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Through the Woods: Part Two


by melina322

--------

      Kanrik and Jazan had been walking for quite a while, the two waving their torches around for better light. All they saw were endless trees and bushes, with the occasional petpet hopping past. Other than that, the place felt eerily abandoned; the silence only disturbed by the sounds of leaves and their footsteps.

      "...are we any closer?" Kanrik sighed after a while. "My arm is getting tired from waving this stupid thing around."

      "I...don't know, to be honest," Jazan confessed, coming to a stop. "I think we might be, but...have we seen that tree before?"

      "Oh, for the love of..." Kanrik leaned against a nearby tree, letting the king ponder over their next course of action. "Don't tell me we're lost...I didn't sign up for this!"

      "You didn't sign up for anything," Jazan pointed out as he stepped forward, ears perking up as he tried to figure out where the artefact could possibly be located. He'd tried most of his methods already, and he couldn't feel the magic nearby anymore, leaving him feeling like they were walking in circles. "Maybe if we head over there..."

      Kanrik huffed, propping his chin with his hand as silence greeted him. Which was far too odd.

      "Yeesh, Hanso, you've been pretty quiet back there..." He commented to what he figured was probably an angry and broody little thief.

      No answer.

      Kanrik immediately stood up, having expected the silent treatment. "Not appreciating that, Ixi."

      No answer.

      Kanrik whirled around in confusion, his jaw dropping as he found only a dangling vine behind him and no pouting or glaring Hanso tied to it. A sinking feeling was evident in his stomach.

      He turned back around with a guilty expression, Jazan unnerved and not noticing what had happened.

      "Okay, if we turn here, we might get to--"

      "Jazan, Hanso's gone." Kanrik deadpanned, quietly pulling his hood farther over his face.

      The king fell silent. "...you've gotta be kidding me." He turned around to see the empty space behind the thief, noting the dangling vine. Hanso wouldn't play tricks if he wanted to keep his face unscathed. He was truly gone.

      "Where'd he go?" Jazan huffed uselessly, stomping over to inspect the cut makeshift rope. A clean slice. Hanso must've grabbed his dagger and cut himself loose before scampering off unseen.

      "If I knew, I wouldn't have told you," Kanrik jabbed back before holding his torch up high. "I'm not seeing anything...HANSO!"

      The yell echoed through the trees, and a slight range of noises sounded off in the distance. But it didn't sound anything like the thief would answer.

      "Are those...swords?" Kanrik stated in confusion as Jazan held his torch up, squinting towards the distance. "Hush."

      There it was again: the unmistakable sound of swords clashing into one another with an occasional battle cry. The two being sword-wielders themselves knew what a battle sounded like.

      "C'mon," Kanrik urged, shoving the king forward. "If that's Hanso, it means the idiot got himself in trouble."

      Jazan sighed, but complied, quickly moving towards the source of the sound with the torch held high.

***

      Hanso usually expected some type of obstacle to encounter. He and Brynn had had to fight off defenders of artefacts before. Usually they were some variation of ghosts or the undead and weren't really too difficult to fight off.

      But this time, Hanso had to admit, fighting sword-wielding zombies was a challenge.

      It could've been because he was alone. With only his collection of daggers and his hand-to-hand combat moves. Maybe it was because these zombies were swinging those swords so professionally, Brynn herself would've been caught off guard.

      Ah, who was he kidding. Nothing threw Brynn off guard.

      A vague step sounded behind him and he whirled around, crossing his daggers to block another attack brought on by a zombie who THOUGHT he was being sneaky. No one knew sneakiness like Hanso did, besides Kanrik himself, and the thief wasn't having too much trouble spotting the zombies within the bushes.

      If only the darkness wasn't so heavy and threatening.

      He could still see however by the little amount of light the nearby artefact gave off, nestled under leaves and vines and growing a bright orange-red. He tried to move closer to reach it, but every time he was a few feet away, another zombie popped up from the ground, and he was back to dodging sword swings.

