It hadn’t been a life she wanted; and now, she was going to face her death.
Chaos on all levels, couldn’t compare to the fear she felt! But it was either the Forest or her; Elvia... and everyone, who had fought with her.
In doing this, she was making a decision entirely against her will… a sacrifice. She would die for them…
Elvia broke out in a cold uncomfortable sweat from flying, but she wasn’t tired. Hineerus carried Nox, and Adrian flew on the other side of him, as they all made their way on; to the last remaining stronghold fighting off the infected Creatures!
When they Arrived, Hineerus had looked up at his fellow Guardian, the same wolf like creature as he was, standing on the top of a great stone wall.
It only took one glance at Hineerus, and then, he commanded the Creatures below to open the gate.
Hineerus, and Adrian and Elvia, walked in, finding themselves in a vast sea of wounded Creatures, and very few of them able to fight. A handful stood with weapons in hand, and others had tended to the injured.
“What happened here?” Hineerus shouted in a low growl.
The wolf Creature jumped on down and answered. “We were retreating, outnumbered; and the dark Creatures just kept coming… then… a sudden and intense weather befell us, wounding few and killing many! We are all that is left!”
“Nimbrack, Rehaloy…where are they…?” Hineerus asked in desperation.
“All that is left of the Guardians of the Temples of the Protectors, are you... Hineerus... and I.”
Hineerus claimed a spot on the ground and gazed down in a moment of silence. Then, after a brief reluctance, he lifted his head to his fellow Guardian, and said. “Gabilauph, I’m afraid to inform you that all the sacred stones are missing from the temples!”
Astrid walked with a floating spell, performed on the frozen Protector; and it moved, hovering alongside her.
The three Protectors, Jack, Cristoph, Lithia and the rest, walked on ahead. Tesmorlah carried Helen on her back, and she was put to sleep from the healing spell, Astrid had performed on her to mend her wing.
On and on, they tread through the Forest. The atmosphere was enchanting; glistening snowflakes fell delicately, blanketing the branches, plants, and a few fallen tree limbs placed by nature here and there.
The mysterious man had walked behind Astrid, moving his head on up and over every now and then, as if catching a short glance at the frozen Protector; even though he was blind; blind and could not see. Astrid felt that he might have done this out of habit, or out of a developed sense, greater than sight… an internal sensation; feeling.
Astrid was mixed a little misplaced, she stopped suddenly, and the petrified Protector stopped along with her, but remained floating above the ground.
Jack, the three Protectors, Cristoph, Angelus and the bunch, continued ahead for they hadn’t noticed Astrid had stopped abruptly.
The man came up close to Astrid.
Astrid’s eyes had turned black, and her skin began to transform into jagged gray scales.
The man grabbed Astrid, swung her around and pulled her towards him, and kissed her; spreading out from her lips to the rest of her body, a black and purple glow covered over her!
Jack glanced back to look at Astrid, and to his utter shock, he discovered mister mystery, holding her in his arms, kissing her!
Astrid fell down and the levitating frozen sculpture of a Protector, dropped also, but had not broken; nor had the slightest fractured. The man drew his hand up to his mouth, and spit out the four stones into a cloth; and then wrapped them up!
Jack’s heart dropped into his stomach and filled with anticipation! He rushed over to Astrid and knelt down beside her, shouting demandingly, at the man. “What have you done!”
Cristoph and the rest couldn’t ignore the spectacle; they stopped and turned their attention to Jack, who cradled Astrid in his arms.
The mysterious man explained himself. “Astrid was beginning to trance! You see, I couldn’t let that happen... for with possession of the sacred stones, and being in a trance, which makes her susceptible to be controlled; by any spirits or evil spirits alike… I couldn’t chance that; she would have destroyed the entire Forest, along with everyone in it… if she is to turn. She’ll be fine… I simply drained her of her energy and took the stones from her.”
Jack looked at Astrid in bafflement, and then glared at the man and asked. “Who are you... that you know this...?”
The man raised up his head, and revealed his blind eyes and hideously scarred flesh. Then, he answered. “I am Amerroth!”
