Courtlands Bio PG 1

It’s the night before the party is about to enter Dunleigh; the group sits around their campfire having decided to go through the city and take the faster route to their destination rather than taking the long way around and avoiding the town that was destroyed by Pelor’s holy wrath.

The fire flickers as the group sits in silence, Courtland stares blankly into the fire watching the wood within turn to ash and fall away; much like his home — Dunleigh. Henrik watches Courtland gaze into the flame’s with a stone like expression on his face.

Henrik asks. “Is everything OK Courtland?”

Courtland hears Henrik’s words, but they don’t seem to register — all he can think about is the day that Dunleigh was taken by darkness and then consumed forever by light.

A small group travels along a dirt path in the woods, surrounding a covered wagon pulled by horses. They’re covered in robes with hoods masking their faces. The group of robed figures starts to slow as an unexpected figure walks towards them, to greet them — a Peace Keeper. One of the robed figures shoots a startled gaze towards the other, his voice shaken.

“I thought you said these paths were clear?”

He looks back towards the Peace Keeper as he gets closer and returns his gaze to his comrade and is surprised to find that he has slipped away. The Peace Keeper reaches the group and raises his hand for them to stop — he looks young, not wearing the normal heavily adorned armor, but a lighter leather version adorned in the same markings, likely a trainee. The group halts non the less. The Peace Keeper in training looks almost as nervous as them as he tries to deepen his voice in a commanding tone.

“Why aren’t you on the main road?”

The group looks to one another, not knowing how to act with one of their own having slipped away. The trainee walks around to the back of the wagon.

“What are you carrying?”

No one tries to stop the trainee from lifting one of the folds at the back of the wagon, seeing heavy furs. He reaches in as if to lift the furs, but from behind he finds a dagger at his throat, and with a gurgle and a light mist of red, the trainee falls lifeless to the ground.

“Dammit Courtland! I thought you said that there wouldn’t be anyone on these paths… Now we have a dead Peace Keeper to deal with!”

Courtland pulls back his hood and looks calmly down at the trainee, a pool of red forming around his head like a halo. He glances at the group.

“For me to deal with.”

The group goes silent.

“Stupid kid must have gotten lost… Couldn’t have him ruining my business either way though.”

Courtland nods towards one of the larger hooded figures.

“Virgil… Grab a leg.”

Courtland reaches down and grabs and ankle, the hooded figure lumbers over and grabs the other. They drag the body over towards a large boulder. Courtland kicks it over, showing it to be hollowed. They force the body inside and tip the boulder back into position.

“We’ll take care of that later.”

Courtland goes back behind the wagon and lifts one of the furs, looking at the black cylinders hidden underneath, then covers them. He closes the fold of the wagon.

“My contact from Everlasting Dawn will be meeting us in Dunleigh, he’ll be taking you the rest of the way. He’ll get you and your “goods” into Everlasting Dawn."

The man chuckles.

“Good, I all ready have some buyers in mind.”

The rest of the trip was quiet as Courtland lead the covered wagon through his secret path, stopping them at a hidden entrance. Courtland looks to his client.

“Before we go into the city, I’ll be needing payment.”

Courtland extends his hand and the man drops a pouch full of coins into it. Courtland lightly tosses the coin purse up and down in his hand a few times.

“This feels a little light considering I had to kill a man to ensure your safe passage.”

The man grumbles.

“I paid what we agreed, that would have been part of the job.”

Courtland smirks.

“I was paid to smuggle you into Dunleigh and get you in touch with someone who could get you into Everlasting Dawn without the Peace Keeper’s breathing down your neck. I’m not an assassin — from what I hear though, they are paid fairly well. However if you like, I could always make sure you wake up to find a new roommate at the inn — I’m sure that the Peace Keepers wouldn’t ask too many questions about one of their dead students finding his way to your bed.”

The man throws his hood down, his face red with anger.

“This is extortion, I will not have it!”

Courtland chuckles, Virgil and the other hooded figure join him at his side.

“You probably should have brought some men of your own if that was the case.”

Defeated, the man tosses another coin purse to Courtland — who chuckles.

“Good thing you all ready have some buyers lined up for those “furs”."

Courtland gestures for the man to head through the hidden entrance. He pushes a small envelope into his hand. The envelope is sealed in wax, the stamp having the symbol of hand missing it’s ring finger.

