Kalin had heard strange rumors surrounding this Forest passing through a small village several days ago. There always seemed to be rumors of some sort. Humanity, and similar races, often found even with their high levels of skill or power, they were still vulnerable to forces of nature. This vulnerability often led to fear, which often lent itself to fantastical stories told by those who couldn't understand and were subconsciously that desperate to be apart of something out of the ordinary.
Since he was here, and going in that direction, he decided to check things out for himself. The next two days had been spent wandering through rather mundane woods. Kalin wasn't disappointed as he had always felt more at him out in the wilderness than he had with other people.
As night was approaching on the third day, he spotted something darting between the trees. It was large, a wolf maybe, but forest wolves didn't grow that large, especially in this part of the world. Something was off about the siting.
Kalin knelt and placed a hand on the ground, feeling the pulse of the Forest in his palm. There was something not quite right.
Before he could investigate further, he heard a series of shouts and screams in the distance. He had not been traveling on the road, but there was a road nearby that caravans used to move through these woods. Kalin took off, running in the direction of screams.
The traveling group would find themselves under attack by a pack of large wolves. Wolves were common enough, but these were different. These dire wolf sized creatures were entirely unheard of in this part of the world.
Akasha had never been down this route before, in fact when she saw an opportunity toventure to Riverkeep, she initially thought against it having; heard Kharia's complaints of the land. Then again there were rumors of power and influential people who resided there, which Akasha was in a great need for, so with some reluctance she had agreed to journey with a caravan that claimed to often travel there. It had been going just fine as well, as a band of seven they had departed together with cart and weapons on hand. Though now, that safe journey seemed to be at an end.
"Get it off! Get it off!" Akasha could hear the cries of her fellow travelers as the pack began to assault them, these ungodly sized creatures were far too much for their little entourage. With fire and sword in hand, Akasha attempted to drive back a wolf that had targeted her, as she lashed out with a bolt of fire and struck the beast dead center. Instead of dying like most mongrels would, the beast instead reared back onto it's hind legs, and feel backwards, only monetary stunned. Seeing the endurance of the beast brought out a cord of fear within Akasha, as no manner of creature should have been this resilient. Hearing the snapping of bone and the muffled scream of a dying companion, she whirled about and loosed another fire bolt, striking a feeding beast in the head and managing to kill it out right, as half of its face boiled away from her spell. Having dropped a second monster, Akasha channeled fire onto her blade, causing it to glow with fiery light, as she raised it back to the abomination she had left stunned, who now seemed to be making its way to it's feet. She could hear her companions trying to fight off the rest of their monstrous attackers, but based on the raising chorus of screams, they were not fairing well. Her eyes narrowing with rage, she mentally bid the beast to strike next. She wasn't going to die her, no not her. Not until her quest was finished. If these creatures wished to slay her here, she would die burning them from the inside out; and that was a promise she was going to keep. Raydo
Akasha would notice the thorned collars these creatures seemed to wear around their necks, their eyes glowing a sickly yellow. Their actions were anything but sickly though, they attacked with reckless abandon making short work of several of the guards.
Kalin continued to run towards the fray coming into the clearing, catching the attention of one of the smaller wolves on the perimeter. While smaller than the others, the creature was massive. There were patches of fur falling off in clumps as it turned towards him and prepared to lunge.
The scene was chaotic and too much for him to take in before having to defend himself. As the wolf lunged, Kalin raised a hand and a root shot from the ground and seized ahold of the wolf. It fell only inches from him, still snapping at him as more roots joined to further ensnare the creature.
There was no fear in these creatures, wolves were normally after an easy meal, but these creatures seemed mad with rage. He stepped out of the way of the still snarling wolf and looked to help further.
Seeing the collars around the beasts caused a flash of questions to course through Akasha's mind, though they hardly had time to formulate as her feral opponent chose to attack. Akasha lashed out with both blade and flame, her sword lessons telling her to slash outwards and roll to her right, as her ignited sword sliced into the side of the beast, slicing through it's insides as the fires from the blade roasted the beast from within. The victory did not come without a cost, as Akasha was slashed across the left arm by the monster before it died, which came apparent to her the moment she hit the ground. The stinging pain in her arm was soon forgotten, as fear and adrenaline made the sensation a thing of the past. She stumbled back to her feet, her robe slowly becoming stained with her own blood, as she looked for someone she could help. Her eyes soon laid upon the sight of a stranger commanding nature itself to subdue one of the creatures, and decided that he presented the best chance of survival. Most of her caravan was now dead, their guards now nearly all slaughtered, and those who were still alive wouldn't be for much longer.
