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Wonderlost

CHAPTER EIGHT

Courage

 

 

Tyrus ran to the edge of Noir swamps non-stop from the Comne.

The picture of Darec with his fingers entangled in her hair with his lips pressed against hers burned like acid in his mind. Tirin was not meant for Darec, he would only hurt her in the end. He looked up and howled at the pale moon, its glowing body encircled with a halo. A phenomenon said to mean a time of revelations and trials. Tyrus laid out upon the ground breathing deeply as his body screamed for him to rest, his lungs on fire from the long run. After a few moments of rest he stood and faced the swamps as he had done so many times before.

“You have to get her to remove the curse!” He snapped at himself. “I have to face her.” He told himself.

Reluctantly his feet obeyed and slowly he entered.

The darkness is profound and at first he found himself blinded by it. Gradually his eyes adapt, the moonlight reaching within the swamps when the sun could not. The sounds of the swamp were as eerie as he remembered. The trees themselves seem to warn him of his choice. Looking as if they had once been humanoid beings. The knolls on some resemble pain stretched faces, their lower limbs were outstretched arms wanting for help. Tyrus found that fear was a great cure for anger. The thought that touching one of these horrible trees would transform him into one of them chilled him. With some difficulty he moved through the swamp. Firm ground giving way to quagmire and he soon began to regret his rashness in coming here. His feet move clumsily forward yet they pick up their pace as the trees seem to reach for him anyway, their branches catching and snagging his hair and clothes. The wail of whatever animals that dared to live here only made his pulse race faster. His mind began to work up reasons for him to turn around. With each step threatening to pull his boots off he realized that his idea to come here at this time might have been a rash decision. He is far from prepared and his appearing so late on Bayne’s doorstep looking like a mirecat would not give a good impression on his part. His cape caught on the limb of a struggling bush and with impatience he ripped it from around his neck. He stopped, he was only complaining to convince himself to turn around.

“I am not turning around.” He told himself. “I am going to go through with this.” He peered behind him and saw that he had come too far to even consider turning back.

Bayne lived dead center of the swamp; the most dangerous part of this dreary place as the muck and sludge was deeper there. Time seemed to slow down as he made his way toward the witch’s hovel.

The sound of something large moved behind him.

Tyrus looked about him paying the swamp more attention, forgetting the cold and the frightfulness of his surroundings. Something was following him. His violet eyes scanned the area about him finding nothing. He sniffed the air and caught the scent of something strange. He had never smelt this variety of being before. Whatever it was it isn’t a common animal.

The sound of a sword leaving its sheath reassured him that it was a humanoid being of some sort. He strained his eyes forcing himself to find his would-be attacker. Discomfort on the very edge of pain arose briefly in his chest, distracting him for a moment. Tyrus smiled almost. His attacker was going to get the shock of its life.

It moved as if it was nothing but a shadow. He observed it before having to flatten himself into the muck, dodging the blade of a monstrous sword. The tree behind him fell as it was cut in half. He turned quickly to face it and almost paused, a mistake that would have cost him his head. It turned out to be a she, a she that turned out to be a race of elf he had only heard of. She stood almost two yards in height, her svelte body almost hidden by her massive sword. Her white hair and pale, iridescent skin told of her Ferine heritage but her eyes said that she was mixed. They were a brilliant emerald green instead of the ginger colored eyes he read about many times. Ferine strength and agility was twice that of land elves but they were supposedly sensitive to sunlight and saltwater.

“Ferine.” He said simply and watched almost impressed as with ease she swung the blade upwards.

“No.” She answered simply her voice like thick syrup as she launched herself at him for another attack.

Her downward slash would have caught any other elf and he found himself somewhat relieved that he was in the process of changing. His increased agility able to dodge her frighteningly quick attacks. He frowned as he realized that he was almost thankful for being cursed.

