Chapter 4 = The Black Forest
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original Yoshi is copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
Many miles in from the shoreline of the main part of Chyrus, near the city of Sansata, was the large and foreboding Castle of Tyranny. It was so called because ownership of it changed so often that naming it after the owner was counter productive.
But the current resident had lived longer than any of his predecessors, mainly through brute force but also by inducing terror into his guards, making them too afraid to turn against him. He also had an edge only a few had ever had; control over the mystical force of Magic.
The tyrant was pacing back and forth in his room in the castle, troubled by recent events. Only a few days ago he had ordered mercenaries to level a village after he had been sent a vision in his sleep, and he had gone with them to ensure that the job was done, partaking a little in the destruction himself. He cared not for the Yoshies there; he was sure that he had done what he had needed to.
But his slumber had been stressing recently afterwards; a screeching voice was shouting incomprehensible things at him in another language, and his lack of sleep was draining him. He couldn’t show a weakness though, or he would meet a bloody end like the previous castle owners…
With a flourish, he spun around on his heels, allowing his robes to billow out from his body. The human wizard Foryo then paced along to his bookshelf and proceeded to search his spellbooks for something to help him…
He’d left the mercenaries behind after the initial slaughter; he didn’t need to be there for any of the labour involved in professionally razing a village and had ridden off at speed back towards the castle he called home. The mercenaries would have a tough time getting back under all that armour, but he had other things to worry about. Despite levelling the “Shoreside Village” as he had been instructed in the vision, he had an awful sense of foreboding that something, somewhere, had either been overlooked or forgotten about…
On Yoshi’s Island, several miles out from the coast, the two survivors of their village’s destruction were slowly waking as dawn poured into the room from holes in the ceiling of their temporary shelter.
“Ugh… My head…”
Manny slowly dragged himself away from the comforts of sleep and tried to remember what had happened to him. The last things he remembered were his efforts to stay on Marcus’s saddle… then nothing.
His muscles ached from spending the night on the hard floor, and he could feel something scratchy on his nose; he gingerly touched it, and found it was a bandage. He was lying face down underneath an old blanket and his front was covered with dust. He looked over to his side and saw a reddish Birdo, with several scars across it, and though it was clearly dead, it unnerved Manny anyway.
“You back with me now?” Marcus was somewhere behind him.
“What is this doing here? And why am I on the floor? Where am I?”
“One of those wolves got her. You’re on the floor because the bed is broken. We’re in an old cottage somewhere up the road from where the wolves were.”
Manny groggily got to his feet and brushed the dust off of him, and turned around. Marcus was rubbing his eyes; it appeared he had only just woken up as well. He was sitting in an old rocking chair, with something in his lap that looked like a small satchel.
Manny pointed to it. “What’s that you’ve got there?”
“This?” Marcus raised the bag. “I found it on her.”
Manny winked. “Her, you say?”
“Very funny. There’s a letter in here that refers to this Birdo as someone’s wife.”
“Ah, okay... Should you be reading that?”
“Why not? She certainly won’t be.”
“Fair enough. What else is there?”
“Some money, a water container, a picture of her husband and kid, and a few more inches of bandage.” He handed Manny the letter, and he skimmed through it.
“Yeah, so what? What’s so important in this letter?” He said, batting it once with the back of his free hand.
“It mentions Foryo. We now know the name of the town we’re looking for.”
“Oh, right, I see. Is there any food in there? I’m starving.” Manny’s stomach rumbled to emphasise this point.
“No luck. We’ll have to find something around here.”
“I’m so hungry I could probably eat that Birdo…”
“Mind you, I heard that Birdo meat is stringy and horrible.”
“Manny…” Marcus glared.
Manny rolled his eyes. “All right, all right, I was only joking. Surely there’s some -edible- food in here somewhere. Did you look in all the cupboards?”
“No, come to think of it. I was too tired.”
