ShiningwingX: Greetings everyone. It's been a couple of months since I've released something. Longer than I'd hoped, but not longer than I've been working. Chapter III has been through a few rewrites as I've thought and rethought where I want various events to take place. Pretty certain it's pretty much in its 'final state' now, so I can finally release this and start work on Chapter IV. I hope this one here has been worth the wait.
Ah Nee Mah – Red Tower
Ah Nee Mah – Sacred Ground
David Arkenstone – Fire and Water
Ah Nee Mah – Ancient Voices
Chapter II: The Jiràs-lim
Thirty-one… thirty-two… thirty-three…
The sounds of Aranalk's slow, heavy footfalls continues from outside the arboreal shell, each announcing itself with a crunching thud upon the earth far below. Kyun has removed his quiver from his back, and currently occupies his time by inspecting each of the arrows while Jix flutters casually nearby, offering his light to chase away the shadows and ease his companion's task. He holds one of the projectiles up to his eyes, scanning every inch of it from the tip to the flights. A number of identical, brown feathered shafts sit next to him – those that have failed his inspection and are like to be discarded or recycled for later use. After a moment he nods in satisfaction, returning the current projectile to his quiver. It seems this one was more fortunate than the others, and will likely see its purpose fulfilled within the string of his bow.
Thirty-seven… thirty-eight… thirty-nine…
I stand in the relative darkness nearby, focusing my sharp Hylian ears on the sound of the Cerévorn's steps. I know not to disturb Kyun while he works, but unlike him I have nothing with which to occupy my own time, and so I often find myself counting the number of steps it takes for us to reach our hunting grounds. It is not as glorious a preparation as the Kokiri's perhaps, but it does at least serve to keep my mind from drifting back to the events of the previous night. Even now they claw persistently at my thoughts, attempting to rest my attention from the task ahead. While I am certain that once we begin the Jiràs-lim, I will be too far too preoccupied to pay any mind to these, the wait itself is a taxing endeavor indeed.
Forty-four… forty-five… forty-
No… the Cerévorn's forty-sixth step never falls. He stops, and after a brief moment, I feel the disorienting sensation of being lowered to the ground wash over me. It seems we've arrived sooner than expected. Either Aranalk's strides were longer this day or else he took a shorter path. No matter. I toss those petty thoughts aside as a slight impact jars the sylvan barrier, and my gut settles as our descent comes to a halt. The dim light glowing between the gaps begins to grow in volume and intensity as the myriad branches composing our surroundings slowly begin to retract, relinquishing us from their protective embrace. Within but a few moments, the branches we stand upon once more resemble the shape of an open, many-fingered palm and before us, Aranalk's massive frame kneels upon the ground, glowing eyes focusing once more upon us.
Kyun and I step from the arboreal giant's fingers, the dull thud of our leather boots upon the damp earth heralding our arrival into the vast and vibrant forest. Jix reclaims his normal position at Kyun's side as the Kokiri turns to regard the massive, but kind creature.
"Bàlinetón, Aranalk." Kyun says gratefully. "Ràn yiel palékin çèviden."
The creak of wooden joints and the rustle of leaves accompanies the cerévorn as he rises, once more assuming his true, towering height. His gaze remains upon us for a moment, a gentle warmth radiating within them, offering silent well-wishes for our coming hunt. Then he turns, his massive swaying body shifting away from us before his powerful limbs begin to move, carrying him away to the east with slow, lumbering strides. Within moments, his sylvan kin take him once more as he disappears into the thickness of the forest.
The three of us rest for a moment, grateful to feel still earth beneath our boots once more after the brief, but always befuddling trip. It is a small rest however, and after a moment we begin to move, traipsing through the forest in the direction opposite of that, which the cerévorn had taken.
Where once we stood high above, nestled within the boughs of the trees, now we walk upon the ground, a pelt of lush plant-matter of varying shades of greens and blues replacing the hard, sturdy wood of our village. Trees of limitless sizes and shapes extend from the ground, their large, thick roots burrowing into the rich earth, drawing deep of the life-giving nutrients there. Their canopies extend toward the heavens like a myriad arms reaching towards the two bright spheres that shine from above, the smaller of these grasping at the thin rays missed by their larger kin. Most are naked, save their own bark, but a few are clothed in thin layers of moss or lichen like that which covers the ground. Short but thick shrubs grow in places not already occupied by their trunked brethren, some bearing leaves and others, needles. My ears perk as a thousand invisible voices cry out from the depths of the forest, as birds and insects alike sing their morning song.
