Wednesday, September 21

Chapter 3

Abbey Fields, where the low flowing hills seemed to roll on forever in some areas; while others were flat, and fertile with wildflowers, beaming with rich colors and scents. It looked as if though, they were reaching out for the sun's warm embrace. 

It's actually the first time Blazerine has seen such a large amount of land, left untouched by man. It was odd, seeing the world the way it once was before mankind damaged the ecosystem.

Leon decided this location would be the best place, to let the horses recuperate for a while, having secured their reigns to the only trees, they've seen for quite some time; in miles. 

Sitting beneath a tree, Blazerine surprisingly discovers that the tall lush grass is wispy to the touch. Nobody else here gave any thought to their new surroundings. She figured it's because they've already been accustomed to this world, unlike her. 

Leaning back against a tree too, Leon casually turned the page of his book; it's a handwritten manuscript of his church's teachings. 

Fenix kept himself occupied by slicing off pieces of an apple with his dagger. Right afterward, he popped the piece into his mouth and chomped down harshly. Juices squirted out from in-between the bottom row of his teeth.

Blazerine thought he would have been calmer eater, considering an apple isn't hard to chew, not at all. Although it's still hard her to ignore the loud smacking of his tongue. The guy was annoyingly chewing with his mouth, hanging wide open, for all to see. Grossed out, she barely could watch any longer. The pieces of apple were
 becoming a grotesque mush of apple sauce, combined with his slobber. “Seriously, Spencer, do you have to do that!?” She yelled suddenly.

Fenix leaned in closer and spat pieces of apple all over her face when he says, "You barking an order? Don't make me laugh.  The action wasn't done intentionally, but he still didn’t care regardless.

Immediately, Blazerine wipes her face off with the sleeve of her trench coat. "Do you realize how DISGUSTING this is!?" She yelled even louder than before, " Not only you don't eat properly, but you also have no manners whatsoever. Prisoner, guardian, whatever I am to you people, I still have the same needs as you. So you could at least try respecting me, just a little bit!" 

Fenix surprised her, by throwing an apple on her injured shoulder. "Why!?" She tearfully cried, "Why did you have to hit me THERE, of all places! You're really asking for it, aren't you!?" 

In the background, Leon recited; “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For a man was formed first, then female. And the man was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." 

Fenix stood tall now, overshadowing Blazerine's height, “You hear that, you half-pint woman?” 

Blazerine couldn't give a shit less if he’s much larger than she was. “All, I keep hearing, is that you're sexist and he’s a religionist fanatic. What else is there to know?”

“The proper punishment for those words would be death by stoning. And since Leo, needs you alive, I’ll have to settle for something, like this-“Gripping the hilt of his dagger tightly, Fenix 
aggressively pretended to throw his dagger straight at Blazerine's face. 

But what did she care? She wasn't fazed in the least bit, by his pathetic scare tactic. All, it did, was leave Fenix wondering if she's too trusting or just plain foolish. 

Leon knew if he didn't intervene sooner than later, Fenix might get too carried away, and might accidentally hurt her, due to his impulsive behavior. 

He shook his head, before setting his manuscript down beside an apple core, and said, "I hope you realize Fenix could have easily killed you. It’s not wise to get involved in a fight, without knowing the basics to guarantee your survival in battle. 

Yeldir's cloak might be useful from time to time, but it may not always be enough. There could be situations where you’ll have no other choice, but to engage in combat. If given the opportunity, I will teach you.”

Blazerine thought he's insane. How could she manage doing anything in general, without the use of her dominant hand? "Oh, you're giving me a choice now?" She asked him.

"Nope." Leon declared while approaching closer. And there in his hands, was Headmaster Jared's blade, unsheathed. As soon as he handed it over to her, she immediately swayed to one side. 

"Okay, this is really heavy...!" Blazerine couldn't help but whine. 

“You must learn how to properly grip your weapon.” Leon moved behind Blazerine and reached around to help reposition her hand properly upon the hilt. 

"Is this really necessary?" Blazerine complained again, having one of those feelings, where none of this is going to end well. Since it's too difficult for her to maintain her posture, not only because its too heavy, but she's also not even left handed.  

Fenix chuckled,“ You're wasting your time Leo.” Boredly he twirled his dagger around his fingers as he watched. 

Leon guided her hand by flicking her wrist, in order to engage a starting point of her swing. “Most of your attacks will consist of slashing." He said, "But none of this!"

 He demonstrated by delivering a short blow in a downward clinch. “Never chop, unless you have an ax." He continued to lecture her, "You want to swing like this.” 

