Magus_Anon Jun 5th, 2018 2,191 Never
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- Damn you were hungry. And tired. And thirsty. In fact, nothing about your current situation could be construed as ‘comfortable.’ With a sunburnt hand you wiped the ever-present sweat from your brow. You wince as your reddened skin brushes against your crusty, unkempt hair. It had been days since you had arrived in this humid, verdant hell-hole. With a grunt you hoist your body over yet another log, your tattered, soggy sneakers sinking into the thin layer of leaves and debris that covered the forest floor. Finding a rock jutting up from the earth, you sit down and recoup your energy. Breaks were becoming more and more of a necessity thanks to the lack of food, water and sleep. Taking inventory of your surroundings, you tried to make sense of the events that had landed you in this situation.
- You were in your car, returning home from the store with some groceries. Nothing special. You had taken this road hundreds of times before. The area was sparsely populated, just empty winding roads meandering over rolling hills. As you drove listening to the classic rock station, your radio abruptly lost the signal. At first you suspected that it was a problem at the station, but all channels you flipped through were nothing but static. As quickly as the static had come, you were suddenly struck with a feeling of impending doom. For some reason you were absolutely certain that you were about to die. Your mind flashed through dozens of different explanations, alien abduction chief among them. You never believed in little green men, but this seemed to fit the bill pretty well from what you had heard. A wave of nausea rocked your body and you could feel an unconscious groan of pain forced from your lungs. A phantom force wrenched your being tearing your life-force from you.
- And then it stopped. The pain and despair melted away as you felt yourself torn away from your mortal coil. For an instant, you were passing through your car, watching it continue down the road. But you were moving as well. You were floating, only a foot of two off the ground, and accelerating across the road. A black expanse bloomed before you. Beginning as just a pinprick, the inky maw yawned open, blocking out what little light was behind it.
- Perhaps by the same divine grace that had removed your pain and fear before, you were not afraid as you entered the void. As you passed beyond the veil, the cool blue of the world at night faded from your peripherals. Sinking farther into the abyss, the chirping of crickets became fainter and fainter. In front of you lay only darkest darkness. Twisting around, which took some effort in this zero-gravity form, you watched as the portal disappeared into the distance, easily visible in the darkness despite being so dim. When the pinprick of lesser darkness had faded, you began to wonder about your situation. Was this hell? Had you been condemned to a void forever to pay for your sins? Purgatory? Something no one has ever though of before? Or was this some form of oblivion, as close to nonexistence as a soul could get?
- Your metaphysical musings were interrupted by a faint glow in front of you. Twisting around, your eyes focus on a warm glow. This new light was much brighter than the world you had left. The light grew larger and larger. As it grew, you realized that the light source was not growing, you were travelling towards it. You had no idea you were still moving since you had no way of orienting yourself. Your other senses were either not functioning or simply had nothing to pick up. As you drew near to the glow it became evident that the source of the light was enormous. A wall of shimmering amber light rippled and swayed like an arura. Craning your neck up and down you were unable to see any beginning or end to the wall in any direction. Only a cool amber glow, not blinding or harsh, as far as the eye could see.
- As you made contact with the barrier, you felt a jolt as you collided with the wall. You did not stop, but there was resistance. Inside the cloud was a breathtaking miasma of glowing fog. Such a material should have made any sort of sight nigh impossible, but your vision was unhindered. Picking up speed, once again accelerating towards your unknown fate, you twisted and turned to observe all you could of this alien and beautiful dimension.
- A ripple rocked your body. Turning away from the direction you were moving, you could see that something else had made contact with the wall behind you. This object appeared to make much more of a ‘splash’ on contact. Whatever it was had been completely stopped by the barrier. Watching as you floated away from the foreign body, the cloud around it began to glow and pulse. A halo of light enveloped it. As the light grew brighter, you could see the silhouette of a person in its midst. You felt a twang of regret as you realized that this may be a person your car hit after you had died. Unlike you, this person was motionless. Their limbs hung loose beneath them, floating in this amber void. As you flew farther into the cloud, the bright speck in the fog began to shrink, then grow again. Straining your eyes, you could see that the person was headed in your direction.
