Hello, everyone! Please let me begin by offering my sincerest apologies for utterly abandoning you for close to a month and a half. I don't really know what happened exactly, but for some reason I found it incredibly hard to write this chapter. Sometimes I just couldn't get past a certain paragraph, or a sentence wouldn't come out right and I just put it off, but eventually I decided to suck it up and let the world decide if it works or not. That's usually my biggest problem when I'm writing. I need everything to be perfect the first time, which is why some of these chapters are posted far apart, for which I apologize again, but I digress. Anyway, if I haven't posted anything for awhile, please send me a message telling me to get off my butt and write, because trust me, I need it sometimes. And now, without further ado, enjoy the long-overdue Chapter 13!
Orion stumbled through the black forest, breathing heavily. The dim glow in his hands just barely gave off enough light to see by, and it was becoming harder and harder to maintain. He had been running for almost four hours, but strangely had not noticed any attempt to recapture him. He had encountered nothing but sulking trees and browning grass. Orion glanced behind him. Seeing nothing, he slowed down and slumped over by a tree to catch his breath. His simple leather shirt and trousers offered little warmth in the cold woods. Shivering, he shoved his hands in his pockets to keep them warm. Orion frowned. There was something in his pocket. He pulled his right hand, still glowing, out of his pocket. It was his ring. Orion raised an eyebrow. He hadn't remembered putting that in his pocket. Orion shrugged and slid it on his finger. Feeling rested, Orion got up, wiped his brow, and walked off, convinced he wasn't being followed. He walked on aimlessly for awhile, the dull light in his hands lighting the way. There was a sudden rustling of leaves nearby, and Orion spun around, eyes flicking about. He squinted; it was to dark to see anything. He pushed himself a little harder and the light in his hands grew slightly brighter, revealing a startled squirrel who then scurried away quickly. A sharp pain flashed in Orion's head and the glow in his hands dimmed. Orion staggered and leaned on a tree for support. Clutching his head in pain, Orion continued through the forest, now limping slightly. Another rustle nearby, and in panic Orion threw his hands toward it. The light intensified for a moment and Orion's eyes flashed a brilliant golden. A loud bang echoed through the trees, and the light faded, revealing a now fried rabbit. Orion blinked in shock, his eyes returning to their natural blue color, and began to stumble away. He picked up speed, running aimlessly through the forest. His hands brightened to a blinding level, illuminating the forest around him. Animals fled in every direction as Orion scrambled about. His hands flashed even brighter and began to burn. Orion gritted his teeth against the pain and kept running. He eventually spotted a small cave atop a hill. He ran inside and collapsed on the damp ground. The throbbing pain in his head intensified and Orion clutched his head. The cold metal of the ring on his finger stung against his forehead, and in a moment of frustration he pulled it off and threw it to the ground. He tried to relax, taking deep breaths. His hands dimmed, and the pain in his head dulled to a minor headache. Orion stared at the ceiling of the cave, gathering his thoughts. He glanced at the ring on the ground, scooped it up and examined it. The metal gleamed dimly in the low light of the cave, despite the dirt that had gathered on it. Orion rubbed the dirt off and slipped the ring into his pocket. The room seemed to darken further in the ring's absence. Orion sighed, scratching his head. He turned his gaze to the mouth of the cave and looked up at the stars above. As he let his mind wander, a thought occurred to him. The Alpha knew his class was Radiance. Why encourage him? Why fill his cell with light? He must have known it would unlock his abilities. Was there something about his abilities that the Alpha wanted? Why? Orion slowly drifted into unconsciousness, brooding over his thoughts.