She growled with each swing. Having very little problem moving in this muck she followed him, her blade not missing a chance to try and separate some part of his body from the rest of him. The tip of her blade nearly catches his shoulder when his legs buckle from their transformation. He side stepped letting her momentum carry her past where he had been to fall into what looked to be solid ground but was really a pool. He was slightly disappointed that she didn’t seem surprised as his form changed, not even concerned when he undressed before her. Tyrus was unable to ponder as to why that was, knowing that her mud bath would be a short one. He loped off into the center of the swamps with her yelling after him.

She locked her glare onto him as she rose from the mud. Retrieving her sword her eyes took on an eerie glow and darkness seemed to coalesce about her till she vanished from sight.

Tyrus splashed through the mud now wondering if he had known about the maniac Ferine would he have entered. He knew the answer to that would have been no. There was no turning back now though, she would skin him alive. Why was she here though? Was she Bayne’s protection? Was she here on her own accord or was she in service to the witch?

A swift kick sent him flying off into a deep pool and his yelp was there to meet him as he resurfaced. The pale elf appeared out of the darkness as if she owned it.

“Intrudah.” She growled jumping into the pool after him. “Ah will naht ahllow you to trespahss!” She cleared her blade from its sheath.

Tyrus growled fiercely watching for a moment as she paused then continued. He turned to move away only to have her grab his tail. Quickly he whirled about and snapped at her. She released him quickly. With a loud bark he threatened to latch onto her. She fell away from him, letting him go as he came within centimeters of fusing his teeth with her flesh. Despite her fearful skill, he could tell she had a fear of dogs. Tyrus quickly faced her. She screamed in utter rage when he licked her and lost her footing then her grip on her sword as he launched himself at her. He dashed out of the pool leaving her behind again this time she screamed in utter hate. He looked behind himself and watched how she caught up with him. Holding her hands out she was quickly surrounded by darkness. Like thick smoke it surrounded her then it, and he could only assume her, floated up like fog and flew after him at an alarming rate. He zigzaged through the brush; he had no time to waste.

The hovel loomed ahead; his goal was right in front of him. He barked loudly, knowing that the old woman had to come out to see what the commotion was about as deep in this swamp there weren’t many things to make such a racket. He was surprised as he leapt upon the rotting porch that instead of the witch; a male elf comes out to meet him.

The elf was tall and well built, broad shoulders and a proud stature. Tyrus guessed that he had been living here for quite a while because his skin was pale, butter cream in color. Runic tattoos adorned his arms and shoulders to taper off about his neck. His bright blond hair was stiffly braided into two braids down his back showing off his pierced ears. The mystery elf’s ice blue eyes stared at him and spoke of a character that had little patience with much as he stood straight from having to duck through the doorway.

With a wave of a hand Tyrus found himself suspended in the air. He was frozen in place as the new occupant of the house came out to investigate.

“Evergreen!” The elf shouted into the night. He jumped off the porch to meet the mud covered and highly upset Ferine. The elf pointed toward the dog now floating over the porch. “A dog, Evergreen. A mongrel. Could you not keep it from disturbing me?’

Tyrus felt his tongue beginning to dry off as it hung out in the open air gagging somewhat as he made the attempt to say something.

The elf turned to face the dog hearing the strangled sound. “That was not a sound a normal dog would make.”

“Reelly.” Evergreen grumped as she crossed her arms. “You ahctually think ah couldnae cahtch ah dog?”

The elf moved closer toward Tyrus giving him a closer look. There was something familiar about him.

“It used to be ahn elf, ahn Ao'lean elf from the clothing he ‘ad been wearing.” She explained as she began scraping some of the mud from her own clothing.

Tyrus fell to the porch with a surprised yelp and watched as the elf stood over him threateningly.

“Who are you and what do you want.” He ordered.

Tyrus was about to answer when he realized that he did recognize the elf’s voice. The body had changed, drastically, but the voice had not.

 “Alce?”

Alce stepped back, his eyes narrowed in high suspicion.

 “Don’t make your situation worse than it is, tell me who…”

Tyrus sat upon his haunches. “It is I, Tyrus Raylok.”