A thick, violet mist veils the forest, laying crawling upon the ground amidst the roots and about our feet. It thins and disperses as it rises higher into the air, falling back to the floor as if fleeing from the rays of pale sunlight that filter in through the leaves. The mist is dense and heavy, obscuring the surrounding trees, and hanging vines beneath its lilaceous pall. The violet miasma seems to dance within the stillness of the air, moving as if alive, or guided by some faint breeze that can be neither seen nor felt. A scent like that of sweet, cloying flowers taunts my senses, yet no such plants grow so deep within the forest, where the light they require to flourish is so scarce. The source of the smell is the mist itself: at times pleasant and enticing, at others cloying and sickening. A mist both beautiful and sinister, sweet and disgusting at the same time.
All who live within the forest know the dreadful secret that it hides. For despite its beauty and pleasing fragrance, this mist is naught but a blight upon the forest and a poison to those foolish or unfortunate enough to venture in from Outside. It almost seems to hold a will of its own – and a malicious one at that – for it lures outsiders deep into the forest and corrupts them, leading them into slow death, or else changing them in both body and mind. It draws them to the forest from lands beyond through use of the Vànalók – gates of its own making, tethered to outside lands through some fell means – before slowly consuming them, turning them into slaves, or worse.
Not even the forest itself is spared the influence of this dreadful mist. Like a parasite it eats away at our home, slowly changing and corrupting it in similar fashion. Trees rot or mutate into dark, evil forms, and beasts become violent and frenzied, killing and consuming all they can. It is within the Lenshæda that the Kóldaréken – the wicked beasts – dwell, appearing as if from nothing from within the mist.
From whence it came, or when its corruption began, none know but over countless centuries, many have attempted to discover a way to quell its influence. Saria, and many Kinósved are among the latest of these, yet despite their wisdom all attempts thus far have been in vain. There are those places that remain free of the wicked mist and its influence. The grove of Rohtànketzel is one such place, for what is an evil mist compared to a god? Nieraki is another, for it too grows within the hallowed soils where the Father once stood. Yet such places are dwindling, and the once bright spirit of the wood grows dimmer and darker with each passing year. Slowly but surely our forest, our home, is dying. Much now lies in darkness and our once great and vibrant wood is now a but a shadow of what it once was. The Lenshæda has become as much a part of the forest as the Kokiri or even the trees themselves, though it is heartbreaking indeed to watch our home slip further and further into decay.
"The Lenshæda seems thinner today." Jix says, breaking the silence.
My mind takes a moment to process what the Fairy had said before I focus my attention once more on the surrounding amethyst veil and realize that he is right. My sight pierces much deeper into it than it normally would, and the scent, though just as sweet is faint in the breeze. It is little consolation however. Thin or thick, I've no love for the violet mist that surrounds us
"But Lenshæda, always changing." Kyun begins with some wariness in his voice. "Safer in trees."
To this, we all agree and so we continue on, swiftly but carefully through the roiling mist, searching for a way into the forest's understory to better continue our hunt. Damp leaves cushion our footfalls, and a few of their brethren come to join them, drifting down the branches they were plucked from either by a breeze or the scampering of some animal. My wariness only grows as we continue along through the thick, tangled wood. Despite the many times I have left the village – either to hunt or for other reasons – the sight and smell of the lilaceous miasma never fails to unnerve me. We are of the forest, and so the poisons within the mist are not a danger to us. The Kóldaréken however, are.
To my right, I am sure Kyun feels the same as I, for every now and again, I hear the breath enter his nose as he focuses his keen sense of smell on our surroundings, searching for any shift or change in the sweet scent that might suggest nearby peril. My own Hylian nose is far less sensitive than the Kokiri's, but what I lack in this is made up for with both sight and hearing and I begin to utilize these, scanning the thick forest with my gaze and perking my ears for the sounds of any danger lurking within the violet fog. Rather than being comforted by the thinned mist, I find myself liking the purple veil even less than usual. Figures seem to form within the fog just on the periphery of my vision, but the moment I turn to look at them they are gone. It almost feels as if the Lenshæda is taunting us… but to what end?
"There." Kyun speaks after a moment, pointing to a gnarled old tree in the distance. "We climb."
I nod a silent reply as the three of us make our way over to the tree, its rough, dark grey trunk is covered in knots and holes left behind by the myriad animals who have used its wood for shelter over the years. Nothing resides here now, however, its previous inhabitants having left their homes and shelters long ago either through choice or through the force of other creatures. Yet, though scarred, bent and writhen the old one lives on, its sturdy branches continuing to bare thick, viridian leaves.
