It took but moments for it to begin. Jagged stings and skittering scrapes across his already decrepit skin, gave way only to more insectoids to an ongoing feast. Beren felt the sharp pains from each fang and mandible that dug into his skin. Only to feel the body he inhabited fidget uncontrollably as the vile creatures began to enter the body and feast on the entrails within. It felt like fire as they wiggled into any open wounds or forced them selves in through his mouth and ears. Later his eyes, as his vision became lost, his sensations woefully encountered only by the reality of being consumed within. In utter panic he forced the body to stand up, yet fell abruptly as ligaments tore and muscled shredded from the bone, as would bark being ripped from a wilting tree. The insect devoured everything even fracturing the bones, chipping away at them in a lust of fleshy consumption. The sound of skittering and digging filled the audible environment as a host of large insects wrapped around each other eating away to the bitter end.
Beren sat there being consumed in disbelief. Though what kept his sanity was that the body he inhabited was not his. Yet that concept alone did little to comfort him as minutes inched on as he slowly began gaining his spectral vision. He assumed he was pinned to the ground, his body slowly succumbing to a vile fate. It did not take long for the collection of the fae’s children to finish the body. Leaving a gut-wrenching aroma of bone dust and fetid flesh stagnating in the air. He did not move until all the insects had departed into the outer rings of the clearing. And only raised his ghostly body above the ground once the skittering of a thousand legs ceased. Levitating upward he looked down and noticed what was left of his body slowly being absorbed into the moss beneath his feet. As if the undergrowth itself was a hungering plant monster in its own right. Looking towards the tree he noticed the lot of them staring at him with curious eyes.
“Were he a phantom made of the Scorn my children would have eaten him whole.” The fae stated as she turned her flowery eyes to Vex who simply shrugged in response. “Where did you find such a specimen.” She asked as she turned her head towards Beren once more, not showing a trace of emotion beneath the guise of her bark like features.
“A human settlement just outside the forest. It appeared as though the scorn sacrificed them to their accursed god but created him somehow.” Vex explained as she crossed her arms and tapped her fingers on her elbow. “He can speak but it comes out as a wail and vibrates everything around him.” She added before returning her gaze to the fae.
“Fascinating.” The fae declared as she rose up and used the giant centipede legs to drag her large body towards Beren’s floating ghostly form. Her centipede tail slowly encircling him but keeping a modest distance. Either out of respect or of caution Beren could not deter the thought.
“Speak apparition.” She demanded as she lowered her torso to meet him, her sun flower eyes peering into his. As if searching for a particular answer she had already decided upon. Tightening his lips Beren was intent on letting out a loud boom with his voice for what she had put him through. Though without the body he felt the need almost trivial and perhaps unnecessary as he was indeed already dead. Instead he let a word well up inside of him, before limiting its output as to not be a reckon for destruction.
The air boomed around him and reverberated off of the fae as she stumbled slightly, her legs digging into the moss tearing it to some extent as she kept her footing. The force was rather explosive yet received mildly as she straitened back up and appeared to smile in a rather unsettling way. Her rough bark like skin creasing in sections that felt too inhuman for her face. Nonetheless she stood there observing as if waiting to here more for a few seconds before speaking.
“Marvelous, simply marvelous.” She began as she raised her arms up and let out a croaking sound that could have been mistaken for laughter. Lowering her arms she looked Beren dead in the eye as the sunflowers rustled slightly. “Your aura, the stench and your power means only one thing. You escaped the clutches of the Scorn god himself, not once but twice it would seem.” She stated as she crossed her arms and tapped her chin. An action that appeared all too familiar with Vex, a feature that made Beren chuckle to himself quietly.
“Yes.” Beren replied as he restricted his voice letting the fae taste his words as the air shimmered around him in respect.
“Do excuse my children they were hungry and I had assumed you were an agent to the scorn. There had been rumors of them creating phantoms that are an illusion of hundreds of souls.” She stated still tapping her chin. “Let me indulge in your being for a moment. Ah yes you are not whole, in fact you are a fractured resemblance of yourself. A piece of you sits dormant outside this very forest am I to be correct?” The fae asked as if knowing without even having to ask.
“Yes” Beren stated remembering another part of his soul still rests in the shallow grave that Ragnar had provided for him.
“I made some ghost glow to help keep his spirit bound to a body without the need of my magic to sustain a vessel. If that is what you are referring to.” Vex stated not far behind the fae, the revolving tail around Beren only allowing him to catch a few glimpses of her here and there. The fae in turn simply nodded in Vex’s response without ever breaking eye contact with Beren.
“Tell me Beren, what drives you so to linger in this realm?” The fae asked as she slowly began to turn away towards her tree as if searching for an item. “I am listening go on, I wont let your voice destroy anything here.” She insisted as she raised a hand as four green mossy pillars arose around him, the spongy plant moving as if hungry.