He right angled the sword horizontally; parallel with the ground. “Vertical slashes are also fine to perform, just make sure you don't overextend yourself.”After a couple of swings, Blazerine tried practicing on her own. 

It was the very first time Leon was seeing somebody trying to give it their all, even when the odds are against them. Unlike her, he never had to strive for anything. Not once has he ever fallen short of his life; when it comes to accomplishing any tasks, placed before him. But yet somehow, he still longs for a chance to experience a difficult challenge. 

Out of nowhere, he found himself facing his headmaster's blade; head on. It flew straight for him, but he ducked in time to avoid a beheading. He couldn't help but wonder if it was all a fluke or an unlucky mishap on her behalf. 

"Wow..." Blazerine nervously laughed, "Yeah my bad...." 

Leon looked back, after hearing the frightful naying of their horses. Thankfully none of them had been hurt, but now they were running amuck. The blade had pierced directly through the slack of the horses bridles. He ended up sticking the very tip of his thumb and index fingers securely in his mouth then blew. The horses responded to his whistle and were beginning to return as they've been trained to. 


Things weren't going as well as Blazerine was expecting today, or at least hoped for. Sure she and Fenix gotten off to a bad start, but now it looked like she tried to kill off their only transportation. Fenix too thought that was her real intentions, although it honestly was an accident. She claimed she didn't want to fight him, but Fenix felt otherwise. He was acting a tad provocative, but nothing that would legally permit her to attack him yet. 

"What happened to your spirit?" Fenix asked. Then he lifted her off the ground single-handedly, by the collar of her trench coat. 

"I'm not going to let you down until you admit that this incident was, in fact, done intentionally." He threatened. 

"What's the use?" Blazerine shrugged, knowing everything she has said from the start, has only been the sincere truth, but neither one them believed her. "Anything, I do, will come across as suspicious in your eyes; due to this whole bandit issue."  

Fenix felt aggravated more than ever now. Blazerine's lack of remorse is despicable to him. If she wasn't going to answer, he would make her by all means. Raising his hand, about to slap her,

Leon intervened, bellowing out, "Put her down at once!" 

Immediately Fenix released from his grip, causing Blazerine to drop helplessly to the ground.

“I never gave you permission to hit her, now did I?” Leon kept on yelling, "Don't ever, and I mean EVER lay a finger on her again!"

Blazerine frantically waved her hands in Fenix's defense, "It's okay, no harm done." She reassured. 

Leon didn't like being so harsh, but it's the only way he could keep somebody like Fenix in line. He only wanted to avoid any further violent altercations between the two. Then without a word, he wandered off to attend the horses. 

Blazerine sat there for a moment longer, listening Leon instruct the horses. Sighing, she buried her head in her hands, feeling trapped.

Fenix quietly watched, for whatever reason she stayed in the position he had left her. Was it because of guilt? Was it finally settling in?  He could help but wonder what's going in that little head of hers. 

Eventually, he spoken up to say, "I was only looking out for him." 
Momentarily she stared him point blank in the face but doesn't ever respond.  "What is wrong with you?" He finally asked, "You don't even fight back and you defended me, why?" 

Blazerine laughed a little, "Who knows... I'm just a crazy bandit." But for some reason her statement made Fenix smile. 

----

The air hung heavily over everything, bitter and oppressive. The sky was brown on the horizon, and the clouds were blood red. It was impossible to tell if there's a sunset or sunrise, or if the day is being reborn or dying again. 

Below their feet were the black waters of Gordrur Swamp. They were fowl and covered by some sort of stringy green algae.  Beneath the surface is a variety of dead animals or what remains of them. 

Why were there so many dead in one spot, Blazerine wondered. Perhaps they died; trying to sustain their thirst from this filth? 

Fenix looked on over at a little copse of skeletal trees, there they stood somber in silence, completely leafless. Then he continued on, moving through the water as if he has a germaphobia. 

Although he soon stopped again to take care of some leeches, which are attached to his arm. Using his dagger as tool, he breaks the seal of the oral sucker at the anterior end, while the blade pushed along the skin, against the leech. Once the suction is broken, the leech detached its jaws. Then he simply tossed it away, before continuing to repeat this process on the very next one.

Blazerine may have not had issues with leeches, but her problem was beginning to arise, along with the waters' height. And the further she went on, the deeper it had become, as did the fog. Unlike the others,; she's way shorter in comparison. 

The frustration she felt wouldn't have happened if Leon had let them ride through the swamp, instead of insisting them by foot. He claimed its too dangerous for the horses, for they wouldn't be able to see clearly through the thick fog. Their lanterns weren't doing much of a great job either. 


