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Chapter #13 Entering the Forest of Darkness

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Christian and Raziel meet outside the forest of darkness with general Grechov and the last of the seven chosen, Kaz. Once they've all regrouped they enter the forest of darkness. Once inside, they fall victim to tricks of the ominous forest and quickly realize just how dangerous this mysterious area can be.

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Chapter 1

As the early morning sun began to rise a precise killer hid for observation of the camp once again. Cain had been watching the convoy of terrain dossers since Vincent was picked up at the orphanage. One of the assassin’s greatest skills was being able to lurk under the radar. The murderer was convinced that they were in fact on the trail for a legendary armor, but regrettably the map Cain viewed in the grand duke’s tent after swiping his letter did not reveal the exact location of the placement for the armor except for being hidden in the death trap referred to as the forest of darkness. Cain knew if he was to reach the armor for himself, he would need to travel along with the grand duke.

People in the guarded camp began to awaken and prepare for the day. The assassin kept to the shadows cast by the morning sun until a blind spot was offered to him. He waited patiently then noticed one guard bring a four pack of coffee for the several soldiers that were stationed outside the camp. Once they pleasantly welcomed the morning brew and turned their backs to do so, the assassin made his move by darting quietly and swiftly through the tall tree branches.

He did so until making it around to the royal terrain dosser he remembered snaring the prince inside. He slipped down the tree and swept himself underneath the massive machine unnoticed and in an instant was shrouded in the darkness beneath and nearly invisible to the naked eye. Cain inspected the mechanics from under and located an excellent hiding spot, and so here he lay and wait for his moment.

Christian woke up from his sleeping bag and noticed Carmon was still asleep in her sleeping bag next to Raziel’s. He looked at her peaceful face for a moment as she slept and thought about how beautiful she is. Christian then started wondering where Raziel was, it was so early. He stood up from his sleeping bag and wrapped one of his royal robes around himself. After tying the loose belt around his waist, he walked out of the tent and was greeted by two soldiers who were guarding the tent.

“Good morning, sir.”

“Morning. Hey, ya know were Raziel is?” the prince asked.

“Yes, sir.” he replied and with the nod of Christian’s head a soldier accompanied him to the grand duke.

The prince followed behind with his hands in his robe pockets.

“Here you are, sir.” the soldier said stopping to stand guard from a distance.

“Thank you.” Christian said walking away from the guard and walking up to Raziel, who had his back turned to them. “What’cha do’n?” he asked finally standing beside his mentor.

The grand duke looked back and smiled, “Look at this.” he replied looking in the direction of the tress and morning sky.

“Huh? What am I looking for?” the prince asked naïvely.

“Up there, the rising sun. It’s magnificent. So powerful and golden, so radiant.” he admired.

“I didn’t know you liked the sun so much.” the prince confessed.

“Yeah. Especially on days like these.” Raziel declared.

“Like these? What makes today so different?” he wondered.

“We’re supposedly hours away from finding the armor of Kamisama today, every morning I wake up KNOWING that I’m going into battle I make a point to sleep well and wake up early enough to catch this daily miracle. You never know when your match will face you in the battle field. Eventually I’ll see the day where the sun rises, but never sets.” he explained.

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I’m pretty sure there’s nobody out there that can match you.” the prince said confidently.

“Nobody’s invincible, don’t fool yourself. One of the worst things you can do is trick yourself into believing that you are, . . ” he paused. “ . . cause then you’ll never see it coming.” Raziel warned.

Christian’s sights lowered as he thought seriously about the mentor’s words, “Well, I’d hate ta ever meet the monster that can defeat you.”

Raziel smirked, feeling the sense of pride and respect the youthful prince bared for him.

The day was set, all had been packed and everyone was accounted for. The only remains of the camp were the controlled extinguished campfires. The engines were started and the terrain dossers were set into motion. Cain stowed away underneath the leading vehicle perfectly and the others followed. Five of the seven chosen sat awaiting their destination as did Carmon, Raziel, and Christian while the royal mystic sat in the terrain dosser directly behind them.

The grand duke radioed general Grechov to verify he was waiting outside the perimeter of the dark forest. The general verified that he and the last of the chosen were in fact there and awaited their rendezvous. Raziel felt more confident about their mission now despite obtaining only six out of the seven chosen needed, to his knowledge.

