The Forsaken Race; Darker Times

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 27 (v.1) - Punishment Time

Submitted: November 29, 2017

Reads: 121

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Submitted: November 29, 2017

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The Oculus Cavern was as gloomy as ever. The fog was thick, and the several pointed stones that sprouted from the ground were perfect for some beast to hide behind. While the oculus only wandered while it had escaped, or when Leiytning let it out on the rare occasion that it was used for battle, just knowing that it was this close could make others nervous. 

Especially Zin, who reflected both distant and unnerved behavior.

I'm going to go crazy down here...

He growled to himself and thought more angrily, "Damn me...Dammit, damn me, damn me, damn me! Why the fuck did I have to do that?! Why didn't I just keep my damn mouth shut? How did I let Corelia get to me?" He suddenly looked unsure, his brows furrowed. "But, on one hand, she was right about how Leiytning and Thundur were monsters...But they also didn't look like they were lying..."

This time, Zin let out a heavy sigh, resting his head against the metal bars of his cave-like cell. He stared at the floor, though figuratively saw past it. His muttered words were practically inaudible.

"I don't even know, anymore."

'...Scccrt...'

His ears pricked at the sound, one almost like scratching. More precisely, it was like the sound of someone sharpening a steel sword with a whetstone. 

This sound was all too familiar, though. It was not whetstone against steel. It was glass against stone. 

The oculus was drawing near. 

Unnerved, Zin's breaths grew heavier, and he slowly started to back away from the bars of his cell.

As he drew further, something else came closer. The silhouette of a large figure stepped into view. It was still distant, but its piercing white eyes broke through the veil of fog. And right there, where it was hardly visible, it stopped, and simply waited there as it patiently watched its new roommate. 

Zin made no movement. He stood there in stunned silence, mirroring the same ominous behavior that Echo was.

After seeing nothing happen, Zin decided to push limits and see what was right. Was this thing the wise leader-like creature that very few claimed it to be, or was it really more like the popular rumor of it being a brutal beast? Trying to mask his fear, he took one cautious step forward. 

However, Echo wasn't liking this. He almost instantly let out a low growl, the sound strangely distorted and echoed, and he returned the favor by taking two menacing paces forward. This revealed his head, made with a slightly pointed snout and dragon-like details. As the first half of its body appeared, giant glass claws shot a few sparks as they ground against the stone.

Zin raised both hands in a passive way, and stammered, "S-Stay back. Just go away..." He sighed. "Please just go away...I want to be alone..."

The oculus stopped there, his head tilting as he registered the words. Now he stood not too far from the exit. Zin slowly lowered his hands and became more distant, his words blank and dead.

"I just...I just want to be alone...I don't want to hurt anyone." He sighed again. "I hurt everyone, but I didn't even want to. I just did it...I don't know why I did it. My own mind was telling me to stop, and I ignored it." He sneered at the thought. "Look at what good it did. I almost killed my brother and sister, almost did worse to the others, and got myself thrown into the hellhole..." He growled, "But who am I kidding; I fucking deserve it!"

After realizing this simple fact, he collapsed, falling to his knees with a sense of grief. He did not know what to think, and all of it only made him more confused. That is, he felt confusion, along with a whirlwind of mixed emotion. Hate at Corelia, anger at himself, sorrow for the panic he started for the others, and pain from knowing that he was responsible for more than half of it.

"Why did I do it? How was I so stupid?"

'RR-rr-rr-rr.. '

Zin immediately looked back up, snapping out of his trance. Echo had lowered his head to the ground, and the edge of his snout was only a few inches from the steel bars of the cage. His slow breaths manifested in more cold fog. Though he was showing patience and curiosity, it was definitely misinterpreted.

The air escaped Zin's lungs as he took a sharp breath of fright. He stared with a deer-in-headlights expression at the piercing white eyes, and they stared straight back with a strange aura showing behind them. 

Too close for comfort, too close for comfort!

