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Rated: 18+ · Novel · Fantasy · #2316447
Carver finds out that his body is still complete and warm. Hope?

The woods are covered in a murky darkness and an unholy glow. The spirits despise the light; it reminds them of their lives when they were living. They mostly meander in the dark abyss. Most of the spirits are mindless creatures that attack on sight. Some retain their wisdom and use it to pursue unholy quests.

A long time of hiding from ghouls and spirits has made Carter quick and graceful. He secretly follows the spirit women who entangled him in this nightmare forest. He floats above the coarse ground, quietly following them until they reach a husk of a building that used to be a large church. Rubble, rocks, and stonework litter the treeless land. A lone cathedral building still stands, but the outside has been given to what constitutes nature around here. Plants that exist without sunlight, unholy vines, and death grass fill the ground with dark red and purple colors able to tear the flesh with teeth called thorns. The door is covered in vines and overgrowth, blocking trespassers with their traps. Spirits have no problem traversing these dangers as Carter floated through unabated. He moves to the back of the large expanse, finding a spot darker than his surroundings to hide and listen.

A spirit turned around, alarmed by the floating spirits that just entered. Recognizing the dimly lit spirits, he let his guard down. "Did you find the boy?" said Lord Chiba to the two intangible spirits who had just entered the building.

"Oh, yes, and he's perfect," said Ella Landers with a grin.

"I wouldn't say perfect, but acceptable," said Queen Era with a condensing voice.

A giant spirit entered the immense decayed Cathedral and looked at the dark spot that Carter had chosen to hide in.

"What say you, boy! Will you be the one we waited for..." said Piker Dern, known to his friends and enemies as Red. He had stopped in mid-sentence to think.

"How long has it been, child? What year is it, boy?" asked Red as he floated over a pew, pretending to sit.

Carter was reluctant to accept that he had been observed but moved into the dingy light and revealed himself anyway.

"The year is 6215 after the great war," said Carter as he floated toward their makeshift stage in the center of the room.

The stone stage was raised off the ground by a few heads and about twenty heads in diameter. This makeshift Sanctuary of spirits contained four pews aimed at the center in a circle with a pile of debris in the middle for a fire that wasn't lit. The group of spirits, eight in total, alertly aimed their attention towards him.

"Time might not mean too much to the other mindless spirits, but spirits who have retained their wits grow restless when time multiplies into thousands of years," said Ella Landers.

"And that time isn't getting any shorter!" said Red in a burst of anger.

"Calm down, Red," said Ella Landers.

"Red is right! We've been waiting too long!" howled Helltorn as he flew towards Carter.

Thanks to the magical history book lessons, Carter recognized all the heroes of the great war. Spirits were hard to see by nature, but their characteristics were easy to denote. Helltorn was just plain scary, with his sunken black eyes and unkempt hair flapping behind him.

Carter's defense maneuvers automatically kicked in, and he disappeared and reappeared on the other side of the church. Helltorn was taken aback for a second and stopped. "Spirit transportation, so early?"

"I told you," said Ella Landers.

Helltorn's spirit grew a visible smile as he was about to start the pursuit again.

Red appeared behind Carter and grabbed him between his arms. Carter tried to disappear again but was held tight.

"No more running, boy. It's time for you to know why you are here," said Red. Carter and Red disappeared and reappeared next to the others on the sanctuary stage. Red placed him on the debris in the middle of the stage and floated back to his pew. Carter tried to disappear and move, but an unseen force imprisoned him.

"You've learned a lot, boy. But it's time we teach you some lessons," said Red. Red's hand turned into a giant sword and swung it at Carter's legs. He tried to move but couldn't.

A deep pain came from below as some of his mass disappeared. It felt like he just got his legs cut off, and the pain that resulted from that slice. Carter's eyes glowed red with anger and pain.

"Your brain still thinks it has legs, so that is why you feel the pain and can not move," said Red.

Ella and Era stood back to avoid being included in what was occurring.

Red then chopped in a circular motion where Carter's hands would have been. He endured the pain and didn't give them the satisfaction of screaming.

