A thirteen year-old Darius stood at the entrance to the Rumblt Forest. It was a misty morning and the overcast skies of early morning did nothing to make the forest seem less foreboding. He was dressed in a large black cloak that made him look a little taller. He held a staff in one hand and a pack in the other. He slung it onto his back and felt his spellbooks tumble into each other. He looked left and right and saw no one which meant that this quest might be his. The dewy grass were wetting his boots so he decided to move in quickly. It wasn’t everyday that someone would pay 600 Bofas for capturing a unicorn but Darius wasn’t interested in the money. The second half of the reward had caught his attention; the person was also offering a free supply pass for a year their apothecary. His mother disapproved of his studies in magic and made it difficult for him to use their funds to buy spellbooks, rare herbs and other things he needed as a magician. He found it easier to make money doing quests but the supplies were still expensive and an entire day of questing barely provided enough money for a new spellbook. The pass would come in handy for sure. Darius saw a large moving shape in the forest and caught the glint of a silver horn. Silver. The unicorn had to have a silver horn, a rarity since silver-horned unicorns were much faster and shyer. Darius quickly braced himself and went in. It was normally too dangerous to go in without his Grandfather or Jacky at least but he wanted to test his own strength for once. He ran along the underbrush, trying to move as stealthily as possible, to catch the unicorn. He was so concentrated on keeping silent he didn’t notice the unicorn had another pursuer as well.
He stepped into the darkness of the forest and began running along the trampled grass that signaled the trail of the unicorn. The forest was silent this early in the morning and all Darius heard was his breathing and the faint gallop of the unicorn as he followed it. The air in the forest was refreshing and invigorated Darius as he ran in pursuit of the unicorn. The same didn’t seem to apply to the unicorn. It must have been on one of the enlightenment spells, chants that magicians would cast on themselves whenever they wanted a high, because it was going all over the forest without any discernible path. Darius saw the unicorn randomly crash into tree trunks and stumble but every time Darius was about to catch up, the unicorn galloped away at a speed he couldn’t match. Darius grumbled and cursed while stumbling through the underbrush, getting his tunic tangled and occasionally stumbling on an unfortunate linny, a cross between lion and bunny that was still the size of an average rabbit but had all the guts, fangs and strength of a full grown lion. Darius had learned this the hard way, much to Jacky and his grandpa’s amusement. Darius would have to cast an enlightenment spell on them every time he tripped on one, sending it off in a dizzy stupor, marveling at whatever the spell was showing it. If he didn’t catch that unicorn soon, the whole forest would soon be full of high linnies and Darius suspected the “warden” would get very angry with him.
Darius saw the unicorn up ahead in a clearing with its horn stuck in a tree trunk. It was whinnying angrily and kicking at the tree. He knew that the unicorn’s horn is its most valueable possesion so the unicorn wasn’t about to break its own horn off. Darius breathed a sigh of relief at how quickly and easily the chase had been finished. Last time he had to hunt a unicorn, the unicorn had chomped onto his cloak and dragged him across half the forest, again to Jacky and grandpa’s amusement, and he had returned home covered in bruises and only in his undergarments. He shuddered at the memory and approached the unicorn slowly.
The unicorn noticed him approaching so he began smiling cautiously as the unicorn eyeballed him. It had an excellent I’m-going-to-gut-you-if-you-try-anything-funny stare. Darius decided that if he was going to teleport the unicorn to the proprietor, he would have to give the guy a heads-up. One of the things Darius loved about this continent and its strong magic aura was that it had a unique form of telepathic communication that both magicians and non-magicians could use. To first establish the connection, a simple ritual that just involved you clasping the person’s right arm with your left while touching the middle of their forehead with your free hand and saying the other’s name was all that was needed. Afterwards, to “message” them, all you had to do was focus on that person’s specific aura that can be sensed no matter how far away they are or whether or not they are conscious. If they didn’t want to talk to you, all you got was a slight tint of gray in your vision to let you know that they aren’t available. At the moment, this was the exact tint he was getting as he attempted to contact the shop owner. Darius gave up trying to message him and decided to send the unicorn regardless.
