Authors: David Taran
Sarena walked to the edge of the inner forest and stared inside, trying to build up the courage to take that first step.
It’s just one step. Just one, tiny, step. You can do this.
When she saw what looked to be a shadow pass over a patch of glowing moss further in she shivered and decided it was time. Her courage wasn’t going to build up, at this rate it would just disappear and she would die trying to cross the kingdom.
It’s now or never.
Sarena thought as a cold sweat ran down her back. She took a deep breath and forced herself to start walking forward. Hesitantly her legs began to move, surprisingly steady considering how terrified she was.
The last creature that had shown up outside the forest had killed over a dozen soldiers on its own. With Heartseeker she might stand a chance, but she doubted she could come out of it unscathed.
Don’t get overconfident.
She told herself.
Just run from anything you find.
Within moments the dim light from the outer forest had completely disappeared, and Sarena had to wait for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. A slight green glow emitted from the moss on the trees, letting Sarena know where the trees were at, but doing little to light the floor of the forest. After a few minutes she was able to make out the shapes of the roots on the ground, and decided that was the best she would get for now.
After what felt like several hours her eyes had adjusted a startling amount. The moss was getting brighter and brighter over time, until finally the woods seemed almost as well lit as the outer forest had been. She glanced down at Heartseeker, knowing that it was aiding her once again. It continued to help her in ways that it had never done for anyone before her, and she still had no idea why.
The latest discovery she had made was that she didn’t feel hungry at all, even though she hadn’t eaten anything since lunch the day before. Regardless of how powerful Heartseeker was, she doubted it could keep her alive without food though, so she thought it best to assume that it was only keeping her from feeling hunger, not actually sustaining her. While that was useful, her main issue was that she hadn’t seen anything that she could eat the entire time. There was nothing on the forest floor except mushrooms, which were probably just as deadly as the creatures, and she didn’t relish the thought of trying to eat the glowing moss. It was a problem she needed to address sooner rather than later though. Dying from hunger that she never even felt to begin with didn’t sound like a pleasant way to go.
The scenery around her never changed. Around her the massive trunks of the trees were spread out a fair distance, leaving wide open spaces between them. Aside from the green glowing moss on the sides of the trees there was nothing else. Even the ground was just bare dirt, with no sign of any roots.
When it was about halfway through the day, by Sarena’s best guess, she abruptly had the feeling that she was being watched. She didn’t know where it came from, but the feeling of eyes following her was so strong she knew she couldn’t ignore it. Glancing carefully at the trees around her, she couldn’t find a sign of anything nearby.
How can something hide itself here? There’s no bushes or branches low enough.
Maybe I’m just letting the eeriness of this place get to me.
Just to be safe she drew Heartseeker - its blue glow far brighter with no other light around. Sarena closed her eyes and stood in place, slowly turning in a full circle. If she couldn’t see the creature with her eyes, then she would just have to rely on her other senses to find it.
The forest was completely silent around her, just a faint crunching sound from her own feet as she turned. As she came to a stop in her original position, Sarena lowered the sword in front of her. As soon as she did she heard the sound of something whistling in the air behind her, and spun around while dodging to the side. An intense pain erupted from her chest, and she gasped as she was flung through the air from the impact. She felt Heartseeker slide from her grip while she was in the air, before finally hitting the ground and feeling another wave of agony. Her last thought before losing consciousness was disappointment in herself. She hadn’t even lasted half a day before dying. So much for Heartseeker giving her a better chance.
yrus’ mind was working as fast as it could, trying to keep up with the creature that stood just a few steps away from his partner’s body. Somehow it had been able to hide its aura from him until just before it attacked, giving him almost no time to react. At least now that it was in the open it seemed unable to hide it any longer, and Tyrus had no intention of letting it finish what it had started. He had discovered he was able to move himself around at will as long as he was within an arm’s length of his partner, and was currently hovering in place over her body. Definitely a her. His mind had started to remember the differences between genders, and something within him told him it was a woman who wielded him. Her aura had weakened considerably when the creature struck her, and Tyrus was pouring as much of his power into her as he could, strengthening and repairing her aura far faster than it could have on its own. It should only take a couple hours before it was back to normal, but if Tyrus didn’t deal with the beast in front of him then she wouldn’t even have that much time.
