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The Ruins of Terran

Ruins, the forest and its magic.

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a part of The Ruins of Terran, by MercyKilling.

Central to the Ruin.

RolePlayGateway holds sovereignty over Ruins, the forest and its magic., giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Setting

Including the ruins, new and old forest, hills, turrets, burial mounds and luna calendar/temples.
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Ruins, the forest and its magic.

Central to the Ruin.

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Ruins, the forest and its magic. is a part of The Ruins of Terran.


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#, as written by echored
Ulva was quick to take her seat as Mr. Thatcher waved his hand towards their chairs. The table was elegant, the while tablecloth a contrast to the firework of colors that made up the natural surroundings. She moved her blond hair that was in a braid to the center of her back, tucking loose strands from her face as so it wouldn’t get in the way of her meal. A waiter came up from behind her not even a few seconds later, gracefully situating a plate of gourmet food in front of her... and to the looks of it, it was clearly Russian cuisine. She looked towards the others’ to see if they had received the same course, but it appeared theirs were unique as well. They had truly given her a meal from her home, something she would be familiar with and love. She had recognized the food on her plate instantly. It was a traditional course of Pelmeni, pastry dumplings filled with meatballs. They were floating in a broth of soup, the steam rising to Ulva’s face in a welcoming sniff. To the side was a miniature bowl of morozhenoe, Russian ice cream, with nut and fruit toppings. As a drink the waiter continued to fascinate her, pouring her a tiny glass of Moskovskaya vodka. She wasn’t much of a drinker, but of course vodka made her feel right at home and she appreciated the thought. And of course she would drink it, she needed something to shake the nerves away. Ulva thanked the waiter repeatedly before he soon walked away, himself seeming flustered with all the thanks. She began to eat her meal happily, her empty stuff grateful for the substance. Meanwhile they ate, the violinist continued to play. The melody made her almost lose track of time, before she knew it those around her had already finished eating and she was licking the spoon of her ice cream.

Tom’s voice surfaced to her ear, listening as he said he would personally take them to the Ruins. Ulva nodded excitedly as she placed her spoon down, scooting out of her chair to a standing position. “Of course! Of course,” she responded, not minding at all that the owner of the grounds was giving them an exclusive trip. She partly feel guilt on making him walk, clear that he was dependent on his cane to keep him going. Ulva watched as Rea fluidly moved to his side, taking his elbow to support Thatcher as he walked. It was a kind gesture, something she would have eagerly down as well if he didn’t already have help. Anything to show her gratitude. The group was being led forward, from a path that began in the Herb Garden towards the forest line of trees that seemed to hug the clouds. Ulva could keep a hushing noise as well the moment they crossed the border that clearly defined the estate from the forest. It was a silence that could defy itself, muffling out the drones of feet shuffling from behind her. She could hear her breath, the snapping of dead twigs below her feet. The path winded around bends, fitting in with the woods born layout instead of man cutting through trees to make his own. It was a reverence that Ulva knew of all too well and appreciated, the forests in her homeland that she hikes also working with the surroundings. Currently she was wearing her brown suede hiking books, happy she made the decision to dawn them even if they clashed with the rest of her outfit. She wasn’t the one to care much for fashion anyway. Ulva watched the others in the group, their expressions of awe and intrigue matching her own. It seemed Rea had pulled out some poi, slightly spinning them, seeming to be lost in the motions. Ulva wondered what they were actually, figuring they were some form of gymnast toy but she couldn’t say for sure. She then looked over towards Demetrius, wondering what was going on in his mind, still staying somewhat quiet as he followed them on the path.

And then there it was, the tops of the Ruins coming into vision. The history in the deteriorated stonework caused Ulva to pause in her steps for a moment. She looked over her shoulder and then forward. This was a completely new world, tucked secretly away in a modern country. Surreal is the only word she could think of that would give a picture to what she was seeing. She picked up her pace a little, jogging up the slight slope of the hill until she was in the center of three large structures of rock, maybe limestone? She ran her fingers along surface of bumps and cracks, a shiver of goosebumps tickling up her spine. Tom sat himself in the center, enough room for the rest of them to join on the sheet but she was particularly wanting to sit down, so she stood where she was at, right hand still connecting with the unique structure that was defying gravity. She was fantasizing about climbing them, for she had the skills from her years of rock climbing back home in Russia. The thing was here she didn’t want to risk hurting the structure, unsure of how stable they were.

Rea had called her name, Ulva turning to meet eyes with the woman. Her eyes were alive and wild, matching the intensity that was in her own. “Amazing idea, I’m up for it,” she answered before even Rea was finished asking. She let her fingers drop from the stone, a reverberation shocking her finger tips. Ulva tensed her eyes, looking at her hands which appeared fine. That was strange, she thought to herself, wondering what she felt.. She let it pass for now though, but the strange feeling harbored in the back of her mind.

“Where to first?”

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“I think we should start at the bottom, where the oldest ruins are and then work our way up!” Her voice was a little higher than usual due to her excitement. She shifted from one foot to the other, clearly wanting to run about for the joy of the place, but restraining herself. She reached out touching the structure that Ulva had just been touching, running her fingers along a band of intricately carved bricks. Everything here needed to be smelt, touched, tasted, it was all so new and yet felt so right. She hoped from foot to foot, no longer content with the feel of grass between her feet and broke into a run, leaping high into flip over where the old man lay. She was glad to hear his laughter at her antics and landed easily on her hands, her hefty muscles stretching out to balance her as she stood there. She pivoted slowly, her smiling face turning to the others, before she lifted herself gracefully to her feet. She laughed lightly at herself, it had been a long time since she had done something like that for the sheer joy of it and she hoped that the others weren’t to off put by it.

“Very nice Rea, but your wrong, these are the oldest builds, these predate any building we have found in England, the archaeologists who came last year were baffled by it. “ He shook his head, glad to see Rea unwinding, she seemed like such an uptight young girl. Of course so did the almost silent man, stood between the two bubbling girls. He rested his head back on the rug, his back easily moulding to the earth floor beneath and pulled a hanky out of his pocket. Slowly and carefully he spear it over his face, just as he had been taught as a boy, not wanting flies to crawl on his old face and attempted to doze until Jinan arrived. Instead he opened himself up to the sound of bird song, like bright sparkling crystals in the air, so pure and clear. A slow warm breeze moved along the top of the hill, barely enough to ruffle hair, but pleasant for cooling his sun baked skin. The whole forest thrummed around him, full of wanting, full of change and for the first time he was glad of it. The place had been on pause for too long, some new blood, people living here, that would change it, keep it alive.

“Wow, these things must be old.” She paused, walking over to touch one again, a smile in her soft features “But I would like to look at the rest before everyone arrives and I’m guessing everyone will want to come soon. The rest of the Lucky Draw should have arrived by now, don’t you think?” Her voice was floaty, though not terribly pretty and conveyed the happiness of her mood all to well, adding to her slight sense of childish abandonment. She moved off down the slope, the opposite side to which they had come up, her eyes marvelling at everything. A few fallen bricks lay on the grass, obviously from the tall structures and she felt a sudden urge to pick them up and find their proper place for them. However she walked on, all to egger to see all she could before their time here was up. Her bare feet were nimble, stepping between plants that were to beautiful to tread upon and back down into the shaded woods. She paused looking back up the hill to see if anyone was following her, or if they had all decided to do their own thing. Up in the buildings she caught a glimmer of gold, in the top of the domes. She looked up again quickly, trying to catch a glimmer of it once more, but it was gone and she wondered what could have created it.

Jinan was inside one of the gates turrets, the falling down bricks stable and safe, as he looked out over the hilltop. His long tail dangled out of one of the gaps, twitching aimlessly as he waited for the prospective to go. His long form stretched out lazily and he was glad to have a it of shade, his thick pelt not suited to this warmer weather. Even in his summer coat, it was nice to get out of the sun for a bit and this was his favourite of the three standing. The stone was cool against his skin and he lazily carved into the rock, making patterns on the inside as a tribute to the gods. Half of this tower was filled with his scrawling drawings, of stories from all over the world, the gods that filled the other world and rarely visited the kingdom on the other side of the gates, let alone the gates themselves. He was glad to hear their whispers though, it gave him a better idea of the people here and the stories they would make one day, maybe stories he himself would draw in one of the domes topping the towers.

She climbed the old trees with ease, used to doing it with just about any surface and slipped up into a crook of a tree, reaching out to touch one of the higher walls in the crumbling ruins. She wondered who had lived here, what it had been like to live in such a place of beauty, her hands digging into the soft green moss that grew there. She moved to her feet, balancing perfectly as she did, her years of training making this easy work for her. She ran swiftly across the branch, giving a smooth leap and landed in one of the upper rooms of the ruins. She looked around, this place was abandoned, it was obvious people had lived here, pottery and stone masonry stood proud and tall. Things of exquisite beauty, the people here had not left, for no one would leave such things. She looked out of the window, watching for the others, already thinking of them as her friends, well the girl at least the guy had been all too quiet. True she did respect peoples need for privet space, but their was such a thing as to quiet.

“Ulva, do you want to come up?” She called down, looking about but not seeing the other woman “There are some beautiful things up here, you should…” She stopped talking suddenly, a bizarre creature tumbling lazily out of its nest at her side. It was like a bird, a finch, she thought at first, but her brain was sending out warning signs, telling her something wasn’t right. It had four sets of orange legs beneath it, with obvious opposable thumbs and atop its head were two small mouse ears, covered in fine grey feathers. It brightened up upon seeing her, cheeping away happily and returned to it’s nest, pulling out a needle and thread, the exact shade needed for her clothes and proceeded to fly towards her. She flinched back, holding up her hands, at a creature that she could have crushed in one hand. It shrilled something at her, then continued to fly over, landing on her and scrabbling about her to look for anything that might need mending. She cringed under the small creatures claws, tiny nail points reaching through the lose weave, as it went about it’s work. It talked to itself, maybe her, she couldn’t tell, while it moved over her then hopped up to her ear, sounding mournful that it had nothing to do. Settling down on her shoulder, it took a firm grip and promptly fell back to sleep.

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#, as written by echored
Ulva moved swiftly out of the way as she watched Rea break out into a run, flipping in mid-air over Thatcher and landing surprisingly on her hands a few feet from him, smiling at them all upside down. This caused Ulva to laugh cheerfully, “Whoa! That was awesome!” It was very impressing, and this further fit with Ulva’s guess that maybe this woman was a gymnast. She had to be, no one else could be so graceful and flexible. Once Rea was back on her feet and standing up, Ulva clapped like an audience member would upon witnessing a cool trick. “Bravo!” She crossed her arms over the small of her waist, swaying on the balls of her feet back and forth as she stood waiting to adventure. Her eyes landed on Mr. Thatcher who seemed more relaxed in this space than any of them. It was a part of his home after all, he would be calm, they would be over-stimulated. He began to speak about how these three structures were the oldest buildings on the property, if not in the world. Ulva wasn’t surprised by this. For one she was admittedly gullible and was quick to trust what others said, but on top of that she had seen her fair share of rock structures. It was clear that these three around her had been through many centuries of wear and deterioration, but the surreal thing was that they were stable as Tom mentioned. Maybe should could climb them later...

She paced her way closer to where Rea was standing, yet Ulva’s eyes were looking anywhere but in this space. Her icy blues jumped from tree to tree, watching as the wind danced through the leaves. The noise of the nature around was hypnotic almost, as if it was alive and reaching out to her with invisible hands, wanting her to come into the trees, away from the clearing on the hill. Maybe she was letting the whole Ruins mystery get to her head, maybe she was just imagining these things, but she felt what she felt.. Even these rock structures seemed to hum, her fingers did feel a reverberation when she had let go moments earlier. She wasn’t one to believe in genuine magic, or mystical workings of that nature, but a part of her was questioning these assumptions... what was happening around her made no rational sense. Ulva, usually the talkative one, was now finding herself more silent, allowing her ears to take charge more so than her mouth.

Rea had now took off down the slope of the hill into a shaded part of the woods. Ulva looked over at Demetrius, wondering what he was going to do. The fact that he was in a nice suit made her chuckle slightly, covering her mouth with her hand so that he wouldn’t see since she meant no harm. She was glad she didn’t have any formal wear to be tempted with. “Demetrius, I’m going to head in the same direction as Rea, see if she has found anything exciting. Feel free to follow,” she offered, waving softly at the two men of such different ages and then making her way down the same path Rea had took, though at a slower pace. Running would have been refreshing, a brisk wind of air able to cool the heat she was now engulfed in, but she preferred the quiet, passive steps. The could hear what seemed to be everything, as if her senses were enhancing 10 fold. Birds chirping from miles away made a melody that stirred loudly in her heart. The slow pace could also have been due to sheer awe she was still consumed in. If she stopped focusing on even the simplest of steps, she was bound to trip and fall on her face. The clearing’s edge was met by the growth of old foliage, the feeling of the forest being alive even more present now that she was further in the Ruins. She paused before going all in, letting her right hand press against the large trunk of a tree for support. There was a faint thumping, like a heartbeat, that she swore she felt under the bark. She ripped her hand away from the trunk, maybe it was just her own heartbeat she was hearing. She dared to put her hand back on the trunk but decided not to, her breaths shorter now in angst, excitement, and confusion.

“Rea?” she called out, but she couldn’t see where this woman had gone. Looking upwards never crossed her mind or she would have seen Rea climbing the tree. Instead, Ulva continued to walk gently forward, each step landing on a bed of leaves and twigs. She skimmed her eyes from left and right, trying to notice any sign of human movement, any sign of Rea’s long hair flickering in pockets of sunlight. But the space was empty, well.. except for... what was that? Ulva squinted her eyes, a flash of light close to the ground flickering in the far distance but soon disappearing. Subconsciously or not, Ulva felt the dire need to figure out what she had just seen. Could it have been one of the twins? A young child possibly? It was short and fast, so it couldn’t have been an adult. Why would a kid wander alone out here? Was it even human?

“There it is again!” she whispered as if someone was listening to her, eyes catching the mysterious figure weaving in and out of thick bush and overgrown grass. She turned to look over her shoulder to see if Rea or Demetrius was there but she was alone. She began to distrust her eyes, rubbing them with the back of her hands to clear her vision. Maybe whatever it was was just reflecting light from the beams of sun shining through the canopy’s top.. It could be an animal most definitely, maybe fireflies are following it? Maybe a dear? A rustle to her left made her whip her head to that direction, legs tightening as a reflex.

“Not funny, guys... can’t we just walk around as a group?” she called out louder, hoping one of the others would jump from a bush and clear up her suspicions. But no one answered and it was around this time that she saw something 20 or so feet away reappear, though she wasn’t clear what it was. Crouched low to the forest floor, it didn’t seem all quite there, as if it was translucent, reflections of the lush green glimmering through this apparition. Ulva moved forward slowly, passing by the old stone ruins and walls that was to her right, the same building Rea was in without Ulva’s knowledge. She continued passed these walls, trying to get closer to his..animal, if that was even what it was. Normally she was hesitant but something urged her on. Yet the further she walked deeper into the forest, the further the creature seemed to be farther away. She picked up her pace now, leg stretching to reach what her eyes believed she saw. She had to know, had to reach it.

Her thoughts seemed consumed by this curiosity out of her control now, even forgetting about waiting up for the others or trying to find them. And the deeper she got, the faster she began to run, feet meshing in a rhythmic melody with the ground, arms staying close to her sides as she dodged hanging groves and branches. Her breath was heavy, heart racing from the jog as well as her nerves. What am I doing, she asked herself but kept running. She could see the creature but now it was running as well. Ulva’s eyes narrowed, determined by some force that was unlike her own. Calling her. It was getting closer now, she could hear it through the leaves. A wall of heavy vines in front of her caused Ulva to break her run, but she wasn’t fast enough to completely stop, finding herself bursting through the wall of greenery- tumbling to the floor, she rolled for a few feet before she completely stopped. A small groan erupted from her throat, eyes tightly shut as she could smell dirt up close and personal in her nostrils, face planting into the ground. She wasn’t sure what came over her but she was beginning to return to herself again. “That was so... dumb,” she said aloud, twitching her fingers to make sure every part of her was functioning. When she opened her eyes, she found herself at the feet of what looked to be.. a gazebo? Of course, it was very aged and had moss growing around the top of it. The stone looked more of smooth plaster, with ceramic vases circling the pillars. (This is what Ulva is seeing, but without the blue flames or white ghost). “Oh my,” she whispered, pushing herself first to her knees, and then struggling to get back up on her two feet. In the center of the old structure was the creature. It was a wolf, its fur as green as the lush surroundings. Yellow dots of light shimmered around its body, as well making intricate designs on its face and body. Ulva was near speechless, never seeing such a creature before. It was like a spirit, and she could see partially through it to the other side, but at the same time it looked like a real wolf, its tail swaying in the wind behind him. The thing that stood out to Ulva the most was its white eyes. Why wasn’t it running from her? Did it mean to lead her.. here?

She tried to catch her breath, smoothing her hair back and rubbing her forehead to wipe some of the dirt away. Her cream sweater now dawned grass stains. The natural heat from the area wasn’t helping her. The creature gazed at her intently, silent and poised. Her mind was screaming at her to turn and run back, find the others, get out of here.. but her body moved forward towards the animal, beckoning her. She pushed herself up onto the platform of the gazebo, now about three feet off the forest floor. Only 5 feet separated the two. Ulva got down to her knees to be on a closer level. Her body ached from the run and fall, and any normal person would see a red danger flag that maybe it wasn’t alright to be so close to a wolf... but Ulva was oddly feeling safe, as if this was right. “What are you?” she whispered, but there was no response, the creature continuing to stare at her with those beady white eyes, as if reading her, judging her, choosing her.