Darius smiled at the thought of the unicorn appearing and rampaging in the owner’s shop. He readied himself to teleport the unicorn. Teleportation was also a ritual magic. All it required was two ritual circles: one drawn at the destination and one either drawn on paper or at the site where the object being teleported resided at. All Darius had to do now was cast the paper in midair and activate it to teleport the unicorn since the other circle was ready. He threw it, tapped the middle of the circle and muttered “Tivatec” to activate the spell. The spell flared to life and the teleportation commenced. Now came the catch. Extreme concentration was required to teleport living creatures and something with as much magic capability as the unicorn would require a lot. If he was interrupted, he’d end up sending half the unicorn and probably end up getting nothing as a reward. The unicorn began whinnying in alarm as the spell began sending the unicorn’s tail away. Darius sat down close to it, crossed his legs, and began the teleportation beam.
“Don’t worry little buddy.” Darius whispered, “It’ll be over soon.” At that exact moment, the other pursuer chose to appear.
“AHA!” cried Jayward as he jumped into the field, his hand held aloft in magical flames. Darius rolled his eyes. Jayward was only good at four things: getting females (like Grandpa), looking fancy (like Grandpa), being a silent stalker (like Grandpa) and sucking at magic (not like Grandpa). Oh, and he was also good at being annoying. Darius gritted his teeth and concentrated on sending the unicorn away faster than it was already transferring. Jayward, in his funny bottomed trousers, military jacket, and long silk cape was only making this harder. Darius swore he could see him sparkling too, as if he had taken a bath in glitter. For women, Jayward would probably do anything (like Grandpa).
Unfortunately, Jayward’s overly dramatic entrance was ruining his concentration. The process was more than halfway done so all Darius had to do was stall Jayward for a bit. Unfortunately, conversation with Jayward killed his braincells. Darius shook his head, realizing he had no choice but to go with it.
“What do you want you dumb disco ball?” Darius called at him without turning to look at him. Darius could practically feel him swell up though and Darius almost laughed at the thought.
Jayward responded with an indignant “Who are you calling a disco ball, you half-pint midget?” When Darius didn’t respond, and because Jayward liked hearing himself talk, he continued “I’ll have you know I bathed this morning in the finest soap that can be found on Bofaceook which would be the reason for my unusual sheen this morning.”
“That and you probably rolled around in glitter after you finished.” Darius retorted.
Jayward yelled “Lies! And what is a disco-ball anyway?”
Darius laughed since he had read about it in one of his grandpa’s travel journals to a far-off land only accessible by magic. Obviously Jayward wouldn’t know about it. Nevertheless, Darius called back “Go figure it out. You should go to school instead of skipping it.”
“You skip school a lot too!” Jayward exclaimed.
“Yeah but I have about three times your intelligence.” Darius responded.
“And three-times less the looks.” Jayward shot back. Darius noticed the beam wavering and decided he had better stop this before it continued any further.
“Hey. You’re ignoring me now aren’t you?” said Jayward after five minutes of silence. The unicorn was now only missing the transfer of its head. By this point the unicorn had already fainted which made things much easier. Sadly, Jayward decided that he would make the remaining five minutes as difficult as possible.
Jayward walked up to Darius and sat cross-legged next to him and asked “What are you doing to the poor unicorn?” Darius took a deep breath and said “I am transferring the unicorn to the potion shopkeeper to get the reward for his quest.”
“Thomas? That weirdo? Who knows what he’ll do with the unicorn!” exclaimed Jayward. Darius made a disgusted noise and said “You need to get your thought processors cleaned because you are one disturbed boy.” Jayward shrugged and said “Why would he want the unicorn?”
