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Leena Kujan led her men through the forest of Yolim. It was incredibly dark, considering the sun was only a fourth risen. Those who Leena had brought began crafting torches of branches and dried brush in order to light the way and watch their step amongst the forest floor. Everyone had quieted, even Leena herself. There was an odd atmosphere hanging in the air that she did not like one bit. It was almost as if sound had ceased to exist, yet, people were able to hear their own breathing, the crunching of branches, fallen leaves and such underfoot and the rustling of the canopy of the trees.
They continued onward, despite the eeriness lingering. A few torches had begun to die out, others making haste to create more torches in the case that more would dissipate. Leena then suddenly came to a halt. Her men were caught so off guard the her right hand man, Daq Welticen, ran into her. Others soon began taking notice and stopped themselves.
Leena stood for a few moments, focusing her vision ahead, as though she could see the silhouette of something ahead. Without breaking her vision, she snapped her fingers to the right and a torch was shortly placed in her hand. She held her hand up, signaling for no one to follow her, and then proceeded forwards towards whatever lied ahead. Every snap of a twig made Daq flinch, the tension building more and more as the seconds dragged on. Leena began to slow her pace as the silhouetted object began to form before her, the torchlight revealing the object to be the ruins of a once grand building.
She stood for a few moments, still as untouched water, marvelling at the scale of the once-temple. Trees sprouted from windows here and there, vines grew and threaded through cracks in the walls of the temple. What set her off most was that there still appeared to be no wildlife. The entire trek to this temple showed that there was no sign of wildlife anywhere. They had occasionally passed grand rivers with no sign of fish, and more still than Leena had ever seen in her life, as though the water were actually frozen over. There had been no rabbits or deers that burst out of a hidden bush in fear of the approaching humans, no birds cawing overhead, no crickets chirping.
The smell of the island had also put off Leena. She was from the Provinces of Garan, in Keylan. The Garanians, or Keylans, being a more broad term, had a strange sixth sense. They were able to take a breath of an unvisited area and form a general basis off the first breath taken in. Yolim had set an eerie, unwelcoming first impression for Leena, and she had come to that conclusion before her ship, the Silver Galley, had even caught sight of Yolim itself. The murky green waters carried the same scent Yolim did.
Without turning back to signal to the men waiting, Leena continued onwards, making her way through a ruined entrance. Half the frame had collapsed in on itself, yet was stable enough to stand for another 100 years at most before deteriorating to another level of ruin, assuming buildings were even affected within the forest(s) of Yolim. Daq took a torch from a man’s hand and quickly followed after his captain. The other 34 men did so as well shortly after.
The interior of the temple was something beautiful that none of the 36 men, including Leena and Daq, had ever seen before. While in ruins, there were some aspects of the inside that had remained completely in tact. On one wall was some intricate design colored in vibrant hues creating an image of health and prosperity. On another wall hung decorations smithed of metal never seen before from the likes of Keylan. There were also pots scattered along the floor of the room, some shattered, others not. Even the shattered ones held some sense of beauty.
Leena approached the wall with the alive, intricate design, when suddenly a sound could be heard further within the temple. It was the first sound any of them had heard that was not natural, or that came at their hands. The sound was loud, yet distant, and almost vibrated the insides of everyone present. Daq raised his arm, clenched his hand into a fist and froze in fear when the sound was heard again.
No one moved, no one made a sound. Everyone was awaiting what was going to happen next, if anything WAS going to happen next. 30 seconds had passed since the halls echoed with whatever mysterious sound was roaming the halls of the temple. Daq let out a sigh of relief and lowered his arm, easing his fisted hand. The other men unfroze after watching the second in command ease his tension, and then the sound was heard once more, only this time, there was no gap between its repeat. This time it was loud, it was quick, and it was growing nearer.
Leena dropped her torch, drew the sword of her family and slammed herself against a wall to serve as momentary cover. The clash of her metal armor against the cobble wall had been much louder than she had originally intended. The distant sound’s pace then grew quicker, only making Daq’s men more anxious. Some were fumbling to draw swords, others had already done so but were hiding in cover, quietly weeping. Daq himself had drawn a crossbow that had once been slung across his back and found cover behind a fallen pillar.
Leena, Daq and everyone else in the room grew silent, preparing for what was about to present itself to them. Then the thunderous beat ended, everything returning to how it once was: silent. Leena clutched to dear life to her sword, easing her breath and scanning the room where torchlight had reached. She saw a few men stacked against one another, others on the other side of the room slowly and quietly wiping tears, most stricken with fear. She was about to move from her position when the sound of monstrous breathing filled the air. Anyone who hadn’t been scared yet, was most certainly terrified now.
The only opening, besides the entrance, was where the breathing emanated from. It was loud and deep and raspy. Thankfully, no one had thought to take cover near it. Most torches died, all but one. It was giving a faint light, barely allowing Daq to see even 3 feet in front of himself. The light grew dimmer and dimmer and dimmer, finally fading to burning embers.
Leena held her breath as two gleaming eyes emerged from the opening, immensely loud footsteps shaking the very foundation of the temple itself. The object was now in the room, however, its burning blue eyes went from normal height to towering almost 17 feet tall. Daq watched as the eyes rose and rose and rose. He thought for a second they were going to keep rising and never end. Thankfully they did end.
The blue spheres turned from left to right, as though it were scanning the room, and obviously did not see anything since it did not make an effort to attack. People continued to hold their breaths, yet someone had forgotten to actually breathe. A man had lost consciousness and collapsed to the ground. The clatter of his armor on the floor was so loud you could have heard it back on the shore where they had landed.