With a shaky and unsteady hand, Zin reached for a rock on the ground. To his discontent, Echo noticed first and bared two rows of huge fangs, letting out another distorted growl. Zin froze in pace, not moving an inch, and held his breath. 

Still, Echo was undeterred. He lashed his long tail, then took a few steps back. At first, Zin was relieved that it seemed to be retreating. However, it took seconds for him to realize that it was not retreating. It was going to pounce.

Zin raised his hands again and panicked. "No, no, no, no, no-"

Like a cat pouncing on a mouse, Echo sprang forward with one quick and powerful movement.  He ran straight into the stone wall, creating a small earthquake from the impact of his weight, and making a few stones crumble and fall from the cell's roof. 

Zin ran to the back of the cave, flattening himself against the back wall while also trying to shield himself from the loose stones being thrown about. Echo was relentless, with his long claws crammed through the bars, scratching against the ground. Every other second, a flurry of sparks flew from the friction, making Zin afraid that something would ignite.

Although this seemed all too dangerous, Zin did not know was that this was just an act. Echo was wise enough to tell individuals apart, meaning which ones were or weren't worth attacking. Therefore he was surely not interested in hurting Zin. This display was just his enacting a favor asked from a friend. 

Sure enough, from a spot not far away, Leiytning carelessly watched the oculus as it continued to attack. For once, Shadow Star's translucent figure had manifested, and now stood nearby.

The bars of Zin's cell were too strong to get through, and Zin was smart enough to avoid the claws. Furthermore, Leiytning actually trusted Echo more than several others, including some select siblings. Because of this, he had no fear of Echo accidentally going against orders and killing Zin.

Not to mention, unfortunately, he does deserve it.

"Unfortunate, indeed."

Leiytning only glared at the tone of the remark, not needing to see the approaching demon to know it was just Thundur. She was clearly angry about something, with her harsh glare and impatient tone.

"You're mad?" Asked Leiytning.

"Yes, you moron," Thundur snapped. "Why is it out, and why are you just watching it raise hell?"

"That 'thing' has a name," Leiytning retorted. "And as I said during the previous meeting, this is an efficient part of the punishment. Echo's not actually trying to kill, it's just an act to scare."

Shadow Star's voice was as raspy and 'click' ridden as ever when he said, "I would usually disagree with using the oculus. I don't like it any more than you do, Thundur. Although, it does seem to obey Leiytning well, and Zin could use something to scare him straight. He'd be more driven to behave, due to the idea of getting out of the cell where he's attacked by a beast like this. we just have to make sure we pull him out before it starts to break him, and not in the way we want."

"Shadow Star agrees," Leiytning remarked. "Two out of three. In other words, he gets to stay."

Thundur shot him a glare. "Shadow Star's vote accounts for nothing; it's as valid as his purpose in the Physical Realm. It's non-existent. As for the oculus, don't you remember that we had a deal?"

"Then we'll have a new one," Leiytning replied. "Until Zin gets released, our original deal is void, and he can stay out of his cage."

Shadow Star sighed irately, but the sound was annoying. "Might as well agree, Thundur. Please do, otherwise this argument will just go on for much longer than it should."

Thundur looked like she had a sharp-tongued reply ready to fire, but then she dismissively sneered and crossed her arms. "Fine, it's a deal. But as soon as Zin gets released, that damned beast goes back into its prison."

"Yeah," Leiytning responded as he rolled his eye. "I know the rules, harpy."

"Don't call me a harpy for concerning about saftey," Thundur argued. "I don't think any of us could work or sleep well with that free-roaming the fortress."

While the twins continued to argue, Shadow Star watched as Echo finally gave up. He snorted with discontent, then began trotting to where he and the twins were. 

With the thing approaching, Shadow Star was about to interrupt the argument. However, when Thundur turned for a moment, he noticed something that put him on edge.

When Thundur shifted her back, a thin stream of blood began to run from the deep gash where she'd been hit. Thundur paid it no consent and continued to rant, and Shadow Star was about to say something, but he noticed that Leiytning was already suspicious. This made sense; Thundur was a master at masking pain, but it was hard to hide from the one who knew her mentality better than she herself did.

