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Old 01-30-2011, 04:08 AM   #1
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Maiden Desmodus - Short Story "Druid"

Agwyn felt the pounding in his head like to large stones being smashed on his temples simultaneously. The fall had left him battered and bruised, an arm likely broken, but more frightening was where it had left him; the bottom of a hill deep in the Inkwood.

He looked around himself, trying to make out the shapes surrounding him through the stinging of blood in his eyes. Dark silhouettes of trees rose up all around him at an odd angle, and the forest beyond was wrapped in the shroud of night. The rocks that had broken his arm were there, below him, some eight or ten meters away.

"What in the Maiden's name?", he muttered to himself as he struggled to turn.

And then the realisation came to him. He was not on the ground at all.

Panic sat in, and Agwyn flared to instant alertness, his heart pounding in his chest so hard he could feel his pulse surging through his body. He ignored his pain as best he could, but when that arm twisted awkwardly, he cried out.

The dreary wood fell silent.

He examined his bondage more closely. It was sticky. Webs. Webs as thick as a hangman's rope, and he certainly felt as doomed as he came to terms with the fact that he had been found there in the wood, and hauled deliberately up into the trees to hang with the desiccated bodies of poachers who had come here before him.
Shapes grayed out by the gloom, man-sized bundles, some with mummified limbs sticking out and others fully exposed were all around him. But it was the gleam off the bulbous shape in the tree across the way that stilled his breathing. It was moving just slightly, a long and spindly limb pulling up into the greater mass of the carapace.

The spider, black as pitch, was easily as large as he was.

Just then two shapes moved below him, beautiful and white against the dark canvas of the forest floor on a moonless night.

Agwyn had been coming into the Inkwood for weeks now in search of what now crossed gallantly below him. Unicorns, a mated pair. The stallion was as fine a beast as any Agwyn had ever laid eyes on, and the mare more beautiful still. Spiral horns. Each was a meter long and surrounded by a halo of light so subtle it was impossible to tell if the horns truly emitted some kind of glow or if they were indeed magical and simply radiated purity. Perfection.

The mare moved quietly up to the brook cutting between the massive trunks of the oaks and lowered her head to drink. Ever the guardian, the stallion stood regal beside her. Vigilant, wary, and brought down by a sudden flash through the trees and the bloody impact of an arrow.

Agwyn found himself just as surprised as the unicorns. The mare disappeared into the trees in a flash of white, but the stallion reared up in search of its attacker only to catch two more arrows into its muscular chest. It fell, and the forest was again silent.

A dark shape emerged from the gloom, clad in untanned leathers so foul with sweat that Agwyn could smell the poacher even from his position high in the trees. The sound of a blade gliding out from its scabbard seemed deafening. There was a chuckle, a muttered whisper about the gold that the alicorn would bring on the black market in Tharn, and then a flash of iron followed by a crack and the disappearance of the man who had come silently out of the night to slay one of the most mythical beasts of The Isle.

Hours passed, Agwyn hanging bound in the spiders webs above the body of the unicorn stallion. He struggled from time to time, but with each attempt to free himself the spindly legs across the web in the trees only seemed to become more and more excited.

In time the mare returned, and the sight of the once proud and majestic unicorn now crestfallen and exuding such a sense of despair actually brought tears to Agwyn's eyes.

"I'm sorry...", he whispered. And for a moment the mare turned her head to regard him.

She stood there as yet more hours passed, until the shroud of night was pushed back by the growing light of dawn.

A druid came then upon the broken pair, a figure clad in green leathers and wrapped in a cloak that seemed to mimic the hues of the surrounding woods as he passed through them. Wordlessly the old, bearded man extended a passive hand out toward the mare as he stepped slowly into the scene. He spoke softly, soothingly, in a language Agwyn did not understand. The mare approached him, her muzzle settling into his outstretched hands as if seeking comfort from this man over the loss of her life-mate.

"It was a poacher," Agwyn called down from the trees, unsure of why he was betraying a man no different than he.

The mare's nostrils flared and she reared up, turning and trotting into the trees a meter or two behind the druid before turning and whinnying.

"It was a poacher," Agwyn repeated, nervous in the stare of the Druid despite his own plight high above.

"Of course it was," the Druid answered calmly. "You and your kind invade these woods with your axes and your bows. You plunder what nature has given us, and kill anything and everything that might ease your own worthless existence back in the kingdoms."

Agwyn swallowed hard. Somehow, the judgment of this man, the truth of his words, bit him deeply.

"Those of my order will find the one who did this. He will be brought to justice for this, the greatest of sins." The druid glanced sidelong toward the shape of the giant spider settled within the webbing of the trees. "And you, poacher, I leave to your own fate though it is far better than you deserve."
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