In Reality

  Unfortunately I’m at a stop light.  My lights have been green until this day and I’ve taken them for granted.  All the roads, with their infinite intersections, bring me to the same conclusion.  My car is stuck in neutral and I’ve been coasting this whole time.

  So things haven’t been ideal lately.  Work has turned me into an old man, one that can’t stay up late and who gets grouchy when denied his routine breaks and meals.  Slap on the eye infection and toothache, bad luck, and current arguments I’m involved in…you get the point.
  I don’t mean to post excuses, I’d rather post stories, but life has chosen otherwise.  I’m going to go lay down.  I hope inspiration strikes me down, life could use a break by now.

Part VI

The streets are alive with the usual amount of life and energy. Locke couldn’t help it, a smile forming as Zell came walking over. He took a look over himself, clean and confident. A small boy walks y with a handful of flowers Locke calls him over and hands him a gold piece, pulling a single rose free, and then walks over handing it to an eager Zell. “It’s beautiful Locke.”

Finally feeling the courage build inside of him he lets his feelings free, “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. That rose is nothing compared to you.” Zell’s arms wrap tightly around Locke’s neck. He could feel every sensation the velvet like caress of her cheek against his, her curves pressing into his chest, the softness of her dress between his fingers.

“Oh Locke. If only you didn’t let me die.”

“What?” Locke leans back, looking down at Zell. Her head lolls back, with lifeless eyes staring back at him, and a mouth gaping wide in terror.

Locke holds her still form, blood spilling from unseen wounds, his panic swelling inside him. Then without her lips moving, with a mouth frozen open in agony, Locke hears her voice, it’s just a whisper. Leaning closer he’s able to make out her words, “You let me die.” The volume of her voice waivers, so Locke moves even closer, trembling as his fingers run against her slick and blood soaked dress, “now you can come with me.” Her head snaps, jagged teeth protrude from her mouth, then she pulls Locke in quickly clamping down his throat. Locke tries to scream, but he finds soon he can’t even breathe, tighter it squeezes, his air dwindling. Locke puts up his arms but his attempt to push her away is feeble at best, his body weakly fighting her attack. His throat sealing shut with each painful second that her sharp teeth puncture their way into his jugular.

Virrus shutters, as Locke screams himself awake. “Are ye done now? Shouting in yer sleep, right before we set off ta war. Yer no good with yer timing.” Locke runs his hands down his face, the sand of sleep rolling free from the inside corners of his eyes.

“Virrus,” Locke turns his head and scans a nearby plate of food, pulling an apple off. Sitting up he rubs his thumb over the surface and loses himself in the its red reflection. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Aye, don’t we all lad. I don’t think any a man goes inta war with a good feeling. I’d swallow it down and get ready ta do whatever it takes ta clear the city, cause anything less might getcha killed.” Virrus takes his bag and slings it over his shoulder, tying its strap to his jacket, then grabs his staff and walks to the mouth of the tent. “You best eat, store some food in your gut. Good chance it may be the last thing ya ever eat.” Virrus turns his head till he can look Locke in the eye, “it might be the only thing that you eat till it’s all over.” With that he exits the tent, and leaves Locke, who wastes no time in feeding his hunger.

Drill is outside the hut, a pair of gold and silver bracer’s and shinguard’s bound to him with symbols and marks on them. He adjusts the band of black material hanging over his right eye, “Hey Virrus, they had only a little armor that isn’t made of wood. I grabbed these, but no one can tell me what magic is on them.” Virrus took his arm, scanning over the runes and engravings, a smile slowly stretching out.

Before he can speak a warrior steps up and slams his wooden staff into the ground at their feet. “It is time, we leave for war stone walkers. Come now, you three will take the lead.” Hearing the commotion Locke fumbles his way out, tossing his coat on with a pear clenched between his teeth. The warrior sneers at Locke, “Try not to die too quickly.” Then the soldier storms off to join the others.

Locke takes a bite and catches the pear as it falls from his mouth, chewing loudly. “He means me doesn’t he, he’s telling me to not die too quickly isn’t he.” Drill grabs Locke by the shoulder in a reassuring manner.

