Chapter 11: Stretching Favors
“Are you awake?” Said an amused voice, almost tauntingly, close to his ear just as Forest began to regain consciousness. All the events of the night before came crashing down to him like an avalanche. Trish’ recital, the shortcut through the alley. The encounter with the man bearing unnatural powers. His daughter screaming for him as her mother carried her awake. “Are you awake?” Roland asked, this time his breath closer before feeling a couple of taps on his cheek.
Forest reacted as it all clicked in his head, the kidnap, the lightbulbs exploding their way as the stranger came closer. The pain of being hit by a lighting and having his arm broken just by a simple tap. It had been all real. It all happened! His first action was to violently throw his body back seeking to put distance between him and the stranger. Before he could even make a whole turn, his back hit the side flat bars of his prison.
His leg had a lump that was killing him and so was his limp arm. “So then, you are awake,” his captor, Roland seemed to grin at his struggle His expression crooked slightly, bearing a slasher smile, even as he didn’t even seem to be trying to be threatening. It was the twisted glee of kid gazing at a new toy with the sole intent on breaking it.
“I-I have no idea who are you or what do you want… I just ask you to please, let me go!” Forest quickly demanded as his eyes scouted the surroundings. He was in a cage, that much he could tell by the iron bars pressing against his back, and the world seemed darker than he remembered, the walls were jagged and irregular, making no effort to hide the fact that it was a cave. Furniture was present, but it was arranged in the form of a lab, with several tables covered with unsorted papers, vials and tools, books filling a shelf and pale light from the outside piercing through a skylight.
Forest tried to move just to feel an agony in the back of his legs where his severed tendon kept on stretching the muscular tissue. It was impossible to walk. “Shit,” Forest muttered under his breath as he used his good arm to pull himself up.
“Let you go? I am afraid you can’t walk, quite literally,” Roland mused as he backed away and just walked out of the way back to his table, letting the cage open, as if taunting Forest to make an attempt to escape.
He did make an attempt though, relying on just one arm to move forth proved difficult, his other arm was dragged across the floor, just making him feel the bones’ friction and the severed tendon in his leg was just enough to halt him every time he attempted to move. “What are you doing?” he sputtered, unsure if he was drooling or bleeding in the dark. The place was so grim, secluded and damp, he could only gaze at the man standing under the spotlight.
Roland returned not long after and quickly tossed something at his Forest’s reach, just within the light from his study table. A pen and a piece of paper.
“What is this?” Forest asked distrusting as he reached for both items.
“I want you… to write a letter,” Roland said turned a switch around and lit up a lantern that hung by the wall, just enough to cast a light into the place. “If you can manage to convince me… then I will let you go.”
Roland’s world had a devious undertone to them. Forest knew that, he knew there was something really wrong with those words yet he could only cling to the faint hope they seemed to bring…
“And you’ll let me go?” Forest asked.
“I will let you go,” Roland simply answered.
“My arm is broken,” Forest said. He was already imagining this was bound to be a trick question.
Roland knelt down and rested both hands on the broken forearm. He muttered a couple of words Forest could barely understand yet there was little if anything he could do to resist before a faint white glow began to emanate from his palms. What if was he doing? How could he possibly make this worse? He wondered as his arm began to go numb.
And just like that, the pain was gone. Roland dusted his hands against his clothes and walked away “There we go, now you can write.”
“What do you want?” Forest asked as he flexed his arm, feeling the numbness gone and now replaced with the natural refreshed feeling of his limb, as if it had never being broken, not even the lingering phantom of pain. “What do you want from me?”
“I the essence of you,” Roland said ominously “I want that what makes you be you. That what makes you move.”
The answer felt unsatisfactory, or at least if it was, Forest didn’t wished to pay attention. The challenge seemed clear in his head. He had to convince Roland to let him go through a letter. Did that made sense? Forest asked himself at one point, but the subject was quickly dropped as he tried to write his will.
