Chapter Eight: Gagloom
They walked towards the giant tree and found a hollowed-out space at the front. A quick glance at each other and they jumped in, a thud made them both startled. They had been jumpy and on edge ever since they had entered the forest. The fear of the unknown had affected them, even if they try to deny it, it doesn’t matter. The tree was hollow on the inside, dark and echoey like there was nothing there in the first place. They were scared to feel around in the dark, not knowing what they would end up finding.
“Who dares to enter?” A voice boomed through the hollow tree. “Have you not gotten enough pleasure by keeping me locked up in here?”
Sylvi jumped and wrapped her arm around Wes’s. Wes was less scared and replied to the voice. “We are here to mend the broken.”
There was silence but the voice spoke again. “You mean to say that you are here to help?”
“Why do you sound so untrusting?” Wes asked.
“Because the last time someone said they were here to help, they locked me up in here and have been using my powers.” the voice said, getting louder at the end.
“Who are you?” Sylvia asked. “And where is the heart?”
“I am Cormeum.” the voice said softly.
“Heart in Latin is Cor meum,” Wes said in a whisper. “We need to free you, that is what’s broken.”
“Yes, that is precisely what you need to do.” Cormeum said. “I will make it less difficult for you.”
Slowly the darkness from the inside of the room rose up and light-flooded down. With a blink of an eye, it became luminous, bright as the day. Sylvia looked in front and saw a giant cage, its bars glowing orange, like molten rocks, they were making sizzling noises. Inside the cage, chained up was a woman, her green ankles were shackled to the orange bars, and the shackles seemed to be made of the same thing, burning her skin. She stood up slowly and walked as close to the cage as she could, her green body was wrapped with a leaf-like a dress, her hair was long ivies, green and filled with leaves. Her eyes were a warm brown, like the fresh soil. They seemed watery and red like hse had been crying for years. Her wrists were also chained, a ring of black had made its way on them.
“I am the essence, the heart of this forest,” Cormeum said. “I was made to keep the magic alive, to keep it safe.”
“What happened?” Sylvia asked getting closer to the cage.
“A man and woman made it to my forest, they were nice and respectful. They were treating the living things well, not breaking stuff.” She sighed and spoke up again. “Then they asked for me, and I thought they were so kind, I should at least thank them. When I got there the woman threw something at me, after it, I couldn’t move, my body felt weak and my powers were frozen as well. I felt dizzy and my eyes closed, when I woke up, I found myself in this cage. I had my powers again so I made this safe zone for the forest, and above it, I made a trap for the two. I felt one of them escape, the girl, but the other was here, he just left.”
“What were their names?” Wes asked.
“One was Amanadiel, he liked to be called Diel, he drained my powers and gave it to that woman, her name was Morgana.” Wes and Sylvia whipped their heads to each other and then at Cormeum.
“Morgana the witch?” Sylvia asked.
“Yes, she is a powerful sorceress, the grimoire on her side made her unstoppable.”
“We have the grimoire,” Sylvia said. “She must’ve set us up to get Diel back, but we have the grimoire.”
“That was her plan all along, she was just toying with us, Diel must’ve lied about Mary, to get us to gain his trust.” Wes crouched down on the floor, his hands stuck in his hair. “I took you to her, she could have taken your life, I trusted her.”
“Wes it is not your fault,” Sylvia said. “This is no time for remorse. Let’s help her get out.”
Wes looked up at Sylvia, who was determined to get this done and head back home to save everyone, she didn’t blame him. He slowly got back up to his feet and got closer to the cage.
“So how do we help you?” He asked. “How do we free you?”
“Luckily you have the grimoire on you, so there must be a spell in it.” She said. “Look for a freeing spell.”
Sylvia took out the Grimoire and began flipping through the pages, it was a thick book, with roughly a thousand pages. It was a book of great knowledge, and Morgana had set them up to get it back to her. Sylvia went through an abundance of spells until finally, she stopped flipping at a spell that read unbound.
“What about an unbound spell?” She asked.
“Perfect.” Cormeum said. “Tell me the ingredients.”
Sylvia looked down at the ingredients. “A falcons tongue, shards of a crystal, tangled ropes, the fire of blue, and a heart of a Gagloom.”
“Oh, dearie,” Cormeum said with an unsettling expression.
“What is it?” Wes asked.
“I can get you all the ingredients except the heart of a Gagloom.”
“Why so?” Wes asked.
“As I said before, I am here to protect the forest, I can not go and kill its residents.” She said. “That is something only you can do.”
“What is a Gagloom?” Sylvia asked.
“It is one of the most dangerous creatures in the forest.” She said. “It is like a saber tooth, but as bulky and big as a bear. It has a poison that travels through his saliva, one dorp and you are as good as dead, there are thorns on his back, like spikes, if they touch you the slightest you will get a slice as wide as your body. Normal weapons won’t lay a scratch on him, only a weapon forged with the blood of a Gagloom can kill one.”
