Memories of Ghosts and Glass – Chapter 3
"So you were fraternising with the enemy, Soren?" Keith asks accusatively, although it sounds much more like a statement to me; a statement which is completely absurd, too. I wouldn't exactly mind it, though...
And my mind really shouldn't be wandering in that direction. Get out of here, inappropriate-for-this-moment thoughts!
"Fraternising with the enemy?" I manage to lever Flora off of me and then give Keith a surprised and rather venomous glare. I'm sure at this point in the comic he agreed to travel with Trace and Flora. Why's he being so arrogant now? "Bloody hell, Keith..." I slowly get to my feet and step towards him. "Just give her a chance, okay?"
Sure, I may not know what the hell happened to make Flora recognise me but I *do* know that she doesn't at all deserve any bad treatment and I'm prepared to do more than just simply stand up for her. Keith better be ready to accept he's going to have to travel with her. If he doesn't like it I can always put him in his place.
"But I..." Keith begins to complain once again but cuts himself off mid-sentence after glancing over in the Tiger Keidran's direction. "Fine. If it helps me then...fine." He admits dejectedly, turning in his heels and then making his way into the forest.
"Hey, Keith?" Trace calls out after him and I see him checking the large map he's holding.
"What is it, Trace?" Keith answers in an irritated fashion, stopping in his tracks. Seems like I may have to actually be the peacemaker between Keith and Flora...and to think Trace was afraid I'd double-cross him!
"You know that's the wrong way?"
Flora lets out a little giggle but quickly stops after noticing Keith's glare. "Yeah...yeah, I know...Let's just get out of here." He proceeds to reluctantly follow Trace's lead, although stays near the back of the group looking very sulky as we trudge through the dark, eerily quiet forest.
I check my own positioning to assure myself I'm between both the Keidran and Basitin and that they're not going to get up to anything stupid. To be honest, it doesn't really look like Keith wants to get involved with, well...anything at all really. I'm not complaining if it makes my job easier. Besides, I have enough to deal with myself.
I wish all the surprises would just stop for now. I mean bloody hell, I've only been in this world for two days and there's only so much stupefying, mind-boggling shit that I can take. I guess I should be lucky that actually turning into a Basitin didn't give me a heart attack. I don't even want to think about what someone who isn't a furry would do in my place...
The fact that magic exists is just even crazier than I ever thought now that I'm able to see it in action. Science really shouldn't allow something like that to happen but...as much as I love science and everything that comes from it, magic is just too awesome to ignore. Alas, I'm a Basitin which means I can't use magic unless I want to become a mentally unstable psychopath.
Then again, who is mentally stable and also a psychopath at the same time? I don't think…
Oh, wait a second. I still haven't said whether or not I-
"Soren? You and Flora: have you actually, y'know been toge -"
"No." I immediately cut Trace off with a blunt, 'you've-just-hit-a-brick-wall-with-this-conversation' kind of tone once I realise what it is he was planning to say. Just in the nick of time, too. Since when was he that blunt, though? Maybe this isn't as canon as I thought. And maybe I should stop presuming it will always be canon.
Trace remains silent and rightly so in my opinion. Seriously, he should be the least likely out of the four of us here to start invading someone's private life. Even though I don't even know anything about Soren's past…I briefly glance over to Flora who swiftly turns her attention away from me and focuses on where she's walking.
I frown slightly and continue to look at her. I may not be an expert in this particular field but that's the body language of someone who knows something. I'm sure of it. What it is she knows, I can only vaguely guess at. I need to find some way of getting Flora to tell me how she and Soren originally met each other, too. I imagine that might be quite difficult to do, as, most of the time, I'm not the type of person who likes hurting peoples' feelings. Going up to her and asking 'How exactly did we meet, again?' is without a doubt going to do just that.
Admittedly, having the caring personality that I do may hinder me somewhat considering I'm an assassin now. They do clash a lot, yeah…but I'll cross each of those unsteady bridges as I get to them, I suppose.
I adjust the straps of my rucksack slightly and leap casually over a few tree trunks protruding out of the dirt, secretly admiring what my new body is capable of doing with such ease. With my right hand I pull myself up onto a large boulder which sits just outside a small clearing within the ever-darkening forest and take a deep, refreshing breath of air. These are the moments which really make you appreciate how intricate all life in any world is. It's all balanced on the tip of a knife edge; one small, permanent change in any ecosystem could potentially spell the downfall of life.
There's either that, or there's a bloody massive disaster which could happen that would decimate almost everything. I'm not here to be pessimistic, though. In fact, I'm happier than I ever have been in life! An (almost) completely clean slate, adventuring with three other awesome people in a universe I love…How could it possibly get better than that?
