Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Glass and Roses, Chapter 7

The moon was waning, only a thin strip of light in the night sky. The stars dodged in and out of the clouds. The crickets and owls that usually filled the forest with noise at night were silent. Dror slashed his dagger to clear a path out of the branches and vines in the underbrush. They moved slowly through the darkness, wary of using light lest they be spotted by something.

Dror heard movement in the bushes to his right, or it might have just been the wind picking up a few leaves. Do demons stalk their prey? he wondered. Then he remembered what Valdimer had told him. Demons are entities of chaos. Each one is different. It bothered him that he couldn't learn something about the creatures they were fighting to use in the next fight.

He stopped suddenly when he saw a figure standing on a boulder in front of him. He dropped into a fighting stance, but realized it was a birdfolk woman wearing furs and pieces of wood for camouflage. Her gray feathers blended in with the murky sky.

“Who goes here?” she commanded.

Dror scanned her up and down. She looked like she hadn't been in a city in several years, and hadn't had a bath in as many months. She was probably some self-proclaimed protector of the forest. He had heard about people who take it upon themselves to patrol natural areas and prevent settlers from moving in. As if the wild monsters couldn't do that themselves.

“We're hunting demons,” Dror answered before Berit or Valdimer could speak. “We mean you no harm, so just let us pass.”

The birdfolk regarded him with a sideways stare. She then stepped down from the rock. “You are heading in the wrong direction, then,” she said. “The demons are heading east.”

“Demons? Traveling in a pack?” Valdimer said. “You mean they've formed a horde?”

“I only know that they corrupt this forest,” the birdfolk said, “and they must be stopped. If you are here to destroy them, I shall join you, as it is not something I can achieve on my own.” She extended a hand, which looked more like a talon, and her feathers on that arm fanned out from her side. “I am Catarina, Warden of the Seltsamwald.” Dror held out his own hand and shook it. At least she knew civilized customs. “Tell me,” Catarina continued, “how did you know to find demons here? They only recently arrived.”

“This was the site of a battle between demons and the legendary hunter, Folami,” Valdimer said. “We thought to come here to see if we could find the spot where the battle took place and learn something from it. We did not expect to actually find demons congregating here.”

“Less of a congregation, more of a swarm,” Catarina said. “And they are on the move, corrupting the forest wherever they go. Come, I will lead the way.”

Valdimer and Berit exchanged a glance. Berit shrugged and started to follow. Zhihao quietly proceeded. Valdimer and Dror took the back and kept an eye out for any stragglers.

Catarina pointed out what they had missed on their way into the forest. Animals were killed from some mysterious illness, or else had fled. Trees had died in full bloom, their leaves already starting to wither and fall. The ground beneath their feet was coarse and dry. All from the demons simply passing through, according to the warden.

It wasn't long before they heard the growls and snarls of a demon that had split off from the horde. It was wrestling with a bear that it had found hiding in its cave. The bear didn't stand a chance as the demon tore into it with vicious claws. Zhihao stepped forward, holding the medallion of Folami out towards the demon.

“Obey!” she commanded, and the demon stopped its rampage, staring up at her. She told it to walk away from them, and it did. She told it to move a little closer, and it did. She told it to run around in a circle and do a little dance, and Valdimer shoved her shoulder and told her to quit playing around. But the demon did obey.

Catarina shook her head, the edges of her mouth tilted into a frown. “I don't know where you got that artifact, but it isn't stopping the beast's corrupting nature. Look.” She pointed at the carcass of the bear, which was already starting to rot and fall apart. “It must be destroyed,” she said.

“Go ahead,” Dror said. “I think it might be nice to have a demon we can control in case we run into any others, but kill it if you must.”

“And what would happen if your robed friend here were attacked?” Catarina said. “Would she be able to keep her concentration to control the demon? More likely it would add one more number to the horde's strength. We must stop that from happening now while we have the chance. Keep it still.” She walked calmly towards the bear's cave where the demon was crouched. It bared its teeth at her, but remained still as long as Zhihao held the medallion. Catarina raised her axe, which looked like it was mostly used for chopping wood, and in a moment the demon was as dead as the bear.

They followed the trail of death that the demons had left in their wake. Berit was able to climb a tree and spot movement of a large group to the east, not far from their current position. It seemed as if the demons were heading somewhere, which according to Valdimer's research, did not normally happen. Demons usually would scatter in random directions to cause chaos everywhere. Everyone was thinking the same thing, and it worried them all equally. Something must be summoning the demons.

Suddenly, there was an inhuman scream. A small shape leapt out of the trees and onto Dror's back. Zhihao held out the medallion and commanded it to stop long enough for Dror to shake it off and slice it in half on the ground. It had barely died when a dozen more demons, large and small, were upon them. Zhihao raised the medallion and shouted, “STOP!” She discovered to her dismay that she could only command one demon at a time. Berit swung her daggers to fend off attacks, and Valdimer cast shields around her and Zhihao. Catarina blocked attacks with her hide shield, retaliating with her axe. Another demon jumped on Dror, and the world went black.

<< Chapter 6, Thoughts
Chapter 8, Purchase >>

No comments:

Post a Comment