A young woman steadies her bow, aiming for the center of a demon's head. Her arrow flies true, cracking the demon's cranium. Soon they will surround her, but she cannot leave her friends behind. On her right, a second demon lunges towards her; she pulls an arrow from the quiver at her side and thrusts it into the demon's throat. Cold purple blood floods out from the fiend as it falls. Not ready to give up, she whirls around, seamlessly nocks her arrow, and looses it targeting a third demon. Never failing, her arrow splits the demon's skull burrowing deep into its brain cavity. A sudden rush flows through the ground, the young woman turns around to see a massive woman consisting entirely of water emerge from the center of the lake. In one swoop, the giant being floods the area, sweeping every last demon away. The young woman is drug away as well, her head strikes a hard object, and the world turns black.
The Girl They Call BlueSageRose
Positioned to the south and east of the Rose Village was the sub-village known as Rolig Skog, the only feature that separated the sub-village from the Rose Village was a massive cliff between the two. A peaceful forest community known for being in tune with nature and the high caliber of archers produced there. Not only were their archers of superior skill in their craft, but they also possessed advanced skills in the art of stealth. Every year at least one member of the village gets selected into the Rose Warrior's archery division. Likewise, several members of the village held the role of Sicarii Premier, a representative who worked in the Rose Palace directly beside the Heads of the Clan. None, however, would compare with the young woman known as BlueSageRose.
BlueSageRose was one of two children in her family, she had a tranquil demeanor and kept mostly to herself. Many people mistook her as shy, but, in actuality, she preferred to observe the world around her. She was of average height with an athletic build, her curvy waved brown hair reached down below her shoulders. Her blue eyes had a very kind and gentle quality. Her family lived in one of many houses built high in the trees of Rolig Skog. These homes, as a whole, were a rounded shape around the tree trunks, each house connected to the others by a series of wooden bridges, if one was to walk underneath the trees of Rolig Skog unaware of the village they would never know what sat in the trees above their heads.
BlueSageRose was quite fond of long solitary walks through the forest. Many times, while on these walks, she would find a peaceful location to sit. As she sat, she would draw the animals and flora of the surrounding area. She also loved to stalk wildlife to see how close she could get before she was spotted. One forest cat, in particular, was her favorite animal to pursue; eventually, the forest cat came to like BlueSageRose and would follow her around at times riding on her shoulder. With so much time in nature, she developed the ability to influence natural energy, which later in her life would become a very essential skill for her. Where we will start her journey however, she was still in the early stages of this skill's development. We are now set to enter the early life of BlueSageRose.
Another brisk morning rouses BlueSageRose from her slumber. Not overly fond of cold weather, she prefers the warmer seasons. Today she would have to wear her more substantial fur attire, all the more considering she has plans to visit the tri-falls, some referring to as the silver falls. Frigid water coursing through the falls chills the ambient air, making an already chilly day much colder. Provisions ready to depart, she takes a few long strides along the hanging wooden bridge then leaps off the path grasping a flexible branch. The branch carries her all the way to the ground, where she hits the ground running. Behind her, the branch snaps back up into the canopy. Coming up on her from the right, her forest cat, Salvie, sprints towards her, and the two continue further into the denser section of the forest. Luckily, the tri-falls are not too far from where she lives, so she does not have to spend too much time traveling.
It takes her about four to five minutes to reach the falls; she wishes the air could be slightly warmer, but it is not cold enough to make her leave. She takes a seat on the ledge of the waterfall with her feet hanging over the side. Salvie hops into her lap, curling up to keep itself warm. From where she sits, she can barely see the fishing community Lòn Iasgaich down the river. Below her, there is another ledge about thirty feet down, not too far from the falls is the old archer grounds of her people, now obsolete against their new archery range. Content with her position, she pulls out a pad, ink, and a fine brush from the pouch on her side. She then begins to draw the scenery in front of her. Thirty minutes pass by in a flash as she takes her time to sketch every detail of what she sees. In the trees below her, a sudden thump distracts her from her drawing. Soon the sound repeats several more times further down in the forest.
Someone must be using the training grounds.
Curious, she places her utensils back into her pouch and slides down a dirt path next to the waterfall. Gradatim, she moves through the trees heading north. Several paces later, she veers to her left, heading west so she can mask her location in the trees next to the training grounds. Up ahead, she spots an unfamiliar young woman.
I wonder who that is?
She slowly slips between the trees watching the young woman. Unexpectedly, the young woman turns towards her firing an arrow in her direction. This startles BlueSageRose who stares at the shaft protruding from deep within the tree's trunk in front of her.
"I do not wish you any harm, but I will not hesitate to make the next shot count if necessary," the young woman calls out.
