Having struggled for about a couple years to get the motivation to write anything longer than 1 page, I thought I'd try to writing about my sig character for a couple of Exalted games I've played or ran. Since I don't have very many friends who both enjoy literature and Exalted, I decided to post it here for people to read. Hrm, I don't know what else to say save for the following disclaimer: I'm sorry if this is torture! A friend of mine said that he got indigestion reading it, though I'm sure that it was a completely unrelated incident. Other side effects may occur! Finally, I hope to have you guys' input on the story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I really want to improve.
Here we go.
The Wolf and the Panther - Part 1
The East. It was an alien world of trees that dwarfs mountains and boughs that can shoulder the weight of cities. The forest canopy towers impossibly high, blotting out the sky. Far below exists a maze of roots and decay, a world plunged in darkness as thick as the caves of the Underworld. Between the two worlds stand a third. It was a world of perpetual dusk and fire light, where men lived in caves bored into the massive trunks or sprawled across the mile wide mesh limbs of those same trees.
Fenris wished that the rush of wind would drown out his voice as she sprinted up a branch. Her legs burned with exhaustion and her throat rasped for air, but she kept running. Donâ€™t climb beyond the boughs, she was warned. Donâ€™t go to their level of the woods. Centuries long tradition kept the brave or unfortunate souls that called this strange place home safeâ€¦as safe as one could be this close to the Wyld. She should have heeded them.
Sweat soaked through her light wool shirt, and each breath was like fire in her chest. But she kept running. If she stopped, he will catch her. She could hear him. So near.
Iâ€™m here to rescue you, my love. His voice was a harmonious mix of a steady tenor, the howl of sudden gust and the twinkling tones of a wind-chime. And it sounded as though he was just over her shoulder.
His voice felt like a noose, and even though her lungs burned, an icy chill gripped her heart. She knew what his so-called rescue entitled. She had heard the stories told by the lodge elders of the many-faced soul drinkers that lived in the canopy. They preyed on the unwary, and left nothing but the shell of a man who barely knew enough to breathe. If they chose to leave anything to find at all.
She knew that she could not stop. Will not stop. Her long hair fluttered like a tattered banner of gold as she launched from one branch to another, and broke into a run the moment her feet hit the solid limb. A quiver of arrows jostled uselessly on her back as she did so and she cursed her own stupidity. Her bow had been lost in a moment of panic. With nothing else, she was fawn in a wolfâ€™s den. The branches were quickly becoming shorter as well, taxing her further with each frantic but measured jump.
Another stride, another leap. Another step closer to safety. Branch after branch appeared before her and each was crossed with the same precision as the last. But she knew she didnâ€™t have the stamina to get back to her clan before her body failed her. She had to throw him off somehow. With only a blinkâ€™s time, she changed direction. This limb was much shorter than the first and forced her to make another hard leap sooner than she had anticipated.
Fenris was the best treeskimmer in her lodge, but even with fear and adrenaline driving her forward, her legs could not keep up. She managed a hoarse cry of despair as she fell short of the branch, her hands failed to find purchase. As she fell, she felt a strange peace wash over her. She was going to die, but it was better than being taken by thatâ€¦thing.
Why are you running, my love?
His voice faded as the glow of the canopy did. For that she was glad. She fell through thin, leaf covered branches. But the sticks were weak so her body snapped them like the twigs that were, filling her ears with dry cracks. They slowed her fall however and tumbled her into a burrow carved between a massive tree trunk and branch.
The initial shock stole the breath from her as she went down the tunnel. She rolled uncontrollably, but managed to tuck in her legs and wrap her arms around them. After what seemed like a lifetime the tumbling became a freefall then the hard ground. She was firmly on the ground, but her head spun and filled her with nausea. Then she felt her head touch the floor and she felt nothing else.
Fenris awoke with a gasp. But the black remained. Panic rose inside of her when nothing greeted her eyes but darkness. What happened? Did she die? Her hands pressed against the dusty, but solid ground and winced at the pain that lanced up and down her legs and sides. Her body ached. So she wasnâ€™t dead. Thatâ€™s right, she realized. She was trying to get away from him.
Memory of the past hour returned to her slowly. Her foolhardy climb up to the canopy. And her first glimpse of the sky. A smile graced her lips at the memory of how the glow of the sun danced upon her skin, enfolding her in its warmth. How the light filled the horizon in every direction and dazzled her senses in a sea of lush green below one of vivid blue that matched her eyes.
Then one of them found her. She shivered and squeezed her eyes shut as to try to push the images away, but they kept coming back to the forefront of her mind. She had been so enthralled by the heavens; she never noticed how the lemurs fell silent or how the birds took flight. Nor how the wind carried with it an alien voice that called her name. When she finally paid attention, it was too late.