Alce laughed then became silent as he inspected the wolf closely. The only thing recognizable was the dog’s voice and … his eyes. Alce remembered those eyes. Resentment raised its head as he remembered all the times that Darec and Tyrus abused him and he had to look into those eyes, they had been so cold then.

“Tyrus.” Alce said sure now. “Interesting. You’re a dog.”

“As observant as always.” Tyrus frowned. “What are you doing here and where is Bayne?”

Alce leaned against the beam behind him not sure if he should laugh or be wary. “Why should I tell you anything?” He said arrogantly. “I owe you no favors.”

Tyrus looked at him. “Alce, if it is the past you still live in, then you have the right to feel as you please, but I must see Bayne.” Tyrus scratched about his neck knowing that he now had fleas. Knowing that no matter the outcome of this day that Tirin was going to give him the ‘bath of doom’, if she caught him before he was able to coax his body to transform.

Alce smiled coldly, “How long have you been this way?”

Tyrus looked at him annoyed. “I do not have time for this …” Tyrus noticed Alce’s eyes flash changing their ice blue color to amber. He paused.

“You will have all the time in the world if you expect any help here.” Alce said arrogantly as he fingered the end of one braid. “You do as I say, tell me whatever I want to know.”

“Six years.” Tyrus answered plainly.

Alce beamed widely ignoring the startled look of surprise at his sudden change in demeanor from the wolf. He sat down on the porch.

“A year after I left, huh?” He sucked his teeth shaking his head. “I missed all the excitement.”

Evergreen watched as the dog’s shoulders seemed to fall while Alce goes on and on about how he deserved what he got. How it pleased him so much to see him begging him for help.

Tyrus’ ears picked up. “Beg you for help?”

The blonde considered him slyly and then nodded. He watched as Tyrus got to his feet.

“I do not want nor need your…”

Alce’s amber eyes reverted to their ice blue color as he grinned. “Bayne’s not here.” He burst into laughter, as even though Tyrus’ body was that of a wolf he was very expressive. How the animal’s mouth hung open in disappointment, his tail drooped between his legs and slumping shoulders. Alce paused. Tyrus was never this expressive when he was normal.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“What is wrong with you?” Tyrus spat back.

Evergreen crossed her arms. “He’s nahtheen like you described.”

Tyrus looked at her then back at Alce as he shrugged. “I know, he’s making it look as if I was lying.” He looked at the wolf. “I don’t appreciate that.”

Tyrus feels as if he had swallowed a deadly rock toad. One where the poisons are so potent that it was turning his insides to slime. He shouldn’t have waited so long to come see the witch. This was his punishment for being such a coward.

Alce watched confused while Tyrus seemed to be in some mental turmoil. He found himself smiling slightly as he never thought he would ever feel sorry for one of the arguably worse bullies he had ever had. He couldn’t fathom what could humble one who at one time enjoyed tormenting others.

“He’s in lahve.”

Both Tyrus and Alce looked at Evergreen who just shrugged.

“It’s ahbvious. Ahll the horrific theengs this boy hahs done to you, Ahlce, how you described him. It’s gaht to be lahve thaht’s changed ‘im.”

Alce grinned turning from his Ferine companion to Tyrus who turned away from him almost bashfully.

“Is it true?” He asked.

Tyrus looked at him plainly then started to jump off the porch. Alce grabbed his tail and quickly let go when Tyrus whirled about snapping at him.

“I apologize for my intrusion.” He growled.

Alce ran to stand in front of him.

“Wait! What did you need?” He said deviously. “I could probably help!”

Tyrus glared at him. “Do not patronize me! Bayne is the one who did it and I know that she is the only one that can remove it!”

Alce looked at him in surprise. “Are you trying to tell me Bayne did this to you?” He shook his head. “I rather doubt …”

“I am not here for your thoughts or opinions so do not trouble me with them!”

Alce didn’t seem to hear him as he continued to ramble on.

“Who is it, I wonder?” He fingered one of his braids. “Tell me who she is. Who’s the girl that changed you so drastically?”

“Bayne.”

Alce rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant.”

“It does not matter what you meant. I am leaving.”

