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Rise of the Nightmare Crestmaster

Chapter 7 Your Fears Face You

The footsteps came to a sudden stop, right behind him. Aldrich clenched his teeth and slowly turned around.

What he saw was another familiar sight. The black cloaked stranger. This man—no, this thing stood taller than any man he ever saw.

Now Aldrich understood why it was futile to search for it in the village. This thing was with him all along. This thought completely froze Aldrich in his position. Suddenly Aldrich could do what he couldn"t this morning, he could see beneath the strangers cloak.

The weird darkness that covered this thing in the morning wasn"t there anymore. The cloak"s opening had an unnatural attraction and repulsion to his eyes, he wanted to look but didn"t, yet he was driven to.

The creature wore nothing beneath the cloak, it had a humanoid build with two arms and legs. It"s skin was glued to it"s lanky bones, the monster looked inhumanly pale and it gave Aldrich the impression that it was positively famished.

It"s face was not much of a face, it only had a mouth with no lips and he could see the thing"s yellowed and dirty teeth grinning in unmistakable joy as it looked at him. Its face bore on other features, no eyes, no nose, no eyebrows, no ears. It was completely hairless.

It"s hand possessed extremely long and dark nails—claws perhaps is a more appropriate description. A colorless liquid dripped from the tips to the ground. Aldrich could only discern it by the noise it made as it collided with the ground.

It was only now, when it was probably too late, that Aldrich figured out why he"d been running away from this thing even though he wasn"t fully conscious in the nightmare before.

,m On a subconscious level he knew that the only thing he could do was run away and hope this thing never caught up with him.

Although he still had no idea what this was all about, clearly this wasn"t just a nightmare, it was something more.

His left hand burned with a subtle pain that freed Aldrich from his paralyzed state. He remembered his encounter with the giant crimson serpent, even though it was hopeless he had to try to run away at least.

He turned around and sprinted with all his might, but of course, how could the hunter let his prey escape so easily after a long hunt? The creature lunged at him from behind.

Before he could get anywhere Aldrich felt himself being tackled, though the monster looked thin and frail it possessed overwhelming strength. It"s sinister claws tore into his shoulder with ease.

Aldrich didn"t give himself time to feel pain, he bit the monster in return targeting the hand that held him down. The monster shrieked, and Aldrich kicked it in its torso and managed to free himself.

Aldrich got back to running not willing to wait for the monster to regain composure. After running for a while he felt something strange, he heard no footsteps behind him. Did it give up?

He turned his head around to look and saw what had occupied the monster"s attention. It had opened it"s maw and was shoving pieces of meat in, one by one. It even bent to the ground and started licking the blood in ravenous hunger.

"Meat? Where did it-?"

Aldrich looked at his left shoulder, or rather at where his shoulder should have been. Where it used to be, he saw a hole from which he could see his own arm bone.

It was a chunk of shoulder meat now, next it might be his own head. He also noticed that along with the excruciating pain a sort of smoke was rising from the hole in his shoulder. That transparent liquid, it was doing something to him, he didn"t know what exactly but he was sure of it.

Aldrich wanted to stop and scream and shout, but didn"t allow himself to. This was a chance to widen the distance, and he must not waste it.

He didn"t want to die, his whole life was ahead of him, he won"t die here to some nightmare bastard. Aldrich gritted his teeth and kept running in this endless corridor.

"Where am I even going? That thing will soon finish its meal and then it will come for me again"

He had been running for what he thought was hours, he was exhausted and depleted, he had a hard time keeping his eyes open, when something happened. This corridor never changed in all his experiences before but now something new happened.

Aldrich could see faraway in the horizon a blue light shining. There. Aldrich didn"t care what it was, he just knew that it was his only hope of ever making it out of here alive.

Unfortunately exhaustion got to him before he could reach the blue light. His eyes closed as he was running. And then opened again as Aldrich shot up from his bed screaming.

"What the fuck?! What the hell is wrong with you? It"s the middle of the night get back to sleep! Fucking useless, can"t even fall asleep." Amusingly enough it was his mother"s outburst that calmed Aldrich down, this was definitely the real world.

Aldrich touched his left shoulder with a shudder, it was fine. Everything was where it"s supposed to be, as always. Only Aldrich could now remember exactly what happened in the nightmare for the first time.

Although he believed he spent hours in the nightmare, it looked like not much time passed here. Aldrich wanted to think more about the events in the nightmare but, he felt so tired and spent that after he got back in bed even thinking became tiresome.

