Darkstars Chapter 1 (WIP)

(Asterisks (* * *) are for change of character perspective)

Note: First chapter, more fleshed out than any other character intro right now. Still a work in progress but this is probably the most complete.

I hike through the arid landscape, barren desert surrounds me and the heat is overwhelming. My golden armor feels heavier with every step, but I must press on. I had thought that the planet had life forms on it to save from the corruption, but the terrain around me is harsh and unforgiving. It’s hard to imagine that anything could live here without becoming savage in nature or dying from the conditions.

You could call me a paladin, but warriors of that discipline have faith and a greater cause behind them. I wear the armor but am undeserving of the word. I’ve lost any faith I had before, after all that I’ve seen and lived through. I am simply an enforcer, hired to purify planets of corruption so they can be re-populated. The violence that spreads across these lands is caused by the corruption, a disease so prevalent that it taints every living thing around it. Like the others, this planet will no doubt be devoid of sane survivors.

I see a massive stone pillar in the distance, and start to drag myself towards it. The wind has picked up, making the sandstorm even harder to maneuver in. I feel every gust of wind like a sword plunging through my body. The weight of the armor does nothing to stop the storm from pushing me backwards like a ragdoll. I raise my tower shield in front of me in an attempt to shield myself from the battering wind. Pushing a path through the sandstorm, I see the pillar getting larger as I approach.

The stone is unbroken even in these conditions, but has been worn down by the vicious weather and probably by predators. I can see that before it sunk into the sand it would’ve been inhabitable, but has long since fallen into disrepair. I’m too late to save whatever civilised species lived here, but I’m not too late to wipe out anything still infected with this merciless corruption. I arrive at the front of the pillar, and see that there is a half collapsed archway. I won’t be going anywhere soon in this sandstorm, so I decide to take cover for a time and perhaps find some clues as to what creatures caused the destruction.

I duck into the small opening, pushing the ruined door away and stepping into the space. Ruined objects lie scattered around the room, chairs and tables, spilt food and an assortment of primitive weapons. Nothing that would protect them from the corruption in its unending reign of insanity and death. Whoever lived here probably didn’t die at first, instead going mad from the foul black substance as it seeped into their blood. The predators would’ve fallen first, succumbing to their rage and even killing their own families before the infection burnt through them. There’s no doubt in my mind that after being exposed to the corruption, the planet’s native species would’ve turned on each other and killed everything around them, including these life forms hiding in their fortress.

I sit down on the hard ground next to a pile of discarded papers. I see that the survivors have scribbled frantically all over the wall, in a language I don’t understand. I open the device on my wrist and scan the wall to translate. The messages are a mix of hopelessness and narcissism. Most of them are just asking for help or counting the number of days, this room might be where they made their last stand against whatever was killing them. I sift through the pile of notes beside me and decide to log them in the wrist device I use for translation. Resting my shield and mace against the wall, I begin to scan each scrap of paper. One of them reads:

There are only ten of us left… I can feel the stone shifting around us. The castle walls have been breached, the monsters have already taken the city and god knows what happened to the civilians… I can still hear the screaming outside. It’s been constant for hours, I can’t tell how much time has gone by in here.

We’re safe for now, some soldiers went out to help but I was too much of a coward to do the same. Why should I risk my life? We’re all dead anyway. We thought everyone was safe in here, we evacuated everyone to the middle of the city, but all we did was make them easier to kill. The monsters… tunnelled under the walls. We just sat there and watched. All of our work… all of our civilisation… nothing but ashes now.

I can only hope that this reaches someone, that someone knows what happened here. Please, don’t try and save us, there won’t be anyone left. Just destroy the planet, it’s the only way to stop the infection from spreading. It gets everyone, it doesn’t matter what species you are, you can’t stop this.

Don’t let it escape the planet.

The note ends here, there might’ve been more writing but the bottom of the page has been burnt off. Black singe marks still remain on the paper, somehow it survived the attack. I can only imagine the horror they felt in their last moments of life. It only makes me more determined to destroy the threat. The corruption is the true evil, but no one has found a way to cure it. Unfortunately, I can’t club it to death with a mace.

I see other notes, all saying roughly similar things to the first. Some have more optimism, saying that there’s a way out of the tower. I doubt anyone managed to escape but if they did, I will find them and take them out of this wretched wasteland. I put the notes back where I found them, and take up my weapons again. I can feel a rumble in the ground beneath me, and ready myself for an attack.

A great serpent breaks through the stone, bursting forth from the open wound that is now the floor. It has no eyes that I can see, but can sense me just fine. Its other senses are probably heightened, so it could sense me through the layers of dirt and stone. Its mouth is adorned with jagged teeth, and its leathery skin seems to be the same colour as the environment. Clearly this is what they were talking about.

The sand serpent turns its elongated snout in my direction, trying to find its prey. I waste no time, and lunge towards the beast. It stretches its jaws wide and tries to clamp down, only to meet my unbreakable shield. It shrieks as the shield digs into the sensitive flesh of its inner mouth. While it struggles, I bring my mace down on its head.

I’m guessing it’s the best place to target, but this thing isn’t going down easy. It shakes me off with ease, shield still stuck in its jaws. Blood leaks from its head, but it pursues me anyway. It continually tries to bite through my shield, but only succeeds in digging its own grave. As it slithers towards me, I stomp down on its head with my boot to hold it in place.

