Note: This takes place in the same universe as sample Stories,
Alviar lived in the nation of Ivore, where demons were neither hunted nor accepted, only enslaved. Each demon was required to wear a magical collar that would make them obedient and completely dependent on the human or beastmen they were to obey.
Alviar belonged to a powerful and wealthy family in Ivore, and on his birthday, he received his own demon. Her face was beautiful, appearing to be only a few years older than he, the top half of her was that of a seventeen year old girl. Her lower half was a different story, in place of legs was a long snake tail, covered in black scales that matched her hair. Alviar knew that she had been a servant to the family for ten years.
"Remember Alviar, owning a demon is a big responsibility, she will do whatever you command but you have to tell her to do everything. Any mess she makes and anything she does wrong, you must fix it." his mother told him.
Alviar gradually got used to his servant, the sound of her slithering, and the fact that she patiently waited on him even as he slept. Granted it was creepy for the first month, but Alviar came to expect it. The one thing that annoyed him was the fact that she was so quiet, the other servants at least said a simple "yes". One day, early in the morning, Alviar woke up to his servant shaking him to wake up for his classes, on a weekend. "Stop!" She immediately let go and stood at attention.
Alviar sighed and tried going back to sleep. Failing that, he tried to make her speak. "Alright, do you even know how to speak?" she nodded her head up and down. "Good, say yes."
"Yes," she said in a soft voice.
Alviar decided to do one last test, it would be foolish, he knew, but he had heard rumor and here say that a demon could be somewhat reasonable, and that collar's influence might still have a hold on it. He decided to tell her what should have been an unthinkable command. "Alright, please take your collar off, however, only when you do, don't have any desire to attack me.
Slowly her hands reached to her neck and unlatched the collar. She immediately crumpled onto the floor. "Ughh, My head," the demon girl said.
"Are you alright?" Alviar leanded toward her.
"I-I'm fine, how long has it been since the collar was put on me?"
Alviar thought for a moment "You've been here since I was nine, and that was ten or so years ago."
"Ten years... have they found a way to help me?"
"Help you? With what?" Alviar questioned.
The girl sighed and stood up and modeled her tail. "Do you have any idea what it's like to slither around, not be able to walk on your own two legs, becoming a mere beast only fit to serve? I was waiting to return to a human being."
Alviar almost burst out laughing. "Sorry, but I don't think that they found anything to help, or what you're saying is true."
"Hmph, Laugh at me will you? I am Listran of the Lenore Family, I have been cursed into this form, if you help me, surly my father will reward you twice over. There, does that give you a reason to help me?"
Alviar stopped and stared at the girl. "Listran Lenore, she was an old friend of mine. She dissapeared, she's probably dead. How do you know that name?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Because I AM her, you twit! You remind of that other idiot I spent my childhood with, stubborn and foolish. Alviar and you would make such quick friends."
Alviar was starting to get creeped out. "My name is Alviar, you couldn't be..."
"Alviar? My parents told me that I would spend my days in his house until they found a cure. They told me while I would be under this collar's influence, I would always be by your side." She gave a slight laugh. "To think, I could have been your wife, like I always wanted to when we were five."
"Only Listran could have said that, Ok, I'm starting to believe you, and there's only one thing that I can think of to help you, one of the Fourteen Dragons* could grant your wish, and the nearest one is Paranous, who apparently fought in the War for the Name of Death*. He is supposed to roost at Hades's Peak. He could grant your wish if we go to him."
"A Dragon? If it's my only choice, and only if you come with me." Listran asked.
"Of course, even if you are my friend, I still need to make sure you don't get into any trouble with the collar on."
Listran gave a haughty laugh. "Why, did you give me orders that would seem.. Embarrassing or naughty?"
Alviar smiled. "Of course not, the only embarrassment that you would have suffered was for orders I didn't ask you to do, and I won't tell you what it was but the mess was very hard to clean up." And so the adventure of the Serpentine Servant began.
AN: Fourteen Dragons: the dragons the gods created as judges over all mankind. Made by The god of purgatory.
War to Name Death: In the war to name the god of Death, demons where created from the blood of the gods and dragons that fell on the planet.
Ok, so I came up with the idea while bored in school, but the thing is I can't think of anything past this besides the ending. So, as a wiki project, I would like you to write the story in your spare time. I'm being lazy? Yes, but I think It could be fun to see a story that everyone of here could contribute. thank you for your time and effort.
Alviar made sure no one would notice his absence. He and Listran snuck out of the house at night with food, water, ropes, a guidebook, kindling and other necessities. As they walked through the dark city, Alviar thought about what he was doing. Was it really worth giving up everything he knew? Then, he looked at Listran, and he thought back to a time long ago.
"Are you OK?" Alviar asked.
Listran nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine." She had packed everything she needed, and her head was hung. "I just- I don't know if I'll ever see you again."
Alviar fought off tears, and then he did something he never thought he would've ever done. He kissed her. Right on the lips. For what felt like an eternity.
He wondered if she could remember. Part of him hoped she couldn't. Listran noticed him staring at her and smiled bravely. Together, they went onward, on to adventure. Hades' Peak was many days of travel away, but he knew they could make it together.
Before long, they passed the city borders, and the buildings gave way to farmland. Eventually, the farmland gave way to rolling hills and fields. Then, even that disappeared under a blanket of trees. The forest grew more and more dense as they trudged onwards, and soon, Alviar began to wonder if they were lost.
"Can you see the map clearly?" he inquired of his companion.
"Yes. Well, vaguely."
"Good, because I can't."
It was probably the middle of the afternoon, but in the oppressive gloom of the woods, it might as well have been twilight, or even night. Listran's snake-like eyes glowed in the dark, which provided the only illumination besides the faint sunlight that filtered infrequently through the leaves.
"I'm assuming we're in Shadewood Forest?" Listran mused.
"Think so. It's too far north to be the Feygroves, and I hear they're much more cheerful.
"But where, exactly, are we in the Shadewood Forest?" There was a long silence.
"Well..." Alviar scratched his head.
"It's not like that!"
"Well, it could be worse!"
"Could be worse? Alviar, we're hopelessly lost in a dangerous forest full of gods know what monstrous things!"
"Well, suppose we'd lost the map? Then we wouldn't even know it was Shadewoo-"
Right on cue, an arrow whizzed through the air, impacting Alviar's knuckles and knocking the map from his grip. "Ow! Hey!" Another arrow just barely missed them.
"Hang on, I have to find the map."
"Alviar?" A third arrow struck the ground.
"Let's see, I was standing… here when I dropped it…"
"Forget the map and run for your life." One more arrow hit Alviar in the arm, cutting a fairly nasty scratch. That was all the convincing he needed. They ran for dear life.
Stumbling blindly through the darkness, it was inevitable that before long, they would either trip or run into a tree. Listran tripped on a root and Alviar slammed right into a pine. Both were unceremoniously lifted into the air by an unknown force. Soon, they were face-to-face with their assailant. It was a forest giant, better known as a Troll. "How dare you!" it bellowed, "how dare you blasted people trespass here and defile the forest!"
"Trust us, Mr…" began Listran.
"Ent. The name's Ent."
"Mr. Ent, we didn't come here to defile the forest," protested Alviar.
"We're headed for-" began Listran.
"At least let me finish a sen-"
"YOU WILL BE PUNISHED!" Ent raised them, and he was prone to dash them against the forest floor.
"Ent," came a voice, "stop! They're not Skalikhaans!"
The voice came from somewhere in the forest. It's owner appeared at first glance to be some sort of Beastman riding a horse, but as he came closer, it became clear that the rider and horse were one and the same.
"A centaur," whispered Listran. He clutched a bow, and it was obvious that he was the archer who had nearly killed them.
"For the gods' sake, they're only children!" he said. Reluctantly, Ent deposited them on the forest floor.
"Now," said the centaur, "I'm assuming you're lost."
"Well," retorted an angry Listran, "we wouldn't be if you hadn't shot our map out of our hands!"
The centaur appeared to feel guilty for this. "Well, then I shall apologize," he said in a calm voice, his upper half bowing, "and it appears I owe it to you to guide you back to civilization. Tell me, what is your destination?" He unstrung the bow as he spoke.
"Hades' Peak," said Alviar. A snapping sound echoed through the forest as the centaur's bow snapped.
"You're not joking, right?"
"Are you insane!?"
The centaur turned to Ent. "Please, tell me they're joking."
"How should I know?" replied the giant.
"Hades' Peak," muttered the centaur to himself.
"Well, we'll be on our way, then," said Listran, eager to leave the brooding centaur and the violent giant behind.
"HOLD It," commanded the centaur. Alviar and Listran froze. "To get to Hades' Peak… that is an odyssey of… it is a journey… the distance is vast. Maybe four, five months travel without any delays or… incidents. There are deadly tribes, hazardous mountains, wild animals. Not to mention the Skalikhaans."
"You mentioned them before. Who are-"
"Silence, child!" Alviar tensed at the use of the word 'child.' Gah, so patronizing! "Even if you can get there safely, you are aware there's a dragon there, right?"
"Actually, that's why we're going."
The centaur blinked. "What?"
"To get a wish." said Alviar.
The centaur resumed muttering to himself. "Look," spoke Listran, "how about this - you guide us to civilization like you promised and don't ask questions, and…"
"And what?" said the Centaur.
"We'll replace your bow," finished Alviar. Listran glared at him. Did he even know how much bows costed?
The centaur laughed. "I doubt you could afford it."
"We have about… 5 Crowns. You?"
The centaur's shoulders sagged. "Nothing."
"Nothing?!" exclaimed Alviar.
"Um… poker game." The giant seemed to be suppressing a laugh, but his fitful giggles were silenced by a glare from the centaur. Obviously, there was more to his poverty than met the eye, but to ask would definitely be foolish.
"Alright," he finally said, "I will guide you to the lumberjack's town of Carvington, and then we part ways. "As soon as I have the bow." said the Centaur. Agreed?"
"Agreed," replied the two adventurers.
"Then it is settled. The journey will take about a day, so for now, rest. Tomorrow morning, we go."
A town loomed beneath them, the buildings displaying the town's key source of income, all made from wood. One stood out from the rest; placed in the center of town, it towered above, crowned with four angled lines inside of a circle.
"There it is: Carvington." Xic shifted his hooves as he spoke, "Now, Ent and I are only sticking around long enough to get my bow, you got it?"
Alviar smiled to himself, "Let's just get down there first."
"Listen here, child! I asked you a question and I want a straight answer!" Xic huffed, causing Ent and Listran to chuckle behind him.
"Compared to what exactly?" Alviar continued to walk, not looking back at the centaur. "A crooked one?"
