This is, for all intents and purposes, Chapter Four of Ling's "origin story". I'm trying to establish a background for each of my OC's before I begin writing about their current adventures together so that you all have a better idea of where they come from. That's not to say that there won't be secrets and surprises left to discover as they all travel along on their journeys, though. I hope you enjoy this and PLEASE feel free to let me know what you think, both good and bad! Both the story and the characters appearing in this story are copyright BigOlKidd 2014.
LING of The Dragon Clan:
The Horror Left Behind
Thus far, Nash had managed to evade the claws and fangs of the Snake-Woman, but she was tiring. Still, she would die before she would give in to this evil thing, this thing that had killed her only brother! However, Nash was still only one girl...one HUMAN girl...against a monstronsity born of darkness, and it was only a matter of time before she made a mistake. That time suddenly came when Nash used a flash bomb to blind the monster and she, thinking the upper hand was now hers, let her guard down. She forgot about the thing's tail and, too quickly for the young woman to avoid, it wrapped itself around her ankle and yanked her off the ground. The girl hung upside down high in the air, mere inches away from the Snake-Woman's fangs as the monstrosity's eyes began to clear...
Ling saw the young woman's peril and knew he had to act to save her, but half naked and with no weapons, what could he possibly do against such a monster? Glancing furtively about the area, his eyes came upon a large, jagged stone, probably fallen during Nash's battle with the Snake-Woman. He quickly picked it up and, using all of his waning strength, lifted it over his head before bringing it down hard upon the Snake-Woman's tail. The jagged edge of the stone bit into the scaly skin, causing blood to spurt everywhere and the monster to shriek in pain, loosening her grip upon her captive, who dropped nimbly to the ground. The abomination thrashed about in anger and pain, causing the cave walls to shudder as rocks and debris began to fall from the ceiling.
"Come! This way!" Nash shouted, grabbing Ling's wrist and pulling him towards a tunnel at the rear of the cave. Ling realized that it was the tunnel through which the Snake-Woman had entered earlier, but he also knew that they would not long survive the Snake-Woman's thrashing about and the cavern's destruction. He ran with his newfound friend, through falling rock and blinding dust which continued even as they ran through the tunnel, such was the force of the Snake-Woman's blows. Finally, the tunnel opened up into a large chamber.
"By the Elders! The stench!"
Ling looked about the room, his eyes tearing from the strong, putrid smell. Against one wall, the one to their right, were two sets of wooden shelves with bottles, flasks and jars of various sizes, shapes and colors. He momentarily wondered what the Abomination could possibly keep in them, but then decided he'd rather not know. The wall directly in front of them held a rack of various weapons and wicked-looking tools, probably Ol' Gront's he surmised. And to their left, in one corner, was a pile of rocks interlayed with moss, which almost looked like bedding of some kind. Next to that was a sizable pool of water and in the corner next to that was...
"...Are those bones??"
"Observant, aren't you?" Nash replied sarcastically as she crouched to inspect the bottom shelf of jars and flasks. "Did you think that big Snake-Thing was just playing a game of tag with us?!"
Ling had no idea what kind of game this 'tag' was, but he understood the girl's tone. "There is no need to speak to me in such a way, Miss Nash. I DID just save your life."
The young woman stood and spun on her companion. "First, it's not 'Miss Nash', it's just Nash. Second, I saved YOUR life first, so from my perspective, we're even. And third, if I hadn't saved your life, I wouldn't be stuck in this room, looking for a way out while I'm waiting for that Snake-Thing and her big mutant buddy to come and kill my ass, okay? So I will speak to you and damn way I please, Mister Shirtless!"
He could hear the voices in his head laughing.
"What??" she asked, having already returned to her task of inspecting the shelves, annoyance plain in her voice.
"My name is Ling, not...Mister Shirtless."
Nash turned her head to the left, hooking her long hair behind her ear to look at him. His simple, humble assertion caught her offguard and a smile crept into her lips. He didn't yell, didn't argue, didn't get angry, he just...told her his name.
