3.24 The Chase

Location: Monthaven
Timeline:  Sixth Age, 46th Year, Spring

Emcorae had been about to defeat his friends in another game of tag-ball, yet just as he looked back to celebrate his victory, to his horror it appeared to the boy as if the sun had been blotted out, whilst the skies above roiled in blackness! 

“What? No! No! NO!” Emcorae screamed in protest — for, unlike his mates, HE knew what was going on. There could be no doubt – for the boy had witnessed this same scene in his dreams.

Thus it was that Emcorae knew that the darkness that was now engulfing him wasn’t due to storm clouds or even the darkening of the sun, instead he didn’t even have to look up to know that it was the moving shadow of a terrible demon, whose massive wings were flapping a giant circle of night down upon him!

Dropping the rag-ball, for a brief moment, Emcorae was confused. Is this a dream? Another one of my nightmares? He pinched himself to see if he was awake. “Ouch! That hurts! But that means…”

As dust was being violently kicked up around him from the continued beating of the creature’s wings, Emcorae at last looked upwards…

To see a real life gargoyle hovering menacingly overhead!

Blanching white, Emcorae was at first frozen with fear. “This can’t be happening! Yahway, save me!”

For it’s part, the flying demon looked upon its prey, its eyes burning with the fires of Hel. Sneering at the the pitiful challenge below, the gargoyle expanded its chest in pride, hovering in the air for a moment more, before diving down…straight at Emcorae!

Arms wide to catch its prize, the demon flashed its talons, intent on gashing the boy as it sought to scoop him off the ground. Yet events didn’t go quite as the gargoyle expected as the boy hurled himself from the demon’s path at the last second.

Emcorae’s escape was the result of his instincts taking over for his paralyzed mind – facing the prospect of being pulverized by the massive beast, the boy barely managed to elude his pursuer.

<WHOOSH!> The demon rushed by, swiping at the air left in Emcorae’s place. In a flash, the menace was back in the sky – wings beating a thunderous pressure down, creating a dust storm from Farmer Pryde’s fields.

As the gargoyle plotted its next move, Emcorae dared a quick glance around – to his surprise, he saw that most of his friends were still nearby; yet when he saw their faces, he realized why — those that had chased Emcorae during the tag-ball game, were now so close to the presence of the gargoyle, that they were unable to move as a result of the <Fear> that cascaded off the creature’s evil aura. Emcorae could see his friends looking up at the dread menace with terror in their eyes. 

“A’H be with them.” Emcorae whispered, before looking at his demon again.

The other boys remained paralyzed with fright, and truth be told if the flying sprite had wanted to, it could have torn the teenagers to shreds. Yet the gargoyle ignored the bigger boys and instead maneuvered back around to make another pass at its real prey – Emcorae Azop.

I’m a goner! Emcorae lamented on the ground as he saw the winged demon coming for him. Think man! What can I do? 

Of a sudden, <WHACK!> a small branch hit the gargoyle in the belly, knocking it slightly off its flightpath and causing it to whoosh past Emcorae yet again!

“Get out of here!” Curk yelled at the menace, having somehow overcome the creature’s <Fear>. “Run, Em! Run!” Curk barked at Emcorae, before racing back over the fields with the rest of the boys.

“RRAAW!” The gargoyle turned its sadistic gaze to the boy who had dared assault it — seething at the sight of the stocky boy and his partners pitifully trying to escape. The demon could easily have caught that little herd, yet internal forces stopped it. After its internal struggle, the beast remembered it’s mission – and turned its sights back on Emcorae.

Yet to the gargoyle’s surprise, its prey gone!

Hovering in the air, the creature scanned the fields – quickly catching sight of Emcorae, now racing back towards the town through the woods. And while the creature noticed Emcorae’s pace was much faster than the other boys, it was not impressed. In a flash, the menace’s wings gashed the air as it strove to catch up to its prize.

Now that he was back to running, Emcorae’s instincts took over again. Every fiber of his being considered this to be the ultimate game of chase, and thus rather than think about what he was doing, the boy simply ran.. FOR HIS VERY LIFE!!

