Heroes Journey || Chapter 5: Guiding Light

Heroes Journey || Chapter 5: Guiding Light

Reading Time: 8 minutes read

Lance was silent on the walk back. Gagzar glanced down at him a few times, but neither of them said anything. How were they going to tell Anahel two of their friends had split from the party to chase after the Duskhound? More than that, Leigh believed the Duskhound. He wanted to help the beast destroy the forest in an attempt to gain more power over it. Lance just didn’t understand.

Again the animals around them were lively: birds sang and deer ran through the trees. A group of magpies landed on the branches over Lance’s head and squawked out at him. He ignored them, too deep in his thoughts and worries. 

The way back seemed longer than the way towards Leigh, but eventually the giant tree came into view. Lance walked ahead, towards the now trampled fire. The pan was off to the side, and the rabbits were spilled out on the ground. Lance grimaced at the scene, butsaid nothing. He’d clean it up after they talked to Caomhnóir and figured out what to do next. 

Just before they entered Caomhnóir’s tree, Gagzar put his hand out in front of Lance and Lance stopped. “What is it?” Lance asked as he peered up at his orc friend.

Gagzar’s face was pulled into a worried expression. His eyes darted to the forest behind them, then back to Lance. “What are we going to tell them?” he finally said.

Lance crossed his arms and tapped his foot as he thought. “Hmm. The truth, probably?” It didn’t make sense to lie. They all needed to be on the same page if they were going to deal with the Duskhound, and now Leigh and Sylqen. 

 “Poor Anahel has been through so much, and now this.” 

“Yeah,” Lance said, because he didn’t know what else to say. After neither of them spoke for the longest moment in time, Lance cleared his throat and said, “We should go in there.” He nodded towards the hole in the tree. The sooner they got it over with, the sooner they could decide what to do. 

Anahel had woken by the time Lance and Gagzar arrived. She sat up, talking to Caomhnóir as they entered the tree. A soft smile spread across her freckled face as she spotted them. “How’d the hunting go?” she asked. “I thought I heard Sylqen. Is he back?”

Lance’s shoulders slumped as she spoke. 

Anahel picked up on it immediately. “What’s wrong?” She rose to her feet. Gagzar moved behind her and rested his hands on her arms. 

“Sit,” he said and she did. She glanced up at him before her gaze rested on Lance. 

“Okay, what happened?” Anahel asked.

Lance, with the help of Gagzar, explained everything. He told both Anahel and Caomhnóir about Sylqen coming out of the forest, terrified for Leigh. Anahel gasped when Lance spoke of the shadows which consumed and then released Leigh. Caomhnóir watched Lance silently—solemnly. Did he know this would happen? Lance wondered. 

“How did he seem?” Caomhnóir asked when Lance finished his tale.

“Besides out of his mind?” Lance said. He had barely entered the tree and stood close to the open hole leading outside. 

Gagzar glanced up from Anahel, towards Lance. “Leigh wasn’t making sense,” he said. “He wanted to join the Duskhound.”

Caomhnóir bowed his head. He remained on the ground beside Anahel. Anahel ran a hand over his snout and he let her. “The shadows corrupt. That includes the mind,” he said.

“So you’re saying he’s been brainwashed?” Lance asked.

“It’s a possibility.”

Anahel pulled her knees to her chest and yawned. When she regained herself, she asked, “Is there anything we can do to help him?” Her hand remained on Caomhnóir, petting him absentmindedly over his snout, ears, and antlers. 

Caomhnóir heaved a sigh. “There was a time when my magic could have reached him, but that is no more.”

Lance laid his head in his palms and just breathed. There had to be something they could do. They couldn’t just leave Leigh to the shadows and the corrupting power of the Duskhound. “We can’t just leave him out there,” he said when he looked down at Caomhnóir. 

“The Duskhound needs to be removed from the forest,” Caomhnóir said. “His power is too great for mine to counter. If you put distance between him and your friend, then maybe—”

“But we can’t leave,” Lance interrupted. The annoyance built in his voice. Caomhnóir presented more questions than answers at the moment. Lance didn’t mean to snap, but he didn’t know what to do.

