Anacrusis

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Of The Journey (Kive)

Of the Journey (Klive)



Birds now sing as they walk, speaking amongst themselves as the trees go by. The path is beaten and clear, and it is just a matter of time before they reach the edge of the woods that sleep still, though for some the sleepiness is wearing thin.

The Hero has come - the world can feel it. In fact it has been dreading this day, and all it wants to do is rest in sweet peace. The tired old world has far past its expiry date, and will do everything in its remaining power to prevent what the Hero will bring about. It groans at frequencies unknown.

“What about Dragons?” Coda asked, “You have those, right!?”

Toven very much doubted it. He had never seen a Dragon before, but then again he hadn’t explored all of Ahbon. “Probably!” He smiled.

“Awesome!”

Ink dragged behind, he wasn’t up for this. All he wanted to do was… Well, he didn’t quite know, but it involved far less physical activity. The boy walked awkwardly, like a marionette who’s intoxicated puppeteer had severe arthritis in his fingers.

“We’re almost there, hm?” He hazarded.

“Alm-most!” Toven assured.

Good.

Not long after, the trio came across a stump.

“Woah, what’s that!” Coda blurted. It had been like this all day; she seemed to be fascinated by just about everything they saw. ’Course, Ink supposed, she had forgotten what most things were.

“Stump.” Said Ink.

Toven seemed confused by the stump, he had bever seen it before yet the cut was old - there was moss and semi-solid slime growing over the top and the rings weren’t visible.

“Oh…” Said Coda, “And what is… That…?” She pointed a glowing finger beyond the stump, where a rope ladder hung from the forest roof - it gave an ominous creak on-cue. And what it led to was a wonderful puzzle to Toven, an agitating mystery to Coda, and none of Ink’s bloody buisness.

“No way.” said the Reaper, “Come on, we have places to be.” He started walking, but then the old, frail rope groaned woodilly like an ill tree exposed to a sudden bright light.

“This is my dang fantasy adventure!” Said Coda, determinedly climbing, “I’m the Hero, right? So I decide where we go!”

“Oh for the clods of clart.” Ink cursed.

At the summit, about ten seconds after dissappearing into the dark branches, Coda shouted down to the others, “Yeah it’s safe or whatever, get up here!” and found herself clambering across rotten floorboards. She couldn’t remember exactly what these things were called but she did recongnise them - and so settled on calling it a tree-house. She would think of something a lot more imaginative later, when her imagination wasn’t spinning so much. The tree sprouted out through the center of the rotting house, and starlight tinted purple as it beamed in a web of ghostly light through the cracks and spaces in the wood - black leaves that had seen a million-too-many autumns fled out the glassless window in Coda’s wake, as if the breeze had a life of it’s own.

Ink watched in a constant wince as Toven scaled the ladder. It took a lot of convincing, but eventually Ink caved and went to join them when he heard the point about it being a “good vantage point”. Without looking down, he joined them in the treehouse.

The view from the rotting balcony was altogether homely, pretty sweet, and breathtaking. Dark in the most beautiful way, Ahbon was rooflessly expansive - Ink took a breath of fresh air and felt as free as a bird born in a clammy coffin, that had finally found it’s way out. The trees faded up ahead, their blue leaves glittered like chilly sand dunes just below them, and beyond that were checkered fields, slightly hilly and dotted with many a bright speck - those were sheep. Lines of shrubbery divided the crops of many kinds that were unknown and obscured by distance, and they met a sea to the east where a silver line marked the shore and the sea shimmered out into an unnerving blackness on the horizon before the stars began. Farther out, icy mountaintops were a baby purple colour, and a specific valley between two crests was emmiting a warm light that was weak, yet quite apparent. The way the crests were angled, the source of the illumination was hidden, making it look like someone had left the doors to Valhalla wide open. The land beyond the purplish fields was dark and mysterious, but far, far in the distance the cause of the violet colour-scheme let itself be known; a single star higher even that the tops of the mountains that shone brighter than the others.

“Tha-that’s where we’re g-going.” Declared Toven.

