Agrobagh and the Forest

A bird chirped three times, and the sound echoed across the unabating forest. It was then that Agrobagh knew where he was. “No.” Agrobagh muttered quietly. “Not here.”

Agrobagh remembered this place. While it was many years ago, he could never forget. It felt like the forest kept going, and he was sure he had been going in circles. It was supposed to only be an old wives’ tale- something children were told to keep them from venturing too deep into the forest- but Agrobagh knew better.

Agrobagh took a sip from a flask that he carried. He had become reliant on it. Today, one sip was not enough. Agrobagh took another, carefully noting that he had half the flask left. That should last him a few more hours. He needed to find the way out.

With his hand steadied and his anxiety a little lessened, Agrobagh tried to remember how it was like- and how he got out. He was not sure if he even knew, had he not forgotten. Agrobagh knelt to the ground- groaning with effort.

“Poisonberry bushes,” Agrobagh said to himself, “an old oak tree, animal droppings- a wild boar, probably. It went… right.”

Agrobagh was glad of his training, and decided he would try to follow the boar. Perhaps it would lead him out. At any rate, he had to keep moving. He could not remember why, but something told him that he had lingered in one place too long.

Following the trail of broken twigs, disturbed bushes, sand, and the occasional hoofmark, Argobagh followed the boar with haste. The streaks of lights which penetrated through the treetops were getting dimmer. Agrobagh guessed that it was early evening. Even if he did last without his flask, it would be dark soon- and escape from this forest after dark would be impossible. He had to hurry.

A shadow moved in front of him- or so he thought he saw. Turning around, Agrobagh scanned the forest carefully, alert to potential dangers. When he saw nothing, he turned back to his path. The boar now took another right, and Agrobagh followed.

Something stirred to his left. He was sure of it this time, but when Agrobagh looked again, he saw nothing there. “Lucerna Minus” Agrobagh whispered, and a small spot of light shone in front of him. He was wary of using magic, but he had to know what was out there. He willed the light further out, to seek what had been stirring. He saw nothing still.

“Termino” Agrobagh cursed, and his light faded. He looked for the boar’s tracks again and followed it quickly, increasing his pace. “Something is definitely following me.” Agrobagh thought to himself. “I need to get out.”

Agrobagh followed the trail until it lead to a tree. The boar had scuffed it with a tusk as it made its way past. “Must have been chasing something,” Agrobagh thought. “Or running from something.” As he walked past the tree, he heard a snap behind him. Agrobagh was prepared to conjure another light, just in case, but as he peeked around the tree he was met with a smile a few inches from his face. Agrobagh jumped, falling backwards.

The figure looked like an elf- almost his size, with lips and eyes stained dark red. Its ears were pointed, but as opposed to the elves he had heard of, this one had very dark skin. Agrobagh could hear a faint crackle as the elf smile wider- a disturbingly inhuman smile.

“Ignis!” Agrobagh said, and a ball of fire erupted between him and the elf. He sent it forward, and ran in the direction of the boar. As he ran, he heard a screech come from behind him. He was still looking for the trail, but that was less important now. He ran where he thought the boar would, trusting instinct rather than evidence. The ball of fire was meant to slow the elf, but it would not stop it.

After a few more minutes of running, Agrobagh slowed, panting. His bones ached and his head hurt. He was not as young as he used to be. He wondered if he was still on the trail. As he looked ahead, he confirmed that he had chosen correctly, but his stomach sank at the same time. In front of the road lay a dead boar, with it’s stomach ripped out by something big.

As he stood dazed, rustling from the forest behind him warned him of how close the elf was. Agrobagh shook his head. He needed to get out. A memory popped into his head. A spell. A trap used long ago. Without hesitation, Agrobagh drew various symbols on the ground in a circle. He whispered the incantation needed, then drew a line from it to a nearby tree.

“Apertor” Agrobagh whispered as he put his hand on a tree. His handprint burned into the three, forming a slight recess. He then quickly gathered a few branches to cover the markings he had made before returning to the tree.

The elf appeared as he went back to the tree. It was graceful- as if mother nature itself was aiding it. It moved with the subtlety of the wind, and with almost innate knowledge of the forest. The elf smiled again, chilling Agrobagh’s blood. It was still too far from the branches.