Orion was awakened by a gentle breeze flowing through the mouth of the cave. He blinked a couple times, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, and stood up, stretching dramatically. He took a moment to take in his surroundings. It was apparent that there had been no attempt to recapture him, as the surrounding landscape had not been disturbed other than what he himself had disturbed the night before, nor were there any unusual animal tracks. He yawned, scratching the back of his head and realized that the unusual pain in his head from the night before was gone. He passively strolled outside the cave, wondering what he should do. If Amari was smart, she'd have gone somewhere safe and forgotten she'd ever met him. At least, Orion thought, that's what he hoped she'd do. He doubted it, though. She was smart, but impulsive and stubborn. She wouldn't walk away if she didn't think the job wasn't done. At any rate, Orion had no idea where she'd be, so finding her was hopeless. At this point, the best option was probably to just find a way out of this forest. He walked through the foliage aimlessly until he noticed a small patch of blackened grass where he had mistakenly attacked a rabbit the night before. On impulse, he tried to conjure some of the light he had before. Unfortunately, though, nothing happened. He couldn't create light. He pushed harder, but to no prevail. Slightly discouraged, he ventured on. He was surprised to see how much damage he had caused during the night. Without realizing it, he had severely scorched a good amount of trees on his way to the cave. Orion frowned. This made him uneasy. With a trail like this, it was next to impossible that Tenebrie trackers wouldn't be able to find him. And the fact that he was still, by the most far-fetched definition possible, a free man, that had to mean that they were not actually looking for him. Or worse; they knew where he was and they were holding back. In his intense thought, Orion failed to notice a patch of slightly discolored grass. As he stepped on it, it caved in, revealing a large trench. Orion's hand immediately flew to his pocket to protect his father's ring. He landed on the floor of the trench with a painful crack and cried out in pain. He felt his arm break under the impact. Tears sprang to his eyes as he gritted his teeth, clutching his injured arm. As he wiped the tears from his eyes, his arm began to glow a faint golden. Without realizing it, he had slipped his ring onto his finger in his pocket. His arm began to shudder and shake. Orion gasped in surprise as he felt the fragmented bone in his arm shift, mending itself. His arm stopped shaking, and it glowed dimly in the aftermath. He rubbed his arm. It was a little sore, but only just. Orion's arm was just beginning to fade when he heard leaves rustling nearby. He froze.
"Hey, Sal! Sal, I think we got one!" a voice called from somewhere outside the pit. Orion frantically searched for an exit, but to no avail. The pit grew dark as the shadow of a man loomed over Orion. Orion quickly hid his face.
"Oh, man, there's a kid in there! Hey, kid, you okay? Sal! Gimme a hand over here!"
A second shadow occupied the pit.
"Jeez, Mark, you really did it this time,"
"Hell with that, it was your trap! Just help me get 'im out of there. Kid! Gimme your hand!"
Orion glanced warily at the man's outstretched hand.
"Well? What're you waiting for? C'mon up!"
Orion grasped the man's hand cautiously, and with his help he climbed out of the hole.
"Phew! Lucky we came when we did. A fall like that had to hurt. Where're you injured?"
Orion rubbed his arm. "Nowhere, I think," he said. The man raised his eyebrows.
"No kidding? You're luckier than I thought. At any rate, you'd better come with us,"
Orion immediately went on guard and took a step back.
"Why?" he asked.
"Easy, easy, no need to be afraid. But for someone like you to be way out here with nothin' but the clothes on your back, you gotta be runnin' from somethin', and I imagine you're feelin' pretty hungry right about now," the man said, "Now, I don't know what it is you're runnin' from, family, commitment or otherwise, but right now the important thing is gettin' you a decent meal."
Orion narrowed his eyes warily and opened his mouth to speak when his stomach let loose a monstrous growl. Orion blushed in spite of himself, his shoulder's slumped in defeat.
"Thank you, sir," he said dejectedly, and allowed himself to be led off.
"So what's your story, kid?" one of the hunters asked while Orion was wolfing down a bowl of stew, "What brings you way out here to Darkwood?"
Orion looked up with mild interest. "Darkwood? Darkwood forest? Is that where I am?"
The hunter raised his eyebrows. "You mean you don't even know where you are?"
"I wasn't exactly looking where I was going, if you know what I mean."
"Must've been really desperate to leave," the hunter said, and then chuckled, "What, did you break out of prison or something?" Orion paused for a moment, then continued eating, albeit at a slower pace.
"No, nothing like that," Orion said, "It's... uh... it's my... uncle. He sort of took over after dad died, and he and I never really saw eye to eye. I ran out when he got violent, but he hired some thugs to bring me back. I swear, they almost killed me!" The hunter whistled.
