~2680 words | collab with kytazy
featuring Rory, Cloud, Seros, Mana
The trickle of water echoed through the forest. The small rivers had a smooth surface, but the leaves flowing through it betrayed their swift currents. The trees towered so high that Rory had to crane his neck to see the tops. Even then, their crowns were shrouded by branches and darkness. The only light sources came from within the forest itself, rather than sunlight–luminescent mushrooms, glowing water, shimmering fireflies.
Cloud had no issue with the darkness. His bat-like ears and high-pitched echolocation could guide them around the trees with ease. The issue was not avoiding the trees, but escaping them. The forest seemed to go on for ages and Cloud had no clue where the closest Chronoscape door was. Rory was no better in his intuition. The howls of forest beasts made the light Rider a little nervous, but not as nervous as when Cloud answered their calls with his off-key screeches. Could you stop doing that and focus on getting out? he pleaded with the dragon. Their gathering adventure wasn’t going well at all.
The wyvern smiled at him, made a chirp of affirmation, and then screamed a ‘goodbye’ to anything that was listening before. Rory sighed. They followed the flow of the rivers–hopefully towards the sea. The uneven ground and winding paths didn’t give him much hope, but it was the best they could do right now. Hopefully they found some way out.
Letting out another trill of bird calls, Mana leaped into the next tree branch, watching the pair walking below him. He had first come across them about ten minutes, making all sorts of noises into the void of vines and grasses! The spirit absolutely loved travelers and visitors of all types. They tended to carry such interesting things with them. Do dads, knickknacks, whatchucallits, and especially thingamabobs!
Making that final call back to their screams, he still waited for more, but they didn’t seem to be coming anymore. “Are you sure they’re safe?” Seros questioned, seeming to glide from one tree to the next with a small kitten on his back. They were his companion though, and never traveled far without him. “Sure! Sure!” Came the peppy reply, what looked like the inanimate eyes in a white mask actually turning into cresants as the spirit smiled. “Look at them, just wandering around without a care in the world. They must by on one of those adventures Nephy was talking about! Travelers like those, it looks like they’re having a lot of fun too!”
Hm, well, to Seros, at least the other dragon seemed to be having fun while its rider sighed. “We can’t let them wander too much further, they’re getting close to the heart of the forest.” Which meant home. And if they were adventurers seeking the fabeled spring of life, he’d make sure they didn’t try to use some sort of magic to bleed it dry. A little was fine, it was just water once it left the magic of the forest, but it was water the forest relied on to grow and prosper.
“I’ll get ahead to stop them,” Speeding up their leaps, the dragon went ahead on the path the other two were going along at the moment. With a little luck and prediction, he set down his companion, the tiny version of himself tumbling off his back to land on the ground floor. “Don’t go to far,” he commanded, going off himself to quickly search out a hiding place to put them.
Which obviously wasn’t about to work out for anyone.
Instead of staying put on request, the derpy little companion zoomed off right away. It wanted to go see the pretty rider and dragon! they had much bigger wings than it did, maybe they could teach it how to fly better! As soon as the two came into view, the tiny cub would give a kitten sized roar for attention at them!
Cloud twitched his ears and sniffed the mildewy forest. He heard some scritches and scratches–typical of any forest–but his echolocation also picked up something big that could be a threat. Or a friend. He was betting friend.
It’s probably not a friend.
The dragon whined. You’re just a worrywart. I’m sure they’re good friends!
They rounded a curve in the river and stumbled upon the small companion. Its cute lion-like roar made even Rory want to coo at it; At the same time, the Rider was still very concerned at encountering an animal in the middle of the woods on fire. What if its mother was around? The last thing he wanted to happen was to be blamed for setting such a cute little animal on fire. Even if it did appear to be just fine with the situation. Cloud landed with a huge thud, a bit sad that the moss was too thick to create any kind of crater shape. Rory dismounted and inspected the small creature, staying close to Cloud in case it was secretly dangerous. The creature itself wasn’t scary, at least. Its tiny little roar was endearing if nothing else. Cloud lowered his snout and booped the kitten on its nose. He made a quiet bark to hopefully relax it.