Cristoph, hearing what he had said his name was, looked at Amerroth in surprise; and declared. “The liberator of the Secret... the right hand of the Creator!”
Lithia glanced at Cristoph, then returned her gaze to Amerroth, with a curious semblance.
“You see… I was sent here by the Creator, to stop the poltergeist and Bougsmeith from getting ahold of all four of the sacred stones. If they did that… this Forest would surely be destroyed! Since Astrid has destroyed the poltergeist, my mission is now to see to it that the Tree of Beginning, Life and Light… is restored.”
Jack stared at Amerroth with great distress and pleaded. “There has to be another way! Please… say there is! Astrid can’t die!”
Jack had turned his face away from Amerroth, and brought his gaze to Astrid lying on the ground, with a slight amount of snow now layered upon her cloak.
Amerroth remained silent, and Jack knew what that meant; there wasn’t another way, like how there wasn’t a cure for some illnesses; there wasn’t a cure for Astrid. He knelt down closer to Astrid and held her again.
“Come on Jack… we must carry on.” Amerroth turned, and had begun to walk towards the others.
Jack gathered Astrid from off of her snowy bed, and put his hand forth to the Protector ensnared in ice, and whispered. Again, Bougsmeith lifted up above the ground, and floated aside him as he moved on toward Cristoph, Lithia, Tesmorlah, and all who had been there grouped together. How he carried Astrid was so nurturing; like a parent taking over her tasks, hovering the beast alongside, and also, carrying her now that she couldn’t walk on her own. He was truly bound to her; and destined to love her. Only he knew how to love her, and only she knew it.
Two hours had gone by; they were up to their knees in snow, and the flakes fell, as if they had devised to do so forever. It would be night soon, but there was no decent place for them to take shelter here.
Then off in the distance, Lithia beheld a dim light which flickered and moved like a flame; she yelled exhaustingly. “What’s that up ahead?” Angelus suggested. “Could it be a lodging of some kind…”
Jack tilted his head and looked off to the dull light. His eyes changed to purple, and now he could see perfectly what had been there, out in the unventured and unknown.
“It’s a lantern hanging by a cave door.”
Cristoph exclaimed, while looking back and forth from one to the other of each and all of his fellow companions. “Do you think what lives there is friend... or foe?” Jack continued to look off and at the cave. “I don’t know…” He said.
Lithia took a step forward. “Most likely foe, but we’ll just have to go and find out!” She tread on through the deep snow ahead of the rest, to the distant and faint light.
They reached the cave, and found that the lantern hung from a wooden post, carved all from one great piece of wood, and it arched over perfectly symmetrical from top to bottom. Such a Creature that would take such time and care to make something like this, could not be corrupt. That would not be right, that would not be justice; and what would it be, if one of them was to destroy this work of art right at this moment. It would be a barbaric and pointless act, and they wouldn’t… for beauty appreciates beauty. Good belongs with good. This Creature had to be good.
They peered on down inside the dark cave, and Cristoph, Angelus and Tesmorlah, followed closely to Lithia leading the way, cautiously entering.
Jack whispered and the enchantment that made Bougsmeith to be airborne, was no more; and the great beast hugged the ground, an extent away from outside of the cave. He walked inside, joining the rest with his darling love cradled in his arms. Amerroth waited, and then walked in after him in-case something might attack from behind; he would be able to protect the rear.
They had come around a sharp corner to a flickering light, dancing upon the back wall.
Lithia drew her sword and slowly walked, and came into this great cavity, with a fire licking at a large roasting dragon leg! The aroma was heavenly and it was near done.
She heard a noise! A few pebbles rolled out from behind a boulder.
The three Protectors, Tesmorlah, Angelus, Jack and Amerroth, had bunched together behind Cristoph and Lithia, standing side by side, blades in hand!
Steadily, Cristoph crept toward the boulder. A furry beast then jumped out from behind it, grabbing hold of Cristoph’s sword! Cristoph wrestled with the beast, as Lithia charged on forward, eager to stab the attacker in the chest!
The beast spotted Lithia in the corner of his eye, and quickly hopped aside, rolling on the cave floor with Cristoph towards the fire, as they continued to wrestle!
