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The Talisman Chronicles
By Douglas E. Toth

Part I - Crossed Paths
The Ghoul

Asleep. Darkness. Engulfed. Cold. Awake.

The Hunger drives me, the need to quench a thirst.

I remember now the tales of glory and power that drove my life, my need for love that brought me to my death. That is all I remember, it is enough. All that I was before is gone but the Need joins the Hunger and it is enough to wake the dead.

I will continue my quest for the Crown and feed on all of those that stand in my way; they won’t stop me this time when...the memory fades, now gone.

Who are ‘they’? Why am I driven by hate? What have I become? I feel tears but the eyes are dry, the throat clenches, and my dead heart aches.

Why can’t I remember?!

A sound, in the...what are they...trees. The creature sees me and the Hunger pulls me. What was it called? No matter, the bright energy draws me as the thing brandishes it’s...the thing...weapon it was called. The gleaming blade does the creature no good, its eyes look into mine and I posses it, approach it, grasp it and the Hunger subsides. The creature, man it is called, lurches in my grasp and flees. Part of my mind awakes and I see the fields of a time before the great sleep.

That is it! A long time ago but not my youth; my life before. They did not understand but they will...she will! She would have been with me for all eternity, I promised her life and love with out end. They called me monster for what I wanted and now they will pay a heavy price. My searches into the forbidden lore have saved me from their revenge. I still live. The Crown is still there; perhaps guarded by some unworthy creature, that creature will be my coronation feast.

My wandering gains purpose as I stumble into more familiar territory, but changed. How long did I lie in that state of non-life? A battle must have raged here, the signs are every where. There is a figure of a man in the doorway ahead. Do I know this place? Indeed I do. It was a place of life when my mind first knew it, now it lies in ruin. The figure beckons to me, “What do you seek? Is thy purpose still true?”

Art thee a master or a servant?” I ask.

“Does it matter?”

“I will be no creature’s lackey, if you wish to master me then have at it if you dare, otherwise my will shall prevail.”

The figure in the shadow of the ruined structure bends knee to me as is my right. “A gift for thee master. I was pledged to aid thee long ago. You lack strength from your long sleep, lay your hands upon my shroud and my service will be complete.”

My dead hands clasp the hem of its cape and the energy of the thing enters me. I feel renewed, my desiccated tissue rejuvenates. The figure dissipates into me and leaves me utterly alone. Within the wrecked building there lies a sword, rusted and pitted but whole. I remember such things, but of greater worth. This common relic of a former age will serve for now. I will need to seek more powerful artifacts, this sliver of corroded steel is a pale shadow of the weapons of power I new, some of them crafted by my own hand when I was...what? Who had I been that I know it is my right to command? What people and forces did my bidding in that bygone age? And how long past was it?

Darkness falls but I feel no fear of it, in life I braved many unwholesome things in pursuit of my goal. I had endured the greatest darkness one could imagine when they took her from me. I had just awakened from the eternal darkness. Darkness could not hold me. There is merry music from a dimly lit building near the wood. Laughing and singing spill out to chase the night away. Peasants. A useful breed, their humble shack would provide me with meat and drink. It would not be the food my true Hunger clamored for but it would do, these lesser creatures would not provide much more in that regard.

The music died as I entered. A bright decorative tureen on the wall gave me a look at my physical self for the first time since the awakening. I could but smile, filthy and draped in rotted rags that had once been the funeral garb of a high born noble I was a horrific site. My best choice was the darker corner of the inn. The minstrel struck up his music again, fearing the rabble would stop tossing pennies into his hat.

A great, ham handed man loomed over me demanding I show my coin or be on my way. I hadn’t much, just the two half Sovereigns that were placed on my eyes when I was interred. Even though convicted as a murderer I was still a noble and ceremonies must be enacted to their fullest.

The food was rough and the drink bitter. I remember a table set each day for my beast that contained better fare than was offered to me here, and this insult...well...patience. When the final obstacle was removed and my goal achieved I would remember this one and make a special example of him.

Though bitter the brew was immensely potent and I found I had lost an entire day because of it. I hated delay. That man I had fed on after I first awoke was no common cooper or hay maker... that minstrel too was not some singer of bawdy songs and seducer of wenches. The fashions may have changed since my demise but I well knew the look of an adventurer on the Quest. It is in the bearing and stance, many a dandy may start on some treasure hunt but they lack the stomach for the perils it brings. I will stay mindful of these two; I will not be thwarted in my goal. It is my right and I have slumbered too long.


The Talisman Chronicles

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