The centaur's face was beginning to turn red, "Why you insolent-!" A twig snapped, cutting him off. They whirled around searching for the source. "Stay quiet, it might be-"
"Don't you dare say it," Listran hissed. They waited for a perceived eternity, until... Listran was attacked by none other than a vicious mammal! It's nails dug into her hair as it twittered happily. "Get it off! Ahh!" She screamed as she clawed at her own hair. "Alviar stop your laughing! GET! IT! OFF!"
Alviar lifted the rodent like creature out of Listran's tangled nest, laughing all the way. It twittered even more as it wrapped itself round Alviar's arm. it unfurled its sable wings and flapped lightly. "It's a Tof, Listran, said to be a sacred creature of Terrien. Those that it takes to are destined for great things and blessed by Terrien himself."
"That, that... thing is blessed!" Listran spat. "You have to be kidding me."
"No, I'm not making it up. It's written in the Simple Stories by Faith the Demon-changed."
"Don't patronize me! I have read them before, I just don't remember that," she pointed disdainfully at the Tof, which promptly flew back to the mess on her head.
"Get off, you beast! Why couldn't it have been a Skalikhaan! At least then I could kill it." Listran turned angrily to Xic, "Which we haven't seen by the way. 'Oh be careful. We might get attacked.' Oh yeah, real scary in there, Xic!"
"Hey! I really thought we would! I guess the pack is just bigger than I considered!" Xic defended.
Listran frowned, "Meaning what exactly?"
"Well," Xic huffed. "Skalikhaans only hunt what will feed the entire pack, and when they don't do that they eat dead things."
"And Ent isn't big enough?" Ent scratched his head in reply to Listran.
"Hey! He's my giant! He's not tender enough for them. They prefer 300 years of age and older."
"Oh..." Listran turned and slithered down the hill, the tof still curled up in a ball on her head.
Alviar smirked, "Well, I guess that's that."
"Ahh! Children!" Xic yelled.
As they entered Carvington, the population questioned who they were, to see not only a rich boy from Ivore and his demon servant, but also a giant, and a centaur. One boy stood dumbfounded, tracing the outline of Ent with his fingers.
The crowned building was now before the group. Xic shook his head, "You guys go on ahead and pay your respects. Ent and I will just be over there." He pointed to the Inn across the way.
A serpent's glare bore into the back of the centaur's neck. "Doing what exactly?"
"Let's see. I will be drinking my life away, while Ent is making sure I don't drown."
"I don't think so! Ent stay here!" Listran grabbed Xic's ear and ushered him inside the temple, only letting go to preform the entrance ritual. Xic looked perplexed as she grabbed a piece of charcoal.
Listran sighed, "Have you been under a rock all your life? Like this." She drew four angled lines on her forehead, then encompassed them with a circle matching the same pattern from the roof. "The circle represents Creat as he is over all. Each line is for one of the major gods: Icarun, Terrien, Hydrian, and Hades. These are the first gods, or the Originals."
Xic nodded, "Okay... but I don't have to say all of that, do I?"
Listran only rolled her eyes in reply, and slithered forward to Alviar. He turned to her, a big cheesy grin plastered on his face. "What are you smiling about?"
"I was remembering when we were little. I used to chase you through the temple." Alviar watched, as she too, began to smile. "Then you would spin completely around and have the most serious face you could and yell, 'I'm going to have Creat come after you with all his sacred animals and stuff!' And you know what?"
"What?" Listran squished her face, as if she was puzzled.
He started to laugh, calmed himself and whispered, "I actually believed you!" His laughter echoed off the walls. Listran smiled wider, then joined him in his mirth.
A robed man appeared on the raised deck in front of them, looking flustered, "By all that is mighty! Show some respect!" He briskly turned the opposite direction, kneeled, mumbled something, and left. Listran and Alviar only laughed harder, till even Xic and the Tof joined in. The priest came out again, "Why you-! Mustn't give into my anger..." He clenched his hands at his sides. "Be quiet, children. Quiet. CHILDREN, BE QUIET! OH! BY CREAT HIMSELF, BE GONE!" With that, he got off his high podium and grabbed an ear of Alviar and Listran and dragged them outside to the courtyard.
The Tof nipped at the priest's hand, defending her nest. "Ow! By Creat and everything sacred! You even have your vermin trained!"
Ent picked him up. "Those are my friend's! Don't hurt them!"
The priest shook in the giant's hand, "I-I-"
"Ent! Put him down!" Alviar commanded. Reluctantly the giant abided, the priest squirming back to the temple.
"Ooh! I think I am starting to like this little guy." Listran rubbed the Tof's head as it twittered happily.
"You going to name him?" Alviar massaged his ear, as he spoke.
"It's a girl, thank you very much! And I think I'll name her... Sable, you know, for her wings." Sable flapped her wings at the sound of it.
Xic came out from the temple, the priest ushering him out, staying far from the reach of the giant. "Now, can we get a drink?"
"What about your bow?" Alviar smirked.
"Drink first, then bow."
In the inn, Alviar and Listran pushed their way through the crowd. The inn was full of mostly humans, with a few demons and beastmen huddled towards the back and keeping distant from each other. In small, isolated towns like Carvington, such racism was sadly commonplace. A bouncy tune was being played by a short man on a Stelarian piano, which had four sets of keys, a set of levers, and tubes running through it to help the music echo.
When Xic came in, the music suddenly ceased, and people stared at him. Xic seemed used to receiving stares. He sighed and trotted up to the bar. "Whisky, please."
The bartender shook his head. "None left. Besides, we don't serve your kind 'round here, Horseman." There was laughter from the crowd.
Xic smiled and snapped his fingers. "Oh, Ent?" The ground shook ominously as the giant lumbered closer.
The bartender's eyes widened, and he quickly adopted a smile. "Ha! Just a… a joke! Yeah, joke. Um… here." He quickly produced two bottles.
"On the house!" Xic nodded. "How curious! You must've missed those. I'm very grateful." He uncorked the bottle and began to down it.
Glancing about, he tried to make sure the children were behaving. They were at a table with some of the demons, who didn't look too happy to be sitting with a human and someone who appeared to be a beastman. Or was that beastwoman? Ent, meanwhile, was struggling to get through the door. Xic chuckled and shook his head. As always. Placing down the bottle, he scanned the room, lost in thought, thinking back to a time when Centaurs rubbed shoulders with humans, and demons and beastmen were equals. He supposed that time hadn't existed in Carvington, but still did in some cities, places of learning and education. Places like the Great Librarium of Aztrakærn. But of course, that wasn't his place anymore. As he mused, his thoughts were interrupted by a sudden, strange feeling. A feeling of... familiarity. He'd just seen a face he recognized. Looking at the people he'd just scanned, he saw no one he knew. But there was an empty chair which he was sure had been occupied a moment before...
"Her name's Sable," Listran was saying. The demons looked at her strangely.
"That's… nice," said an older one who probably didn't think it was nice at all. Meanwhile, Alviar was desperately searching for some excuse, any excuse, to get himself and Listran to a safer table.
"Ya know, I never met a snake-demon with such oddly colored scales," a demon observed.
"Black as midnight they are," another chuckled. "Ya, her ears are pointed too, if it wasn't it for her legs being a tail, I could'da sworn she was some damn flea bitten beastmen!"
While they talked some more. Xic realized that he was being watched, there was something in the air. The door opened and in came two guards."Attention!" everyone looked towards them, some looked with curiosity and some with fear. "Good, we are looking for a certain woman; a demon."
A druken voice called out "Well take y'our pi'hick, we's got lotsa them!"
The guard looked for the disruption, but cleared his throat. "This particular demon has just killed Alian Delfont." Most people were painicked at that statement, but at Alviar's and Listran's table there were mutters of "Good riddance," and the like.
The guards tried to retake control of the crowd. "Alian had most of the towns- " He searched for the right word. "Demonic residence under his employ. From eyewitness accounts, she was a succubus, short red hair, large wings, and a short tail. Does anyone here know anyone that matched the description."
Oh, by Shinzu not her again, Xic thought.
Alviar looked at Listran who had a very shocked expression on her face. Had they accidentally wandered into some sort of mystery novel? A third man came in, dressed in more regal, stronger armor.
"Captain Audtor!" The guards said.
"Stop wasting time! Just take all of the demons! We can sort them out later." He walked over to the table where most of the demons were sitting.
The other guards tried to reason with him, "Sir, you can't just do something like this! We already have the profile, we just need to find one person!"
The Captain shoved them out of the way and quite suddenly grabbed Listran's arm. She struggled and Sable fluttered on her head as the Captain calmly explainded himself. " I've had a few dealings with that peticular demon back in Arcem. She thought she was so clever getting in through some poor sap," he glared at Listran. "I've seen her use outsiders as well, a little gang of hers, and I don't think this one is from this area."
Alviar quickly said, "Sir, she's my servant! We have just arrived here!"
The captain glared at him. "And what's somebody from the capital doing in this little hamlet?"
Alviar quickly thought up an excuse. "We're going to Aliovorsus, visiting a relative of mine."
The captain snorted, but seemed to accept this. Letting go of Listran he turned to his men. "Just round up the rest of them, I don't care about their complaints, just get me that demon's head on a pl-!"
Listran gasped, it happened so quickly it was almost a blur. The woman the man had been describing seemed to appear out of nowhere, behind the man with a dagger. The woman smirked, as he fell to the floor. "Alright everyone!" she said in an unusually chipper voice. "Show's over!" She then looked at the two guardsmen. "Thank you for the help," she handed them a bag of money. "I beleive this was the required amount, right?" She glanced over to Xic. The centaur frozen. "And you," she said, coming closer. "I've been in here for half an hour and you didn't even say hello! What? Too good to say hello to an old friend?"
Listran, still shocked by all that happened, glanced at Alviar. He quickly mouthed, "What in Hades' is going on here?"
Ent, who had been silent through the whole affair, asked Xic. "Is that the girl you told me about?"
Xic replied. "Unfortunately, yes." He turned to the bartender. "I'm going to need a few more bottles." The bartender, however, was hiding beneath the shelf. Sighing, he turned to the children. "We are leaving, you can pay me back in the next town over."
"Hello! Are you just going to ignore me?!" the woman was practically shouting at this point.
Listran and Alviar left as fast as they could, Xic following after them. "Xic, who was that?" Alviar asked. They had begun sprinting now, well, Alviar was spriniting anyways. Listran was slithering away as fast as she could, Xic was moving only slightly faster than trotting, and Ent was walking.
"I'll tell you when we get into the woods! It's... a bit of a long story."
An: Well, chapter four is finally done, anyone can write the fifth chapter as I said. Hopefully it won't take months to complete :) Remember first come first serve! Returnoftheking gave me a backstory for Xic, which you can find here.
The arrow was nocked along his left cheek, his right eye shut. With the projectile on target, he released. A screech pierced the silent veil among the trees of Shadewood. Many beasts now glowered at the Rangers, snarling their resentment.