Dodging the trees that lined the farmland, Emcorae’s choice to run through the woods was fortuitous — the forest negated the gargoyle’s best asset and made it impossible for the demon to use its powerful wings. Unable to fly, the creature had to pursue the boy on foot – to its great disadvantage. Being far more fleet of foot than the gargoyle, Emcorae raced away, quickly distancing himself from the beast. Yet the demon never lost sight of the boy and it never stopped chasing him.

“Oh were this just one of my dreams!” Emcorae lamented as he paused for breath beneath a maple tree. Squinting, he could but barely see the green-scaled creature far behind through the foliage, but while the sight of the demon was difficult, the raging gurgles of the gargoyle were louder than ever.

Where am I supposed to go? Emcorae wondered as he raced again through the forest. Now that this beast is here in the flesh, I can feel in my bones that it’s not gonna stop… till it catches me!

Now that he’d recognized the situation for what it was, the fear of this realization made Emcorae run that much faster – self-preservation took hold and forced his muscles to exert even more energy – with the benefit that the boy was soon propelled even further ahead of his pursuer.

And while Emcorae didn’t know it, the gargoyle soon became so far behind that the creature briefly lost Emcorae’s trail – giving the boy a further advantage in this “race.”

At last Emcorae came to a point in the forest where he had to make a decision. Should I run out of town and take my chances alone or double back towards the people for help? After only a moment, the boy puffed out his small chest, proclaiming, “I’ll fight this bastard on my own and show it what it means to fight an Azop!”

Yet Emcorae’s courage falter when the reality of his prospects confronted him: although always a dreamer, the boy was smart enough to realize that an undersized human boy, made of soft flesh and lacking any weapons was a poor match for the armor-scaled gargoyle and its sharp talons.

Resigning himself to his fate, the terrified, but courageous, Emcorae still vowed to run away from town. “Even if the beast…gets me…I can still…save my family!”

Yet, just as he was about to take that fateful step, from somewhere unknown, the boy heard a whisper,<“Emcorae, do not go that way…”>

The voice sounded soft and sweet, caring but confident, intelligent and wise. It was the voice of what Emcorae imagined a female goddess would sound like – it was a voice of sweet dreams, if there was such a thing anymore.

Turning around, Emcorae tried to locate the speaker – to no avail, for all he saw was trees, lots of trees. “Did I imagine that?” He hesitated against the gentle command.

<GGGRGLGE!> The demon suddenly sounded closer than ever and even though he still couldn’t see the gargoyle, Emcorae knew it was close.

Then it was that Emcorae remembered the words of his grandmother Paullina – for it was she who’d always told him, “Mannah is your Savior, Em. He is the Son of God. No matter what troubles you, trust in Mannah and he will redeem you!”

“The church!” Emcorae’s blurted out. “I’ve got to get back to the church! Surely this evil beast can’t get me in God’s holy house!”

Racing away, the boy again separated himself from his pursuer – speeding towards Monthaven’s church located in the center of town.

Even though he hated long-distance running, Emcorae covered the three mile distance in record time; yet by the time he reached the steps of the chapel, his lungs were screaming with pain. Falling on the stairs before the main door of the church, the boy looked back – and the demon was nowhere to be seen.

Nor was anyone else.

Was this all just a dream? Emcorae wondered. Yet fear got the better of him and just to be safe he aimed to enter the sanctuary of the church – that’s when he realized the doors were closed. What’s going on here? Kastelli always has those doors open, hoping people will visit and drop him off a treat. Yet, that small curiosity was quickly replaced by horror – for when Emcorae pulled on the doors, he realized they were locked tight…against him!

That’s when Emcorae also realized something else, a inkling that had been nagging at his mind during his last quarter mile run through town – for despite the fact that it was mid-day, he now realize that not a single soul was outside! Standing on the church steps, Emcorae looked out at the houses – just like the chapel, all doors were shut tight and even the window shutters were closed.

Where is everybody? Emcorae pondered as a feeling of dread rose inside him. I’m running out of time, the gargoyle will be here any moment!

At last, Emcorae looked back up towards the higher windows of the church – where Pastor Kastelli lived – to his great surprise, the boy spied the rotund priest peeking out through the opening.

“Pastor Kastelli! Pastor Kastelli!” Emcorae shouted with joy, feeling certain the priest would save him. “The door’s locked, Father. Please come down and let me in, I need your help!”

Yet silence was the boys only answer.

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