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16+ Language Violence

The Forsaken Race - The Hidden Truth: Chapter 10

by RavenAkuma


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

Chapter 10 - Across The Stream

     

   

'CAW! CAW!'

The loud call of the crows made Kita flinch, cursing the birds under her breath. She had been awake for what felt like three hours, just watching the fire's dying flames.

The morning had been peaceful, up until the crows showed up. However, she was too anxious to drop her guard. If not because of the tense aura of the forest, then because of what she had heard and felt last night. Nothing like it happened again, yet she couldn't get the experience out of her head.

Broken from her sleepless trance, though, Kita sat up and rubbed her eyes.

"Last night was terrifying," she murmured. "I've never been that scared, and I don't even know if it was real. Then again, why was Stud thrown at me if it wasn't?"

She glanced at the small dog, who was watching her curiously.

"When I heard voices, before..." Kita shuddered. "Were those also real? Was it all in my head?"

Knowing how often she had fought with her own conscience, Kita felt uncomfortable. However, the idea of a follower -or even a haunting specter- just seemed too unlikely. 

Kita clenched her fists, inhaling sharply. "I can't linger on it. I still need answers."

She got up and stretched, then collected the bag and Stud. Afterward, she kicked some dust onto the fire, ensuring it had gone out. With every step, she got the same strange feeling, and felt ghostly eyes watching her. However, she tried to stay positive by focusing on the sound of flowing water. It was truly serene.

Eventually, she could see a hint of red through the trees and foliage. She slowed down even more, unsettled by the unnatural hue. After pulling back the leaves, revealing the stream, she was already shuddering.

The water was not only murky, but it was a deep shade of crimson. It looked like blood; a vein of the world around her. Some old stones poked through the surface, splitting its steady current like a fresh long on a large flame. The stones looked unnatural, and from their wear, they had clearly been used as a way to cross for a long time.

"Is..." Kita gulped. "Is it the border?"

Stud cocked his head, watching the questionable water.

"I can see why it's called the Blood Forest now. As eerie as it looks, it's a little relieving, because I was imagining a much worse reason for that title."

Eying the other side of the forest, which seemed denser, Kita felt her blood run cold. This was demons' territory, yet she still could not stomach or believe the thought. The more she thought about her concerns and reservations, though, the more she was drawn back to the reason she was here. It made her realize that monsters were waiting for her, but also the root of her misery.

As scary as that thought was, it made Kita even more determined.

The stream was only about fifteen feet wide, but the much darker middle signified its depth. Keeping her focus on the stones, Kita threw her bag across the stream, then approached the edge of the water. The tips of her boots were grazing the small waves.

Stud, on the other hand, was whimpering, pacing anxiously behind her.

Kita laughed, "I'm scared, too. For the record, this is why you shouldn't have followed me."

Stud looked down, but Kita picked him up easily. She studied the rocks and water, and after some measuring, she started across. The first, second, and third stones were easy enough, but after a small jump at the fourth, one foot slipped into the water. She shuddered at the thought of this water touching her, but tried to keep her focus.

Thankfully, the rest of the way was simple, so it wasn't long before she reached the shore. She recollected her bag and set Stud down. As a matter of precaution, however, she also pulled out her dagger, sheathing it to the belt of her dress.

This side of the stream seemed a bit denser, with almost twice the amount of overgrown foliage. More concerningly, weeds with thorns or spines were clearly lost in the mix. The same tense aura was looming over the forest, but it was even stronger than before, almost suffocating.

"I came with the idea that I would know it when I see it," Kita muttered. "I was right."

"I agree!"

Kita flinched hard, nearly stumbling back into the stream. She even dropped the bag. The voice was pathetic, not threatening, but it was still unexpected. Immediately, she scanned the place for signs of life.

She couldn't see anyone but Stud, who was looking at her with confusion. She stopped right there, though.

Kita glared down at him. "Stud?"

"Yes?"

Kita almost screamed when hearing the same dog respond. His voice was squeaky and hectic.

"Oh, gods, I've officially lost it!" Kita cried. "Why are you talking?!"

Stud stopped, his tail lowering. Suddenly, though, he perked up.

"You can understand me?" He squeaked.

"Yes!" Kita snapped.

"Oh, wow!" Stud yipped. "It's about time!"

