We still find our way through mazes.
Xzenox leans down beside the form, poking them with his clawed finger. “Hey, you alive?” The person rolls over, yawning as she does so. Her fairy floss pink hair is covered in snow, and her black scarf lay strewn across her face. “Wha…who is that?” she mumbles sleepily. She flicks her long ears and tilts her head from side to side. “What are you all… doing out here?” she yawns again.
“We could ask you the same thing.” I reply.
“Food…” she mutters. “Need…food…” the girl falls back down into the snow, murmuring food, over and over again. I look at Maize for some hint of what we should do with the girl. Not like we could just leave her here, she’d freeze to death. “May as well bring her with us… I’d feel bad if we left her behind. Anyone want to volunteer to carry her?”
We set up camp on a snowless strip of rock, the only bit of land within miles that had managed to keep itself free of the freezing white. The girl we had saved sat in front of the fire, devouring almost a quarter of our supplies within minutes. “Thish ish sho good!” she mumbles between bites, barely stopping to take a breath. After finishing it all, she raises her head and turns to me. “I’m Imbrium. Thanks for saving me earlier. It seems I fell asleep in the snow.” She laughs. “Sometimes I tend to lose my way.” She pulls her black scarf around her shoulders, bringing her arms in to shelter them from the cold. “So where am I exactly?”
“Just north of the forest village, no more than a mile out.” I reply. She nods, glancing around as if looking for more food. “And where are you all headed? Do they have good food there? Do you know how you’re getting there?” She’s not going to stop with the questions is she?
“We’re going further North, to the village on the other end of this field.”
“All the way up there? That would take you ages in this weather! It feels cold enough to freeze a man alive!”
“We’ll make it. We need to.” I watch the crimson flames sway in the icy breeze. We need to… Imbrium seemed to realise she had hit a sensitive subject. “I hear the food up north is great! They have beautiful hot soups when it’s cold like it is now. Maybe I could come with you so we could all try some! You’d like that right?”
“What’s soup?” Reyuma asks quietly.
“What’s soup?! Soup, is a wonderful combination of tasty foods fused together into a beautiful mixture of amazement!” Imbrium lectured passionately. “Come over here child and Imbrium will tell you all about the many wonderful foods of the land.” Reyuma skipped around the fire next to Imbrium, fully absorbed in what she was saying. Poor kid. She’d obviously been locked away in that place for nearly all her life. She can finally now see the world in another way and learn about the good things that this world can bring.
Night darkened the skies and the camp fire’s ring of light shrunk further in. If not for Talow we would all be frozen ice statues in the snow. The fire which she could create was able to keep us all warm. Even Imbrium who was wearing nothing but a purple corset and a black skirt with ribbons strung across the front was able to retain her heat. Though the ground was uncomfortably gritty the orange flames of the fire enticed sleep to come to us all.
When I awoke the snow was falling rapidly and all of us had a layer of snow piled on top of our backs. I brushed the cold blanket off, standing up to stretch in the morning sun’s slight warmth. Maize and Talow were already up and greeted me “Morning zippers.” Talow giggled. “I only really just noticed how many there are.” She closes one eye and points out a finger, counting them. I look past Maize and Talow to the lump of snow behind them. “Did you build a snow chair for yourselves?” I ask.
“No, this was here when we woke up. I think it’s actually Xzenox…” Maize pokes the snow mound. The mound replies with an angry growl and it shifts slightly. “Come on Xzenox, get out of there. We have to get moving soon and there’s no way we’re just going to let you sleep in there all day.” Maize pokes the mound again, but with no response. “Guess he wants to be a snow fox now.” He laughs. The mound begins to part and a giant red-furred paw forces a large portion of the snow onto Maize’s head. “I hope that mask freezes onto your face.” Xzenox growls, slowly making his way out of the snow and pawing it off of his nose. He had assumed his fox form and buried himself under the snow to keep warm. “That’s just unfair, why can’t I do that?” Maize complains after shaking of the snow. “Because you are a corn sprout, Corn Sprout.” Talow snickers, patting Xzenox’s head. Reyuma was the next to open her eyes, immediately grinning and running to the now-a-giant-fox Xzenox. “Your tail is so squishy!” she shouted, hugging the fuzzy red mass.
“So he’s a fox spirit…” I jump as Imbrium suddenly materialises beside me. She wasn’t there a second ago she was asleep! How did she do that? Don’t tell me she’s like Xzenox… “By the way do you guys have any more food?” No…she’s too focussed on food to be like him.
“How long is this going to take...?” Imbrium drones. “We’ve been walking for hours… or has it been days? Do you people even know where you’re going?”
Maize sighs “For the millionth time Imbrium we know where we are going and it’s only been an hour.” Imbrium groans and slouches over, ears down and tail dragging in the deepening snow. “I’m hungry…”
“Well you ate all of our food, so you are going to have to wait.”
“Are you sure that there isn’t even the smallest thing left in there?”
“There is nothing left. It’s all gone.” Maize assures her. Imbrium laughs. “You’re lying. I can tell. There is food left.”
I give in, she won’t stop asking unless I tell her “If you need it that badly I suggest you ask Xzenox. Though I wouldn’t say he would be willing to just give it to you. It would be impossible to take it from him, since it’s his favourite.” Imbrium’s ears flicked and she turned to the large fox at the head of the group, grinning evilly. “Want to bet?” She sped up to his side, Xzenox’s golden eyes only looking slightly in her direction, paying her no attention. “Damien tells me you have something tasty.” Imbrium grins. Xzenox keeps trudging through the snow, trying his best to ignore her. “Mind if I have it? I’ll eat anything.”
