What are you going to tell your brothers?" Marc asked as he slowly regained his breath.

Aiden thought for a moment, "Certainly not that they were correct." He decided at last.

Marcell laughed, wearily rising to his feet and offering his friend a hand up. "Let’s go home, Aiden." He suggested as he helped haul the man to his feet.

Aiden nodded, "I’m right behind you."

"—and that, my young friend, is how you set a proper trap." Eamon finished, allowing the young blond kneeling next to him to finish tying the rope off. The man looked up at the telling echo of steps at the mouth of the cave and he grinned sidelong at his collaborator. Then, moving quickly the man led the boy over to the fire, sitting across from his twin and Farrell.

Aiden didn’t even notice the rope until it was too late. Feeling the tension under his foot he instinctively backed up another step allowing the staff which had been released by the rope to swing by in front of him. He waited until he was sure it was stuck in a small crevice in the wall where—unbeknownst to him—it had triggered another rope causing a bucket of cold water to dump all over him and Marcell as they walked forward once more.

Eamon, Errol, and Farrell all immediately doubled into laughter as this happened over the course of several seconds, Terran keeping a hold of his own humor only slightly better. The now dripping soldiers stalked over to the fire, glaring down at the men gathered around it.

"And who’s bright idea was this?" Aiden asked irritably, eyeing the twins very suspiciously.

"Don’t look at me!" Errol exclaimed as the glare landed on him, "It was all Ea’s idea."

Eamon blanched at his twin as their brother’s glare returned to him, "It never would have worked if Ro hadn’t helped with the mechanics!" He insisted.

"Yes, well I couldn’t allow you to teach the kid faulty trap setting skills!" Errol defended.

Aiden sighed dramatically, "Now you are fowling the boy’s mind with your antics?"

"Really, Aiden," Marcell agreed, "I think he may have been better off if we had brought him somewhere else."

Farrell rolled his eyes, "It was only a bucket of water. You two look like you could use a couple more!" This comment triggered Eamon and Errol’s laughter again.

"Yes they do look rather… Battered." Errol laughed, "May I assume the battle went ill?"

Aiden sniffed, "For your information we were merely testing their strength."

Eamon raised an eyebrow, "Really? I was under the impression you were going to… What did you say? ‘Slay the foul beasts and crush their bones beneath your feet’?"

Aiden reddened and Marcell spoke up on his behalf, "I think, perchance, you heard wrong." He told the older man, "I believe what Aiden said was that we would ‘solve the problem and describe their improved strength’." He paused slightly but not long enough for either twin to interrupt, "But what can we expect? You are beginning to age after all, I suppose hearing’s the first to go."

Aiden and Farrell laughed loudly as the twins scowled at the younger man.

"Have it your way, then." Errol conceded, "What did you learn of the demons?"

Copying his brother’s serious manner, Aiden sat next to the fire and proceeded to share his information in a hushed voice, "True to our word we did slay them,"

"Many, many times." Marcell mumbled sourly, seating himself next to the fire as well.

"Hush!" Aiden chided, "There was a small dispatch of maybe two dozen," He paused looking to Marcell for confirmation.

"I’d guess two dozen plus five." The blonde man put in, a little irritated at being reprimanded earlier.

"Twenty-nine, then," Aiden continued, "We ran across them thirteen miles north by north-west." The three men who had not accompanied him listened intently, nodding to verify that they understood where he was speaking of. "We cut through them like a knife through sand and soon they all lay upon the ground, motionless in their own black fluids. We deemed them to be dead but just as we turned to go we heard them rise again—"

"Rise again!" Farrell exclaimed, "You mean to tell us that after they were killed they somehow came back to life?"

"That’s exactly what we mean to tell you, brother," Marcell said, shooting the younger man a glare for interrupting the story.

"Yes, we turned and all of the demons were somehow still alive even after we had seemingly destroyed them. We fought them off some time longer,"

"A very long time," Marcell put in disdainfully, "It was a very long time we fought."

Aiden rolled his eyes, "We fought them off for another long time, cutting their bodies again to the ground, but as before they did not stay down. It seemed as if the sucked their bodies back together, pulling the black liquid back into themselves and drawing it from where it had soaked the ground like a man sucks venom from a wound. Try as we might, they just kept coming until, at last, we were forced to retreat."

His companions were frowning thoughtfully at these words, mulling over what this could mean for them.

"You are certain they were the same beasts and more did not come to their aid?" Eamon asked at length.

"There were no others around," Marcell confirmed, "I saw some that I slew myself rise again, they were the same."

Eamon nodded sullenly. "But… That is not possible!" Errol argued, "No beast can simply get up after it has been killed!"

"But, they aren’t like other beasts." A young voice spoke up, reminding all the men that Terran was sitting nearby listening. "They are like… the darkness," His youthful mind reasoned, "You can’t kill shadows with swords."

Errol opened his mouth to respond, then promptly shut it again as he began to work out the boy’s logic. "If we can no longer slay them by the sword," Farrell spoke next, "Then how do we fight them?"

No one answered for a long while. "Well, this is a bit of a puzzle." Eamon finally spoke, jarring the others out of their own thoughts. "Perhaps we would all think better with some food in our stomachs. Farrell, do we have some stew?"

Farrell nodded and silently went to the side of the cave where the food stuffs were kept—followed closely by Terran, of course, who had quickly grown fond of the young man—he returned shortly and Terran helped him start a stew.

"Perhaps we should ask father," Aiden suggested as the youngest two prepared their dinner, "He is very good at solving riddles."

Errol shook his head quickly, "That would be impossible, Aiden." He stated simply.

"Why?" Aiden asked, "He hasn’t gone and really died on me, has he?" Their was a tinge of worry in his voice despite all of the times he had jested of such a thing.

Errol smiled softy at the younger man, "Nay, he is not dead, but he is… Out."

Aiden rolled his eyes in sudden understanding, "Fine time for the geezer to take a trip." He grumbled.

"Yes, and he likely will not return for a while." Eamon put in, "He said he was to scout the territory. He wished to see how far the shadow has spread of late."

"And you did not go with him?" Aiden asked, a slight threat on his tongue.

"He would not have it, he insisted he would be safe," Eamon defended, "We need to make another supply run, that will likely take all of us."

Aiden frowned, "I wish he would have waited until we got back, then I could at least have informed him of the demons… New ability."

Eamon shrugged, "He was a strong warrior in his day and he is not looking for a fight. You know how quiet he can be and he can see in the dark better than a cat. He will be fine, the shadows will not even see his passing." The older twin said this to comfort his own doubts as much as those of his brother. Aiden fell silent again, seemingly accepting this.

The stew was dished out and dinner was began in silence, all of the men once again in their own thoughts. Finishing his food quickly, Terran set his empty bowl beside him and stared into the fire, watching as the flames licked over the wood, sending the shadows of the cave dancing with their light.

"What if we attacked them with fire?" The boy asked at length.

"They do not like fire," Eamon agreed slowly, "But they do not fear torches, rather they engulf them and snuff them out."

Terran frowned at the man’s misunderstanding, "Not with torches, with swords. Swords made of fire, not of steel."

Marcell laughed, "An imaginative idea." He allowed, "If you can discover a way to form flames into blades, then it might work."

Terran’s frown deepened, contorting his youthful features with deep thought as he mulled over the problem. Across the fire from him, Errol’s blue eyes locked on him, boring into him as if trying to learn what he was thinking. The older man had to admit, it was an imaginative idea, but while the other men laughed it off as only a fantastic idea, his thoughts flooded with ways to make it work.

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