“One foot in front of the other!
“Just one foot in front of the other!
“Through the Fae we wander in wonder!
“Step with one foot then the other!” Atwood spoke-sang. He then entered into a whistling solo.
The man was as odd as anyone Malick had ever met but he found him amusing. He just hoped the old man’s constant noise wouldn’t attract anything. Atwood didn’t seem too concerned though, so Malick took that as a sign that he should probably relax.
“Don’t trip don’t stumble!
“Watch your feet or you’ll tumble!”
Malick stopped walking, the corruption he felt was overwhelming “Stop!” He yelled.
“What?” Rylah asked.
“Atwood, you must feel this,” Malick said.
He stopped singing. “You know, I should have noticed that.”
“Holy aspect of the Spirit, I guess I don’t need this.” Rylah put away her diviner. “Good luck Wicken, you don’t need us anymore.”
“I think this Wicken needs our help.”
“Why?!” Rylah asked Atwood. “He’s Wicken!”
“And so was I,” Atwood responded.
That made this all make a whole lot more sense to Malick. Rylah however had gone bone white. Malick pulled back the hammer on his left hand pistol. After a moment she turned and simply walked away. Malick found himself taking a step towards her.
“Let her go, the Fae will take her to where she needs to go,” Atwood said.
“Are you sure? I think the Fae just takes people to creative places to die.”
“It does that too. You know? It’s the world of chaos – not dark – not pure – not mortal. It is simply chaos.”
“Thank you for informing me,” Malick answered in poorly feigned earnest. “You said you were Wicken?”
“I did, but there will be time for that later!”
“One foot in front of the other!”
“I don’t think singing is a good idea right now!”
“But singing is always a good idea!”
They pressed themselves to the ground and crawled under the roots of a tree. Ahead of them was a clearing with a pool of still red water. Seven Saetyr drank from it.
Ripples broke the surface and a voice could be heard. The sound scratched the eardrums and left the skull raw. Malick understood none of what the voice said.
“Lend me your crossbow, we’ll kill the Saetyr.”
“I’m not worried about the Saetyr.”
“It can’t touch us.”
Malick passed him the crossbow. “Count to ten, then choose your target.” He slipped along the edge of the clearing further and further from Atwood. He counted to ten, looked into the clearing and saw a silver bolt lodge into the skull of a Saetyr. It died quickly falling snout first into the water. The voice from the water became furious.
Malick stepped into the clearing pistols drawn. He fired his left hand gun then his right. Two Saetyr collapsed. The Saetyr were still examining the first victim and didn’t notice him right away – the voice was loud enough to drown out the explosion of gun powder. It was his scent that pointed them towards him. He dropped his pistols reached into his sleeves drawing two more. Thwop Thwop, two more were punched with silver buck and ball – they stumbled and fell. The silver boiled there green blood.
The voice grow louder and Malick found it harder and harder to keep his thoughts fluid. He struggled to roll under the assault of the first Saetyr to reach him. Malick came up next to the only other Saetyr still standing, his reaper drawn. He plunged the weapon hilt deep into the Saetyrs stomach. The silver poisoned its blood and killed it quicker than the wound would have.
Malick looked over to where the remaining Saetyr had been. It was struggling with a bolt that was causing its eye to sizzle. It soon collapsed and stopped moving.
The voice didn’t stop. Malick examined the pool while he rubbed his temples. Ripples were now cutting across its surface at a violent rate. Malick drew his talisman of the trinity from inside his coat and began to pray.
Rylah found that no matter which way she chose to walk she found herself heading towards that source of vast corruption. She’d tried falling over, jumping from trees, and all the variety of tricks for escaping the Fae. Except for bruises, she accomplished nothing.
“You are really annoying Fae!” She screamed at nothing that cared to listen.
She gave in and walked towards the corruption. She felt a shiver and looked to her left. A tall Faery was watching her. He was nearly naked – strong and lean. His skin was tan with a slight red tint. His hair was long thick and deep red.
He fluttered his red-yellow wings and lifted into the air. His electric blue eyes looked ahead to the source of the corruption. It screeched and it flew above the canopy. She had barely been able to sense the Faery over the corruption.
Rylah started running. She came out of the woods into the clearing in time to see the Faery appear out of the dark sky and dive into the pulsating water. Rylah heard the voice coming from the water and braced her ears.
The voice came to a sudden end and the water calmed. The red even began to fade. Rylah watched the surface intently. The Faery emerged, walking from the pool heavy with moisture. It was what the Faery was dragging from the water that drew Rylah’s attention.
It was a twisted creature. Charcoal grey-black scales seeped a rancid black smoke. It was smaller than the Faery. It looked to be bipedal with hulking tree trunk like legs and much leaner arms. Rylah watched as the Faery brutally dismembered the creature. The smoke became thicker as the creature was reduced to nothing.
Rylah hadn’t realized how quiet the Fae had become till Malick’s voice carried across the pool of water. He stopped, stumbled, and collapsed to his knees. The Faery was watching him. Atwood had positioned himself between Malick and the Faery. The Faery turned away from them, fluttered his wings and disappeared into the black sky.
Rylah found herself walking towards Malick and Atwood. Malick was clearly struggling. Rylah knew about the magic of the Wicken.
“He just destroyed part of his soul didn’t he,” Rylah said to Atwood. Once the magic of the Trinity’s disciples had been fueled by the Spirits infinite strength, the Hollowing had put an end to that.
“The Fae will restore him. It is not the finite mortal world,” Atwood said.
“What was down there?” Rylah asked.
“A rift to Hell,” Malick was surprisingly able to choke that out. He coughed, blood dyed his phlegm.
Rylah reached into her pack and pulled out vial. “Drink this, it’ll stop the pain.”
“Can I trust you?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Are you willing to find out?” She said. He took the vial and chocked it down. His muscles relaxed and his mind emptied.
Rylah watched Malick’s head bounce as Atwood carried his unconscious body. “I wonder what drove him to become a Wicken.”
“I don’t know, but he reminds me a lot of myself,” Atwood said. “I just hope the monastery doesn’t do what it did to me.”
“What happened?” Rylah asked.
“I left my soul in the Fae.”
Jarl woke up to find himself tied to a post looking at the pit that he’d watched Malick disappear into. He couldn’t remember why he was tied up. It had happened too quickly. He wanted to massage his temples but his arms were tied tightly to his body. The infernal ringing in his ears was getting worse.
Green light pulsed from the pit, lighting the night sky. Fae energy encompassed everything. Jarl could feel it like a creeping chill climbing up from the base of his Spine. Something unexplainable shifted in the world. The light turned from green to red. He saw fingers crest the top of the pit followed by a head of thick red hair and with blue eyes that dug into Jarls essence. Great, red – orange – yellow wings reminiscent of a butterfly’s fluttered into motion carrying the Faery out of the pit. Looking directly at Jarl the Faery placed one finger in front of its mouth and made shushing sound that could have been mistaken for a whistling breeze.
“Mother, Father, Spirit, preserve…” Jarl felt a tension creep along his throat, first he couldn’t speak then he couldn’t breathe. The Faery landed right in front of him.
He bent over and whispered into Jarl’s ear. “Shhhh, that means quiet to your people right? I’m sorry but I can’t trust you. They can’t know I’m here.” His voice was beautiful, smooth and rhythmic – his breath smelt like the harvest day market. His fingers felt like daggers as they plunged into his chest.