It was almost dawn when Daniel looked outside his window. The familiar cobblestone path stretched in a single direction for what looked like miles until the forest emerged. The trees had no leaves on them even though it was early summer. Daniel had dreamed of going beyond the hills just so he could see what was on the other side. Not all of Orn was like this, though. The books Daniel had read throughout the years proved that what he saw on a regular basis wasn’t everything.
The world of Orn was truly a magical place. Beasts and other creatures had lived there once in total and complete harmony. The forests were bright green and the pools were alive with fish and other animals alike. The Jorn Elves were the most helpful and interesting creatures in the land. The eyes of the Jorn almost sparkled, and their ears were pointed straight back. Their skin had a soft pale glow when they were about in the night. Their movement left trails of light behind them. If it wasn’t for their size, one might mistake them for a Jera Faerie.
These faeries have a slightly brighter glow to their skin, and they are abnormally small in size. At night, the trees would seem to light up, as the faeries’ glows illuminated as they danced amongst the trees. One may think they wouldn’t associate with other larger creatures.
There were Vallei Giants, the giant and humble. Their size was quite intimidating; however, their kindness was unlike no other creature in the land. They were the peacekeepers and harvesters for most of Orn. The Valley of Vines was lush in various unrecognizable fruits and vegetables, and many were thankful for their kind services. However, there was one group of creatures that were not.
In the northern part of Orn lived many different foul creatures. Some include the venomous Vampyre, the snarling Beastans, and the Hooded Figures. The Vampyres are said to have teeth that extend up to 3 inches. When a creature comes across the beautiful appearance of a Vampyre, their fate is set, and they shall die. These creatures do not pity the living. They aren’t very clean, either, and are extremely messy with their victims. The only thing that can destroy a Vampyre is a Hooded Figure. However, a Beastan is able to wound a Vampyre with their massive teeth and claws.
A Beastan is a slave to the moon, and transforms into what appears to be a mutated wolf. The Hooded Figures created this particular mutation using two Peach Toned animals, two wolves, one bear, and an unknown glowing red stone. From this one mutation, they were able to create many others.
The Hooded Figures are the oldest creatures in the land of Orn, and lust for power. Their appearance is quite terrifying; with their ghastly shape and the mysterious dark cloak they wear. Not one creature has seen what a true Hooded Figure has looked like. Being in the appearance of one can almost bring immediate death. The atmosphere that they bring is a cold and bitter feeling. Each creature’s experience is said to be different.
One day, the Hooded Figures released all of their Beastan mutations, and they ravaged the land. The faeries were made almost extinct. The Vallei’s were able to withhold most of the attacks, but their numbers were lowered immensely. The Jorn’s went into hiding and most managed to escape the Beastan’s attack. Sadly, half of the population had dropped over the year from falling sick.
The Hooded Figures had won. The sky no longer reached day, either. The only light it would see would be when dawn was approaching, and then the clouds would take over. It was almost always cold, so not many crops were able to survive.
This was the place that Daniel lived in now. He isn’t a Jorn Elf or a Vallei Giant; He was human, or using Orn terminology, a Peach Toned creature. He never knew how he was brought into the land of Orn, as he was the only one of his kind here. His dark brown eyes and shaggy brown hair couldn’t belong to anything else except for him. He was rather lanky, but that was only due to the fact of malnutrition. The Hooded Figures barely gave him enough to eat, and when they did, it wasn’t very filling.
The Hooded Figures took him in when they found him floating face forward in the lake towards the southern side of their monstrous castle. Daniel doesn’t remember why he was there. He was only three years old at the time. Eleven years had passed and he’s been stuck in the castle, not allowed to leave the castle’s main lawn area unless given specific permission to. He was allowed to visit the lake during the weekends, but he was never allowed to enter it.
Uha, a Hooded Figure mutation, had found him, and has been responsible for taking care of Daniel and watching after him. Daniel, in a way, looked up to him as a father figure. Uha was very strict with Daniel, as he is to follow the instruction of the leader, Qeo. Most of the Hooded Figure population have a small emotion tolerance, but Uha is different. He was supposed to be a Beasten, but time was running short, and the full process wasn’t completed in time. He is part human and part Hooded Figure. Qeo had arranged for this to happen last minute, and nobody else had understood why. He’s become outcast since then, and has only Daniel. Uha has grown to care for Daniel over the years.
