Into the Thicket

I haven’t posted anything here in a while so I figured I might as well show off this little piece I wrote for english class last year. Setting was originally supposed to be in TTV’s homebrew G3 but I think it works just as well as G2 (Which is where I originally came up with Kopere).

Grab, swing, release. Grab, swing, release. Grab, swing, release.
The movements had become almost automatic as I propelled myself through the dark forest canopy under the cover of night, leaves and branches whipping past me at dizzying speeds. With the wind howling past my streamlined, ash-blackened mask I thrust out a spindly limb for another vine and grabbed hold… of empty space. In shock I struggled to stop my gloved hands from unclenching around my last ropy handhold but my muscles were already in motion, sending my skinny body into the long fall to the hard earth below.
Branches, twigs, and the occasional small animal thwacked, pinged, and squeaked against the thin protometal plate covering my torso, turning my tumble into a small symphony. Despite the height of the trees, I soon saw the forest floor coming up to greet me, preceded by a large, jagged stump. Shutting my eyes against my demise, I muttered a prayer to Ekimu to receive my spirit and waited for the inevitable.
I suddenly felt myself thrown off course as a large, muscular mass violently slammed into me. My chest caved in and a searing pain shot through my back as my spine snapped against the unyielding trunk of an ironwood tree. Through my pain-wracked vision I could just barely make out the creature pinning me against the ancient trunk. To be honest, it’s not very reassuring to see that your savior has the slavering jaws and glistening claws of a Muaka tiger.
With a dull thud, the gigantic monster dropped my limp body to the spongy forest floor, leaving me completely at its mercy. All I could do was groan in pain and dismay as the beast’s gigantic maw opened in preparation to devour me. However, it appeared that luck was on my side that night, for just as I felt the razor-sharp fangs touch my head, the Muaka suddenly bellowed in rage and swung itself upwards. Through a red haze of agony I made out a party of armoured figures like myself mounting a valiant assault on the creature, driving it back with a hail of arrows and spears. As the huge cat fled back into the underbrush, I finally lost myself to the blissful sleep of unconsciousness.

I awoke to the sound of voices. At first it was just a low murmur in the back of my head, but it steadily grew louder and clearer, along with a razor-sharp stabbing sensation in the base of my skull. A moan of pain escaped my lips as I lifted my head up from where it was resting on my chest. Cracking open sleep-crusted eyes, I took in my surroundings.
My back was still propped up against the same tree that had nearly killed me, though I had been wrapped in enough bandages to make movement nigh-impossible. Directly in front of me burned a small campfire, just enough to illuminate the immediate area, including the now quite recognizable group of figures who had rescued me from the Muaka. As they turned to face me all I could do was try to hide my face in shame.
The tallest among them, a lanky, black armoured young male, stalked around the campfire and glared down at me. His normally cold blue eyes blazed with an unnatural fury, which was only accentuated by the slanted eye slits of his mask. In a voice colder than ice, Sitaro, My commanding officer, spoke:
“That’s my name.”
“Quit with the jokes for once, I don’t need to hear it,” he responded. “What I do need to hear is why you’re sneaking out of camp without permission and why you’re in the gods-forsaken stretch of the woods this late at night! This is a scouting mission, not a vacation, do you understand! I’m fairly certain that I gave very clear orders to not leave the camp without authorization.” Sitaro paused, took a deep breath to calm himself, and continued. “Kopere, just stop already, you aren’t going to find Alva.”
Now that was a crossing a big, fat line there. With mounting rage, I tried to respond as calmly as possible.
“You. Don’t. Know. That.”
“Kopere, stop lying. We all saw the cult take her. She’s dead now.
My anger with Sitaro made me reckless: “You don’t know that!” I screamed. “She’s not! She’s still out here!”
His taloned gloves came down like vices on my shoulders. “Look, I know that it hit you hard to lose her. It did for all of us, especially me. Now stop this now. We need to get you back to camp, and you’d better stay there, got it?”
I saw that there was no point in arguing the point any further, and so reluctantly let myself be hoisted into the air and ferried back to our ramshackle outpost. But through the entire journey I kept replaying a single scene in my mind:
Thousands of dark spirits swirl around Alva, drawing her deeper into the vortex. I reach out my hand and try to grab her, but in that instant, she pulls away from me, purposely diving deeper into the mass of shadow. The last I see of Alva is her face, with a grim smile on it that says one thing:
I know.

It had been been several weeks since my ordeal. I was fully recovered thanks to the healing abilities of Mizaro, our medic, but still confined to the limited area of the medical shack. I guess Sitaro didn’t want to take any chances with me, but it didn’t matter what he tried to stop me. When I was sure that no one else was around except for me and the medic I took a spare rope from a shelf and sneaked up behind Mizaro, quickly wrapping it around his throat. Without a sound, his body fell limp to the ground, not dead, but not waking up anytime soon either.
Grabbing as many supplies as I could carry, I set off through the underbrush. They would notice I was gone, yes they would, but it would be too late, and authority could be darned to Karzahni for all I cared. I had never told anyone my true motivations, but now I was more desperate to find Alva than ever before.
Before she found me.