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16+ Language Violence

The Forsaken Race - The Hidden Truth: Chapter 16

by RavenAkuma


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.

Chapter 16 - Vermin

               

             

Inside the fortress that the Zyreans inhabited, there was a deep cavern, accessible by a tunnel leading to its only overlook. Shadows shrouded the roof, but from the inky murk, the points of stalactites could still be spotted. Like stoney teeth in a deep maw. From the overlook, a rigid path was carved out of the gray stone walls, leading down. A thick fog made the cavern seem bottomless, and the path endless.

Still, halfway down the path by now, Jem wasn't showing much intimidation. Nor was Scorch, behind her.

Jem glanced behind her. "You're quiet."

Scorch's ears perked. "Hm? Sorry, I'm just thinking about the mortal. I understand she's a sylph, and we'll probably just end up killing or banishing her, but I don't feel like she's a problem, you know?"

"Looks deceive, and so do emotions," Jem said flatly. "Don't you start going soft."

"Soft? I just don't like being outwardly hostile and scaring people all the time, like the rest of you."

"You're a hulking, six-foot-six, fire-wielding demon with a big shotgun. You're not like Leiyt, but still, you're already scary."

"I don't like being the 'big bad demon,'" Scorch mumbled. "I like to think I can be the 'despite-being-big, not bad, calm and relateable' demon."

"Soft," Jem taunted.

Scorch teased right back, "Like how you're not just a sylph-smashing warrior, you're also a precious little sister. Right?"

"Ugh," Jem groaned. "You're embarrassing!"

Meanwhile, they finally reached the bottom of the large cavern. Several tall, jagged rocks poked out of the stone ground, and the fog made them look eerie.

"I hate this place..." Jem called out, "Leiytning!"

There was no response. She tried again, but coughed from the dense air. She growled under her breath and continued walking. For a while, there was nothing but silence and a strange tensity.

Eventually, a low, distorted chortle-like sound rang through the air.

"Well, his 'pet' is out," Scorch remarked. "That must mean he's down here, too."

They went toward the unnerving sound, and thankfully, that led them to their target. As they expected, Leiytning was just sitting in complete silence. They didn't know if he was thinking to himself, meditating, or something else entirely; nobody could ever tell what these trance-like states were.

There seemed to be something shifting behind him. Shadows faintly danced against the ground, and a huge shape made the fog churn. Jem looked uneasy, but Scorch dragged her forward.

"Hey, Leiyt, wake it up!" Scorch called. "You're not dead yet!"

Leiytning's severely-chipped ear twitched with irritation.

Scorch stopped in front of him. "Back from the mission, and Thundur made us go to you for the report."

"It was pretty interesting," said Jem.

Leiytning simply gestured for them to continue.

"There was another kumodin," Jem explained. "A big one. During the fight, we saw the expected reaction from a sylph. She cowered behind a rock while we did the work."

"Nothing to make her reconsider, though," Scorch remarked. "I thought she'd want to go screaming back to Sybilius. Then Zin took a minor hit, mainly so he could get an opening on one of the legs, and that's when the mortal tried to 'help' by distracting it."

"I don't know what the goal was," Jem muttered. "It's still unusual for an Aubade, even one in her situation. Maybe she'll wind up useful. At the same time, she could be putting on a grand display to trick us into thinking she's an ally, then she'll double-cross us. "

"Risking that much, for a display?" Scorch argued. "I don't know. We know she's not a warrior, so it took guts."

"That's understandable," Jem responded. "Still, don't get too comfortable; just because she's not a soldier doesn't mean she's not a threat. She can still leak information, or try to steal something when our backs are turned."

"That can't happen with our security," Scorch muttered. "And I'm not calling her a friend, but she could have potential. As we should all remember, an Aubade informant would be a lot more useful than any other we have."

"Loyalty matters more than useability," Jem argued. "We can get by without a sylph squawking in our ears. I'll play nice for now, since that seems to be the goal, but the second I see anything suspicious, I'm moving back to Timbur and Thundur's solution."

The two kept talking, but Leiytning wasn't listening. The recent events weren't the most confusing part of this. Rather, he was still stuck trying to figure out why Kita was out here in the first place, beyond the obvious reason. There was also the cause of her hallucinations, something he was annoyed to find himself interested in.