When Daniel turned his head away from the window he saw a black kettle warming over a burning fire in the hearth. Uha had walked into the room just as Daniel stood up to stretch. He wore a cloak with the hood down, exposing his black hair that grew just past his shoulders. He was tying it up when he pulled out a wooden spoon from the inside of his cloak to stir the items in the kettle. Daniel wasn’t quite sure how to tell age exactly with Uha, but he looked around to be forty years old. His eyes were black, and he kept his beard rather short. Daniel never quite knew how to react to Uha’s appearance.
Daniel took a couple of steps away from his bed and sat at the circular wooden table that he and Uha had crafted three years back. He continued to watch Uha as he walked back and forth across the room grabbing the materials he needed to serve what he was cooking. It smelled like some type of berry, which was highly unusual to Daniel.
“You slept late,” Uha said rather annoyingly.
“I’m sorry, Uha. I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. The storm woke me several times…I found it hard to sleep.” Daniel replied.
Uha turned to look back at him with a glare. “You know Qeo said we were to hunt today. We are extremely behind. If we don’t get the minimum of what he said—“
“Then we won’t have any meals for a week. I know. We go through this same discussion every Sunday.”
“Then why must I repeat it? I am getting annoyed with you, boy. You may not realize it now, but once you reach of age he won’t be as easy with you. You will go to bed earlier, then. This behavior cannot continue.”
Uha walked over to a chest that was to the right of the fireplace and retrieved a mug. He removed the kettle from the fire and placed it in front of Daniel and gave him the mug. Daniel poured the contents from the kettle in the mug and examined it.
“Drink up. It’s going to be a long day.” Uha told him.
Daniel did as he was told and didn’t recognize the flavor. It tasted extremely sweet and was silk like.
“Uha, if I may ask…What is this?” Daniel asked curiously.
Uha turned back to look at Daniel and said, “It’s blueberry tea with a special ingredient. It keeps you full longer.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow and continued to drink until it was empty. He was unusually full, which made him happy and ready for the hunt. Uha motioned for Daniel to grab his bow and arrow and to follow him out the door. It was going to be a long day.
Daniel and Uha had started their way down the castle’s main stairwell and were lucky enough to have started the day without running into a hooded figure. Most of them were either congregating in their rooms or somewhere in the dungeons, torturing the prisoners that were held there. Daniel hated having to talk to any of them. It was also extremely hard to tell who was who. He was only able to recognize certain hooded figures because of their distinctive glow, or depending, their size. Most of the hooded figures were relatively shaped the same. Some, however, were larger around.
Uha had a strange weapon that he used when he went hunting. It required some type of shelled encasing that he never had dreamed of before. His simple bow and arrow couldn’t compare to the damage his weapon could do. Daniel remembers during one of their luckier hunts seeing Uha take shooting down three deer in three shots. If Daniel wasn’t very accurate with his arrow, it would take multiple tries before he could even take one down. Uha wouldn’t let him use this, though. He said it was extremely dangerous and even making one wrong maneuver could hurt you.
Down the main stairwell led to a fairly large room with a single fireplace located to the west of the room. A leather couch and some complimenting arm chairs were focused around it. This was mainly for any inhabitants that resided off of the main stairwell. There were many other towers and rooms that Daniel had never been in that branched off of the main stairwell. It was extremely confusing at times and he had to occasionally (and quite awkwardly) ask random hooded figures how to get back to his chamber.
“Wait here while I get our coats,” Uha said to him.
Daniel sat on the couch and enjoyed the warmth coming from the fireplace. The rest of the castle was bitterly cold, and even though it was a warm season, the entire area surrounding the castle remained a freezing temperature. Daniel wondered what the rest of Orn was like. Was it as cold as the castle? Would it be scorching hot? Daniel wouldn’t mind that.
Uha returned with two white jackets that had a bright orange glow around it. The glow was so bright the entire room filled with orange light. However, Daniel couldn’t see it. Only hooded figures were able to see the color; it hurt their eyes to look at it from a close distance. Uha was able to see the color of the glow, since he was a hybrid.