There was a silence as Roland turned around and treaded his way over to one of the tables, one that sat under the beam of light, that seemed to house a large set of lumps that made Forest imagine there were a camel was lying underneath the blanket. From where Forest was, he couldn’t tell what it was, but as Roland began to work on it, he began to hear the familiar sound of medical tools at work in surgery, clanking against the metal tray.
“And do not try to escape as you write. You are not in your world anymore,” He said with a warning tone. The first of many times he would remind it to him ever so often as time went on. “You won’t get far without running into me again.”
The dream seemed to stretch and slowly die down as the reality began to settle in. Once again, Forest found himself sleeping on the hard surface… Too akin to his dream to give him rest, but with the difference of the comfort of a blanket on him. What happened? Where he was? He thought, his memories were but a jumbled from the dream recollection, making it difficult to tell what was real and what was not.
A door opened, with the racking of the iron bars and the creak of the hinges. Forest’s ears twitched reflexively as someone entered the room, bringing him much closer to the world of the awake than before. “Wake up, Forest…” said Mrs. Vanet’s voice.
And then, he remembered the last thing he saw, the large reanimated minotaur suddenly going his way with the clear intent to stomp his head. His reaction was to quickly sit up with the intent of rolling out of the way.
“Forest, calm down.” Mrs. Vanet reassured, her bony hands quickly gripping for his arm to keep him from acting.
His eyes quickly scanned from side to side. Evidently he wasn’t in the middle of the carnage anymore but back in a cellroom and one that seemed to feel somewhat familiar. The walls were made of sand colored bricks, of course it was difficult to tell, with just the light of the street lamps pouring in through the window so high it was close to the ceiling. The other end of the bore a simple set of bars that comprised the door of her habitat, which right now stood wide open, with a guard distrusting looking their way.
“Wha-what happened?” Forest blurted out, steadying herself as she immediately reached to prod down at herself. Her body was still marred with dry blood, but the bruises and injuries he sustained in the fight where gone. His hand reached to his chest only to find but smooth skin where Roland’s knife had been plunged, right under the… breasts, jutting inwardly at the bottom of his ribcage, evidently aiming for his heart.
“You are at the guardian’s headquarters.” Mrs. Vanet explained, prying Forest’s hands off his chest.
“I am?” Forest muttered, certainly the had just been leaving the city when it all came to happen. The sight of the thrashed tavern, the sounds of battle and agony and the overall stench of death that seemed to fill the up the environment. It wasn’t long before he was able tell what happened, know what was a long time memory and a reality. “I… I saw him… I saw the man who is responsible for making me a…”
“No word of it here, Forest,” Mrs. Vanet quickly said. “Right now, I have the permission of the leader of the Guardian fort to get you out. The faster we leave, the better for everyone.”
“Yes,” Forest muttered as he pulled himself up on his feet. The more he recalled about the scene, the more he realized he realized there was something really off about this woman. She claimed to have been a medic once, a person who respected life and tried to preserve it yet he could barely believe this was the same woman that told him to ignore what he saw.
“I have permission to get you out, I don’t wish to wait to see how much it will take before the other guardians find away around them.”
“You don’t trust them, do you?” Forest muttered.
“Now it’s not the time for that,” Mrs. Vanet barely deigned herself to say as she picked the blanket Forest had been clinging onto at the time she woke up “Use this. You have blood all over.”
Forest didn’t answer, instead he did as told and wrapped himself, covering the spots that were marred with blood before setting out. The more he thought about the situation the more he began to realize how he had made it out of it alive.
“The guardian’s saved me, didn’t they?” he muttered, thinking those were words he probably would never imagine himself saying out loud, even less with a feminine voice as his new body.
Yet as they passed by the courtyard, making their way to the exit. It was dark in the middle of the night, with the waning moon incomplete over the sky and yet the place seemed to be brimming with soldiers that clung to old habits. It was almost like being in the middle of a medieval castle as some of the soldiers lit up braziers along the edge of the wall and others took their time to train out there in the middle of the night for a sparring session.