Tesmorlah then had a good look at the beast, and she was surprised and shouted. “Stop!”
The beast and Cristoph stared up at Tesmorlah, and immediately, the beast responded in a very masculine voice. “Dragon queen?”
“Yes, it is I, great hunter, fearless fighter Rif.” Tesmorlah replied.
The beast had let go of Cristoph’s sword and stood upon his feet. Rif’s fur had been thick and black, complimented with silver tips, and iridescent sapphire stripes that ran down his back, and also down the sides of his face.
Cristoph rose to his feet and sheathed his sword. Lithia exclaimed. “Rif? The ancient most powerful Braglok! How did you survive… I heard you and your army of Bragloks, were wiped out in a vicious battle at the river Lemossadal; ambushed by the Dark Creatures!”
Rif replied. “I was thrown in the river by a Dramiph, and you know what their attention span is like; I struck my head on a rock and blacked out. I woke up in this cave, and found myself being nursed back to health by a Tritelor. Four days later, Dark Creatures attacked, and the Tritelor, who said her name was Abbeth, was killed. I’ve been here ever since... in this cave. You all must be hungry and cold, please come and sit by the warm fire!”
The next morning, Astrid awoke. What was this? This dark place she found herself in... and then there was Jack laying with her, keeping her cozy and warm under a large glossy leather hide!
She shook him, speaking under her breath. “Jack... Jack!”
Jack awoke, threw off the covers, and said with enthusiasm. “You’re awake!”
Astrid observed him with confusion and asked. “What happened?”
Jack explained. “You were trancing, and Amerroth stopped you, and took the sacred stones away from you. Then, you fell down unconscious, I carried you. Shall I tell you more?” Astrid looked deeper into his eyes, as if trying to find herself in his gaze. “Yes, continue...” Lithia spotted a lantern in front of this cave we are inside of now, and Cristoph wrestled this beast that we found out to be… a friend of Tesmorlah… Rif a species known as the Bragloks, which Tesmorlah also revealed to us when she called the beast by name... Cristoph and the beast stopped having it at each other… and were on their feet. Yes, his name is Rif and”—“What do you want?” Rif said, as he rolled over and stood up, stretching, and thought his name had been called.
Lithia awoke to the smell of Giggarmo stew. She turned, and saw Amerroth, stirring it while Cristoph added herbs.
She stood up, and had extended her arm in a good stretch, then made her way over to the pot, taking a mouthwatering look at the bubbling broth.
Angelus slept on the ground snuggled against Temorlah and Helen, who had slept upon Tesmorlah’s back.
Helen opened her eyes, to discover that she was inside a cave, with a large black pot steaming out a delectable scent. She examined her wing, then looked at Astrid, who was sitting from across the spread of the cave; down with Jack, talking. She thanked her by bowing her head a bit as they made eye contact.
Tesmorlah, with her eyes still shut had been awakened by the succulent, and absolutely amazing smell of Amerroth’s stew. She took a deep breath, inhaling its essence and opened her eyes.
Angelus woke from the sounds and the movements of her belly; his back touching her breathing stomach. He rose to his feet as he noticed Helen was awake and sitting upright upon Tesmorlah’s back. He helped her down, even though she was completely healed and capable of doing so herself.
“When’s the food gonna be done, I’m starving!” Jack said as he came up to Cristoph, Amerroth and Lithia, and peeked into the pot.
Jack stared at the rumbling broth, and then said. “What is it?”
Amerroth continued stirring evenly, watching the stew as he answered. “It is Giggarmo Stew.”
Jack gazed at the tantalizing and rich bubbling broth. “What is Gig-ge-garbo?” he said.
Cristoph replied this time, knowing exactly what he meant to ask. “It’s a kind of fowl.”
Angelus and Helen came over to the bubbling caldron, now warming themselves, and Astrid and Rif had gathered in, and joined as well.
Cristoph dropped one last ingredient in the concoction, and then Amerroth gave the stew one last stir and said. “It’s ready to eat.”
“Great, I’m famished.” Lithia said.
Rif walked over to the wall of the cave, and pulled up an overflowing leather drape, revealing many different utensils, bowls, plates, and cookware.
