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Garas Vhenas

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Chapter 1

Angel or devil, lover or fighter; the line between good and evil. The world isn't black and white, because people aren't black and white. There are hues of grays and silvers in the middle. The choice between right and wrong can be muddled. Sometimes people think they know best, that it is up to them to save the world. But can a world truly be saved? Is it the world that's worth saving? Or the people?

            What is a world without people but a hunk of rock hurling through space at mind blowing speeds? The universe is full of them. So do people make the world? What makes people? Is it the color of their skin, the shade of their eyes, and the length of their hair? Their religious or political beliefs? Or is it their values and deeds that make a person?

            If only it was that simple. Perhaps it would have been if I was still on Earth, where there is only humanity. It might have been easier if I could remember my past, beyond the last ten years. Or why I was sucked through some spatial pocket into another reality. If this world didn't have two moons and a perpetual blue glow to it perhaps I could be convinced that I was still on Earth, subject to some sort of dream that took a wrong turn in Albuquerque.

            But you don't feel pain in dreams. And the pain in my shoulder is very real. It's clouding my mind, making it difficult to see. The arrow, god help me who shoots fucking wood arrows, the ARROW is lodged in the bone. I can feel the tip grinding against muscle and sinew. With each step I take in attempt to get away from the crazy that shot me it digs deeper. I think the tip is barbed because I attempted to pull it out but it wouldn't budge.

            A cracking sound echoes off into the night as I snap the shaft off the arrow leaving a two inch stub protruding from my skin. I'm probably going to die here, but not before I make a stand. I will not go quietly into whatever waits in the beyond. It didn't matter which world I found myself in, I would struggle for that last breath. Because life comes down to survival. Its fight or flight. Both meant to preserve the fragile existence that is life.

            The shaft falls to the ground as I hide behind a tree. The sound of cackling in the distance overwhelms me. It sounds vaguely feminine, though with demonic undertones that would rival any horror movie I've ever seen. I can feel the flight instinct bubbling up inside me and it takes a monumental effort to shove it aside so I can think with a cool and calculated head.

            Blindly running through the forest making as much noise as I possibly can is an invitation for an arrow to the back. Not to mention that I would probably be stupid enough to glance behind me and trip over a protruding root or well-placed rock. No, I need to be level when dealing with this kind of threat. I feel like I am in that short story where people hunt people and I can't for the life of me remember if the prey got away or not.

            Well… time to write your own ending.

            God I had been so stupid to follow that orb to the beach. But its words had called out to me. Little Max was going to survive because I had some sort of magic running through my veins. If only the orb had dropped me somewhere other than this forsaken forest.

            Thinking of that now though wasn't going to help me in this situation. Pressing myself off the tree I start to move as quietly as possible as I can through the forest. I don't know how far she is behind me but I need to get as far from her as I can.

            My quite trudge forward continues until I've found a river. Quickly I wade in to the water, its cold and it sucks the breath from my lungs as I move deep enough that it seeps into my shirt. Gasping I turn over onto my back and allow it to steal me away from this place.

            The current gently rocks me back and forth. My body, accustomed to a life on the water, moves fluidly with the motions. Quietly I try and think of what led me to this moment.

            I can't remember anything before ten years ago. Nana, falon who is not falon, found me on a beach, the beach that took me here. When she found me there was a huge wound on the side of my body, spanning from waist to just under my breast. Someone had tried to kill me once. Was it the crazy that shot me?

            Somehow I didn't think it was. She seemed to really favor that bow of hers. I didn't know her very well, obviously, but it feels wrong to think of her digging into someone with a blade. If it was a blade that sliced me like that, but what else could it be? The doctors couldn't tell me what had caused the wound, finding remnants of metal that didn't exist on Earth.

            Because it came from here.

            God Emma you really are stupid! I chastise as I watch the shore. It's moving quickly past me and it must have carried me quite a distance by now. I need to get this arrow head out of me. To do that I'm probably going to have to make a bigger hole in my shoulder. That doesn't sound like fun to me.

