The beige moon hung low over the sky, dominating the Heavens with its vast size and standing out brilliantly against the navy backdrop. The moonlight filtered down onto the earth, paying individual attention to each blade of grass, each dewdrop, and each leaf; illuminating them in a beautiful spectacle. The open field battled between different shades of grey, and in comparison, the forest behind it was a black monster waiting for its prey.
Dorian's bare feet were moistened with each step as he hobbled his way towards the forest. He could not help but feel a pang of regret as he gazed at the world around him; one that he had never known to be so beautiful or so mysterious. Why he had never seen this before, he did not know. Perhaps it had always been there, and he had never appreciated it.
He looked up and the moon once more, its presence holding him to his spot. He was afraid to turn away. He wanted to hold onto that moment forever, he wanted to stand there and never have it end. If could have had just once more chance…
There were too many things that he would do over. His life; where had it gone? If he could go back, change the events of the night prior, knowing what had happened to him…He would leave the Temple, and never look at it again. He would become a merchant, or work on a ship, and travel around the world. He would see the Ocean, meet a Thér, sleep with many men, and dance with many women. He would live a life of hedonism; he only lived once, so why deny himself the pleasure?
Stopping, Dorian turned around. A dome dominated the large sky-blue edifice behind him. Like the things surrounding it, the Temple shone in the moonlight. It was beautiful and grand, however, it was not more than a prison; a prison which had contained him and wasted a year of his life. If he had not gone to the damned Temple, none of this would have happened. Why had he not run away from his parents? Why had he not joined a troop of actors and led a life of adventure?
Hindsight was clear vision.
Turning back around, Dorian began hobbling across the field once more. What had happened was in the past, and dwelling on it would only make him feel worse. He was in the present, and the future was his main objective.
The future…Dorian shuddered at the thought.
Shutting his mind away from the world around him, Dorian focused in on the black mass before him. He quickened his pace, walking as fast as his feet could carry him. The forest grew bigger with each step; and also grew more imposing.
Dorian clutched the rope in his left hand; a reminder of what was to come. It would be short, he just had to make sure not to panic. He would have to be brave.
Within a few short moments, the black mass stood before him. Dorian looked up to the top of the canopy, and then down to the forest floor. It was all the same; black and frightening to the core.
The past was behind him. The future- Dorian gripped the rope hard- was before him. His choices and his lack of faith had led him here. His feet wanted to runaway, but his mind would not let them.
He had to enter the forest.
Taking a in a deep breath of air, Dorian stepped in. He closed his eyes for an instant, and reopened them to find a world of blackness. His body wanted to turn around and run back to the safety of the Temple, but his mind pressed forward.
He pushed onwards, his small body being swallowed whole by the black mass.
"Be brave." He reminded himself aloud. "Nothing to fear," his voice trembled. "Nothing to fear this side of death."
Dael stared deeply into the bright orange ball of flame before him. His body was motionless, all of its energy focused on feeding the flame. His mind was without a thought, his soul focused on summoning his Goddess.
He called her repeatedly, using more energy to do so each time he did. With his globe, he could peer into her domain, and there his eyes hungrily sought her out. His vision picked up any trace of her that it could find, and like the nose of a dog following a fugitive, it followed her trail. Through the shadows it hunted, until it finally came upon her essence. Just as it was about to reach out to her to summon her attention, Dael lost his concentration.
The sound of broken branches and footfalls resonated from the dark depths of the woods. Dael waited with patience for the feeling of chill and desolation to overtake his body, as he maintained his ball of orange flame. Only ghosts pasted through these woods at night, and within a few moments, the spirit would pass by. However, the closer the thing came to his body, the more alive it felt. He could feel a warmth emanating from it; a warmth fraught with fear.
What it was afraid of, he could not be certain. However, animals were wise enough to run away in the face of danger; only humans were stupid enough to dive headlong into it.
Whether it was a man or a woman, Dael had no time to think on. As fast as he could, he extinguished the ball of flame. He sat still and as quiet as possible, waiting for whomever it was to pass. However, the fool it was did not leave, and remained motionless, but close enough still to threaten his safety.
He had to act.
Dorian laboured forward, through the pitch-black depths of the forest. Moving forward without his cane was quite the struggle. He used the trees to support himself, pushing himself from trunk to trunk. His robes were soaked with sweat, and the branches of the trees around him scrapped him with every opportunity. He was exhausted. Just a little bit further, he reassured himself.