"For Shinzu's Spirit and glory!" The archer dropped his bow, unsheathing dual blades, and charged at the Skalikhaans. "Remember men! Unless you desire to feel the pain of decay before the earth has drunken your life's blood, keep your distance from their mouths!" A Skalikhaan screamed in reply... until two blades were driven through it's skull.
Another Skalikhaan met Death as a bulky Ranger flung it over his head. "Come on, Popa! Don't you want to share the fun?"
Popa was kneeling, a rifle sighted on the pale gray skin of a Skalikhaan. "Come on Bosia Spawn... Come and get me..." It cocked it's head to the side at the sight of a relatively easy prey. "That's right... Come to Popa..."
The blast resounded into the woods, the rest of the Skalikhaans scampering off. "Damn you, Popa! Damn you and your Hades' Fire!" The burly man flung his arms in protest.
Popa ran his hand through his hair, "Your just jealous, Nolan." He slung the weapon over his shoulder.
"Jealous! Ha, if it weren't for Hades' Fire I might still be fighting!" Nolan crossed his arms, a hammer, with a rounded head, strapped to his back.
"SHUSH!" Silence fell quickly, as the archer was slowly picking up his bow, his swords sheathed.
"What is it, Mirrian?" Nolan's hand prepared to grasp his hammer.
The Mirrian pressed a finger against his lips.
"RUN!" No Ranger could argue with that command as the redan's foot came from over the trees, snapping them in the process.
"Why, oh why, Popa?! This is far worse than the hadrake incident!" Nolan shouted ahead.
Popa smirked over his shoulder, "And why, oh why must you complain such, Nolan! Oh, wait... Is it because you are the slowest?"
"Why you little bokka!" Nolan reached out his hands attempting to strangle Popa, but gaining nothing more than length rather than distance.
"Quit your squabbles and jump men, jump!" The Mirrian leapt off the ground, disappearing beneath bushes and brambles, with Popa quickly following suit.
"Oh by Shinzu! Not again!" Nolan whined, proceeding to climb over the rocks and dropping into the water. They waited quietly in the knee high water, as the redan merely passed over. "Thank Shinzu for this abandoned well."
"Oh, yes, now you send praise!" Popa spat.
"I'll hang you, you-"
"For once men, can we not squabble as if birds over a crumb?!" The Mirrian sighed, "We still need to find Xic. He his in grave danger."
Nolan scratched his chin, "But why would the Order of Visdoth seek to kill him?"
"That truly is the question, my friend. Perhaps they believe he has committed something against them. Or by chance he has seen something he was not suppose to. Only he and they truly know."
Popa smoothed his hair. "Then perhaps he has left his post here in Shadewood, for he knows of this plot against him." Popa slapped himself on the forehead, "Oh great! Now I sound like the Mirrian."
The Mirrian smiled in reply. "And this increase in the Skalikhaan population is also troubling. Why are the Bosia Spawn in such great numbers?" The Mirrian was beginning to pace, "Bosia's powers are increasing surely, turning these many unreleased souls into Bosia Spawn. But the disturbing question is why has nature become so out of balance?"
"Well we cant figure it out from here, Mirrian. So shall we?" Nolan interlocked his fingers between his bent knees.
Popa placed a hand on Nolan's shoulder as he stepped into his hands, "Why thank you, you big bloke."
"I ought 'a mmurmer rrr!"
"Sorry what was that? I couldn't understand you, with my foot in your face." Popa grabbed the ledge and swung himself over. He withdrew his rifle scanning the horizon for any lurking creatures. "Clear, Sir!"
The Mirrian followed the rifleman's lead, landing on both feet. "Let us lower the rope."
"Ahh... Do we have to bring him along? Okay... If we have to..." Popa tossed the rope down the hole, "Did you get it yet?" As an answer, he was slammed against the rock barrier. "Hhuuu o-okay." Popa cleared his throat, then continued, "If you may, Mirrian?"
"By Shinzu. One of these days you are going to kill one another." They tugged on the rope, straining to haul Nolan out. With Nolan back on solid ground, the Mirrian placed his hands on his knees, attempting to catch his breath. "Nolan... I here by forbid you of any more pastries... Of any size or sort!"
"Gee, Sir! You make me sound as if I weigh as much as a redan!"
"Well... Now on to serious matters." The Mirrian quickly changed his demeanor, displaying one of staidness. "We need to find Xic."
"Do you think she found him?" Popa's fingers traveled through his hair, as if searching for something.
The Mirrian sighed, "One can only hope and pray... Hope and pray, my Camiph."
AN: "Mirrian" is a title similar to "Captain". "Bokka" is a name like the other word for "illegitimate child". "Camiph" means "student".
The Shadewood Forest was experiencing an ephemeral peace. Next to the ruckus of sounds emanating within its woods, it also had deal with the events that were dragged along with them.
"Wait a minute, you did what?!" yelled Listran in exasperation. She alongside Xic, Alviar and Ent had just returned to the woods when Xic began to confide about his past with the rest of the group, mainly the Human boy and the Serpentine Servant.
"It's as I said," continued the Centaur. "I was the one that helped her take out that man."
"But I still don't understand as to why you did it." said Alviar, astounded by this piece of information.
"Uh, guys?" said Ent. "I really don't think we have time for that right now."
"And why do you say that?" questioned Listran.
"Because of that thing." said Xic as he pointed out a dark shape materializing in front of all of them. Soon its appearance became clearer as the shape began to solidify, taking the form of a female demon.
"Well, Would you Look at this." said the Demon. "Why did you have to run away from me, Xic, we could've caught up on some stuff."
Xic took a step back from her. "I don't want anything to do with a murderer!" he snarled. "Especially one that got me banished from such a place as Aztrakærn!"
"What? But I thought we were friends Xic." whined the Succubus.
"Yeah, well you thought wrong Coelestia!" hissed Xic "Now be gone from my sight!"
"When we first met, I was sure we could become a good team," the demon continued, her face switching from sadness to confusion. "But I guess you were right Xic, perhaps I did think wrong."
Suddenly, her expression of confusion transformed into one of hatred. Coelestia moved dangerously towards them, causing Xic to move his hand toward a hidden weapon at his side.
"Fine!" she yelled. "I'll leave your sight, for now! But when we cross paths again, I'll know exactly who to come after next!" she finished while looking at all of their faces. And soon afterwards she disappeared into the wind.
"Why do I get the feeling that doesn't sound very good?" said Listran, a worried look growing on her face.
"Because now we have something to worry about." replied Alviar, sharing the same expression.
Xic turned around to speak, "I understand what has happened isn't pleasing in the slightest, but we must continue onwards if we wish to help this young Demon."
Everyone nodded at the end of his sentence. Ent looked down at Listran and smiled. "Don't you worry Snake Girl, we'll have you lookin' human in no time!" Listran looked up and smiled back. "Thanks Ent, I really appreciate it."
Joining in on the fun, Sable peaked out of Listran's hair tangle to lick her forehead. She giggled in reaction. "Thanks a lot for that Sable!" she said, pulling the tof out to give her a kiss. Not long after, Sable climbed up Listran's arm and settled herself back inside the Serpent girl's hair.
Everone began to laugh as Sable started purring on the top of Listral's head. Once they were done, Xic turned towards the remaining forest in front of them. "Alright, it's time that we continue forth with our perilous journey." said Xic as they all walked forward into the foliage, with him leading the trail while Ent stayed near the others. Soon after, they were swallowed up by the shades of the trees.
Meanwhile, deep in the treetops was hiding Coelestia and a mysterious stranger. The being in particular wore a dark cloak covered from head to toe in runes. "Oh Xic, I wish this didn't have to be." she said mournfully.
"There was no way to stop it." said shadowy figure. "It was inevitable that he would refuse the offer of an assassin, one such as yourself."
"But Fiachra, I was so sure that he would warm up to me, after what happened at that stupid Library." said Coelestia. "The way he helped me back then, it felt... it just felt warm to me!"
Fiachra turned his head toward her and touched her shoulder, his hand was gloved in black leather, wearing two ornate rings of gold and silver with gems of Garnet and Sapphire nestled in them respectively. "Yes, I know, but you must not forget that one is capable of both warm and cold actions." he said. "You must be careful, he will expect you to meet up with him."
Coelestia looked up at him for a second but then turned her head away from him, rubbing his hand off. "I know that," she said. "There's no way for me to take back what I said." She looked down at the far ground. "Though at least I wish I could've introduced you to him." she said.
Fiachra looked out into the distance. "Perhaps I should approach him then." he said calmly.
Coelestia looked up in utter surprise as to what he just said. "Are you sure that's the best thing to do?" she questioned.
"Yes, continued Fiachra. "since he is no doubt prepared to face you, I will take your place instead and bring about your demands."
Not knowing what to say next, she pondered how the situation would work, worrying about how it would play out once he arrived on the spot. Immediately, Coelestia cast those thoughts aside and looked straight at Fiachra.
"Very well, my demands are to bring me Xic, alive." The Cloaked figure nodded to her request, "It shall be done." While deep under his cowl, a wicked grin had emerged.
AN: for info on the new character, look here.
A hooded Popa stepped out of the Carvington inn, his Hades' Fire concealed beneath his cloak. The townspeople seemed to be purposefully avoiding he and his companions outside, who were cloaked as well. "Xic was here... but he wasn't alone." His foot found a puddle, splashing mud on his capote. It shifted colors, trying to decide which to blend with.
A puzzled look passed over the hammer wielding Ranger's face, "You mean Ent?"
"No, besides Ent. A noble boy and his servant. And it was as we feared, Mirrian," he turned to the leader.
"Coelestia... She claims she means no harm to him, but... Her actions show carelessness... Her words hysterical..." The Mirrian paced. "Any word of direction?"
Popa pointed around the inn, "East, back into Shadewood. They left two days ago, on foot." A boy stopped to stare at the Rangers, his mother and sister preoccupied in conversation. Popa raised his hood and nodded, rain tickling his face. The boy smiled and waved back, his drenched hair falling over his eyes.
"Then we cannot catch them with merely two hours left of daylight," the Mirrian commented. "We shall quarter here." Behind the Mirrian, the boy pulled on his sister's dress and spoke something to her. She looked over her shoulder and caught the rifleman's aurulent eyes. Their mother followed her sights, grimaced, and quickly ushered them away. Popa sighed. "Is something troubling you, my Camiph?"
"Oh..." Once again a hand found it's way into Popa's hair, "Well yes, Mirrian. Why is it that they fear us, so?"
Nolan laughed, "It's most likely our smell!"
The Mirrian glared as if attempting to boil Nolan's blood. "They do not fear us per say, but find us strange. We seclude ourselves from the entirety of civilization, unless Shinzu sees fit, do we not?"
Popa nodded, "Yes, but-"
"We do not keep worldly trinkets, do we? Is this not different from them? Setting aside what we say, do they know what we do?"
