Jhost was nearing the end of the seemingly delicate white marble stone bridge. Oddly, he felt distracted ,not just by the gnawing feeling of what felt like thousands of butterflies swirling around in his gut, or that he’d already resigned himself to the fact that he was likely going to his death, but rather something else. The only words he could put to it was that he felt as if he were having a mild out-of-body experience. The events of the past several weeks started to unnerve him more than ever; it came back to that moment of his gaining consciousness amongst his blood stains scattered all over the secluded copse near an ocean shore. The kindness of a stranger, a dwarf who no less than practically adopted him; but seemed hell bent on this suicide mission to kill this Drake – Curse. Duskin had given him a crash course history refresher about Hope and current events in this world he knew he existed in; but that still wasn’t quite what gave him such uneasiness. He couldn’t place it; it was sort of like having a thought that is just on the tip of your tongue but continues to elude you. Suddenly, he snapped out of his reverie and came back to where he was in that moment; just a few more steps, one more mailed foot in front of the other – keep going, don’t stop now, keep moving, and ignore those damn butterflies in the pit of that stomach! Jhost pondered that perhaps he was merely dreaming all these events, none of it really seemed all that real. There was odd familiarity and knowledge about certain things he just seemed to instinctively know. While a great many other details Duskin had to explain to him that felt nothing short of being completely alien or foreign to him. For a moment, he felt the real enemy wasn’t so much this Drake Curse he was geared up to confront, no, the real curse he thought, his real enemy in the right now was his amnesia. The big questions kept coming back, over and over and over again. Who am I? What am I doing here? How did I get here? Do I have a family? Friends? A girlfriend, wife, family, children!? “What..the…Hell!?” Apparently, he was most likely from somewhere in the Luvaari Republics. Jhost knew the answers to his questions would most likely best be answered by getting to Luvaari to piece together his past. Well, first things first, he had a debt to pay to his friend Duskin for saving his life. He was going to be free shortly one way or the other, he was either most likely going to get himself killed by this Drake, or, in the miracle off chance he succeeded and killed Curse, then he’d be free from his sense of indebtedness to Duskin, and finally be able to pursue answers about his past.
Jhost halted, he had neared the end of the white bridge. In front of him were shattered gates, made of stone, or some type of iron he couldn’t tell which, but it was obvious that in spite of their former massive stature they must have been quite beautiful to behold. The carriage sized metallic hinges were bent in-ward, twisted into painful shapes from the force of the blow that destroyed this once mighty entrance and portal into this Duchy. Jhost slightly shook his head from side to side, and took a moment to glance back across the bridge. Sure enough, there was his steadfast & stout companion who stood a few hundred yards across the way – a dwarf in miniature he thought briefly. He lifted what appeared from this distance to be a mighty war-hammer and waved it back and forth in an attempt to encourage Jhost. Jhost waved Glimmer back high above his head, then turned and proceeded. Jhost’s sense of foreboding in his gut continued to get more intense. Things were deathly quiet, way… way… too quiet. As he continued to walk past the broken gates there was essentially a narrow cleft in front of him. White, but well-worn cobblestones greeted the hard soles of his mailed boots, and Jhost all but gave up on even trying to walk quietly anymore. While his walking wasn’t loud, and his body, and mind had never felt more attuned to both himself & nature, he still did his best to muffle the sounds he gave off as best he could given the circumstances. The narrow road continued like this for about a half of a mile. Jhost took notice of several battlements, murder holes, and a score of unidentifiable defenses along the path. It would be hellish for any army to attempt getting in this way Jhost mused. The Defenders would be able to attack, fire, and retreat as necessary, while also having covering fire from practically any direction. The attackers on the other hand would likely lose hundreds, if not thousands of souls to the defender if lucky. Jhost neared the end of the road, and there were two scenes that utterly took his breath away.
The first scene to his eyes was breathtaking. The enclosed valley before, and below him, the Lost Duchy, was a valley that stretched North by North East, that had white cliffs on every side, several miles long and wide. Beautiful, and incredibly tall pine and deciduous trees littered the valley below. In the center of the valley, at least a few miles below his field of vision in the far distance was an immense white castle, that practically sparkled in spite of the subdued light getting into the valley. It was quite literally something out of a fairy tale, if such things in those fanciful stories even existed!
Jhost, distracted by his sightseeing didn’t even see what hit him. The force was so sudden, so fierce, that it defied reality. There were two sounds. The first was his body being hit by what felt like an iron sledgehammer wielded by a Titan. The second sound was nothing less than a large sonic boom that shook the ground and surrounding vegetation. He was knocked so hard that his body flew, no hurtled, back towards the white cliffs he was admiring just mere seconds beforehand. The hit, faster than the speed of sound, knocked him unconscious so quickly he didn’t even perceive the wind being knocked from out of his lungs.