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Demetrius caught the sight of Rea leaping over Thomas out of the corner of his eye and he turned a little to watch her land on her hands with the ease of years of practice. His eyebrows jumped a little on his face, he was genuinely surprised by her antics. He wasn't exactly an expert but he guessed that she could perform some near-olympic standard gymnastics should she choose to, she definitely had the physique. Yet, amusing as this trick was, he felt his attention being dragged immediately back to the ancient buildings around him, though not before giving a few gentle claps of his hands. It was impressive after all, no matter where they were. He heard Thomas telling them that these predated any other buildings in England and his awe grew. It occured to him that the man could be bending the truth but he didn't think Mr. Thatcher was that kind of person. And even if he was, the fact still felt... Right. Somehow everything here just felt so right. Every sound, every sight, every smell, the feel of the rock, nothing felt out of place, nothing felt disturbed or incomplete. He couldn't explain it and he didn't want to. He was happy enough just being there, maybe he could try to capture the feeling later, while he was inside and gazing out at the forest.

As he made his way slowly around the building he was next to he noticed Ulva trying to suppress a laugh after looking in his direction but he didn't mind. Nothing could bring him down now. He shot her smile and turned back to his main focus here. Again he heard, but barely acknowledged, a voice nearby. It was Ulva telling him she was going to take off after Rea, who he hadn't even noticed leave, and he nodded slowly. "Sure, I'll be right down..." He spoke in a slow voice, as though he were sleepwalking. After a few seconds more of just staring up at the old structure, he turned and saw that Ulva had gone off on her travels. Perhaps he'd been more than just a few seconds, the clearing wasn't exactly tiny and he could have sworn he only looked up briefly. Not to worry he thought. I can see what they find later. And with that he made his way around until he found an arched doorway to give him entry to the timeless stone column.

Inside was something out of dream to the novelist. The stairs ran around one side of the circular room up to another floor. The occaasional missing piece of stone let the stunning sunshine through in blazing beams of light. The corners were doused in shadows, the walls covered in carvings, the floor worn by millenia of footsteps. There was no hanging about this time. Whatever trance this palce had cast over him was either gone or changed and he set off at a quick pace to the stairs, removing his suit jacket and letting it drift to the floor as he did. The puff of dust sent up by the falling fabric was caught as it danced about in a sliver of sun. Had he looked back, he may have seen the shining particles draw together and, for just a moment, make the shape of a wolf before dissolving into random motion. But he didn't look back. He was driven by something new now, a fresh idea, a different perspective. No longer was the tower he started to climb his priority. It was what lay at the top.

He started up the steps, feet slapping on stone in quick succession being the only sound to fill his ears. Then he took them two at a time and started to run, footsteps becoming the sound of drums, breathing becoming the accompanying rythm. He reached the first floor and didn't stop. Didn't so much as look at the drawings in the stone or the ancient creations; pots, statues, various instruments. He only kept running, getting faster as he took the next flight of stairs. His breathing became heavier and he reached his hands to his neck as he ran to remove his tie, which followed the same fate as the jacket as he reached the next set of steps.

By the fourth floor, his breathing was ragged and coming in rasps but still he didn't stop. His frantic tugging at the tie had forced the top button of his shirt to pop off, landing with a tiny clang in a polished metal dish, leaving his shirt hanging open at the top. Some of his hair had pulled itself free of it's ponytail and clung to his shoulders and head as he ran. By the time Demetrius cleared the final flight of stairs he could barely breathe and the thought crossed his mind; I need to get out more. True, he was far from the healthiest person to grace the land but that didn't matter as he made his way to what appeared to be a window. It stood half way up the wall, was nearly four feet tall and arched at the top. He fell forward and his hands caught the bottom windowsill to support his weight and prevent his fall. He simply leant there, panting heavily with sweat begining to break out on his forehead, staring out. The sun cast it's viscious glare from behind and the shadow of the building fell away in front of him, stopping just short of the forest. He followed it's trail with his eyes, seeing the tops of the trees, mostly still, stretch away to meet the blue sky. Every now and then he would notice movement in the canopy. Sometimes just a rustle of leaves, sometimes a bird would fly out, sometimes a shape he did not recognise would appear for just a moment before sinking back to the forest floor... And he leant there, trying to catch his breath, simply staring out with an absent smile on his now very red face.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Just outside the clearing, and out of sight of the window from which Demetrius would soon be peering out, stood Nuram. He held himself as still as the trees he used to block the view of himself as he watched the humans go about their activities with contempt but milid interest. It seemed they were not as closed-minded as he had come to believe. It was clear to him that the effect the ruins and it's forest had on all who dwelt within it had passed on to them aswell. So, the power speaks to all... He spoke within his own mind, thinking, planning, scheming. Then he spoke aloud, no greater a sound than the breeze passing through the branches, "Then perhaps you humans may be of use to me yet." And with that he grinned, showing again his pointed teeth, before moving off deeper into the forest as he saw one of the visitors heading his way.

Not long later another made it's way in, having spotted something moving amongst the shadows. What it was he couldn't be sure. This place was his home and he saw almost everything that passed by him as what it was; his daily life. But the human was captivated and ran across the forest floor, dodging roots and low-hanging braches in the clumsy way that only those who have grown to rely on their own-made devices can. And the Girtablilu gave chase. He ran at a mild pace, nowhere near flat out, and kept his distance just in case the human ahead stopped and turned. He followed more on sound than sight, listening to the heavy, undignified footfalls of the person ahead who thought there was only one chase going on here. For such a large creature he was surprisingly lithe and graceful, never needing to brush aside wildlife as he twisted and turned midstep on his way deeper into the trees he knew so well.

When the female fell, Nuram too stopped and looked ahead through a tiny gap in the leaves to see what she had been following. Yes, of course. Curiosity would most certainly get the better of her with this beast. It had even claimed the interest of himself upon arrival all those years ago. It had been the first ethereal being he had come across and it had fascinated him. Unfortunately, the appeal had been lost since meeting Nim. Anything that held an aura of semi-reality was instantly dismissed now as an annoyance. It was unfortunate because despite his appearances Nuram was once an appreciator of the natural world and all that lay in it. But the past few centuries had twisted him and all that mattered now was the voice of the ruins.

Qutie a way behind Ulva, beyond many trees, deep in a patch of darkness cast by the overcrossing branches above, sat two thin slits of violet watching her from afar.

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Sasha nodded silently to Madalene’s request, she would treat them both as best she could, but if either of them tried to take her or her sister’s picture, she would snap their fingers. On her face was a mask of calm, her eyes kept on her sister, wanting to get back to the other half of her life. She shivered in silently at the disgusting mans remarks, jailbait he called them, he wouldn’t dare say a word if he knew half of the strength the two twins possessed. Her hair flickered bright yellow gold, as she passed through a sun beam, returning to its pale yellow as she passed into the shade once more. Her teeth clicked as she mashed them together, but she knew she was the better choice at stopping these two entering the forest, her sister far better at chasing those who did not wish to be seen. She sighed rolling her shoulders as yet another exclamation was made over the two of them. The twins had grown up in an isolated world, taught all their lessons by Thomas and never attending school or meeting many other children, other than those who came with parents to study the ruins. As a result they did not think being twins were that interesting, only that some people were and others weren’t, after all their family treated them just the same.

“Hmm, I will ask Sasha.” She spoke to Elise, her smile staying firmly put on her face. “But it’s maybe not best now, as we will be showing you to the forest in a few short minutes with everyone arriving.” She glanced at her sister, her hair was whipping about her hips, a sure sign that she was unhappy. Jumping off the ledge she smiled happily at Elise, taking her hand softly and giving it a tug, she really did want her twin to like this girl, to show her that not all people outside the walls were horrible dirty people as they had been lead to believe. Zosia rarely touched anyone but her sister and was very shocked when she found the other girls hand so much bigger than her own. It wasn’t that they weren’t both aware that they were small for their age, standing at about 5ft tall, but it had never occurred to her that, not only might other people be taller than them, but much bigger. She smiled sheepishly, aware she had paused mid step and began moving once more, marveling at the different textures and lines the other girl had.

Shasha moved forward past her twin, welcoming the man the other Lucky Draw had seen, welcoming but not her sister. She was off her game too excited by the other guests. Behind Ezreal’s entrance same the spin of tires on the gravel once more, the gates closing behind a slick black car. She paused in her almost welcome to him, moving back to her sisters side and taking her hand in her own, their palms fitting together like two pieces of a puzzle. She smiled, leaning into her sister, uncaring of the fact that in Zosia’s other hand was one of the guests, as soon as they were all their she would drop them. Another man came out of the car, looking a little shaken and introduced himself. They smiled at one another, the left twin surely dropping the guests hand and moving back in perfect unison, as was often their trait when doing something quite so official.

“Welcome everyone, I think that this is pretty much it for this group.” They paused, speaking in unison, though they had not practiced, they had just always been together and it came oh so naturally to them. “Time for introductions, our names are Sasha and Zosia, we have lived here all our lives and we are very excited to be showing guests around, keeping you happy and in a few short moments, taking you up to the Ruins. To our left we have Miss Madalene she is a reporter of high caliber and we are proud to have her with us as a guest, rather than a reporter today. Then we have a reporter.” Both their voices dropped at this, the twins hating reporters. “We believe he is called Seamus he will at no point be showing you around, nor should he be taking any pictures of you. If you feel uncomfortable and he takes any pictures you have not given permission for, please inform us and we will gladly escort him from the property.” At this point they both smiled sweetly at him, their eyes fixed only on him, heads tilted to the exact same point together. They moved a step towards him, hands clasped around one another’s, then rocked back, once more looking around the group.

“Then this fine gentleman is Ezreal, he is a well known Wildlife Biologist, we think he will find the things here particularly interesting. I’m sure he will be happy to answer any of your questions about the wildlife around here, though I will be surprised if you feel the need at all. Next we have Nathan.” They blinked together, moving a little more into one another’s space, unsure as to whether they should talk about why he was chosen and decided they didn’t need to, leaving his introduction as that.

“Last but by no means least is Elise, she is an artist, a painter to be exact and we have been informed that she is of the greatest calibre.” They stopped in their introduction, motioning for everyone to follow as they entered the bar area. “If you could please leave your bags here, someone will carry them to your allotted rooms. For those of you who wish to wash and clean, you will have to wait till the next tour, which we believe is after dinner. Otherwise I know everyone is anxious to get there, there are a few people already out there, we may run into them, though I expect they will want to come back and rest, we understand you have all travelled a very long way.” They paused letting those who were coming leave their bags and prepared to hail another of the help for those who would wait here till the evening. Then with cool calm motions, moving out to either side of the group, she started leading them out through the herb garden. Zosia waved at little Nim, sitting their patiently, though knowing she would look like she was waving at nothing. She wondered f the little creature would join them in their venture, flitting about their shoulders just like she had when they were little. Both the twins dearly loved riddles, though Sasha had always been the best at them. They crossed the perfect lawn and entered the forest at the path, shoulders relaxed and heads forward.

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“Ulva?” She called again, seeing the woman pass her window, leaning against it leisurely, as the new little creature slept upon her shoulder. It stirred, opening its small black eyes at her, tweeting harmlessly and watched her with the an intensity she had not felt for a good long while. Slowly it stood while she watched, straining her neck somewhat and pattered down her arm, its small feet tickling her skin. She wondered if the little thing had lived here for a while, she supposed so, since something like it she had never seen in the whole world. He father would have dearly loved the little bird, it’s miniscule hands so nimble and it’s little face so full of character. It moved nimbly over to it’s nest as she watched and she laughed as it ducked in briefly, before starting to tug the thing over to her, it’s tiny body struggling with the obviously heavy creation. As she looked closer, she noticed that it was not made of twigs as she had first thought, but threads intricately bound together. What an odd little bird it surely was, it started twittering away to her and she soon got the picture, this goes in your back nest, her bag. It rather was looking like she had made a friend and she nodded, slinging her backpack from one shoulder and picking up the heavy little nest. The creature clambered quickly back onto her shoulder as she started to climb out of the window.

“Now where has Ulva gone to little friend?” She asked, more to ask anyone than expecting a reply. Tilting its head it twittered away at her, its shrill voice somehow calming in her ear. “No, I didn’t think you knew. Shall we go find her?” She tilted her head at the little creature and it tilted its own in reply. Nodding to herself she set off at a gentle jog, Ulva had moved pretty quickly when she had gone past, she wondered how far she had gone. Her feet sank noisily into the leaf matter, but it was soft and did not hurt her feet, so she was grateful. When she came to a small brook, trickling almost silver in the light, she leapt high, causing her passenger to peep, her hands finding a strong branch easily and swung over the water. The path was high and covered in brown dust from the earth, she ran along it, her head high as she attempted to find her friend. She paused, around the edges of the ruin, hands swinging up to reach a tree, climbing higher to see better. The little bird chattered away the whole time.

“Ulva, where are you?” She called out into the woods “Are you ok?” She was sure she was close to the other woman, but she couldn’t see her. She was worried, the other girl didn’t seem the type to run off without telling anyone, she had her head on strait. She shook her hands, this tree was hot, it’s branches almost burning her skin, yet beneath her feet it was fine. She looked down at them puzzles, she hadn’t been climbing nearly enough for her hands to burn this much. The little bird came down from her shoulder and settled in her cupped hands like they were the most comfortable place on earth. For a moment she thought she saw an echo of red flicker at her fingertips, like flames surrounding the small creature. It seemed unfazed and she quickly dismissed it as the sun talking, she had been out in the sun a lot today. It’s little beak pecked at her fingertips, as though checking it was safe, then snuggled down into her warm palms. She sat for quite some time, watching the bird as the wind blew through the trees past her, hissing softly against her skin and tossing about her tied hair. The sweet smell of flowers filled the air and she guessed their was a clearing near by, or had she travelled so far as to be near the house again, she didn’t know really. Her breath was shallow and for the first time, she wondered what she had gotten herself into, where was she really?

***************************************************************

Jinan stood quickly, hearing someone enter the bottom of the tower he lazed in, his ears flattening back against his skull. It was too soon for any of them to be found, though he supposed the boy might not see him yet, they hadn’t really been exposed to the ruins for long. He slunk back into the darkest part of the structure, where he was least likely to be seen. His long tail coiled around the edge of the room, it’s supple tip twitching in a shaft of light. He had to admit he was nervous to meet one of the new people, watching them was fine, but he had been alone for so long and other than the other guardians and Thomas, it was likely to stay that way. He put a push into his aura, making him more visible and slowly moved out of the shadows as the sound of feet came closer. His hair glittered like gold in the sun and he stood high on four feet, tail swirling up a plume of dust that shimmered in the air. The footsteps were close now, sending a shiver down his spine, his hairs standing up lightly all over his body, though in an unthreatening manner.

“Hello.” He spoke softly as the man burst through the empty doorway, proceeding to the window without so much as glancing around the room. His fur bristled, he was nervous and had never in truth conversed with a modern human, rather than one who understood his world a little more. He creped closer on all fours, the pads of his feet making no sound as his tail lifted off the ground, gaining him a little extra balance. He knew that it was likely the man would see him even this first time, as the Ruin’s had chosen him and for that he would be special, a little more in tune he supposed, though it might not quite be that way. He looked over the clothes he wore, smart, very smart, though a little dishevelled around the edges. If one of the ‘coudre des oiseaux’ had seen his torn buttons they would have been in heaven, but he hadn’t seen one of the four legged birds in 300 years, he supposed they had all gone when the last of the humans had died.

“Please excuse me, but are you ok?” He asked noting the heavy breathing of the man before him, still slightly perplexed as to why he hadn’t noticed Jinan “Can I help you guest of Thomas and these ruins?” He asked, reaching out to the side of the building, pulling himself up onto just the two feet, like the humans stood, his 3 meter long tail wrapping around some of the old bricks, doing little to support him but much to comfort him. He wobbled slightly on two legs, his body more designed for all four, though it was quite possible for him to walk on just the two as he often did while guarding the gates. He reached out his spare forepaw, touching the mans shoulder and looking at him with his deep aqua eyes, bent down t the mans own height. He took a deep breath, scenting him and wondered how he would react.

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Iris didn’t know any of the others and did not asked their names when they all gathered in the Herb Garden. The first Lucky Draw to arrive was a beautiful girl which had the features of a pixie when it came to her face and the body of a warrior, full of lean muscles. Her appearance was somewhat intimidating when she stood still, but Iris seen her true essence when she tenderly helped Mr. Thatcher to stand. The next Lucky Draw had a nice northern look with her golden hair in a braid and arctic blue eyes and the two of them seemed to be friends or at least compatible in spirit because their movement and gestures were in harmony when looked upon. Iris always felt the people around her through the way their body moved, discovering traits of their personality or spiritual background of which they weren’t sometimes aware themselves and she often based her knowledge of others on this unique trait. The last one to come with the group was a quiet man that had an aura of mystery around him although it seemed that all he wanted to do is to merge with the scenery unobserved. Out of all the rest he was the only one with an intellectual, bookish air around him. Iris smiled to each of them when they entered and said nothing, waiting for Mr. Thatcher to lead the way after he welcomed the three. She wanted to get to know the singer a little better first, she was the one mostly drawn too as she had music in her blood.

On the way to the Ruins the young dancer forgot about her job and just moved along with the others, looking at everything in awe. When she arrived, she stopped to smell a strange flower that grew from a bush slightly resembling a cauliflower in shades of electric mauve and pink and was curious if this was the main meal of any fantastical creature. Her imagination drifted away from the mythical flora to the dream-like fauna she thought they would find on this trip. Then Iris imagined how such a creature would move, jump or hunt and soon enough her arms stretched beyond her head, her hands twisting harmoniously like a spiral, then moving slowly sideways on the line of the hips and up again. Her long legs moved in swift little jumps, her waistline bending slightly within the rhythm. She wore light sandals that allowed her full freedom. Her dance resembled the Bolero to some extent, just more vividly and it was interesting to watch how the hawaiian outfit matched the latino dance so perfectly.
One by one, each of the guests left the green center to discover the Ruins and its surroundings, mesmerized. The singer was also somewhere, yet to arrive. Only Thomas Thatcher was around, almost dozing off and listening to the songs of the forest on which Iris danced to. She was entertaining the forest, the flowers and the grass, the blue sky above her and the warm summer breeze, the piercing rays of light, feeling her mind, body and spirit as one, yet unleashed from one another.

