A Champion's Soul

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Tithe, Huntresses, and Artemis

Demmyrth has me spend most of my time helping with the little ones. I like it though. Seeing how happy they get when I bring them food feels nice. They’ll jump around, bark, and chase each other for the scraps once everyone’s eaten.

It’s usually easier to give out food in when I’m small, and the older dragons are telling me to say human form instead of being small. So, I guess I need to call it that now.

All the little ones finished eating breakfast and Demmyrth called out to me. “Tesyrir!”

Normally he’d be out hunting right now, so it’s odd for him to be here. “Is something wrong?”

He walked closer and answered me. “No nothing’s wrong. I just remembered you’ll be turning eleven in about a weeks’ time. I thought you should take a break until then.

The works not hard. Why would I need a break? “Are you sure? I mean it’s kind of fun playing with the little ones.”

He was pretty sure about that. “Yes, I’m sure. You haven’t spent much time in the woods and I think you should familiarize yourself with our territory. I want you to spend the week exploring it. Find the boundaries of our territory and try to memorize any landmarks.”

I guess that makes sense. “And you want me to explore by myself?” He nodded. “Okay, I’ll do my best not to get lost then.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry. If you ever get lost just find a clearing and fly up. You’ll see where we stay. It’s a large open area surrounded by stone pillars that stand above the tree line, then a forest just beyond them. You can see it from any point in our territory, which is how you know the limits of our land. If it’s hard to see you’re near the edge and should come back. The forest does abruptly end in an open field though, so I would recommend staying in your human form while you explore the woods. You can be in your dragon form when you’re in the fields.”

Got it. “Okay then. So human form in the woods, dragon form in the fields.”

That made him smile. “Yes, it would be a shame for any of the trees to be damaged while you’re exploring.” Ah, so that’s the reason.

So, when should I start? “When do you want me to start?”

He thought for a moment. “Perhaps tomorrow morning would be best. That should be enough time to find someone else to do your share… Now I must return to the hunt, I’ll see you around sundown.” After that he flew off in the woods, changing into his human form just before reaching the tree line.

The older dragons showed me something that’s really useful when giving the little ones food. They like to snatch food, which ends up causing them to bite us. They don’t mean to, but they’re hungry. They showed me how to have my armor stay on my arms and hands. It’s a little strange feeling since I still have the human arms, and it’s a bit harder to move them. It does help though since the little ones can’t bite through it. They draw blood very easily. I’ve found that I can also do it with my legs, back, stomach, and neck. Not my chest, face, or the back of my head though... At least not yet, I’m still learning. I’m sure at some point I’ll be able to cover myself entirely this way.

They don’t seem to mind me playing with the little ones in between meals, so long as I help prepare them… They don’t want me playing in my dragon form though, one of the mentioned the possibility of me stepping on one of them by mistake.

The one named Ross is a bit feisty though. He likes to try and snatch any stick I grab right out of my hand. His mother has smacked him for it a couple times now, but he continues to do it. Ross is blue, like his father. He has also sprayed me with ice before, WHICH I DID NOT APPRECIATE! I couldn’t breathe fire until last year, and he’s already breathing ice at four! That’s not fair!

After dinner I followed Demmyrth back to our cave, and he wanted to talk before we went to sleep. “How was it today?”

Great, other than Ross being a butt again. “Good.”

He laid on the ground and raised up his wing. I guess it’s time for me to craw underneath it. I see why Eimrass liked sleeping under my wing so much. It’s warm, comfortable, and just feels very safe.

He talked a bit more after lowering his wing again. “That’s good to hear. When you go exploring tomorrow make sure to be careful. I’ll be hunting in the woods again, so we might bump into each other. I might not be able to stop and talk though since we’ll probably be tailing something.”

Okay. “I’ll do my best!”

He replied back. “Good to hear.” After that I heard him lower his head… I guess it’s time to go to bed then.

Normally Demmyrth would wake me up if the sound of him getting up didn’t already do that, but this time he didn’t. I woke up and he was already gone. I stretched and waited for a bit, and then changed into my human form before leaving the cave. I walked to the woods and one of the older dragons waved at me before going back to whatever they were doing… I think they’re tanning hide? At least I think that’s what Demmyrth called it. Occasionally they send one of us out to trade with humans, and they take the variety of things those dragons make with them. Usually they just come back with lots of food for the little ones.

There are some much bigger, scarier looking dragons I see each morning and at night. I think they guard the edge of the territory. I’ve seen Demmyrth fight them, and he wins. They just look scarier than him. I wonder if they do it on purpose? Yea, they probably do.