“Go to the Inn and ask for Wolfgang. He’ll get you into Everlasting Dawn. If you stay on the road ahead, you won’t be stopped.”

The man grumbles.

“Is he as big a scoundrel as you?”

Courtland shakes his head.

“No.”

Courtland takes the opposite direction of his former client, tossing the extra coin purse to Virgil.

“Split that how you see fit with whoever that goon is you decided to hire, meet me back at my place for dinner — Maisie said she was making Cherry pie for dessert.”

Virgil scratches his burly beard excitedly.

“Gotta love my sis.”

Courtland smirks.

“I do. I married her — now jog on and take care of his payment.”

Courtland opens to door to his humble and unassuming home, he sees his wife inside setting the promised Cherry pie to cool in the window, his daughter — Ciena, sitting at the table humming to herself. She smiles widely when she sees Courtand standing in the doorway, immediately rushing him and hugging his leg with her small slender arms.

Courtland lifts her up, kissing her on the top of the head — Maisie smiles warmly at the sight of Courtland. Her long black hair pulled tightly into a ponytail having been working around the home all day while Courtland was out — her features are fine and elf like. She steps up to Courtland and kisses him.

“You’re late.”

Courtland smiles and sets his daughter down, she runs back to the table.

“Blame your brother, he’s getting too fat.”

She smacks him playfully on the arm.

“Where is he by the way?”

Courtland sits across from his daughter at the table, sticking his tongue out at her.

“You know. Making friends (scene cuts to Virgil brutally beating the hired goon to death), I invited him to dinner — I’m sure he’ll be here soon enough.”

She sighs with relief and sets bowls with stew out in front of Courtland and Ciena.

“Good. I wish I knew where you two were all day but I’m glad your home now. Things haven’t felt right in town today. Things haven’t felt right since we got news about that poor family’s farm being destroyed.”

Courtland looks hungrily at his food, but resists for now.

“Did they ever find that boy?”

She shrugs and joins them at the table.

“I hope so.”

Courtland looks at his stew and then to Maisie.

“We don’t have to wait on your brother do we?”

She smiles and shakes her head, just as Courtland is about to dip his spoon into his bowl, he hears a pounding at the door. Maisie goes to get up to get it, but Courtland gestures for her to sit. Just as Courtland reaches the door, it bursts open. Virgil rushes in, panting — slamming the door behind him, latching it shut.

“What are you doing? Don’t tell me…”

Courtland turns back to look at his wife to remind himself she is there and back to Virgil, this time whispering.

“That guy wasn’t more than you could handle… Right?”

Virgil looks at Courtland blankly for a moment, huffing, trying to catch his breathe.

“No…”

He swallows hard. Courtlands face turns red, still speaking quietly.

“The Peace Keepers didn’t spot you… If they did and you lead them here…”

Virgil pants.

“… No … The town is being attacked. We need to get out of here.”

Before Courtland can react, his window explodes with a lumbering mass of rotting flesh bounding through behind a spray of glass. His wife and daughter scream in terror as it makes it’s way towards them.

Courtland takes his bow from his back unleashing arrows into it as Virgil charges the creature with his ax; chopping away at it frantically. They manage to bring the creature down — Virgil looks back at Courtland, his face filled with panic seeking direction.

“Smash the table, board the windows.”

They both immediately get to work, closing up and securing all of the openings before anything else can get in. They hear screaming and panic outside as they hammer away, by the time they finish, there is silence. Virgil, still panting.

“As I headed over here, I saw some Peace Keepers rounding people up. I think they were headed to the church.”

Courtland listens at the door.

“I don’t think we would make it to the church, it got quiet pretty quick.”

Courtland’s daughter whimpers, hugging her mother. Maisie speaks out in a cracked, whispered tone.

“Courtland.”

Courtland looks to her, she gestures towards the creatures corpse. The floor beneath it covered in it’s rotted gore; which seems to have spread out on the floor — as if alive; before Courtland can remark there is pounding at the doors and windows, their barricades shaking violently — Courtland can easily tell that they will not hold. Virgil looks to Courtland.

“Do you think they are down there?”

Courtland cringes at the thought, but grabs a lantern down from the wall. He lifts a rug up from the floor revealing a trap door. He looks to his wife and daughter.