“Not while the shadows still dwell inside the forest, no,” Caomhnóir said.

“So we have to defeat him then?” Gagzar said. 

Lance looked to Gagzar as he realized just how brilliant that sounded. If they could defeat the Duskhound, it would release its hold over Leigh; it had to. “Can we? Is that possible?”

“With your strength and what remains of my magic, there is a chance,” Caomhnóir said. “I cannot fight the Duskhound head-on, but I can provide all of you protection from the shadows so you might fight him.”

“That sounds like a starting point,” Lance said. “We’ll take the protection.”

Caomhnóir rose from the floor beside Anahel. He leaned his head down to her, his nose touching her forehead. A white light sparked between the two of them, a warm glow came over her. She smiled and laid a hand on his head. When the glow receded, Caomhnóir glanced up at Lance and Gagzar. 

Lance stepped closer to Caomhnóir. The light was as warm as it looked. His fingertips buzzed with energy. He closed his eyes and let it move throughout his body, starting at his fingers and growing until it filled his chest, his legs, his head, and then his whole body. Lance opened his eyes and blinked at Caomhnóir. 

“What is this?” Lance asked.

“It’s the last of my power. It will allow you to harm the shadows, and provide you small protection from their corruption,” Caomhnóir said.

Lance nodded and stepped back. Gagzar was next. Caomhnóir had to look up to reach his forehead. 

When the light had filled all three of them, Caomhnóir said, “That is all that I have to offer. Let us hope it’s enough.”

Gagzar looked at Anahel. “How are you doing?” he asked.

She seemed okay; she was talking and awake, and the light given by Caomhnóir had brightened something in her so she didn’t appear so down. She shrugged, another yawn escaped her. “I’m still tired, but I’m okay,” she said. 

“You’re not strong enough to fight the shadows, are you?” Lance asked her. His biggest worry at the moment was taking down the shadows, the Duskhound, and getting their friends back. But if Anahel couldn’t do that, they couldn’t go charging in.

Anahel snapped her fingers and a little light sparked, but fizzled. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Then we rest,” Lance said. “Let’s eat and sleep. We’re no good without Anahel.” It didn’t make sense to leave behind their most powerful asset against the shadows. 

Anahel smiled and got to her feet. She placed a hand on Lance’s cheek. “You’re sweet.” She stepped back and stretched, groaning as she did so. When she dropped her hands to her sides, she glanced between Lance and Gagzar. “Well, what now?” 

“For now, we eat,” Lance said. He stepped out of the tree into the forest. The rabbits still lay on the ground, though a raven had come down and started to nibble on them. “Hey, get off that!” Lance shouted and swatted at the bird. It flexed its wings at him, but then it flew away. The rabbit wasn’t worth fighting Lance over it seemed.

Lance picked up the rabbits and set them back in the pan. Gagzar started the fire again while Anahel sat on the ground next to him. She picked through his bag of spices which he’d laid out beside the firepit. “Which ones go good on rabbit?” she asked.

Gagzar took the bag of spices and sprinkled some on the rabbits in the pan. “Salt and pepper, of course. A little chili powder to spice them up. Maybe some garlic? I wonder what else I have in here—” He trailed off as he examined the bag, picking up the spice bags one by one to study them.

“Sounds good to me,” Anahel said. She took the spatula from Lance and poked at the rabbits as they cooked over the fire. 

Lance sat on a fallen log across from Anahel. He watched her stir and flip the rabbits, though his mind was elsewhere. His focus was on Leigh and the Duskhound—his thoughts consumed by them. And poor Sylqen along for the ride. They had to get their friends back, and they had to deal with the Duskhound to leave the forest. It seemed such an insurmountable task, defeating the Duskhound. They didn’t even know what the beast was capable of. 

“Lance,” Anahel said and drew him out of his thoughts.

He looked at her. “Hmm?”

“The food is done. Want some?” She held out a plate of torn rabbit meat to him. 

“Oh, yes,” he said and took the plate. 

Together they ate and made small talk. None of them wanted to address the matter at hand, though Lance knew it was on all of their minds. With their newfound power and protection, maybe they could save the forest—and more importantly, their friends.