She cut down the huge thickets as they progressed further into the jungle. It was exhausting and Sandy felt her arms ache from the hours of cutting she had to make. She had to find the legend that resides in the forest as it could tip the balance of the war. She glanced behind to check on Lucy, her best friend and saw that she was barely hanging on, her legs shivering begging for a rest. Sandy sighed and signalled for a rest for she knew that if they were to continue, not only would they incur unwanted injuries, they might not even find what they were looking for in this dense forest.
It had been months since she had left her house, to go on this unavoidable adventure to find the legendary relic. A relic that was said to be used by the strongest warrior of magic and martial arts that was supposedly filled with powers that could empower any individual who holds it. She sat on a nearby rock whilst motioning for Lucy to sit beside her, immune to the dirt that it will cause her dress. It was natural as she had been journeying for a long time. She had to adapt, to change her old ways as even though she was noble by nature, it would be difficult to survive in the wild relying on nobility. She thought back to her younger days, free of responsibilities and the peaceful times. How greed had changed the world was beyond her. What was taught in her school, to turn a blind eye to the influence of greed so to achieve stability seemed naive at this point. The world flung in turmoil, over the greed of power. Each country was hungry for power, land and wealth would dominate their weaker neighbours.
Ever since the Goliath appeared, the world was on their knees, begging him to grant them their wishes. He appeared out of thin air, when the world was losing massively against the war with the demons, offering hope and salvation. Acting as a saint at first, fighting off evil, everyone revered Goliath and proclaimed him to be a hero sent from the gods to rid their enemies. As soon as the evil lord was slain, peace did not ensue. Goliath self-proclaimed his throne and declared the world as his kingdom. Anyone against his rule was executed on the spot and their family not spared. He ruled the world with fear. No one dared to openly rebel against his rule in fear of the safety of their family. It has been two years, yet no one was willing to step up to fight him. They would rather go back to war with the demons than to live under someone so wicked.
It was two months ago when her life totally changed. On the night where Goliath invited every noble to attend his two year anniversary reign, his eyes fell upon her beauty and wanted her as his wife to add to his collection. Goliath did not really hide his affection for those with beauty. He had already forty-five women in his castle. There had been rumours that those ladies were never to be seen again. The other reason he wanted Sandy was for the influence her family has. Once he has her, her family would join the rest of his conquest and his control over the world would be resolute. Sandy knew she had to escape his grasp. She could not bear to live beside that tyrant and her future would be bleak. The supposed alliance which included every king of the different nations did nothing in stopping Goliath. Some even went to revere Goliath and went under his regime, worshiping him as if he was a god and offering bizarre sacrifices just to appease him. They changed for the worst, each not minding to dirty their hands as long as they were able to survive. A massacre happened with each of the families ‘cleansing’ their bloodline of those that did not have the same mindset. Even children and the elderly were not spared. Her family was included in the masses and she had witnessed how brutal the process was. She was one of the lucky ones to be spared as her father could not bear to kill her. That was the one and last time she saw her father.
She gazed towards a distance, hoping for this ordeal to end as she just wanted to live like before. Free from doing slavery and spending quality time with her family. However, she knew that would only be possible if Goliath were to fall. For that to happen, she needed the relic of the strongest being, Karish. A weapon with unimaginable power that grants the power to annihilate any obstacles that stood before the user. This was told to her by her uncle who had heard rumours had been floating around. Many had thought she was naive to believe this kind of rumours but she had to take the chance. She would rather be on a wild goose chase compared to a tool that would be disposed of once she had no value left.
They resumed walking trying to find the mysterious artefact. Lucy looked at her for a few minutes, trying to formulate a sentence due to exhaustion.
“Are you sure it is here? We have been walking for hours and it looks like we have been walking in circles!” she said in between pants.
“I am...positive it is here. We are very close. I can feel it.” Sandy said, looking determined. She had to believe it as it was her only hope of salvation. It definitely must be there or she would not dare to imagine otherwise.
“Now I know what people without magic feel like. It’s impressive how they manage to live their life magic-free. Walking this distance without magic sure is exhausting.” Lucy said in between heavy breaths.
Sandy nodded as she was also getting exhausted from all the walking. Furthermore, they had to slash down the leaves to walk through the dense forest.
“We are near the area according to the map from one of the locals. We should be able to reach there soon.” Sandy said while looking ahead. She wiped the sweat off her forehead, the intense heat glaring down on them. She was racing against time. It would not be long before the balance of the world is broken. As they continue walking forward into the unknown, an indescribable eerie feeling keeps bothering them. It made them be much more aware of their surroundings. It felt as though someone or something was stalking them, watching their every move. They began to subtly quicken their steps as fear of getting caught marks the end of their journey.
‘How are they able to find us this fast?’ Sandy thought to herself. ‘We did not use magic or even showed our face for them to trace us.’
As magic left traces that would easily expose their location, both the girls were adamant on not using their powers to travel or for daily activities. What they had feared the most would be realised if they were captured here. They looked at each other for a split second before dashing forward. They were not focused on the direction they were running. They wanted to lose their stalker as fast as possible. They turned at every corner possible yet it seemed as though they had not gained any distance from their pursuer. The pursuer had abandoned stealth and was directly behind their trails, rustling the leaves as he moved. They were panting for their breaths, hoping for the pursuer trips but to no avail.
Sandy stopped to see that they were on the edge of a cliff. It was a massive jump and she was not sure whether they would be alive surviving the jump. It was either the jump or they would be captured and serve Goliath which would almost mean the same thing. Without much hesitation, she grabbed Lucy by the wrist and gave her a quick glance before running forward. Lucy was still in the middle of processing what was happening before she noticed everything in her sight was going upwards. They plunged into the river, each clawing their way upwards for air. It was a desperate struggle against the strong currents. Everytime they managed to come up for air, the current forced them under and tried to push them further down. Not long after, Sandy slowly loses consciousness whilst trying her best to hold Lucy’s hand.
On the edge of the cliff stood two men in black hoods, looking down at the strong river current. One of them, having a scar on his right eye, asked his partner, “Do you reckon they survived through that? We were so close too.”
His partner glanced at him before turning around, “I doubt so since that river leads to the Sanctum of the Forest.”