"No... So they do not fear us, but what we do not do?"
"Perhaps... I cannot say for certain, for I am not them."
Popa smiled, "Sometimes I wonder how we are to learn anything from you."
The Mirrian laughed, then Nolan, and finally Popa, only causing more perplexed looks at the defenders of Nature.
Alviar woke up in a cold sweat. He had been dreaming again. It had been about a week since he and Listran had started this quest. And for about a week he has been dreaming of the girl dressed in clothing the color of bruises and dried blood. She was chasing the boy in his teens, no older than himself, down hollow corridors. The strangest thing was he knew the place though he had never been: Death's Corridor, the layer above Hades itself.
But the boy he had seen many years ago; Death himself.
Alviar lay in his bed to weak to do anything else. Not even his eyes would open, but at least his ears were. Open to the whisperings of a physician, probably the best in Ivore knowing his parents.
"He is in a state between living and not." His voice was devoid of hope, as he spoke the vicious truth, "All I can do at this point is prolong his suffering."
Alviar imagined his parents holding each other, droplets of water riding the precipice of their eyes. "Will- Will he still be our Alvi?" his mother sputtered.
"I can not say for certain, Ma'am."
Now Alviar was losing the sounds. He was drifting... drifting into the abyss... His eyes opened slowly... Darkness was all around...
"They think they can cheat me," The darkness was spilling away. Death's face maybe of a boy, but his eyes showed knowledge beyond years of appearance, his voice harsh. "But only my father can tell me who to spare and who to bring an earlier demise than the rest. And for some reason, he wants you," he jabbed a finger at Alviar's chest. Jealousy crept into his voice. "He wants you to be spared. Prefers his creations over his own son. Better live the life I never had, before you see me again."
He shoved Alviar down, only for him to awake in his bed. The physician's face was pale, his parents' tear-stained.
Alviar coughed into his hand, spraying it with blood. The physician was right; it only prolonged his suffering. The disease was still eating at the inside of his body. Living decay... He was foolish to go on this quest, but he had an urge... Like the urge to release Listran back in Ivore... And the urge now to go deeper into the forest, even though there was a deluge.
He snuck past everyone, stopping in front of Listran. This was all for her... His sacrifice would not be in vain... He stepped out of the tent they had made from Ent's shirt and into the rain. But... he couldn't feel the rain on his skin, as he went off the trail. It had been that way since the sickness. He could feel his body move, but not anything touching it.
He coughed again not even bothering to cover his mouth, as he sunk to the forest floor...
Morning had come to the camp, Listran streched her arms and looked over to Alviar's bedroll. She gasped when she saw that it was empty. "Xic! Ent! Wake up!" The two slowly got up, and Listran responded in turn by crossing her arms. "Alviar is missing! You two can catch up on your sleep AFTER we find him!"
Still a bit sleepy, Ent replied. "No, the little guys-" He widened his eyes. "gone!"
Xic, trying to keep a cool head, responed. "There's no need to panic, he couldn't have gotten far, we'll just go find him."
Listran bit her lip. "Let's go, then." They wandered for a few minutes, when they came apon Alviar face down on the ground, being tended too by a man dressed in black robes.
"Now boy, come on." He said, picking him up. and pushing a vial in his mouth.
"Alviar!" Listran slithered over to him, looking into the eyes that were opening. "W-what happened?" The man in the robes got up and dusted off his robes.
"I don't know, he's lucky that I happened to have had that potion with me or he may have perished."
Listran helped Alviar up. "Who are you?"
The man grinned. "My name is Mannimarco," he grinned, his orange eyes flashing. "Mage by profession, pleased to meet you."
Xic looked at the man strangly. "What do those runes on your robes mean, stranger?"
"Just simple protection runes, these woods would tear me apart without them." Mannimarco then asked. "Speaking of that, why are you people in the forest?" Alviar gave an explanation about Listran. "A dragon you say," The man closed his eyes and smiled. "Well then, I know you just met me and all, however, could you allow me to acompany you? I would every much love to see this dragon-For Magic of course."
Xic thought about it for a moment. "Forgive me, but I don't think that-"
"Okay," Alviar quickly said. "He saved me," He explained to the confused group. "I think we can trust him."
Xic sighed. "Fine, let's go. I don't want to stick around here, that just makes us easy targets." The group headed out, the mage grinning a wicked grin.
The adults of the group were farther ahead, so Listran slithered close to Alviar, talking to him. "Alviar, why'd you leave the camp? You had me-I mean us so worried."
Alviar got a pained expreasion. "I-I thought I'd scout ahead. You know, so we won't experience any unexpected trouble." Listan knew that he wouldn't disclose more. "So, what's it like under the slave collar?"
Listran paused. "Why do you ask?"
Alviar stared ahead. "It's just that I want to know what it was like, my friend being treated like that."
Listran tried to respond. "Well, It was like going to sleep really. It just shut me down, I couldn't think, it was just one big, endless unmemeorable dream."
"I...see" he thought about something for a few minutes. "Listran, I'm sorry."
"It's okay," she smiled . "It's just nice to be with you again, and after I get my legs back, we can go back to the way things were before."
"Yeah," Alviar got a pained smile on his face. "Back to before." Alviar began to pick up his pace, and Listran followed suit.
Mannimarco twisted the rings on his fingers. He appeared to be in deep thought, but the truth was far stranger. Fiachra, A voice that was cold, and sickening said in his head. how soon before I see my beloved again?
The mage smiled. Paticence, Bosia. The assassin wishes to have the centaur, but that leaves three souls to use as bait, one of which has recieved your... blessings. He is unaware of my power over those who you... keep away from Death, and himself.
Bosia paused. Very well, just do not take long, I yearn for my beloved. Her precese disappeared from the Lich's mind.
Foolish wench, you do not even know what I plan. Once I have the dragon's soul... nothing will be able to stop me. He twisted his rings. Now, I just need to make sure that they don't discover my... undesirable hobbies until we get to the dragon.
The group came into a clearing and saw the town of Craveron. "Now, if nothing out of the ordinary happens here, we can buy you a bow, and we might get to sleep on an actual bed." Alviar said to Xic.
"Finally," Listran huffed. "I won't sleep on the dirt for once."
Ent Scratched his head. "Yeah, but were will I sleep?"
An: I would like to thank everyone for there efforts and hard work! You guys are the greatest! Anyone is free to write chapter nine, as always any questions about the universe should go to me. Thank you.
Popa stood out on the balcony of the Carvington Inn, as the sun was coming over the ridge, peeking through the trees, the only time Shadewood actually had visible light. Popa sighed, running both his hands through his hair. They were already late leaving, but he understood why; they hadn't slept for five, maybe six days. Being who he was, no... what he was, he was the first to arise.
He watched as the town began to awake. A handful of people were crossing the mud to reach their various destinations. One of them was the girl from the night before, her long brown hair falling to the middle of her back. Popa didn't understand, but there was just something about this girl... Something almost familiar... The way she walked, like there wasn't a care in the world...
She was carrying a package wrapped in paper. She stopped and began to turn. Popa looked away quickly pretending to look off in the distance, watching her out of the corner of his eye. She glanced up, seeing the rifleman, and smiled. Popa tried to hide his own smile. Once again she walked away, approaching a locked building. And those eyes... the way they could stare into you...
She fumbled with the keys, as the rifleman stepped back into the room he shared with the other Rangers. Popa grabbed his cloak and slung Hades' Fire over his shoulder. He figured he had some time before they would awake, and maybe he could find out why she seemed strangely familiar. He ventured past his companions, down the stairs to the main floor, and out the door. He found her still outside, as he came upon her. "May I?"
She smiled a knowing smile, as if this was all planned, "I don't see why not?" She stuck out her hand with the keys. Popa took them and finished unlocking the door. "Why, thank you.."
"Oh, my name is Popa. And your name?"
"Malan," she entered the structure, taking a torch from the porch with her. "This is my father's supply store. He started it before I was born. I used to help him around the store; organizing tools, filling buckets with rope, and such." She lit a lantern next to the door, then handed the torch to the Ranger.
Popa replaced the torch to its original home, as the girl began to carefully unfold her package. "Then where is he now?"
Malan stopped unwrapping the paper, placing both hands on the counter. "He... He left when I was six." The paper rustled once again, "My mother's been raising my brother and I. And just recently I took over this shop, his shop." The paper fell away to reveal a book: Arcane Attributes by Sir Waegar.
"A Mage?" The rifleman was surprised; magic typically stayed within tight circles in the Human race.
Malan opened the cover, glancing over the words on the page, "Not quite magic, Popa. These are attributes, affinities for certain things, not spells and charms." She closed the book, placed it in a basket next to her, then covered it with the shall from around her neck. "But yes, it is still something that people fear. They fear it, just as they fear you and your companions. Which brings to the question of why?"
"Why?" Popa leaned on the counter, holding his head up with one hand. "Why are we here? Why do we live the way we live? Why did I join the Rangers? Why what?"
"Why did you follow me today?"
Popa was taken aback. That bluntness... Another thing to add to the familiarities... He stood up, pacing in front of the window by the door. "Because I was intrigued; you remind me of someone I know..." He stopped to stare out, tracing the tree line with his eyes. Wait... Was that...? He adjusted his eyes, sharpening the distant image. "Malan, I want you to listen to me."
"Okay," she said skeptically.
"Ring the town bell, then meet me at the Inn."
"Why? What's wrong?"
"Just do it! You will find out soon enough." Popa rushed out the door and back to the Inn. Malan followed out slowly. "Hurry! Hurry, Malan!" She began to run, as fast as her dress would allow.
Popa took the stairs up, not bothering to take every step. Bursting into the room, "Mirrian! Nolan! They followed us! They tracked us!"
The Mirrian was already mulling around the room. "Who followed us?"
"Not who, what!" Popa grabbed the Mirrian's arm and yanked him over to the balcony. "See?!"
"Slow down," the Mirrian said bluntly. "I don't have your eyesight. What do you see?" Popa merely pointed to the forest, where the forest floor seemed to be moving. "By Shinzu! Are those...?" Popa simply nodded.
The peels of a bell broke the silence. Malan was now racing across the mud to reach the Inn.
The Mirrian stepped away to arouse Nolan, as Popa watched the beginning of the Bosia Spawn horde break through the trees.
Chapter Ten Edit
The Bosia horde was behaving oddly, shifting and rushing through the crowds of running people and heading back into the other side of the forest. Of course, the rangers tried to stop them. They launched everything they had at them, managing to shrinking down their numbers, but they still couldn't take of a mass of that size.
"Why aren't they attacking?!" Nolan shouted over the screams of the people.
Popa's eyes widen. "The only way they could resist attacks like this... No, it's not possible!" he began shooting as many as he could. By the time they left, half of them where lying dead. It was strange, they left as quickly as they appeared, leaving not a trace except the dead ones on the floor.