Its aura was different from any other he had seen, with colors that seemed to fade in and out of existence instead of shifting and changing like normal. Bloodlust was what controlled it, an insatiable thirst for the hunt, regardless of if it was hungry or not. Behind that was a cunning mind that allowed it to stalk and ambush its prey, while deep within it was a faint golden light that stretched throughout every limbs of its body. Tyrus judged that it had four legs, the back two bent in reverse to a normal human, while the front two seemed more like thick arms, yet still were used to support the weight of the body when not attacking. The creature itself was about the same size as his partner, but had a far stronger build. Even though it looked so powerful, the way it held itself seemed to say it was built more for speed than anything else.
For the past few minutes it had been pacing around his partner’s body, wary of the blade that hovered above it. At first it had tried to attack and finish her off immediately, but Tyrus had countered it instantly, sending it scrambling backwards with deep wound to its right paw. After that it had become far more cautious, not willing to risk itself so easily when its prey could fight back. Tyrus wasn’t sure if it was planning to stay or not, but ideally it would attack again and give him a chance to finish it off. He didn’t feel confident in protecting his charge if it decided to leave and hide itself again for another ambush. He was lucky his partner had been able to react in time to prevent a fatal injury, but luck wasn’t something he wanted to rely on again.
Beginning to grow impatient with just waiting, Tyrus decided to take action himself. Slowly he began to lower himself to the ground, as if the power holding him in the air was running out. As soon as he started moving, the beast stopped pacing and tensed up, obviously getting ready to attack once again. Its mind felt alien to him, but the sense of excitement he felt in it was more than enough warning. With a great leap the beast launched itself forward, aiming directly at his partner, completely ignoring the sword that had settled on the ground next to her.
As soon as it had reached the point directly above him, Tyrus launched himself into the air in an arc, aiming not just for the outstretched arms, but also the neck of the creature between them. While he couldn’t move far from his wielder, his blade was over three feet long and could easily cut the creature down before it was any threat to his savior. Tyrus felt his aura collide with that of the beast, and his easily overpowered it, slicing through both of the arms at the base of the shoulder, as well as removing the head from the beast’s neck. Moving as fast as he could Tyrus spun in a circle, knocking both arms slightly to the side so that they wouldn’t strike his companion. Unfortunately, the weight of the beast was larger than he could handle on his own, and it crashed down on top of its initial target, the creature’s aura fading away along with its life.
Tyrus saw his partner’s aura flicker for a moment, weakening once again from the impact, but recovered almost instantly. The power he was flooding her with helped strengthen her body to protect her from being injured further, but he could do nothing if it was the original injuries that were hit. Still, this healing would take too long. If another one of these creatures happened by, Tyrus didn’t know if he would be able to stop it. Luckily this one was small enough that he could fight it on his own, but if something larger fell on her then there was nothing he could do to save her. He could feel his power rushing into her, but the amount she could receive at once was far from what he was capable of sending.
Delving into her aura, Tyrus watched where his power was entering her to see what was causing it to act so sluggishly. Within her body were golden beams of light, so thin they could barely be seen, stretching throughout every limb of her body, and within those beams Tyrus could feel his own power rushing through as fast as it could. At the center of her torso all of the beams met in one place, surrounding it was a ball of empty space, void of any aura at all. It was as if something was missing inside of her, and the sight of that void made him incomparably sad, yet Tyrus had no idea why. Regardless, the void was not the cause of the problem, the golden beams were. Tyrus had delved into himself enough to see those same beams, but instead of stretching throughout his body, they instead formed a latticework around the edge of the blade he inhabited. Not only that, they were far thicker than his partner’s, closer to a finger’s width in size. His power was able to move freely within them, with no sense of being clogged at all.
