This is a continuation of the Mortis Custos Part 51 by @lex-zaiya.
To start at the beginning of the story please see the links provided at the end of this post!
Viewer discretion is advised due to gory violence! Undead! Swords! Death! Beware!
The atmosphere of this place is usually still, but not always. Sometimes it seems as though the air is as dead as the majority of the occupants of this realm.
Yet, there was still cause for the shift and movement of energy, even though it did not come from what passed as light in this place. The rules of reality were somewhat bent here in that regard.
Energy transfer and the result it has on the weather seem to revolve around something else. Something like the movement of the souls in the realm or even, perhaps, the movement of souls to and from this place.
Adrian sat on the tower steps.
He was not sitting in a position where he could see from the ground outside the castle, nor from the courtyard. Yet he could see quite far down to both if he leaned into a direction for a moment.
This has become his resting place several times since he had gotten here, in this realm of the Dead. That's what it must be. This is the realm of the dead and I am dead...
If that were so, then why did he feel so afraid all the time? What instincts drove him to run and hide from the THING that strode these halls? The thing that was looking for him.
As Adrian sorted through these emotions and ponderings that might have left a lesser person rife with insanity, he had seen other things.
This realm of the dead was not empty. He had seen them, the dead. Outside the castle, from his vantage points, he had witnessed roving bands of skeletons. These seemed determined and strode swiftly together this way and that, as though their duty to their master drove them onwards even in death and their performance was their only duty. They seemed to be patrolling the countryside around the castle.
There were other beings that walked in undeath, all over the place in fact. There were fleshy undead creatures who were mostly scattered and dotted the landscape periodically, shambling around without any decided purpose or direction. All of these were walking cadavers, covered in old rotting clothing.
Some of them were obviously injured, or at least damaged for the injuries their had on them made it obvious that a regular man would be slain if injured the same way. Gaping wounds, arrows, severed limbs, trailing entrails and all other manner of horrors. He had seen some of them that did not seem damaged at all from the outside but were shriveled up, perhaps from age, thirst, or hunger.
He had seen a man dressed as a sailor, seeping water into the earth as he went. No wounds either but his skin and body was bloated and seemed soft. A drowning.
There were other things besides. Large hulking unnatural creatures that looked like bears or apes. Spectral floating things that could barely be seen. There had once been something floating or flying in the distance.
Adrian heard a scrape of metal on stone in the courtyard inside the castle. It had done so before, the shadow that hunted him. It followed him, not sprinting or running but a slow and implacable advance. It really did want him but it seemed to have no hurry and merely strode in his direction.
Only through constant movement has he been able to remain alive... Or whatever I am right now and not become whatever happens to me when the Shadow catches me.
It was not just a shadow anymore. At first, there had been a feeling, an unease that wanted to rip his will away. His will to run, his will to care, slowly seeped into him a feeling of hopelessness. It willed him to give up and forget all about the life he had lived.
When he had not given up, the instinct for survival had awoken in him the curiosity to explore the castle. That is when the Shadow appeared.
No longer content in having Adrian merely wish that he no longer could live, the Shadow was drawn to him. The Shadow approached him slowly, attempting to reach him. Once it did, Adrian was certain that it would end him.
At first Adrian was paniced and he felt hopeless.
But now he was no so sure.
There was still dread and hopelessness in his mind, but his logic was trying desperately to fight it off and make sense of what he had been seeing all this time. The one think that irked him the most about this place was the fact that he had not been surrounded or cornered.
While he was thankful of this, it did not make a lot of sense. This realm was filled with undead denizens. He had seen the castle gates and they were wide open. There was no physical obstacle to the outside.
He had considered leaving that way, but looking around the landscape had changed his mind. This realm was crawling with dangerous things and inside the castle, there was only one thing.
None of the undead had ever tried to go into the castle gate. It was either that they were avoiding the place because of the Shadow, or because the castle itself somehow warded them off.
He had seen bands of the determined skeletons march around the perimeter of the castle and pass by the gate without even looking at the open entranceway.
There was a scraping sound in the courtyard again. Adrian peered carefully to see. It's there! The Shadow! But it was not just a shadow. It had the shape of a giant haunched man. Impossibly huge. It did not have a proud bearing but seemed haunched over and in pain. It was wholly covered in a black robe, darker than the night or shadow. Its humanoid form seemed to eat light.
It moved low and slow. Before Adrian could relax his mind regarding the Shadow, from the wispy tatters of its massive black robe came a sword.
Clutched in the bony hand of the Shadow, the sword was still massive. Adrian did not know what inspired the most dread: the fact that the Shadow's hand was chalky white bone, like that of a long-dead giant, or the fact that the sword was longer than a man was tall.
The blade was straight, the edge so chipped and dented that it almost looked like a saw. Even from this distance, Adrian could see that what parts remained of its edge were very sharp. The blade was impossibly broad, probably wider than his chest.
Yet the blade came out in a fluid motion, impossible drawn from the robes and then held in a single hand outstretched.
It stood stock still for a while, as though feeling the weight of the blade. It was obvious that its weight was nothing to the Shadow.
Adrian's fear built up to a point of panic. If that skeletal hand got hold of me, I would never be able to get away! He slowly got up, ready to run. In fact, if it got a hold of me, it would turn me into pulp just by squeezing its hand!
At the greatest flare of fear in his body, the shadow moved, its cowled head turned and the darkness inside its hood stared straight at the place where Adrian was sitting.
It's found me!
The massive sword was laid on the ground and the shadow began to move. In jerking steps, like some massive insect, it strode towards the base of the stone steps that led to the battlements where Adrian was hiding. It was as though the thing knew the layout of the castle really well.
Adrian was on his feet and as the Shadow reached the bottom of the stairs, still slow but somehow seeming to be faster, he turned and ran.
Into the first doorway that led into the castle, through the barracks, and into the hallway beyond.
I need to get away! I need to lose my tracks!
Back to you then @lex-zaiya!
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