Metolol Forest

:Death is defined as the cessation of life. An end of your time in this world. So if you jump from one world to another, does that mean you die? Does it mean you're born again? Are you the same person as when you left? Should you accept your death and new life or do you fight for what had been? All in all, it might be easier if death just meant you were gone.:

"My Lord, Atuse," Corvis bowed at the waist upon entering the war room.

His king lifted his head and waved him forward with a smile. "Ah, Corvis. Right on time. Excellent. I have a new plan for dealing with Trich. That hypnotic harpy's days on the throne are numbered. I think I can get an assassin in if we just use a blind man. He'll be able to get close to her without being struck by her beauty! What do you think?"

"A fine plan, majesty," Corvis smiled gently, the lie falling from his lips easily. Atuse wasn't known for his brains, but that was what he had Corvis for. "However, I'm afraid that will have to wait. We have limited time to act."

"Act on what, Corvis?" Atuse grinned as he moved pieces across the map table towards Trich's precious Pasidhulka. He would have that kingdom soon! And its seductive queen would be beggingfor him to slip between her legs. But he wouldn't! HA!

"Have you already forgotten?" Corvis frowned at him. "The Key is descending on us from beyond the veil. We have to act quickly, sire. The seer has told us of a meadow within Metolol Forest filled with golden flowers and guarded by white leaved trees. Queen Modra and Queen Trich are already moving to procure the Key. We have no time to waste."

"Of course!" Atuse slammed his fist down onto the table, upsetting the wooden figures he had just spent so long delicately fixing into place. "With the Fire Demon under our control, there is no limit to what we could do! We could conquer Pasidhulka and Bumiterram easily!"

"My point exactly, majesty," Corvis grinned, pleased he had caught on. "I have gathered a troop of your finest men. Metolol Forest is a dangerous place and we don't know exactly where we're going. I need only your permission for the royal mage to use a fast travel spell to get them there quickly."

"Dangerous?" Atuse scoffed, throwing back his head to laugh deep from his large barrel chest. "Corvis, surely you jest. That forest is full of naught but weak vitiates! My men shall be more than enough to handle such paltry things!"

"Indeed. I just wanted to be prepared in case there is any...opposition in retrieving the Key. We don't know what to expect, after all."

"What's to expect? It's a Key! You have many on the ring on your sash!"

"It is not an ordinary key, majesty," Corvis said, totally calm in the face of Atuse's complete lack of respect for the subject matter. "Your permission, majesty?"


"For the mage spell. Fast travel is not easy to cast and I'm afraid it will drain your mage for at least twelve hours afterwords. The Key is more than worth it though."

"You always know best, Corvis," Atuse leveled a finger at him with a grin. "Alright, you have my permission. Take the best men and bring me that Key. I want this amazing Flame Demon on a leash in my courtyard by the end of the week!"

"It shall be done, Lord Atuse," Corvis bowed at the waist again, grinning to himself.

With the Flame Demon under their control, there would be nothing that this kingdom could not do. No threat it could not conquer. They would control the world.

King Atuse, thick brown beard twitching as he grinned and overly muscled arms twitching, was fixing his map again as the much thinner Corvis stepped from his office. Corvis's thigh length blond hair was resting against his shoulder, trailing behind him slightly as he walked.

The Fire Demon and his great power would be theirs once they had this Key. Corvis would be able to shape the world to his whim. And King Atuse was going to help him do so.


"My queen...My queen?"

"OH, YES! YES!" Trich's head fell back as the male maid pounded her from behind. Her body rocked along with his thrusts as ecstasy rushed through her body in waves.

Lestra, her seer, tried not to roll her eyes at the sight. She wished that she could say that the image of her nude queen, begging for more on all fours, was a new sight for her. Queen Trich had no discretion nor discrimination when it came to lovers. She didn't care who saw or what they saw, she would even frequently conduct business with a man's head between her legs.

Lestra wished, not for the first time, that she had any other choice but this. Serving such a person was not a plan she would have given herself. Well, at least her life was a comfortable one. Mostly. As comfortable as any life could be in this place.

"My queen," Lestra spoke a little louder, stepping closer to Trich's bed. She knew better than to think that her majesty would stop her activities for official news. "Our men are ready to move out. The royal mage is preparing to cast a fast travel spell.

"So good! SO HOT! Harder...HARDER!"

"I thought I would let you know that I've pinpointed the place the Key will descend. We will have the Key for you by day's end."

"Oh, yes..." Trich moaned, her back arching. "Then that wonderful Fire Demon shall be mine to control. I'll have him in my bed every night. Burn me, demon! Burn me!"

Lestra turned deliberately and left the queen to finish. If this was the state of things, she despaired about her situation ever getting better. The only thing that kept them safe from King Atuse now was the fact that Phasidulka was bigger and better equipped than Atuse's stolen Matero.