Akasha had intended to try and move closer to the stranger, but a savage howling from behind her drew her attention, as she found yet another of the warped abominations rushing towards her. Akasha reacted quickly, reaching out with her wounded arm and firing a lance of flame at the beast, coating it's mangled hide with flame, engulfing it wholly as it toppled to the ground writhing in flames, nearly colliding with Akasha in the process. Turning back, the pain from the exertion caused Akasha to pause, as she tried to take in all that was happening. Most of the armed members of the caravan were already dead, and given the lack of screaming coming from the others, it certainly seemed as if Akasha and the stranger were the only ones here that were still alive. The odds did not appear to be in their favor, but perhaps together they could change that. Raydo
It only took seconds for Kalin to realize these were no ordinarily wolves. Perhaps they once were, but something had corrupted them, changed them. He could feel the forest itself recoil from their presence.
As the vines continued to ensure and the first wolf, Kalin turned just in time to see another wolf lunging towards him. There was no time to dodge, he reached up with his hands, catching ahold of the wolf as they both were thrown to the ground. He held the snapping jaws at bay, but only barely. He could see clearly the sickly, enraged stare of the wolf as it tried to bite down on his throat.
He normally could sense wildlife, sometimes even communicate with it, but whatever had taken ahold of these creatures blocked them from him. Without another option, he pulled the knife from his belt and plunged it into the wolf's chest. It struggled for a second and then fell on top of him dead.
He stood seeing the several remaining wolves break off their attack and flee back into the woods as quickly as they had come. Kalin looked around, pained by the death he saw around them before spotting the woman who appeared to be the lone survivor. His attention turned towards the wolf that was now struggling against the vines to flee itself. Kalin could have killed it, but the thought of it made his stomach turn.
He released the magic, the vines falling to the ground, allowing the wolf to run away. He turned back towards the woman. "Are you alright," he asked, eyes concerned. He looked down at her bloodied arm. "I can look at that for you, I am a healer of sorts," he said, not approaching just yet.
It took Akasha several moments for the fact that the stranger was talking to her. She knelt down, now becoming aware of the amount of blood she was losing from the gash in her arm. Akasha had been in fights before, especially against wild life, but she wasn't adapted to taking injuries such as this; this would take some time getting used to. Whoever he was, he seemed to hold domination over nature, as he seemingly and effortlessly freed the captured beast. Clearly, between the two of them, he was fairing the better than she. So, when he asked if she needed help, she would take it. It seemed the creatures had their fill, as Akasha watched a pair flee back into the woodlands, some dragging mangled bits of her fellow traders with them. "I'm fine, but my caravan..." Akasha trailed off, shaking her head in disbelief as she would rise and begin to move towards him. "I'd appreciate any help you can offer stranger. Though I suppose you don't know what manner of beasts those were?" She asked, kneeling down and removing the shredded and blood soaked cloth covering her wounds, wincing as the pain flared up. "My name is Akasha," She grunted, as her fingers found a few thorns that had apparently sunk into her arm as well. "Who might you be?" This wasn't exactly the best time to start this kind of conversation, but given the situation Akasha couldn't fathom what else she was to do. She wasn't exactly broken up about the whole loss of her caravan, but it was quite unfortunate for herself; though she had come back from far worse. "We didn't even have a chance. First they took out the leads, then they took out the rear. Before we knew it they were already pouncing down on us." Akasha muttered, offering her injuried arm to the stranger, her eyes watching what he would do next; more so out of curiosity than caution, after all if he wanted her dead, she wasn't exactly in the state to stop him. Raydo
He watched as she surveyed the carnage, seeing the woman slip into shock. When she started walking towards him, he met her, guiding her to sit down on a box. He wasn't a doctor but he knew some medicine, and he knew some of the healing magic of the forest.
He cleared away some of the torn clothing. He set his pack down, the tiny owlbear cub rolled onto the ground. Kalin had stuffed him inside when he ran towards the yelling. The creature sat on the ground and yawned, having slept through the whole ordeal.