“I’ve taken the time to grab you this belt from their armory, it looks magical—well good luck.” Drill turns and marches towards the assembly of soldiers. Locke stares at the belt and then raises an eyebrow.

“You know, armor from an armory sounds like a better bet,” Locke mumbles to Virrus who eyes the belt.

“It seems that lad now has an eye fer magic.” Virrus lays a hand on Locke’s shoulder, “yer best bet is to put the belt on, it might save yer life.” Virrus walks past Locke, Locke takes another look at the metal belt and then puts it on, following Virrus to the crowd.

Near a warped tree, that seems to twist in on itself, the shaman runs his hands over it, whispering and chanting, the gathering chants one sound over and over again. The wood creaks, its twisting branches bending together, the center of the trunk bowling inward and turning into a dark mass. The shaman shakes, trembling as a light peaks from the center of the darkness, and then the chanting comes to a stop. “It is time,” the shaman speaks and all the Forest Tribe leans in, embracing his words. “Rynarr,” on hearing his name he takes a step forward, “You! You are chosen by him to be the wielder.”

“With great honor,” Rynarr states, while bowing and taking the broken sword, it’s blade broken in half. He loosens the sheathed sword at his side, with a loud thud the giant wooden blade that was nearly the size of Locke fell to the dirt.

Locke was scanning the crowd, for anyone as confused as he was feeling right then. “Um, Virrus? Why is he leaving the big sword and taking the broken one? It’s not even made of wood like all their other ones.”

“Nevermind. Ya no idea how powerful that piece of mangled metal is, I know men who’d kill an entire nation ta hold that relic he’s got right now.” Locke leans towards Virrus to ask another question but Virrus lifts a hand, leaving Locke to sigh in contempt.

Rynarr hoists the relic into the air, the Forest Tribe cheers and he shouts over them all, “Now the portal holds open! Let the stone walkers pass through and lead this army to victory!” Locke takes a big gulp and follows Drill and Virrus to the tree. Without hesitation Drill walks through. Virrus turns his head and nods to Locke, nervously Locke nods back. Virrus passes through the center of the tree and vanishes. Locke takes a deep breath, then checks the army behind him, their bright eyes all burning into him, then turns back and takes a step in. His body feels the tug, his insides lurch forward as he falls towards the center of the tree, slipping towards the portal back home.

End of Part VI

(As a reminder, I’ll be posting every 2-3 weeks from now on.  Again, thank you all for reading, I appreciate every person who takes time to read my stories.  Much love and keep coming back for the next installment or brand new short story.)

Rise of Wolsgret: Part VI

Apologies

I’ve been very distracted lately, I’m aware there are those who do read my posts and I’m grateful for all of you who’ve been following my stories.  I think I’ve hit a bit of a funk, and soon I’ll be distracted with a full time job.  So I’m proposing a new schedule.

I’ll be posting every 2-3 weeks a new post or continuing story post.  I barely have enough to post this week, so I’ll see you all next week with a new post.

Hope you’re all enjoying your holidays and don’t forget about me, they’ll be something new very soon.

Rise of Wolsgret: Part V

Part V

Locke could hear Virrus growling in anger, then marching off into the woods. Something had stirred Virrus into a frenzy, Locke wasn’t sure what it was, but judging by the look on the Shaman’s face it seems like good news.

Drill takes his arm and wraps it around Locke’s throat. Locke stumbles back, throwing his arms up as Drill drags him away. The soldiers of the Forest Tribe start lining themselves up. The men and women standing firm, each coated in a wood armor that seems to cling to their bodies, a net of enchanted leaves flowing underneath, tightly knit like a mesh of steel beneath a knights breastplate. Locke could see a strength in their eyes, an unyielding determination to stand tall. All of their amber eyes fell on a lone soldier.

This soldier’s wearing a heavier set of wood armor that’s darker then the rest, the wood has wild knots and small stems of budding green life, as if the wood was still a tree in soil. A rich green moss grew on his backside, the enchanted mesh of leaves beneath, is almost invisible since the armor nearly swallows every inch of the soldiers massive form. His helmet mimics the point where a trunk stretches to the crown of the tree. The wood seems alive, twisting over his face and branching out into sharp points behind his head.

