If Locke thought it was bad before, he had no label for it now. After an hours run, Locke stopped counting the seconds, right after the wolves began howling again. Before long there was the sight of the sun and the less frequent call of a wolf, but still the three of them kept going. His body is dripping with sweat, legs numb from the nonstop running. Virrus and Drill kept an inhuman pace and Locke, when he could think, could only spend his time questioning if Drill was more than just a man as well. With his breathing turning into desperate gasps and his heart squeezing all the tighter Locke finally let himself go, falling to his knees, his body unable to create enough saliva to coat his tongue and mouth.
Drill came to a stop, turning to acknowledge Locke, who was failing to raise his head. Drill, having always the toughest exterior, couldn’t disguise his fatigue as well. His shoulders were failing to stand firm, his hands were resting on his legs. Drill let himself slouch, taking deep calming breaths as he took in his surroundings. Not noticing anything suspicious, he gave into his urge, falling backwards to rest his aching body. When Locke became aware of Drill, he fell to his side to enjoy the moment of peace.
Virrus came back, his expression empty, with no signs of fatigue. “Nothin like a run in da woods, the shade and cool breeze. Ya cannot find the feeling nowhere.” Locke couldn’t lift his head, much less muster a sneer, although he was wanting nothing more than to show his distaste for Virrus’s luster. Locke’s blister’s had blister’s, he was nearly swimming in a pool of his sweat, the little bits of spit forming in his mouth couldn’t satisfy his insatiable thirst. Virrus takes in his surroundings with a quick look, then nods his approval, “it’s ah short walk, we’re almost there.”
Before Locke could muster a response, Drill spoke his thoughts, “Water?” Virrus began digging through his bag, on removing two small glass containers he nodded.
“It’s water, in ah sense. But I’ve no label for em and I’m no sure which god has gone an bless which vial ah water. So it could taste bad, really bad, but I suppose you all are not having a care at the moment.” Virrus takes a look at the transparent flasks and then switches them into different hands, handing one to each of them. The two of them hold the glass containers reluctantly staring at its contents. “I like to use the blessed water to ease the aching from beast to man, an it does wonders to the skin.” Locke can’t wait another second, he pops the cork and downs the water, the heavy taste of minerals coats his tongue and throat. There’s an almost bitter aftertaste, which lingers for longer than he would care for, but his thirst miraculously fades away. Locke exhales, a feeling of relief coming over him. His fingers grip the bottom of the glass and Locke notices something he hadn’t on first inspection. Etched into the bottom was a symbol, there’s a look of confusion on Locke’s face, yet Virrus isn’t looking at Locke, he’s staring intently at Drill. Drill who still sat there, staring downward at the glass flask of holy water. Drill quickly threw back his head, downing the contents and tossing the glass to Virrus who caught it and kept watching Drill closely. Drill began gritting his teeth and forcing himself to his feet, then he went on ahead of them.
“What’s going on?” Locke whispers to Virrus, now that Drill was far enough. Virrus merely pocketed the flask and gave Locke a hand, who eagerly took it, since his body was still feeling sore.
“Not sure,” Virrus states after a pause. Locke hands him the flask back and walks on ahead. In a few minutes Virrus claps his hands, drawing Locke and Drill towards him. Drill was pale, his normally tan complexion fading away. There was a circular opening within a tall surrounding of tightly knit trees, Virrus walks into the center of this clearing. His movements are slow and he’s telegraphing each thing he does, like he’s putting on a show. Drill and Locke look around, the leaves lightly twitch under the soft breeze rolling through the tall trees. Nothing but the colors of Autumn and the faint scent of flowers, flowers that Locke with all his squinting can’t seem to locate. “Drill, do you smell that?” but Drill seems more distracted by a pain in his abdomen, his hand clutching at his stomach.
