The Portal Part Two By: Kevin Miller


The Portal
Part Two
By: Kevin Miller

I froze, trying to determine if the scream had been heard. All that I could hear was the howling of the wind as it swirled around me, drowning out anything that could have been an alarm. I edged up to the crest again, carefully looking down at the creatures assembled in the valley. I was a good deal closer to them than I had been before, and I was able to make out more detail. I was relieved to see that these people were not nearly as large as the assassin I had fought earlier.

Each of the creatures moved with an innate grace, moving about with a single-minded determination, seemingly devoid of any emotion other than a harsh, sterile hatred that gleamed in each eye like the glint from the point of a dagger. Each one bore a sword sheathed at the hip, seemingly similar to the sword that had been carried by the assassin that I had fought. If it were not for the hateful glare that each creature bore, and the palpable emanations of malice that flowed from them, they would have seemed almost human, individual and unique in stature and features. Each one wore an elegant uniform of a sort that consisted of the same blue of the creatures I had fought moments before, but it was of a finer material. The insignia of rank of each one was much more intricate and made of a shiny metal possibly silver.

A quick flicker of movement caught my eye and my attention was drawn to two of the assassins, facing off in what appeared to be a sparring match of some kind. The fury with which they assaulted each other told me that this was no practice match. Their faces mottled with rage and hatred, they brutally assaulted one another, their dark swords clashing mercilessly and without reserve. Even I, with my training and experience in the martial arts, almost could not follow them in their furious, reckless abandon, as they made undisguised attempts to gut one another.

Soon, deep wounds appeared on each of their bodies, and blood began to flow as they cut into each other. Before long, one of them finally fell, writhing in agony, as the victor stood over him. Instead of delivering a killing strike, to my horror the winner proceeded to torment his fallen foe by cutting off body parts, and kicking, poking and stabbing at him. He did everything except kill him. The macabre scene continued for several minutes and finally, the defeated one lay still, his screams of anguish still hanging in the air, haunting me.

The beings milling around them did not seem to notice that the gruesome event was even taking place. They moved about their business without giving the horrific episode a second glance. It was almost as if the occurrence were commonplace, no different from two people stopping to shake hands and talk.

My stomach churned with horror at the brutal scene. I turned away and resumed my trek with renewed urgency. My eyes roved the bleak landscape for hints of more patrols that might be lurking over the crest of each dune.

It seemed like an eternity. Each step sank into the dark sand, impeding my progress and adding to my weariness as I strode grimly along the bluff. The pounding heat I felt reminded me of a trip through Death Valley I once made. Thirst began to gnaw at me and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth as the dry dust swirled around, often creating small, dancing cyclones that seemed to mock me.

The structure towards which I journeyed grew imperceptibly larger as I drew nearer to it. Finally circling the cusp of the valley I sought to avoid, I turned to regard the monstrous pinnacle. Perhaps it contained this black orb that I was charged with somehow finding and destroying.

As I approached the crest of the final rise, I saw an irregularity in the shape of the rock that cropped out from it. I changed direction to get a better angle on it and saw that there was a cleft in the stone. Curiousity gnawed at me, but the recent encounter was still fresh in my mind. I approached the draw as quietly as I could and peeked around the corner of the corridor that sliced into the rock before me. The trickling sound of water reached my ears and I did not see anyone or anything. Moving quietly into the draw, my eyes came to rest on a flow of water that splashed over the rocks and pooled in a small basin near the rocky wall.

Feeling my thirst rather keenly, I approached the small pool and bent down to examine it. I gingerly dipped a tip of my finger in it, intending to ensure that it was safe to drink. I lifted it to my face to smell it.

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