Marcus and Manny searched the rest of the cottage, and came up with a few hardened leather containers of uncooked, preserved meat. That explains the campfire she built, Marcus thought. He also found a covered jug of water, the contents of which he transferred to the leather water skin he had taken from the Birdo the day before. Manny opened one of the food satchels and they went outside to build another fire, and Marcus decided to saddlebag the Birdo’s satchel and take it with him. The food was heavily salted, and though it kept the meat fresh it made it tough and chewy. They decided to cook the whole tin in case they couldn’t find anything to build a fire with, and after their breakfast they gathered up their things and set off again.
The road wasn’t of the highest quality, and was filled with potholes. They had to watch their step to avoid tripping over one, and eventually gave up and walked on the grass next to the road. The sky was cloudless and the sun shone down onto the two Yoshies, and they had to stop frequently to lie down and cool off. The scenery didn’t change at all during their walk, except for a forest in the distance that seemed to be slowly getting closer. As the sun set they decided to call it a day and had some more of the salty meat for dinner. They then took it in turns to sleep, and Marcus watched in dismay as dark clouds began to blot out the moon.
Marcus sifted through Manny’s belongings and picked out the box that contained the throwing knives. Long ago, Manny has stolen them from a greedy merchant that had come to the shoreside village when they were kids. Manny had also taken the short sword he still carried, and Marcus’s flail, which Marcus had paid his friend to take. Those were carefree times, good times, he thought, when I was still just a little two year old Yoshi, before I had any responsibilities, before I met… Alziana…
He looked at the knives, forcing himself away from depressing memories. They were very ornate, and each one had a different gemstone set into the handle. The fading moonlight sparkled off of them, and they looked very pretty. He closed the lid to the felt-lined box and returned it to Manny’s saddlebags.
He woke his friend and they switched positions, and Marcus fell into a fitful sleep full of nightmares. He woke up as rain started to fall, and the two Yoshies ate the last of the cooked meat before heading along the path. The drizzle soon turned into a downpour, and the two of them started running, intent on reaching the forest they had first seen yesterday…
When they finally got under the cover of the forested section of the road, they stopped to catch their breath at the forest edge. Marcus lay down on the ground, exhausted, and Manny looked around for any small animals he could find. His sharp eyes picked out a patch of berry bushes behind an old oak, and he picked as many as he could fit in his saddlebags. They took turns sleeping under the shelter of the trees, then they set off deeper into the forest.
After another hour the poor light faded, and they moved slower to avoid losing each other. They could smell damp moss on the ground as they moved forward, and slowed further to avoid walking into a swamp. They heard an owl overhead, hooting indignantly as they went underneath its tree, and they moved a bit further before Manny decided to stop for the night. Marcus fell asleep first, and Manny looked at the ring on his finger, barely visible in the streams of moonlight. Poor guy, he thought, he’s suffering from all this. I’ll have to take him into a bar and get him drinking; he needs to forget what’s happened. After all, those who live in the past are unprepared for the future. He closed his eyes and sleep overwhelmed him before he could think to wake Marcus.
When Marcus woke up, the glowing rays of dawn swept through the forest, and through gaps in the leaves he could make out a rainbow. He nudged Manny to point this out to him.
Only Manny wasn’t there.
There was no trace of his leaving, no footprints, no note, nothing. Where his friend had been was a small pile of his belongings: his saddle, boots, sword, and saddlebags. Marcus leapt to his feet and scanned the area.
“Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnyyyyyyyy!” He shouted, cupping his hands to his mouth. He heard an echo, and the sounds of startled birds taking off from their roosts in the trees, but no reply. Gathering his friend’s belongings, he walked forward along the path. The path through the forest became very winding, and Marcus frequently took shortcuts through the trees.
After walking for about five minutes he found a lake of cloudy water, and he saw Manny treading water in the centre. “There you are!” Marcus shouted. Manny grinned. “I figured I’d have a look around and get away from your mumbling. Come on in! The water’s warm!”
Marcus was undoing the laces on his boots when he heard a splash. He looked up and saw concentric circles expanding from where Manny had been. Must’ve dived, he thought.