"Please do not shoot! I was merely admiring your talent...I, myself, am an archer," BlueSageRose calls out in response, raising her hands over her head.
There is a slight pause, but the young woman keeps her bow at the ready, aiming at BlueSageRose still. Salvie stands a few feet in front of her, hissing furiously at the young woman attacking them.
"Is that your pet?" the young woman lowering her bow.
"It is indeed," BlueSageRose responds.
"If you would like to join me, I would not mind," offers the young woman.
"Any other time, I would take you up on that, but right now, I am getting the feeling we should not linger here for too long," BlueSageRose declines.
"Oh yeah, and why is that?" the young woman looks around out of curiosity.
"I am not completely sure, to be honest, but I would gather your things at once and leave," BlueSageRose urges as she flittingly shoots through the trees.
Something in the forest radiating an ominous aura has her on edge. A safe distance away, she turns and peeks through the trees to see if the young woman is heeding her advice. She spots the young woman scrambling up into a tree and disappearing into the canopy. Moments after the young woman vanishes, a group of five charcoal-colored demons burst into the training grounds. BlueSageRose knows the figures all too well demons from Darvod.
What are Daemons of the Deep Seated doing here? I was under the impression they could not leave Darvod without permission.
Idly a sixth figure appears, a human in garb unfamiliar to her. He snaps commands to the demons who rummage about the grounds. In the canopy above the demons, a branch shakes suddenly. This draws the attention of the beast nearest to the girl, which lets out an ere call, then darts towards the cliff of the waterfall. In an attempt to aid the woman BlueSageRose readies her bow, a perfectly straight bow with no curve utilizing hardwood, loosing an arrow at the closest demon. Its head snaps back as the arrow pierces its skull with a grotesque cracking sound. Lifeless, the demon's body drops to the ground with a loud thud. Instantly the remaining three demons break towards BlueSageRose, smoothly she pulls a second arrow striking a second demon in its eye socket. From its momentum, the being falls dead, sliding across the dirt. Not having an adequate amount of time to prepare a third shot, BlueSageRose takes off heading towards the waterfall. While she runs, she grabs another arrow from the quiver at her side, before she can nock the shaft the human male bursts in front of her. In her mind, BlueSageRose can see the demon behind her, bearing down a few paces from her. Just as the cacodemon lunges at her, she ducks rolling to her right. Unable to correct its path, the demon collides with the back of the human male. They both fall one on top of the other, and BlueSageRose promptly takes advantage of the opportunity firing her arrow from point-blank into the back of the demon's head. Her arrow flying with enough force to penetrate through the demon's skull in its entirety and into the skull of the human lying underneath. Purple mist disperses into the air as the fiend lingeringly disappears, while the ground underneath the man begins to form a pool of crimson as his skull bleeds out.
BlueSageRose does not waste her time hanging around, but urgently heads to the falls to see if the young woman is safe. She arrives at the waterfall in time to watch the young woman fall through the air towards the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. In an act of desperation, the demon reaches out to grab the young woman but misses. BlueSageRose fires an arrow into the side of the demon's head without hesitation. Anger compels the daemon to turn towards her as if it may attack but falls dead before it can move from where it stands. BlueSageRose rushes to the side of the cliff spotting the young woman drifting away swiftly in the rapids of the river below. BlueSageRose full of concern, chases after the woman as she is limply drug away by the river. Before BlueSageRose can catch up to the woman, the rapids pull her into the open pond the river flows into. A fisherman spots her and swims out after her. Afraid he may mistake her as the person who is to blame for the young woman's condition, she leaves the rescue to the fisherman and immediately doubles back to the archery range.
BlueSageRose returns to collect the body of the dead man to see if anyone at her village could identify the corpse. However, when she arrives at the location of the body, it is no longer there. A trail of blood makes it apparent the body is being drug away, raising the more significant concern of who else is present, perhaps the one who is in charge of the attack. For what reason such a group is in the area is both concerning and perplexing to her, so she full out sprints back to her village.
Her village drawing near, Salvie runs up to her from the west. BlueSageRose breathes a sigh of relief that Salvie has no injures after the conflict separating them. She runs headfirst toward one of the more substantial trees. With long strides, she takes a few steps up the side of the tree. Just before her feet lose traction, she jumps toward a branch a few feet above her. Without difficulty, she grasps the limb, using her momentum to carry her up and around landing on the top of the shoot. From here, she jumps from one girthy bough to the next, making her way up the tree. With one last surge, she bursts through the canopy that progressively grows thicker. At the peak of her jump, she arches backward, performing a backflip and lands on the bridge, running throughout her village. Fortuitously, she ends up landing next to her father.
"Good thing I ran into you. We need to mobilize the Sicarii to search the surrounding areas immediately," BlueSageRose huffs through heavy breaths.