I nod to Kyun, and the Kokiri boy takes a few steps back before running towards the tree, planting his foot upon a raised root, and gripping one of the thicker knots with his right hand. He pulls himself ever upward, his small but strong Kokirian body effortlessly moving vertically along the old tree's twisted surface before disappearing into the thick leaves at the top. I follow suit, travelling along the same path he had. The bark is rough beneath my fingers, perfect for gripping. Within seconds, my fingers find purchase upon the lowest of the tree's thick branches, and using this I hoist myself up into its sheltering boughs. Kyun offers me a hand up as we perch next to one another upon the low branches.
Jix arrives a moment later, his gossamer wings emitting a light hum as he flutters before us. "Come. This area should provide good hunting for us. There is a path through the branches this way."
The Fairy turns and darts away in the direction he'd come without waiting for a reply. Kyun and I follow swiftly behind the tiny fey, guided forward by his amber glow. I push aside the thick blanket of leaves, revealing the path that Jix had spoken of. A number of trees stand clustered close together, their thick, solid branches entangling with one another. Small gaps separate each cluster of limbs, but these are easily clearable for one who lives above the ground as we do.
Bending my legs slightly, I kick off from the branch that currently supports my weight, sending my body soaring through the air, and toward the first of these. A slight shudder of wood and rustle of leaves heralds my landing as my boots meet the solid wood of the forest's thick lower boughs. A similar sound from nearby informs me that Kyun is close behind, and so I continue on, following the light of his companion with my friend in tow.
I pause a few moments later, catching sight of something further on. I give a gesture of silence to Kyun as I move quietly onwards, coming in time upon the thin leaves and tall, slender trunk of another tree, set apart from its thickly knit kin. I leap softly from the treepath and land lightly upon its thin branches, moving swiftly toward the trunk where the branches would be stronger. I examine the smooth, barkless bole for only a moment. Indeed, even an untrained sproutling would notice it from this distance.
"Marks…" I whisper softly, as I hear Kyun and Jix behind me. "Marks of small creature… fresh."
A small sound draws my attention from the marks upon the tree – leaves rustling some distance ahead, though no winds blow through the forest at present. Something is hidden within. I raise my arm slowly, giving Kyun a silent signal to draw his bow. The Kokiri complies, fetching the weapon and a well fletched arrow from his back before silently sniffing the air, attempting to identify the unseen creature.
"Utele." He hisses, just loud enough for me to hear.
I nod in understanding, perking my ears and following the noises, scanning the leaves for any sign of movement. Though Kyun is far my superior in the way of the bow, his keen sense of smell is not enough to locate the exact position of this particular quarry. The sounds stop abruptly after a moment, and I turn my gaze this way and that, unsure of if the Utele had picked up our own scent and subsequently fled from the danger. Just as I am preparing to call our loss however, I notice the slightest quiver in the leaves, no more than four leaps from our current position. I turn sharply and point silently toward the cluster, taking care not to make any noise and alert our prey.
Kyun responds in an instant, nocking the arrow into his bow and, letting it fly upon the exact trajectory I'd indicated. The arrow's sharp point cuts through the air before disappearing into the smallest of gaps between the leaves. A dull thump, and a small high pitched squeak ring out from the dense foliage before silence rules once more.
The leaves again fall silent. I see no other movement within the neighboring boughs. Kyun nods to Jix, who responds by flying toward the site of the brief commotion. The orange Fairy disappears into the foliage for only a moment before returning to us, a look of triumph on his diminutive visage. It does not take a hunter, Jiràsved or otherwise to tell what he is trying to convey. In silent agreement, Kyun and I make our way over to the place his arrow had struck.
A much larger breadth separates us from the tree where the arrow had flown, but it is not long before I notice a limb roughly half way between us and our destination. It is much too high to land on and even if we could, it would be quite difficult to find footing upon such a slender thing. However, its position and size are both perfect for another use. Kyun nods in understanding, having noticed it as well, and leaps forward, throwing his arms forward to catch the hanging branch. It bends beneath his weight, but shows no signs of breaking as he effortlessly uses it to swing himself to the distant tree.
He moves quickly to the side and I follow behind, clearing the expanse with little effort and landing next to my friend. The brown haired Kokiri pulls away the shroud of leaves his arrow had passed through, and reveals the proof of his success. There, beneath the leaf covering is a small, plump rodent, covered in fine brown fur, its brush-like tail nearly twice the length of its body. Kyun's arrow sticks out from its back where it had struck, the head, buried deep within its flesh. Moving closer, my friend examines its body for a moment before turning back to us.