I made it into the woods and smelled the air. It smells very different than when I’m around everyone else. Different enough that I can tell what direction where we all stay in is at. It didn’t seem to matter how deep I got. I could always tell what way was back just on the smell alone.

I wandered around and found a rock with claw marks in it. I’m not sure where this is, but it sticks out. I think that makes it a landmark? The marks are rather old

I felt around the rock when I heard loud footsteps coming my way. It sounded like hooves? Then just a moment later a deer blasted past me, panting and in a panic! Shortly after it blew by I saw someone else run by and shout! “Haha, you better hurry up! It looks like I’ll get this one before you Demmyrth!”

He flew by and then shortly after I heard Demmyrth shout! “Don’t bet on it Eisele!!!” he saw me as he ran by and said hi. “Ah hey Tesyrir! Keep looking around!” That last bit faded in the distance as he ran.

I walked some more, and eventually found the edge of the forest. There was a large open field, just like Demmyrth said. I decided to walk back into the woods though, I’m not done looking around.

When I made it back the little ones were eating dinner. Demmyrth ended up being the one who caught the deer. That night he asked me what I found, but it wasn’t much. A stone with claw marks, a tree with a bone lodged in it, and what looked like a statue of a woman holding an arrow. She was pointing it towards the sky, but I’m not sure who that was. Demmyrth didn’t say he knew either, he only said it’s always been there. It doesn’t appear to age or crumble, but it is old. I’ll visit that again tomorrow. If I can remember where it is.

The next day I spent some time looking around and found the statue again. There wasn’t anything different about it from other statues though. That day was a bit uneventful. I didn’t run into Demmyrth at all. I noticed the sun was going down and decided to visit the statue again… Only this time someone was there.

I heard the mutterings of a girl. “You’ll meet with the one you seek at the statue of Artemis… Well I’m here? Where are they? Why is she always so god damn vague about this shit?!

I peeked around a tree and saw a set of red wings, and a red tail… It couldn’t be? Could it? No, there’s no way she could have found me so easily? I looked just a bit further, and saw shiny red hair… That was her… Why is she here, and how?

She’s standing around and looks nervous. “I fucking hate the woods! Dammit it’s so creepy!”

That gives me an idea. I quietly checked around for something and found a small rock! I threw it as hard as I could into the woods to her side. It made a loud thud, with some snapping of branches!

Which caused her scream! “HOLY FUCK WHAT IS THAT!” I threw another rock and socked her right in the back of the head. “OW WHO THE HELL!?” She saw me “YOU!” She pulled out a golden sword and ran towards me!

For some reason I don’t feel threatened this time? She got closer and swung the sword at me, and I tried grabbing her arm! I managed to get ahold of her wrist, much to her confusion! “How the hell?!” She lifted me off the ground and shook me around! I hand slip and I got flung into a tree! I heard her scream! “OW!”

I looked at my hands, and I had my armor up on them. I guess I did it without think. There’s blood on my fingertips, well they look more like claws right now. I must have cut her when she threw me!

I guess I should say something. “Why are you here!?”

She was holding her wrist and screamed back. “TO GET MY SOUL YOU FUCKING DEMON!”

This again!? “I don’t have your soul! I don’t why you even think that!”

Father spoke up. “She seems to think your soul belongs to her… I would try deal with her as quickly as you can. Before you needed to be in your dragon form to take her, but with that minotaur’s soul you may be on equal ground. Baring the size difference. If it comes down to it, change; but for now see if you can handle her in your human form. We shouldn’t cause any more damage to the forest then we need to.” I guess that means no magic then.

She pulled out some bandages and started wrapping her wrist. I ran at her while she did that. I’m smaller, but Demmyrth told me some ways to use that to my advantage. It didn’t matter though, she just kicked me backwards right to where I was just at! “NOT FAIR!”

She finished wrapping her wrist and shouted back. “What’s not fair if you turning into a damn dragon and beating me into the ground!”

She sealed the bandages with what looks like tiny flame from her breath and ran at me! She was trying to stab me with the sword, but I ducked underneath and jabbed my claws into her thigh and dragged down! I saw red scales peeling back with blood seeping out from where they came! She screamed and kick me to the side! Before I could get back up she grabbed me and threw me at the statue! When I slammed into it I heard a cracking noise, but nothing seemed to come of it?

She went to run at me again, but an arrow stuck into the ground just in front of her! She shouted at whoever did that. “Who the hell?! This doesn’t involve you! Leave!”

Six girls walked out from the woods, they varied in age. One of them had green skin to? The oldest one seemed angry. “You would dare damage Artemis’s statue! This does involve us!”

Now she looked at me!? “Don’t think you are not at fault little one! Had you not picked this fight the damage wouldn’t have been incurred at all!”

