Raven was right: I would have been sea-sick if I went on upper deck. The boat rocked side-to-side, I myself rocking with it. For my first time on a boat, I hated it. It was so dull compared to my room, alone. I was surrounded by the same tedious and pompous russet colour. The only other colour I could adore was my robes' colour. A static, pure white. From the robes, I took off the lace and placed it aside. Then I stuffed the sack with the garments and fastened the hole. Who knows, this Strattonshire might have been a nice place and I might be wearing my robes more than my armour.
The sack was just the mere size of a pouch, only a little bigger. I tucked in the loose end of the sack into my waist strap and securely knotted the excess lace to my stomach. Perfect.
Suddenly the rocking stopped, and a thud thumped the walls of the ship. The entire ship would've been in a wreck if it thumped any harder. We must have stopped; I heard a lot of commotion coming from the upper deck. I made for the door and unlocked the tarnished latch.
"Is everyone ready?" Brutus called from above with a deep voice.
"Yes, my lord." The Soldiers replied in sync.
We landed, then. That was clear to the ear. I came into the hallway and looked up the stairs and over yonder. Neither a speck nor flicker of natural light was to be seen. That was weird; we had the sun not so long ago. I frowned and double-stepped the stairs to the main deck. There was no sun, just a pitch black sky. Narrowing my eyes, I couldn't mark a star in the sky either.
"Good afternoon, Cassandria," Brutus said with a funny tone.
"Where's the sun?" I questioned, still gazing into nothingness.
"That's what I want to know. We'll have to ask the natives here." Brutus suggested. "Come on, men. You! Keep that torch up."
"Yes, my lord."
Something wasn't right about this place, already I had the shivers, and it wasn't the cold air. Nonetheless, I followed the tallish torch-bearer near Brutus and went down the ramp. Soil and grass met my toes and ankles with a comforting feel. There were no stones or pebbles either, which added to the luxury. Brutus, from what I could see, turned to the ship and yelled, "Shipmaster. Return to the kingdom and inform Omen of our arrival. We'll send a courier for reinforcements if we require any."
"Got it!" The Shipmaster replied. I couldn't get a visual on him. Where ever he was on the ship, he blended in well.
"You best do," Brutus mumbled to himself and took out a sheet of paper from his bracer. "Come here, I need some light." He demanded, looking at the torch bearer. He shuffled over and brightened the area around the map. From this side of the paper, I could see an outline and then a circle marked Strattonshire, but backwards. Brutus rubbed his hand across his chin and cheek, concentrating. His eyes looked up, then down, then up again, followed with his finger touching the page.
"You figured out where we are yet?" Raven asked, coming out of invisibility.
"Hmm?" Brutus smiled and peered at Raven for a second. "I'm just kidding... and yes, I have. We came from the Arcana Fields, right?"
"If we travelled up head on, then we would be here, right?" Brutus's bold finger led to the middle of the land, a good distance away from the mark: Strattonshire.
"Yeah." Raven nodded.
Brutus steered around and claimed with an arm pointing, "This is north, since the sea is that way. So... we go east." He shrugged and peered at Raven again, eyes more serious than casual.
"Hmm." Raven mocked and vanished again through her mirror trick. I've always wanted to learn that, but I never got to ask her if she would teach me. Not like I already knew the answer would've been a swift 'no' anyway.
Brutus jumped his brows and began to walk right. The Soldiers followed with vigilance being their main asset. I scrambled along with them, my sights sharp on the torch bearer. Although dark, the nature here was flourishing with life. The hollow trees soared up into enveloping canopies. Its bark looked more resilient in comparison to Brutus's armour and the Soldiers' armour. It made us appear weak to an enemy that couldn't even fight back. Still, the plants were nothing short of embellishment. I bet my sister would be up to her hair with new elixirs if she came here.
Out of the lush green and arid black, a pair of hoary dots appeared just ahead and steadily floated. "Can you see that?" A Soldier asked to my right.
"See what?" Another one replied in a near-mute tone.
"Yeah. I can see them."
Brutus promptly held his arm out to halt our advance. "Wait a moment," he said and expectantly stared at the torch bearer. His head knocked towards the white dots, hinting him to advance alone. So he did, with each cautious step taking longer than the last. The dots remained put, but became broad overtime as the Soldier approached. Were they alive?
The Soldier halted and stepped aside from the dots. The blinking and staining light that emitted from the roaring torch revealed a purplish smutty hand.
It was alive. Something was there, quivering. Breathing.
The Soldier noticed the hand and began to contract the trepidation.
"Soldier. Move back." Brutus ordered in a calm manner. He didn't respond nor did he move. "Soldier!" Brutus repeated. Nothing. But the Soldier did move, not through order, but through curiosity. He swiftly moved the torch up, closer to the dots.
"By my own sword..." Brutus exclaimed.
The figure had no jaw and those dots we saw, were his eyes. Its hair was tattered and torn, like it tackled against something that was ravenous and ravage. The skin on its face and exposed chest was scarred and fissured, as if it was slashed repeatedly by a blade. But the cuts were too rigid and clumsy to be the work of a blade. They were the work of a hand or claw. It wore the remains of a frayed grey vest and shredded linen trousers, but had no indication of affiliation. No necklace, no badge. It was a phantom; a ghost, in a fragile shell.
Slowly its neck cracked and creaked to face the Soldier square on. It had no pupils, but it glared with the intention of first blood. "Damn it, Soldier, move..." Brutus ordered and begun an advance to the desecrated figure.
Without reason, it shrieked and shrilled at the Soldier, dousing the flame on the torch.
"KILL IT!" Brutus yelped. I was shaken, but I didn't falter to grasp the handle of my daggers. Before I made a step into combat, the dots that moved like fireflies, fused out. Two thumps signalled after.
Raven's voice muttered, "Done."
"You killed it?" Brutus asked.
"Right through the head." She claimed and came into viewing distance.
"Is my Soldier okay? Can you respond for me?"
I listened out for a response of any kind, but the only thing I heard was muffled and hoarse breathing.
Though blind, I looked around the black and emptiness, both of which being rapidly filled with the white dots.
We were surrounded. But by what?