Forest couldn’t help but try to feel thankful for the magical police of this land yet at the same time, that did little to was away the fear he felt whenever he was close to any of the men in blue armor. All she could think of was the fading but still vivid memory of the guardians attacking Ogre over and over and while he couldn’t feel the attacks physically, they did leave a mark on his soul. Every time Ogre suffered, something felt ill and pain within him.
And now, as Forest passed by the yard over to the front gate, he could tell how the soldiers were looking at him. With a spiteful expression as if they didn’t want him to leave because he had done something terrible, yet at the same time, they didn’t seem to want him around. What was it all about? And how could Mrs. Vanet do something like that.
They walked past the gate where a buffed man holding a long sword stood guard. He let his sword tilt to the side to block their way to the exit and looked down at Mrs. Vanet with a defiant look. The old lady though, didn’t fall for it as Forest did. “Step aside,” she almost commanded. The man awaited for a moment and relented, pulling his blade away as the two walked over to the dark.
“That man,” Mrs. Vanet muttered as she oriented Forest over to the carriage, a pair of lone lanterns that were shinning in a field rather far from the Guardian headquarters. Just how distrustful was Mrs. Vanet of the organization? Forest wondered as she continued/ “That was a Paladin. One that has always voiced his opposition to my presence. He was really close to going against the orders of his lieutenant.”
“Mrs. Vanet,” Forest found himself talking, and now that the words were already out, it just became easier to speak the rest of the question. “Why don’t you trust the guardians?”
“I don’t trust anyone anymore. The guardians, though, even as they are doing their job I can’t bring myself into discussing some matters with them unless absolutely imperative.” Her pace was slow and calmed, now that they were outside the fort there was no real to hurry so she picked up a pace suitable for a conversation. “I used to work with them. I healed their injuries and wounds. I saved their lives and when I need help of them as persons, they turn me down as if nothing had ever happened,” she snorted before sighing to admit “It is only after a great calamity that I managed to learn who is trust worthy and who isn’t. The list is comprised of… very few people. At least one of those is in a power position within the guardians. The rest of the organization, though. I know they are corrupt.”
“Thank you for bailing me out,” Forest muttered, admittedly he wasn’t sure what might’ve come to happen to him if they’d discovered his abilities. Would they put him over to the dissection table to try to figure out how he manages to create, control and absorb plants? Utilized him as a tool like Roland had?
“I had to get into the fort just before the team of healers could arrive. I had to burst into a meeting where all the looks easily turned against me and I had to practically strong arm a man into letting you go. You are a relevant witness of the event that took place and also suspected to be some sort of disease carrier. Evidently the guardians are not happy with my interruption,” she said as they carefully stepped around the field. “I can at least hope you take into account how much of a sacrifice and effort I am putting on helping you next time you take the completely idiotic decision of not listening to me.”
Just like that, Mrs. Vanet’s voice became poisonous and Forest was unable to keep himself from reacting. “Listening to you? There was people in danger over there?!”
“And it was not your job to intervene,” Mrs. Vanet said dryly stopping to throw a glare in Forest’s way “It’s the guardians who should’ve been there. You couldn’t have done anything.”
“Yet I managed to stand my ground against the enemies.”
“And how many people did you save?” Mrs. Vanet snorted. “You charged right in where there was no one to save. All the mercenaries were dead by the time the guardian’s arrived and the person behind them, Ethanas, the necromancer had long fled before they arrived.”
“How do you know this?” Forest asked.
“I got the briefing from the member in the force,” Mrs. Vanet snorted. “Be as it may be, the guardians claim they were unable to get a lead on Ethanas.”
“But… h-he shouldn’t be able to run, I poisoned him with hemlock…” Forest muttered as he recalled what happened right after he delivered the massive dose of the poison. Roland took out some sort of herbal concoction and quickly downed it. Claimed it would delay the effects, but even so…
“That was probably ineffective.” Mrs. Vanet muttered.
“How can you be so sure?” Forest frowned. He could at least hope he had managed to slow down Roland, and that the police might have caught up with him. Oddly enough, if that were the case, it wouldn’t feel as rewarding as he imagined.
