CoS: Chapter 3

Chronicles of a Soulborn: Chapter 3

in which our protagonist learns firsthand about some of the dangers the world has to offer.

“This is a good place to stop and rest,” Mr. Keeby said as he dismounted his pony and began leading it over to the river to drink. He was rather short for a Neran and couldn’t ride a larger, hardier Thoroughbred, so we were forced to stop with some frequency. While his pony drank, he rustled through his saddlebag and produced a delicious looking baked treat which he claimed to have made himself. Varhukan and I had brought dried meat and bread for the trip and Abae had brought dried fruit and berries, so we were all rather jealous of the instructor’s superior rations.

We were nearing the end of our first class outing into the countryside and were presently just southwest of Delnoch. The trip had taken a couple of days to explore all of the surrounding area and we were all looking forward to being done. The land was by no means unexplored; we were simply there to learn and apply our new skills. This adventure was to learn more about making region maps which included cities, roads, and landmarks. We would do most of the actual drawing when we returned to town, but it was necessary to go out into the surrounding county to get a sense of relative distances between objects and to find locations of interest. I was interested to see how and why each of our maps ended up differing from each other. The other two class groups had already taken their trips, so it was just Abae, Varhukan, and myself with Mr. Keeby.

“Should we be so far away from the road?” Abae asked, still sitting atop his own small pony and looking around nervously.

“Don’t worry, Pip. I’ll protect us if any of these scary elk decide to attack.” Varhukan joked. He and Abae appeared to have settled their differences after the exchange at Daemon’s training camp and at times could actually seem almost friendly to each other.

“I’m more concerned about finding our way back.”

“Nonsense,” I chimed in. “This is Boarshead River. If we follow it south a few kilometers we’ll end up in the Crimson Forest near Bris where my family’s farm is. Why, even Isabella could find her way home from here.” Isabella was my bay mare that I’d helped raise since she was just a foal. I dismounted and gave her a good pat on the neck as I led her over to the river to rest.

“Kamin is correct,” Mr. Keeby said. “As long as you stay within sight of a good landmark you should never get lost, and rivers will usually lead you to a settlement if you follow them long enough.”

Abae finally seemed to relax a little. He dismounted from his pony and Varhukan from his trison and each retrieved his own rations. We all spent a little time resting and comparing notes as we snacked. We were encouraged to work as a team and thus could share our work with each other; we just weren’t allowed to directly copy someone else’s assignments. We had all noted the names and directions of the roads we had traveled as well as other landmarks such as the river and the forest, though our measurements all differed slightly. Varhukan and I adjusted ours to match Abae’s since we had come to trust his work a little more than our own.

“How much longer are we going to sit around?” Varhukan asked. He did not tire as quickly as the rest of us and found our frequent stops a bit annoying.

“Just a bit longer,” Mr. Keeby replied. “You may not be that tired, but we can’t push our mounts too hard or we’ll all be walking home.”

I stood up and gave my arms and legs a good stretch. “Well, I for one welcome the chance to walk around a bit. Would anyone else like to come?”

Abae just grunted as he continued reviewing his notes, a response that I took to mean “no thank you.” Varhukan also declined, preferring instead to pass the time training with his two axes. He began a series of shadow drills with a nearby tree, a sight that gave the rest of us a sense of security about being out in the wilderness without any guards or escorts.

I began walking into the forest a little way while taking in the beauty of the surrounding land. The Dolnoch Forest was a bit more dense than the Crimson Forest near Bris. Those trees were sparse enough to let some sunlight through. As such there was a thick carpet of grass and the occasional patch of wildflowers in the area surrounding the family farm. This forest was more shady with very little ground cover and mostly dirt between the trees. Further north, past Stenskjold Hold, began the Stonecut Mountains, and to the east around Elden Hollow were rolling hills and open plains. This was why I wanted to explore the world! Just within the few kilometers of my home were very different terrains. I couldn’t wait to explore the mountains to the north or even the deserts far to the south, to see what new flora and fauna waited to be discovered out there where few had actually been before.