“I wish I would be able to see it,” Daniel said as he pulled the jacket over him.
“It isn’t anything really special,” said Uha reassuring him.
He followed Uha north of the room and down a long moldy passageway. The torches were burning only so enough light would be visible for Daniel to see. Any type of true light hurt the hooded figures eyes. All fires were distinguished throughout the day because of that. The two soon approached two large oak doors that required both Uha and Daniel to push open.
They were in the lawn area that faced the Fern Forest. This was located at the southern side of the castle. A large pool that was colored a brilliant blue was glowing at its brightest that Daniel had ever noticed. He was never allowed to into the pool itself, but he had fished there on multiple occasions with Uha earlier in the spring. There were few trees that littered the lawn around them. There wasn’t a big point of having the trees there anyways; they were dead. Daniel had climbed them, though, so they held some sort of significance to him.
“We’ll be hunting squirrels today, Daniel. I know how you love to hunt them. Qeo is expecting us to return with ten this morning.”
Uha was right. Daniel loved to hunt squirrels. Being able to shoot at them was more challenging than a deer was, but they were definitely easier to take down. He slung his arrows on his back as they entered the forest and took an arrow, ready to hunt.
Daniel knew that Uha wouldn’t be the one who would be really hunting today. He liked to give Daniel as much opportunity to please Qeo as he could. It was hard for Daniel to really please anyone, as he wasn’t like anyone else. Uha was given most of the credit since he was partially a hooded figure.
Uha reduced his voice to a whisper now, “I want you to scan the trees. Follow me until we reach the Knotted Tree. Once we get there, it’s up to you on what we do.”
Daniel nodded and continued on. The forest was full of dangerous animals. Daniel had to keep constant watch for the different Vampyres and Beastans that lurked throughout the woods. They would attack him without any warning without Uha around.
The ground was full of dead moss and leaves, and was quite muddy in some parts. Hidden beneath some leaves hid many traps that Daniel and Uha had set up. It was easy to spot where they had left the traps, as the smell of rotted meat came to their senses. This attracted some small curious animals that were desperate of food, and once a week they would almost always find a fox to bring home.
Daniel could start to see large, tangled, brown branches appear in front of him. The Knotted Tree was just ahead. This was an extremely unique tree unlike the rest that inhabited the forest; it was alive. Somehow through the savaging of the Beastans, this tree continued to live. Many animals tend to dwell around it. Daniel thought he had saw a faerie once, but wasn’t sure.
Uha readied his weapon and motioned for Daniel to remain silent. The only audible sounds were of Daniel’s excited heartbeat. This was it. If he didn’t pay particular attention to his surroundings, everything could be over for the two. A single twig snap could frighten the animals that lurked around. Uha moved out of Daniel’s view in a ghostly manner. He supposed being a Hooded Figure hybrid would help with hunting.
Daniel searched the branches of the Knotted Tree and continued to search about the ground. That’s when he had spotted something unusual. It wasn’t a dead fox or deer, or most importantly a squirrel, but it was a Jorn Elf. The elf’s wooden staff lay a couple feet away from him, snapped in half. Something had gone terribly wrong. A Jorn Elf’s staff contained one’s magical powers…This couldn’t have been from a simple animal attack. The elf’s tattered clothing had been completely ripped off of its body, and its torso and neck were completely missing. It didn’t look right to Daniel.
Was there a particular reason for the uncomfortable silence in the forest today? Daniel wanted to ask Uha what this could possibly be. He wanted his assumption to be wrong. There could only be one clear explanation for this attack.
As Daniel started to move in the direction Uha had disappeared into, his left foot made a deafening crack as it connected with a stick. His eyes widened with terror as something started to blur around him.
It moved so fast Daniel couldn’t recognize it. The silence was unmanageable. Uha would never know that Daniel was about to be attacked. He hoped his simple wooden arrows would be able to penetrate it.
That’s when he lowered his weapon. The naked creature came into Daniel’s view just at the Knotted Tree’s stump, standing perfectly still and looking utterly perfect. Its eyes were completely black and massive teeth razor sharp. Her straight, midnight black hair was just below her waist. He couldn’t hurt them anymore; he didn’t want to.
All Daniel knew was that he was face to face with a woman Vampyre…and there was nothing he could do but stare in awe at her beauty.
