The werebeasts clamber towards us, even as we dart towards them. Joshua and Elizabeth are holding back a little more than I would like, but they’re still close enough that I should have no problem protecting them. I am their Knight. I will lead them through the Passageway. All they need to do is give me enough cooperation.
The first werebeast comes to a halt before me, screaming a challenge and rising to full height. Without hesitation, I run towards him and slash for his chest. He raises an arm to block my sword, but my thrust is too quick; I pierce him under the rib cage. “This way!” I call to the couple, swerving right. About another ten or so werebeasts meet us. I cleave one’s knee and then plant my foot, pivoting and stabbing one of the monsters in the stomach. Joshua and Elizabeth keep close to my back, a good idea, but they stop, unable to go any further as another three of the werebeasts close in on us. We’re in a bad position.
I need to be fast. I jump at the three Evil about to attack the couple; I cut one’s throat while in the air, and after I land I jump at the next two, slicing diagonally twice. All three of them falter and then slowly drop to the ground, blood erupting from their throats. Joshua and Elizabeth dart after me, into the spaces previously held by the three werebeasts, even as I whirl around to face the monsters approaching from our left. There’s a lot of them…more than usual, I think.
That being said, I’m neither afraid nor concerned that I can’t aid Joshua and Elizabeth through this brawl. But I realize that this time, unlike others, it might cost me something. My sword plunges into the chest of one werebeast, and I hear a roar at my right. I commence pulling my blade free, looking over my shoulder to locate the monster before he can execute his attack. His claws are already descending for me. I try to make it; I try to wield my sword faster; I try to sever the werebeast’s arm. But I’m too late.
It’s light, but the claws rip through my cloak and scratch crooked marks into my right arm.
So I receive the first one.
The pain stings, but it’s brief, and I quickly regain my focus. I send a hard punch into the monster’s stomach, and as it bends over consequently, I hop and drop-kick it in the left side of the head. The next two werebeasts claw at me, but I dodge, my movements fluid and smooth, and then I bound away from them, staying close to Joshua and Elizabeth. We have made our way to the river. Joshua and Elizabeth make as if they’ll jump in and swim across, but their senses stop them; the current is moving perilously fast.
“Go farther down the river!” I shout to them, nudging my elbow in that direction. They comply, moving cautiously along the bank, their eyes flitting towards their pursuers and then towards the ground in front of them. I follow them by back pedaling, but I stop every once and a while to feint at the werebeasts, lest any of them try to come too close.
We reach the area I’ve been endeavoring to get too; a spot in the river where the water isn’t so high, only about knee-deep. “Go!” I say to the couple. Three more werebeasts engage me. The first I slash down the stomach and then push aside with my blade, and the next two I leap in between, pivoting as I bound, so that now I face their backs. Immediately upon landing, I rush right back in between them, into the river after Joshua and Elizabeth. The two werebeasts pause, uncertain, and then cry out as blood spurts from their sides.
On the opposite side of the river, another ten werebeasts have gathered. Joshua and Elizabeth stop short, afraid to go any further. I run past them, saying, “Come on!” Leaping out of the river, I cut down one Evil while in the air, and then I leap off of the air, pushing off of it as if it were solid ground, cleaving one werebeast down the head. The remaining eight break apart and flee, turning away to join a larger group of their kind, which approaches from the cliffs far to our left. The couple join me on the other side of the river, and together we move swiftly for the forest of boulders just ahead. The werebeasts will give chase, I assume, but after the rocks, they’ll have more than me to fear.
In fact, they don’t even follow us into the rocks. And that doesn’t bode well.
But I have more pressing matters to attend to. As we enter into the forest of rocks, the werebeasts come to halt before the boulders. They shriek, snarling and howling, but they don’t follow us. They are afraid of something. Slowly, they begin to retreat back over the cliffs, and into the caves at the base of the cliffs. Joshua and Elizabeth sigh. “What were those things?” asks Elizabeth, catching her breath.
“Werebeasts,” I answer, “they’re a mix of beast, man, and Evil.”
Elizabeth nods, and for a moment, silence follows. “Sir,” Joshua then speaks up, “can you tell us more about this place we’ve entered into? Why are we here? And how do we leave?”
I begin wiping the blood off the blade of my weapon with a small, white cloth, considering my words before I answer. “Joshua,” I finally reply, “what was the last thing that happened to you and Elizabeth before you came here?”
Joshua and Elizabeth look at each other, and then Joshua replies, “We were sleeping. After going to bed, we were suddenly attacked by an Evil. He said his name was Shiralk. I don’t know how he did it, but he stuck his hand inside of us. And he pulled the zoecharia right out of our souls. Then a portal opened up behind us, and we were sucked in. That’s the last thing I remember.” The man clenches his fist, “That bastard took our lives while we were within our bed sheets.”
I stop wiping my sword, and then continue. “Yes,” I agree, “death happens there often.” I don’t think they get what I just said. I already know why they are here, but I still don’t think they understand why. I continue, “Those who lose their zoecharia immediately enter the Passageway. This is both a place of pain and death, but it is also the way to renewal and new life. At the end of the Passageway, you will be given the chance to restore the zoecharia to your soul, and you may return home. But if you don’t make it…” I look up at them, my eyes sincere and yet hopeful, “…then you will become an Evil.”