- Was this a vengeful spirit? You watched as the light enshrouded corpse grew closer and closer. It was moving much faster than you. Twisting to the direction you were being pulled, you flailed your arms and legs in a vain attempt to move faster or alter your course. Looking back, you were alarmed to find the vengeful spirit gaining on you. Holding up your hands, you began to plead for forgiveness. It wasn’t your fault, it w-… was that your body?
- Your body collided with you at phenomenal speed. In an extremely unpleasant sensation, you felt your essence crammed back into you. Pain burned in your chest. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of you. To make matters worse, another impact rocks your body. This hurt, like you had been tossed through drywall. Another black expanse appeared, with another amber wall behind you. You had passed through whatever supernatural phenomenon you had encountered. Cartwheeling through the darkness you watched as the wall grew fainter and fainter with each rotation. Alone in the dark again.
- As the wall was about to disappear from your vision entirely, another speck of light appeared in the opposite direction. With some effort, you flailed enough to cease your rotations and observe the new beacon. This time, the light was a pale blue. It reminded you of home. You were certainly heading towards it, not that there was any other place to go. A faint tingling on your skin caused you to inspect your leg, but you did not find anything. As you grew closer, the sensation of something on your skin became more and more intense. Air. With it came smells, a faint smell, but even the smell of atmosphere was a stark contrast to the complete absence of scent. You could hear a bird cry out in the distance. You could see it. You were much closer than you had believed yourself to be. The source of these sensations appeared to be a small hole, only a bit bigger than a manhole cover. In it you could see a forest sprawling out beneath you, with rivers cutting through the dense jungle. Suddenly, the view shifted to a small pond, and the edges of the portal began to and tremble. In an instant, the black void vanished, replaced with blue sky and a noonday sun. Unfortunately, the jungle was still beneath you as you were still 150 feet in the air. Uh oh.
- Your landing in the pond was been pure luck. Both the fact that you had been spat-out above it and entered the water at such an angle that your organs were not reduced to paste inside your body. Feet first, and the water was deep enough to avoid hitting the bottom. The only injuries you incurred were bruised arms, a few breaths of water, and a sore ass since you had been leaning back a little on entry. 3.6 from the German judge. Swimming was never your strong suit, but you managed to paddle, crawl, stroke and thrash your way to the shore. With no inkling of where you were, or what to do, you wrung your clothes out and began to head west, towards the setting sun. Were there even people here?
- You sighed and shook what little dirt you could out of your shoes. You had remembered the scenario hundreds of times during your expedition, and still could not remember any clues about your location. This may be hell. It sure felt like it. Were you even dead? Did you hallucinate on a trip to the Amazon and wander off? This place seemed a bit different than earth. It didn’t really matter though. If you couldn’t find civilization soon, you were going to die anyways. Your hunger and thirst had already begun to cause hallucinations, making you follow a sweet scent only to lead you to a flower that transformed into a woman. It seemed so obvious that such an outrageous thing is impossible now that you were miles away, but it felt so real at the time that you ran away screaming when you saw it. This had to end soon. It would end soon. One way or another. With a groan you raised yourself off your rock and carried on towards the sunset.
- As night fell, your blistered feet and wasting body begged you for respite. Sleep had eluded you since you arrived. The heat, humidity, rain, and moisture made any position and any location uncomfortable. The trees were unclimbable thanks to the lack of low branches. Not that you could climb them anyways in your emaciated state. You had taken shelter under overhangs and in root clumps so far. Even when you managed to find a location that was not wholly intolerable, the sounds of the jungle and your nerves had been enough to keep you awake. Living in the suburbs had made you forget just how loud all this life could be. And though you had not seen any large animals, your presence had at times frightened large animals away into the forest. What they are, how many of them they were, and what they ate was a mystery to you. If any predator found you cowering in a hole, you would make an easy meal. Nights were spent on high alert, shifting around in the mud, waiting for the break of day.
- Using the last of the sun’s rays as it sank over the horizon, you spy a small alcove formed by the root of a massive tree and the ground. With scraped and dirty hands, you shoveled out enough dirt to squeeze your self into the hole. Curling up into the fetal position, you closed your eyes and listened to the sounds of the night. Insect calls dominated your hearing, but tonight something else was present. Sitting up, and crawling out of your hovel, you listen closely. There was a white noise, so subtle that you hadn’t registered it at first. Behind the insects was a soft gurgling noise, a deep steady pitch emanating from farther into the jungle. Water. You licked your dry cracked lips in anticipation. First thing tomorrow you would slake your thirst. Returning to your hole, you begin to doze, dreaming of being able to drink your fill.
