The sun rose high above the treetops, its rays heating the surrounding air. It was scorching. Faro awoke, stretched his arms and noticed Kellen sitting next to the fire with a pot; Faro laughed, "How long have you been awake". Kellen turned around "Long enough to know that you snore, badly"
"I don't snore"
"oh I beg to differ"
"Right, what are you doing?"
"Yes I can see that" Faro said sarcastically.
"Then why did you ask"
"I was asking what is in the pot"
"Oh its stewed hare"
"Oh well. Do you need a hand?"
"Actually, yes you can skin the hares"
"You …want me to skin the furry rabbits"
"There hares and yes, is it a problem"
"No, I love skinning cute animals" Faro replied again. Kellen handed the hares over to Faro and gave him a huge knife.
"Here you go, have fun" Faro turned away and sat down. Dane was now sitting across from them, and appeared to be carving something. Jeven's voice could be heard in the forest, and he called to Darian and Finn. They both walked sleepily over. Finn nearly stumbled over a loose branch and Darian bumped into him. Dane shook his head and continued carving. Dante looked over Dane's shoulder and whispered "You still carving that thing"
"No reason… you're still not over their deaths. Are you?"
"No they were our parents, should I not care"
"We have already mourned their loss; get over it. It's time to move on"
"Perhaps you're right" Dane looked at the carving of his parents, and threw it into the forest. Dante smiled and walked over to Faro. Dante sat next to him and picked up a knife, Faro smirked at him and Dante looked down and paid no attention to him. He began to cut into the flesh and chopped the meat into chunks, he then threw them into the boiling water. Kellen watched as he did so.
After a few hours, Kellen lifted seven bowls out of his pack and scooped some stew into each one. Dante called over to Jeven, Finn and Darian. They came rushing in. Dane looked puzzling at them "Where did you guys go"
"Scouting, barbarians lurk in this forest, I'd rather know if their close, than be ambushed" Jeven replied.
"Point taken, Darian you look terrible" Faro spoke
"Yer well, I don't do forests, especially forest that are covered in disgusting black ooze. When can we leave?"
"After lunch, we have to keep up our strength" Replied Kellen. Kellen then handed the bowls out to the other commanders; they all sat around the campfire.
They were all silent, not even the wind could be heard. Finn broke the silence "So what's your stories then" all the commanders shot angry glances at him. "What? Just making small talk; fine I will go first then" Finn placed his bowl onto the floor. He looked into the fire, its orange flames flickering, "I was born in one of the elven hostels in Argon, my mother died while I was very young, my father killed himself after he found out I had magic, because magic is seen as evil, so my sister had to look after me". The other commanders listened quietly; Finn continued "She kept me safe, when I was sixteen, the human lord who had kept us as slaves killed my sister. I lost control and killed him, I ran as fast as I could, and the emperor found me hiding in an abandoned house. He said I could join the army and that my powers would be of use to him and over time i raised to the rank of commander. That's my story" Jeven looked at Finn sorrowfully "I'm sorry about what happened to your family" Finn smiled back.
Jeven sighed "Well I might as well go next then. I was born in Argon to a noble mother and warrior father, I was trained to fight and succeed by my father. The emperor saw that I had great skill and recruited me into the army, it took a year for me to become a commander" Darian spooned some stew into his mouth and swallowed. "My story… I was born in Argon and I killed a man, I went on the run and the emperor took me in" Darian paused "ah those were the good old days" Darian answered.
"You seem oddly cheerful about it" Dane added
"Hell yer, I mean, I killed a man. I was about to be hanged and the emperor stopped them just before they pulled the lever. I was so sure I was going to die and then I was freed. So yer I am cheerful…I'd rather be alive then be in a ditch somewhere" Darian laughed and pulled out a flask out of his pack and took a swig of whiskey.
"As you can see me and Dane are identical twins, we grew up on Marda Island. The small island off the coast of the frosted village" Dante said.
"We ran away from home at aged seventeen, we decided we were better off on our own" added Dane. Dante nodded to Dane and Dante continued "We led a band of bandits in Marda Island and we trained them to fight, after that we left and joined Barerin's army at twenty, and just recently we found out that our parents have…passed"
"I grew up in the frosted village, I had a wife and a son. They were murdered so I left and I travelled for a while then I joined the army" Faro added.
