The Gathering

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Chapter 10

The forest was once home to many tribes and nomadic people from eons past. Together they live in relative peace and harmony. Now very few are left and struggle to survive in this harsh world. Not too far from where Deimus and Amyntas met, a lone hunter makes camp. He wore animal skins and bones and wore a stone medallion over his neck covered in runes.

Setting aside his hunting bow, the hunter removes his wolf shawl over his head. His features were similar to a human, albeit more animalistic. His skin was fair, with some dark patches covering his face. His eyes, black as night, reflected white under the sun’s radiance. His teeth were filed to fangs, but decent size. As he takes a sip of water from his water pouch, he reflects on his hunt today.

“Let us see: two rabbits, one ferret, half-eaten deer, a dozen dried roots, berries, and shards of bone. Better than nothing, I guess.” When he was a boy, he remembered the woods teeming with wildlife. A hunter’s paradise. Now, many have gone extinct due to excessive hunting and an unknown magical plague infecting the forest.

One part of the woods has become so barren and dead, and many have called that area the Dead Wood forest, home of the wendigos. Few who ever venture there never return. That is why he always stays within his boundaries, never wanting to cross paths with the eaters of the living.

“Sooner or later, there will be no more game for me to hunt, and I’ll have to find a new place to live.” He takes the meat, roots, and berries and places them into a fur pouch within his wooden tent for later. As for the bone shards, he takes his knife and sharpens them into arrowheads for future hunting.

After an hour, he then gets to work on the more significant pieces and grinds them into spear points. Grabbing a handful of thick oak branches, he makes deep notches on one end with his knife for the heads to sit. Gently securing one head into the groove, he grabs several pieces of soaked, braided plant stems and ties them around the spearhead until it wraps the branch head firmly together.

He made five of these and went about to work on the arrowheads. Just then, as he is about to begin, his stone medallion begins to hum. The runes glow blue, echoing a soft voice to the hunter.

“Not this again. I swear I should have gotten...”

“Arise, son of Darius,” came a voice from the medallion. It was soft and angelic, yet sounded rather ancient. The hunter stumbles backward on the forest floor. His eyes widen with shock, and he looks down as his medallion.

“Who’s there?” he said nervously.

“It is I, the Guardian. You have been chosen to fulfill the prophecy. It is your destiny.”

“Look, guardian, I think you have the wrong man. I’m just a hunter.”

“Are you not the son of Darius, last protectorate of the realm, honor-bound to serve when duty called?” The hunter grumbled. “I thought so. It is now your turn to take the mantle.”

The hunter was getting irritated. “Fulfill the prophecy?! How I am but one man. There is no one here who would help. Why should I?”

The guardian flashes a bright light in front of the hunter and shows him images of seven warriors, a precious stone, and the wings of a mighty beast shrouded in black fire. The sight blinded the hunter’s gaze. After the vision, the hunter understood everything.

“So it’s true, they have returned. And if so, then he will return. We are not ready for his coming.

“Not yet we are,” said the guardian. “For now, we must focus on the task at hand, defeating the Lord of Time. You must find these warriors, and help defeat this warlord before it is too late.”

“I don’t even know where to begin?”

“I shall assist you in the location of the others. The rest is up to you. Are you ready for the journey?” The hunter clutches his medallion and nods firmly. Please, with his answer, the spirit of the guardian returns to the ornament.

Realizing what he must do, the hunter breaks down camp and gathers all the necessary materials. He grabs his quiver and bow, food, supplies, and clothing. Before he leaves, he remembers one last thing. Reaching inside the tent, he grabs his father’s trusted weapon. In his hand was the family trusted heirloom, the sacred wolf fangs.

Each was composed entirely of Nyronium, the most durable metal on the planet, with H-shaped, handles gripped by the user’s fist. On one side of each blade was a knuckle guard formed in the design of a wolf’s head with metal ears running down the front, protecting the wrists. Fasten them to his belt; the hunter looks down at his medallion to see which direction he should take—the stone hums in the direction of the cave, fifteen hundred meters south from his camp.

Slinging the gear over his shoulder, the hunter starts his quest, and though he doesn’t know it, his role is much more significant than what the guardian told him.

܀

“Are you sure this way,” said the disgruntled Roman. For the past several hours, he and Amyntas have trekked over fallen logs, raging rivers, and other treacherous elements while following the map.

“I’m sorry, but do you speak Greek? I don’t think so. We are going the right way, it’s just the paths have proven to be difficult. But we should reach one of them within the hour.”

“You said that three hours ago. I think we are lost.” Decimus and the horse were getting tired, and water was running low.

“Very well, well, stop here and look over the map together.” Finding a nearby tree stump, Amyntas and Decimus rest a while and look over the map. Decimus horse rears her head up. She started stomping her hooves into the dirt and began to move about nervously. Her behavior gets their attention.

“Decimus control your horse, she’s acting up.” However, Decimus places a hand on his sword.

“Something’s here. Here in the woods.”

Amyntas shrugs it off. “It’s probably an animal; we are in a forest after all.” Decimus knew this was no ordinary animal. She has only ever acted this way when someone was close, and not of the friendly variety.

“Amyntas, I don’t think it is an animal. I believe we have been followed. Someone is here with us.” Just then, they hear branches breaking from above them. Amyntas grabs his shield and spear and positions himself behind Decimus, backs against each other.

The sounds grew louder and more branches fell to the ground. The sharp CRACKING sound of the tree limbs fills the area as they struggle to find its source.

“Where is it coming from? It’s close, but where?” Amyntas’s eyes dart side to side, trying to look.

“I’m not sure. It sounds like it’s all around us.” With the noise getting closer, the warriors realized they needed to act fast. Tossing his spear over his shoulder, the spartan threw the spear into the trees where the noise was higher.

With a loud THUD, the noise stops, and out from the trees falls a Valkyrie, wings broken and a spear deeply embedded in its side. It seemed she had been spying on the unsuspecting duo. Blood oozes out of the golden armor as she struggles to move. Amyntas and Decmius both approach the fallen attacker.

“What the hell is that thing,” said the Spartan.

“I don’t know. But something tells me our troubles have just gotten worse.”

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