- You were Madari’Saghlor, chieftess of your village, slayer of the river beast, greatest hunter in all the amazon tribes, and you were not pleased. Today was supposed to be the beginning of the Great Hunt, the most important holiday of your people. Now, instead of leading the journey to a human frontier town, you were only a mile away from the village.
- “You see my chief?! Look and see! See how the interloper has defiled our most sacred of sites!”
- You looked down at Yamazi, the head shaman of the village, and high-priestess. Her clenched teeth and scrunched nose looked up at you. Her priestess robes, a mass of tattered grey cloth, covered every inch of her except her arms and face. The small woman shook her arms erratically, causing the talismans and charms on her person to jingle and chime.
- “This cannot stand my chief! It cannot! We must do something about this!”
- You sighed. When Yamazi said ‘we’ she really meant you. The tiny, neurotic, magician was wholly incapable of anything other than basic physical tasks. Even human men could no doubt best her in combat. The only reason she even had a husband was because of the surplus brought back by the raiders.
- You knelt down to inspect the tracks. How strange. No doubt that these tracks were made by a spellcaster. The runes carved into the print were too precise to be made by anything but magic. Horizontal lines covered the track, and four distinct runes occupied the center, underlined by a curved line. The same symbol was present in the other shoe.
- No, even if Yamazi was a bit strange in her mannerisms and lacking in stature, she was talented at channeling the will of the ancestors. Also very passionate about the tribes rituals and traditions. It was wrong to think so poorly of the woman for doing her job.
- “Indeed, there has been a trespasser,” you said. “What do you think we should do about them?”
- The seeress looked up at you and leaned on her staff. “We must find them! Catch them! Make them pay!”
- You groaned, hearing exactly what you didn’t want to hear. You had hoped Yamazi would just whip out some censer and burn some leaves and be done with it, but she was dead set on tracking down this sorcerer. Magic casters were a pain to deal with. Even a wounded mage could wipe out an entire party of amazons with a well-placed spell. Standing and dusting your hands you turned to your subordinate.
- “Can we just get the consecration? We can not start the Great Hunt without it. Perhaps we can appease the ancestors some other way, or postpone tracking them unt-“
- “No time! No time! They will be gone by then! Our justice must be swift! How am I to bless the tribe when the ancestors have been defiled!?” said Yamazi. Passionate golden eyes looked up at you.
- “Alright, but you’re coming with us,” you said.
- Yamazi shrank back, obviously not expecting to be called into action. “M-me?”
- You nod. “Indeed. Look at the runes in these tracks. The trespasser is obviously not without magic of her own.”
- Yamazi’s face broke into a grin far to smug for someone of her position and stature “Well, when you put it that way, of course I shall accompany you. How could I not when my sisters would be in such peril without me?”
- A tight-lipped glare shattered Yamazi’s brief moment of self-superiority, and she quickly squirmed and looked at the ground.
- “I suppose I could ask the ancestors for the blessing as well for hunting the defiler…” the shaman mumbled.
- “Thank you, Yamazi,” you said dryly. “We will proceed with the Great Hunt, capturing the perpetrator en route to a human village. Go and prepare yourself for the journey. I will tell the tribe of our plans.”
- The shaman gave a small bow. “Very wise my chief. I will bestow the blessing when the raiders are prepared.”
- With that, the ball of rags and trinkets shuffled off through the undergrowth, leaving only you and the footprints. You looked down at the prints again. Who and what exactly made them? Why had they bathed in the sacred pool? How could they craft such perfect runes? Even the size of both shoes were exactly the same. So many unanswered questions. You followed the tracks with your eyes, west into the brush. What were you getting your tribe into?
- Water time. Dragging your thin frame out from beneath the clump of roots, you stretched your cramped limbs. The idea of having something to drink had made it impossible to sleep. Now that the sun was barely over the horizon, and the first rays of sun were breaking through the canopy, you were eager to find the river or stream you had heard last night. With the sun at your back you continued west into the jungle.
- It took a bit longer than you thought, but eventually you reached the source of the noise. A wide river became visible through the trees. It seemed to be calm, there were no rapids or jagged rocks as far as you could see. Nothing interrupted the slow current of muddy liquid as it moved through the jungle.