Kalin looked towards some of the fallen wolves. "They were wolves, or at least they were at one point. Something ha changed them, I haven't seen anything like it." he said honestly.
The woman fretted over the thorns in her wound. She wasn't doing the most precise job. He gently grabbed her hand with one of his. "I'll get them." he said quietly as he set up cleaning the wound. "I am Kalin." he replied with his own name. "And that." he said nodding his head back towards the owlbear on the ground "..is Patches." he said.
He turned towards the creatures again. "Wolves rarely attack such large groups unless sick or starving, these seemed like neither. They were being driven by....something." he said trailing off. There would be time to worry about that later, for now he turned his full attention to her wounds.
He cleaned away the thorns and placed a hand over the wound. "This might sting just a little bit." he said, pushing the hair from his face with his free hand. He closed his eyes and his hands began to glow a light green. It pulsed slightly, as if the light was the forest's breath. The wound would begin to close, healing as the magic urged the body to regenerate.
He finished a few moments later. "You should rest." he said. "I can begin digging graves if you would like or perhaps a pyre? I am not sure of your customs." he said. He viewed death differently than most probably did, making it an easier subject for him approach and sometimes made people feel uncomfortable.
Clearly the stranger, now to be known as Kalin, was skilled in the arts of healing, as he began to mend Akasha's wounds; plucking out the thorns and mending the torn flesh in a manner that seemed almost alien. His small companion was rather adorable, though given the state of things Akasha resisted the urge to pet the strange creature. Still, with the matter had hand, Akasha continued to speak as Kalin mended her wounds. "Still, creatures like that usually retreat or avoid large groups like that as you mentioned. You think something is directing them to attack?" Akasha asked, wincing as her finished removing the thorns and her flesh began to close with the guiding hands of whatever magic the man was producing.
"Thank you again, for you're aid. I'm not sure what would have happened had you not been there." Akasha was forced to admit, things might not have gone well for her without this man's presence. Akasha did feel a bit of fatigue tugging at her, though it was most likely due to the blood loss, after all her body was trying to fix the damage that was done to her. Yet, Akasha knew she could stand to sleep at a time like this. Still, Kalin was offering to help bury the dead while she rested, and though tired, Akasha was not one to stand by while a stranger preformed that work by himself. She struggled to her feet, wincing as she felt several phantom pains from her closing wounds. "I can manage for a bit longer. I can help you burn the bodies, after all, I'd rather their corpses not be unearthed by any of the wildlife." Akasha stated, knowing full well that it would be easier to burn the bodies than try and dig each one of them graves. If allowed, Akasha would gather together some loose wood to make fuel for the fire, and once Kalin had gathered the remains she would set it alight, trying to provide some sort of rest to her fallen companions. Once that task was done, then she would finally be willing to take a rest, retrieving a intact bedroll from her wagon and laying upon it. What in the hell was she supposed to do now? Raydo
"It's possible." he said with a shrug. He would take a closer look at one of the wolf corpses after they had finished this business.
She offered to help gather wood, but Kalin insisted she rested while her body recovered. She had lost a lot of blood, and even with the assistance of magic, it would take her time to recover.
Kalin set up creating a simple pyre on which to burn the bodies away from the trail. It took some time considering the number of bodies they were dealing with.
Once completed, he let the woman set the pyre ablaze. Kalin stood beside her, hands clasped in front of him. There was nothing but the sound of the burning pyre and a gentle breeze. After the deed had been completed, they returned to the wagon. It was growing late, and a group this size was in danger of being attacked by all sorts of predators though Kalin didn't fear much in these woods.
He knelt down next to one of the slain wolves. He examined the thorned collar around its neck. He had never seen anything like it before. "So where are you heading?" he asked Akasha as he continued to study the collar.
Despite Akasha's attempt to convince Kalin otherwise, he was right, she had lost alot of blood, and the toll her body was taking on her was going to be far worse if she exerted herself now. Resigning to that fact, she set herself against a tree with her bedroll. At least she was allowed to spark the pyre, it helped her feel somewhat useful now. She pondered what to do about the deceased loved ones. Most of the goods on the wagons were still good, but there was no way she was going to be able to get them to town without pack animals. What was more important, was what they were going to do now, as those wolves, or whatever they were, were still out there. Least she wouldn't face them alone. Looking down, she saw her wound was healing faster that it should have normally, whatever magic Kalin had put on her was working.