Even so, Shadow Star was first to speak on the matter, first interrupting by only saying her name.

"What do you want?" Thundur snapped in response.

"Your spinal wound," he explained. "It's bleeding."

Thundur reached behind her, trying to hide the wound with her hand. "As if I don't know that. It's nothing serious."

Leiytning went on to remark, "For nothing important, it seems to be bothering you. Are you sure you're alright?"

Though she wanted to say something sarcastic or snap at him, Thundur refrained when she saw his unobvious concern.

She released a heavy sigh. "It really is fine, alright? It's just that the bindings got annoying, so I removed them when I shouldn't have. Leaving it exposed like this just means that it's more vulnerable to reopening."

"Reopening?" Shadow Star interrogated. "Are you saying that it's not healed yet?"

Thundur rolled her eye, reflecting irritation. "Oh, please, I know what you're thinking. I'll put the bindings back on, but I'm not going to stop work when I'm not immobilized. Leiytning got away with that countless times, you hypocrites."

"Yes, but no one cares about Leiytning," Shadow Star replied. "Now can you please take one of your wounds seriously? One can be resilient without being invincible, you know."

"All this coming from the one who's already dead," Thundur muttered. "Just go away, already."

Shadow Star grunted, a disapproving glare in his near-glowing blind eyes, but did not argue. His spirit got fainter and fainter until it was not there at all, leaving only the stirred fog to mark he was once there at all.

With him gone, Thundur continued to talk, but not argumentatively. This next subject was just something she noticed and wanted to acknowledge while they still had some time to talk at all. 

"Problem?" Asked Leiytning, after a lingering silence.

"No, I just wanted to tell you about something I noticed during this whole ordeal." Thundur cleared her throat before continuing, "See, that coma was a very strange one, even to me. At certain points, I was able to...not wake up, but I was able to hear, or sense minor things from the real world. Suppose it was the weak connection I still had to my vessel, and I was taking advantage of the opportunity to get back. It didn't work, but I still got some signals."

"What did you hear?" Leiytning inquired.

Thundur glanced at the black stone pendant, which Leiytning still wore. The symbol did not glow, nor was there any sign of it being very magical at all, but Thundur felt a strange feeling after seeing it.

"Mainly, I'm just surprised that you gave up that stone," she explained. "Luck, was it?"

"It's supposed to be," Leiytning responded. "I don't know if that's right or wrong, but that's the rumor."

"I don't know, either," Thundur replied. "Although I will say I prefer to call things 'good coincidence.' Maybe some of that does translate to luck. And knowing who that stone originally belonged to, I wouldn't be surprised if it really was a luck charm."

"I'll have to agree with you on that much," Leiytning muttered.

"I know where half of that 'luck' came from." Thundur gained a weak smile as she went on, "Not really from the stone at all. Just from having a good brother."

Leiytning gained a look of confusion. "Twice is one thing, but three openly emotional remarks like that in one day? Is there something wrong; was there head trauma involved with that fight?"

Thundur refrained from laughing. "Honestly, I'm alright with that."

Their conversation was interrupted by the oculus, who was still with them. Echo had chortled, and laid his head against the ground. This brought Thundur back to their current mission. Her smile returned to the usual look of nothingness.

"Anyways," she spoke, "I think it's time to put our so-called plan in motion. Come on, let's get going."

Thundur had already shifted to wolf form and began retreating from the cavern quickly. Leiytning stayed behind for a minute, though, letting her get far ahead. Meanwhile, Echo was still bowed before him.

He remarked, "You get to stay out of that damned prison. I'm sure you're happy about that."

Echo snorted, then chortled again. Dismissing the case, Leiytning shifted into wolf form, ready to follow Thundur's trail. Before leaving, he noticed that Echo was glaring at the cell where Zin was contained.

"There's your job for a moon or two," said Leiytning. "Just don't kill him, got it?"

Echo chortled again, then got up and walked back into the foggy midst of the cavern. That being said, Leiytning also retreated from the scene. Both of them had their own work cut out for them.