Ink felt his heart shrivel, “What.” he gave the child a gaze that threatened to turn him to stone.

“Eventually, I m-m-mean! We’re g-going to rest at Pier, down there.” Toven pointed out a line of village lights that extended into the sea for about a mile - the beach town of Pier, breaking the silver line of the coast.

Coda lifted her fist, and it shone brighter than ever, which hurt Ink’s eyes. They had become part of Ahbon now - another light on the skyline, another star to follow. The trees cracked in greeting, but a sour mist rolled in very cinematically indeed, and soon enough the moment of serenity and pure awesomeness was obliterated by a tremor from below. The rotten house was quivering, as if in fear, and Ink nearly lost his footing and would have tumbled over the balcony, if only he had actually went out on the balcony in the first place (he had stayed and watched from the window).

“Ah!” He shouted, as you might have already visualised.

The other two ducked inside just in time for the entire treehouse to turn on its side, old wood creaking and splintering as the tree dislodged itself from the center. Ink grasped firmly onto the window frame, sheer horror making him break his long fingernails as he gripped. Coda was looking for a way out on top of the tumbling box, to try and see what was going on, and Toven just sort of rattled around like a ball in a madman’s can of spraypaint.

Then everything came to a brief stop, with the house on it’s side. The Reaper lost his grip on the window and tumbled, just barely managing to catch himself on the balcony. Then, the tree swung the ladder up from the ther side, which crashed through the rotten door like a cup-and-ball master. The rope ladder shot through the house and out the bottom side, narrowly missing Ink. With Coda’s help, he managed to make it back inside the upset treehouse which was still precariously perched on a very upset tree. Now, the ladder provided the Hero with a means of climbing up the floor and out of the entrance to see what on Earth - or in this case, Ahbon - was going on. What she saw was fairly boring: a tree, surrounded by other trees. A typical forest. That was, until she realised that this tree was moving and had branchy tendrils that crunched and impaled the house as it muttered bitterly to itself in a tone like a wooden timpani.

“Hey!” Coda shouted over the deafening rustle, “tree!”

There was a grumble, and the snapping of wood. “That’s Such A Derogatory Term!”

“’Don’t know what that means but can you cool it!?” leaved tendrils came her way, and she instinctively punched at them with her fist, as one normally does when punching. They snapped into tiny shards upon impact - for some reason, she didn’t seem to notice that it was unusual for the average human fist to be able to do this. More made an attempt on her, but met the same splintering fate.

Then, the tree boomed,“Ah Hah Ha Ha, Your Sun Attacks Are Only Making Me More Powerful! Boom, Photosynthesis!”

Coda growled, “Leave us alone, tree!”

The pun was intended.

“That’s ‘person of wood’ to you!” and thus the treehouse was shaken around some more below Coda’s feet, the two people inside it like rocks in a washing machine. Ink was panicking down below, Toven trying to calm him but to no avail. What was going on? Well, that’s an easy question; the tree was angry, and the Hero had the bright idea of punching at the branches that grasped the house. It took several swings, but with a final crack the tree screamed and recoiled in agony, sending them plummeting to the forest floor. Coda was struck square in the stomach by the branch of a sleeping tree (that’s going to hurt in the morning) and then braced for impact with the ground - an impact which never came.

In fact, she found herself being gently lowered to the floor on a bed of what seemed to be a dull green disc-shaped hologram that emitted a faint light. The outer edges of it were circled by various runes and symbols that didn’t really mean much, but added to the aesthetic, and upon looking up Coda identified the source of the discs: an alive yet very tired, very shaken (literally) Ink Reaper.

“Sheesh Kid.” Said the tre- i mean, uhm, person of wood, “I Nearly Killed You.”

“Yeah, well you certainly-” Coda started and then collapsed, breathless, her body taking a moment to register that it had been well and truly winded.

“Ah! C-Cody! Ar-are you ok-k-kay?”

Toven happened to be the only one who was capable of speaking at the moment, which was unfortunate as his stutter got worse during intense situations. After checking on Coda he said, “Tha-that www… w-wwas amazing, I-Ink!” and “Wh-what’s the m-m-matt-ter, mister T-T-T-Tree?”