“A meager poison won’t stop someone who calls himself the necromancer,” Mrs. Vanet shook her head.
“At least I tried to help,” Forest argued, finding Mrs. Vanet’s condescending tone just as irking as they day they first talked.
“Once again you are charging into situations not thinking about it or the consequences,” the old lady shook her head in disappointment. The message seemed obvious “Haven't you learned anything?” she might as well have said but instead went into details. “You rushed into the situation against the unknowns. You tried to face off a man who isn’t only the destroyer of many lives but cataloged as a monster even by subhuman standards. How did you think it was going to turn out? Were you clinging to the hope that your body was just enough?” Mrs. Vanet’s tone began to rise up sternly in a level of anger he hadn’t seen on her before.
Forest didn’t answer. It was a reflex, he would’ve said, the need to help others, yet the answer might have not sat well with Mrs. Vanet. She just carried on.
“To become master of the death, Ethanas had to learn to become master of life. Without a doubt, no doubt a poison, and a rather common one at that, won’t work against the likes of him.”
“But what about the men.” Forest began but was quickly interrupted by Mrs. Vanet.
“What about them?” she retorted “You mean the guardians? Either the man outsmarted them or they just let him go.” And with that she merely climbed onto the carriage where Maximus and Minus were more than happy to greet up her owner, thing often Forest found puzzling given Mrs. Vanet’s scornful attitude. “Now get up, we have to get back to the cottage.”
Forest looked up at her with a sense of indignation as he climbed up on the passenger’s seat in silent protest. Mrs. Vanet didn’t take her eyes off he fort though, not as a silhouette entered in their range of sight.
It was a man that had just walked up into the view of the lamps. His skin black as charcoal and his hair silvery white. He was clad in a rather elegant cloth robe that bore blue and black colors that seemed to strangely go along with the tone of his skin. Forest could easily tell that was a drow elf, even though they were elves, he had more intimidating memories of their kind.
This one in particula thr he recalled, but not from his time as a monster but rather his first capture to the hands of the Guardians.
“Efraim…” Mrs. Vanet greeted.
“Narcissa… What is the meaning ofis?” He asked, almost demandingly.
“I thank you for your aid back then-” Mrs. Vanet began to say but her tone didn’t seem to hold the appropriate sentiment for an apology.
“Spare me the empty appreciation, Narcissa,” the man, Efrain, muttered with palpable discontent. Though he seemed to be maintaining a calmed demeanor, it was starting to crack. He stood by the side of the carriage. For a moment, Forest just imagined Mrs. Vanet just whipping the horses to move on but she didn’t.
“What were you trying to do by bursting into a mission debriefing just like that. Do you have any idea of the situation you have laid down on me just by entering like that and taking away a key witness of the activities of a wanted criminal?” His voice quickly and markedly.
Mrs. Vanet was unshaken by his words, nor seemed to feel regretful, but instead rose up to the confrontation with an argument of her own. “I was trying to keep this from escalating. Do you have any idea as to what would’ve happen should the team of healers had arrived on the scene?”
“I have an idea, or I would have had I known the sole witness of the attack was your personal experiment.” He briefly turned to look at Forest for a moment and utter “No offense.”
“Um, none taken,” Forest muttered almost automatically.
“But it was neither the worse time to show up and make a demand, Narcissa. Do you have any idea how it looks like when you force me to order my men out of an important meeting just so you can ask me to release her before you start forcing my hand? My men are already starting to think I am taking bribes, with this being the second time you show up and she walks free,” he said pointing at Forest.
“I couldn’t allow myself to be overheard by any other person.”
“Because the Guardian’s are corrupt?”
“Efraim… I trust you but…”
“…Not even I have any idea as to what you are up to and that just makes helping you all the more difficult,” Talos added, his eyes moved over to Forest for moment, he was thinking of something, almost choosing his words. “You are a woman of secrets and little trust now, Narcissa. I don’t even know what to make of you anymore. I respect you and wish I could help you in whatever way I can if you would just tell me what you are planning.”
