2.10 – The Gwisin

There are three rules if you ever leave these walls. First: don’t leave the road. Second: Don’t leave the road. And the most important: Do Not. Leave. The Road. It won’t guarantee that you’ll stay safe–even the towns aren’t safe–but sticking to the roads means you’ll have a whole lot better chance at surviving, because in these parts, monsters are the least of your worries. It’s the puca you should be worried about. This whole area has been given to them. They’ve been using it since long ago, and those nations out there have let them have it to keep them under control. Those pricks are guarding the border to make sure we never leave, all because we live in the puca’s ancient breeding grounds.

— Tradesman to his apprentice

 

I was young. They told me to never leave the road. I left the road. There are worse things in the dark than monsters. So, much worse, and with their fingers stuck in your mouth, they force you to smile. When I was found and returned to my parents, they say I changed. I don’t remember what I was like before.

That was long ago, so long ago, I’m used to the break. The break in my mind that only widens as the rain pours gently down. My black clothes, ripped and covered in blood, is slowly soaked in the down pour. My black hair sticks to my face, long enough to brush my lip. I peek through it. The man lying here had followed me. He wanted to rob me. I laugh and the man, the dead man, lies there bleeding in the rain. I search his pockets. Find a pouch of money. I take his knife as well. Then, I eat.

Red, red meat. Blood dribbles down my chin. A dark taste, and it goes down hard, but I eat anyway. It’s the only thing I can. My eyes roll back as I swallow. A chill runs through me.

Then, I get it. So much red.

A [Legendary Dungeon] has just been located. The race for its conquest has begun.

~ Quest Log ~

 “A Dangerous Place” – A dungeon has appeared in the Northern Rhew, a being that threatens the world with its very existence. Beat the dungeon in the shortest time possible and claim it holds within.

Requirements: Find Dungeon Core (0/1)

Rewards: 10,000 fame; 1,000,000Â; Dungeon Core (Enchantable)

{Cannot Decline}

 

“This. What is this?”

“A quest.”

“I know.”

“A dungeon.”

“An old thing… what’s it like?”

“I don’t know.”

“I want to know.”

“Shall we see?”

“No.”

“Why.”

“I can’t eat.”

“Maybe, you can.”

“Maybe.”

“Should we go?”

“Yes.”

I stand and leave the lifeless body and the empty alleyway behind. The sun is setting. It glows red, highlighting the rain beneath the clouds. The storm is heading north. I move through the town of Gran Beth to follow it. People shy away from me.

“The Ghost,” they whisper.

I don’t care.

I slip into a clothing shop. The attendant turns and jumps. She tries hard not to scream.

“S-sir. I didn’t see you,” she stammers. “W-welcome. What can I do for you?” She avoids eye contact.

“Clothes. Warm. For the Rhew. Preferably black.”

“You’re going to the Rhew?” I nod.

“The quest, then? But everyone just got it. Shouldn’t you think it through a bit more?” I stare. She gulps hard. “A-alright,” she says as she slips out from behind the counter. “Let me just gather a few things for you.”

She returns shortly with thick, dark furs. Coats, jackets, pants, boots, hats, anything that could keep a person warm. I choose precious few. Just enough to manage in the cold weather. She looks at me questioningly, and I stare until she looks away.

“F-fifty aur,” she says, “for all of it.” I reach over and place the shiny rose gold coins down. From the dead man’s purse. Then, I sweep everything into my item bag and slip out the door.

From there, I enter the library.

“Map,” I say to the keeper. “of as far north as possible.” I place ten aur on the counter. He nods and ruffles through various scrolls, then hands me one. I take it and leave.

I unroll it as I continue north through Gran Beth.

“The north.”

“Not much on the map.” There was less and less drawn the further north the map showed.

“It’s cold.”

“You didn’t buy enough. Should have bought more.”

“It’s fine.”

“You’ll freeze.”

“I won’t.”

The walls of the town rise up in front of me. I contemplate them as I draw closer. Just enough to keep the monsters at bay, I decide.

“I’m always cold,” I say as I pass through them. The guards stagger and shy away from me. I’ve scared them. Not the first time.

“What is that?” I hear one whisper.

“A gwisin.”

“So, creepy. Pale. It’s like a ghost.” I glance at the guard. The man jolts. Then, I continue walking.

