Dark Legacy Part Five: The Forest of Silence
by Chanaur Majere

Reinhardt leaned forward in the boat, trying to see through the heavy fog. I feel like I'm on the River Styx. Looking back, he saw the boatman, slowly paddling the boat along. He resembled a skeleton, the face above all. The sunken eyes, the incredibly thin form... The only thing that proved he was alive at all was the fact that he was moving. The sightless eyes fell upon Reinhardt, and his blood ran cold.

He hurriedly turned to Carrie. She was fast asleep, huddled in her skin tight green tunic with blue leggings. Chanaur was sitting against the side of the boat, trying not to fall asleep. He couldn't help but feel sorry for them. It seemed everyone knew who was behind the mask...

....Except for Carrie.

I just hope they get this sorted out soon. Turning to the sky, he said a silent prayer. Please God, don't let them have to go through what I'm going through.
Rosa, I will find you. You shall live again.
Dracula, I will find you. I will make you pay.

Nobody had said much since they first set out across this damned lake. The silence was rather comforting, though. Like the emptiness he felt inside. He hadn't cried his entire life, and he wasn't going to start now. The ring weighed heavily in his pocket. Suddenly, his lightly armored tunic seemed to constrict, squeezing the breath from his lungs.

His unused tears were fuel for the flames of hate raging inside. Even though it hurt, he couldn't let the others see.

Chanaur kept looking at Carrie, a mixture of love and sorrow in his eyes. He was wearing gray pants, and a blue shirt. One of the sleeves was gold with a purple design twining around his arm. "Chanaur, I have a question for you." Reinhardt whispered.

Chanaur's head snapped up. Apparently, he had been drifting off. "Yes?"

Reinhardt first checked to make sure Carrie was still asleep. "Why didn't you reveal yourself when you had the chance?"

Chanaur sighed. "Was it really that obvious?" Reinhardt nodded. "I don't know. I think it was because she said that she loved me, but didn't know who I was. It just didn't feel right..."

"All the more reason to-" Reinhardt stopped abruptly. Carrie stirred, but slept on. "Look, you need to tell her the truth before you lose her. Let me assure you, she feels the same way."

"I'm still not sure..."

Carrie stirred again, and this time she woke up. Looking forward, her eyes narrowed. "What is this?"

The boatman's sightless eyes flickered. "Someone has been taken." The hollow voice held a hint of amusement.

"What do you mean by that?" Reinhardt asked. The ghost ship that was supposed to take them to the Forest of Silence had capsized.

He didn't answer. However, his palid face was crinkled into a horrid smile.

The boatman continued to paddle, until they came to a broken stone bridge. "Disembark." ordered the boatman.

Now they all stood on an ancient bridge, leading into a thick fog. As the boatman faded into the mist, Chanaur called out, "What do you mean, 'someone has been taken'?"

Without a word, he gestured to the walkway beneath their feet.

A trail of blood led from the wreckage of the ship into the fog. A few feet up the trail was a large pool of the crimson liquid, and a fragment of dark blue cloth.

A haunting laugh shattered the silence as the boatman disappeared.

Reinhardt shivered. "Was he one of the undead?"

"I have no idea, but he gave me the creeps." Carrie muttered, her eyes locked on the pool of blood. Sighing, Chanaur said, "I guess we should get going."

Reinhardt was the first to move. Chanaur put an arm around Carrie and began to lead her across the bridge.

A huge wall appeared from out of the mist. In the middle of the trail was a large iron door, with two statues of women on either side.

As Carrie stepped forward to test the door, a serpentine body erupted from the lake, splashing the acidic water inches from her feet. A head reared up at the fringe of the mist, as the arms uncurled from the rest of it's body.

"The Kraken!" Chanaur yelled.

The cold reptilian eyes focused on Carrie. She tightened her grip on the dragon axe, and assumed a fighting stance like a cat ready to pounce.

Chanaur took out his bow, knocking one of his special arrows. He let it fly. Before it hit the target, it had separated into about twenty different projectiles.

The Kraken took these as a slight annoyance, and swiped for Carrie. She swung the axe in an upward arch, severing the hand at the wrist.

This time, the creature balked. It released a seething roar as it's lost appendage regenerated. Still not looking away from Carrie, it slid under the water.

The air was stagnant, silent. Carrie now had a throwing axe clutched in her hand, the dragon axe in Chanaur's keep. She stood there, waiting for it's next move.

