The Battle Below the Mouldering Spire

Excerpt from the Authority's information of known location:

The Great Marshes: A sprawling wetland on the eastern border of the Corrupted Lands, inhabited mainly by bands of Empirical Clan refugees and the occasional Underguild trader.

The Great Marshes of Cair Aisling did not receive its name from just a small flooded area covered in grasses within its territory. The marshes spread as far as the eye can see; Shrubs and trees are rare in this area, signs of civilization are even rarer. Plants, insects, small animals, and whatever else that might live below the shallow water of this vast wetland dominate the most.

Many plants thrive on the wetland's soil. One of them is a papyrus plant, the material used to make paper in the middle ages. What can be said as the life support of the Authority's means of communication in a world where all modern knowledge we know is useless. It is really lucky for the Authority that a large source of paper material grows near the site.

The Authority's On-Location Site for Cair Aisling, Camp Crannóc, was located near The Beach of Beginning, which is on The Great Marshes' territory. This is one of the three territories that the Authority can explore, along with the Underheim Mountains next to it and Wethir on the other side. Unfortunately, exploring further beyond this wetland will only lead to a dead end.

Right in front of the vast wetland of The Great Marshes is nothing but the path toward the Castle of Dream itself.

Ahead of this territory, lies The Corrupted Forest. The higher-ups have already forbidden any personnel from entering this area. The so-called monsters, the corrupted creatures of Cair Aisling, fill this place. Several personnel that managed to survive their exploration during the first attempt to enter the forest stated that these monsters are not only hard to kill, but with the amount of them scattered across the area, their number simply cannot be counted. The Authority does not want to take this risk. Yet.

At the edge of this territory, however, there's a landmark. A collapsed Spire, known as The Mouldering Spire.

Its ruins stand tall at the edge of The Great Marshes. The top, including the roof, and one side of the spire are already gone, making the spire shaped like a giant spike embedded into the ground. All floors located on the top and the middle of the spire are also broken. Each floor has a wide hole that allows sunlight to bathe most of the space in the spire, all the way down to the ground floor, during high noon.

Nobody occupies this place, making it abandoned and free to be taken. The Authority does have a plan to use this place as a base, to observe the situation of The Corrupted Forest and The Castle of Dreams and also the situation of the ongoing war between the Ashenfolk and Spirer that still awaiting the hero of the story to end it all.

However, there’s one simple problem that made this place abandoned from the start:

Excerpt from the Authority's information of known location:

The Mouldering Spire: A collapsed Spire on the edge of the Great Marshes, rumored to be inhabited by evil spirits.

This all changed when a week ago, the Authority found the solution to this problem.

“I assumed that it’s currently eleven a.m right now.” My eyes looked up to the sky, dazzled by the bright sunlight, before looking back at the ground. The sun positioned almost right above me. “We’ve gathered enough sunlight to enter the area, right?”

“Well, prepare your team, then. I’ll prepare mine,” said the person next to me, Lieutenant Edward Johnson, as he stood up. “Gather them all at the entrance. We’ll enter at once,” I replied. He then headed to his team, a group of ASF and MST Hotel-1, while I headed to my own team, four personnel from MST Echo-251.

This is the Authority’s plan to take over The Mouldering Spire, the Authority has assigned Echo-25 to try exorcising the hell out of these spirits.

Of course, I, the rest of Echo-25 personnel, and even Major Amir as the commander of Echo-25 himself, doubted that we could terminate them. Yes, there are times when Echo-25 is successful with their mission outside of our own field, but to terminate entities originating from other country’s mythology using our own method was completely new. The Authority did consider that this might fail, so we’re technically here only to experiment with it. If it succeeds, more Echo-25 personnel will be sent here. If it fails or a more effective method was found, we will return back home. But still, nobody knows if this will work or not without trying first. So here we are on the other side of the world, assigned to the Cair Ailsing’s mission.

“Prepare the equipment, everyone! It’s time to do our part.” I approached my team, four MST Echo-25 personnel, who were gathered near the tent. My ears overheard their conversation a bit; they were discussing a room inside the spire. They then ended their conversation and stood up, preparing themselves.

Regarding the room they discussed, I knew exactly which one they were referring to. Everyone here knew. Apparently, below this spire was some sort of dungeon. Based on the Cair Aisling novel series, this is where the “Evil spirits” dwell. Typical dungeon.

“Romy, can you come here for a minute?” I called Private Romy to my side. He immediately moved away from the crowd and approached me. Out of all the Echo-25 personnel, he’s the person with the most knowledge about the Cair Aisling novel series, followed by Adam, who currently busy wearing his helmet at that time. He’s a big fan alright, despite his age. That's why he's here.