"Why do I understand you?" Kita argued. "This was not supposed to happen, when I left! There was never any warning!"

"This is nothing too new," Stud explained. "I've always understood talking. I've always tried it, too! As for why, I don't remember the specifics too well, but I do know this. Remember when you found me?"

Though still on edge, Kita hesitantly responded, "I found you in an old alley when I was eight, and in hindsight, your age is another shock I should've noticed. Wh-Why are you asking me that, anyway?"

"Because I was abandoned," Stud replied. "By my first owner, who happened to be a witch. Probably not a great one, but a witch nonetheless." He spun in a circle. "Behold, you can finally know! You are the owner of an ex-familiar!"

"That still doesn't explain why you can talk," Kita argued. "I've never heard of a spell being able to do that. There's not even supposed to be magic in Sybilius; it's illegal for good reason!"

"Illegal, not impossible," Stud remarked. "I definitely got speech, a longer lifespan, and some other traits I've never been too sure of. I don't even remember it happening, I just know it did. Strange, huh? Maybe that's part of the curse; I'm forever reminded that I am only a servant. I don't mind, though."

"Why does it only work now?" Kita interrogated.

"I'm not sure," Stud replied. "Maybe it just doesn't work in Sybilius. That's probably for the better, though. Can you imagine everyone's reaction to talking animals?"

Kita sighed, rubbing her temples. "You're trying to say, all this time, I had a cursed dog and didn't even realize it? Are these things just drawn to me, for some reason? Am I a curse and-or supernatural magnet?"

"Enchanted, not cursed!" Stud barked. "Frankly, I'm glad it works."

Kita gulped nervously. "This place is already getting too strange for me. I really hope this is as bad as it gets, but I don't think so."

"Probably not," Stud agreed.

Kita muttered, "Keep it together, it's just a talking dog in demon's territory. You knew it would be bad. You also hallucinate..." She froze up, shaking. "This is real, right?"

Stud walked over to the bag. "Yes, and you should get used to it. I know I will."

"Good luck to both of us," Kita muttered.

Stud pushed out a scroll with his snout. "We're dealing with demons, and if I'm any evidence of this, magic can do wild things. Especially in nature, it's a force of pure and utter chaos! You'll want someone to keep you steady on the way, won't you?"

Kita picked up the scroll, staring at it for a long time. Many different thoughts were buzzing about her head.

She finally muttered, "As I literally just learned, 'magic in nature' allows for creatures to age forever, function without a heart, and produce elements at their fingertips. I guess you're right. It is chaos..." She took a deep breath. "Okay! Let's try to move on, right? There's an upside to this. If we can communicate, you will be a lot more useful, and I have to worry less about losing track of you."

Stud didn't respond, just wagged his tail.

Kita managed a constrained smile. "M-Maybe your size will have uses, too? You can get around easier. Anyway, you must be updated on what we're doing, right?"

"Why do you think I ran into the palace?" Asked Stud. "I was your ticket in."

Kita blinked hard. "Oh, so that's why you ran off! Wow, you really were listening."

Stud visibly shuddered, "I was glad to do that for you, but I don't like this nearly as much."

Kita hesitated to follow that; she knew exactly what she wanted to ask, but still found it unnerving. After a moment to think, she made her choice and forced the words out.

"Stud, you probably know that I hear things sometimes," Kita explained. "Voices, mainly. Last night, it happened again. I thought it was just more of the same, and it would go away eventually, but then you were thrown at me."

"Yeah, I remember," Stud mumbled. "I was hoping you wouldn't bring it up, but it's just another reason to be scared of this place."

"You must've heard it too, then," Kita said eagerly. "That means it's not all in my head, right?"

Stud shook his head. "I was sleeping when someone grabbed me. Whoever it was, he kept my mouth shut, and the way he had my neck, I couldn't even whimper. I was trying to warn you, believe me. Thankfully, he decided to talk to you, and nothing else."

"I'm sorry," Kita replied. "Did you see him, though? What did he look like?"

"I didn't get a good look," Stud explained. "I was asleep before, everything was dark, and my head was faced away from him. I only vaguely saw his hands..." He shuddered. "He was so close to you, and you didn't even realize. He even had a knife!"

Kita felt her face go pale. "What?"