      It was becoming tiring as he continuously got shoved back by surprise attackers. Just a few more steps and he'd be able to reach the stupid thing, but its guardians were fierce. If Hanso simply barged through without an qualms, he'd probably get his head cut off.

      After dancing around in front of yet another unexpected zombie, the thief huffed in annoyance and hastily tossed a dagger, watching it plunge into the zombie's chest. It shrieked before dissolving into dust and Hanso impatiently used his daggers as makeshift throwing stars, flinging them to every zombie he could see.

      He ran out of daggers before he could reach the artefact.

      Hanso shook his coat in desperation, searching for at least one more dagger, unable to see another zombie appear next to him. It was too late for him to dodge as a sword came down and he barely moved back in time to keep from getting his arm cut off.

      The thief yelped in pain, dropping his last dagger he'd found in a hidden pocket, clutching the wound lashed across his forearm.

      "Aw, now that's just unfair!" Hanso argued, before the zombie growled and swiped out again.

      Hanso yelped and jumped back, resorting to one last method. He turned and skillfully propelled himself up a tree, clambering through branches and leaves as the zombies roared and huffed underneath him. The thief emitted a loud shriek as one of his own daggers landed in a tree trunk, inches from his face.

      "Uh...thanks, I guess?" The thief called shakily before realizing one of the zombies had somehow climbed up the tree, now coming face to face with the frightened thief.

      "Oh! Fancy meeting you here!" Hanso greeted nervously, trying to round the tree trunk and get away from his new opponent. But the branches below his boots served to be too flimsy to hold his weight and the zombies below had begun to gather around the three. Falling would be imminent disaster.

      "Oh. Uh...I see you and your friends here are having a picnic!" Hanso commented, still scrambling for a proper foothold as the zombie moved close, holding up his sword. "Look, we can be friends! I'm sorry I tried getting that artefact, but it's really dangerous just sitting here and PLEASE NOT THE FACE!"

      Hanso turned his face away and braced for a blow, but only felt someone hop up on the tree between himself and the attacking zombie. A golden-decorated dagger plunged into the zombie's chest and it poofed away with a shriek. There was a swirl of purple cloak in front of his eyes before Hanso felt himself snatched up and lifted away from the tree.

      The thief landed in the dirt below, collapsing as his ankle took the brunt of the fall. He eased himself to a sitting position, seeing Jazan slashing away at the zombies, a collection of defeated zombie dust and dirt flying up around him.

      A zombie approached from behind and caught Jazan off guard, the king's sword flying away from his hand and skidding to a stop within a bush. It barely perturbed the king, and Jazan simply held up a glowing hand and went to work blasting away the suckers, occasionally kicking away a few that attempted to sneak up from behind.

      "Kill 'em, Jazzy!" Hanso called, his voice choking off into a cry of pain as he attempted to stand. He only plopped back down to the floor in defeat. "...ow. Well, the floor's pretty comfy anyway..."

      "Hanso! Get the artefact! Quickly!" Kanrik hollered, jumping to the floor from the tree above and unsheathing his own sword, joining Jazan in attacking the crowd of zombies.

      Hanso dragged himself over to the artefact, pushing the pain from...everywhere...to the back of his mind. The sound of swords faded away as he heard the steady hum of something magical as he neared the artefact. He brushed away the leaves and studied the artefact before deeming it stable enough to be carried.

      He tugged it out of its barricade of vines, his expression turning into a frightened, almost comical, one as a bare bone tumbled out with it. The thief was obviously the lucky one to expect a fight. Other travelers who'd stumbled upon the artefact...not so much.

      "HANSO!" Jazan called and Hanso looked up in confusion. "Whoa, that's the first time you've--"

      Instantly, a box connected with his skull and the thief yelped.

      "...wonderful aim there, Jazzy," Hanso quipped back, rubbing his head before scooping the box up. Without any time to waste, he dropped the artefact inside, sealing the box and watching as the artefact's glow slowly dimmed, leaving behind an ordinary-looking crystal ball. Hanso cringed as dust flew over his head, an approaching zombie instantly dissolving midattack from behind the thief's back.