“Yes, sir?” he stood in front of me. “Tell me again regarding the threat we’ll be facing. You can tell me the background story of these demons too, this time. In case I might be needing such information.”

“Alright. So, in volume three, this place got mentioned for the first time. Long ago before the chaos in Cair Aisling occurred, this place was planned to be the treasure storage of the Spire Elves. Yes, the construction was still ongoing at that time, but a large amount of wealth was already kept in the dungeon.”

“Then one day, came an ambush from the orcs of the Wethir, led by Soth'er Redmace. The Spire Elves on the spire were all slaughtered. However, they had already placed a spell on the spire: A magical barrier that prevents anyone from getting in or out the spire. Some sort of lockdown procedure, I think. The orcs trapped inside along with the treasure of the Spire Elves, unable to get out.”

“The spell remained intact for fifty years. After the spell had finally worn off, the Spire Elves then tried to get their treasure back. Unfortunately, they encountered several huge dark spirits guarding the dungeon. Turns out that they were all the spirits of the troops of Soth'er Redmace. Many elves died without knowing how to kill these evil spirits, so the Spire Elves abandoned this place forever. Many have tried to take the treasure kept inside, only to be killed by these evil spirits.”

Took me a quick moment to think about it, then a sigh came out. “Of course… We’ll be facing the generic monster-that-guarding-treasure type, eh. And how does our hero, Hasan Maza, dealt with these demons?”

“Well, in volume four is when-“

Our conversation was halted when Edward approached us. “Captain Hendra, the troops are ready!” he stated. “We'll talk about it later, Romy. Return to the rest of the group.” Romy nodded as he walked away. Then I looked at Edward, “So, is everyone ready?”

“Yes, sir. We are ready to enter the building.”

There’s a reason why we waited until high noon to enter the spire. The same reason why we chose to sleep outside the spire instead of inside. The report did state that these evil spirits dwelled in the dungeon. However, they are capable of leaving the dungeon to chase their target. We didn’t want to take that risk, so we waited until the whole room inside is bright enough to enter. At least their dark and shadowy appearance would stand out under the daylight.

We then gathered in front of the entrance. There were 15 personnel for this expedition mission. Despite our joint operation, neither Edward nor I will lead the whole team. We led our own teams separately. I took a glance at Edward and he nodded, then we enter the spire.

The ground floor is indeed spacious. We entered a large room with two stairs on both sides which lead to the higher floor. A question bothers my mind about why Spire Elves built such a high building, but I kept that thought to myself and tried to focus on the mission.

“Based on the novel, the spirits were supposed to dwell in the dungeon. However, we got ambushed right there.” Edward pointed at a wooden door positioned between the two stairs. “One of those monsters immediately shown up behind the door and stabbed one of my men who opened the door using its spear. He… he died instantly when the spear impaled him. We ran immediately to the entrance, followed by that thing. It was really dark at that time, we even accidentally dropped our torches when we ran. We were just lucky to be able to escape alive, although with one casualty.”

I looked around the room, eventually finding several half-burned braches. Perhaps the remains of torches that Edward abandoned in his story. Then my eyes turned to the door in front of me. “Well then, we better prepare ourselves next to that door before opening it,” I said while pointing at the door. We then split in front of the door: Eight personnel on the left side and seven personnel on the right. Under Edward’s command, the personnel in the front row of the group on the left carefully pushed the door. The daylight had ambushed the room first, as the door swang to the left, immediately lighting up the dark space inside.

We waited for a few moments until the personnel in the front row of the group on the right carefully took a peek inside. I saw him saying something while moving closer with a scared look, probably some sort of prayer. He looked around for a few moments until he raised his hand and signed us that it’s clear to enter. We then look inside the room.

At first glance on the wall in front of us, which is too close to the door, I thought that this seemed to be the smallest room in this place, similar to a janitor closet. When looking down, however, there’s a spiral stairway that leads down. I sighed as I walked down the stairway a little, tried to take a better look at the room below.

There's a wide circular room with three paths that I didn’t know where they led. Bones, lots of bones, were scattered along the sides of the room. In the middle of the room, however, there’s a pile of treasure. A goddamn pile of treasure consisted of golds and diamonds and whatever shinies down there acted as a bait on a fishhook. I sighed again as I gave a signal to my men, hoping that they won’t rush their way down there because of those traps. It’s time for Echo-25 to lead the group.

Before we walked down, Sergeant Deni brought in our equipment to be distributed to each Echo-25 member. The equipment we brought for this mission was none other than several old coconut broomsticks. Local myths from my hometown did say that these ordinary objects had some sort of mystical properties that could repel spirits, but the main reason why we brought it here was because these objects were capable of terminating several RPC instances back in our country. Although now a more scientific method was found by flashing them using a camera flash. Strange, but both ways work.