"Well...Ling...maybe you can help me look through these things and find a way to get out of this place before we get eaten too?" she smiled, despite herself. For some reason, she was beginning to like him. Of course, him saving her earlier when he could have just run off DID help, but she wouldn't admit that to him.
Then, they heard it: a loud hissing sound coming from the tunnel! The two of them glanced fearfully at each other, knowing full well what that horrible sound meant. Then, Nash ran for the rack of weapons as Ling continued to rifle through the shelves, hoping to find something useful. But it was too late. The Snake-Woman exploded through the chamber entrance, all rage and fury, her size and undulating body taking up half the room. Behind her came Ol' Gront, broadsword raised as he immediately sought out Ling. He cursed himself for thinking the sword would stay stuck in that wall forever.
"There y'be!" he shouted angrily above his mistress' hissing. "Y'think ya played Ol' Gront for a fool, eh?"
"Die now, Murderer, die!" the voices in his mind, now back again, chanted. "Die, Bastard Child!"
The giant swung his sword in a downward arc, but Ling managed to scamper quickly away so that the sword came down only on one set of shelves, shattering it and scattering the items that were stored upon it. One of the bottles landed next to Ling just as Ol' Gront turned towards him, anger twisting his features, and began to raise his sword to strike again. With no other options, Ling desperately grabbed the bottle and threw it at the approaching mutant. It shattered against his broad chest and Ol' Gront screamed in agony as dark crimson smoke enveloped his chest and face. When the smoke faded, Ol' Gront's skin had turned a deep red and was covered entirely in horrible, oozing pestules.
Nearby, the young woman called Nash was somehow managing to keep the Snake-Woman at bay using her own agility as well as a sword she had taken from the weapons rack. Still, as before, she was tiring and knew that it was only pure adreneline that was keeping her moving. That, and the fear of being eaten alive.
"Come, demon, come and try to catch me!" she taunted. "This is Nash you're after now, not some poor, defenseless child! You won't find me such an easy meal, so neatly tied to the cross by your lackey for your consumption! You took my brother, my only family, and I will make you pay for his life with your own!"
Executing a backflip to avoid raking claws, a deft twist of her upper body allowed Nash's sword to bite deep into the Snake-Woman's arm. The monster roared more in anger than pain.
Hearing his mistress' distress, Ol' Gront stopped and turned in her direction. Thinking this distraction was his best and perhaps only chance, Ling took this opportunity to run from his attacker. However, as he attempted to run past Ol' Gront, the giant mutant reached out and grabbed Ling by the hair, lifting him off the floor. As pain shot through his scalp, Ling squirmed and tried to free himself, but he could not.
"You. Hurt. Ol' Gront!" the giant shouted in his face before tossing him hard across the room. Ling slammed against the wall and fell, barely conscious, landing in the pile of bones and skulls he had seen earlier. As blackness began to overtake him, Ling heard the voices cheering.
Nash was in trouble. Although she had drawn blood, the wound wasn't serious enough to do the Snake-Woman any serious damage. In actuality, it had merely enraged her even more than she already was, sending her into a whirlwind of murderous claws, fangs and coils that the young woman, even with her skills and sword, could not long evade. In a matter of rage-fueled moments, the monster had drawn its own blood from her enemy, battering and slashing at Nash relentlessly. Now the young woman stood, winded and bloodied, her long red overcoat in tatters, her sword almost too heavy to lift, staring up at the Snake-Thing as she hovered high above, swaying to and fro, fangs dripping hungrily as she toyed with her prey, enjoying its fear before going in for the killing strike.
"No, I won't let this thing take me this way," she thought to herself, glancing over at Ling, lying on a pile of bones. "It took all those others, it took Ling, it took my brother...but it won't take me as well!"
Calling up one last reserve of strength from somewhere deep within her soul, Nash raised her sword and charged at the monster before her, leaping at the thing with her sword held high, ready to deal it a killing blow. She was determined to avenge all the children thie demonspawn had murdered, both Ling and her brother included.
From out of nowhere, a great, slimy tail appeared and smacked her away. She landed against Ling atop the pile of bones.
