Chapter One: Kevron - 1
Kevron knelt on a branch about fifty feet above the ground, surveying the stream that was flowing directly below him. He had been out here for three days without a single drop of rain, and he needed some water. Though the trees were thirsty, they would have normally supplied sufficient hydration for him. Unfortunately, one of the side effects that he experienced from the Fuil Bláth was a diminished ability to absorb and process water, thus requiring him to drink water directly rather than relying on other, more indirect sources.
He unhooked the flask from his belt, removed the lid and tilted it slowly above his outstretched tongue. A single drop eased its way out and onto the protruding muscle. He reattached his flask and secured himself against the tree trunk before retracting his tongue. He could already feel the effects and stumbled a little as he tried to wrap his arm around the trunk. Once he pulled in the drop, before he could even swallow, it hit him like a stone over the head. A rush of adrenaline, a sharp, piercing headache, complete loss of vision and a dizziness that would have made him vomit if he had anything in his stomach.
His eyelids held as tightly to each other as his arms held to the trunk. The pain would only last for a second. He breathed deeply to try and find his center and prevent himself from screaming. When he opened his eyes again, as the pain subsided, the brightly colored forest was even more vibrant. Halos of light surrounded everything, making every detail, every leaf edge, every pink, orange and blue petal, every divot in the bark, every ripple in the stream, clearly visible, as if it were inches from his face. He saw a small amount of heat emanating from a piece of scat five feet on the other side of the stream. The animal must have left it at least a half hour before. He could see the heat from the sun dissipate at the edges of the shadows. There were drops of moisture in the air, more heavily concentrated above the stream as the sun evaporated water from the surface.
Kevron loosened his grip on the trunk and listened to the world around him. A family of chipmunks scurried through a nearby tree, and a light breeze rustled leaves. With no visible or audible sign of nearby beasts, Kevron jumped down to the ground below, landing a few inches from the scat near the bank of the stream. He pulled his bow and nocked an arrow, but he didn’t draw back. He didn’t expect any trouble, but he knew better than to be entirely unprepared.
Last year, he had been out with Mare and Conlan when they decided to head ground-side for no other reason than because the young sometimes like to make bad decisions. They thought they had taken every precaution necessary before heading down, but almost immediately after the last of them was on the ground, a pack of four Cait Púca came rushing out from the trees. Kevron, knowing that he had no time to grab his weapon, jumped up the nearest tree and turned to help the others. Mare was already attempting to climb, but her leg was gashed by one of the Púca’s claws as Kevron helped to pull her up. Conlan was still fumbling with his knife, having already attempted a fruitless shot with his bow which was now laying on the ground.
Mare and Kevron both drew their bows, but by then, all four Púcas were already on top of Conlan. His arm flung wildly, stabbing one and causing it to run off. Two more were quickly taken down by arrows. The final one slashed at Conlan’s face, its back feet digging into his chest. The angle from the tree prevented any useful shot that wouldn’t just go through the creature and into their friend. Kevron’s instincts took over as he unsheathed his knife and leapt onto the creature, sinking the blade deep into its back. It knocked him to the ground and ran into the woods with his knife still firmly planted near its front left shoulder. Both of his friends lived, but their recovery was long, and Conlan would wear the scars for the rest of his life.
Now, on the banks of this stream, no creatures were leaping out from the trees. Kevron’s heightened senses would likely give him ample warning if anything were to approach. He kept the bow in his right hand, his index finger wrapped around the nocked arrow. Kneeling down, he used his other hand to scoop water into a bowl which he had detached from his waist.
After four bowls of water, he felt almost as though he hadn’t drunk anything yet. He had no memory of ever feeling this thirsty before. Frustrated at how long this was taking, he pulled the bladder off of his back and dipped it in the stream. The gentle splash of it against the water followed by the light swishing and bubbling sounds of the water rushing in were very calming. His heightened senses rarely caused any discomfort. Instead, they were quite relaxing. He felt at one with the world around him, fully capable of distinguishing each detail.
He closed his eyes to enhance his hearing further. He listened to the water, the wind, the family of chipmunks, now chomping on freshly plucked leaves. Another family was chittering at each other and playing. A bird was pecking at twigs, clearly working on a nest.
The temperature suddenly dropped. Just my luck. I finally make my way ground-side just before it starts to rain. He looked up, but could not see the rain for the treetops. He closed his eyes again. He could hear it coming. It was close, and it was dense. Then another sound, this time from across the stream. Twelve distinct paws were coming fast and heading directly toward him. He quickly grabbed his bow string with his left hand and pulled.