Chapter 6: Mythical Hero
Amsyn steps onto the sand, relieved to be on solid ground. Water, she has discovered, does not agree with her. She took a ship from Fulor across the Frekist Sea into Jafeen Port. Jafeen is a large port in Gorus, but-like the rest of the country-is now under Quvania’s tyrannical thrall.
The port and it’s city border the Cri Wilds. The thick, entangling forest is widely rumored to be the headquarters of the Children of Tevata. Quvanian soldiers have searched every inch of the woods and haven’t found a trace of their existence. If trained soldiers can’t find them Amsyn has no idea how she is supposed to.
She has heard all the stories. Ones that say that the Children of Tevata are the spirits of the vengeful dead who cannot rest until they are avenged and that is not even the strangest tale. She once heard from a Nymph woman that they have never been found because the Mother shields them. It is as believable a theory as any, Amsyn supposes.
Sinnion yawns and buries his head in her locks. His scaly, blue tail is coiled around her neck and his body weight is focused on her right shoulder.
She’s wearing a sleeveless, dark green shirt and loose, brown pants. Overtop is a faded green, long jacket with short sleeves and a tail split into several vine-like strips. She has on calf-length, leather boots the same shade as her shirt. Her hands-both wooden and flesh-are covered by black, fingerless gloves that reach just beyond her wrist bones.
Slung over her shoulder is her dark, leather quiver and her well-crafted bow; both a gift from Helio. Amsyn tries to avoid fights. She has a natural dislike of violence, but she has no choice. This is what she promised to do for Helio and she will. Dangling from her left shoulder is her leather satchel; filled with carefully packed herbs, bandages, and tools.
She raises the hood of her jacket. Whining, Sinnion pulls his face from her neck. Amsyn giggles and strokes Sinnion’s head with her index finger. He purrs and nuzzles into her touch.
“It appears it is just you and I, my friend.” She tells him. He cocks his head as if trying to understand what she is saying. She smiles, shaking her head.
Amsyn uses the soldiers’ preoccupation with the ship’s unloading to mask her slip into the woods.
Amsyn can’t tell how long she has been walking. She is sure, however, that she is completely lost. She looks towards the sky, trying to determine the time of day. Streams of light seep through the thick, colored canopy. It isn’t enough to walk by let alone determine time of day.
Amsyn grips onto a moss covered tree trunk to keep from falling when her foot becomes caught in one of the numerous vine webs covering the forest floor. She yanks her foot free and steps onto the tree’s visible roots.
Amsyn leans against a tree. She pushes down her hood and her orange curls topple out, falling over Sinnion. The sleeping Wyvern shifts, but does not wake. She has been trekking through the forest for hours. Her feet ache and her skin is covered in a sheen layer of sweat. She swipes her tongue over her cracked lips. She has to refrain from rolling her shoulder where Sinnion is and an ache has begun to form. None of the forests in Fulor or Udor are as thick and hard to navigate as the Wilds.
Amsyn forces herself off the tree. If she gets to comfortable she’ll probably fall asleep and she wouldn’t feel safe sleeping out in the open. Who knows what could dwell within these woods.
Something rushes past. It rustles the trees and sends a gust of wind over Amsyn. Amsyn whirls around, her heart pounding in her ears. “Hello, is anyone there?” She calls out, her voice trembling. She pulls Sinnion from her shoulder and cradles him close to her chest.
A shadow rushes at her and in a split second she is hurling through the air. She is thrown into shrubbery. Amsyn cries out as her body collides with the ground. Her eyes burn when the rippling pain racks her body. Sinnion growls, wiggling free of her hold. He crawls up her chest and gazes down at her, worried. “I’m okay.” She chokes out. Sinnion crawls off her, allowing her to sit up; her body flares in protest.
The ground beneath her feet trembles. She freezes. Her senses seem to become hyperactive. In one moment she can hear a herd of approaching footsteps, smell the flowers growing around her, and feel every curve and crevice of Sinnion’s body. The shadow shatters through the drooping, twin trees and rushes at her, but it is thrown back before it can touch her. Amsyn lets out a scream and scrambles backwards, falling onto her rear. Sinnion launches out of her arms and hovers in front of her prepared to attack.
She looks towards the tree where her fallen attacker lies. Another screams tears itself free from her throat.
Wraiths haven’t been seen in centuries at least not in Glitai. Wraiths are creatures of chaos. The thirteenth race that inhabits Tevata. The evil race. They rise only in times of great chaos and unrest. They are manifestations of it. It is what they feed off of. The more there is of it the stronger they become. During times of peace the ones that don’t fade from existence retreat underground.