Leon looked back only to see Blazerine was falling behind, almost out of sight. He began to wonder if it was an attempt to run away from them. Not wanting to wait around, he handed his horses slack over to Fenix, saying, "Here take him." 

He took off without even getting a response from Fenix, let alone a reaction. Shuffling through the water, he eventually reached Blazerine; who immediately apologized on the spot. 

"You can't lose me that easily, now can you?" Leon asked her. 

“What? You thought I was – no-no, you've got me all wrong. I wasn't trying to run away!” Blazerine nervously laughed. All the while rubbing her forearm against one of her cheeks. Accidentally she smeared a handful of fungus on herself in the process, without realizing it. 

Rambling on, she explains, "It's just the water; it's high, I'm short...-uh." Her voice slowly begins to trail off, after Leon swiped a hand against her cheek to remove the fungus away. "That's-that's not necessary." 

She even tried leaning in the opposite direction to avoid his touch, but he kept cleaning her off, whether she liked it or not. 

“If the water is too deep, you could have asked for assistance.” Leon said. He scooped her up into his arms. Right there and then he laughed when Blazerine surprisingly gave a squeal. 
Panicking; she attempted to squirm her way out of his grasp.

"If you keep wiggling like that, I'll drop you.” He threatened her now, "I don't care if you're in a disagreement about me carrying you. I'm determine to get you across this swamp, one way or the other." 


Blazerine tried to speak up several times, but never got enough courage to go through with it. Why did Leon insist carrying her in this sort of fashion? What would be the harm of a simple piggyback ride? It was already too embarrassing for her to bare. The oddest thing of all is that Leon kept carrying her even when they were no longer in the water. 

Luckily for Blazerine the silence was broken by Fenix; who asked, "You're not forcing him to carry you, are yah?" 

Leon casually lowered Blazerine back to the solid ground and said, "Hmm... must of have slipped my mind." 

(Blazerine; Slipped his mind...? Who in the hell is he fooling?)

Fenix just happened to say, “Understandable.”

(Blazerine; Figures…)

Up Ahead; the tract of land was completely treeless and poorly drained of flooding. The only thing that could be seen was freshly made burrows. 

Fenix noticed something familiar about the texture of dirt. It's been dug out by a slender, elongated body without limbs. He knew small animals usually dig snug places for shelter, but these tunnels were way too big, even for a rabbit or a fox to inhabit. 

The horses sluggishly walked through saturated soil. Their tails swished often to dislodge the biting insects; most being mosquitoes.

Angrily Fenix smacked at his arms, and even his face, attempting to kill his tiny attackers. 

Blazerine did find the mosquitoes annoying, but Leon was by far, the most annoying thing she had ever encountered. Every single horse ride was literally a lecture about how she should be holding onto him, instead of the saddle. But she ignored him, thinking it's not a big deal, considering they weren't even moving that fast; only at a slow steady pace.

Suddenly a whinny neigh escaped the clanking teeth of Leon's horse. With nostrils flaring, he stood on his hind legs, allowing his front to raise sky high. Falling backward, Blazerine's hair flew forward, temporarily blinding her, right before she impacts the mud below. 

The landing was a lot softer than she expected it to be. Although she couldn't help but wonder, if it was just a coincidence or did he intentionally upset his horse on purpose, to teach her a lesson?

"Plint get ahold of yourself!" Leon desperately tries to regain control, "What's gotten into you?" He demands. 

There wasn't anything out of the ordinary from what he could tell; would make Plint behave in this manner.

Blazerine awkwardly struggled to plant both of her feet against the ground. An instance she felt something odd, almost like a vibration...  Looking downward, she pressed the upper right corner of her sunglasses to activate her LCD system. The lenses focused the scene’s visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction, of what the human eye would see, by eliminating materials away from the organic matter. Quickly it captured an outline of a body; similar to a worm. Highlighting the creature, the image spun in a circle briefly, before loading a catalog, providing the following information regarding the species.

Species: Bug

Sex: Male

Height estimate: 28'10"

Weight: 963.0 lbs.

Length estimate: Approximately 100 meters.

Lacking sight, it relies on its ability of sharper hearing. In a noisy environment, the nestling worm can focus in on specific things, like a person's voice or heartbeat, even if they are further underground. Spending most of their time lurking for nourishment with a very vengeful nature, it won't give up the chase, no matter how far, once it targets its prey. The body is capable of regeneration or possibly multiplying if in harm’s way, only leaving its head vulnerable.