Guards tried to keep the people calm, the panic was slow to die down.
Malan came running back, gasping for breath. "What. Was. That?"
The Mirrian came in, wiping the sweat form his forehead. "They were Skalikhaans, poor folk who died for Bosia to try and lure Death closer to her."
Popa looked over to Malan. "Killing them frees them, and that's one of our jobs as Rangers."
Malan tried catching her breath. "W-where are they going?"
The Mirrian sighed. "We don't know, they've been acting strangely lately. Almost as if..."
"A Necromancer." Popa interrupted. He proceeded to explain. "Someone is controlling them, they've never displayed this kind of intelligence, never been so coordinated... It's the surest bet to the problem."
Listran and Alviar were settled into the room, it only had two beds and a single nightstand, but it was better than camping in the wild. They didn't notice Mannimarco acting as if his guests were late, and in a way, they were.
For gods sake, where are they?! It's almost been a whole day from when I sent for them, he grumbled in his thoughts.
Wait, my servant, Bosia's voice said calmly. They are just a bit late; my darlings should come here soon.
The Lich gave a slight chuckle Forgive my attitude my Lady, it has been a long day.
She gave a laugh that made even his spine shiver. Yes, it certainly has been. If you need me, I will be searching for my beloved.
Listran laid down as best as she could with her body. "It's not as comfortable as my bed at home, but it'll do." She yawned softly as she wrapped the blankets round her body. Alviar stifled a yawn and went over to his bed. Hoping to have a different dream for once.
They went to sleep shortly afterwards, blissfully unaware of the danger that was coming. Well, most of them unaware.
an: anyone can do chap. 11 have fun.
Popa watched the others, as the Rangers prepared to leave. He noticed how the Mirrian kept glancing at Malan, as she leaned against the store counter, how she quizzically observed their every move, and Nolan was indifferent as he shoved supplies into a pack. Popa spoke first, "Malan."
"Hmm," his voice stirred her from her stare.
"Thank you for the supplies. Much appreciated."
"Yes, thank you. Sorry for the inconvenience of our lack of money." The Mirrian's voice was quieter than usual.
"It's not an issue. I understand what you men stand for, and I honor that," Malan bit her fingernails.
"Thank you, again. Let us go, men." The Mirrian's eyes lingered on the girl's face, as he lead the way out of the store.
As Popa was leaving last, Malan grabbed his arm, pulling him in close. "Take me with you," she whispered in his ear.
The rifleman pulled back, and looked at her. "I can't do that. You can't leave your mother and brother behind alone."
"You don't understand!" she said harshly. "I need to come with you!"
"Why? Why do you forsake your family?"
"I am not forsaking my family! I'm reuniting it! My father was forced to return to being a Ranger!" Malan was crying now. "You have to take me with you! I need to find my father! And I need to take revenge on the men that threatened us!" She fell to her knees and folded her hands in a pleading manner. "It has been so long, that I do not even remember his face! Please, Popa!"
The Ranger bent down and grasped her hands, helping her to her feet. "I cannot let you leave your family..." He brushed her hair out of eyes, lightly kissed her cheek and left the store.
"What was all that about?" Nolan questioned.
"Nothing..." Popa murmured, his golden eyes downtrodden, some digits combing his scalp. The hammerer shrugged.
The group followed the ever present carnage from the Goddess of Decay's creatures. Popa approached the Mirrian. "Thank you for... for not telling her the whole truth."
The leader nodded, "Somethings are best left unknown." He placed his hand on his camiph's shoulder as they walked deeper into the ever thickening plot...
Listran slithered back to the room, a satchel full of sustenance in her hands. Alviar had been complaining all day of feeling ill, so they figured he was just in need of something to eat. Sable peered over her head, whining. "Silly girl! Let's get inside first." She opened the door, to find Alviar with his shirt off. "Oh... um..."
He was staring at his arm, as if it were a flower. "Sorry, Listran, but can you come here a second. My arm looks... strange."
"Sure," she uncomfortably slithered forward, her voice laden with uncertainty. "Wait, where's the others?"
"They went out to find weaponry, specifically a bow." Alviar looked up to see Listran smiling at his comment.
Then fear edged into her eyes, as she dropped her bag on the bed. "Your arm! It's infected!" Alviar's skin was filled with blotches of purple and white, it festering with boils. Listran reached to look at his arm. "Alviar, what is this from?"
"Back in Shadewod, most likely. Maybe when Xic shot at us, he nicked my arm."
Listran tried to look him in the eyes, but he was back to admiring his wound. "Doesn't it hurt?"
A smile grew on his lips; a sickening smile that sent shiver's down Listran's back. "How could something so beautiful ever hurt?" Alviar began caressing his lesion. "It's beautiful, don't you agree? Your scales are almost as beautiful as it is..."
"Uh... Alviar? Are you feeling okay, cause...?"
"No!" Anger flew to his eyes, his voice rough. "You want to steal it from me! I'm not going to let you, Naga filth!" Alviar struck his hand out for his servant's arm. Sable flapped her wings, hissing, as Listran backed away hastily from her master. "And that vile beast will die!" He leapt at Sable, ripping her away, and throwing her against the nightstand.
Listran screamed so the gods could hear, as she fell to the floor. "Sable! Alviar! Stop it, Alviar!"
Alviar ripped off the ground by her hair, Listran moaning with pain. "You can't have it!" he yelled in her face. He wrapped his arms around her, as she attempted to fight him off. "It's mine, beastman bokka! Mine!"
Listran smacked him across the face. "You are disgusting! Let me go!" Alviar merely laughed, while he dragged her out of the room and up the stairs. She swung her fist at his chest, "Alviar! Let me go! Help! Help me!" Someone peeked their head out, only to have it slammed against the wall. Listran vociferated her distaste, "Why you-!"
"Oh, shut up!" They reached a large window looking out from the second story.
"Alviar, what are you doing? What are you doing, Alviar?!" Alviar's only response was to creep towards the window with Listran...
And plummet down...
As the Rangers left the ruins of Carvington and back into the surrounding forest, they each took one last look behind them at the clear path of annihilation the Bosia swarm left behind. Buildings began to crumble and collapse while those that still refused to fall were damaged enough to reveal the horrific carnage caused by their latest visitor.
"Damn that vile swarm!" said Popa, wondering how such creatures like the swarm could even exist.
"I know," said the Mirrian. "But now isn't the time to lose oneself in hatred."
Popa turned around and stared the Mirrian straight into his eyes. As the Camiph looked at his master, he couldn't help but feel a solemn truth in his words. He turned his head downwards; thinking of the chaos, thinking of swarm, thinking of Malan.
Aside from the two, Nolan looked in front of himself, at the looming thicket of vegetation. Strangely enough, it felt to him as though a great disturbance had pierced their calm aura. Walking up to a nearby trunk, cut clean by the servants of Bosia, he began to sense a poisonous presence flowing through the wood. Though as he opened his eyes to inspect the plantlife, he suddenly realized there wasn't anything wrong with
Popa finally spoke. "I understand, sir." he said, his voice as cold and soft as the flowing breeze. He quickly looked up and started moving forwards, into the dark foliage that awaited them, until stopping only a few meters away from the rest of the Rangers. "Thank you Mirrian." he eventually said.
The Mirrian himself grimly smiled at the statement. Soon he and Nolan followed Popa deeper and deeper into the woods.Meanwhile, from a good distance a female figure watched with patience as they walked farther into Shadewood. Cloaked in a carefully-woven maroon robe of maroon cloth, her eyes glowed with intent. I don't care what he said, whispered Malan through clenched teeth. "I must go with them regardless of their decision, no matter what their target might be".
Once the Rangers were out of sight, she picked up her bag and quickly stepped towards the dark pathway leading into the forest, though slowing down as she approached the entrance.
Malan closed her eyes and took a deep breath. For the sake of my family. she thought as she quietly stepped into the shadows.
Listran felt the world swirling around her. As she and Alviar fell towards the bazaar down below, she tried to piece together what might've caused such behavior from him. Thought as the ground approached them, she quickly dismissed all thoughts on the matter and opened herself up to the encroaching landscape below.
She then looked at Alviar, who was feeling an odd form of excitement as he plummeted towards what would definitely become his deathbed. Thinking fast, Listran grabbed him, despite his struggling, and pulled him closer to her body, she slightly blushed, but drew away the thought and redirected their fall towards a bunch of hanging sheets. Immediately crashing into them, their fall started to slow in speed, but gravity still dragged them down. It was only seconds before they would meet a grim fate.
As a final effort in decreasing their acceleration she altered their trajectory and pointed them at a nearby Shoppe keep's sun tarp. With nearly a moment to spare, they both crashed right into the layer, until their combined weight began to tear a hole in the blanket's fiber. Soon, it grew in size to the point where they were sucked down through to the stack of pillows awaiting underneath.
Hurting from the fall and ignoring the Shoppe keep's loud yelling, which sounded faint amongst the large blurry of commotion erupting, she struggled to look around at the piles of pillows around her and Alviar. Looking up, she could still see a sign reading "Guepard's Cauldron of Cushionry".
Listran smiled weakly at the sign. "Cushions huh?" she began to get up from the messed-up piles of cushions beneath her. "How convenient."
Pulling herself up from the mess of pillows, Listran quickly returned to reality and glanced back at Alviar. Luckily, the impact of the fall had knocked him unconscious. An ounce of drool slipped out of his mouth as he adjusted himself to a comfier position. Though the sleeping state and the loud snoring would've given Listran a chuckle or two, she held it in, knowing better than to forget what made them fall in the first place.
"I've got to find someone who can help you, fast." she said to a snoozing Alviar. She crawled towards him and attempted to pick is body from the mess, only to realize how heavy he actually was. "By the gods, you really need to lose some weight Alviar." she said through clenched teeth, trying hard to lift him up onto her. Unfortunately, the fall had weakened Listran slightly, causing her to almost collapse once Alviar had reached an appropriate position for travel.
As Listran began to stand up and lift Alviar with would've been the rest of her might, she glanced around at her surroundings some more. While some of the crowd started to retreat a good distance, others simply went on about their business, hoping they wouldn't become witnesses to what could be an unpleasant event.
Ignoring that activity, she also looked at the scenery and realized to her shock just how high they had fallen from. Right around her the shops of the nearby bazaar began to string up lights to illuminate the ever-darkening sky of the evening. If it wasn't for the situation she was facing at the moment, she might've had the chance to gaze around in awe at the changing environment.
With a bunch of strength, Listran moved herself and Alviar outside of the ruined Shoppe stand. Dragging around the ladder in whatever she could recreate of the walk-assist position.
"Alright," she puffed, moving as fast she could, but also as careful to spare Alviar an injury, "Let's see where I can find some help.
Readjusting her bearings, she steered the two one final time to the north of town, for there she would reach the heart of the bazaar and, hopefully for them both, their friends.