Alce continued to bar his way. “No you are not.”

Tyrus took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Alce, I am glad that after all these years to find you healthy and sane, but that can change quickly.” He threatened.

Alce stifled his laughter as he looked from Tyrus to Evergreen who shook her head.

“That’s very doubtful, dog. Knowing that I’m no longer the Alce you remember.” His eyes quickly changed from blue to red. “I would be more than happy to give you a well-deserved show of my abilities although you won’t be able to return to this girl who seems to have captured your heart.” He finished coldly.

Tyrus sighed annoyed yet wary as something beside the odd changing of Alce’s eyes made his fur rise. He looked at Alce long and hard as he hovered in front of him a strange smile on his face.

“C’mon, Tyrus. Tell me, tell me and I’ll make it worth whatever embarrassment you think you’re suffering now.”

“Tirin.”

Alce choked.  

Tyrus sat there and watched as the supposed young mage’s face reddened from swallowing down the wrong pipe. He sighed.

“Are you surprised?” Tyrus asked dryly.

Alce sat down on the steps as he finally got himself together.

“Tirin Desgjin? The Human?” He looked at Tyrus for reassurance. “The one your friend, Darec…”

Tyrus glared at him. “I had nothing to do with what Darec did back then….”  He paused and gaped at the young mage. “How do you know--?”

“Matters not.” Alce said waving him quiet. “Does she know how you feel?”

Tyrus sighed and looked away.

“Ahppahrently not.” Evergreen frowned

“It’s because of your extra body hair isn’t it?” Alce nodded knowingly.

“Yes …” Tyrus laid down resting his head upon his paws. “…But now there is no…”

“Don’t bother giving up now, dog.” Alce said irritated

 “What?”

Alce shook his head as he got up.

“Tirin’s not one to be told who she can and can’t love. She was strong when I last saw her I’m quite sure she didn’t become a push over as the years increased.” He dusted himself off. “She wouldn’t care about your so called curse at all if she cared about you as much as you care for her.”

The dog swallowed his words and felt slightly ashamed of himself. As long as he’s lived with her one would think he of all people would know her better.

“Besides, Bayne didn’t curse you … she wouldn’t.” He watched as Tyrus cocked his head at him. “Her mother could but she’s been dead approximately forty years before your visit here.”

“Lies.” Tyrus shook his head.

Alce glared at him.

“I care not for your thoughts, Alce. I know what the truth is, you cannot tell me what I already know!” Tyrus barked. “Bayne did this to me! She said she would and it happened! I remember---!”

Alce grabbed him by his throat and lifted him up from the ground before Tyrus realized what was going on. When he finally grasped his predicament Alce waved his other hand and Tyrus felt his muscles freeze.

“Alth…”

“You will learn now to never doubt my words!” Alce snapped. “For far too long I’ve promised to get back at you and Darec for what you put Tirin and I through. To punish all of you for the ridicule and for treating me like I was just so much dirt.”

“Ughnn…”

“For the past few minutes I have resigned in taking out my past rage on you only because you seemed to be suffering enough, but for you to even try and put me back in the role of the hapless weakling I used to be is beyond …!”

Evergreen reached over and put her hand on his shoulder gently. He looked at her then back at Tyrus who quickly fell from the air.

They watch as Alce paced the porch, his footfalls hard and causing the rotting wood to vibrate violently as he tried to calm himself.

“Ahlce…”

Alce whirled about his hands flying forward a strange wave of energy flying out into the swamp. Tyrus watched as five trees were uprooted and sent flying. Evergreen grabbed his arm.

“Ahlce!”

He jerked away. “Don’t worry, they were just trees.”

Tyrus remained where he landed. Remembering how he had hung the young mage upside down in a tree till he passed out. He wouldn’t be doing that anytime soon. He cleared his throat.

“I apologize.” Tyrus said quietly.

Alce looked at him his eyes going through a range of colors. He stood there his fists balled tightly.

Tyrus cleared his throat again as he sat up trying to look as if he wasn’t fazed by the small show of destruction.