The leader thought, All I have is her story and this unusual sense that I still can't pinpoint. Thundur could determine it better, if she actually tried.

In his head, a familiar feminine voice responded to him.

You know you can just ask, right?

Leiytning thought back with an unamused tone, I know how you work.

He could tell Thundur was annoyed. I'm not that trigger-happy, dope. Zin has her in the Hex Den. Come back here with me, and I'll try to glean something from her. Maybe I'll find something to get rid of her, like the cause of her little problems.

You forget the real reason we're keeping her. We can still use her to bait Corelia.

And if this drags on, with no sign of her agreeing?

If it comes to that, who said she had to agree?

Now you're in the right direction. Just cut the niceties.

Patience, sister, it's better to take the path of least resistance.

In front of the leader, Jem spoke louder, "What do you personally think should happen? Expedite getting her out of here, or try to keep her so we can use her?"

"The best scenario would involve both," Leiytning responded. "She could be useful, and not only is her problem intriguing in its own way, but it can be used to keep her on our side. If she's so desperate, then playing into her idea that we're the only ones with answers will practically force her to be obedient."

"You're starting to sound corrupt, oh leader," Scorch taunted.

"Don't call me corrupt," Leiytning muttered. "We're just being strategic. One wrong move here could risk an attack from a more dangerous sylph, including Corelia herself."

Jem sneered, "Say no more. I'm thoroughly paranoid."

"Continue to survey her," Leiytning explained. "Keep sensitive information to yourselves, and alert me or Thundur immediately if something seems off."

"Alright, overlord," Jem teased. "Should we-"

Suddenly, Jem froze as she saw the fog stir more, and a large shadow hovered nearby.

"No, no, keep that thing back," she said sharply.

"Calm down and grow a pair, your cowards," Leiytning retorted.

The leader made just one small gesture, and the shadow completely vanished.

Scorch laughed nervously, "You've got that thing trained well."

Leiytning sneered, "I don't train him. Echo is an old friend, not a pet."

Jem still looked uneasy. "Doesn't make it any less terrifying."

"Just get out of here before you agitate him -or me, any further."

Scorch nodded, then headed off with their younger sister following. Leiytning lingered behind for a moment, lost in thought.

As the shadow returned, a distorted chortle sounding from it, Leiytning absently responded, "More false bravery on her part. Interesting. I speak confidently about the plan, but I can tell that this mortal's going to cause some trouble before we're done with her. I'll just have to try and minimize it."

              

           

\\\\\

                

            

Kita nervously scanned her surroundings. She did not like where things were going, nor that she had no choice in them.

After getting back from the previous mission, Zin led her to a place they called the 'Hex Den.' It was the first cave in the fortress, once heading through the main entrance tunnel. The walls and roof were uneven rust-colored stone, differentiating from the smooth, gray stone floor. There was one table on the right wall, crowded with potion supplies. One large rock was in the corner, left of the entrance tunnel. There were also some holes and ledges in the wall beside the table, clearly used for storage. On the back wall, there was a large opening that led to another part of the fortress.

Still unnerved, Kita let out a discreet sigh.

She thought, I don't understand why I'm being kept in here. Did I do something wrong? Did I say something I shouldn't have? No, I know I didn't -I couldn't have.

Upon hearing footsteps, Kita broke from her train of thought. She shuddered as she saw Thundur enter the cave, with an impatient look as she leaned against the table. It wasn't long before Leiytning arrived, as well. Despite his silence, something about his dark nature made him just as intimidating as the rumors said.

Zin groaned, "It's about time you two got here. I was bored!"

Thundur rolled her eye. "Some of us are busy with more important matters."

Zin gained a wry smile. "Oh, really? I thought that you weren't interested in the mortal."

"And?" Thundur said blankly.

"You make it sound like you're getting a bit curious," Zin teased.

Thundur shrugged her shoulders. "I only came here to make sure she doesn't try anything. Also, Timbur should be back soon, and his reaction should be entertaining."

"Worry about your own apprentice," Leiytning retorted.