Xic hated to haggle, this merchant wouldn't seem to settle on a decent price. Mannimarco seemed to have more luck with it though. He had managed to get an orcish bow and a quiver of thirty orc arrows for half their price. Xic thanked Mannimarco as they began to walk their way to the inn.
Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly that simple. Listran was struggling to bring Alviar to them, Xic managed to spot them first. he galloped over through the crowds to them. "What on earth happened?! You two look like you lost an argument with a bear!"
Listran breathed heavily, She looked as though she would collapse at any moment. "Alviar went..C-crazy, he's... sick. Look at his arms.".
Xic tilted his head, the sickly things on Alviar's arms were disgusting, it made him want to retch. Mannimarco knelt down and got a closer look. "Yes, well this is certainly... Something I haven't seen before." He put his gloved hand to his mouth. "Now, if we were back in my lab I could study this more professionally."
"Is there anything you can do to help him?" Listran asked. "Like what you gave him in the Shadewood?"
Mannimarco twisted his rings. "Well, the potion I gave him had... certain properties that should have kept away whatever affected him, but this may be something entirely different. So I don't think I have anything to assist him now."
Listran's head slowly went down, the Alviar she had seen was horrifying. Her best friend, the one who gave her the first kiss in her life, turn into a murderous creature that nearly killed her. That was cut off, however, interrupted by Ent, who was rapidly walking towards them while trying to avoid crushing anyone.
"Guys! The Bosia horde, it's coming!" he said to them.
"What?!" Xic shouted. "Today seems to be getting worse by the second, how close are they?" Ent pointed towards the way he came. "North gate, they're trying to bash to door in."
As he finished, the crowds began to ran as the horde appeared. the group soon found themselves surrounded by twenty decaying corpses, but... they didn't move. they stood their, staring at them as if they were an interesting painting.
Mannimarco calmly step towards them. "What are you doing?! Stay away from them." yelled Xic. The mage looked back and grinned wickedly. "Oh, that won't be required. You see, I am afraid they won't hurt me, no." He turned back as crimson and blue light appeared from his palm. "They will hurt you."
Xic clicked his feet against the ground trying to release some nervous energy, "Mannimarco? What's going on here, Manni?" People were beginning to thin from the streets at the present sight.
The mage laughed, "Oh, please forgive me! I shall drop my pseudonym... You may call me Fiachra."
Xic's face dropped, "Fiachra?"
"You seem to be at a loss, Ranger. Oh, yes... I know you are a Ranger, Xic. First a simple librarian, whom, unbeknownst to himself, helped a wayward assassin," Fiachra paced in front of the Horde. Tears were coming to Xic's eyes... Ent's face boiled with anger seeing his friend this way. He glanced at Listran, whom simply nodded. "Then with shame and a tortured soul, you sought out a way to cleanse yourself, for the bottom of bottles held no lasting effect. So you found comfort in the balance of the Rangers..."
Xic seemed to be frozen, rooted to the ground, tears tracing the bridge of his nose. Ent couldn't take it anymore! When he charged at the lich, Listran threw Alviar making him cascade off Xic's back, before lunging as well.
Fiachra waved his hand, sending Ent flying. With the other hand he astrally brought Listran high off the ground. "And you... Pretty little servant... You, serpentine servant... You have a colorful past as well. Cursed by a treasure hunter's folly, your own father... And your mother being a filthy beastwoman. You being the one thing that has tipped the Scales of Balance, allowing the darkness to increase in power." Behind him, Listran noticed a ever so slight movement in the courtyard... Was the ground moving?
"What a paragon!" The lich continued. "Everything lying on the shoulders of a petty child! A being who is demon, beastman, and human! A being who is inconceivable!" A single shot fired, inevitably releasing Listran. Fiachra screamed, as he held his bleeding hand, spinning around to see his apprehender.
Xic shook his head. "Mirrian?" he whispered.
Popa rose from the ground, losing his cloak's camouflage. The Mirrian and Nolan did likewise, unsheathing their weapons. "Fiachra, the Necromancer of Haret," Popa held him in his sights.
The Mirrian ticked his blades together, "Fiachra, your vile deeds end here."
The lich laughed, his eyes wild with power. "Do you really think you can stop me, Rangers?! I am just beginning! I will be me more powerful than the gods themselves! But that is another time... Minions!"
The Horde disseminated upon the necromancer's gesture, as he attempted to create an exodus. Popa's rifle followed his departure... Popa squeezed the trigger... as a Spawn ran into him.
The shot flew into the air. The rifleman hit the Spawn over the head, "Damn you!" Popa lined up the weapon with Fiachra again... Squeezed the trigger again...
Popa had forgotten to reload... "Damn it!" As he rushed to do just that, an arrow nicked his hair, soaring through the Horde to the lich. The dark wizard threw a hand back, sending the arrow into the group maintaining survival.
The Ranger glanced over his shoulder to see the girl, the one whom he knew had been following them, then turned back... sharp pain shooting through his shoulder. "Damn it, again!" he spat through his teeth, laying on the ground.
The serpentine servant rushed to his side, from the side of the downed boy, "Are you okay?"
"Not when it hurts like Hades..."
"You saved my life... What's your name?"
The Ranger gave her a perplexed look, "Is this really the time?"
"Sorry just trying to get your mind off the pain," the demon smirked.
There was a long pause. "Popa."
She smiled, "Listran."
Popa went to get up, but his arm gave out. He didn't bother trying again. He knew his body was exhausted; he hadn't slept the entire time they had been tracking the Horde. He was too busy figuring out their destination and mapping shortcuts for themselves, all while keeping an eye out for a certain person in the shadows.
He simply watched the rest of the scrimmage, which Xic had finally joined, shaking his shock. Malan also entered the fray, after being reclusive since Carvington. The Mirrian and Nolan moved with such elegance, they portrayed themselves as entertainers instead of rigid warriors.
The town was a mess and Fiachra had gotten away. Popa realized some villagers had gotten trampled by stray Spawns, while others were merely wounded. Now it was time to leave, venture into a new town, only to inadvertently bring trouble with them once again...
Alviar waited in darkness. He didn't know what he was waiting for, but he waited. The last thing he could remember was seeing Xic and Manni off to the store. After that the darkness greeted him, with open arms.
The click of shoes echoed through the abyss... Click, clack... Click, clack...
"Your the girl... The one from my dream. The one chasing Death... You're Bosia, aren't you?"
Only half the Goddess of Decay's face was visible. She smirked, "And you are my only living pawn."
"Pawn? I am not your pawn, witch!"
Her laughter was sickening. "Oh, but you are... Did you not feel the urge to release your unbalanced servant? And to step into the forest, which lead you to the Necromancer, of whom seems to think he can outsmart me?"
Alviar frowned, "That was... you? But why would you want the release of Listran? She is merely a servant..."
"Oh, but we both know that isn't so... Don't you, Alviar? That's why you will bring her to me."
"Do what?! I don't think I will!" Alviar was flying into a rage.
"Then I will just use you to do it myself, boy."
"And I think you are bluffing, Bosia! For if you could do that, you would have already!"
The goddess laughed again. "Foolish boy! Don't you know it is always easier to have someone dirty their hands for you! Now they will all suffer because of you, boy! Remember that. Remember that you were the one who brought decay and ruin! And I will have your precious Listran!"
Alviar blacked out. He could sense himself moving about, then, eventually, he could hear the sickening screams of Listran; then the sense of falling took over; being carried, with Listran calling for help; Mannimarco revealing his true nature; townsfolk yelling and screaming; loud shots and blades zinging.
When the screaming stopped, he felt the cool breeze of the forest wind, the hard rocks under his back, and what seemed to be ropes on his wrists. In the background, he heard the arguing of two men and a woman, but the voices were unfamiliar... He had to wake up to see who they were... His eyelids fluttered... Light seeped in... Listran's hair... Oh, her beautiful eyes...
Chapter Fifteen Edit
Night had finally descended across Manvadrasia, the luminous flora of the Shadewood forest glowing in response. As nocturnal wildlife began to enter the scene, deep within the forest, an unlikely group of adventurers was assembling a small camp.
"Whew, thank the Gods there was some space in the brush." said Xic, his face showing signs of exhaustion.
"You're telling me." Exclaimed Nolan, lugging around a large tent bag.
Nearly everyone in the group was helping to finalize their temporary resting spot, except for Listran, who was sitting beside an unconscious Alviar in a large tent away from the work. Though Listran would've usually joined up with the others, she couldn't leave Alviar alone, considering the condition he entered not too long ago. The rest of the group didn't disagree, especially when they nominated Listran during the quick election over who was going to watch Alviar for the night.
She looked down to the left, and there he was, cuddled up beside her. His chest was moving up and down, reassuring Listran. Through the light of the lantern inside, she could clearly see Alviar's innocent face. She smiled.
Suddenly, his body began to budge and move around, leaving Listran both surprised and excited. Alviar was finally waking up.
His eyes opened up and blinked a few times, he stared for a minute at Listran's face, still dazed from the experience. "Listran." He was able to say, a sheepish grin growing from the corner of his mouth. "You're... okay now."
Listran smiled back in response, a tear of joy flowing down her left cheek. "Yes Alviar, I'm alright, and so are you."
Suddenly, reality snapped back to him. He looked around quickly, his heart racing, before looking directly back at her face. "Listran, where are we?" He questioned.
Listran kept her voice calm, realizing Alviar's frantic movements. He seemed to be eyeing the furniture as though it was about move the next second.
After several seconds of reassuring himself, he spoke again to Listran. "Where's everybody else?" He asked quickly.
"They're all outside right now," she replied, " helping to create our new campsite."
"I would like to see them, please." Said Alviar.
"Of course you can." Smiled Listran. Getting up from their respective seats, Listran led the way outside the tent.
As Alviar entered the outside darkness, he could easily hear a few figures arguing among each other, not so far off from where he was standing. From their voices, he could recognize with growing excitement those of Xic and Ent. However, there were also some others entering the fray, ones that were completely new to him.
He and Listran walked towards the bunch, without warning, Listran called out to them. "Hey Everyone!" She yelled, bringing everyone's attention to her voice. "Alviar finally woke up!"
At the end of her sentence, everyone turned their glances directly at Alviar, for a second he felt nervous. With cheerful faces, they each greeted him politely, there again appeared the people he didn't recognize.
"Who are you?" He said to Popa.
"Oh, sorry," he said, "I almost forgot to introduce myself. My name is Popa."
He then pointed towards two other people beside him. "This is Nolan and you can call this man the Mirrian." He continued, gesturing to each of them respectively.
"We're known as the Rangers," he said, "except for her over there." And with that he gestured in Malan's direction. She suddenly looked up from what she was doing and smiled at Alviar.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Alviar." She said, her tone filled with a delicate grace. "My name is Malan and I'm with the Rangers."