“Come and get me, dark elf!” Agrobagh shot another ball of flame at it. The elf deflected it easily this time, then took a step forwards.

Just as the elf’s foot stroked the branches Agrobagh had placed, he put his hand where the mark was, activating the spell. He had to shield his eyes as a fountain of flame sprouted in front of him, reaching all the way to the treetops in a blaze of death.

As he opened his eyes again, he saw the elf in tact, with some singed bark on his left. Confused, Agrobagh examined what had happened, and saw that there was a spot of burnt earth slightly to the left of where the elf had stood.

“The forest plays tricks on your mind, and you seem to have misplaced your trap.” The elf said calmly- almost melodiously. In this creature was not the least hint of aggression, just a calm, confident pursuit.

“Ventus.” Agrobagh shouted as he pushed at the elf. A gale of wind erupted from his hand, and while it had no effect on the elf, he was able to push himself slightly back away. “Ignis.” Agrobagh said, casting a ball of flame again. He threw it at the elf, but it had no effect at all this time, splashing against its dark bark skin and flickering out of existence.

Agrobagh got up and started running again, but this time he could feel that the elf chased closer behind. The winds blew in the direction he ran, and it was as if the elf rode with the wind. He would soon close in on him.

“Tempesta.” Agrobagh said in between breaths. A wind started emanating from him- creating an aura which blew other things backwards. The elves were creatures of the wind, so Agrobagh doubted his spell did much, but it would neutralize any benefits the elf had from running with the wind. He hoped it would slow the elf down at least until he figured out how to escape.

Agrobagh kept running until he met a familiar sight. Poisonberry bushes lay next to an old oak tree. A bird chirped three times. He took a right, then kept running- blasting branches and twigs as he encountered them to keep ahead of his pursuer.

Behind him, Agrobagh felt the wind intensify. He kept running, but noticed that the vegetation grew thicker ahead. He did not remember them being so, and could have sworn that he saw some of them move- as if twisting to impede him.

Agrobagh muttered a spell of speed and agility, then kept moving as he remembered. He forgot about the need of his flask, and even forgot about his age as he flew through the trees with the elf closing in behind him. It was when Agrobagh saw the dead boar again that the elf closed in on him. The elf appeared in front of him, and Agrobagh could feel the vines behind him grip his limbs tightly.

“Ruptura.” Agrobagh said, but the vines held strong.

The elf smiled. “Do not resist nature, welcome it.”

Agrobagh struggled against the vines, trying to break free before being completely pinned down- but he found that the more he struggled, the tighter the vines would get. Agrobagh stopped resisting, but still the vines curled around him. While they tightened slower, they did not stop.

“Think Agrobagh. You cannot win this through force.” Agrobagh muttered to himself. As he thought, another memory flashed through his head. He was much younger then- just a soldier lost in the woods.

A flame had spread through the forest as the younger Agrobagh stood facing the heat- his helmet thick with sweat. They were ordered to burn it. A little later, he had managed to get separated from his squad. He found himself lost, then heard someone say “The forest is alive in ways humans cannot see. Here, you will find a friend or an enemy.”

A chirping sound roused Agrobagh from his memory. The elf smiled as it stepped ever closer- but Agrobagh had understood what he needed to do. “Crescere.” Agrobagh grew the vines, and they grew bigger and looser. With the extra room he wriggled out and stumbled on, heading for the trees. He ran to the tree he stood at previously. “Apertor.”

“Implexi” Agrobagh grew the vines behind the elf and made it pull him back. The elf was surprised, but quickly made to dissipate the vines. Agrobagh only needed the elf to move back a few feet however, and as the elf fell to a charred part of the ground, Agrobagh put his hand to the hand print on the tree once again. As before, a spout of flame erupted and enveloped the creature, but this time it burned him.

When the flames stopped, the elf was still alive, but badly burnt. “He must have protected himself with a spell” Agrobagh reasoned, but he did not wait to find out. He ran forwards to where it began- with the poisonberry bushes and the old oak tree, then grew all the vegetation around him like a protective cocoon. A bird chirped three times.

The bushes and trees grew larger and larger until it was impossible for any creature, insect, or bird to get through. As they grew, the hole at the base of the old oak tree grew as well. Agrobagh stopped when the hole was large enough for him, then crawled through and found himself away in a silent, unfamiliar forest.

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