The silence was shattered by an explosion of water the sent Carrie flying straight up in the air. The Kraken's head shot up, ready to take her into it's jaws. Carrie threw the axe, watching it hit right between it's eyes with a sickening thwunk.

A few seconds after contact, the axe started to crackle with electricity. A lightening bolt struck the Kraken, blowing it's head apart.

Carrie landed in Chanaurís arms. With a gurgling, choking squeal, the headless corpse fell back, to forever float on the murky surface.

Chanaur set Carrie down, shaking his head. "You are brutal." He sighed, smiling.

"It wasn't very pretty, was it?" She answered, smiling back.

The iron door slid open, showing the way to the Forest of Silence.

Chanaur handed the dragon axe back to her, and started to walk toward the end of the bridge. Reinhardt followed, grimacing at the green ichor flowing from the neck of the dead body.

Carrie stepped through, her mind wandering. Why was it concentrating on me? Maybe Dracula finally realized that I can kill him faster than the others, and is using his pets to do his dirty work. She let out a short laugh. He'll probably use all his strength with head games before we get to his resting place.

"Oh, great." She heard Reinhardt mumble. Now they were faced with a solid stone cliff face, that had to be at least fifty feet straight up. "How the Hell are we supposed to get up that?"

Chanaur craned his neck to see up to the top. Putting his hands together, he cracked all his knuckles at once.

"You can't be serious." Carrie said incredulously. "There's no chance you can make it up that. I can't see any foot holds, anywhere."

"So? I'll make some." Chanaur muttered.

Stepping up to the wall, he thrust his hand into the rock, his fingers making ample hand holds. Doing the same with the other hand, and then kicking into the wall, he proceeded to scale the cliff.

Now she was very puzzled indeed. "How can he do that?" She asked. Reinhardt only shrugged. Strange. Chanaur is more wiry than muscular, but he seems to posses strength that surpasses Reinhardt by far.

He finally made it up. "Now how do we get up, dummy?" Carrie called up.

After a pause, a long rope fell over the side, dangling a few feet above the ground. "Oh." She whispered. Reinhardt was already starting up the rope. Surprisingly enough, there was no blood in the handholds he had made.

Using the footholds Chanaur had left, they were all shortly standing at the top, looking out across the foggy lake.

"Show off." Carrie whispered. Chanaur only smiled.

Reinhardt shook his head and moved on. There was a well beaten path leading deeper into the forest. The trees were so thick, that it was almost as a wall in a corridor.

"Damned mist." Reinhardt muttered as he almost ran into a tree in the middle of the trail. Now he stood before a large wooden gate, held together by a metal plate.

The plate was engraved with the seal of Count Dracula.

"Carrie!" Reinhardt called out. Momentarily, Carrie came up behind him. "We have an obstruction." He gestured to the gate.

She nodded. She stood back, staring up into the mist. With a wave of her hand, she saw the target clearly, the fog moved aside.

Closing her eyes, she whispered a few words in a strange tongue. She then waved her other hand. Ice frosted over the ancient wood, crystallizing instantly. In seconds, the gate was completely frozen, shining in the mid morning light.

Opening her eyes, she closed her hand into a fist, thrusting the other one forward.

With a splintering crash, it shattered into hundreds of needle sharp shards, sticking into the ground in all directions.

As the ice disappeared, Chanaur stepped forward, shaking his head. "Now who's the show off?" Carrie only smiled.

Again, Reinhardt was the first one to move. Striding forward into the dense haze, and immediately sprang backward as a large club barely missed taking his head off.

"Carrie!" He shouted. She nodded again, clearing the area of all mist.

An enormous skeleton stood hunched over, staring down at Reinhardt, the bone club raised again. It roared menacingly, and swung at him again.

Reinhardt sidestepped the downward stroke, snapping his whip at the ape skeleton's head. it staggered, shook it's head, and stomped forward. Chanaur hurled a ball of electricity, which expanded on impact. It growled, and hammered the ground with it's club.

About a dozen human skeletons arose from the ground, charging forward en masse. Carrie sighed, stepping forward with the dragon axe ready.

The ground was now littered with scattered bones. Finally, the giant ape skeleton had had enough. Sprint-crawling, in that strange way that apes do, to a deep ravine nearby, it leapt in. It splashed into the acidic rivulet at the bottom, and ran off.

A platform suddenly appeared, bridging the gap. The path was once again open, until the next obstruction, anyway.

"This is getting a little monotonous." Chanaur muttered as they moved on.