As I continued further into the woods I started noticing some of the animal tracks. There were plenty of squirrel and elk tracks along with the occasional rabbit. And...hello, what was this? I bent down to get a closer look at what appeared to be...was it bear tracks? I had never seen a bear in these parts, but perhaps a sloth of them had recently migrated to the area. I followed the tracks a little further until they ended at the river. I looked upstream and could still see our bivouac with the others sitting around.

“Hey guys, come look at this!” I shouted, waving to get their attention. All three of them walked down to meet me and looked as I pointed to the tracks. “Have any of you ever seen any bears around here before?”

“Hm, most peculiar,” Mr. Keeby said as he bent down to examine the tracks closer.

“No I haven't, and those aren’t bear tracks,” Varhukan replied. “They’re very similar, but they’re too round. Those were made by an ursaphant.”

I looked at him in surprise. “An ursaphant? That’s even more unusual than a bear! What would an ursaphant be doing in these parts?”

Varhukan shrugged. “Dunno. Like you said, maybe some of them migrated to the area.”

A thought suddenly flashed into my head. If there was a new family of ursaphants in the area, then perhaps I could trap a cub for my parents. They had never raised an ursaphant before, but if they did it would no doubt fetch a nice price when it was old enough to be sold as a mount. Plus, if we found a new ursaphant den, that would make a great addition to our maps.

“Let’s follow the trail, see where it goes!” I said as I started for the river.

“Hold on,” Mr. Keeby said as he grabbed my arm. ”That’s not our assignment. Besides, we can’t just leave our mounts unattended.”

“Then we’ll bring them with us.”

“Our ponies would never be able to ford this river and there isn’t a bridge for several kilometers. I’m afraid that’s an adventure you’ll have to save for another time. Besides, it will be getting dark soon and our mounts should be rested up by now. Let’s start heading back to town.”

Mr. Keeby walked off with the other two in tow, but I couldn’t let the idea go. I grabbed a nearby tree branch and tore a strip of cloth from the bottom of my shirt to tie around the end of it. I stuck it in the soft mud near the river so that I could easily find the tracks again later before catching up with the rest of the group. If there was an ursaphant in this forest, I was going to find it!

The next morning I woke up early to saddle Isabella and prepare some rations. It looked like it might rain later, so I wanted to get a move on before the tracks got washed away. By the time I left the farm the sun was just starting to peek over the hills to the east.

I traveled down the road until I reached the bridge that crossed Boarshead River. If the ursaphant tracks indeed picked up on the other side, it made more sense to cross here, and I would hopefully be able to see the marker that I had left in the ground on the other side. I traveled north a few klicks along the bank of the river at a steady pace, but as the distant rumblings of thunder grew louder, I nudged Isabella from a walk into a gentle trot. Once I found the tracks I could at least get a sense of the direction I needed to go, but if they got washed away before then, I’d be lost.

As the first sprinklings of rain began to fall, I finally spotted my marker on the opposite bank of the river, and to my delight I found they picked up again on this side! I brought Isabella to a halt and tied her to a nearby tree where she would stay relatively dry in the rain. It would be easier to follow the tracks on foot, and I could move more quietly on my own anyway. I got a quick bite to eat and then grabbed the rope and the snare that I’d brought, as well as my bow and quiver. It was not my intention to kill anything, but I couldn’t guarantee that the ursaphant would feel the same way.

As I followed the trail further into the forest, I was feeling excited at the prospect of not only seeing an ursaphant for the first time, but possibly even capturing a cub to bring home. I also felt like this could be a foolish endeavour. I was by no means an expert tracker and there was no guarantee that the creature was still in the area, but it was exciting nonetheless. Even if I went home soggy and empty handed, I was having fun!

