chapter one | the prepositionThe candlelight from the small tavern glowed warm, spilling into the cobblestone street. A small wooden sign hung loosely on rusty nails above a doorway reading Du'Raven but the locals paid it no mind - they knew this was the only place left to relax in the tiny town. Rounds of laughter burst through the thin walls; after all, tonight was one of celebration. Inside the hut villagers clustered around a man. His hands swung back and forth in gesture, bubbles frothing over from his drink and dribbling down his forearm. Everyone listened on enamored.
I've heard he climbed to the tallest peak in the Talkean shield, one boy whispered to another.
I've heard he destroyed all the monsters in the Edisare Sea, the second replied in turn.
And all the while maintaining my ruggedly good looks and perfect hair, the man winked at the boys. Laughter filled the room once more, paired with a few sighs from the females lingering on the edge of the crowd.
At that moment, a shadow crept forth from the corner. Shuffling towards tonight's celebrity, he wasted no time in admitting his doubts. Prove it. A silence suddenly swathed the room in tension.
Freuden turned his head slowly towards the demand. And how, good sir, do you suggest I would go about something like that? The crowd shuffled nervously, all knowing the answer yet not wanting to admit so.
You destroy The Beast, the man answered, not missing a beat. Clearly, Freuden mused to himself, this outburst was well-thought out.
Alright I'll bite, Freuden replied out loud. What is this beast you speak of?
The man struggled to wrap his cloak tighter around his bony frame. The Beast has plagued our tiny town for as long as people have dwelled here. Beginning since the first settler could remember, it feeds on souls deep within the forest. At first, it was only once every generation. Lately however, the disappearances have been getting more frequent. We have tried letting our sheep stray into the woods, but it does not accept the animal's offerings. It thirsts only for human flesh. A lockdown occurs every night in the village, and yet people continue to disappear, every fortnight.
The man pauses, blinks once, twice, as if to gather his bearings. Looking up, his scarred face catches the light from under the hood as he asks quietly, Will you accept this challenge, fearless one? Many have tried to defeat it. None have returned. You may be the only one left in Proëlium able to.
Freuden looked around at the faces staring at him with admiration. The silence created a deafening buzz in his ears until he couldn't take it any longer. Alright, why not? he shrugged, a grin plastered on his face. His heart pumped wildly beneath his garments however, with a weight growing in the pit of his stomach. Something was off here.
chapter two | the discoveryFreuden swatted at a bug biting the back of his neck. How far could it possibly be he questioned, impatience growing. It would take any curious wanderer days to find this so-called nest of The Beast.
The air dripped with moisture, mosses creating a plush bedding beneath his feet and ferns dampening his pants and he trudged forth. Light filtered through here and there but overall it was nothing spectacular, if not humid. At least the journey gave him time to reflect on pressing matters. His heart felt a million miles away. A lump formed in his throat as he thought of his mother; he wondered if she was doing well. Drifting in and out of boxes stored at the back of his mind he tried not to hope for the impossible. Happiness would come for him, eventually. Just not here. Slapping away another bug that landed on his exposed arm, he tensed as a twig snapped a few yards ahead of him.
He reprimanded himself for getting too caught up in the realm of dreams. Eyes focusing on his surroundings, he suddenly noticed the change in environments. Whereas the forest was dewy and rich of flora before, now it was sparse, dry and rotting. Ducking into a crouch Freuden prepared for the worst.
A girl abruptly burst through the darkness, her eyes wild and hair streaming out behind her. You must help me! she screeched to Freuden. Taken aback, Freuden faltered for a split second before chivalry took over.
What is the problem miss?
My baby brother is trapped, you must come! Quick! She clawed at Freuden's arm, terror ringing outwards. Taking her hand he sprinted behind her.
Stumbling into a new clearing, the girl suddenly stopped dead in her tracks.
What, what is it? Freuden asked, whipping his head around. Were they too late?
If I do say so myself, the girl replied, turning slowly, that was the best acting I've done to date. She smiled wickedly, eyes now gleaming red. As if in response, the birds seemed to laugh above them. He took this opportunity to glance upwards. In doing so, Freuden was met with a thousand beady eyes. I think it's safe to say I've found The Beast's lair, Freuden thought to himself.
These are my pets, she cooed, circling him. Once they are done with you you will no longer be. It's a shame too, as you are quite handsome. She drew her hand slowly across his cheek. Her eyes showed no sign of mercy. Freuden's heart once again began beating to a wild symphony. It was not from fear however. It was adrenaline.
chapter three | the capturingHymn laughed to herself. What a foolish man wandering so far into her territory. She knew the villagers were smart enough not to cross her path, so she concluded he must be a traveler. Cute too, she thought to herself as she tilted her head. Oh well. Turning her back to the clearing, she meant to walk back to her home, a tree located a hundred paces from here. Instead she met the ground as she fainted.
Regaining consciousness to a pounding head, Hymn grabbed at the ground and pushed upwards.
Woah there, I'd take it easy if I were you, a voice suggested. Hissing, she doubled her efforts but was met with weak arms and a desire to sleep for an extended period of time.
What have you done to me?! she spit out. Looking over her shoulder she saw him resting against a tree picking dirt from underneath his nails. Nonchalance enveloped the man.
I did what any person should have done awhile ago, he drawled. I found your weakness, and took advantage of it. Count yourself down a few minions.
Hymn gasped. How could he have bested her pets? No one had done that before. A feeling of uneasiness shook her to her bones as she looked skywards - her birds had a look of defeat on their faces as they huddled together, mourning the loss of their other. She had clearly underestimated this man. Anger began coursing through her veins. How dare he! Snarling, Hymn finally gathered her wits about her and launched her body upright.
Well you've proved yourself against a couple measly avians then, Hymn retorted, voice dripping with venom. But you shall be no match for me.
Laughing softly to himself, Freuden slowly pushed himself up from the cradle of protruding roots he had rested upon. Alright my feathery-friend, he replied, let us find out who is the true victor.
She bent her knees, preparing for physical combat. When she swung at him however, the man merely skirted away. You can't win if you don't fight, she sneered. Going after him again, this time her nails made contact with his skin causing droplets of blood to form. Hymn grinned wickedly. Why, this man doesn't even know how to fight! But how in the world was he able to beat her pets by merely taking the defensive.
Grunting, Freuden stumbled backwards, wiping his mouth. This woman clearly meant business. Well, he didn't intend to die. Crouching low, he closed his eyes against the tearing of skin and stretching of muscles.
What-what is going on? Hymn