This is a rather lengthy story for a blog. This is the second of eleven parts. I never intended on adding onto it or making into something more. Perhaps your enthusiasm will change my mind.
Oliver, our gritty, battle hardened leader, was bold. His strength was unmatched, and his skills steeped in a ferocity that frightened even us. He was a veteran of war, a veteran of peace, and a veteran of the Hunt. His name carried with it a mythic charm that set our nerves at ease. His presence ate away our fear, as he seemed capable of defeating our enemy on his own. Perhaps, he could vanquish them with only his hands! He seemed to possess the right collection of qualities. His muscles were toned to perfection as he worked them daily. His mind was equally as dangerous, as he constantly underwent a sharpening, and refinement process. He was always learning, and seeking knowledge. I envied him for this, as I enjoyed scholarship.
He was always training to hone his craft and polish his skills. Some say he was the best, and most honorable warrior in our city, maybe the best anywhere. I believed these rumors. I held them close at a hand during the chilly nights and stuffy days before we left the gate. I saw him as a hero larger than life, and certainly more powerful than the next ten men. Now that we are out in the woods, I pray these rumors are true, and he really is the strong, bold man of legend.
A gleaming sword dangles from Oliver’s waist. The blade was cast from the toughest metals our blacksmiths could forge. Double edged and sharpened to a deadly point, it is a warrior’s weapon. It was crafted for precision, and grace. On the training field, I have seen Oliver use his sword. He is a true warrior, the way he moves about and directs his troops. He is both a natural leader and killer.
“Onward!” Oliver called as the gates closed behind us. A deep thumping chimed as the locks were turned, and the tumblers spun. We obeyed, walking into the heart of the forest as we searched for the beasts and their lair.
As I walk in these woods, my mind explores the natural beauty of the trees, rocks and mosses. I trace clumps of leaves and clusters of ferns, analyzing their strange texture. I have always found joy in these mundane activities. Many of my peers pass by these small objects without another thought. However, I have spent my lifetime noticing and recording them. I put down my interpretation of the world, not with pictures or sketches, but with words. And as I take in the raw, and peculiar sights of these woods, I cannot help but think about our city’s history. I find it vital, now, to record a brief account of how we came to this point.
Surrounding our modest city is an impressive wall. Its strength has never been tested by the beasts of the woods or the bullets of another city. It is, however, constructed of a hardy mixture of cement and brick. A skeleton of metal runs through it, creating an inner fence that should never fail. We had to resurrect old building techniques, and scavenge the materials to build this wall. The first wall was constructed many years ago, and with great haste. The fangs of war had stretched far and wide, injecting their poison into the entire planet. An unfathomable, yet unknown, number of people were slaughtered in these brutal clashes.
It is said the beasts arose from this violence, though no one knows. One night, they were simply butchering people on the edge of our city. Sharpshooters took aim, as the tale goes, but they melted into the darkness. Ravenous ghosts, some claimed. Evil spirits that met an unwarranted death during the wars. Our leaders did not give in to this superstition, holding fast to logic. They deployed soldiers, armed with one of the grandest weapons known to human beings: firearms. None returned from this first adventure.
In later deployments, our soldiers killed some of the beasts. They brought them down at expenditure of countless bullets, and the loss of many of our troops. They never brought any of their bodies home for inspection, so even though we know they can be killed, we do not know what the beasts are. We are only sure that our blood paints their lair, and drips from their mouths. No one in our city doubts they are learning to construct tools with our bones. We have no doubt they are learning more effective methods of killing us.
In subsequent expeditions, after the beasts were pushed back from the perimeter of our city, our soldiers and scientists crafted maps of the area. They identified places that we should claim as our own. New cities, they said, is how we can start to rebuild the world. That’s how it was done before, and that’s how our leaders want to do it again.
At the end of our first day, we made camp on the bank of a river. A cool mist rose from the waters, tearing away the heat, and exhaustion that plagued my body after walking all day. I was glad to rest, and record the events of the day. Rather, I recorded my thoughts on the day, as all we did was walk through the trees. We saw no animals, no malevolent creatures or beasts. Nothing bizarre or evil monsters tried to murder us. So, for posterity, I pen these thoughts and sketch our campsite.
On the rocky sides of an unnamed river, we dug a pit for a fire. This would add a layer of protection, Oliver reassured us. Some of us are young, and have never been outside of the city’s walls. Travelling deep into the forest, as we had today, was unthinkable.
We laid out our bedrolls and crawled under blankets. In this part of the world, the nights are cold, and often come with a bitter wind. This wind howls in the trees, seemingly calling out to the beasts with a description of our party and camp. I pray logic holds, and they do not convene with the wind. However, no one knows much about these monsters. All we know is they are mortal, and they too are on the hunt.
Continue to part three here
Go back to part one here