Hey all! It's been a while, hasn't it?
Well, I'm back. This fic is an idea I had a while ago, but only got the first two chapters written. I've decided to go back and rewrite it all - and hopefully get it finished this time!
And so now, without further ado...
Since the dawn of time, there has been two sides to the Beyond: Heaven and Hell. Heaven; the paradise of Angels. Hell; the anguish of demons. For millenia, the two sides warred for control of the Earth below. But when Fate loses is strength and Prophecy comes too late - when the Otherworldly battle crosses the Barrier to the vulnerable Earth, who will save it?
Running, running, running. Was that all there was to do in life?
Ever since I was born, I could never remember a time that I had been able to truly just sit and relax – the closest I ever got to relaxing was sleeping. Always going from one place to the next, always traveling, always working. Never sitting. Never settling. But this…this was different. Now, I was running as if I had never run before. My feet pounded against the packed soil, slipping past tree roots and fallen limbs as I streaked away into the forest, going as if my life depended on it.
In all probability, it did
On the horizon behind me, a globe of orange light burned against the black night sky. There were no stars – there were too many clouds for that. Clouds that would soon bring rain. But I knew that whatever rain that would come would come too late. My village was already in flames, the place of my most treasured memories burning to ashes.
The demon had arrived at my home, first. It had crawled from the shadows of the north, a black wraith against the setting sun. My older brother, Farro, had been out in the small field that bordered the east side of our house, making the last few preparations for the Fall Harvest that would take place next week. My mother had been inside, patting rice together into patties for our evening meal. My father and I had been in the small stables across the field, preparing our old horse Dixie for the short trade trip we would take down to the coast before winter. It was a calm evening, something that wasn’t out of the norm in Allanha Village. But that all changed by the time the sun touched the horizon.
“Careful with that strap, Kira. You don’t want old Dixie here to suffocate because it’s too tight, do you?”
I laughed. “Sorry, Papa. I’ll fix it, I’ll fix it.”
I won’t forget the night. It was just like any other.
“Kira!” my mother’s voice rang out across the field, “Come here, will you please? I need some help with dinner.”
Papa chuckled beside me, looking down at me with a twinkle in his eye. “You should probably go help,” he said, tossing me a wink, “You know how she gets when you do ‘men’s work’.”
“But we haven’t finished packing Dix—”
“No buts, now. Go on, help your mother.”
“Yes, Papa,” I left the stables with a sigh, running a hand through my dark hair. I crossed the field and went about helping my mother prepare the rice for dinner.
Maybe, if I had known what was coming, I wouldn’t have dragged my feet so.
“Mmmhm. Smells good, dear,” my father said, coming into the house a while later. The stew was on the fire now, and the broth was bubbling cheerily.
“Of course it does,” I said, smiling as I moved to dump a few chopped carrots into the stewpot, “Mama’s stew is the best.”
Quiet, peaceful, happy. But then came the small spot on the horizon. It had been my brother who had first spotted it.
“Hey, Dad?” came Farro’s voice, “Wanna come out here a second?”
I looked up at the sound of his voice, my curiosity piqued. As my mother went about setting the table for dinner, I followed my father outside.
“What is it, Farro?”
“Dad…look at the horizon. What is that?”
There was a black dot on the skyline, and it was growing steadily. I frowned at it. “What is that?” I repeated.
My father had heard the stories from his other merchant friends of a creature that had appeared, attacking the trading outposts that lined the Great Northern Road. He recognized the dot at once for what it was.
“Kira, go inside. Quickly, now, go. Farro, run into town. Tell the villagers that trouble is coming.”
I watched him disappear into the stables, and knew that he was retrieving his sword. I had no idea what to do – I had never seen my father so afraid.
My father was not a swordsman – not in any sense of the word. He hated violence, and only carried the old rapier out of habit and as reassurance on the road. He had never used it to fight – the only use I had ever seen come of it was to chop wood and food while we were traveling along the trade routes. As the demon drew nearer, I knew he had no chance against it.
It was a fearsome beast – it came in the form of a man, walking upright on two feet, with two very human-looking hands. He was swathed in darkness – it was as if he were dressed in black clothing, but even as light fell upon him, all that could be seen was the black silhouette. That, and the glowing, white eyes that were positioned on what should have been the face.
My mother pushed me out the door, urging me further into the village.
“Quickly, Kira, go into the village. Get yourself to Carro’s shop – he’ll hide you. Go on, now, get out of here.”
“Aren’t you coming, Mama?”
“I’ll follow you in a few minutes. I need to gather a few things first.”
At the time, I couldn’t see why she would stay, and thought that she would join me later, as she had promised. Now I realize that she had been going to help my father. I met my brother along the way, who was leading a few armed and wary villagers to my home, ready to do battle with the thing.
“Farro, what’s going on?”
“Nothing important, now get inside.”
“Oh, bull****. Nothing ‘important’. I’m tired of not getting answers
– what was that thing??”
He seemed to debate a moment, watching the others as they continued up the road. After a moment, he looked back at me, seemingly coming to a decision. “That thing that I saw is a demon. We think that it might be coming to attack the village.”
