Chapter 4: Stir (Part 7)

The creature wandered aimlessly through the land, sniffing occasional to try and follow and familiar scent. It was something from her past, from back home, although it was mixed with the rankness of death she had become accustomed to. Not her master’s smell, not nearly as powerful. It was coming her way.

When they came, it was like a tidal wave, thousands of creatures sweeping over her, an army. She joined in their march and they made room, not even giving a second glance, as if she was one of them. Some were smaller than her feet, others as tall as buildings. Each one carried that familiar scent, but barely, as if it had been placed with the briefest of contact. On an individual level, it would have been impossible to perceive, but as a group, the smell was overpowering. It reminded her of childhood.

They marched on, and their destination appeared over the crest of a hill. The creature had spent so long in the darkness that she screeched in terror at the blindingly white dome that stood before her. Whether she wanted to turn away or not, the momentum of the hunt carried her onwards, amidst a sea of terrors.

What happened next was a massacre. Wooden golems and dark beasts slaughtered each other against the burning background of a forest in flames.  The creature was a fighter, but one with no weapons, and while her clawed companions fell in battle, she sneaked away towards the shadows.

It wasn’t long before the creature made her way to a large chamber where the core of the fighting was taking place. A thick tree grazed by her and was overturned in midair when one of the passengers fell off. To her surprise, it was one of the hunters that had slain her master, the fat one. He fell to the ground and was lost in the horde of her new brethren. The creature began to move in his direction, fighting between saving him or joining in the carnage, but her eye was drawn upwards as the second hunter, the female, fell in turn and was caught by a stream of fiery vines. Screaming, the hunter was carried upwards towards a small outcropping near the ceiling, where another woman dressed in green waited. Although she had grown over the years, the creature recognized her face as the one from the monument she had found earlier. Rage boiled up inside her and she began searching for a way to climb up and confront the girl who had ruined everything.

Then the Dark Lord arrived.

It was as if all the vitality in the room was sucked away, the wooden minions dropped to the floor unmoving, while the dark army froze in place expectantly, like a dog waiting for a snack. The origin of the familiar scent that the creature had experienced in the midst of the army was clear now. A figure in black appeared as if from thin air and ushered in a swirling aura of malice that practically made the creature reel.

The creature couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the woman seemed to surrender, as she gently placed the female hunter onto the ground and silently let herself be grabbed by the wrist. The Dark Lord raised his empty hand and a ball of pure emptiness appeared in the air, bisecting the side of the building. When the ball disappeared, a hole had been cleanly removed from the fortress wall. The Dark Lord then turned towards the great chamber and raised his hand again. Another black sphere appeared, too large to measure, almost the size of the building itself. The creature, pressed against the wall, was spared by a few inches. The rest of the armies, both wooden and living, disappeared without a trace. The building was gutted, most of its internal structure gutted completely, and as a result, it began to collapse upon itself. The last thing the creature saw before loosing her grasp and sliding into the deep pit was the Dark Lord and the woman flying into the cloudy sky.

The creature brushed herself off and trying to get a sense of the tunnel she had fallen into. It hadn’t been a straight drop; she was deep enough that a plunge of that height would have been fatal. The building had broken apart slowly, its remains skimming down the curved chasm in an avalanche of debris and dirt that, while not necessarily harmless, had been stable enough for her to survive.

The sphere had apparently cut deep into the earth, and the remains of the building had been deposited into a cavern far below the surface. Tunnels extended in every direction, a vast collection of passages that led off into the darkness.

The creature chose one at random and began walking, but stopped when she heard someone moaning. It was the female hunter, who, although semi-unconscious, had miraculously survived the fall relatively intact. She seemed paralyzed, with curved red markings spiraling up the length of her arms and legs.

The creature stood helpless, unsure of what to do. As she stood silently, she heard a small shuffling noise coming from near her feet. Some of the remains of her master had been caked into her shoes, but it was now moving on its own, pulling away as if it was alive. She kicked and the meat became dislodged, landing with a dry thud. It slowly began inching down the tunnel, following an almost magnetic, instinctual urge that the creature could feel drawing her in too, resonating from deep within the darkness. Her master was still alive, and it was calling to her.

The creature found a torn jacket on the ground, the one the fat hunter wore, although the man was nowhere to be seen. She placed the female hunter upon the jacket and began dragging it forward, along the path the remains of her master had gone. Deep within the bowels of the cavern, she knew her master was waiting. It forgave her for what had happened in the forest, but it was weak.

It needed to feed.

END CHAPTER 4

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