"Pierced heart." Kyun says in his broken Hylian. "Did not suffer."
He pushes his way through the troublesome foliage to the place where his kill now lays. The Kokiri kneels, and passes his hand above the corpse of the slain Utele before closing his eyes. He brings his hands before his chest, the thumbs and two fingers each extended and pressed together, the rest bent. He places the extended fingers of his left hand upon the knuckles of his right, a sign of prayer and reverence among the Kokiri as his normally amiable expression replaced by one of staid veneration. I follow suit, shutting sight away from my senses as my close friend begins to speak.
"Lin valier Róhtànketzel. Tahl lànkelfel nalbàlrahn cès làyamarfel amàn fadilon idrà teldilon." He prays quietly over the creature before falling silent once more.
The Lànkelmaër – the sacred rite of spirit passage among the forest people. Every Kokiri is taught this rite from the moment they emerge from the Bloom, and every Fairy knows it well. It is a ritual consisting of both a prayer and a silent vigil that guides young souls to rest and eases their passing. It is performed for each death that occurs so long as it is known and there are Kokiri or Fairies to perform it. The Jiràsved hold the rite in particularly high regard however, for they bare constant witness to the gates of life and death. It is against our will of the forest to cause suffering to any creature or to allow such suffering to continue, and therefore each kill a Jiràsved makes must be quick and painless, and the Lànkelmaër performed to send the soul peacefully to rest. Only when the rite is complete is the role of the Jiràsved finished.
I remain still and silent next to my friend as he does just that. The kill is his, and so it is he who holds the responsibility of guarding its body until its spirit has passed safely into the afterlife. Only when he is satisfied that it has, will our hunt continue. After a few moments of silent vigil, the sound of his shuffling movements tells me that it is time. I open my eyes, and watch as he approaches the small creature's body, removing his arrow and returning it to his quiver before taking the fallen animal carefully in hand.
"Good catch." He says approvingly, resuming his usual character as he looks over the Utele. "Will make good meal."
"Yes." I reply with a nod. "We move on?"
Together with Jix, the three of us continue deeper into the dim grey-green forest, moving swiftly through the trees as we continue our task, being careful not to stray to near to the Dark Places. My eyes and ears detect the faintest traces of our prey, and through Kyun's steady arm, each one of these falls to his arrows. Kyun never falters in his showing of respect for the creatures whose lives were offered in return for ours. For every kill, a prayer, and for every prayer, another vigil. The spirits of the forest and the gods above must truly admire our reverence, for it is not long before our belts are lined with the fruits of a successful hunt.
"Utele, fren, malkai… a fine bounty I must say." Jix says, fluttering to each of the different creatures, rodent and avian alike that we carry. "Even Mido could not complain about this."
"Not judge quickly." I say vilifyingly. "Mido always finds ways."
The three of us decide to take rest within the thick boughs of one of the elder trees, the morning's weariness weighing on our limbs and Jix's wings. The bole of the tree extends ever upward, reaching from the ground and parting the ghastly Lenshæda below us like a great pillar. It stands wider than the length of four Kokiri standing shoulder to shoulder, and a vast, thick web of branches extends from its surface. Many more limbs extend like fingers from these, each one baring a host of thick, dark green leaves. Kyun and I sit upon the edge of the larger branches, allowing our legs to dangle freely from the side, while Jix, as always, occupies Kyun's shoulder. So far above the forest floor, the scent of the Lenshæda below is but a hint upon the air. I take a deep breath, and laugh lightly.
"Ah… clean air!" I say, smiling contently. "Is good to smell true scent of Syldré."
"Yes." Kyun agrees. "Even to me, Lenshæda feels far away up here."
"The Lenshæda does not even reach Nieraki, but there you also have the scent of Kokiri and Fairy, and the lingering smells of cooked food or herbs gathered by the Kinósved…" Jix begins, his wings waving idly behind him. "Here, the air feels 'freer' I suppose. It is a good thing."
The moments pass slowly, but after a time we rise once more, refreshed and revitalized despite the shortness of the reprieve. Kyun casts his eyes down to his belt and mine, examining each catch with a measure of mild pride.
"Done well." He says after another moment. "Do we return? Not eaten today."
"Always with your stomach…" Jix says, and I can see the orange fairy's eyes roll in exasperation from within his glow. "But you are right… we've been out for quite some time."