The woman remained silent for a couple of moments, and then smiled. Daniel’s heart felt like it was about to rip itself from his chest. Her presence made him feel as if he belonged there, and he couldn’t help but being uncomfortably peaceful. Daniel dropped his bow to the ground and stumbled towards her, not truly realizing what he was doing.
“Come here,” the woman said in a playful tone.
She started to dance and swing around the Knotted Tree’s branches. Her movements were so swift and fast that Daniel had a hard time watching her. He could only wish that he would be able to reach her in time before she left. All he wanted was her.
The woman stopped dancing and stood at the base of the tree and motioned Daniel to come closer. He kept walking as if he was in a trance towards the woman.
He stood in front of her with his mouth open in awe and watched her every move. She laughed at him and took his hand.
“What is your name?” she asked.
Daniel was still in shock and it took him a few seconds to reply.
“M-m-my name… my name is Daniel.” he stuttered.
“Daniel? That’s an unusual name… You’re also an unusual creature. Tell me, Daniel. What brings you out into the Fern Forest?”
“I’m hunting,” he sputtered. He could not lie to her.
“Well, Daniel. If you agree to come with me, you won’t need to hunt for food ever again. Do you agree to come along with me?” she asked.
Before Daniel could answer he heard a blasting sound. The sound broke the spell that the Vampyre had been casting on Daniel, and he stared in shock. Just as he was about to attempt to run away she let out a blood curdling scream and burst into flames. She fell to the ground and begged for him to help her.
“Please! Please help me!” she cried.
The Vampyre sounded extremely hoarse and old now that Daniel could see her without being in a trance. He also noticed through the flames that her skin was old and wrinkly; it was basically pruned.
Uha’s screams were in the distance, and within a few seconds he was pulling Daniel away from the dying Vampyre. She continued to scream and writhe in pain until she burst into a pile of blackened ash.
Daniel fell down and tried to examine what had just happened. He almost died. He should have died. But how did he break away from the Vampyre’s spell? She had him in an unbreakable trance. One that was hard to be broken.
It was Uha. Uha had the foreign machine that could kill animals almost instantly. That had to be the explanation.
“Uha… did you… shoot…?” Daniel muttered.
“Yes. I had no idea what would happen otherwise. I had to try and do something. This… this is a wonderful discovery, Daniel. With this device, we can arm ourselves against those foul creatures. I had never tried it before.” Uha said.
Daniel stared into Uha’s eyes in disbelief. He should be happy that he had survived. But there was something that didn’t feel right about him now.
“You are not to leave my sight again. Do you understand me, Daniel?” Uha asked.
Daniel nodded and stood up and retrieved his bows. They both knew that hunting would almost be pointless now. The blasting sound would have sent any game into hiding for miles. The only thing they could try to do is to check the traps.
Daniel walked along a beaten path that he and Uha had managed to create over the years of hunting. He found a snare that he had set and saw that he had caught a rabbit. It was equal to two squirrels when presenting it to the Hooded Figures.
On their way back, they had found two more rabbits. It was a lucky find, but this meant that they wouldn’t have any spare food to eat. They would have to live off of what the Hooded Figures provided them. The Hooded Figures used the game they caught for making various potions and remedies, and on occasion, they would leave scraps for the prisoners.
Uha and Daniel walked back to the Castle, quite pleased with the morning hunt. Just as they walked into the lawn area, Daniel noticed that two Hooded Figures were guarding the door to the castle. This was extremely unusual, as no creature would dare enter here unless they wanted a death sentence. Daniel’s jacket suddenly didn’t feel warm enough, and he wanted to get as far away from them as possible.
That’s when Daniel saw Uha being lifted off the ground, gasping for air as one of the Hooded Figures curled his hand around his neck.
“You dare threaten our species, hybrid!” the Hooded Figure hissed to him.
Uha looked absolutely petrified, and there was nothing he could do but dangle in fear.
“How did you manage to do it? How did you kill the Vampyre?” he demanded from him.
Daniel couldn’t stand looking at this any longer and said, “Please! The Vampyre was attempting to kill me. He only did it for my protection. We did not realize what had happened until after he shot her.”