"It was a big knife," Stud said a little quieter. "I thought he was going to cut you with it, because it was only a couple of inches from your back. He kept it there the whole time, before he threw me at you and disappeared. Oh, and if you thought that was strange, his skin was gray! It was covered in scars, too."

"It was, huh?" Kita murmured.

"Yup," Stud rambled. "Burns all along the knuckles, what was probably a big hole in the wrist, and cuts all over. They were so cold, too, they were almost like stone. I also can't describe it; the scent I picked up was like death, but not the type you'd get from a corpse. It's like..." He inhaled sharply, and his eyes narrowed. "Maybe you don't understand this, but you can just smell it in the air when something's not right. It was that feeling. Honestly, even without the weapon, he was scary!"

Kita finally started to look uneasy, eying the other side of the stream. She knew this information about a weapon, involving someone she never even saw coming, just escalated the danger of her situation. If he decided to strike again, it would be like a hawk chasing a mouse in a wide, open plain. There would be a chance for her to survive, but not even a moderately good one.

"I read all about this before, and worse," Kita murmured. "I knew it was coming. I just have to be ready to negotiate. I'm not going back to wait for things to get worse."

"I still don't like it," Stud muttered.

"Just one more thing," Kita continued. "You're aware of what was happening in Sybilius, even though you couldn't talk to me, which makes me think you saw how bad things were getting in the house..." She looked away. "First of all, I'm sorry you had to be in the middle of that. I know I was not in a good state, and it might've scared you. Especially since I usually talk to you during or after an incident."

"I never paid much attention," Stud replied. "I got worried when you were in your really bad states, but that was about it. If it helped to talk to me, that's good, and the fact that I can respond now shouldn't keep you from doing that in the future. Just to be clear, I am still your friend and pet."

"You don't have a problem with calling yourself a pet?" Kita murmured.

"Why would I?" Asked Stud. "I'm a coward, I like to sleep, and I crack under pressure. By being a pet, with or without a voice, I don't have to worry about hard jobs or messing something up. I can just sleep all day, and my only job is to listen to you. Sounds like a good job to me!"

"Right, well..." Kita kneeled in front of him. "In all that time you spent with me, I don't suppose you saw anything apart from me, did you? Maybe you heard something that wasn't right? Something like that man from last night?"

Stud flinched and shook his head. "Oh, no! I would notice something like that being in the house for sure! This was a first."

"Good, this is a new phenomenon," Kita murmured. "Bad, all those voices I heard before were in my own head, which still makes me uneasy."

Stud sighed, turning toward the forest. "I still don't know about doing this for a cure. I'll follow you anywhere, but I don't like it."

"I don't like it either," Kita muttered. "This is what I've been driven to, though."

"But there was another option," Stud argued. "You know, if there's just one thing I could pick up in all my time from Sybilius, it's that Queen Corelia truly cares about you. That's undeniable, and so is her willingness to support you! She would do anything to find the right treatment, one that has to be better than Yuna's scraps. You could've stayed with her to get the cure!"

Kita felt deep-seated irritation creeping into her mind. She stood from her knees, facing the forest. Even though it still brought a sense of fear and endangerment, she could feel the urge to go forward, buried deep in the mix of emotions. There were secrets, and an entire bloody history hidden in this forest. Going too deep was bound to cause trouble, but it didn't erase the secret desire to know more.

"All those times I called myself sick," Kita muttered, "I wasn't just talking about my health. I meant I'm sick of sylphs. I was exaggerating a little, but I also wasn't lying when I gave my response to that man. The people of Sybilius are against me."

"I remember they were always mean," Stud mumbled. "Okay, I guess I understand..."

Kita awkwardly cleared her throat. "It's not all that bad. Taking this route, I've already been getting more sleep, and I've had much fewer and milder episodes. Besides, aren't you curious? This is a surefire way to find what's connecting me to this place or its people. There's clearly a link, so what is it? How did it form when I've only lived on the opposite side of Sybilius, hundreds of miles -and hours- away? Will Kodin's clues lead me to it, or will I have to figure it out for myself?"

"Scary, that's what it is," Stud muttered.

"We've established that," Kita argued. "Look, the point is that this is what I want, and it's what I'm doing. Can you just try to be calm and work with me?"

"I can't promise the calm part," Stud replied. "But I will follow you wherever you go."