Later, after several hours of travel, the outside scenery began to look droll and weary. The blue morning sky slowly wilted to the gray clouds that blanket the sky above the forest of pitch black trees. Flowers and crops in the nearing fields were dead and refused to grow.

“We’re here, sir.” the driver informed.

Raziel stood up and looked outside the windshield to see the ominous black forest, “What tha hell?” he wondered.

As he looked outside the window, he noticed the general and others, but what really caught his attention were the massive layers upon layers of spider webs cast between the trees of the forest, like something was trying to keep them out.

The terrain dossers stopped before the others with general Grechov. Outside the machines the general waited to greet the grand duke with lieutenant Brookes and Kaz, who were accompanied by several soldiers. The grand duke climbed down the entrance ladder and regrouped with the general.

“What the hell is all this?” Raziel asked referring to the thick wall of spider webs blocking any possible entry as he walked over to the general for an explanation.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here, sir. I’ve never witnessed this type of behavior.” the general admitted.

“Some of the troops and myself viewed the perimeter, sir. It appears the only area blocked off by the webs is the entrance path and the surrounding area.” the lieutenant informed.

“Hmph, it jus looks like a bunch a stupid spiders to me.” Kaz noted, standing behind the general and lieutenant.

Kaz was a tall muscular biker with black hair and brown eyes. He wasn’t the brightest of the seven chosen, but had a stubborn personality.

“You must be Kaz.” the grand duke stated smiling and shaking the strong biker’s hand.

Kaz smiled smugly, “And you must be the Grand Duke. The general here said if I come along you’ll see that I’m paid fifty thousand dollars.” he said wanting verification from the grand duke himself.

“Certainly, glad to have you along.” he replied. The grand duke redirected his attention back to his general and lieutenant, “It seems pretty unorthodox but, I agree with Kaz here.” he said lightly slapping his back. “They are after all just spiders and nothing more I’m sure. Let’s just bulldoze right through them and get things back underway.”

Before they separated to obey the grand duke’s orders general Grechov informed Raziel that the informant they used to locate the assassin Cain was found murdered in his cell the day of the explosion. Raziel stopped for a moment and processed the new information, knowing without a shadow of doubt that the informant was killed by Cain somehow, despite being locked away inside a secure prison. The grand duke then motioned with his hands to everyone to continue on with the quest and in doing so the multiple terrain dossers started their engines once again. All had returned to their corresponding modes of transportation. General Grechov’s group waited until Raziel and his convoy had pasted them by before continuing.

The massive mechanical monsters easily ripped through the thick coat of spider webs making it no more mysterious than a wonder of nature. The soldiers used the windshield wipers to swat off the hundreds of spiders that fled and crawled over the glass. Cain, who was still underneath remained perfectly calm and still allowing each spider that wandered under the machine to crawl on him until falling off on its own. As the second terrain dosser began to tread through the layers of sticky web, the mystic, who was still handcuffed, sensed something faint. It was very faint, but distinct.

“A demonic aura . . .” he quietly whispered to himself.

The entire convoy had entered the forest of darkness and kept down a poorly constructed pathway. All passengers were alert and wide awake, all except for Seth who somehow managed to sit quietly and half asleep during this event.

“What was that?” Carmon asked for everyone to hear while peering through her window seat.

Many of the passengers moved to her side of the vehicle to see for themselves including Christian.

“What? I don’t see anything.” Christian responded.

“I thought I saw something super dark moving back there.” she stated.

Seeing as how no-one else saw anything, everyone returned back to their seats. Carmon peered through her window once again, but saw nothing this time. The tension was high since the forest of darkness was such an unsettling area. Christian nervously would peek through the window on his row of seats. The prince was obviously a bit shaky, Wade patted his leg and smiled at him giving him a slight nod to try and reassure his safety. A big bump on the uneven ground forced the terrain dosser to jump very little, but enough to wake Seth from his slumber.

“Uh, what’d I miss?” he immediately responded to his startled awakening. He noticed the gloomy scenery and the dead pitch black trees which somehow managed to still grow darkened leaves, “Oh.” he said in a low monotone voice.