Heltorn clapped his hands like a little child. "This is what I miss," said Heltorn with a grin.

Red looked at Carter's face and smiled. "Good, boy, you know how to take pain."

"Pain? This whole forest is pain," said Carter as he moved his head back and forth to each spirit in the room.

"Is this how you get your kicks? Hurting young children," said Carter while gritting his teeth.

"Children? You think you are still a child?" said Red. He let out a hearty laugh and started to pace around.

"I've seen Queen Era play with your manhood as it stiffened up," added Red.

Queen Era grew red with anger and embarrassment. "You have not!" she screamed.

Red ignored her and continued his rant, "I have seen you grow hair in places where only adult men grow it. You can reach above most men's heads. You are not a child anymore."

"What Red is saying is that you have been in the Forest for a while...um, what is your name?" asked Ella.

"My name is Carter. How long has it been since you dragged me into this hell?" asked Carter.

"Do we look like we keep time?" said Red.

"You have passed the threshold of adulthood a while ago," said Ella.

"I would say he has been here for seven years now," said a small spirit floating in the back.

Red looked at her angrily, "Always with the science, Lady Junetress. 'I can tell the passing of time by the stars.'

"Seven years?" asked Carter. He had no idea. He wasn't keeping track of time. He was too busy being pulled apart by thousands of crazy spirits that died here.

Ella Landers approached Carter and placed her ghost hand on his face. "Red only knows violence. Please, we need your help. Your mother needs your help," said Ella compassionately. She let her healing powers replace Carter's imaginary hands and feet.

"My mother?" asked Carter.

"Red, release him. He is ready," said Ella. Red's face went back to normal, and he turned around.

Carter could move again. "Follow me to the Rectory," said Ella as she floated towards a door in the back of the room.

He followed, not knowing what to think. Ella and Carter disappeared into the backroom.

Helltorn looked at Queen Era with a smirk on his spirit face. "You were playing with it?" said Helltorn to Queen Era.

"Shut up, or I'll rip you in half!" said Era angrily.

Carter flew into the back room with Ella and stopped at the door.

A beautiful woman walked up to Ella and welcomed her back. Ella turned around and introduced her to Carter.

"This is Leahtrix, a cleric from Courage. She is the reason why you are here," said Ella.

Leahtrix momentarily looked at Carter and said, "Welcome, Sir." She was visibly shaken as she looked around in fear. Leahtrix was a half-elf, alive with life and a beautiful visage. Her head was surrounded by shiny, black hair and two pointy ears. She wore a dark green robe that covered nothing up.

"Leahtrix is the genius that keeps your bodies alive without your spirit in them," said Ella, visually proud of her half-elf scientist.

"It's not that hard. The body needs energy, and that's what I feed them," said Leahtrix. She started walking around a wall, and Ella and Carter followed her.

"It takes minimal effort. It practically works by itself," said Leahtrix.

Carter floated around the wall and saw four bodies strapped to beds that were inclined on the wall. The macabre line-up contained the bodies of two women and two men, which was apparent because they had no clothes on. He looked at the first body for a moment, up and down, until he realized it was his body.

He floated over to his body and looked at it. It was eerie to see his face and how others see it. It was made even worse because it was him as an adult. He had big muscles, thick legs, and stubble on his face.

"We have a way for you to enter into your body and live in it again," said Ella.

Carter flew real close to his face and said, "Really? I would like that," said Carter.

An interruption from behind barged in and said, "Are you willing to pay the price, boy?" said Red.

Queen Era and Lady Junetress followed behind Red with nervous looks on their spirit faces.

"Price?" said Carter as he looked at the other bodies strapped to beds in the room. He recognized the Queen right away and flew over to her.

"Is she here too?" said Carter. If a tear could come to his face, it would have. He barely lived through this hell, and if she was here, he couldn't imagine the fear she had.

"You don't have to worry about her. She was crazy when she got here," said Red.