Kita managed a faint grin. "Thank you. Let's go."


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Mon Feb 26, 2024 4:32 pm
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keeperofgaming wrote a review...



First Impressions:
Stud can talk... Nice. He seems very kind, and wants to help. I also like how the Conscience seemed to be threatening, but he also seemed aware of Stud's being, as he hid from all detection until she was outside of Sylbius.
OH, I just realized that it's possible that he was also bound by a spell, so he couldn't take physical form.
I still feel like he's friendly, just doesn't know how to act kind.

Characters:
Kita- She seems to finally understand her situation, and has come to terms with her path. She really cares for Corelia, Mao, and Yuna, but she hates the rest of them. You created a good character that allows the reader to relate to her. She wants the best, but she just can't help it.

Stud- He is a good boi. He also helps Kita come to terms with her situation, cementing him as a good person. He also shed light on the fact that the Conscience was only bound to Kita until they entered the Blood Woods. I also like that he was a familiar, just giving him a reason for loyalty.

The Conscience- I still feel like he was simply warning of the dangers. I feel like the knife was more warning Stud to guard her than actually threatening her life. He seems to be in the midline of benevolent and malevolent, and I'm here for it. I hope that he does turn out to be a good guy. Because he also seemed to have a massive grip on how Kita felt and tried to make her aknowledge it.

Overall:
Very well done and I didn't notice any errors.




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Thu Jan 18, 2024 10:39 pm
dragonight9 wrote a review...



Hi Raven! Another exciting chapter awaits, so I'll dive right in.

As I'm reading through:

I don't think you need the comma between "three hours by now," in your first paragraph.
And again in this one "Broken from her sleepless trance, though, Kita sat up and rubbed her eyes." I don't think you needed the 'though' in between. It feels like the flow of the sentence is interrupted. I still understood the meaning though, so it's up to you if you want to change it.

You also added the 'though' in another sentence just before Kita crosses the river. (love the idea of a natural blood river by the way. Makes for cool imagery)

Very interesting how Stud starts talking the moment they enter demon territory (or leave sylph territory).

I like how you worked in the description of magic in nature. Seems to me like magic in this world is very powerful. You basically said it could make someone immortal which makes me curious about how they Sylphs were able to fight the demons at all.

Very interesting how there was an actual person/creature whispering to Kita this time, rather than it being a voice in her head. His description makes me wonder if he is actually dead but kept alive by magic. I'm very excited to see if this character returns and what his role will be.

I like how Stud wants to be a kind of therapy dog for her. The fact she opened up about her dislike for Sybilius shows that he already is that for her (to a degree).

Great conclusion for Kita and Stud as they choose to continue despite the danger and their fear.

Overall thoughts:

I'm glad that Kita will have a companion she can converse with during this adventure. You also did a great job continuing to set up the scenery and Kita's determination to press forwards.
Stud's backstory was well handled and I already feel like I understand his personality.

Last thoughts:

I noticed in this chapter that you used a lot of commas to combine ideas. Not sure if I just didn't notice it before, but it certainly seemed more prominent here. I don't know whether this makes it better or worse. I just wanted to comment on it.

I really enjoyed this chapter, and it feels like the real journey is just about to start!
Have a great day/night.




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Tue Jan 16, 2024 9:48 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi again Raven! Lim here with another review.

General Impressions

I’m somehow not too surprised that Stud is not an ordinary dog. I think maybe it’s the way Kita always talks to him like he has person-logic rather than dog-logic, or maybe some parts of his behaviour that seemed a little off (like how did he know to follow her in that carriage?). Him being able to speak in The Blood Forest certainly adds to the mystery of that location.

I liked the description of the crimson river. It certainly sets a dissonant atmosphere, as though things in the forest just don’t work like they do elsewhere in this setting.

As a whole, this seemed like a more reflective chapter that fills in some gaps like who the first ‘voice’ and second ‘voice’ are, Kita’s true feelings about Sybillius and why she still plans to continue on.

Characters

Something I liked about characterisation in this chapter was the detailed description of Kita’s thought process as she crossed the river. I thought it kept good continuity with previous chapters which have established her survivalist skills. It was also an immersive scene and I could imagine how the river-crossing process worked.