Drill comes to a stop, standing at the side of the gathering, his arm still around Locke’s neck. Locke twists around, till he finally finds himself in a comfortable position to watch. The soldier’s in the crowd begin to call a name, then it turns into a chant. “Rynarr!” they shout in unison, raising their swords or bows with each boisterous call to their leader. Rynarr comes to a stop, the voices of the multitude fall into silence.

“Our people,” the crowd begins speaking with Rynarr, echoing his voice, “the shadow beneath the bending trees, the wind cutting through the leaves, soldiers who never forget, the wisdom that is Wolsgret.” Locke’s eyebrow comes up, the chant and rhythm, it’s like a spell he would cast, perhaps it is a spell. The soldiers, following the lead of Rynarr, lay an open hand over their hearts, fingers spread like the branches of a tree. When they let their hands fall, Rynarr begins to pace again. “It is true that this is not our fight! That we owe the stone walkers nothing—but, these stone walkers have fallen to stray wolves, to the perversion of our mighty Wolsgrets power! These wolves have come and slaughtered their people, using the magic of the very things we work so hard to protect and honor to fuel their bloodlust and hatred. We are the people of Wolsgret!” A cheer fills the air, “we create a legacy for the Beast of Wood and Nature!” another cheer shakes the ground, “so we will help the stone walkers.” Locke lets loose a cheer only to find himself alone, every soldier along with Rynarr kept their bright brownish eyes on him. Drill takes his arm back from Locke’s shoulders and clears his throat, taking a step to the away. Locke finds his voice and cuts the awkwardness, “Sorry.”

All of their head’s turn back to Rynarr who allows his gaze to linger on poor Locke for a few more moments. “We leave at sun rise, rest and ready your mind and swords.” The soldiers salute once more with an open hand across their hearts and then disperse. Rynarr walks over to Locke and pulls his helmet free. “You,” Locke lifts a finger and points it to himself, “you are a wordsmith, correct?”

“Yes, I know magic.” Locke looks over Rynarr’s face, a burn scar runs over his neck and up to the side of his head, his remaining hair falling wildly over the unscathed side of his head.

“I wouldn’t turn my back to any of my soldiers, you might not like the outcome—or survive it.” Locke kept his jaw set firmly, nodding his understanding, “I’m sure you understand, especially since you travel with Virrus. I still owe that one.”

Locke stares at his clean skin and bright eyes, and then he looks over the burns, “He did that to you?” Rynarr scowls, pulling his helmet on.

“Do not think you’ll get the chance stone walker, watch your back.” Locke tries to say something, to explain that he wishes them no harm, but Rynarr slips away marching loudly through the fallen leaves. Drill lays a sympathetic hand on Locke’s shoulder.

“Man, do they hate you.” Drill nods along with his statement, all the while Locke nervously looks about. “Get some sleep, we’re all going to need it for tomorrow.” With that Drill pats Locke’s shoulder one last time and walks off to his hut. A bird whistles and Locke spins around with his hands up defensively, only to find empty trees and nothing but the greens of the wild.

“I don’t think I’ll be sleeping tonight.”

 

The night feels unending to Locke, Virrus sits in his hut with a small lantern that seems to spill an unnatural amount of soft blue light. Virrus claims that the lantern can calm those willing, Locke who has been laying in bed with his eyes wide open, turning and staring at every shadow doubts its magical ability. “Virrus,” Locke looks to the roll of sheets that lay at the other end of the hut, “Virrus!”

“To all the hells, what can ya possible want lad?” Locke swallows, aware of the one question that has been swirling through his thoughts.

“Why—no, how could you do it? Burn all those people,” the sheets over Virrus sit still and Locke waits for anything. Finally, when he thinks that Virrus has fallen back asleep, he hears him speak.

“Ya don’t know who I was, the darkness that ah once felt flowing through every inch of me soul. Trained to attack with not a fraction ah mercy, especially if their not royalty or the law. After you’ve smelled ah few burning corpses, they all start to smell the same, they all burn the same. I’ve gone and murdered and slaughtered hundreds upon hundreds of innocent souls and then the king puts his hand on me head and blesses me for fighting on behalf of the righteous. The man has the nerve ta say I’m a hero for killing, so his hands can stay clean.” There was something in Virrus’s voice, it felt like all the life and spirit that Locke had witnessed up to now was draining with each word, “I never knew that darkness till it covered all those bright things I loved in me life, till it hung over every window of my heart. Till ah saw that I was all alone, and the only thing left of me soul—the only proof it ever existed, is ah handful of gold and me final spell ta cast.”