"For now, at least." Said Nolan, earning himself a stern glare from Popa.
At this, Xic stepped forward towards Alviar, Ent following up behind him. "I really don't think introductions are required for us." He smiled.
"You're right about that." Alviar smiled back. "It's great to see you two again."
"So..." interrupted Nolan, "what's the plan?
Alviar turned to face the rangers and quickly thought about their situation. "Well, I'm not really quite sure what your goals are," he said to them, "But Listran, Xic, Ent, and myself are headed towards Hades' Peaks."
"Hades' Peaks?!" Exclaimed the Mirrian.
"Yep." Said Listran and Alviar in unison.
"Are you all insane?" Exclaimed Popa
"Maybe." Said Xic and Ent in Unison.
Nolan sighed. "Why would you even think about going up there in the first place?"
Listran slithered forward. "It's because of me." She said.
"What do you mean you?" He replied back, a layer of suspicion added to his tone.
"Take a look at me." Said Listran, gesturing to her body. "I used to be Human, just like you."
"Oh," Said Nolan, slightly startled by this piece of information. "I never thought about that. But even so, what does that have to do with you and your transformation?"
At this, the Mirrian spoke up. "A Curse." He said calmly, gaining Nolan's attention. "They seek the wisdom of the ancient Dragon known as Paranous."
"You all must have some serious guts to go up there for only that reason." Said Malan to the Alviar and his friends.
"We do." Confirmed Ent. "And we aren't afraid of anything, especially that Warlock."
"Ah yes," Said Popa, "Fiachra, the Thief of Souls, Necromancer of Haret, I bet that he already knows of your quest."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Alviar, "did you just say 'Thief of Souls'?!"
Popa nodded at the question. "And if my intuition serves me right, he'll most likely be heading for Lustrianis so he can steal his soul and absorb his power."
"Well that doesn't sound good." Said Listran.
"Then I guess we'll just have to beat him to it." Said Alviar, a renewed flicker of energy in his eyes. "How about we all journey forth together and stop that Mage?"
After a few seconds, the Mirrian stepped forward. "I will help you on your quest."
Nolan came afterwards. "I don't see why I shouldn't join."
Popa followed him. "We won't let you down, I promise you that."
Finally came Malan, "If you all can do it, then so can I."
Both Listran and Alviar smiled at this. "Alright then everyone," started the ladder, "Now we have that covered it's bet we all get some-"
Alviar was suddenly interrupted by a rustling sound emanating from the bushes nearby. Listran quickly quieted the others as she cautiously came towards the source to investigate. The entity was coming closer, bringing the party further on edge. In just mere seconds and without warning, Listran was propelled off her feet and onto the dusty ground behind as a familiar little creature thrust itself on to her head.
"Sable?!" Exclaimed Listran in utter shock. "How were you able to find us?!"
Ignoring her words, Sable licked Listran's forehead with her wet tongue, excited to have finally found her master.
Alviar moved forward to greet the Tok as well, however, Sable easily detected his movement and upon noticing his presence began to inch backwards and hiss menacingly at him.
"It's okay, girl," reassured Listran, stroking her back gently, "Alviar wasn't himself that time, I promise you he's normal again."
Responding to Listran's actions, the little Tok began to settle down enough to where Alviar could be allowed to come closer. Cautiously, he held out his hand to her hoping for some friendly gesture from her. Sable quickly sniffed his outstretched fingers and finally licked then after only a few seconds.
Alviar smiled, "Thank you, Sable." He said to the creature. Sable purred in response, he guessed that meant a "you're welcome" in her own tongue.
"I hate to interrupt the touching reunion," said Nolan, "But now that everyone is here, how about we develop a strategy on how we're gonna take down this Lich."
Ent yawned loudly, "Well, I don't know about you but I think we should decide it in the morning. After all, its pretty late at night."
Everyone else began to nod in approval, except for Nolan, who stared up at Ent in disbelief. "You can't be serious, all members of the group are here, why not just create a plan quickly right here and now?"
"Didn't you hear him?" Said Xic tiredly. "It's nearly midnight, everyone's too worn out to come up with a plan. Why don't you just wait until the morning like us?"
Nolan looked down in thought, after several seconds he said, "Fine then, good night, everyone." At the end of his sentence, he departed for his tent. Soon after, the rest of the group left towards their respective beds.
Coelestia was camping near by. She currently had no contracts to do, and it was still a long trip to Mount Hyroth to get a new one. She searched her pack for supplies. She was running out of food, and she might have to go hunting if this kept up.
Suddenly, a rustling noise came from the bushes. She quickly grabbed her daggers, and glared, until she saw Fiachra come out of the shadows.
"My dear, is that anyway to greet an old friend?"
She quickly sheathed the daggers, and smiled back. "Sorry, that's kind of a reflex." She offered him a seat by the fire, which he quick took. "So, how goes your hunting?"
Fiachra smiled. "Oh, it went well. They certainly won't forget it."
"Did you find out what they are doing?"
The mage grinned. "Oh, now that is a truly interesting story, but to put it simply, they are helping those two children you saw with them get to the Dragon of Hades's Peak."
Coelestia tilted her head. "So they're visiting Lustrianus? Why?"
He waved his hand. "The boy wants to make a wish for his friend, the girl."
Coelestia let out a sigh and closed her eyes. "This sounds like something out of a romantic story." She wondered off-handedly what the wish might be.
The mage fiddled with his rings, the gems shining in the fire. "So, what are our plans now, my dear?" he asked quietly.
The assassin thought for a few moments. "I think we should wait for a while, before we pull out anything."
The mage nodded. "As you wish," he got up and dusted himself off. "Until then, farewell."
"Goodnight," And with that he left. The campfire was staring to go out, and Coelestia took it as a sign to go to sleep. She put it out and got into her bedroll.
The mage stood a good distance away from the camp, watching. She was lucky I didn't have a soul crystal with me, otherwise I would have a campsite instead of a godsdamn tree. He sighed. I wonder how much power I would get from her soul, anyways? He sat down in his bedroll, grumbling. Soon, though. Soon all this waiting will get me my reward.
I will need to make more of them, at least ten, if I hope to be successful, he closed his eyes and smiled. No, he thought to himself, when I succeed. And so the lich rested, and for a few moments the forest was absolutely quiet, not even the crickets were chirping, as the lich truly fell asleep.
Coelestia woke up to the sound of clinking armor. She opened her eyes to see the sun was barely done rising and reached for her dagger. She got up quietly and looked to where the noise was coming from. From what little light she had, she could make out a female figure, searching through the camp. Coelestia grabbed her dagger and snuck behind her. She quickly put the dagger to the other's neck. "Who are you and why are you searching through my stuff?" The other woman simply grabbed Coelestia's arm and tossed it off. She turned and faced Coelestia, the two getting a good look at each other.
The woman in heavy armor was a beastman. She had the tail of some sort of canine, and the ears to match, her hair was a dark shade of black, and she bared her sharp fangs at the assassin. They stared at one another for quite some time, until a thought appeared in the beastwoman's head. "Oh, s-sorry." She said in a soft voice. "I was tracking someone and noticed that his scent was in the area, and then I found your camp. I j-just assmumed...."
The assassin put her dagger to it's sheath. "Oh, I understand; that's happened to me a few times. Still doesn't make it right though."
The other girl nodded. "Y-yeah, I know." The beastwoman looked over to the north side of the camp. "I still smell him over there, I-I should go."
"Wait, let me come with you."
The other girl froze in place. "Come with me? Why?"
"Look, I'm kinda tried of going on jobs on my own," the assassin replied. "The road gets lonely ya know? You must feel the same way."
The beastwoman thought it over. "O-okay then, sure."
Coelestia smiled. "So what's your name?"
"Well then, my name is Coelestia. Happy to meet you!"
"But, you just tried to kill me?"
The assassin laughed at the confused look on the warrior's face. "Ah, that doesn't matter now, we're friends! Everything is forgiven. So, where are we heading?"
The beastwoman pointed north again. "That way." They began to walk together towards the scent.
This is going to be fun! I wonder who she's tracking? was the only thing Coelestia thought as she walked beside her new friend.
It was now dawn for the creatures of Shadewood. Animals of all different shapes and sizes began to climb out of their nests and begin a new day. Their peace was short lived however, as Ent barged through some bushes and tree branches, chasing a small hare hopping along the forest floor.
“Come on,” he said with arms outstretched towards the animal, “I almost got ya!”
But before he could grab its hind legs, a crooked tree root caught his legs and he plummeted to the ground. When next he lifted his dazed cranium, his prey had already fled. Regaining his posture, Ent turned around and trudged to the campsite, cursing to himself silently all the way.
After a short while, he emerged from the thicket and entered the camp clearing where the others had been waiting, sitting patiently around a thick tree trunk. Each of them equally excited to see his return. As they all got up from their seats and approached him, Ent stopped in his tracks to meet their faces.
“Did you find anything?” said Listran, anxiously awaiting a good response.
Ent deeply sighed to himself. “Nope, I wasn’t able to get anything for breakfast yet,” he said solemnly.
Xic was the first of the bunch to notice his melancholy attitude. “Ent, is there something wrong?” he asked.
Ent dragged his feat over to the large trunk stump the others were sitting around earlier and dropped his behind on it instantly, sending a few cracks down its sides. “I’m too big and too clumsy,” he said. “I still haven’t been able to find or get anything to feed ourselves, especially before forming this new plan of ours that involves Fiachra and that old dragon.”
As the others came around to try and comfort Ent, Alviar noticed a gleam reflected into his eyes from something in the bushes. With everyone distracted by Ent’s lament, Alviar snuck over to the bushes on the far side of the campsite clearing, where he found an unusual specimen of plantlife. Tiny bulbous shapes peaked out from behind fresh, prickly leaves. If he wasn’t mistaken these were supposed to be the rare Craetan Berries, ripe enough to eat too. But as Alviar stared down at them in surprise, he couldn’t help but notice other, similarly shiny objects sparking just behind the bushes he was at.
It was unbelievable, Alviar had just come across a garden of dazzling, edible fruit and vegetables. A species that was quite hard to find elsewhere in Shadewood. For a split second, he thought about yelling to others and telling them of this wonderful discovery he made, but quickly thought against it. Looking back, he still saw Ent solemnly staring down at the ground in defeat, with Popa, Malan and Nolan bickering with each other, Listran, Sable and Xic trying to cheer him up, and the Mirrian sleeping soundly to himself during the whole ruckus.
Alviar glanced back at the fruit, cradled in the palm of his hand but still attached to its stem. Suddenly, an idea came to his mind, one that would cheer Ent up sure. He quietly walked back over to the group, trying to look as normal as possible.
“Hey Ent,” said Alviar, striding up to where the giant sulked, “could I tell you something?”
“Sure,” moped Ent, “Not like it makes much of a difference right now.”