"Seriously...? It can't identify locations on a map, but it can read this thing?" But Blazerine still wasn't really sure how she's going to relay this back to the others. "There’s – there’s a giant worm right below us…” 

Like a pendulum clock, Blazerine started to swing back and forth until a drastic shift overtakes her, making her helplessly fall into the mud once again. 

“That’s no ordinary worm; it’s a dangerous nestling worm!" Fenix blurted out, "Dispatch the horses immediately! They'll be our decoys. If the horses can lure it back towards the water, we'll have enough time to escape."

"What good would that do?" Leon questioned. 

"They can't tread in water or else they'll suffocate." Fenix explained, "It'll sit there stumped for hours; waiting for the horses to either leave the water or eventually die.” 

Fenix wasn't exactly amped to deal with one of these damn things again. In the previous battle from his past, several of his tribe-mates were single-handedly swallowed in one passing swoop.

Plint was more than a horse to Leon; he was a good companion, a friend. And he wasn't going to sit well with using him as temporarily bait. But abandoning him is completely out of the question. He reached down to unbuckle his saddle bags to lighten the load. He knew this would increase his chances to make it back to the water. 

Turning back the way which they had come, Leon tightly squeezed his lower calves against Plint sides, urging him to take off at full speed. In split seconds, he had already gained quite a distance between him and the others. 

Blazerine watched what only she could describe as a tidal wave of dirt, was trailing right behind him, followed by an enormous creature, plowing its head through the ground’s surface. And shockingly it devours everything whole in its path.  

"God damn it Leo!" Fenix hollered out of anger. He's pissed, knowing Leon was trying to save the one possession his father had left behind; his horse. It was one of those things Fenix couldn’t ever bring himself around to discuss with him. 

"Why do you insist holding onto a memory of a person who abandoned you!?" He continued to cry out, not caring if anybody can hear him or not. 


Redirecting his horse around; he knew Leo wouldn’t never be able to fight that worm all by himself. He too ditched his saddle bags, but for entirely a different reason, because this would be his horse very last ride. As hard as he could, he slammed his lower calves against its side, making her charge off straight away. 

He passed Blazerine; who looked much like a turtle stuck on its back, unable to roll over. Why wasn't she moving, he wondered. Is fear preventing her from taking a course of action, or is it due to an injury? Whatever the reason was, he didn't have any time to spare. 

Water splashed everywhere upon; Plint entering the lake. The destination Leon desperately sought out had been finally breached.
Momentarily he felt a brief sense of victory, but it all soon came to an end. 

Looking closely at the dirt, he noticed a loose patch, where the worm's peach colored skin could be seen. "Just as Fenix claimed." He said, "The worm is too determined to move from its prey." 

This leaves him one option, and that is to kill the worm himself. He had no doubt that the worm would be the victor of this battle; unless he could possibly hit a vital point, such as its head. 

The only problem is that he doesn't actually know how to determine where it is. His best bet is to create a ruckus, in order to get the worm to resurface. And it would only have to be long enough for him to strike; hopefully one blow would do the trick. That's when he realized, he had departed with his bags earlier, leaving him weaponless. About to search the water, he stopped when he saw someone coming this way. 

Looming into his sight was Fenix; who was standing on top of his horse, wielding a battle ax. There was a certain kind of look in his eyes that came across as serious. In all the years, Leon had known Fenix; it's the very first time he had ever really expressed such a trait. 

Fenix jumped off his horse as soon as the worm launched its head out from the soil. The worm unleashed a deafening screech, while displaying three massive drooling tongues. Like he planned, his horse fell victim, falling into the black depth of the worm's opened mouth. The moment its jaws clamped shut again, Fenix landed right top of its head. 

It was one of the most craziest, boldest moves Leon had ever seen. 

Fenix, of course, didn't just go for a slash or a tactical strike; the attack was purely barbaric. Hacking away, a bright reddish - orange blood squirted through the air, from the freshly made wound.  He dare not stop there and kept going all out until the worm had keeled over dead. 

Quietly approaching, Blazerine couldn't believe what she's seeing. Fenix just had taken down a gigantic worm, hands on, all by himself. (As dangerous as this world is... at least I ended up with somebody; who can at least fight back.) 

Fenix celebrated his victory by slicing off a hunk of bloody raw meat, and then took a bite out of it. With a mouthful, he said, "Want some?" 

(Blazerine; Well even if he's an idiot.)

"I guess we're eating worm tonight." Leon laughed, "We'll pack up a few bundles." 