She stood on her tiptoes and was ready to come back on the ground when her vision clouded and her blue eyes changed into a milky white color. Instead of going back on the warm grass, her feet moved up a few centimeters off the ground, leaving Iris in a state of levitation. Her head tilted backwards a bit and her lips opened slightly, breathing slowly. A woman was standing in front of her, the light in her eyes reflecting the waves of the ocean like a magic orb. White hair that shines in the light of day as if stars had been snared in her tresses, white pale skin on her voluptuous, statuesque body. Her voice as enchanting as the wind through the leaves:

“Fear not young one, for you are here bound by the laws of the universe, musica universalis. You know them by heart as it is the heart in which they dwell, echoing from the spirit through your physical shell, connecting one with all. I called on to you earlier than ordained because the spheres have caught the signal. A most disharmonious wave that threatens and corrupts leaving only dissonance in the core of all beings took shape here on Earth. The cosmos is hymning the praises of its creator, yet this planet disrupts the prayer since birth. Fear not your companions, unite with them in spirit and fulfill your missions as a whole. Learn from them the Pythagorean tuning for you will use it when the time arrives, before we meet again. “
She closed her eyes, humming a soft little tune, her voice echoed throughout the meadow and the trees, deep into the forest. A chorus spoke dimly in tune with her song:

"What of mankind's could be worth seeing?"
our voices have echoed like bells through the clouds
"Only true faith and God's Will we seek."


The voices turned heavy like a swift summer rain:

But then he looked down with fiery eyes
"Look for yourselves and judge what you may"
That's when we saw them, he was telling no lies
Wild and vivid as the strong birds of prey,
Fair and graceful like flowers in bloom
Were the daughters of men by the light of the moon.
Then the Children of Heaven fell into silence
As their strong hearts were stricken with awe.”


The voices changed once again, this time like thunder:

Alone he stepped forward with pride and desire
" My brothers, don't judge me, for I want to go"
So the others decided and said in one voice
"We'll fly down to Earth where everything dies
To seek beautiful daughters and make them our wives."
The night sky was filled with colorful lights
As two hundred Watchers rushed down inflamed,
Their hearts full of passion, their spirits untamed.

“Be careful of the Morning Star, beloved Iris”, the Muse continued, her image getting foggier until there was nothing left.
Iris opened her eyes, the vision lasted but mere moments. Her body was back on the ground and she felt that her conscience just skipped a beat, entering an alpha-like state. The things which were revelead to her still lingered to her mind like morning dew on a flower. Hoping that no one had seen the little phenomenon, she searched around for someone to talk to, just petty, daily life things to brush off the feeling of insecurity that dwelled inside. Maybe even make proper introductions with the singer while exploring the Ruins together, if she could only find her .
She would ponder on everything in due time, recalling over and over the details of the vision in her mind.

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#, as written by echored
The strange wolf, spirit wolf she assumed, moved from its sitting position to standing on all four of its legs. Ulva gulped, trying to settle some of the nerves that were bubbling to the surface. She had just ran after an animal that could harm her and her disregard of this common knowledge perplexed her. This wasn’t natural... this wasn’t real.. was it? She began to scoot further away from the wolf until she was at the edge of the stone platform. The area around the two was silent, the sun seeming to shine directly on the structure and shade everything else around. The winds were gentle, whipping some of her hair softly behind her back. The wolf’s green pelt of... well, whatever it was, seemed to move in the wind as well, the natural elements having some form of interaction with the creature even if ethereal. The two sat there quietly, eyeing each other without making a noise. The balls of yellow light that twinkled around the wold fascinated Ulva beyond belief. The connection was broke off when the wolf looked up towards the ceiling of the gazebo, sniffing in the air. Its head afterwards immediately looked down again, but its eyes parted from Ulva and instead seemed to gaze at something beyond her. Indeed, the wolf could smell Nuram now, sense him somewhere in the area. He had a particular smell that wasn’t all too pleasant, at least to this wolf. The wolf’s white eyes narrowed, lids creating slits in his face, peering into the darkness that to any human would be impossible to see through. And there the massive guardian was, sitting and gazing, watching. The wolf looked away from Nuram once he was able to place a face to the scent he caught, his attention once more on Ulva.

Ulva looked over her shoulder to try and see what had caused the wolf to look past her, but her eyes were of average strength, too weak to see past the gleams of golden light that engulfed this tiny clearing. Part of her was more worried, wondering if there were other wolves that followed this one before her. What if he was sniffing out a friend? Or enemy? Her fingers pressed against the flooring of the gazebo, knuckles feeling the texture as if to keep her down to earth, remind her this wasn’t a dream.

“What is it? What do you want?” she asked hopelessly, dropping her head down. It was futile, pointless to be asking any questions to this creature. Ulva sighed- this wasn’t going anywhere and the group could be searching for her for all she knew. How far did she run anyway? It felt like forever but it couldn’t have been more than a mile from the hill she last saw Thatcher on. “You are one, interesting little wolf, you are,” she said as she met it’s gaze once more, a faint smile on her lips. She was about to stand herself up when the wolf took a step forward. She froze, watching as the gap between the two grew smaller and smaller. She assumed the wolf meant no harm but she could have been terribly wrong. Then to Ulva’s shock it leaped at her. Ulva’s arms went up as a shield, ready to embrace the impact, but her arms felt nothing as it went upon her, through her. The strange force caused Ulva to loose her balance, arms shaking at her sides as she fell off the platform’s edge to the forest floor again, falling 3 feet to the ground. The wolf had jumped right through her, landing several feet away near some trees, its poise more elegant than a statue. Ulva on the other hand landed to the ground with a thud, vision blurry as she looked over to the wolf who now appeared like green haze through her clouded eyes. She reached out for the creature with a weak arm, been then retracted her arm so that she could hug herself. Inside she was feeling very strange, as if the green spirit did something to her when it traveled through her body. She was a solid wall but yet the wolf moved so effortlessly through the whole of herself.

Ulva began to cough, her body overwhelmed by chills now even though she was surrounded by the forest’s warm sauna. Her eyes pinched shut, her body close to the plaster’s perimeter. She was done with falling despite acknowledging how clumsy she was. Two times within less than 10 minutes didn’t seem fair. Especially this one for now she was feeling sick inside. Maybe she hit her head too hard. Surely the feeling would fade quickly seeing as how the wolf was away from her. Ulva attempted to open her eyes again, hoping that her vision would be back to normal. And it was, she could see the tiny details of the forest floor and the greenery that shown through the body of the spirit wolf. But then it began to walk away from her, as it turned giving Ulva one final look before picking up speed and dashing off in the opposite direction as Nuram. Ulva watched the wolf until it soon disappeared.

“Wa...wait!!” she pleaded, not wanting to be left alone in the state she was in. Ulva attempted to lean herself against the architecture of the gazebo, arms struggling to move her body, fingers digging into the dirt. The feeling wasn’t going away, she was only feeling the foreign effects stronger. Her body felt heavy, her heart was racing. What did it do to me? she thought to herself in a panicked tone, confused and in a daze- wishing she never had ran off from the group.. wishing she was still at the clearing with Thatcher. Her right hand moved in what seemed to be slow motion to her forehead, gripping cold skin that felt unnatural. It took a few moment for her to realize it wasn’t skin at all she had felt, but hair. A loud yelp escaped her throat, scrambling to her feet despite the pain she was feeling in her entire body, traveling from her back to the legs. It was a pinching and pulling experience, knees pleading for her to get back down again. Both hands were now feeling her face as tiny pieces of hair began to permeate through pores in her skin. “What the fuck,” she swore, which was completely unlike Ulva but in this case she didn’t falter in her words. She had to find something reflective but of course there wasn’t going to be a mirror here in the forest. Knife! Ulva had her father’s knife in her back pocket of her shorts. She whipped it out, pulling the exposed blade from its case and holding it in front of her face. The slit of mirror caught her blue eyes, but around them was indeed white fur. She dropped the blade to the ground in shock, letting herself sit back down in a pile of weeds. Her breath was heavy and she was beginning to feel light headed. This is crazy... maybe I am having illusions, she insisted, picking up the fallen knife and daring to look at her reflection again. But her pale white skin was gone, fur everywhere, now beginning to grow off of her neck. Her lips faded black, losing their pink tones. She managed to slide the blade back into its case before completely losing it, tears forming at her eyes but absorbed quickly by fur.

“No.. no, no, no,” she cried out, rubbing her face. ”I am human, I am human, she chanted to herself, not wanting to lose sight of what was going on. But her reassurings weren’t working, and she soon became too overwhelmed, passing out with her blade in hand, head landing against the dirt below her. While in this state, the fur on her face retracted back in, lips returning to their natural pink state. Once more she looked like herself, but the mark of the spirit wolf was still tainted to her soul.

She woke up a few minutes later, her body feeling the warm again, chills now gone. She pulled the blade out of its case to look at her face again, and sure enough she was back to normal. “No one is going to believe me.. I don’t even believe me,” she whispered to herself, putting the knife away and back into her pocket. Ulva pulled herself up, patting her face to make sure she could only feel skin. A sigh of relief escaped and she sat on the gazebo’s platform once more, looking blankly in front of her. Sure, she had enough to keep her mind reeling for hours, but all she could manage was a blanket stare, eyes shaky with fear that she might be losing control over her body. She knew the wolf changed her, but would that happen again? Time would only tell. Being back to her normal self should have made her feel relieved but now she could only wonder if something might trigger it again.

Where is everyone?” she mumbled, her breath was heavy from panic but she was too weak to walk anywhere. She decided it would be best to sit in this clearing, safe from the shadows that surrounded her.

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"Huh?" Demetrius looked around at the sound of a question, he hadn't seen anyone else come in here first and he was sure that they were the first group in here. And he was right, it wasn't another person, it was... Something else.
His muscles, what little of them there were, instantly stiffened up and he pushed himself back against the wall with a startled twitch that sent his glasses sliding down his nose, damp as it was with sweat. They stayed on and he gazed through them with wide eyes that were open in a perfect circle of surprise. He looked over the cat-like creature in front of him. He wasn't an animal expert but even if he was he would have seen and thought that it was far too large to be a wild cat, as well as the wrong colours and build. However he wasn't thinking, he was in the clutches of the most basic of human emotions; fear. He was terrified to the point that he could not move. He could not think. He could not speak. He could barely even breathe, despite the deep panting he had been in the midst of after running through the room, somehow missing the sight of the golden feline he now shared the tower with.

As his inital shock started to subside and some strained thoughts worked their way into his mind he remembered thinking that he'd heard a voice, a human voice, ask him a question. Then it spoke again. It was coming from the giant, graceful creature that had now stood up on two legs to bring itself to a height that dwarfed him and made his heart beat even faster. If it had been working hard during his run then it was beating like a hummingbird's wings now. Can I help you? That's not right, that's a CAT, why is it talking to me? Why is it talking at all? This is a dream, oh dear God, please tell me this a dream he thought as his strange, inhuman room-mate leaned down and placed a massive paw on his shoulder. He tried to protest, or say anything at all, but all that he could manage at first was a few choked clicking sounds from deep in his throat. Then he heard an inhale of breath and thoughts began racing again.

Oh Jesus, no, it's smelt me, it's going to eat me, it knows I'm food. His chest felt tight and he could hear his blood pounding in his veins like a tribal drum. He started shaking and felt his hands, through no will of his own, claw at the wall he had pressed himself against. For what, he didn't know. He could find a gun back there and it would do him no good as far as he was concerned. Every hair on his body was standing on end, his heart was pumping faster than it ever had before, his eyes darted from one corner of the room to the other but always returned to the view directly in front of him, yet still he couldn't move. It was as though his feet were rooted to the ground and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't move them. "Ww-whhh..." he muttered shakily, trying to speak. "Buhh, Chur... Wwwh... Wh-Wha... What?" It came out as no more than a squeak that sounded tiny and pathetic to his own ears.

The feeling that everything would be OK, that the forest was a sensuous, relaxing paradise had left, leaving in it's place a dark and growing feeling of dread. That was, until he realised at last, that he wasn't dead yet. And he had been spoken to. And by something he could never have dreamt up that seemed to know Thomas... It knows Thomas, it won't hurt me... Will it? He didn't know and he wasn't to risk the answer changing because of him uttering something stupid. "Y-You know T-T-Thomas?" He was still shaking visibly and his voice had not dropped from it's outrageously high tone but at least he had regained the ability to speak coherently. Maybe he'd even have enough air in his lungs to scream for help then dive for the stairs. Although he didn't think he would, didn't think he could, he was still rooted to the floor. Yet feeling started to flow back into his extremities and his hands started moving as he wanted them to, even if he didn't know to do with them. What he did do may have been a suicidal move in his mind but he needed to make sure that this was no dream, despite the heat of breath on his face and the weight of the paw on his shoulder. He reached up and placed a hand gently on the leg that was raised and resting on his own arm. As he did, he looked back into those huge eyes of ocean blue and felt the warmth of the forest's appeal settle at the back of his mind. It wasn't much but it was enough to slow the uncontrollable skaking in his limbs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Deeper in the forest there was another meeting of man and beast, observed by a guardian... And frowned upon. The humans had been in this sacred place no longer than a few minutes and already they were abusing the privaledge of witnessing the power that ran so deep here. It sent shivers down Nuram's spine that reached right to the tip of his tail. He watched with displeasure as the spirit wolf caught sight of him and the woman, pitiful to watch, tried to find the same target with no success. And he watched as the wolf sprung itself into the air, as graceful as he had ever seen it, and he watched as it seemed to pass through it's target. He also watched with his mind, as well as his eyes, he sensed the transfer of life from one the the other. He grinned, almost grudgingly. Yes, he hated the idea of the undeserving being gifted. But with great power comes great responsibilty, something he knew as well as either of the other guardians, and he knew something else too.

"A wolf will not stop at it's first taste of blood, human." He spoke quietly, though there was no chance of being overheard, even from the other of her kind he heard approaching. "We shall yet see if you can fight the craving for power." The words were aimed at the tumbling soft-skin yet there was no one close enough to hear him or fathom his words. Nor his next, which were the last he ever expected to speak. "I look forward to meeting you, human."
And with that he turned and ran off into the forest to circle back to the clearing, claws kept firmly together in front of him to keep from damaging the surroundings, and let his eyes pry on what other events may be unfolding in what was proving to be a VERY interesting turn of events.

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Jinan watched the poor creature start to panic, it’s body temperature sky rocketing, letting his nose quite easily pick up the scent of terror. He feared for the little creature, breathing so quickly wasn’t good, Jinan could practically taste the mans heartbeat oh his tongue. His own hair flattened in an attempt to seem some what smaller and less threatening, crouching a little on his powerful legs, muscles protesting at such treatment. His ears flickered, listening to many things at once, one ear on the man the other on the forest. His fur bristled, more people were coming, he snuffed out a breath, not wanting to have more come while this one was panicking, it would only cause things to escalate. Plunking down on his hind legs he sat, his tail twisting around his feet, it’s long length sinuous and full of strength. He listened to the mans jittered words, wondering if he could not speak like him, they could not have lost their words so much could they?

“I am sorry to have so frightened you.” His deep voice rumbled slightly through his cat like voice box “Yes I am a friend of Thomas. You are one of our guests are you not? I remember him showing me your sheet.” His long lashes closed slowly over his liquid eyes. He watched him carefully; he was slightly scared the man would do something stupid, like jumping from the gap in the wall, trying to escape him. Jinan didn’t understand why he was so worried by him, had he seemed threatening? He reached back, his head turning from the man and ran his nail over the wall once more, finishing the small creature he had previously been carving into the walls. Across the walls spanned many stories, the stories that the ruins and forest had been telling him for many many years. His skin stretched over his taught muscles, twisting into a more comfortable position, sitting like the humans wasn’t something he could do for long. His tongue flickered out, whipping up to his dry nose, trying not to feel to nervous. Unlike the man before him, when he was frightened or unsure, his pulse slowed, making him less obvious to predators.

“You were the writer right?” He spoke not turning from his scratching, for he could hear the man was still there. “We didn’t write before, this is how we told stories if they were to be recorded. Now there are no people to tell to, so I put all the stories here, they never stop you know.” He flicked a look over his shoulder, pupils wide in the darkened corner. His fur glistened in patches of sunlight, it spoke of how healthy he was, pelt as soft as silk, it kept out any bad weather. He shifted slightly, to show the man what he had been doing. Every inch of the dome on this side was covered in his carvings; primitive as they were you could follow each story if you tried. The other two domes were filled to the brim like this, 200 years of it, he had had time to do thing such as this during the day, after all the brake ins were only in the night. He shuddered, this poor man stood no chance against them if this was how he reacted to him. His face flickered to the gap in the dome, it was coming up to 5 now and wouldn’t be dark for a couple of hours; so he hoped. When they came for their night tour he would have to be on his guard, he had not seen on of the creatures for a while, they were due a brake in. They also would want to destroy the creatures, no people, which would wish to stay on the gates side.

“I should go, you shouldn’t have seen me anyway.” He blinked his large luminous eyes, sadness settling over him, he hoped the chosen would survive. “Be careful if you come out tonight, the dark here is not like in the cities where people like you come from, the trees blot out the sky.” He paused, he was not allowed to warn them really, not allowed to tell them of the dangers and scare them off before they could chose a sound. “If you come to the crown of the hill you will be safe. Tell Thomas you saw me, that I shall be watching.” He moved across the floor on all fours, talons digging into the hard floor and launched himself out of the brake in the dome. He landed with ease on the grass and cursed himself once more. There was a young dancing girl, but she seemed to busy to notice him as he shot off into the trees. He needed to find the others, needed to talk with them and see what they said of these things.