This one is a grotesque monstrosity about her height with clawed, abnormally long, wiry limbs. It has no distinctive eyes only red lights peeking through the impenetrable darkness of its body. It’s mouth is made up of two rows of razor sharp teeth, sharper than Dragon teeth. The darkness radiates from the Wraith like smoke.
The Wraith is beyond the most terrifying thing Amsyn has ever seen.
Her savior servers its head in one swift movement. The Wraith’s darkness dissipates into black smoke that simply vanishes. Amsyn glances up fearfully.
“Are you alright?” He asks in Elvish. Finding that both her courage and voice have deserted her, she nods.
The man approaches Amsyn and offers his hand. Reluctantly, she takes it and he pulls her to her feet. Sinnion circles the man unsure. Amsyn pulls her hand from his and steps back.
He is taller than her, at least two heads taller, probably three. He has what Amsyn can only describe as a strong face. He has a square jaw, the only square feature on a rounded face, and sculpted lips. He has almond shaped, sapphire eyes that remind her of the deep ocean she recently crossed over and a wide nose that balances his face. His brown hair falls to the edge of his chin and woven within are a couple, colored feathers and a strand of colorful beads. He is a wielder of the Nature element. He is young, physically he looks to be about her age with golden skin. Woven over his face, arms, and torso are thick, black, tribal tattoos consisting of interconnected, sharp lines. He has an impressive physique that consists of corded muscles and a well-defined chest. Beneath the layer of tattoos are scattered, white scars that can be attributed to a variety of injuries. He is dressed in brown, leather pants, that are fitted over his curved legs, and no shirt. Amsyn trails her eyes downward to find a sliver of golden skin and hooves.
He’s a Faun.
Amsyn raises her head. The camouflage her savior used to conceal his horns is lowered. From his skull protrudes two, wide, rounded, caramel colored horns that curve upwards and end in a piecing point.
Clutched in his hand is the weapon he used to sever the Wraith’s head, a metal, chain whip composed of small arrowhead shaped blades strung together. A dangerous weapon in the hands of a hardened warrior.
Amsyn doesn’t know whether she should thank the Faun or run. He saved her, but he’s a Faun. They are dangerous and feral. He doesn’t seem feral though, dangerous, most definitely, but feral, no.
“Yes, I’m fine.” She answers finally.
He flashes her a warm smile that chases away any lingering worries. “Who are you?” She inquires. His smile morphs into a smirk.
A cry echoes through the forest. Amsyn whirls around, her heart pounding. The Faun wraps a hand around either of her arms, steadying her. Sinnion lowers himself to the Faun’s eye level and lets out a growl. Chuckling, the Faun releases Amsyn. Disappointment tugs at her, but the fear chases it away.
Another cry fills the forest air. He stiffens. He grabs Amsyn’s hand and bolts deeper into the woods, dragging her behind him. Sinnion follows them.
They burst through the tree line into a tight clearing. Amsyn’s eyes widen at the sight before her. Fighting in the clearing are Wraiths and a number of other creatures.
“Stay here.” The Faun orders. He takes off into the clearing, whip in hand. Amsyn watches in awe as he swings the whip, cleaving a Wraith in two. The Wraiths are duplicates of the one that attacked her.
A dark-skinned, male Nymph hurls an elongated dagger through the air. It plunges into the Wraith’s back. The creature turns to black smoke. Amsyn shifts her gaze to a dueling Wraith and female Thunderbird fighting their way towards her. She runs away from them and ends up deeper in the clearing.
Amsyn weaves her way through the fights. Sinnion flies around her, attempting to steer her away from danger. A Wraith charges at Amsyn. The Faun pushes her to the ground, using his body to shield her.
“Stay down,” he growls in her ear.
He jumps up and snatches his discarded whip from beside Amsyn’s trembling body. He snaps the whip in Wraith’s direction. The Wraith sidesteps the attack. It swipes at the Faun with its unnaturally long claws. He dodges the Wraith’s overhand swipe, but it caught by it’s underhand attack. It’s claws dig into the Faun’s side. He cries out and staggers backwards, the Wraith’s claws slipping from his flesh. His whip falls out of his hand. The Wraith kicks him sending him tumbling over the ground.
Amsyn gasps, her hand going to cover her mouth. She wants to run to his aid, but fears drawing the Wraith’s attention. Sinnion has no such reservations. The Wyvern swoops down from the sky like a bird of prey and unhinges his jaw releasing a steady stream of fire. It unleashes an ear piercing cry.
