by J.P. Fischer
Four weary travelers traverse a lonely forest, as they talk of the mythical Borive.
Bridgemore spurred the horse on nervously, fragments of stone and dust sliding away under his horse's feet as it clambered nervously down the slope. He could hear Nimh's horse trotting down after his own, as the singing of birds filled the air. The morning sun was finally showing itself, a brilliant glow shining through the thick branches and fine needles of the trees. Ahead, he saw that Sven had dismantled from his horse. Sauri rode up next to him, skilfully sliding off of her own. Bridgemore clambered off of his as he rode up to the others, while Nimh slid off when her horse arrived, staggering as she hit the ground. Sven was staring up at the trees that barred them from the sides, great thick pines that shot up towards the sky. They were about twenty metres tall by Bridgemore's guessing. For a moment Sven stared at the pines, before Nimh spoke.
"Why have we stopped?" She asked, massaging her stiff back. Sven and Sauri shared a look of understanding between themselves before addressing her.
"Tell me you two, do you notice anything strange about these trees? Anything at all?"
Bridgemore stared up at the massive pines, surveying them from top to bottom. He couldn't see a problem directly, though he did think there was something off about them. The shape perhaps, or the colour?
Sven looked between the two for a moment, before they both shook their heads. He moved towards the closest tree, where the branches started appearing slightly above his head.
"What about now?" He said, pointing to a gnarled lump on the rough surface of the pine, then gestured to several similar lumps on the same and other trees.
"The branches have been torn off!" Said Bridgemore, not sure how to feel about this information.
"Some are recent," Observed Sauri.
She's right, thought Bridgemore. He could see the white flesh of the tree through some lumps. A few of them were only partially healed.
"So what does that mean for us? It is a tall order, but I think I might be able to deal with some torn branches." Said Nimh cynically.
Sven chuckled heartily, which made his moustache quiver strangely.
"So you won't mind tackling the Borive then? It can't be too hard compared to the shock of torn trees!" Sauri and Sven both lapsed into mirth at Nimh's expression, who seemed to think much more highly of the broken branches now.
"I'm sorry, what's a Borive?" Asked Bridgemore, who felt rather clueless.
"Y-You should not laugh about something like that!" Nimh said, upset over the others laughter. "Now we have to find another route!"
"What's a Borive?" Repeated Bridgemore.
"A Borive," Said Sven, turning to face Bridgemore, "Is a great creature that roams the wilderness. They're extremely rare, as well as very large. They are made of the mountains from which they are born, and carry several living things on their backs. They feast on trees, (he gestured to the gnarled lumps) and their natures have been extremely exaggerated." He finished, looking at Nimh.
"I've heard stories of the Borives in the Isles!" She said, still shaken. "They say a Borive has enough strength to crush a man in one fell swoop! They can tear down whole forests in one of their rages!"
"And so they can." Said Sauri. "Borives are intelligent creatures. They demand a lot of respect, so I suggest you treat them with some."
"Do you think the Borive is still in this area?" Bridgemore asked, observing the partially healed lumps. Sven must have detected the worry in his voice, because he answered,
"Perhaps. If we do run into the Borive, we will have to give it a wide berth. There are other routes, but we would have to travel several kilometres to the east, about two days of travel."
Bridgemore and Nimh exchanged looks of anxiety.
"Trust me, we'll stay as far away from the thing as possible. Besides, you forget who we have with us." He gestured towards Sauri, who bowed with surprising grace for an elderly woman. "Dealing with a creature of the mountains won't be too much trouble with a Sage of Earth on our side."
So it was with a slight prickling fear that Bridgemore scrambled back onto his horse, and the party of four trudged on. Nimh seemed especially jumpy, craning her head around for a look whenever a sound disturbed the forest's usual prickly silence. As the day wore on, sunlight turned into the normal steel grey clouds and rain, and even that eventually faded into the twilight of the evening. After several hours of riding over the cobbled path, Sauri announced that she needed to rest her aching back. Secretly (and he was sure the others felt the same), Bridgemore was glad for a reason to stop. His back also pained him, and he felt a great relief as he stretched, feeling very grateful to be able to stand on his own two feet again. They set up a shabby campsite on a relatively smooth outcrop, which consisted of a low fire and their small leather tent. As the three of them sat around the warm glow of the fire (Nimh had retreated to the inside of the tent) eating their increasingly stale bread, their spirits rose. Bridgemore was fond of Nimh, but even he had to admit that her constant prophecies of death by Brovice wore on the group, and it was nice to escape her paranoid company. So it was with excitement and a nice happiness that Sauri told wonderful and ludicrous stories of her past, with Sven occasionally chipping in with his own tales. After some time, Nimh emerged from the tent, her temper much improved, and she joined in on their good mood, all talk of monsters completely forgotten. Just as the stars started rising into the sky however, their peace was suddenly interrupted.
