The Sacrosanct

by

Dev Pain

Ch.0003 - The Start of Something Magical

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“So, uh, where exactly are we?” Ash asked as he followed her into the burrow. He didn’t quite trust Myr just yet, but he at least believed that she meant him no harm. That simple fact was made more than obvious by then. With the impossible powers that she wielded, she could do as she wished to him and he wouldn't be able to do a damn thing to resist. The fact that she hadn’t so far spoke in her favour.

Of course, she could just be delaying for some unknowable reason, though that line of reasoning rang a little hollow even to him.

“Didn’t I say that it didn’t work like that, kid? You answer my questions first. Doesn’t matter if we got a little distracted part-way. I wasn’t done yet.” she retorted as she disappeared into the depths of the burrow’s darkness. Ash feebly ambled after her before he winced away from the brightness that bloomed around him. A stone of some variety affixed to a slot in the wall glowed with a warm orange light that cast a homely, cosy air over the burrow which, as it turned out, was far larger than he’d thought it was.

The space was almost as wide as his apartment back home, and far longer. That admittedly wasn’t saying much, but it still seemed incredible for a crude sub-surface dwelling that looked to be made by hand.

Or magic, he supposed. An initial glance showed the area to be one large space at first, though further inspection revealed the hanging strips of leather that partitioned off certain areas from his view. He eyed the boar corpse that he’d seen her carrying in initially laid on its flank near a wall. An array of simple wooden furniture and decorations littered the space around it in a mimicry of an ordinary home, and despite the simplicity of its design, Ash even noted small ventilation shafts through which he felt fresh air touch against his skin and a basin through which gushing water flowed.

It was impressive, all things considered. If only there wasn’t a mildly earthy smell everywhere, like that of mushroom or boiled vegetables, it would have even been a great place to live.

“Wasn’t expectin’ guests.” the woman said plainly as she gestured at the rickety wooden bed that laid off to one side of the burrow. “So, you either share with me or make do with the floor.”

She turned to stare at him then, and Ash felt a hint of invitation there. He blinked and then said that the floor would be good enough. Myr snickered and went back to her busy-work.

“Alright. Finish asking your questions then. I’ll answer them as honestly as I can.” Ash said as he stepped to the side to not be in her way.

“Aye, so be it. Give me a minute though.” she said before she went out and then came back a moment later dragging the blade-sloth's corpse behind her, and one-handedly as well, as if the seven-foot-tall dead monstrosity was a feather-weight teddy bear. Ash cringed away from the blood and chunks that it left in its wake, staining the floor of the burrow a muddy-red.

Myr hauled the corpse to one of the partitioned areas and hastily shoved it bodily through the leather room divider. He saw it slip inside and then momentum carried it further beyond his sight until he heard a dull thump as it smacked against stone. Ash couldn’t be a hundred percent certain but he was reasonably sure that there was some kind of large pit within that area.

Presumably one that she was using to store her meat and foodstuffs? He wondered at the kind of refrigeration system she might have been using but found his attention drawn back to the woman quickly enough.

Myr clapped her hands after a job well done and turned to eye the results of her effort.

“Ugh.” she remarked as she eyed the blood-trail. “That’s gotta go.” A gesture of her hand and the earth churned in small sections around the stains in blocky patterns, like lego blocks being reshuffled. A moment later and it was as if the floor was as good as new.

“There.” A satisfied smile crossed her lips. “Oh, wait. One more thing.” She hurriedly made her way towards the boar corpse and deposited it in the same space she had the other body and then sucked in a deep breath. “Now I’m done! Nothin’ like a little beastie huntin’ to really wake you up in the mornin’, right?”

“Uh, sure. If you say so.” Myr laughed and settled herself onto her leather-padded bed. She gestured at the floor near her.

“Get here. I got questions to ask.”

Ash sighed and strode over and took a seat on the floor. He noted rather stiffly that the low angle gave him ample view of her bare abs up to a hint of her breasts. He wasn’t sure at first if she’d intended that though the wry grin she shot his way as she noticed his gaze was answer enough.

This woman was trouble.

“Alright. Question number one - no, wait. I already asked a question, right? Question two, then. What’s your name?”

“Ash Pale.”

“Ash Pale?” Myr snorted. “Ominous name if I ever heard one but I’ll look past it.”

Ominous? He was named after the Pokémon master himself! Not that the woman would likely understand what a Pokémon was, or he presumed, even the concept of a franchise.

“Question three: How old are you?”

“Twenty.”

The woman nodded thoughtfully, and there was something in the way she looked at him then that made him regret revealing that tid-bit of information.

Thankfully, she didn’t linger on the topic.