“You’re not having it, it’s mine.” He growls.
“So you do have something?” Imbrium giggles. She moves quickly from one side of his striding paws to the other. This takes Xzenox by surprise and the package he was carrying in his mouth falls to the ground where Imbrium skilfully darts in and takes it for herself. “Hey!” Xzenox roars. “You give that back right now! Or ill bury you under the snow!” he gallops after her sending tidal waves of snow everywhere he steps. Ahead I see Imbrium has slipped on something, the package rolling out of her grasp. “Heh, that’s what you get for stealing my stuff.”
“That hurt…” Imbrium rubs her back and stares at the lump which she fell over. “Huh? What’s with that? There are tons of lumps here all together. Are they rocks or what are they?” Maize steps forward with his shotgun, poking the barrel at one of them. “I don’t think that these are rocks… Remember what Xzenox did to keep himself warm.” I look at our surroundings; the mounds were nearly all the same size and basically surrounded us. There was no way the snow could have just built up like that, not naturally. From behind me I hear Talow scream and one of her explosives go off. Maize darts around, his shotgun at the ready. With the snow coming down so hard now it was hard to see much more than a few metres in front of us clearly. After only a few seconds of silence, Talow surfaces from the ice flake screen. “What happened?!” Maize shouted. Talow motioned with her arms “Turn around!” We both spun at just the right time, blocking two long swords as they clashed against our own weapons. Before us stood two of our own kind. One of them was wielding a large heavy blade, the other a samurai sword. Maize quickly ended his opponent, shooting a shimmering bullet through their skull. I bring my scythes to the back of the demon affront of me, cleanly removing his head from his shoulders and landing softly in the red snow below. I stand over the two confused. A demon would not usually attack their own kind. Sure there were some rivalries but attacking out of the blue was not in a demon’s character. Maize calls to me “Come on Damien quit wasting time, Reyuma and the others are still ahead!” I nod, sprinting to the others. I’m sure I could almost make out the shape of them through the snow when without warning a large iron-spiked ball on the end of a chain plunges through the air, dragging itself slightly before being pulled back to its owner. When I see my new opponent the weapon was clearly out done in fear factor. This demon had large bat-like wings and horns which protruded from his forehead. Muscle covered him from head to toe and he was no short demon. Seeing the look on my face he grins slightly, his oddly glowing eyes gleaming. He pulls up the ball and chain again, swinging it over head. I wander if he knows what I am? I wait for the winged demon to get closer to me before quickly darting behind him as he slams the ball and chain into the snow. While the ball remains implanted within the snow I pull my scythes across his throat, ending him in seconds. Even as he lay motionless his open eyes remained glowing and unnatural. There was something not right with these demons. Was it a sickness of some kind? I quickly make it back to Maize and Talow who are fighting off yet more of the corrupt demons. Talow drives daggers through limbs and explosives down throats, sending demon after demon to their deaths. Maize stands behind her, his shotgun gunning down foes and his tattoos bleeding red. If after shooting an opponent and they remain alive, he takes a hold of them, letting his acidic blood seep into their flesh. Xzenox is tearing others to pieces with his diamond sharp fangs with Imbrium clinging fearfully to the fur on his neck. There is one little demon so usually cute and loving that surprises me out of this entire group right now. Behind Xzenox I see the shape of a creature with shining blue scales, giant fanned ears and two long horns. Spikes run down its back down to the very tip where an almost transparent finned tail thrashes furiously. The serpent is slashing at the corrupt with her tail, basically cutting them in half while roars of anger erupt from her fanged jaws. So that is Reyuma’s true form. Corrupt demons encircle her from all sides but they are no match for the strength of Reyuma; her sheer size is enough to send them flying over the snowy peaks that encased the field. Every time even one of them gets close to her they do not get a chance to do any damage. Seeing the six year old needs no help of mine, I join in the battle, fighting next to Maize and Talow. I use my demonic energy to hold the scythes in mid-air while I drag towards me an object that is sure to help get rid of these ‘bandits’ in no time. They brought it here so it may as well be used right? The ball and chain smash into demon’s heads sending skull shattering echoes around the bloodied battle field. It slams through stomachs and splinters bones while my scythes deal the finishing touches. As my weapons make them expel their last breaths I notice each one of these demons has unnaturally glowing eyes. It has to be sickness. Why else would they be coming at us with this much rage? It’s like their senses have been turned permanently berserk. A high pitch whistling sound pierces the battle ground, causing every one of us to cover our ears. The demons we were fighting lower their weapons and retreat as fast as they could into the ever thickening blanket of snow. After a few minutes the noise stops and we are able to uncover our ears. Reyuma returns to her half demon form, skipping happily to us with Xzenox and the terrified Imbrium in tow. I look around me; blood and bodies covered nearly all of the surface around us. Maize flicked the remaining blood off of his arm “There was definitely something wrong with those demons. They weren’t all there, like something was messing around in their heads.”
“I agree, all of their eyes had this weird glow to them. Do you think they had some kind of sickness that made them berserk?” I asked.
“Could be. But what was with the sound that drew them back? That seemed out of place as well.” Talow replied. “I mean if they were sick, they wouldn’t have a signal for retreat; they’d fight until they died…”
Talow is right. They couldn’t have been sick. Then what was wrong with them? Was somebody telling them to do this?
Imbrium was silent, her ears pressed down to the side of her head. Xzenox, who was still in his fox form stood behind her “I think all the fighting might have scared her a little.” He growled. She stood shivering, arms hugging around herself, but not to keep out the cold. She knows something… I can tell. The wind picked up, pushing the pink hair away from one of her white, blinded eyes that she had been keeping hidden. I can see it in her eyes.