Amsyn’s eyes fills with tears. “Sinnion!” She screams.
The Wraith whirls around. It opens its mouth revealing its terrifying sharp teeth. Amsyn shuffles backwards. Her foots becomes caught on a rock and she falls onto her rear. She scrambles backwards, tears streaming down her face.
Vines erupt from the ground and wind themselves around the Wraith’s legs. Amsyn glances around through her tears she can see the Faun with his hand raised. The Wraith continues to swing at her and the hovering Sinnion. Amsyn raises her flesh arm and fires a bolt of lightning. It strikes the Wraith into the chest, killing it. She watches horrorstruck as the Wraith vanishes.
The Faun lets out a groan of pain drawing Amsyn from her trance. She jumps to her feet and rushes to his side. He is sprawled out on his back with a blood soaked hand covering his side. Amsyn pries his hand from the wound. Upon looking closer, she discovers the wounds aren’t as deep as they appear. They will still need to be cleaned and bandaged.
Amsyn removes her bag from her shoulder and opens it with trembling hands. She reaches in and pulls out a green vial containing a pale pink concoction. It is a potion for cleaning wounds she learned from her mother. “This may sting.” She warns. He doesn’t reply.
Amsyn uncaps the vial and pours several droplets into each wound. The Faun inhales sharply, digging his hands into the ground. She pulls a strip of material from her bag and dabs away the blood. The Faun watches her closely as she unravels a bandage. “I need you to sit up.” Groaning, he pushes himself into a sitting position. Amsyn wraps the bandage around his torso, blushing at their closeness. She ties it off and leans back on her knees. “They will need to be changed daily and you need to keep the wounds clean.” He nods, smiling.
“What is your name?” He inquires. For the first time Amsyn notices the accent that enwraps his words. His accent warps the Elvish words that fall from his lips. He has the pronunciation of a native speaker, but with a mix of something else.
“Amsyn Zylphyra.” She introduces with a dip of her head.
“Avdon.” He takes Amsyn’s hand and presses a kiss to the back of it. Her cheeks darken and she looks away,
“What are you doing in my woods?” He questions, Amsyn’s eyebrows furrow.
“Your woods?” She retorts, folding her arms over her chest. The smirk returns to his face. Sinnion swoops down and lands on her shoulder. “I was looking for someone. Sort of.”
“Explain.” He orders. His voice is firm, but not harsh. He will not treat her as he usually does strangers who trespass into the Cri Wilds. She has tended to his wounds and earned his respect. Still, he can’t abandon his suspicion.
Amsyn thinks of Helio and swallows her fear. “I came to join the Children of Tevata. I have heard they dwell within the Cri Wilds. So, I came here.” She answers, twisting her flesh hand around her wooden one.
Avdon chuckles. “So you decided to just wander around until you find them?” He laughs even harder. The action sends a flare of pain through his side. He winces and covers the wound with his hand. Amsyn glares at him.
“You do not seem to have any better ideas.” She hisses. Sinnion glares at Avdon.
“Welcome to the Children of Tevata.” He says after a moment.
“What?” Amsyn says. “Do you even have the authority to recruit me?”
He laughs, as if replying to an inside joke. “Perhaps, I should reintroduce myself. I am Avdon, founder and leader of the Children of Tevata.” Amsyn’s face drops and she stares at him dumbfounded.
Amsyn staggers over her words, becoming flustered again.
“All is forgiven.” He rises from the ground, gripping his side as he does. He extends a hand to her and pulls her to her feet. “I apologize for the pretense, but I am a very wanted man. I must be cautious.”
“It’s fine.” She says. He smiles down at her.
“Avdon,” he looks over. Amsyn turns around to see the female Thunderbird that fought the Wraith earlier. “We must get going.” She tells him. He acknowledges her with a nod.
Avdon ushers Amsyn through the woods. Behind them follows a group of ten to twelve Children of Tevata. She spots the male Nymph, his cheek marred by a bleeding laceration. The female Thunderbird trails closely behind Amsyn, a spear clutched in her hand. Amsyn also sees a male Banshee with dual daggers strapped to his thighs, a female Griffin holding a curved sword, and a fellow Elf wielding a scepter. They all appear rather unbothered by the fight with the Wraiths.
“Those were Wraiths.” Amsyn states. The realization breaks through the turmoil of emotion swirling within her. Avdon glances over at her and chuckles; a light sparkle in his eyes.
“You are only realizing this now?” He questions.
“No, but Wraiths haven’t been seen in this part of the world in centuries.” She replies.