ME!? “SHE’S TRIED KILLING ME AND LITTLE BROTHER! I DIDN’T PICK A FIGHT SHE DID!”

The one with green skin fired an arrow at my feet! I made sure I had armor every I could get it! She screamed again! “SILENCE!”

I don’t like them, and I don’t think Tithe does either… I gave her a look. She rolled her eyes at me and sneered. “Only this once, but we’re finishing this after!”

Fine. “Yea…”

The six girls got arrows ready and pointed them at us. The oldest one screamed again. “Don’t even think about it!”

The youngest, I think she's about my age had an arrow pointed at me… She looked nervous. I moved my hands to cover my face really quick and she let the arrow slip. I felt it hit my hand and bounce away.

The oldest shouted! “WHY WOULD YOU SHOOT!?” While she was screaming I saw Tithe run at them and they fired arrows at her. One hit her shoulder and bounced off, another hit her thigh that was still bleeding. It went right into the spot I peeled the scales off of!

I ran at the youngest! She was still trying to get an arrow ready but her hands kept shaking! I got up to her and she finally got an arrow ready and fired again! It hit my arm and bounced off.

The oldest screamed while trying to push Tithe away! “DAMMIT USE MAGIC! REGULAR ARROWS WON’T PIERCE THEIR ARMOR!”

The others were far more worried about Tithe than me, but the I was right in front of the young one. “Put the bow down and we can end this peacefully, okay?”

She shook her head and fired another arrow at me! I was just barely able to avoid it and I felt it rip across my shoulder! It cut right through my armor! She’s small, and I really don’t want to hurt her too badly. She’s tried to kill me multiple times now though! I punched her far harder than I meant to, and she slid backwards into a tree! She dropped her bow when she slid and started grabbing her nose. I saw blood gushing out of it, so I picked up her bow and snapped it into two pieces.

I looked over at the others and saw two of them unconscious on the ground… Tithe wasn’t trying to kill them either. So that’s three down, three to go. The oldest one had a sword and she seemed to be locked in with Tithe. I don’t know where that dagger Tithe was holding came from, but she was struggling to keep her away. The other two were getting arrows ready!

Father jumped into. “See if you can sprout your wings!” Maybe? I tried thinking about them and felt something. Nothing came of it though. “Damn, Okay I’ll try to help. No fire though, absolutely no fire!”

He was trying to get a card ready, but it was taking too long. I hurled a rock at the girl with green skin! It caused her to miss her shot, but the other girl landed it right into Tithe’s thigh again!

I ran over and Jumped onto the green skinned one’s back and she tried reaching around to grab me! The other girl that wasn’t fighting Tithe fire and arrow at me but missed! It whipped right through my hair and struck the statue!

We all looked at the statue when it happened. A crack formed at the spot it hit, it was spider webbing all over the statue, before it crumbled. The ground started shaking, and then I got thrown off! There was a blinding flash, and once it cleared I saw the three remaining girls on their knees in front of another person?

The oldest spoke again. “I’m sorry Artemis. We failed you.”

This new person replied to her, seemingly confused. “What’s going on here? I felt one of my statues get destroyed.” She walked over to the crumbled remains and picked up the arrow. “This is one of yours?” She pointed at the girl who shot at me.

They sounded shaky. “I’m sorry Artemis. I was trying to hit that one!” She pointed at me.

She nodded at her. “I see.” She looked around, first she saw the other two lying on the ground. Then the one still leaning against the tree. Her nose was still bleeding. She pointed at me. “So how much of this is your work?”

Oh, uh… “What do you mean?”

She glared at me. “How many of my huntresses did you injure?”

Oh… I pointed at the girl leaning against the tree. “I didn’t want to hurt her, but she wouldn’t put the bow down…” Then I pointed at the green skinned one. “I also hit her with a rock.”

Now she looked at Tithe. “I would presume those two are your doing then?”

Tithe sneered at her. “What about it? I’ll take you to if you get in my way!”

They chuckled. “You are free to try.”

Tithe looked at me. “Well?!”

Oh no! Not at all! Something feels really dangerous about her! Absolutely not! “NO!”

Tithe growled. “Damn coward. Fine then I’ll deal with her!” She ran at the girl. Before I could even see what happened there was a fist in Tithes stomach. Just as quickly as the fist came her head got slammed into the dirt!

She was pulled back out and had a stupid grin on her face. “It’s going to take a lot more than that to take me down!” In a flash I saw her sword slide across the girl’s face. It did little more than leave a small cut though.

The girl slammed her knee into Tithe’s stomach, then kicked her into a tree! Tithe didn’t move after she hit the tree...