Kalin stirred her from her thoughts, as he seemed to be busy looking over the collar off one of the animals, but he asked her where she was heading. "Riverkeep, that was the goal. Now? I'm not entirely sure." Akasha confessed, closing her eyes as she tried to distract herself from the pain in her arm; at least it was fading. "It was fortunate you showed up when you did, but you don't look like a normal traveler. Are you some sort of nature magi?" She asked, though she didn't expect Kalin to tell her about who he was or what he was doing here. Raydo
He prodded at the collars, they were tight around the wolves necks. He could see where it had bled from the thorns digging in. His face turned into a frown as he pondered the amount of pain the creature must have been in. Who would do anything like this? He tentatively reached out and touched the vine, careful not to stick his fingers on one of the thorns. He felt it immediately. There was something vile about these things, the cold chill of death spread through veins. He snapped his hand back and the feeling lingered for a moment.
He looked at her, expression sad. "I only wish I would have heard sooner, maybe we could have saved more," he said regretfully.
Kalen let out a sigh as he stood, his muscles sore for the act of gathering all the wood for the pyre. He moved over next to Akasha and lowered himself down, resting against the tree. "Never been called a nature magi before," he said, smirk growing on his face. "Sounds fancy," he commented. "I have been called a witch a couple of times by the occasional farmer but not I simply listen to nature and let it speak through me," he said with a shrug. "My mother always called it communing with mother." he said, thoughts briefly returning to the woman who had raised him.
"And what of you. I saw the..." he paused holding his hands out imitating her shooting fire out of her hands "...fire magic. Where did you learn that?" he asked.
"Don't be too harsh on yourself, there's no telling what could have happened." Akasha tried to make him feel better, but it was hard to disagree. Yes, he could have saved more, but it was certainly no fault of his own that he couldn't. Akasha watched as Kalin carried out his inspection of the collars, whatever he learned seemed enough for him, as he moved to take up rest beside her. Given all he had done, he deserved it. He seemed amused at the term 'nature magi', as he commented on it, at least she had gotten his mind off the morbid topic of death. "It's just a more official title than 'witch' or 'freak'. Not a fan of those names personally." She commented, glancing over at her savior with an amused expression. "Communing with mother? That's an interesting term to use. Sounds rather tranquil. I like it." Akasha paused and let a small ball of flame conjure into her palm, before letting it sizzle out; she didn't to be wasting her power on pointless demonstrations after all. "I guess I would call mine playing with fire." She mused, as Kalin brought up the question on her powers, chuckling at his imitation of her abilities.
"I've had these powers since I was born, least that's what my brother told me." She explained, glancing down at her wounded arm, as she watched the wound slowly work itself back together; she really wanted to learn whatever spell this was. "I just taught myself. Started off accidentally igniting my belongings on fire. One time I lite myself on fire too, haven't figure out how I did that though. My master has helped me get better with it though." Akasha said, smiling at the distant memories, a small part of her wondering where her mentor was now. "But we have this...bloodline, I think that's what it's called, in my family. It keeps us from being injuries by heat or flame. It's rather helpful if I do say so myself." She looked back to Kalin, unsure as to what their next move would be. Neither of them looked to be in the shape to go trekking through the woodlands, but Akasha would have bet the rest of her belongings on the fact the creatures would be back for them. "I'm guessing you grew up in the forest? You seem pretty at home here." Raydo
"There has to be an easier way to discover your powers than lighting yourself on fire." he said with a grin. "Also seems like a rather expensive learning method," he commented on before she asked about where he had grown up.
"Well I mean, we lived in a house," he said somewhat playfully. "I'm not a complete savage," he said with a chuckle before leaning his head back against the tree trunk. "Not here, but somewhere pretty similar," he said.
"And what about you? Where do you call home?" he asked, tilting his head to see her. She certainly seemed capable enough. This obviously hadn't been the first time she had been in a tight spot. Something told him she wasn't a common merchant. Something about here seemed...special...or at least different.
He looked out at forest beyond the road. The sun was starting its dip in the sky. They still had a couple of hours before it was totally dark but the sky was already starting to turn orange. They would likely need to make camp here for the night and head to a nearby village tomorrow. From there, she could decide what she wanted to do.