"Ma… look. It… it's so beautiful."
Ragnar's face was now bathed by the sunlight; with the leaves of the forest the only things separating him from being completely drowned by it. He closed his eyes and opened them repeatedly.
Ragnar had always imagined what it would be like for him to be able to see the things that his mother sees. The way she described them to him — the trees, the ground, the sky.
…And it was everything his mother told him. Alfhild almost painted the scenery inside Ragnar's mind.
"Ma?" Ragnar then softly turned his head, gently hopping so that he… could adjust his mother and not let her fall from his back. Alfhild was a lot taller than the little Ragnar; but with her legs gone, Ragnar was able to carry her behind his back.
Ragnar thought that he had lost his mother back in the cave, but no — she merely fell asleep. But she was getting weaker, too weak that she could even barely speak.
"Just… just leave me," Alfhild's grip on her son lightened, but before it could fall, Ragnar caught her hand, "I… I'm tired."
"N… No," Ragnar shook his head as he no longer looked at the covered sky, "We… we're going to get you to… to a healer. You told me about them… they… they help anyone and they're kind. They'll help us, right?"
"Ragnar… it's too late."
"Please… please just wait, mama," Ragnar breathed out as his steps hastened, "We… we're going to find a healer. I'm sure we can. Just… rest…
…you can rest. I will wake you up, okay?"
"...Ma?" Ragnar leaned his head closer to Alfhild's, and as soon as he felt a warm breath coming out of her nose, he quickly nodded and continued to trek the woods. Ragnar has absolutely no idea where he was going, but he was sure there would be something out there…
…just like in the stories his mother told him. One way or another, the heroes of the stories would always triumph through adversities.
"Just… wait, ma," Ragnar let out a deep breath as he once again made sure that Alfhild was comfortable,
"Once… once we overcome this. I'll… I'll become an Arch Mage and then… then we can have all the grilled lizards we want."
And so, Ragnar continued to walk.
"It… it's getting darker, mama. This… this is night?"
And even as the sun started to set, Ragnar never stopped moving. He never stopped moving forward…
…only to find himself back at the entrance of the cave.
"The… these caves all… all look alike," Ragnar could not help but let out a small chuckle as he shook his head. In truth, this is probably the 4th time he had been back to the cave.
He had been walking in circles ever since he managed to break through the cave; he had no idea, of course — as everything just looked the same for him.
"D… don't worry, ma. We're… we're getting near, I can feel–"
"I'm telling you, it's been 2 weeks. They are probably just seeing things and—"
And before Ragnar could once again venture out into the woods to get lost, a group of people suddenly stepped out of the shrubs. And since their eyes almost popped out and their breaths stopped, they were probably as shocked as Ragnar.
"..." Ragnar didn't really know what to say. This was the first time he was ever seeing another person — but still, he tried to remember his mother's words.
There are kind people out there. And these four might just be it.
"H… hello? Can… can you help—"
And before Ragnar could finish his words, he suddenly felt his mother falling away from his back; he tried to grab on to her arm, but it was already too late as she fell.
"The… The devil's spawn! It… it's alive!"
The people started screaming, but Ragnar did not heed them any mind as he quickly turned around to check on his mother… only to see something stuck between her eyes that wasn't there before.
It looked like the twigs and branches that were on the ground, except smoother.
"What… is this?"
"Fuck! Why did you miss!? Draw it again!"
"Just stab him! What's your spear for!?"
"Do it now, do it now while the fucking lizard's busy!"
"Mama? Are you… okay?"
Alfhild's eyes… were open; yet the light that they previously had was no longer there.
"M… Ma?" And once again; a habit that Ragnar would probably never get rid of — he started tapping his mother's body, almost as if trying to find her. But alas, not even a weakened breath fumed from her mouth.
"Ma…" And of course, Ragnar knew what this is — death. After all, in the stories of triumph that Alfhild has told him… it doesn't end when the hero wins, no– it ends with their death, reaching their glory in the afterlife.
"I… I'm sorry, ma," Ragnar gently patted his mother's face,
"May… may you find me in the darkness," and then, reciting a line from one of the stories his mother has told him, he finally closed her eyes and allowed her to truly rest.
"S… shit, it's moving! Stab it! Stab it!"
"Why… Why would you do this to us?"
And before any of the four could react, Ragnar did what he did to the cave — he leaped with everything he had and slammed his fist towards the man closest to him.
But unlike the cave, the man's stomach offered almost no resistance as his guts and spine were quickly… spewed from his back.
Not only the 3 men, but even Ragnar seemed shocked as to what just happened as he looked at his arm; half of it, digging through the man's stomach. He then very slowly looked up to see the man's face, and as Ragnar saw him losing the colors in his eyes…
…I'm a mage now," Ragnar then said as the stories of his mother circled his mind, "Ma, loo–"
And before he could finish his words, an arm suddenly wrapped around his neck and pulled him away, lifting him and the air and choking him.
"Do… do it now! Stab him!"
"F… fuck! Hold him still! You should be the one here, you're the one with the fucking bow!"
"Stop, we're going to hit him, you fucking idiot! Just fucking tie him up!"
Ragnar didn't really know what to do — as the only thing he could feel was the arm in his neck getting tighter and tighter… but not even enough for him to be hurt. Soon, however, his eyes widened as one of the men in front of him kneeled and placed his palm on the ground…
…summoning some sort of branch that emerged from the ground.
These vines then very slowly climbed their way up to Ragnar's legs… as well as to the man holding him by the neck.
"Not me, you fucking— Agh!"
And before the man could finish his words, he quickly let go of Ragnar as he felt a sharp pain suddenly wrapping his arm, he looked… only to see a chunk of his flesh missing.
"F… fuck! The… the lizard bit me!"
The two quickly took a few steps back as they heard their friend's words… they then turned their eyes towards the little boy, only to see him with a blank look in his eyes as his mouth moved; creating a visceral sound…
…as a blood not his trailed from his lips.