“Question four: You say that you ain’t part of The Shield? And you got no clue how you ended up buck naked and unarmed spittin' distance from monster territory?”

“Yeah. That’s the jist of it.”

“’Kay. Where do you come from then? Must be a long way off if you ain’t heard of The Shield of all things.”

“Far away.”

She narrowed her eyes. “How far away? Be specific.”

He swallowed a nervously.

“America.” Ash said finally. He had his suppositions and doubts after all he’d seen. It was impossible not to, after all, but he supposed that her reaction to this would be the clincher. Was he really... still on Earth? How else could he explain the presence of creatures straight from folklore and fantasy wandering about without a care in the world? Or the way he could speak and understand a language he’d never heard of before?

Or a woman that could command the earth itself?

And much like he feared, the woman flashed a curious look his way. “Where?” she questioned.

“The United States of America? It’s a country. My home. In North America.”

“Never heard of it.” she said as she thoughtfully drew inward, as if she were searching her memories for any mention of the name. “It on Wesderath?”

Was that the name of the local continent? He mentally filed it away for future use.

“No... Further away.”

“The other continents?” she offered.

“Yes.” he agreed immediately, like a drowning man thrown a life-line. Myr stared him down and drew back his salvation an inch away from his grasp.

"That’s a lie, kid. I don’t like lies.”

“It’s no-”

“You’d think savin’ your ass twice in less than a day would at least earn me some honesty.”

“... sorry.”

“Sorry ain’t gonna cut it. I need to know what I’m dealin’ with. I thought I was just savin’ some local nutter streaking naked where he pleased, not a mystery stranger from some far-off land with Compassion knows what kind of history houndin’ ‘im. Tell me the truth, kid. Where you really from?”

“Wes...derath?”

Myr grinned a feral smile that beheld the promise of something unpleasant if he kept poking her as he was.

“One more try.”

Ash sucked in a soft breath. She was pushing him hard, and he knew that he had nowhere else to stand. He needed to, no, he had to tell her the truth.

It was a risk, what he was doing. Perhaps people like him were expected in this strange, alien land. Maybe he wasn’t the first. Maybe revealing his origins would lead to some kind of salvation, beyond just hiding in a hole in the ground. It was a leap of faith, he knew. Because as likely as that was, it was just as likely that people like him were hunted and killed.

Crucified and hung.

He could imagine a lot of grisly endings, and the reality of his situation didn’t stop his instincts from demanding that he maintain his secrecy until he was sure of the state of things. But he would never learn anything that way and he didn’t doubt that even if he could somehow dodge the conversation, which seemed highly unlikely by that point, Myr would nonetheless still continue to grow more and more suspicious the longer they spent together.

She seemed like a half-feral, crude woman, but not a moron. She would realize that he was far too ignorant of the common sense of the world quickly enough and he couldn’t risk a negative confrontation, not when he was entirely dependent on her in more ways than one.

The truth was his only salvation by that point.

“Fine.” he began with a tired sigh. “This... is the truth as far as I know it. It’s gonna sound unbelievable, alright. Probably ridiculous, but it’s the absolute truth.”

“’Kay, I get it. Spit it out.”

“I’m... from another world, I think.”

A second passed. And then another. Three. Four.

Ash tensed as he noticed the way her gaze focused and her attention became almost painful. For a scant second, he feared that she would turn violent. He could almost sense the earth shifting beneath his feet in response, though that was just likely his nerves. Or so he hoped.

Ten uncomfortable seconds of staring later and Ash felt like he would explode. He opened his mouth to ask her what she was thinking when Myr suddenly burst into uproarious laughter. Really uproarious laughter.

The woman was laughing her guts out and continued to do so for a solid minute before she regained some semblance of control again.

“Gotta say, of all the damned things that I’d been expecting from you: like runaway noble, or prison escapee, or on the run from a fiancée or somethin’ – visitor from another world was nowhere on my list. It’s really somethin’.”

“It's the truth.” he said firmly and she nodded.

“I know. I sense it, or at least, I know that you think that it’s the truth.”

“It is.”

That’s what all the nutters say, kid.”

Ash sighed. He supposed that being considered insane was an acceptable result, if it meant that she didn’t kick him out and leave him to the mercy of monsters like the blade-sloth.

“Fine. I’ll respect the creativity if nothin’ else. My questions are done. Take your shot.”

That was all she had to ask? He was mildly surprised. He would never have let him go with just that much information given had he been in her position. And it was a good thing he wasn’t.

“Uh, okay. Where exactly are we?” he askefd after a moment.

“The forest.”