Wraith remained at the last row of seats near the restroom all alone. He was indeed apprehensive since many of his gang member friends had told him horror stories of the atrocities that are committed here. He couldn’t make out any of the details outside from where he was positioned, despite his efforts. Wraith’s body ceased to move upon the faint sound of an unearthly whisper from behind him in the cargo area of the terrain dosser.

He sat up straight and stretched his neck trying to see if he could notice anything in the dimly light area. Wraith was unable to understand the soft ghoulish whisper, but was certain he heard it again. On the second whisper the young man turned his head to everyone else, “Hey! Somebodies back here!” he warned.

The crew looked back towards Wraith to see who he was referring to, but saw nothing. The grand duke stood behind the driver directing the soldier to continue down a chosen path. Raziel then walked through the aisle of chairs to Wraith in the back to inspect his forewarning.

“What’s going on back here?” he questioned.

“No lie, somebodies back here. I heard’em whispering real quiet.” Wraith answered back without hesitation. Being handcuffed and alone in the back, the purple haired ruffian was paranoid something would sneak up behind him and gore him through the chest or something of that nature, killing him off first and quickly without even being given a chance to defend himself.

The grand duke inspected the ex-felon’s surrounding location, but had seen nothing of suspicion. Raziel ordered two soldiers to stand watch over Wraith and guarantee his safety. Wraith liked having two armed guards back there to protect him, but was still paranoid to an extent. Raziel began walking back to the front when suddenly Rufus made a loud outburst.

“Gran-dad!!!!” Rufus shouted in a panic. He jumped out of his seat worried for his grandfather’s well-being.

“Whoa, hey! What’s wrong?” the grand duke asked stopping in the middle of the aisle and showing Rufus some concern.

“Ya gotta stop this thing! Gran-dad’s out there! Something had him, I saw it!” he fretted. The young man was entirely convinced that he saw some manner of creature abducting his grandfather and time was running out.

“I still don’t see anything out there.” Christian informed, looking at Raziel.

The grand duke approached Rufus and rested his hand on the large man’s shoulder and looked him dead in the eyes, “Calm down now son, think about this for a second. Your grandpa was still at home and miles away when we left him the other day. I know he’s smart enough not to come into these woods alone, right?” the experienced warrior asked talking Rufus down.

“Yeah.” he softly answered nodding his head.

“Now you know whatever you saw out that window there wasn’t real, right?” Raziel asked.

Rufus nod his head in agreement and nervously believed the grand duke and tried ignoring the horrific sight just recently displayed to him.

“Why don’t you call him on your phone there. You’ll see I’m right.” he said comfortingly with a small smile.

Rufus pulled out his phone and opened it up to begin dialing his grandfather’s home number, “There’s no service.” he informed regrettably.

Raziel took a deep breath and pat Rufus on the back as he sat back down before returning back to the front.

“Where tha hell are we? Looks like we’re just driving in circles.” Raziel complained.

“Sir, the compass has stopped working.” One of the soldiers pointed out.

The grand duke walked over and looked at the device attached to the driving mechanics of the terrain dosser. He tapped on the glass to see if the arrow was stuck when suddenly the compass arrow began spinning wildly about without any sense of direction or control. The driver glanced at Raziel wondering what their course of action would be at this point. Raziel tried thinking their situation through, but was interrupted by another of the terrain dosser through and joint intercom.

“We have a break in the chain. Something’s wrong back here.” A soldier informed.

Raziel snatched up the handheld intercom device connected to the terrain dosser, “What is it? What’s going on back there?” he asked sternly.

“We’re not sure, sir. Bu…op…,” the voice began breaking up over the intercom.

The grand duke sighed heavily in aggravation before giving the order to stop.

Raziel started to exit the terrain dosser, but stopped and turned to everyone, “Everybody just, stay inside.” he instructed with his hands.

The grand duke was extremely bothered that the test of forest was already weighing in on everyone so heavily, but he tried putting his displeasure aside. He climbed down the exiting ladder and was accompanied by two soldiers. The surrounding area was dense with fog on the ground that reached up to his knees. The ground felt moist, almost swamp like. The only light provided were the headlights supplied by the following terrain dossers. Oddly enough, despite their massive size, the machines couldn’t illuminate much of the wooded scenery.

Raziel noticed general Grechov exiting his terrain dosser as well as a few of the soldiers riding along in the other vehicles.