The girl wiped over the small cut and it healed. “Good job, but your blade lacks the strength to truly harm a god. If you weren’t already defiled I might have considered you to be a huntress. I’ll allow elves, but not those who have given up their chastity.” Tithe coughed and started gasping for air. She tried getting up, but just fell back down. The girl walked over to Tithe and lifted her up by her hair. “I should turn you into a rabbit and be done with you… No, I recognize you. You were once a forest elf yes? A dryad name Evie wishes to see you. I did promise you bring you back to her if I ever came across you… Just know, I won’t be so merciful if we meet again under similar circumstances.” She slammed Tithe’s head into the tree and let her body slump to the ground.

She started walking towards me now! “Hey wait! I’m not challenging you!” I backed up but that girl I punched was waiting for me. She blocked my path. The girl got closer to me and grabbed my face! “Please! Please don’t do that to me!”

She still seemed angry. “Good choice. It’s usually a better decision to beg for mercy from a god. Sit down.” I did. I really don’t want to be hurt like that!

Just then I heard Demmyrth shout! “Tesyrir are you over here?!” She looked in the direction of his shout!

I screamed out for Demmyrth! “I’m over here! I really need some help!” The girl smacked me and I heard Demmyrth’s footsteps!

He dashed into the clearing we were at and looked around. “What? ARTEMIS! OH SHIT! TESYRIR WHAT DID YOU DO!”

The girl did not seem happy about him being here. “SILENCE!” He stopped talking… He’s not going to help me? He wasn’t making any attempts to move either… he’s not going to help me...

The girl looked at me. “Do you know him?”

I nodded. “He keeps me safe.”

She looked at him, then at me. Then at my shoulder. “He’s not doing a very good job. I won’t kill him though. It’s impossible to protect someone all the time. Such a thing is impossible even for gods.” Okay?! Was she planning to?!

She gestured towards the oldest girl again. “Now tell me the full story of what happened here.”

She did, sort of. She left out the part where I said Tithe tried killing me before. “I’m sorry Artemis, we failed you.” Oh, that’s her name… I was too in the moment to notice they were using that for her.

Artemis touched her shoulder. “The statue was old and waiting to crumble... I told you all not to be in this forest. This plot of land has been given to the dragons. I’m not mad at you, just disappointed.”

After that she walked back over to me. “Now you, why would you throw a rock at her?”

She tried killing me! “She’s tried killing me and my little brother before! She keeps going on about how I have her soul, but she’s trying to take mine!”

She sighed. “I will not be partaking in this squabble. You two will need to settle it on your own and do make sure not damage any of my statues again. I’ll let this one slide, but only because it was already crumbling… Cross me again, and there will be punishment.”

I really don’t want what happened to Tithe to happen to me. “I’m sorry.”

She just stared at me. “I know of you, but only through rumors. A wyrm yes? I would suggest being more careful. There are many men who would like to take your chastity, and your head. I don’t allow huntresses to be magical beasts, nor do I allow those that would vandalize my statues. Hold onto your chastity and you may gain my respect. Keep destroying things of mine or harming my huntress’s and you’ll become the target of a grand hunt. The horns of a wyrm make excellent prizes!”

THAT’S BAD!!! “I won’t! I promise I won’t!”

She at least lost that angry composure when I said that. “You said you had a little brother yes? Make sure to teach him never to defile a maiden, and if you get the chance. Tell that retched grandmother of yours to stop pestering my huntresses.”

I nodded. “Okay.”

After that it was like she said something, confusing. “Child, before I go. I have a question. If you had to cut down a family member, do you think you could?”

I, what kind of question is that? “I’m not sure how to respond to that?”

She smiled. “Think about it. That grandmother of your is a retched being. All the gods know of Sagelia. It’s not a good thing though... Now you don’t need to find the answer yet." she stared at me for a moment or two after saying that "I must go now, I need to take this one to an old friend of hers. Oh, and you six, make sure to leave these woods. It’s not for you to hunt in.” They nodded.

And just like that she disappeared with Tithe. Her huntresses remained, and they walked away shortly after.

Demmyrth stayed silent, but father asked me again. “If your grandmother ever attacked you, or someone you care about. Do you think you could cut her down? Do you think you could spill her blood?”

I would have to then… I can’t let mama, or Eimrass get hurt. I’ll even try to help Demmyrth if I can. “I think so. Blood is thicker than water, but that only means it’s harder to spill.”

That caught Demmyrths attention. “What did you just say?” I was about to say it again. “No, I heard you… Are you sure you’re willing to fight your grandmother if it came down to it?” Yes… I nodded to him. “Then I think we should start properly teaching you to fight. Even if you’re not strong enough to beat her yourself. The idea of a wyrm willing to do what’s needed may be enough to push everyone else.”

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