“His eyes. Did you see them?”

“No.”

“They were almost as white as the white of his eyes.”

“That’s a gwisin. White eyes, pale skin, black hair. Can’t even hear them when they move. Haven’t you heard the stories?”

I move out of range. My sensitive ears could no longer pick up what he said. It didn’t matter. I know the stories. Gwisin. One of the races. Classified as puca race along with wraiths and wendigos and ghouls. A cursed race. Vampires were once a puca race long ago. But they were too industrious. Now they’re a dynol race just like humans and elves.

“Dynol, lycan, afanc,” I sing as I walk.

“Magog, knocker, dryad, djinn, and puca. Naughty, naughty gross pickaughty puca.” The different classifications of races.

“Why classify them?”

“There’s too many.”

“Some look like monsters. The wicker. The gargoyle.”

“They don’t evolve. And they form communities. Cities. ”

“Some monsters look like races. The arachne. The dire ape.”

“They don’t really.”

“They do.”

“They evolve. They don’t interact with their own kind either.”

“There are in-betweens.”

“There are. Like eiras and golems. Not quite a race, but not quite a monster. Too many outliers in for those types. Scholars don’t know what to do with them. The system recognizes them as either.”

“Ah.”

“You’re a gwisin.”

“I am,” I giggle.

“You weren’t one.”

“I wasn’t.”

“You were a human.”

“I was. That was long ago.”

“Puca infect.”

“Yes.”

“That’s why they’re categorized as puca.”

“They don’t reproduce normally, the scholars say. Vampires really should still be puca.”

“Vampires are tolerated.”

“I’m tolerated.”

“No. You’re not. We aren’t. They’re just scared. They don’t know what we’ll do. They can’t stop us from coming in anyway. And you agreed not to infect.”

“Ah. You’re right. This road. It isn’t smooth.”

“No.”

“It’s old.”

“Yes.”

“No lanterns, either.”

“Only the Seven cities’ roads have lanterns.”

“Ah. The sun went down. I can’t see the city anymore.”

“Yes.”

“It will take a long way to get to the north.”

“Yes.”

“Monsters will come now.”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’m still hungry.”

“A nian.”

Rustling. The bushes part in front of me on the left side of the road. Something large and bulky emerges. Its scaly armor glints in the failing light.

“Ah. It is a nian.” The nian. It looks like a lion, only bulkier, its shoulders extending above its head like a bull. Spiraling horns rise from its forehead. Its body is covered in plates of green chitin armor.

My fingers twitch. What would it be like to pull that armor off? How would it feel?

“Good. It’d feel good.”

“Ah.”

“Shall we?”

“Wait until it charges.” The nian sniffs the air then spins to face me. Immediately, it charges.

“Now?”

“Not yet.”

“Now?”

“Now.” I [flicker]. The nian passes through the me and a shiver runs down my spine. The nian skids to a stop, confused. I activate [spontaneous gash]. A plate of its chitin armor rips off and falls to the ground. The nian bellows in pain as blood begins to pour from its shoulder.

I [flicker] again, appearing right before its eyes. I activate [chill], [haunt], and [apparition]. The temperature drops. Things flicker in and out of existence around me. Long scrapes form along its armor. The nian screams and stumbles as it tries to flee. I laugh manically.

“It’s hilarious! These monsters. Everyone’s so scared of them. Yet they’re scared of ghosts, too. Hahahahahahahaha.”

“Stop playing with your food.”

“You enjoy it too.”

“True.” I take off another plate of armor with a wave of my hand. Another scream. The nian is almost to the bushes. I [flicker] in front of it again. It back-peddles awkwardly.

“Well, I’m bored now.”

I lift it up with [poltergeist] and rip it to shreds with [spontaneous gash]. Blood rains from the sky as I hold the corpse aloft. I bathe in it. Then I get to work.

My insatiable appetite. I devour. So much red. Even in the dark, my eyes see red. The meat moves down my throat. More. I need more.

“There’s none left.”

“None?”

“You ate it all. Only bones and chitin left.”

“Ah.”

I stand up and make a vague attempt at brushing off my damp clothes. I pick up a horn as proof for the Adventure’s Union, then, I start heading north.

“I’m still hungry.”

“Yes.”