"What happened?" her father questions her with his right brow raising.
"I ran into a group of what appeared to be daemons near the tri-falls, a group of six total. All but one instantly decayed upon their death. I had planned to bring the remaining corpse back here for examination, but it has been drug off."
"Daemons this far inland?...This is unprecedented, I will have the top Sicarii agents out to assess the situation. In the meantime, I will go to the Rose Palace to deliver the news, and you should go to Lòn Iasgaich to inform the sentry there. We need to get the word spread as snappily as possible before anyone is injured or killed."
"Agreed," she responds, and both go their separate ways to complete their tasks.
She drops off the bridge through the thick canopy and descends the tree in the opposite manner from her ascent. Back on the ground, she starts to head back towards the training grounds, but Salvie urges her to go in the opposite direction.
"Not now! I have an urgent duty to carry out," she tells the cat.
Vigorously tugging on BlueSageRose's shoulder, Slavie continues to redirect her in the opposite direction. BlueSageRose stops to look at her cat, she can feel a strong aura coming from Salvie.
"Alright, lead the way," she directs the forest cat.
Swift as the Teumessian fox, the two turn heading deeper into the forest towards Sráidbhaile Cumhachta, a small village of skilled warriors particularly proficient in grappling techniques. In this section of the forest, the trees are very dense, making the surroundings, in essence, pitch black, aside from beams of light happening to break through the canopy. This is one of the very few places in nature she does not like to be in. Many throughout the area refer to this place as the Phantom Woods, few people who venture into this dark patch ever return. Of course, this inspires an abundance of stories and lore about the spot. Some say, ghouls, phantoms, or specters roam the area looking to ensnare unsuspecting victims. Truthfully, the more likely event is those who enter the woods fall victim to losing their way in the deep dark of the trees and cannot find their way out. Why have you led me here of all places? Ominous auras flow through the woods; and though this area concerns her, she finds herself progressing forward none the less.
Soon she can no longer see Salvie in front of her, but she can still sense her location. Suddenly the cat stops its aura shifts to neutral, so BlueSageRose does not feel she is in any danger. Her cat nudges her leg, trying to get her attention to something on the ground. She bends down carefully, feeling around for what the cat is trying to show her. Suddenly her hand runs against a solid object; it feels like a person's leg. Sure enough, what she feels is a leg. She attentively examines the body with her hand, once she reaches the head, she can feel the shaft of an arrow. Instantly she can tell it is her arrow, which means this is the man from the training grounds. Her senses rise knowing she is not alone in the woods. Through the ground, she can feel the slow, methodical footsteps of another. Salvie's aura increasing in agitation confirms the presence is not a friendly one. She begins to pick up more subtle impact tremors all around her, if she stays still whatever is lurking in the woods will surround her. Double-quick, she grabs her arrow from the corpse and places it in her quiver. She then picks up Salvie and places her on her shoulder, focusing as much as possible; she walks backward masking her footsteps.
This is no place for conflict...especially against multiple enemies.
Afraid of whatever is stalking her, she increases her speed. Confident she has a gap with adequate space between her and what she is afraid of, she turns and sprints in the direction of the exit to the dense forest. Not far away, she can see the light of the more open forest. To her surprise, a mountainous dark figure steps from around a tree as she is about to escape. Unable to stop in time, she fears she is not going to escape the clutches of the monster. To her amazement, a bough from the tree wraps around the figure, lifting it into the air. Above her, bones crunching echo, without stopping to look her adrenaline carries her all the way to the training grounds. Her legs burning from running so hard, she sits down with her back resting on a tree trunk.
"Well, we made it," she says to Salvie, rubbing its head, Although the situation is worse than I initially thought. I picked up on at least fifteen or more entities back there. Meaning either there really are wandering spirits in there, or the enemy is hiding there knowing we would not be looking there...and that last figure was too big to be any person. I'm guessing those were mostly daemons, but why would they drag the dead body back there? Too many questions need answering with not enough time. Something in the tree above catches her eye. An arrow jutting out of one of the targets, it must be the young woman's.
I suppose while I am here, I can gather her things since she ended up at Lòn Iasgaich, and I am heading there anyway. Hopefully, I can get them back to her. She grabs as many arrows as she can find with great haste, I think that is everything...wait no I remember her bow had fallen near where she jumped. Correct in her assumption, the bow rests on the ledge near the falls. She picks it up, slings it around her shoulder alongside her own bow, and makes her way towards Lòn Iasgaich. Wow, her bow is long, she shifts it a couple of times to keep it from dragging through the dirt. On her way, she cannot get the image of the tree grabbing the figure out of her head. Is that area truly home to supernatural beings, or was something else at work? Either way, intrigue and fear of the truth surrounding the area weighs on her mind, as well as witnessing the events she is leaving behind. Deep in thought, she almost passes by Lòn Iasgaich. At last, snapping out of her deep concentration she scans the are looking to locate the sentry's post.