"Hey, apart from the brutal murder bit, I'd agree with Timbur," Zin remarked. "This is crazy. I'm standing next to an Aubade Sylph in our own fortress! Now, I think we know why this is really happening..." He sighed, "Leiyt, it's not your fault. You're getting older, thinking straight is really hard, but we can't-"

Zin yelped and stopped after Leiytning punched him in the stomach, hard enough to make the mischievous sibling keel over.

Zin wheezed, "Worth it."

Leiytning crossed his arms. "Jem and Scorch already filled me in, so you're not needed."

Zin nodded. "Yup, got it."

While he left, Kita hesitantly asked, "Why am I in here?"

"Basics first," Thundur retorted. "Why did you help the others, in the cavern?"

"Oh, that surprised you?" Asked Kita.

"Stop playing dumb, it's obvious that's not something that just 'happens.' Honestly, I'm surprised you didn't retreat from the cavern at the moment you saw the kumodin. Much less would you face the threat head-on, all because of an enemy with a very bad reputation."

"Well..." Kita looked down. "Of course it was scary, and I did want to run away, but I restrained myself. I honestly don't know what to say, it just happened. I don't understand why it's a big deal. Anyone should or could help anybody, right? I see someone who clearly needs help, so I help, and I would think you would do the same for me. Maybe?"

Leiytning sneered, "Are you completely oblivious to where you are? In inter-species situations, blood is only equal when it's desecrating in a grave; people eat other people, sometimes literally. That goes twofold for sylphs, the species with every reason and instinct to avoid magical creatures, and it goes tenfold when the people on the other end are demons."

"That's so morbid," Kita murmured.

"You have no idea," Leiytning muttered. "I don't think you're fully understanding what we see, or even what your fellow Aubades see. You may not care about the war, and try to minimize its impact on the situation, but it doesn't work that way. Most sylphs, even in what feels like a dire situation, would not set aside centuries of death and suffering so easily. Likewise, for us, our only remaining purpose is taking your queen and mounting her head on a stake. Regardless of how many maggots try to stop us."

Kita shuddered upon meeting his one-eyed glare. She felt like if she tried to keep anything to herself, or said the wrong thing, he or his lurking twin would snap. It was the same imposing feeling she felt when speaking to any nobility, even Corelia, but less regal and more lethal.

"With that kind of history, doesn't it seem a little strange that one of those maggots isn't just willing to work with us, and say absolutely nothing about the rivalry, but try to play nice in the process? To not show hesitation or bitterness, even under stress? Even Kodin didn't go that far, and his motives were clear from the beginning. Despite your admission to your sickness and whatnot, you remain an anomaly. So, is this getting through to you yet?"

"M-Maybe, I don't..." Kita froze up, gulping nervously.

Leiytning finally stepped back. "True, regarding this mission, nothing matters. We don't trust you any more or less, I doubt either of our priorities has shifted, and all that's happened is the death of some hostile vermin. Happens every day. I only want you to start recognizing your position right now, and why it may confuse others at the very least."

Kita lightly nodded. "I think I get it, but I don't know what to tell you. Maybe wanting to help did come from a place of ignorance, as you said. I've never spent a day in the army; I didn't even hear stories about this, apart from a quick summary of the Extinction Battle. I'm not used to seeing you as an enemy, or vice-versa, because I don't see the conflict."

"Have you seen that there's only seven of us?" Asked Leiytning.

Confused, Kita replied, "Yes?"

"Then you've seen the conflict," Leiytning responded. "Congratulations."

"Oh, right," Kita murmured.

While Leiytning seemed to be keeping his patience to impressive lengths, Thundur was clearly unamused.

She crossed her arms. "Alright, now put the shock factor aside. This needs to be addressed for future incidents, if nothing else. The beasts we fight, even the small ones, have the potential to be lethal to untrained mortals like yourself. Our stupid brothers may have been fine protecting you, but they won't always be around, and we don't care what happens to you. Now, what's your angle, trying to stick your neck out like this?"

Kita shrugged her shoulders. "I'll be more aware in the future, but it's like I said. I'm willing to work with you. After all, I can't expect to get something for nothing. I don't know if I can handle a beast, but I can handle smaller things. I noticed there's an entire potion brewing setup. I used to work with simpler potions, so I could help with that."

"Don't touch my stuff," Thundur muttered. "Be 'useful' by staying out of our way, that's about it."

