The Gathering

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Chapter 12

The sound of dripping water fills echoes in the damp cave. Little droplets falling to the stone floor echoed all across the room. This sound awakens the young Celt. Slowly opening her eyes, she scans her surroundings and realizes she’s in a new cave. Blinking a few, she feels a sharp pain in her head. Her body was still recovering from being thrown around and landing on the hard stone floor.

The young Celt rubs her bruised head and tries to get up. Getting halfway up, she almost loses her footing on the slippery surface. Not wanting to fall again, she removes her soaked, leather shoes, and walks barefoot out of the cave.

She places her hand against the walls of the cave to keep her balance as she slowly made her way out. Halfway through the cave, she sees the entrance in her sights. Walking faster, she makes it to the end and finds herself in a massively dense forest. Thinking she was still in Britannia, she shouts out for any Celts in the surrounding area.

All she got was dead silence. Walking a little way from the cave, she sits on a fallen log and removes her drenched clothes. Cynbel removes the heavy leather, chain mail, and her belt from her body. This left her cotton shirt and trousers.

As she lays her clothes on the log to dry, she is unaware that she is being watched from afar. Suddenly she hears the sound of a twig snapping behind her. She perks her head up and looks around, but she couldn’t see anything or anyone. Thinking it was a passing animal, she went back to putting her clothes away until she heard the sound again, much closer. She goes to her belt and unsheathes her sword quickly. Turning back around, she calls out the people stalking her.

“Who’s out there? Show yourself, cowards.” She continues to taunt until an evil cackling fills the forest. It was neither man nor beast. Cynbel was scared. This was not a sound she knows or has heard before. She tried to find the source of the noise, but it seemed to be all around her.

Just then, emerging from the bushes were five creatures’ clothed in furs. They were adorned with the bones of their prey, giving them armor. Their feet have sharp, pointed nails, and their hands had three long, bony, hooked talons.

A smell of death shrouded them, and their teeth were filed into fangs. Underneath their skull masks, their eyes were black as night. All of them brandished bizarre weapons. These were no ordinary creatures.

They were the Wendigos, a race of shapeshifters. Though they often stick to their hunting grounds, they occasionally hunt in the moon forest. They are the top predators, killing and consuming man and beast. Incapable of speech, they relied upon growls and other sounds to communicate. Right now, they were using those same sounds to frighten their newly discovered prey.

Cynbel froze with fear. She had never encountered such beings as these before. Some wield axes partly bound with rings of braided hair and animal bone. Others had swords almost as big as her, shaped in ways never thought possible.

Trying not to show any fear, she stands her ground and prepares to fight. In an instant, one Wendigo charges wildly at Cynbel, swinging his ax at her. She blocks it and cuts deeply into the creature’s face, breaking its mask. The beast howls in pain as it clutches its face.

“Come on,” she shouted at them. “Who wants another!”

Two more attacks her, and one manages to pin her down. With its harps teeth, it bites her arm and inflicts a massive wound. Cynbel screams in pain and stabs the creature in the side, trying to get it off her. Her sword was unable to pierce the armored side, and soon that got pinned. Struggling to break free, she looks up and sees the leader above her.

He was cloaked in black fur and covered in skulls of past kills. She sees the weapon in its hand. It was an ax that resembled much like a knife with a short, stout, two-edged blade. The handle was the leg of a massive beast. Cynbel was powerless. Tears form in her eyes as she sees him raise the massive ax over her head. Thinking this is the end, she closes her eyes.

However, the leader roars in pain as he is hit in the shoulder by an arrow. The other Wendigos get off her and watch as another arrow hits the leader in the chest, knocking him down. With her arms free, she tears off a piece of her shirt and wraps it tightly over the wound, trying to stop the bleeding. The creatures hissed in unions as they try to find the culprit of the attack.

Just then, a loud GAWHOOL comes from the trees. As everyone looked up, high above the branches stood a figure. Jumping from the tree limb, he lands on the soft dirt with a THUD and stares directly at the wendigos. At first, Cynbel thought it was another wendigo, while this one was clothed in fur, the others seemed hostile towards this intruder. Before she could say anything, the other Wendigos attacked the intruder.

Dodging a downward slash, the stranger grabs one by the neck and tears out its throat. As the creature clutches its bloody neck, the stranger gives a swift kick to its face. Staring at the body of their fallen hunter, the other wendigos try to avenge him but are cut down by the stranger effortlessly. Whoever this person is, he was Cynbel’s savior.

Cynbel tries to get up, but even with her makeshift bandage, she loses a lot of blood. Suddenly she looks up and sees the leader trying to flee, but the individual loses another arrow and lands dead centered in the creatures back. With the creatures all dead, he then turns his attention to Cynbel. The stranger reaches into his pouch and pulls out some herbs. Undoing the bandage, he gently sprinkles them across the arm and covers the wound with a clean piece of cloth.

“This should stop the bleeding. You’re lucky I found you in time. Most aren’t so lucky when encountering the eaters.” He extends his hand to help her up. She takes it and slowly pulls herself up. Then he proceeds to scavenge off the dead.

“Thanks,” said Cynbel. “Any moment I would have been killed. Do you know where I am, I seem to be lost.”

“You’re in the moon forest, and judging from your clothes on the stump, it appears you were just in Aquarius cave.” The stranger loots all the dead bodies and finds some interesting material. One of which were pieces of obsidian, very rare in the parts.

“These would make great arrowheads.” Placing them in his pouch, he turns and sees Cynbel heading off north.

“If you go that way, you’re bound to meet more of them.” She turns around and looks at the stranger.

“If you want to survive, follow me,” he says in a friendly voice. As he cleans his hand, he looks at the young girl. “Unless, of course, you want to hunt down more eaters.” Clutching her arm, Cynbel decided it best to stay with the stranger. It was clear he knew the woods. After cleaning his hand, his medallion glows again and points south, towards the misty bog. Gathering his supplies, he traveled south with Cynbel following behind. As the two head further into the forest, she realized she never asked for his name.

“I forgot to ask, what is your name? Do you belong to a clan?”

He replies without looking back. “My name is Avalon, son of Darius.”

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