“Revenge” Beren stated out loud as his voice beckoned and the air shimmered around him. Instead of traveling however, it became absorbed into the plant before wilting and dying. Only to be replaced by new hungry moss to take its place. A constant moving pillar of moss eating at the oddity of Beren’s magical voice. Dumbfounded he shrugged to himself not wanting to question the principle of magic, let alone attempt to understand what had occurred.
“Revenge for the scorn that killed you?” She stated as she reached towards the trunk of the tree before pulling off some bark into her root like hands. “Do you want to know how that will end dear Beren?” She asked as she wrapped her tail around the tree and rubbed the tree bark in her hands. Beren remained silent as he watched in a curious manner. “All of nature is connected both in the past present and future. And through their touch I can transcribe the events that unfold to a minor degree.” She began with a smile. “Only a small trick I still possess before my kind lost our true powers fighting the primal lords so long ago.”
Beren stood vigilant as he watched her with a nod, as if beckoning to her, that he was listening and did not require to speak only for a short curt response. The fae appeared to recognize this silent notion as she rubbed the bark between her hands as some of the substance fell to the mossy ground before her. The smell of dry bark filling the air mingling only with the recent digestion of a corpse, bone and all. Slowly that very same bark substance floated upwards back into her hand as a faint glimmer of light quickly erupted then died as suddenly as it appeared. It would have blinded Beren were he looking closely but was rather distracted by the varying surroundings and the surreal creature before him.
“I see you at the gate of the silver capital.” She abruptly stated as her sunflower eyes rattled slightly as if impressed. Beren listening with intent as he knew the silver capital to be the throne of the scorn, the head of the great serpent. “In one hand you hold your heart, in the other the head of a priest. The sky becomes gloomy as a red hand reaches out and sunders the sky above you.” She stated before looking up with a shudder. “That vision ends at the exact moment my plants end.”
“Wait that is impossible.” Vex stated abruptly as she stood up looking towards the fae, her voice showing signs of being frightened with its change of pitch. “There is always nature in some form there is no way they can end.”
“This is true Valexia, but they end only because they change. Change into something utterly foreign to me.” The fae confessed as her lips remained tight as she wiped her hands clean of the white bark substance. “What ever path you both are on, it begins and ends with the cult of scorn. And possibly depending on the success, a saved world with the help of that human.” The fae added as she pointed to the unconscious body of Ragnar.
Vex immediately spat on the ground in disgust as she crossed her arms. Beren felt a sense of hatred boil up inside of him, having remembered the vile combat mage. Riken noticing the tension simply hissed in response as he looked around, his long claws scrapping the ground in curiosity and perhaps more so boredom.
“He needs to live to assemble the heroes of Alistair to combat the end.” She stated simply as if that information was justification.
“The end?” Vex asked as her eyes quivered in anticipation almost suspecting.
“Yes, that is what I am calling it, the end where my visions cease and the red hand enters the sky.” She stated as she looked back to Beren. “That day is some years ahead of you, but I suggest becoming strong so the heroes can fulfill their destiny.” She explained as her features seemed less relaxed as her face looked into Vex’s. “Pains me to say this but you will seek your revenge as well, and be successful, yet it will cost everything dear child.” The fae explained as if quivering, her legs slightly raising and lowering into the moss. “My offer still stands daughter, come with me and be rid of this realm. You will be safe where I am going.”
Vex simply shook her head as she pointed to Riken with a solemn glance. “After all that has happened, I know he still lives in their somewhere. He yells out to me in dreams pleading to end his suffering and slay the empire that corrupted him.” She stated flatly her eyes averting downward as what can be presumed the action of hiding possible tears.
“Your love for the creatures of the world still holds true in your heart Valexia. Granted you may have forsaken my teaching for man’s magic, you still hold the principles, and for that I can respect.” She stated as she looked around the forest quickly, her gaze falling to Beren’s ghastly form. “What of you spirit? Are you going to see this through to the end?”
Beren simply nodded in a slow yet precise motion, as if the body language would explain to the fae his utter determination and will. The fae smiled in her unusual texture for a face her sunflower eyes rattling with what could be assumed as glee.
“If your mind is made up then, and wish for me to simply point where to begin I shall do so.” The fae stated as she crossed her limbs and rose up higher a few feet from her monstrous centipede lower extremity. Unfolding her arms she pointed towards Beren with a rather blank expression, her face perfectly smooth yet her centipede half formidable and perhaps hungry. “To the south where the land touches the eastern ocean is a city called Drita. It is there your destiny begins and where your revenge will grow only deeper.” The fae stated having a rather smug look about her as her mouth formed into tight yet upside smile. Her face looked towards Vex her smile leaving as she lowered her hand and body back towards the forest mossy floor.
