MoboReader > Horror > The Woodlands

   Chapter 4

The Woodlands By EJBowman Characters: 16462

Updated: 2017-12-22 12:02

It continued raining for the rest of the day and even worsened by nightfall. By the end of the day, even a weather-resilient nymph like Neem was beginning to feel cold. He wrapped his arms around himself in a futile attempt to keep warm.

“Perhaps we should stop for the night,” Dacen suggested when he saw that his escort was cold.

“Okay,” the nymph agreed. He was quite exhausted from walking all day.

Neem watched, curious, as the foreigner picked up the branch of a dead tree up off the ground and brought it over to some shrubbery further in the woods. He then planted the large stick in the ground and draped the hood of his cloak over it.

“What are you doing?” the nymph asked curiously.

“Making shelter,” he explained as he then attached the two corners of his cloak to the thorny shrubbery.

Crawling under his makeshift sail shelter, he patted the leafy spot next to him as gesture for Neem to join him. The nymph reluctantly did so. Having to be so close to the foreigner still unnerved him.

“Now, are you positive that you don’t want me to conjure up a flame to warm ourselves?” Dacen asked.

Neem had to think. He did not like dark magic, he did not fully trust the foreigner, but he was cold.

“Maybe just a little flame,” he finally murmured.

Dacen clenched his fist, and when he relaxed it, there was a small flickering flame in his palm.

“Did the book teach you how to do that?” Neem asked as he put his hands up to the flame, but he had to quickly retract them when they got too hot.

“Taught myself,” the foreigner replied proudly.

“And what other dark magic spell have you taught yourself?” Neem asked in a judgmental manner.

The two listened to the sound of droplets hitting leaves in silence as Dacen pondered.

“Simple things like hypnotising lesser creatures such as lizards or birds,” he stated simply. Neem gave him a cold glare. “I“ve learned some basic healing spells, but the warlock“s book teaches alchemy and how to use ingredients as catalysts.”

“Like what?”

“Well, let’s say I have a terrible cut on my leg. I can try to heal it using just my abilities alone, but if I have the dew from a red-striped lily, then that will enhance my healing power’s effect. I know very little about potions and alchemy, so hopefully the warlock can teach me about that.”

“So you want to use your dark magic for good?” Neem asked. He found it hard to associate healing with dark magic. Healing abilities were something that came with pure magic.

“I suppose,” Dacen replied. “I want to be able to use my abilities for any need I have.”

“I have healing abilities and know a bit about making medicine and enhancing it with my magic,” Neem stated.

The foreigner gave him a very surprised look.

“You have magic abilities?”

Neem made a hand gesture that looked as if he was about to crush a seed between his thumb and pointer finger.

“Only a little bit,” he explained. “The Goddess had to give the forest spirits some so that we could care for the Woodlands.”

“Well, perhaps you could teach me,” Dacen said with a sweet smile.

Neem shook his head.

“My healing abilities are pure magic, not dark magic.”

“I see.”

“But I’ll try. I’d rather have you practicing pure magic than dark. I can teach you a bit when we start our adventure again tomorrow.”

“That sounds perfect.”

The two made eye contact and Neem saw something he had not seen in the foreigner’s eyes before. It was more than amusement and warmth. Affection? Not wanting to look too deep into it, the nymph lay down and rolled so that his back was to Dacen. Seeing this, the foreigner snuffed the flame in his palm and lay down as well. His cheeks went a little red when he realised his eyes may have said more than he wanted them to.

* * *

“You see, I cannot save those who are seriously injured by, say, a wolf attack, but I can dull the pain they’re feeling.”

Dacen watched as the little nymph crouched down next to tiny white flowers at the base of a tree. He picked a few and then stood back up.

“Hold onto these. They have anaesthetic properties,” he said while putting them in Dacen’s satchel without asking permission. “They can be used without magical enhancement, but they work better if they’re channelling pure magic.”

“I see,” the foreigner said simply. “Let’s hope we don’t need them for any reason.”

“Yes, but it’s always good to have anaesthetic on-hand.”

“True. Now, do the wolves usually come from the direction we are heading?” the foreigner asked, steering the conversation in a surprising direction.

Neem had to think for a moment. He usually was not aware that wolves had entered the forest until they started attacking creatures, but they seemed to all run in the same direction when the dryads finally scared them off.

“They do,” the nymph said. A hint of fear was present in his tone.

“You should know this now, then,” Dacen began in a very grave tone. “I pray that what lies beyond the Woodlands is just a wolf pack. However, there is a chance you border something very dangerous.”

“Like what? A human village?”

“No, worse. And if I’m right, which I hope I’m not, we may have to make haste before they sense me here.”

“What? What are we meant to be afraid of?”

“Vampires,” Dacen stated bluntly as he dug through his pack.

