Darkness filled the area within her vision. Through Aliene’s reach, however, she felt every branch, vine, and pool. The tears had dried from the sheer speed Aliene had been running at. “Away, just get away,” was her only thought. As a ray of dawn pierced the dark of the forest, Aliene reached a small clearing and stopped, allowing herself to breathe deeply.
“About time, how long did you plan on running like that?” Jacobus’ voice made Aliene turn around and glare at him.
“I was sure I had left him behind, how then?” Aliene’s thought was cut off when she noticed Jacobus wasn’t breathing hard; his wasn’t even elevated like hers. “What are you?”
Jacobus had a slight smile as he answered, “Just a former monk; let’s leave it there.”
“No, I know most of this forest by heart. You as a stranger would not have been able to keep up so easily.” Aliene dropped her pack, drawing the sword sticking out of the bag. “Now really, what are you? Why are you following me?”
“If you want to play it that way.” Jacobus dropped his pack, rolling up his sleeves. “I will answer but I would advise not attacking me,” he continued after she nodded and lowered the sword’s tip. “I spent some time as a soldier in the eastern Schilian Army. After the civil war, I went to repent, becoming a priest for my family’s god, then left when I didn’t find my answers. I wandered the wilds until I was taken in by the temple of Eternus. I found some repentance serving there for a time until I received my revelation.”
Aliene was sitting on her pack now trying to piece the places together in a world she knew so little about. “Which god gave your revelation?”
Jacobus grabbed at his chin massaging his jaw as he began pacing. “I don’t know if mine did, perhaps it was yours, maybe some others. All I know is the eight-point star was never a symbol of religions I could find. I spent three years looking until a merchant told me of the tribes within Misten.” Jacobus went back to sit in front of his pack. “He knew they followed gods represented by stars. With that as my only lead, I ventured into this great forest. I wandered for days, was attacked repeatedly until one beast, some breed of Equian, pushed me into a bush, the thorns of which cut me deeply in my surprise. Through the fever and infection, I continued walking till I collapsed at your village gate.”
Aliene was still in her thoughts, weighing his words unsure of what to believe. “Was mine the first village you found?”
“Just at random, you wandered into a village that moves around, and mentioned the worst secret those people had? Really?” Aliene was almost laughing at the odds; could it be random?
“Yes, now a question for you, why did you get exiled?” Jacobus nearly saw the rage radiate off Aliene, and he resisted the urge to flinch.
“You don’t need to know.” Aliene put her pack back on and started walking out of the clearing into the brush. At the sound of Jacobus getting up, Aliene began running again. As the sun rose she needed her magic’s reach less and began picking up her pace, suddenly sprinting and kicking up dirt. She would lose him.
Over branches and across steadily growing sections of different streams, Aliene leaped through the forest. Still certain she was heading north, thoughts crept into her conscience. Her body ran instinctively, moving off course only to avoid the larger trees and the growing unease from the beasts on the edge of her senses. Aliene had pulled her reach inward to conserve her magic, but something gnawed on her stomach. It wasn’t until half of a dying tree leaped at her that she found out why she was concerned.
Having hidden within the rotting tree, a large gecko covered in moss and bark like skin snapped onto her pack. Aliene barely slipped the straps as it was whipped away from her, killing her momentum. She landed, rolling across dirt and puddles of mud. She reoriented her self just before smashing into another fallen log. Looking back to her attacker, she was greeted with a gurgling hiss.
The beast made eye contact as it dropped her pack, the giant yellow orbs eyeing their meal, waiting to see what she would do. As Aliene stood, her reach expanded, the air glistening ever so slightly. The gecko reared up, gurgling louder than before, ready to lunge. Until a sharp wet crack dropped its head into the ground. Standing on top of the beast was Jacobus, the sudden movement creating a rush of air. Holding both packs the man was glaring with an unholy fierceness that faded as quickly as he had appeared.
“Hear me, Aliene,” Jacobus spoke, and the warmth of the sunlight left. “I know my purpose, I will follow you, and not even your self-doubt can stop me.”
He slammed his foot on to the head of the large gecko, causing another loud crack as he freed the foot he initially implanted into the beast’s skull. “Accept this, as I have.”
Aliene clenched her fists, her reach shivering from her emotions. “Why, why are you so certain!” Something in her was ready to snap. “Tell me how you can have so much faith!”
Jacobus stepped off the gecko, approaching Aliene. “I can’t explain what it’s like to receive a revelation. The fact that the sky is blue, and I need to follow you are equal in my mind.” Jacobus sighed as he looked up to the sky, the clouds running from the sunrise.
Wiping her face, Aliene reached out and took her pack from Jacobus. “Fine, then let’s keep going.” She marched off, thinking, “At least he won’t be dead weight.”