************************************************

Res looked for her friend, but she seemed to have moved off. She jogged along the beaten path, passing near the second group, though she avoided them. Looking around, she spotted the place where she had left her friend. She felt so very very tired, she would take Ulva back to the house and maybe sleep for a while. Pulling her hair free from her ponytail, she shook it lose about her shoulders, a dark curtain that complimented her warm tanned skin. She was after all a working girl, this meant setting up the tents just like the rest of the circus. Her nimble form climbing up the poles, tying the heavy canvas to them, her ease and grace envied even where she worked. Coming around the corner she found her friend, resting she supposed and trotted happily up to her, giving her a nod and helped her to her feet.

************************************************

The twins pottered through the forest, leading them down the winding path to older and older trees, arching in the sky above them, impossibly tall. Zosia glanced back at Elise and smiled to her, she was glad to see such a happy and easy person, her smile lighting the faces of the others. She looked at the others, they all seemed like lovely people, though not the reporter. It had been ingrained into them that reporters were scum. At about the age of 4 their mother had come home from town with a black eye and split lip, a reporter had grabbed her arm, a brave thing. You see though the two girls were small, their frames slight and fine in every respect, the bulk of their forms their pale hair, their mother was not. Their mother was a big woman, strong and not used to taking any for of abuse. She had turned slapping the reporter off her, not wanting to be hassled as she was every time she came into the small local town, for a few necessities. Their mother had told them of the man and to them it sounded just like this one, he had turned, hitting her right in the face. He hadn’t stuck around long after that. The village people took care of their own here, so out of the way from the rest of the world, she had been born there and had never been more than a few miles from the estate house. She was one of their people, how their mother had chuckled telling of the look on the beady eyed face, the villagers coming out of their shops and homes, watching him.

“I don’t like him, he shouldn’t be here.” Zosia whispered to her twin, her hand once more clasped in her sisters. She looked back, the reporter was sidling up to Elise, undoubtedly going to do something he wasn’t allowed to. She clenched her jaw, hearing the questions he asked. Letting a chill run down her spine. However unless the girl said something to them, they could do little more than watch. Her hands went to fists, scrunching the fine material of her dress, uncaring suddenly at all the effort that had gone into it’s creation.

“Well they think us freaks, want to give the grubby critter something to really write about?” Sasha said, a smile lighting her face again. “See if they can find their own way. We can watch them and keep them safe from our hiding place.” She was the slightly taller of the two twins and she turned slowly. She noticed the slow movements of the saddest of their group. Nathan was a sad story to hear and both the twins had wished upon hearing that he would bring his sister with him, though they knew he would not, the forest might have helped her a little. She winked at him, her face full of bright joy, letting him be the only one who knew it was just a show and that they wanted to distract the reporter from their new friend.

With silence and grace, not possessed by human kind for almost a 1000, the twins hand in hand, crouched low. No one would in truth believe what they saw, some might even look for wires, but it was them and the help they gained from the forest. With yells that echoed not only through the forest, but out into the house, their sharp little faces swung back. They both looked at the tree tops with concentration, selecting somewhere to grab on. They bunched their legs and still yelling at the top of their voices, shot up into the trees, jumping strait up about 15 ft and the continued up into the trees, till their blue dresses started to blend into the sky and they were gone from sight.

(sorry unedited, no time!)

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Elliot quickly put away her violin; she picked up her case making her way to where the others were entering the forest. She was a bit hesitant at first; the voices still plagued her thoughts. She paused only for a second before stepping in behind the others. She wondered if she would get the chance to find that pool again. She almost felt as though she needed to go back. Elliot glanced at the others in front of her. The twins lead them easily enough though the dense forest. She looked to the side of her, where Madeline and Seamus were there names, where talking. Suddenly Seamus pushed ahead a little passing Elliot.

He Addressed who she thought was Elise, and had begun drilling her with questions that seemed a little personal. She frowned a little at this; they were all here to enjoy themselves and explore the ruins, not to answer to reporters. The reporter spoke with what he obviously believed to be some sort of charm; Elliot was not convinced at all. She opened her mouth only to pause closing it again, thinking for a moment. Maybe it was best not to get involved she thought, after all I’m sure Miss. Elise can handle herself. She quickly changed her mind after he referred to Mr. Thatcher as an old geezer. ‘How disrespectful of him.’

“You shouldn’t insult someone who was nice enough to even let you in here.” Elliot said from behind Seamus her voice annoyed. “And you could at least be a little more polite if you’re going to ask somebody questions like that.” So much for keeping to my own business she thought. She wasn’t sure if she had just done the right thing by interfering, but she honestly didn’t even care at this point. What the hell.

~

Nim frowned disappointed the twins had not noticed her. She took off heading back to the ruins eager to meet the others now. She made quick time not bothering to wonderer like she usually would. She stopped when the ruins came into sight. Her eyes stood on alert for the sounds that would surely be present. She could hear Jinan the gate keeper in the distance he seemed to be talking with the nervous boy who had been in the clearing earlier.

She perked her ears in the direction of the second group. She Choose to stay where she had landed, aware that the group would be passing underneath her shortly. Soon enough they came though the forest. Most were talking to each other while some hung back. Nim observed them. There was the girl who had played the music from earlier, as well as some other new faces. A man who seemed very interested with his surroundings, a girl who had a backpack, a man and a woman with red hair. Nim followed along after the group, remaining hidden. She decided to greet the first who wondered off alone. Meeting them all at once would to much hassle.

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#, as written by echored
There she sat, her arms hugging her sides, eyes two empty orbs of blue. She was lost, abandoned in this spot by herself in the Ruins, a place where she got the feeling one could be lost in forever. It was probably best that the wolf had gone, she was beginning to feel very strange around the creature. Yet, by herself she didn’t feel any safer... the odd feeling that something was watching her an ever growing presence. I can’t be too far off from the hill, Ulva thought aloud in a whisper, rubbing the bare skin of her arms with her soft fingertips, finding comfort in the fact that there was no longer any white hair growing off of her body. The thing was, Ulva still felt too shaky to walk or ever try and find her way back. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so on edge before, nerves not seeming to want to stabilize.

Instead of walking, she decided to do the opposite. Ulva laid down on the heated floor of the gazebo on her side, the right side of her cheek pressed against the stone. She watched the wind as it rustled through bush, causing lightweight twigs to wave back and forth faintly. It was more silent than ever now, besides the occasional sound of birds chirping. Ulva’s loose arm reached upwards, rubbing more dirt off her forehead with the back of her palm. She didn’t want to see what she looked like but she assumed she looked pretty beat up.

As Ulva was beginning to mesh into the silence of the area, she could hear a noise coming closer through the trees. Her sense of hearing was keen, eyes perking wider as she scanned the area around her. Before, it was hard to see past the sun’s beaming in this small clearing, but after the encounter with the wolf, her vision seen... well, to put it simply, vastly improved to the point where once again she knew something wasn’t right with herself. Her muscles tensed, lifting herself from a laying position to a seated position as she watched Rea appear from behind a tree. A sigh of relief escaped her throat, chin dropping to her chest in a thankful gesture.

“I’m okay, I’m okay..” she repeated, feeling the support of Rea’s arm wrap around her back. It was comforting to have her here, despite just having met her moments earlier in the day. She really owed Rea for finding her out here or else Ulva could have found herself hanging out here in the clearing until nightfall. ”You look like you’ve been in a fight,” Rea had put it simply. Ulva gave her a half smile, uncertainty in her expression. “Lets just say I had a close encounter with a.... wolf.. I slipped and fell a couple times. I’m clumsy like that,” she said, not technically lying to Rea but certainly leaving out more truth. It wasn’t intentional, like she was trying to hide something from her, but more so for a couple reasons..1) Rea’s safety, she didn’t want her to panic. Rea didn’t seem like the type to freak out but one never knew how someone would react to mystical beings. And 2) Ulva wasn’t even sure what she had just experienced herself. Sure, she saw this spirit wolf with her own eyes, felt it’s force moving through her, felt the texture of fur growing from her skin... but none of it was there anymore and the wolf was gone. Admitting these things to this woman would most likely find herself being categorized as crazy or delusional. In due time she would say something, maybe confront Thatcher first on these changes. What she said though would be good for now.

Rea helped Ulva stand up from the gazebo, Ulva watching this girl’s own expression carefully. She seemed to be decently interested in this clearing. Ulva was sure she would be answering questions about how she found this place later on. Meanwhile though, the two began to exit this area. Ulva turned her head around, hair dancing at her back, so she could get one last look at the gazebo before it was completely out of vision. The pair walked slowly as Ulva tested out her balance, legs shaky at first still but after a good ten minutes of walking she felt she could handle herself. She let Rea have her arm back and thanked her for the help. It seemed they weren’t too far off now from where the tree line met with the start of the hill where they first began. This was reassuring, glad to be back in surroundings that felt semi-familiar.

Rea paused the two from walking. She said she was going to run forward and let Thatcher know they were on the way back to the house. Part of Ulva really looked forward to getting back to modern surroundings, a place to wash up and clean the grime off her skin, but another part of her felt a need to stay in the Ruins. Despite the intense scare Ulva had just went through, the beauty of the area was enough to make up for that. The nature had a way of implanting itself in your mind, taking up every inch of thought to where there was little space left to think of anything else but the forest. “I’ll wait here,” Ulva answered as she watched Rea nod then take off in a sprint. Before she knew it, she found herself alone again. A nearby tree caught Ulva’s attention while she stood. There was a carving in the trunk. She moved herself closer to this tree, taking hesitant steps forward, unsure if she could handle any more surprises. The symbol on the tree looked ancient, like it had been around for many, many years. Upon closer inspection she decided the character markings were chinese, but of course she didn’t understand what they were saying. The only two languages she knew were Russian and English. “Hm,” she hummed, running an index finger through the etched spaces in the tree trunk, tracing the lines. If she did know Chinese, she would know that the top symbol stood for danger and the bottom opportunity. But since she was clueless, the message could not relay itself. But one thing that Ulva did understand was that these trees in the forest were anything but normal. When she first entered she felt what seemed to be a heartbeat from a tree, and she could feel that same thumping in this one as well, like it was breathing, inhaling and exhaling. Feeling the deep thumb that reverberated to the bark wasn’t as scary this time she had already felt it once. She was more so curious now, or a better would being suspicious.

She had every right to be suspicious of this place now. All that she had been told was that it was a beautiful forest with ancient ruins, but there had never been any mention of magic or strange things. Thomas owned this land, he would have to know that this isn’t any ordinary place, that his trees were alive and that there was a ethereal wolf spirit running around out here... So why didn’t he mention it? Was he purposefully keeping the Lucky Draw in the dark? The man looked so kind, so gentle, it didn’t seem right that there could be an evil bone in his body. But on the other hand, Ulva had been in this forest for onyl a short time and already she had an experience stranger than anything else she had ever been through in her lifetime. Ulva sighed deeply, letting her tense breath escape from her chest. It wouldn’t be any help to fret about these things right now, not after they were already here. Instead her eyes moved up the length of the tree that had the symbol, trying to see if any other writing was carved in it. On the opposite side of the tree there looked to be another marking. Ulva got down on her knees, feeling the soft ground bend under her weight. This time there was a paw print, no larger than what a medium sized dogs paw print would be, about 10 inches up from the base of the tree. “Interesting,” she whispered, touching the indention with her thumb pad. A jolt of what felt to be electricity shot through her body upon contact, head snapping back, eyes forcibly being glued to the sky. She could feel oxygen escaping her, a slow choking sensation beginning to bubble in her throat. Ulva’s eyes changed from their arctic blue shade to a black. A voice began to travel in her mind, a voice not her own, of thoughts not her own...

”Don’t fight the gift you’ve been given,
Our days but few, our cares so great,
And pass'd in toil and strife;
Our life a span, under a ban -
No blessing, then, is life.

But if the moment of our birth -
As we believe it be -
Is not just entrance upon earth,
But immortality;

Then toil and care and meagre fare,
While on the earth we stand,
Is but precursor, but the path
That leads to other land.

Then sound of knell doth only tell
Of life begun for aye-
That perfect life, sans care and strife,
In the eternal day.


Once the voice finished it’s poetic verse, Ulva’s head dropped back down to its normal position, eyes returning back to their normal color, breath able to feel the comforts of oxygen once more in her lungs. She ripped her thumb back to her side, crawling back on her knees to get away from this tree. Her lips quivered, hands shaking. If she wasn’t horrified before, she was now. “The tree just spoke to me... was it the tree? Was it the paw print” she said aloud, making sure she could still speak properly. She looked over her shoulder, Rea had still not returned. All she could see were more trees... more trees that could also maybe maybe whisper, maybe talk... She curled into a little ball and buried her face into her knees, arms wrapping her legs.

A hand upon her shoulder made Ulva help, but she quieted once she saw it was Rea. To Rea it might have only looked like she was resting here on the ground, but indeed she was scared. With the help of her friend she felt her slim frame being lifted with barely any effort by this strong woman.

“Don’t touch the trees,” Ulva mumbled, sounding out of her mind no doubt as the two made their way out of the forest and back on a path that led towards the Herb Garden once more. Rea didn’t say anything in response to her comment. Maybe she knew what she was talking about, or maybe she didn’t want to press the issue that that was a strange comment. The silence either way was comforting, glad to not hear any voices in her head other than her own.

The longer they walked, Ulva watched as a second group of people began to walk towards them in the direction of the gates to the ruins where now Ulva and Rea were exiting. It must be the rest of the people from the Lucky Draw, and they were being led by the identical twin maids that had been of assistance earlier.

“They don’t know what they are walking into,” Ulva said quietly under a groan to Rea. Ulva was a mess indeed, her sweater torn and her skin stained with dirt. Her hair was messy as lose strands had escaped from her braid. Just the sight of Ulva and how Rea was helping her walk along surely might leave imposing questions in the minds of this new group. Hopefully none of them would stop the two from walking, Ulva didn’t want to have to explain herself. She could feel some of their stares as the group passed by. Ulva made sure to look down at her feet as to not beckon any curious inquisition. Just keep walking... and she did, willing herself forward.

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Ezreal kicked a stone in front of him as a voice came up next to him, his eyes seemingly waking up as he turned and looked at Elise. He laughed at her comment as well, a smile on his face as his eyes dropped to the ground, then found themselves back in front of him, "It's not too bad." He started, shrugging a little, "If the job isn't very interesting the people normally are." He paused and looked around them, seconds before Elise paused taking pictures, "Now, things like this..." He stated, staring at a previously mentioned plant, nodding to their left. It was a bright purple with a red rim, barbs coming off of its edges, "Are what make this job exciting." He would take the time to examine it, though he wasn't entirely sure about those barbs... They had something which was similar to a devils walking stick growing on them, but again, he couldn't be entirely sure. "So you're a photograph and a painter...?" he asked, though it was interrupted by another voice which Ezreal had a feeling he would soon come to loathe.

He slowed down, turning to look at Seamus as he asked the questions, the man getting under his skin the more he spoke. “I don’ believe the old geezer took ya here to paint a bunch of rocks ..” Ezreal clenched his jaw for a second before changing his stance all together, letting go of a breath which had a faint tone of irritation behind it. A new voice showed up, another female voice which he hadn't tagged with a face yet. His eyes were on her while she spoke, though went right back to Seamus as she stopped. "That's pretty commendable there Seamus..." He shook his head and looked away from the guy, "Most people wait to look like an ass towards the end of a trip rather than right off the bat." His eyes came back around and looked at the man, though it was short lived before a yell coming from two different mediums shot through the air. His head whipped around just in time to see the girls jumped into the nearest tree, disappearing from sight all together. Ezreal turned his body all the way around, staring at the point he lost sight of them. "Son of a bitch..." The words slipped from his mouth, his eyes directed upwards with his mouth open. His heart had begun beating faster than ever, this making a certain chemical seep into his veins. Within a matter of seconds, Ezreal's brain lit up like a Christmas tree, his entire being feeling something just out of the ordinary. His body shook for a second as if he felt like he just got a chill worst than he would in the Alaskan winters.

His pupils became extremely dilated, "God Damn!" He let out with an exasperated tone, a smile showing up on his face as he looked at his arms, his veins coming to the surface as each muscle fiber in his body seemed to expand by just a noticeable amount. It wasn't long before he felt like he could almost hear every heart beat in his immediate area. "One, two, three..." He started, turning in the direction which the little Nim hid, just barely able to notice its presence, "Seven... We have Six..." He said out loud though muffled, his eyes locked on Nim's position though he couldn't see her. He hadn't noticed it, and most wouldn't, though his teeth had even become sharper. "What the hell is that..." he mumbled to himself, taking a few steps off the faint trail they had been on. He also hadn't noticed his hand make its way to his knife, in a position it would take a matter of milliseconds to remove, even less in his current state which the forest was inducing. He didn't know what was going on, but he wasn't in the right frame of mind to question it right now. He felt like he could see 360 degree's around him and in about a thirty to fifty yard radius around him, everything else outside of that becoming hazy though he could still just barely make things out. The noises around him were going through one ear and out the other as his eyes focused on the small heartbeat.

It seemed like an hour, though it had only been about three minutes in the real world, before Ezreal's body slowly coming off of the effects gifted to his body from the forest. His bottom jaw shook slightly and his hand came away from his knife, the veins in his body slowly receding as did his muscles. His pupils returned to normal and his body came down from the high of Endorphins bum rushing his brain. He could feel his body lightly shake as he took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as his hands opened and closed in unison. Another couple curse words slipped from his mouth though weren't very loud just for everyone to hear. He looked back to his arms and watched the veins receded back into his body, 'What in the hell was that...' he thought to himself, not sure what exactly had just happened. Did he just imagine that? Or... Was all of that real?

