Forsaking Darkness

Ira Nevsky has suffered from a sinister past and her future is dim when she is cast into a monster invested realm by an unknown source. Ira and her sister, Capri, manage to survive the dangerous terrain by rescuing other unfortunate beings banished to the realm. But there is the one sacrifice that changes everything. Marc Fischer is that rare element that all creatures in this realm crave -- human. Ira is the only obstacle between the beasts of the land and Marc. With the help of the towns blacksmith, Avena, and Capri's apprentice, Mercy, the group is able to travel through uncharted territory and discover that whoever sent them there was much greater then they could possibly image.

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4. Part 1: An Element of Darkness

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    The new terrain brought with it an exceedingly feverish climate. Vegetation took refuge in this area. Moss encased the outstretched branches of oak trees. Vines reached towards the sky in hopes of one day feeling the touch of a warm sun but I knew it was a foolhardy errand. This realm was doomed to be sunless. In a way, the forest reminded me of home. The sweet aroma of mint growing nearby resurfaced memories of my grandmother’s cooking. I pushed the thoughts aside for the moment. Hours inched by during our travels through the terrain and I was ready to find camp. Pyre’s panting indicated he was ready to rest from the long journey. Mirage’s and Echo’s heavy breathing arose from the harsh change in climate.

    “Are we looking for camp?” Avena asked.

    I nodded in response. Marx’s perspiration already leaked onto the cloak draping over my shoulders and was bleeding through onto the tank top I wore underneath. Marx and the companions needed a rest and time to adjust to the shift in temperature. Fortunately, my body did not sweat so easily. Anxiety and physical activity were typically the only cause for any sweat on my skin. This could not be said for my sister who was drenched in perspiration. Yarrow sat back a little on the saddle to avoid the wet but she didn’t complain.

    “There,” Avena said.

    I jerked my head in her direction. Avena nodded towards a clearing that would make a fine camp. We knew it wasn’t as simple. New territory means new terrors awaiting around every corner. Avena and I hunted here once, just to scope out the area, and we discovered several different beasts. It would appear every biome brings with it distinct dangers other than terrain.

    “Claudicatis,” I demanded Pyre.

    The vox obeyed the order and the other companions halted in their tracks as well. Avena and I made eye contact. We understood it had to be the two of us to searched the clearing for predators. Our fighting skills were more advanced than the others in the group. At the same time, Avena and I dismounted our beasts and loosened our muscles up enough to where the stiffness wouldn’t get in the way. Grabbing the hilt of my machete for reassurance, I turned to the group to address what was happening.

    “Avena and I will investigate the clearing. If it is safe then we will come get you guys. If fighting occurs, stay here. I do not want casualties on my hands today. Is that understood Capri?” I said.

    Capri rolled her eyes. “One time! It was one time, Ira. Let it go! You know how I feel about violence anyways,” she said.

    I rolled my eyes before turning towards the clearing. With Avena following close behind me, I skulked towards the clearing. Foliage caught my footing a few times but I recovered rather quickly. ‘I hate plants,’ I thought. Avena seemed to have the same issue but she didn’t allow it to slow her down. When we reached the fringe of the clearing, we froze at what we saw. Skulls of deer lay in disarray along the forest floor. Some antlers were chipped while others remained fully intact. We cautiously entered the opening and scanned the area. A few skulls hung effortlessly from the surrounding trees. Avena wandered over to the hovering skull in an attempt to understand the phenomenon better. I approached a larger skull littering the forest floor. By crouching down I was able to examine the object closely. Claw markings were carved into the bone’s muzzle. I touched it with my good hand and I was caught off guard by the ivory residue my finger picked up. It appeared fresh too. The smell of fresh kill lingered around the skull but it took time for any prey to decompose, even by this realms standards. Before I could reach my conclusion Avena gasped.

    I whirled away from the skull to find Avena being lifted into the air by, what looked like, a hand with a bark like texture. I could only watch as the bark split open with a sickening cracking sound revealing the wendigo behind it. Their bodies were made from the surroundings and were only held together by a soul so hungry it’s able to manipulate nature to do its bidding. Sharpened sticks functioned as long fingers to claw pray with, branches functioned as the foundation of its structure, vine tendrils held the creature together, and dirt held up by a ghostly force typically filled in the rest. All together it gave an image of a seven foot tall carnivorous monster who called this clearing its home. ‘Not today,’ I thought.

    Machete in hand, I sprinted towards the lumbering beast. I faltered to the ground in a slide and slashed at its leg when the opportunity opened, decapitating the extremity. My body smacked into a stubborn oak. Pain was the least of my concern. I looked up to find the leg only to find it grew back with better reinforcement. ‘Shit,’ I though. The creature glowered at me with dead eyes and let out a hissing noise. This alone was enough to send my body into urgency. I jolted from the trees side and cautiously watched the beast as I calculated a new plan. The wendigo did not hesitate in reaching for me. Its overstretching hand was constructed of nightmares. A swift calm swept through me as a plan formulated. Energy built up in my body and flowed into my gauntlet covered hand. Once the wendigo’s hand was close enough I touched it with a spark of red lightning. The beast screeched in pain as it caught ablaze. In the process of its panic the wendigo dropped Avena.