Now they were in a clearing. To the west, another ravine. The east, an iron gate. The north, a gate across another ravine, with two bridges. In the very center of the clearing, was a covered statue, that had short walls on either side. A high arch allowed easy passage into the enclosure.

Yanking the cover off, it revealed a robed man with a staff, his arm raised and pointing to the north. An engraving below it read the 'sage points to the right path.'

Chanaur looked from the statue, to the two shut gates, to the path to the west. "Well, I guess we go west. Perhaps there's a switch over there, or something."

Of course, as usual, Chanaur was right. A section of a stone bridge was in the middle of rift, being held up by a stone pillar at the floor of the tributary. Carrie volunteered to cross, saying she could jump farther than anyone else.

She made it safely across, stepping up to a rusted switch in a Stone block. "This is going to open that gate?" She whispered to herself. Grumbling something about wasted magic, she pulled the switch.

A sound of metal squeaking and grinding against metal filled the air. "Was that the north gate or the east gate?" She shouted to Reinhardt.

Carrie never heard the reply. A growl came from the forest behind. She watched the platform fall away as a behemoth leapt into the clearing, knocking several trees over in the process.

"Oh, hell no." She said, backing off. Lifting another electrically charged axe, she hurled it at the monster's chest. The desired affect was brought about, but not quite the way Carrie had planned. A gaping hole was made in it's chest, but the thing continued forward. It hadn't even staggered.

She spread her arms, calling upon the powers of water. A rumbling sound filled the area that scared even the behemoth. Carrie raised her arms, still spread, whispering the forgotten language of magic.

A tsunami of the acidic water from the ravine rose over both their heads. The creature tried to flee, but the wave of death was already upon him. It wailed in protest as it's body was buffeted along by the tide, and washed into the gully. The Behemoth hit the water, barely missing the platform that was now far below. The skin started to melt off on it's body, the head screaming in pain. A new cloud of foul smelling vapor appeared, blocking the rest of the creature's grizzly death from view.

The platform raised up again, another trial overcome.

Damn, he likes head games doesn't he! Carrie shook her head. Just remember, this is only the beginning...

"You alright Carrie?" Chanaur called out to her, already on the platform.

"Fine, thank you. Was it the north or east gate?" she repeated.

"East. Apparently, he's made a labyrinth of some sort." Staring into the ravine, he whistled. "That's a long way down." He jumped back to the statue clearing with Reinhardt.

Carrie suddenly realized just how far down it was. Her legs began to shake. She hated heights! She charged toward the edge of the platform, but her jump was short.

However, Chanaur was waiting for her. He caught her arms, and hauled her up to terra firma. "Sorry I jinxed you." He apologized.

"Glad you were watching me." Carrie whispered out of breath, clinging to him. Damn, that was close. She did a double take. Another head game?

"Oh, I can't take my eyes off of you, you know that." Chanaur grinned.

Carrie looked up at him, and grinned back. Her worries were shoved to the back of her mind. "I was wondering why I kept getting that funny feeling someone was watching me..."

Chanaur shrugged, and released her. "We should keep going."

The ancient gate was now open, leading to yet another path. "What are those?" Carrie inquired, pointing.

"Imps, I guess. Maybe goblins." Reinhardt sighed. Several little green humanoids were hopping around, their high pitched laughing reverberating through the forest. They were slightly hunched over, with arms and legs that were ill-proportioned to the rest of their bodies.

Finally, the first one leapt for Chanaur. He already had his bow ready, and had taken out three others. This one was an easy target.

A couple of skeleton warriors popped out of the ground. Knocking them to pieces, Reinhardt muttered, "I don't know which ones are more annoying."

Now the skeletons were coming in pairs, much more often then before. Now they were getting smarter, attacking from two sides at once. However, they were too flimsy to pose a serious threat.

Soon they came to another clearing, this one with a large pit in the middle of it. Across the pit was another path. There were two more switches, apparently to create a makeshift bridge over to the lever to operate the grating down the high path. But that was the advantage of traveling in a group.

After being helped up, Carrie was now standing looking into another ravine. This one had a whole bridge though, so she just strolled across. She came up to the switch and pulled it. She glanced nervously around. This is too easy...

She walked back to Chanaur and Reinhardt when a hissing came from behind. Two skeletons were sprinting toward her. These ones were a more bluish color, and their heads were smoking, causing the hissing sound.

"Bomb-heads!" Carrie shouted. Raziel had told her about these ones; they live just long enough to kamikaze themselves to blow you up. But they detonated when hit by anything.

And that did mean anything.