It was at that moment that Dorian caught sight of a peculiar orange light far in the distance. He stopped walking, gazing at it intensely, all of the fear he may have had before replaced with curiosity. Within the reach of the orange light sat a person, donned in the red robe of the Temple's Acolytes.
His fear of being seen prevented him from coming too close; however, his curiosity drew him in closer. As he came closer, he was able to make out the dark brown tuff of hair covering the man's- it had to be a man- head. A peasant boy, Dorian thought. He racked his mind quickly, trying to think of all of the acolytes in the Temple who were peasants, or had some peasant blood in them. Only two that came to mind, and there was one that stood out the most.
Dorian stopped walking for a moment. He peered closer at the person in the forest, trying to make out his face. Nevertheless, try as he might, he could not make out anything at all; just the tuff of dark brown hair. However, from the distance he was at, he was able to make out the source of the orange light.
It was a flame. Not just any flame- no- it hovered in the air, and it took on the shape of a ball.
Magic. That was the only possibility.
Dorian could not recall Arthur having any abilities with magic. Actually, the thought had never even occurred to him before. That left the other peasant boy- Steven- but Dorian could not recall him having anything to do with magic at all. That ruled both of them out.
Then, who was the peasant boy and why was he wearing the robes of an acolyte?
Curiosity drove Dorian forward once more, the thought of any peril that may be before him not even crossing his mind. Perhaps it was a ghost; however, Dorian knew nothing of ghosts being able to access the fabric. Once again, Dorian tried to come up with as many acolytes as he could who were of peasant birth. Once more he found that the only two he could come up with were Arthur and Steven.
Then finally, Dorian came close enough to discern the boy's identity.
It was Arthur.
Dorian was taken aback with shock. Disbelieving, he peered in closer at the man. The man had Arthur's face; his nose, his mouth, his cheeks. Everything except for his eyes, if that was what Dorian could call them. They were not human, they could not be.
They glowed orange.
Dorian latched on to the nearest tree for support. The thing, whatever it was, was not human. Nor was it Arthur. Arthur could not practice magic; no peasant could. They had been banned from it several generations before. Any peasant with any connection to the fabric was rooted out and had it severed. The same would have happened to Arthur, and since Arthur did not wear the bracelet, he never could have had a connection to begin with.
No, it was not Arthur. That was impossible. It was a demon of some kind, who had taken the form of his friend.
At that moment it all became clear to him.
Snana had sent a demon, a demon in the form of Arthur. Why the demon was in the forest, he did not know, but what he did know was that it was making its way to the Temple, and it had one purpose.
To lure him and to capture him.
A long suppressed instinct kicked in, and told Dorian to run. However, his body was root to the spot. Not out of fear, no, something was holding him there. Some sort of force.
Some sort of power.
The ball of flame disappeared, and the light in the forest went out. Dorian stood still, unable to move. His heart almost burst out of his chest, and fear seized his muscles, cramping them and pushing all of the sweat out of his body. He knew that this was the fate that awaited him eventually. He knew this was the fate which he had come into the forest that night to face.
However, he was not ready to face it.
Something collided into him and sent his small body flying towards the ground. It straddled him and before Dorian could react, it placed its cold hands firmly around him neck and began to push tightly. Dorian lifted his arms, and with his hands he tried desperately to pry the icy fingers off of him.
But it was in vain. With every passing second, Dorian could feel his life being stolen from him. The pressure on his neck increased, and so did the pain. His heart began to race with adrenaline, as he struggled harder and harder to fend off his attacker. With time however, the pain began to subside, and the pressure alleviated; it almost felt as if the hands were not there. A sense of bliss took over his body and his struggle to fight back became less coordinated, and eventually, his arms fell to his sides; utterly useless.
His last fight was to keep his eyes open; however, this effort was futile from its inception. Slowly his eyes became heave, too heavy for him to support any longer. Try as he might, they shut, plummeting him into unconsciousness.
As his eyes shut, his body relaxed, and a rope noose fell from his hand.
That was his fate. The fate that he had sought out. The fate that he had come to the forest to greet. The fate that he had tried to take control of.
The fate that he had lost control of.
The fate that had seized control of him.
Author's Note: CLIFFY…And therefore…THE STORY DOES NOT END HERE…its only the beginning…tee hee… Sorry if that was a little bit rushed...I have been doing a lot lately. Anyways...WolfGirlSorceress- I am sure you've had a ton of updates since I last checked and I will try to get to them this weekend. Shy Silver and Caryatid, don't worry, I haven't forgotten you either, and I will try to review you guys by Sunday...Anyways, I hope you all enjoyed it. And review! Thanks :D