“Of course not…”

As Virgil opens the trap door, one of the barricades comes crashing down and one of Nurgle’s rotting disciples grabs Maisie around her wrist, Courtland pulls and arrow back and launches it into the creature’s forehead — managing to drop it expertly. Virgil picks up Ciena and drops into the depths below as Courtland wraps has arm around his wife’s waist and jumps down with her to join them; slamming the trap door behind them. They hear thudding over head as Courtland lights his lantern, giving off a small amount of light.

He holds the light over his wife’s wrist; it now being covered in the thick black that covered the creature who grabbed her. Courtland tries to hide his panic. He rips off his sleeve and wraps it around her arm.

“We need to get moving, there are more tunnels that connect to this one; but we can get outside of the town.”

Maisie looks around.

“I thought you said this was an old root cellar, but it was falling in and too dangerous to use.”

Courtland clears his throat.

“You can kill me later.”

Courtland leads his family through the winding darkness for what seems like hours, they have to crouch slightly to keep their heads from hitting the dirt ceiling (except for little Ciena). As they travel onward, just as Courtland said, they reach a point in the tunnel where it connects with others. They can hear a horrible roar coming down from one of them. Virgil shutters.

“Sounds like a pissed off Goristro down there.”

Courtland looks disapprovingly at Virgil.

“Why don’t you follow that tunnel and ask’um.”

Before the banter can continue, Maisie drops, suddenly to the ground. Courtland pushes his lantern into Virgil’s stumbling hands as he rushes towards her. The black rot that was underneath the bandage has taken Maisie’s entire arm — it continues to spread before Courtland’s eyes. He reaches out to touch her, but Virgil pulls him away.

“Don’t.”

Maisie begins to moan with a voice that isn’t her own, she begins whispering Ciena’s name — Courtland quickly pulls Ciena towards him, holding her tightly. Maisie laughs, her voice distorted, it echoes throughout the tunnels sending a chill up Courtland’s spine.

She looks up at Courtland, her face distorted in the shadows, just barely out of sight from the lanterns light — the black rot having marred her once beautiful face, having now consumed her completely.

“We’re down here with you… You will be with us soon.”

Courtland screams out, his voice filled with sorrow and rage.

“Go!”

With Ciena under his arm, he rushes forward, leading Virgil. The roaring they heard before is drown out by thundering footsteps from the tunnel behind them — closing in on them at an otherworldly pace. Courtland can feel fingertips grazing his back, as if something is reaching out for him as he rushes forward — Virgil laboring to keep up at his side. Courtland pushes himself to move quicker, but his pace is halted as he can feel a wet hand wrap itself around his ankle — bringing him to the ground.

Courtland manages to hand Ciena off to Virgil as he comes down; with what was once his wife standing over him. Virgil tosses a hand ax at her, catching her in the chest. She stumbles back — mostly annoyed as Courtland manages to scramble back to his feet giving him enough distance to get away.

Virgil seems to be far ahead, carrying Ciena under his arm — charging into light up ahead, looking as though they have found the exit. Courtland can hear the distorted laughter coming from what was once his wife as he struggles to reach Virgil and his daughter. He makes it out of the tunnel, the light blinding him slightly.

He drops suddenly as Virgil clobbers him over the head, causing Courtland to black out for a few moments. He wakes seeing Virgil standing over him.

“Sorry for this.”

Virgil raises his axe and brings it down just below Courtlands knee. Courtland screams out in pain as Virgil kicks away Courtland’s now blackened foot where his wife had touched him — blood gushing from his wound. Courtland struggles to keep his eyes open as a crossbow bolt lands in Virgil’s chest; dropping him.

Courtland looks up at the tunnels entrance, he sees his wife standing there, beckoning for Ciena — leaving with her into the darkness. He reaches his hand out towards them, hearing the sound of cluttering armor and foot steps as sisters of battle surround him — tending to his wounds and carrying him away — his daughter having already disappeared into the darkness and his brother in law laying on the ground with a bolt in his chest.

A sister of battle holding a crossbow looks down at Virgil with a look of empathy and raises her hand to the blackened foot lying beside him, burning it away with holy fire. Courtland blacks out as there is a bright flash of light and a commanding voice.

“Take him to the others, we need to have him quarantined for now — is the other one alive?”

“No ma’am.”

Henrik repeats himself. “Are you OK Courtland?”

Courtland looks up from the campfire and shrugs.

Courtlands Bio PG 1

Everlasting Dawn Staabsworth