「Volume 2 Prologue」
[Year 351, The month of Rain, day 3]
After the month of frigid cold, life has started to pierce through winter's white veil. The recent rain showers have caused sporadic patches of greenery to pop up along the forest floor. A few bears and small woodland creatures have begun to rise from their slumber. In a few weeks, the snow will be gone and the greenery would overtake the forest once more. However, the revitalization of nature also meant the reinvigoration of the darker creatures that dwell within the forest.
The squirrels and rabbits that dared to peaked their heads outside immediately retreated into the barrows when they sensed the presence of an approaching monster. The creature tread through the forest, its black eyes scanning the area for any potential threats. The creature stood at six feet tall at the shoulder, and at seven feet if you included the rack of palmed antlers that set atop its head. Its disproportionately muscular forelegs ended in thick black hooves that were capable of caving in an adult male’s chest cavity. Its brown fur was streaked with pitch black strips and was thick enough to repeal the claws of large cats and regular arrow. A pair of fangs the size of a grown man’s pointer finger could be seen peeking under the creature’s broad snout.
Although creatures such as it weren’t the deadliest beast to roam the forest, their strong bodies, omnivorous nature, and unique magic meant that few would attempt to challenge one of these solitary creatures. The young bull was on the cusp of adulthood and was searching hunting in order to fuels his further growth and make up for his reduced winter food intake.
As the trees began to thin out as he neared the watering hole, the bull began to notice the sound of something following it.
The bull let out a threatening ballow to scare away whatever was following behind it, however, the creature continued to follow after it at the same distance. Since its pursuer wouldn't leave, the bull prepared to fight them head-on. However, when the bull turned around to face its follower it caught sight of a narrow object before pain rocked its body and it's left eye went permanently dark.
As the creature writhed in pain the black strips along its fur began to glow a bright yellow color as it instinctively raised stood on his back legs. Earthen spikes violently shot out of the ground in an arc when the bull brought its muscular forelegs down on the ground. The creature continued to turn back and forth, releasing its magic in an attempt to kill the being responsible for hurting, however, the bull hadn’t even located its attacker before it was racked by another jolt of pain and darkness overwhelmed it.
The bull flew into a blind panic when it completely lost its sight, unleashing a torrent of earthen spikes every time it randomly rammed itself into one of the nearby trees. Even when the bull’s fur was wet with fallen snow and the glow of its stripes faded the bull blindly attempted to flee the darkness that had overtaken everything. However, the moment that the bull lost the ability to produce its earthen spikes was the moment that its life had become forfeit.
As the moose stumbled over itself, a figure wrapped in brown furs dropped from a nearby tree and began to chase the blind bull. Despite only walking on two legs the figure managed to cover the distance between itself and the bull in a matter of seconds. Once the figure ran alongside the bull, the figure knocked the bull to the ground with a shoulder tackle, inadvertently snapping the bull’s right hind leg in the process.
The bull let other another pained cry even though it could sense that its time was coming to an end. A distinctive sound, that couldn’t occur naturally occupied the bull attention before a cold sensation bite into its neck. The last thing to occupy the bull consciousness was a growing cold sensation across its body as a warm liquid flow out its throat.
The terrae alces was already dead by the time I reached the ground. Several trees in the area had large chunks of bark missing from their trunks, the ground resembles miniature cliffs instead forest floor that it was. I imagine that it would be a few days before any other animal would dare to venture in this section of the forest. If a single thing had gone wrong, we could have been caught in this localized disaster.
A sigh escaped my lips as I started to walk around the aftermath of today's hunt.
“You know, if you’d just shot the thing in the head, this could have ended a lot quicker.” There was a slight crack in Geisai’s deepening voiced when he called out to me.
I raised my head and found him tying a sturdy rope around the terrae alces’ lower body. He’d been growing at an amazing rate for a couple of years and the patchwork furs he wore now, already straining to fit around his chest, reflected that. It wouldn’t be long before I had to look up to him when we spoke.
“Geisai, my water shots aren’t strong enough to pierce the hide of large animals, let alone a monster’s skull.”
“I don’t know, petty sure you just wanted to show off that you could shot out a raging animal’s eye with your magic, while I’d be lucky if my lights manage to distract anything.” Even though he was complaining, there wasn’t a hint of malice reflected in the grin he was showing me.
His wind-blown curly black hair reached just below his shoulders and his left eye was shining brightly. However, only half of his right eye shone, a white patch of scar tissue covered the other half of it. That, combined with the faint burn scars on the right side of his face, acted as a clear reminder of what happens when things went wrong.
Still, Geisai remained cheerful as he took the other end of the rope and throw it over a large tree branch and then grabbed a slightly rusted nail off of his belt. The spike was a little bit longer than my hand and was meant to be used in a village main gate. I don’t remember why I’d picked up a couple of them all those years ago but they’d proven to be useful on a number of occasions.
After Geisai found a sweet spot in the trunk of the tree, whose branch he throw the rope over, he began to embed the nail into the truck by hammering it in with his bare hands. While he did that, I noticed a glimmer near the terrae alces’ body.
“You broke another knife. You won’t be satisfied until we’re left using sharpened sticks, will you?”
“What do you want from me? There was a lot of flesh to cut through and I had to get it done before this guy managed to stand again. I was a rush and lost control for a second. We still have a dozen or so knives left.”
“Haah… we have six.”
“Huah! That’s not ba─”
“Out of the original twenty we brought with us.”
I knew he wasn’t breaking our things on purpose, it was the same strength that he was using to hoist the terrae alces into the air that was the problem. Somehow, his already impressive strength was increasing. At this point, his strength was outpacing his ability to rein it in. Hopefully, it’d stop once his growth period passed.
Geisai tied the end of the rope to the embedded nail and then took a few tentative steps away from it. Once he was sure the knot would hold, he placed his hands on his hips and puffed out his chest, that grin beaming brighter than ever.
He seemed proud of his accomplishment, but we couldn’t have him getting too big of a head. A man with an ego listened to no one be themselves. Or something like that, it's been a while since I heard that phrase.
“Nice job, it was almost done currently.”
“What do you mean ‘almost’ ? I slit its throat to avoid damaging its fur and I’m even draining it to help preserve the meat.”
“That’s all fine and good, but you forget to dug a hole for the blood to fall into. Just because the terrae alces scared away the other animals doesn’t mean that predators won’t be attached to a pile of bloody snow.”
I had to struggle to hold my smile back as his confident grin slowly turned into a frown, but his next question caught me off guard.
“If you knew that, why didn’t you say anything?”
“Oh… it was a test, a test to see if you remembered you’re lessons.” It was a weak excuse but it was better than admitting that it’s slipped my mind. Luckily he seems to have believed it.
“Haah… Are you gonna help me dig a hole, are am I gonna have to dirty my hands alone.”
“I’ll help, but let's use these instead of our hands. The ground is still hard and I'd rather keep all of my fingertips.” I pulled two irregular slabs off of my belt and held them in front of his face. They’d been a clay platter Geisai broke a few days ago. With a few pieces of thick thread, a bit of filing, and some a couple branches I turned them into some makeshift hand shovels.
Geisai reluctantly took one of the shovels and began digging a ditch we could bury the blood-soaked snow and dirt into. After checking our surroundings I bent down and joined him.