"Oh boy..." Blazerine muttered. She felt sick just thinking about it.

----


The moonlight filters gently through the tall trees from above, bathing everything in its heavenly glow. The wind blew softly, making the trees' leaves rustle. The forest seemed quiet, maybe too quiet... It's almost as if though nobody had ever resided in these woods before. Other than a bird, which drifted down from its nests and twittered pass their heads. 

After all, looks can be deceiving, for there are breathing beings living in this area. Although they're not typically normal to anyone outside this “world”, it seemed perfectly usual for these elves; who inhabited this forest. On one of the highest branches, of the tallest tree, an elf  had hung upside down by his legs. Apparently he felt at ease, watching the human intruders, despite being at least fifty feet above the ground.

Far below, Fenix was laughing at how easily they've gotten themselves lost. Every path in the forest looked the same; there was no way of knowing, if they were going in the right or wrong direction.

Besides that, he complained about feeling like a working mule. Since he's the strongest, he was given the most to carry. Leon's horse couldn't carry all the load, which was originally meant for two horses. Blazerine offered to help him, from time to time, but he just ignored her. He knew she wouldn't be any use to him, due to her injury. 

"How much farther do you think we have to go?" Blazerine sluggishly asked Fenix. 

"The hell if I know." Fenix exclaimed, "I'm not the one you should be asking anyway." 


Just a little head of the group, Leon quietly led his horse, while examining the map Gallet gave Blazerine. As soon as she had asked; if he knew where they are going. Annoyingly he raised the map in the air and simply said, "Peck, peck, peck." 

"WHAT!?" Blazerine angrily snapped, "Do you expect us to just walk around aimlessly through the night?" 

Suddenly Fenix snuck an arm around her neck and whispered, "I know most females, like you, think the forest is a dark and spooky~ place at night. You know what you need?"

Narrowing her eyes greatly, she calmly asked, "What...?" 

"A strong masculine, no; heroic man like me." Fenix swears, "I can protect you."

Blazerine face shortly turned into utter disgust, not only at his words, but mainly because of his arm was touching her. She thought it was enough to make any woman's skin crawl. “Take it off or I'll rip it off.” She threatened him. 

"You don't even know how to properly thank a man after he's saved ''you'', the damsel in distress." He chuckled.

Throwing his arm aside, she said, "If I had to choose between the two, I would rather be dead." 

About another hour passed on by, before Leon decides on a remote area to set up camp.  Fenix is asked to go gather wood; however he was too lazy to do such a boring task himself. So he pulled Blazerine aside and tried sweet talking her into doing it for him instead. 

"You should go get the wood, because I've been carrying most of the -" He didn't even get a chance to finish his sentence, because she quick to agree. 

"Yeah sure!" She shrugged, "Whatever gets me the hell away from you guys for awhile." 


Wandering little ways from camp; she began to gather a couple of sticks, and twigs, and really anything that's skinny enough to fit her coat pockets. Shortly she looked up, after droplets of the rain started to splatter against the leaves. About to release a long deep sigh, a hand had covered the front of her mouth. 

The person behind Blazerine was tall; yet again most people were compared to her anyway. She knew calling for help wouldn't be an available option. The most, she could do now, is fight back, but it's nearly impossible; with only one mobile arm. The empty sleeve of her trench coat flapped wildly during her struggle, which soon is halted, the moment he forcefully tilted her head back. 


The touch of his hand felt as soft as a newborn's bottom. Those long slender fingers of his; have protruding nails, that are exactly four inches in length. And they were not only sharp enough to break the skin, but puncture if needed. 

Scrolling her eyes upward; she saw a thin, abnormally pale face, with a pair of ears, which could of have been at least twelve inches in length. And every strand of his silky  golden hair is wrapped up neatly in a silver spiral wire. 

Not only did his physical appearance seemed to differ from Leon and Fenix's, so did his clothing. He wore a green hooded tunic, sewn with golden eyelets, which are lace with an embellished leather collar. 

Secured tightly upon his wrists, are bracelets made from some sort of sturdy heavy leather. The lower part of his garments consisted of stretchy cotton velvet, which doubled as tights. She thought his pair of light tan moccasins, looked similar to that of ballerina shoes. 

The way he looked down at her with those large slitted green, alluring eyes of his. It felt like his gaze could see surpassed the lenses of her sunglasses. A lock of hair fell over his face, but he made no effort to brush it aside, as he continued to stare. 

(Blazerine; Whatever he is... he's really beautiful.) 