“In case you didn’t know,” began Darius “Silver Unicorns have extremely high magical properties. Their hair and horn alone are more than enough to concoct high-grade potions.” Jayward scratched his head and asked “So why don’t you keep it?” Darius shook his head and said “Wait a minute will you? I’m almost done.”Jayward walked up to the unicorn, or what was left of the unicorn. It’s muzzle seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Within another minute, the transfer was finished. Darius gave a grateful sigh and turned to Jayward. “Now what was it you wanted you stupid werepire?” Jayward’s face lit up as he remembered, rushed at Darius and decked him in the schnoz.
Jayward was stronger than he looked because Darius’ vision turned black for an instant. He laid on the floor inhaling the scent of the earth as Jayward approached.
“What the Fook was that?” mumbled Darius. Jayward clucked his tongue and said “Watch your mouth Darius. This is your punishment for beating me at the Mr. Magician contest when you didn’t even show up for half the school year.” Darius got up and remembered he did have a medal in commemoration of the title. Darius wiped some blood and said “So what? It’s not my fault that everyone’s more interested in my magic than your sparkly flaunting.”
Jayward narrowed his eyes. He snapped his fingers and a strange echo ran through the forest. Darius cursed inwardly and remembered Jayward specialized in summoning, useless in a densely populated area like their port town, Huntrimun, but deadly in the Rumblt Forest. A roar came out of the trees and the leaves all fell in response to its force.
Suddenly Darius found himself facing a full grown drake, a small dragon minus the wings. It could still breath fire, had scales of steel and razor sharp claws. And this one was under control of the disco ball. A cruel smile spread across Jayward’s face. He signaled for the monster to kill Darius and as it pounced he began turning away saying “No one will be surprised if you die in the forest because you came alone.” Darius sidestepped as the drake headbutted and oak tree and snapped it clean in half. He turned to look at Jayward incredulously who simply completely turned his back on Darius with a flourish of his cape. As he disappeared into the forest he said “Next time, don’t take my medal.”
Darius didn’t have time to chase after Jayward. He had left him one of his pets to play with. The drake turned around and charged at Darius again. This time, as it barreled past, it swiped out with its claws, catching Darius and sending him flying. Darius crashed against a boulder, back first, and fell painfully. The drake had snapped yet another tree and Darius slowly got up. He performed a quick healing spell whose ritual and origin were too long for Darius to reminiscence about.
He quickly drew his sword, the AgujaNegrak, as the drake charged him headfirst again. When it tried to swipe, Darius jumped up and summoned a simple dark bolt that he proceeded to fire at its eye. It hit square on and the drake roared in pain. Darius landed and tried to remember everything he knew on Forest Drakes. They were big and powerful, easily able to move at 8 BPS (Broad strides Per Second [human mind you]). They had ridiculously broad claws, normally only good for swiping or stabbing, so Darius didn’t have to worry about that much. They also had low magic resistance but high physical resistance. Using the Agnek (short for the AgujaNegrak) as a sword he wouldn’t be able to do much. He would have to use his nama supply and fight it with his average dark magic. The drake was staring at him now, eyeing him warily, watching to see if he would strike with another dark flash. Darius eyed it as well, looking for a weak spot. Since they were in the outskirts of the forest, the drake wouldn’t be abnormally strong and it might even have an injury or weak spot. All Darius had to do was find it and avoid being squashed, maimed, decapitated or otherwise made to look different. This was going to be fun.
The drake grew tired of waiting and roared. This time it jumped, (jumped?!) and slammed the ground. It sent a shockwave across the floor that ripped up chunks of grounds and uprooted some trees. Darius tumbled down along with the trees and he looked up to see the drake charging. He dove aside to avoid being trampled but since there were no trees to stop him, it simply did a quick turn and charged again. Darius aimed with his blade and began firing quick bursts of dark energy. It slowed down the drake but didn’t stop it. Darius then concentrated and fired a massive bolt into its eye again. This caused it to roar in pain and then breathe fire. Darius rolled again and followed up with more bursts.
