Veron jutted awake, he was on the floor on his back. He looked around, the room was rather bright and took a moment to adjust his vision. As he stood and brushed off the strange dust, he noticed there wasn’t a nagging in the back of his mind and Haute had not revealed himself.
“You’ve shown me her past, now what about how to help her,” Veron spoke to the room. There was a shimmer that rippled along the edges of the water within the cave. Haute appeared, seeming to draw himself away from Veron as though he had passed through him. This confirmed to Veron that he was no longer possessed.
“This isn’t something I can help with. I am not one to remove other entities, especially those who are seven-fold stronger than me,” Haute seemed gloomy, he barely made eye contact with Veron as he spoke. “You will need to find someone else to purge her. I wish you the best of luck, young vampire.”
Veron heaved a sigh, unsure of where to start, “Thank you for your cooperation Haute, I will do my best.” As Veron was turning to leave the cave, Haute’s voice caused him to pause.
“Don’t return here unless you intend to trade for something,” Haute paused, then sighed. “If you want to return her to me, I will reverse your condition, and make you human again.”
Veron looked back at Haute who was watching Veron leave his cave. There was a look of worry and gloom upon his countenance as he spoke his last sentence. Veron nodded, unsure of what to say, and left his cave.
Upon leaving the cave, Veron noticed how much lack of light pervaded the surrounding forestry. A small gleam of light began to dance in the distance, and Veron approached it cautiously. The light slowly formed into a fire as he left Haute’s domain. As Veron approached, the group members from before seemed empty, and void from the fireplace. Suddenly there was a dagger against his neck, the cold bite of the blade forced him to freeze.
“Who are you and where have you come,” a female voice whispered dangerously in his ear.
“I am Veron, my task with Haute is finished, and I have come to find Damian and his group to return the news he inquired of me,” Veron responded calmly. The blade lifted, and Evanlyn revealed herself, her smiling face invited him closer to the fire while others came out of their hiding places.
They spent the night mostly sleeping, Veron filled in Damian with what interested him, however Veron did not mention Zarka or the plea Haute offered to Veron. Damian seemed suspicious but satisfied, Veron suspected that often those who are contracted or asked to help deal with Haute often leave his domain with an aura of mistrust, considering miscellaneous information Veron willingly left out of his conversation with Damian.
By dawn, Veron left the group before anyone awoke, making sure to notify Tilly as she was keeping watch for the group while they slept.
“Don’t worry, I will be back,” Veron assured her worried gaze, then took his leave making his way out of the forest.
The village was still sleeping, which meant an easy unnoticeable escape for Veron. He mounted his horse and turned to being his few-day journey back home, however was stopped by an old man covered in robes and leaning heavily upon his cane. His face was mostly covered, yet he beheld a wizened old smile while addressing Veron.
“The only cure for your issue is Sylvanus, my dear boy,” the man spoke, his voice was quiet but rich.
Veron questioned his knowledge, how could he have known anything of the conversation him and Haute possessed? Especially since he had never seen this man before in his life.
The old man chuckled, stepping aside to allow Veron to continue his journey, “Bring her to the Heart of the Forest, leave her unchained, unbound, but asleep. He will arrive to absolve the demon. But she must be kept alone and unwatched, for he will not help your cause otherwise.”
Veron nodded, understanding most of what he spoke of, except the Sylvanus part, but left Terrasylvae anyway, looking back to notice the old man was gone.
Veron approached the gates after a fortnight had passed, the night sky lit up with thousands of diamonds. The guards were again changed from the last visit and slightly hesitant to permit his entry. They reluctantly allowed his passage, where he replaced his weary horse, and went into his father’s hidden laboratory. Upon opening the door, darkened musky fluids and smoke swamped out from the barely opened door along with the flash of failing electricity quickened his worried pace to investigate further. It was damp, dark, and as if something completely drowned the basement with a blackened void-like water. The tables were completely destroyed, the contents shattered and floating, or sunk to the floor beneath the water. Further examination revealed long strange claw marks against the walls, and even more so upon the bench Zarka was strapped down onto. He followed the claw marks around the room and led him into a secret stone passage that was an emergency escape route leading outside of the village, the stone that decorated the walls carried the clawing mark throughout the tunnel as well. He could hear whispering echoing through the tunnel, and clattering of metal against metal, and as Veron got closer to the exit, the sounds grew louder.
Once he could see out from the tunnel, he realized the sounds and noises were from a pair of people who were fighting, but it was at this moment he was watching one of them was easily holding the other with one hand around their neck. Instantly he recognized Zarka, being surrounded in a smoke-haze as though the demon was continuing its fierce corruption to take hold of her form entirely, and his father was fighting to free himself of her grasp for breath.
Veron charged toward Zarka, surprising her by yelling out as soon as he tackled her to the floor, forcing her to let his father go and pinning her with the strength of his arms and legs.
She fought against him, noises of rampant rage were all she could do against him while he began his trance spell he perfected so well with her. His eyes glowed brightly red, the spell coursing through his veins with newfound power. Her blackened glowing eyes faded, changed to purple, then closed as she became unconscious, strength leaving her body as soon as the spell took hold. He slumped to the side, not realizing how much strength the spell actually sapped from his physique, but regained his footing regardless, going to inspect his father who was coughing upon the ground.
He recovered his father, helping him stand, “You going to be okay,” Veron asked him. He waved off his help, as if saying its fine. His father was breathing heavily, but otherwise seemed unharmed, except the cuts and bruises against his arms and neck. With this confirmation, Veron took Zarka’s body and brought her back into the laboratory through the emergency tunnel with his father following behind him. He prepared her for travel by placing her inside the cage Damian had offered, but then something stopped him.
