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Neverdie, Ch. 7

Jon Wood Posted:
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Editor's Introduction: Every other Sunday, we're publishing "Neverdie", a serialized fantasy novel. This is an original work of fantasy fiction and is not set in an MMORPG world. Today, we bring you chapter six. If you're just getting started, you can go back and catch up:

"Neverdie" (Chapter 7), an original fantasy story by Jon Wood

It was Rowan who woke first, not sure what had startled her out of a fitful slumber. She had been dreaming, she knew that much, but her still-fuzzy mind was unable to bring up the images that she had seen. Giving up on trying to find the un-remembered dream, she turned her attentions outward, to her surroundings. The forest in which she slept was still cloaked in darkness, but her keen even eyesight told her that dawn was not but a few hours off. The same eyesight was able to spot her recent companion, laying a few feet away. She could see his rhythmic breathing through his bedroll. Sighing lightly, she resigned herself to wakefulness and instead lay watching the valiant Knight of Rah as he slept. Wondering how she had come to be in this place, at this time. It all still seemed so unreal to her. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked furiously. “Hunters,” she thought, “Humans make use of dogs to hunt their prey.”

“What’s the problem?” Talis asked, startled from a sleep of his own by the insistent barking of his friend. Generally, Raab was kind enough not to disturb what little sleep the half-elven Druid seemed to need. Calling out to his friend once more, whom he could not see, but could hear clearly in the trees ahead, he stood to investigate, making his way, in the dark, through the dense forest, following only the sound of his friend’s voice. By the time he caught up to Raab, his face and hands were covered in tiny scratches and his knee had been bruised when he misjudged the height of one of the many roots that protruded from the ground in this area.

“Well?” He asked the dog, who was sitting, quietly staring off into the darkness. Raab turned his head to face his companion and inclined it ever-so-slightly. Talis did not miss the fact that while the dog’s eyes were on him, his ears remained firmly cocked in the direction that he had been staring. The look was not a look of recognition, Talis realized as Raab inclined his head ever-so-slightly to the side, it was a warning. There was something in the trees ahead. Something that had spooked his friend, and now was beginning to spook him as well.

When the dog’s barking finally subsided, Rowan smiled broadly. Her knight-in-shining-armor, both figuratively and literally, had not stirred at the noise. This was the first time that she had given genuine thought to how difficult it must have been for the Knight to find her. He was exhausted, and would probably sleep until well after the sun’s rise over the horizon.

With that thought in mind, Rowan decided that there was no reason not to begin her day and go about the general chores of a campsite. First, she unpacked what few supplies she had left. Enough food for the both, surely, and she had to assume that Ash had provisioned himself for the trip as well. It wasn’t until she thought about this, and began to search for the Knight’s pack which had been tied to his horse’s saddle, that she noticed something glaringly missing from their collective inventories… The horse. She quickly located the remnants of the rope that had been used to secure the beast to a nearby tree. The end was badly frayed, telling the knowledgeable woman that the rope had not been cut, as she had at first feared, but rather that it had been broken. Most likely, something had spooked the horse in the night and it had broken free and run off. Her experience with Greengem’s horses had shown her that the beasts rarely ran far when they were spooked. Generally just far enough to cause their handler an inconvenience that Rowan secretly believed was meant as a punishment.

She briefly considered waiting until the light of dawn to search after the beast, but she couldn’t shake that thought that the horse, while probably no longer spooked and running, would likely begin to casually roam the area and be even more difficult to locate. “No,” she thought, “better to go now than to spend my day tracking down an errant horse.”

Cautiously, Talis crouched down beside Raab, close enough that he could smell the animal’s fur. He tried as hard as he could to find the dog’s line of sight so that he might learn more about what was happening here. This was one of the rare occasions that Talis wished that Raab could communicate vocally. Generally, the two had little problem in understanding one another. Interpreting body language, however, no matter how subtle, could not replace the exact information that could be conveyed through words. At this moment, the Druid would give almost anything to have a clear and concise answer to a very simple question. “What are you looking at?”

