"You will cross the forest of death and must arrive at the next trial by day break," The proctor announced, looking around at everyone.
"We have to walk in the bloody dark?" A man yells with annoyance in his voice behind us. Liam elbows me with a smile of confidence.
"We got this , you can see in the dark really well," Liam said, I don't reply as the Proctor continues after clearing his throat.
"Yes and might I add this forest is filled with demon of the feral type so caution is advised," The Proctor moves his gaze to weaponless Liam and I.
"I ain't scared of no demons," A man in the back hollars, inciting the cheering of a few men. Liam looks up at me.
"Wait, demons are real..." he said, grabbing my wrist tightly.
"Those who come to the next trial with demon ears will be given an advantage at the second test," The proctor said, walking back over to his desk writing on the parchment he was focused on earlier.
"Oh fuck Aries, I am not sure about this," Liam said, looking at me terrified. His fear put a pit in my stomach, making me feel uneasy about this.
"Let's keep close," Thomathy said, nudging me in the arm.
"So we don't sign up anywhere?" A rough older looking man next to us asked the Proctor.
"No , most of the men here won't make it through the forest," he said as I felt Liam hold on my wrist tightened.
"This is for Emma , This is for Emma," Liam repeats over and over again, looking at the ground below him, Thomathy looks at me concerned.
"The time to leave is now," Thomathy said, looking at Liam as men started for the forest bumping into us.
"No, I have to do this," Liam said, looking up from the ground.
"No you don't," I said, putting my hand on his shoulder, "I am ok with leaving if it is what you want."
"Aries are you scared?" Liam asked with a face full of fear, I don't think I've seen him this terrified.
"Very, I am about to piss my pants but I will follow you no matter the direction."
"We can do this," Liam said, shaking, "I can do this."
"You may start at your discretion but remember time is limited. May the goddesses lead your way," The proctor said as the less confident men finally started towards the forest. Liam charges forward with a fast walk, not yet working up the courage to turn it into a run, Thomathy looks over at me with a grin.
"I think the boys balls just drop," he said, patting me on my back as we followed Liam into the eerie forest. The farther we get in, the harder it's to see. Liam and Thomathy run into me multiple times causing all three of us to jump.
"Bloody hell it's dark," Thomathy moans.
"It's not too bad," I said and Thomathy scoffs at me.
"You have night vision or something?" he laughs, pushing a branch out of the way, making it snap causing Liam to dig his nails into my forearm.
"No , it's still hard for me to see."
"I couldn't see my cock if I was taking a piss right now," Thomathy chuckles as we hear something moving in the brush. My heart jumps as we all stare into the darkness where the sound originated from. frozen in place, our breathing becomes quick, shallow gasps as we anxiously wait for the bush to move again. It finally does after close to a minute stalemate, sending Liam into my arms as a deer hops away from us in the opposite direction.
"That was scary," Liam gave a laugh but it was short and without enthusiasm. He jumps down from my arms, grabbing my wrist again.
"Where is everyone? Thousands of men just ran into this forest."
"Maybe they are sprinting to the end?" Liam said, shrugging.
"Sprinting where, into a damn tree?" Thomathy said as something thuds in front of us.
"Aries what was that," Liam asked nervously. My throat tightens to the point it's hard to even get the words out
"It's a arm."
"What! like a dismembered arm?" Liam shouts, putting his hand over his mouth realizing his mistake.
"Shhh," Thomathy and I said almost at the same time. I look up to a figure sitting in the trees above us before looking back down at the arm on the ground. I give Liam and Thomathy a push as we continue to walk slowly through the forest. Liam goes to say something but I put my hand over his mouth, he gets the hint and stops talking, holding onto my wrist to the point it slightly hurts. The black figure keeps trailing us but doesn't try anything as it watches us, jumping from tree to tree, sending leaves and branches down hitting us.
"Somethings following us."
"I would say so, from the branches hitting me in the damn head," Thomathy said annoyed.
"I see it creeping around. Have your sword ready."
"My sword is not blessed, it can't kill a demon," Thomathy says as I hear him put his hand on the hilt, squeezing the leather.
"But you can cut them, aim for the legs."
"Right," Thomathy said, keeping close to me. After a couple hours of no conflict we hear a man yelling for help, Everyone ignores the calls as if it wasn't happening. Liam puts his hand over his ears trying to muffle the cries—I don't like it but I know trying to help him would mean our deaths. As the sobbing voice dies out from the distance we bump into something, Thomathy instinctively swings his sword at it.
"Stop!" I yelled before Thomathy hit, impressively Redirecting mid swing into a tree.
"Please don't hurt me," The man says, dropping to his knees shaking.
"For Fucks sake mate, I almost took your head off," Thomathy barked, dislodging his sword from a tree with some effort.
"Please help me , I don't want to do this anymore," The man whimpers, putting his hand over his face rocking back and forth.
"We are only moving one Direction and that's forward," Thomathy replied coldly, returning his sword to its scabbard, pointing his finger toward the endless darkness.
"Join us," I said but he just shakes his head rapidly like a child having a tantrum.
"I am not going deeper," The man said, cradling his knees.