I also liked how Kita talks about her problems with Stud here. It felt genuine, and from past chapters it often seemed like she held back more when talking to any of her sylph companions. That shows Kita’s discomfort around other sylphs, I think.

Prose

Here are some minor comments about technical writing things or clarity:
- I think in the last chapter, I might have misinterpreted the part about Stud being thrown at Kita. For some reason I remember thinking Stud had jumped onto Kita’s lap on his own? I think it might have been because the description skipped to Stud being in her lap or “landing” on her without saying how, so I assumed he’d jumped up on his own.
- Something to think about when revising could be to cut out phrases that aren’t needed to convey a sentence’s meaning. Sometimes I find that I get stuck reading lines like:

She had been awake for what felt like three hours, by now, just watching the dying flames of the fire.

- Here, I’m not sure if the “by now” is necessary. I think I could get the meaning of that sentence without it. With the “by now”, I found it harder to process the link between her being awake and her “watching the dying flames”.

Plot

Something I think could be improved plot-wise is the pacing of this chapter. It does feel like Kita and Stud discuss a lot of potential plot points in a short period of time, from the being that spoke to her the previous night, to the existence of witch’s familiars and also what Stud can perceive (as opposed to the ‘voices’ Kita can perceive). I think if I weren’t taking notes as I read I might have been somewhat overwhelmed by the quantity of information.

The plot points do all sound interesting, though. The being as described by Stud reminds me a little of how killers are depicted in horror movies (the supernatural kind). I was a bit surprised by Stud’s description because I didn’t think he sounded like he was trying to kill her the last time. I wonder if he was covering it up or if the knife has some other explanation.

Kita not being able to see much of such beings is also interesting, because it seems to mean she’ll have to rely more on Stud for detecting them.

Overall

This chapter certainly makes me interested to see more of the inhabitants of the Blood Forest. I like Kita’s determination, and having Stud be able to interact with her more now makes things more interesting.

Hope this helps!
-Lim




RavenAkuma says...


Welcome back, Lim, I'm glad you enjoyed! Good to know about the run-on sentences and plot points. While writing, it feels like I'm always caught between having an explanation for everything and info-dumping, lol.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read and review, much appreciated! :)



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Mon Dec 11, 2023 12:29 pm
PKMichelle wrote a review...



Hello again, friend!
I saw your work in the Green Room and figured I’d check it out.


Per my interpretation, this was a wonderful addition to the novel! Not much happened in this chapter, but it still felt necessary and important to the overall story.

Kita is in the woods when she comes to a river and realizes she needs to cross it, but when she does, she starts to hear a voice. And however frightening this voice was to her, it was really just her dog.

This expands what can happen on Kita's trip in the forest and makes for possibly more interesting and unexpected scenarios.


If I could offer any sort of advice, it would be in regards to the way you put emphasis on your words. While it's not technically wrong, it's something I've noticed in your writing, and I just wanted to draw a little attention to it.

You use bold to represent emphasis when italics are more traditionally used. Like this, for example,

"Why do I understand you?" Kita argued. "This was not supposed to happen, when I left! There was never any warning!"


Once again, it is not technically wrong, but I do feel like it would make more sense in italics.

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, it would be the way you described certain things throughout the story—not just what they look like, but their strangeness as well.

An example of you describing what something looked like really well was when Kita was examining the river.

It looked like blood; a vein of the world around her.


This is a really cool description and paints a very vivid picture that is fun to imagine, so kudos to you for that!

And an example of you describing something's strangness really well is when Kita and Stud were talking about magic.

...magic can do wild things. Especially in nature, it's a force of pure and utter chaos!


This does a really good job of portraying how unusual this situation was for them and how scary it was as well, which was a lot of fun to read and take in!


Overall, this was incredible! You did a phenomenal job on the descriptions in this chapter, which did a lot for it considering not much actually happened. This was a great chapter and makes me look forward to the next one!

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


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




RavenAkuma says...


Thank you for your review! I'm not 100% sure why I use bolf-type to emphasize words. I guess a combination of thinking it sounds "firmer" and because I used italics to differentiate thoughts (or disembodied voices). It's great to know how it looks to readers, though, so thanks for making a note of it.

Glad you enjoyed, thanks again! :)




Nothing says criminal activity like strong bones. ;)
— Magebird