“They began rising about two decades ago, a result of Quvania’s conquests. We have been doing our best to destroy them, but they are becoming stronger. It’s becoming hard.” Avdon explains. His disdain for Quvania can be heard in his voice.
“Do the Quvanians know?” Perhaps they don’t know. Avdon scoffs.
“Of course they know. They just don’t care. They only concern themselves when it interferes with their agenda.” He sneers. She sees his jaw clench and hands curl into fists.
Helios doesn’t know. Amsyn has never heard any news regarding Wraiths in Fulor, but Fulor is the only kingdom so far untouched by Quvania. If the soldiers know there is no doubt that the royal family knows. Amsyn winces, imagining Helio’s reaction when he learns. The rage he will unleash.
She misses him.
“Where are you from?” Avdon asks. Amsyn hesitates. Should she tell him the truth?
“Udor, but I have lived in Fulor for the last few years.” She answers. Her eyes subconsciously fall to her wooden arm. Avdon notices, but doesn’t comment.
“Here we are.” Avdon mumbles.
Amidst a cluster of green, red, and blue trees is an ancient temple. Or rather the remains of one. At one time Amsyn imagines the temple was a grand tribute to the gods it was built for. The roof has crumbled away; It remains scattered across the grass and stone floor. Three of the four sides have caved in leaving piles of stone where they once stood. The last remaining side is stained red and covered in blue moss. Dangling from the pointed doorway are green and purple vines dotted with tiny yellow and pink flowers.
Avdon carefully peels back the vines and ushers Amsyn ahead. She passes over the threshold. The outside is an accurate representation of the inside with one exception. In the center of the floor is a stone circle. Carved into the it is a Faun’s head facing one of the crumbling sides. The profile-Amsyn notes-has been expertly carved everything from the ridges of it’s horns to the iris of it’s eye to the lines of it’s hair.
“You may want to step aside.” Avdon warns, smirking. Amsyn draws her eyes together, showing her confusion, but she does as he says.
He kneels down, his hooves resting just outside the circle. He pushes in the Faun’s eye. The temple floor groans and trembles as the circle slides to the side, revealing the hole beneath.
“This is why the Quvanians are unable to find you.” She marvels.
“This wood has been home to my ancestors for millenniums. The Quvanians may roam through it freely for now, but it has and always will belong to my kin. They do not know the secrets that lie in this wood. Only I do.” In his voice is a sadness unique to those who have experienced loss. She knows.
“I’m sorry.” She whispers. He locks eyes with the Elf and sees the pain hidden within her peculiar orbs.
“I hate to break apart this tender moment, but the Dragons will be raiding the woods soon.” The Thunderbird interrupts.
“Of course.” Avdon leaps into the hole, feet first. Amsyn hears a muffled thump as his hooves collide with the dirt.
“Go on.” The Thunderbird presses.
“You want me to jump?” Amsyn squeaks, looking fearfully at the open hole before her.
“I’ll catch you. I promise.” Avdon calls from within the ground. She inches closer to the rim and glances down, gulping.
“You can either jump or I’ll push you.” The Thunderbird barks, annoyed. Avdon snaps at her. She immediately falls silent.
“It’s alright Amsyn. I will catch you.” Under the intimidating gaze of the Thunderbird Amsyn takes a deep breath and slides closer to the edge until his legs are dangling over Avdon’s head. She closes her eyes and pushes herself off the edge. A scream passes through her lips. She prepares herself for the impact, but is met with a warm embrace. Amsyn opens her eyes to see Avdon’s smirking face looking down at her. “I told you I would catch you.”
“I never said I doubted you.” She retorts, crossing her arms over her chest. Avdon chuckles and sets her on her feet. Sinnion swoops down and lands on her shoulders.
“Cute pet.” He comments.
Amsyn glares at him and growls, “Sinnion is not my pet. He is my friend.”
“Apologies.” Through the darkness Amsyn can see the ghost of a smirk on his face.
Avdon rests his hand on her lower back. She stifles a gasp and is thankful for the concealing darkness. He guides her down the tunnel. It only takes a few steps for Amsyn to realize he has the path memorized. Amsyn jumps as the mounted torches catch fire. They illuminate the dirt tunnel. Amsyn can see as far as the curve.
Amsyn and Avdon follow the path through its numerous curves. Finally after rounding the fifth curve, Amsyn sees the light at the end of the tunnel, a simple, undefined, arched exit.
They emerge from the tunnel. Avdon gestures to the sanctuary before them.
“Welcome to Ta’floon.”