"Do you hear that?" Bridgemore asked. He had been holding off on the question for some time. He did not want to have to disturb the peace, but he decided that he could not hold off any longer. For a few minutes he had been hearing distant voices, low muttering and occasional creaks and bangs. The other three strained their ears. Nimh and Sven tensed, confirming Bridgemore's worries.
"You have sharp ears, Mr Blue." Sven said, his tone grim.
"How do we know that they mean us harm?" Whispered Nimh. "They could simply be wandering."
"I don't hear anything." Said Sauri irritably. Bridgemore glanced at the others. Sauri's ears were probably not as good as they once were.
"Friendly travellers aren't likely to be wandering at this time of night." Said Sven, drawing a small axe from his heavy pack. Suddenly, a tremendous crash shook the forest. The voices yelled out, clearly audible even for Sauri, but they were drowned out by a huge, guttural roar. Bridgemore strained his eyes to see where it was coming from, but the night had already fallen thick around them.
"Someone has upset a Borive." Sven shouted, as the roar sounded through forest again, shaking the very dirt they sat upon. Bridgemore scrambled to his feet, his heart thumping in his chest. Sauri and Nimh sprang towards the tent and started disassembling it. They would need to be ready to move if the Borive came their way. Nimh had just finished stuffing the tent into her smaller pack, when the ground gave a mighty jerk beneath their feet. Bridgemore crashed painfully to the ground, unable to make anything out as he rolled onto the rough bark of a pine tree. His skin felt scratched and bruised to the touch, as his vision blurred trying to get a sense of what was happening. Squinting painfully, he saw a huge dust cloud rising from beneath the outcrop, and heard the roaring of the Borive. Sven and Nimh were also on the ground, Sven rubbing the dust from his moustache, staggering to his feet. Nimh was curled up slightly ahead of Bridgemore, her small figure stirring feebly. Sauri was the only one who remained standing, standing on the edge of the outcrop, her earthy red cloak billowing around her as she faced the Borive, which easily stood at her height despite standing on ground far below their camp. Very large utterly failed to describe the Borive, thought Bridgemore as he regained his footing shakily, his ears filled with the things ear-splitting roars. It was easily as tall as the massive pine trees it ate, and almost as wide. He saw two figures fleeing down the path they were to take, the people who had caused this mess, their steps painful and slow. A roar that didn't belong to the Borive wrenched Bridgemore's eyes away from the pair, as Sven shot arrow after arrow at the beast, aiming for its luminescent eyes, though as far as he could tell, they all clattered against the skin of rock, missing their mark. Bridgemore was slowly making his way towards Nimh, who was still curled in a fetal position, shaking slightly as the battle raged, when he almost lost his footing again. The very air around him seemed to have shifted, and he soon saw why. Sauri, staff in hand, was rising into the air, the very atmosphere crackling around her. Sven, seeing what she was doing, started making his way towards Bridgemore and Nimh, though Sauri's power seemed to be holding him back. He wrenched himself into the ground, one foot after the other, fighting against the wind itself.
"CREATURE OF THE EARTH!" Shouted Sauri, just audible over the Borive's roars. She raised her staff over her head, and with a terrible power in her voice, screamed,
"GO BACK FROM WHENCE YOU CAME!" With the force of a Borive itself, she threw her staff towards the ground at its feet. At the same time, Sven arrived at Bridgemore and Nimh, and with a roar, he slammed his axe into the tree behind them, and grabbed Bridgemore's hand with an iron grip, who grabbed Nimh's.
"Hold on!" He screamed, gripping the axe, as Sauri's staff hit the ground. Though it didn't fall with a clatter like Bridgemore expected, it slammed into the earth with a large golden light, and all the noises in the Earth seemed to shrink away before the sound it made. It was like the very fabric of reality was being sucked into the ground, and nothing, not even noise could escape it. With a painful grunt, Sven, Bridgemore and Nimh were lifted into the air, gravitating towards the staff. Sven gripped Bridgemore's wrist painfully, who clampsed onto Nimh's hand with a yell. The Borive gave one last almighty yell as Nimh grapsed onto Bridgemore's wrist, barely conscious, and the three of them crumpled onto the ground painfully, as the Borive vanished, and reality imploded back in on itself.