Awe yes! There they came! Jumping up and down as the two approached, the familiar wiggled excitedly at the newcomers, much more interested in playing than seeing that they finished whatever business they were here for and scatted. Wagging the little tail that was equally on fire, but in a spaded shape, he yipped back at the big bat. There were loooots of big creatures in the forest, these two were no exception.
Plenty excited as well, Mana always tried to keep his distance from the travelers since Baal tended to lecture him so hard about it. The key word being ‘tried’. More often than not, he did exactly what he was about to do now as he caught up to everyone. Leap headfirst in to greet them! Quite literally, as he jumped from the treetops. “Wow! Look at the size of you! I’ve never seen a bigger bat!”
Tilting his ears back, Seros didn’t question the tiny roars he heard in the distance. His companion was prone to wandering. It made him search for a good spot quickly to put it, eventually locating a tree that he easily cleared of bugs with a few puffs of smoke. Putting out his mane of fire, he stuck his head inside to make sure it was everything the tiny companion could ask for before jumping at the much louder rider that also never listened. Taking in a deep breath, the dragon had a long line of patience for the two he was babysitting. The visitors didn’t look like they were all that dangerous screeching at the local wildlife, but one could never be too sure as he hurried back towards the others.
See? A friend. A good friend! Cloud let loose a toothy grin and licked the fiery kitten as a mother would its cub. That was, of course, a bad idea. The flames licked back and toasted the edge of its tongue. Rory winced from the connection, but he also expected something like that to happen, so it wasn’t surprising. The dragon’s tongue felt numb, as if it had gobbled up hot steak too quickly. He stuck out his tongue and held it there, whining. I change my mind, not a friend.
Before the Rider could inspect the fiery creature further, Mana leapt into the scene and approached Cloud faster than Rory liked. Thankfully, it seemed peaceful enough. Cloud still had his tongue in a blep, but his ears perked up and he sniffed at the newfound friend. Because, of course, this new person would be a friend as well. “Of course,” Cloud replied. “I am the greatest bat of them all.”
Yiping more at the larger creature that seemed to be just as derpy as the little cub. It tilted its head to and fro, eventually going over to the other creature that was totally a cat as well. Pawing at their feet, it shook its rear at the definitely a cat.
Hopping around on his clawed feet, Mana jumped until he made a complete circle around the bat. “The greatest? Wow! I’ve always wanted to meet the greatest bat!” Since about three seconds ago. Not knowing the meaning of personal space, the spirit reached out to pet the biggest, bestest bat.
Something Seros wasn’t exactly fond of as they broke through the tree line. Much bigger than the companion he often carried around, he was on the smaller side of medium, but this still placed his head slightly above Mana’s. “I don’t know why I bother,” he huffed, approaching calmly. It looked like Mana had already made his entrance without being yelled at or assaulted, so it wasn’t the worst case scenario. “Good evening travelers.”
Cloud smiled despite the blep sticking out, closing his eyes and happily twitching his ears. He lowered his head so that Mana could find the perfect spot for pets. “And I always wanted to meet you! What’s your name?”
Stop talking to random people in the forest. This is how people get trapped here forever. Rory sighed and started rethinking his plan. There were clearly two options–trust the people to help them, don’t trust the people to help them, or go far, far away from the people. Wait, that was three. Oh well, three options. As the new lion creature slipped out from the forest–clearly the guardian of whatever the little creature was–Rory gulped. He was leaning towards ‘far, far away.’
But I want to stay with my new friends! Cloud insisted. I’m not carrying you anywhere. You can walk. He turned up his nose, tongue flopping limply as he moved it.
Rory had no choice, really. “Hello…creatures of the forest?” What did he call random strangers he met in the woods? Talking cats and weird crescent-eyed spirits? “We were just on our way out. Is the edge of the forest nearby?”
“Mana!” The spirit chirped back to answer the both of them. He was definitely a creature of the forest, but more specifically he was one with a name. “And that’s Seros, and baby seros!” They really must be the greatest bat! They were so nice and friendly, unlike the small ones that would run from him sometimes when he went to visit them in the caves.