He had arrived in a storm of shimmering shards of glass. They bent and fluttered like leaves but sliced into the treetops like the finest of blades. Her only warning had been the delicate chimes the shards made when they struck one another. She remembered crying out as the strange leaves whipped past her, then the sound became deafening as they surrounded her. Then just as suddenly, every piece of glass simplyâ€¦popped, like soap bubbles. And then he was there. Maybe he had always been there, watching her as she had watched the sky.
He smelled of orchids. And he wore a strange breastplate of leather that warped and shifted with each stride of his impossibly gaunt legs. Flowing layers of a strange glossy fabric wrapped the rest of his body in scarlet as he came to her. Despite his gait, he appeared to float like a blossom in the wind; his red sandaled feet barely caressed the highest leaves.
My love. My Princess. I have come for you. Those were his words, and then he stroked her cheek with an immaculate handâ€¦
Fenris shook her head. Now was not the time to recall nightmares. She had to get away and back to the lodge. She will be safe there. But how long had she been laying there? With a long groan, the young woman pushed herself off the ground into a sitting position. Reaching out with her hands, she felt for and found a wall. It was rough and reminded her of the unpolished walls of her home.
â€œWhere am I?â€ she wondered and slowly stood, grateful that the ceiling was higher than she was. At her utterance, a single brazier hissed to life in the center of the room. The soft, flickering light revealed a small room. â€œThis is must have been carved out from a tree,â€ Fenris mused, staring in wonder at the walls. Murals, faded with the passage of time covered the available space and framed a large but simple stone door. There was no sign of handle or knob. She also spotted a chute opposite the door, which she assumed she fell from. How she got there without any real injury was a mystery to her. Perhaps that was her lifeâ€™s one miracle.
She felt drawn to the pictographs. And she studied them with the hunger of a beggar before a feast. Even under the dust of untold centuries, the images were vivid and filled young Fenrisâ€™ mind with scenes of heroic deeds and a pair of god-like men. Their skin was a deep shade of bronze, with flowing manes of oaken brown. One carried an axe while the other wielded a slender daiklaive. Both gleamed in a halo of rich gold. And both wore ornamented suits of golden plated radiance.
She moved from relief to relief. Each frame displayed the pairâ€™s prowess; from slaying impossible looking creatures that towered over them to dealing with beings that could only be described as gods. Her hand traced the faces of the two men. The only sounds were the light crackle of the flames and the raspy breathing of her parched throat.
â€œBrothers.â€ The thought flashed before her mind. She had no idea where the thought came from, but it felt right.
Every piece was a masterwork. But the relief carved into the plain stone door took her breath away. The brothers flanked a third figure, a woman. She only appeared in that final depiction clad in a robe of gold and silver. Her hair fanned out behind her body in streams of stunning blue. The two men were poised to strike, as if in the womanâ€™s defense. And behind them the sun stood in glorious majesty. Fenris felt the determination in the brothersâ€™ eyes and pose, just as she saw the grief on the woman face. To Fenris, it felt as though she were in that moment. She felt the despair, the grief. She heard the cacophony of battle, and the smell of coppery blood and choking smoke.
â€œAdonisâ€¦Euricâ€¦â€ The names came unbidden to her full lips. She blinked and shook her head, suddenly feeling something rising in her stomach. She felt her knees hit the hard floor, but there was no pain. There was only a pressure in her chest, a pressure that quickly grew in intensity until she could not breathe. Gasping for air but finding nothing, she fell forward and her forehead hit the dusty ground. Then the room began to shake. But she could only turn her head enough to see the door sink into the floor from the corner of her eye.
Fenris felt the pressure subside when the rumbling stopped. She blew a shaky breath and pushed herself off the floor. What was happening to her? Did the soul-drinker do something to her? Where did the names come from? She shook her head and pushed those thoughts aside. At least the pain was gone for now. She looked up and saw that the door was gone, and beyond was a room only a bit larger than the one on her side. A glow that brought up the memory of seeing the sky revealed a pair of stone sarcophagi, the only objects within.
She peered into the room. The coffins were gilded with gold and took the form of the men they entombed. They still glinted in the light as she approached them. She reached out tentatively for the sarcophagus. The surface was smooth and a little warm to the touch, as though they held an inner heat. Her hand cupped the strong chin of the man she somehow knew was Euric and her eyes began to sting with tears.
â€œMy sonsâ€¦â€ said a voice that came from behind, a womanâ€™s voice tinged withâ€¦regret?
The young treeskimmer spun on her heels with a gasp. Her eyes widened when she beheld the woman she saw on the door to the tomb. The woman stood in the doorway, like a framed portrait, and was a full head taller than she, and wore a gown of spun gold that hugged and accentuated every perfect curve. Fenris felt those mascara rimmed eyes bore into her, like a pair of flawless emeralds piercing her very soul.
â€œW-Who are you?â€
The womanâ€™s ruby lips curved upward ever so slightly in a smile that held a multitude of secrets. â€œI am you.â€