Chapter 28:

027 ┃ Unexpected visitors

The Isle of the Forgotten

Spud didn't stop running. If there had been any doubt that the stalkers had seen him, the aberrant cries of the creatures echoing throughout the castle confirmed it.

Once he reached the throne room, he paused for a moment. It was the first time he had seen two stalkers together, and he wasn't sure if Dawn could handle both of them. He wondered whether they should flee, hide, or fight. Fleeing wasn't an option, as it had already grown dark outside and there was nowhere else to go without risking the attention of more stalkers. It seemed they could only hide or fight.

Spud looked around the room for any ideas. The monsters would be upon him any moment, and he didn't have time to move to another room. His gaze landed on the large tapestries that decorated the walls. He threw the torch on the ground. With no other options, he sprinted toward the tapestry depicting the king and hid behind it, trying to make as little noise as possible.

A few seconds later, the cries entered the room. Although he couldn't see them, Spud knew they had stopped. They were looking for him. He heard them walking stealthily around the room, the only sound their guttural roars. Spud covered his mouth and held his breath, wishing he could stop his heart from making noise.

Fortunately, the stalkers did not find his hiding spot. After growing tired of inspecting the throne room, they let out a terrifying shriek and sprinted toward the stairs. Spud resumed breathing, aware of how close he had been to death. He had made it.

His eyes widened, and he clutched his head when he realized.

"Dawn!" he whispered urgently. Without wasting time, he left his hiding spot and followed the monsters to the upper floor.

Dawn was combing her hair in front of the mirror. She had never made a habit of it since arriving on the island, but a few weeks ago, Spud had given her a silver comb at the lake house. Since then, she had been motivated to do it again.

She looked at herself in the mirror, turning her head from side to side to check her hairstyle. She couldn't help thinking about Spud and how much had changed since he had arrived. She saw her reflection blush and frowned.

"What am I doing?" the girl whispered, not understanding her own behavior.

She then heard a noise coming from the hallway.

"Spud? Are you back?" she asked, unsure.

She stood still, trying to listen to what was in the hallway. There was something clattering against the stone.

"No…" she murmured, suddenly on alert. Spud wouldn't make that much noise. Her instinct was screaming that she was in danger.

With a swift move, she dove to the floor and crawled under the king's bed. Just as she hid, the room's door shattered, sending splinters flying everywhere. Although she could only see their legs, Dawn knew there were two stalkers.

The monsters began to destroy everything in the room, smashing the furniture with violence. They must have heard her earlier and were now searching for her.

Dawn tried to stay still, so they wouldn't see her. Why were they there? She thought they had sealed the entrance well.

A shiver ran down her spine when she realized. Spud had gone down to investigate, and the stalkers had just come from there. She grew anxious, imagining they had just killed her friend. She needed to check immediately.

When the bedroom was nothing but a pile of rubble, the stalkers finally left. They seemed even more aggressive than before. They left the room with shrieks and continued down the hallway.

Dawn didn't waste any time. She crawled out of her hiding spot, trying not to cut herself on the shards of glass and wood on the floor. She grabbed her spear and ran out of the room, heading straight for the stairs. She couldn't stop thinking about Spud being in danger. If they had attacked him while he was alone…

She turned a corner at full speed but collided with someone, and both fell to the ground. Her spear clanged loudly against the stone.

Dawn opened her eyes immediately, ready to face the new threat. However, all she saw was Spud with a hand on his face and a pained expression.

"Spud!" she whispered, throwing herself at him to hug him tightly.

The boy was initially surprised, but when he realized it was his companion, he returned the hug.

"Dawn! Are you okay?" he murmured, relieved to have found his friend.

"Are you okay? I thought you were dead," said the girl, grabbing his face with both hands to check for injuries.

The shrieks suddenly grew louder, and Dawn heard the sound of claws against the floor. She turned, alarmed. At the end of the hallway, the stalkers had seen them and were charging.

"Come," she ordered, taking Spud by the hand. She entered the nearest room and pushed the boy inside, closing the door with a bang.

They had entered what appeared to be a small child's bedroom. It was decorated in bright colors, and there were dozens of toys on the floor, like wooden horses and musical instruments.

"What now?" Spud asked nervously. They could hear the stalkers pounding on the door.

Dawn looked around. Hiding wouldn't help now, and only she was armed. She couldn't defeat them there.

She noticed the balcony at the back of the room. She ran to it, followed by Spud. They were on the edge of the large cliff on which the castle was built. Although the city's views were beautiful, there was at least a two-hundred-meter drop.

She looked both ways while trying to think. To the right of the balcony, separated by about two meters, was the balcony of the next room. If Dawn remembered correctly, that was the king's bedroom where she had been earlier, which meant both her bow and Spud's sword were there.

Without thinking, Dawn took a running start and jumped effortlessly to the neighboring balcony. She turned to look at her companion.

"Jump!" she ordered, extending a hand to him.

Spud hesitated for a few seconds. He looked over the cliff. If he missed the jump, he would face a certain and painful death.

"Come on! We don't have time!" exclaimed Dawn.

"Even if you say that..." he replied, unsure whether to make the leap.

A crash sounded in Spud's room. The boy turned his head to see the stalkers entering and charging toward him.

With a whimper, Spud gathered his strength and jumped as quickly as he could. He landed on the next balcony, and Dawn grabbed his arm to keep him from falling.

Without letting go of his arm, she pulled him into the room. She began searching the rubble for their weapons.

"I'm sorry, Dawn. It was my fault. I saw a hole in the wall, and…" Spud started to explain, agitated.

"It doesn't matter now," she interrupted as she searched. "We can't defeat both of them at once. We need to separate them."

She heaved a sigh of relief when she finally found Spud's sword. It was sheathed and had a strap for hanging. She picked it up and tossed it to the boy quickly.

"Huh? Am I going to fight one alone?" asked Spud, nervous. He looked at his companion for answers, but she was already getting into an attacking position on the balcony.

"You just have to distract it until I finish off the other," she explained, holding her spear high. One of the stalkers, the skinny and agile one, jumped effortlessly onto the balcony of her room.

"But..." he began, unsure and complaining.

"I know you can do it. I trust you," Dawn assured him, as she lunged at the attacker. She and the stalker began to fight, producing metallic sounds whenever the monster's claws clashed with her spear.

A few seconds later, the second stalker landed on the balcony, making the whole room shake. It was as bulky as a bull and seemed to have armor covering its body. It fixed its red eyes on Spud.

"Damn it," Spud exclaimed as he ran out of the room. The monster followed him, breaking down walls as it pursued him.

A. Hoshino