For a second; the stranger's left ear gave a slight twitch, similar to that of a cat, being diverted or startled by a sudden noise. Redirecting his sight pass her; he spotted the other two humans. 

Right away Blazerine realized it's Fenix and Leon. She attempted calling to them, but to no prevail, her voice had been muffled out by his hand. 

Then he studied the movements of the muscles in Leon's face to define the state of his emotion. The smell of excessive sweat was venting off his body. Listening very closely, he could hear the rhythm of his heart pounding clear as day. This human before him was nervous, afraid even, but his face appears to be stern. This led him to believe this human is trying to protect himself, by using the opposite facial expression to mask how he truly feels. It was an interesting method, although he could not be fooled by it.

When they approached closer...

Fenix asked Leon, "You sure Blazerine doesn't know this fellow? He dresses like a girl and she’s dressed like a man. Really what are the odds of that?” He thought it would be a cold day in hell before he ever encounters another crossdresser. 

Blazerine shouts angrily at their small talk, not caring whether or not her words could be heard, "You guys are talking about fashion!? When this guy could potentially kill me?! You guys really are a pair of fucking idiots!" 


"You're one to talk..."The long ear fellow hissed, literally like a cat does.  

"Really...? What's wrong with the way I dress?" She questioned him. 

"What sort of sorcery is this~?  How are you capable of hearing my native tongue? It’s a silent language that cannot be heard by anyone outside of the bloodline.” The only exception he's known about was Yeldir the Magnificent; due to one of his past lives.

Blazerine could of have pointed out that her sunglasses had a built in voice translator, which automatically allows communication to flow fluidly. Everything is picked up by audio and is instantly 
translated into text, that is replayed back by every single syllable, in real time. This created an illusion to make it look like, he's speaking 
before them in the selected language of her choice; in this case English. 

Still she did not feel like this would be the right time for explanation  nor if they even would understand a single ounce of it. 

Despite the fact, Leon wasn't aware of the language boundaries. It pissed him off, because Yeldir left out a very important detail, that he should of have mentioned to them beforehand. Whatever the reason why they're able to communicate, he does not know. 

“We do not mean any harm." Leon said, "We're sorry for crossing into your territory, but were here strictly on business."  

"Business?" He asked, "What sort of business could you possibly humans have in my forest?" 

"We are only here to deliver Yeldir the Magnificent's potion to King Elfridh Wudslorrden.” Leon replied, "If do not believe me, take a gander at this." He presented Yeldir's handwritten letter to him. 

The elf' pupils were wider in the dark, but in the narrow light, a 
flash of lightning reached his eyes and bounced back from the reflective layer; behind his retina, giving a rod a shot at seeing the letter. This allowed him to see in a very dim lights, but for the most part, it did not matter, because he can even see in total darkness. And on top of that, the distance of his sight can easily surpass a human's any day. 

From what he saw; the signature appeared to be genuine, and not forged. Shortly afterward, he retracted his nails, then released Blazerine from his hold. 

"My name is Lyrist, Prince of the Norwood Elves. My father has been expecting Yeldir's arrival ever since last spring. But I'm afraid I must receive the potion in his place for he is no longer capable of moving."

"What do you mean by that?" Leon asked out of curiosity. 

"On rare occasions~, very few humans stray into Norwood. 
 Amongst the strays~ was a mysterious man; who provoked my father interest with an ancient totem. The man claimed it could grant the ability to grow, and shape plants to one heart’s~ content. 

All the man asked for in return were two items; An Erban sword. This wooden sword is a hundred times stronger than any ordinary metal, and its life expectancy is increased, by an elf’s immortal spirit. One cannot simply harvest the tree before its time, or else it will not be at its full potential. 

Second; He wanted the ability to see the world as my father sees it. Naturally we're capable of seeing in the dark, and our sight can reach further than any human can. 

I asked my father, why would he do such a foolish thing; giving up the privilege of sight for a pathetic human. When the totem itself may not even do what this~ man proclaimed.

My father said, ''Thou dost not need one’s eyes to see, when one can pretend not to see what they perceive.''

At first the totem did do what the man said it would do. The forest began to expand, prospering with life more than ever before. 

What he wasn't told, is that there was a price to be paid; whenever he used the totem. Portions of his body changed, but everyone thought they were enhancements, bringing him closer, closer to being one with Mother Earth. 

Father wanted to expand the forest to an even greater length. Clear out to Dividing Cliff. There he raised the totem above his head, and suddenly cried out in agonizing pain. I could hear the sounds of his bones rearranging and crunching. And there was blood everywhere…

''I've been deceived; find him, the human who smelt of death!''

