Chapter 5: Down The Rabbit Hole… Ash

Chapter 5: Down The Rabbit Hole…        Ash

Ash awoke with a start. [Falling! Wait… I’m ok? Was it all a dream?]

Even as Ash thought this he knew it wasn’t true. This was not his room in Darkwing palace, the bed was wooden with lumps in it, and the room was far too small and plain. There was a small wooden dresser in the corner, and a night table next to the bed. The whole room was only about ten paces long, and five paces wide. There was a simple wooden door at the far side of the room.

“Good morning Ash,” Shade was curled up at the foot of the bed. “Welcome back to the world of the living.”

“How long was I-”

“Two days,” Shade said, “you were pretty bad Ash…” Shade voice trailed off.

(I don’t feel too great now either. Where are we?) Ash thought.

“In a small cottage somewhere in the woods… in a realm of mortals.” Shade’s eyes were soft, “Ash, I feel how weak we are, and I felt our power drain during the fight…”

Ash sat up and looked at his hands. “I remember. And I can sense that there’s something wrong.” He got out of the bed, and looked down at Shade. “So, we’ve been sent to a different realm?”

Shade nodded, “And I can’t open a portal back. We’re stuck.”

Ash and Shade share the same energy and power, along with a soul. When one loses power, they both do.

Ash looked down at himself. “Uh, Shade… where are my clothes?”

“The woman took them” Shade said, “They should be in that dresser.” Shade motioned with her paw toward the wooden dresser.

“A woman? What woman?” Ash said suddenly very aware of his lack of clothing.

“You didn’t think I found an empty cottage did you? And who do you think treated your wounds?” Shade said wryly.

Ash grumbled and snapped his fingers.

And nothing happened.

Ash looked around stunned, “that should have created a brand new cloak and some new armor…” Ash walked to the dresser and pulled out his gear. “Shade, I think we’ve lost more power than we thought. I can’t even feel the three aspect traits in my aura!” he said while dawning his cloak and armor. “Hell, I can’t even sense the trees of this woodland!”

Ash strapped his sheath to his side and sighed heavily. “I don’t ever remember feeling this weak.”

“Stop! You’re a Dragon lord! Dragon lords don’t mope around feeling sorry for themselves do they?” Shade sent the most positive feelings she could over to Aaron. “We are still strong, you still have your birth power and my claws are always sharp. And we still have our training. We can handle anything we need to, and we’ll find a way to restore our powers.”

Ash sighed as he picked up Dark Embrace. At his thought the weapon shifted from a scythe into a long-sword. [Well at a least that works…] “Your right, thanks Shade.” Ash said a slight smile touching his lips, “And I’ve always been best with just straight darkness anyway…”
Ash emerged from the cottage with more hope than he had thought was possible. “Hey Shade, I don’t think you should speak here. I don’t think humans are comfortable with talking animals…”
        
(Fine, but if someone treats me like a stupid pet I’ll bite them…)

Ash chuckled as he looked around, the sky was bright and clear, and the sun was high and bright. There were tall strong oaks as far as the eye could see, and a path lead off to his left. The woods were filled with the sound of animals, birdsong and footfalls sounded all around them.

“I want to thank that woman for her help and care. Shade can you smell her?”

(Yes, I think she’s west of-)

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Ash looked at his companion, “West. Got it.” He took off at a sprint towards where he heard the scream.

{Damn… DAMN! I can’t shift into a dragon! How in the hell did I lose that ability.] Ash ran even harder. He was moving far faster than any human could hope too, yet he still thought it wouldn’t be fast enough.

(Don’t worry Ash, we’ll make it. She might not even be in trouble.)

Ash didn’t respond. He knew that the woman he sought was in trouble, no one screamed like that for no reason, and if he could he would help her like she helped him.
The path opened out of the forest and they could see a young woman backing away from a group of haggard, dirty men. she looked tired, was breathing hard, and her cloths were torn in many places. She watched the men approach fearfully.

“Bandits.” Ash growled, (Shade is that the woman who helped us?)
        
(Yes… let’s go say hello…)

Ash walked the rest of the way calmly. The bandits had slowed their approach, sizing up the newcomer.

“’Es just a boy!” One spat.

“Leave ‘em I only gota taste for this girly here.” One from the back called.