- The color made you hesitate. Was this safe to drink? Is mud going to make me sick? Is this even mud? You were pretty sure now that you were on earth. The land gave you a feeling of unease, but this alien landscape must have been earth. You squat down beside a small inlet formed in the river bank and begin scoop water into your mouth. A bit of dirt won’t kill you, but dehydration certainly would. Better to risk an upset stomach. As the water entered your stomach, you could practically feel your cramped muscles ease. All you had had to drink during your adventure was what little dew you could find on leaves or tiny pools formed in wood or rock. Less than a glass a day. Now hydrated, you look around you. Only leaves and sticks within your immediate vicinity. During the night you had the idea of making some sort of water bottle, but leaves and twigs could not hold liquid. Looking down the river, you could see that there was a bend about a half mile down. Turning to look up river, you sprang to your feet so quickly you slipped on the mud and fell into the shallows. Raising yourself out of the water, you stare in disbelief at your fortune: a bridge! A crude, rickety, wooden bridge, but something someone would have to make! Staggering back onto the shore, you begin to move as fast as you can towards the structure.
- There was no way that you were going to take your eye off the only sign of civilization that you had seen in days. If this was a mirage, you weren’t going to let it disappear. In about ten minutes, you had reached the foot of the bridge. Up-close, you could see that this was not the kind of bridge you had imagined when you first laid eyes on it. It was more of a pontoon bridge, consisting of logs lashed together with vines. On top of the logs were crude platforms where the bridge would have been too thin. There were no hand rails to speak of. The bridge swung out in the middle, the logs farthest from the shore drawn further down the river turning the bridge into a bow shape. Whatever tribe built this clearly had no building code. The real question was, should you even cross it?
- You look behind you into the jungle. A bridge just means that people cross here. You may have already passed their village. You look back across the river. No, the chances that you would miss an entire village of people were slim. You hadn’t seen any smoke, heard any sounds of civilization, or encountered anyone yet. Chances are that the people were across the river. Crossing the river was a risk you would have to take.
- With a tentative step, you plant your foot on the first wet log. As you shift your weight onto it, your sneakers immediately slide off and send you into the river. Fortunately, the slow current and knee-deep water make it easy to crawl back onto the bank. Alright, looks like this has to be done the hard way. Getting onto all fours, you begin to shimmy and crawl along the slick wood.
- Be Madari. In front of you were gathered all the women of the village who were of age. Your own daughter looked up at you with the cool confidence that you expected from your successor. The sun was low in the sky, the orange of dawn only now being chased away by the light of day. Yamazi finished her incantation and blessing, pouring the last bit of water out of the sacred ewer. The shaman stepped back from the raised platform allowing you the center of the speaking platform.
- “Sisters!” your voice boomed out over the crowd. “Today we begin the Great Hunt!”
- A roar of approval rang out. The raiders shouted and stamped their feet, shaking their weapons.
- “But! This Hunt will be special. For we have been trespassed against by an interloper.”
- A hushed murmur rolled through the crowd. Heads turned to whisper to one another.
- “Indeed, someone has bathed in the pool of the ancestors.”
- A gasp emanated from the group of women.
- “This, as you know, cannot stand! One of the caveats of the blessing this time is that we must use it to capture the trespasser as well as men for the village.”
- Your raiders looked up at you with the cold determination that you had come to expect from them. If you were not giving such an important speech you would surely be smiling out of pride. These truly were the best warriors in all the tribes.
- “It will not be an easy task; the interloper is suspected of being a magician.”
- Several amazons shifted nervously, a few making eye contact with friends in the crowd. Casters were difficult prey for even experienced raiders. The tribe had claimed a few male mages before. Most were physically weak, but tended to give daughters that were gifted at channeling the ancestors. They were coveted prizes.
- “Fear not!” you cry, doing your best to assuage the worries of your tribe. “With us will come Yamazi. She is the most gifted channeler in the village. We have nothing, and no one to fear!”
- Another cry went up as the crowd held their weapons aloft. Yamazi stepped beside you, basking in the admiration and praise of her usual tormentors.
- You held your spear high and pointed it west, away from the rising sun.
- “To me sisters! For glory, riches, men, and revenge!”
- Launching yourself off the stage, you lead the stampede through the underbrush and into the wild.
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