Lestra didn't much care about the Fire demon. It was the spawn of Darkness, in this world only to fulfill the desires of his sire and seek to break Evil free of its 1000 year prison. As far as Lestra was concerned, the demon needed to be destroyed to protect their way of life. The best way to do that, given the strength of the Darkness, was to destroy the Key.

If Queen Trich wanted to enslave the powerless demon after that, it was up to her.


"Modra, my love, please be careful," Tutsal said as he watched his queen slide her long, weighted staff into the sheath on her back. "If the Key can control the demon, it must be a very powerful weapon."

"I don't care what it is," Modra said firmly, checking her leather armor. "I am going to destroy that Key. For the good of our kingdom, and the good of the entire world. So long as that Key exists, the demon has the chance to break the spell on the Abyss's tomb. Whatever petty squabbles our kingdom may have are pale in comparison to that."

"I know, of course..." Tutsol sighed. "I'm just worried for you."

Modra smiled and stepped closer to bring her husband into her harms. They were nearly the same height, she edged him out just slightly, and they fit together perfectly. With his love, Modra felt like there was nothing she could not accomplish.

"Have you ever known me to fail, Tut?" she asked sweetly.

"Of course not," he grinned, squeezing her tighter. "I just...I love you, Modra. I have such a bad feeling about the days ahead. If the Key is coming, it's no doubt because the Evil has become strong enough to summon it for His spawn. And if He is strong enough for that...I despair for us all..."

"Hey..." Modra leaned back and took his head in her hands. "You listen to me. That is never going to happen. Prophecies only describe what could happen, potentially. If we step up to stop it, it won't. I'll see that Key destroyed. And when I come back, we'll keep working on that family."

Tutsol laughed sheepishly as Modra stepped back from him. She was blushing herself as she turned towards her troops and the two royal mages who would be working in tandem so neither of them bore the full burden of casting the fast travel spell.

"Come on, men!" Modra held up her fist. "We go to save the world!"

A roar of approval and agreement met her cry.


Metolol Forest looked completely ordinary as Namtar sprinted through the trees. The trunks were thin, but the canopy was high. There was little in the way of underbrush and the well worn animal path that Namtar was speeding along made it easy to navigate.

A meadow with golden flowers and guarded by white leaved trees.

White leaved trees weren't uncommon - though you weren't likely to see them walking down the street Namtar was familiar with their concept. He imagined that a grouping of them would be fairly obvious in another wise green forest. The golden flowers were another thing entirely. According to the seer he got his information from, they were incredibly rare.

Gold, not yellow. They grew only in this forest, nourished by gold rich soil. Normally, they would appear white. So he was looking for a rare white flower that incorporated the gold in the soil hidden deep in the trees into its petals.

A very unique spot made that much more difficult to find because itwas so unique.

As he had been doing every league or so, Namtar spotted a tree that looked optimum for climbing and quickly scurried up. Before entering this place, he wouldn't have said he was an expert tree climber. It was a skill he had, sure, but not one he had perfected.

After scouring the trees all morning, he was rather certain he qualified as an expert. It took him less than a minute to scurry up from the roots to the top of the canopy. He used his own momentum to scale the base of the tree, grabbing onto the lowest branch, then swinging himself up and climbing with all the grace of a dancer up to the top.

From high on the tree canopy, Namtar was gifted with a breathtaking view of the total expanse of Metolol Forest. And, from this vantage point, it would be far easier to spot a place that was covered with white rather than green trees.

Namtar's stormy gray/blue eyes scanned the horizon carefully, narrowed slightly against the wind from this height. Wind that tossed about the straight black hair that fell halfway down his back, sending the locks smacking against his angular face and sharp eyes. It made him wish he had thought to bring something to tie it back, but he had been in such a hurry to leave after Babirusa had told him the news that he didn't stop to consider such things.

The Key was coming. The day he had been dreading and anticipating for nearly the entirety of his life was finally here. Babirusa had warned him though that she wasn't the only one to have seen the coming of the Key. It was such an enormous, world changing event that nearly every seer of almost any power level had been struck with a vision.

So all three major world leaders were also descending on this place. While they also couldn't pinpoint the exact location of the meadow, they would have their mages fast traveling them as close as was possible to get through magical means.

Namtar had to move faster. He could not allow that Key to fall into anyone else's hands. He could not allow this item to be used by greedy, power hungry men who would call out the Dark power that rested deep within Namtar's soul.

The Demon of the Flame was going to destroy the Key himself, prevent the awakening of his own powers, and ensure the continued seal of Evil in the depths of the cold ground. Namtar was not going to be the monster prophesized. He would not allow himself to destroy the world. He had no desire to seek out his true sire. He need only destroy the thing that could force him to.

Still not spotting the white leaved trees, Namtar pushed himself away from the bark of the tree. He fell multiple man lengths down to the forest floor and landed on the balls of his feet easily. His muscles bunched and tensed as his body smoothly lifted up and began running again.