Off in the distance I could see a small outcropping of rocks: just the sort of place where an animal might create a den to call home. Now on full alert, I slowed my pace as I approached the outcropping. The tracks went around to the other side, but I decided it might be better to climb over the rocks. If the beast was indeed there, I could lower my snare from above without having to reveal my presence. It was a slow work as the rocks were wet and slippery from the rain, but I finally made it to the top and peered over.

There, standing before me just outside a small rock overhang, was the ursaphant I had been tracking! I was so excited that at first I didn’t notice the reins and saddle that were still attached to the creature. It took a moment for this to sink in. This was no wild animal; it was somebody’s mount. Almost on cue, a burly mann emerged from a cavern in the rocks and approached the ursaphant, carrying what looked like several large, empty sacks. I dropped down to avoid being spotted and watched as he threw the sacks onto the back of the beast and began to fasten them down. He apparently tightened one of the straps a little too hard, causing the ursaphant to rear up and trumpet in pain. The man cursed at the beast and smacked it hard across the face. The animal responded to its punishment in a way that showed it was used to this sort of treatment.

A second mann emerged from the cavern, his olive skin covered in stripes. He straightened up to his full height once he got outside, and though my vantage point from above caused heights to appear slightly distorted, there was no mistaking that he was a good 20-25 cm taller than the first. I had never seen a Janoan in person, but there was no mistaking that's what he was.

“Quiet that beast down!” the Janoan barked. “If you alert anyone to our presence here we’ll leave your splayed corpse for the wolves to eat and I’ll keep your cut for myself!”

Keep his cut? They were bandits! They must be using the ursaphant to transport their loot around and mask their own tracks. Indeed, I thought I’d been following a wild animal, not a pack of outlaws. I needed to get out of there.

The Janoan continued, “My brother will be back soon with with some food. Finish up there or you can go find your own forest rodents to eat.”

“Speaking of forest rodents…” the new voice came from behind. I spun around onto my back to see a mann towering over me, blocking my only means of escape. The rain was beating down against my face as I looked up at him, but there was no mistaking that he was also Janoan. Before I could react he grabbed me by the shirt and threw me backwards, sending me tumbling down the rocky ledge. I landed in the mud with a hard thump just as a peal of thunder shook the sky. I fought for breath as I rolled over onto my knees in a feeble effort to get up. I knew I couldn’t take on three menn at the same time, but perhaps if I drew on them I could back away and make an escape. I reached behind for my bow, but it wasn’t there. As my head throbbed, I remembered taking it and my quiver off before climbing the rocky ledge, thinking I wouldn’t need it up there. What fool I was!

The first Janoan approached, saying, “I knew that these woods offered poor game, brother, but this is just pathetic.” He kicked me hard in the gut, causing me to collapse breathless again into the mud. The Janoan who had thrown me off the ledge had already made his way down and was now picking me up again, this time from behind by the hair.

“It looks like we’ve outstayed our welcome,” he said, lifting me to my feet. “I’ll take care of this one, you deal with the other.”

The first Janoan turned and started advancing on the mann that I saw first come out of the cavern who now had a terrified look on his face. I didn’t have time to put together what was about to happen before I felt the cold knife blade slide across my throat. It was a strange sensation, dying; I would have expected it to hurt more, but it was more startling than painful.

I couldn’t be sure if I blacked out before or after hitting the ground, but surprisingly I could still hear the two Janoan brothers laughing as I lay there bleeding out, still feeling the rain gently falling against my skin. I even heard the scream which turned into a grotesque gurgling sound from the other mann as he apparently met the same fate as me. Just then the Janoan who slit my throat did something else. I’m not sure what exactly (I was, after all, dead), but the pain was excruciating. It wasn’t any sort of physical pain either; it was deeper than that. It was as though my very soul was on fire, burning from the inside out.

I had already died, but now my last remaining ties to this world were severed and my soul was forced completely from its mortal coil.