It takes almost no time at all for the three of us to reach an accord. With our catches tucked safely within our belts, we turn back in the direction of the village following the treepath back the way we came, leaping from branch to branch like nimble forest cats. Familiar scenery passes by on all sides, and within but a few moments we pass the tree cluster where Kyun had felled the first of our many catches. Just as we are nearing the old tree which had served as our path into the boughs however, my ears perk. A far off sound reaches them, so soft and distant that it would have escaped the notice of anyone but a fellow Hylian.
"Veid…!" I call quietly to my two companions, the sound startling me into speaking in my mother tongue.
Kyun and Jix stop ahead of me and turn their questioning gazes in my direction. Clearly they hadn't sensed what I have. Kyun opens his mouth to speak, but I raise my hand in a gesture for silence, and he closes it again. The sound reaches my ears again, cleared this time now that I am focused on it. A deep, lowing cry echoes out from further within the forest. I listen for a moment before pinpointing its direction.
"This way." I hiss, starting off in the direction of the sound.
I sense my two friends begin to follow, as I leap along the branches, traveling steadily northward toward the sound. The further we travel, the louder the cries become, though the trees themselves are much the opposite, the gaps between them growing wider and wider with each stride and each leap. The clustered path soon becomes a labyrinth of thinning trees as I slow my pace, and begin weaving around the trunks, searching for places where the branches connect. Invading rays of sunlight, steaming through the curtain of leaves force me to stop a moment later and I squint my eyes against the glare. I allow my vision to adjust to the harsh change in light before pushing aside the viridian veil that separates us from its source.
A large clearing stretches out beyond the high risen trees, a stark contrast to the dense wood surrounding it. The eaves of the wood curve and bend around it like a stream flowing about a large, defiant stone. Light flows freely into it, making the lush plant life seem to glow in the welcome radiance, unobstructed by the verdant shroud that stretches across most of the forest. The grim vapors of the Lenshæda laps and fingers at the edges, but never does it move from the shadows of the trees, leaving the glade clear and free of violet mist. Above, the two glowing eyes are yet shrouded by the towering boughs of the surrounding trees, yet their light shines through the thinned pall of leaves, illuminating the ground below. A light breeze flows through the glade, causing the leaves and the flecks of light that shine through them to dance elegantly within. White wisps hang the air above, moving at a snail's pace through the vast, azure expanse in which they dwell.
It has been some time since I have seen the sky. As a rule, I am only afforded the briefest glimpses of it, living so deep within the forest as I do. I seldom have the opportunity to see it in all its splendor and my eyes linger there for a moment, transfixed by its azure beauty. A moment later, another deep cry pulls me back to the world below. I gaze down in the direction of the sound, and it is there that my suspicions of its maker are proven true.
"Marosk…" I whisper, sensing Kyun and Jix behind me.
A large creature stands in the center of the clearing, foraging for food amongst the lush grasses grown healthy in the vibrant light. Broad cloven hooves rip and dig into the mealy earth, leaving a mass of upturned soil in their wake. From these extend four thick, powerful legs that support a hefty looking body honed from many years living within the harshness of the forest. Thick, short hairs of dark grey fur cover the creature's body, mottled in places with darker or lighter shades. A sinewy tail extends from its backside, splitting in two midway along its length. Both halves move independently of one another, swishing and flicking back and forth behind their owner's body. Thousands of thin, but long hairs extend from the beast's neck, forming a regal looking mane around its bovid head and two long, thick horns extend from its temples, spiraling back, and then forward again, ending in two needle sharp points.
"Look at its size!" Jix exclaims quietly, his wings fluttering excitedly behind him as he hovers at Kyun's side.
"Marosk… Kokiri-ayliëvah. Gift…" I mutter, staring at the beast as it continues its grazing. My fingers brush the hilt of my knife. "Meat, fur, horns… all have use."
"Makrenfel?!" Kyun hisses in Kokirian, taken aback by my implication. "Marosk… Large and powerful. We cannot."
"This one… different." I retort, pointing toward the clearing where the Marosk grazes. "Normally many. Here only one. And horns… long like seasons' end."
Marosk horns grow constantly through their lives… it is the way to distinguish the young from the old. This one's horns are long – so long in fact that they would surely snare on the ground should the creature attempt a charge. It is clear that the beast is old, likely nearing the end of its natural lifespan. Moreover, Marosk typically travel in small groups in order to discourage predators – and Jiràsved like us – from targeting them but this one is alone… ousted from its herd. There is only one reason for this… that this Marosk was too weak or slow to keep pace with its kin, and was therefore left behind to fend for itself. Lone creatures like this typically do not last long within the forest, for they make easy prey for the carnivorous beasts that stalk beneath its boughs. Because of this, it is rare to find one such creature alive, having avoiding the hungry maws of predators. Yet here it is… standing before us within this sunlit clearing, like an offering from the forest itself.
