An unattended request by fzyo0001 led me to this one. He suggested that someone should write something using the words ‘furry’ and ‘owls’ as the basis and I ended up tackling the challenge by returning to the universe I had designed in The Bliss of Zarn’Gha and fleshing out some other aspects of it.
One of the maxims that survived the First Era of Careth goes like this: If you go walking through the Woods of Brunwyn and the silver owls with human-like voices begin whispering, run because Death is approaching fast!
Throughout the ages, many were the unwary that failed to listen to such warnings, and none of them lived very long after the furry horror ambushed them. It is said that the owls can mimic the appalling screams of the agonizing victims if they so wish, but listening to them is pretty much a death sentence as well, for they draw out the beast from its hiding place, deep within the mass of perennial trees with dark-red leaves.
Lydian of Smividell, High Priestess of the Temple of Yandinn located within the West Section of the Diamond City of Annazeth, was no fool and walked through the Woods with purpose. The one she served with all her heart was The Goddess of the Forest and had spoken to her through the vibrant flowers that grew in the Temple Gardens. The message had been clear: it was time to quell the mythical beast and no one could do it, except her.
This formidable task would have the majority of people run away in fear, but she was a woman of unshakable faith, and nothing discouraged her. She pressed forward in her rainbow-colored gown, and wearing proudly the golden diadem of her status, listening to the sounds of the owls with utmost care. The moment they gave the sign, she would have to prepare herself.
The first whispers came quickly, perhaps quicker than she had anticipated. Though the owls were everywhere in the branches above her, Lydian couldn’t see them unless they wanted to be seen. The way they mumbled, the sound propagating from left to right, gave her a direction to be attentive to. Raising her hands to the air, she began chanting.
It jumped from an unknown place and landed less than ten feet away from her. The creature was over eight feet tall and, despite some humanoid traits, it resembled a hideous combination of wolf and ape, with a pig snout thrown in the mix. It had big, black eyes and two sets of retractable, sharp claws that could rip apart any living creature that stood in its way. Lydian saw the monstrosity, yet did not shiver. Instead, she kept humming the secret incantation she had been revealed, hoping for its effects to manifest.
The air around her grew heavier as if gravity itself was suffering the effects of the arcane magic being unleashed. When the beast charged furiously, it clashed against an invisible barrier and fell on the floor, gasping for air. Lydian spread out her palms and fired two darts of pure thought energy straight into its brain.
The creature growled as it felt the intruding thoughts, its enormous body arching unnaturally. Lydian kept on pressing forward in her subduing intentions, exploring each psychological connection as it appeared before her mind’s eye and couldn’t help but feel intrigued by what she eventually found.
She sensed the remnants of a spell there, a form of familiar magic that had certainly been more powerful in bygone years, but one that still survived in an almost parasitical fashion, feeding off the strength of the creature and keeping it imprisoned. Focusing all of her powers, she visualized the mystic binding as a series of threads first and then gave it the shape of a luminous snake which she then proceeded to crush helplessly.
The horror of Brunwyn laid his massive head back and this time, it screamed as the nefarious influence that had kept it restrained for so long, erupted from its mouth in a cascade of wriggling light. As it fell to the ground and disappeared, the monster’s shape began to change.
The silent owls and the stunned High Priestess watched as muscles and skin contracted, and the animal’s size was cut in half; they saw the claws receding into hands and all the fur fall down, and the hideous visage become the one of a beautiful dark-haired woman with purple eyes and equally purple luscious lips. She wore a dazzling silver and black armor forged in the fiery pits surrounding the city of Son-Dhár to the east and held a dark sword with dozens of tiny crystals embedded on the blade whose color seemed to be the red of blood.
Lydian had seen numerous drawings and references in forbidden tomes to know exactly who this mysterious woman was, but she was shocked nonetheless. How could a General of the Ancients be alive after so many years and why, oh why had she released it from its magical curse? Yandinn surely knew what the creature really was and yet she had ordered her to quell it, fully knowing she would find the spell and break it in the process… it made no sense!
“You are…” she muttered, having a hard time combining words into a proper sentence.
“Rakhael, Emissary of the Ancient’s will, High Priestess of Yandinn”, answered the woman as she rose to her feet and smiled diabolically. “I have to thank you for the kindness of setting me free from that horrible shape one of your predecessors imposed upon me near the end of The First Era.” Her sword glimmered. “Only someone trained in the same ways could break it and you did so admirably.”
“What’s the meaning of this? Yandinn and The Ancients are sworn enemies since always. Why did…?”
Rakhael started brandishing her sword in a strangely, voluptuous way. If was as if the blade was dancing in-between her fingers. The crystals started glowing.
“Hmmm… your Goddess spoke to you, did she? Are you sure about that? Even when my spirit was sealed in that grotesque form, I could feel that Careth is changing again, that the old is coming back to claim the new. Don’t you know that Zarn’Gha already walks among us from time to time? He is getting stronger with each passing second, you see? I bet he is already powerful enough to fool a gullible person such as you, now!”
“That is a lie!” Lydian shouted and focused all of her power to bring forth a deadly beam of magic.
Rakhael saw it coming and remained still as the hoary armor absorbed the discharge quite effortlessly. Her sword kept of twirling, the crystal’s radiance intensifying. Above them, there was the sound of one thousand invisible wings flapping away.
“The only lie here is the one you believe in. You have been played the fool, High Priestess, by forces that longed for my return, in the same way I longed for theirs! Zarn’Gha will be pleased with his new toy.”
The sword stopped spinning and Rakhael’s lips uttered a single word in the language only those that directly served the Ancients knew. One by one, the crystals detached themselves from the blade and flew towards Lydian who had no time to muster a reaction whatsoever. They pierced her dress and latched onto her pale skin in the arms, legs, neck, and forehead, branding her with strings of suggestions that made her very weak and compliant. It was not a power as strong as the Bliss of Zarn’Gha, but it was solid enough to ensure that the High Priestess would not try anything foolish until she was delivered as a present, and had her mind defiled once and for all. Tears wanted to roll down Lydian’s glassy eyes, but they were not allowed to. Any willful action or thought had lost its meaning.
Rakhael leaned towards her and kissed her avidly on the lips, just a taste of the ecstatic rush she had missed during her spellbinding captivity. The Horror of Brunwyn was no more but new manifestations of dread would rise, now that she was free to continue her work as Emissary and General of The Ancients. Yes, Careth was definitely changing and the silver owls with human-like voices were sure to have many sad songs to sing in the dark times ahead.