Carter was taken aback for a moment. He couldn't believe that the sweet person, his mother, was now one of those shriekers. His face showed how upset he was.

"Decorum, Red! We still believe we can save her and place her back into her body, too," said Ella.

Carter placed what would have been his hand on his mom's face. "But she would be crazy like those other shriekers?" asked Carter.

Ella looked back at Leahtrix and started shaking her head up and down.

"I just want her out of this place," said Carter as his fist touched her bed. It was an actual fist that he solidified out of his spirit.

"We all want out. That is why you are here," said Ella.

Carter kept staring at his mother as Ella went and retrieved a book off a small table. She held it with her fake hands and brought it over to Carter. This old book of Nature, The Book of Physis, was found in the ancient Kek Castle ruins. It was given to King Kek as a present from the Nymphs.

"Nymphs? What are Nymphs?" asked Carter as he looked at Ella.

Ella was happy with the question; she knew he was listening. Most of the other 'volunteers' did not.

"Nymphs are green, scantily clad women living in ponds, lakes, and oceans. They commune with Nature and learn her secrets," said Leahtrix.

"The book tells of four tattoos found in the towers of Thresh that will bring a body and spirit back to life. It bonds them back together as if they were reborn," said Ella.

"Tattoos? Like the ones of skulls and crosses my uncle has on his arm?" said Carter sarcastically.

"Tattoos are small works of art that are imbued with powerful magic. They permanently adhere themselves to your body and give you the power imbued in it," said Leahtrix.

Carter shook his head up and down, understanding that it wasn't like his uncle's tattoos at all.

"When all four tattoos are worn, the owner can banish spirits to the afterlife or attach spirits back to their bodies," said Ella.

"I can understand the bonding of spirits and bodies, but why would anyone want to be banished to the afterlife?" said Carter.

Ella pointed at herself and looked at Carter like he was an idiot.

"Oh," said Carter in understanding. They had been stuck here for 6,000 years. I would want to move on, too, like that spirit who ran into that time fissure.
"The tattoos allow the wearer to permanently possess their body and also dispel spirits to the afterlife," said Leahtrix.

"That's what I said already," said Ella. She gave Leahtrix a dirty look, which is hard for a spirit to do.

"So, I collect the four tattoos, wear them, and then live a normal life in my body," said Carter as he looked back at his body. He was much taller than before, and he had longer hair. Was that what his manhood looked like now?

"Wait, why am I naked?" said Carter out loud.

Queen Era laughed and said, "When we found you, you were not wearing clothes, and we don't have a store around here."

"That's not true. The boy was found with that girl's dress right there. Do you want us to put it on for you?" said Red as he grabbed the dress and danced around.

Queen Era let out a little laugh.

Carter's body was taller than six heads now. That dress would not fit him.

"And why hasn't the great General Red taken it upon himself to get the tattoos?" asked Carter.

"Do not agitate him, Carter. We can't do it because we don't have bodies, and spirits without a body can't enter the towers," said Ella.

"And your body wasn't compatible with Red's spirit," said Leahtrix.

"It smelt like an Orc ass inside there!" said Red as he tried to fit the neck hole of the little dress over Carter's head.

Carter looked back at Leahtrix with a deranged look. "Red was in my body?" said Carter.

"Red can usually possess a body for a few hours with Heltorn's Possession Spell, but your body kicked him out right away," said Leahtrix.

Leahtrix pointed to the other male body and said, "The second body there belonged to an unruly rogue named Gabe, who lost his spirit to the afterlife. We can all use his body, and that's how we will train you."

"Train me?" said Carter.

"You must fight to the top of each tower for the tattoos. The towers are filled with danger, and you will need great skills to reach the top," said Ella. Leahtrix whispered to Ella, and she looked back at Carter.

Red threw the dress onto the floor and looked at Carter from across the room. "I say you won't even make it past the training," bellowed Red.

Carter gave Red a slight glance and then looked back at his body again.

"Are all the towers still standing?" asked Ella, interrupting Red and Carter's banter.