    I sheathed my weapon before rushing to her side, kneeling down to get a better understanding of her injuries. Avena only had bruising where the beast was squeezing the life from her; otherwise, she was unharmed. The wendigo’s body lay on the ground, fire still ignited, but I could no longer feel the evils presence. I helped Avena to her feet. She rubbed her neck in shock and in pain.

    “You alright?” I asked.

    She nodded. “Damn thing came out of nowhere,” she explained.

    As if intended, the other skulls sprung to life and their bodies shuffled under the earth. Avena grabbed my arm in a panic but neither one of us took our eyes off the events. Wendigos were sprouting from the ground as if they were a plant with tall bodies constructed of dirt, roots, and tree parts. Around six bodies hovered over Avena and me. I turned to her quickly to make sure she was up for the challenge. She withdrew a sword she marked with a symbol for “burn” or “fire”. Not even Avena knew what language it was written in but she knew exactly how to wield the enchanted weapon.

    “Let’s do this,” Avena said.

    Giving an empowering war cry, I caught Avena out of my periphery lunging towards the creatures, ready to strike the beast without mercy. I took an aggressive stance towards the three who kept their hungry glare on me and awaited their attack. These creatures took no time to reach for me. I accumulated more energy in my metal forearm and lifted it, fingers pointed at the three wendigos staring me down like prey.

    “I’m no one’s prey,” I blurted before unleashing several streams of red light to struck the three beasts.

    The wendigo standing opposite of me was hit in the center of its structure and toppled over upon impact, leaving a gaping hole through its chest. Another caught ablaze from the blast and slumped to the ground with a sickening thud. The third wendigo was merely grazed. Instantly, the beast raised its wide palm and swung at me with its sharp claws. I sailed through the tree cluttered air, braking branches with my body’s velocity. After several branches, I skidded across the vegetated ground into a thorn bush. The pain was agonizing but I disregarded it as I regained my footing. My eyes feel on the three companions along with the others. Capri rolled her eyes, looking away from my injured body, while Marx stared in wonder. My skin spit the nestled thorns onto the earth, where they belonged, and stitched itself up with fresh skin. Not a trace of my wounds remained. Ignoring Marx’s gaze, I turned back towards the clearing and used my celerity to return to the glade. Once I approached the clearing, I found Avena leaning over a body of a disintegrating wendigo. Her face was of a fearless warrior in battle. I’d always admired this about her.

    “Avena,” I said.

    Her smoky gray eyes dilated from the rush of battle.

    “Let’s ge--” I was interrupted by an unseeable force.

    My body bounced off the clearing floor a few times until I slammed into a tree. The wind in my lungs was knocked out making it hard for me to regain my breath. Panic overwhelmed my senses as I managed a wheeze. My vision waned and my side throbbed in agony. I sat up on all fours but my body struggled to recover from such an injury. A spittle of blood filled my mouth and I spit it out. In my periphery, a clump of browns and greens paced towards me, each supposed step shook the ground beneath me. I knew the beast would tare me to pieces and I anticipated it. Avena’s war cry screeched against the empty air. With my regained vision I could make out the wendigo, standing a solid nine feet tall, was swatting at Avena. I figured he had to be the kingpin of this wendigo tribe. Without further hesitation, I grabbed my machete and stood up. My back popped loudly and the wendigo snapped its head towards me. The creatures eye holes were shrouded in deep shadows but I could feel the agitation dripping from its presences. Avena took advantage of the wendigo’s distraction and began climbing up the creature’s back. This sent the wendigo into a frenzy as it attempted to rid its body of the girl climbing its vines like a squirrel on a tree. While the wendigo was distracted, I squeezed the handle of my machete to secure the hold I had on it. In a blur, I was standing at the creatures elongated legs and, with one clean slice, I chopped the wendigo’s leg in half. A horrid screech raided the air as the wendigo fell to its hands and knee. Avena kept her position on the wendigo’s back but wavered in disorientation. I hurried towards her from the ground.

    I stopped once I was adjacent to her. “Need any help?”

    Avena stood moments after I spoke. Her eyes were trained on the wendigo as she answered, “No, this is my kill.”

    She proceeded with her plan and scuffled down the large creature’s back until she neared its head. With one final war cry, Avena plunged her sword so far into the wendigo’s neck that it protruded out the other side. Embers kindled from the wound as Avena slowly cut the stage’s skull from the creature’s body. With a gurgled wail, the beast fell to the ground into a pile of black bile spilling from the wound.

    “Ira!” He gurgled through the blood filling his lungs. I knew this was my mind reacting to the gurgling sound of the wendigo but the overwhelming guilt was more prominent then what I knew. He repeated my name with the same gurgling sound until it faded into Avena’s voice.

    “Ira, you okay?” Avena asked.

    This snapped me back to reality. I looked over at her and nodded, not looking her in the eye. “Come on. The others are waiting.”

