Anacrusis

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Of The Crow

Of The Crow


Unlike Otum, the Dimmer and the Overworld, Ahbon didn’t exactly have a creator.

Its creation was not exactly an accident either, though. It was the first shape that the shards of the Reality Glass created when the sun’s light refracted through them into the void, and light mixed with dark, creating colours and eventually matter through photon-induced convulsions in the matter field, the soul field, the space field, the statica field, etc. When the fields collided and mixed, random chance brought about several artifacts of power, each with different properties. Most artefacts were typical crystals, one was a pocket-watch, one was simply a colour and a couple were lifeforms. The first lifeforms in the universe other than the two superlunary Gods - Space (who loved Time), and Time (who hated Space).

The created artefacts helped bring about the construction of the world of Ahbon, which was an ever-changing shape that wouldn’t stop changing shape even when the Spawn Crystals (three of the artefacts created by the refraction) populated the world with life and sentient things.

And it was, for a very long time, complete carnage.

-Or at least, that’s what is said.

Led by Kry under Tripphire’s controlling watch, the squad trembled through the woods that never echoed, or made any sound whatsoever. Even the crackling of their feet on the dry sticks could have easily been mistaken for something of Tripphire’s imagination. She had never seen a place this dark before, and she was heavily contemplating spontaneously combusting. She tried to focus only on the light in front of her and staying well within the centre of the group, leaving Adrien at the back. But her mind was racing with terrible possibilities.

For all Tripphire knew, they were heading in a completely random and incorrect direction. Ol’ McKraken had offered her a compass a while back, but that didn’t exactly help anybody, as no one had felt the need to draw perfect circles at the time. Now, as Kry marched on casting a flame indefinitely above his head that lit the gloomy way, his cold eyes rolled, for all that surrounded him was dry wood and idiots. He was not the boss, but he was the one who the General had entrusted to capture the soul of their target. Unknown to the Captain, he had been given an enchanted dagger of his own that was just like Tripphire’s - it didn’t have to slay an opponent to capture their consciousness in its central gem, only draw blood (everyone knows that the soul and essence of any living being is found in their blood).

So the group – unknown to the Lieutenant - now had two of these daggers.

“Hey! Ponytail dwarf!” Shouted Tripphire, “Stay behind the light!”

“YES LIEUTENANT SIR!” Said Irig.

“That’s Ma’am to you!”

“MY APOLOGIES LIEUTENANT SSSSSSSS- BOSS MA’AM!” She saluted and marched back to defend her lieutenant.

Kry flinched - something that he hadn’t done in over a year - as a wild scream erupted behind him.

Adrien was flailing at the air around his head, and there was a flurry of black wings coupled with the wild cawing of a crow.

“Get it off of meee!!” Cried Adrien. The bird was pecking at the bread, and knocked the soldiers horned helmet off his head with black, feathery wings. Irig jumped and swung at the bird with her mace, but she couldn’t even reach Adrien’s bellybutton.

“STUPID BIRD LEAVE THAT BREAD ALONE!” Said Irig.

The crow let go and swooped back up into the quiet branches above, leaving Adrien a bubbling mess and the rest of the squad rather spooked. Kry wouldn’t admit it, so he chuckled and gestured for them all to continue on their way.

Tripphire’s heart rate continued to pound on at a stubborn four thousand beats per minute, though. That crow had come out of nowhere, out of complete silence. Tripphire always had a very good sense of hearing, so either the bird had simply materialised out of thin air or was a trained assassin. All eyes glanced to the woodland roof every now and then, all wary and all searching. After such a fright, shapes appeared to emerge from the forest. Shapes that had been there all along but that only became apparent when seen through a frightened mind; trees turned into arms, dead bushes into raging wolves, fallen branches into giant spider legs, etc.

Something moved down below the Lieutenant’s feet. Not a mouse or a bat or a crow, but like the ground itself. Like sticks moving themselves back into place. Tripphire squinted at the patch where the movement had occurred but found nothing. Realising that it was probably best to move swiftly on anyway, she looked up again to continue her trek only to fall on her back when her face was struck with frantic flapping wings. She wasn’t ever one for multitasking, yet she simultaneously screamed, hit the floor and reached for her sword within the space of half a second.