"Okay," Kita mumbled.

As the room fell silent, Kita tried to think of what to say.

Meanwhile, Thundur's attention was drawn away. In her own head, she could hear what her brother was thinking.

He said in their shared mind, What do you make of this?

Thundur felt annoyed, but pulled Leiytning aside and spoke in a quiet voice. As an extra barrier to keep Kita from eavesdropping, she spoke in demon tongue.

"'I can't learn anything beyond the simple fact that she's a childish thinker. All the complexities and deep scars that this war has caused just breeze past her. She reflects intimidation, but that's clearly because of you, not the substance of what we're telling her. A hint of curiosity, but also short-sighted and selfish.'"

"'I could've told you that,'" Leiytning responded in the same language.

"'Just don't fall for the guise. This sylph may have her own reasons for being out here, but it doesn't mean she can't multitask. Naivety isn't the best quality for loyalty; as easily as she shifted to follow us, she could be shifted back to follow Corelia.'"

"'Naievity isn't exactly abnormal, nor does it reveal any ulterior motives. What about her hallucinations, or her eyes? Have you made anything of that yet?'"

"'I don't know if there's any correlation. She could possibly come from a noble. That could have given her prior knowledge of our tribe, hence our emblem being burnt into her mind, and access to magic could have affected her eye color.'"

"'Doubtful. She would have a better education if so, and judging from her demeanor and appearance, she's a commoner. Maybe even impoverished.'"

Thundur sighed, "'Then we'll keep looking.'"

Before either of them could keep talking, the sound of rushed footsteps came from outside. It didn't take long before Seyber and another person entered the Hex Den. The second person was the smaller demon with dark, desaturated green hair, Timbur.

"Things to report!" Seyber spoke quickly. "Sorry to interrupt!"

Meanwhile, as they spoke, Kita blocked out their voices, still conflicted. Just like the demons felt about her, she felt that something was off about herself. Perhaps she did come into this thinking too much about herself. More importantly, she may have come in too ignorant.

She tried to dismiss the thought, for now, and listened to the others.

Thundur sighed, answering Seyber, "If you can't handle the depths, don't tag along on those missions. I swear, you somehow constantly switch between underestimating and overestimating your limits."

"Hey, I'm just saying it was scary," Seyber argued. "And we should do more to-"

When Timbur suddenly unsheathed his machete, Seyber stopped talking. He finally noticed Kita, and he wasn't happy; his seafoam eyes narrowed to a hateful glare, and his lip curled to reveal his fangs. His voice held no remorse.

"What the hell is it doing in the fortress?" He growled.

Kita forced a nervous smile. "N-Nice to see you again. Timbur, right?"

Timbur raised the blade toward her throat. "Seriously, what the hell is going on?!"

"Stop that," Leiytning interfered, snatching the blade.

"What the- Why are you letting her live?" Timbur cried.

"We're using her," said Leiytning.

"What?" Timbur snapped. "With all due respect, Leiytning, even if you have a 'grand scheme' in this, it's stupid! How are we just letting her cruise around our fortress? We keep it hidden because of this exact species!"

Leiytning was clearly unamused. "If she did try to make a threat of herself, even Seyber could destroy her. Without a weapon."

Timbur shot Kita another deathly glare, making her flinch.

"Maybe she's not a threat," Timbur spat. "Not in that sense, but she is filthy, disgusting vermin that deserves to be put out of its misery."

"Vermin we're experimenting with," Leiytning responded, giving the blade back. "Let me worry about her life expectancy. For once, in this regard, please behave yourself."

Timbur begrudgingly sighed, sheathing his weapon. "Fine."

Even though he was still on edge, with his hand on the hilt of his weapon, Kita started to calm down.

Kita took a deep breath. "Thank you. I was afraid he would kill me on the spot."

"Don't let it go to your head," Leiytning grumbled.

With an unamused expression, Thundur addressed the other demoness. "You were saying, Seyber? What was the second thing you mentioned?"

"I think the oculus escaped," Seyber answered. "I'm not completely sure, though. I just heard it from Jem."

Leiytning rolled his eye. "Yes, I released him for a while. Stop being dramatic about it."