When I awoke, which seemed like a rather unexpected next thing to happen, I was greeted by a soft white glow all around. It had been raining in the forest when I was killed, so perhaps the sun had finally come out? It took a moment for my eyes (indeed, for all of my senses) to adjust, but when they did I realized that I was not in the same rocky outcropping in which I had been slain. The ground on which I lay was not wet mud, or even dry dirt, but rather a soft bed of moss and flowers with an intoxicatingly relaxing aroma. In fact, it took all of my will to resist the urge to simply lie back down and go to sleep.

As I stood up I was almost knocked back down by the sight that met my eyes. The colors around me couldn’t be explained by any natural source. I was used to the greens and browns of trees and even the deep reds of the Crimson Forest, but here there was every color imaginable all around. Pink and purple flowers on the ground, green, yellow, and red leaves in the trees, and all around an unexplainable soft blue glow. The whole scene was ethereal and otherworldly, yet somehow calm and familiar.

I had, in fact, died. There was no doubting that. And yet now I was standing here in an unknown woods full of life once again. And yet, not standing, for as I looked down I was greeted with a familiar and alarming sight. Where my body should have been was a wisp of blue smoke, just like the one that I saw in my dreams on my Naming Day. Yet this time I knew what I was seeing; this was my true self, my spirit, unimpeded by my physical body.

So I was dead after all. But these woods...where was I? I wasn’t back in the library where I had once been; I was somewhere altogether new, yet I wasn’t frightened. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was filled with wonder and curiosity. Was this a land that could only be navigated by spirit, or would I eventually encounter flesh and blood if I explored far enough? But which way should I go?

I looked around trying to find some landmark, some distant feature that suggested I should head in that direction, when I noticed a path that hadn’t been there before. Not a path, exactly, as it wasn’t on the ground. It was more like a weightless silvery veil that floated on the air as it snaked its way through the trees, beckoning me to follow it. As I did, I took in the surroundings. The beauty of these woods was overwhelming, and as I passed through them the colors changed all around me like oil on water. Purples faded to blues and greens, and the soft blue glow that had once been all around had shifted to an emerald green. I felt like I could spend an eternity in these woods and never grow tired of them.

“Kamin...” The voice came from off in the distance and was barely even audible, but then it rang out again a little louder. “Kamin!” It mother! She was calling to me, and each time she called my name the silvery cord that was leading me through the woods grew brighter and stronger.

I picked up the pace, now realizing that staying here was of course out of the question. Whatever plane of existence I was in suddenly felt transient and I needed to return, if that was even possible, to my mortal self.

“Kamin!” This time it was my father’s voice, and the silvery cord pulsed even brighter. “Kamin, come back to us son!”

In the distance I could see two blurry figures, as though being seen through water, kneeling down beside a body: my body. As I got closer the figures came into focus though they still looked not quite there and I recognized them as my parents, my mother holding my lifeless body in her arms and my father squeezing one of my hands. I drifted closer, at first of my will, but then by some outside force that was pulling me forward, back into my body.

With a flash of light my eyes opened and I gasped for air, the first breath I had taken in hours. I was back in the muddy, rocky outcropping where I had been killed earlier that day. The rain had stopped, but I still felt drops of water falling on my cheeks. My mother was holding me in her arms, crying, tears falling from her face onto mine.

“Oh Kamin, you found your way back!” she said as she embraced me even tighter.

“Kamin, are you okay?” my father asked, still squeezing my hand.

I tried to answer, but my mother was squeezing me so tight that I feared I would pass out again. All that escaped my mouth was a small grunt which was apparently enough to communicate the intensity of her hold as she immediately relaxed.

“I’m fine, I think,” I finally said. “But how? I mean, I died. My throat…” I stopped, raising my free hand to my neck, feeling the skin still intact.

“We know, son,” my father replied. “I can’t explain it, but this morning as we were going about our business on the farm I had this sudden feeling that something was terribly wrong. It was like my insides had twisted up and I felt violently ill, but it wasn’t my pain I was feeling. Somehow I knew it was yours. Your mother felt it too, and we both immediately mounted our horses and headed out to find you. I don’t know how we knew where to go, but we found Isabella tied up near the river and eventually found our way to you. You were lying here with…” his voice broke as his lip trembled. He squeezed my hand again and I grasped his hand with my other hand for reassurance.