It has been a long time between visits to this community, and the look of the pit dwellings captivates her as much as it had the first time. Impressive how well the homes stay together despite only using straw and grass in their construction. Every so often, a merchant stand fills the space between dwellings, most of them selling fish, crops, clothing, or a combination of the three. Down the path, a little further, she spots a towering stone building that sticks out against the quaint dwellings surrounding it. No doubt this is the sentry's post, many of the officials from the Rose Palace require more luxurious living arrangements. Several beefy men burst from the doorway, shoving her out of the way as they hurry past.
Inside the post is modest, much to her surprise, more so when comparing the inside against the outside of the structure. At the far end of the antechamber, the sentry stands with his hand over his face.
"Excuse me, sir," she addresses the sentry.
"Oh yes, my apologies I did not hear you come in," responds the sentry.
"I am sure you have already heard by now of a young woman being carried down the river. I saw her fall into the river, but I wasn't able to assist her because of the swift current."
"This is the first I am hearing of this...when did this happen?"
"...I am surprised word has not spread around such a small community...it happened just this morning...I hope she is alright," confusion surrounding the situation befuddles BlueSageRose.
"Was it perhaps a blonde-haired girl wearing leather attire?"
"I am guessing you are talking about TurquoiseCrimsonRose. She came in not long ago claiming to have been attacked by demons from the Clan of the Deep Seated. I did not realize she had fallen into the river," the sentry informs her placing his hand on her shoulder, "She seemed fine, I wouldn't worry".
"That is a relief. Coincidentally I was sent here to inform you about the daemon attack as well...I was sent from Rolig Skog to warn you of the potential threat."
"Thank you for your warning, we have already deployed extra security to watch the area for the presence of any demons...I am sure you saw the brutes leaving as you came in...unfortunately the Royal Guard or Rose Warriors are not being deployed for one isolated incident, so I had to call upon the brutes from the town of Rolling Thunder."
"Interesting. Well, my business here is complete," BlueSageRose states, giving a bow to the sentry before leaving.
His sharp eyes notice the young woman is carrying two bows on her back, "Do archers from Rolig Skog often times carry two weapons?" he ponders.
"Oh yes...forgive me, my mind is elsewhere," BlueSageRose responds, taking TurquoiseCrimsonRose's bow and arrows she presents them to the sentry, "These belong to the young lady I mentioned earlier, if you could make sure she gets them back I would be greatly appreciative."
"It will be done," the sentry guarantees her.
Content, she takes her leave, preparing to head back to her village to inform her father of the situation. After she reports back to him, she plans to take a few of the Sicarii to further investigate the case in the Phantom Woods. Her legs sore from covering so much ground, she decides to rest against a tree in the grove next to Lòn Iasgaich. In this small grove, the trees have gaps reaching out a reasonable distance between each other, yet close enough together to keep the heat away, not that she minds the warmth. In a small patch of brush several yards away something small moves but does not appear to be any threat. BlueSageRose closes her eyes with her head resting against the trunk of the tree. Warm sensations flow through her body, a pale blue glow emanating from her aura. In a matter of minutes, the burning within her legs dissipates. Fully replenishing her energy, she resumes her business. Out of the corner of her eyes, she notices the young woman she knows as TurquoiseCrimsonRose exiting a dwelling nearby the brush where the creature was stirring earlier.
Unaware her body is coursing with energy from nature, BlueSageRose completes the trek back to her village with blinding speed. While she arrives in record time, her father is still away at the Rose Palace. Disappointing to be sure, she regrets being unable to report to her father, the situation in the Phantom Woods is too dire to leave unchecked. Determination drives her to gather as much information as possible and as amain as possible, she summons her five most trustworthy Sicarii to go with her. Without delay, the group verges deep into the forest towards the Phantom Woods.
At the threshold of the Phantom Woods, all six stop and form a circle to devise a strategy before running in blindly.
"Alright, I figure there are fifteen or so hostiles. There could be a substantial number more hiding in the darkness though, so keep your senses sharp. Do not expect to rely on your eyesight; it is far too dark, it would be best to trust your hearing. Best not to engage in combat if possible, all I am looking to find out is, generally speaking, how large of a force is here."
"Understood," each member of the Sicarii responds with a nod.
"I suggest we use a modified wedge formation, I will take the lead, followed by one pair, and at the end one row of three with the center facing the rear," BlueSageRose directs the group.
The six form up in the agreed-upon formation and prepare to enter the Phantom Woods.