Mad Wil Bromley stood up beside the camp fire. He had been gnawing at his toenails for quite a while, staring at the fire, deep in thought. Now he decided, for the first time during the whole search, to speak.
“Sirs……I might be a little less than sharp but I know badness when I smell it.”
So far, eight days into the search, the men had found nothing. No trace of their people. They had searched the Mocvara first. A deep swampy ravine that ran parallel to Beckenthorpe. It was a dank place where people did tend to disappear, voluntarily or otherwise. It took three days just to get from one end to the next. Then they trekked through a desolate ghost town that was infested with Red Rat, dog-like hairless rats, blood red in colour and always hungry for flesh. One of the Afara Giants, Haldor, received a nasty bite to his hand from one of the foul beasts but Haldors bite was literally a lot worse than the rats. He ripped out the animals throat with his teeth, later roasting the animal for his supper. Then the party searched through Dead Wood, a completely lifeless forest before coming to a green belt of bush which were now camped in.
“We are near something that is nasty or something nasty is near us. Can you smell it?”
Wil Bromley continued.
“I can see what no one here can see. I can smell it too. It’s foul. Oh yes. Can you smell it sirs? Death is near. It hunts us just like we hunt it ahahaha.”
The other men sniggered at the madman.
“Mad fool” Boris the Bloody murmured.
“Certain death my Sirs, certain death has us on top of his list. Hands are shaking and piss is leaking.
Oh yes Sirs we will die. Maybe some maybe all but we will die. Yes! Ahahaha…”
Then the madman stopped abruptly and stared into the surrounding darkness.
“Ignore him.” Sheriff Garrett declared. “He is a lunatic I…….
His words were cut off as Wil Bromley came suddenly cried out pointing.
“What is it man?” The Sheriff asked sternly.
Just then movement… A scuffle a strange whirring noise and then all hell broke loose…
“ARM YOURSELVES!” The Sherif cried as four large inhuman mechanical demons charged out from the darkness.
Frantic but brave men grabbed for their weaponry.
Father Darkmoore stood firm with his crucifix staff and short sword as one of the demons loomed towards him swinging bloodstained swords.
He ducked as the sword came at him. He then rolled and swung his own sword hard at the leg of the machine beast. Clang! His blade bounced off the metallic calf. A metal and twisted face peered down at him and roared. Darkmoore said a brief prayer before lunging his blade into the mid section of the demons torso. He must have hit something important because the machine reared up and away screeching like a wounded dragon. Then swiped at Darkmoore with a clawed hand sending the poor man flying a good 10 yards.
A furious fight was now underway. Men against machines.
The Magistrate and the Sheriff stood back to back as the metal monsters attacked.
Roland, one of the four brothers, went down quickly. He had leapt onto the back of one of the machines and drove his blade into the back of its neck but a second later he was thrown off to the ground and then skewered by the demons blade. The other three brothers were enraged by this and all three charged at the culprit. They hacked, stabbed, kicked and punched and slowly, very slowly the mechanical beast fell but it was far from beaten.
It kicked out striking Edwin hard in the face breaking his nose. The demon then scrambled to its feet and hastily hobbled away into the dark surrounds.
There was a loud screech from one of the other three machines and then they all loped off into the darkness just as quickly as they had arrived.
“What the hell were they?” Dr Casspare asked breathlessly.
For a moment no one could talk but then…
“Conservators.” The sheriff said quietly.
“Like guards?” Casspare inquired.
“Yes, they are protecting something.” The sheriff replied. He looked pensive for a moment. The Magistrate looked at his friend quizzically.
“Ok men take stock.” The Magistrate ordered, as he placed a comforting hand on the sheriffs shoulder.
Oswald, Edwin and Rupert went to their brother Roland. He was alive but barely. They knelt around him and whispered to him. Then Edwin took his brothers head in his hands and snapped his neck. The three remaining brothers did not mourn their lost brother instead they salvaged what useful items they could from his body.
“Saucery!” Mr Stormweather spat. “I have not seen the likes of these creatures before but I have seen similar on the battlefield. It was long ago when I was just a lad. I fought the Drakes with my father over a land dispute. They conjured up some dark force that attacked us as though it were a hundred man strong. It killed many of us but finally we brought it down with arrow, blade and Fire. When we looked upon it we were shocked to see steam coming from its wounds and cogs and rivets in place of body organs. We scratched our heads and said our prayers and forgot all about it. Now I see our enemy this day I believe it’s black magic.”
The men regrouped and headed off in the same direction the beasts had retreated. Now, at least, they had tracks to follow.