Alviar sat down on the ground, right next to Ent’s stump. He looked up towards the treetops as he spoke, as if pondering something told to him, long ago. Ent, though still saddened by his recent hunt in the forest, decided to listen to what this human boy had to say.
“I know that you didn’t find anything for us yet,” said Alviar, lowering Ent’s expression back down to the forest floor. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give up,” he continued, “I mean, there’s plenty of chances for you to use your abilities, all you need to do is just look around.”
At the end of his sentence, Alviar looked over to where the exotic berries still lay. “It’s a big forest in a large world, who knows what you could discover.” Ent lifted his head up and looked down at him with a slight smile. “That’s very kind of you Alviar,” said the gentle giant, moving his gaze over to where Alviar stared, “but I still don’t know if I’ll-.” Suddenly, a glimmer of light, the same that Alviar had encountered, without warning caught him in the eye. Putting a large hand to his eyebrows, he concentrated on the direction where beam came from.
Once he did, he dropped his hand to his side in amazement. “Alviar, do you see that over there!” exclaimed Ent, a hint of excitement to his voice. “What are you talking about? I don’t see anything where I’m looking,” lied Alviar.
Ent got up immediately from his tree stump and walked right over to the bushes that, unbeknownst to everyone, Alviar was at earlier. The rest of the group, including the recently-awoken Mirrian, noticing Ent’s newfound spirit and objective, followed the giant with curiosity.
Once he arrived, he laughed jovially to himself, surprising the others. “Really? Then I suggest you at what I’ve just spotted!” he said, pointing down to what he spotted from afar. As everyone followed the trajectory of his digit, all of their eyes widened when they saw where it led. “Is that what I think it is?” said Popa in awe. “Craetan Berries!” answered Xic.
“Yep,” responded Ent proudly, “and wait until you see what else I found.”
As he spoken, Ent pushed back the bush that held the rare fruit to reveal an even greater prize. By then, everyone’s jaw’s had dropped.
“Good Gods!” cried Nolan, “There’s a whole garden back there!”
“Wow!” shouted Listran, “That looks like enough to feed us for several weeks at most!”
Ent lifted up his chin, an air of confidence and joy coming over him. Xic walked up to the giant and patted him on the shoulder. “Good job, Ent!” exclaimed Xic, “we just knew you could do it!”
“Thanks a lot guys!” said Ent, a big smile growing on his face. Meanwhile among the group, Alviar also smiled, feeling content with the product of his plan.
While everyone gathered around the large wooden table, the Mirrian rolled out a great, withered map across its surface. Upon it lay the vast wilderness of Manvadrasia. Pulling out a small bag from within his coat, the Mirrian scattered several stones, varying in shape, across the region they now resided within. Finished, he left the rest of the stones in his bag and brought it back inside his garb.
Alviar and Listran gazed upon the places the map revealed with wonder and respect. From the tea-stained mountains of the north to the faded steppes of the south, their eyes never missed a trace of its ancient beauty.
As if reading their minds, the Mirrian looked up and smiled at the two. “I see that you’ve taken a liking to my grandfather’s old map,” he said. “Are you kidding me?” said Listran, looking down at the dark seas and oceans that wove around the land. “This map is amazing, it’s showing places I’ve never even seen before!”
“I agree,”Alviar said, “but it looks like this isn’t all of it though.”
In response to his statement, Listran looked back down at the map and realized what he meant. The map itself only showed one large continent with several island masses. The rest of the world, including rest of the continent, went beyond the boundaries of the aged paper.
“Indeed,” said the Mirrian, “You must realize, however, that this map only shows the places my ancestors and the many peoples of Manvadrasia have found so far and even colonized. The rest of the planet, I’m afraid, still has yet to be fully revealed.”
“I hate to break up your cartography discussion,” interrupted Nolan, “but weren’t we supposed to devise a plan for stopping the Lich?” “Not to mention reversing Listran back to her original form.” Said Xic.
“Well,” spoke up Popa, “I do believe that both can be solved by reaching this dragon of theirs up past the Feygroves.”
“But isn’t Fiachra also headed towards the dragon?” asked Alviar, “I mean, a dangerous necromancer like him would probably want the soul of a dragon, especially after we brought it up during our journey together.”
“Yes, but that’s impossible!” exclaimed Xic, “No mortal creature, even one that’s loathe enough to snatch souls, could even survive the process of extracting or even absorbing the soul of a dragon. Those creatures are the “judges of humanity” for heaven’s sake!”
Malan stepped forward to join in on the conversation. “It doesn’t really matter whether Fiachra survives or not,” she said stoutly, “What matters is that Paranous is in danger, as well as Listran’s chances of becoming human again.”
“So then…,” said Ent, growing impatient, “What’re we supposed to do? We can’t just keep bickering on like this.”
“I agree,” said the Mirrian, sorting the stones on the map from darkest to lightest, smallest to largest and smoothest to sharpest, “If we are to stop Fiachra, we must act quickly, and I might have a card to play in our favor.”
As he continued, the Mirrian carefully organized the stones into groupings at certain locations along the natural path to the mountains, each of stones were the most ominous any of them had ever seen.
“What I have arranged here are all the possible sightings and or targets of the deadly Bosia swarm,” he said in a didactic manner, “before we came across the Serpentine pack, while I was still following the tracks of decay with my fellow hunters, I began to piece together different facts about the swarm from the remaining populace as I could. Plus, I even consulted the stars with my forlorn astrological knowledge in order to pinpoint future destinations for Bosia’s minions.”
“Hm,” said Popa, partly amazed by this news, “I never knew you had it in you.”
The Mirrian turned slightly to face his fellow hunter. “There is still so much you have yet to learn about me,” he said.
With a wave of his hand, the group of lighter stones moved to the campsite position they were currently at on the map. They stood tightly around each other, ready for whatever might come at them.
“The remaining journey to the glades is still dangerous for novice travelers like yourselves,” said the Mirrian, gesturing to both Alviar and Listran respectively, “In order to survive the challenges ahead, we must stay together no matter the cost. We cannot afford to lose another soul to either the Swarm or Fiachra.”
“Do we have enough weaponry and tools to prepare ourselves?” questioned Alviar.
The Mirrian nodded over to Popa, Nolan and Malan. “While I have yet to see Malan’s true capabilities, I know for certain that the other two rangers are prepared for anything the land might hide.”
“Ok,” said Alviar.
Malan came forward to meet the Mirrian, still focused on his map and items. “Well, now that that’s taken care of, what’s your suggestion for the quickest path to the mountains?” she said.
At this, the Mirrian suddenly furrowed his eyebrows in discomfort. “Unfortunately, I could not find faster path than this,” he said. The Mirrian drew out an ink thorn from one of his pockets and drew a long, linear path through dense foliage and barren earth.
“I second that,” said Xic, “Judging from my earlier estimation of the journey, it is the only path that we believe can be used to reach Paranous, though I’m worried it will not suffice in speed as it will in direction.”
Malan smiled to herself, drawing a couple odd stares from those around her. “And that’s where I come in,” she said confidently, “I actually know an old trail my mother and father used travel along to reach the mountain range.”
Without warning, she took the Mirrian’s ink thorn and drew a jagged path branching out from his own. Instead, it led to a shaded region in between the plains and forest. “This place is called Gol-Rinnah Caverns, dark but reliable when you want fast passage to the north.”
Popa stepped closer to Malan. “Malan,” he asked sincerely, “Do you still think it is safe, even after all those years?”
She looked down at this. “Can’t say anything about that, sorry,” she said, “Not much was said about how their travels went long back. However, I do think it’s much more reliable than the path the Mirrian showed us.”
Malan pointed down at the map, her finger over the first trail. As the other looked at it again, they could instantly see her point. The path itself wove dangerously close to the group of dark stones.
“I’m very sorry,” said the Mirrian, “I understand it looks dangerous, but that is all I could surmise at the moment.”
Finally, Alviar moved closer to the Mirrian and put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright, Mirrian,” he said calmly, “We thank you greatly for the information, but in this case, I think we should go with Malan’s path.”
Nolan walked forward, feeling bold and courageous. “I’m with Alviar,” he said, “Though I’m a bit wary of this new area, the Mirrian said it himself, we’re ‘prepared for anything the land might hide.’
He glanced over at the bow and arrows on his back. “Besides,” he said grinning, “I’ve been a while since I’ve confronted surprises, can’t wait to do so again!” For a minute, the Mirrian looked over to Listran, Xic and Ent for their answers. When both nodded back to him, he sighed to himself. “Very well,” he said, “It has been decided; our journey shall take us to Gol-Rinnah Caverns.”
At the end of his sentence, he gathered all of his stones in a swift move and rolled up his map. Once both were safely stored with the Mirrian, the rest of the group began to disband.
Before heading away from the others, the Mirrian spoke to them again. “Tomorrow, we leave at dawn,” he said in a serious manner. “Make sure you’re all ready for a good travel, the further we get to the Feygroves, the further we can still preserve Manvadrasia.”
Alvair was dreaming again, this time there was a black void that streched endlessly. "Alvair, we need to talk." A young man in a black hooded robe appeared in front of him, and Alvair reconized him. "Death?" the boy nodded. "Yes, it's me. Listen, I don't have much time, so I'll have to make this quick." "What is it that you want?" Alvair asked. "You already figured this out, but your dying." Death shrugged. "I'd say you have a week, maybe more or less before your off the mortal plane."
Alvair winced. Hearing your days were numbered was a great way to get depressed. "Now now, everyone has an appointment with me, but in your case you can postpone it." "Postpone?" "Yes," Death said. "Paranous could heal you, though not exactly the way you would want to be." Alvair was confused. "What wouldn't I like about it?" "Well, inyour current form, Bosia's little curse will kill you, but if you were to change form like a certain friend of yours-"
"Wait, I'd have to become a demon? If i did that I couldn't go back home!" "You wouldn't be going home anyways." Death sighed. "Well, It's just something to motivate you I suppose. Oh! and look out for your assassin friend, she got herself a tracking hound." "She got a pet dog?" Death waved his hand. "No, some poor beastwoman yes made friends with, appearently you need to tack a bath or something cause she's been following your scent all the way here."
Before Alvair could express any word of panic, Death faded away and he woke up.
Aldriana was panicked, although she tried not to show it. She stared at her personal journal, a little side project to help keep her sane, but when she opened it up, she found that she could barely read it. She knew her curse was dangerous, but to lose her ability to read was a damning blow. "Hey, What'cha doing?" Aldriana jumped as her new succubus friend snatched the journal from her hand. "H-hey, that's private!" Coelestia shrugged, handing the book back. "Oh, sorry! So, ready to head out?" Aldriana sighed. Geez this girl had a lot of energy. "Yeah, ready." She took a whiff of the air. Something rotten hit her nose and she had to resist the urge to gag.
"Ugh, if I'm right the litch should be that way."