Dec 24, 2006

Chapter 3 ~ Of Gods and Demons

Fara felt the wetness run down her legs as she hid. Her hands clutched the short sword to her chest in a white knuckled grip as terror consumed her. Only the fear of being heard kept her sobs from exploding into a torturous wail.

Her mind raced as she tried to comprehend what she'd seen. Half of her mind rebelling against the sight, trying to rationalize the world around her and make sense of it all. Surely it was just a spider? But no, she knew what she'd seen was far larger than that, she'd seen houses smaller. Surely it was too silent to be a monster? Monsters didn't exist. Again, flights of fancy dismissed. Did it really matter if it was a monster or some abomination of nature? Her entire unit was gone. Her friends, gone. Tyssis, whom she'd known for several years, who'd been with her for the Quintaid Rebellion and the North and South Riots. Who'd survived campaign after campaign no matter the odds stacked against him. Tyssis, who held her on that night...


She forced the thoughts from her mind. They were all gone. She knew she had to flee, head south and escape the borders of the cursed wood if she were to survive.

Summoning the last of her resolve she peered around the tree and cast about for any signs of the beast. Scanning the trees above as far as she could see, she saw nothing. The terror of not knowing where it was burned through her like a fire. She began to run.

She didn't stop or even slow down as she shoved her way through the forest in a run. Her heart hammering in her chest as she crashed through branches and cut through anything that stood in her way. She knew not in which direction she fled. She hoped it was south, she couldn't be sure anymore after the attack on her unit. Disoriented, the sun a forgotten memory above the triple canopy of the forest, only her terror kept her legs moving as she ran.

She heard a crash behind her and spun about lashing out her sword in front of her at nothing. The crash came again much closer, her eyes darted about for her assailant, sword still held in a trembling grip in front of her. Her mind raced as she tried to find a place to hide, her knees felt as though they would collapse. She noticed a clearing not far from her and tried to decide if getting out from under the trees would give her any advantage in being able to at least see her attacker coming.

Another crash of branches and a flicker of movement sounded from ahead and higher up in the forest, convincing her to take the risk and setting her legs into motion on their own. She sprinted for the clearing.

As she burst from the wood into the sunlight she, drew short and collapsed to her knees facing the wood and waited for her pursuer to make itself seen. She hadn't realized how late in the day it was. The sun already moving beyond the horizon as the deepening shadows collected and made every patch of darkness appear sinister.

It sprang forth from the wood like a rock thrown and landed without a sound in front of her. She stifled a cry of terror and sprang to her feet, her sword still shaking in front of her. Blood dripped from its fangs and the creature gave off a stench of bile and filth that almost overwhelmed her. Two of its front legs poised in the air as it shuffled about, it regarded her, then stopped and drew back a short distance.

Fara waved her sword about, trying to ward it away. She'd heard tales told in her youth of spiders the size of houses, that could kill without a sound and carry away a horse without waking a sleeping dog, but she'd always thought of them as tales told to children to frighten them into behaving. As the tears coursed down her cheeks to a trembling lip she realized she wouldn't see her father again, Eli would be broken. He'd tried to talk her out of joining the Imperial Guard as a scout but she could be as stubborn as he and refused to give way.

Now as she stood here in front of a spider conjured from the depths of the seven hells, she wanted nothing more than to be at home where her father could protect her. The black mass of its body a smooth round black as dark as night, seemed to envelop the light around it and with it her will.

She watched too terrified to move as it regarded her. She started to circle away towards what she thought to be the south, putting the setting sun to her back. It turned to face her as she shuffled away.

Suddenly a venomous hiss sprang for from the creature as it crouched to pounce on her, its moment of hesitation having passed. Before she could react it drove her to the ground with one of its legs. Spearing her to the dirt and knocking the sword from her hand in the blink of an eye. She thought she could feel her back break as she landed on a rock, a pain lancing through her that she could feel from her toes up to the back of her head. It filled her sight with a flash of light and drove the wind from her lungs with such force it stifled her scream.

The flash of light filled her vision again and seemed to reflect itself from the creatures body and the trees about her. It was all happening so quickly, she could see its fangs rubbing against each other as though it was eager to begin a meal. Another pair of legs pinned her legs to the ground as it started to pull her up to the gaping maw forcing her into a sitting position though she could feel it starting to try to tear her in two.

The flash of light filled the world again. Only this time, the spider seemed to notice it as well releasing her. Fara looked up as the demon was grasped by uncertainty. As its bulk shuffled about to appraise the new threat, she realized the flashing light was now one bright flame in the darkening sky. A trail of fire that began near the horizon with the setting sun and carried slowly through the sky. The spider could see it too.

It all was happening so fast, one moment she was being torn apart by a beast born of nightmares, the next she and the creature were transfixed by the trail of fire carrying itself through the sky, growing ever faster as it lanced towards them.

Fara suddenly realized this torch thrown by the cosmos was growing larger but now no longer moving off in any directions. The creature seemed to realize at that moment as well that it was in the path of fire.

Within the space of a single breath, the creature spun about above her to attempt an escape for the wood. The meteor smashed into the clearing, and Fara felt herself lifted into the air as her world went white in an explosion of pain.