The Song of Sword and Magic - Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Fiends
[Translator — Asuka]
[Proofreader — Karane]
The entire Paradies was engulfed in darkness, and the trees blocked the view of the stars and the moon. Other than the dim light that shone from some of the houses, they could hardly see anything. With the help of the dim light and his memory of the streets, Fern slowly led the ladies out of the village. After making a few turns, they reached a path in the forest, which was the only route into the village. They just needed to follow the path and they would be out of the forest in no time. “Follow me closely. After we leave the forest, we can ride on our horses,” Fern turned around and said.
The sky hadn’t completely turned dark outside the forest as there was still some light on the horizon. They could already see the stars in the dark blue sky.
“Let’s get on horseback. Slow down your speed so that the horses can run longer.” Fern leaped onto the horse and motioned for his companions to do the same.
Then, they galloped on the vast flatland, and the sea of stars were right above their heads. It was as though they could just raise their hands and reach for the stars.
Mesmerized by the view, Niss couldn’t help but exclaim in admiration.
Suddenly thinking of something, Rae approached Fern and asked, “What did you come across when you followed that man out of the tavern?”
“I saw another person. After they met, the man from the tavern took something from the person and ran away.” Fern gave her a look.
“What’s wrong with that?” Rae asked in puzzlement.
“No. Nothing.” Fern licked his lips. “But the person then looked in the direction I was hiding. That feeling…” He gulped and was lost for words.
“Were you unable to move or utter a word as though you had been possessed by an evil spirit?” Rae asked nervously.
“Yes. I’m still reeling from shock when I think about it.” Fern shook his head and looked at her. “Do you know what happened?”
“Yes. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a fiend. In the North they call them demons.” Rae furrowed her brows and pulled her cloak closer. “I didn’t expect that the Dark Tide would reach here.”
“A fiend? What is that?” Fern was clueless about it.
On the other side of Fern, Niss answered the question. “I’ve read about them from the ancient books in the Magician’s Tower. They have a few names. Other than the two names Rae has just mentioned, they’re also called the faceless or the evil spirits. Just like zombies, they’re created from magic. The difference is that there aren’t many fiends in the Dark Tide. Normally, a fiend can rule dozens if not hundreds of zombies.”
“If that’s it, I still don’t understand why I felt so frightened,” Fern said.
“Fiends have the ability to stun humans. Those who are stared by them will be paralyzed. Even though they’re conscious, they can’t even utter a word,” Rae explained.
“Furthermore, they also have their own powers to kill their opponents.” Niss leaned closer to Fern and continued, “Legend has it that the eyes of fiends are totally gray with no pupils. They don’t have a nose and a mouth. On their mouth area, there’s a slit for them to make noises.”
“So, humans are basically powerless when confronting them? Have no humans defeated fiends before?” Fern unknowingly tightened his grip on the reins.
“Yes, but there are only a small number of people who have managed to do that. Only those who have overcome their inner fear stand a chance to battle fiends. Moreover—” Rae caught herself. Feeling that something was off, she turned her head to look around. Upon making sure that there was nothing unusual, she continued, “Fiends are good at wielding swords, so most humans are no match for them. Only the best swordsmen can battle them.”
Niss turned to look at Fern and asked expectantly, “Fern, do you think you can defeat fiends?”
Fern shook his head in embarrassment. “I don’t think so, Niss.”
Niss pressed her lips together and fell silent.
“You don’t have to be embarrassed because no one will blame you for being fearful of fiends. At least you know your limits,” Rae said dispassionately.
Without uttering a word, Fern looked up at the sky, for he had never felt so helpless in such a long time. The last time he felt this way was a few years ago when his companions lost their lives in front of him and he was powerless to save them. At that time, he even questioned the value of his very existence in this world.
All of them were deep in their own thoughts and never spoke again. Under the night sky, only the rhythmic clatter of the horses’ hooves could be heard. For that instant, it was as though they were the only humans left in this world.
Suddenly, Rae once again felt a strange pressure from behind her. Out of anxiety, she turned her head to look back, but there was no one else on the flatland as far as she could see.
Fern noticed her unusual behavior and looked back as well. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure, but…” Rae scowled. “I can feel that something is chasing after us.”
“Is that the man from the tavern? Or… a fiend?” Fern tensed up as well.
“No, not a fiend. I can sense it if that’s a fiend.” Rae closed her eyes. “But I’m sure they’re from the Dark Tide.”
“What are they then?” Maybe we can defeat them.” Niss grabbed her magic cane from her waist and held it with both hands.
“If I were you, I would refrain from fighting with them.” Rae looked around anxiously.