 

 

\\\\\

 

 

Like the Oculus Cavern, the only sight here was stone and fog. However, this much more open space had clear skies overhead, and an open plane of cracked stoney ground. There was the occasional fern or two, but there was nothing besides that. As long as one wouldn't include the two Zyreans (in wolf form), and one sylph.

After Kita chalked out the basics from what she remembered, she decided to take a break in order to see if it would help her thinking. The only mission was one with Timbur and Seyber, and it involved more reporting on Aubade trade and battle activity. It was surely frowned upon for Timbur to be working, but he was stubborn and insistent, and no one dared defy him or disturb Leiytning to get him to.

As they went on, Kita was hoping to see some form of other creatures or vegetation. As they continued, no other thing coming into view, Kita decided to speak up.

"Where are we? It doesn't look like anything would live out here."

Seyber happily answered, "These are the Stone Plains. They cover almost the entire south-west side of the Northern Territories. To get your bearings, think of it this way; if we kept walking for a little over thirteen days in the opposite direction, then we would eventually find the West River. Follow it south long enough, and then there's the Dead Beach."

Still, Kita was confused. "But where are we going, and why?"

This time, Timbur answered, "It's an ally's territory. The Jungle of Ghouls."

"Really, five ghoul races take up five different portions," Seyber explained. "However, only one is our ally, and it will do you good to remember that. The Leo Ghouls."

"Oh, the Leo Ghouls!" Kita remarked, finding the term familiar. "Does that mean you have ties to this place?"

Timbur furrowed his brows. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Hm?" Kita seemed a little embarrassed by the confusion. "Then..."

"Oh, I see what she means!" Seyber remarked. "She must've found out that we're part ghoul."

"Oh, that," Timbur muttered. "Technically, I guess we can be labeled as 'hybrids.'" He sneered, as if appalled by the term. "Still, it's literally just because our mother happened to be a ghoul. We don't even have enough to take on any ghoul abilities. Demonic blood is very dominant, overriding most if not anything else."

Kita began thinking about what the Leo ghouls would be like. From what rumors said, they were the best and longest-lasting ally of the Zyreans, and just as how Zyreans shared a connection to the wolf, Leos shared a connection with felines.

If Leo Ghouls are a Zyrean ally, then I'm sure that they aren't as bad as they sound. It's just that when I think 'ghoul,' I still think undead and flesh-eating beings.

'tch-tch-TCH-TCH'

Kita took a sharp breath as a small creature very quickly ran across her path, disappearing as it slipped into a hole in the ground. Seyber laughed at her frightened reaction.

"Scared of a little bezzle? They're completely harmless, but keep an eye out. They do like to pickpocket."

Kita placed her hand on the hilt of her sword, making sure that it was still there, and did not move it from that position. More bezzles came into view, and there was nothing else but a small pack of coyotes. The dogs eyed Kita, but didn't acknowledge the wolf-demons at all. When they vanished, and she felt alright again, Kita asked another question.

"All of the old tales say that ghouls are undead monsters, but Leiytning told me they're only ghouls because of their lifespan and because they like raw animal flesh. Is that right?"

"Uh-huh," Seyber responded. "Ghouls usually have long lifespans, varying depending on the species, and they do eat raw flesh. All of them also have very fast regeneration, too. They could get a deep wound by morning, and it'd be almost completely healed by nightfall."

Kita nodded and focused on the path ahead. Sure enough, it was only after another short while that she assumed they had reached their destination. 

At first, the change in land was faint. Hints of foliage began sprouting from the cracks in the dry stone earth, while the dark silhouettes of several huge trees appeared. The Jungle of Ghouls stood before them. The trees were tall, and the floor was covered by huge leaves. Thick vines draped from branches, and coiled down thick tree trunks. 

On a rotting log, just barely inside the jungle, a cat was perched on the edge. It was black, and its underside and paws were white. It stared at the demons with brown feline eyes. As she first thought it was just a random feral cat, Kita felt a pang of surprise when it spoke to them, and with a deep masculine voice that one wouldn't expect from its appearance.