Anyways, since no technology is capable of entering this world, we decided to bring in our good ol’ coconut broomstick instead. We just prayed that this would work. If it doesn’t, we’ll retreat immediately. We then proceed to walk down the stairway and managed to get down to the room safely.

It’s dark down here, even with the light from the door we left open up there. Several personnel then proceed to make a torch using the equipped flint and steel. Unfortunately, our activity was halted when a clanking noise came from one of the paths. A black shadow shaped like a human with a trail of smoke as its legs emerged from that path and flew towards us at a dangerous speed. Its right hand, which held a falchion2, was raised high, ready to slay us. I and the rest of the Echo-25 held our brooms, ready to wave it at that thing. Under my command, we waved it at once.

It didn’t work.

It didn’t fucking work. The evil spirit was already close enough and ready to swing its falchion, so I dropped the broom on my right hand and switched my weapon with the standard Auctoritas' long sword that I previously held on my left hand immediately. Our weapons clashed in mid-air, creating small sparks from the tiny pieces of the metal that were being broken off and heated in the contact. I’m not a good swordsman, so it knocked away my sword. At least that sword saved my life. Hotel-1, being more trained in sword combat, took over the area, protecting us.

“It did not work, Ed! Fall back immediately!” I frustratedly yelled at Edward, who raised his sword as well. More of these evil spirits came, wielding different weapons in their hands with the same murderous intent. “Are you sure, captain?” He asked. I nodded while trying to reach for my sword on the floor and managed to grab it. “With the number of our troops swinging our brooms at such close range, any demon on our country would at least react even if only a little! Retreat now!”

We then tried to reach the stairway, only to be stopped by two dark shadows which blocked our path, effectively surrounding us. We were surrounded by around ten or more of these evil spirits. This reminded me of my experience during the annual RPC-308 containment protocol, but the only difference is that those black shadows that watched us during the protocol were harmless. These, however, will slaughter the entire team unless we think of a way out.

These entities' body were intangible, but their weapons weren't. The only way we could survive was to hold their attack for as long as possible. Our weapons bashed against each other's as we defend ourselves against the evil spirits of The Mouldering Spire while we thought of a way to escape this ambush. “Romy, tell me how Hasan Maza escaped from this situation!” I yelled at Romy, who was jumping to avoid being hit by the mace of one of the evil spirits.
“Well, when Hasan enter-“

“Cut to- Spear!” A quick warning replaced my question as one of the spirits tried to stab him, he managed to dodge the attack. “Cut to the escaping part! ” I continued my sentence as I managed to grab my sword back.

“He- He managed to run to the exit! One of the spirits that chased him got burned and disappeared once Hasan opened the door and let the sunlight in.” Romy said. Sunlight? A thought popped into my mind. “Hey, Edward! When did your team enter this place?” I asked again. This time to Edward, who managed to cut one of the spirits’ spear into two using his sword. “At night, sir!” he answered.

I thought again. So these entities' weakness is indeed sunlight. But how can I use that? We definitely couldn’t make a hole on the roof, which is the ground floor. Not only is that that almost impossible due to lack of our equipment, but also that it may risk collapsing the entire spire. Is there any alternative other than depending on sunlight?

“Edward! How was their reaction toward your team’s torches?” I asked one more time. Edward looked at me for a second, seemed that he thought of something. “Hold it. Timmy! You’re the last person that got out when we ran away from here, right? Did you see how they react with our abandoned torches?” He asked one of the person near him. He, Timmy, looked at Edward and said, “They’re about to chase me. But when I kicked one of the torches toward it, it seemed to be startled and retreated back to the dungeon. I don't know why though.”

Both I and Edward looked at each other for a second. Then, he seemed to search for something in his possession. “I need something flammable! Hey, Mark! Bring me those papyrus paper now!” Mark, the personnel he yelled at, seemed to be a bit busy with one of the spirits. My eyes then quickly fixed to the ground, trying to find my coconut broomstick that I dropped before, which was near my position. When I found it, I grabbed the broom while avoiding one of the spirits’ falchion and ran toward Edward. “Use this instead, man!”

He used his flint and steel and tried to make a spark. He managed to make a small fire on my coconut broomstick, which started to get bigger. Suddenly, a spirit charged toward us and prepared to hit us with its mace. my right hand quickly waved my burning broom toward its body.

A loud roar could be heard, coming from that spirit. Its body immediately consumed by the flame, starting from the slashed body part, all the way throughout the entire body until there’s nothing left from it. The broom didn’t even reach its body, yet it burned. The slash’s wave was enough.

“Now that is what supposed to happen when you mess with this!” I yelled at the thin air where the spirit was before. The fire on my broom extinguished immediately after the first swing, so we tried to light it back up. “Harun! Deni! Romy! Adam! Come here with your broom, now!” I yelled at my men. They were busy at the time, but they ran as soon as they could upon being called. Edward set their broom on fire as well.