“I…” Locke was fumbling with his thoughts, trying to find the right words to lift Virrus free of the emptiness he seemed to be creeping towards. Virrus doesn’t allow him to speak.

“Aye, you’re right, it’s late an we need ta rest. Good night Locke, tomorrow is going ta be a big day for all of us.” Locke’s heart sinks, the silence filling the air between them, till finally his eyes shut and his busy mind lets him fall away. Escaping into the comfort of another world, one last sweet dream before the war.

 

End of Part V

Rise of Wolsgret: Part IV

Part IV

 

It was as if the tumblers to the mental locks in his mind were finally falling free. Locke sat there outside a small hut, his mind spilling reason into the once carefree corners of his consciousness. How small minded has he been, his attention for all of those years has been on becoming a great wordsmith, to be as powerful as his father. Now that the threat of losing his soul was present he abandoned the thing that kept him proud for so many years. But it took this moment, sitting outside of the shaman’s home, feeling completely helpless to pull himself from his selfish thoughts. His friend Drill is inside the small structure, screaming, fighting one of the demons of Malahaak as cleansing herbs and smoke billow from the top of it, it is now that Locke feels himself waking up to his mindless existence.

Locke feels the sun pressing higher up, his body is aching for rest, but Locke refuses to move, awaiting word on his only friend. Virrus emerges from a small tent, springing to his feet with a renewed vigor. Stretching he let out a long yawn, casually looking over the Forest Tribe women as they began weaving the long leaves from the trees nearby into shields for the possible upcoming battle. “Ya never think somethin as simple as leaves could stop an arrow, that is till ya take a shot at one of em.”

Locke who was nearly frozen since the arrival of the shaman and the cleansing ritual, takes a breath and twists his head to look at Virrus. “Why do they hate you?”

“Aye, I see yer going straight to the point, ah won’t hold ya back then. Long time ago there was ah kidnapping, now the man who was taken was no saint, but his father was a very rich man. I’ve changed ah whole lot since those days, but back then I’d burn a city down fer the right price.” Locke unknowingly wore his shock all over his face, Virrus couldn’t keep his eyes on him when he saw his expression. “Ya know I’m no longer that man, ah left the death and the anger and greed far in me shadows, deep in me past. When I lost me magic I found myself with ah lot of time to see me inner demons.”

A sudden scream brought Locke into a tense position and Virrus to straighten up, those nearby who were guarding the area readied their bows, eyes towards the hut. The flap of dear hide that was acting as a door began to rustle, small bits of smoke wafting out from the gaps. Then there was an old man, his hands shaking as he pulls himself out, his body’s coated with mud and plants, old designs hidden within scars that cover nearly every inch of his face and neck. His eyes fall on Locke, his old body trembling as the fresh air clears his lungs. Locke stands up, grabbing the old man by his elbow. The shaman turns his head to Locke, but it was clear to the both Virrus and Locke that he could not see either one of them, his pupils still dilated from the spiritual journey, his mind still recovering from the burning herbs inside.

It took a few minutes before the shaman could speak, “Your friend is strong.” Locke looks to Virrus who nods his agreement, “I went into his head, but he was no longer there, his passenger had taken the reins.” Locke sat back down, his face twisting into rage as Virrus places a hand on Locke’s shoulder. “But,” Locke and Virrus turn back to the shaman, “like I said, your friend is strong. I traveled down the spiritual path, deep into the realm of the gods—the dark territory. I found your friend Drill standing at the gates to the afterlife, his hands locked with one of those named Malahaak, his fingers interlocked with the demon, fighting. Just a few minutes is like a day or two, I don’t know how long he has been there wrestling with the demon. Your friend is a strong one. I whispered a word, something Wolsgret has shown me the night before. It was a word of power, it took from the demon his strength and gave Drill the advantage to break the demon, to lift him and drive him into the ground. I showed him the way back, he dragged the demon with him.”