"This one old… weak, but still alive." Kyun says, finally beginning to understand what I had noticed from the beginning. "How?"
"Its voice… on wind's breath. It called, I answered." I explain. "Now here… Marosk lit by sky fire. Kadilah Senjiràs. Gift from Róhtànketzel…"
"Should we even think of denying this opportunity?" Jix asks. "If we turn back now, we will not have another chance. Other creatures will come, and they will not hesitate… and if what Link says is true and the Forest truly is offering this unto us, what right have we to refuse?"
Both me and the fairy look to Kyun for his answer, but it is clear that he sees this situation in the same way we do. All apprehension leaves the Jiràsved. Understanding and resolve take its place. He turns his dark green eyes to me and nods, a slight smirk spreading across his face. We find a small hollow within the trunk of another large tree, and it is here that we store the fruits of our previous successes. They will be safe there, at least for a while we tend to the matter at hand, and it would not do to be weighed down with what we aim to do. All the while the Marosk hardly moves. It continues its foraging, digging at the earth for the young plant roots that it consumes, unaware of the three hunters who now stalk it.
"Marosk… strong like trees. This one old, but strong still. My arrows not enough." Kyun begins, nodding to the knife at my belt. "You heard call. Hunt is yours."
A strong sense pride wells up from within me at the Jiràsved's words. I feel honored that he would trust me with so esteemed a hunt as this one. Yet all of that trust is sure to be in vain if we fail to return to the village with such a catch in tow. With this in mind, I focus instead upon the impending hunt and allow my words to fall back into the familiar language of the Kokiri as I explain my plan to my two companions. There would be other times to practice language and I've no desire to sacrifice consistency in favor of improved dialect.
"Illin… jahl!" I order under my breath, once I am sure the three of us are all aware of our individual roles.
Without another word the three of us split up, moving toward our respective goals with a renewed haste at the prospect of returning with such a prize. I begin to weave amidst the branches once more, moving around the clearing and the horned beast within. Limbs creak under my boots, and leaves rustle as I move through them, but I am careful to make sure that these sounds do not alert the Marosk. The boughs of the forest begin to slope toward the ground as I near my destination and I make my way toward a small firàden tree on the very edge of the clearing. It is not tall, but its limbs are powerful enough to support my weight, while its thick viridian leaves and pale grey bark provide the perfect camouflage against my Kokirian garb. Moreover, it is in perfect sight of the Marosk.
I gaze out across the clearing just in time to see Kyun disappear into the foliage of another tree, this one much higher than the one that conceals me. The faint glow of Jix's fairy light reveals his position within a thick shrub a few trees away. Finally, I turn my attention to the Marosk, making sure the creature has not moved as we have. The hairs of the beast's brilliant mane dance in the light breeze of the forest as it continues its grazing. It is facing me now… and should it raise its head I would surely find myself staring straight into its beady, solid eyes.
Good… this means all four of us are in the perfect positions.
This is the first time Kyun has ever deferred to me for a strategy during a hunt. Every time we leave the forest it is always the same – my eyes and ears, his nose and arm. With this, we have felled much game in the past. Yet as I look upon the powerful form of the unwary Marosk, I know that our usual tactics would never succeed against such large prey. I only hope that the plan I devised will be enough to fell the creature, and if not at least allow it – and us – to leave the clearing unharmed.
I reach down to my belt and silently unsheathe my knife, feeling the soft leather grip as my fingers close around the hilt. I carefully rest the fingers of my other hand upon the blade's cold surface, steadying it as I move its metal body before a gap in the leaves. The blade's reflective surface catches the light of Sàlinótenrie as it streams freely into my sanctuary, casting it back into the surrounding area. Had the Marosk seen the reflected light, the creature might have grown weary of the strange phenomenon. However, both the beast's attention, and whatever food it has found buried beneath the earth continue to be consumed by one another.
My companions however are not so distracted. For they witness my signal… and act.
An answering flicker from across the clearing catches my eye, this one gleaming from the deadly tip of Kyun's arrow. This however, was not intended as a signal… but a harbinger. The light disappears a moment later as the Kokiri lets his arrow fly. The slender shaft glides swift and true through the air, toward the area where the Marosk continues its grazing. The projectile is not aimed for the creature's body however – it flies swiftly passed the creature's flank, embedding itself with a dull thunk into the earth near the beast's lowered head.
