Trixen yawned. “I’m hungry.” she said lazily to her companion as they both lay flat on the ground overlooking a large dry ravine below.
She rolled over onto her back and stared up at the blue sky. Several clouds were drifting in the distance, but not enough to offer any relief to the intense heat of the day. Her stark white hair splayed out from her head like an icy halo and she squinted her deep violet eyes against the sun.
Her companion was a very large and very fierce-looking white wolf, with fur that matched Trixen’s hair perfectly, and his eyes were the same shade of deep violet. He stretched his own paws sleepily and answered.
“You’re always hungry, morsel. I don’t understand why you humans spend so much time thinking about food when it’s so plentiful. Wolves have to run down and kill for their meals, and there’s no guarantee of a successful hunt.”
Currick, the wolf’s name, had been bonded to Trixen when they were both at the edge of death at the hands of the Goblin army. The evil Dragon Rath had commanded the Goblins to start a war with Humans, Mages, and other creatures of the Kingdom.
Trixen had originally been called Trixie back then, and the wolf had been called Cur. But after starting the bonding without knowing what the consequences were, Trixen had to be saved by the Elf queen Braigeth by forging a return bond between Cur and herself.
The spell had been so powerful, that Braigeth herself had been changed as well.
Currick had always called Trixen “morsel” ever since he had discovered her in his cave. She had been transported there by an Elf who was trying to get a special spell to save the Elf Queen from dying from a curse-laden attack from a Rath-possessed creature.
“I’ve always been hungry since I met YOU, Currick. Thank goodness I still have my girlish figure thanks to the Bonding. I don’t think-”
*Hold!* Currick sat upright as he stared down into the ravine. His ears perked upright.
They had been sent by the ArchKnight on an advance scouting mission to the mountains of GryphonShard to investigate reports of something strange going on in the forests. After the defeat of Rath at the hands of Kindle, Trixen, and the “Child of the Earth” Julia, everyone had expected the Kingdom to enter a time of peace and prosperity. Instead, reports of strange happenings were starting to come in from the outer fringes of the land. Nervous reports of strange patches of dead trees in the forest by hunters, farm animals that wandered off and are never heard from again from farmers in the outer regions, and even reports from Mages of a strange illness that seemed to be both magical and mundane in nature that was very resistant to any type of medicine alone.
Instantly, Trixen went from the languid posture of lying on the ground staring at the sky, to determined hunter, in sync with Currick’s senses immediately. A side effect of the bond they shared was that they could perceive through the senses of the other. Trixen could almost smell the taint that Currick had smelled, and hear the crunching of the dry riverbed below.
She crawled to the edge of the rocky outcrop they were stationed at and looked down into the ravine. She sucked in her breath at the horror of what she saw.
Whatever it had been - deer, cow, or goat - it was no longer recognizable as anything like a living thing. It’s body was twisted and distorted in grotesque ways - as if having been subjected to incredible torture, but still living somehow. It’s body was covered in leaves, branches, and rocks but also strange patches of rust-colored metal. It moved along the ground, dragging its body with awkward, jerky motions - like a puppet or some kind of horrible automata.
Trixen remembered when she had been at the Mage Institute seeing some of the upperclassmen experimenting with creating Golems. They had built small toys out of wood or metal and had been trying to master the art of controlling the creatures they had built. Their crude experiments had the same clumsy, jerky aspect of the horrible creature below.
*What is that thing?* She thought to Currick as she shuddered involuntarily.
*I don’t know, but with all the magical experiments that Rath had been working on, no doubt this has the mark of his twisted mind.* Currick answered. He growled low and deep.
Trixen touched his cheek gently. *We need to report this back to the ArchKnight. What if there are more of these, these things moving about?*
Currick nodded. As they were about to back away from the ravine they heard a girl’s high pitched scream echo from below.
They both bolted upright and immediately spotted a small girl and her brother some distance down the ravine. From their rough clothing, they must be part of one of the hunting and trapping families that traverse the outer forests this time of year. The girl was perhaps only 12 or 13 and the boy was not much older. They both carried bows, which the boy was already training an arrow toward the shambling creature.
The place where its head once had been opened to reveal twin rows of twisted discolored fangs and it let out a bone chilling cry that made Trixen gasp in horror.
Trixen looked to Currick. “We’ve got to save them!” she cried.