Locke was confused, “But why? Why bring the demon into his body again?”

A voice came from inside the hut, “Because now that I’ve got him under control, he owes me for the years he lived inside.” Drill came out, half his head bound by black cloth, a symbol drawn over the cloth covering his right eye. “He’ll help with the fight to come.”

Locke shot up, his arms opening and before he could contain himself, his hold was around his friend. “I didn’t know if you were coming back. I thought you were going to die.”

Drill laughed, “I can’t die yet, we have wolves to kill. Not to mention, we have friends to avenge.” Drill pats his friend Locke, who coughs on impact and lets go of his hug.

“Not going to lie, it’s weird hearing you say more than one word.”

“Really?” Locke stares at his friend waiting, Drill smiles and the two began laughing. Virrus moves to the shaman and clears his throat, drawing the old mans attention, waving him over. Drill and Locke continue to talk and Virrus whispers to the shaman.

“Ya say he’s alright but that ward is to seal ah demon. Why’s it on his head?”

The shaman grabs the back of Virrus’s neck and pulls him closer, “He has willingly taken a god into himself, no…he has beaten a god and now holds him hostage inside his flesh. The other pieces, those demons of Malahaak will search for their brethren. The eyes of the gods will be on the hunt, that seal is the only way to hide him,” the old man took a step back letting Virrus go, “now you travel with an imprisoned god, there will be no peaceful rest, you will never find safe haven.”

“What have ya done? Did ya weaken the demon so he’d drag him back?” Virrus felt his stomach twisting, “ya did, didn’t ya. Ya put some sorta wild thought in his head that he could control the demon.”

The side of the shaman’s mouth began to twist upward. “You, Virrus, you will get your army to take back the city for you stone dwellers. But the demon, I told him that if he ever got free, that he should speak to Wolsgret. Since he’s housing a demon his passenger will know you, he will remember your scent and your name,” Virrus felt the wolf inside him growling for freedom, hungry for a bite of the shaman. “If that demon slips loose, Wolsgret will find you, Malahaak will see to that. I’m sure Malahaak will trade a hundred souls to finally get his fangs into you. Do you think we forgot old friend? All those you killed for a rich man’s son, for a monster. The years we lived in shame that one greedy wordsmith nearly destroyed all of our people for his weight in gold. Well now your demons have come back and you’ll have to keep them in line, your friend has to stay alive and you have to make sure his passenger never breaks free, or your soul is as good as gone.”

 

End of Part IV

Paranoia

The day does end, a million moments made of nothing special. Just more wasted seconds given as an offering to those who never seem to give a care or gift. My life is traded for this house, that I approach tonight. My key is heavy, the lock is waiting, I hear a sound. To turn and witness not a thing, just bushes rustling to the breeze. I insert and twist, the locks then tumble free, I enter and close as the winds begin. The rattling glass fills the room, scratching branches, thoughts consumed. Just an eerie night, there have been others. My anxiety should not exist.

I hang my coat and hat, and lean my cane, my shoes positioned just below an old and faded picture frame. I move from room to room, a hunger grows, then to the kitchen. Switch a light. My stomach rumbles, hunger present. I grab a slab of meat to eat, to cut a tender portion for my waiting teeth to gnash and satisfy my wanting needs. I lay it out and smile, fingers reaching to the block, pointless grasp to empty air, the knife handle not in its spot. I look and find my largest knife is gone. Then a creaking, of old wood. A house breathing empty lungs, a fading sound just like a step.

Hello? Into an empty and silent home, my words trail off. I store the food, looking back twice, a cup of milk to ease this mounting fright. There’s nothing there, the doors are locked, windows closed as tight as knots. And yet, I seem to worry more and more—the wind outside is now a storm. The casual crash of thunder, lightning’s light. The house exposed from night, with every shattering blast of sound and life. I drink and stare, into my home, draining the glass as I go. The cup is empty, just like before, the worry pointless no need for more.

I place the glass and march up stairs. My waiting bed is warm with hope, to pass this night and start anew. Then the storm, it grows, a tempest flares. My lights give way, I look to shadowed walls that seem to stretch for days, they fade and run, while I pause and wait. The light will return, it always does, I chuckle at my dreary thoughts.