      Jazan and Kanrik stepped away as the zombies dissolved midswing, dust flying around them before settling back into a normal forest environment. The two put away their weapons, silently high-fiving before catching their breaths.

      "Well...good job, Ixi," Jazan confessed, studying the trees for any leftover zombies. He didn't hear the snarky response he had expected and both he and Kanrik turned, finding Hanso passed out in a pile of leaves, clutching the box to his chest.

      "...wonderful," Jazan sighed sarcastically as they sprinted up to the fallen Ixi. "I don't have any healing potions on me..."

      Kanrik laughed, bending down to the unconscious Ixi and noting the young thief's minor injuries. "That's fine. Besides, we don't need any!" He looked expectedly at the king. Jazan only blinked back cluelessly, his slight smile falling into a bemused frown.

      "...Oh, for the love of...just follow me." Kanrik scooped Hanso up from the ground, transferring the box over to Jazan's hands, before heading back in the direction of Faerieland.

***

      An hour later, the trio sat by the Healing Springs under the shade of a nearby tree. Hanso sat within the waters, sans coat, leaning against the edge with his head in his arms. Jazan studied the artefact within the box with childish fascination and Kanrik busied himself with polishing his sword.

      "I'm surprised I didn't feel this so much...it seems pretty powerful," Jazan mused as he turned the box over in his hands. "Whoever the past owner was was extremely skilled..."

      "Speaking of which, how'd you even find it?" Kanrik asked, Hanso raising his head at the question. "It was pretty well-hidden."

      "Oh! I just used this nifty thing," Hanso informed, dragging over his coat from where it lay discarded in the grass. He withdrew the compass from one of the pockets and held it out for the two to inspect. "Brynn gave it to me for the hunts! It tracks down main sources of magical spells and all that crazy stuff. Pretty cool, huh?"

      The two watched as the compass went berserk, spinning around in an attempt to point to every magical thing surrounding it.

      "...well, in remote areas," Hanso added, sticking it back into his pocket.

      "Well, I guess you've proven us wrong, Ixi," Kanrik conceded with a small smile as he slid his sword back in its sheath. "You really did know what you were doing. Guess I should've known you'd be more experienced than us in this...hunting here. Sorry about that."

      The two thieves then turned to Jazan, who glared back before sighing dramatically and crossing his arms in an almost childish demeanor. "I'm...sorry for doubting you, Ixi." The king huffed, bracing himself for the onslaught of cocky remarks that were sure to come.

      "Aw, thank you, Jazzy," Hanso replied, waving a hand in flattery as he splashed back into the water. "So nice to see you still believe in me!"

      "Don't make me push you deeper into those waters," Jazan threatened sharply.

      "Well, I'm good," Hanso rapidly replied before stretching his arms. "I think I'm good to go. I think I can walk again and my arm's healed...Thank Fyora the Healing Faerie knew how to help."

      "Yeah, but not until after she gave us three blasted snowballs!" Kanrik huffed loudly and the faerie glared in their direction before angrily shoving one of the said snowballs into a waiting customer's hands and disappearing into the water.

      "I rest my case," The thief stated, getting to his feet. Hanso clambered out from the waters, throwing his coat back on as Jazan stood, holding up the case that held the artefact. "Well, let's get back to Fyora. We can return this and then return to our lives like nothing happened."

      "Aw, you can't forget how I saved you guys!" Hanso insisted as the trio started down the path. "I led this hunt and it was great!"

      "Frankly, I'd like to forget about it," Jazan replied as Hanso pouted. "In fact, I think bashing my head against the wall a few times to forget this predicament sounds like a good idea, doesn't it, Kanrik?"

      "Sounds like a plan to me."

      The two smirked in Hanso's direction and the thief's ears lowered, his scowl darkening.

      "...you guys suck."

      The End.

 
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