This combination momentarily drove the drake back and gave Darius time to notice how serious the battle was becoming. The trees that had fallen had created a ring of fire and the torn up ground made it difficult to walk. The heat and smoke made it even harder for Darius to breathe. The drake glared at him furiously out of one eye. It snarled and swiped at him. Darius guessed it couldn’t charge anymore. The drake seemed to be gradually shaking off Jayward’s control which only meant this fight had to end quickly. The drake, limited to only a few cautious steps of movement, was breathing fire at Darius non stop who did his best to weave in and out of the bursts and not get sent flying to the flaming walls.
Gradually and very painfully, Darius came face to face with the monster. It looked at him with a surprised expression as he proceeded to drive the blade into the beast’s eye and fire another dark bolt. The drake didn’t even have time to react. It simply shuddered and dissolved into vapor.
Left behind was its skin, which could fetch a high price in the Market. Darius folded it up easily and, because it was very slim, he stashed it in his bag. Darius then remembered the burning forest. He began digging into his bag to find the elemental spell book which had the incantation for Rain. He quickly recited the spell (Yueve), threw his sword at the ground and it momentarily dissolved. Suddenly, massive rain clouds rolled in and a deluge of water fell. The flames were quickly extinguished and Darius completely soaked. The rain then stopped and the Agnek reappeared. Darius picked it up wearily and began trekking to the potion master’s shop.
Darius was just marveling at his luck because the warden hadn’t appeared when he heard a shrill scream. Darius winced. Damn she was here. He began running as he heard a loud yell.
“Darius!” a female voice shouted, “I’m going to kill you!”
Great. More death threats.
Darius ran as fast as he could through the dense forest underbrush, heading for the exit of the forest. His frantic sprints would doubtlessly attract all the decent sized predators in earshot. Darius didn’t care. She was fifty times worse than all of the predators. And she was fast. He leaped over a sleeping linny, knocked over a couple of groblins and kept running. Then, because she probably got tired of chasing him, the trees near him sprung up and tackled Darius to the ground. Darius was pinned down by about four pine trees that only left his head out in open air. Darius struggled to get out but the trees were too heavy. He had taken down a full grown drake only to be stopped by trees?!
“Well Darius! What do you have to say for yourself?” asked Anastasia as she stepped into view. She was dressed in a one-piece rag with a piece of rope wrapped around her waistline that had a few pouches and daggers hanging from it.
Darius grinned weakly. “Hey Ana.” he said from beneath the trees.
“Don’t you ‘hey Ana’ me!” She exclaimed, “What the Fook did you do to the outer forest?!” Darius remembered the fight with the drake and the linnies and decided that she was well within her right to be angry. After all, the forest was her home.
She walked up to him and kicked him in the head repeatedly until Darius yelled “I’m Sorry!” Darius hated saying he was sorry. He had almost been killed; a little forest damage was a small price to pay for him to stay alive.
Once Darius had apologized, Ana humphed and sat down next to him. Darius took the time to examine her, as this was one of the rare instances during which she was calm. Her surprisingly well kept hair had a hazelnut quality to it that perfectly matched her eyes. She was fit and lean from constant battle with the outer forest monsters. Her skin was also a light tan from the forest and all her supplies were no doubt filled with various medicinal herbs to counter whatever injuries the forest managed to inflict on her. Her nature magic didn’t always stay under her control and sometimes the shrubbery rampaged. Nevertheless, nobody was more at one with the forest than Ana.
She caught him staring at her and said “What do you want?”
“Do you mind letting me out? I can’t feel my body.” responded Darius.
Ana laughed, got up, and walked off saying, ” No. I’m not letting you out. Think about your actions here. Besides, your doggie should be here soon. Wait for him to come get you.”
Darius groaned but knew fully well what she said was true: she would not let him out and Jacky should be on his way soon. Hopefully.
-End Part 1-