This story can be read alone, or as the 15th section of the wanderer story.
You can read the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1
or the latest story here: The Wanderer, Part 14
Tas slowly ambled through a dark forest, he was lost. He didn’t know exactly where he was, but thought himself to be outside of the monastery, in the woods. He just couldn’t remember how he got here.
Come to think of it, the only thing he remembered was flying away from Paj’s tower. He walked a bit before realizing that he was completely hopelessly lost.
He took a seat under a tree and waited for a moment, thinking of what to do next. After all, he had no idea which way to go and it was dark. He tried to find the north star but there were too many clouds in the sky, even the moon was hidden. It was so dark, shadows seemed to loom taller than usual and he began to feel hopeless.
He turned his eyes up from the ground and saw a shadow moving differently than the rest . Then heard a rustling of soft footsteps and began to look when he saw a figure coming towards him, menacingly stomping through the brush. Tas turned to get up and began to run, faster than he knew he could.
The figure behind him picked up his own pace and Tas could hear the heavy boots growing closer, tearing through the earth. Tas turned at the last moment before a tree, remembering how it was to hunt rabbits when he was younger and the figure howled in frustration when it banged against the tree. Tas kept running.
Again, the darkly cloaked man caught him, but this time was mercilessly physical, slamming them both into a tree and knocking Tas nearly unconscious, possibly breaking something. Tas moaned and reeled in agony as he tried to escape the figure’s grasp, but it was no use. The dark man pulled back his hood and revealed a pair of small, protruding horns and a darkly tattooed face. It was the second man from the dream with Paj, his name was Grethatch, Tas remembered.
He was a dark one, but he was also happy that the second hooded man was not with him. He was far more menacing and even less human seeming. And as if on queue, the second, taller and darker one seemed to pull himself away from his shadow. It was terrifying to watch, as if the dark did not want him to leave.
Tas was scared. Was he in a dream? Was this happening right now? He couldn’t remember falling asleep, so perhaps he wasn’t, but he hoped he was. The men were terrifying as they approached him, he simply waited now, trying not to hyperventilate as Grethatch kept him pinned with his arms up against the tree. But the darker man was terrifying.
Finally, the second figure spoke, hissing in between his words. “You are the boy, Tas are you not? I know you were watching us two nights ago, boy. Why exactly did you come to that cave in the light of Saturn to spy on us? Do you think of us as, criminals?”
“No!” Tas exclaimed quickly, then re-shut his mouth. He was terrified, he watched them talk about murder and monsters and terrible things the night before and he didn’t want any of that to happen to him!
Tas tried to struggle free, but to no avail. The second man simply laughed and put his face next to Tas’ as the boy struggled on the ground. “Good.” He hissed, shadows seemed to form from his mouth, then recede with his words. It was terrifying. “But you are right to fear us.”
“Grethatch. Give me the wyrm.” Tas couldn’t see, but whatever the ‘wyrm’ was, he wanted nothing to do with it. He squirmed again, to no avail. “Now Tas, I am so silly. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Melkar. I am from the far, far north. From lands so cold, that men no longer inhabit them. Do you know about the north Tas? One day, maybe you will…” the figure gave a loud cackling laugh, it seemed to pierce through Tas and have a kind of hollow emptiness to it. “This is a wyrm. It is also from the North.”
Slowly and deeply, the figure began to speak in words Tas didn’t know. Suddenly, as he tried to move his shoulder, he found himself paralyzed. He couldn’t move!
Grethatch rolled him over to his side and then laughed. He was stuck. Grethatch struck him across the face afterwards. Tas raged inside, but he could do nothing. He could only drool.
The taller figure walked slowly, forbodingly with a wriggling wyrm in his hand, but this one was black and looked to be attaching itself to the terrifying man. Tas tried to squirm, but he couldn’t. The figure walked closer until he was dangling the wyrm over Tas’ mouth, toying with him. Finally, he dropped it and immediately, the wyrm began to crawl across Tas’ mouth, finding its way down his throat, onto his should and eventually, stopped about halfway down his arm, in the elbow socket crammed next to Tas’ ribs.
Tas woke with a start. He still couldn’t move but he could feel the wyrm in his arm, it was real! The dream was real! But he couldn’t move, what could he do?
Slowly, sensation returned to his body and he finally was able to roll onto his stomach, clutching at the intruder. But then, the pain began to fade and Tas felt better. A few minutes later and he began to question the dream again, what exactly was that thing? And everything had felt so real, just like when he was dream walking. He didn’t understand.
He looked down and saw it; the wyrm was tattooed on his arm, but it moved slightly. It was real!
Tas readied himself for the morning, resigned to talk to master Fei and see if he could give any advice. Tas was terrified, what was happening to him? Had the two men from the night before intruded on his dream the same way he and Paj had done a couple of nights before? Tas couldn’t tell, but he was sure that he never wanted to see either of the dark, hooded men again.