“’Es got good armor though. And a fine sword too…” Another said, “Hey boy! If you hand over your things, we might not kill you. Might.”

Ash walked over to the woman, “What’s your name ma’am?”

“W-Wenndy… h-how did you get here? When I left you were b-barely breathing.”

Ash smiled, “I heal pretty fast. Stay behind me ok?” Ash raised his hood and turned to the group of me. “Now I should warn you, if you don’t leave now… well let’s just say I’m not known for my merciful nature…”

“Heh, the kid’s lost his mind!” one with an ample stomach and a fur vest said.

“That’s not all he’ll lose!” said a sharp nosed man wearing rusted chain-mail.

“kill ‘im lads!” shouted their leader. A short man with torn chain-mail and two long sabers.

“Not the best choice.” Ash said with a smile, “I needed a good fight anyway.”  [Plus I have some personal issues to work out and you guys seem perfect for venting my new found frustration.]

He drew Dark Embrace from its sheath and let his arm fall to his side. Ash wrote a quick drackonic rune in the ground with the tip of the blade, the bandits all fumbled to get their weapons out and ready. “Bye” Ash said.

“Kill the kid!” the leader shouted. The bandits ran forward, weapons raised and yelling.

“WE NEED TO RUN!” Wenndy screamed.

Ash waited. When the first bandit was just ten paces away, he lunged.

Dark Embrace tore through the man’s chest easily. Ash didn’t even break stride. Weaving through the charging men Ash’s blade sang. Ducking a clumsy slash at his head Ash brought Dark Embrace down on the man’s arms, cleaving them from his body. Turning with his stroke Ash spun and beheaded the man before he could even scream. Aaron moved on slicing another man from navel to shoulder, then turning and stabbing the man who tried to sneak behind his guard.

Blood flew and men screamed. There were only two bandits left, and they turned to flee.

“Nuh-uh, I said no mercy remember?” Ash said with a smile. He reached out his hand, tendrils of darkness formed at the feet of the two bandits.

The tendrils seemed as insubstantial as smoke, but were both solid and strong. They wrapped around the two bandits’ legs and midsections. The two men hacked and stabbed at their bonds, but the blows only passed through the tendrils like mist. One accidently stabbed his own leg and screamed in pain.

“I warned you…” Ash walked calmly towards the two men.

“No! No please!” one started, he never finished. Ash’s blade slid easily into the man’s heart.

“Gods above!” the other said. Ash saw that he was the leader.

“Prey for your soul if you wish. I will still kill you, but it might make some difference, I have time I’ll wait.” Ash said kindly with a dark smile. “Know that you fought as well as you could and will die a warrior’s death for whatever thats worth.” [though to be honest you weren’t much more than a warm up]

Ash and Shade watched as the man preyed, then Ash thrust Dragonsfang into the man’s chest, piercing the heart.

“May death bring your souls peace. Moons bless you all.” Ash said with some hesitation while looking at the woman. He was unsure if mortals honored their dead the same way dragons did, but he had no wish to offend the person who helped him when he was in need. Even if that meant he had to spare words for these fools who thought they could overcome him with mere numbers.

“They don’t deserve your blessing.” Wenndy said bitterly as she walked over. “They were godless men anyway…”

[But men all the same. Do mortals all have so little care for such things, even about your own kind?] Ash thought curiously, “Thank you for your care, but I must leave your home and care. Good bye.” Aaron turned to leave.

“Wait! Who are you?” Wenndy asked.

Ash paused considering what to say if anything “I am Lord Ash Blackwing. And I am just learning who I am.” Ash said with a slight smile. Then he turned and continued down the path. [And when I find out we shall see if the council dies quickly or very slowly and very painfully.]

(The humans here are different from the ones we know, Ash.) Shade said, (they will even attack each other for no reason!)
        
(We knew that from our studies Shade…) Ash replied.
        
(But I always thought it was a joke, or an exaggeration. To think, they really kill for no purpose. Not just war, protection, and honor, not even for a desire to do so, but for no reason at all…) Shade pondered.
        
(We are very far from home shade the rules are different here…)  Ash reminded his bond.

[Then again perhaps they aren’t, perhaps the rules are just clearer…] Ash thought somberly as they traveled down the woodland path.

After climbing a hill they both saw a village on a flat, grass filled plain. “Time to find our fate, for better or worse…” Ash made his way toward the village…

 

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