“I have no idea what a vampire even is.”

“A being with a thirst for blood and power. They tend to feast on magical beings to satisfy both their needs at once. A blood wolves generally tracks down these magical beings to feed their master. If they sense I’m here…then we’ll both be in danger.”


Dacen tapped his horns.

“Because I’m probably the most powerful being to ever walk through this forest. My power could satisfy a whole vampire kingdom for years.”

He finally pulled a strange little wooden piece from his satchel. To Neem, it looked like a small bust of a unicorn without a horn.

The foreigner“s face suddenly took a somber tone rather than the fear that wore it moments earlier.

“Perhaps it’s best that you return to your nymph friends rather than continue with me. I want to reach my destination as soon as possible, but the closer I get to the border, the stronger the chance is that they will sense me—if there is a vampire kingdom bordering the Woodlands, of course.”

The nymph had to think for a few moments. Dacen was right: it would be safer to just return to his part of the forest, yet a part of him wanted to see this through to the end. He had begun to build a fondness for the foreigner and wasn“t quite ready to let go.

“I said I would escort you to the edge of the Woodlands and that’s exactly what I’ll do,” he said stoically.

Dacen laughed his usual, awkward laugh.

“Well, you may change your mind when you see how I intend to make haste.”

And with that, he threw the little wooden piece on the ground. Neem stepped back when black dust shot out of the tiny piece and began to form the shape of an animal. After a few seconds, the dust solidified to become a yellow-eyed mount.

“Did you just conjure an animal?” Neem asked, flabbergasted.

“A golem horse, yes,” Dacen replied as he stroked the dusty mane of the creature. He looked and saw the fear in the nymph’s eyes. “It’s all right, come stroke it. It won’t harm you.”

“Is… is it alive?” Neem asked as he cautiously put his hand out to touch the horse.

It did not have the warmth of animal. It was more like touching a stone.

“No. It’s magic.”

“And why haven’t you been riding this thing the whole time?” the nymph asked in an annoyed manner.

“Keeping the golem horse animate is exhausting. It drains my power within a matter of hours, but in the meantime we should be able to make some great ground.”

Dacen leapt on the horse and adjusted himself before looking back down at Neem.

“Have you ever ridden a mount before?”

The little nymph shook his head. The idea of riding did not frighten him, he generally trusted all animals, but this horse was not an animal.

Seeing his hesitation, Dacen put on a warm smile and held out his hand to Neem. The nymph took it, and pulled himself up onto the golem horse.

“Oh!” Neem said as the

creature started to walk. “I don’t like this one bit!”

“Then you’re going to hate this,” Dacen said in a mischievous manner.

He let out a pert laugh as he kicked the side of the horse with the heel of his boot, causing it to break into a gallop.

The nymph squealed again and closed his eyes as he wrapped his arms around Dacen, clinging on for dear life. The horned man laughed and kicked the horse again to increase speed.

After half an hour, Neem began to adjust to riding the beast. He was not enjoying it, but he did understand that they were making great time.

“If we ride like this every day, how long do you think—”

“Hmm?” Dacen looked back at the nymph. “Sorry, what did you say?”

Neem let out a huff before he repeated himself: “If we ride like this every day, how long do you think it’ll take to reach the border of the Woodlands?”

“Hopefully half the time it would usually take. So maybe the day after tomorrow?”

“Good,” Neem mumbled in an insincere manner. Deep down, a part of him wanted to prolong Dacen’s departure from the forest. He barely knew this man, but he wanted more time so that he could get to know him better.

“Have you ever reached the borders of the Woodlands?” Dacen called back.

Neem pointed across the Nacta River.

“I’ve reached the borders in that direction.”

“Oh yeah? What did you see?”

“Just… fields. Fields and mountains.”

“Why were you at the border in the first place?”

“Because I wanted to know if there was anything greater beyond the Woodlands.”

“So why did you stop at the edge of the forest rather than continue?”

“Fear,” Neem admitted. “Too many predators lie beyond the forest and I’m just one little nymph. Also, why would I ever leave? The forest has everything I could ever want.”

“Understood,” Dacen agreed even though he doubted the last part. “Well, if the warlock is real and the path to his home is safe, perhaps I should send a raven to invite you to come and visit me.”

“But that would require leaving the Woodlands. I can’t do that.”

“Oh, don’t say you can’t. A little adventure is always fun.”

“A little adventure is dangerous.”

“Well, a little danger is a bit thrilling. Why else would you be escorting a ‘dangerous foreigner’ through the Woodlands?”

“To make sure you don’t harm or taint any other creatures!” Neem squeaked in an annoyed manner. He did not like being accused of thrill-seeking.

“Uh huh, sure. That’s why.”

“It is!“

“Whatever you say.”

“You stop it with that sarcastic tone.”

