The Dark Woods, were, well, dark. We emerged from the cave close to yet another camp of Fallen. Before I could even say anything, Talltree had charged. Stupid stupid man. One day, I fear he will get himself killed.
I had warned him of the guardian of this wood, a great brute by the name of Treehead. At one time, he had been a peaceful and kind guardian. However, now, from the stories I had heard, he had been corrupted to the forces of evil. My campanion had been consumed by what ever it was that drove him. He shrugged off my warning with a wave of his hand.
There were many battles in between the trees of the wood. The ever present Fallen, my cursed Sisters, and the oddly dangerous quill rats. Talltree took a beating like few men ever could. Wounds that would have been mortal to most men, he causually shrugged them off and continued cracking skulls with his sad looking little club. He took no rest, stopped for no breather. Once every foe had been slain, he hurried off to find what we were looking for. My legs ached, my arms were numb, my many wounds itched and burned. I begged him to slow down, to rest, and his only responce was to pick up the pace. I had been trained for endurance, but, this was pushing my body to it's very limits.
And at last, he stopped. Ahead of us stood the Sage Tree. The tree who's name I could not say. As Talltree breathed a sigh of relief, a loud grunt startled us. We both turned, and before I could even shout a warning, Treehead had charged us.
A massive beast, easily 9 feet tall and all muscle. And he was charging for me. I started to move, and that quiet still voice in the back of my mind told me I would never make it. I froze in fear, and prepared to face what ever life awaited for me in the great beyond.
And suddenly Talltree was there. With a speed that defied imagination, and belied his clumsiness, he had charged Treehead. Now Talltree, while birdlike and thin, was not a weak man. He stood a good seven foot tall himself, and I already knew just how solid he could be. I flinched, not knowing the outcome.
The two of them collided. One very large, very enraged brute, one very large and very solid man. The sound of them smashing into one another was indescribable, but, it was almost like two boulders crashing together. Two more brutes emerged from the bushes around the tree, and I carefully took aim and began firing.
The battle was the stuff of legends, myths, and lies. I alone was there to witness this, and nobody would ever believe me if I told the story. Boulders flew as the enraged earth defended Talltree. Boulder after boulder smashed into Treehead, stunning him, knocking him back. His companions lay dead, slain by my hand. One of Talltree's arms hung limp at his side, and he limped on one of his legs. A huge gash had opened in his forehead, and great gouts of blood poured out. With a grunt, Talltree brought his club down on Treehead's skull. The great brute stood for a moment, and then with a gasp, he fell over and ceased to move.
Talltree looked at me. I could only see one eye, the other covered by the flap of skin peeled from his scalp. He had a sad look, and somehow, I knew what he was feeling. He had killed the guardian, a great forest spirit, and it had pained him in a way I could not conceive. He took a shakey step towards me, and then pitched face forward into the muddy bloody earth.
I screamed out a cry for help, then realized nobody could hear me. I knelt down and rolled him over. His eye was cloudy and vacant, and his skin was pale. He felt cold. He was dying. Panic took over. With a lump in my throat, I rummaged through his pack. My hands were trembling as I fumbled, looking for anything that might help. I found a small scroll. With trembling fingers, I cracked open the wax seal. A portal opened. The blue glow gave everything an eerie light. Knowing that Kashya would flay me if I failed at my task, I dragged his body through the portal.
Akara, the amazing healer that she was, had patched him up. His scalp had been stitched back into place, and many elixers were used to repair his body. I sat by the fire, feeling a misery I had never known. My body was tired, and screamed for sleep. I could not. Kashya came over, and sat down on the log besided me.
"What happened?" She asked.
I opened my mouth, but, no words would come forth. Kashya, with an unusual look on her face, got up, and went to her tent. She returned a moment latter with a small flask.
"Drink this." I could tell by the tone in her voice that this was an order, not a suggestion. I took the flask and downed a swallow.
And the fire consumed me. It burned in my mouth, and scorched my throat. I could feel what felt like burning coal oil in my belly. To late, I knew what this stuff was. It was Barbarian Brew. Far to the North, the Barbarians brewed this noxious brew, and sold it to unsuspecting visitors. My senses reeled, and the burning had spread to my arms and legs. The aches, the pain, the strained muscled stopped complaining. I felt limp. Kashya placed her hand next to her mouth, and acted like she was tipping back a drink. With my lips pursed, I took another swallow. I stood up, and could not feel my legs. Hell, I could not feel anything below my neck anymore. I started to tell Kashya what had happened, when suddenly the ground was rushing up to meet me. The last thing I felt was Kashya's strong calloused hands catching me. As blackness consumed me, I heard Kashya's voice. "Sleep now, dear sister. Of all my Rogues, you have earned your rest this day."
I awoke with a headache. Birds were chirping, and the sound echoed in my hollow aching head. I opened my eyes, and with out a seconds hesitation, clinched them shut. The light felt like a million white hot needles stabbing my eyeballs. I cautiously peeped open a single eye, cringing at the pain. I jumped, startled. Talltree was sitting by my cot in a crude wooden chair. He was sleeping. Kashya stood, a dark shadow in the light streaming through the tent opening.
"He got up in the middle of the night. He could barely walk. Yet he insisted in watching over you as you slept. He was afraid that you might have nightmares. Just what happened yesterday?" Kashya looked at me in a way I had never seen before. "Never mind. I don't want to know. It would probably cause me to have nightmares." She walked away, not saying another word.
Quietly, so not to disturb the sleeping giant, I got up and went over to the small table. I poured out water, and quietly washed my face. I looked up in the mirror, and with a startled gasp, I noticed that my stark auburn hair now had a shimmering white streak running through it. No wonder Kashya did not want to know.
The Sage Tree stood before us. Talltree quietly limped up to it, and then touched it with his hands. He stood silent. He was concentrating. I could see it by the look on his face. Nothing seemed to happen.
"Please, I am begging you. Help us, and save your self. Save this world. Save your woods" Talltree pleaded out loud. I had no idea what he was talking about, but, it had to be a conversation with the tree. The tree looked ill. It had no leaves left, and the bark was pale and sickly. Black sap seeped from many cracks in the bark, looking like dried blood on old wounds. A vine on the ground begin to wrap it self around my leg, and I let out a shriek. Talltree grabbed me and covered my mouth with his hand. "Quiet" he whispered in my ear. "The tree is going to test us"
When it was over, the vine stayed close to Talltree. It moved, slithered, and seemed to dig around in the ground on it's own. The great tree shuddered, I could see the branches swaying with out wind. And then it died. A spirit floated up from the tree. It was pale and whispy, and gave off a faint orange glow. I felt stronger somehow. Not physically stronger, but, something deep inside of me felt a strength. Like my life had been given a new birth. I felt younger, yet, somehow older at the same time. A single piece of bark peeled from the tree, and landed at my feet. Talltree picked it up, and stuffed it into his pack.
"We have been found worthy." He said solemnly. "The vine contains powerful magic and will grow over time to assist us. The Tree's spirit has agreed to inhabit our bodies untill a more suitable tree has been found after this mess is over with."
"You mean to tell me I have been possessed by a tree?" I asked. He nodded. What could I say? I had seen and heard of some strange things, but, who would ever believe that a person could be possessed by a tree?
After visiting the camp, we returned to the great stone circle, and Talltree inscribed signs on them in a certian order with his finger. The sky blackened. Thunder rolled and lightning flashed. With a deafening ringing sound, a glaring red portal opened.