Grunting at the introductions, the dragon in question whent up to pick the companion back up by the scruff, unaffected by its mane. Sitting down, he place it between his paws where he could keep it trapped and very much not wandering around randomly. “Hm. Absolutely not. In fact, you’re almost in the heart of the forest. So close that we thought that was your destination.” Squinting his three eyes, they could just be playing dumb too. As long as they didn’t come back and cause more trouble though, it should be fine. “We can lead you back out to the edge if you like?”
Of course they would be worse off than when they started. Cloud looked from the big one to the little one. They looked so similar, they had to be family! Plus, the fire didn’t hurt the big one. He was very jealous. “What are all of you?” he asked with a quizzical tone. “Rory thinks you are forest ghosts that will steal our souls.”
“I’m sorry, my dragon is still very young. I was thinking of some old stories and he just extrapolated.” Any time Cloud said something like that, he blamed it on his youth. In reality, the wyvern was about a decade old, and just as mature as the Rider. No one needed to know that. He scolded his dragon. Don’t say that out loud. Even if, when all things were said and done, it was true. He did think they were weird forest bandits or spirits that would whisk them away. They would never be heard of again, restricted to a dead and forgotten branch of the family tree.
“What you are actually makes no difference to me. In fact, I’m deeply sorry we encroached upon your lands. I would be indebted to you if you could lead us out of the woods.” He slathered on politeness and etiquette. He didn’t want to upset the suspicious individuals.
Tilting his head this way and that, Mana’s ‘eyes’ went back to their normal round position as he listened to the apparent story. He did love stories! Especially old ones. “I didn’t know I could steal souls!” he gasped, the fox-like tail swishing back and forth rapidly. While he wasn’t exactly a ghost, people had screamed when he popped up before and yelled that at him. Maybe it was some sort of nickname! They also called him specter, spooker, and AAAAAAAA. The last one was especially confusing to him sometimes.
Shaking his head, Seros put one paw on the fiery tail of his companion. They were trying to butt wiggle at the pair again to get them to play together. The larger lion was having none of it however. Much to the other’s credit, he did apreciate the polite attitude. Enough to answer the questions, even if he didn’t have to as he picked the mini seros up to place on his back. “Mana is the spirit of this forest, and I am his dragon.” It wasn’t like they were anything malicious either. “It is a good thing you didn’t run into Baal though. He’s much less… plesant.” To say the least. The old dragon was a big territorial grump that hated people tromping around his forest.
Cloud nodded his head fervently at Mana, “Of course you can steal souls! All spooky forest things can do that.” He finally noticed his tongue and slurped it back in. The butt wiggle was also noticed, despite Seros’s attempts to tame it. “You’re a dragon, too? Shall we play? Let’s play!” He opened his wings wide and then flapped, sending detritus and moss flying all around them. “I’m not scared of cute forest spirits.”
“Cloud, please refrain from disturbing them.” The dragon groaned, furled his wings, and shot puppy dog eyes to his Rider. Rory was, of course, immune to them at this point. “I’m glad to hear we ran into…a benevolent sort of company, but I don’t want to strain your hospitality. May we leave soon, or may you point the way forward for us?” He didn’t want to be in the haunted woods longer than he needed to be, even if Cloud was having a blast.
Hopping around the greatest bat Cloud, what a perfect name. He’d have to tell Nephy aaaall about their visitors and ask if Draco was the greatest snake. He bet the answer was probably! They were a very good snake at the least. “Awe you’re not disturbing anyone! Look at how happy Seros is to have someone new to play with!” Going and tackling his dragon, who oofed slightly, but was oh so use to such things already.
Little seros was nodding away like crazy, wiggling to try and jump down again, but it was sooooo high! At least, it was until it rememebered it could fly! Getting lift off, it jumped from Big Seros’s back and the tiny wings on its hind limbs started beating like crazy with baby buzzing noises. Not that it got very far, the black lion reaching out to pluck it right out of the air. “Let’s be off right away then, so you don’t get turned around again,” he mumbled around the companion, pushing it on to his rider before moving himself right under their legs to be sat upon. “Maybe a game or two would be alright after everyone is safely out of the forest.” Knowing his rider was likely to squint at him if he didn’t at least let him try to play one game with the ‘greatest’ bat, Seros leaped off into the forest, his mane bright and fiery again to be easily spotted.