The Scylla

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Hurricane Crossroads

As much as he would have loved to stay in the clouds, Olivier had to come back down. He had reached the end of the crag, the plains awaiting. It was rough at first, but when is a tumble back to reality ever enjoyable. He was alone. He had no supplies, not even a flask to his name. All he had was a sword that had already beaten him, and he was in the middle of nowhere, with no map, compass, or idea where to go. What he had avoided to do this entire time.

His first stop, though, was the lake. Now that the excitement had settled, his blood no longer rushing and beating into his mind, his throat had taken up arms, demanding it and the rest of him to be quenched. He had no argument for that, but the way his limbs felt, how they dragged, told him that water was only the beginning. How long could he hope to trek without food, then there was the matter of finding someplace safe to rest. It wasn’t only the one Leocarn. It is never ever only a single Leocarn.

The forest, he thought, coughing as the grass tickled his legs, swishing under his hands. It should have something. Mushrooms. Anything... right?

“But there could be more Leocarn in there,” he grumbled, groaning as he shook his head. “There could be some in this grass, too... Stupid! Why are you always so stupid? Why don’t you think things through.” He uttered a chuckle, far more bitter, hollow than the ones before. “This was what I wanted, after all. I wanted action, adventure. Excitement.”

He heaved another sigh, though couldn’t help but feel a little proud of himself. He had gotten all he wanted, and then some, from that Leocarn and, looking back, he had done something awesome. He never thought he had it in him... or maybe he did. Running away was his specialty, after all.

He shook his head, that speckle of pride gone, and continued on in his trudge to the lake. He could see the path he and Gwen burned through the grass, but thought it wise to stay away. At least in the grass he could duck down and hide, and not only from Leocarn. Who knows what, or who, else makes their rounds through the plains... Maybe going to the lake was a bad idea, but, even implying that, his body ached in protest. The only part of him that was quenched, against his want, were his feet, squelching away in the boots. His blood was no longer warm in them but definitely sticky, making them caked and grimy.

He practically threw them off as he reached the water, as he did the rest of his garb. He jumped right in, relishing the cold water on his heated body, tainting the water with dust and deep blue blood, but that didn’t stop him from gulping down so much, panting, almost moaning, with relief.

Olivier laid back in the water, his shell bobbing merrily, looking at the sky as it made the lake around him shimmer, masking his presence –at least, he hoped it did. He scooped up a handful of water every so often, sending ripples through the lake, and doused his face in it.

After the fourth one, though, he stopped himself, looking at his right arm.

Where do I go? He thought, and was about to lower it in the water again before stopping himself, instead hugged it as tight as he could over his middle. His left hand caressed the water, but it and the rest of him started to feel disgusted, as if that... thing attached to him had sullied everything around him. He paddled back to shore, threw on his clothes again, and sat by the lake, looking at that abomination of an appendage. A gust of wind swept through the plains, whistling through the grass, made the top of the lake ripple; as Olivier stared at his arm, the red lines pulsed in the purple flesh, and he could swear he saw it trickle into the wind. He swore he saw it weave into the waters, the ripples churning, frothing, boiling as purple fire sprung from it, as its basin cracked open and created a vortex, shrieking with the voices of the damned. He could see it churning with that darkness. Lightning cracked, splitting across its surface as it wailed with such an unearthly howl. Spirits, demons, abominations that would put the legends of the Earth Mothers and even the Dark Ones, even Cao’thugar, to shame, rose into the thickening heavens, raining down blood and that inky darkness onto all.

He retched a bit, and slung his arm to the side, his mind cleared with the last gasp of the wind. The water, the sky were normal. Of course they were normal... Olivier decided to tuck his arm underneath his shirt. Just in case.

So where could he go? Rather, who could he trust? Natalie knows he could not turn to the Earth Mother’s Disciples. They would soon label him... a monster. A freak... an abomination. They already do, but now their accusations would be concrete. The Zephyrians? They would gut and be done with him rather than risk tainting their golden cities. The Aqua Alliance would be of no use for this kind of darkness, and it was for the best for everyone that the Itchyomen never knew about this. Who did that leave, then? The Natorei, the fairy spirits? They would sooner turn him over to the Disciples. The Arthrogon? The Queens could be of aid, but he feared what that taint could do to the mass broods.

