Act I: Red
Chapter 13: The Third
An oddity that flew over the stranger’s head was the fact that the different territories pieced Tylarus together weren’t separated by anything that appeared natural. As an example, the Fae Forest was separated from the Wastelands, which housed the city he had just departed from, by a tall cliff side. But it all seemed mismatched – the Forest in its entirety was elevated just the same. Likewise, as the stranger neared the western side of the land, what separated the lands of the supposed Legion and the thickly vegetated jungle now looming over the crumbling, dry soil was practically nothing; it looked as if both lands were sewn together by some unseen figure working in the background.
“…That would be too easy,” the stranger mused to himself as he entered this new area.
Like any jungle one would find, it was moist, difficult to traverse, and varied wildly in color and flora. What was different, however, put it more in line with how the rest of Tylarus seemed to function: it was devoid of life. Other than his careful plodding and occasional rustling, silence pervaded through the trees. Above, the canopies disallowed the stranger any view of the unfrozen sky, furthering the sense of isolation and imprisonment.
Out came the notebook to record his unhelpful findings. But when the stranger glanced down to accomplish this task, another oddity about his immediate surroundings arose – a single rope, hanging from a branch he could not see, dangling and seemingly waiting for its own purpose to be revealed, if not fulfilled. So, naturally, the stranger decided to help it along its course.
His hand reached out, timidly, in the attempt to at least brush his gloved fingers against the binding. And in doing so, what followed was too quick for him to react with grace.
The rope snapped upwards, and those hidden at his feet followed suit. He had a second or so to move, leaf debris marking the rush of cord and his diminishing window for action. In the end he lost that race, a harsh crack sounding outward as he found himself yanked from his feet, hoisted into the air and left swinging like prey.
Panic, however, was not in his nature. He took a few minutes to assess the situation and to observe any reactions from the jungle himself; after all, someone must have gone through a great deal of trouble to secure such a trap. They would inevitably come to retrieve their prize. A snare like this would not be sufficient enough to hold a creature for long, so he would undoubtedly receive a visit soon. In the meantime, he once more reached for his notebook to record details of the pre-sprung trap – until he realized it was no longer on his person.
“No clouds… snakes on a grave… the air might be fake…” came a voice in the direction he previously stood before being captured. “Odd observations for a lackey of the lich. Were you hoping to use this as cover for when we caught you?”
The stranger didn’t speak. He waited for the assailant to reveal themselves so he could recover his book.
“Nothing to say? Perhaps he sent one of his mindless servants to do the spying. He never was that clever. And you certainly look the part.”
To the stranger, the voice sounded feminine, but that was hardly enough to discern an identity. Their position had not changed, so with this he decided to just hunt them on his own. Swiftly he grabbed for the dagger at his waist and slashed at the rope – only to find that it had no effect.
“Or… perhaps not? Then again, a rotting body might have been torn in two after being dragged like that. But either way, it’ll take a bit more than iron or steel to cut that rope.”
Following this he felt a miniscule sting on the lower part of his back. It was a needle or a dart, he presumed, which meant that it must have been laced with a paralytic or some other kind of toxin. But what concerned him, however, was that it came from behind him. So either the speaker had moved, or…
“I’ll be generous and answer a question you’re probably asking yourself right now: no, I’m not alone.”
As the stranger felt his own body slowly succumb to unwanted numbness, he gazed around to note that several pairs of glowing pinpoints began to materialize in the dark vegetation. He frowned. If it wasn’t for his encounter in the tavern, he wouldn’t have guessed as quickly as he did – they were eyes, reflecting light, just as those of a feline would. His mind went to work.
“Your other question is probably what we’d want from you, but unfortunately I won’t be answering that. You’re far more valuable indisposed.”
In the east, the Fae Court had claimed their home. The Fae Queen Avelia took that position. In the north, the Tyrant Lich and his Legion lorded over the Wastelands. That left the third.
“Zephryne, leader of the Rogues,” the stranger finally spoke aloud.
There wasn’t a single lull of time that passed in between his pronouncement and the sudden tripling of glowing pairs decorating the background flora. Immediately he felt two more darts penetrate his back, furthering the paralysis.
“Your claim came across as bold to you…”
From a shadowed veil unbeknownst to the stranger until this moment stepped forth the first physical creature he had seen in this jungle. His wary first assumption turned out to be correct – it was female. She was bipedal and wore only a handful of rags, revealing skin covered in what appeared to be tribal tattoos. But the most important feature was the confirmation of his second assumption: she bore the same features as the half-human, half-feline girl in the tavern. To this effect, the stranger concluded that the Rogues were all half-feline.
“…Making me rethink your position in this feud,” she said, tossing the notebook up, spinning it in the air, and catching it as it fell. “But you are correct. I am Zephryne, leader of our humble community. Now’s your chance before you’re not even able to speak anymore. Who are you, if not a member of that bastard’s doll collection? One of Avelia’s pets? You don’t appear to be fae.”
The stranger narrowed his eyes, obviously not committed to answering that particular question. Instead, he gathered all of the strength he had left to lift his hand upwards and behind him.
“Ugh. You people.”
As Zephryne raised her own hand to give the signal to, he assumed, release another barrage of needles, the stranger quickly latched onto the hilt of the large, black katana on his back and pulled it from its sheath, swiping it through the air. The rope, without ever making contact with anything at all, was cut from his ankle, causing him to plummet to the ground. Equally impossible, the stranger was able to flip himself mid-air to land on his feet – his eyes then met Zephryne’s who was only watching in bemusement. In her hand, the notebook. And to that effect, his target.
The stranger, with his miraculously regained energy, burst forward in attempt to take his possession back. However, as quickly as he was able to escape, Zephryne was no longer standing in the same position. He stopped only after a few steps to discern where she had gone. Left, right, behind, up down… it did not matter. She was gone. And as he noticed as well, so too were the illuminated pairs of orbs. He frowned.
“…Damn it,” came his whispered frustration. He held his stance for a few moments before releasing it and sighing. Sheathing his black, the stranger turned around and headed south, out of this jungle.
Glossary - Day 8
- The Stranger / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Sakiya / Race: Human / Status: Dormant
- Thaia / Race: Fae (Sylph) / Status: Active
- Zhei / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
- Akulien / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
- Maelomi / Race: Unknown / Status: Active, Tavern Mistress
- Vairnlor / Race: Lich / Status: Active
- The Father / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
THE FAE COURT
- Avelia / Race: Fae (Fairy) / Status: Active, Fae Queen
- Kael / Race: Fae (Kelpie) / Status: Active
- Dimitri / Race: Fae (Faun) / Status: Active
- Garren Myzen / Race: Lich / Status: Active, Legion Tyrant
- Sirena / Race: Elf / Status: Active
THE FELINE ROGUES
- Zephryne / Race: Feline / Status: Active, Rogue Leader
- ? / Race: Feline / Status: Active
- Tylarus: Name of land.
- The Tavern: Establishment in between the Fae Forest and Rogue Woods, south of the Graveyard.
- The Corrupted Tree: Black, deadened tree located in the Graveyard.
- The Graveyard: Plot of land between two rivers and in the center of the land.
- The Fae Forest: Eastern forests, surface world of the Fae Court.
- The Wastelands: Northern plains, home to the Legion.
- The City: Capital of the Wastelands.
- The Rogue Woods: Western woods, home to the Feline Rogues.
- The Raven: ?