Steem Monsters Story Contest Entry: Feral Spirit
Wind tearing at his fur, twigs snapping underneath his paws, his brothers and sisters calling out from just behind, as he led the pack flitting through the dark purples and greens of the sleeping forest. Behind them, running without a sound, longbow always notched, was Larice, the greatest of her people and the first guardian of the forest. Kento’s thoughts drifted back to his earliest memory, opening his eyes for the first time and looking into hers as she gazed down at him. He remembered the deep violet of her eyes, and the harder angles of her face, streaked that day with blood. The thought had come to him then, without any reflection, he would spend this life by her side.
Many years had passed, he had aged, although she had not. He was still the strongest of his kind, the leader of the hunt, but his nose was no longer the keenest or his feet the fastest. Not this year or the next, but soon enough, the pack would have a new leader. He would sit by the fire while they went out to hunt, and he would not be there to help her if her aim ever faltered, and one of the creatures they hunted from the dark lands outside the forest fought its way through the pack. With these thoughts weighing on his mind he fell into an uneasy sleep, listening to her even breathing above him.
They awoke to follow a new scent, one that made Kento’s nose twitch with his acrid stench, and gave him an unfamiliar sense of foreboding. As the smell grew stronger, and they saw the trail of smashed trees left in its wake, Kento felt the unfamiliar sense of true fear for the first time. As they came upon it, a twisted mound of mutated bone and sinewy flesh, its guttural roar screaming out blind hatred for those creatures of true form blessed by life as they were. For the first time, he felt a shiver of fear pass through his body, although not for himself.
They flung themselves upon the creature, hindering it so that she could send her arrows truly. Many arrows pierced the creature, eyes, neck, and chest. Roars and screams rang through the forest and soon many of Kento’s brothers and sisters lay dead or dying. She could have run, but would not leave the injured members of the pack that could not join her in retreat. As Kento leapt towards the creature again, a limb covered in black cracked flesh rose and flung him against a tree trunk. He felt the bones of his torso and back crack in two. He felt his own blood running down his skin. His vision blurred, and the strong life force inside him gently uncurled itself from his body and began to draw his spirit up and away. He would not let it. Gathering his will he pulled the life that was leaving him back inside his broken body. His eyes opened again.
She was fighting alone now. She had drawn her long knife, its blade black with the creatures blood. But she was moving with none of her customary grace. One leg lay crooked and broken. It was a wonder the creature still moved, bleeding from dozens of wounds, the forest floor sodden with its blood. Kento gathered the life force that was no longer meant for him, forcing broken limbs and torn muscles to move. A pulling ripping pain coursed through his body as he forced his spirit to stay within him. As he launched himself towards one titanic leg, he saw the creature had backed her against a spreading oak tree. As his teeth sank into the back of its leg, he felt it topple backwards, crashing to the ground never to rise again.
Seeing her still standing, his eyes closed and he happily surrendered to the pull. Letting his life spirit release from his body, and rejoin the elemental essence infusing the air, forest, and all living things.
Then it stopped.
She was kneeling before him, her hand placed on his head, eyes squinted closed in concentration. The hand on his head grew hot, and he felt a searing light branching throughout his body, burning away his mortal flesh and replacing it with the pure essence of life. When it was over, she opened her eyes, and he saw they were a little less bright.
She had gifted him a part of herself. Now he was an elemental creature, running by her side forever, the feral spirit.
Years past, then came a time when he felt great ripples of unease through the elements. He was not surprised when she whispered to him that soon they would leave the forest. The forces of the earth were moving, and they had a part to play.
As they ran lightly through the outskirts of the thinning forest, he felt the elemental forces singing within and around them. He roared a challenge to the moon. He was ready.
The hand on his head grew hot, and he felt a searing light branching throughout his body, burning away his mortal flesh and replacing it with the pure essence of life. When it was over, she opened her eyes, and he saw they were a little less bright. She had gifted him a part of herself. Now he was an elemental creature, running by her side forever, the feral spirit.