Those were my father’s last words, before the sharp wooden spikes escaped his mouth, splitting into halves, in order to silence him forever. What remained stiffened and hardened, like bark from a great red maple. His flesh fell like an empty shell beneath his trunk.
There the roots consumed on his own flesh and blood, forced to feed upon till there’s nothing left. 

And... indented in the bark is an outline of his face, still bearing the painful terror of that very tragic day.” Lyrist tried to shake the image out of his mind. 

"Maybe you should consider using this potion on your father?" Fenix mention, "I mean... isn't it possible that it could revert him back?" 

Leon shook his head at the mere thought of it. "Didn't you see what it did to the plants? It turned em into nothing but black ashes. Who knows what it could do to a person... or well an elf." 

"I believe it would disrespectful if I did not give my mother a choice in this matter." Lyrist said, "Come, I shall introduce you to her at once, considering you're the only ones who have been instructed on how to use the potion properly." 

"You're kidding, right? The guy pretty much was just like hey, here-“ Blazerine swallowed the rest of her sentence, when Leon elbowed her in the gut. "W-what did you do that for!?" She cried. 

In that very second; Fenix pulled Leon aside, wanting exchanges his thoughts with him privately. 

“Leo, I don't trust a fellow who dresses more feminine than any female I know. Expect Blaze, she’s…well, let’s not go into that right now, mate.”

“There's no need to criticize him just because his customs are different than ours.” Leon responded; disregarding his comments.

Lyrist ears frequently twitched; indicating the conversation was no longer private. "I have good ears too." He said, "I'm capable of picking up sound too faint or too high for humans ears to perceive."

(Blazerine; Seriously...?)

Lyrist suddenly tilted his head in Blazerine's general direction and continued speaking, "Although I cannot read minds, I can hear the thoughts of those nearby, and sometimes from even long distances. Although many thoughts at once can be very distracting; therefore I must block out unnecessary transparent thoughts to only focus on certain individuals at a time. But usually mentioning what they're currently thinking can lead them to revealing other things of course." 

"This takes the saying about how cats know how people feel to a whole new level." Blazerine laughed a little. 

(Oh god...wait that means... he must have heard me when I called him -la, la, la, la, la!")  Panicky she grips both sides of her head, while squealing out a mixture of jumbled sentences.

Lyrist studied the movements of her muscles in her face to define the state of her emotion. Usually, he accurately interprets expressions between different species. And yet the somewhat prolonged shrill cry did not match with her involuntary expression.

"Thinking comes naturally." He explained, "There's nothing you can hide from me."

"What's she all excited about? Her attempt to run away has failed." Leon said. 

"WHAT, are you serious!?" Blazerine yelled, "I didn't try to run away, he-he made me go collect wood!" 

Rationally she stepped forth to plead her case, but she stopped in mid-stride to cup her injured shoulder. 

Fenix deliberately raised his own voice as well, "You hear that woman? You are a FAILURE!"  

Lyrist could easily see Fenix's lie, but he felt like it wasn't in his place to intervene with the humans bickering. 

"This isn't fair!" Blazerine cried. 

Leon slowly approached her now, then looked her straight in the eyes. "I'm not messing around; you're not allowed to just wander off. You've done it twice now. Once back at the swamp, and now here. If you take any more detours, I assure you will regret it. So don't tempt me again, understood?"  

Slowly Blazerine looked angrily over at Fenix, before lowering her head back down. Sighing heavily, she said, "I understand..." 

---


Walking down the gentle foothill slopes of the forest's valleys, soon descending to the lower elevations; where only remnants of native vegetation remain upstream. 

Leon was fully equipped for the occasion, considering he wasn't allowed to attend public affairs, without his armor. He took that oath to heart, regardless if it's even only a secret society of cats. 

Lyrist's ears were frequently flinching; due to his displeasure of being caught in the rain.

By morning,; they reach a secret tunnel, which had been mined out ages ago, by Lyrist ancestors. It was sealed off by a solid block of stone; detailed with the inscriptions of his native tongue. 

Fenix knew no ordinary human could possibly be strong enough to move it, let alone these cats like elves. 

Lyrist responded accordingly to his thoughts, "We've been effectively sealed off from the outside world, all thanks to Yeldir the Magnificent." 

He placed a single finger on a particular phrase of the scripture, to activate the entrance. Then suddenly, flashing before their eyes, is a white glow; spreading vertically through the very center of the stone. The light separates the stone into halves, which slowly began to shift apart, to clear a path. 