The Hooded Figure dropped Uha to the ground and turned its gaze toward Daniel instead. He was advancing Daniel when the other Hooded Figure pulled him back and stopped him.
“Rahl, he is not worth your time. Please, find peace within yourself. As for you, boy… you are reckless. I can only wait for the day where we all have the order to remove your presence from our castle. Qeo would like to speak to both of you immediately. Go now, before I cause an accident to happen.”
Daniel helped Uha up and they both continued into the castle. Uha did not speak to Daniel nor look at him after their encounter with the Hooded Figures. Daniel had soon become lost as they ventured deeper into the castle’s chambers.
Uha had stopped at two large doors that led to Qeo’s study. Daniel had been in here once or twice, but it wasn’t a regular occasion. He mainly conversed with him in the main corridor, and that was only after he hunted. Daniel knew that this must be much more serious, and he became extremely frightened. Uha sensed Daniel’s quick change of mood and gave him a stern look. He knew that Qeo could use his fear against him, so Daniel had to try and hide how afraid he was.
Uha knocked three times and waited for an answer. The doors creaked open a few inches a few moments later.
“Come in,” a hoarse voice murmured.
Uha grabbed Daniel’s shoulder and pushed him through the doors to greet Qeo. He was sitting at his desk with an open book writing away. Daniel tried to swallow the lump in his throat and stood up straight. The room was not that very big. The wall behind where Qeo was seated was filled entirely with books. To the left of him was a basin filled with a glowing purple liquid.
Qeo was much larger than the usual Hooded Figures. His age was also starting to show, and he appeared extremely beaten down and tired. The way he moved was extremely ghost like, and it lingered in the air. He was also immortal, and Daniel thought that he had to at least be over a thousand years old. Uha refused to tell Daniel why Qeo was so different and powerful.
Daniel and Uha walked up to the front of Qeo’s desk and bowed in respect. Qeo waved his hand at them and they immediately stood back up. Daniel looked at Uha and noticed that his face was completely emotionless. Daniel tried to do the same but knew that his feelings would get the best of him.
Qeo glanced up at them from his book and Daniel had noticed that his eyes were glowing a bright gold. This was extremely abnormal, as his eyes were normally a coal black. The room instantly felt much colder and Daniel was suddenly aware of his jagged breathing. He tried to reassure himself that everything was going to be fine. That’s when Qeo took a breath and slammed his hands onto the desk. It remained silent for a few moments.
“What were you thinking?” Qeo shouted.
None of them had answered. Daniel had no idea how to respond.
“My Lord, please understand. Daniel would have been killed otherwise.” Uha said.
“It does not matter. Do you realize what you have done, Uha? Our allegiance with the Vampyres could be over! We have no idea if they are still on our side now.” Qeo hissed back.
Daniel knew that he should have died. He knew that if he had, Uha wouldn’t be in trouble. He knew that they wouldn’t be in this situation.
“It was my fault entirely. I-I take full responsibility. When we were hunting… I wasn’t careful. I attracted the Vampyre’s attention.” Daniel confessed.
Uha and Qeo both shot a look at him.
“Daniel, you do not need to—“ Uha started but Qeo quickly interrupted.
“Boy, I cannot remember how many times I have had to stress about being careful in the forest. Because of you, not only do we have to deal with this dilemma, but we also have to find some other way to meet our needs this week because of our lack of supplies. Your gatherings will suffice, but not for long. From now on, you are forbidden from the Fern Forest. Do you understand?”
Daniel felt humiliated. He wouldn’t be able to hunt with Uha anymore. Not only was that an issue, but he would be stuck inside the castle for a while. He nodded and bowed his head in shame.
“As for you, Uha, you need to be more strict with him. We cannot afford any more mistakes. I am disappointed in you.” Qeo muttered.
Uha nodded and said, “My Lord, there will be no more mistakes. Daniel will learn his lesson. I will disappoint you no longer.”
“Good. Now leave. I cannot bare to look at you two any longer. I must get back to my work. Be gone!” he shouted and waved his hand, pushing both of them out of the room before slamming the door shut.
Daniel looked at his feet and did not want to make eye contact with Uha.
Uha placed his arm around Daniel and spoke, “Come, my son. The day is only beginning, and we have many things to do.”
[[Chapter 4 soon to follow]]