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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5. Part 1: An Element of Darkness

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     Marx stood opposite of Avena. The woman’s short beach blond hair stuck to her skin from the sweat streaming down her body. She positioned herself for a strike by bending her knees slightly, giving her a strong stance. Marx copied the position but straightened his body as he realized he was still wearing his glasses and he needed to remove them before training. It was too late. Avena rushed at him full throttle and their bodies collided, knocking the breath from Marx’s lungs. His body flung across the glade until he smashed into a sturdy oak. He fell to the ground with a thud.

    “Oh,” he moaned. The pain rattling his body was overwhelming and resided mostly in his back. Avena ambled over to Marx. Her amused expression was all he could make out.

    “Fighting 101, never take your stance unless your ready,” Avena said.

    Marx let out a huff of air. “Duly noted.” His voice was strained from the pain in his back.

    Avena offered Marx her hand. Marx took it and grunted as he stood up. Once he was upright, he leaned over with the heel of his palms rested on his knees. “Oh, my back,” he said.

    “My gods,” Avena said under her breath.

    She grabbed his shoulders to pull his body upright aggressively. With a quick punch to the right spot, Avena popped Marx’s back. The pain ended as quickly as it began. Marx staggered a few steps away from Avena but, once he realized the pain was gone, he turned to her in surprise.

    “How’d you do that?” Marx asked.

    Avena rolled her eyes. “Years of training. Speaking of training, lets get back to it.”

    Marx checked his face and felt the warm metal of his glasses. Confusion swept his mind. “Wait….My glasses have never stayed on my face this well. How come they--” Marx paused to look up at Avena. “What did you do to my glasses?”

    Avena stepped towards him. “Not me, Ira. Once she recovered from her injured arm, she took your glasses and put a binding spell on them. You don’t have to worry about them falling off or an enemy taking them from you. The only two people that can remove them are you and Ira.”

    The sheer mention of Ira’s name sent his body into tense fear. Ira’s eyes were covered in a sheet of ivory white and filled with mercilessness. The thought of those eyes make the hairs on the back of his neck stick up. Avena picked up on this.

    “She’s not a bad person. Right now is just a tough time for them,” Avena said.

    “Them?” Marx asked.

    Avena hesitated and took a step closer to Marx. “Capri and Ira,” Avena whispered.

    This caught Marx’s attention. Suspicion griped him like a compelling story and he wanted to know more.

    “How is this a tough time for them?” Marx asked.

    Avena immediately answered. “Don’t worry about it, okay. You will learn everything in due time, but in the meantime we need to be training. Some beasts around here only see you as a piece of mutton to all the bloodthirsty creatures. Either you learn to fight them or….you die.”

    Marx’s felt that her message was incredibly morbid but true. He saw this when the chimera attacked Ira in the clearing. It was determined to take advantage of his weakened state. This motivated him to follow Avena’s instructions and keep training. Just because he was weaker then the rest didn’t mean he would leave all the fighting to these women. He wanted to take charge of what was happening and contribute to the group. He nodded at Avena and went back to his stance to continue his training.
                                                                                   ****
    Night cloaked the land in murky shadows. The fire burning in the camp’s center provided the only source of light for the travelers. Yarrow dabbed an ointment stained cloth onto Marx’s wounds. He winced at the stinging sensation they inhabited but didn’t complain otherwise. Avena insisted he learned how to fend for himself regardless of Ira’s unusual attack. Flashes of Ira’s attack raced through his mind. Ira nearly killing him; her eyes glassed over with blinded rage. She nearly appeared inhuman. A shutter rattled Marx’s body as he thought about those eyes. Those soulless, dead eyes as Ira raised her hardened fist while on the verge of striking him with an unrelenting force. Yarrow picked up on this notion and paused before applying to another wound with the foul smelling medicine.

    “Thinking about it again, huh?” Yarrow asked with a gentle, charismatic tone.

    Marx sighed. “Yeah,” he replied under his breath. Marx shifted his position while Yarrow took a break from applying the ointment. She sat with her legs crossed over the other and waited for him to tell her more. By far, Yarrow was the kindest to him and he felt as if he could trust her.

    “What about it disturbs you?” Yarrow asked.

    Marx hesitated. When he finally spoke, it was nearly a whisper. “Her eyes,” he stated.

    Yarrow stared at him for a few seconds. Marx couldn’t tell if she was confused, shocked, or worried by the news due to the sunglasses she wore. This was odd to Marx but he ignored it. To him, there was probably good reason for the glasses if she never took them off.

    “What is it about her eyes that frightens you?” Yarrow asked.