He was more than human. He didn't even think he still qualified as human. The Darkness in his veins may be mostly sealed but it still afforded him a small amount of power. Power to protect himself from physical forces and flames. Strength and agility just beyond the normal man. Though Namtar liked to think that it was also due, in part, because of his training, he knew that the powers that lay dormant within him had something to do with his own abilities.

"Demon! Vile demon!"

Well, at least he would be able to use that to his advantage to destroy his own reason for living. Let Evil remain locked away for all eternity. It was where it belonged. Namtar refused to allow his life to be dictated by this being.

Metolol forest circled around a mountain and covered a great deal of land. Honestly, Namtar hadn't used to think it was so big until he had been forced to search through it.

He climbed trees twice more as he continued on, working his way up the mountain to give himself a better vantage point of the area below. He continued to see nothing. The trees in this area were dark green, their trunks deep, warm brown. White trees would stick out harshly in a forest like this. He was hoping that, by climbing up the mountain, he would get an even better view over more area.

Namtar had a great deal of stamina, but he still had to rest at some point. Until the day the Key unlocked the beast within him, he was still mostly human. Around midday, Namtar finally had to give in to his physical weakness by stopping at a small spring bubbling up from within the mountain. The fresh scent of the water tickled his nose as he sat down on a low rock near the bank.

Namtar honestly wasn't sure what to expect from this, so he had brought his weapons just in case he needed them. There might very well be a guard on the Key to prevent someone from doing exactly what he wanted to try. He didn't know how his sire thought, but He obviously had the foresight to protect things that needed it or Namtar would have full access to his powers by now.

If nothing else, this forest was supposed to be a breeding ground for vitiates. Getting caught by one of them without a weapon was certain death.

The two swords strapped to his right hip, a thick bladed long sword and a curved short sword, were a comfortable weight because they were so familiar. The dagger on his opposite hip was new, but already he was becoming used to the serrated edge and comfort of it.

Namtar dressed partially for comfort then secondarily for personal taste. He made his money as a traveling warrior and so had the luxury of dressing however he wished. Long black leather boots emblazoned with bronze designs alongside the laces contained a pair of dark, almost black, green breeches. The deep green of his long tunic was still brighter than his breeches. The small 'v' cut into the cloth at his throat tended to hang open, revealing part of his chest. The short sleeves on the tunic revealed his arms, but his forearms were concealed with a twin pair of black bands that held hidden bronze plates for protection. A black sash around his waist trailed just off center off his waist, down his legs. He didn't really wear anything purely decorative. The belt under his sash had pouches but they all held something if necessity.

Namtar let himself rest for a few minutes. He didn't really need much. Then he bent down to take a drink from the stream. The water, cold and fresh from its ride through the mountain, felt good on his wind chapped lips. The heat of the day was just starting and the water cooled him off effectively.

It wasn't until he was standing that Namtar noticed it. He went to wipe his wet hand off on his breeches when the sunlight streaming through the leaves from above hit his palm. Something glittered in the corner of his vision, catching his attention.

Frowning, he turned his hand again in the light. More glittering.

He brought it closer, squinting slightly.

So tiny they were almost unnoticeable, golden flakes were stuck to his skin where the water had touched.

Natmar's eyes snapped upward, following the course of the stream. Where the sunlight broke through the canopy he could see more glittering on the surface of the water. Gold flakes, ground down to almost a powder from their journey here, salted the water.

Golden flakes in a river that fed a forest that contained a field of flowers tinted gold.

Namtar's feet were a nearly a blur as he followed the stream back down the mountain.


The sweet, fresh scent of flowers and cool water tickled Phila's nose as she roused from unconsciousness. She didn't recognize the flowers, but the soft bubbling, trickling of water was so close that she knew she had to be right next to it.

For a moment, she wasn't exactly sure where she was or why. It wasn't a particularly alarming thought at the moment. Merely curious. She supposed that she should be worried, but for a long minute it was just an interesting fact...

Oh, right. She had been at prom. Had she gotten drunk on the champagne Jake brought? Had she come home on her own? She didn't feel like she was at home.

No. That wasn't right.

The cat. The wind. The river.

Phila's eyes snapped open as all the memories came back to her in a rush. Her heart started racing in her chest as she quickly pushed herself up.

For a moment, she thought she must have hit her head. The colors she was looking at didn't seem quite right. Flowers the color of gold - not yellow, but gold - blanketed the area around her. They were seated on deep brown stalks and had very dark green, partially purple leaves. The trees overhead, on the other hand, had white and gray leaves and an ashy gray sort of bark. They didn't look dead. The way they danced gently in the breeze around her was very lively.

But the sky above was still bright blue and the grasses around the golden flowers was still green. Phila blinked a few times, trying to take in what she was looking at.

How did she get here? Where was here? Had she ridden the river all the way to the end?

She looked down over herself, checking for injuries. Not only was she perfectly fine, not a single piece of lace on her dress was broken or out of place. Like she might have been gently laid down in the meadow of golden flowers instead of having fallen into the bone chilling river.

And where was the river? Phila could hear it...

