Me’eri flinched when she hit the ground. She had no time to consider if the wet snap was one of her bones or a twig, drenched from the morning rain. Jumping up she whirled her Ko’tan Bo around her to protect herself while she assessed the situation.
A few days ago, she led a small team of Naru hunters after they had received reports of a Forest Ghoul attacking Seekers traveling through the Door of Absence, a small passageway on Limera leading to their world’s Ether Portal. It was not the first time they encountered these foul creatures and they had devised a routine plan to track and kill it before it became any stronger.
This morning they surprisingly found it asleep. The stench of blood and entrails had made her gag. De’kon and Sha’an ran point and moved in on the creature, torches lit to set it on fire, whilst the others blocked any possible passage for the Ghoul to flee in.
Me’eri’s mouth twisted in a silent snarl when she thought of the moment of realization that the Forest Ghoul was not asleep but lurking; waiting on its prey to come closer. There had been no time to respond. By the time they knew it was a trap, the heads of De’kon and Sha’an were already flying towards them, tendrils shooting inside their bodies to rip them apart. Her hunting group lost control and blindly started attacking the Forest Ghoul.
A teardrop stung the wounds on her face and her breath became shallow. Me’eri blinked hard and swallowed. This was not the moment to mourn the fallen. This Forest Ghoul was not the usual type. It was fast, calculating. Almost as if it knew what they were thinking.
It had lured the hunters in, snatching away their torches and dousing them in batches of wet leaves. She did not think about it in the moment but looking back, it seemed as if those were strategically placed in a circle around the creature.
A glimpse of movement to her right made Me’eri swing her Ko’tan Bo to the side as she stepped away. The whistle of the staff through the morning air was a comfortable sound. As long as she had enough space to form the Ko’tan Bo Daar, Shapes of the Staff, she would be safe.
On the lower branches of the tree on her right, a massive bird perched. It stared at her, with eyes that seemed to glow golden in the half-light of the morning sun desperately trying to penetrate the forest. A voice inside Me’eri screamed at her that she should not be distracted, that the Forest Ghoul was in hot pursuit. She could not pull away from that gaze. Meanwhile, her body kept forming the Ko’tan Bo Daar as if it was one of the automatons in the storytellers plays.
The bird cocked it’s head to the right and a voice drifted into her mind. At first it was so soft, so gentle, she barely noticed it until it was done.
“Daughter of Ferana, why do you refuse your Gift?”
Me’eri felt as if she blinked several times mentally. In her chest, she felt her lungs starting to burn as she kept forming the Ko’tan Bo Daar. What did the bird mean? Was it even the bird speaking?
“Daughter of Ferana, answer me. Why do you refuse your Gift?”
Did it sound…angry? Me’eri tried to answer but she could not produce any sound. The burning feeling in her chest grew and started to throb. A small sliver of light started to trail the tip of her Ko’tan Bo whilst she was making her forms faster and faster.
Her instincts told her that the Forest Ghoul was close but she could not pull away from the bird’s gaze.
“DAUGHTER OF FERANA, DO NOT REFUSE YOUR GIFT!”
Her chest felt like it was about to explode and she roared, forming the Ko’tan Bo Daar. The staff was now glowing and connected with something that screeched loudly and seemed to catch on fire and explode.
As her roar ran out, Me’eri lost consciousness.
When she woke up, the bird was gone. In front of her lay the smoldering remains of the Forest Ghoul that had been hunting her. Protruding from its chest was the broken half of her Ko’tan Bo, a faint dying glow emanating from its core.