Corbin Jumped down from his hiding spot in the canopy and set to continue after the fleeing stag on foot. He chased the wounded beast with determination and fervor, his arrow still protruding from it’s hidequarters. A voice in his head told him this was foolish, that chasing wounded prey off the paths and into the underbrush would be dangerous and risky. He knew better then this, but still refused to let his prey escape. A second arrow leapt out from his bow, striking the panicked beast in the neck. This seemed to do the trick, and the beast crashed into the underbrush before falling to the ground. A moment later he catches up to the stag, and gives it the quick death he failed to provide with his first or second shot.
Even just a year ago he would not have left his hiding place in the canopy to give chase. Rather he would have merely cursed his foul luck and allowed the beast to flee off into the mists. The difference, he mused, was his relationship with fear. He had always been careful. Cautious, and warry. Fearful and respectfull of the power that slept within this forest. He knew better then most what was actually in these woods, and a healthy dose of fear had kept him alive through the many, many trials faced living within them. Truthfully, it had always felt more like prudence and respect for the dangers of the wood then outright fear. But recent events had forced him to re-examin his hesitations. And their sources.
After a quick look around to confirm he was not in immediate danger, he started working on the stag before him. Field stripping it and preparing it for transport would take some time, but it was large enough to feed many hungry mouths. It was a really fortunate kill. His hands moved with deft skill the practiced movements he had done a hundred times before. His mind wandered once more.
As a boy, mother had often lamented that he could stand to have more fear. The dark didn’t scare him. Monsters didn’t scare him. Falling out of a tree and breaking his arm barely slowed him down. He had reveled in tales of gallant heroes and brave generals of far away lands, often declaring his intention to one day take his place among them in history.
My how things had changed.
Watching his mother grow ill, frail, and eventually pass away was his first real taste of fear. The hopelessness in his father’s eyes as together they watched her sickness progress was something he had never seen before. The seed of fear was buried deep in his heart the day his mother died. It sprouted and grew in his heart as he watched his sister soon fall to the same sickness. By the time his father began to succumb to the sickness, it had fully blossomed, and the cold tendrils of uncertainty and despair had found deep roots in his heart.
As one by one his whole family succumb to plague and death, he could do naught but watch and despair. When the specter of death was finally finished, it left him alone amidst the ashes of all he once held dear. There in that quiet, empty, loneliness was the biggest fear of all.
At the time he claimed it was a desire for a ‘fresh start’ that spurned him to act. But in truth it was just common fear. Horrible unsurmountable fear of losing anything more caused him to flee his friends and distant relations. Caused him to step into the mists and become lost.
Fear in the forest of mists soon played a very different role in his life. He learned quickly enough that traveling through the depths of the wood were far more dangerous than anything he had ever faced prior. Here there was much to be warry of. Fear became his cloak and wrapping it about him kept him safe and alive in a world all too full of hunger and darkness. His father taught him to track, his fear taught him to be silent. His mother taught him how to find the edible fruit, and fear taught him when not to risk exposure just for a full belly. Ghosts haunted his every step, and delighted in tormenting him, sometimes causing him to run in terror for nights on end.
The stag was coming apart nicely, almost easily under his skilled hands and sharp blade. It was sectioned, bound for transport, and would be ready to haul home in only a few more moments. The smell of blood was already on the wind and would soon draw the attention of any number of unpleasant beasts. Still, his mind could not help but wander as his body moved about its work.
“LIES…lies…liiess…. Tell us manling. What do you really WANT?” The voice of the elf Struk him like cold steel, piercing deep past his pious and deferent guise. It saw past his fear, past the air of false reverence he usually hid behind. Anger surged within him, as he strained against the truth buried in his heart. He was tired of false deference, of bowing to the powerful and cruel just to avoid their wrath. Tired of being unable to help his friends and family face the dangers that plagued them. He was tired of being afraid.
He cried out in pain as the scales and hardened chiton erupted from his body at the Elf’s touch. His flesh ached and his body strained, but his mind was sharp and ready. Finally, he would not have to risk getting himself killed to help his friends. Now he had nothing to fear but…her disapproving stare.
Shaking that thought away he quickly got back to the present. Most of the trail back to town was blessedly downhill, so the trip would be easy. He hefted his prize over his shoulder and quickly fled the area. The Elves mystical protections were long since gone and he was back to being just as vulnerable as before. In truth he had been a monumental fool for accepting it in the first place. Clearly there would be more consequences further down the path, but he would meet them head on. The taste of brief immortality had left him in high spirits, and he was starting to take more and more chances in his daily life. The fear had loosened its grip on his heart ever so much, and he was running with it.
“Isabel isn’t here.” Lunette sobbed in his memory. The words rung in his mind like a bell shattering a perfect silence. His steps faltered, and a chill shot down his spine forcing him to shudder. That simple phrase introduced him to an entirely new fear. One he never would have conceived himself vulnerable to. It wasn’t a fear of death, nor a fear of pain, or loss. It was the fear of living in a world without her. A fear so strong he turned around and walked back into the literal realm of death and suffering to prevent it. Like most things in his life, he was a monumental fool for doing it, and only caused more trouble in the attempt then he solved. But he also knew that he would do it again without hesitation if he had to.
Seems fear still had its grip firmly on his heart after all.