She turned around quickly, her precisely set hair still in place, as she looked about for the source of water that was bubbling so close nearby. The tiny brook behind her was nowhere near the size of a river. It didn't look wide enough to carry a mouse much less a human girl.

Shaking, scared, Phila pushed herself up to her feet. Her heels were still on, not even stained from the grass like she might have walked here on her own. Her dress, like it had never been wet in the first place, fluttered about her legs dreamily.

The bright sunlight, the near cloudless blue sky was a far cry from the darkness she last remembered. It seemed a little warmer as well.

Even as Phila was turning about, checking for signs of anything familiar, some bright glowing light caught her eye. She stared with a mixture of wonder and disbelief as a butterfly, glowing soft white like a nightlight, fluttered down around in front of her face. Just as attracted to the flowery scent of her perfume and shampoo as the one in the park back home had been.

Phila's eyes tracked it as it moved around her face, got closer to her, then quickly fluttered away again when it saw she had no nectar or petals. It was beautiful and unreal and totally impossible...

Surely if something like that existed, people would know about it. Especially if it was close to a major city. Phila was still close to a major city. Right?

She turned around again and the toe of her heel hit something hard. She drew back quickly, scared of what might be next to her. The bright red binding of her journal calmed her heart back down again. She dropped and scooped it up.

Cradling it to her chest lovingly, Phila stood up straight and took comfort from the familiar scent of paper and leather. The bulge from her pen and pencil within was pressed into her cheek as she tried to not start shaking in her fear.

Get it together, Phila. You're not going to accomplish anything standing here. First things first: Find out where you are. Build from that.

Opening her eyes again, trying to get her heart and breathing under control, Phila lowered the leather bound book and cast her gaze down to its cover. The bright red, new and exciting color she had wanted, suddenly seemed quite unnerving. She wished for the comforting black or brown of her last four journals.

It was such a shame that the paper was ruined because of the water...

Phila frowned. She turned the book over in her hand. Then, shaking, she reached out and slowly flipped open the small latch.

The red journal needed some help to fall open since its spine wasn't broken in yet. The crisp pages, thick like parchment, stuck out from the spine perfectly straight and dry. Not like they had dried from being wet, but like they had never been wet in the first place. There was no warping of the paper, no sticking or bending. The ink that she used to write hadn't blurred at all.

"No way..." Phila breathed, flipping through the pages again.

Dry as bones in the desert. Her first entry still crisp and new, the drawing of the calla lily and her friends' embrace fresh and bright.

Phila slammed the journal shut quickly. She brought it to her chest, holding it close more out of habit and desire for the familiar than anything.

Because she had definitely fallen into the river, right? She could still vividly remember sinking, the bone chilling cold numbing her muscles as her lungs cried out for air. That hadn't been an illusion, that had really happened.

And if that had happened and now she was in a field of golden flowers with her journal still perfectly intact and not a hair out of place...

"Oh, god..." Phila's knees gave out and she collapsed down onto the flowers, her skirt flaring out around her. "I'm dead..."

She must have died in the river. And now she was here. Wherever this was. Beyond death. Well, at least it looked pretty...she guessed. Not nearly as pretty as life!

"No...My friends..." Phila sniffed, tears coming into her eyes. She was dead. She was never going to see any of them again! What would they think when they found out she had fallen into a river and drowned? She had ruined the best night of her best friend's life.

As the tears built in her eyes, obscuring her vision, the small glowing butterfly from before had the courage to flutter down and investigate her again. She watched through watery eyes as he perched delicately on her finger then began kissing along the digit, searching for the nectar that he could smell coming from and all around her.

His tiny feet tickled her skin, urging her to brush him away. The sensation was real though and she clung onto it desperately as the butterfly continued up her finger. She felt strangely numb as first one tear then another fell delicately down her face. She had the completely absurd thought that she was going to ruin her makeup. Ruin all the work Tammy's mother had done.

It was a beautiful place. Golden flowers, white trees, glowing butterflies. But this place, as beautiful as it was, didn't have her friends or her family. She was all alone out here with the butterfly. Was this it then? Was this what death was?

Phila sniffed once, twice as more tears started to fall faster. She knew that crying wouldn't accomplish anything, but she couldn't stop herself. What else could one do when they found out they had died but mourn the life they had lost?

The butterfly took off again, depriving her of even that companionship. She curled over, grabbing her stomach as she tried to fight back outright sobs. The beautiful golden flowers fluttered in the breeze slightly, as though they were waving at her. The sweet scent of their pollen was like milk and honey and the babbling of the brook sounded suspiciously like tears.

The soft crunch of grass meant nothing to her. Phila was raised in a city, she had never even been this far out into nature. The park between her house and Tammy's was as close to 'nature' as she had ever been and the most dangerous thing you were likely to find there were stray cats.

As she cried, resisting the urge to wipe at her tears and smear the makeup Tammy's mother had spent so much time applying, the crunching sound moved around her. Following the wind, catching the scent of the flowers both in the meadow and from her soap and perfume.

