Disclaimer: I don't own MediEvil. Griff's my character, though.
Author's note: I now it's been a long time since I wrote much of anything- school these past two months was murder. To say nothing of my job. I just haven't had the time of day to come up with anything. So for those who are still waiting for my other works, I apologize. I'm putting up this little note telling you all that I'm not dead, and that if I am able to, I'll write when I can. So without further ado, let us go back to old Gallowmere...
-MediEvil- The Hero that Almost Wasn't-
Chapter 15: The Lost Crusade
Zarok awoke to an unusual sight the old battlefields, whichever lands weren't flooded with water were covered in scores of monstrous creatures straight out of the night. Yet this was what he was waiting for all this time, feeling a wicked grin on his shriveled face. "Aah, my old army, how was the century for you boys?"
The demons rumbled in hostile sneers, ferocious growling and other gnashing displays of fury.
"Hmm, cabin fever. That must be tough." the sorcerer nodded. "Well then, gather to me. All you being here means only one thing: that tin-plated, jawless buffoon Fortesque set you free?"
The demons roared in affirmation
"As I expected." Thumping his trident upon the parapets, he called the hordes to attention. "Take a good look around you all. 100 years ago, the fools of Gallowmere made their last stand here, it was to be our glorious victory, but then those scarecrow-foddered witches sealed you all away, am I right?"
Again the shadow demons hissed behind clenched fangs.
"Well times have changed: This time, there is no great army to stand in our way, no champion to stand against us and no witches to interfere: This time we shall claim this land as our own!" Zarok turned his dark red eyes towards the Silver Mountains in the distance. "Beyond those mountains lies our goal, the old castle of King Peregrin. That doddering old goat bragged how his army finished us off, but on this night, we will prove him wrong: The foundations of the of Gallowmere will come tumbling down! My demonic istruments of destruction...To Castle Peregrin!!!" Thrusting his trident in dramatic fashion was all that was needed to rouse the creatures to their old chaotic nature.
The demons wasted no time in making a crude palanquin out of discarded spear shafts and weapon carts, and it was from this seat that their master would lead the glorious march. As the finishing touches were being made, the ancient necromancer mused over the situation: With the shadow demons and his own formidable magic, Zarok now possessed the keys to completing his revenge, but something was missing. "Wait one second, if you all please." The demons knelt as Zarok walked towards the lake that now ruled the landscape. , Zarok plunged the trident in to the water, letting its archaic energy course through the depths. "You've done so much for me, Fortesque. It's only proper I make you a present of sorts..." Climbing atop the palanquin once more, the wicked sorcerer ordered the assembly to march to the north at full speed. . The War machine of shadow demons had began their unholy rampage to the Capital of Gallowmere....
Griff was lounging at the table when Daniel reappeared at the Hall of Heroes. For once, the shrouded hallkeeper was in a good mood. "Well, well, not dead yet, are you?"
"Too late for that joke, don't you think?" Dan muffled.
"You made quite a mess down there." Griff produced a bag from his sleeves and emptied its contents, gold coins. "Those demons will be eager to wreak havoc, you mark my words."
"... You seem really nonplussed about this whole thing." Dan walked over to the keeper. "So why are you so unconcerned about what I just did in that forest?"
"That would be none of your business." the keeper merely began to count the coins one after another. "Now go on, make your tribute and then like a tree and leaf."
"...What was that all about?" thought Dan as he made his way up the stairs, all the statues were inert, save for one: Bloodmonnath SkullCleaver. The skeletal knight walked over the the ax-wielding highlander and placed his latest chalice in tribute, waiting for his latest offer:
"Ten thousand curses, Fortisskay, I bet money you be back pushing up daisies by now!" Bloodmonnath thundered at Dan with a face red as a tomato. The ferocity was so great that the knight fell over, startled.
"Hey! Just what kind of-" Dan complained, but at the instant, something clicked. "Hmm? 'bet money?' Now it makes sense..." Somehow, Griff must have suckered SkullCleaver into a wager and the latter got the worst of it.
Having finished his tirade, the Scottish warrior began speaking again in civil, broken English. "Hey, I have something here for you. You like it very much. You want?
"Yes, please!" Dan nodded his skull.
One flash of white light later, Dan found himself flanked on three sides with chests loaded with gold. "...Just how did these guys get so rich before they died?" He asked aloud.