“This won’t be enough. Where’s Mark? I heard that he had several papers, right” I asked Edward. “He fucking left it all outside!” He replied frustratedly. The stairway to the outside was still blocked by those evil spirits. But I already had a solution.

“Bring some of your men up! We’ll cover you up!” I said. Echo-25 with their flaming brooms charged toward the stairway and slashed the spirits that previously blocked the path. Five personnel followed behind and managed to reach the stairway and were on their way to the door above.

Several spirits that noticed our attempt then flew higher, trying to reach them. I noticed this and tried to think of a way to stop them. I looked at my burning broom. “Throw it to there!” An abstract instruction came out as I reflexively threw my own broom toward those spirits. It only managed to hit one. Two of Echo-25 personnel then did the same, hitting some more of those spirits. Those evil spirits retreated and those five personnel managed to get out safely. Now it just us that left.

“Our only hope left is just your men.” I held my sword and got closer to Edward and his team. We were surrounded again, this time was even worse. We all moved closer to each other, finally forming a small circle in the middle of the room with a pile of treasures behind us while we faced in the opposite direction. We lost all of our brooms and returned using the sword. Three because they were thrown before and two because they were burned down. We can only defend our position until those five personnel return. “Doesn't it suck,” I said to Edward, “that even after we found their weakness, we're still about to die?”

Judging from the situation, those personnel might not arrive on time. “The best thing is… is that there will be survivors…” Edward replied while enduring the pain. Apparently, His right shoulder got hit by their falchion. “They will tell what happened down here… Tell about their weakness… Tell our story… The Authority will come and burn this room and the entire spire!”

“Heh… I just hope that they don’t alter it. I’m okay that they exaggerate their part in the story, but if they said that they’re the ones who found these spirits’ weakness, I’ll be the fucking ghost and hunt them to death.” I said as I chuckled a bit. We're already defeated and desperately holding back their attack by clashing our weapon. If no helps arrives within these last seconds, we will surely die.

“Arrghhh!!!” Corporal Harun who was on my right side screamed loudly as one of the spirits stabbed his left arm using its spear. “Shit! Harun!” I turned my head toward him quickly, but the corner of my eye caught a sudden movement. My eyes glanced to the left, only to catch a glimpse of one of the spirits which ready to slash his falchion toward my head. My eyes closed at that moment, unable to think anything else.

A roar followed by several unrecognizable noises from the personnel made me opened my eyes again. The spirits in front of me burned.

I looked up. Several objects like tree branch and paper, which were burned, were thrown from above like stones from hell which the Martin birds dropped on the Abrahah's army. Some of those objects managed to hit several spirits, making them burn and demanifest. I looked towards the door, one personnel seemed to have received those burned objects from the other side of the room, and throwing them into the dungeon.

“Backup! God bless your men, Edward!” I yelled in relief while grabbing one of the tree branches that still burned and held it like my own sword. “Let’s get out of here!” Edward replied while holding his right shoulder. I nodded while helping Harun to walk toward the stairway.

When we were halfway up the stairway, our path was blocked by one more spirit who wielding a crimson mace. A roar came from the spirit, "Ours!". My response to its abstract final statement was a slash using the burned tree branch I held.

“So, what’s your plan now, captain?” Edward asked me.

We were outside now. We’ve finished burning the last of these evil spirits a few minutes ago. Regarding the treasure inside, we decided to not disturb it and awaiting the higher-ups' decision. This place is now clear to be occupied. Our job was done.

“Of course, I have to report to the commander. Maybe asking the same question you asked.”

“Hey, do you know that the Authority was planning to find and help Hasan Maza to bring peace with the hope that this anomaly will be neutralized? What if your team helped along? If allowed, of course. They might need more personnel for that.”

My eyes looked up to the sky, the sun about to set. We’ll spend our night here again. This time we’ll rest inside the spire since we’ve taken over it now. Then I looked around, eventually seeing my men gathered on the spire's wall. I'm kind of curious about what they’re doing.

“I’d like to join your force. But I'll have to ask the commander first, as I said before.” I walked away, approaching the rest of Echo-25. “Hey! What you’re doing there?” I asked Deni. “Ah, Mas Hendra. we are carving our names on this wall. You know, as a sign that we were once here. You want your name carved too?” he said. I saw the small carving on the wall they made. A drawing of a Java Eagle flying above as a simplified version of our patches, along with several writings below it,

Echo-25 The Dreaded Out

Deni, Harun, Romy, Adam

I stood there staring at it for a moment. My right hand still holding my sword, awaiting my decision. Finally, I made up my mind. “I should be the first, you know.”

Hendra, Deni, Harun, Romy, Adam




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