“We’d heard stories,” my mother said through her own tears. “Stories of menn returning from death. We had assumed that those menn had just been written off too soon and hadn’t really died, but after seeing you…” she stopped a moment, fighting back the tears again. “There was no mistaking that you were dead, but that force that drew us to you...we thought maybe the stories were true. Maybe with you being Soulborn you could come back to us, and you did.” She held me tighter and began to cry again. “You did...”

In all of the emotion of the reunion, I had forgotten how I had died in the first place. With a start I jumped to my feet and spun around looking for danger. All I saw was the lifeless corpse of the mann who had struck the ursaphant lying a few meters away.

“What’s the matter, Kamin?” my father asked.

“The bandits who killed me: they may still be around.”

“I don’t think so, son. When we showed up there was nobody else around.”

Indeed, the area was clear. There was no sign of anyone or anything else having been there for hours. I don’t know when the rain had stopped, but all tracks save my parents’ had been washed away. Now standing, I realized that some of my personal belongings were missing, taken by the brothers who had killed me, I supposed. I was missing my boots, my belt, and the pack that contained my rations, rope, and snare.

“Come on, son. Let’s go home,” my mother said as she got to her feet and took my hand. “We left our horses tied up near Isabella.”

Isabella! She was still here when my parents arrived? That meant the bandits hadn’t taken her, meaning they probably fled in the opposite direction. I planned on going to the local authorities when I returned to town, and this information could be useful in helping them track down these murderers. As we rounded the rocky outcropping I was greeted by another pleasant surprise.

“My bow!” I ran over and picked up my bow and quiver which I had left on the ground before climbing the rocks. Apparently when he had snuck up on me, the Janoan either hadn’t noticed or didn’t bother to pick up my bow in order to get the drop on me. My other possessions I could live without, but I was filled with relief that I still had the bow that my parents had given me as a present.

We returned to our horses and rode back to town. It was nearly nightfall when we reached Bris and there was no law enforcement in our small town, so we had to wait until the next day to travel to Delnoch to report the incident with the bandits.

“Two Janoan brothers?” the sheriff asked as I relayed my story to him. “Sounds like Harzon and Caiden. They’ve been suspected of criminal activity before, but never murder. I doubt we’ll see them around these parts again, but if we do there will be a Kill on Sight order placed on both of their heads. In the meantime, you might want to avoid going out into the wilderness alone again.”

He was right. A Kill on Sight order doesn’t do much good if you don’t have the means to kill someone on sight. This whole experience had been traumatic and humbling, but it taught me a valuable lesson. I wouldn’t be wandering off on my own anymore, even into familiar territory.


Chapter 4

10/23/2017 2:37:47 PM #1

OOC Note:

I've shortened the topic title to just CoS. I noticed that including Chronicles of a Soulborn in the title was cutting off the rest of the title and it was hard to see which chapter it was. I will continue this format going forward.

10/25/2017 12:01:00 AM #2

A very enjoyable read, thank you!

10/25/2017 12:14:40 AM #3

Another great chapter! Like how you are tying the game mechanics into the story makes it really unique and interesting.

Keep up the work!

Alt text - can be left blank

10/25/2017 12:36:03 AM #4

Bah! My original image link was to my Google drive, but apparently the URL changed? I updated it to imgur so it should be more permanent.

10/26/2017 2:48:34 AM #5

Keep up the good work! These stories are awesome, makes me want to actually play the game even more!

Friend Code: 488A61

10/30/2017 11:27:28 AM #6

It just get better and better.

Just a lonely peasant on the road looking towards a distance future with the sweat on my back and a tear of cloth in my hand a family crest it must be. A adventure will i have, I dream of dreams my destiny awakens me.

Friend Code: A48E0C

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