"Oh dear, I've been found out." Griff called out.
"What do you mean?"
"When everyone here opted to help you out, I made a few wagers here and there."
"And I'm guessing Bloodmonnath's you're latest victim?"
"Exactly right." Griff nodded. "And it's been a profitable venture, thus far."
"I think not!" A loud voice came from below. Fortesque recognized it to Stanyer Ironhewer. "That shower-curtain wearing tatty lost a good one here and there.
"Hey, this is none of you-
"Why just before you left for the Mausoleum, Fortesque, he and Woden wagered you'd be nothing more than Zarok's toast rack.
The mono-visual knight glared at Griff with a nasty stare.
"Now Dan, don't look at me that way..."
The knight stopped and smiled. "You bet against me, didn't you?"
Griff felt himself stung at the verse."...I ain't saying nothin'."
"Oh he did alright, Stanyer continued. Lost every little coin he had. "But then you killed that demon in the Mausoleum."
The keeper felt himself getting hotter under the collar. "Okay, I admit it. But let's get one thing straight: at the time- I did have to help you out, but that didn't mean I liked it."
"So why the change of heart?" Dan asked.
"You know how boring an eternity is?" Griff asked. "It's just a way to pass the time, and when you started this quest, it seemed like a good idea- given your inglorious failures. But after you left the cemetery... I just got tired of losing money, that's all."
"...Right." Dan said with a slow nod. "Well, I gotta get back to work. So.. I'll see you all later." the knight then left the hall behind him.
In the silence of the hall, Griff found himself alone, stewing in his annoyance. "WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GO AND TELL HIM THAT!?!" He roared aloud. The crackling of flames were the noises that broke the silence...
Finding himself back in Gallowmere, Daniel took a glance back at the Dark Forest.. it still looked spooky, but at least it was behind him. "Glad I don't live there.." He muttered. "Hmm?" A little speck on the ground caught his attention. As he moved closer to inspect it, his eye darted towards a small speck of ectoplasm. "... Ugh, this stuff stinks... Zarok was here, no doubt about it." Looking towards the road, Dan saw a faint trail of ectoplasm towards the north. "...Why couldn't that old goat use a cinnamon scent for this gunk?"
The trail lead towards what was now a great lake. Daniel could only scratch his head at the idea. "Strange, I don't remember a lake this big in Gallowmere." Still, the trail continued on a plot of land, heading towards the horizon. "Well, too late to back now..." the knight continued on his trek...
Underneath the waters of the ancient wastes dwelt the dead of ages past: knights and demons were as common as the fish and plant life that lived in the depths. The armored remains of one such cadaver rested on the bottom, in a knelt position for the past century. Above these grounds, a strange phenomena was brewing, before moving his armies north, Zarok had enchanted the lake with his foul magic, and now it was at work: archaic green energy crackled around the the corpse.
Daniel did not like what he saw as he came upon the group of islets and pools: weapons, discarded helmets and banners dotted the landscape. The skies above, while still dark as night began to turn a sickening violet: lightning danced among the clouds as a soft rain began to fall. "... I don't like this.." Dan muttered to himself, but he knew inside his bones, he had to press on despite the macabre decor of this land. Taking out his gold shield and ax, Daniel walked towards the gloom, unaware that a a fallen goblin knight had emerged from its pool, looking at the landscape himself before stopping to shake loose the water in his helmet...
In the near distance Daniel saw the ruins of an fortress rising above the lake. "... What is this place?" Aside from the bits of land here and there, only a good portion of towers and ramparts stood over the water. Standing next to a dead tree, Dan saw another gargoyle and thought it best to ask his question.
No sooner did the dead knight approach when the gargoyle's green eyes came to life: "Cold and dark and reeking of death." It began in an eerie voice. "We remembers an ancient battle fought here, between the forces of good and the dark armies of Zarok! Now the marshes are full of the restless dead..." then went back to sleep.
Daniel looked at the sight again. "A battle?... Why does that sound so familiar...?" He stood there in the rain and puzzled over this mystery- just then he felt something come over him: He could remember a piece of land that wasn't covered in water: the crimson skies overhead. Someone was running towards
an army of evil but was struck down. "! This must be...." Dan felt his bones chill at the discovery. "Where.... where I.... no, it's not the time for it."