    “They were soulless. Dead. I honestly thought she was going to kill me,” Marx said.

    Yarrow looked away from Marx to gaze at the flames flickering in front of them. The fire’s magnificence reflected off the sunglasses as if the lenses were water. Marx could tell the statement worried Yarrow and it worried him as well. They all had to travel with Ira and from what he could tell, Ira was the ringleader. How could they function properly with an unstable leader?

    Yarrow turned her attention back to Marx and said calmly, “Ira did not intend to hurt you.”

    Marx couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Ira nearly began beating him and Yarrow was defending the culprit. Frustration swelled in his chest as he pondered over Yarrow’s clam.

    “How could you defend her? She clearly wanted to hurt me,” Marx whispered, his frustration bleeding through.

    Yarrow looked around the clearing. She seemed to be checking to make sure no one overheard their conversation. Capri and Avena were busy grooming and feeding the companions. Ira appeared to be meditating at the far end of the clearing with her back to them. Once the observation was complete, Yarrow turned back to him.

    “As you know, Ira is part demon and she has been able to keep the demon’s actions under control. But….” Yarrow paused to think over what she was about to tell him, “….when she damaged her arm, something happened that has concerned me ever since. Somehow the demon seems to be getting stronger and the longer we are stuck here, the less control she will have over the demon.”

    Marx was taken aback by the information. A pang of guilt stung him as the image of Ira’s mangled forearm resurfaced through the haze of events. The chimera gnawing on the extremity was the most prevalent at the moment but he pushed it away. He knew the guilt wasn’t his, and Ira acted out of her own free will, but the feeling never surpassed him. Swiftly, Marx turned his gaze to the swaying flames. Yarrow softly laid a hand on Marx’s forearm.

    “It is not your fault, Marx. Ira regrets nothing, trust me,” Yarrow said.

    Marx shook his head and sighed. “That’s just it. I keep telling myself that she chose to save me but instead of forgetting, I just feel more guilty,” Marx said glumly.

    Yarrow removed her hand from Marx’s forearm and stared into the ruby flames. A moment of silence passed between them before Yarrow cleared her throat.

    “When I first arrived here, I awoke in the cabin and saw a young boy standing over me. He had the most dazzling smile I ever did lay eyes on but he did not move or appear to even be alive. When my vision cleared, I realized that his skin was that of a statue and I did not understand why he was there or what happened to him.” She paused to look at Marx. “I had no idea that I murdered him until his little brother walked into the room and turned to stone as well.” Another brief silence overtook the conversation as Yarrow allowed the story to settle. She turned her attention back towards the fire before speaking again. “That is why I practice medicine. It helps with the guilt but I have learned that the guilt never quite goes away. Admitting it is one thing but doing something about it, something that will make a difference, will be the closest to closure anyone can ever come to.”
Marx nodded in agreement. He acknowledged the valid point she was making and sat up a little straighter. Yarrow’s speech put everything into perspective for Marx.

    “You’re right, Yarrow. Thanks,” Marx said softly.

    Yarrow grinned at him before turning her attention towards Capri as she wandered towards them. Capri stopped a few feet from the fire and looked at the two. Weariness fell over Capri as she gazed upon them and she suddenly didn’t look as if she were made from porcelain.

    “Time for shut eye; we leave at daybreak,” Capri announced.

    Yarrow effortlessly picked herself off the ground and worked on gathering the ointment clothes to dispose of. Marx grunted and moaned as he struggled to stand. Soreness and pain riddled his body near unbearable levels but he managed. Once Marx was up, he began to think about where it was he would sleep. Movement caught his eye and he whirled around to find Avena guiding her companion, Mirage, towards a particular spot in the clearing. The lumbering lion-like beast plumped down. The narix opened its mouth in a yawn after lying down and lowered its head to rest. Avena laid her upper body on Mirage, facing away from the fire. Sure enough, the large beast was able to support Avena as they both slumbered. Yarrow got caught in Marx’s periphery and he faced her.

    “Ira says you can have Pyre for the night,” Yarrow said.

    Marx glanced at the resting vox uncomfortably. This was the same beast who nearly trampled him in the clearing the previous day to rescue Ira from a manticore. Pyre’s thick claws were inches away from Marx’s face as the majestic creature sailed over him. Marx shook the memory away. Hesitating, he took a deep breath before cautiously approaching the vox. Eventually, his outstretched hand touched the gorgeous crimson fur. Pyre took a deep breath but didn’t indicate whether he was conscious or not. Through the pain and soreness, Marx slunk down to the ground to rest on the soft pelt. Exhaustion took over his body before his mind could ponder and a blissful slumber overtook him in velvet darkness.

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