A soft rumbling sound, like a cross between a purr and a growl, echoed through the air. She couldn't hear it over the sound of her own thoughts. She sniffed again, her tears watering the soil right in front of her knees.

The sound got a little louder now, accompanied by a louder crunching of grass.

Phila reached up and wiped at her nose.

Okay, so this really wasn't so bad.

Sunlight gleamed off of dark green and purple chitin as a long, thin leg stepped out of the shadows of the trees and into the clearing.

Yeah, she was dead, but it could be so much worse, right?

The hard exoskeleton and segmented body that came out of the trees was supported by four such long, thin legs that were at least twice the size of its body.

At least she had ended up here in the tiny paradise of golden flowers.

The growl/purr sounded again as beady black eyes the size of golf balls blinked at the girl crouched amongst the flowers.

After all, far better to end up in paradise than in the other place.

Phila lifted her eyes from the ground as the growl/purr got so loud that it finally registered in her grief stricken mind.

She could have ended up far from paradise. In a land filled with monsters and demons.

The enormous insect like thing, at least half of her own body size, made a strange hissing sound as it stalked in closer to her. Its four long legs carried it forward slowly as if didn't quite know how to approach her. Four eyes stared, shiny and black and blank. A pair of sharp pincers twitched as if it were drawing in a breath of her scent.

Phila froze, her eyes wide as she tried to take in the sight she wasn't sure she was really seeing.

It had a small head with a short thorax and a large, round abdomen that hung between its four legs somehow menacingly. She could almost see through the chitin exoskeleton to the strange liquid that throbbed underneath. Its 'small' head was about the size of a basketball, its large abdomen approaching the size of a beach ball.

It hissed at her again, as though trying to get a rise out of her. Phila was suddenly so paralyzed with fear, her heart beating loudly in her own ears, that she didn't even hear.

Huge pincers. Soulless eyes. Needle-like legs.

Phila's own delayed, punctuated scream of horror broke the numb spell over her body. She fell backwards onto her butt and started pushing herself back. She wanted to turn and run. She wanted to let out a true scream. She could barely even catch her breath. Her hands and heels could find no purchase on the soft soil or delicate flowers.

The dirt, wet from the brook behind her, slid out from under her hand and sent her crashing down. The sudden drop of her body startled the giant bug.

It hissed at her again, its pincers spreading out as its legs widened as though grounding itself in preparation for a fight.

Phila let out a more proper scream. Thoughtlessly, she tried to crawl back further. She succeeded only in thrashing about on the ground.

The insect screamed – a strange hissing holler – before charging. Its long legs ate up the ground, its pincers leaking some kind of clear fluid as it opened its mouth to devour her.

Phila's mind had blanked completely. Her body at least still had some reflexive survival instincts. The journal in her hand flashed through the air as she thew it up against the charging monster. The leather bound notebook was a fairly standard size, but the monster hadn't been expecting any opposition from the downed girl.

The edge of the spine slammed against his head. It made a high pitched scream of pain as the sudden blow knocked his long legs over. Legs that kicked at the air quickly as it struggled and rolled over amongst the flowers. Golden petals burst into the air as it thrashed about.

It was her own instinctive strike of survival that finally woke up Phila's brain. Seeing it rolling away from her blow reminded her that she had to get up and get moving.

This was definitely not paradise, she had never felt more alive in her life. She needed to get away from that thing before that state changed.

Phila pushed down against the ground, pulling herself quickly to her feet. She gathered her skirts into her hands as she started running away from the monster. The point of her heels caught in the dirt but she wasn't thinking clearly enough to kick them off.

With her next step, her heel sank deep into the soft soil and sent her falling forward with a cry. She felt the air above her flutter her hair as the charging monster leapt over her head. It missed catching her only by her sprawling fall.

Phila jerked her foot out of the ground and struggled back to her feet. The insect monster was shaking its head as it turned back to her. It hissed at her through its pincers.

Shaking, Phila slowly walked backwards. Her knuckles were white with the force she was gripping her skirt. Her heart was in her throat, she felt like she was going to be sick. The fear was slowly driving her out of her mind.

The monster jumped again. Phila screamed as she dropped to the ground. Her back hit the soft bed of flowers as the monster's four legs slammed into the ground on either side of her. It leaned over her face menacingly. Its pincers separated and it hissed at her loudly. The mucousy liquid flowed from its mouth as Phil screeched in horror.

The cry of a man – a human man – was followed almost immediately by a cry of pain from the monster. What looked like a harpoon, smaller, slammed into its side and thick, yellow tinged ooze leaked from its body.

Tearsof fear staining her face, Phila looked over with wide eyes, following the rope attached to the harpoon.

A man was holding one end of the rope. Beside him, another man was preparing to fire another harpoon from what looked like a large crossbow. A third man was pointing, saying something that sounded to Phila like it was coming through a well. Distorted and unintelligible. A woman stood beside them, a long staff in her hand as she called out to the others.

