Part 1: A Brother
Darkness slithered between the spaces in the trees, very little sunlight breaking through, though his breath was easy enough to see. The sun was setting, which only added to the anxiety of the group of guards, who walked further into the woods where the White Balverine was last seen. Richard brought up the last of the group, the tip of his bow peeking out over his right shoulder, where it was easy to grab and load, a small sword bouncing around in it's sheath that was attached to his waist, just in case he couldn't get his opponent with an arrow.
They had been walking since dusk, which concerned him about the fact that they would eventually have to fight in darkness, though their leader believed that it would be the best time to get the beast. All Richard could think about was the fact that they would most likely lose members. It was true that they had gathered the most qualified for the quest, but there was certainly better people they could have taken with them.
He paused as the group came upon a clearing, which looked like the remains of an old camp, shelters broken and ripped apart, a few bones laying about. The group started to separate, most likely to look for supplies or evidence that they had the right place. From what Richard could tell, he felt that they had the right place. The air was thick, making his senses stand on end as he made his way over towards an abandoned shelter, which had collapsed in on itself. There was a number of torn fabric laying about, most likely bedding for something.
Had people been living out there? Did the balverines make use of the shelters? He couldn't quite tell.
As he stood upright once again, the tingling sensation of danger that he had been feeling only seemed to intensify. It happened so quickly, his eyes landing on one of the guards with them, who was digging around in one of the abandoned shelters when a large mass landed on top of him. Clawed hands slashed at the man's face as he yelled, weaponless and thrashed around under him. Richard knew he should have pulled out the bow, but he stood motionless for some reason.
If he had been completely honest with himself, he would admit that, while he had witnessed the victims of balverine attacks, he had never seen one up close. It was a large beast, only slightly larger than himself, with eyes that seemed to glow in the darkness.
The cry reached his ears finally as the rest of the group got into battle as more and more of the monsters dropped down from the trees, where a number of them were still waiting, watching the battle down below.
Richard quickly snapped out of his shock, pulling out his bow and aimed, the balverine before him turning, letting out a roar once it was hit in the chest with the arrow. Suddenly, it was gone in a blur of black mass, jumping high above him. Pivoting on his foot, Richard turned as the beast came down behind him, close enough that he could see it's teeth. He pulled out his sword, jumping back quick enough to dodge the beast's claws, stabbing the animal through the chest with his sword. He ripped it out and slashed at it a couple more times, surprised and getting a little overwhelmed by the beast's will power, before it collapsed before him.
Cries of pain mixing with the bone chilling roars of the beasts causing them quickly became white noise to him as balverine corpses littered the area, along with the bodies of the people fighting them. Richard slayed a few of them, shooting a number of them as well. He knew that there was so much death around him, but over his own will to survive and the darkness, it was almost easy to forget about it. Though, as the forest started to grow silent, and the light from the eyes of what he hoped was the last balverine faded away, it all come rushing back.
Weapons lay scattered about, swords, daggers, arrows, and bows, not too far from the people who had used them. His breath fluttered out in front of him in white clouds of freezing cold air, hunched over slightly as he took in the damage. For a few moments, he was completely alone. One man, standing among corpses. Though, he noticed the corpse of a balverine moving, Richard pulling out his bow again as he prepared to battle the obviously weak beast, though it fell sideways as the only remaining guard sat up, picking up his sword.
"You're alive," he commented, not really looking up as Richard lowered his bow, letting out a sigh of relief. "Is...Is that the last of them?"
"I think so," Richard replied, looking around him. He attempted to count the corpses of the group, though he couldn't seem to keep the number in his mind. All he could see was the open scars and wounds, the lifeless bodies...
"We need to get out of here," the last of his teammates approached him quickly, Richard looking over at him, "There is no way that we can-"
He was cut off when a very large mass landed on top of him, Richard jumping back as he pulled out his sword, gripping it tightly in his hands as he took in the beast. His teammate was yelling, trying to attack the beast with his weapon, but it was knocked away by a large, white, claw. The White Balverine towered above him, bringing his claw down across his teammate's face. Richard pulled out his bow, looking into the face of the beast as it went to bite his teammate. He shot the beast with an arrow, the balverine letting out a yowl as it backed away, arrow sticking out of it's right eye.