"You're late. And why is there an Aubade with you?"

"Long story, Panther," Timbur replied. "And I'd like to see you trek across the Stone Plains for an hour. It's not as easy or as fun as it looks."

The cat, Panther, stood up and stretched. "I suppose that works as an excuse. Now, what happened to you?"

Timbur clearly didn't like being called out on his wounds. "If it were any of your business, then maybe I'd tell you."

Panther chuckled. "Easy, now. I was only curious. You know how cats can be."

Seyber changed the subject, preventing a fight. "What did you want to tell us, Panther? You made it sound urgent."

"I called you here to report that the Equus Ghouls tried another attack," Panther explained. "However, the strange part was who decided to tag along. Three well-armed Magma Harpies."

"Same weapons as last time?" Timbur inquired, though he felt that he already knew what the answer was.

"Yes, the weapons and armor were the same monstrosities as before."

Panther jumped down, hidden by the foliage for a moment. This was followed by a series of appalling cracks and pops, and strange flinching visible just beyond the leaves. By the time he reappeared, stretching his lanky limbs, he was a tall human-like being with pale skin, white hair, and wore attire made from animal hide and woven plant fibers. The only thing that threw his appearance off was the feline eyes and black tail. Black cat ears protruded from the top of his head.

Panther turned back to them and spoke suspiciously, "Now comes my main question. What kind of magic is this, and what have you found? We're the smallest race in this jungle, and we can't take much of these attacks. I hope you realize that."

"From what I've heard, this kind of magic most closely resembles elven," Timbur explained. "How they're getting elven materials is unknown, but finding the reason is low on our priority list. As for the progress with unraveling Corelia's twisted plans, it's getting there. We've found that she wants to exterminate not just us, but all demons."

Seyber continued, "And it's because of this rumor that Corelia took it as a sign of the apocalypse, or so we think. When she thought 'apocalypse,' she immediately blamed the demonic creatures for it. Not only that, but she's endangering all sorts of races by responding with violence to their decline on her trade offers. Furthermore, it's really the strange behavior coming from the lower-end gods and goddesses; they're corrupting themselves, destroying their races, and giving an apocalyptic effect to our world."

"I think I heard a rumor about the upset gods," Panther remarked. "The Sphynx said something about it. I didn't believe it to be true, at first, but I guess it is."

"Unfortunately," Seyber murmured.

Panther continued, "This chaos that Corelia is raising seems to have been taken into consideration, as well. The Leo and Sphynx, leader and shaman, are both having several secret meetings and missions. I'd think they've noticed an imbalance with our own goddess, Leafeles. As for you, you should hope that the Four Masters stay mentally stable in this very hard time."

"We aren't dead yet, so they must be," Seyber remarked. "Anyways, we'll try to alert you if there is anything else that we can find, but it's hard when we can't use Fira. She can't navigate through the jungle environment."

"That's what you get for using an oversized cardinal," Panther remarked. "Well, that would be all. Until next time, Zyreans..." He shot a glare at Kita. "And Aubade."

That being said, Panther began retreating back into the jungle, hidden by the thick foliage. As Timbur also turned to leave, Kita and Seyber weren't far behind. They didn't get far before Timbur made an obvious statement.

"I haven't noticed a lot of races going extinct randomly, nor are there any more specific rumors. They must be smaller tribes, or come from other territories."

"Or they just leave no trace," Seyber solemnly muttered. "I have noticed the rise in corrupted gods, though. Ever since about fourteen moons ago, where both Corelia and the twins felt that some trouble was lurking, more and more kept appearing from nowhere. Thundur started hunting one or two every other moon. It's supposed to be one every five, at the most, and this is only the smaller ones. Three were big, impressive ones. Once more powerful gods, as much as the Four Masters."

Timbur sighed irately. "Foolish gods, destroying their own people...Well, Corelia can be stopped one way or another. But how long does this unstoppable nonsense with the gods continue?"

 


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