The empty handed man pointed, calling out again. The man with the crossbow hit the trigger and the second harpoon shot out. The monster screamed as it hit its abdomen. More ooze leaked out as it started to stumble away from her.

Frozen, Phila could do nothing but watch as the two men holding the ropes started pulling against the monster. It pulled back against them, but the third man and the woman grabbed a rope each and helped the other two.

The monster's feet fell out from under it. Its body jerked against the ground as it thrashed around in an attempt to escape. The four people gritted their teeth as they continued to pull. The body of the insect dragged through the meadow, disrupting the golden flowers.

As it neared, one of the men released the rope and pulled a sword from the sheath set against his lower back. The insect put up a newer, more desperate struggle. The man cried out as he slammed the tip of his blade down through the joint between its thorax and its neck.

The head rolled away as the legs curled up into the air. The man grinned, triumphant. The woman nodded, saying something to him as the other two stepped forward to recover their harpoons from the monster's body.

Phila remained in place. Trembling against the ground.

What were they wearing? Long tunics, almost like dresses split down the sides, with swords and crossbows. Breeches and boots, matching colorlike it was a uniform.

Except for the only female.

The woman turned to face Phila suddenly. Her short cap of black hair moved about her head as her eyes focused on where Phila was trying to press herself down into the earth. She wasn't wearing the same uniform as the men. Her long tunic, cinched at the waist by a band of golden links, was shorter than theirs. She carried a staff instead of a sword. There was another band of thick, rectangular golden links around her forehead like a crown.

She pointed, saying something. One of the men obeyed, running forward towards Phila. Unable to think of anything more intelligent to do, Phila screamed, covering her face with her hands as though that might somehow help.

Blinded, she didn't see the man reach her. She heard his boots crunch against the ground. Then a rough, large hand clasped around her upper arm and he jerked her roughly to her feet without waiting for any help from her.

Phila's hands fell as she was forced onto her feet and she had no choice but to watch as the woman came closer.

They were talking. Saying something to her. Phila realized far too late that it wasn't her fear that made them unintelligible. They were speaking an entirely different language.

The woman stopped in front of Phila and said something. It was forceful and deliberate. She stood there, her hands on her hips as she waited for a response.

Phila stared at her, shaking.

The woman repeated herself forcefully. Phila's shaking got worse. The woman's eyebrow raised as she said something else.

When Phila made no response, the man holding her said something and pointed to her chest.

Phila screamed again when the woman reached for her. She did nothing but grab the key around Phila's neck. She leaned over it, inspecting it carefully. Phila watched her with tear filled eyes.

The woman made no move to touch her though. And the man holding her arm was doing so almost gently. Phila realized that his grip was only so rough because she was actually relying on his hold to stay upright.

The woman said something, jiggling the key slightly. Phila knew she was talking to her but had no idea what she was saying. She just stood there, staring back at her with wide eyes, tear tracks on her face and hands trembling close to her chest.

The woman said something else, frowning at her. The man replied to her. The others came around to her other side. They all started talking around her. About her. Phila didn't need to understand what they were saying to know that.

As the conversation continued on, she started trembling like she was cold. Her already weak knees could no longer even pretend to keep her upright. She began slouching against the man holding her until he was forced to grab her waist to keep her up. He asked her something, it almost sounded like concern was in his voice.

Then again, maybe he was threatening her. She had no way of knowing.

For the first time in her life, Phila knew what it was to feel completely helpless. Never before had the true force of that emotion been so forcefully imparted to her.

She was wearing heels and a thin dress having almost been devoured by an insect half her size. Now men with swords and a scary looking woman were talking around her and she had forgotten how to even stand up properly.

If she wasn't dead before, she was definitely going to die now.

The woman reached out again and took hold of Phila's key necklace. She pulled on it but it remained firmly around Phila's neck. Phila jerked forward a bit though. The woman groaned and rolled her eyes as she said something.

The man holding her pushed her head forward slightly as the woman grabbed the edges of the chain on the necklace. Phila felt numb as a third man made to move her hair out of the way.

Oh. They were taking off her necklace. Whatever. She didn't care anymore.

One men sent up a cry. It was followed immediately by multiple others. The man holding Phila jerked her to the side and she fell against him, her necklace smacking down on her chest. Picking her up, he carried her under his arm like a sack as he and the others started running.

A second later, Phila discovered why when a volley of arrows began falling like rain over them. Most missed, burying themselves deep into the soft soil.

The people around her let out loud calls. The man holding Phila turned and offered her a view of those coming after them.

They were wearing uniforms too. Not very dissimilar to the style of those holding her now. But where the woman and her men wore blue and gold, these men wore green, black, and silver. Some were pointing bows at them, others were lifting the large harpoon crossbows.

One man in front pointed to Phila and called it something. Her key necklace dangled down below her neck, winking in the weak sunlight breaking through the canopy.