His eyes stayed on his hands for a split second before turning to catch a few people staring at him. He opened his mouth to say something though paused, "Did anyone..." He started, his voice seemingly awkward as he spoke, "Else..." He finally got out, shaking his head and removing the thoughts from his head as best as he could, "Never mind." He stated, his breathing a little quicker than before. His feet took him off in the direction which the twins had been leading them, stopping after about ten yards and looking around, 'Well, They're gone...' he thought to himself, his head turning in the direction he had been looking before, though wiped the thought of another biological entity being in their area. Ezreal could hear a couple of leafs crushed under a foot, catching his attention rather quickly. His eyes came down and locked onto two others who he presumed were apart of the first group, walking through walls which were much closer than he had last figured... The gate to the Ruins was much closer than he had figured. Something in his stomach told him to turn and walk away, though it was pushed back in line by want and curiosity... The curiosity which wondered if he actually did feel that, and the want to feel it again.

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Demetrius simply stared as the golden-furred wonder continued to speak and slunk away to a half-finished carving in the wall. He had mistaken them for some ancient tribe of people's work but no, it was this graceful, but still frightful, creature. Saw my sheet? My PROFILE? He couldn't believe what he was hearing, Thomas Thatcher had shared his most personal details with... This. Whatever it was. When asked for clarification of his profession he only nodded slowly, though he wasn't sure if he was seen or not, the creature had returned to it's art and commenced clarification of what the meaning behind it was. Maybe I'll write a story about this he thought, still unable to speak steadily and so not bothering to try. His breath kept catching in his throat, making his lungs ache and his muscles sting with the lack of oxygen. His face grew hotter and he knew it must be red. His vision started to blur and he became aware that it had been some time since he'd last blinked.

“I should go, you shouldn’t have seen me anyway.” The voice was smooth beyond reckoning and Demi knew that in other circumstances it would be soothing and relaxing but right now he couldn't even move an eyelid, no chance of relaxation there. So instead, he just nodded again, still slowly, and listened to the warning offered to him. As though he wasn't scared enough, he was now being warned to be careful of the night by a cat taller than himself. This must have bypassed his brain and went straight to his funnybone, the irony wasn't lost on him even in the vicegrip of fear, and he laughed out loud as the other occupant of the room departed via the window. He laughed, perhaps a better word would be skrieked, to the empty room and slid down the wall, his shirt pulled up almost to his shoulders as he did. The smooth stone and the worn edges of a carving from long ago brushed across his skin of his back as his cries of relieved laughter ebbed away to a choking cough that was shortly followed by several huge, shaky breaths of air.

It took an untellable amount of time for the writer to regain control of himself. It could have been no more than a minute, it could have been over an hour. He had no idea because his mind was racing as it tried to cope with what had happened. Whatever portion of his mind had been previously dedicated to timekeeping had given up and joined the battle to bring him back to a state of normalcy. Not an easy task concerning a man such as himself, a man who rarely left the house, let alone the state, a man who had been to the zoo as a child but got no closer to wild animals than that. Nonetheless he could always depend on logic pulling him through and the simple fact was that he was alive, unscathed and possibly losing his mind. Even now, so shortly after the encounter, he began questioning if it had happened at all. But it had, the fresh carvings on the wall were testimony to that.

It was, however, one of the older and more worn carvings that caught his eye as he pushed himself forward into a crouch in preparation to stand again. His legs still shook and he planted one palm firmly on the wall to take shift his centre of balance. With surprisingly little effort he managed to bring himself upright and it was then that the drawings etched into the wall finally grabbed his attention. The detail in them was incredible, easily better than anything he'd be able to do in his lifetime, and he reached out his fingers to run them over the markings at his eye level. It was a pyramid, atop a hill, beside a temp-

As soon as the tips of his fingers brushed the marks gouged into the stone, imaged began flashing before his eyes. He drew back and covered his face in his hands but still the images of the carvings burned into his vision, each like fire within his head. There was the pyramid, the hilltop, a man approaching, a great rumbling that shook the Earth, a beast of stone.... He blacked out. The man fell to the stone floor with a dull thud as his skull connected with rock and there he lay, motionless but the rapid rising and falling of his chest.


It is a glorious day, the sun shines brightly over the valleys and hills, the river below reflects the rays of light like a liqud mirror that is almost blinding. There is not a cloud in the sky and the view is stunning. Far off across the land can be seen the ocean, though it is shrouded in mist. "It is not important anyway" says the man who strides up the steep side of what is more than a hill but less than a mountain. His voice echoes without anything to bounce the sound and is faraway, even to his own ears. Quiet, otherworldly even. "That doesn't matter either" he says as he continues with his purposeful steps. He is almost at the top but breathes as though he were taking a leisurely stroll. He looks down and sees no perspiration on his semi-bare chest. He sees no weapons strapped to his waist. He sees only a white tunic draping from one shoulder that reaches down to his knees and leather sandals fastened around the ankle.

It is not long before he reaches his destination, though it is srouded in the same mist that obscures the sea from view. Through it he can see a triangular shape silhouetted within the wall of grey. Yet as he grows closer the fog disperses, it shifts to the side and moves around behind him to create and arena between him and the structure, of which he has no idea of the size, it is impossible to tell yet. And then suddenly it is visible. And it is close. But it is not a building as he had thought, it is a creature.

The creature sits with the soles of it's feet on the ground and it's ears together at the top of it's head. It is clear to him now how it could be mistaken for a structure. The fog, like many things, can be decieving. But it no longer clouds his view of the thing ahead, it prevents him seeing anything else. There is only the two of them on a circle of darkest green grass that was once so lively and bright, encased in impenetrable grey. Not a word is spoken as the four-legged guardian of the hilltop stands and walks forward, ears now flattened against it's skull, curved fangs visible beneath it's green eyes which are set into a face of golden fur that splits above the mouth to frame those teeth in whitest hair. Similarly, the legs are the same white, brighter than the smoky air around them, and the body is sandy, shimmering brown. He knows this creature though he doesn't know where from. But he looks up once more into it's face and all questions of familiarity are cast away. The head of a man now takes it's place above those feline shoulders, a man with long black hair, a smooth, youthful face, glasses and a days worth of stubble on his cheeks. "You're me" the man says to the beast in that same faraway voice.

The reply is in a similar voice, though somehow it is stronger, closer, filled with power. "It cannot be seen, cannot be felt. Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind stars and under hills, and empty holes it fills. It comes first and follows after, ends life, kills laughter." It is a riddle. The man loves riddles. But he cannot answer, he does not know the answer. And so the beast contines. "It is coming, traveller. Be warned."


Demi's head jerks up from the floor and he shouts a single word. "Darkess!" He looks around. Carvings on the walls, blue sky outside the window, stone floor. No fog. No creature. No riddle. He gives a sigh and sits up, wincing at the pain in his head as he does. "Musta hit pretty hard..." he mumbles. What had made him pass out? He couldn't remember. He remembered the dream. He remembered that thing speaking to him, warning him. But that happened here too he thought. "Demetrius Florentia, don't be ridiculous." He laughed at the clear impersonation of his Mother he had just made and stood. He swayed once, twice, then remained still. The world around him was blurred and he realised his glasses had fallen off. They lay broken and twisted by his feet. "Crap."

He bent and picked them up, wondering just how long he'd been unconscious, and stuffed the frames and shards of lens into his pocket before heading off, slowly, down the stairs, all the time thinking about the bizzare dream he'd just had. It WAS a dream, wasn't it? It had to be, as far as logic was concerned. Still, he felt pretty strange and he reckoned this forest had a way of making you feel a little different than usual.

A few minutes later he slumped out out into the clearing with his jacket and tie slung over one arm and his shoulders and back covered in dust. His hair was a mess, his face was grimy from the sweat, his shoes were scuffed, his shirt was untucked and missing a button and his eyes were bleary and red.He wanted to get back to his room, tidy up and hit the bar. He'd never wanted that so badly in his life. But still, somehow, he wanted to get back out there, back into the forest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nuram ran through the forest, becoming increasingly careless as his thoughts grew more and more occupied by the sight he had just witnessed. It was unnerving, unnatural and unexpected to him. Yet what concerned him more was that it was change. And, he had grown to know, change could be good. Plans and schemes invaded his mind. Ideas of how to make his deepest desires came to fruit, ideas that would be difficult but not impossible. He had also grown to know that nothing was impossible. Not here. The forest was giving out gifts and Nuram would not go without, he would take it if he had to. But he could not do it alone. Even with the voices of the ruins always in mind he could not work alone. He would need this human. And perhaps others, should they be chosen too.

A branch snapped as his giant claw glanced off it. It didn't slow him at all. A crash and a rustle as it fell into the undergrowth did nothing to distract him either. He had things to do, things to see, people to see. He knew another group was coming and he intended to keep a closer eye on them than he had the last. Perhaps even guide them from the shadows. Drawing them into the forest should not be too hard, curiosity took the woman easily enough after all. But the sound of disturbances may not help... And so he slowed himself down, closing his eyes to focus his hearing to locate the fresh blood that wandered through the trees ahead. It was not difficult and he gauged their speed accordingly so he could hide further down the track and remain out of sight. But there was something else up ahead. Something UP ahead indeed.

"Nim..." His top lip curled back away from his teeth in a snarl as he realised the guardian was also tracking the humans. He could not let the others catch onto his plans, they would most certainly disapprove. He would need to be cunning, that much he knew, but the extent to which he may alter his behaviour was as yet unclear to him. Be himself too much and he would lose any trust he could garner from the humans, change too much and he would arouse the suspicions of the other guardians. He thought as he went, eyes now open and looking dead ahead for a place as close to the trail as he could be while keeping out of their eyeline. It then occured to him that Nim, with her open curiosity and constant appealing to his own better nature, may aid him in this new quest he had set for himself. If the dimension-shifter tried again to convince him to give the newcomers a chance then he would do well to sieze the oppurtunity to accept and bury any perconvieved notions that he was up to no good. And so he took his place no more than 25 feet from the treeline and waited for the group to reach him.

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It wasn’t Elise’s voice he heard in response, but a more melodic one coming from behind him as a reply to his rude question, although the person was obviously annoyed. He turned his head around without slowing down and saw the delicate features of Eilott’s face that he recognized as “The Singer” from his work files. Then Ezreal spoke, reprimanding him and although he implied that Seamus was acting like an ass, the Irishman felt he liked him even more, rather than feeling insulted.

“Oh, blimey!” he shouted as the twins disappeared from sight and before even realizing what just happened, the man in front of him cursed aloud in panic. His attention was drawn instantly to Ezreal and saw that something in his behavior was amiss. As a reporter, Seamus had a keen eye for details and the man’s movements were awkward in a subtle way before he turned to the group mumbling something.
He pondered for a moment on how he looked in front of the others. These people were so different from the ones he usually had to deal with, stuck up celebrities and rotten politicians. No, these were well mannered, kindhearted, intellectual people. He reconsidered his actions and decided to back off for a while as he didn’t like the thought of being loathed by everyone. The twins could have despised him for all he cared, but it was wiser to get along with the others. He had a job to do after all and starting off with animosity wasn’t the best choice.

“Accept me apologies” he said to Elise and gave a cheap imitation of a courteous bow, as best as he good, looking self-conscious at the others.
“I come from Cork, Ireland, where ya kick the shit outta someone before ya tell’em good morning’. ..Plea..se”, he said the word almost choking as if it was hard breathing anything remotely polite into his system, “allow me to rephrase me questions.”

Before getting the girl’s reply he saw the two coming towards them, one helping the other to walk. The blonde one was holding her head down as if not to be seen but this drew even more attention to Seamus’ experienced eyes. Because she had dirt on her clothes and messy hair, he assumed that the unexpected incident with the twins had some kind of link to it and that this was a story he had to check on. The reporter would have usually jumped in front of the two making sure he would get his answers “fresh out of the oven” but because he feared another opposing reaction from the others he hesitated and decided to wait for somebody else to greet them first.

***********************************************************************************************

Iris was thinking about the strange events from before that took over her mind, still wondering if they where some kind of hallucination caused by the unusual plant she stopped to wonder at or maybe she stayed too long under the sun and got a heatstroke. She recalled the radiant apparition and felt soothing warmth in her stomach. Still, what the woman said wasn’t at all comforting and the fact that Iris had to “unite with the others” seemed a little out of the line. She barely knew some of them and still had to learn the names of the others. The girl also had no idea what she meant with the tuning and everything and why was this so important…to fulfill what missions exactly? It was all too demanding and her sweet head, once filled only with dance movements and haute cuisine was now working double shifts to solve the puzzle.

“Maybe I’ll ask that brainy-looking man what kind of tuning I’m supposed to learn”, she said to herself, “and what’s with the song about those…those..um.. Watchers!..Yes, I think it was Watchers. But how am I going to phrase it?” Iris was in a bit of a slump, for she did not want people to think she went crazy or something of the sort and talking about her vision was definitely out of the question. She looked around again hoping to see the violinist when Ulva and Rea came slowly out of the forest, the Russian girl looking like she had some kind of accident while holding onto the acrobat.

“Is she alright?” she shouted running towards them as they almost passed the clearing and headed for the road. She heard hesitant footsteps behind her and saw Demetrius walking unsteady on his feet, looking like a drunkard. She almost didn’t recognize him, a mess of a man took the place of the presentable writer. He wasn’t wearing his glasses and what looked like an expensive suit was hanging on his slender body like a dirty cloth on a fence.

“Are you alright?” she gasped turning to him and he nodded slowly still looking a bit dizzy.
“Sir, I think they need help” she said pointing at Ulva and Rea, grabbing him by the hand and rushing towards the end of the clearing.

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Rea picked up her friend, or might as well have, the poor girl could barely hold her own weight. Thankfully she was more than able to give the help Ulva needed, slinging her arms about her. She listened to her words in silence, letting their vibe settle on her while she wondered what on earth had scared Ulva quite so much. Her ears seemed sharper and she listened for the others, ears slightly more flexible than usual, though not climbing up her head quite yet, they arched to grab fragmented noise from the second group coming along. She gritted her teeth, wishing she could go around, but this path was by far the easiest way she could see and did not want to try for anything that might damage her friend any more. Her long lose hair fell about her in a cloud of dark brown, firey hints appearing when she stepped into the light. She watched ahead as the others came into view, they were quite a large group and seemed to have no form of guide, though she was sure they must have at some point to get so close to the ruins without being too lost. This place was massive, with so many smaller paths coming from the main one to the house.

“No one knows what they are coming into, but Thomas is at the top, I’m sure he will help them.” She whispered quietly. Her eyes were sharp when the others came close, warning them no to stop the pair, she was in no mood to be dealing with these people, nice or otherwise. She shifted Ulva’s weight next to her, giving the girl a little more of her strength, knowing it would be easier just to carry her, but would not offer; a lot of peoples pride could not deal with such things. She could feel Ulva’s breath through her side, soft and shallow, the poor thing must have had quite a shock. Above her she could hear rustling in the trees, leaves falling about them despite the fact their was nearly no breeze at all down here. She looked up, her brown eyes sharp, capturing glimpses of blue and yellow among the trees and sky. So they did have guides, just unwilling ones, well then something must have gone wrong here too, to make the sweet girls not want to be near their appointed charges. She watched the tree tops for a little while, pausing to let Ulva compose herself and then started moving off again, her head held high, hoping no one would talk to them.

“Tell me what happened out there?” She asked her friend once they had passed by, no one quite seeming able to say a word to them yet, though they were not far from them yet. “You seemed so shaken when I found you, even worse the second time. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her voice was soft and genuine as they moved away, her body moving smoothly, without a taint of hips to knock the other girl off her stride, knowing that if she looked like that it would be hard enough just getting one foot before the other. She hoped she would be ok soon, when they got back to the house, she planned to settle the girl in her room, (Rea’s) thinking that if she put Ulva in the room she had been allotted, she would not be able to keep an eye on her and god knew that was what was needed. She was glad for every step they took further from the group, knowing it was a step closer to the house and a step further from questions. She sniffed the air, scenting things around her without thinking and noting nothing of relevance, their steps leading them out into the light, out into the garden. She raised her head and smiled as the sun hit her face, warming her cold body. She glanced back, the forest seemed to scared her friend.

**********************************************

The twins swung about in the trees, unwilling to leave the people stranded and alone. People got lost in the forest and did not return, this group was to be protected. Though the only people who got lost were the people who did the things they shouldn’t. Since the ruins were first discovered people had been coming and documenting the place, checking that everything was in order and what was there. Everything was in the highest confidentiality, but people were people, greedy and unable to keep to their word. These were the people who wandered off when Thomas was taking them up to the ruins, he did not stop to look for them, if they would do something they shouldn’t, then they did not deserve to see the ruins. Some people made it back, better than before, but most did not, the forest led them astray and made sure they never made it where they should, these people would not stop in their quest to uncover the secrets hidden here. These were the people that were forgotten, by the time the others had passed their gates (To outside the estate), after a couple of days recording, no one remembered, not a soul.

Sasha giggled as her twin danced dizzy circles high up in the trees, keeping her watch on the guests, making sure they did not stray. Her grace was unseen by the people below, but if they had seen it they would have seen the primitive charm both twins held, feeling none of the pressure of the outside world. They had never been told not to dress like this, not to eat this and not to dance like this, never told they looked silly or bad. As a result the way they moved was utterly beautiful and natural, moving to the sound of the trees around them, how they swayed, feeling the beat of the forests heart through the soles of their feet. Zosia’s shrieks of laughter and joy echoed down through the treetops, letting their guests know they weren’t all alone in this place. Eventually glancing up from the people below them, the second sister joined the dizzy dance, their feet never missing the branches they danced between, though sometimes standing on thin air for a moment. The twins had lived in this place for a very long time; they held a hint of the places magic, though little more and they were after all just themselves.

“Want to go down? Thomas wont be pleased if we leave them to themselves for to long.” Zosia asked, their feet skipping past one another, their forms blending as their hair trails joined. “Plus some of the people here are sweet and even those who aren’t need our care here. We both know how easily it is for them to become lead astray.” She smiled to her twin, their hands joining as they without answering the question, descended down the trees, knowing each others moves step for step. Leaves and branches passed their hands and feet, the bark course under their finger tips. They giggled to one another, enjoying being back in the forest after so many years, it was after all their home, where they belonged after so many years here. The effects of the forest spread for about 10 miles, so any community around them were slightly tinted. They were more close knit, taking care of one another they were never prosperous, but they always got through, hard working caring people. They were however guarded of strangers after so many years of them coming to take advantage. The twins family had lived in the region for a long time, most likely having come before it originally disappeared and settled, their family’s never quite leaving, though some did.