Quickly moving to the right of the beast, Richard loaded up another arrow and fired, hitting the beast in the shoulder as it turned towards him, charging at him. The young man rolled out of the way, the balverine slamming into a tree, Richard shooting it in the other eye. The beast let out another yowl, collapsing on the ground, stumbling around and slashing out with it's claws blindly. Richard stood there for a few moment, watching the beast stumble around blindly, attacking at nothing and snarling. There was a part of him, deep down, that liked to watch it suffer.
It had been the cause of all the terror and death in the town, the death of his teammates, not to mention all the grief it had caused him.
"Kill 'em!" he heard a familiar voice yell, Richard taking his gaze off of the blind beast towards his teammate, who was bleeding from the scratches on his face, but was alive nonetheless. "What are you waiting for, lad!?"
Richard gripped his sword, looking back at the beast, who was facing him, sniffling the air. He swung out quickly, cutting into the beast's neck, sending it staggering back, swinging out blindly as Richard plunged his sword into the balverine's chest. It let out a low growl, but went limp around his blade, falling to the ground in a heap. With a grunt, Richard removed his sword from his chest, breathing heavily.
It was done, the White Balverine had been slain.
"Come on," he said, helping the remaining guard up to his feet, supporting him, "this nightmare is over."
Anna knew that she shouldn't have followed, that she should have just let Natasha do what she wanted to, but there had been little communication between the two of them. Anna still felt bitter towards her older sister, but she couldn't help but feel curious about what she was doing when she left in the middle of the night, spade in hand.
She kept rather far behind, following her sister down through Oakvale, hoping that her sister wouldn't hear her and turn around. Though, she seemed very determined, marching down towards the grave yard. Anna watched as her sister paused before it, planting the tip of the spade into the ground at her feet as Natasha let out a deep sigh. She muttered something to herself, which Anna wasn't able to catch, before she walked into the grave yard.
Jogging a bit to catch up, Anna followed behind her sister as she watched Natasha read the names on each grave. She was looking for something, Anna starting to recognize the familiar path, the all too familiar grave coming into view. There was a small pot with wilted flowers in front of the grave, which Anna had put there herself back when she still visited the grave with her brother, though after he stopped, she stopped.
Anna ducked behind a tree near by as Natasha stood before their father's grave, folding her hands on the top of the handle of the spade, leaning forward as she let out a sigh that Anna was able to hear. It was deep and tired, the usually dark rings under her sister's eyes seeming to stand out as she stood there.
"I apologize," she muttered, her eyes on the grave, "For...everything. I should have been there for them, you had requested it in the letter, but...I just couldn't. I hope that you will be able to forgive me for this, at least, father. I can't sleep, I can...sense them, lurking there, waiting. I know you took it to your grave, but the ground will spit it back out eventually. There is only so long something can remain buried."
She paused, her tearful eyes hardening as her frown became deeper.
"I need to burn it. Before I go, I need to do this. I'm sorry."
Anna watched in confusion as Natasha positioned the spade over her father's grave, her confusion morphing into disgusted anger as she started to dig. She shovelled dirt up, digging for a good couple of minutes, Anna watching all along, before she stopped. She placed the spade against the grave, bending down to remove something from the grave. It looked heavy, Anna catching sight of the dirt coated and worn book as Natasha tossed it on the ground as if it had burned her. The book fell open, Natasha staring down at it for a few moments before she shook her head, starting to shovel dirt back into the grave.
Once she was done, she picked up the book, holding it to her chest as she started to walk away from their father's grave. Anna followed after her, wanting to call out to her, but couldn't find her voice. She just settled on hurrying back to the house before her sister noticed that she was gone.
She was never here for me, Anna thought to herself, shaking her head. She is here for something else.
The question was: what?
What is in that book?