7 Chapter 7

Humans were noisy and social creatures. Sound travelled poorly between the towering pines, but scents could linger for days.

The stench of sweat and blood was unmistakable.

I had discovered the tracks of a group of human travellers early yesterday morning. They were clever enough to hide the evidence of their activity, but they could not conceal themselves from my sharp senses.

'Communicating with the humans may pose a challenge. The red flame has been deciphering the various fragments of human language embedded in my blood, but my understanding is rudimentary at best. I can only hope their courage won't crumble before our conversation begins.'

Though proud and ancient, the trees of the forest could not support my overbearing weight. I could no longer swing through the trees.

Regardless my limbs were thick and powerful; the gap between the humans and me was rapidly shrinking.

I was eager to see my old kind once more.




"Young lord, we are almost out of this icy place. Are you certain it is wise to change course for a simple flower?" An old man respectfully intoned. Time had carved deep wrinkles on his weathered visage but vigour shone in his eyes.

The subject he was addressing was a tall and strong young man. Despite his age, the youth spoke with a measured and intelligent tone.

"That flower is lady Didania's favourite. It will become the most charming expression of my affection and she deserves nothing less."

Focusing his gaze on the armoured soldiers marching in circular formation around himself the young man continued, "My father's soldiers are skilled and swift. While they may long for the warmth of their homes, their strength remains in good condition. Adding a day or two to our journey poses little risk. Once we discover my lady's flower we will return at once."

Admiration glimmered in the old butler's eyes. He had stood by lord Bane's side, the father of the young lord, for several decades. During this time the common people had prospered and lord Bane had hired craftsmen to expand his treasury thrice.

There was a lot of pressure on his only heir to live up to his father's reputation.

From his father the young lord had inherited not just a handsome face. In addition he shared the wisdom and kindness that the lord's great success was founded on.

Currently he was skillfully courting the noble lady Didania, the daughter of a famous and just minister under the king. The union of the two parties would elevate the Bane name to a new stage and allow them to obtain huge benefits.

In the eyes of commoners and noble's alike the young lord Jesper was a respectable and worthy partner for the lady Didania.

The kingdom of Cintra was proud and strong. Even the Nilfgaradians with their burning spirit of conquest feared it's armies.

"Change course men! We shall obtain the herald flower and recieve the praise of the lord! Your wallets will soon overflow with coin!" The young lord shouted.

Inspired by his words the soldiers responded with loud enthusiastic shouts and beat their shields with their swords.

"For the young lord!" A soldier bellowed.

The others echoed his cry, "For the young lord!"

Observing how his young lord cleverly roused the soldier's spirits with just a few words, the butler swelled with happiness.

All his life he had been devoting himself to lord Bane. Now that there was a suitable heir to continue his master's lineage, he could barely suppress his joy.

Turning his head to one side to hide his upturned lips the old butler whispered under his breath, "For the young lord."

Suddenly the butler froze.

The sixth sense developed from surviving countless battles gripped his heart like a vice.

Trembling violently the butler desperately forced out a warning, "Something's coming."

His voice was shaky and faint, but somehow it echoed clearly in the minds of every man present.

As if suspended in time the young lord and his entourage watched unblinkingly as the trees in front of them began to shake.

Sweat trickled down the neck of the lord's son. His chaotic thoughts painted savage pictures of all that was supposed to become his, drowning in darkness and crimson blood.

One question burned in the young lord's mind.

'Will I die here?'

The shaking of the trees grew more intense. Dull thuds of soldiers falling to their knees scarcely registered in the young lord's mind.

It took several seconds for the heir to realise the sound of objects fiercely striking each other came from his chattering teeth.

The old butler's eyes were tightly shut. While he awaited his death he sincerely repeated sorrowful apologies to his master in his mind. For the young lord to die under his watch; it was a sin that not even death could repent for.

"I-I am a Bane. M-m-my blood is n-noble and p-pure. I w-on't, I w-w-on't dissapoint my father." The eyes of the young lord were glazed with madness.


Sunlight glinted of the polished steel as the young lord drew his sword from its sheath.

Were his father, the true lord, to be present, he might for a moment think his son could carve out a destiny other than death with his blade.

But the valiant picture was not as it seemed.

The young lord's hand shook violently, at any moment the glimmering sword could slip from his fingers and fall to the earth. It was not courage that drove the young man's actions, it was the shattering of his mind from the terror of something unimaginable.

Tall oaks cast long shadows in the evening light. The figure of the beast was shrouded in the inky darkness.

Then the beast stepped forwards. A singular paw extended slowly out from the cover of the trees.

The young lord's eyes rolled crazily in all directions. How could such an enormous claw exist outside of children's tales' and the extravagant songs of fortune-seeking bards.

So large was the beast's body that it took several seconds for it to leave the shadows.

Fur as black as the night. Yellow eyes that shone hungrily and claws and teeth that could tear through any armour.

The creature was huge. It dwarfed all other living things. Next to it even a warhorse would seem insignificant.

It resembled no known creature. Instead it looked as if it was the product of some unknown and powerful alchemy. The muscles that rippled beneath it's black fur bore similarities to those of a bear, yet it's body was well-proportioned and lean like that of a wolf.

The creature stood there silently. It's eyes slowly moved across those present before returning and halting on the quivering figure of the heir.

Minutes passed.

The invisible pressure emanating from the giant beast's body weighed like a mountain on the young lord's back. At any moment he seemed to see the beast leap forwards and tear his head from his body.

From a young age the lord's heir had been learning from accomplished experts in all kinds of fields. Lord Bane's coin flowed like water from his treasuries as he hired these prestigious teachers from far and wide. For his son's future no expense was spared.

The teachings of an old general gradually surfaced in the young lord's mind as he stood with trembling legs. He seemed to be transported back to the classroom, surrounded by his father's book collection and inhaling the heady smell of countless ancient pages.

The general spoke at a pace that was neither fast nor slow. His words carried a confidence that could not be denied, "In history, many battles have been fought for lofty goals.

Love, territory, honour; all of them have stoked the flames of war.

You see young lord, emotions are powerful things. They compel us to raise our swords and march our armies."

The general smiled, seemingly thinking back to days past, "A man who fights for his honour will always best an opponent who fights just because he has been told to do so.

Yet, there exists another reason for war. One born entirely of human stupidity."

The general stared deeply into the eyes of the juvenile lord, "Listen carefully boy. Great empires and learned scholars alike have fallen because of this foolish thing.

Misunderstandings child."

Leaning back in his chair the general sighed and shut his eyes, "Oh how far the truth can stray from what we believe."

The vision shattered suddenly. The young lord gasped sharply as embers of clarity lit in his mind.

Firm resolve steeled the young lord's heart.

He lowered his blade.

"O' great creature. What do you seek?"

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