            My head swivels to the opposite shore. Should I cross and risk a fire? I'll need to sterilize whatever object that I'm going to use or risk-

            I laugh quietly. Before this morning that might have been a problem. But now? I was some sort of magical being that could heal fatal injuries. I just needed to get the arrow head out. Gritting my teeth I roll over and start for the opposite side.

            Just how far can my magic go? Is it strictly healing or are there other things that I can do? Am I like… a druid from WoW? Where I have different classes that I can spec into? Or am I a priest where I can use holy energy to either damage or heal?

            Do I get to pick what I am?

            And that was a bizarre line of questioning. I'm not in some sort of character creation screen. I'm not rolling dice across a board to see if I meet the roll check to cast fireball at a raid boss. There was no cast times here. No release button so I can run back to a corpse and start the fight over again, or a screen asking if I wanted to reload from the last save. This was real, and for better or worse I was in a different world. I can figure out what I can do later, after the arrow is out.

            My right arm pumps through the water while my legs propel me forward. Each movement causes the skin on my left to pull and before I am even halfway across I am practically sobbing with pain. Gritting my teeth I continue to push forward, there is nothing else to do. I won't lay down and die, I've survived worse. I don't remember it, but I have. This isn't going to be the end of me.

            The shore approaches me at a snail's pace, and when it is finally within reach I flop over letting out a little cry when the arrow head shifts slightly and digs into my flesh. Soaked through and through I roll onto my stomach and push up onto my knees. Staggering forward I gain my feet and start the long walk into the forest, eyes on the ground looking for a sharp object to make that additional cut.

            Tears fall down my eyes as every muscle in my body threatens to seize. Only determination keeps me moving forward.

            Black glittering glass like object catches my eye. It looks like obsidian, which can be used as a knife if it's sharp enough. Stumbling over to it I see that it is too small for my purposes. I reluctantly leave it behind and move on. There has to be more.

            Night begins to fall and my clothes are still drying. I hope the nights aren't too cold here this time of year. Though the day had been nice and warm I know nights can be a different story. In deserts it can get as high as a hundred and twenty degrees, at night it can plummet well below freezing. I am not in a desert though so I'm hopeful.

            When its too dark to continue I slump down against a tree.

            This isn't good. I'm still bleeding, the water could have Lord knows what kind of bacteria in it. Not to mention that the blood will most likely attract predators. In truth I'm not sure why I haven't been attacked by a jaguar or whatever large apex predator that inhabits this world.

            Frustration builds up.

            "I just want a knife!" I growl quietly. There is a slight buildup of the strange sensation I had while healing Little Max and then there is a cool press of metal against my right hand. Slowly I turn my face toward my palm. Resting gently in my loose grip is a glittering silver blade. My mind blanks, okay… that's weird.

            Refusing to look a gift horse in the mouth I lift it to my mouth and bite down on the handle. Ripping a hole in my shirt I lift the cloth off the remaining portion of the arrow shaft. Closing my eyes in preparation. I've never even thought about digging a knife into my skin and now I need to do it to save my life.

            It's a good thing I'm not squeamish.

            Jerking my hand I rip the rest of my sleeve off and roll it up. Swapping the cloth for the blade I bite down again and shift slightly before touching the tip of the knife to my skin. Steeling my nerves I press deep and drag down quickly.

            The cloth muffles the scream, but not by much. Agony sears through my shoulder and I sob as I drop the knife. My head twists back and forth against the bark of the tree. Air is sucked quickly in and out of my nose as I fight to remain conscious.

            Black dots the edges of my vision but I'm scared that if I go under now I won't wake up.

            "Come on Emma…" I moan as I bounce my head off the tree trying to clear it and stay awake. The world blurs for a second before clearing. A sigh escapes me, relief mixes with the pain and I look down at the cut I made.

            I suck.

            I suck so hard.