“Hello there.” They spoke together, voices twisted to fit one another, hanging upside down from a tree above Elise. “I’m glad you didn’t get lost, that would have been very very bad. I hope that the silly reporter didn’t upset you. If he becomes to much trouble we will deal with him for you if you like?” They turned lightly, transforming their hanging from their knees to hands, before dropping 10ft to the ground, landing effortlessly. They smiled brightly, all joy again and polite. Sasha turned to bow to the man escorting their new friend, winking at him cheekily. They waved them on, not waiting for the others, their feet tapping up the path to the crown of the hill.

****************************************************************

Jinan stopped by Thomas, his form almost blending into the green grass and the stone buildings, stepping more onto the other side of the gate as not to be seen. He pointed up to the third gate pillar, his wise eyes open, into the other mans head dropped images of the man who had found him and his reaction. He smiled widely, knowing that this one too would be chosen soon. Already he could feel the man’s fingers on his carvings, calling for the knowledge, surely the forest would answer. His fur bristled up and down his body, he had not had so much to think of in a long time. He looked up, his eyes glittering gold for a moment, as his carvings moved, the forest telling him something, the ruins dumping memories into his mind as well as wisdom. He licked his lips, this one would be interesting, he hoped he would make it, he would take care to watch over him if he came back tonight, which he surely would. They all would, the call was too strong to ignore, even if you didn’t know what it was calling you to.

He set out, leaving them all behind just as the second group set it’s feet on the hill, echoing through his feet like the pulse of a living thing. He was off to find the other guardians; they both would be near, watching. He paused high in the trees, making no noise as he passed through the leafy landscape he knew so well. He licked his rough pink tongue over his nose, leith body arched, his hind feet planted in the tree, tail wrapped around the trunk for support and reached out sniffing for Nuram, wanting to talk with the ugly creature. To his left he could smell little Nim, but this was not who he wanted, Nuram had always hidden well. He took a deep breath, feeling the breath of the trees, the roots growing out beneath him, every element of this place was him, if it was gone or destroyed, he would be too. He leaped high above the people at the base of the ruins, his long tail streaming behind him as he bounded towards the guardian, knowing that he would be glad to see a friend, for they had been stuck together for too long not to be. He leapt down, wind curling through his thick pelt and he plopped down soundlessly to the left of the clawed creature. He wrapped his tail around the tree, giving him a deep bow in greeting and settled down silently to watch the humans.

***************************************************************

“Demetrius, are you ok up there, you seem to have been up their for a while.” He called up cautiously, knowing the man was likely to be very displeased with him. “I’m coming up old fellow, Jinan seemed very concerned for you.” He walked slowly around the side of the building. It was unusual for Jinan to reveal himself to anyone, he obviously had a very large stake in what was going on. His left hand was braced against the edge of the building, feeling more than a little frail. It had been a long time since he had had to do anything more than potter around the grounds and be taken care of; he was too old for this kind of thing. His cane clicked against the old stone steps, spiraling up through the old building. His bones ached to his core, but he knew their was no way he would be allowed to cross through the gates, not until their was someone to replace him. He had lived a long full life, god knew that, but it was time for a little well-earned rest and to see all the beautiful things of the world. He could come back and visit his home, they had promised him and he would be stronger for being away. This place could drain you if you could not cross over, the gate sucking a part of you. Part that it kept till you either became part of its keepers or passed through to the land of the gods. Of course it gave you strength in return, but he had never quite figured if that was enough.
(now a little edited, I hope it makes more sense for you all!)

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As Ulva and Rea were making their way back to the estate, nobody asked them about their trip to the Ruins. Everyone seemed faintly superstitious or maybe they all thought it was just a small incident, the terrain being steep and who knows what the girl tried to do foolishly. Seamus swore to himself that he would let them go this time, but he would definitely take care of the main subject once the group would return for some “shut-eye” later in the evening.

Meanwhile, Iris arrived near the group, leaving Demetrius a few steps behind after letting go of his hand. Now that Ulva and Rea were too far to reach and that they seemed to be able to take care of each other, she stopped to greet the newcomers. There were three guys and two girls before her eyes, excluding the twins and all of them were gesturing or talking to one another, thrilled to be finally there. She looked at each of them with childish curiosity. The red haired woman had a certain attractiveness befitting her age and the gestures of a strong, independent woman. Then there was a man next to the other girl who possessed nice, vigorous features and lively movements, Iris guessed he was more of the sporty type than everything else. The other boy who seemed about her age had a gloomy aura around him and kept to himself, but the scars on his neck and lower jaw diverted her eyes from his outward aspect. The third man didn’t appeal much to her inner taste for harmony and beauty. He had a barbaric manner and wide gestures and Iris felt a lot of turmoil and chaos around him. He had beautiful enticing eyes and long silky hair, but those features weren’t enough to cover his lack of balance. Last but not least, she saw a gentle girl with warm green eyes. She seemed like a fairy between the tall men, petite as she was, but she had a spirited presence. Iris bowed gracefully in front of them, her eyes glowing with enthusiasm.

“Hello everyone, I’m Iris and I will be one of the entertainers for the day. I believe each of you is eager to see the Ruins, I myself could only admire them from afar until now so I’ll be honored to discover them along with you. They are indeed magnificent and I think it will take more than a lifetime to unveil their mystery.” She went on right next to Nathan, leaving Elise and Ezreal to continue their conversation. Trying not to stare at his scars, Iris smiled to the boy and asked him his name.

As the group passed through the clearing with the airy twins leading them to the Ruins, Seamus walked behind with Madalene right beside him. He was talking to her loud enough for everyone to hear his words, behaving like he was some kind of Master of Ceremonies, trying in his unrefined way to make up for the blunders.

“Dis one doezn’t lap dance, dat’s fer sure” he said referring to the dancer, looking at her outfit. He considered her air of innocence as very unattractive and without giving her a second thought he “introduced” each member of the group as he knew them from his editor friend.
“Ya know Mad, the biologist has some Cherokee blood in’im and he’s a genuine Bear Grylls so I reckon’ the old Thatcher either plans to have venison barbeque or in dis forest we ain’t gonna find just Yogi. Den dere is dat Nathan fellow, now I amn’t giving out if he has a few scars or too, but why do yee think he was chosen? Dis Lucky Draw shit is for babies, I plan on finding out exactly why we have a painter, two merry men and a frickin’ acrobat. I gotta find out which one of those gals was the Russian as well.”

He stopped for a moment as if to see how everyone would react to his words. Seamus wasn’t polite at all, but at least he was honest and he wanted everyone to know just what his intentions were. He wasn’t one to beat around the bush and he rarely used any evasive strategies when he was on the job- brute force or raw appeal seemed to work just fine so far. He slowed down a bit and gestured Madalene to stay further behind with him. Lowering his voice he looked into her eyes with a pleading look on his face:
“Mad, I think I really need yez help on dis one, ya saw how everyone’s badly cooperatin’ with me, and I’m after almost arguin’ with the skirts. Can ya find some yokes for me and ask dem when ya have a moment or too with each? I’m asking yee only cause’ we’re on the same boat here. “

Before getting his answer, the group just passed the gates and everyone was looking in awe at the ancient Ruins. The Irishman’s jaw dropped for a few seconds and he was left speechless. He never gave much interest to history or astonishing landscapes, but the air surrounding the Ruins was definitely something to check up on.
Just in front of them was Demetrius, looking a bit better than before. After a few moments of staring at him, Seamus offered his muddy hand in greeting. The Irishman would have never said it out loud, but he found in the man’s slightly ruddy face and in his involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids the signs of a person who knows what drinking is all about. Therefore, when Demetrius offered his hand in return, Seamus held it for a few seconds as if he was meeting a long awaited companion on the battlefield ready to take him home.
“How’s she cuttin’? I’m Seamus Callahan!”

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Demetrius heard Thomas call up the stairs as he was descending. His mind still reeled from the dream, or what he thought was a dream. No, it couldn't have been real, it MUST have been a dream he thought, trying to remember the creature's exact words back on the top floor. "Mr Thatcher?" he called back, finding his voice sounded far stronger he he would thought it would. "I'm fine, just...Took a bit of a tumble was all!" Then he came around the corner and saw the elderly man coming up the stairs looking every bit his age. It was strange how he seemed to appear frail at times and full of vigor at others. It was another thing to think about, as though there wasn't enough on the writer's mind already. "Jinan?" he asked. "Who's that?" His face twisted into a frown as he tried to place the name to a face but he came up empty. He put it down to the fact that he was still puzzling over the dream (It wasn't a dream his mind kept telling him) and perhaps in need of a lie down... After a drink of course.

He made his way down the final flight of stairs, easing himself around Thomas as he went. "I think I'll head back to the estate for a while, I hit my head pretty hard and I could use a rest" he explained, though his voice gave no evidence to that statement. He sounded fine. in fact, better than fine, he sounded great to his own ears. He sounded fresh, vibrant and confident, three things he rarely felt. "Sorry, I know how rude it is to just run off like this but my head hurts quite a lot." He carried on his way down and grabbed his jacket off the floor on the way out, head swimming with thoughts and feelings. There was a constant clash of what he knew, what he believed and what he suspected and a conversation at this point would not be fruitful he thought.

And so he took off at a brisk pace, still looking grubby from the fall, and headed for the path through the forest. Even in his hazy state, as well as hazy vsion, he could not help but notice how stunningly beautiful the scenery was and how it seemed to draw him in and make him want nothing more than to head back and finish off this mystery he felt had started to unravel. But before he got there he saw a new group emerge into the clearing but their details were blurred to his eyes without his glasses to clarify the world. One woman asked if he was Ok and seemed to be fussing over someone else too. It seemed he'd just missed something and he peered over her shoulder as he approached to see Rea practically carrying Ulva back down the pathway.
"Me, oh I'm fine. Just need a dusting off is all." He gave a quick grin in her direction and made to head past the group to see if everything was alright further down the road but he was blocked by a man who offered a hand and gave a name.

“How’s she cuttin’? I’m Seamus Callahan!”

"Oh, hi. Demetrius Florentia" he said in reply, taking the man's hand in his own with a rough grip, certainly not his regular greeting, giving a few hearty shakes before releasing it. He squinted, trying to make out some detail on Seamus' face and came to the realisation that he was not one of the Lucky Draw. "You weren't picked for this were you? You with the entertainers or the media?" He knew it had to be one or the other and that he would end up meeting them at some point or other down the line. He'd hoped that maybe he wouldn't look quite this scruffy when the time came but there was no changing that now. Perhaps he'd come across as a more hands-on guy than he actually was. That could look good in the paper.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Watching this exchange of names and enrapturment of the imagination that had seized every member there was Nuram, out of sight but not out of earshot. He was close enough to smell the humans, their unnatural musk that they used to cover their own stench. Yet he watched without a flicker on his face and did not move a muscle even when Jinan leapt into place beside him. It had taken a long time, a very long time indeed, for him to grow used to the uncanny quietness he utilised in movement and longer still to learn when to detect him. The days were few that Nuram was caught unaware but he knew that if the other guardian wanted to he could have slipped into the Girtablilu's personal space without him knowing.

He shifted a little to his right and gave a bow of his own in return, bending his knees and lowering his human torso with his left arm crossing his chest. He made little more than a vague rustling of the plants around him, nothing that would catch the attention of the nearby visitors, and when he spoke the sound was quieter still, although he stood in silence for a number of seconds before starting conversation. "Did you feel it? The humans are changing. The forest is bequeathing them gifts." He stared at the group with unblinking eyes of violet that were hidden in the shadows. "You knew it would be so, did you not?" It was not so much of a question as a statement. Nuram had known the graceful guardian since his arrival here and considered him his only living friend. Perhaps also the mischievious squirt Nim too, but the bitterness that passed between them did not go unnoticed.

Nuram knew Jinan well, as well as anyone could he guessed, and knew of his often eery knowledge of the forest and the way it worked. So many years here and the scorpion-man could not understand a fraction of what the quadruped knew of the grounds. But the gateway, the other side, the voices were known better by none other than himself. Oh, the power he knew lurked so close was a constant weight on his mind. He craved it, perhaps even needed it.

"Tell me, why these? Of all the humans the world had to offer, what made them so special?"

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“Nice to meet ya, Demetrius!” Seamus let go of his hand and for the first time since he arrived at the estate he gave a genuine smile. “Yeah, I’m the reporter appointed for the trip,” he continued believing his own little lie. “I’ll be taking yer interview as soon as I’m after visiting the Ruins. You look a little knackered so guess I’ll see ya at the house. Maybe at the bar later dis afternoon?”
He grinned at the thought of having someone to share a glass or two with in the evening, maybe even a good conversation as Demetrius seemed to be the only one from the group with at least one similar hobby. He thought that the other thing they had in common was their passion for writing, although they belonged to different fields of work. After he got his answer Seamus saw Elise going into the woods alone, then Nathan quickly heading in the same direction after her.

“ We’ll give an homage to dear ol’ Bacchus if ya want!” he shouted thinking of Demetrius’ Greek origin as he rushed after the others from the group, not wanting to miss the rest of the events.

Iris was going side by side with Madalene towards the Ruins, both of them chatting and getting to know each other a little better. They were obviously having fun and the Irishman drew near after hearing their giggles. Just before they reached the stony walls all covered in green moss, Iris heard a familiar sound, a ripple coming from within the forest. She asked Madalene to indulge her and leaving the exploration of the actual Ruins for later, they ventured into the greenery, beyond the smaller trees in front of them. Seamus was right on their trail, walking with heavy steps and letting his presence known. After fifteen minutes or so they reached another clearing, not wider than the one from which they came.

There everything was sparkling like in a fairy tale and the rays of the sun were hotter than anywhere else in the forest. Iris took a deep breath and held it for a moment, concentrating on the murmur she heard before. The sound was getting louder and louder with each step they took and as they passed through the flowery clearing leaving Madalene behind, Seamus and Iris were rushing towards the place from where the soothing sounds came. Her ears haven’t misled her, in front of the dancer a river was making its way through the tall grass and mushy soil, clear as a mirror. Just a couple of feet away a waterfall was embracing the steep rocks. She ran to the water and cupped her hands together, drinking with haste.

The cold refreshing liquid went down her throat cooling the dancer’s body from within. Seamus was right beside her, a couple of steps away, drinking with loud sounds, gulping like a wild animal. He washed his face and took off his shirt –now full of dirt- and sprinkled cold water on his neck, chest and stomach washing off the sweat that gathered on his skin. Iris looked at him bewildered as he started to unbutton his pants.

“Wha’? I don’ mind if ya wanna take a bath as well, don’ worry I amn’t shy..” he said with a natural tone which implied no vulgarity, rather a subtle mockery. Iris took another sip just before turning her back and left the Irishman to have his fun.

With a loud “hmpf!” Seamus got in the water just in his underpants, feet first, leaving his clothes on the shore. He suddenly felt chilly and a gust of wind passed through him giving him the goosebumps. The water wasn’t deep enough for someone to drown, but he could lie on the surface and even swim a bit from side to side. The man let himself go and his body started to float slowly downstream. The gentle waves brushing against his skin were having a therapeutic effect. Listening to the chirping birds above him, feeling the warmth of the sun on his eyelids, Seamus closed his eyes breathing slowly.

He felt…calm. It was a feeling of peace and relaxation he hadn’t experienced in a long time and the stillness of the forest almost drove him into sleep. Just before dozing off, the red haired man felt a thrust in his stomach, the pain making its way up to the chest. His limbs began to shiver and after a few seconds Seamus was trembling violently in the water like he was having a seizure. With an immense effort he got hold of the riverbank and made his way out of the water, still shaking, his eyes rolling back in his head, his whole body in convulsion.

Madalene arrived after a couple of minutes shocked and frightened of what she was witnessing. She rushed over and started to shout holding his head with the right hand and his torso with the other.

“SOMEBODY HELP ME!” Madalene’s desperate voice was breaking the silence of the forest when Iris came running back, gasping. All she could do was to let out a shriek when she saw the man’s movements growing in intensity.

“GO GET SOMEONE ELSE! ANYONE WITH SOME MEDICAL BACKGROUND!” Madalene shouted back at her, not letting go of the Irishman, trying to hold him down.

The girl jumped in the opposite direction leaving them behind. On her way back she saw the forest getting darker and when she looked up at the sky storm clouds were already gathered in a dense mass above. It started raining with heavy, piercing drops and Iris felt pinches on her skin. It was acid rain. There was no wind, no thunder to announce it. Running like never before she reached the Ruins once again, praying to God that everything will be alright and thanking Him for not getting lost on the way.
She saw Ezreal still looking around by the walls and she remembered the reporter saying something about a biologist with good survival skills. She hoped he was the one and without hesitation she called out to him.

“Heeeey! We need your assistance, somebody has a seizure down by the river, please come quickly!” She felt tears gathering in her eyes and her voice lowering until it was nothing more than a sniff. Her legs gave in and without moving forward she stared at Ezreal, her vision blurry from crying. She was thinking of home, not wanting to be here anymore.

************************************

By the riverside Madalene was already drenched,her sleeveless black dress was soaked on her body. She was cursing under her breath while holding Seamus with all her strength. Her arms hurt from the effort: his body was in spasms that were increasing in intensity by the second and the rain was giving her a hard time as well.

His feet were moving slowly on the scorched earth, not a hint of a breeze, not a drop of water for miles to come. He licked his chapped lips, tasting a drop of blood in the process. His throat was as dry as the soil beneath him and his body felt heavy with every step. How long as he been walking in this desert? Days, weeks, maybe a month. His legs were shaking from the effort and Seamus crashed down on the dune exhausted. Just before closing his eyelids he felt a cool breeze from above him as the sun was blocked by something from the same direction. He looked up forcing his neck.