Mrs. Vanet looked down at Talos in silence for a moment as he stood within reaching distance of her, but in turn forced herself to look away. “I cannot. I just can’t involve anyone else. I do appreciate the sacrifices you have made for me up until now.”
“That is… sad,” Efraim muttered stepping back. “I had always trusted you and had at least hoped you would shade some light on what you have been up to. At least… this way I can know where do we stand.”
“Efraim…” Mrs. Vanet began but quickly trailed off as the man raised his hand.
“I did not just came over to offer you a lending hand as a friend… but also to speak to you as a lieutenant of the guardians. While I will be indebted with you for saving my life once during the war, and regardless of all the good you once did. I will not allow you to keep twisting my arm and forcing me to ruin my career. This will be the last time I put my debt with you over my role as the lieutenant of the guardians.”
“Trust me, I…” Mrs. Vanet began.
“Trust you? How can I trust you if you don’t even trust me to tell me what you are up to? That ends here.”
“No, you can’t be…” Mrs. Vanet muttered.
“From here on out, I won’t be allowing you free reign in the fort nor will I bail you nor ‘Forest’ out of detainment,” Efraim spoke crystal clear. “If you ever need my help, I will be willing to offer, but don’t force me to bend the rules a third time…” And with that he turned around and walked out of the range of the lantern’s light, slowly disappearing into the dark, his skin almost blending perfectly and his hair slowly fading and soon it was as if they were all alone in the middle of the carriage.
“Fine!” Mrs. Vanet yelled out loud, getting up on her feet, much to Forest’s surprise “I don’t need you! I can handle all this on my own! *cough* I don’t need the help of the corrupted guardians! *cough* Turn your back on me as well, like they did, like *cough* every *cough* one! *couch* *cough*” Her voice dissolved into coughs as she fell back on the driver’s seat of the carriage as she coughed wildly.
Forest’s instinctive reaction was to rest his hand on Mrs. Vanet’s back, but the lady violently turned her back on him as she continued. With the message clear, Forest just waited for her to clear her lungs.
Without saying anything, she gave Forest a small glare at him, almost as if thinking this was all his fault for acting brash before grabbing the reins and slapping the horses just to get them running.
“What was all that about?” Forest muttered trying to think of the consequences. What was she hiding? She understood the risk of trusting the Guardians as he remembered, that, when being the big brute beast known as Ogre, he attended meetings in which Roland talked with crooked cops, but the man, Efrain, the lieutenant seemed be a good man, why wasn’t she willing to speak to even him?
Now, if the guardians ever captured him, he would find himself serving time in a magical prison… with that body. He could barely imagine what it would be like to be behind the bars. But it wasn’t just that… he began to wonder what would happen if Mrs. Vanet would be able to uphold her promise?
The following days at the cottage were different.
Darla dropped by for a visit the next day yet found the ambiance of the place rather somber from the get go. Forest couldn’t bring himself unable to smile at her presence. The woods suddenly became a dark place where Roland seemed to lurk. He was already starting to worry about Darla though was at least reassured to know she knew how to get around, being a part squirrel and at that.
Ever since the discussion with Efraim, the lieutenant, Mrs. Vanet had become more of a recluse than usual, not even going down to perform Forest’s exams at that. The argument had hit her hard, it seemed for some reason, yet Forest couldn’t say he disagreed with the man. Mrs. Vanet had always been secretive, it was hard to defend her when she refused to be open about her plans. For the first time, Forest felt pity for the old woman in the second floor.
Darla took it to herself to try to lighten up the mood in the cottage, so she began to clean about in her earnest, the eight year old did her best to try to clean up the place and even going as far as to restore the other wings while making attempts to get Forest to smile, thing he appreciated the gesture wholeheartedly specially when he saw how much effort the little girl put to it. So whenever he could, he would play around with her, tell her stories of his world as a way of distraction. It helped them both.