"No kiddin," he said, "Well, don't you worry, you're safe and sound in the old lodge."
Orion stopped again, taking a moment to take in his surroundings. He was in a hunting cabin of sorts, old, but cozy. A fire blazed in the corner with a cooking spit suspended above it. The walls were lined with the mounted heads of deer, elk, and on a massive centerpiece, a bear.
"You two seem like pretty accomplished hunters," he said. The man poking at the fire cackled.
"Hear that, Markie? We're accomplished hunters!" he shouted. The other man, Mark, shot him a glare.
"Shut it, Sal," he said. Orion raised an eyebrow.
"Did I say something funny?"
"Forget it, Sal's just being an idiot," Mark said.
The fire crackled suddenly, sending embers billowing. Sal jumped back, cursing loudly. Mark let out a loud bark of laughter, but Orion frowned. He got up quickly, eyes narrowed. Mark glanced up, still smiling.
"Something the matter, kid?" he said. Orion held up a hand for silence, listening intently. The fire crackled again, more violently, but this time Orion felt the ground beneath him tremble slightly. He ran toward a window next to the door and peered out. There was a tense silence for a moment as Orion watched in anticipation. Suddenly, the ground shook as an enormous boulder smashed through a nearby tree and landed on the ground in front of the cabin, creating a large crater and sending dirt and debris in every direction.
"What the hell is that?!" Mark shouted.
"Catapults!" Orion shouted back, "Out, now!" Orion threw open the door and ran out, closely followed by Mark. Sal had just enough time to grab a bag of supplies and dive out of the lodge before another boulder came crashing through the roof, demolishing the house. Mark and Sal stared at the ruins in shock.
"What the hell is happening?! Who the hell drags a catapult into Darkwood just to hurl rocks at us?!" Mark said. He never got an answer. Six Tenebrie Warriors came out of the trees, drawing their swords. They advanced slowly, and Orion readied himself. The Tenebrie formed a semicircle around them.
"Markus and Salvador Tillman, you are hereby placed under arrest by order of His Majesty the King on sixty-two separate counts of illegal poaching within government owned lands. Come quietly, and we will not be forced to take aggressive action against you."
Orion was dumbfounded. Mark and Sal both drew concealed knives and readied themselves.
"Illegal poaching my ass!" Sal shouted, "If you stiffs'd just give us a legal hunting permit, we wouldn't have to!"
"Yeah, we gotta eat somehow!" Mark chimed in. Orion was completely confused. None of the Tenebrie had even glanced at him, as if he was just some bystander.
"Regardless of motive, you are still committing a royal offense. You and your accomplice will come with us."
"Leave the kid out of it, we just found 'im in the woods!"
"Nonetheless, you will all come with us or suffer the consequences."
"Like hell!" Sal said, and threw his knife with surprising skill. It would have killed a warrior, but he spun out of the way.
"Dammit, Sal!" Mark shouted, and charged at the Tenebrie. He was quite agile, and somehow managed to hold his own for awhile. One of the Tenebrie dropped his sword and whipped out a bow. As he took aim at Sal, Mark charged at him. Orion took this moment to escape from the battle. He sprinted toward the tree line, just as the Tenebrie with the bow turned to face him.
"Stop!" he yelled, "Stop, or I will shoot!" Orion kept running, desperately reaching for the cover of the trees. The warrior nocked an arrow on his bowstring and drew back. Just as he fired, however, Mark tackled him. The arrow curved through the air, and just as Orion slipped into the cover of the trees it pierced his neck. Orion's breath came short and he stumbled. He fell to his knees, choking and clutching his bleeding throat. His eyes were wide with fear at the sight of his own blood dripping into the dirt.