Virrus finds a small leaf and with two fingers, holds it to his lips, blowing till a light whistling sound fills the air. The trees sway at the sound, Locke couldn’t believe that Virrus had cast a spell with just a whistle. The answer came in the form of arrows, three landing in the disguise of one thud. One arrow landing at Virrus’s feet, another at Drill’s, and the last one splits the side of Locke’s right shoe as it lands. When Locke raises his eyes skyward, the trees are filled with Forest Tribe. Tribes of men and women who abandoned the cities hundreds of years ago and made a society of people who live in the wilds, who are constantly blessed by the god known as the Beast of Wood and Nature. Their armor is made of wood, that had been shaped by the power of Wolsgret, a net of leaves like a mesh of steel, as strong as anything that a blacksmith could mold in the cities. There are those men in the city that have laughed at those children who carry wooden swords, yet to the Forest Tribe a wooden sword could cut a man in two.
Virrus puts a hand at his waist and bows, “It’s nice ta see ya all as well.”
A voice falls to their ears below, “Virrus, you’re lucky I didn’t put all three of those arrows in your twisted skull.” Locke took a look at the placement of the arrows and began considering the speed at which they all had landed. He suddenly understood just how vulnerable the three of them were, if only one of the Forest Tribe had fired all three arrows.
“Aye, the thought did cross me mind, ah seem to be the lucky type these days.” Virrus rose from his bow and lifts a finger to Drill, “Me associate over there, him not as lucky as me. He’s got a passenger with em.” There was a rustling in the trees, Locke moves his head for a better view, right over Drill was a pack of Forest Tribe sliding down the vines head first. Around their legs are vines, that they use to slow their decent, swords at the ready, while others above adjust their aim to point their bows at Drill.
“Wait!” Locke shouts, the sounds of the forest seem to burst into movement and then silence. Virrus was staring at Locke with his eyes wide, a look of fear on him, probably for Locke’s life. Locke himself was terrified by his outburst, but he couldn’t remain silent. “Please wait. This man is my friend, he’s a good man, I—I don’t know what you mean by a passenger and why that’s got all of you out for blood, but I know Drill.” Locke swallows hard, nervous an arrow would find his heart. “This man is good, I trust him with my life.”
Drill shudders, spitting up something, and gasps for air. He then takes a deep breath and speaks, “I try not to talk too much, he I are fighting some times we talk and it becomes…one.” Drill was shivering, “I am not him, he wants to be in control I am in control, you will give control…” Drill clears his throat, “…that stuff I drank, we digested, it stings and stirs him alive.” Locke turns his attention to Virrus, who shrugs.
“Ya not fer sharing so ah had to test it out me self. One fer Locke and the other fer you, I picked the only two gods who are able to share since they’re made of a group. Malahaal who are the Angels of Wind and Malahaak who are the Demons of Soil and Rock. I wondered why ya made no sound when I seared the flesh on yer back, I just figured you were tough. Then I wondered why you had so little blood pouring out of yer wounds, why the dead werewolves in the room were stabbed ta death, meaning you killed two of em by yerself. The last one was when I saw the werewolf toss you head first into a sharp rock, that stone was like the edge of a sword.” Locke was turning his attention to Drill who shook uncontrollably, “Any normal man would’ve split his head wide open, dead on impact, but you’re more than just ah normal man ain’tcha.” Drill finally found enough strength to lift his head and look Virrus in the eye, Locke could see a change in him, his iris had expanded, it now was covering the whites of his eyes while his pupils were two dots in the middle of them. “The Forest Tribe may be a bunch ah self righteous tree lovers, but their shaman’s are beyond any mage’s I’ve ever encountered. They can do things I’ve no understanding of, and we need to find out if Drill can make it to the war.”
“War?” Locke wasn’t sure what Virrus was talking about.
“Aye, a war, lad. What do you think we’re doing here, if they can help Drill with his personality issues or at least make sure he won’t be a problem, then he can fight with us. The Forest Tribe are just like any other tribe. They might like their god’s ah bit much too much, at least fer my taste, but this ones all about peace an all that nonsense. They don’t like war, but they like it less when someone stronger steps all over someone weaker. It get’s their blood going, makes em want to fight and set it all back to the way it was.” Locke took a good look around, at all the trained warriors with their eyes unwavering, set on them, “we’re not here to die, we’re here to recruit an army. Aren’t you dying to take back the city?”
End of Part III