The Marosk abruptly raises its elongated snout, all thoughts of food chased from its skull by the sound. Bits of soil and other earth matter fall from its bovine lips as it turns its eyes this way and that, searching for that which disturbed its grazing. Another arrow impales itself into the ground on the other side of the beast. Now sensing the danger posed, it moves nervously from side to side, unsure which way to go in order to escape the impending threat. A third arrow finishes what the first two began. A deep panicked cry escapes the Marosks lips as the final projectile is driven into the loamy soil behind its large form. The creature breaks from the now harmless arrows, tearing up clumps of dirt and grass as its mighty hooves pound against the forest floor.
Kyun's precise firing had done exactly what I'd hoped it would, for the Marosk is now fleeing straight toward the area where Jix and I wait to fulfill our roles in this hunt. The frenzied creature does not seem to take notice of the faint orange glow from the nearby bushes as it continues its desperate charge towards the salvation of the forest beyond the sunlit clearing. Indeed, it is completely unaware that this very same salvation is where the real danger lies. It does not remain ignorant for long however, as a small luminescent body breaks from its hiding place. Realizing its mistake, the startled beast digs its hooves into the earth, trying desperately to stop its charge, and perhaps change direction. However, this spark of enlightenment comes too late for the doomed creature as words of power echo from Jix's fey lips.
"Yisiliak Aòvel!" He issues the earnest cry.
It is a language I am unfamiliar with – not Kokirian, nor Hyrulean in its utterance but with clear purpose. Though I do not know the words, their intention becomes perfectly clear a moment later. My Hylian ears are met with a sound like that of rustling leaves, as Jix's magic begins to take form. A number of roots burst from the earth below the Marosk's hooves, emerging like worms after a fresh rain. A loud, panicked cry echoes from the creatures bovid mouth as the roots snare its four legs, binding it in place and coiling their way up its powerful body. Each second that goes by sees more of the Marosk's movement restricted by the growing sylvan prison. Even as the roots reach its body however, the beast continues its fruitless struggle, its horned head thrashing back and forth as it attempts to gore its way through the ligneous serpents.
My fingers tightly grip the knife in my hand as I remain perched in the tree, just above where the Marosk struggles. I feel my knuckles begin to grow numb from the pressure so I force myself to loosen them slightly as I watch the magical roots coil around the struggling creature. The urge to leap out and end this struggle swiftly begins to gnaw at my heart, but I push the feelings away. Most of the beast's body is bound by now, but its head is still free, and I've no desire to paint the beast's horns with my own blood. I wait as the roots slowly coil their way through the long, regal fibers of the Marosk's mane, sweat forming upon my brow as the final act draws near.
"Link! Ertòn! Im nàleren fèlt Illinken!" The fairy cries as the roots finally bind the beast's head in place.
The fey's voice is strained as he attempts to maintain control of the powerful magic, but his words are spoken in Kokirian this time, and I need no further instruction. My grip tightens once more around the leather hilt of my knife. I gaze down at the Marosk, focusing my vision on the flesh beneath its thick mane. Be precise… one single stroke. Do not allow your prey to suffer, for to do so is to dishonor its life as well as your own.
The leaves of the tree part as I burst through them, knife poised in a reverse grip within my left hand. My vision remains focused on the tender flesh of the Marosk's neck as I swiftly descend to the forest floor. I raise my arm, placing the palm of my right hand upon the blade's pommel as the ensnared creature grows closer and closer. My feet hover just above the ground, one last fleeting moment of flight before my descent comes to an end.
As one, my arms, and the weapon they hold fall.
The soles of my boots meet solid earth, and I bend my legs instinctively to cushion the impact. A loud, wet crunch resounds and I feel a resistant pressure push back on my arm as my blade sinks into the soft flesh beneath the Marosk's mane. A warm, wet feeling washes over my left hand, and in the same instant I hear the creature utter one final, lowing farewell before breath and life leave it's being as one. It's struggling ceases… and nothing but silence echoes within this small forest clearing.
We'd done it.
I stare at my hands, not bothering to move or even retrieve my blade as the strange, scarlet liquid flows around it. I am unsure how I should be feeling… or even what I currently do feel. In the brief moment as my blade sank into the creature's flesh, severing the anchors that bound its spirit to its body, I felt something. For a moment, I struggle to consider just what this feeling was before the truth finally dawns upon me.