Dan shook free of his thoughts and turned around. He ran towards the other side of the road, picking up a stray bag of gold near a tree. "Now why someone left this here, I'll never know..." Now he turned his attention towards the fortress. A bridge flanked by spears had joined this bit of land to the upper sections of the ruins. At the base of a tower, Daniel found an open book: Despite the downpour, he was able to read its message quite legibly:
Weapons are useless against the heavy armor of the knights. Don't let them shove you in the swamp- that mud will never come out.
"..That can't be good." Dan frowned, but after fighting monsters and demons, what else was new? Following the ramparts around the tower, Daniel saw what looked to one of these knights in question- a large, round suit of study armor, which the knight wore despite short legs and arms. As Dan moved to exterminate this intruder, something shot out of the marsh- "What the-!?" and attacked. A large orange tendril started lashing out at the skeletal knight above. "Hold still!" Dan cursed as he swung with his ax, it missed for a few times, allowing the tendril to land a few smacks to the skull ,but after this irritation, Dan threw the ax at the tendrils wider length, poking just above the surface. Whatever creature it was attached to whined in pain, but a few more swings severed the the grasping appendage off, leaving it to drift as the familiar souls drifted skyward.
Turing his attention towards the round knight, Dan threw his ax at the monster. It hit with a loud klunk before returning to his hand. "Wow, that's some serious hardware." He had to admit. The monster began to creak his way towards Fortesque, but he had other ideas- he drew out Stanyer's warhammer and cracked his boney digits. "...I better use a little English on his one." Dan figured. He readied the hammer for a swing, as the head hit the ground, the force of the hammer's might pushed the round knight back towards the edge. Dan gave no quarter as he bashed the creature back into the marsh, where it flailed and moaned until the waters dragged his heavy frame to the bottom, once more...
Taking a look at his surroundings, Dan saw something odd nearby. Following the path towards a lonely platform, he saw what looked to be a boat. Standing in it was a strange man, garbed in robes similar to Griff's, albeit a dull golden trim around the hood and sleeves. He held a a long staff in his hand, probably what he used to row. "Greetings stranger," the man said without looking up "I am the Boat Man- it is I ferry lost souls on their final journey to the Land of the Dead."
Dan said nothing to the thought, having been there, once already.
"But hold, have we not met before?" The Boat Man raised his head to look at the one-eyed knight in front of him. "Sir Daniel Fortesque! Not you, too?" Sighing aloud, the specter decided to explain the situation as of late. "... Thanks to Zarok's meddlings, I'm up to my eye sockets in lost souls who've woken up from the eternal sleep- business hasn't been this brisk since before they invented sanitation."
"Tell me about it..." Dan muffled dryly.
The Boat Man perked up a little to the knight's comment. "Look, if you help me gather up a boatload of eight lost souls and bring them here, I'll drop you off at the sunken town of Mellowmede- how's that sound?"
It sounded like a good deal, so Dan accepted. The Boat Man pointed towards the marshes just past the fortress. "Those souls should be drifting around this area, but watch that you don't fall in- swimming's not your spot, I wager."
"Thanks, I guess...?" With that note, Dan walked back to the fortress, circling around the building another tendril reared its headless ugliness and attacked, but Dan had grown wise to it and used Woden's broadsword to slice it to ribbons. A round knight was waiting, it growled as Dan approached. "What's with the growling, anyway- can't you guys talk anymore?" Feeling insulted, the round knight charged forward, but it was a simple thing for Dan to step aside, hack at the creature's armor and force it into the marsh.
"Oy there, mate. Nice way to take care of business, there." A familiar voice spoke from the crenelations- Dan walked top a merchant gargoyle who had seen the whole thing.
"It's too late for sucking up, don't you think?" Dan asked.
"Yes, but you're the only dead'un around here that doesn't moan and stuff." The sinister ornament shrugged... at least if it had shoulders to do it, anyway. "Anyhow, what can I get for you?"
Daniel paid for re-enchanting the broadsword's magic and to repair his gold shield.
"Take care in that swamp, ya hear?" the gargoyle turned quiet again.
