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An Unlikely Savior
by Starmyst

Starmyst heard the faint snap of the branch behind her, the whispering of the
leaves as something disturbed them, and immediately her heart began to pound
painfully hard in her chest as her pulse quickened.  Cursing under her breath
she spun and brandished her sword in front of her, ready to strike at
anything that might be barreling through the underbrush towards her.  The
flames of the great sword did their best to keep the oppressive darkness at
bay as she mentally recited arcane words for her offensive spells. 

Nothing was behind her, only another rustle of leaves and a howl in the far
distance that sent chills up her spine.  She lowered the sword and let out the
breath she had been holding in a soft hiss of hatred for whatever was stalking
her, and her own disability to identify it. 

The woods she were presently venturing through were dark and unexciting, with
no kinds of landmark nor any signs of life, not even a hopping green blob of
slime to keep her company.  The trees receded uniformly into the darkness that
pressed around her, almost throbbing like a heartbeat as she walked over the
uncharacteristic gray ground.  The quest she had undertaken now seemed
completely foolish - who would want this kind of place for a home? 

Lord Zartain, a snottish, grumpy retired Cleric had contracted her to explore
these mysterious woods some ways north of Midgaard, because he planned to
build his retirement manor there and live out his days in a voluntary form of
solitary confinement.  A few days traveling had brought her to the entrance of
this deserted mess that no one had any reason to call home. 

Her first night had been uneventful, for she was relatively sure that nothing
lurked in these woods except darkness, but the second night was when she first
began hearing the disturbed leaves and footfalls behind her, tracking her
movement throughout the woods.  At first she thought nothing of it, probably
just some poor lost creature who had had the bad luck to get exiled here.  She
had even tried backtracking to attempt to find the source of the sounds and
had discovered a brutally slain beast with black velvet fur and a majestic set
of antlers.  It's dull green eyes once held a spark of life but, judging by
the pools of fresh blood surrounding it and the horrendous claw marks in it's
neck, that spark had been savagely extinguished only a few hours ago. 

After that frightening discovery she was no longer sure what was following
her. Was it the creature who had killed the black deer, which might have been
tracking her in the first place, or was it still the original hunter?  She
wasn't sure, and neither prospect sounded inviting, and both made her head
spin. 

Starmyst sighed as she sat down and rested her aching legs on a mossed-over
log, reflecting on the events of the past few days, when suddenly there was a
mean guttural snarl from behind her, and she was suddenly knocked off balance
and thrown to the ground.  The sword flew from her hands and she landed face
down, an "oompf!" of air escaped her mouth as she felt mean, savage claws
digging into the unprotected parts of her body, wincing and screaming in pain
as it got hold of bare flesh between  the top of her boot and the bottom of
her leggings. 

Rolling to the side, she managed to get halfway off the ground before the
beast was on her again, knocking her back down and carelessly swinging drool
all over her as it went for her eyes.  The visor protected them somewhat, but
the claws were needle thin and could easily go through the holes.  Both beast
and druid realized this at the same moment; the attacking beast figuring it
had the advantage.  But it had something coming. 

Muttering runic words underneath her breath, she sent out an inferno of ice,
hail, and snow which sent the monster flying backwards into a tree, it's cry
of rage, fear, and shock echoed horribly, but it was racing towards her again
before she could even begin to collect her thoughts. 

Sword.  Must get the sword! 

She looked to her left, to her right, and then the thing was on her again,
it's speed carrying her into another tree, the wood splintering at the impact
of bodies hitting it.  Bark scattered into the wind still blowing from the ice
storm and the world spun before Starmyst's eyes.  Black streaked across her
vision and she felt parts of herself go numb and unconscious. 

Help!! she screamed. 

The beast's hot breath tinged with the smell of blood stung her eyes as the
claws reached ever closer for her throat.  Right when she felt herself
slipping into the chasm of defeat, a white blur and a mighty roar bubbled her
back up to the surface.  The weight was lifted off of her and she felt a
breeze of air caress her sweating face through the air holes of her helmet. 

Sounds of a heavy fight and cries of pain and ferocious snarling echoed around
inside her brain, and then there was sudden silence.  She realized she was
shaking as she unglued her eyes and peered around the battlefield.  The forest
around her had been transformed from something boring and ugly to something
interesting and even uglier, as odd as that could be, for anything would seem
better than those endless, shapeless trees. The trampled ground formed a sort
of clearing, with several trees missing limbs and bark and several others no
longer existent in one solid piece. 

A stunning, beautiful white tiger stood nearby, licking a nasty rip on its paw
as it warily eyed the corpse of the beast that had attacked her.  She wrinkled
her nose at the sickly pale green blood forming pools on the grass, and the
smell the breeze carried her way was anything but pleasant.  The beast
resembled something like a bat, with a squarish, brown ugly head and large
black wings with three needle claws on the end of each wing bone. 

But what really caught her attention was the tiger.  Sticking out like a duck
in a desert was her regal savior, the white tiger who had just saved her life,
and could now decide her fate if it chose to.  It's fur looked like white
velvet, stripped with black stabs of lightning.  The tiger inspected its paw,
looking so human-like Star almost giggled, and looked calmly over in her
direction; its eyes were the endless color of pure sky blue. 

She felt a feeling of relief wash over her frantic brain like an ocean wave on
the beach.  The tiger meant her no harm.  But how did she know that?  Where
did it come from? she wondered. 

*From you,* a deep, chocolate rich voice replied inside her mind. 

Starmyst jumped up from the log and looked at the tiger cautiously.  "You can
read my thoughts," she said suspiciously to it. 

A wave of confusion and then understanding melted over her.  *Of course you
can.  You summoned me. We are linked together, mind and soul.* 

Starmyst remembered when she had screamed for help.  But had she really
screamed out loud?  Or had her cry been heard on a much deeper level than
normal communication?  "What is your name?" she asked. 

*I am Kaelas, my Lady.  It is a pleasure to serve you.* 


~Gwen 
(c) 2001


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