A voice whispered in his head, ‘Leave her unchained, unbound, but asleep… she must be kept alone and unwatched, for he will not help your cause otherwise.’ Veron closed the cage door with Zarka still upon his shoulders, then looked back at his father who was watching him with confusion.
“Father, will you be able to make it by yourself here?” Veron asked, his father nodded.
“Where are you headed,” he responded, sweeping more of the blackened liquid out the emergency tunnel, pieces of glass crumpling under the broom.
“I’m going to move into and live with the Order of the Rose in Terrasylvae,” Veron replied rather bluntly. His father nodded his understanding and continued sweeping.
As Veron was about to leave his father commented toward him, “Don’t be a stranger.” Veron nodded and bid him farewell, preparing another horse for his travel back once again to Terrasylvae. Upon the saddle he placed Zarka and then mounted behind her, she was leaning up against the horse’s neck still unconscious, her wings slumped and slightly dragging along the ground as they went. As the sun began to slowly peak, Veron realized how long it had been since he had actually slept and being in Haute’s den didn’t count much as sleep as far as he was aware; but he had a job to do, and a life to save, and sleep could wait. In the distance, dense clouds were beginning to form, looking to hold the cold breath of frost and snow.
Once he arrived into Terrasylvae, the entire village stopped what they were doing to gaze in his direction at the strange creature that sat in front of Veron, some gathering their children to safeguard them, just in case. In the Order of the Rose garrison, Damian watched Veron from the window atop the building, whispering his fears as he swiftly went to meet Veron.
While Veron was dismounting his horse, Tilly approached to offer her aid by guiding the beast away once Veron took Zarka upon his shoulders again. By this point a small group of onlookers were gathered nearby, Damian parting through the crowd, guiding Veron away from the onlookers and toward the forest to question him.
“Why have you brought her? I thought you mentioned something about her being dangerous,” Damian whispered, Veron looking toward him.
“I need to know where the Heart of the Forest is,” he asked bluntly, ignoring Damian’s previous question.
This caused more suspicion to arise within Damian, he wasn’t sure what would happen, but he obliged to show Veron the way as it wasn’t very far from Terrasylvae. He silently motioned for the Rangers to begin their watch upon the creature without letting Veron know he did so.
Veron could tell which tree was deemed the Heart of the Forest, it was the largest tree both in height and width; it had limbs that connected through other trees and the roots crawled throughout the ground. Though it beheld little leaves due to the end of fall, it still out shadowed even the tallest tree within Woodland. Damian stopped several feet before the tree to look at Veron, about to question him, but then was interrupted when Veron seemed instinctively inclined to approach, passing Damian as he went to place the creature at the base of the tree.
He returned to Damian, “Tell your scouts to stop watching her.”
Damian’s eyebrows raised almost instantly, surprised at his keen sense, and whistled the command to disperse. The trees, though lacking leaves, rustled as the rangers obeyed Damian’s order, returning to the Order Garrison.
Damian couldn’t help himself anymore, “Veron, please tell me what is going on, I thought you had dispersed this monster already.”
“She is not a monster,” Veron’s golden eyes began to glow red with slight anger, pointing his finger at Damian. Then Veron suggested to talk privately within Damian’s office.
After some time, Veron sat upon the chair facing Damian who also seated, albeit uncomfortably within his office. Veron then began to explain who Zarka was and how Haute was the first to be contacted by her, but then couldn’t help her any further after bringing her to Woodland. Veron also described the old man, and his suggestion in order to solve the issue he was having with Zarka. At the description of the old man, Damian smiled, he seemed to know who Veron was talking about, even though Veron still was confused about who he was.
“Well, if Dyn is helping you, then I’m more comfortable about this situation than I was before,” Damian seemed to relax more, leaning back in his office chair. “Especially since he mentioned Sylvanus.”
“Who is Dyn, who is Sylvanus?” Veron asked, watching Damian as he sat up more to begin his description.
“Dyn Hysbys has been a part of the village long before I was, he’s sometimes seen, but he makes himself known when needed,” Damian smiled, reminiscing on past events. “Sylvanus on the other hand is the resident Wyvern of Woodland and Terrasylvae. He is hardly seen, but he is the watchful eye for Terrasylvae, more specifically toward Titania and Haute, but he doesn’t like to interact much. So, if Dyn suggested him, it’s likely he will help with this situation, otherwise he wouldn’t bother and let it run its course.”
Veron silently thought to himself, if Sylvanus didn’t help at all, his entire woodland would not exist anymore given the power the demon Zarka possessed.
Damian sighed, “You know, I don’t think I’ve introduced you to your new house here in the village.” He stood, and guided Veron out the garrison, introducing him to people, places, and other important Terrasylvae specifics.
Deep in Woodland, where the Heart of the Forest beheld a daughter needing aide, the rush of wind guided misplaced leaves into its gust, stopping suddenly. Soft white flakes of frozen water slowly drifted to the forest floor, slowly with each one making a beautiful blanket of white. Zarka however was protected from being blanketed by a branch which hung above her, catching flakes as they fell onto it instead of her.
Her eyes snapped open, as though waking from a nightmare, slightly panting with her heart beating quickly. She looked down and almost startled herself, realizing she had more human skin than she remembered, though she still had wings, and strange hair, but her skin was more human; more normal. Her purple glowing eyes blinked in shock and confusion, turning her hands around, she noticed a strange new mark, in the shape of a strange almost spear-like lining from her wrist down to her elbow. Gazing off into the distance, she noticed small footprints that led away from her, they looked to be in the shape of a bird, yet with a heavy stride, and four toes that defined a claw that could not have been held by a bird whatsoever.
Along the wind, she could hear a whisper, “You are free, my child.”