The tree was the first to talk next.

“WHAT’S THE MATTER!? BOY I’LL TELL YOU EXACTLY WHAT THE MATTER IS.”

“Oh-okie.”

“THE MATTER IS THAT YOU FLESHY PUTRID SWINES THINK IT’S OKAY TO NOT ONLY REEK MASS GENOCIDE ON MY KIND, BUT TO BUILD HOUSES OUT OF MY DEAD BROTHER’S FLESH INSIDE MY BRANCHES… That’s Sort Of Messed Up.” The tree picked pieces of rotten tree-flesh out of his misty limbs. “Us Trees Give You Air To Breathe, We Breathe Your Stinky Carbon Dioxide And We Turn It Into Fresh Oxygen, And You Know How You Repay Us? BY TURNING US INTO FLOORBOARDS JUST SO THAT YOU CAN WALK ALL OVER US! AND WHAT’S MORE -”

“Oh will you just shut up!” Ink half panted, half groaned. “You could have killed us, we’re not even the ones who built that damn thing in your hair you fool!”

The tree laughed disbelievingly, “YES YOU ARE.” It said, “YOU HAVE BEEN DOING SO FOR TWO WEEKS NOW.”

Toven shook his head, “W-we were ju-just stopping by. S-s-ssssorry to disturb you!”

Ink wasn’t sorry.

Neither was Coda, who was still recovering.

“L-Look how old th-the wood is.” Said Toven, giving a friendly, naive smile, “It couldn-n’t hhhave been us!”

Two knots in the bark seemed to peer down at the wreckage of the treehouse, “Why… I Could Have Sworn…” The tree shook his few remaining leaves, “You Kids should Be In Bed, Anyway!”

“But… It-its two in th-the aft-ternoon.”

Toven said, and scratched his chin thoughtfully, “Hmmmm. What is the l-last thing you rem-remember?” He asked

“The Last Thing I Remember… Oh. Why, You All Were Fleeing To The North, Because It Was… Dark In The Daytime? To Some Bridge Out Of Ahbon, I Think. Did I Fall Asleep?”

The boy nodded, “Uh oh, y-yyou were asleep f-for a while.”

“Hey you!” Coda shouted, “You call yourself a tree!?”

“Actually I Prefer Person Of -”

“You’re nothin’ but a stick! Come here!” Coda waited in an attacking stance, “Oh wait, you can’t. You’re a stick. What are you gonna do now? Throw apples at us?” She tried to give Ink a high-five, but all she got back was a measley “Mh.” He didn’t get the reference, or the gesture for he had never even heard of a high-five in his life.

It occurred upon the group at about this point that they could simply walk away from the tree without any ill consequences, for trees cannot naturally walk anywhere, and so that was what they decided to do.

“See yah round, tree.” said the Hero

“THAT’S A PERSON OF WOOD TO YOU! AND MY NAME IS KLIVE!”

“Bye Klive. I’m gonna go return the sun now, ok?”

“WHAT?”

“Just thought you’d appreciate hearing that, you know, since you’re a tree and all.” Coda turned away and the trio began walking down the path again, which now bore the odd withered cobbling.

“Bye Klive!” Toven smiled.

And Ink Reaper said nothing, too tired from using just a minor barrier spell.

This and small-scale telekinesis were the blood abilities of a Reaper, which were, one upon a time, used to protect souls in their transition to the Afterlife. Now they were more or less useless - deemed obsolete, just as the Reapers themselves were. Nobody needed Ink’s sort anymore…

So they say.

Ink had never exactly trained his powers, because what was the point? Until now, all they had ever been useful for was making him incredibly sleepy. He would use them to grab a fork or a piece of charcoal that was just out of reach, but it was a lot less effort just getting up to get them.

-Trees throwing apples- thought Coda. Now where had she gotten that from? Was it a reference to something? She tried to remember, the memory was on the tip of her tongue of thought - yet evidently it was too timid to show itself.

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