Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)
TITLE: The Vessel
By mick dawson
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Togullen, chronicler to the king, roamed the streets of the tradesmen’s quarter, en route to his home. He hitched up his white robes of state, to step over a sludge packed gutter to continue along the cobbled lane. A few people gathered in the street ahead.
Stepping within them, he looked over their shoulders to see a figure on the far side of the square, wearing the hauberk and ragged blue tunic of the Blue River Guardsmen. All exposed areas of his flesh were covered in neatly wrapped bandages; the short horned helmet, scuffed and dented.
Togullen smiled, it was unusual for the Forgotten One to be looked upon by as many as ten people before. He had always been one to seclude himself, thinking that he was unworthy to be among others. It was good that he had shown himself. Perhaps he had begun to “heal” at last.
“Where are you, Forgotten One!”
shouted the bandaged guardsman.
Togullen stared, bewildered.
“Away from me,” the guardsman roared, swinging his double-edged axe at admirers who got too close.
They managed to avoid the weapon. It shattered away the corner of a stone building on the end of its arc.
“I will start slaying citizens at random until you appear!”
“Dear Lord, do not let him do such a thing,” said Togullen under his breath.
The horned helmet twisted in his direction.
“Beginning with the scribe,” he growled, moving toward Togullen.
Another figure broke from the shadows of a neighboring alley. He too, wore the bedraggled remains of the Blue River Guardsmen, twisting the axe aloft in his right hand.
“Good,” said the first guardsman, scraping a broad semi-circle on the street in front of himself.
The few spectators watching, backed away accordingly.
The Forgotten One from the alley waded through the bystanders, glancing Togullen’s way as he went.
“Togullen, get these people away from here,” he said, whilst walking within the arc.
For what seemed an eternity, both eyed the other adjusting their grip and shifting their feet. The movements were almost identical. The second Forgotten One stared appalled at the face which eyed him keenly.
Both axes suddenly swung to meet with each other. The ring of steel reverberated through the air.
“Someone call the watch!” demanded Togullen.
The axes hammered together two more times. On the second time they connected, sparks jumped from the blow.
The second guardsmen, managed to slash at the haft of his adversary, forcing him to let go of his axe. It fell to the street as he raised his weapon for the killer blow. It swiftly descended for the horned helm, only to be held fast by an iron hand gripping the haft.
The attacking guardsman, felt a blow from his doppleganger’s free hand, making him stagger to the wall to prop himself up. Turning groggily, he punched desperately into the blurred figure. He grunted as he made contact with the unyielding flesh, as if he had struck stone.
“What are you?”
A chuckle rumbled from the first man’s throat.
“What you see before you is no more than a vessel. On its own it is quite harmless, but my queen, Moxatol has used me, her humble slave to fill it.”
A vessel which had been filled mused the guardsman, still cradling his hand. Perhaps then, it can be emptied.
The doppelganger casually tossed the axe aside.
“I will destroy you with my hands,” he growled, erupting into laughter as the injured guardsman charged at him.
The doppelganger caught the guardsman in mid leap, hoisting him above his head and flinging him.
The Forgotten One fell heavily, badly winded, but his gambit had paid off, as he felt something nudge his back.
He rapidly rose into a crouch, taking up his axe, and slashed into his evil counterpart, tearing through mail links.
A breach opened, while the doppelganger placed his hands over it to stem the wound. Flesh turned to clay as the doppelganger slowly toppled backward. Black smoke, escaped the livid gash, reforming, becoming a horned shadow with red embers for eyes, standing head and shoulders above the Forgotten One. It shouted its rage, then ejected itself across the sky like a spurting fountain, back to its mistress.
In the shocked silence of the onlookers, the Forgotten One stared down at his likeness. It clutched at a chasm in clay. He looked within, noting that it was hollow. Bereft of the shadow demon, it was no more than an empty vessel.
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