"Leave him," Thomathy said, grabbing my shirt, pulling me forward. I let him pull me deeper into the forest as the man disappeared into the blackness. We continue our suicide mission deeper into this forsaken forest. Every tree looks the same—it feels as if we are walking in circles but I know we are moving forward. Time slows for every twig that breaks under our feet. My heart drops at every small noise in the distance, It's maddening... The anxiety of it all is hard to bear. Liam has been completely silent the whole time which on normal terms I would enjoy but now it makes me nervous. I feel a rush of dread come over me, the cold air takes on a thickness as I hear multiple twigs break, each one getting closer until I hear a deep aggressive growl that echoed from behind us. The terrifying sound causes the hair on my arm to sit upright. I reluctantly turned towards a man of average stature, mouth full of sharp pointed teeth, flowing up his jaw line, stopping short of his ears. Every time he closes his mouth it makes a snapping noise that echoes through my bones. I grab Liam's shoulder as the chattering starts to come from all directions. I hear multiple feet striking the ground as more of these monstrosities Rain down from the trees around us. Their dirty, tattered clothes hanging off their bodies.
"How many Aries," Thomathy said nervously, looking around, "I can't see shit."
"1... 2... 3... 4, shit there's a lot," I replied, pushing Liam between Thomathy and I as they approached.
"Run Aries, Take Liam, I will hold them off as long as possible," Thomathy said, pulling his sword out, making a schwinging noise.
"I am not leaving you."
"So we all die, instead of just one of us? Stop being a cock head and run, I'll make it out," he said, pushing me forward with his elbow, "go!" I grab Liam's arm running as fast as I can. My bare feet bleeding from the sticks and thorns as my feet strike into the ground one after another. The gashes on my heels cause immense pain but that just fuels my urgency to keep going. Something Completely blindsided me, crashing into my abdomen, sending me to the forest floor. I gasped for air after having the wind knocked out of me, rolling around on the ground, holding my ribs. A frenzy of teeth flung towards my face aggressively. I grabbed the monster's neck, holding it inches from my face. It's saliva flinging in my face like a rabid animal, filling the air between us with the smell of blood.
"Aries!" Liam screams, sending echoes through the forest. I take one hand off its throat, jabing my fingers violently into the Demons eyes for it to just act like I did nothing. I quickly rummage through my satchel with one hand as the beast teeth get closer and closer. My arm starts to shake as I try to hold it back with my one hand. I feel my stone knife, spinning it around in my palm, slamming it into it skull from the side. Bone cracks as the blade sinks deeper until it is almost completely submerged in the demon's skull but it has little effect as the beast hardly even flinches. I go back to holding it off with both hands in disbelief.
"ARIES PLEASE," Liam cries as the demon's face gets closer to mine. The beasts then decides to do the same, putting his claw-like hands around my throat, squeezing. I wrap my legs around it's waist taking advantage of it being unbalanced, flipping it onto it's back as I transfer to a mounted position over the demon. I slam my fist as hard as I can into its head, every strike cutting my knuckles on its teeth but I do not waiver. Strike after strike having more force behind it than the last until it's head is a pile of mush. I stand up breathing hard as I stand over the twitching body. My heart is beating with such intensity it is hard to focus as my vision blurs.
"Aries! Are you ok" Liam said as a weight was lifted from my chest.
"Keep talking!" I shout, stumbling as Liam just keeps repeating my name before I bump into him scaring both of us.
"Are you ok , your hands feel wet," Liam said, touching my knuckles.
"I am bleeding but it's ok," I replied, panting, trying to catch my breath that doesn't seem to want to return. Out of the corner of my eyes I see teeth coming towards Liam. I stepped in front of him as the teeth clamp down on my shoulder. Pain jolts through my whole body as I feel something snap in my shoulder, tumbling to the ground with the demon.
"Fuck!" I yelled in pain as we rolled around on the ground while it ripped at my shoulder flesh, crunching bones together. I grab it's eye socket with my finger jerking it's head back, trying to pull it from my shoulder but it is no use. I desperately try to find something in my satchel before accidentally pulling my blanket out, illuminating the darkness around us. The demon instantly lets go, screeching as if it's burning for being in the blankets presence, running off in the opposite direction. I laid motionless for a few seconds taking in what just happened. I pull myself up off the ground, picking the blanket up, inspecting it before walking over to Liam. he sitting on his knees, rocking back and forth mumbling something.
"I can't do this, you were right Aries," Liam said now weeping. As I get closer his eyes dart to my shoulder, bleeding heavily, "I am sorry, I am going to get us killed." His eyes red from crying, "I can't do this," he just says again and again. I grab him with my good arm, pulling him up but his legs give out as he tries to stand, crashing back to the ground, causing me to go to a knee.
"Get on my back."
"Why," I said, cringing at the sharp excruciating pain in my shoulder—I was unsure how I would continue the tournament after this.
"I pissed myself," Liam replied, shaking like a leaf.
"I don't give a shit about getting your piss on me right now," I said, grabbing his arm, flinging him onto my back, "hold on tight," I say as Liam wraps his arms around my neck, locking his legs over my waist. I run as fast as I can, surprised at my speed and endurance for losing so much blood. I have a death grip on the blanket in my hand as I hold Liam's leg, running with my other arm dangling, dripping blood as we trot along. I try not to focus on the amount of blood still leaking from my shoulder as my head starts to become dizzy. The darkness starts to fade in the forest—we are either getting close to the end or the sun is coming up. I see silhouettes of people in the distance as I come bolting out of the forest, collapsing face first in front of the Proctor. I gasped for air like a fish out of water while Liam's on his knees vomiting next to me.
"This is a surprise," The Proctor said with a grin.