"Dammit, Leiyt," Thundur ranted. "What have I told you about letting that thing run rampant? Lock it back up before it comes for one of us!"

Leiytning muttered something indiscernible.

"Shut it, dope," she retorted. "You were the one who-"

"Spare me the lecture, harpy!" Leiytning snapped, leaving the Hex Den.

Thundur seemed irritated, but remained silent as he left. Kita took the opportunity to scan the room. She had her own conclusions to make about the other demons, but for now, her attention kept drifting back to the mysterious leader.

Kita shuddered, thinking to herself, I don't like him. One minute he's on my side, the next he resents me. One minute he tells me something useful, the next he's almost intentionally trying to terrify me. I don't know how I'm going to get anything from him.


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Mon Feb 12, 2024 6:54 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Raven! Lim here with a review.

General Thoughts

My first impressions are that the demons seem to be arguing about the same things, but that Scorch adds a new perspective (and maybe Jem as well). Also, the demon banter seemed friendlier here than what I remember in the Blood Forest – maybe just because Timbur doesn’t show up until the second half. I thought that they’d be more serious with Leiytning since he is their leader, but maybe Timbur is actually the killjoy of the family? <.<

Something else that stood out to me was this:

In inter-species situations, blood is only equal when it's desecrating in a grave; people eat other people, sometimes literally. That goes twofold for sylphs, the species with every reason and instinct to avoid magical creatures, and it goes tenfold when the people on the other end are demons."

That sort of situation explains the behaviour from the demons in the Blood Forest. I wonder why Kita really seems to know nothing about it. It’s also the first the reader is hearing of it, so I’m still trying to make sense of this worldbuilding bit in my head. As for Kita helping the demons – I initially thought they saw her as a coward/ non-combatant and that’s why they predicted she wouldn’t do anything to help (not that they expected her to “avoid magical creatures” because of her species). So it seems that the demons had more backstory into their judgements than I first thought, which is interesting.

Based on the ending of the chapter, Kita is out of her depth here, but maybe she’ll find a way to swim rather than sink?

Plot

On a second read, I like the subtle plot developments here, specifically how in the first scene, some of the demons seem to be changing their opinion of Kita. Scorch specifically – I feel like Jem’s stance also shifted just a bit, even though she’s still wary of her. The line where she says she’ll “play nice for now” gave me that impression. I like how that creates conflict among the demons. The second scene also sets up Kita’s next obstacle which is her lack of knowledge about the war and the world besides that of the Aubades. I felt that part was believable, since she really did rush headlong into this while working with minimal knowledge.

Characters

I really like Scorch’s characterisation so far. His dialogue in the beginning distinguishes him from demons like Jem or Zin. He comes across as being more vulnerable or honest, almost, for example when he shares this:
"I don't like being the 'big bad demon,'" Scorch mumbled. "I like to think I can be the 'despite-being-big, not bad, calm and relateable' demon."


Something that surprised me were that all the demons apparently (?) are family relations. I guess it makes sense since there are only 7 of them, but somehow it didn’t occur to me earlier on to view them as siblings based on their interactions. I thought they were just teammates to each other.

"You're starting to sound corrupt, oh leader," Scorch taunted.
this makes it sound like manipulation wasn’t always the demons’ modus operandi. Or is this just Scorch having different values than the others
Something I didn’t understand was why they find Echo so scary. He wasn’t described all that much just a shadow and a “distorted chortle” – and I associate chortling with more light-hearted scenarios, even if they are distorted. Could just be me though!

Overall

This chapter seems to be building up tension to the next plot point. I like that we got to explore the different character dynamics and some hints of what Kita’s next challenge is going to be. I wonder what it means for the demons now that the ‘oculus’ has gotten away.

Hope this helps, and keep writing!
-Lim




RavenAkuma says...


Welcome back! This chapter was particularly tricky; as you guessed, I did want to build on some plot points and different demons' perspectives, but kind of struggled to lay it out smoothly. So I appreciate the insight (I mean, I always do, but especially here lol).

Anyway, glad you enjoyed, thanks for reading and reviewing! :)



Liminality says...


Yeah, developing plot points and characters at once can be quite challenging - I find it to be so in my projects too. Thanks for sharing, and glad the review was helpful!