"..Why does everyone get on my back about that?" Dan tsked as he jumped across to a a bridge leading towards the marshlands. Colorful banners fluttered in the wind, but the beauty was spoiled as two round knights marched towards him, but thanks to the broadswords enchanted might, it was a simple thing to push them into the marshes dark depths. A few feet away there was an ectosrping, but before Dan thought to partake of it, another tendril lashed out. Several chops later saved any more trouble for the one-eyed skeleton. But no sooner had Dan approached the spring, an ax flew in font of his gaze "What?!" Turning right, he saw another armored resident, chucking hand axes at him. "Don't you know you shouldn't play with sharp objects?" Dan introduced the pest to the business end of his broadsword.
"How annoying..hm, a chest?"
Looking towards a dead sycamore, Daniel spied a chest bearing the skull-and-crossbones on it. He walked up to it and opened it up. To his surprise, a yellow and orange something rushed out of the chest. Much to Dan's delight, it was Kul Katara, the serpent lord he first met in the Farming District.
"Sir Fortesque! What is it you would ask of me?" the great spirit asked.
"Business as usual." Dan said. " Can you do anything about these armored pests here?
Kul took one quick look at the round knights pacing around the near area. "It shall be done." With a snarl, he darted towards the knights coiling them as he passed, which made it easy for Dan to smack them into the water. Over at one lone islet, Daniel saw what looked to be a spectral, golden helmet of sorts, he approached it with caution. The helmet filled out, creating a shade of what would be the human soldier it once was in life.
"...Who are you?" the soul asked.
"Um, no one." Dan answered.
"No one, indeed." The soul continued. "You're Captain Fortesque, aren't you?"
The cat was out of the bag, now. "Um...yes?"
At first the soul was happy to see that the demons were gone, but as Fortesque explained what happened, the soul was at a loss of words, "So Zarok's still alive?"
"'Fraid so." Dan moaned.
"...Well, that's easy, isn't it?" the soldier continued. "Just kill the blighter. In any case, me and the boys here are getting tired of roaming this place, I'll go with you, Captain."
Choosing to say no more. Daniel collected the soul and continued his errand. Thanks to Kul Katara, getting rid of the round knights was a little easier, ditto for finding three more souls, but it came time for the serpent to go. "Zarok heads north towards Castle Peregrin, Sir Fortesque. Take care on your journey."
"Thanks for the help!" Dan called out as the great serpent flew out of sight. "..Alright then, back to work." Scouring the area, Dan found a red chaos rune and a chest with two more round knights waiting. "...Wait a minute." Dan's socket creased. He carefully sliced open the chest then ran like mad, his suspicions were confirmed by a an explosion, followed by splashing, screaming and then silence. "Those crystals sure come in handy." the knight grinned to himself. Over where the round knights stood, Dan picked up a bag of coins and added another soul to his collection, but as he did, an ax knight rose out of the muck. "Not you guys, again." Dan groaned as he sliced it to pieces. Just then, one of the blighters crept up on him, but a quick flail of broadsword later, the would-be assailant was once again dead.
Heading toward one of the larger areas of land, Daniel stopped to recount where he was when... "Hey, another soul!" He walked over towards another dead tree where it hovered next to a handy life vial, and on the opposite end was the Chalice of Souls. "..Not enough souls." Dan thought, so he ran back to the ectospring to restock his supply. This time, the dead soldiers were on full alert. Round soldiers were patrolling islets and pathways, guarding a lost soul among other things. It was a nuisance, but Dan picked them off one at a time. His favorite in particular was hitting a rigged chest and setting of an explosive chain reaction of crystals that send two round knights flying to their doom. One, however, was too far away to be affect by the blow, but more importantly, Dan noted, he was guarding a gate. Which was perfect: there was a red rune hand waiting to be filled. "Good, I''ll just kill this guy, walk in and make off with the loot inside. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he charged the guard, taking him by surprise and forcing the unfortunate brute into the swamp. "...What, two chariots? How disappointing..." The chariots were of a simple design, two-wheel carts with long spikes on the wheels and front. In spite of his disappointment, Daniel walked past the gate, spying a piece of land that caught his eye: "Say now: 3 gold chests, 2 vials,and a new life bottle! Perfect....." Dan walked back a good bit and visualized his taking of the loot: "The fields not too wet, there's a light wind blowing in the south, and if this guy doesn't get his shoes caught in the mud, he could really go for the gold..." he started to run "Here we go....." as he approached the edge, he slipped into the mud with a loud splash "Ugh.... he blew it.." Dan narrated sadly as he came back to life near the gate. He tried again and made it "...Too late for the crowds to go wild.. Oh well." Dan scooped up his reward and lept back towards the mainland.
