It seems that father, and even Xola, were both correct. I cannot merely stand aside and leave The Story to remain in its purest form, untouched and unaltered by my own hand. I am an active player upon this stage and must play my part in the tale. I had believed myself apart (not a part) of the legend that we had become entwined and that was nearly Tuck’s undoing.
Truth be told, I thought we were all good as dead.
Never before had I known such fear. We knew that it was in the mill. Somewhere in that dark, dust-choked monstrosity of a building lurked a creature of pure malevolence. A beast that had turned the denizens of Buckland Villages into dark, twisted parodies of themselves. A monster that lived to kill and torture and corrupt. And we were walking into its lair (or prison or whatever) without so much as a plan.
Nearly the entire village had perished by the time we had arrived, and a majority of those still living were beyond any help we could bring. In particular, the sights (and smells) we discovered at the smithy – watching the people mindlessly continue to work while that very work cooked them alive – will haunt my dreams forever.
Despite the horrors we had encountered thus far, the group (for the most part) seemed eager to take the fight to the potential source of the problems. While I commend their courage, I feel that luck (or perhaps The Passions themselves) had more to do with our survival than any skill in battle – though Briarose proved far more fearsome than I would have believed possible. Her savagery was a thing of beauty, a force of nature.
The beast waited for us to climb to the second floor, placed itself between the exit and ourselves, then promptly tossed Echo and myself off the balcony. The landing was bone-jarring and I could hardly believe that Echo jumped up and raced back up the stairs. More shockingly still was that I was right upon her heels. I cannot say that I “thought” to rejoin the fray, only react. Perhaps if Echo had fled from the building, I would have followed. I suppose that I will never know the truth of that matter.
Once again of the second floor, I saw that Tuck lay unmoving upon the floor. I raced to her side and was relieved to see that she still drew breath.
The others swarmed around the tentacled horror (I do not believe that this was a true Horror), but there was a frantic desperation about the struggle. Much blood had flowed, but little of it belong to the monster.
I… I felt helpless. We were all going to die and I was still trying to remain an inactive participant. I had to do something. I picked up Tuck’s sword and swung with all my might. To my own surprise, I hit it! A small trickle of blood came from the creature and I felt a twinge of hope. Then, as if not to be outdone by a lowly Troubadour, Briarose tore deeply into the monster with her claws and the creature roared in pain. I palpably felt Hope bloom once again through my companions and they redoubled their efforts.
The following moments were a blur and blood, cursing, and flashing blades. I don’t believe that I scored more than the single blow to the creature, but I would not step away from the fray. The thought never even crossed my mind.
I do not know how much time passed, but I will never forget how it ended. With a roar of fierceness, a cry against the very darkness from which this thing had spawned, Briarose ripped a head-sized section out of the monster. She and the beast fell together. She, exhausted by wounds and the very strain of her heroic attack; it, to never rise again.
If nothing more, this encounter proved to me that there is a potential for greatness amongst these strange women. I do not know if I play a part in their tale, or if my destiny lies elsewhere, but I will surely be singing their tales for many years to come.