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The deeper Grant went, the more stillness she felt. Less the sudden, held breaths of the woods, more as if the air itself thickened.
That made the thump, nearby, so prevalent in the silence that Grant was startled out of with its nearness.
At the stone she approached one of the stones she was startled out of her inspection by a heavy thump she could feel in the soles of her feet.
It was very still, but not deathly so. It moved, a man's voice keening from the bundle that revealed it to be one of her pursuers. In the dark it was the movement of the man-shaped heap that made it clear what it was, rendering it recognizable. He didn't move much, slumping back towards the forest floor again with a wheeze.
There was a crack in the tree canopy above.
She slowly got to her feet, and took a wary step forward. They were gone for now, but what if they came back, and were more careful this time? She clenched her fist, and walked deeper into the woods, looking over the stone carefully. She heard a songbird sing, and smiled, walking further into the woods, trying to save her energy for when she would need it most. She saw another stone, and walked over to that one, trying to find a path in the darkness, some sense in the world. She saw another stone, this one a different shade, and ran over to it, trying to find out what all these stones were about.
To the creature that felt through its effigies, after so long gazing at them, a shiver moved over skin like the touch of fingers. A head turned, listening to the roots and the leaves that all connected, leading its senses, spreading, towards the source of the disturbance.
There were warm bodies spreading throughout the woods. Unwelcome. Mortal. Humanoid.
Creaking bones shifted, joints groaning in protest of movement as the large body sank into the material realm to hunt, gaining a physicality and weight that came along with sinew and muscle.
Grant, hiding behind the stone, pressed her back to it as if to become smaller. The thing that bled through the stones felt the warmth of her shivering body and moved between the ports it knew lay at the abandoned boundary markings. Consecrated long ago, by an ancient people that had since left this territory now left alone, powerful, untapped.
One voice, from afar, was suddenly loud, shrieking it cut through the woods, and gone. Silence. It had been a man's voice; sudden, shrill, breaking.
The woods resumed. Grant noticed another stone ahead.
She carefully traced this one as well. The voices were past her already, and she knew it would be a bit before they circled back. She let out a sigh of relief, and looked more closely at the chimeric creature depicted on the stone slab.
[#f4r14y “Seriously, who keeps leaving theses things around, especially out here”?] Her curiosity distracted her again, and she almost didn’t hear the voices getting closer. She tried to hide behind this one again. Where had they gone, that they could be back so quickly? She watched as they headed back, and sighed again. She was safe, for now, but they would either leave her to die here, or come back in greater numbers.
As she hid, Grant would notice there was another stone, one of the only solid, not green colors that she would find in her vision. Cutting a line through the dirge of leaves and brush, the upstanding stone was a shadow amongst it all.
As she moved, a hush would fall over the woods around her. The birds would quiet, the woods' breath halting the breeze for just a moment. And once she would notice, and look around, it would resume, or pass.
The second stone she reached had what looked like a spreading tree... or a creature, upon closer inspection. What she saw as roots and branches led all to a central body with a neck, and led to shoulders and a head, maw wide, antlers atop. It was a depiction of some chimeric creature.
She looked around for any sign of danger, before approaching it. She had always been to curious for her own good, and now she had payed the price for it. She let out a sigh, and traced over the strange carvings with a single finger, as it gathered dust. [#f4r14y “What is this thing, and why is it here, of all places”?]
She heard another sound, but instead of coming from any direction, it seemed to come from the forest itself. The trees, the grass, everything, before it quickly stopped. She heard voices in the distance, and she decided to hide behind the stone slab. No use in running if they would catch her anyways.
The woods around Grant were dappled with the evening light shifting through them as she whipped through the trees, weaving and moving to try and lose her pursuers. Luckily, they had to dismount from their horses which gave her a head start on them as the woods thickened.
There was merciful silence, as much as a wholly alive forest can be, when she started to look around. It enveloped her senses as they piqued, listening hard for more sounds of pursuit. The snap of a twig had caught her attention and while she looked over she didn't see a figure, a body, no one or thing was there but the looming, black shape of an old, upright stone.
On it she could see carvings in an old tongue, or was it simply decoration? Pictures that represented what was here? It was moss-dotted and etched with pictures of what looked like animals and patterns.
She gasped, running into the woods. She looked back, and heard the shouts behind her. Shouts of hatred, from people she had known her whole life. She kept running, tears running down her face as she tripped over a branch, not even trying to look where she was going. She got up, and kept running, until, eventually, their shouts faded away.
She fell down, hiding from them behind a log. She looked around, trying to figure out where she was. She hadn’t meant to do anything, it was just a harmless dare, what went wrong? She started to look at her leg, and realized just how banged up and muddy it was. She heard a sound to her right, and her head whipped around to face whatever made the sound.
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