Oh, well, there wasn't anything suggesting it couldn't get worse. I thought I told Keith to leave Flora alone. I sigh and grit my teeth in aggravation as I turn around to the source of the commotion and...Hang on, Keith's right over there so…that means Trace must have just given her the necklace. As my gaze lands on the two misfits, my eyes clarify my thoughts on the necklace.
Okay, shit just got real. No turning back now. Not that I intended to do anything like that but still. We're all in it for the long run, now. I can be sure that it's going to be a very long run indeed.
I shake my head a little and leap of off the boulder, landing softly onto the grass below. It's best if I don't interfere or worry about anything that I know is supposed to happen so I decide to try and catch up with Keith who's sauntered off on his own around a hundred metres ahead of us.
"Keith!" I start jogging towards him as he stops and looks over his shoulder at me.
I slow down to a gentle walk once I reach him. "Just to let you know: if Flora does actually try killing anybody then I'll be the first to stop her."
"In other words, I'll kill her." I feel my stomach wrench whilst saying the final three words but my expression remains indifferent. If it comes to it then...then I guess I'll have to do it. Especially now that I've just told Keith. I don't have to take orders, though. Mentally, I'm not a Basitin. I'm just me. A 15 year old guy from England. I can do whatever the bloody hell I please.
"A while ago you were defending her."
"And I still will. She isn't a threat yet. It's just a precaution."
Yeah, a precaution that I hope I won't have to take tonight. I'm trusting you, Flora. Trusting you not to make the biggest mistake of your life.
"Okay, this looks like a good enough place as anywhere else to set up camp; next to a river and in a reasonably large clearing." Trace announces rather wearily, letting his bag fall carelessly to the ground next to a couple of logs strewn carelessly along that same grassy surface. It has been a long time since we've stopped walking but I don't feel too tired. I suppose it must be quite dangerous around here at night so settling down for the moment is a plan that'll no doubt benefit everyone.
Flora surveys the surrounding with subtle scrutiny but stays within about 2 metres of Trace whilst I unintentionally mimic his movements by slipping the rucksack off my shoulders and planting it beside his. I frown slightly and stare at the two bags, only now noticing just how different the two are from each other in aesthetic terms. I'm not going to be taking it everywhere with me so I hope they don't get too curious and start rummaging through all the stuff in there.
To be honest, I don't really give a damn about how all that stuff got here; I'm just glad that it's…somehow all here but y'know what? After all that's happened to me recently it doesn't surprise me that it all randomly decided to show up on a whim. I'd be more scared if it didn't happen.
Anyway, I guess that instead of sitting around doing nothing I could be helpful by doing a bit of hunting. Trace probably already brought a lot of food along but this is a chance to stretch my legs a bit and see what I can really do in the sneaky-stabby section of things. It's also a chance to see if I'll just fail completely. Talk about throwing yourself into the deep end...
"Trace. Keith and I'll go get some food while you set up the tents." I look towards the other Basitin outcast and see him nod in response. I suppose the trees can't hold too many uninvited surprises in their branches. I mean, Keith seemed to be absolutely fine on his own in the comic.
'In the comic'. That's a phrase that has no relevance whatsoever now. It has no relevance because I'm here experiencing it in the flesh and not sitting behind the screen of a HP laptop reading it.
"I brought food for us already." He gestures with his hand towards the bag he had been carrying with him.
"We have a chance not to use it tonight. Save it for a more desperate time. Plus I need to stay sharp. This sort of thing helps me."
Er…does it? I'm pretty sure I didn't even think about any of what I just said before I said it. Oh well, seems to have worked out nicely.
"Alright then. We'll be safe here, I guess." I nod and we remain in the same position for a few seconds before I speak up again.
"Complacency kills, Trace." I leave him with that final warning and turn to start catching up with Keith who's already began to disappear into the deep green and brown fauna.
"Uuh...what do you mean?"
"Trust no one." I give a final look over my shoulder and flash a quick smile before swiftly turning back and walking after Keith who had decided to finally stop and wait for me just past the edge of the clearing.
I sincerely hope Trace manages to realise what it is I mean without telling Flora about it. I don't think that'll happen, though; I need to remember they haven't been together for as long as I think. Now that I've told him about that maybe he'll be more careful around her...He's going to need to be alert tonight because if he gets too relaxed then she might just persuade herself to kill him. If that happens I'm screwed in terms of precognition. I mean, I'll have to actually properly get to know the world instead of just relying on what I know happens; my lack of ability to socialise well is going to hinder any sort of adjustment to this world that I have to do.
Perhaps I can try and interrupt her conversation with Sythe later on...Thinking about it, I'll need to keep an eye on him. After all, he didn't say he was going to leave after telling Flora that lie about Trace so if he plans on doing something afterwards I have to be ready for it. Thankfully, at the moment I can just remove those thoughts completely from my mind.
