When Lyra returned from the stream she had a smile on her face. She looked quite stunning even after spending hours in the trees. I took her hand gently and started walking back to the little town. We did not talk while walking but she kept staring up at my face with a smile spread right across her face. Even her eyes were twinkling as she studied my face. It made me slightly uncomfortable but I didn’t say anything to stop her. I wasn’t used to attention like this but it was nice to be admired by someone so beautiful. I hoped this meant she felt the same way about me as I did her, and that she actually liked me and wasn’t just interested because I was different to all the men she had met before. An exotic plaything to enjoy while she was away from home.
We reached the small village shortly after to find a crowd gathered around Valenstar shouting something about him being a hero. I spotted Yara and Destran making their way back to the local tavern and we adjusted our course to meet them. Lyra fell into step beside Yara while I just nodded to Destran. Yara was looking from me to Lyra with what appeared to be outrage although I couldn’t be sure until I saw her eyes darken slightly. Lyra was whispering furiously into her ear and slowly her eyes lost their darkness though they still weren’t quite clear blue either. While this inspection was going on, Destran mumbled something about a map and disappeared for a minute. While he was gone Yara stepped forward as if to talk to me but Lyra caught her arm and gave her a look which caused her to back down, not something I ever expected Yara to do.
Destran came back with his new map and we went into the tavern. I immediately went and sat in the corner with my back to the wall, facing the door. Destran and Yara trusted these people but they were still Human and thus very unpredictable and often violent towards the Falath’Nakan. I wanted to see all who entered the tavern, it wasn’t safe to turn your back on Humans. Lyra joined me at the table with two mugs of water while Yara and Destran started studying their map.
“What are these markings for Zahkon?” Lyra asked while tracing some of the markings on my hand.
“They aren’t important” I lied. “We are all born with them. Each Falath’Nakan has a different pattern but they do not do anything as such, although they do provide identity. This is how we are named, the names are derived from the markings.” I explained. The latter part was true but she did not yet need to know of my impending doom.
“So what does your name mean? What does Zahkon stand for?” She enquired.
“Courage” I said, “and Fear” I finished after a short pause. She looked quite confused with this answer.
“But those are opposites. How can a name contradict itself?” She asked with a quizzical look to her face.
“Quite easily” I said. “The markings represent the person, and the name represents the markings”
“So… Are you saying you’re a contradiction? An opposite?” She asked, looking even more confused now than before I tried to explain it.
“Yes” I said simply, not knowing how else to explain it to her.
“But what do you contradict? What are you an opposite of?”. She was still not able to understand my explanations.
Before I could answer, Valenstar entered the tavern. My face turned to a hateful grimace. Lyra looked taken aback and I realised she thought the grimace was for her question as she had her back to the door and couldn’t see Valenstar. I nodded in his direction and she turned around just in time to see him drink an entire ale in one gulp and demand another of the barkeep. She turned back to me with a knowing look on her face. It was clear that nobody relished his company. After drinking a few more mugs of ale, Valenstar made his way over to Destran and Yara and proceeded to pester them for a while before giving out a loud belch which interrupted all conversations going on in the tavern. I’d had enough. I got up from my seat and stormed out of the tavern before I did something I might regret, thankfully Lyra followed closely behind me.
I walked out if the town and only slowed down to let Lyra catch up once I was safely in the forest once again. We walked a while in silence. Every now and then Lyra would cast glances up at my face with a worried expression.
“Are you ok?” She asked, still looking worried.
“Yes” I lied, once again. I did not often lie but I thought it better than trying to explain to her the workings of my mind which I often did not fully understand. “You should go back to the town and stay with Yara” I told her.
“You’re not coming back?” She asked looking hurt.
“Not yet. I need some time alone, else I might kill Valenstar when next we meet. I’d rather not though considering he did save us but right now I don’t trust myself to be near him”
“Oh ok. Well I’ll see you later then?”
“I’ll be watching you don’t worry. You’ll never be truly alone if you don’t wish it.”
This got a small smile from her as she kissed my cheek and then turned and stepped back through the bushes heading back towards the town. I climbed up into the nearest tree and followed her to be sure she got back to the town safely. Everything was going fine until she heard a commotion off in the bushes. I prayed she wouldn’t investigate but her curiosity got the better of her and she started towards the source of the noise. She stepped into a small clearing and I heard her gasp before I could see what was happening. I caught up a few seconds later having to move through several trees to get to the clearing.
“What are you doing you drunken slob?! Get off of her!” She yelled at somebody.