It's hard to believe that the Count would implement minions who can be brought down by simply throwing rocks at them. She snickered. If it wasn't for the rain of shrapnel they send out, they'd be almost harmless.

Again, Chanaur was right behind her, checking to see if she was okay. "That was quick." he muttered to himself. He shouted to Carrie, "How are you going to get across?"

The bridge had collapsed as she had pulled the switch. "Well, stand back, and I'll show you."

Again she called upon the power of the elements, this time of the wind. She spread her arms like wings as a strong gust came from behind her. Carrie began to 'fly' across the gap, her eyes closed in concentration.

She landed next to Chanaur, a little unsteadily, though. "You alright?" He asked hurriedly, reaching out to steady her.

"Yeah, but that takes a bit of energy to accomplish. I'll be fine though." That was a lie, but she wasn't about to slow the others down just because she was a little tired.

"Are you sure?" Chanaur asked, still not convinced.

Carrie shrugged. "The north gate should be open now." Carrie muttered, changing the subject. She lowered herself down into the pit where Reinhardt was waiting. Chanaur soon followed, and they were again on their way.

Back in the Statue clearing, they faced the north. Across another ravine was the gate, standing wide open. The ravine had two bridges, one on the left, another on the right.

Carrie started to cross the bridge on the right, but Chanaur said, "Hold it."

"What?" Carrie asked, her foot hovering over the first brick of the bridge.

"The sage points to the right path." Reinhardt explained. "He's pointing to this bridge." A skeleton warrior emerged from the ground as always. "Allow me to demonstrate..."

He disarmed it, then grabbed it by it's clavical and it's pelvis, and flung it face first into the path to the right. The undead creature stood up, and the bridge promptly collapsed.

"See?" Chanaur cocked his head to one side. "Be more careful, Carrie. You'll go a lot farther."

"Thanks again." She said, watching the skeleton splash into the water. What's wrong with me? My mind is wandering way too much.... Maybe I should get some sleep, but not now.

Are you okay, Carrie? Chanaur's gentle voice entered her thoughts.

Kind of... I'm pretty tired... She admitted.

We'll rest pretty soon, when Reinhardt realizes we aren't fueled by a lust for vengeance as strong as his. Chanaur smiled and offered her his hand.

She took it, and he led her through what she hoped to be the last gate.

They passed a pair of desecrated mausoleums marked 'Charnell house', and came to a second pit. This one had bodies scattered all over. "A feeding pit..." Reinhardt whispered, disgusted.

Chanaur drew his sword and jumped in, waiting for the resident monster to attack. Moving forward a ways, a snarl came from above. A werewolf dove at him from the wall at the other side of the pit. Grabbing it's arms, he kicked the creature in the stomach and threw it at the same time.

It howled in pain, and righted itself in mid-air. Growling, foam flecking it's lips, the werewolf slowly stalked him. Chanaur readied his sword.

Fire flared to life all around the walls of the pit. There was no escape for either, now.

The creature continued to move forward, the low growl still rumbling in it's throat. Chanaur pulled the dagger from his boot and hurled it at the lycanthrope.

It dodged this, and then charged at him. Feinting left, it came in on the right, leaping at him and slashing at the same time.

Chanaur felt the claws melt through his arm, but brought his sword up at the same moment. The blade cut it neatly up the middle, but not completely. It was still in tact, but it wasn't in a very good shape.

The werewolf jumped back, and staggered forward. This time it came in, full assault. It ducked under Chanaur's swing, but hammered him in the chest with an open hand. He was sent flying, with five bloody holes bored deep into his skin.

Chanaur hit the wall, and slid down to his knees. He clutched at his chest.

The werewolf howled, this time in triumph. Chanaur's sword was now a good ten feet from where he was. The creature staggered toward him, ready to claim it's new trophy.

Now Chanaur stood up, brandishing his bow. He let fly and arrow, which sped toward it's target. The barbed shaft was buried up to it's flights in the creatures breast.

What would have been a snarl of pain was silenced as the magic of the ice arrow went to work. The werewolf 's sundered body froze and shattered, in much the manner of the gate.

The flames died, and a walkway emerged from the wall to the east. They could get across now.

Carrie was suddenly next to him, supporting him. "Are you okay?" She asked, looking at his arm and chest.

"Sure, just give me a moment...." He groaned. He placed a hand over his chest, concentrating on healing. He was soon whole again.

Reinhardt was still silent. Without saying anything, he moved on.

Chanaur shook his head. "You've gotta love his determination..."

