It has been a great week with plenty of days of relaxation. I wrapped up the survival book today with an editor who was very happy with the end result. So, client happy, editor happy, I am happy. This week I will be moving onto a gardening book, a nice change after all the survival books.
However, on that note, the two books afterward are survival books again. Seems I can't get away from this niche. Oh well, at least it's a subject I am interested in.
Anyway, enough about me, time to get reading about what happens next in Mortis Custos. Welcome to all the new readers, and welcome back to those who have followed us from the beginning. Don't forget to opt into the reader's list if you want to be alerted to our updates!
Mortis leapt from their horse and patted it on the nose. “Stay loyal one. This will not last long.”
The forest before them startled to ripple, like water after a pebble had been dropped in it. There was a high pitch chittering that set Magda’s teeth on edge. It didn’t take long before he wanted to clamp her hands over her ears.
“ENOUGH!” Roared Mortis.
The chittering fell silent immediately, yet the rippling continued throughout the forest. Adiran rode to the front of the party, but Mortis through an arm out and said, “Stop.”
“Don’t tell me…”
A creature leapt from the tree before them and landed on the head of the black stallion. Startled, Adiran raised his hands to defend himself. His horse reared and threw him from the saddle, yet it wasn’t a whinny of fright that echoed from the horse but rather a roar. Magna was terrified to see the glossy eyes of the horse suddenly flare bright red, and flames spewed from its nostrils.
As it reared, the creature which resembled a starving, naked man, barely managed to hang on with the claws it had embedded in the horse’s neck. However, its body hung over the maw of the horse.
Magna had to look again to be sure she was seeing right. The horse had a gaping maw which it was using to try and grab at the creature hanging from it. Flames licked between its sharp teeth as it gnashed at the creature. If Mortis hadn’t stepped in to stop the fight, the creature would have been eventually grabbed.
The knight grabbed the creature’s head and tore it from the ‘horse’ to throw it back into the forest. The creature, not wanting to lose its potential meal, leapt at the knight. Mortis would have none of it. He grabbed the creature’s head and crushed it with one swift movement. Instantly, silence fell over the forest. The chittering had all but stopped, and the trees only swayed a little now.
“Idiot.” Muttered Mortis as they threw the corpse at Adiran. “You have ventured here before. You should have known what hunts in this doomed forest.”
“What is that!” demanded Magna.
Mortis turned, then half chuckled. “You are quite sheltered, aren’t you? To which creature are you referring?”
Adiran got to his feet and dusted off his clothing. Magna directed her questions to him next, “Uncle?”
“He wasn’t meant to reveal himself.” Adiran pulled at the bridle to have his ‘horse’ look at him. “Oh, look at your face boy, that is going to scar.”
The ‘horse’ had what looked like embers dripping from wounds on its face. It looked like a sorry sight. Its pained whinnies sounded like the moans of an injured man.
“That is a nightmare, and an old one at that.” Said Mortis gravely. “I have never seen one take to any living creature without being bound to them.”
The nightmare snorted at the knight, who then point to the dead thing on the ground, “And that is a ghoul. We have disturbed a nest and a large one at that.”
“Not a nest. A colony.” Corrected Adiran as he stroked the nightmare’s face.
An audible sigh echoed from within Mortis’ helm. The knight strode forward and picked up the creature by its leg. They then effortlessly threw the corpse into the woods and declared. “Out then fiend, let’s see who you are.”
The chittering rose in pitch once more before it fell silent. So silent the only sound the travellers heard was the sound of their own breath. Mortis didn’t allow the silence to grow.
“I intend to go through this forest, and I will defend the lives with me. You can get out of my way, or I will bury each and every one of your kind feet up with a stone in your mouth.”
Adiran’s head shot up and said, “No! That cannot be. They haven’t been seen in…”
“You will parley?” Came a dry voice from the forest.
Magna shuddered. When she had been very young, her father buried his parents, and she was forced to go into the tombs below the castle. The sound of the crypt being opened sounded the same as the voice which came from the forest.
“It has been centuries, hasn’t it?” echoed the voice once more.
“I didn’t know your hunting grounds were here.” Replied Mortis.
“I didn’t know you still lived.”
“What do they call you now?”
“Ah, named for what you dealt in.”
Adiran released his mount and came to stand next to Magna. “We need to go. Now!”
“It’s too late. Stay.” Said Mortis.
“Ooh, your eyesight has improved. So? Shall we parley?”
Magna’s eyes grew wide as she watched a giant bat crawl from the woods before it stood up on its hind legs. She felt herself start to hyperventilate. This couldn’t be real. They were hunted to extinction! To have one this close to her home was terrifying.
“We shall parley.” Agreed Mortis.
A fire had been lit at the edge of the forest, and the travellers were sitting around it. Adiran and Magna were clearly horrified by the creature which sat on the other end of the fire. The bat-like creature seemed to be exchanging pleasantries with Mortis as if they were old friends. Adiran clutched at Magna as if he feared she would be taken by the prowling ghouls which made their way around camp.
“Calm young one. They have eaten well tonight. They will not bother you.” Said the creature.
“You…you…you…” started Magna.
“Am handsome? Am smart? Am a monster? Take your pick.”
Mortis chuckled and said, “These people think your species extinct. A ghoul King is an unknown to them.”
The bat-creature chuckled and turned to Adiran, “You think these lands have been clear of the undead for as long as what they have because of your magic? Please. My ghouls make short work of the rotting flesh bags. Thought he would have told you all of this.”
The creature pointed to Mortis, and for the first time, Magna found her voice, “You’re a he? Why didn’t you just tell us?”
“What difference does it make whether something dangles between my legs or not? Asked Mortis sarcastically. “You should know that it doesn’t determine a warrior or not.”
Magna blushed a deep red, and the creature pointed to her, “You are the princess of this realm, are you not? What are you doing in my realm?”
“I’m a nocturnal beast. I stalk the shadows to learn of my surroundings and the people within them.”
“Then why didn’t you stop the creatures which attacked us yesterday!” yelled Magna.
Adiran slapped a hand over her mouth, forgetting the helm was in the way, “Excuse her, she doesn’t know with what she speaks.”
The creature snorted, “A what? I have been summarised as a what.”
It raised a clawed wing to the knight and said in a weary tone, “I suppose you haven’t even told them who you are yet?”
Silence once more fell over the forest, and even the ghouls seemed to sit back and listen to what was being said.
“Not the time. Not the place.” Said Mortis sadly. “Start with who you are and why you protect them.”
Well now, who is this mysterious stranger? Who knows? It's up to @zakludick to tell you!. See you all for the next update!
Here is an explanation of Chain Stories and here is the current Chainstory Library
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Mortis Custos Parts
|by @lex-zaiya||by @zakludick|
|Part 1||Part 2|
|Part 3||Part 4|
|Part 5||Part 6|
|Part 7||Part 8|
|Part 9||Part 10|
|Part 11||Part 12|
|Part 13 - You are Here!||Part 14 Coming Soon|