I've been on any number of hunts, each time doing my part to ensure that we bring back enough food that the tribe may eat well. Yet during each of these, I was always the eyes and ears… never before have I been the arm… the hand that decides rather a hunt succeeds or fails. The knife I hold has before now, never tasted the blood of another creature.
This is my first kill.
I only barely notice the sound of the roots slowly retracting themselves, releasing their hold on the lifeless creature before me. They uncoil from its body, traveling the same path they had taken, before disappearing into the earth once more. Without their support, the Marosk's limp form crumples beneath its own weight. My knife frees itself from the creature's flesh as it falls, landing upon its flank within the lush grass. Crimson fluid drips from the downturned blade, staining a few viridian blades red.
"How… does it feel?" I hear the voice of Kyun from my side. I hadn't heard him approach, but I feel too numb to be surprised by the sudden break in silence.
"Thought… would feel different." I explain solemnly. "Proud… honored… not this."
"Regret? Sad?" The Kokiri asks. I nod, unable to form a vocal response. "Good… should feel these things."
I turn a questioning eye to my friend unsure of what to make of his statement.
"Kokiri worship and honor life… yet Jiràsved take life so Kokiri will live." Kyun says, closing his eyes gently. "These feelings… also gifts from Syldré, and from Róhtànketzel."
"We are hunters, yet we are allowed to show remorse for those whose lives we take." Jix continues, calmer and more focused now that he is no longer restraining the Marosk. "It is what sets us apart from all other creatures of the forest… and from the evil beings that exist here as well. Many – Kokiri and Fairy alike – seem to forget that."
"These feelings… Kyun and Jix too?" I ask, though I suspect I already know the answer.
Kyun nods without hesitation. "Always remember. Never forget."
"This is another reason why we pray and stand vigil over the bodies of those we hunt." Jix explains. "It offers some small comfort to our hearts to know that we have seen the creature's spirit to safety."
"Now… is time again." Kyun says, and for a moment I catch the faintest hint of a smile upon the Kokiri's lips. "Lànkelmaër… must now perform. Is Link's right… as Kokiri."
I return my friend's expression with one of my own before nodding understandingly, wiping the thick crimson blood from my blade, and returning it to its place upon my belt. I lower myself, kneeling before the lifeless body of the fallen Marosk. As Kyun has done many times before, I close my eyes, allowing the emotions I now feel to take root in my heart. A melancholy calm falls over me as I slowly raise my left hand, passing it once and back again over the body of the deceased creature before joining my hands before my chest as my friend had done earlier. The words begin to drift from my lips.
"Lin valier Róhtànketzel. Tahl lànkelfel nalbàlrahn cès làyamarfel amàn fadilon idrà teldilon."
ShiningwingX: There were two things I really wanted to accomplish in this chapter. The first, was to go into what the Jiràsved's role is in Kokirian society. They're hunters, but what else? The second was that I wanted to go into the dangers that face the forest and those who live there, as well as those who come from Outside… without actually DOING anything with that yet.
I think I did alright in accomplishing these two goals. My only worry is rather or not I made this chapter too much of a lore bomb. There were a lot of new concepts introduced, and many of these would be better served explaining in more detail later. However… I also didn't want to leave them unmentioned. Particularly with regard to the Lenshæda. It didn't do anything in this chapter, and that's what I meant for it. It will be important for later chapters, but failing to acknowledge it here, and make its existence and dangers known would hurt that. However… it also feels that in doing so I went off on an unrelated tangent and I wonder how well I handled it.
1. There's many different types of forests, both in our world and on Ismirra. The kind portrayed here is meant to be a rainforest. Thick greenery, hundred foot trees, and things of that nature. I don't know how well I portrayed this, but hopefully this will help visualization.
2. I mention how Outsiders are quick to fall prey to the Lenshæda, so why isn't Link affected? This, I plan to explain in Chapter IV. It's not as complex or mystical as you might think. :)
3. I sort of like the Lankelmaër. I hoped to further the notion that the Kokiri have a deep respect for all living things, and I feel this does so nicely. I wonder if its 'believable' though.
4. The Marosk… I mentioned it oh so briefly in the last chapter. This is among the first of many unique creatures I plan to add to the world. I rather like this thing.
Not much else to say here. As always I hope everyone enjoyed this most recent chapter. Hopefully Chapter IV won't be such a roller-coaster of changing ideas as Chapter III. If it is well, I at least hope it won't be as much of one.
As always, please leave a review if you have time. I read all of those, and am always happy to find a new one :).