The menacingly towering object had begun to turn around, when he’d heard the clash and snapped his head in the direction from which it came. Everyone continued to remain silent in hopes of not being noticed. However, the silence was all the more terrifying, as the sound of the object winding its arm up could be heard, and Leena assumed the worst. Moments later, whatever the object had wound up, slammed into the wall of which it had heard the armor-on-floor, creating a deafening crash, also sending cobble debris all over the room.
There was no point in trying to remain hidden anymore, so Leena sheathed her sword, and made way for the entrance that she’d come through. Her eyes were now beginning to adjust to the dark, partly because there was no more torchlight. Daq’s vision had also adjusted and watched as Leena sprinted for the entrance. He got up from his kneeling position and began to run after her.
“Don’t think you’re leaving without us!” he shouted, slinging his crossbow across his back, jumping over debris.
In doing so, everyone else broke their composure and began to run for the entrance as well. The towering object had since recovered from slamming its supposed hand into the wall and began swinging it everywhere. Men were being hit left and right, sent flying across the room and ridiculous velocities. One flew past Daq and slammed into the wall, turning into practical mush. Another man was sent aloft and whizzed past Leena, almost taking her out as she ran and did not look back.
The object, presumably a monster, let out an ear-piercing shriek that sent a pain through the teeth of Leena. She clutched her mouth, dumbfounded at the power the roar had, yet did not stop in her attempt to escape. Daq was following closely behind, almost equal with her, when the monster extended its hand and took a grasp of him. He let out a death-curdled cry that was cut short as the monster ripped Daq in two at the pelvis. It launched his remains at a wall, letting out a loud splat, the two pieces of body slowly sliding down the cobbled wall.
As horrified as she was, Leena still did not turn around and was now out in the darkness of the forest. She could still hear the screams and cries of men as they were torn to pieces, crushed, thrown, eaten, yet the monster was still following her? It then clicked in her mind: there were more than one. The other monster must have come shortly after her men had broken formation and chaos ensued. The monster continued to stomp after Leena, never letting up for one moment. The crash of trees indicated that the thing was running through anything and everything, prepared to get Leena at any cost.
She then began to grow tired as the armor bound to her weighed near 50 pounds. As she ran, Leena made an attempt to unfasten the straps holding the pieces of armor together. She undid one strap, then the next. A third. And finally the fourth that would allow her chest plate fall. It plummeted to the ground, causing her to stumble slightly. She also began undoing her sword belt and unfastening her gauntlets. The loss of weight was remarkably noticeable, allowing Leena to cover more ground at a faster speed.
A light then appeared in the distance, through the foliage and thickness of shrub polluting the forest area. It grew nearer and near, Leena then realizing she had found her way back to shore. She burst through the wall created by trees and found herself in broad daylight once more. At the base of the beach, where the sand met the water, were the boats that she and her men had rowed to shore for landing. Off in the bay, Silver Galley could also be seen.
As tired as Leena was, something inside her gave life a stronger meaning, allowing her to continually sprint towards a beached rowboat. Tears began to stream down her cheeks as her legs continued to run. They were aching and in pain, yet she did not feel it. For the first time in almost 6 years, she was scared for her life again. The rowboat grew more near and then it was finally in front of her. Leena didn’t even bother properly entering the boat. Instead, she made a leap and launched herself forwards into the interior of the rowboat.
The action had actually unstuck the rowboat from the sands of the shore and gave it a slight push into the water. Leena sat up, taking a hold of two oars, stuck them into the water and began to row as fast as she possibly could. As she rowed, she now noticed that it was a giant that had been chasing her, yet held no resemblance of any ordinary man. It was tall, obviously, but much taller than Leena had originally. Its face was contorted and twisted, not resembling a face, but could be presumed to be one, since it was located where a face should naturally be. Also, oddly enough, it was armoured. The giant wore plates of metal that glistened in the sun like no other metal could, not even a freshly forged sword.
Leena continued to frantically row away from shore, yet the giant persisted, entering the water, and still chasing after her. It came to the point that all the distance she had covered didn’t even matter, as the giant seemed to move quicker while traversing through water. Her rowing pace drastically slowed and she began to close her eyes.
The sun was high in the sky, shining brightly. The sound of the ocean brought a sense of peace to Leena, since she had spent majority of her teenage years on a deck. The creaking of the rowboat’s boards was also calming, reminding her of the specific creaking sound only the Silver Galley makes. Leena couldn’t even make out the sound of the giant pushing through the water, but she consciously knew it was there. Then the giant let out another one of its shrill screeches, but it was not one of victory or anger, but one of pain and struggle.
Leena opened her eyes, now watching as the giant was being pulled under the water, tentacles wrapped around its arms, torso, and partially its head. The sight left her in a dreadful sense of awe. She had never seen anything so large in her life fall so easily, and Leena did not dare ponder the size of whatever had a grasp on the giant. It continued to fight the tentacles wrapped around it, jerking left and right, shrieking, screaming, howling.
The giant gave another effortless, yet immense, jerk that caused it to lose its balance. The giant leaned over and fell under, bringing the thing that had a grasp on it above sea for only a few moments. It was a giant octopus, or as the tales told it, a kraken. Leena had always heard stories from her father and her father’s men of krakens, yet they had never seen one themselves. Now here she was, watching a mythified giant being taken down by a mythified kraken.
The octopus eventually went back under, and the sea grew calm once more.