Aldrich didn"t want to sleep ever again, but his mind and body disagreed. He fell asleep like a babe.

——— —— ——— ——— ——— ——

His eyes shot open at once and he looked around expecting another fight, only, he found himself on his bed in the real world. Sunlight sneaked through the window"s shutters into the room.

He looked to the side, his mother was still sleeping, good, now he knew everything was actually fine. After he went back to sleep he dreamed of... nothing. For once in forever he had a dreamless sleep.

Aldrich almost teared up, he got up feeling much better than last night. But of course just because he was feeling better didn"t mean that he forgot the horrific events of the nightmare. He had to find a way.

What if the next time he slept he got sent back there again? Now that was more likely to happen than him getting lucky again. Of course the man for this job is none other than the Crestmaster Krynt.

His first and perhaps only option is definitely Mr. Krynt, a crestmaster will surely know what to do. Aldrich washed his face, wore his boots and opened the door to be greeted with the smells of a hundred different foods. It was already well into the afternoon.

"Did I really sleep that long? I am used to waking up at sunrise, this feels uncomfortable"

He followed the smell to the village square. There were people playing and dancing, some were playing musical instruments others were drinking around the bonfire, some women got on a platform and sang the old and new songs. Foods and drink were free for all to help themselves to.

"Oh, yeah todays the spring festival"

It was one Aldrich"s favorite days throughout the year. Unfortunately in this year"s festival Aldrich couldn"t bring himself to have a cheerful mood.

Aldrich didn"t forget his goal, he headed straight to Mr. Krynt"s house. On the door a paper hanged, it said:

I apologize for not being able to attend the festival. God knows that I would like to but, I find myself extremely busy. I will not be disturbed under any circumstances.

Has hand twitched before it could knock on the door. Yes, Krynt did say that yesterday. Aldrich didn"t have a choice but to delay.

This was not the first time that Mr. Krynt closed himself off like this anyone who disturbed him in this situation would wish they didn"t. But the situation was sensitive, Aldrich had to at least try.

"Oi, dunce, can"t you read? My father"s busy he"s not going to see you. Piss off brat!"

Before he could, a very angry voice interrupted him. Darry. This was one of Mr. Krynt"s adopted sons. When Mr. Krynt settled here he took two wives, both war widows, and so he adopted their children. Also one of the reasons why Mr. Krynt was accepted easily in Wakefield.

His stepsons and daughters didn"t quite like Aldrich all that much. Some might say they hated him, but Aldrich wouldn"t really go that far. He tried to get along with them but it seemed that it was a fruitless effort.

Aldrich didn"t want to make a scene so he headed to the square again. There was another person he could talk to, that is the secret Crestmaster hiding in Wakefield, or rather some ways off Wakefield. He was a reclusive man that lived alone in the woods.

Aldrich got to know him by chance when the man saved his life once when he was twelve. There was only one problem, Aldrich couldn"t always find the way to his house. The woods around that place were strange and he didn"t want to get lost.

He got himself some lamb chops and mashed potatoes and started gorging himself. This is one of the few times a year he could eat meat.

"Woah, there! The food"s not gonna jump off the plate and run away now will it? Eat calmly."

Aldrich turned his head to find father Gombst who was still wearing his clerical robes even on the festival. Father Gimbst was not a real cleric, meaning he is not a white ringed Crestmaster. But he was the holy man of the small temple in Wakefield.

When Aldrich was too young to find a job, father Gombst told him that he will have two loaves of bred for free if only he attended the morning sermon. Aldrich was happy to do so.

Aldrich recalled that there was another important thing on his mind.

"Father, do you know where the banker and his guards are? I have to speak to the mayor about something."

"The banker? Oh, those guys left first thing in the morning. Why? Did they do something?" Gombst was perplexed.

"They left just like that? Well thats one thing less to worry about".

"Ah, well it doesn"t matter now that they"re gone. What about Mr. Isger? Seen him around?"

"Hmm, ah he said that he drank enough and left for his farm."

"Alright, thank you so much, father, I"ll see you around."

"Yeah, just be careful where you step."

Aldrich decided to talk to Mr. Isger about all this and see what he had to say, after all he was an experienced man, he might have some ideas.

By the time he reached the farm, the sun was already setting. He knocked on the door and the door open, a slightly tipsy Isger laughed.

"Had enough sleep? I can"t believe you missed the festival. Anyway tomorrows a work day so forget about skipping. Come on in."


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