“I don’t need direction, I know what I am doing.” Vex stated flatly as she crossed her arms looking away, her lips tight as a sharp canine tooth can be seen visible.
“Is that so?” The fae questioned as she eyed Vex with uncertainty her face remaining emotionless. “You plan to raise an army and storm their capital, admiral plan but suicidal and one without caution.” The fae began as her arm slowly raised up and pointed at Beren her face unremoved from Vex’s eyes. “You think it a mere chance you happen upon a vengeful spirit with unknown potential? Your paths were supposed to cross and if you don’t seize that moment…well your chance will have been for naught.” She ended flatly as if a mother scolding a daughter for not seeing the bigger picture. Vex in response lowered her head looking at the ground before peering at the corner of her eye towards Beren’s ghastly form.
Beren felt a sense of anticipation, he knew Vex wanted the death of anyone associated with the scorn to perish. But his own revenge lies at the death of the two who did him wrong. Simple mage and priest. He had not thought of taking on the whole lot of the scorn. To do so would to declare war on an entire empire since the sickness is entwined deep within. The sickness of the scorn cult. Tightening his fist, he knew his resolve was absolute for he had nothing to loose save for his bleak limited existence on the mortal plane. He was not akin to the riddles and fortune telling of the fae, nor did he understand the grandeur oversight of what going to war meant. His mind slowly raced as to what the outcome would be, could it be possible to push the scorn back to their very walls of the Silver Throne. And if so where would they get the man power.
“Beren…” Vex stated as her eyes remained transfixed at her feet. Beren moved his gaze back to her noticing her body language to be rather tight and closed. Her downward stare crossed arms, and unmoving feet. “My goals and aspirations are not yours, and I do not expect you to follow me into the maws of the scorn. However…” She stated letting her last word trail off as her eyes averted towards Beren, her head raising slightly as if feeling proud. “If you did assist me, I will forever be in debt to you. And will continue to be your doctor for any body or form you may inhabit at the time.” She ended as she cocked her head slightly to the side, closed her eyes and smiled sincerely the best she could.
Beren felt a shudder rush over him as the red glow illuminated brighter around him. It was not fear nor a rush of excitement that transfixed his aura. It was the sudden realization that he could not simply abandon Vex now after all they had been through, though in a rather short period of time. Relaxing himself he levitated towards Vex as he noticed her unmoving smile. Being but a foot away from her, rested his hand above her head as if to figuratively ruffle her hair.
“Together.” Beren stated as low and quite as he could, the air shimmering around both of them. As if a magical contract was enacted between them with none the wiser. Vex opened her eyes still smiling as she hunched her shoulder and wiped a tear that formed at the corner of her eye. Nodding she looked up to Beren and responded back at him.
The clearing was silent as the shared emotion could be felt through the silence. Even the leaves and wind itself seemed to die down in respect to this moment. No one spoke but when a rasp dry voice called out it was rather startling.
“Well isn’t that just sentimental.”
Everyone looked towards Ragnar who appeared to have sat up and rested his back against the tree. His amputated arms resting in his lap seeming unphased by what happened to him. Riken hissing slightly as he turned towards Ragnar as if on guard.
“But not to break the mood or anything, but I can safely say you lot are not working for the scorn. Though my observation is a bit late and at the price of my hands.” Ragnar stated quietly as he raised them up seeming to peer at the situation as a minor setback.
“So the child of the primals finally awakes and boast how he knows no one here is part of the scorn.” The fae began as she slithered towards Ragnar as if curious of his nature. Her arms sleeked back to her sides as she slithered forward to meet the peculiar mage.
“Though stolen, you do posses the blood line power of water making you proof of the prophecy.” The fae stated as she stopped a few feet from Ragnar and crossed her arms as if intrigued.
“Heh.” Ragnar stated as he let out a huff of air as if unamused or frightened by the atrocious figure of the fae.
“You will do well to address the fae of the woods with respect human!” Vex called out as she gripped her hands and pointed out towards Ragnar with her index finger, a green light slowly forming at the tip.
Ragnar simply closed his eyes and shook his head. “The fact you have not killed me means you need me still.” He stated as he slowly opened his blue eyes to peer at the group before raising his hand less arms up in a show. “And I assume it is for information and not combat.”
“Human…” The fae began as she held out a hand as a tree limb slowly grew towards her. A strange nature magic that moved in a surreal yet natural way. Unlike the flashy powers of Vex in their company.
“I have a proposition for you.” The fae began as she broke off the branch and appeared to mold it into an unfamiliar shape. “I will slow down your decaying disease and restore your hands.” She began as the branch in her hands formed into two crude items that appeared to mimic hands. “And in return you will bind your soul to me until my task I have set if finished.” She ended as the bark like hands lay in her own hands as if taunting Ragnar with the deal.