The men holding her yelled back, lifting their own weapons. The woman used her staff to knock away two arrows aimed directly towards her heart. She yelled something and the man holding Phila backed away behind his brethren.

Oh. They were after her, too. That was not nearly as frightening a thought as she knew it should be. She felt so numb that she wasn't afraid as a battle started around her.

Arrows continued to trade across the clearing. Golden flowers exploded as the bolts ripped through them. The peaceful scene Phila had woken to was easily destroyed as soldiers ran across the field, brandishing weapons. The helpless flowers were crushed under their feet.

Dirt kicked up, weapons flew, flowers and leaves littered the air and ground and were smashed to pulp under careless boots. Phila watched as the place she had thought was heaven was obliterated by battle and heartless soldiers.

And, for some reason, that finally broke through the layer of numbness that had settled over her.

A single tear escaped. Followed by a second. Then a third.

Phila started crying in earnest as the battle started waging around her. The man holding her appeared distressed, calling out something, but Phila ignored him. He set her down on her feet, holding her shoulders gently. He tried to say something to her but she still couldn't understand. His face itself started to blur as her tears distorted reality.

She was confused and scared and for some reason seeing the flower field destroyed felt like she was losing something precious to her. Phila started crying in earnest, finding it difficult to catch her breath as her knees fell out from under her.

The man scooped her up again, cradling her like a baby against his chest as he backed up further. She didn't know why she clung onto him except that he was another human, a warm body, and that was a very small comfort at this moment. The only comfort she had.

Phila couldn't face the battle going on behind her. It was bad enough to hear it.

The twang of bows. The deeper thrumming of the harpoon crossbows. The clang of metal. The cries of pain and anger. Then the distinct, coppery scent of blood.

She heard the woman call out. The only female in the clearing besides herself. She sounded further away now. Like she was in the middle of the fight.

Phila's eyes lifted from the shoulder she was clinging onto. She found herself looking out into the shadowy area under the trees. There weren't any more monsters that she could see, but she could practically feel more hiding just out of sight.

The only clue she had that something had gone wrong was the sudden cry of the man holding her. He let out a warning call, a few others yelling out in alarm with him.

He turned and began trying to run. He was aiming for the shadows of the trees. Turning gave Phila a view of the battle she had been actively avoiding.

There was more than one body on the ground. Not just with bolts in their chests but some with sword marks on their necks or through their bodies. Blood stained the scattered golden petals. Sightless eyes stared up at the sky through the white leaves.

It was the first time Phila had ever been confronted with death. She felt her heart tighten as horror filled her chest. A hollow scream started in her head as she clung tighter to the man carrying her. Like he might somehow protect her from the dead men.

So focused she was on the corpses that she almost missed the new group of soldiers. They didn't wear the uniform style of the first two groups. They were shirtless, with black leather bands crossing their chest held together with gleaming silver chains. Muscular men carrying leaf shaped swords cried out in challenge as they charged across the clearing.

They were allies of neither blue nor green. These bronzed men that wore all leather attacked both groups with equal ferocity. A couple of them pointed to her and called out. Phila wasn't all that surprised when a number of them split off to chase after her.

Green and black pursued her blue carrier. Phila clung tighter onto him for no other reason than she was already there. Like an animal huddling in a dark hole, she didn't want to move from a spot that she was safe in. At least for the moment.

One of the men in black drew back a bow and aimed it at her carrier. Phila's eyes widened and she let out a loud, wordless cry of warning.

The arrow was so quick that it was almost like Phila didn't even see it fly. One moment, it was notched in that man's bow. The next, the man holding her was crying out in pain, his back arching, as the arrow penetrated his heart through his back.

Phila cried out again as the man crumpled down to his knees. She fell with him, dismay filling her chest as her carrier's grip loosened. She hit her knees. He lost his grip and fell onto his side beside her, the life escaping his body.

Phila's mouth opened, a strangled cry escaping from her throat as she started shaking.

A man had just died in her arms. She had felt the recoil of the arrow. His blood was on her hands. The last breath he had ever released echoed in her ears.

She didn't get a chance to think. As she was trembling violently, crying wordlessly in new found horror, the men descended on her.

One of the black leather men scooped her up, throwing her over his shoulder in one smooth motion. He smelled like scented body oil and carried her like she weighed nothing at all. He continued the run the last man had started, going towards the trees.

He didn't make it far before one of the blue men, angry at the death of his brother, hit him from the side. Tackled over, both men and Phila went flying. The two men grappled as she rolled away, her skirt flipping up as the golden pigment of the flowers coated her skin.

Adrenaline coursing hot through her system, Phila rolled to a stop on her belly and quickly pushed herself back up again. On her elbow, she looked over with wide eyes.

Pounding his fist into his face, the blue man was enraged. The black man was trying to defend himself but blood was already pouring from his nose and mouth.

As Phila watched, the black man kicked out and upended the blue man. Tunic flying over his head, the black man ran forward with his dagger. Phila cried out but could do nothing as she watched the metal of the blade sink deep into the side of the blue man.