Moments later, he got what he thought was an answer as his eyes began to adjust to the darkness, he could make out the outline of a creature, leisurely grazing at the ground. A deer, maybe, but it was too large and muscled to be one of the graceful creatures that would have provided the simplest explanation for what he was seeing. Not only that, but he doubted very much that his friend would have been so insistent in his barking had that been the whole story. Thinking for a moment longer, he placed the beast as the horse that the Knight had led into their campsite. It must have broken away in the night. Signing, he resigned himself to returning the horse to the pair, and introducing himself, when the matter was taken out of his hands.

“So that’s where you’ve run off to.” Rowan scolded in a near whisper tone. The animal’s ears pricked at the sound of her voice, but it continued to graze, unconcerned that its escape had been cut short by the re-arrival of this elf-woman. Relieved that her search had been so quick and easy, she set about collecting the Ash’s belongings, which had been strewn about when the pack had caught on a branch and ripped. Rowan was astounded that the Knights of Rah, the most vaunted and revered order in all of Terria, would allow their Knights to carry such shoddy equipment.

That was when it happened. While she was bent double to retrieve the last item from the ground, a flint box. She heard the brief rustle of the foliage around her, and then a panicked whine from the horse that was cut tragically short as a spray of warm liquid covered the young elven woman. Recovering from the shock, she looked up into the glassy and passionless eyes of a creature spawned in the depths of the Hells. In the brief moment that she had to consider her situation as the grasshopper-like creature raised one of its razor sharp talons for a fatal strike, she identified the nature of the creature. It was a docile thing, perverted by evil. It was then that she mentally prepared herself for death.

Talis was taken aback at how quickly the peaceful scene before him had become something out of nightmares. The creature had burst into the tiny clearing as if from nowhere, brandishing its vicious limbs. It killed the hapless horse before Talis had even the vaguest chance to react. A moment’s more hesitation, and the elf-woman would be dead as well. On instinct, the Druid called forth the power of the very plants and trees of the forest to come to the girl’s aid. It was a magical ability that he rarely used. He preferred to leave nature as it was rather than manipulating it, but in an emergency, he knew that the land that he loved so much would come to his aid. Quickly, he dashed to the edge of the clearing, followed by the bending branches of the trees around him that quickly wrapped themselves around the arm that the creature had been about to bring down upon the woman.

Finding its taloned arm trapped, the creature spotted the Druid and lased out with one of its hind legs. While he managed to avoid the dangerous spikes on the creature’s leg, he was hit full-force by its foot, sending the man flying into a nearby tree, and then everything went black…

Prepared for death, Rowan almost didn’t react when the creature faltered in its task. She was only dimly aware of the forest’s sudden and unexpected aid. It wasn’t until the beast freed itself from its bonds that she straightened and took up a defensive posture. The two adversaries studied each other for the briefest of moments before both reacted at once. The creature used its powerful legs and leapt suddenly into the air, intending to use its momentum to finish the job that it had begun before being interrupted by the half-elf and its magic. At the same moment, Rowan reached once more inside of herself, replenished from her encounter with the humans by a night’s sleep, and pointed her hands toward the beast. A line of white-hot fire erupted from her fingertips and struck the beast fully in its massive chest.

She had expected the creature to die, but what happened next took her completely off-guard as the once-powerful creature exploded with a force that knocked her to the ground. Unprepared, she couldn’t cushion her fall. There was a sickening thud as her head bounced off of a jutting root and her world was plunged once again into nothingness.

...and two heroes fall, their time not done,
for a war not over, this battle won,
Terria falls under darkness cloud,
And five of six stand tall and proud,
And Then of the sixth, For his time will come?
A Family broken, A kinship Undone,
All over the world, people suffer and die
Watching in pain as their world goes dry,
The gods from above help nobody now,
their hands are tied, only mortals know how.
So six be united under Terria’s sky,
so burns the flame of NeverDie.

-From the personal Diary of Arsin, Sage to Terria.

You can commet on this chapter here.


Jon Wood