Somewhere in the darkness, Ling felt something push hard against his body, hard enough to make him leave the comforting blackness and open his eyes slightly. Upon opening them, the first thing he saw was bones. Bones and skulls. Immediately, he panicked and the voices began to call out loudly.
"Destroyer of the Clan!"
"Bastard Child! Killer!"
"NOOOOO!" he shouted, tears beginning to fall from his eyes, unable to keep the memories from flooding his mind. He relived the happy times with the Clan, his adopted family, who had taken him in after he had been orphaned and left for dead in the forest. Then he saw his own hands plunging a knife into the bare chest of a man dressed in the garments of his people. And finally, he saw himself standing in his camp, surrounded by the bloody, dead bodies of his entire Clan, knowing that the voices were right; it was he that had caused their deaths.
He came fully awake with a start, his body once again covered in sweat, his chest heaving from the emotional memories he has just relived. Immediately, he noticed the body of Nash beside him. She looked so still. But as he feared the worst, a large shadow fell upon them and he turned to see the Snake-Woman and Ol' Gront mere feet away, both about to strike. Panic, concern, fear and an all-consuming anger suddenly boiled up from deep within him and he shouted his defiance at both his advancing enemies as well as the chanting voices within his head:
A bright, blinding blue-white energy burst from within young Ling's body, striking both the Snake-Woman and Ol' Gront squarely and sending them flying across the chamber. The energy lit the entire area for only a few moments more before pulsing once or twice and sputtering out, leaving Ling to fall unconscious and weakened once again.
When Ling awoke, he found himself lying next to the pool of water, a cool, wet cloth being placed upon his forehead by Nash. Pushing himself up on one elbow, he glanced about the chamber, allowing the cloth to fall to his bare shoulder.
"What...What happened?" he asked groggily.
"You happened," the young woman answered with a grin, taking the dripping cloth from his shoulder. "Not entirely sure how, but I woke up to see you striking down our friends over there with some kind of energy attack. Why didn't you do that earlier?!?"
Ling glanced in the direction she nodded and saw both the Snake-Woman and Ol' Gort lying on the ground, both with swords protruding from their chests. "I...did not know that I could," he answered absently, only barely remembering what had happened. "Did you...?"
"Kill them?" Nash finished for him. "Yes. Your attack stopped them, but it didn't kill them, and I couldn't very well let them wake up and eat us, now could I?" She saw a look of distaste flash across his face. "Does that bother you?"
"Yes. No. I...do not know," he answered honestly. Her decision seemed to make complete sense, but he was not sure that he could condone killing any living being, even monsters, ever again. It was then that he realized the voices in his head were strangely silent. No, not silent; they seemed to be absent altogether.
Suddenly, a small twinkling of golden light appeared in one corner of the chamber, a twinkling that quickly grew into a large, man-sized glow. Both Ling and Nash had to shield their eyes from the brightness of the light and Nash mentally cursed at this new threat even as she took note that her male companion stepped in front of her, seeking to shield her from it. The thought made her smile, despite the apparent danger.
"Be at ease, Young Ones," came a voice from within the glow. "I mean you no ill will."
As they watched, a man with long, grey hair emerged from the pulsing light which disappeared as he did so. He was dressed in robes of blue that were gathered at his waist by a belt of glittering gold that matched the bracelets he wore on his wrists. He carried with him a long staff, also made of gold, that was embedded with glittering jewels of many colors.
"Who are you?" asked Ling warily, carefully lowering the hand that had shielded his eyes. "Why are you here?"
The man chuckled a bit. "You may call me Silas," he replied. "And, as I said, you need not fear me. I will not harm you."
"Then answer my friend's question," Nash challenged, stepping forth, no longer content to remain behind Ling. "What is your purpose here? Answer honestly and swiftly, for it is Nash that you now face and I will gut you where you stand, just as I did those two, if you deceive us."
Ling noticed that she had called him 'friend' and found that it pleased him. He also noted how her demeanor changed whenever she addressed an opponent, becoming more assertive, more full of bravado, than when they had been alone together. He made a note to speak to her about that later.