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Sat Dec 30, 2023 12:49 am
PKMichelle wrote a review...



Hello friend!
It is me yet again, this time on review day, to help get the Red team some well-deserved points.


Per my interpretation, this was once again an awesome chapter! It's starting to seem like you really can't miss with this novel, and I'm all for it!

The demons are debating what to do with Kita and how to handle what she's done. All the while, Kita's trying to rationalize with them about why she did it, but with little luck. She just ends up coming off as ignorant and making the demons question her motives, but she's very persistent and ends up living another day.

This was a wonderful plot for this chapter and was even better for the story as a whole!


If I could offer any sort of advice, it would be a really small thing that is actually fine the way you have it. It's nitpicky, so to speak.

It happened when Leightning was asking Kita why she helped the other demons in the cave. You said

"Oh, that surprised you?" Asked Kita.


I feel like "asked" should be in lowercase in this sentence. Now, what you did isn't wrong at all. Writings look like that all the time. But it's more traditional and just kind of looks better when it's in lowercase.

But, obviously, this is just a suggestion, and it's always up to the writer, so please take this criticism lightly and know that I mean nothing negative by it—only trying to provide a somewhat useful critique.


If I had to pick my favorite part, you guessed it, there would be a lot! Every chapter's so good, and there's just so many amazing things happening in them, but for this review, I'll focus mainly on the characters.

The first thing that I thought was really cool was the way you showed Scorch's "humanity." Especially when you made him say,

"I don't like being the 'big bad demon,'" Scorch mumbled. "I like to think I can be the 'despite-being-big, not bad, calm, and relateable' demon."


I thought this was a really cute quote from him and that it did a good job showing his overall character. He's a little softy, and I love him for it.

Another thing I really liked was when Leiytning was coming up with what to do with Kita and he said,

If she's so desperate, then playing into her idea that we're the only ones with answers will practically force her to be obedient.


It seems to be a common theme, but this does a really great job showing his intelligence and why he's their leader. He's just so thoughtful and quick on his feet, and it's a lot of fun to read, so kudos to you for being so consistent with this!

Another thing related to Leiytning that I thought was really neat was when Leiytning explained why Sylphs and demons have bad blood. He said,

"Then you've seen the conflict," Leiytning responded. "Congratulations."


This was really snarky and quite funny, and it did an amazing job of truly showing the depth of his character. So good job with that as well!

The next thing that I really enjoyed was the way you showed Kita's internal thought process. You said,

Meanwhile, as they spoke, Kita blocked out their voices, still conflicted. Just like the demons felt about her, she felt that something was off about herself. Perhaps she did come into this thinking too much about herself. More importantly, she may have come in too ignorant.


The way she's questioning herself and coming to the realization that maybe what she's doing is a little dumb is really creative and fun to read. It also shows a lot more about the depth of her character and how she's not really just some dumb Sylph.

And the final thing in this chapter that I liked was the last paragraph when you said,

Kita shuddered, thinking to herself, I don't like him. One minute he's on my side, the next he resents me. One minute he tells me something useful, and the next he's almost intentionally trying to terrify me. I don't know how I'm going to get anything from him.


Not only did this show how Kita thinks and feels about what's going on, but it also does a really great job summarizing the whole chapter and pretty much everything that's happened since Kita met the demons. And an indirect summary at the end of a chapter or book is always greatly appreciated and very helpful, even if the writer didn't intend it to be, so good job with that!

There were so many great things here; if I could get away with quoting the whole chapter, I would!


Overall, this was another wonderful chapter in an amazing novel! You're doing a really great job with all of these, and I'm genuinely having a blast reading them!

Thank you for taking the time to write and post this, and I hope this review is of some use to you!


Goodbye for now! I hope you have a magnificent day (or night) wherever you are!




RavenAkuma says...


Thank you very much for reading and reviewing! I don't know why I have a habit of capitalizing "Asked" after questions like that, but I know it's a little controversial, so I don't blame you for calling it out. I get it ~

Glad you enjoyed! And yeah, no shade Green, but let's earn Red Team some points ;) lol




The thing about plummeting downhill at fifty miles an hour on a snack platter - if you realize it's a bad idea when you're halfway down, it's too late.
— Rick Riordan, The Son of Neptune