“Will more monsters come?”

“Probably.”

“I hope.”

I walk long. Days. Weeks. Maybe more. I [flicker] occasionally, when I tire of walking. Monsters that cross my path get played with, then devoured. Sometimes even the unfortunate passerby. Yet still, I’m never satisfied.

Still I head north. Always north with only myself and my broken mind to keep me company. I come across the City of Paoler.

“Not going in?” I circle around it.

“They don’t like puca.”

“So?”

“Aventurer Union and the Mercenary Union won’t pay me if I make trouble in cities. I’ll earn demerits.”

“But towns are okay?”

“Mostly.”

“Don’t make trouble then. A bed would be nice.”

“Can’t. Too hungry. I’d eat someone.”

“What poor self-control.”

“Yeah. I don’t mind.”

The hunger came in waves. Sometimes I could control it. Other times, it was overwhelming, and I could barely think straight. I had to be careful to avoid cities then. The only reason. I needed the money, and being a sweeper was good pay. All for brokeback root. The only thing in this world that kept me sane, that kept the hunger at bay, that kept the voices back, that kept me from cracking further.

“I’m running low. Gran Beth didn’t have any.”

“Stop in Paoler.”

“Won’t let me in. We’ve tried.”

“That was a while back. Try again.”

“No. They shot at me. It hurt.”

“Felt good.”

“Hurt.”

“Do you need it?”

“You’ll take over.”

“Is that so bad?”

“Yes.”

“Stop struggling. It’s easier if you let go.”

“No.”

I leave Paoler behind. Dinner that night was a cockatrice. Not very filling. I slept very little and set out when the sun rose. The same routine followed. Walk. Fight. Eat. Walk. Fight. Eat. Sleep. Over and over and over. Only thing that changed was how many monsters I came across. I’m doing a very good job of sweeping the road. Haha. My item bag is full of various monster parts. Proof for the Union so I can get my pay.

It’s getting colder. Not enough to pull out my winter gear, but enough to wake up in a bed roll covered in frost and to start seeing patches of snow on the ground. Each day, there’s more and more of it until the whole ground is covered, and then one day, a storm hits. I put on my winter gear and continue on. The storm lasts a full week. I’m out of brokeback root. The world is white. I’m going crazy. Hahahaha.

“You’ve been going in circles.”

“I haven’t.”

“It’s a storm, you can’t tell.”

“I haven’t.”

“Aren’t you tired yet.”

“A little. Don’t wanna stop.”

“Still, you’re headed east now.”

“Can’t be. I’m heading north.”

“You’re out of breath.”

“Not.”

“You’re wheezing from the cold.”

“No.”

“You can barely keep your eyes open.”

“I’m awake.”

“Let me take over.”

“No.”

“You’re too tired to continue. I’ll keep us moving.”

I frown and keep silent, trudging through the snow. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m wearing down. My body wants me to collapse right there. If I do, though, I’ll probably freeze.

“Now will you? Just for a while. Let me run wild just for a bit.”

“No.”

“You know you can’t hold on much longer.”

“No.”

“Just for a bit,” the voice gets smoother and smoother, lulling me into a trance. My feet slow to a stop.

“You’re tired. You’ve been walking for so long. Just sleep. I’ll make sure we get there. Trust me. I want to find the dungeon as much as you do.”

“N–no.”

“Why do you keep refusing? Isn’t it hard. The world has hated you ever since you’ve returned from that forest. It’d be better if you just let go. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything.”

“N…”

“Just let go. Sleep.”

“Alright… For… a bit….” My head slumps down as I’m drawn into a dark deepness. My awareness fades.

The snow falls gently.

A second later, the head rises. It’s covered completely by a layer of hair.

“Food.” The head turns abruptly to the left. The wind pushes the hair out-of-the-way. It was a sight that would freeze anyone. There was nothing. No eyes. No nose. No features whatsoever. Just a blank face. This was the true face of a gwisin. The one feared in the stories.

The thing stood there in the blizzard for a moment longer before [flickering]. The snow piled up where it once stood.

Twenty miles to the north lay the quiet village of Han under a gathering blanket of snow. The sun was just setting, though still light enough for people to be moving about. Han’s wall wasn’t high, but it was situated on a slight rise, which helped with the monsters, but every once in a while, one would manage to get in. The trees in the area were brittle, only good for firewood, and there was no real areas nearby to build a quarry. Han had to import their wood and stone, and money was scarce.