Feet patting quickly across wooden floors, they pass me, something bumps into my side, I stumble slightly call, who’s there? The sudden frightening burst of light, a glimmering object in the night does give me pause and cause to stare. I said who’s there? But not a sound as the lights return, I go to walk but freeze with chill, as my flesh trembles, under standing hairs.

The knife, it lays there next to stairs. It’s tip just wet with blood. No doubt it’s real, I run and fall, fingers clasping gripping tight. Who’s blood is this? What of the bump, I felt a sting. I hurry back onto my feet, and dash to the mirror near my bathroom sink. Put down the knife and lift my shirt, investigate, I find no scar or line or hurt. I drop my clothing, then stand still. Another crash of shattered nerves and sound, then looking down, no knife at all.

Then there, right there. Just slightly off to the side. When the shadows shift and the light does twists, everything around, like reality is nothing at all. Something moves subtly by. But they’re just shadows, nothing more and nothing less and shadows always move to light. What was that? A silhouette, a figure just off to the side, where I cannot see. Hiding in the dark. In the bathroom behind the frosted glass, just a moment, caught somewhere between the flickers of a dying bulb. A shape a form, so foreign and disturbing, my eyes do check twice. Yet there’s nothing there. Perhaps it’s nothing. But what if? What if it’s there, that thing I look for? What if the shadows do pause, and the silhouette turns? What if the darkness isn’t just darkness? A step outside the room, a finger waiting on the switch, the shadows stretching as my finger does persist. And then a sound, a screeching just so softly, waiting not so far away. Perhaps the greedy talons of a hungry soulless thing, searching for a taste of flesh and fear. My finger lingers. Should it drop?

How silly I must seem, a foot in and out, a door halfway closed. Yet here I am, watching shadows pull and twist, hearing noises from what I can only claim is the darkness of thee abyss. My foot slides out, my finger falls, my hand does slam the portal shut, as these waiting, wanting, hungry shadows fall. But whatever hid inside the dark is now behind this wooden door, no need to worry any more…but what if?

I retire to a room down stairs, escaping doubt and wonder. Running hand across my sweating brow. An open book to take my thoughts away. Yet the silence let’s me return to ponder on the events of tonight’s foray. What evils might I have stirred to life? My wandering eyes searching for more, a sound rumbling from beyond. My bathroom door just opens slightly and something whispers in the air. Do I know you? Shadowed figure that comes walking down my weathered stairs. What do you say to me this night? Can I find it in your stare. Have I offended? Did I call upon a devil through my actions, my journeys flight? The transgressions I must have gone and unearthed, through my slippery trials of life. A path so cluttered, covered with the shames of yesterday. A rage, a sorrow, this father of my collective sins, I see you softly stepping down my hall. An eager gait, yet no foot falls.

I curl into my hopes and dreams, hugging close to the lamps embrace. Foul shadow, memory of a life long gone, the ghost of mourning at nights fall. I rebuke you yet you stand, my lanterns light does falter, and a greedy step does land. An inch given, and an inch lost. My soul does shiver as your figure comes, to claim a worthy trade or tender for the rivers run. Back! I cry, a shrill scream or shout into this unknown maw of darkness.

Why do you press? With these silent stares that sever at my will. Exhale, your winter chilling breath, that carries the rot of death. Your approach does slow my blood inside. The coldness filling fingers numb, the dimming brightness. What does this phantasm care for, or want?

It breathes into my eyes my face. Inhale, the very taste of sickness and disgrace, outstretching arms, my body squirms. It’s reaching past, the boundaries fall, a gnarled and twisted finger crawls, from never-ending shadowy arms. They pierce my protective walls of light, these superstitious charms that I’ve placed all faith and hope within, to save my life.

Teeth grit, eyes tightly bound by will and fear, to escape the devil that comes near. Am I safe? Another bolt does fall, the room once silent fills with a fading cymbals call, and ring into my ears. Then a chime, my grandfather’s clock as midnight strikes. I’m waiting, will I live or die, for this evil that does come and pry into my home and heart, with this gaze that I can feel, even with my eyelids pressed like steel. I know the truth, it does stand near—it must be real.

Rise of Wolsgret: Part III

Part III

 

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