The crow dusted itself off, satisfied with the takedown, and it hovered in an elegant and sinister way in the air. ’Zurei readied an arrow, McKraken yelled like a cranky old man, Adrien wet himself and scoffed yet another loaf out of fear, and Irig defended her Lieutenant, who really didn’t know what to do. So instead of doing anything, she simply lay curled up on the floor.

Kry sneered. “It’s just a crow for krying out loud!”

“Hi.” Said the bird.

Kry wished he had never said that.

“AHH WHAT ARE YOU!?” Screeched Adrien.

’Zurei pulled back on the arrow, “On your orders, Lieutenant Ma’am!”

“Shoot it!” ordered Tripphire. The slender archer released her arrow which hurtled towards the bird who hovered about three meters from the ground, in zero-wind conditions. The arrow found its target with pinpoint precision, traveling swiftly through the air with a slashing sound. But the bird was no longer there - the arrow missed as the crow dipped below it at the last second.

“You’re wasting your arrows on a crow, don’t you know, don’t you know?” Said the Crow with a voice like poisonous maple syrup with undertones like someone crunching snow under a heavy boot - the voice was lethal, but smooth and soothing.

Its golden halo eyes twinkled like an eclipse. “I am but a simple bird.”

Tripphire picked herself up off the ground as the bird dodged another arrow from ’Zurei’s bow. “No… There’s something off about you. Birds can’t talk!”

“Well I didn’t think brain-dead lumps of cheese could talk but here we are I suppose.”

Tripphire was knocked by the sheer absurdity of the insult. “Yeah- well… How did you find us? An-And what do you want!?”

The crow pecked at something stuck under its talon, “I just followed the trail of breadcrumbs. I was feeling a little... Peckish.” The crow stopped picking at his claws to swoop underneath another incoming arrow. “And all I want is for you to know that you’re going in the wrong direction. If you would kindly stop trying to shoot me, please, that would be nice.”

McKraken was now swiping at the bird with his wooden leg, without much success, for the old man didn’t have wings.

Tripphire scoffed, like they were going to trust a talking crow, yeah right! That must mean they were going in the right direction all along.

“And what are you? Why can you talk?”

“Why can you talk? I suppose for the same reason.” He had a fair point. “I recommended you turn around.” He continued, “So… Off you trot, then.”

“Pssht, like we’re going to listen to some random talking garden rook.” Said Kry and motioned for them all to keep walking.

“Carrion, actually.” Said the Crow. Like someone pouring gravel-filled treacle onto a block of wood.

“Yeah, I think we will!”

They started marching again, but now even Kry’s iron confidence had been staggered. He and Tripphire were now in silent agreement that they would continue on this way no matter what, each out of sheer stubbornness. At heart, they were not too dissimilar. Such a shame that one of them wouldn’t be around for much longer, so I suppose they won’t ever be able to discover their similarities.

The sinister carrion disappeared in a puff of feathers and encircled the group from the shadows. It said:

“This world is not a world built for your sort. It will chew you up and flip you any which way it chooses. Your little mission is futile, so you should all probably pack up and go home”

-This is getting annoying now- Thought the Lieutenant as the initial shock wore off and the Crow decided to stop being scary and start getting on everyone’s nerves. “Oh yeah? Well I think you should probably shut your beak before I order Kry here to tu-”

Kry’s arms vaporised their armoured fur and chainmail sleeves, and should have vaporised the bird too, as it was engulfed in a violet-hot ball of flame.

Yet the voice continued, like someone peeling tape from its roll: “This world will do all in its power to keep you from the one that they call the Hero.” Then, the bird let itself vaporise, satisfied that it had done all it could to convince them to leave. Its black bones fell and poofed like smouldering charcoal into pieces that sank into the dry, broken sticks that littered the ground.

They continued, slightly unnerved.

Kry didn’t say much for the rest of their journey through the forest, and Tripphire shut up after trying on two occasions to put her mind at ease by nervously laughing it off with crewmates. Nobody really wanted to speak, as the strange acoustics in the wood that gobbled sound up like a parched sound-drinker made it so incredibly unpleasant. All except Irig, who was in fact deaf. How then, could she take orders and communicate vocally? It was a mystery, because her hands didn’t know sign language, and when she decided to look at a person it was usually dead in the eye with a stare like a red-hot poker as opposed to at the person’s lips. What an enigma she was.

Soon enough the low-roofed, hollow-treed, parched, claustrophobic and all-round dead forest thinned, and the group came upon the first signs of actual life their kind had experienced outside of Otum in a generally uncounted amount of time...

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