Fear tightened my throat at his words. “And you…you and Papa are going to fight this thing?” I asked, my eyes wide, “Is it dangerous?”
“Don’t worry about us. Get yourself into town – I’ll join you there later.”
And so he did. I had taken shelter in one of the shops that lined the square, and watched as an orange glow took to the sky in the direction of my house. Slowly, minute by minute, the glow grew larger, came closer. My brother came running back into the square with a mass of screaming villagers. The glow was fire – and it was following on their heels. It hopped from building to building, biting into the wood and releasing plumes of smoke. Eventually, my brother found me and dragged me outside.
“Run, Kira! Go to Hildonhead – warn the mayor of what’s happened here!” he told me, his voice frantic and his words fast. He kept looking over his shoulder, as if waiting for someone to appear.
“But…But Farro—” The flames were getting closer, only a few feet behind him. The smoke scared me, as did the people that came pouring out of the burning buildings. There were so many of them – all of them screaming in terror and pushing others out of their way as they sought to flee. My brother held fast to my wrist, his fingers cutting into my skin as he fought to hold on.
“No buts! Now go! I’ll meet you there in one day’s time! Go! RUN!” And with that, released my hand.
The crowd was too strong – as I pushed to stay with him, they pushed against me, doing his work for him. With horror, I saw a dark shape rise out of the flames. It was the demon – and my brother was turning to face it. I screamed after him, tears coming to my eyes.
He either didn’t hear me, or he ignored me. The last glance I had of my brother was him running at the monster, a heavy pole in hand.
I didn’t know where to go. Tears streaking my cheeks, I ran with the crowd. I didn’t watch where I was going – I didn’t care. I just ran; ran as if I had never run before. I soon found the open spaces of the village closing around me, the darkness growing stronger. I had run into Kuro Forest.
The word kuro
means darkness. The forest was not named such without reason. The trees were large and grew closer together, their branches sweeping and interlocking to create a canvas of green that rarely allowed much light in. There were terrible, terrifying creatures that were rumored to live in the forest that hadn’t been seen in the rest of Drahar for generations.
But those stories were nonsense, weren’t they? There was nothing of the sort in this forest…was there?
The forest was dead silent around me, save for the echoing of my footfalls against the ancient trees. The darkness pressed in on me from all sides – it was almost impossible for me to see anything. There was nothing to distract me from the memories.
Why didn’t Farro run? He could have made it out as well! I wouldn’t have to be alone right now. We could have both traveled to Hildonhead together
. Forget about having to wait a full day. I wanted him back now
The feeling of hard wood against my shin brought me back to reality as I came crashing to the ground, landing face-first in the dirt. As I tried to push myself up, my elbow gave out and I collapsed again. For the first time that night, I noticed that I was shaking. As I lay there, I curled into a ball, letting the tears that had been held back flow freely from my eyes.
Demons, demons, left and right. No one’s here to save you tonight.
The breath caught in my chest, my eyes shot wide open. Had that been…a voice
I raised my head, looking around frantically for any sign of someone. I saw nothing – just darkness. But then…who had said that?
I hardly thought about it because a moment later, a growl sounded behind me. My heart stopped. The sound was loud, vicious, and sinister. I looked over my shoulder…and saw two glowing green eyes staring at me. I couldn’t help myself – I screamed.
I scrambled to my feet and ran off, my arms pumping hard as my feet pounded against the ground. I frantically wiped at my eyes, trying to clear my vision of the tears that still strayed there. Heavy paws slapped the dirt behind me, a subtle snarling reaching my ears and making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
A branch came out of the darkness and whipped my cheek. I reached up to check…and felt blood there. The growl sounded louder behind me.
For the second time that night, the treacherous roots tripped me up. My ankle twisted against the wood, and I fell face first into the dirt again, skidding along the ground. A blood-chilling growl sounded close behind me – far too close for comfort. Flipping onto my back, I scrambled backwards on my hands and back, trying to get away from…
From the giant wolf that crept out of the darkness. Its fierce yellow eyes were fixed on me, its head towering six feet from the ground – the size of a small horse. Saliva dripped down from its gaping jaws, its fangs glistening in the faint light.
I couldn’t catch my breath, my throat closing up in fear. I scrambled backwards as fast as I possibly could, and found myself cornered as my hands found knotty roots, my back pressed up against a tree. The wolf approached little by little, enjoying taking its time. It growled several times in short succession – it was laughing
Finally, it stopped playing. Rearing up in the air, it bared its fangs, preparing for the final strike –
There was a hiss, a thunk, and the wolf collapsed to the ground…and didn’t move again. Protruding from the back of its head was a shaft of some sort…and as I looked up, I realized what it was.
It was an arrow. And before me was the archer.
He was tall – probably a good head taller than I was – and was dressed entirely in black. His long cloak was as dark as the shadows behind him, his hood pulled up to disguise his features. However, the shadow didn’t completely cover his face – the tip of a nose and lips that looked far too perfect for a human were still exposed in the faint light. Those lips were curved up slightly at the edges – he was smirking.
“Are you alright, Miss?”