A hint of light shone through the tunnel, the more they wandered closer to the light, the more it revealed. As the blinding light got closer, the light transformed into a beautiful world; filled with nature, and wooden structures. It was a city filled with nothing but natural resources. 

Blazerine had become entranced, by a cascading waterfall. The frothing white water, fell carelessly over the cliff, into a giant wooden spinning wheel, which collected water in the pond below. She thought they seemed to be beyond their years, compared to the humans in this century. 
Whereas their homes were not so much. Just like a cat; they preferred high places. And in this case, their homes were inside hollowed trees. Some had been connected together by rope ladders, made out of planks and vines. 

Their attention soon is diverted by; three barefooted elves. They approached, wearing a dress that's been sewn out of the finest sage green silk. Their golden lace sleeves fitted quite tightly around the upper part of their arms but falls loose down their forearms. On one side, the sleeve has been slashed out at the elbow, to reveal a cotton chemise beneath. 

They seemed friendly, well too friendly in fact. The formal greeting was rather the oddest thing they've ever experienced before, including Blazerine. Their cheeks had been licked from the bottom and all the way to the top. Unlike humans, their tongues felt rough like sandpaper. 

(Fenix; I think I could get used to this.)

"Strange there only appears to be females amongst your race." Blazerine mentioned, then she remember that Yeldir said; The ratio of male to female is low on the male side, and high on the female side. But this is beyond low, she thought. Lyrist and his father were the only males left. 

"Yes it is a very rare occurrence for a male to be born." Lyrist explained, "Why we don't permit mating frequently due to our long lifespan, to ensure we do not overpopulate. One male is achieved proximity every ten thousand years."

His eyes never seem to waiver from Blazerine. He observed her closely, only to discover signs of fatigue. Shortly afterward he said, "Come my mother awaits." 

A warmth swept over them as they entered a huge enormous tree; which had been hollowed out, not by hand, but from old age. There were treetops aligned in a half circle; intended for the clan members to sit upon. Although most of them had been used mainly as scratching posts. And in every corner, there are bundles of velvet, for some of the lazier members to have during naps. 


The elves lounging about were wearing the same sage green as did the rest of them. For some reason, their culture preferred dressing alike. But nonetheless the queen still out, because of her wooden crown decorated with fresh green leaves. 

"My son..." Queen Wuslorrden looked directly at him with a pair of bright yellow slitted eyes. "You've brought filthy humans, why?"

"We are blessed to be in your graces, your highness." Leon respectably greeted the queen, by bowing his head and patting a fist sideways against his armored chest. 

"How very delightful." She said, "A lesser intelligence acts so noble."  

"Mother..." Lyrist tried to overshadow her insults, "They've brought Yeldir the Magnificent's potion." 

"It's already too late. Do I have to remind you child?" Her voice was beginning to rise, "Your father foolishly tried taking matters into his own hands. Although the plants in this forest are finally calm, he still lost everything in the end." 


"There's a possibility that the potion could reverse father's condition." Lyrist explained. 

(Leon; If her husband is unable to survive without devouring the flesh of others. How has she been able to prolong his life for this long?)

The queen responded accordingly to his thoughts. "Those, who stray into my forest, are given to my husband, whether they're a threat to me or not.”

 Lyrist stood there in awe, he couldn't believe what he was hearing, but she continued anyway. 

"It does not concern me. Since all of you, humans have sought out to destroy anything that's smaller than you."

"What would you do if folks discontinue coming to your forest?" Leon asked,  "What do you propose doing then? Feed him your own kind, if that hasn't happened already." 

The queen repositioned her ears in a posture, that's halfway between being alerted and defensive. "Yes if that is what it takes to sustain the life of the clan's king." 

Leon felt outraged to the point of not wanting to hold back any longer. "It looks like you have something in common with us filthy humans, a trait we call selfishness. And yet you act as if though elves are superior to humans. 

And that goes for the rest of you as well! Sitting idly back, when all of you have become nothing but pawns; to prevent your king from dying. You're no different; we are equals with both strengths and flaws!"

"We will not be insulted by the likes of you!” The queen hissed, "Throw them into the water hole!" 

"Mother please be reasonable!" Lyrist tried to persuade her irrational demands. 

The once lounging elves were now rising to the occasion, with unsheathing nails. Blazerine's nervous laughter entices them even more. Slowly they drew in closer, and closer, just like a cat about to corner its prey. 

Leon refused to retaliate; it would be too much of a risk, knowing they didn't stand a chance in hell. 









© Tiffany Ann Adkins 2015 - 2019