"...And hate his detached personality." Carrie finished. "I guess we should cut him a break, though. He's going through a difficult time."

"Aw, Hell!" Came a shout from above. "Not another damned gate!" "You hear that?" Chanaur whispered. "That little outburst proves he still worries about us."

Carrie almost smiled, but realized that he wasn't joking. "I'll knock it down, Reinhardt!" she called out. She started to run up to the mouth of the pit.

"Are you sure?" Chanaur asked again.

"Yeah, you look pretty tired..." Reinhardt said.

"Oh, I'll be fine." She muttered. She stepped up to the gate, and saw the drawbridge to the Castle off in the distance. "Here goes...."

She kneeled down, digging her hands into the ground. She called upon the powers of the earth, and directed them at the last obstruction.

A deep rumble caused the ground to shake under their feet. A rift appeared underneath the Final Gate, causing it to collapse.

As the earth mended itself, Carrie too collapsed. Reinhardt stepped quickly forward, but Chanaur was already there. Now I'm spent... Carrie groaned to herself.

She felt Chanaur's hands on her shoulders, gently massaging the pain away. He surrendered some of his strength to her.

"Thank you...." Carrie whispered, still feeling a little drained.

Chanaur lifted her up, and kissed her forehead. "Anytime, Carrie." He smiled one of those charming smiles.

That made her think back to her masked man. Carrie put a hand on his cheek. Chanaur, about last night... the man in the mask... I-I... She bit her lip. She just couldn't say it.

Yes? Carrie, what's wrong? Chanaur was concerned. Carrie never showed worries in that way, so she must really be upset.

And upset she was. I don't want you to think... I don't... I... She still couldn't find the right words to say.

It's okay Carrie... Chanaur ran a hand through her hair and set her down gingerly. After this is over, you and I will find out who he really was. His smile was a tad bitter at this point. "But...." Carrie still didn't move away. She looked up at him, and the bitterness on his face dimished slightly. "I do care for you Chanaur..."

"I know Carrie..." He whispered soothingly. "I know..."

She brushed a hand against his cheek and leaned forward to hug him. I just hope you feel the way I do... This one, however, was to herself.

"I told you not to do it Carrie." Reinhardt said. "We could have just found the switch or something..." He muttered, walking toward the castle.

The moat around it was filled with the customary poison water, and was about seventy feet across to the Castle. "Now what?" Chanaur asked.

He was answered by a giant skeletal hand grab on to the ledge of the moat, followed by another. The ape skeleton was back for it's rematch.

Carrie readied her axe, but Chanaur put a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay, Carrie. Reinhardt and I can handle this. Take a breather."

"But-" Carrie began.

"No 'buts', you got that?" Chanaur demanded, looking her in the eye. "If you use too much energy, you won't get back up." His eyes softened. "And I don't want that to happen to you."

Carrie was about to argue, but then the last part sank in. "Fine..." she grumbled, trying not to let her heart beat through her chest.

"You can cast minor spells, but that's it. If you do anything more than that, I will put you to sleep personally." Carrie backed away, smiling. She knew he wasn't joking.

The Guardian was now staring down at Reinhardt, the skeletal face smiling. A swarm of skeletons sprouted from the ground all around him and Chanaur. Sighing, they set to work.

After a brief tussle, the bones of the warriors were scattered. They disappeared into nothingness, like everything else in service to the Count, being freed of their bonds.

The giant charged forward, swinging madly. Reinhardt caught it's left arm with his whip, tearing it from the rest of the body. Chanaur let fly another arrow, this one making a neat hole directly between the empty eye sockets.

The creature pawed at it's face, trying to remove the arrow. It growled, than jumped into the air, stomping with both feet.

A small shockwave of energy surged from the impact, which Chanaur and Reinhardt easily evaded.

One of it's legs was now slightly askew, an opportunity they had been hoping for. Chanaur went for one leg, Reinhardt the other. The fallen guardian wasn't about to give up though. Crawling by one arm, it moved toward them again, swinging when they were in range.

Blue fire emerged from the ground, finally incapacitating it. Chanaur glared back at Carrie. "What?" She asked, spreading her arms innocently.

He shook his head as the draw bridge started to lower. Dust arose from the chains as they lowered the bridge to ground level. It set down with a thundering boom.

Reinhardt stared up at the ramparts. They could now enter the castle, bringing them closer to the Count.

Closer to Rosa.

Looking back, he said, "Are you ready for this?"

End Part Five.

Part Six