The general finally approached the grand duke, “What’s going on? What’s the hold up?” he asked.

Raziel shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, “I don’t know yet.”

One of the soldiers from the terrain dosser with the situation approached his commanding officers, “I’m sorry sir. Our driver thought all the terrain dossers ahead of us drove off a cliff, he then proceeded to shoot out our control panel. Our terrain dosser is inoperable.”

“What? Are you kidding me with this?” Grechov complained to himself.

Raziel’s disappointment was obvious, “Where is this soldier now?” he questioned.

“Apprehended, sir. For his safety as well as ours, sir.”

“Very well.” he sighed rubbing his forehead. “Empty out of the T.D. and have everyone board into another.” Raziel instructed.

“We’re leaving it behind?” Grechov questioned.

“Yes, if you wanna stay behind and keep it company then be my guest.” The grand duke sarcastically snapped back.

“You heard the man.” Grechov replied ordering about and snapping his fingers in the air.

The soldiers followed the general’s commands and unloaded all supplies and fuel containers into the other terrain dossers. The ruined vehicle was left entirely vacant, knowing once abandoned that it would be lost in the labyrinth of the wicked forest forever.

Christian, Carmon, and five of the seven chosen still remained seated as the grand duke ordered. Wraith was still a bit weary, wondering if the soft whispering voice would return while Rufus tried removing the memory of the projected illusion of his grandfather. Christian’s curious nature made him fidget and slightly impatient, he wanted to start up a conversation with this un-talkative group of adults. He couldn’t stand the eerie quiet.

The prince turned around in his chair and looked at Vincent, “So Vincent, what’d ya think of this quest so far, huh? Pretty excited?” he asked.

Vincent directed his attention to the seemingly happy-go-lucky prince and glared at him with a ‘drop dead’ look. “Shut-up.” the silver haired teen command before returning his focus on the mysterious darkness outside.

Christian slumped back into his seat silently then looked at Wade sitting near him, “How about you Wade? What’cha think so far?”

Wade took a deep breath and thought for a moment, his eyes darted to the side, “It’s definitely unique, and . . .” he paused for a second and bit his bottom lip, “. . .I hope we don’t die.”

Christian nodded at the obvious answer not taking much from it, “Yeah.” he agreed. The prince looked back at Rufus for his opinion, “What about you Rufus?”

Rufus looked up and answered back honestly, “I just gotta bad feeling. I hope this whole trip wasn’t a big mistake.”

Seth who was looking outside the whole time stopped and stared at the back of the seat before him. He then closed his eyes and took a huge breath and exhaled slowly.

“Na, we’ll be okay. Besides we got Raziel with us, we’ll make it out of this okay, you’ll see.” Christian reassured.

“Yeah, but how will we know that when the grand duke comes back that it’s the grand duke? What if it’s a fake? We won’t know, and then it could kill us, or eat us, or whatever evil forests do ta people. We won’t know.” Rufus replied with a slight bit of panic.

Christian thought for a second, “Well, we’ll know. I’m sure.”

“How? I just then saw grand-dad out there get’n snatched up by something and I couldn’t tell the difference. I’m still not convinced that wasn’t him and I can’t even call him to see if he’s okay.” Rufus was still worried for his grandfather and grew more paranoid after the horrible image.

The prince sat not knowing how the respond to Rufus’ troubles. The heaviest of the chosen planted a worrisome thought in everyone’s head, how would anyone actually know if the REAL grand duke was coming back and not some evil illusion?

Wade blurted out amongst the quiet group, “We could pinch’em.” he suggested.

Back outside in the creepy woods Raziel walked away back towards the first terrain dosser. He could see the two soldiers in his transport were watching him outside to try and get a general idea of what was happening out there in the darkness. He wondered to himself if they were really there, but quickly dismissed the idea of his senses failing him and succumbing to the will of this damned forest. While the grand duke grew closer to his ride a loud, but mysterious groan was heard from the pitch black. Many, including Raziel, stopped and tried to pin point the origin of the creepy bellow. The unknown being’s presence only aiding in helping everyone to move faster to leave to forsaken area.

The grand duke climbed back inside his terrain dosser and was immediately bombarded with questions from the curious young prince. “What happened with the other terrain dosser? Is everyone okay? And what was that noise out there?” he interrogated, running up to Raziel.