In front of him was a tall, sinewy man all adorned in golden armor that revealed his muscular arms and torso. A black pair of wings was keeping him off the ground flapping in slow, graceful movements. His black hair was flowing around his perfectly chiseled visage and the look in his eyes had only one word to describe it: fire.

The Irishman let out a curse in his faint voice. “Why can’t I have a normal Fata Morgana? Someone with tits would’ve made my day.” he thought to himself without having the energy to say out loud.

The man opened his mouth and as he spoke to the feeble human at his feet, the scenery seemed to pass through an earthquake.
“"Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you!” he said using God’s words in mockery. “Your existence has been bestowed upon you so that you may meet me and accomplish something of greatness in your wretched life. Do not take my presence lightly; do not think of this as the ramblings of your weak mind. I am Semihazah , ruler of Grigori. All I ask of you is this.”

The man closed his mouth looking only into the Irishman’s eyes and pointed to his right. Seamus saw near the fallen angel a woman with long golden hair, dressed in a white stola, looking somewhere beneath her with great sadness. She didn’t seem to know they were watching and she only stood there, breathing slowly. Seamus took a closer look narrowing his dusty eyelids. Her features were familiar, like they belonged to a girl he met a long time ago, somewhere in a forest. The woman changed her position and looked right trough him, as if he wasn’t there, than her eyes fell on Samyaza. Her beautiful eyebrows arched in anger.

“How dare you lay hands on a human!” she burst. Her eyes searched the scenery but it was obvious she couldn’t see Seamus anywhere, something hiding him from her gaze. The Muse was beautiful when enraged and the Irishman couldn’t help but looking at her, his thirst and pain diluting with every word from her lips. “How dare you!” she repeated trying to make her way towards him but with a flick of the hand the angel dispersed her image into thin air. Seamus felt the pain coming back in his body and he saw other faces in his mind: two girls walking slowly on a path, one helping the other, a group of young people heading the opposite way, he was between them. Then a red haired woman and a young girl were just in front of him by a river. “That dancer!” he screamed and all of a sudden he understood everything as if another’s thought was inserted into his mind. The image of the Muse he seen before was identical, only without the dancer’s childish features, an older version of her.
“You won’t let any of the women pass the Gate! Either on our side or not alive at all!”, Samyaza continued in his deep voice.

“I ain’t a murderer ya shitty hallucination!” the Irishman spat at him infuriated by the pain in his body and the thirst in his throat. The angel only gave him a look and Seamus felt his insides burning, the flames taking up all of him from within, scorching his muscles, his skin, everything. He screamed from the bottom of his lungs but all he got in response was the angel’s laughter echoing through the dunes.

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“Oh no, we aren’t allowed in the forest, we haven’t been allowed since we were very young.” Zosia spoke quickly, darting forward to take a better look the feather. “It’s good to be back here, this is our home really.” Her words were eerie, unfamiliar sounding without her sisters voice joining her own. She didn’t like talking in front of the others without her sister’s voice joining hers.

“Anyway, you will get used to the idea that there are things here that don’t belong.” Sasha smiled with her slightly sharp teeth showing. “Try not to be to worried, as long as you are with us, you are perfectly safe.” She stopped suddenly, her twins foot descending on her own in a painful blow. She stuck her tongue out, mildly annoyed, but knew that her twin was right, she shouldn’t scared the guests. What she had said was true, as long as they stuck with the twins, very little harm would ever or could ever come to them, they were part of the forest. However if they strayed from their guides sides, they would be unable to track them and if they got lost, it was unlikely they would be found again. Then when tonight came, the forest would fill with the things that people only dreamt of, all their dark fears, lingering on this side of the gate, wanting to get in. They needed darkness to exist, so this was when their glittering eyes peered from the black leaves, sky blotted out by the dense trees.

**********************************************

“I’m glad to see you’re not hurt.” He said softly, turning on the spot and padding down the steps unsteadily once more, at the side of the writer. His back ached in places it shouldn’t and his hips felt stiff. He would need his treatment tonight he supposed, loosening him up again. Though the forest sometimes did ease him, for the most part he was far to old to even be able to stand. He laughed to himself reaching the bottom steps, he wouldn’t let something like age stop him, he had a job to do and he’d be damned if he didn’t do it well. The gardens around the house were beautiful and all his own work, designed, planted and upkept by his hands almost wholly. The only other people to touch it were the Twins when they weren’t studying, they loved to sit by him and hear him tell stories and he loved the little girls, though they took more of the forest on each year, once white blond hair now almost buttercup yellow in the sun. He looked up, they would be here soon and he could head back to the hose, he wanted to check on the girls.

“Jinan is man you just met.” He said, blinking as the young man turned away excusing himself. “The one your brain is probably trying to make you forget, because he doesn’t fit into your world. He shines like gold in the light and I can tell you, you will not forget him, do not lie to yourself and say it’s a dream. You know better.” Thomas wasn’t sure the man was listening, but he knew this was how it had first happened to him, he was only warning the other man, so he wasn’t so shocked the second time. Thomas, leaning heavily on his cane, moved off towards the new comers, though at a slower pace than the man before him. He wobbled his head from side to side, powerful thing the brain, it was so used to everything fitting into a slot, that when it came across something that it couldn’t place, it panicked. It tried to forget, or tell you that it was just your imagination, clever thing the brain, made humans the top of the food chain, yet in some ways less clear than that of a mouse or a worms.

“Hello everyone.” He stopped a little further off, trying not to pant “It is a pleasure to meet you all in the flesh. I welcome you to one of the few things science can not unravel and trust me they have tried.” His arms swept from the base of the hill to the crown where he had been sitting before. He looked at each of the guests faces, saying their names in his head and paused and Seamus. Ahh a reporter made its way in, well he hoped that it was a good choice on the forests part, for it must have chosen him to not let him get lost. His eyes fell finally on the Twins warm and full of an old welcome. He watched them run across the grass to him, their movements as fluid as water, hair lifting into the air as they sped towards him. He laughed, raising his arms to hug one under each, he knew that they hated to be away from the familiar, but also knew they never would be, these twins were more than just a set, the were only complete together.

“Please feel free to look around wherever your feet may take you.” He smiled down at the Twins “I am going back to the house now, to look after those there, but the Twins will stay and guard you. I do ask that you are back in time for dinner.” He glanced at his watch. “Which is at 7.30, just over an hour. After that you may join us for the night tour. While you are gone, trapeze and fire artists will be setting up here at the crest of the hill. Your entertainment and guiding light in the darkness, should you choose to come.” He gave them a brief bow, letting go of his two beloved children and headed off down the path, not bothering to look up, aware the guardians were there and would take care of his guests.

**************************************************

“Good bye Mr Thomas!” They called waving after their Master and friend. Their dresses billowed about their knees, hair flowing out to the left, flickering around their slender forms. They enjoyed its caress across their skin, soft and subtle, curling in and out of their views. They turned as one to the others and spoke with curiosity and solemnity “Is everyone here? Are we all together?” As they asked, they seemed to grow a little taller, standing higher than the guests on the hill, their eyes glowing mildly an electric blue in the falling light. They seemed to become less human in motion and feel as it got darker, their body’s preparing to defend those who might come under attack and those who might change. Yes they had been warned that the guests might change, maybe even before any other effect had taken place, they were liable to go mad and of course, the Twins would be needed. They looked up into the trees, smiles sharp and brilliant white against their pink lips, grinning to the guardians they could feel there. The guardians would not come out until it was the right time and till then, the 16 year old twins were all these people had.

**************************************************
“Yes, I can feel the change running through them all, can you see the light that pours not only Ruins, but the forest, I’ve never seen it like this before.” Jinan spoke as quietly as his friend, his voice silken and deep. “Some of them are moving to quickly into the transformation. It worries me, some of them may be torn apart by the change, lose their mind. Then they will do no good to either side, no matter what they decide.” He looked through his long lashes at his friend, he knew all to well that he was for the less savory side, but felt no need to judge, he knew Nuram was good in the center and held the Ruins protection above all. He inched down from the tree he was in, inching up next to his friend, equally big as him, huge compared to humans. He ran his wet tongue over his sharp teeth, thinking quietly to himself that his friend would side with the good in the end, but he could be wrong. Retracting his claws he longed, letting his long tail drape down beneath the thick leafy cover. It twitched, just beyond where the humans were looking, teasing them encase they chose to look. Jinan was one of the few glad to have some fresh blood here. Soon this world would fade into nothing without people, they would die one and all without these people.

“You know I didn’t choose, it may have been me who gave the names, but it was never me talking was it?” His tail flicked up, coming back into where they hid. “I’m only following what the forest and ruins tell me, all I do is listen.” He sat in silence for a while, slowly running his tongue over his pelt, cleaning away any dirt that might have settled there, though he knew there was none there. He found the possess calming and that was what they all needed, he could feel how tense Nuram was. His smooth coat became a sheet of perfection under his caring attention, glittering gold, his color of old when he didn’t have to hide, sunlight soaking into his dark skin. He watched the humans beneath them, watching the threads that reached up green around their legs. Nothing they would ever feel, simply the place trying to make sure the forest would keep existing and that these people would stay, that they were worthy. The two his eyes were glued to however were the Twins, their auras glowed gold, lighting up the world around them with their energy.

“I suppose you thought it would be the Twins who took over, or maybe their children some day?” He looked at the violet eyes that hid Nuram’s thoughts, trying to gauge him. “They are not new to being here, they already hold to much of this places energy. They would always choose the one side and we both know that, they will choose the good and since they have no official link to the other side, going against your creatures, they would die.” He knew all the creatures of the forest had a soft spot for the twins, evil or good it didn’t matter, so few belonged here that all were welcome. They had not had the 100s or 1000s of years to become to used to this place, they still held love and joy like most had forgotten, which is why their were so few, they faded without joy, passing on.

“Anyway I fear they will cross over to the other side, even without a guardian deity, myth or story.” He sighed, the sound rough from his slick features, eyes becoming shadowed. “Thomas will take it badly them going, he sees them as his children and the human guardian, their mother, she will mourn them. It is out of our hands though, they will choose as they will and then what will be, will have already always been.” Once people passed through the gate, people tended to forget them. Or in his case, he was here for so long, that he would likely let time pass and his memories of them, being of no use, would be lost. He bought his hind feet up beneath him, wrapping his arms around his knees. Closing his eyes he reached through the tree, feeling every single fiber, forgetting his own body, other than as a pressure on the branch that felt him. He turned the leaves up, rustling them quietly, reaching for a drop more sun and waited till his companion answered.

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Elliot stepped though the ruins gates a little hesitant. She stopped letting eyes roam over everything. The ruins were truly breathtaking. Old stone building and moment surrounded by the overgrowth. The whole place was silent, peaceful with an air of secrets. A low whisper reached her ears, for a moment then it’s was swallowed by the calm. Elliot looked around excess to once again seek out the source. No she needed to find out the need clawed its way through her thoughts. She winced a little placing her hand upon her head in an attempt to calm them. “Hello everyone, I’m Iris and I will be one of the entertainers for the day. I believe each of you is eager to see the Ruins; I myself could only admire them from afar until now so I’ll be honoured to discover them along with you. They are indeed magnificent and I think it will take more than a lifetime to unveil their mystery.” A girl had made her way over to the group while Elliot was distracted; she greeted them with a smile on her face. Elliot looked her noting the revealing choice of cloths the girl choose to wear, however she did seem like a nice girl, she would have to take the time to talk with her later.

Elliot took another look around, her eyes were drawn to a small black hole that sat in the side a structure, more decayed then the others, it was crumbing under its own weight. She quietly broke away from the group making her way over. She reached it easily enough; placing her hand on the cool stone she leaned down peering into the depths of a small opening. Beyond what little light filtered though was nothing but complete darkness. Elliot draw back ready to head back were company was present. She turned around taking a step forward.

“Come….play…girl…down …down”

Elliot shuddered as the whispers raise out of the opening the voices much clearer then they had been before, calling her. Almost in a daze Elliot stepped down into the depth of the ruin. She walked down until the dark had completely blinded her. She kept going though, her need to answer the voices undeniable. What felt like hours, which were actually only minutes. Dim filtered light flickered in front of her showing her the other side. She steeped in to it the daze lifting as she looked around her. She stood before a massive chamber. Except for the small part she was standing on, the rest being completely submerged in water. Columns rose out of the water connecting with the ceiling. The ceiling itself had many gaps letting light though in small amount, ivy and other plants dangled down from above. Elliot stood there amazed at what she had found. She took a few steps forward till she was kneeling in front of water. A sense of déjà-vu washed over her, she was reminded of the pool from before. But this wasn’t the same the water in front of her moved ripples appearing every now and then. It wasn’t clear in fact it was almost black. Of course it’s mealy reflecting the ceiling above it. She thought. She leaned closer in case that would help, Movement caught her eye it was small and fait but it was there. Maybe it’s fish she thought. She leaned closer still.

“Splash”

Elliot opened her mouth in surprise, only to have water enter it, She struggled the water surrounded her. She lost all since of direction. The water was cold it felt like it was pushing down on her the more she thrashed. Eventually her limbs grew tired and she let go. She began to sink. Her eyes opened and she saw above her the surface. But she didn’t reach for it. She felt the water as it almost welcomed her, her mind slowed down, Maybe I’ve become a fish, She though. Something brushed against her making her turn her head slightly. What she saw shocked her. Suddenly the realization she needed air come back, her lungs begun to burn. She pushed at the water till she broke the surface. She drug herself back onto land. She coughed violently, greedily sucking up as much air as she could.When her violent spasms subsided she just laid there mauling over what she had just witnessed. It had to be a hallucination, she thought after all she had almost drowned. Elliot stood up legs shaking a little. Her clothes were heavy and clung to her. She was now determined to go back with the other. This place was to dangerous to in alone. She hurried back up the passage and didn’t stop until she had reached the top. She stepped out onto the grass and headed in the direction, she thought the others had gone. The voices came back whispering to her, this time she ignored them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nim watched as the women cried over the red haired man. She had followed them from where the broke off from the others. The women held the men down as her convulsed, His body out of control. Nim had heard the man before; he seemed a rude sort of person. Of course nim just not going help him for that reason. The girl seemed very upset at his condition Nim made a quick decision she easily dropped down in front of the pair. The girl was easily startled her eyes wide at Nim’s sudden appearance. She was no doubt very confused. Nim gave the women a small smile, before she peered down at the men. He was still shaking violently and as far as she could tell seemed to be dreaming.

Nim reached out one hand setting it down on the man’s chest, she hummed gently . Slowly the man’s body calmed down. It still twitched and shuddered but it wasn’t as violent as before. Nim looked back t o the girl. “Hello there.” She said quietly, hoping not to startle her anymore then she already had. “Your friend should be alright.” Nim at least hoped so , When she had touched the man she had felt a two strong presences inside him. Both being very powerful his body had a hard time containing them. Nim had merely, given his body a little more strength to handle them. They seemed to have faded at least for the most part. Already so many like this one had been called,changing the humans into something else. Nim was little concerned about how fast this was happening. The stress it may put non the humans might be their downfall.

“I’m Nim.” Nim said remembering to introduce herself. “What’s your name?” She sat there awaiting the girls answer. Also leaving a little part of herself ready to flee if needed. Sometimes humans do silly things when their scared or faced with something that confuses them.

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Ezreal couldn't help but grin slightly as Elise snapped a picture of him and the feather, though his face came back to a slate tablet as he looked back tot he twins. He nodded at them with a odd look in his eye, shaking it off as he continued walking with the rest of the group. His eyes tracked every inch of the area around him, catching a glimpse of a few carvings on the wall, his hand tracing over them lightly as he tried to make sense of them, though no matter how hard he focused a translation wouldn't just come to him. His nostrils caught the scent of moisture in the air, making his mind automatically wish to start looking for shelter, though he figured all would be fine out in the ruins, especially with their guides. His head turned as an elder's voice came to his ears, turning to see the one and only Mr. Thatcher.There were questions which he wished to ask the man, though this didn't seem like an appropriate time. He watched the man go and went back to his examining of the walls, taking in each symbol as it came into sight. Ezreal hadn't noticed, though the photographer Elise and the other name Nathan had disappeared all together.

A yell from behind him caught his attention, his head turning to see Iris waving him to their location. He narrowed his eyes slightly, though after jogging to them, found what she was yelling about. His eyes locked onto Seamu , his body flailing all over the place, "Put him on his side!" he yelled, though his instructions were short lived as something showed up next to his body, something quite small which he hadn't seen before in his life. It had hands, legs, ears, everything... Though it was a fraction of even the smallest human being in the world. His eyes were locked on the being as it touched Seamus, his body slowing down considerably from its former thrashing about. "The hell..." he said to himself, his heart coming alive as it began to speak. Ezreal stared at the animal... Or, thing, watching it as it greeted Madeline, making Ezreal blink a couple of times. Ezreal's eyes picked something up moving near them, something hidden behind some of the fauna of their area. What ever it was it was concealing it self quite well. Ezreal's hand reached for his knife as it seemed to be setting up for something, coming to a position and stopping. The shadow was humanoid, though something was off about its movements. He hadn't seen a human move like that.

The shadow moved again, though its head turned. What Ezreal saw turned his blood cold in a matter of seconds. A pair of eyes glowed from underneath some foliage, staring directly at Ezreal. Without warning, a key was taken to a lock inside his body. Ezreal felt the feeling show up again, though he seemed to give it little attention, almost as if he had felt this numerous times before. His breathing escalated as the image seemed to take a step towards the group at the water hole, Ezreal acting accordingly. "WATCH OUT!" He roared, his body acting on its own. Ezreal shouldn't have been able to move as fast as he did, no normal human should have been able too. As he stood in between the shadow and rest of the group, his body was undergoing a change. His veins began to bulge and his muscles began seemingly growing yet again, a almost beast like aura enveloping him. His knee's were bent as his center of gravity was lowered, ready to move as a moments notice. The eyes were still locked on him, the beings features giving no distinct form to its body, though it didn't seem friendly. Were they set up to come here and be ambushed by this thing? Thoughts ripped through Ezreal's mind within seconds, his heart beating ninety to nothing and his body able to keep up with it somehow. In Ezreal's left hand was his hunting knife, drawn and ready to be used without hesitation. The rain drops sliding down its polished surface and into Ezreal's hand, his pores attempting to suck up every ounce of liquid coming in contact with his skin.