If is wasn’t for Harold Larson, a retired soldier from down south, the village would have long been overrun. At level 28, he was by far the highest level person in the village. This evening, he is just starting his rounds, waving at Benjamin as he leaves through the gate.

He makes his way down the slope, checking and resetting traps and making sure the wards he set were still active as he works his way further into the forest. It doesn’t look like anything’s been through here in the past couple of days. He sighs in relief.

He stops suddenly when something flickers by him. A cold chill runs across his skin. He grips the hilt of his sword and swallows as he scans the forest. He moves only after a couple of minutes pass. Still, the uncomfortable feel doesn’t leave him. Something is very wrong. His instincts are screaming at him, but even with his trained eye, he can spot nothing.

The feeling passes. He swallows again and continues to check the last few traps, then starts to make his way back to the village. A few paces later, he freezes, starting at the ground. Then he spins around himself, scanning the forest again. Something has tripped a ward. He glances up at the village. It’s still quiet. Then, he looks around him again and back at the ward.

“Did something trip it, or did it go off by itself.” Sometimes it did happen. A ward just stops. Especially since he was a novice wardsman with what he picked up as a soldier. Hesitantly, he resets the ward, keeping a wary eye out around him.

“Still, the village was too quiet. Benjamin should have been alerted by the ward. No, actually. If it’s this quiet, that means nothing tripped the ward. It stopped by itself.” Harold continues back up the hill, his nerves somewhat settled.

His jaw clenches a few moments later when he comes across another tripped ward. This time, he doesn’t stop. He runs straight for the village. He reaches the gate to find it wide open. Benjamin, its keeper, is nowhere in sight. It doesn’t look like it’s been forced open though. He breathes heavily as he enters the village.

The quietness, where before it was homely and quaint, now felt wrong. Harold begins to jump at the dim shadows between houses, nearly pulling his sword out. He jumps again when the wind causes a door to creak as it swings.

“Why is Hailey’s door open?” He takes a step to peek inside. A hand grips his shoulder. He tries to spin around as something drags him into an alley way. He forces whatever it is down and pulls his sword out and against its neck.

“Woah, woah,” Wen Valence whispers. “Harold. It’s just me.” Harold lowers his sword and rolls off the man. A scream rings out and both men tense. Harold starts in its direction, but Wen pulls him back.

“Don’t.”

“What? Why?”

“Gwisin.”

“What?”

“It’s a gwisin.”

“So? Sure gwisins are a bit scary and all, but if you leave them be, they’ll leave you be. I served with one in the army.”

“No. You don’t understand. It’s a faceless gwisin.”

Harold freezes.

“You saw it?”

“Briefly. Joshua was closing up the bar. He kicked us all out. When we were walking out, we saw a person standing in the middle of the road. Stitch, the stupid man, he called out to him. He was drunk and staggered up to the man in the road, next thing I know, Stitch doesn’t have a head. I was lucky I was near the back of the group. I stumbled back into the bar shock as it made short work of everyone else before they even had a chance to scream. I watched it as it started to eat them, Harold. It had no features at first. Nothing on its face. But then it split in half, a monsters mouth that just kept eating and eating and eating. If Joshua hadn’t dragged me out the back door…”

“Where’s Joshua now?”

“I don’t know.”

“How many were eaten?”

“Nine at the bar. Fifteen or so more, counting the screams I heard. Probably more. It moves weirdly. Like a ghost. One moment it’s over there. The next it’s over here.”

“Hailey?”

“Him and his family. I checked the house. They’re not in it. There was some blood on the floor.”

“Benjamin?”

“Not sure, but since he was at the gate…”

“What level would you say it was?”

“I don’t know. It’s not a monster, so I couldn’t identify it. Much, much higher than anyone else here. Harold, it may be even higher than you.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the soldier stands.

“Harold–” Wen grabs his arm.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m going after it.” He tugs loose from Wen’s grip and steps out from between the two houses. He heads towards the scream originated from.

A few minutes later, he’s standing in front of Lillian’s house, its door wide open and a trail of blood leading out into the snow. A pile of bones rests scattered at its end. This wasn’t the only house in this state. Every other house he had come across the doors were open. He stabs the door frame in anger.

