On the second day of our journey, nothing much had happened; the same routine we had done on the first day. We passed by a beautiful serene river, filled to the brim with fresh fishes the likes of which we’ve never seen before along the border. The river was calming, one could say that it was a sight to see.
After the river, we were on the plains, there wasn’t much honestly— just horses and not much else. Aside from that, there was a rare breed of flowers thought to be extinct, Wuotan had told us that this flower only bloomed during the verdant seasons, when the time of ripening was nigh. Though I didn’t know what he meant by that, nor did anyone else in the group know what he meant by verdant seasons. It was strange, to say the least.
The next, and last stop for the second day was a beautiful, lush forest! We didn’t go inside as it was already night, so we decided to make a stop and rest by the entrance of the forest for the meantime.
“Today was boring! There wasn’t anythin’ interesting that happened!” Ken would exclaim, his boredom can be felt even by those who weren't near him.
Audrei would chuckle at him being frustrated over such a little thing, whilst me and Pol’ would gently smile at Ken’s frustration. We all went back to our respective duties afterwards, Ken in charge of helping manage food and cooking, Pol’ wasn’t really entirely in charge of anything— and neither was I, but we were being trained how to fight and use Mana. While Audrei was off hunting, like the beast she is.
The night passed, and now it was time to depart.
Onto the forest we go, and onto the forest we went. It was eerie, it was a very lush forest, filled to the brim with many different kinds of fauna and flora— and yet, it was as if they were avoiding something? I couldn’t tell.
We were all cautious; on guard. I can safely assume that it isn’t just me who feels the tension in the air, and I’m sure the question of whether we’d be ambushed or not has played in the back of their minds ever since we’d entered the forest.
It was in broad daylight, the light coming from the sun was piercing through the thick layers of leaves and branches, it was almost blinding, the forest was dark enough for things or people to hide away from the sight of mortals easily, and bright enough for us to be able to even see the people near us— next to us.
Perhaps what was most suspicious was that the creatures avoided us. Not in a sense that made them back off to protect their kin, but in a way that they are forced to— that they are doing it not out of their own free will.
Every time I looked behind me, I felt as if I was being watched— by someone? By something? I just couldn't piece it all together. Nothing was adding up.
A few hours would pass, and we were still in the forest. How long have we been in this damn forest? Why are we still here? Where’s the exit? So many questions, and yet so few answers.
But, as me and a few others were sitting down inside the Caravan, getting some shut-eye for the long, long hours to come; it stopped. And for a moment, not only did the Caravan stop, but so did my heart. Was it from the fear? From the anxiety? I could feel a strange presence just outside the Caravan, I couldn’t even bring myself to check, let alone lift a finger.
I muster up all my willpower and slowly hop off the caravan, creaking ever so slightly as I went down. I checked my surroundings, everyone was standing still— in awe? It’s like they saw a ghost. Yet, as I look behind me, the first thing I see is a majestic creature.
It had the body of a tiger; It’s skin was covered in a snow-white fur with jet-black stripes, it stood out the most in the midst of the darkness that illuminated most— if not all of the forest, with only little fragments of light being let through by the little holes in the leaves and tall trees.
The fur and the stripes weren’t what made it stand out though. What truly made it stand out was it’s massive Stymphalian Wings, dawned in a streak of crimson. This was no ordinary beast, this was the protector of this forest. This is what explains why the fauna were avoiding us.
Suddenly, the beast would roar at us, “How dare you mortals step into my land?! This is no passageway for mere mortals to go through.” The almost feminine-esque voice would echo throughout our minds, and it felt like it had echoed throughout the entire forest.
Wuotan would step up to the beast, speaking to it in a language none of us has ever heard before.
No one knew what was happening, nobody knew what would happen. But we all had to place our faith and trust into Wuotan, if anyone’s to get us out of here alive, it was him. subconsciously, and deep down, we all knew we could trust him.
Wuotan etched closer and closer towards the beast, until he made his way extremely close to the beast, which was too close for comfort for many of us in the group. It was strange, really strange. How did he do that? What language was he speaking to converse with the beast? I wish I could know.
He started stroking the beast’s fur, playing with it’s belly as if it was his, and even patting it’s head.
“You… You are strange. You are not the same as the other mortals? Are you not?” The beast would ask gently. Though, as per usual, Wuotan stayed silent when it came to questions about himself.
“Whatever the case may be— You may go, proceed on. But please, never forget us.”
“Us?” Wuotan would look at the beast, very confused.
It’d move its wings away from its body, revealing five cubs, all resembling the beast. It was a mother just trying to protect its cubs. If Wuotan hadn’t been here would we really have a chance against it? The mother would’ve been slaughtered, the children massacred and their fur to be put in auction or in the markets, just to be sold to those who abuse their power to gain more power.
It wouldn’t have been just, or the right thing to do, really.
“What did you say your name was, mortal?” The mother would ask Wuotan, “You just seemed familiar.”
“Wuotan.” He’d say as he patted the cubs and muttered something under his breath.
“Wuotan. I will remember this day for centuries to come. May our paths ever cross again, I shall gift you the bounty of the forests.” The mother would say, a smile being seen across her face despite being a beast.
“Until we meet again, Gammel Venn.” He’d say to the mother, waving goodbye as we all moved together with him alongside those inside the caravan.