Everyone except for Cristoph and Amerroth had turned to look at what all the commotion was about, and Jack exclaimed. “Ah, I see!”
“Let’s eat!” Lithia said as she grabbed a bowl, then filled it on up generously, gulping the stew down one bowl after another, as the others joined in serving up their portions.
Tesmorlah blasted her solar breath at the snow that had built up while they slept, and blocked the entrance, trapping them inside the cave. The great solar ball went tearing off further into the Forest, once it had done the job intended for it; and then, became smaller and smaller, until it faded out to nothing more than a speck in the distance.
The snow melted instantly to water and splashed messily to the ground! There was a straight blast, heated through the seven feet of snow as far as the eye could see.
“We will take to the air, the snow is too deep!” Tesmorlah said.
Just then, the three Protectors had rushed out from within the cave, stopping and gathering in a straight line in front of Tesmorlah.
“What are they doing?” Jack whispered, as he stood at Tesmorlah’s side with Astrid.
Tesmorlah didn’t answer, for the strange movement of the beings of red blue and white, bewildered, and captivated her as well.
There they were, swaying back and forth, and then, forwards and backwards; it was so foreign.
From out of the cave came the rest, and when they beheld this outlandish act taking place, they were dazzled, and more or less, confused as well; staring at the three in perpetual awe. The nature, the mystery and power of these beings, was as great as it was many-sided.
“They are preparing to melt a path through the snow that will lead us directly to the Tree of Beginning.” Amerroth said as he held his fingers to his temples, and then, slowly drew them away.
All three of the Protectors, at the same time, had jolted their bodies to the left, and three beams of the same colors of each of the Protectors light, twisted together, and shot off into the snow clearing a path; just as Amerroth had said they would do.
Then, the three began to move on forward, following after the entwined lights! Tesmorlah and Helen, Angelus and Amerroth, Astrid and Cristoph, Lithia and Rif, moved out, closely gathered behind them; and Jack had done so correspondingly after he cast the floating spell on the great frozen statue of Bougsmeith.
The combined lights ahead, moved in a straight line; then to the left, then straight again, then to the right; and it continued to move in these unpredicted directions, while leaving plenty of room for them, creating a-beyond-large-enough path.
Elvia stopped suddenly! “Adrian… Adrian… where are you?” She said, searching frantically.
“I’m right here.” Adrian answered calmly. Elvia looked around in the area from where his voice had come from. “I can’t see you!” She said.
A clattering noise thumped from inside of the tree in front of her. She flew towards it and looked into the hollow, while gripping onto the bottom edge of the opening firmly with both hands.
“Adrian! Are you okay?” she shouted anxiously!
“I was trying to get breakfast for you Elvia… but I couldn’t reach the mushrooms.” Adrian said as Elvia spotted him, laying all muddled, face down at the bottom in a pile of leaves upon his back. Elvia looked on the sides for mushrooms, but hadn’t seen any, and couldn’t understand how he found mushrooms in a tree hollow in the first place. She put her head in further, and saw there to be not just mushrooms, but a whole jumble of mushrooms all bunched tightly together, gripping upside-down at the top!
Sure enough, Elvia’s mouth began to water. Then Adrian from below, bent up, groaning, and she drew her attention to him and quickly flew down to help him stand; steadying him as he rose.
Elvia pulled Adrian’s head close to her sight, when she spotted a wet glistening sheen upon it in the darkness.
His forehead had been scraped and bleeding. Elvia examined the rest of his head for any other areas of injury.
He had several bruises on his body, but mostly on his limbs.
Elvia flew out of the tree hollow, carrying Adrian into the light.
A Creature that looked like a bat, and also resembling a triceratops for its black dinosaur like skin was adorned with speckles of red; the dinosaur came up to her and asked. “What happened!”
Elvia stopped and replied. “He fell, trying to pick mushrooms.”
“Where are the mushrooms?” The Creature asked.
Elvia twirled in the air and pointed. “They’re inside the tree, growing from the ceiling.”
The bat, slash dinosaur Creature said as he walked on over to the tree, and reached his claw inside the hollow. “I’ll get them for you.”