“I did not mean to insult you …it is just that I came all this way…”

“Shut. Up.” Alce covered his face and stood that way for a long moment then started to laugh.

“I can’t believe I let you get to me like that.” He chortled.

Tyrus remained quiet.

Alce knelt down in front of his company his smile wide.

“Bayne did not curse you. Despite what you remember or saw or heard. She couldn’t if she wanted to. Her abilities deal with nature. She’s a terra-witch and besides she has a partiality for children. She couldn’t bring herself to curse a child even if she could regardless of whatever they did to deserve it.”

Evergreen chuckled. “Ahlthough she prahbahbly wishes she cood curse you ah couple ahf times ovah. You were ah terrah.”

Alce grinned at her. “Shh! Keep that to yourself.” They laughed for a minute obviously remembering a few things that he had done. Tyrus sat there quietly his own anger reluctantly bottled up, as he knew who was responsible for his condition. Their laughter tapered off as Evergreen motioned for Alce to pay attention to their visitor.

“I can see you still don’t believe that.” The young mage sighed and sat down on the porch again. “I’m going to tell you a story and afterwards you’re going to tell me about Tirin and yourself. Okay?”

“Yes.” Tyrus said wearily.

Evergreen sat down next to Alce as he took a deep breath.

“Approximately forty years ago Bayne and her younger sister lived in Teireyl Valley with their mother. They ran a sort of inn and supply store for travelers pasting between Kelica and Batima. One day they got a very important visitor, the king of Maleatia and a few of his guards stopped in on their way back to their home from Kelica. They had been celebrating quite a bit so the king himself was more than drunk. Night fell and the king found himself attracted to Bayne’s mother, he took advantage of her and threatened to kill her daughters if she said anything. The next morning the king and his lackeys bought more supplies and headed on.”

“Bayne’s sister knew something was wrong and urged Bayne to ask. All day they pestered her about it and breaking down their mother told them what happened. According to Bayne her little sister went into a rage none had ever seen, as she had always been the quiet one. Now at that time it hadn’t been long since their father died and their mother vowed to never use magyk again as she couldn’t save her husband. Bayne hadn’t been as adept in her use of magyk and her little sister was, frighteningly so. They calmed her down and eventually thought the matter was settled reluctantly after a few days had passed and Bayne’s sister seemed to have reverted to her reclusive habits. They found out that she had been planning away to get back at the king. They found this out when they found her bed empty one morning.”

“Bayne’s sister went to Maleatia and forcefully made her way into the castle she confronted the king in front of his queen and cursed him making it so that any woman bearing his child would die. His queen died painfully within the next few days and distraught he ordered his guards to bring back the witch that did this. When Bayne’s sister finally returned home she found that her own mother was dying. She told Bayne what she did and Bayne forced her to leave when their mother finally passed. Bayne knew that the king would be sending someone after her so set up her own spell upon the ground. A fatal loyalty spell. Teireyl Valley soon turned into what we know as Noir’s swamp as those loyal to that king became some of the trees you see now.”

Tyrus scratched about his head vigorously. Dreading the return home as despite whatever outcome here Tirin is going to bath him in that so -called flea solution. He shuddered at the thought of it. He looked at Alce as he finally finished his story almost wanting to smile, as he seemed anxious for an amazed reaction from the witch’s history. Tyrus scratched again.

“So what are you trying to tell me?”

Alce’s smile dropped. “I’m trying to tell you that your curse is not a curse, you flea bag!”

Tyrus found himself actually hurt by his barb. “Then what is it and why did it start after she said she would be the one to do it?”

The young wizard smiled again. “Coincidence.”

“Doubtful.” Tyrus mumbled scratching again. He paused mid scratch as he watched Alce’s eyes change to amber.

“I’ll prove it.” Alce was grinning like a mad man as he grabbed Tyrus by the scruff of his neck.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Tyrus yelped as he tried to pull away only to become paralyzed. He was getting very tired of that spell.

“I need blood.”

Tyrus’ eyes widened.

An Epic Fantasy