She didn't get to see more than that.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist and hefted her up against a bony hip. Phila, scarred of falling, grabbing onto the arm cutting into her abdomen and turned around to see a brief flash of green cloth telling her which team had caught her this time.

Instead of running for the trees, this man started lugging her towards his fellow soldiers. He was crying out, a large victory smile on his face.

Even when the harpoon buried itself in his neck, he was grinning as he fell. His own death hitting him so fast, he hadn't even realized what had happened.

Pain blossomed on Phila's hip as she hit the ground. She cried out from the bruising force, struggling under the heavy arm of the now dead man.

She didn't struggle alone long. One of the blue men grabbed her under her arms and jerked her out. He started unceremoniously dragging her through the meadow. Back towards the rest of the blues who were quickly disappearing into the trees.

He was joined soon after by the blue woman. She grabbed one of Phila's arms and the two of them worked together to pull. Phila tried to put her feet under herself, to get up and run on her own. She didn't know where, but being hauled around like this was no fun for her.

As her dragging feet struggled to find purchase, one of the green men ran towards her. She cried out a warning to the blue people, but too late.

The green guy grabbed her by the ankles and jerked back. Phila cried out in a mixture of pain and fear as the three people tugged against her.

The green guy, all on his own, started to immediately lose ground.

He wasn't alone long. Another green guy ran up to him and put his arms around his buddy's waist. The two of them combined managed to stall her in midair.

"STOP!" Phila begged, her joints crying out in pain. She tried to pull back, to help negate the force, but her muscles cramped and complained. "Please!"

The others didn't understand. Or they didn't care. Or both. They strained against each other as the battle continued on around them. Phile struggled but it meant nothing to them.

She cried out again, tears pricking her eyes. She felt like she was about to be ripped in two. Her shoulders felt hollow as they pulled at the socket. Her knees felt like they were inverting from the pressure.

A new cry, another man, broke the tension of the struggle. One of the black guys charged forward, sword raised. For a terrifying, heart stopping moment, Phila thought he was aiming for her.

He sliced down for the blue woman. She didn't want to release Phila and ended up doing so too late to save herself. That corner of Phila's body fell. The woman drew back. Her blood splattered from her chest and arm and sprayed against Phila.

Both women cried out, in pain and disgust. The blue woman collapsed back, clutching for her damaged arm and chest. The other blue man dropped Phila and reached out for her.

Phila's head hit the ground and she cried. The green men, unprepared for the sudden loss in force, fell backwards and dragged her down with them.

The black man, having successfully deposed of the blue people, grabbed for Phila. Without the green men to pull back, he was able to drag her into his arms. Scooping her up almost bridal style, he yanked her from the grasping green men and started running towards the trees.

Phila didn't know any of these people. She didn't know what was going on or why. All she knew was that everyone was trying to catch and hurt her, meaning none were her friend. Already on fight mode because of the earlier tug-of-war, Phila struggled against him.

She bucked her body up. She pushed against his face with her hands. She screamed in his ear as her body twisted and turned. He yelled something at her, irritated. His anger only fueled her body to fight all that harder.

Phila's knee jerked up and knocked him square in the nose. The excruciating pain against the delicate body part made him jerk back. His arms released her and yet again she fell down and smacked against the soft soil.

She started clambering to her feet. Her skirt and heels tripping her up. Across the clearing, she could see the blue guys pulling back, carrying the bleeding blue woman. They were giving up. Leaving just the green and black guys to fight over her.

They were just different colors and styles to her. None of them seemed to care about her well being or safety. They all pulled against her without care or thought for her pain.

While she was noticing that, the black guy got himself back together. He glared down at her, hatred burning in his eyes. Phila finally got to her feet. Just in time for him to drop down on top of her. She grunted as his weight forced her back down.

His knee pushed against the center of her back, causing her pain. He grabbed her wrists and jerked them backwards. While the men continued to fight, he tied her wrists together with a length of leather cord that pulled and pinched against her skin.

He called out something to his comrades, pushing her face into the dirt with his hand. Phila struggled in vein against him as the black men started pulling back around their brother. Forming a circle around them to protect their prize.

The man holding her down released her head. His hand appeared in front of her as he picked up her key necklace from the ground. He pulled against it slightly. Not enough to rip it off but enough to pull it up to eye level.

He lifted his head again and cried out something. He jiggled her key slightly, showing it off as best he could while it was on the chain.

The others cried out in victory. The circle around her tightened, trapping her firmly within. Phila's body collapsed. Her heart was still racing in her ears. She felt thoughtless with fear. But all she could do was just lay there as the battle continued.

The defensive circle held firm as the green men tried to beat against it. Phila was trapped firmly in the clutches of the black leather wearing guys.

Leaving her wondering if she was going to be killed.

Or worse.

Hey everyone! This book has now been published on Amazon and so the full version is no longer available online. Feel free to check it out there if you enjoyed what you've read so far.