For better or for worse, Jhost’s body, mind, & soul were all in overdrive – something he still for the life of him could barely comprehend. He regained consciousness within a few seconds, but not before he felt the force of a second blow that was clearly designed to finish him off –just in case there was any doubt he wasn’t already dead, and had Jhost been sporting a normal humanoid body he would have been liquefied by the strike. In hindsight, what Jhost pieced together later was that the second blow occurred after his body had left a small crater in the sides of the white cliffs of marble & granite that he’d hit; his body then had fallen nearly a hundred feet more before he hit the ground, and that’s when the second blow hit him like a 9 iron from a golf tournament that sent his now battered armored form arcing skyward for what must have been nearly a mile before he bounced once, twice, three times, and rolled towards a seemingly nice patch of short grass – all the while as his limbs flailed, kicking up chunks of turf and dirt along the way. His battered form rolled to a stop on the turf.
Jhost’s brain kicked into overdrive and began to assess what had just happened in the past few seconds. His bruised body felt like it’d been hit by a freight train both forward and backwards. He felt it must have been a miracle he was still alive, or was it really that far out of the realm of possibility at all? The armor that Duskin furnished him seemed to mostly hold firm. The capabilities of his now seemingly super human body continued to surprise him, and responded interestingly enough as if some odd primal instincts kicked in from deep-deep down out of the guts of his soul, igniting survival protocols in his limbs that were beginning to override his brain. Jhost opened his right eye, the other was beginning to swell shut. Pain was now beginning to wash through his body, informing him,& his frame of what was, or wasn’t still functioning. He figured he had about a second, maybe two at the most to pull it together. He looked over, thankfully, Glimmer was still firmly gripped in his gauntleted right hand; partly due to the safety chain Duskin insisted on him wearing that tethered the amazingly sharp weapon where it needed to be. A miracle he didn’t somehow accidentally slice himself clean as he rolled several times. Jhost did the next logical, and best thing he could have in that moment, he knew he needed to roll as quickly away from this position as possible, and as far away as he could manage. Ultimately, this saved his life.
The Drake – Curse, a living nightmare, hurtled towards Jhost like a dark sooty meteor. Jhost could feel the unmitigated hate even from this distance. The Dark mass come into view impossibly fast. Jhost, rolling as quickly as could to the side prevented Curse from nailing his body like a bulls-eyed bug on the ground. He only caught some of the residual impact, which still left a crater nearly the size of a city block in diameter scattering trees and rocks that hailed in all directions; up to and including Jhost’s diminutive sized body.
Jhost did the one thing Curse had never expected, or seen in all of his ages. Instead of letting fear override his senses which would have ultimately killed him, he countered with an attack. From an outsider’s perspective this would have looked much like a squirrel trying to take down an elephant. In a word – it appeared to be an absurdly uneven match. The suddenness, and the unexpected nature of what Jhost did allowed him to get in a very critical blow with Glimmer at the outset of this seemingly one-sided fight. Jhost was now so in tune with his body to the point where he was for all intents and purposes feeling as if he were truly a superhuman. He leapt skyward, over Drake, and attempted a killing blow to the top of Curses head. Curse was insanely fast though for his size and was able to move quickly enough that Jhost’s blow -didn’t have quite the intended effect. Glimmer still sang though, and sliced cleanly and effortlessly through a region about 12’ back from Curse’s head behind the right ear region, a few feet deep; the cut still possibly nicking an artery. Jhost’s sword swing, and his somersault dozens of feet through the air was nothing short of epic.
Curse responded with a howl that shook the valley to its bedrock. Literally, a small shockwave of force erupted from his foul, dark, and thick scaly hide. Jhost was then hit by what could be likened to an industrial sized blast furnace (Imagine a jet engine on a rack blasting us in the face). Jhost had a newfound appreciation for what bacon must feel like on the inside of a fully heated cast iron skillet. He pulled his small buckler sized shield up to little effect; and again, hopped as far away as he could from the source of that heat. Jhost’s instincts told him the best thing to do was to continue whatever attack or response he could. In order to play to his strengths and size, he knew it would be best to stay low, and weave as quickly as he could while trying to avoid the Drake’s timber sized talons. As well as that lightning-fast neck that kept trying to zero in on him with that jet blasting breath. Jhost also couldn’t afford to not know where that tail was sweeping for even a split second.
The battle went on like this… seconds went to minutes, minutes drifted into hours. Jhost got in several more powerful cuts with Glimmer. Curse was able to connect a few times with claw, a fang, a sweep of the tail, or that blasting breath of his. Jhost bounced a few more times across the valley’s turf, a few more times against the cliff walls, even a few times knocked so hard that he bounced from tree-to-tree pinball style. Duskin’s armor held, and so did Jhost’s resolve. If anything, his confidence, naïve as it was, continued to grow. The fact that he was able to actually cut and inflict pain upon this myth come to life steeled his soul. His body shrugged off the pain, ignored what was likely a few minor broken bones; to say nothing of the other internal injuries his body was trying to mend.