He walked around the chariots and made down the hill, adding one more lost soul to his collection of stuff. But then the ground around the chariots began t shift "What in- oh, don't you guys ever give up?" Dan said exasperatedly: a group of ax knights rose from the ground and began to attack, but for Dan. It was a simple matter of chopping them into little bits before they died again. The skeletal knight went around the chariots and down the hill when something unexpected happen: the two chariots jumped off their spots and began to roll downhill. "...Oh, no..." Dan started, then he ran, with two sets of wheeled death gaining speed., he screamed- but up ahead, there was a wide field, this was his chance! He dashed like mad until he cleared the open wooden gates in front and turned a hard left. Sure enough, the carts rolled harmlessly ahead.. and off the cliff. "Whew!... I don't ever want to do that again."
Dan looked around this new area. It was a small graveyard of sorts: a few wooden cross markers and a platform from where one of the carts flew off to oblivion. Carved into this stone slate was a white dragon of sorts, but more importantly, there was a lost soul it. "And this makes number 7, I think."
Dan picked up the soul, but his relief was short lived- spirits and specters had been watching the intruder, and there weren't going to let him off the hook: The wooden gates slammed shut, and soon a platoon of round knights and ax knights appeared out of nowhere and began to advance on this would-be grave robber.
Enough was enough: "I've had it with you pests!" Dan roared. "You want me, come and get it!!" With his broadsword swinging in all directions, Dan took the battle to his enemies, axes and steel flew like nobody's business as Fortesque whittled down the enemy- first the ax knights, then their bulky contemporaries down the cliff side. It was only after the last one was destroyed when the heavy wooden gates opened up once more. Growing frustrated with this dogged assault, Dan ran back up the hill, only to find more ax knights waiting for him, this time, with ghostly soldiers hovering his way. "Villains!" Dan shrieked. "I've had enough of your ilk. Leave now, or I swear, I'll deliver you vermin a fate worse than death!"
The monsters were unimpressed with the thread, they merely growled in contempt.
"DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU!!!" Daniel thundered as he unleashed hell on his foes. The ax knights were cleaved in half, and the ghosts were easily put down with an ax swing, the creatures learned too late that they would not live to rue the day they harried Sir Daniel Fortesque.
Catching his breath, Daniel cleaned off his weapons in the muck- it was time to end this mess once and for all. "Now for that last soul and Chalice." He ran towards the center of the marshes to to get his bearings .. On the way back, Daniel spotted a soul he missed before was hanging around the fortress, but two ax knights was waiting with a chest nearby. "." Dan sighed after he chopped the latter's head off- killing these creatures left and right was hard word.. Inside the chest, he found a new silver shield. Wearily, he backtracked towards the Chalice and picked it up. He then headed back to the fortress where the Boat Man had been waiting. Without a word, Daniel handed the eight souls over.
"How gracious of you!" The Boat Man said with a smile. "Makes a change to meet a polite young skeleton after dealing with those filthy zombie types! Hop aboard."
Daniel climbed aboard gratefully, and soon, the Boat Man pushed off. As the ferryman began to row, Dan saw the marshes shrink slowly behind them. Aside from his frustrations, he felt something change inside him.. or maybe it was being soaked to the bone. "...Can I ask you a question?"
"..Go ahead." The Boat Man answered.
"Those souls....I know they're the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gallowmere a hundred years ago."
" ..and what about them?" the cloak ferryman asked.
He did not know what to expect, but the skeleton had to ask:".... Do they hate me?"
"Well, that depends." The Boat Man shrugged. "They died fighting for what they believed to be right. If you think that just because your death was exaggerated, you dishonor their memory, perhaps you should ask King Peregrin."
"The King?" Dan's eye widened. "He's still alive?"
"No. He died a few years after the battle." The Boat Man shook his head. "His spirit's still at the castle, even now. Right now, though, I think you'd be wise to get some rest: You'll need it for Mellowmede."
As the small boat was rowed on its merry way, Daniel Fortesque could only ponder what waited for him, not just at Mellowmede, and the rest of Gallowmere. To save the realm, the knight feared he might uncover truths more fearsome than any monster Zarok had unleashed thus far. All he could do for now was wait until the ship made port in the distant city of Mellowmede...