Even so, Forest found himself unable to shake off meeting of his tormentor off his head. Even though he had managed to survive unscathed, he still considered it a defeat, after all he passed out in the middle of the fight. Being rescued by the guardians was what Forest had come to consider as a lucky strike yet at the same time, knowing that Roland was at his larges in this world made him evidently uneasy.
He always knew that Roland was alive somewhere. Probably back in his lair or out doing for some job. He knew the necromancer wouldn’t go down easily yet, for the past month, that had somehow felt like a far away problem. Now, seeing him and fighting him had made it real. The stab Forest received on his chest had been a painful proof of it. He just was lucky his new body managed to heal the wound, not letting it touch his heart… or whatever he was supposed to have.
So, as a way of preparing himself, Forest began to practice with his new body, trying to develop skills he could have yet still haven't managed to tap into.
His first experiment was simple. She had seen herself grow her forearms to form large fists coated with bark. It felt instinctive and simple, giving him the ability to pummel through stuff with greater strength. So then Forest wondered how far he could take it. On his first day of official training, he began making an effort to grow his legs, seeing the feminine feet swell up big was almost comical and almost felt worth the effort, it was like making progress.
Then he planned to take it a step further, try to make his entire body grow. The idea of him literally stepping on Roland was growing more appealing the more she mused with the idea. She put her effort into growing herself up as much as she could, but barely got it over two meters in height before starting to feel lightheaded and weak.
“That must be my limit,” Forest noted as he ‘deflated’ himself back to normal. Upon reaching his original height, his knees gave out and he fell down, finding out he was almost out of breath after a full day of training. It was like a diabetic running out of sugar, the world seemed hazy for a moment and his energy was low. It took a long time of resting under the sun before he could feel himself as good as new.
“Maybe I overworked it out… and just needed the sun to get back up… like a plant,” he mumbled to himself “If Mrs. Vanet were here she would probably confirm it.”
Once he had an idea for his limit, he began to experiment around it with care. Starting by doing some focused shapeshifting. He knew he could control his body, allowing him to grow tree bark, thorns, leaves and even flowers on his body, so, in turn he tried to grow bark it on his body, in the form of an armor. Effectively, wooden plaques began to emerge when called and Forest took note of them for any situation, although he certainly wasn’t really going to test their durability by stabbing himself.
He then tried on several more variations, making his nails and finger tips drip out the hemlock poison, growing a thick branch of his arm in such way that it was mostly a straight line and pointed near the end. Forest had hoped to make a sword by day four, and now he knew he could, he just needed more practice as the moment he tried to drive the spike protruding from his arm against a tree, it snapped in half with just minor discomfort as it was connected to his arm.
He then tried to see what else he could do with his shapeshifting abilities. He had seen himself grow fur, bark hooves and change her ears. He tried to make himself look human, or even male, but he didn't seem to have the skill to accomplish either perfectively. When he tried to shapeshift his specie, though, he managed to look like a human woman for quite some time, yet he could only hold it for so little time. It was like an overweight person holding their breath to look decent. It just took a lot of effort and concentration to pull off.
One afternoon, about a week after Forest’s encounter with the necromancer, Forest found himself on his own in the field, as the sun was now setting out and the sky was acquiring an orange tone. Darla had already gone home and after a full day of helping her do her chores, trying to work on cleaning what was once the patient’s rest area, Forest had some time for himself. In this case, he opted to start a training session. Even after a week, Forest felt with no lack of certainty that he would run into Roland at some point in the future.
He grabbed some of the haystacks from the stables and carried them over to the back area. The derelict garden that had once being supposedly the delight of the resting patients and carefully tied it up against the tree with a rope, making sure it wouldn’t fall off.
“Alright…” Forest muttered as he took some steps back to see the full image of his “opponent” somewhere in that block of messy hair was the mental image of Roland standing, grinning at him almost in a taunt. “That man…” he muttered clenching his fist. Just like he had felt it in the days of practice before, there was a movement going on underneath his skin as his ‘bones’ began to shift around and slowly began to push out on the back of his hands, softly breaking the the skin as it grew longer. It took little focus to make it grow in a straight line… of course, the shape of his weapon wasn’t really the problem.