He stared blankly at her and she chuckled. “Fine. We just call it The Forest of Death. Not really creative but it gets the point across. The locals though, they got a bit more style as far as such things go. Call it The Green Hearth in their tongue.”

“Locals?” He hoped that she wasn't referring to others like that abominable monster that she’d just slain. Had that thing been sentient?

“Goblins.” She said simply, assuaging his fears. Ash sighed. Ah, great. Just goblins...

He blinked. Wait.

Goblins?

Ash paled. “This forest is where they live?”

“Mmh. Whole tribes of ‘em. Thousands and thousands of the little buggers every which way.”

Ash felt like laughing deliriously. He was stranded in the midst of an army of those damnable things? And so was she, and yet Myr seemed entirely at ease despite the reality she’d revealed. Why? Was she really strong enough to keep them at bay? Was that the source of her confidence.

Ash reigned in his emotions. There had to be something there.

“How do you keep safe from them?”

“Through negotiation, kid. I got a deal goin’ with the tribe that owns this land. I help 'em out a bit an’ they leave me to my life.”

Those things could be negotiated with? He harkened to how bestial and vicious they had been as they’d hunted him down and shuddered at the murderous glee he’d spied in their eyes. But yes, there had been an intelligence there too. The bow and arrow were proof enough of that, he supposed.

And... one of them had tried to speak to him, hadn’t it? He vaguely remembered it saying something though the sight of its gruesome death stood front and centre in his memories, washing his recollection of everything else with blood and darkness.

“You’d killed one of them, right? To save me? Won’t the tribe you’re dealing with be angry because of that?”

The woman snorted. “Them goblins weren’t part of the tribe I deal with. Hells, I’m pretty sure that they were a rival folk or some sort. Can’t be sure though. Hard to tell ‘em other tribes apart even after all these years. Still, I’m more likely to have gifts thrown my way from my goblins than anythin’ else ‘cuz of it.”

That was good to know. He didn’t want to threaten her lifestyle or whatever it was that she was doing here with his presence. Speaking of which, wasn’t that an answer he needed answered.

“Are there no other humans nearby? Is that why you’re here alone?”

“I’m alone ‘cuz I wanna be.” she said as her jovial air evaporated in the blink of an eye, something fierce and wounded left in its place. Ash almost startled back because of the sudden shift in mood but it was gone quickly enough and he saw Myr looking down at him with an amused smile once again. He stared at her dumbly, wondering if he’d imagined it, before he sighed tiredly.

“But yeah, no humans anywhere near these parts. There’s an outpost a long ways away that-a-way.” She gestured to one end of the burrow. “Villages and the like’ll start poppin’ up after that an' then you’ll eventually hit some towns an' even a city or two.”

The news was like a balm to his nerves. True safety away from a goblin-infested forest existed in this alien land! Of course, he still had to reach it, and that meant crossing the forest. He thought back to the blade-sloth and quickly rejected that idea at once. No way was he risking it by himself. Though, if he had some help. He smiled at the woman like a child thinking about asking for more candy. If only he could convince My-

“I know that look. You’re thinkin’ ‘bout askin’ for my help to leave?”

His sheepish look was answer enough and Myr slapped him in the shoulder with a laugh. As gentle as the tap had been, it felt like a punch nonetheless and Ash bit back the grimace that threatened to cross his lips. The woman really was ridiculously strong.

“I ain’t no babysitter, boy. You wanna cross this beastie-infested forest? You’ll do it by yourself.”

“I’ll be dead in five minutes if I step out of here!”

“Ain’t that the truth.” she agreed.

Please! It’ll be to your benefit too. I’m useless to you. I don’t know a damn thing about surviving in the wild and I’ll be a drain on your food and water too. But if you-”

“Kid, I think you got somethin’ mistaken here. I saved you, true, an’ I intend to keep you ‘round. You look fit enough to be of some use to me. But, did ya think that you were to be my pet or somethin’, mhm? You stay here, you work for it.”

“But I don’t know-”

“I know. So, I’ll teach you. Not just basic survival ‘course. You’ll still be useless to me like that. So, let’s try an' get some magic in you while we’re at it.”

Ash blinked, and suddenly all his counter-arguments and dreams of escaping to a city fell away like water sieving through his fingers. He almost felt breathless as he asked her to repeat herself one more time.

“What, you deaf all of a sudden, kid? I’ll try and teach you some magic. Compassion knows that if I don’t, you’re likely to get yourself killed inside of a week even with me about.”

Magic. She would teach him magic.

Ash thought on it for a minute before he spoke again.

“When do we start, boss?”

Myr laughed.

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About the author

Dev Pain

Bio: I write and I write and I write and then I write some more.

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