That’s when I saw Valenstar rising up off the ground and releasing the woman we had met earlier. She didn’t look physically hurt but he had had her pinned down! God’s know what he would have done if Lyra hadn’t stumbled across them. He advanced towards Lyra and raised his hands while trying to justify his actions. He took another step towards Lyra and that was too close for my liking. I strung my bow and loosed two arrows into him as quickly as I could while letting loose an animalistic roar that I’d never heard come out of myself before. This man was threatening my woman and he would have me to deal with now.
My first arrow was perfectly placed. It pierced his corrupt, evil spreading heart. The second split his liver. He dropped to his knees on the floor and coughed up blood and screamed in pain. I dropped down from the trees, landing lightly in front of Lyra with another arrow notched in my bow ready to impale him further.
“I know you saved our lives, but now I must take yours to defend those that you put at risk!” I snarled at him viciously. Lyra screamed and the other woman looked ready to faint.
“I wasn’t doing… anything” He gasped through his fits of coughing.
“You reap what you sow human! You endangered Lyra, so I have done what I wanted to do since I met you and end you! You will no longer disrespect anything or anyone! You will die a pointless death, alone and hated!” I shouted at him while keeping an eye on Lyra to ensure she was safe. He smiled at me. It was a distorted smile covered in blood.
“Slight problem there Idiot” He said calmly as he clambered unsteadily back to his feet.
I looked at him wondering when his heart would finally give out but he only seemed to be getting stronger. I raised my bow once again and prepared to put the third arrow into him. He made a strange laughing sound and pulled the two arrows straight out of his body. I stared at him with disgust mixed strongly with fear. What was this being?! Why wasn’t he dead?! I heard a scream but I couldn’t be sure where it came from. I was too focused on his wounds which seemed to be… be… healing? It couldn’t be, could it? But soon there was no sign that I had even fired an arrow at him at all.
“I have to die first” He finished with a menacing laugh.
I loosed the arrow that was already in my bow and watched incredulously as he plucked it from the air with apparent ease. I took a step back from him subconsciously.
“You! I knew there was something off about you! I could smell it!” I yelled at Valenstar.
“Off about me? You mean my Healing? That’s unintentional Idiot, nothing I can do about that” He answered shrugging his shoulders as if this was the most natural thing in the world!
“You freak of nature! You are evil and unnatural, and for the good of the Forest and The People! I will destroy you!” I shouted at him in an uncontrollable rage.
“That’s a bit over the top- WHAO” He said while dodging another of my arrows. “Can you please stop shooting at me!? It’s really aggravating!” He pleaded but I dared not stop for fear of what he might do.
“Die creature!” I yelled at him while continuing to fire several arrows at him, none of which found their mark. How was this possible? I couldn’t miss with a bow! After my last arrow he stood up straight.
“Alright, that’s how you wanna play it! Let’s dance!” He yelled before charging me much quicker than any Human should be able. He knocked the bow from my hands and spun and kicked me forcefully in the stomach knocking me back through the air to connect with a tree. I managed to use the momentum of his kick to flip off the tree and land lightly at its base. I pulled my knife from my belt and launched myself up into the tree in search of an advantage over him. When I landed on a suitable branch, I looked up to find he was several metres away waiting for me.
I charged towards him, knife in hand, when I saw him draw out his boomerang and throw it at me. I tried to avoid it but I was moving too fast towards him and the distance was too short for me to manoeuvre sufficiently to avoid it. It caught my leading leg, knocking me off balance and causing me to fall. As I fell I threw my knife at him and it sunk up to the handle into his leg. He yelled in pain and yanked it out of the already healing wound. He took a step towards me and I launched myself from the branch up to face him once again. We traded punches equally until he caused the branch I was standing on to snap. I stumbled and fell out of the tree towards the ground, which was a good distance below me but rapidly getting closer.
I felt something race through my body and saw a glow around my hands. My mouth started moving of its own accord, chanting words in the Ancient Language. My body halted in its decent only an arrow length above the ground. It then corrected itself and I landed lightly onto my feet. I looked up at Valenstar who was hanging out of a branch. He looked shocked yet relieved which was a strange combination. I turned to find Lyra staring at me in complete shock and panic.
“Let me explain” I pleaded with her, but she didn’t answer. I saw her body go lax and I rushed to her just in time to catch her as she fainted. She looked into my eyes as I caught her.
“What are you?” She whispered faintly before losing consciousness.
“A contradiction” I whispered back to her unconscious body.