The Run for Survival

Chapter 1

A New Beginning

The sunlight shone through heavy eyelids as Ramel woke.  The sand on his face felt warm compared to his water drenched clothing.  He suddenly got the feeling that he was alone, and he had not felt this way in quite a long time.  Opening his eyes, he scanned the area, gathering his surroundings.  He didn't see Indrene anywhere.  We must've been separated again.  Quickly Ramel stood up, but got a terrible headache when he did.  He sat back down to ease the pain.  He dared not yell her name, in fear of Jalome being nearby.  Ignoring the headache for the moment, he concentrated on getting on his feet.  He succeeded slowly.

When he had finally figured out roughly where he was, he set out looking for Indrene, moving like a snake through the jungle.  He kept near the river though, as she was unlikely to stray far from it.  Jalome could be out there somewhere, and he couldn't be caught now, not when he was weak and vulnerable.  The giant jungle ferns were troublesome, but they offered great protection.  The trees were very sparse in this area, but the trees that there were had to be at least as tall as the tallest foothills of the Caves.  Indrene could be anywhere within this jungle, or she could even be as far south as the plains.  He would have to search very quickly to find her and put more distance between them and the Caves.  She was close though, and south of him.  For some unknown reason Ramel could feel Indrene's presence.

Indrene woke up with her head throbbing and her left foot pounding.  She had hit it on something when she fell into the river, but she didn't know what.  Probably a rock.  She had a terrible cold, which her recent swim in the river certainly hadn't helped.

She could remember Ramel holding on to her, but somewhere down the river they'd been separated, and now Indrene had no idea where she was.  She'd never been this far away from the Caves before.  She looked around, taking in the foreign surroundings.  The river in front of her ran through the small clearing that she was in, disappearing back into the thick jungle that lurked on all sides of her.  She could feel Ramel's presence somewhere to the north.  She didn't know how she could tell who it was, but she was sure it was Ramel.  She turned right to face that direction, looking, wondering exactly how far away he was.  Should I travel toward him?  It'd be quite dangerous, and I have no clue as to where I am.  Maybe I should just wait here.  He's surely coming for me already.

She was finishing her train of thought when there was a noise to the left of her, hiding amongst some short bushes at the tree line on the other side of the river.  It was a growl, low and threatening, the warning of a jungle cat, waiting for prey.  Indrene was sure that meant her.  She looked around.  There was no way she could outrun the cat, nor could she hide in the trees.  Her only option was to defend herself.  There was nothing to use though, not even a branch.  She was safe for the moment still, as the cat hadn't made any move, and it still had to cross the river, which was quite wide at this point.  It was certainly wider than it was back at the Caves, though it wasn't moving as fast here.

She heard another noise slightly to the right of the still unseen cat.  It was different, even more threatening.  Indrene didn't know what the second animal was, but the cat's growling stopped.  Something was wrong here.  Suddenly the cat let off the worst sound Indrene had ever heard.  She covered her ears as it continued.  This was certainly bad.  What could be making the cat do that?  It was obviously in great pain, but what was attacking the cat?  She suddenly realized it had grown abruptly silent.  She craned her head, listening for any animals.  Nothing.  The cat came out of the bushes almost silently, and Indrene saw that it was a huge cat, and indeed hurt.  It had a huge gash on its left side, and several others on its flank.  It fell wearily to the ground, and then didn't move.

She nearly ran across the river toward the cat, the cold of the water barely noticed.  Then she stared at it for only a few seconds before moving closer to it.  It was almost impossible to hear it breathing.  There were no signs of whatever had attacked it, other than the wounds on the cat, which was a good thing for Indrene.

Stopping next to the cat, Indrene knelt over it to get a better look.  It let off a small meow but didn't have the strength to do anything else.  The gash was fully visible on the cat's side while it was lying down.  Blood was oozing out of it slowly, matting the orange-red fur.  Indrene, realizing that the cat was no longer a threat, felt compelled to help the poor animal.  After all, it hadn't actually attacked her in the first place.

She had nothing to use though, and looked around once more.  She recognized most of the flora, and if the right herbs could be found, she could make a poultice that would help to seal and treat the wound.  There wasn't much time though.  If she was to find the right plants, she had to act fast to save the cat's life.  She set about gathering materials.

