The Wraith's Lament - The wood - Chapter 1

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The Wraith's Lament - The wood

by Twimper

Libraries: Fantasy, OriginalFiction

Published on / 1 Chapter(s) / 0 Review(s)

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It was typical that a sighting should come in from the haunted forest. Every manner of ghost and demon was said to live there if the inhabitants of Sol were to be believed, so why not a murderous extent runner species too? 
Holding Valiants lead rope with a white-knuckled grip Thorn glanced back at the tyto. It was rare to see the pied bird-dragon nervous. Normally he was a steadfast reliable steed. But hemmed in from all sides by the twisting gnarled oak and elms his apprehension was showing in the quick jerky movement of his head and the stiffness of his walk. Lifting a hand to stroke the dragon-bird neck Thron tried to find that soothing tone of voice most animals responded to. 
\"Steady boy, it\'s just a forest and a few wisps. Nothing we haven\'t seen before eh?\" Valiant clicked his beak in reply but didn\'t seem to take much comfort from the word. Thron didn\'t blame him, he didn\'t really believe it himself. He had seen and heard about what the Rhakos were capable of. If they spotted even the tail tip of one. They would flee, bring in reinforcements to trap it. 
Turning his attention back to the woodland around them Thorn led Valiant forward. The Path was narrow, barely more than a game trail twisting between the ancient trees. The trees grew so densely that both boy and tyto had to squeeze between solid trunks here and there along the trail. Above them the canopy was thick, blocking out the suns warmth and light. The little that got threw created a strange dim green twilight. 
Glancing left and right off the path Thorn tried to convince himself that they would hear anything big, way before it reached them. The forest floor was blanketed in dry leaf litter. The rustle of it underfoot and the soft whisper of it against Valiant\'s tail feathers reassured him of that. 
Though it didn\'t stop his heart from leaping into his throat when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Behind him, Valiant let out a deep hiss making thorn jump a second time and glance quickly at his dragon. Valiant\'s teeth were bared and his feather\'s stood on end. The tyto\'s gaze was locked on the same tree trunk the thing had darted behind. 
\"W-Who goes there!?\" Thorn\'s voice shook, as did the hand that he used to pull his short sword free of its sheath. Behind him, Valiant clicked his beak aggressively three times in quick succession. 
Slowly something red slipped out from behind the tree. Valiant\'s hiss faded to nothing while Thorn lowered the tip of his sword. It was clearly a corrupted wisp. Instead of the normal blue, it shone with a red light like a blood moon. But at least it wasn\'t a Rhakos. The small red creature hung in mid-air, its shape slowly contorting and twisting. It seemed for a moment to grow the head of a cat-like creature and turned as if to Look at them. Then it was melted back into shapelessness and drifted off between the trees. 
\"wisps and trees...just wisps and trees\" Thorn muttered, more to himself than Valiant. The grate tyto still had every feather on his body stood on end. His large eyes scanning the dense forest around them. \"come on boy... let\'s get this search finished and get out of here\"  
The path led them deeper into the forest. Nothing moved in the dim green but the path did widen a little allow stryx and rider to walk side by side rather than single file. Both humans and dragons scanned the forest nervously and listened with all their might for the rustle that would proclaim danger. But the only signs of life were the ones they left in their own wake. It was unnerving, no songbirds seemed to live there. No rabbit holes were hidden between the tree roots or squirrels darting through the canopy. It was like no life wasn\'t welcome there other than the twisted trees. It was like that all afternoon. Thorn was about to turn back for fear of losing the light and having to spend the night in that foreboding place.  When he felt a tug on the lead rope around his wrist. 
Looking to Valiant Thorn saw the dragon-bird\'s gaze flicker from his to something among the leaf litter and back. 
\"What ya got there buddy?\" Valiant gave a soft hoot and used his beak to brush aside a few dried leaves. There among the brown lay a black feather. That wasn\'t all the strange. It was easy to see it was a stryx feather from the size of it but stryx feathers could be found in most forests. What set Thorn\'s heart racing was the droplet of red that clung to the feather. Beside him, Valiant gave a small species of nervous hoots and started to back up. Pulled off balance by the lead rope Thorn stumbled after him. \"wow, wow Valiant steady, stead-\" 
An ear-splitting screech shattered the still of the forest and Thorn\'s arm was almost reached out of its socket as Valiant leapt skywards. Both human and dragon screamed in terror as they crashed through the canopy. They both knew the chilling sound of a Rhakos\'s call, it called out again spurring Valiant effort to break through the cage of branches and leaves. Dangling helplessly from the lead rope All Thron could do was cling on for dear life and try to protect his face from the sharp sticks that wiped at his face. Above Valiant screeched his terror, battering himself at the branches, trying to find a way threw to open sky and safety. At last, he found it when a dead rotten tree limb gave way. The thick branch bent then fell, almost hitting Thorn on the way down. Sunlight poured in. Spurred on by another spine chilling screech from below Valiant shot through the gap. Rider dangling awkwardly below him Valiant climbed upwards, only glancing back down at the hole in the canopy when he was a good distance above it. In that dark gap red eyes glared up at him. 

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