Then, before his very eyes, a huge, scum-covered creature surfaced. It was almost as big as the lake, and it gave a loud roar that shook the trees. Manny was struggling in one of its tentacles, but he was locked in a death grip.
Marcus picked up Manny’s sword and leapt forward, attempting to slash the slimy green tentacle that was slowly crushing his friend, but his blows simply bounced off the creature’s hide, nothing more than an annoyance. The creature lashed out with another tentacle, sending Marcus flying backwards into a tree trunk. Dazed, Marcus got up and lunged again, this time thrusting forward instead of making a long sweeping slash; the sword point found a gap in the segmented armour and drew blood. The creature’s grip on Manny lessened, and he got his hands free.
Manny began gesticulating frantically, trying to catch Marcus’s attention. “Marcus! Throw me my sword!” he shouted. Marcus withdrew the sword from the creature and threw it, but his aim was off and it sailed past Manny’s outstretched arms. Thinking quickly, Manny grabbed the hilt with his tongue before it hit the water, and pulled his sword towards him. He began stabbing at the tentacle holding him, and the creature’s hold began to fail. Marcus was using his flail to attack the monster, distracting it from the blue Yoshi that was slipping out of its grasp, but out of the corner of his eye he saw another tentacle rise up to swing at him…
Suddenly, an arrow flew out from the trees with a piercing whistle, and struck the creature’s main body. It gave an awful shriek, and Manny fell from its clutches into the now extremely murky water, as another arrow pierced the creature’s front, and it sank into the depths from whence it came. Manny lost no time in scrambling out of the lake and up the shore clutching his sword in his hand. Marcus turned around, looking for their unseen helper, and he spotted what looked like a human running out of the shadows, who came up to them.
It was a woman with long, flowing black hair. She was dressed in light leather armour, and she had a woollen mantle draped over her, forest green in colour. She carried a bow and several more arrows in her left hand, and her right hand was extended towards Marcus. Nervously, he took it, and she smiled as she shook his hand.
When she spoke, her voice was clear and commanding, but had a gentle touch to it. “Are you two alright?” she said. “Most people who get caught by the water-demon don’t make it back out alive.” Manny was lacing up his boots, so Marcus spoke up. “We’re fine, but I’m glad you helped… who are you, and why did you help us?”
She pushed her hair back with one hand, revealing a set of elongated ears. “I’m an elf, one of the last. We have no quarrel with the Yoshi people, and seek to help them when we can. I am known as Laen-Adil, or just Laen for short..”
Manny coughed politely, and Marcus started doing up the fastenings on his friend’s saddle, not taking his eyes away from the elf. An elf! He thought, And I thought they were just the stuff of legends!
“I would be honoured if you two came back to my village, if only for a little bit. We haven’t had visitors in a long time…” She glanced at the various scars they wore, and continued, “And our healers could help you out.”
Manny smiled. “That would be great. We haven’t had a decent meal in days.”
The elf frowned. “One question remains: why are two teenage Yoshies wandering around The Black Forest?”
“We’re looking for the town of Sansata.” Marcus replied.
“Or, more specifically, a castle nearby.” Manny added.
Laen raised an eyebrow. “What business have you got with Foryo? They say his magic is feared throughout the country.”
“It’s a long story.” Marcus said. “Once we’ve rested for a bit then we’ll tell you.”
“Fair enough. Come, follow me.”
After checking that Manny’s saddlebags were secure, they followed the elf via a winding route through the maze of trees. A few footsteps behind, the two Yoshies talked amongst each other. Manny couldn’t keep his eyes off of the elf.
“My, you’ve been smitten, haven’t you?” Marcus whispered.
“Shut up. I’ve just never seen any elves before.”
“Whatever. Do you think they know something we don’t about Foryo?”
“There’s a lot we don’t know.”
Marcus shrugged. “Good point. Regardless, we’ve just been offered a soft bed and some decent food, so let’s make the most of it.”
Up ahead, they heard the sounds of many voices, and walked in that general direction…
To be continued…