Chapter 25.2: Of Fear, Friendship, Secrets Untold and Unasked Questions
The crowleaf was yellowed, and quite clearly dead. It crumbled into ashes in Zamelnah’s hand. There had been a lurch in Koolah’s heart when Zam had grabbed it, something about the trees just filled her with unease. She was quite relieved when the ashes undramatically blew away into the icy darkness.
While he was rubbing the ash between his fingertips, Zam was looking intently at the patterns of the ash, at its essences. Observation was one of Zam’s strong points. A snarl of twisted intention snapped across his mind like a whip, and Zam quickly dusted off his hand.
“It’s chlanic isn’t it?” Zam asked Koolah.
Koolah got up from the ground, where she had been checking the signs of the attacker’s presence.
“Yes, I learnt that much before”
“It isn’t completely chlanic is it?”
“If it was, would we still be alive?”
“Good, point. So, what is to be done? Something like this can’t just be left wandering about”
“I know that. Whatever it is, it’ll be getting more twisted over time. It’s plant based, which makes it even worse, if it takes root, then with the way this place is, it’ll spread its corruption”
A few of the dead crowleaves dropped from the trees, and Zam moved to inspect them and the trees.
“It’s strangely quite weak. Not much other than claws and corruption, thankfully. It seems you already have some idea of a plan”
Koolah eyed Zam as a butcher would a freshly slaughtered pig that needed to be cut.
“I’ve some idea as to what is at the core of this matter. Once I reunite with my sisters, I think I’ll have all the pieces of the truth, then I can figure out how to deal with this… creature.”
“Why not just hunt it down now? I don’t believe it has the power to defeat you”
“Something is bothering me about its existence, and being a mage, I would have thought you’d be aware of how disposal of chlanic beings is rarely simple, even more so in a place like this… besides with how cowardly it seems to be, I’m not sure a normal hunt would work. I think it needs to be baited”
“Oh, I’m aware, I suppose I got a bit surprised by the weakness of this creature, Its essences are so thin. How did it ever kill your sister?”
“Watch your tongue, elf, the chlanic can get the better of any heart…”
“I suspect, from the condition of my sister’s patterns and the flow… she was shaken by the resonance of her previous deaths”
Zamelah touched his head to one of the trees and closed his eyes, as he did this, he continued to speak to Koolah.
“Shall I tell the other people not taken by this loop to assemble when you’ve worked out a plan for dealing with our miscreant?”
Koolah paused in her observation of the flows, it didn’t take much to take her out of that. She always had trouble reading the motion as it passed around and through the forms. It was even worse in the fallen realm that they were in. Her stopping was of course mostly due to her stopping to look at Zamelnah as if he had three heads rather than three eyes.
“Why exactly do you want to do that?”
The haggard elf gave a smug smile, as if the tree he had his head against had just imparted some precious secret to him and him alone. The always present sleeping gaze of the trees seemed different to Koolah as Zam raised his head from the tree. What Koolah feared wasn’t the chlanic attacker, which somehow was looking to be of her and her sister’s making.
She feared the forest she could not comprehend. She feared how vaster it seemed than what it actually was. Now, with that fear, in part she feared Zam a little. She was however, too prideful to ask what secrets if any the tree had told him. For all she knew, he had not been talking to the tree, to the forest.
“I’ve only been sent here to take a look around. I can’t do that properly if something kills me or Golobos. Even less so if this creature further distorts this place. I have trouble enough with the ice and darkness”
Koolah wanted to reject him. Especially after his interaction with the tree. She could not. She could not afford to. It was clear that the creature particularly despised her and her sisters. She would not lose any more family. No more! That monster was far greater than this chlanic coward, if it could not end the Dauftima pride then would the coward?
“Wait for a catshead of smoke to rise from the cottage, that will be my sign” Koolah said.
Zam gave a weak smile.
“So glad we could move past our differences and come to an agreement, I should get going, if I am to tell the others like us before the horn calls another day. Goodbye, heiress of Dauftima”
With that, he flicked his bare arm, and a pair of wings jumped forth from his skin, growing greatly in size until they were large enough for him to stand on. He flew away then, leaving Koolah alone with the forest.
With the forest and with her thoughts.
The most important question to ask. Koolah was sure she’d know as soon as she returned to the cottage.