"I also grew up in the frosted village, I was trained as a hunter and I am skilled with a bow. The emperor thought I could be useful in training soldiers in survival techniques. He said that there was no one that could equal my ability with a bow and promoted me to commander and that's it".
The tree branches rustled nearby, Kellen was already alert and had his bow out. Jeven signalled to Dante and Dane who stood at back holding their weapons close. Kellen was cautious, he watched the trees closely, and then suddenly an arrow flew across Finn face and hit a tree. Kellen focused between the trees, and began firing. He heard a shout and then they were upon them, a group of barbarians. Faro spun his daggers and threw one at one of the barbarians, it hit him in the chest. The blood squirted out of the wound, he ran over and removed his dagger from the body. Faro looked over to Darian who was swinging his flail in all directions. Finn glowed red he focused hard on a barbarian, whose flesh began to boil and peel, and with that he explode. Finn grinned and laughed, Jeven shouted back "Finn, damn it, stay focus" Finn nodded back.
Dane deflected one of the arrows; he used his shield to deflect more oncoming arrows. Kellen fired a volley of arrows that took out three of them, they collapsed. Dante jumped onto the last one and wedged his blade into the man's shoulder blade, he yelled in pain. Dante jumped off and Jeven swung his great sword around and decapitated the man. His head rolled across the floor.
Faro sighed heavily, and Finn cheered "Now that's what I am talking about"
"Damn barbarians" grumbled Darian.
"We should leave; I mean you've heard the stories about the darkened forest. The forest of the dead they called it. They say the very trees are possessed and legends also say that sorceress's live here and summon unholy creatures to do the bidding" added Faro.
"Lucky we haven't encountered any creatures like that" Finn gulped.
The commanders gathered their belongings, Kellen extinguished the campfire. While Dante and Dane collected the corpses and placed them into a pile, Finn glowed orange and his hands exploded into flames, then he pulled his hands together and ball of blazing fire formed. He shot the burning ball at the pile. The bodies were ignited and were engulfed in the beautiful ambers. The smell of burning corpses could be smelled for miles. The commanders left as quickly as they could as creatures and others will come to investigate.
"Hurry up, Darian" Finn shouted
"Shut up, you stupid pointed eared moron. I am a dwarf I don't have the luxury of long legs" Darian yelled angrily.
"Ha, do you want me to carry you?"
"Haha funny, everyone take the piss out of the dwarf, stay the hell away from me-
"Enough we must be quiet and travel quickly" Jeven interrupted
"Sorry boss" Darian replied.
They travelled through the west of the forest; Kellen was in front as a skilled hunter. He could see hidden traps and signs of creatures, then followed Jeven and Faro who had their weapons ready. Dante and Dane stayed back with Finn, who provided the light source, his staff illuminating the way forward, while Darian struggled to keep up.
Kellen paused and peered around. "The way out is about four miles north, if we keep up this pace we will be out of here by nightfall"
"We keep going" Jeven ordered, all commanders nodded and continued forward.
They reached the edge of the forest. Dane sighed with relief "Thank god we're out of there"
"You can say that again" Added Darian.
"How far are we from the Darklands?" asked Finn.
"I believe two and a half miles north" Kellen replied.
"Then we must keep moving" ordered Jeven.
It was raining and the harsh wind hit their faces like whips of ice, the rain made the path muddy and slippery, Faro walked beside Kellen.
"So, you still haven't answered my question" Faro whispered, Kellen sighed heavily.
"You're still harping on this, this is pointless-
"No its not, please think about this, are you really going to help slaughter a child, a child-
"Am I What?"
"When the time comes, are you going to stand with us or against us?"
"I don't know, I will do what I see is right"
"Well, if I was you don't bring this up around the other commanders; they might think you are a traitor"
"If they see me as a traitor, then so be it"
"Faro, please watch yourself"
"Kellen, don't worry I will be fine"
Finn peered down at the floor "Yuk, I am gonna get mud all over my nice new boots" he mumbled.
Darian laughed "Aww and nobody wants your girly boots ruined"
"There not girly"
"Hah, sure whatever you say"
"Shut up dwarf"
"Stupid drunk dwarf, I bet he can't even see. He's that plastered" Finn muttered under his breath.
They carried down along the path. The rain was beginning to clear and sun peered through the clouds, and the commanders were nearing their destination. The Darkland's walls could be seen, Faro stared at the walls and looked down. He thought for a moment I can't kill a child, they are going to kill everyone, they are monks and villagers, simple folk not warriors, I won't kill them.