With the refined branch now sticking out from the back of his hand, he quickly set out in a sprint towards the stack of hay. With a battle cry that was mostly to convince himself, he raised his arm and struck the huge stack of hay with a side swing. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, his weapon broke with a sordid snap. But then again, he didn’t let his imaginary enemy get the best of him and responded with a back swing, quickly growing the branch back so fast, it ached badly, making him feel weaker around the arm, yet that wasn’t enough to dent the haystack, so he continued on attacking, each time losing more segments of his arm stick and growing more as he did.
“That won’t do,” Mrs. Vanet’s voice reached his ears as he paused, no longer able to lift his arm as it hung limply because, as Forest might have imagined, from a certain point, he was practically using his ‘bones’ as weapons. It would recover in a matter of hours.
“If you pass out right now, you wont wake up until after the sun comes out,” Mrs. Vanet’s voice pierced through the haziness.
“You are out…” Forest muttered, with his current state, his voice made him sound much more fragile than he might have wanted.
Mrs. Vanet didn’t seem to hear those words. She just drew closer and without any sort of preamble, she just picked up Forest’s arm, her bony fingers oddly pressing and squeezing the flesh before making a small frown. “As I imagined. You forced your body to go into overdrive and as a result, ended up without any bones. You will have for them to grow back.”
“I know. It’s not the first time I have tried this,” Forest argued forcing himself up, leaning his shoulder against the large haystack just to feel it dangling with no actual support.
“Then why were you doing such reckless thing,” she muttered picking up one of the snapped sections of the stick Forest tried to use as sword. The woman glanced at the hay stack and the piece of wood with a frown as she pieced it together. “You are training in combat…”
“I had to,” Forest muttered.
“You had to?”
“Roland is still out there. He is in this world and I have seen him. The necromancer is around and you have no idea how terrible he can be…” Forest’s voice trailed off as he began to recover his breath.
“Even so, this isn’t the best way to face this. It is stupid and a waste of energy to attack Ethanas this way. He will have you before you can-”
“How would you know,” Forest snapped. “You weren’t there. You’ve never faced him!”
“Enough!” Mrs. Vanet interrupted “I am sick of your childish accusations. Not in the mood to discuss here,” she snorted. “Do you wish what advice I have to offer? Or would you rather see me when I manage to find another lead on the ingredients?”
The words rang in Forest’s ears and forced himself to lower his tone. “What did you have to say…”
“Believe me when I say this, I am counting on you and do all this for the best of our agreement. The more capable you are, the better.” She paused and looked at the tree branch she was holding, her finger running over its still jagged surface. Do you know why the sticks keep on breaking?”
“Because I need to make them sharper and stronger?” Forest guessed. “I managed to pierce the head of some of the undead with them.”
“That might be true, yet I doubt you did it using a branch as thick as this one,” Mrs. Vanet muttered, swinging the stick against the tree just for it to snap.
“Then… what do you suggest?” Forest asked, making an effort to keep his tone in check.
“The problem isn’t in the sharpness and length of the stick. It is the material you are using it to make the sword with.” Narcissa muttered as she showed the broken piece of wood to Forest. This is common tree oak. It’s the same kind that grows from my tree. Beautiful to look at but not the strongest one as it can’t keep itself from being chopped clean by an axe.”
“It’s all I have…”
“For now,” Mrs. Vanet smirked “I am familiar with plants of the Arwae nu and the ones in this world. The magic here has allowed for these plants to grow past what you can imagine as normal. More than a few are actually located close to some items of my list. In this world there are trees as strong as steel, rare lilies that are almost resistant in terms of stretching and damage absorption, poisons that can be a thousand times stronger to what you already have. Living plant creatures with uncanny regenerative abilities…”
Forest immediately understood what Mrs. Vanet was leading to and her eyes narrowed with determination “Where can I find them?”