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The Valley of Beasts Part 2

Our trepidatious trio dives further into the adventure

By C.Z.Published 9 months ago 6 min read
3
The Valley of Beasts Part 2
Photo by Ani Adigyozalyan on Unsplash

This is the second installment of a series. The first part can be read here;

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The easy pace Caine and I had fallen into before was now strained. Berend was pleasant but foreign to us. He walked with ease, soft leather hitting the dirt with barely a sound, yet his presence was awkward and clunky. Caine led the three of us north east, towards the hills indicated on the map I had drawn with Corbin's help. With each step the shadows loomed closer.

"We should really find somewhere to camp before nightfall," I suggested from the rear. The sun was setting fast. Sleeping in the dark was not advantageous for three humans in a pit full of monstrous beasts but at least we could take turns standing guard. The cynocephali had been enough monster to last the rest of my life. If we get through to other side without running into another, I would be ecstatic.

"That's a good idea. I think the river curves around near us, we should camp close to it. We can set out again around dawn," Caine agreed. The river that supplied water to our village cut through the valley like an erratic snake escaping a hungry bird. It narrowed and widened with no pattern or reason, twisted around stubborn rocks, and trickled into step waterfalls at random. It was as chaotic as it's new inhabitants.

Berend went along with our suggestions, respectful of our native knowledge. He asked the occasional question concerning the plants and animals that actually were supposed to be there. At one point I found myself walking alongside him as Caine scouted ahead towards the river.

"Your friend is a confident leader," He remarked. His northern accent was so odd and fascinating. I was used to our western lilt, the sing-song of my people. His rough inflection and hard stop consonants were a new kind of song to me.

"He's always been like that. I used to think he was bossy but now... I like seein' him all grown up I suppose. He lost his all his brothers in one way or another..." My mind went to Fendrel, part of the gang we were most likely going to face. "...and I think it pushed him to fill the roles for his poor mum."

Berend nodded thoughtfully. " I have a brother at home but his is no role I wish to fill. He spends his days singing his own praises from his battles and drinking with his friends. He values glory above all else."

I eyed him thoughtfully. "And you? You didn't come searching for glory?"

His grey eyes clouded over. "I'm not sure what I came looking for. I certainly have not found it yet." Sympathy panged in my heart for the tone in his voice.

Caine jogged back to us, sheathed sword thudding against his thigh. "I found a decent spot, come on now."

A small outcrop of rock provided a safe place to put our backs to, a setting I was extremely grateful for. Caine set up a small fire while Berend and I laid sleeping mats down. His appeared to be made of a very fine wool, in a rich dark green. It made my rough brown mat seem so simple.

I pulled a pear out of my pack and ate it slowly. The adrenaline spike that rushed through my body during the fight had left me feeling empty and exhausted.

"Isolde? You should sleep, you look dead to the world. Berend, you rest too. I'll take first watch." Caine laid his pack on my mat for me to use as a pillow. I handed him the rest of my pear, too tired to finish chewing it. As soon as my head hit the pack I tilted into a land of frenzied thoughts and creatures.

Packs of dog men ripped through the village, my family and fellow villagers ran in every direction. Fire rained from above, the deafening, screeching roar of dragons filled the air. Death and destruction covered the ground.

Weapon, I need a weapon.

I reached back and felt for my bow, thankful to find it slung across my back. Too many targets to aim at. Was that a minotaur in the smoke? A cynocephali turned it's snout towards my family's hut. No. I couldn't talk, couldn't scream. I simply pulled back my string and let the arrow fly.

It struck in the back of the creature. But the creature wasn't a creature. It turned slowly, clutching where the arrow had stuck through the front. The creature was now Caine. Solandis appeared, tongue spitting curses at me as she held her betrothed. The scream finally escaped my lips.

"Isolde!" A scornful voice jolted me back into the land of the waking. "Isolde, you can't sleep so loudly." Caine tried to joke but the worry in his face was real.

My heart pounded against my ribs as I sat up. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." I wiped the tears from my face before Caine could see them. "How long was I asleep?"

"Around an hour and a half," Caine slouched over the fire, poking it slowly.

"Trade with me, I'll keep guard," I stood and stretched my arms above my head.

"You barely got any sleep."

"And I won't be getting any more after those dreams. I feel much better, please rest."

He grumbled a little but sank to the mat without any more arguing. I took a deep breath, letting to cool night air fill my lungs and wake me up. A sip from the frantic river helped as well.

Deep into the early hours of morning I noticed Berend start to stir. He woke quietly and I let him get his bearings without me trying to conversate. Eventually he looked my way.

"My turn for guard?"

I shook my head. "I'm not getting any more sleep tonight, I'll be up. You can sleep more."

"Ah, is that true? Or is it simply that you don't want the stranger to stand guard?"

I hadn't thought of that, which is probably bad. Maybe I didn't realize how unprepared I was for a journey like this.

"It's not that. I just had some terrible dreams, I'm not ready to revisit them."

Berend nodded thoughtfully. "I understand, I’ve been plagued by dragon fire in my own dreams.”

He stared at the campfire and seemed lost for a moment. I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sat comfortably enough in my own grief to sit next to someone else.

“Ah, but the snow has melted, we look forward to the blooms of spring.” He stood and stretched.

I gave him a look. “Very poetic for a warrior.”

He blushed slightly. “It’s a common saying in my country. The winters often lead to discontent but once the snow melts, it is in the past, it does not affect anyone.”

I nodded thoughtfully. Caine stirred and rolled over, muttering something. I held my figure to my lips and motioned for Berend to come closer so we could speak softer.

“You care deeply for him,” He commented. I nodded distractedly at first, then picked up on his meaning.

“Oh, we aren’t like that. He’s betrothed to a lovely girl in our village. We’re more like family.”

“Mm. And where is your betrothed?”

I gestured to the Valley. “Succumbed to war, or the beasts, or what have you. That was some time ago now.”

Berend said nothing but his square jaw had softened and I could tell we were sitting in our mutual sorrows.

“You should wake him,” Berend gazed at the sunlight peeking over the horizon. “We should get moving. I’d say we’re less than a day away from that cave.”

“Caine, ya big oaf,” I poked him in the ribs with my bow, causing him to startle awake, wiping drool from his chin. Chuckling, I couldn’t help but add, “Solandis doesn’t even know how lucky she is.”

“Shut up,” he grumbled, sleep coating his voice. “Is it time to go then?”

“Aye. Time to see your baby brother.”

SeriesFantasyAdventure
3

About the Creator

C.Z.

A slightly inspired, barely motivated, lover of fact and fiction

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Comments (2)

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  • Heather Hubler8 months ago

    This was a wonderful continuation! I so enjoyed getting to know the characters more. Looking forward to chapter 3!

  • Lilly Cooper8 months ago

    I love the development your characters are showing! I will have to go back and read the first chapter when I have a chance.

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