Just then, a frightening howl was heard from behind. Following that, they could also hear the same kind of howling from their sides. It seemed that they had been surrounded, and they could only keep moving forward.
“Are they wolves?” Niss tried to pacify her mare.
“Yes, but it’s no ordinary howl from wolves,” Fern replied.
“I can sense that they’re from the Dark Tide, so they’re not normal wolves anymore. Or, maybe they’re no longer wolves.” Rae could barely contain her anxiety.
“Whatever they are, we’d better hasten our pace. Follow me closely.” Fern tightened his grip on the reins and pressed his legs on both sides of the horse to make the animal run faster.
Niss and Rae traded glances before accelerating their speed as well. As they passed through countless thickets, their horses seemed to be getting tired. However, howling could still be heard from around them, which was unnerving for the trio.
Niss couldn’t bear with the bumpy ride any longer, but Fern didn’t seem to have the intention of stopping any time soon. A forest came into sight in front of them, and the grass they were galloping on were also taller now. Fern looked up at the sky and immediately identified the right direction. Leading the way for Niss and Rae, he changed his direction a little and kept moving forward. However, the beasts that were racing after them were relentless.
Some time later, they rushed into the forest, and their horses were now stepping on underbrushes. There were some puddles beneath that would splash when the horses stepped on them. Finally, the howling was starting to fade. Even though they were still in danger, they felt less fearful.
However, Niss’s mare had reached the limit of its physical strength as its legs were as heavy as lead. That was beyond Fern’s expectation as he didn’t expect that a mare would be so tough. Although the stallions of Fern and Rae were larger and had longer legs than Niss’s mare, they were not in a better situation as they too were knackered from a long time of running. Among the trio, only Fern appeared to be alright, while Niss and Rae were holding onto their reins with difficulty as they leaned closer to the horseback to alleviate the pain they felt in their bottoms. Nevertheless, they almost couldn’t feel their own bottoms and thighs.
Seeing that they had no more energy left, and that the predators were already far behind them, Fern pulled back the reins to make his horse stop by a pond. The three horses panted heavily as they lowered their heads to drink from the pond. “Our horses can’t run anymore. We have to come up with a solution.” Fern raised his bota bag and chugged down the water.
Rae took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “We don’t have much time left because they’re still running after us. Once we stop, they’ll reach us in no time.”
Niss rubbed her numb bottom and said in a trembling voice, “Fern, do you have any solution? My horse can’t run anymore.”
Fern paced around near the pond and scanned the surroundings. There was a ditch which was neither wide nor narrow that connected the ponds in the forest. Having said that, it was wide enough for a raft to pass. After thinking for a bit, Fern turned around to look at Niss and Rae, who stared at him in puzzlement as they didn’t know what was on his mind.
“We’re in Black Swamp now. Wolves cannot run faster than horses in this area, so I believe we can leave them behind.” Determination was written all over Fern’s face.
Niss frowned in puzzlement while Rae understood his plan. “Don’t do anything silly. It’s not the end of the world yet.”
Ignoring Rae, Fern pointed at somewhere in the forest and said, “Look. After you jump over the ditch, find somewhere to hide and don’t come out. No matter what they have become, they surely retain the characteristics of wolves, which means that they’re tracking us through our smell.”
“Mr. Mercenary, I told you not to do anything silly! There’s surely another way out!” Rae shouted.
Ignoring her again, Fern lowered his hand and looked at them. “After you leap over the ditch, they can’t find you through your smell anymore.”
“What about you, Fern?” Niss shook her head and asked, “Can’t we hide inside the forest together?”
“No. Someone has to lure them away. Otherwise, they’ll soon find out about our hiding place.” Fern made his horse move. “After the wolves leave this place, the two of you will move forward in the direction we were going just now and don’t stop in your tracks. You’ll reach Wet Port tomorrow. After that, wait for me in the Rose Inn.”
“You’re practically commiting suicide, Mr. Mercenary!” Rae growled at him. “You won’t stand a chance to survive. Could you be—”
Before she could finish her words, the howling sounded again in a more rapid manner. The horses were alarmed and raised their heads as they felt a pressure looming on them.
“Remember, wait for me at the Rose Inn!” Fern turned around and galloped away in another direction.
Rae shook her head and heaved a sigh as she made her horse move toward the ditch. “Let’s go. They’re not far behind.” She urged Niss to follow her closely.
Niss looked at Fern’s leaving figure and asked worriedly, “Will he be able to get rid of the wolves?”
Rae replied calmly, “Now, we can only pray for him.”
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