“Bind my soul for a task, in exchange for a partial cure and the restoration of my hands.” Ragnar exclaimed out loud as if thinking on the idea. “What is this task fae.” Ragnar asked as he brought his knees up for his arms to rest on. Forming a crude smile the fae remained silent before speaking.
“To the north of your homeland country lays the untamed wilderness. To the east of your neighboring country Iskar If I recall. There a small druid tribe resides that still follow the ways of the fae. The winds tell me a fae came to this world by the Thought himself. Planted into the ground so to say. The scorn however recently ransacked that tribe and took that fae hostage. I would like you to go and save him and let him finish his task he was put on this earth for.” The Fae of the woods stated as she rolled the bark like hands in her own as if hoping to coax Ragnar.
Without hesitating and even giving another thought Ragnar nodded. “Deal, in fact I heard the same thing and planned to look into it. Hence my search for a mage who studied fae in this god forsaken land.” Ragnar explained as he stood himself up extending his arms. “Ready when you are.” He coldly stated, his blank expression refusing to show any signs of betrayal or fear.
Taking notice of his determination Vex and Beren watched in wonder as the fae fused her crafted hands onto Ragnar’s limbs. Odd entangling roots burrowed into Ragnar’s skin as it fussed to his bone. They looked monstrous but behaved and moved as any normal human hand would. No sounds erupted in the air as the bark like hands moved fluidly and easily.
“For as long as you serve me those hands are yours, the roots that entangle into your skin will eventually find their way into your heart in hopes of slowing down your curse. But that goes without saying, I now have the means to end you from anywhere in the world should I deem you worthless.” The fae explained as she slithered back to leave Ragnar testing his hands with interest. “Your destiny requires you to assemble the heroes of Alistair and take on the head of scorn after you reclaimed your country.”
Ragnar raised his head in confusion. “Reclaim? We have not lost any land in this war what are you talking about.” He asked sounding almost frantic his dry voice increasing in pitch.
“Oh, I seem to have spoken to soon.” The fae smiled as she slithered back to her tree eyeing Riken. “Regardless though human do not fail me or cross me, for your life is now in my hands.”
Ragnar seemed to have swallowed slightly as he sat back down gripping his new hands into a fist. He pondered if what the fae said was something to pass unavoidable, as a crashing wave onto a beach.
“Is there anything you can do for him?” Vex asked her eyes transfixed between the fae and Riken. “He does not seem to change back though the language you taught me still works to control him.”
The fae did not respond as she rested her dark hands onto the antlers of the beast her sunflower eyes peering into the glowing yellow of Riken’s. She remained fixed in place as she cupped his face into her hands as if holding the face of a child to admire and love.
“No I can not put him back to sleep, nor do I have the power to force it.” She stated flatly sounding rather defeated. “Wendigos back then during the great war changed on purpose and increased their power tenfold to beat back the primals. There is no recount of them ever returning back to normal except for one.” She explained as she removed her hands away from Riken as she crossed one arms across her abdomen and another to her chin.
“Near the ruins of Roush is an area called the Black Rot. I assume you know where that is?” She asked as her eyes looked towards Vex, he expressionless stare seeming alien and revolting.
“The rotting marsh, everlasting glades, black rot. I know all the names associated with that terrain.” Vex stated as if already knowing what the fae was about to explain.
“Indeed, but within the black rot lies that same individual who was once a wendigo. A fae no longer nor a creature, but something that has returned to nature.” The fae stated as she brought both her hands back down. “Maybe you will find more than answers there?” The fae stated as a smile seemed to cross her face, this time seeming more curious. Vex simply nodded respectfully, thankful of the information given to her.
Slowly caressing the tree the Fae of the woods began to wrap her centipede body around the trunk as she pulled herself into the boughs. The creaking of wood and sliding of bark filled the atmosphere as her body slowly appeared to blend in with the odd tree. “You all have my blessing, guidance and gift.” She stated from within her tree he feminine figure the only thing noticed behind a plethora of orange leaves. “Go forth and seize your destiny children.” The fae exclaimed as she continued to crawl further up into the tree. The sight ominous and eerie as her centipede legs jabbed into the bark pulling herself further up. The sound of skittering slowly ceasing until only those on the ground were left.
Beren eyed the group, his gaze falling to Ragnar then to Riken than finally to Vex who appeared to have left her gaze into the trees. As if she knew something they didn’t. It took a moment for Beren to realize but he now had a greater purpose. One more clear than his original goal. Granted he was going to end those who ended him. But he will now join Vex’s crusade to end the scorn once and for all. The path to such an unreachable goal had seemed folly at the time, but a strange distinct sensation had washed over him. He knew it was possible and with the help of Vex we was going to make it a reality. One step at a time was all it will need. One step at a time.