"Soren, you lead the way. I'm far less experienced than you."
"Alright, fine." I accept the offer and we stand still for a few seconds, taking into account all of my surroundings. If we're going to be hunting then we need a vantage point where we're able to take our prey by surprise and move undetected. To me, it seems like the only things that offer that in this forest are the trees. Now it's just a question of getting up there.
"What are you thinking?" Keith enquires and steps forward a little. His gaze is drawn in the direction of mine and he quickly realises my train of thought. "You-You aren't going to-" The young Basitin stammers and cuts himself off after watching me walk up to a nearby tree trunk. "H-hey! I can't do any of that!" He moves forward to pull me back but I've already started clambering swiftly up the trunk using divots and indents in the tough, crinkled bark as hand and footholds.
All I have to say at this point is thank god that I still have all of Soren's skills and abilities. Maybe I won't be so useless after all. I look back down to the ground and I raise my eyebrows in surprise at seeing just how far up I already am. It's a good 10 or so metres from me to the base of the tree but that isn't what interests me. It's Keith's expression of part helplessness and part irritation that causes me to smile a little but this only annoys him even more.
"Okay, now you're just showing off!" He hollers up to me and crosses his arms.
Eh. Maybe I should go down just to offer him some moral support or something like that…Besides, we'll be safer if we're together; I suppose I'll just get to that vantage point in tree tops when we've identified what we're going to be catching. I shake my head slightly before carefully making my way back down.
"Listen, if we come across a group of bandits or something then it's a very bad thing if we're separated. I know you like working alone but…not now."
Yeah, I don't think I'd like being ambushed by anyone who's willing to kill me without any mercy. Admittedly, I'm going to have to deal with bigger fish than just a group of bandits. Fish like Ephemural. Now that won't be a nice meeting. I wonder if she knows about me…I really hope that my transition into this world was completely unbeknownst to her but considering she's a demigod she probably knows everything.
Who knows, though; perhaps I can be the one to throw up a few surprises here and there. Heck, I'm not even supposed to be with Flora, Trace and Keith so that in itself is going to ruffle a few of her metaphorical feathers.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, I try and break the tension. "Keith?"
"If we're going back to our – your – home...I'm going to be immediately recognised."
Keith tilts his head to the side and glances at me. "I guess so. I mean, you're a Western Basitin. Still, you're point is?"
"Keith, they'll want me dead on first sight. It'll be tense enough with just you being back there but you and me?" I sigh quietly and look up to the purple-hued night sky. "That's madness."
"If I'm with you they won't lay a hand on you."
I chuckle softly to myself. "Politics is never that simple. Never." I turn my attention back where I'm placing my feet...er…paws and at the same time look for any signs of movement from any possible threats or prey.
"Soren, you could take on whoever they threw at you."
"I wish that were true."
"It is. You're different to me and every other Basitin. If you're given an order by a superior you can rebel against it. You don't move in the shadows; you are a shadow."
"I'm not a super soldier, Keith. If they tell every Basitin to kill me then they'll want to kill me. Including you."
"I'd never do-"
"-Yes you would. You're a Basitin. You're biologically wired to do it."
"You're telling me this as if you aren't a Basitin yourself."
Oh, bloody hell. I just slipped into human mode right there. I don't think he's suspicious about it or anything so that's always a good thing. It's now when improvisation comes into effect.
"…Technically I'm not. I don't fit in with our society. It's based around the law." I unsheathe the dagger on the right-hand side of my waist and glare at it for a few seconds before smirking to myself. "Law doesn't exist within me and to be honest I-"
"Stay down and be quiet." Keith obliges and copies my movements exactly whilst his hand moves quickly down to his sword. "A Keidran. And it doesn't look friendly."
"Then...kill it." Keith whispers back in a hopeful but also sarcastic tone.
"Wait, what? You're going to kill it!"
"Make your bloody mind up!"
"No...I mean yeah! I just thought you didn't kill things if you weren't provoked..."
"I don't. But this Keidran looks..."
Silence lingers over me and Keith after we both say the word at exactly the same time. We both glance at each other and almost completely forget about the looming threat only about 50 or so metres ahead of us.
Great...now he's going to be wondering how the hell I knew what a feral Keidran looks like. I guess he's probably thinking the same thing about me. Unfortunately for him, I already know.
A loud rustling in the leaves and grass draws our attention back to the bigger problem. From what I can see here, it seems like she's decided to rest up which makes it so much easier for me. Er...me and Keith, I suppose...
"Hey, you see that thick branch hanging over the top of the Keidran?" I shuffle slightly closer to Keith and then point up to it.
"Yeah, what abou-oh, wait, you're going up there, aren't you." He states in an unimpressed manner, frowning a little bit as he does so.
