We started off into the marshes once more, the little man in the lead. Yara and Destran were both watching him intently so I decided to keep a watch on the area we were going through and watch for any traps. It seemed only reasonable that there would be some as Destran clearly though the little man meant to harm us, or at least him. Lyra and Brena walked a little ahead of me talking quietly about the now absent Valenstar. Brena seemed especially worried about him as Lyra reassured her that he would be fine, and he would be back to annoy us in no time.
Each step we took into the marshes seemed like a bad idea to me. I didn’t trust the place. It smelt wrong. There was no proper, untainted growth anywhere around us and in between the “trees” there were shadows. Not normal shadows, shadows so dark even my keen eyes could not pierce their veil of darkness. Sometimes as we walked I would catch a glimpse of something moving in the corner of my eye but when I turned, there was nothing there. At first I thought it was Valenstar trailing us, but then I thought; first he wouldn’t let himself be seen by me if he wanted to remain hidden, and second he would not have waited that long before succumbing to the urge to annoy us once again if he could see us. This made me very uneasy and I tried to remain extra vigilant as we moved.
When the sun had passed its pinnacle the group stopped for a rest. Brena started handing out some bowls of food as usual but I declined to take some. I could not stomach any food while I had the feeling of being watched. If I had to fight I didn’t want to be sluggish. The rest of the group took their food and ate it as usual. While they ate I looked around the area we were stopped in. there were some strange tracks on the ground which I pointed out to Destran who inspected them and then nodded and walked away. I looked up and saw Lyra walking over towards Yara. I couldn’t help but smile. She was perfect. Even the way she walked was graceful and elegant. Yara saw me staring and gave me a look and shrugged as if brushing something off. I still think she wasn’t quite sure of me; well nothing I could do to change that really.
Lyra and Yara spoke briefly before Lyra got up and came back over to me. I could only stare as she came towards me.
“What are you staring at?” She whispered as she reached me, blushing and fixing her hair.
“I love you” I said simply with a smile. She smiled back to me and we sat down on a fallen log. “How are you feeling?”.
“I’m ok” She replied.
“Only ok? What’s wrong?” I asked worried.
“I just miss the sea, that’s all”
“Oh. I see”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll survive” She said with a clearly forced smile.
“It upsets you. How could I not worry?” I asked as I kissed her forehead. “Once this is all over we can be alone together, by the sea if it’s what you want”
“You would give up the forest for me? The forest is everything to you, nature is everything to you”
“Not anymore. You’re more important now”
“I can’t let you do that Zahkon. I can’t make you leave your life behind. We’ll work something out”
“Ok, as long as you’re happy” I said with a smile.
It was strange talking of a future that probably wouldn’t happen. If I couldn’t fix myself then I would end up being the end of my race and I wouldn’t be able to live with that knowledge. My only chance to change my destiny was to find the Stone and use it to alter my course. The only problem was, Destran needed the Stone and so wouldn’t give it up if we found it. He couldn’t return to his home empty-handed. I would just have to get to the Stone first. My train of thought was broken as a familiar scent reached my nose.
I looked up from the tree branch that held me as a roar ripped through the air from behind the mound. I turned to leave but the branch broke and I fell to the ground. I got to my feet but found that I was stuck in the ground. I couldn’t move. Another roar ripped through the air from behind the mound as the beast neared. I struggled to free my feet but to no avail, they were firmly planted in the ground. The beast rounded the mound and advanced towards me slowly, drooling as it sniffed the air and savoured the meal to come. It’s each step brought its terrible stench closer. I reached down for my bow but found nothing but air, even my knife was gone. I was defenceless. An easy meal. I was giving in to despair when I heard a familiar voice. It couldn’t be? Lyra? I looked around frantically. She appeared in the tree above me.
“Come on Zahkon” She laughed. “What are you doing?”
“Run Lyra! You have to run!”
“Don’t be silly darling. Are your feet stuck in the ground?” She asked curiously.
“Please Lyra! Listen to me! Run! Get out of here!” I pleaded. She dropped down from the tree to help me. Amazingly she didn’t sink into the ground as I had.
“Come now, let’s get you out of there” She smiled to me. Another roar ripped the air. It was only now that Lyra noticed the approaching beast. She didn’t hesitate. She grabbed her blade and stepped towards it.
“NO!! RUN LYRA!”
She didn’t listen. She stepped steadily towards the beast, blade raised and ready. The beast quickened its advance. Lyra stepped confidently towards it. At this point I couldn’t even form words anymore, there were just sounds coming from my mouth. The beast reached her and fell upon her with ferocious blows of his huge fists. She didn’t stand a chance. She was beaten right in front of me, there was nothing I could do. The beast smiled cruelly at me as he continued his advance towards me. Its sharp blackened teeth gleaming menacingly.
“Stand back! Stand back! He’s coming round again”. Who was that speaking? What was happening? I opened my eyes to find everyone standing looking down on me. Lyra was beside me clutching my arm to her body. The little man was smiling down at me.
“He has seen” Said the same voice, the little man’s voice.
“Seen what?!” Destran demanded.
“Seen the beast that was my student” The little man replied.
“He knows what he looks like then? He can help us avoid him?” Destran inquired, forcefully.
“No, no. He has only seen a representation of the evil that was my student” The little man replied calmly. He looked down to me again. “Do not fear Young One, he cannot harm you, yet”.