Obviously the problem was the thickness of those beams, and while normally Tyrus didn’t think it would matter, the area they were in made him think that every second counted. For the past few hours his normally powerful senses were being restrained, as if something was trying to suppress him. Instead of being able to sense everything within a mile he was stuck with only around a fifth of that, and the auras he did sense were all incredibly ancient and powerful. Even the youngest of the trees around them were thousands of years old. The most unsettling of all though, was the lack of any life besides his partner and the plants. Until the creature had attacked he had felt absolutely nothing else, not even the tiny insects he could normally feel. It gave him a sense of urgency that he couldn’t explain, as if he needed to quickly escape from where ever it was that they were at. If they had to stop and heal his partner every time they encountered one of these beasts there was no telling how long it would take to escape, which left him with only one choice: he needed to make his frail partner stronger.
Tyrus set to it without another thought, delving in he reached for the first of those beams, the one in her right hand that she wielded him with. Even though he had no experience with what he was planning to do, he still knew it was possible. Instead of sending his power along the channels of light, he forced a tendril of power inside of just one part and slowly expanded it, feeling the golden walls of the channel being stretched to their limit before stopping, then moving on to the next portion. He could feel her aura roiling in agony as he did so, but he knew it wouldn’t kill her and continued anyways. If a little bit of pain is all it took to give her a better chance to live, then he would gladly make that decision for her.
She’s already unconscious anyways, it’s not like she will remember it when she wakes up. I hope not at least.
Even while thinking that he couldn’t help but feel guilty about what he was doing. He was changing her permanently without her permission, and he wasn’t entirely sure if there would be any side-effects or not. Yet he didn’t slow down what he was doing anyways.
When Tyrus had gone through her entire body and widened every channel, he went back to the beginning and looked over his work. While the beams of light were thicker, they were far from where he wanted them to be. He pushed himself back into the first beam, and tested it by expanding himself again, causing the channel to stretch outward even further. By the time he finished his second pass the pain her aura was starting to affect him, causing a dull ache to appear within him. Ignoring it for the time being, he forced himself back into his work and continued on his third pass.
It seemed like ages had passed by the time he was finished and satisfied with his work, requiring a full five passes before he felt like she couldn’t take anymore. He looked over her aura with pride, his power rushing through her with incredible force, strengthening her far beyond what had been possible before. Her wounds had healed long ago, but for some reason she had stayed unconscious the entire time. Tyrus could feel guilt clawing at him as he realized she most likely did wake up at some point, but was unable to bear the pain.
Hopefully she just think it was her wounds from before. I really don’t want her to hate me. I’m doing this for her sake after all. Besides, she’s not the only one in pain here. I’ve never had a headache this bad before, which doesn’t make much sense considering I don’t have a head.
Throughout the entire process Tyrus’ senses had continued to keep track of any other creatures in the area, but none had shown themselves the entire time. While he wasn’t entirely sure how long it had been since he started working, it had to have been a few hours at the least. He had expected to have to fight off at least one more beast before finishing, but he would take a lucky break whenever he could. Maybe the creature he had slain had scared all the others away, and that was why it was so void of life here. Regardless, until his companion woke up he was stuck waiting and defenseless.
arena gasped as she fought her way into the world. Wave after wave of agony crashed against her body. Nightmares of torture had plagued her for an eternity, making her beg for death even within her own dreams. As she finally breached the barrier that held her in a state of unconsciousness she held hope that the pain would disappear, only to lose it as it continued to batter at her mind and body. Every inch of her body felt as if it had been crushed and set on fire. Even her throat felt hoarse from all the screaming she had done while lost to the world. Slowly the pain began to die down, achingly slowly, to the point that she began to wonder if she had ever lived without the pain to begin with. Eventually it had faded away enough for her mind to be able to focus on something other than the pain. She could remember the feeling of being watched, followed by a pain in her chest. Compared to what she had felt upon waking up, that pain was nothing more than a scratch.