Vicissitudes in the Dark Wood (Pt. 3)

The frigid early morning chill eventually warmed as the party crashed through the foliage. The deep mysterious greens had brightened during the time they’d been resting in the village, orange and yellow leaves shone brightly in the noon day light.
“It feels like time hasn’t passed since we entered this forest,” Pan thought out loud, feeling the heat beneath his warm clothes despite the mild temperature.
“The forrest is a fairy kingdom,” Zsófia offered, “Their magic keeps the forrest green all year round.”
A scoff from Rubin interrupts the priestesses explanation, “Nonsese. Fairies or no, these trees will keep their colour all year round. It has no more to do with fairy magic than our slaying that monster had to do with your pagan gods protection.”
To her credit, Zsófia bit back whatever argument she thought of and continued the walk in silence. It was apparent that she was less conditioned to the pace Vahkragg set, and despite the large man secretly steadying his pace for her, she was sweating and breathing heavily. Rubin had noticed, but elected to remain silent making smug eye contact with Telfor at any opportunity. The scholar’s attitude was wearing on the veteran’s patience, who had begun to consider the merits of ordering Rubin to carry Zsófia’s pack as well as his own when Vahkragg silently halted to group and stealthily lowered himself, gesturing for those behind him to do the same.
As quietly as possible, Telfor moved up to where Vahkragg knelt motionless and peered through the overgrowth in the same direction. Ahead, all he saw was more trees, like the countless hundreds they’d passed already. Tall, dark green to almost seem black, damp, and covered in smaller plantlife.
“What did you see?”
“Not sure, might have been nothing.”
If there was one thing Vahkragg could have said to make Telfor feel wary, that was it. The nomad was the best outdoorsman he’d every travelled with, and at the same time the most bluntly understated speaker. More than either of those things, the giant had exceptional instincts. If there was something stalking them that Vahkragg wasn’t confident he’d noticed it, it was dangerous.
“What do you think?”
Silence hung delicately for minutes as Vahkragg considered, eventually rising slowly and signalling to the others they were moving again, “Arms reach.”
Nodding as the giant started moving, Telfor dropped back to hurry the stragglers into a tighter group. This caution further slowed the groups progress, and before long it was obvious that they were rapidly losing the sun and they weren’t escaping the forest before then. As the light began to fade, Zsófia’s voice, weak from exhaustion cut through the dreadful quiet, “We have to stop, if we keep going we won’t be protected by the time they come.”
The bounty hunters paused, exchanging uncertain glances in the face of this sudden exclamation. Not missing the looks of bewilderment, Zsófia answers the look with horrified disbelief, “You don’t know about the Fae? But that’s impossible, you couldn’t have made it to the village without passing through their domain!”
The terror in her voice immediately dispelled any uncertainty as to her meaning, the mood was immediately tense in the face of an uncertain challenge. Telfor approached the forest-dweller, resting a large palm on her slight shoulder comfortingly and asked, “What are you talking about girl, take a breath and explain it calmly so we can understand you.”
“The Forest is a Faerie kingdom, they slumber during the day but at night they come and hunt interlopers without adequate protections.”
“They didn’t trouble us when we were wandering lost, fleeing from the undead. Perhaps they have no interest in you.”
“No, that’s not it. They hate dead things, they’re filled with life and the undead repulse them. If you were being chased a horde, their stench would have driven off the fae for miles around. I’m an idiot for not realising that, I thought your crusader must have warded you all from them.
“We have no time to waste,” she contiued, her initial panic quickly being replaced by single minded efficiency as she analysed each of them and their equipment against some mental checklist, “We are fortunate, you seem to have almost perfectly equipped yourselves despite your ignorance.”
A tick of annoyance from Rubin is ignored as Zsófia hurriedly instructs the group to make camp, demanding fire and fuel enough to burn bright until dawn.
Within the hour the camp is made. Light and heat from the fire enough to be uncomfortable to stay by, while each of the groups weapons is carried free from their sheathes. Rubin had flatly refused to wear his clothes inside out, halting Zsófia’s mounting protective wards in their tracks when Telfor had sided with the scholar at this point. The fire, bare steel and iron, and Pan’s revenant aura would have to be enough to ward off any faeries the night had to offer. After praying for protection from the Horned God, Zsófia seemed content they would be safe and so the party turned in for the night with Rubin volunteering for first watch.
Wrapped in blankets to ward the biting cold that dug into whatever part of his body that wasn’t directly facing the fire, Rubin stared into the fire as he unfolded the many thoughts he’d kept to himself throughout the day. Frustration at Zsófia’s presence, as well as a dark mixture of anxious uncertainty regarding Oliver, if he’d doomed the hermit unwittingly to a faerie capture or if he’d made it safely to Verwich. With everything balanced on the edge of the knife and so many variables he couldn’t have prepared for, the scholar almost didn’t notice through his thoughts the sound of something behind him. Rather than spinning around and raising his arms to draw upon his magic, like he intended, an languid, nightmarish weight swallowed him and transformed his body’s motions to be agonisingly slow. The dreamlike weight on his chest was too heavy for him to scream, so when his eyes met the horned beast that dwarfed the anathema while somehow still managing to fit entirely within his view, all he could do was stare helplessly. Drowning under the power that saturated the air.


Hello everyone,
Today’s my second regular upload in a row lets see how long I can keep this rolling. I’ve been finding a lot of creative outlets lately, started a D&D game with my housemates and friends, and a will be starting a Vampire: The Requiem game on the 7th. Perhaps this new game will inspire me delve into Urban Fantasy, or Horror again after this series.
I’ve been reading a lot more, though still not as much as I should. My most recent finished read was The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White #1) by Chrys Cymri which I’d highly recommend to anyone who enjoys contemporary fantasy, british pop culture and humour. Considering a 5/5 to be something lie Neverwhere I gave this book a 3/5, I felt it was an easy to read fun story which was hard to put down. And it’s free on Kindle unlimited and only $1.29 aud for ebook, so the price is right.
My song for this series: Pagan Revolution by Elvenking

Hope you enjoy it,
-Zairron

P.S. Featured art is Gwent Illustration: Fiend by Marek Madej

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

2 thoughts on “Vicissitudes in the Dark Wood (Pt. 3)”

  1. Great story, I’m hooked and regretting not visiting your blog more often. After reading the 3 parts I would like to invite you to see my blog and join or at least give some feedback on my current challenge (Destination Unknown) to possibly improve future challenges. I understand it might not be an option with your book and private life. I’m looking forward to more parts on both of our blogs 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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