Ramel had heard someone or something following him for some time now, and he wished he still had his sword, but the razor sharp steel blade had become lost in the currents of the Arendine.  He continued to move, not wishing to confront whatever it was pursuing him.  He hoped that eventually it would give up.  Fortunately, he was getting close to Indrene, though he didn't want to drag a battle to her.  She was surely having enough problems to deal with.  He was unarmed though, and he was sure that whatever was following him wasn't.

Finding a nearly straight tree branch, he immediately grabbed it and began pulling off the bark, trying to make it smoother.  Anything was better than nothing was, and the staff was a weapon he had used before.  It appeared to be a hard wood, so hopefully it would stand up to a couple of sword attacks before it snapped, if it was a human following him.  It wasn't that thick of a piece however.  It would have to do, at least for now.

Almost as soon as he stepped into a small clearing, something charged out of the jungle at a dead run.  He only had about half the bark off his staff.  Ramel spun towards it to find out it was a very large wolf coming straight for him.  He heard noise behind him and glanced to find another one coming at him, this one a bit more warily.  Neither of these wolves were normal - he could tell both had magical qualities about them.  Both stood almost chest high.  He jumped out of the way of the first one, and almost into the mouth of the second.  He was amazed at how fast the thing had moved; Ramel barely noticing it was even there until he was almost upon it.  Digging his staff into the ground, he stopped himself and looked back to see the other wolf change course to come at him again.  Swinging his staff upward to catch the wolf in front of him, he found out it wasn't there, already six paces away.  He threw the staff around to hit the wolf charging him instead.  The staff blurred, but hit solid ground, as it was the wolf's turn to jump out of the way.  The second wolf still hadn't made much of an attempt to catch Ramel, instead circling to wait for the perfect time to jump in.  The first wolf showed no signs of tire yet.

The second wolf surprised him when it suddenly jumped at him, claws extended.  Ramel dropped down to the ground and used his feet to push the wolf over him. The wolf landed on all fours neatly behind him.  Ramel stood and swung around behind him in a wide arc, only to find that the wolf was already gone.  Those things can move faster than I've ever seen, Ramel thought to himself.  He had been up against wolves before, usually while out hunting, but none of them had been this large or this fast that he'd encountered.

He swung around again and was able to catch the first wolf on the jaw, only to have his staff wrenched out of his hand by the vibrations.  The wolf appeared unaffected and remained charging him.  Ramel jumped, grabbed his staff and did a somersault, landing back on his feet and out of the path of the enraged wolf.  This is ridiculous.  I can't even hurt these wolves.  He was getting tired.  If this staff had ferules, it'd be a lot easier for him to inflict damage, but this was only a tree branch.  Besides, it was beginning to feel heavier.

Both wolves were after him now.  They had decided to attack as one, and that was more trouble.  They were slowly circling him now, studying him, predicting his every move.  Well, I have to defend myself for a while.  Let's see what they do about this.  Slowly beginning to rotate the staff, Ramel quickly increased the speed of it until it was blurring.  Hand over hand he spun the staff, not concentrating at all, acting on pure instinct.  Something took over.  He brought the still spinning staff over his head, still increasing the speed.  His green eyes turned near black almost instantly.  The staff began to glow, the soft light flickering off the trees in the shade that they produced.  The wolves, hesitating only for a second, charged forward, both at the same time.  Spinning his body to the right, he grabbed the spinning staff in his right hand and swung.  The staff streaked through the air and Ramel barely felt it as it contacted the wolf and continued.  He felt the wolf's blood on his hand and arms, but he didn't notice as he stepped forward, grabbed the staff with his left hand again and began spinning it, quickly gaining the speed that it had before.  The second wolf had missed him when he'd stepped forward.  When the staff began glowing, he turned to the wolf.  It had already begun to attack again, acting only on blood lust.  Twirling the staff to his left side, he grabbed it with his right hand again and swung.  The light from the staff was blinding as it contacted the wolf.  The wolf was jolted to the side, and the staff shattered, the light growing to a point where Ramel no longer could see.  He shut his eyes and fell to the ground, but could still see the light through his eyelids.  He could feel pieces of the shattered staff hit him.

The light cleared, and Ramel could finally open his eyes.  He didn't believe what he saw.  One of the wolves' heads was almost gone, barely recognizable.  The other wolf's head had a piece of wood sticking out of it, most of the rest of the staff in splinters on the ground around him.  Ramel tried to stand but couldn't.  He didn't have the energy to do anything.  He managed to move his back to a tree and closed his eyes again, hoping nothing else would come to attack.