“But to make such a weapon we will need to kill one, but we can not kill one because we don’t have a weapon,” Wes said. “So how do we kill it.”
“We can use a spell from the grimoire,” Sylvia suggested.
“The only spell that will work will freeze its heart, then we won’t be able to use it for the spell we need.” Cormeum said.
“How do we kill it then?” Wes asked impatiently.
“You use this.” Cormeum said as a sword floated in front of Wes. It was an ice-blue sword, its handle was thin and see-through like glass, the blade was sharpened to perfection, its shape was wider than a regular blade.
“Is that the Sword that will kill a Gagloom?” Wes asked
“Once upon a time a brave man had the courage to forge this sword.” Cormeum said. “It is the perfection of craftsmanship, every side is better than the other. Use this to get the heart, I love all of the creatures in this forest, but if it means that everyone else will be safe.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll do it,” Sylvia reassured her. “Where do we find this Gagloom?”
“The Gagloom resides on the top mountains, by this time he would be fast asleep but if he woke up he would be energized, it would be harder to take him out. I will light the way for you.” Cormeum said as she put her palm beneath her mouth and blew, a golden light started to appear it was a thin streak but brighter than anything Sylvia had seen. “Follow it and it will lead you there.”
Wes started to walk off first, he was determined to find the beast and slay it. He felt responsible for getting trapped in this forest with Sylvia, he had taken her to someone he barely knew. Morgana could’ve harmed her, or done much worse. Sylvia struggled to keep up with his fast pace as she scurried behind him. “Slow down will you.”
“Slow down?” Wes snapped as he turned around. “Sylvia, we do not have time to slow down. For all we know, the village had already been attacked and we are stuck here, and it’s all— ”
“My fault.” Sylvia finished for him. ” I know I should’ve left at the first chance I got.”
“What? No.” Wes said. “I mean to say that it is all just so frustrating. It is not your fault, this is not on you.”
Sylvia opened her mouth to argue otherwise but she knew they didn’t have time to do so. She pressed her lips together and walked ahead. Wes understood and followed her lead. The walk up to the mountain was quiet, they hadn’t;t said a word to each other. Each of them was admiring the beauty of the forest, the trees were of all shapes and sizes, some small and some reaching the sky. Sylvia gaped in awe at the white leaf trees, they looked so majestic and pure. When the sunlight hit them, they looked iridescent.
They passed a small stream, it was crystal clear, fish swimming swiftly in the cool freshwater. The stones around the stream had been smoothed out by the water, they were as slippery as ice. Birds were chirping in the trees, some drinking water by the stream. The whole thing reminded Sylvia of when she was little, coming to the forest with her mom. It was their magical little secret. She remembered when they had stopped coming to the forest, she would beg her mother, and she would always say that it was lost. Sylvia always thought that her mother was too busy to take her, but now she knew the truth, her mother was only speaking the truth, the forest was lost and now she had found it.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Wes asked as he looked at the surroundings.
“It is.” Sylvia replied as she kept an eye on the glowing thread that lead their way. “How much longer do you think?”
“A couple more feet, we’ve been ascending the mountain for a while now.” He replied and stopped as a glowing blue butterfly landed on the tip of his nose. He tried to wave it off but flinched when he felt a stab of pain. “Ow, it bit me.”
“What?” Sylvia said. “It is a butterfly, they are harmless.”
Wes shook his head as he rubbed his nose, hoping that Sylvia was right. After Sylvia giggled at Wes for his idiocy, they continued up the mountain. They had reached it quicker than they had thought. The top of the mountain was covered with purple grass, it looked so odd yet so breathtakingly beautiful. The grass swayed as the wind stroked it. There were a couple of small trees scattered here and there, but most of the attention was taken by the huge cave. The glowing string was leading them straight inside.
“Ready?” Wes asked as he drew the sword up. “Let’s get this over with and go save our people.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice.” Sylvia said running into the cave.
The inside was cool and dark, they could hear the echo of water dripping onto the stone, the fluttering of bats, then they were both startled at a roaring noise.
“I thought it was supposed to be asleep.” Wes whisper-screamed.
“I think it is asleep.” Sylvia said urging him to follow where her gaze lead.
There it was, the Gagloom rested on his back at the corner of the cave. Its snoring ricochet from wall to wall and straight against Syivlia, causing her to jump. The beast was exactly like Cormeum had described, except more terrifying, its fangs were so sharp Sylvia could see the light from the thread reflect on their edges. Before Sylvia could say anything Wes had already run over to its head ready to chop it at any second. As Wes stood over the beast with his sword ready to pierce between its eyes, he froze when its eyes fluttered open seconds before the sword pierced through it. Wes was startled but was determined to get the job done. Before he could push the sword down his vision got flooded by white clouds, then everything started to merge with each other as you would see in a kaleidoscope. Before he knew it he was thrown across the cave and hit the rock wall. His head throbbed as he slid down to the ground his vision was worse than it was before. He saw Sylvia’s mouth moving but her words were swept away by the ringing in his ears.