The grey-haired man grinned and his eyes narrowed as he took in the woman standing defiantly before him. "So you are the renowned Nash, eh? Your exploits and...talents...are known to us even in far-off Alloria, my young thief!"
"Thief?" Ling asked. His eyebrow shot up and he glanced at his companion, who completely ignored his look. Silas continued speaking, also ignoring Ling's surprise.
"We in Alloria are practitioners, investigators and protectors of all things mystical in nature, whether it be magikal artifacts, places of mystic energy or beings of mystic ability." Silas then leveled his staff at Ling. "And it appears, Young Ling, that you are such a being."
"That...That cannot be?!?" Ling replied, shocked at the implication. "I am no magician!?!"
"That energy..." whispered Nash.
"Yes, Nash, that energy. The mystic energy that we in Alloria felt and traced back here was unlike anything we have experienced in a very, very long time." Lowering his staff, Silas strode over to face Ling and placed his hand upon the young man's shoulder. "The burst of power that we felt was truly incredible, Young Ling, but it was also raw, uncontrolled. I, on behalf of my bretheren, am offering to show you how to harness that power, refine your control of your innate abilities. Join us on Alloria and let us teach you, Young One."
Ling looked first at the hand upon his shoulder and then up into the older man's eyes. Try as he might, he could find no malice there, only a sincere caring and desire to help. But he had been fooled by men's words before in his life. Did he dare take a chance that this man was being truthful? Could he trust himself and his own instincts? But how could this be true?!? Him, a...a sorcerer of some kind?? Madness! Still, where DID that energy come from? It came from somewhere within his body, he knew that, but how? Perhaps this man Silas COULD offer some answers. And it was not as if he really had anywhere else to go...With a deep breath and a prayer to his Elders, Ling made his decision.
"I accept your generous offer," he told Silas, bowing at the waist in thanks, as was the custom of his Clan. The older man smiled warmly at him. "But only if Nash is allowed to accompany me."
"What?!?" the young woman interjected. "Have you gone crazy? I'm not going with you!"
Silas stroked his chin as he considered young Ling's proposal. "Agreed," he replied after a moment, a sly grin seeming to form at the edge of his lips.
"WHAT?!?" Nash shouted, exhasperated. "I repeat: I am NOT going with you, Ling! I have a life here!"
Ling turned to her and gently took her hands in his. "You said your brother is gone, and I heard you say he was your only family. Do you have anyone else?"
His words stung her, making her realize how empty her life truly was, now that her quest for her brother's killer was ended. Ling noticed a sadness in her eyes as she answered his question. "No...No, there is no one else." As they spoke, Silas turned away and busied himself by magically disposing of the two dead bodies of the Snake-Woman and Ol' Gront. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to join you," Nash continued, the usual edge returning to her voice. She was suddenly angry at herself for showing a momentary weakness.
"Besides, I'm not a wizard!" Nash continued to protest. "What would I possibly do, alone in a land of magical beings and potions and...trinkets...and...artifacts...?" As the realization of the possible treasures to be found in Alloria dawned upon her, the part of her that was a master thief became excited at the prospect of joining her new friend. "On second thought, when do we leave?"
Although confused by her sudden chnage of heart, Ling smiled broadly, glad that he would not be alone as he travelled upon this new Path his Life's Journey was about to take. Unseen by either of them, Silas smiled too, although for completely different reasons.
"We leave immediately, dear one," Silas answered, returning to their side with an excited flourish. "You have but to place your hands upon my staff..."
The two new friends took a moment to look into each others' eyes and both were a bit surprised at the trust they found staring back at them. Then, with a silent nod to the other, they simultaneously placed their hands upon the golden staff. As the bright, golden glow began to envelop them, Ling of the Dragon Clan thought of the life he had lived up until that point, both the good parts and the bad. And, as the three of them began to disappear from the filthy, fetid chamber, he found that, overall, he was actually glad to leave this world, and the horrors it contained, behind him.