An air of fear filled the small, dark village on a cold winter's eve. The townsfolk gathered around the assembly stage as a man preached of doom. Before him he saw a sea of frightened faces. A few scattered torches illuminated the crowd, and here entered our hero. Michael pushed his way through the terrorized masses of bourgeois and farmers. The cries of the heretic grew louder and louder.
"Beyond the woods, to the east" he shouted," past the trees so dead, where crops dare not grow for soil rests so lifeless, where the moon grows orange and large, just beyond the pumpkin patch, and where man enters the realm of hell, mark my words for I doth speak truth, there lies an old abandoned Church, where sits a priest, gone so mad by our sins that he has crazed himself, to the point of eating alive all who dare walk through his doors!"
The speaker had a slight hunch in his back and a face less than pleasant to look at; not that Michael cared, he was living amongst inbred farmsfolk. He shouted from the crowd, "How did you come to know of this?"
The man pointed at him and opened his eyes wide. "I swear it to be true, for he ate my own brother, right before my damned eyes." He fell to his knees and looked to the heavens. "And god knows I was too scared and weak to do a darned thing..."
The soft simmering fear of the assembly turned to cries of confusion. Michael had heard enough though. He would go to that church and confront whatever evil he found. As he turned his back on the stage, the merchant of chaos called after him. "Mark my words boy, do not go to the east!"
He ignored it and kept walking. Though dressed in civvies, he had a sword strapped around his back, wrought from strong steel and forged in holy fires. He was not afraid. A dagger was tucked in his belt, and a cross around his neck. He would call upon God's strength if nothing else would do, but as far as he was concerned, a knife in the back got the job done faster than prayers.
The night was darker than usual; colder. A thin cloud split the moon in two. It was almost as if whatever divine elements were at play had intended to make the evening as haunting as could be. Michael followed the dim candlelit streets to the east exit. He somehow felt uneasy. He heard a rustling in the bushes, and without a moment's hesitation drew his dagger and turned, ready for combat. Alas, it was nothing but a stray dog, huddling out of the shadows and running elsewhere. Michael took a deep breath, sheathed his dagger and continued on.
Arriving at the gate, two guards stood watch, a panic about their faces. "Greetings Michael," the first said. Michael nodded in response; "James". He turned to the second. "Johnson."
"I must warn you, old friend, something not right sits in the air..." James said.
"I'm aware of that, but I've nothing to say other than to thank you for your concern."
"They say," Johnson interjected, "There's a curse to the east." He paused and looked Michael over. "You wouldn't happen to be playing the hero now, would you Michael?"
The town governor had set useless laws against the hunting of demons or the pursuit of bounties, so his response had to be well thought. "Not I, Johnson. I am but taking a late night walk through our lovely forests."
Johnson and James knew it was a lie, but there was nothing they could do; they nodded and promptly lifted the wooden bar holding the door closed. It made an eerie creaking noise as it slowly swung open. Without another word, Michael looked ahead and kept walking. He heard it slam behind him. No going back now.
Heading east, the path began to stray. It was intended to guide travellers and merchants to nearby Yardale, yet Michael knew the church was quite a ways off the track. Where the road forked, he entered the woods. The trees dared not grow leaves; they were but branches, dead and rotting, so decayed that their very smell would make you wish for better times.
He heard another noise. He paused in a battle stance, yet without a weapon drawn, and listened to the sound of the woods. A crow up above! It's cry shattered his heart, and before he realized what he was aiming for, he had flung his dagger over his head. It fell to the floor, about thirty feet in front of him. He kept listening; the wind was so damn bone chilling that night. He started to regret his decision. Why couldn't I have waited until morning?
No matter, he knew his thoughts would cloud his perception in this crucial moment. He could hear footsteps, crushing the dead leaves in the distance. He couldn't tell how far away, all he knew is that it was headed for the same direction as he. It was so strangely silent that the footsteps may as well have been cannon fire. He slowly edged onwards, picking up his dagger on the way. As he tore it from the ground, he noticed the soil was...red? Crimson, like bloodshed, yet there was no answer to it, other than to clean it on the side of his pants and keep going.
He could hear the footsteps just after his,yet saw nothing. After a few minutes of walking, each minute about an hour long, the distant sounds stopped. He saw that the woods broke up ahead and some light was shining through.
He picked up the pace and ran past the last of the dense trees. He wanted more than anything in the world to get out of that god forsaken place. He saw a pumpkin patch, just as the man from earlier said there was. Near the farm was a house with a handful of candles lighting the porch. He saw a man asleep on his chair, just lying outside. On normal circumstances he might have investigated it, but to say he wasn't scared to death would be an utter fallacy. He crept around the house until he saw, just over the hill of dried brush, between two trees just as dead as the rest of them, a small chapel.
Time to get serious, he thought to himself. Inching closer to the building, he felt the air about him grow colder and colder. He was lost in thought; too many "what ifs," too much concern and worry for a fighter. Before he realized it he was standing right between the two trees, the door to hell right before him. With his right hand grasping his sword, still sheathed, he knocked the door loudly with his left.
His heart hit his throat when the answer came. A coarse, broken voice, high in pitch and hateful in tone screamed back at him, "Who goes there?!"
Michael knew there was no time for negotiations or nice introductions. He grabbed his sword and kicked the door open and ran. The priest wore tattered brown robes, and his head was covered in blood soaked bandages. Michael could hardly make out no features as he rushed forward, simply vague outlines. The priest seemingly put up no fight and merely stood behind the stone alter as the boy charged , sword at the ready. He heard the door slowly close behind him.
As Michael closed the distance, he swung his steel with all his might from above his shoulder and crashed it down on the priest's head, and as they connected the mysterious and corrupted rector turned to dust. The swing hit the stone instead, taking out a hefty chunk of it.
A harrowing chuckle echoed throughout the church, coming from the back. Michael turned, and much to his dismay saw, there, on the wooden parapet at the back, sat the priest. "You challenge me, boy?"