I free it for a moment by materialising my shield back onto my arm, and swiftly bring it down on its head. I bash it more than once just to make sure, don’t want this one coming back. It twitches for a moment before going limp. The black liquid sizzles under its skin, burning away at it like acid.

I always feel wrong for killing even a predator like this, I believe that all life can live in harmony without needless violence. It did before the corruption came and infected everything that lives and breathes, I remember that universe. I want it back with all my heart, but in this life I’m a killer. I shouldn’t have to be. I don’t want to be. I hear more rumbling beneath me, the fallen serpent must’ve called its friends.

Two more serpents burst out of the wall, tumbling over each other trying to get to me. They fall onto the ground in a tangled mess, and can barely fit their massive bodies in the tower. I could fight them right here, but I have a better idea. I turn away from the screeching creatures and make a run for the archway where I came in. I hear their jaws slam shut just inches from my back as I slide out of the doorway, smashing the foundations on my way out. The building shudders before collapsing completely onto the serpents, who have already begun to kill each other in my absence. They roar and struggle to escape, but are crushed in the falling debris.

I always feel wrong for killing even predators like this, I believe that all life can live in harmony without needless violence. It did before the corruption came and infected everything that lives and breathes, I remember that time. I want it back with all my heart, but in this life, I’m a killer. I shouldn’t have to be. I don’t want to be.

I leave the corpses of the serpents behind, and walk back out onto the sand. I can see the marks on the ground where it travelled, massive cracks that have been filled in with sand already. The storm has quieted, the wind still blows but not with the same ferocity as before. I continue onward. There must be more of these monsters lurking in the dunes, I can leave none alive.

I walk for just a few hundred meters before being confronted by another serpent, its massive body towers over me. This one is far larger than the others. No problem, I like a challenge every now and then. I bash my shield to get its attention, and brace myself for impact.

‘What are you waiting for?’ I shout up at the serpent. It tilts its head to the side inquisitively before gnashing its teeth together in anger.

I dive to the side as it lunges towards me. Arching up above me once again, it roars and lunges once more. The corruption has started to melt away its skin, and it thrashes wildly in pain while trying to reach me. The only way to cure it is to put it out of its misery, but I still feel a twinge of sympathy. It can’t be easy to be consumed by such a destructive force, It doesn’t know what it’s doing.

‘Erebus save me…’ I raise the tower shield, and the serpent hits it with a crushing blow. I hear some of its teeth break on the cold, hard metal.

My feet start to sink into the sand, and I barely hold on as the serpent tries to push me down under its body weight. Putting all my strength against it, I push back and grind the serpent’s melted flesh against my shield. Writhing in pain, it tries to tunnel back into the sand and escape.

‘Do not run from me, coward.’ I start to run in the direction of the fleeing serpent.

I bend my legs and leap towards the wounded creature, bringing my shield down upon its mangled head. I hear the bones shatter as the metal caves in its skull, and it lets out a hideous wail as the life leaves its body. As it lies there, still twitching, I can see the black corruption peeling off of the body in flakes.

‘So death is the only way to cure it. This world is beyond saving, just like all the others.’ I kneel in front of the serpent, and lower my shield to the ground. I feel useless, my only purpose is to relieve these tortured creatures of their pain. Judging by the intricate ridges on its head and the curvature of its jaws, this was the predator’s leader. I feel nothing but guilt, there is no honor in fighting something that’s already going to die.

‘Although you were my enemy, may peace be with you in death.’ I say, pulling a crumpled flower from my armor and laying it on the dead creature’s head.

I slowly get up and take my helmet off. It’s covered in blood from the dead serpents, and I run a cloth over it to clean off the blood and grime. May as well look the part. As I put the helmet back on, I hear a clucking noise behind me. What the hell would a chicken be doing here in this wasteland? Turning around, I see the tiny bird approach me with no fear.

‘Hey you.’ What? That metallic bird just started talking. Can this be happening?

‘Stop staring haven’t you ever seen a robot chicken before?? Yes, I can see you, I have a camera too. It’s me, Eve. I’m just using Clucky to travel.’ Oh, the machine. I was wondering when she would contact me again. The last time was.. chaotic to say the least. Cute name for a chicken, though.

‘Hello?? Earth to Eris? I’m trying to talk to you here.’ She continues.

The voice sounds irritated, but it just makes the situation even more ridiculous. Funny that she chose this creature of all things to be her envoy. I didn’t take Eve to be the joking type. I didn’t even know computers could make jokes, can they have a sense of humor?

‘Oh, it’s you. What is it?’ The chicken looks impatient, and starts rutting in the sand. Clearly she doesn’t have full control of it yet.

‘I need you to help me with something. It’s important, and you don’t have anything better to do.’ The chicken starts pacing around and pecking at the sand aimlessly.

‘Oh? And what would that be?’ I say with a smirk.

‘It’s about saving the universe, you idiot. Don’t waste my time with your judgement, just come with me. I’ll explain everything, ok?’ This must be about the corruption, she has a plan. Not completely useless after all. Somehow I think I’ll just be killing again.

‘I will come to your aid, but I must finish my business here first.’ I say.

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