    Avena sheathed her weapon as we jogged back to the group. Capri and Yarrow already dismounted Echo and appeared ready to take refuge in the clearing. Marx, on the other hand, remained seated on Pyre. His chocolate brown eyes widened in utter disbelief at me. I veered my attention towards Capri, nodding towards the clearing as a way of giving her permission to set up camp. Once more I turned to Marx as everyone wandered into camp.

    “Hey,” I said once everyone left, “you okay?”

    My words snapped him out of his trance and he finally blinked.

    “Yeah,” he said, “I’m….fine….How did you do that?”

    I raised a brow at the question. “Do what?” I asked, puzzled.

    “How did you….ya know….heal that quickly?” he rephrased.

    I sighed. Explaining this to him would not be easy. “Well, Fray, a curse can be a good thing and bad. Now get off Pyre so I can lead him towards the others,” I demanded.

    Marx dismounted the beast but, judging by his body language, he had more questions. Before he could recover I ordered Pyre to follow me. Marx quickly noticed this and caught up to me with a brisk jog.

    “What does that mean?” he asked. “Do you mean an actual curse?”

    “Now you’re getting it,” I said.

    Marx reeled over the information for a moment before shooting out his next question.

    “How did it happen?” he asked.

    I sighed. I was growing tired of answering his never ending questions. “I’m half demon now stop asking me questions.”

    Marx slowed his pace until he gradually faded from my periphery. Nevertheless I kept my pace strong and steady. The news was old to me. Being demon was no big deal. I knew it was to him but he’ll come to realize I’m nothing like the demonic creatures lurking in this god forsaken realm. Forest faded into a grassy opening as I entered the camp. Pyre broke through a thicket rooted right outside the border of forest and glade. Once he recovered from the struggle, he padded off towards Yarrow who was grooming Echo with her gentle touch. Before I got the chance to scan the camp for Capri, Avena approached me with a sword in hand.

    “Hey, I was thinking, on the way over here, the human needs to learn some self-defense,” Avena said.

    I briskly check my surroundings before answering. Keeping my voice as low as possible, I said, “First of all, his not human, not anymore and you know that. Second, he doesn’t need to know that until later. He needs time to adjust to th--”

    Marx interrupted the conversation as he broke through the barrier of thickets into and stumbled into the clearing. Our attention immediately shifted to him as his muscular body clumsily recovered. He saunter in, taking a long glance around the clearing as if remembering an event from his past. I turned back to Avena, her smoky gray eyes determined to hear what she wanted.

    “The worse that could happen is that he finds out he’s stronger than before. Best case scenario, he learns how to fight these demons and your bounty wouldn’t’ve been in vain,” Avena argued.

    I considered Avena’s offer. She was right but I had to decide what was best for him at the moment.

    “Fray,” I called. Marx jolted out of his daze and looked at me as if I were sprouting two heads. “Come here.”

    Marx hesitated. The information I recently told him running through his mind, I was sure of it. It was a lot to take in, admittedly, but he seems like a man who can see reason. Maybe this was why I told him.

    “I’m not going to bite,” I said.

    Avena furrowed her brow at the comment. “What?”

    “Don’t worry about it,” I said under my breath. Projecting my voice towards Marx, I said, “Come here, Fray!”

    He glanced at Avena, then the others in the clearing, and back towards me. Cautiously, he approached us and halted a few feet from where we stood. Avena immediately became suspicious and I could tell she caught on to why Marx was starting to act antsy around me.

    “Sure, you tell him your demon but you won’t--” she started but I shoot her an austere glare and she stopped in her tracks.

    Clearing her throat, she said, “Have you had any training in combat?”

    Marx scrunched his face in thought as he tried to recall any memories of fighting or learning about it. Seconds slipped away as he combed over the subject in his mind. Finally, he looked at Avena and answered, “I know how to punch and kick but I know nothing beyond that.”

    Avena nodded. “Today’s your lucky day, Marx. Ira wanted to teach you how to fend off a beast if it ever attacks you when we’re not present,” Avena said.

    I didn’t agree to teach him but, before I could grow frustrated, I figured it better to be me than him discovering his new strength while training with Avena. Marx shook his head.

    “I’d love to learn how to fight but I’d much rather learn from you, Avena, then Ira,” Marx said.

    I was aware he was only claiming this because I was demon and, naturally, this wouldn’t bother me in the slightest but today was different. An emotion overtook me that I’d never experienced before. It reared its ugly green head as I watched him not even take a second glance towards me. ‘I saved him. I brought him back to life. I did what I had to help him survive this realm and this is how he repays me!’ My thought had a deep, raspy tone to it. Those were not my thoughts. Something was happening to me that I couldn’t necessarily explain. My vision was blurred by the blind rage slithering through my veins.

    “Ira!” Capri’s voice registered through the haze.

    Feeling gradually returned to me as well as my sight. I had Marx penned against a burly oak. My metallic covered hand clutched a handful of his shirt while my good hand was raised in a fist. His face etched in fear as he awaited the pain believed to come. After looking him over for a few seconds, I let go of his shirt. Consciousness was becoming an impossible task as darkness enveloped me, completely paralyzing my slumping body.

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