“Everyone’s fine, just technical difficulties that’s all.” Raziel answered. He paused for a slight moment, “It seems this forest plays tricks on the mind, tricking people into believing visions that aren’t real, perhaps even sounds.” he stated indicating Wraith’s situation from earlier.

In Raziel’s peripheral’s he noticed Seth slowly raising from his seat, “This forest, plays tricks on tha mind, huh?” Seth questioned quietly with hesitation.

“Yeeah.” Raziel answered back wondering what Seth was getting at.

Something seemed to trouble Seth, as if there was a foreign element affecting him. He appeared a tad shaky and kept his head down the whole time, refusing to make eye contact. It was clear some manner of thoughts were racing through his mind. Was the forest of darkness projecting yet another image of falsehood to torment Seth or was this a new method of trickery? Seth slowly reached into his coat and slowly pulled out his gun.

Carmon gasped and Wade sat quietly dreading how this scene was soon to play out. Raziel had risen both his hands defensively and slowly moved in front of Christian, who was becoming increasingly nervous.

“Whoa, let’s just all settle down now here.” Raziel calmly and smoothly suggested.

Seth’s hand quivered while holding the gun and a small tear formulated in his eye, “If this forest is playing tricks. . .” he paused as if contemplating his decision, “. . . then maybe you should hold onto this.”

Seth slowly extended his hand outward to the grand duke, who reluctantly moved towards the detective. Raziel was finally in reach of the gun, he extended his arm with an open hand without making any sudden movements. The entire feeling of this whole situation had an ominous feel to it, something was obviously effecting Seth, but to what extent?

The air inside the terrain dosser was still, the only sound was from movement outside. The grand duke gently removed the gun from Seth’s hand and placed his other hand firmly on his shoulder. Everyone took a comforting breath of relief from the defused situation. Seth sat back down with watery eyes, he was tortured, but the devastating illusion he witnessed was uncertain. The soldiers beside Wraith in the back awaited the grand duke’s signal to open fire on Seth, but since the crisis was averted, they lowered their weapons and resumed to their positions.

“You did good Seth.” Raziel comforted Seth and was relieved the moment didn’t escalate. He put Seth’s gun in his own coat pocket and walked back up to the front. Christian stayed very close to the grand duke since anyone was a possible time bomb.

All quickly took notice once Seth stood back up.

He managed to maintain his composure, “I think, I need to wash my face.” he muttered quietly. He shuffled into the restroom in a sluggish manner.

The atmosphere was lifeless and the interest in conversation was dead. All inside sat wondering who was going to be manipulated by the dastardly forest. The grand duke and Christian sat down side by side in the front row. It was so quiet the sound of the faucets running water could be heard from inside the restroom.

Finally, the eerie silence was interrupted by Wade’s ice breaker question, “So, can we pinch you?” he asked the grand duke.

Raziel’s expression was priceless, “What?” he asked wondering the reasoning behind such a random question.

“We gotta know if it’s really you!” Christian explained looking into the hero’s face.

“Why do you think an illusion can’t be pinched?” Raziel asked countering their flawed reasoning.

The prince thought for a moment, then glared his eyes at the grand duke, “Why don’t you want me to pinch you?” he asked as if making a brilliant point.

Raziel rolled his eyes and sighed, “Fine, pinch me.” he said sticking his arm outward for the prince.

Christian pinched and twisted his fingers on the grand duke’s arm, much like Alisha would do to Christian when he gets on her nerves. “Hm, guess it’s really you. Unless you’re an illusion that CAN be pinched!” he stated aloud.

Raziel lowered his head and looked at his own chest, pinching his arm proved nothing just like he stated.

While looking downward the grand duke saw a small glimmer of green light illuminating from inside his coat. He opened his coat and removed the origin of the produced light. It was the scroll from the headless coachman. Raziel unrolled the scroll and looked at the encrypted text once again. Only particular symbols on the tattered scroll were lit.

“Tha heck?” Raziel wondered.

Christian leaned closer, “What’s that mean?” he asked naively.

“I’m, not really sure.” the grand duke replied.

Raziel looked at one of the guard’s standing by the entrance of the terrain dosser, “Go, and bring me the mystic.” He ordered. He and the prince stared at the old scroll in awe of its mystery.

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