            It isn't deep enough.

            My fingers are shaky as I reach out for the blade, hand patting against the ground in search of that cool metal. It's gone. Okay. I can do this. I hold up my hand, seeing how dirty it is I wipe most of the soil off on my pants. Shaking my wrist I hold it up again. Pressing my desire for a knife to appear I wait with baited breath.

            "Knife." I speak thinking that it is a trigger or something. Still nothing happens. There is no swirl of strange energy or dazzling light. Just me feeling like an idiot. I would think I was hallucinating if the pain wasn't throbbing in my shoulder so intensely. I know I did this before.

            "Knife." I growl like I had before. Still nothing. "Oh for the lov-! Come on!"

            It pops into existence. Alright… triggered on emotions or strong want. At least for now.

            This time I keep my eyes open as I make little cuts. The cloth fell out of my mouth during my screaming and ravings and I couldn't bring myself to put it back in because its all muddy now.

            Slowly I make progress, pausing frequently when I feel light headed or black swirls around the edges of my vision again. After what seems like several hours I finally have a hole big enough for my fingers to fit into.

            I'm feeling light headed constantly now and I know that whatever I'm going to do needs to happen quickly, or it won't happen at all.

            Throwing my issues out the window I dig numb fingers into the wound and quickly work the tip of the arrow back and forth. I don't try to stop the whimpering noises that escape from my mouth. That would be a waste of energy that I could use elsewhere.

            It pops free and I quickly toss it away from me before slapping my hand over the hole and bringing the healing flow forth. The sensations stutters before flaring to life. A soothing feeling washes through me and I can feel the flesh knit back together.

            A cry of relief sounds out as the last of the pain vanishes. Bone tired and unable to move I slump over and allow the darkness to claim me.

 

When I come to there is a wet nose snuffling at me. Warm breath washes over my face and I jerk upright only for my face to be pressed into fur. Slamming backward into the tree I stare at the thing that woke me up.

            So grateful that it was terrifying enough to cause my voice to vanish, because I was attempting to scream like a sissy girl.

            It was massive standing taller than any horse I've ever seen. This is obviously the top dog around here. Well… top wolf because it doesn't have the friendly vibe most dogs carry. Long, wickedly sharp, fangs dip past the edges of its lips.

            "Nice wolf." I croon as I step to the side. Its head follows me. One… two… three… Oh four…

            Six. It has six eyes. Is that normal here? They are a stunning electric blue and they are glowing. Its fur is the color of midnight. It isn't growling. Is that good or bad? I swear I read somewhere that it's the quiet wolf that will kill you.

            Or was that in a fantasy novel?

            "You don't want to eat me." I pull up my shoulders and move both hands to my chest. "I'm full of-of… piss and disease and rum."

            One of its ears twitches and its head turns away from me to peer into the depth of the forest. Only now do I realize that the normal sounds that come with this area—birds chirping, leaves rustling branches, the scurrying of things in the underbrush—have stopped. The wolf turns its head back toward me and butts its head against my stomach.

            Stumbling backward I fall. The wolf huffs in a manner that I've never seen any animal do. It steps forward and nudges me again.

            "Hey!" I cry out as it lifts me with its jaws. The wolf quietly places me feet first on the ground before releasing me and nudging me again. "Okay, okay!" I start to walk in the direction its pushing me. The ugly thought that the wolf is asking me politely to go back to its den so that I can be devoured in peace enters my mind. Maybe I can ditch it later?

            Right, because I can lose a wolf that is the size of a semi-truck.

            A cackling laughter flows into the air. My blood freeze in my veins.

            "Shit." I whisper as I start to move faster. Before long I'm running, big wolf forgotten. It would almost be better for it to kill me then her. Because at least then I would be feeding the food chain instead of fueling her lust for killing.

            Glancing over my shoulder I see that the wolf is sitting down as he watches in the opposite direction, tail curled majestically around his paws.

            This place was weird as shit.