Dacen laughed again.

“You know, you’re the only person I’ve felt this comfortable around in a long time,” Dacen stated before looking back to smile at his escort. “And, well, probably part of that is because most beings are too frightened by my horns to get anywhere near me, but not you. It’s a good thing you didn’t have any prior negative associations with fauns horns.”

“But I was frightened by you when we first met,” Neem said.

And I’m still a little scared.

“True. But you appear to have overcome that instinctive distrust of foreigners. If not, then how could you be riding on the back of a horned foreigner’s golem horse?”

“I wouldn’t say I fully trust you.”

“Oh, well, is there anything I can do to change that?”

“Not really.”

“A pity.”

“Dacen?” he asked in a fretful manner when he saw the horned man collapse next to him.

He felt something odd beneath his palm as he shifted closer to the foreigner. Much to his surprise, it was the little wooden horse figure. Unsure of what to do with it, he pushed it into Dacen’s pack before getting a proper look at the horned man.

Dacen lay motionless ith his eyes closed, gasping for air.

“Are you all right?” Neem asked.

“I’m… fine,” Dacen said in-between breaths. “My… my magic is spent for the day.”

“Then we should certainly rest,” Neem said while looking up at the sky. “Doesn’t look like it’ll rain, so you should get a good night’s sleep.”

Dacen nodded, but did not say anything as he still struggled for air. He was, however, quite surprised by Neem’s intrusiveness as he pulled the pack away from the exhausted man. The nymph rummaged through the bag before he made an “ah” sound and pulled out the bowl-like device.

“I’ll grab you some water,” he said cheerfully before scurrying over to the stream.

“Thank… you.”

“You were right about making haste,” the nymph explained as he plunged the bowl into the Nacta River. “I’ve never ventured to this part of the forest—and I’ve travelled quite a lot through the Woodlands—so we must be close to the border now.”

When the nymph turned around he nearly dropped the little bowl of water. Dacen was sitting up, but his face was as pale as a corpse, and red veins snaked towards his dark, empty eyes from all directions.

“Dacen?” Neem whimpered.

“I used too much magic,” he stated coldly in what sounded like dual voices. “I must rest in order to renew.”

And, without another word, he fell back down and went into a deep sleep.

“All right then,” Neem mumbled before pouring the water from the bowl back into the Nacta.

Dacen may have been utterly exhausted, but Neem was not. He opened the satchel again and pulled out a pear to eat as he watched the river flow. He glanced over at his companion a few times. The red veins around his eyes were still visible even though they had dulled.

He shouldn’t overuse his magic, he thought while wiping the pear juice from his lips with the back of his hand. He becomes weird when he’s spent.

After a couple of minutes of savouring the sight of the Nacta River, curiosity got the better of the nymph, and he opened Dacen’s pack yet again. He paused briefly when his hand found what he was looking for.

I shouldn’t be doing this, he thought as he pulled out the book. However, his morality did not stop him from opening the book to the first page. He wanted to get a good sense of exactly what type of magic Dacen had. Perhaps that would explain what consequences there would be when the man was tired or angry.

He carefully pinched the corner of each page as he turned them. If he ripped any any of them, then Dacen may figure out that he had gone through the book. It was not as if hybrid had forbidden the nymph from reading the book. No, he had even shown him a few of the pages himself. The problem was that Neem was snooping while his companion was asleep.

The book was terrifying. All the pictures were of strange animals, blood, and death. How could Dacen happily read such an detestable book?

How evil must the warlock be to possess books such as this? Neem thought.

It was actually because of the book that the nymph finally understood what a faun looked like. The image of a man with hooves, furry legs, and curled horns took up a whole page in the book. He appeared to be standing on a pile of bones while drinking red liquid out of a shiny, gold cup of some sort.

Perhaps this is what Dacen will become under the influence of the warlock. He looked down at this sleeping friend. Hopefully not.

Many of the other pictures were along the same, disturbing lines.

Jaiya was right about something unnatural entering the Woodlands, he thought as he continued to flick through the pages.

He eventually landed on the image of a humanoid creature. Its skin was blue, while its black hair reached its lower back. However, it was the fangs that stood out to the nymph.

It’s a vampire.

On the very next page, the creature appeared to be in pain, given that flames were licking its skin. One of its wrists was slit open, with dark blue liquid pouring from the wound. It was at this point that Neem finally closed the book and stuffed it back into Dacen’s pack. The more he read it, the more he distrusted Dacen.

He tried to fall asleep, but found that almost impossible due to all the disturbing images that remained prominent in his thoughts. In the end he did eventually drift off, but the illustrations from the book seeped into his dreams. He found himself being burned alive as his foreign friend sucked out his blood.

Neem did not want to be anywhere near Dacen if he started practicing rituals and spells from the cursed book.

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