Which only left one option.

“I need to go to Tartarus, to the Hallowed,” he uttered, and shivered as another gust blew. From the south this time, clashing against the eastern gale that gently whisked across the fields. It bit into his back, made him shudder even more, realizing what he just said, and the water he had been drinking turned foul in his belly. He expelled it on the grass, and he could have sworn it turned brown as he stood, turning towards that southern gale. Dark clouds gathered, shaking the trees of the forest, beckoning, taunting him. He wondered how far a trip it would be after traversing that undergrowth. A day? A week? Month, if lucky --or unlucky.

It was a direction, at least, and his best lead at the moment.

He tightened the strap of the sword against his middle, lest it decided to wage another bout with him, and made haste for the forest. Wind whipped and shrieked by his face, stirring his tendrils, trying so hard to lift his shell, but it and his gaze remained firm, fixed towards the edge. Dusk seemed to arrive early there, creeping out from inside, reaching out for him before embracing him in the darkness under that canopy. Thunder rumbled; lightning flashed, scorching the area in blinding light. Again and again he found himself turned around, turned away from phantasms made from limbs, jumping from stumps that burned with the light, his mind the cruelest trial of them all.

As the wind rose again, he fell on one of the stumps, panting, holding himself tight as it swirled around him. It shook the leaves from the trees, sliced at his cheek and arms. His sword rattled in its sheathe, sliding slowly out of it, caught before it could completely free and shoved back in. Olivier made sure it stayed that way.

As quick as it came, though, it was soon gone, and Oliver sat up on the stump, clenching his chest as he looked around, now not even sure which way lead back to the lake. He groaned as he fell on his side, his shell clonking on the stump.

Stupid, he thought, clonking it four more times. I should have marked the trees or something... I could have marked the rocks. I could have marked the rocks!

He groaned and hit his head on the trunk again, wincing.

“Guess my luck ran out,” he grumbled, and chortled. “‘Luck’? What’s that... I’m going to die out here."

“No, you’re not.” A voice piped up, almost right by his ear, and that high shrill giggled as he fell off the stump. He looked back to find a pink Natorei. It was barely larger than a man’s fist, but he knew not to judge it by its size. It could pack more a wallop than fifty men in such a small package. The Natorei flipped their long, hair back, the color of golden rows of wheat, clashing against their bright pink skin and deep green eyes. The rest of them was bathed in light, their modesty burning the brightest while their chest was free for all to see, toned, hidden behind his bulging arms. It was a male Natorei. He giggled, and buzzed up to Olivier’s face again, its wings a blur, but they cascaded such color, like two glass prisms. “I was only having fun with you. It’s rare we see Cephamorians out this way, even more half-breeds. I’m Avin.”

“O... Olivier,” he said, and held out his... pinky to the Natorei.

Avin shook it, practically throwing him around like a ragdoll as he did, and groaned as he crossed his arms again.

“So what are you doing out here? I saw you looking towards our forest muttering to yourself and thought, ‘this guy is going to be a problem’. Then I find you muttering about luck and dying. So... what’s your deal? What kind of problems are you bringing to my doorstep?”

“I... I do not mean to. I’m... just simply... lost.”

“You could say that again, but, please, don’t. There isn’t a body of salt water for leagues, and a port town even further than that, which, again, goes back to my original question.”

“I... don’t know how to answer.”

Avin let out a long sigh, knuckling his forehead.

“What am I going to do with you,” he grumbled, but clapped his fist against his palm. “Tell you what. You look a bit green around the gills. Why don’t we get you to Narvaal, get you fed and rested, then we can talk about why you are in our little neck of the woods?”

“O-of... n... no. As much as I appreciate the gestu-”

Avin chortled as he shoved against Olivier’s back. The soles of his boots dragged through the dirt and leaves, lead south of the stump.

“Nonsense! As I said, it’s rare for us to see your kind around here, and you know us Natorei. We are sinfully curious, which you are only making worse by refusing.”

With that, it seemed that Olivier didn’t really have a choice. He stepped away from Avin, and he fluttered around him, leading him through the forest, through twists and turns- and one of the branches finally snagged his sword.

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