by Dan Hiestand
Bridge material continued
Calloway, sent by Cedwyn is a gatekeeper. Helps Jace get through this.
Lead back to Westwood on the road near Hobson’s body.
Reference to coins on the eyes. Did this still really happen? Time skip elements, etc. The woods get dark.
Coins. Pitch black. Breeze fades. It feels like a coffin.
Total, consuming silence, and then ...
There was a single clink, and a coin rolled out of the gloom to Jace’s boot, where it fell on its side upon impact. Strangely, he felt compelled to pick it up, sheathing his weapons and bending in spite of his fear. It was a silver piece, stamped with the likeness of Madsen Vhair, one of Veil’driel’s most distinguished First Consuls.
Jace stood to full height, rolling the coin over in his hand, looking up again.
“At your service, sir. I’ve extended the courtesy of a coin, a civility you once denied me.” There was a pause and a crackling cough. “My generosity knows no bounds, sir. Indeed, I am a man amongst men.”
Jace drew his short swords again, twirling them.
The corpse in the darkness gurgled a laugh from what was left of its stomach.
“Those will do you no good, sir. Not where you’re going.”
The horrible visage of Calloway limped out from the black, appearing as he had on the balcony. As he had that night in Fairlawn, when Jace and Relic found his body on the road.
“You hear them now, don’t you?” Calloway asked, the words passing out through fleshless cheeks. “The coins I told you about.”
The thing smiled, eerie and slow, bones cracking in protest as it straightened. There was movement from beyond it as well, slight at first then glaring. The clinking sound of falling coins commenced, elevated to suggest thousands.
And then an endless parade of corpses, each in various stages of decomposition, charged into light and at Jace.
Unlike Calloway, these were not hindered by their state of decay, and even though some were missing limbs they moved fast. One of the figures, a demonic looking thing with chomping teeth, was almost on him, holding its eyeballs in bloody hands and screeching with mad glee.
Panic-stricken, there was nothing Jace could do save hold his breath, and his eyes fluttered shut just as two powerful hands clamped down on him. He braced himself for what would come, retreating into his mind as he had beneath the blankets on his grandfather’s farm as a child.
But no pain followed, only a bright green flash that was blinding even through his eyelids. Jace fell back, crashing to the ground so hard his pack burst open, expelling its contents across the cavern floor. His short swords were still in his hands, and he jumped to his feet, silver pieces spilling off his body with the effort. He spun to his right, and there came a shock of a different kind: Artemus Ward, a comforting hand on his shoulder, smiling all the while.
At first, it was a wave of intense relief that washed over Jace, but then, like a crack of thunder, he remembered himself, and one of his weapons was across the legend’s throat.
Artemus never flinched, only lowered his hand.
Jace’s hands were slick and shaking. His heart pounded so hard it hurt.
Then a tremor rocked the enclave. The death groans of Lornda Manor, rumbling down all around them.
“Gods, son,” Artemus said, ignoring the blade completely. “Ever go on a mission where you didn’t blow something up?”