The shadow shifted, and a ominous pause came yet again, the eyes shutting and disappearing for a second, just because something was launched from the bush. Ezreal's body shot to the left as a projectile ripped through the air, slamming against a wall and lodging itself there. Ezreal's head turned for a second to identify what it was, his eyes widening slightly as he noted it to be an arrow. His feet slid against the ground for a second before he began a dead sprint at the thing, though it didn't take long for it to move. The shadow kept pace with Ezreal, maybe even a little faster than he was. His teeth gritted together as he darted from one point to another, chasing the thing with every ounce of power he had in his legs. Ezreal found himself ramming into a wooden structure, busting a piece of framework in what seemed to be a small shack, though he was back on the chase within seconds. The shadow darted out into the forest, Ezreal hot on its trail without giving it a second thought. If it was here to harm them, he would cull the person from the area... Or what ever it was. Ezreal could feel where it was at all times, his body following its trail without a problem. Ezreal's teeth gritted together even harder, and without noticing, his body seemed to be changing even further. The hair on his head began to grow as well as his body. His eyes began to narrow, picking out little details in the forest without even wishing it. His ears could hear every individual leaf and blade of grass crushed under their feet, the scents of the forest running through each olfactory nerve in his nose. His mind dropped all thoughts about what had happened prior to having been shot at by this thing, the want to destroy it for wishing harm to him and the others around him driving his feet into the earth beneath him.

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Iris led Ezreal to the river running again, not having the energy to speak to him more than a few words. The silence between them was interrupted from time to time by her sobs as the rain was washing away her tears.

When they found Seamus and Madalene she was surprised to see the figure of a child leaned over the reporter. After a few minutes the man’s convulsions came to a stop and his breathing became normal again, the Irishman looking like he’s been asleep for hours.

“I’m Nim.”, the child introduced himself to Madalene, but when Iris approached to take a closer look her teary eyes widened in awe. It wasn’t a child at all, but a slender creature with long pointy ears, big inhuman eyes and a long wispy tail. It had the body of a human except for the sharp claws at the end of its feet.

The creature’s playful tone of voice and vivid movements made the dancer smile and forget all her fears. The rain was near its end, a few drops falling off from the sky as the grey light became golden again. Iris stood in front of the phooka mimicking its movements in the form of a dance. Laughing heartily she took Nim’s tail and pulled it slowly, wrapping it around the creature in a playful mood. They were all drenched, but that didn’t seem to stop everyone from having their fun now that the danger was over.

Ezreal on the other hand, had its gaze fixed in another point somewhere behind them. "WATCH OUT!" he shouted just as he leaped inhumanly between them and the forest. Then Iris saw his body acting strange, his muscles getting bigger by the second as if air was pumped into them. He was holding a knife in his hand and before anyone else could have said a word, an arrow flew straight in his direction, missing its target when the man jumped to the left. His reflexes were astonishing. Ezreal gave chase to whoever tried to kill him and disappeared into the forest, leaving the small group behind.

Iris let go of Nim’s tail and squeezed her skirt tightly, water pouring out from her outfit. Her sandals were full of mud and the flowers hanging from her hands and hair were dripping as well. She felt grateful for the sun that warmed them up nicely. Seamus was still unconscious on the ground, his long red hair fanned on the grass, full of leaves and small branches from the river.

There was tension in the air and no one said a word for a while, listening and hoping that Ezreal would return to them safely. After a while, Madalene broke the silence and slapped the Irishman a couple of times to wake him up but the man didn’t move an inch. He was breathing slowly and the woman felt his skin feverish, in high temperature.

“What do we do now?” Iris asked looking at Nim hopeful then back at Madalene. “We can’t leave him here and I don’t know if we’re strong enough to carry him back to the house.” She thought that all of them, except maybe for the playful little creature, needed a hot bath and a warm bed. “The sooner the better”, she thought seeing how dangerous lingering in this forest was for all of them. She also hoped that the little creature would stick around them a little more.
“Won’t come with us to the house?” she asked Nim fervently. “I’ll make sure you won’t be seen by the others and you’ll be safe there. You can stay in my room and we’ll have so much fun, surely you won’t regret it.”

Unfortunately for both of them, Madalene passed out the next moment leaving Iris dumbfounded for the third time on that day. Now they had two people lying in the grass uncounscious.

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#, as written by lumikb
From the moment they had to return to the forest, she had decided to stay out of sight. Normally she would be just as annoying as Seamus and all his questions but the energy of the forest that once has caused her great pain was now keeping her calm. It was as if she was in a trance, following the group without her will, not even the little tricks played by the yellow haired fairies could snap her out of it. She was thinking of that time in Romania, the big house in the mountains and the sky. That was the only thing she could remember after disappearing a whole year, the blue Romanian sky and its mountains that stood as proud as these ruins.

The breeze here was just as cold and refreshing, sweet scented as that time. She closed her eyes for a second, the waterfall from her memory that she would always see from above. Back to reality, Seamus was asking for some help with the investigation and of course she would, since she promised Harvey some insight of things here for the "Paranormal Flavor". Madalene smiled at him, it was incredible the way he talked and it really amused her, he reminded her of Harvey.

This place was really something including the twins, the girls must be more powerful then anyone here would think. They were just as enchanting as the forest itself and could be as dangerous too. Madalene knew deep inside that this place had more inhabitants, she was sure that they were going to be anything but human. She wondered how she will react if she got the chance to meet such a thing. Excited , she thought to herself, all her life after the disappearance, she had tried to meet something otherworldly .That way , Madalene would be sure that she wasn't insane , that everything that happened back in Romania was more than just her loosing herself in insanity and roaming woods.

Harvey, of course, made a big deal of her past and he even wrote several articles with her as the main theme. Entering the gates, she felt as if this place would give her answers. Almost loosing her in the song of the ruins, she recognized Ulva and Rea, the Russian girl must have been hurt. They were going back to the house , Madalene would have loved to get a report on what happened to them yet that had to wait .If she acted now , everyone else would just ignore her as they did with Seamus. She had to be careful with how and when she was going ask questions with these people.

Later on, Demetrius left towards the house too, he didn't look too hot either. She felt happy for Seamus who seemed to have found someone who could cope with him since he had already made a few enemies including Ezreal. This man didn't impress her in any way at first but he had some skills, he seemed more in tune with the forest than the rest of the group.

Iris, the dancer, has left quite the impression on her. She was innocent and kind, it was cute how she went and greeted everyone and didn't really care much about what Seamus had said about her. As childish as she seemed, Iris had a better and more efficient way of dealing with loud strangers as the Irishman in comparison with Elise who at some point seemed really freaked out.

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Now in the water, still holding Seamus, who thanks to the little creature was just floating in her arms as if sleeping with no care in the world. Her blue eyes glittered; this was the chance to have an actual conversation with some sort of fairytale myth child! Her voice was a little shaky because of the cold water and the fact she was overexcited:
"My name is Madalene D’Avenville ..." she tried dragging the heavy reporter slowly out of the water while talking with her new friend, she had no idea from where she had so much self control.
"Nice to meet you little Nim."She tried to shake her hand but then Madalene didn't want to scare the creature off or anything.

Finally, on the ground with Seamus near her, Madalene threw herself on her back with the grass tickling her face. She could still see Nim moving around, the whole event exhausted her to the core.
"You know , Nim, we should meet up later when I won't look like a wet dog and maybe we could exchange some stories." she smiled , it was hard to breath after using up all of her energy to drag the man to safety.
"We might be related in some way but then I would be some sort of Romanian fairy!" she started laughing to that thought, right now the fact that a very big feather just came out of her shoulder seemed a trivial thing.

She closed her eyes, Ezreal could be heard somewhere yelling something in the far, for some reason the forest now seemed more agitated than ever. Whispers, poems, songs invaded her ears; she was back in front of the big wooden house in Romania.Madalene was already in her trance , before fainting she slapped Seamus over the face , Iris was here too yet she couldn't understand what was happening.She blacked out and fell back on the ground.


She could remember how the fresh air had invaded her body and how powerful she felt, with no care entering through the big old oak door. It was empty, brown feathers scattered everywhere, it was pretty dark inside except a shy ray of light that had made its way here because of a broken window. The rest where shut down with wood and nails as if they wanted to keep something out .It didn't look like a place where someone could have lived in , it had a damp smell that made her stomach hurt yet she continued up the stairs.

The floor was covered in hay, like a birds nest, white down near the broken window looked like a small bed someone had made. She touched it, soft and soothing it gave Goosebumps. Madalene reached at that point to call Harvey, to tell him of what incredible discovery she just made, well weirder but the feathers were huge!

The phone didn't work, out of battery or something, a loud screech very near, too near.
"I can't see anything, where is it coming from!" Madalene mumbled in her sleep, she turned on the other side, her back now was covered in brown fuzz and her nail had grown into claws, the expensive shoes she was wearing were now ruined and broken.

Her dream was now pitch black, she could hear someone hitting the walls and crying in pain, it sounded like herself. Something had happened after she tried to call Harvey, the mumbling transformed in loud screeches and growling like those of a lion mixed with a hawk.

They were very loud and everyone else could hear it, she was soon back to normal. Sleeping silently next to Seamus who was still out cold, now the sounds sounded like a small bird singing.

Her wet hair was covered in grass and dirt, her dress was ruined, ripped in several places. The mark on her back was now clearly visible; it had the exact form of a griffin.

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Ezreal could feel every centimeter of his body, carefully placing each step on the forest floor as he darted after the shadow. The wind whipped past his face as old dead leaves flipped into the air in his wake. Though he was moving at a abnormal speed, this felt like he was jogging. His eyes were picking up little things he normally wouldn't notice unless he was actually looking for them. The colors were much more vibrant than he had first seen them, like taking a regular tv and then changing it to a hdtv. His body was still changing, growing slightly bigger still even at this point. His shirt now clung to his body, his previously baggy pants now tight around his thighs, his calves catching up. Each individual vein in his body could be seen as his heart raced beyond that of a normal human. His teeth had grown slightly, though they had become sharper if anything. His entire being was focused on catching what ever that thing was, and it wouldn't end any time soon. His knife was clutched in his left hand still, his finger nails digging into his palm though he couldn't feel the pain, let alone the trickle of blood which was starting to show itself.

Two beings came into view, Ezreal knowing exactly who they were before he even came upon them. The shadow had plowed over Nathan, having thrown him into a tree. A low grumble started up in Ezreal's chest, emanating slightly as the shadow began running in a straight line, Ezreal's brain running through basis calculations and geometry. Ezreal flew by Elise and Nathan, doing a crow hop as he flipped the blade in his hand, catching its tip with his thumb and index finger as he pulled his arm up in the air. Just like a sling shot, Ezreal's left foot tapped the ground and he let loose an explosion of energy, whipping his body forward, propelling the knife in a straight line at the shadow. A whistling sound showed up in the air as the blade cut through the damp air, Ezreal's feet planting as his body skidded to a halt. The knife traveled at a speed sub par only to a bullet. The knife was almost on the Shadow when it dropped down, stopping in a similar fashion Ezreal had. The knife continued on, slicing through a sapling and lodging itself in a larger oak just behind it. Ezreal's breath was rough through his closed teeth, saliva making its way from his mouth along with rain which dropped from his face. The shadow stood up to its full height, quite similar to Ezreal in attributes at this point. The shadow seemed to become distorted as a mist seemingly enveloped the entity from its feet up.

Ezreal's face grew even tenser as the Shadow began walking toward him, the mist slowly letting go as it took each step. Noises of a familiar style entered Ezreal's ears, small trinkets of bone tapping against each other with clothes swishing against each other. Ezreal's center of gravity dropped as the figures feet began moving faster, the distorted picture now coming into full view. He had the skin of his grandfather, a deep tanned color though its face was covered in paint, the rest of its body covered from head to toe in clothes gained from the spoils of the land. He seemed an elder, though that was not something to rely on. On the man's right arm was a strap which held feathers of the exact species he had found before. Each were painted in the same fashion, though there was a space which seemed to be missing one. Within seconds the man had covered half the distance between them, Ezreal dropping down slightly and pushing off his right foot, shoving dirt and what ever else sat under his foot into the air.

As they met each other in the middle, a collision took place which would could be compared as two trains running straight into each other. Both doubled back for a split second and were right back at the other, punches being thrown left and right. Each and every blow seemed to connect, though neither of the males were slowing down even at the slightest. Ezreal blinked as a metallic object was ripped from what seemed to be a Native American, the blade connecting with Ezreal's ribs. The blade penetrated his skin to the bone, slicing diagonally up toward his left collar bone. Ezreal doubled back for a second, though didn't so much as look at the cut. Blood dripped from the blade as the other male lunged at Ezreal, dodging it just in time to grab his arm. Ezreal pulled back on the momentum the man had put in, every muscle in his body working in unison as he ripped him through the air and into a large oak tree to his right. Ezreal jumped back after landing the blow, his hands balled up into fists as he waited for another move.

The native stood up without seeming as if it had been injured at all, making Ezreal let out a irritated bellow from the deepest recesses of his lungs which were just now starting to burn. Blood had been seeping out into his shirt, now covering his abdominal region and now seeping into the waist band of his pants, some blood having found its way to the ground around him already from his movements. The native closed the distance though did so cautiously, crouched down with its knife clutched in its left hand. They seemed to hang in time for hours, each waiting for the other to strike. The native took a chance and went in, ripping the knife through the air, aiming for Ezreal's heart though it was diverted by a massive hand, the other coming around and catching the native in the jaw. Ezreal backed up from the male, his hands coming up as if he was boxing. The native turned its head and stared at Ezreal, its jaw dislocated and hanging there limply. Ezreal's eyes widened as its hand came up, shoving its jaw back into place without even a wince. Ezreal felt a surge of anger fill his veins, his body moving on its own and ran straight at the Native. His left hand came from across his body to attempt another punch though it was thwarted, the native's left grabbing his wrist as his right arm went under his arm pit. The native lifted up and slammed Ezreal's body into the ground.

Ezreal's eyes came open as the Native came down with every ounce of force, driving its knife into his chest. Ezreal's body tightened for just a moment before his hands came up, clasping around the native's neck. His hands began tightening, a pop coming from its neck as blood seeped from Ezreal's chest. The native loosened its grip on its knife, its face as blank as a fresh piece of paper. Ezreal held onto life as he could feel everything in the natives neck crushing under his force. A deep thud came from behind Ezreal's rib cage as his heart throbbed a final time, the knife having found its mark. His vision became fuzzy and within seconds, his eyes became tunnels, light escaping from his surroundings, finally tapering off as his hands let loose of the natives neck and fell outwards.

The native's neck was destroyed, though something kept it in a normal position. Something entered the air, the oxygen almost tangible as the native's hands came to Ezreal's chest, removing the knife. Its eyes narrowed as it stared at the young male, its hands coming to either side of Ezreal's head. It looked over the body as it began almost deflating, a final breath leaving the safety of Ezreal's lungs. The once brown eyes almost visibly losing the light of life they had just moments before. The native had his eyes fixated on Ezreal's. The previously hardened face slowly faded away as a grin made its way to its face. A few tangled words crept from the cracked lips of the native, its head coming up and then back down as its eyes closed, taking in a breath as something seemed to just let loose in the area. The once tangible body of the Native shrunk by just a noticeable amount, then exploded outwards. Particles of dust filtered into the air, moving slowly to the face of the young man. His mouth slowly opened as particles began to file into his body, his eyes wide open as the same material surged around his eyes and into his body. A strange sound almost of a ragged breath came from Ezreal's body, his low back lifting off the ground as his eyes rolled back into his head. His entire body tensed up as the particles continued to make their way into his body, the horrible sound continuing to come from Ezreal's body.

The dust sped its infiltration of his body by each second, finally coming to a halt after about thirty straight seconds. Ezreal's body stayed in a tensed position for but a few seconds after the particles had left the area, his body dropping back to the ground. This was followed by a deep silence, seemingly nothing in the area making a single measurable decibel of noise. His body laid there for a minute, not a single twitch of life coming from it. It was but a second later, his left index finger curled as his eyes lit up again. Ezreal's lungs came back into operation as a breath was ripped into his lungs, stinging with every second he inhaled. His body contorted as his teeth came together, his eyebrows coming together as a deep seeded pain entered his consciousness. As he exhaled, a roar was emitted through his throat, filling the forest around him and almost bringing back the sounds which had almost been blotted out seconds before. His body turned to its side, everything which had been in the mans stomach now finding its way into the forest floor in front of him. A single curse word found its way into the air, rather, finding its way screamed into the air if anything. Another spasm of his stomach brought another burst of liquid from his body through his mouth, making his mouth burn from the taste which he had known to hate so much before.

Memories of what had happened slipped into his mind, his hands coming up and touching the area where he had been cut as he sucked air. As he touched his chest, it was most definitely tender, though something wasn't as it had been before... The cut had already been covered, now a fresh scar on his person, as well as the hole which had been in his chest. His clothes had been ripped to shreds, though it had somehow sped up in the healing process by months. Ezreal tried to look down at his chest, though found his vision become distorted. His head slapped against the mud under his head, his breathing still rough as his vision crossed and his eye lids dropped. His mind dropped into a deep state of sleep, his body now in a deep recovery mode. Each muscle in his body was ripped to shreds from his former bought with the alterations the forest had brought upon him. This was a fatigue even the hardest of athletes had never reached. His body laid under a large oak, drops of water falling from its leaves and tapping against his skin, cleaning the blood from his body while the earth under him soaked it up like a sponge.