A chill runs down his spine. He slowly turns. A dark-haired man stands a ways behind him with something gripped in its hands.

“You’re the gwisin?” Harold says.

The man doesn’t respond, only bringing up the thing in its hands to it face. Harold finally sees it. Hair falls out of the way. A pure white canvas stares back at him. It cracks in half, a gruesome smile stretching from ear to ear. Eyes appear, yet they’re just deep staring pits that drip blood.

Harold clenches his teeth as the gwisin takes a bite out of the thing in its hands like an apple. A large crunch is heard. The Gwisin rolls it a bit in its hands as it chews, and Harold had to keep himself from screaming in rage. That was Wen’s head!

The gwisin’s next bite swallows the head whole, and then, the gwisin disappears. Harold swings at the empty air in front of him, catching the appearing Gwisin in the shoulder. The gwisin gives a piercing screech, then flickers out of view. Things begin to fly at him. Pitchforks and barrels and so much tableware all aiming at his body. He slashes at them, knocking them out of the air, but an unnoticed knife finds its into his side, puncturing his lungs. He grits his teeth.

“Why did you come here?” He shouts. “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m hungry,” a voice whispers by his ear. He spins around. He stares at the spot in the last bit of fading light, but there’s nothing there. Now it’s completely dark, and things are beginning to flicker in the edges of his vision.

“Leave!” He yells. “You’ve already hurt enough people. Leave us in peace!”

“But you’re the only one left,” the voice tickles his ear. Harold freezes.

“No,” he breathes. “It can’t be. You’re lying.” He lashes out with his sword. Maniacal laughter sounds in the distance. People begin to materialize around him, people from his village, bloody, wounded, dying with horror-stricken on their faces.

“No!” He rushes to them, tries to help them, but they gouge deep gashes on his forearms and chest before fading away.

“Come out, you coward!” He screams.

“Night night,” sounds the voice behind his ear. There’s a pain in his neck, and then he knew no more.

The gwisin, stares curiously at the beheaded body expecting it to slump, but it remains in its kneeling position. It picks up the head and begins to munch on it.

“Interesting man. Tricky. If it was daylight, the fight would’ve been much harder.” It reaches up and touches the hole in its shoulder. Its hand comes back sticky with blood. Even in the dark, the man had managed to catch him a few more times with his sword. A long scratch lined its belly and there was a flap of skin dangling from its palm. The gwisin rips it off and swallows it, then proceeds to eat the rest of the body. It raises its head and sniffs the air.

“Ah,” my eyes blink open. “That smells like brokeback root.” I stand up and rummage through a nearby house. I come out with a pale root in my hands, tearing a piece off and placing it in my mouth. The rest goes in my item bag.

“Much better.” I glance around me at the empty village, my night vision crisp. “What happened here? Blood?” A stain decorated the ground in front of me. I run my tongue over my teeth. Remnants of a meal I didn’t remember remained. I stare a few seconds longer at the stain before moving off out of the village.

Two weeks later, a merchant in Paoler notices that the shipment of maple cider from Han never came. He notifies his hired mercenaries to find out the reason. When they arrive, they find an empty village.

The culprit, at this time, is just entering the fishing village of Gogledd in the far north, home of a particular tribe of selkies. That man’s name is Yul Yeong, and he’s searching for a dungeon.

 Status Menu 
Name: Yul Yeong Race: Gwisin Level: 34 (1,138,400/11,560,000)
Health: 290/370 (20/min) Mana: 220/620 (52/min) State: Normal
 Strength: 8 Endurance: 10 Dexterity: 9
 Focus: 33 Will: 26 Accuracy: 12
[Ξ]
Fame: 12,200
Titles: |Impersonal| |Creepy| |Cold| |Raw Foodism| |Crazy| |Hair-raising| |Adventurer| |Mercenary| |The Ghost| |Dissonant Laughter| |Remorseless Killer| |Cannibal| |Illusionist| |Faceless| |Multiple Personalities|
Skills: [Cold Grip IIX] [Chill VI] [Heat Sense X] [Spontaneous Gash VII] [Haunt III]  [Apparition V] [Frenzy IV] [Poltergeist VII] [Flicker VIII]

 


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