The blow that ended the fight came from none other than Jhost. The swing almost feeling accidental in nature. Curse had slightly twisted his immense bulk in an effort to come down in full force on Jhost’s body. Jhost read what was going to happen next and knew he didn’t have enough time to fully escape the body slam; but figured he might as well leap up – as best he could with Glimmer in hand in order to inflict as much pain back to Curse as possible in the process. Curse’s evil bulk came down. Jhost’s mid-air leap was different than the normal duck and weave that had gone on now for hours. No matter…. Glimmer was able to pierce more deeply than ever before, not because of Jhost, but because of Curse’s own miscalculation. Jhost was superhumanly strong, but never strong enough to get a mortal blow in. Now that Curse had thrown himself on Jhost – Curse had now mortally wounded himself.
Jhost’s body was crushed twice as hard as he’d ever been before. There was the force of his leap up, and then Curse’s body slam down. It literally drove Jhost’s armored body, feet first downward; much like a tent stake being hammered into the ground. Jhost could hear a sigh, and large breath emanate from the Drake. He then felt the Drake do something odd, Curse pawed the ground away from Jhost’s body. A razor-sharp clawed hand the size of a mini-van excavated Jhost’s body and then wrapped tightly around it. He was lifted skyward and then slammed down hard. Jhost lost both consciousness, and breath. He awoke the Drake looming above him – bigger than the biggest barn, dark wings folded against his body; and then he finally spoke in a booming, but pained voice.
“So….. this is how it ends.” Golden eyes the size of a large fireplace fixed upon him. “I’d call you human, but you don’t smell like one, you smell more like one of those now extinct freaks – one of those despicable Faire.” “No matter… if I die…. so will you.”
Jhost was prostrate on his back, looking up at Curse looming over him, black scales the each the size of sea turtle; and that smell!!!???!!!What the hell was that from? Curse flicked Jhost over like a helpless beetle. Jhost tried to recover but couldn’t. roll over.
“Pathetic freak……I’m going to make you feel pain, slowly, before killing you.”
In that moment… Jhost could feel Curse’s index claw from his right foreleg pushing down on the base of his lower back and spine. Curse struck hard & fast; and there was a sickening ‘pop’ sound below as sinew, spine, and flesh were compressed. And that is when Jhost could no longer feel anything below the waist.
He was flicked back onto his back. Jhost mused that this felt as if an over-sized cat was toying with its kill before the deed was done. Tears stung his eyes…. Mingled with terror. He tried to speak but couldn’t. Just a weak coughing sound coming out of his mouth mingled with lightly flecked blood in his spittle.
Curse moved the clawed foot he previously used on Jhost’s lower back above Jhost’s right eye…. And paused. “Hmmmm…… “… He bellowed. “I can see it clearly now…. ““Young Jhost… while I hate and loathe you… you have also set me free.” "....and…. I can’t think of a better hellish fate for you than letting you live.” “I’m not without a certain sense of justice though…. And…for paying me the privilege of ending my miserable existence…” Curse’s breath was becoming more labored & tattered. “I’m going to give you the charge, perhaps even its own curse of being the final solution. From here on henceforth, you will be known as the ‘curse Breaker.” “In that endeavor I wish you the best of luck!…… *cough* – “you’re going to need it.”
In that moment… Curse laid his very long neck around Jhost….And with what appeared to be an immense effort spoke his last words.
“Thank you Jhost….you truly turned out to be the fabled Curse Breaker. Thank you for….. for releasing me.”
There was a look of peace, if that’s what you could call it– that befell the foul looking Drake. Jhost didn’t so much hear the breath leave the Drake’s body, but he could feel the exhalation. At first… rancid, but then, almost like a breath of fresh air.
Dec 31st, 2020
First (Web) Edition
Jhost (tm) Series, and The world called Hope is Copyright © 2017 and TM 2017 by Matt Ployhar. All content posted to page copyright ©2017-present, and intellectual property of Thoughtops.com/Matt Ployhar. All Rights Reserved. No use or reproduction of characters or artwork permitted. This story & book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Do not use, edit, re-upload, or redistribute any content in any way. Visitors may view content belonging to the author and nothing more. Any use in any way is strictly forbidden. All of these works are not public domain, never have been, and never will be. Do not use, re-upload, edit, etc. any text, image, or character. Artwork of Jhost uploaded to artist's portfolios share these rights and reservations. Any similarity between persons alive or dead is purely coincidental.
Online published in the United States of America
First Printing, Chapter Nine - Dec 2020
Jhost™ is a primary character from my original fantasy fiction novel. Jhost is navigating his way in a world called Hope - he does not recollect. The story of Jhost has been around since 2003 and is only now being unveiled summer of 2017 to present; in an episodic release.