While he struggled to retain his consciousness, his right hand began to glow brightly. The golden radiance quickly spread up to his shoulder, then across his torso, and finally up to his neck. The light wrapped around the arrow, and suddenly it was gone. The arrow dissolved into millions of tiny particles of light. There was a brilliant flash, and Orion could suddenly breath again. He opened his eyes, and his neck had stopped bleeding. He stood up, feeling suddenly relaxed. There was another brilliant flash, and Orion doubled over again, this time an immense pain in his head. He gripped his head tightly and stumbled forward again. He picked up speed and broke into a sprint. He flashed again, the pain becoming more intense. He let out a cry of pain and kept running. Flash after flash the pain intensified. Finally, Orion could bear it no more and he stumbled and fell to his knees, gasping for breath. The crippling pain grew to a torturous level, and the brilliant light disappeared in an instant. For a tense moment, nothing happened. Then, all of a sudden, all the energy that Orion had withstood was released all at once. Orion was dragged to his feet by the enormous pillar of light escaping from his body, shooting infinitely high into the sky. Orion screamed in pain, but it was swallowed by the thunderous noise emitted by the pillar. Orion watch as the land around him quickly burned away into ash, then dust, and then solidified into rock. The crater he was in expanded by the second. He stood in the center of the pillar, helpless to what was going on around him. He couldn't move, and he could feel his life beginning to fade away. Something caught his eye, however, and through his searing pain he managed to look to the side. There were two people standing on the edge of the crater. They looked like they were trying to get closer to him. They seemed familiar somehow. Orion gritted his teeth and looked closer. His eyes widened. It was Lenny ad Amari! Orion struggled to reach out to them, extending his hand toward them slightly. Before he could do anything, though, a dark figure materialized in front of him. Orion just had time to gasp before the figure wrapped its arms around Orion.
What happened next, Orion really couldn't explain. At first, he was in the outskirts of Darkwood Forest, slowly being sapped of his life by some unknown force, and now he was lying in... well, he didn't really know where he was. Some kind of cave, perhaps? The pain in his head vanished. He propped himself up on his shoulders, squinting into the darkness. As his eyes adjusted, he could just make out the silhouette of a hooded man in front of him. A dull ache stung in his head for a moment, and Orion grasped his head with his right hand. Suddenly, Orion's eyes widened. His ring! Where was his father's ring. He desperately searched the ground around him, but to no avail. He began to hear footsteps. Before he could react, the hooded man grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to his feet. His face was covered by a strange mask, carved in unrecognizable patterns.
"Where is it?!" he yelled at Orion. His voice was gravelly, but not unpleasant.
"What? Where is what?"
The man tossed him to the ground angrily. "Dammit, you know what I mean! Where is the epichysis?!"
The man threw up his hands in exasperation. He drew a small black dagger and dragged it across the rocky wall. A spark flew, and ignited a brazier. The whole room lit up and Orion found himself in a makeshift abode, complete with bookshelves, a bed, weapon rack and training dummies.
"Where am I?" Orion asked. The man walked over to his bed, facing away from Orion. He removed his mask and tossed it on the bed, his face still hidden by his hood. He twirled his dagger a few times in his fingers and whipped it at a dummy. The dagger buried itself up to the hilt in the dummy's head.
"This is my home," the man said, removing his armor piece by piece, "And you might as well make yourself comfortable, the Tenebrium Bellator will be all over the place after that little stunt you pulled."
Orion rubbed his arm uncomfortably.
"Who... who are you?" he asked. The man paused for a moment, then slowly removed his hood, turning to face Orion. Orion gasped audibly, shuffling backwards.
"D-dad?" he said hoarsely. The man in front of him was the spitting image of his father, albeit significantly younger. The man shook his head.
"No," he said, "My name is Orion."
Hello, All! Glad to see you made it to the end of my longest chapter yet! Unfortunately, that's not much of an achievement as of right now, with each chapter to date being just over 2,000 words, aside from this one which clocks in at about 3k. Again, I digress.
In case you were confused, this was a minor time skip backwards, mainly to see the events of the past day or so from Orion's point of view, and to reveal his developing power. Which leads me to a question, dear audience;
How do you think Orion's power is developing? As in, why do you think it appears so suddenly and uncontrollably?
Also, what do you think of Beta's appearance in the story? I know he doesn't have much of a character as of now, but don't fret! He'll play quite a role in the days to come!
With the Tenebrium Bellator flooding the site of the explosion, how will Lenny, Amari and everyone escape?