Well, now I have to do it otherwise I'm just going to look like an absolute idiot. I guess if it doesn't work as I'm planning we can always go to plan B: the frontal assault, although it's definitely not as effective as the subtle approach.
"Yeah." I say simply as I now focus on the intricacies of my plan and how I'm going to actually work it all out. Maybe I can try and climb the tree like I did before and…Okay, wow! That was a bit more than just unexpected. How the hell did I manage to get up to this branch of the tree? I glance down as I hang from the tree branch and make the signal for him to keep an eye on the feral Keidran as I move through the trees before I pull myself back up, balancing precariously on the branch.
Huh. Reminds me a lot of Assassin's Creed…Anyway! I think it's time to get a quiet move on.
I instinctively start leaping across the protruding arms of the tree being careful to select the ones which are least likely to snap under my weight. Every few seconds I look for the relatively still figure of the Keidran in the middle of the fauna and adjust my positioning to remain on track. A few times my paws slip off of the branch I'm on but I'm able to latch onto it again with my hands.
After what seems like only a minute or so, I arrive almost directly above the feral feline in a crouched position. Only a couple of moments later, I silently lower myself onto my stomach but freeze up just as I hear a small creaking coming from the tree branch itself. If this breaks right now then, well...let's just say it won't be pretty.
Wrapping my legs around the branch I start lowering myself down. To others, it would look something like what a spider would be doing if it were hanging from its web.
At this point I'm so close to her that I can almost feel her body warmth and hear her gentle breathing. I...even if this isa feral Keidran she's still a living thing with a life to live. Killing her seems wrong in more ways than one.
But then again it's for the safety of Keith, Flora and Trace and there's no reasoning to be done with it. I can't politely ask it to leave us alone. I'm sure Flora would understand; if it got the chance then it could easily inflict some major injuries to one of us. Yeah, utilitarianism is always a good thing to turn to.
I shut my eyes and slowly take in a deep breath, drawing the dagger close to her neck.
"Soren! Watch out!"
In my peripheral vision I see Keith sprint out of hiding with his sword drawn, his attention turned to something completely different to the Keidran and apparently it's right behind me; if he's ignoring the fact that he just woke up our original target then it must be pretty damn important.
"Keith, that Keidran's woken-"
I'm suddenly yanked out of my thoughts as a spear pierces through my stomach without any effort whatsoever. Surprisingly, I don't feel too much pain from it. Just a stinging sensation actually. I fall unceremoniously to the floor which, fortunately for me, is only about a metre or so below me. I land on my side and quickly turn my attention to the spear currently protruding from my body.
As soon as I shakily get to my feet I grasp the wooden shaft with both hands and begin to slowly but surely slide it all the way through my stomach. It's this part that hurts like nothing possibly imaginable in this world but I manage to simply grin and bear it whilst ignoring the sounds of people shouting and swords clashing against each other. Keith is in the thick of that trying to save my ass while I'm just standing here…casually pulling a spear out the front of my body.
Finally, the whole spear clatters to the floor, soaked in a deep crimson red but in its place a stream of blood begins flowing out of the large open wound. I can worry about that later, though. Right now, I have to go and deal with those Human bandits; Keith's never going to be able to survive much longer.
Clutching the front of my wound to try and halt some of the bleeding I stagger towards the three Humans who are preoccupied with Keith, each of their backs turned on me.
Let's see how they react to this!
Using my remaining dagger I drag one of the attackers down from behind and slit his throat with professionalism only someone that has experience in this area could achieve. This grabs the attention of the other two who turn on their heels in shock at seeing their companion brutally taken out right in front of them. I've already lunged forward and plunged the dagger into the heart of one of the Humans before either of them can do anything to prevent me. This sends him sprawling lifelessly onto his back with me lying on top of his body.
"Dan, James! No! You bastard animal, you killed them both!"
I glance over my shoulder but I'm met with the sight and feeling of a steel blade slicing deep into my arm and then again into the side of my abdomen. Unable to dodge or roll way, I simply succumb to the onslaught. A real sense of anger and emotional pain is present in the bandit's eyes and only now do I realise that I've actually killed two of my own kind…Two Humans who were very much alive just a minute ago. People who don't have a future now…All because of me.
Ugh...Geez, my head hurts so much...Why the hell's my vision so blurred?
Oh, Keith...How long has he been pulling me along like this? I-I feel completely...completely fine.
"Soren, we need to get you back! You're bleeding out like hell!"
"I…I killed those two…" My voice is dry and croaky, hardly a sound being made.
"Trace, Flora! Help me out here!"
"Oh my god...Is he even going to survive these injuries?"
"I don't know, Flora. Basitin are tough but...it'd take more than just our hardiness to suvive this."