"I've only read about the Two Towers and never visited them. The Capital's Tower is still standing, but the city of Chronos and its Tower were destroyed about 1,000 years ago," said Carter.

Ella put her hand over her mouth.

"Destroyed?" asked Leahtrix.

Carter paused momentarily and remembered some of his teachings from the Castle of Dale. He looked at Queen Lorien's shell of a body.

"You can still get to it through a Time Rift," said Carter slowly as if trying to remember a story he read. "I read that the whole town of Chronos survived by traveling 1,500 years ago through a time rift, and now they all live there," added Carter.

"Of course, just like the Time Rift created by Dr. Kinger here in the Forest. He must have made another one," said Lady Junetress.

Ella walked up to Carter and hit him playfully. "That wasn't nice scaring me like that," said Ella.

"Sorry," said Carter. He had a good memory, but that was seven years ago. Constant torture within the confines of this forest makes you forget things.

"There are two more towers here in the Forest. The residents of Thresh have long forgotten them," said Ella.

Carter's eyes fixated on Leahtrix and her see-thru green robe. Sheer and intricately sewn. A rich person's wardrobe. "What about Leahtrix? Why doesn't she go?" asked Carter.

"The towers are filled with monsters and traps. I wouldn't survive the first floor!" screamed Leahtrix.

"Leatrix has skills as a scientist but none in fighting," said Ella. She walked over and placed her ghost hands on Leahtrix's shoulders.

Carter looked over towards his mother and said, "Where is her spirit?"

"It's out there with the others. Only a few spirits keep their wits in this Forest," said Ella.

"She has probably killed you several times, and you didn't even know," said Red with a hearty laugh.

Carter did not like Red's humor or his laugh.

"Fine," said Carter.

"Does that mean you'll do it?" said Ella.

"Yes," said Carter, and he walked over to his body and tried to slip in. A pain so excruciating that he almost 'disappeared'. Carter opened his eyes and looked around. The spirits that surrounded him were white and wispy and had no definition.

"Oh, it does smell like Orc in here," said Carter, slowly talking through his mouth.

"I told you," said Red with another hearty laugh.

"The possession spell, quickly, Heltorn!" screamed Ella.

Heltorn came running into the back room, and a dark black light extruded from his hand. It encased Carter in its light, and his pain went away. He could move more freely now. His body was directly connected to its spirit.

"It's good that you can enter your body without the spell. That and the possession spell will keep you in your body until you get one of the tattoos. Once you do that, you won't have to use the possession spell anymore," said Leahtrix.

The possession spell that was cast on him was familiar to Carter. He already had it in his stomach as a spell.

"Do you remember that pain you felt as you entered your body when you didn't have the possession spell? Do you?" said Leahtrix.

Carter shook his head up and down.

"You need to leave your body once in a while, like every twenty-four hours, or your body builds up a resistance to you, and that pain comes back," said Leahtrix.

He didn't like that pain. It hurt as much as leaving the forest. "Even though it's my body?" asked Carter.

"It doesn't matter. You're spirit and body are separated. They are now foreign to each other," said Ella

"I tried walking around in Gabe's body for a day, and the pain built up until I couldn't stand it anymore, and I had to evacuate the body," said Red.

"How long did you have to stay out of the body?" asked Carter.

"There's not a set amount of time. As much as it takes where it doesn't hurt anymore," said Leahtrix.

Red motioned Heltorn to place him in the rogue's body, Gabe. Helltorn complied with a wave of his hand.

Gabe-Red jumped out of his incline cot and grabbed a short sword from the wall. It was Carter's sword, the obsidian one he had purchased in Dale.

"I guess it's time for your first lesson," said Red in Gabe's voice.

Gabe-Red jumped in front of Carter, swung his sword, and cut one of Carter's hands off without warning. The pain was awful. "That hurt!" screamed Carter.

"Just like a real hand would?" asked Gabe-Red. He laughed like Red but in a higher-pitched voice.

"Yes! Well, I guess so. I've never had my hands cut off before," said Carter, holding his bloody stump. Blood was seeping through his hand onto the ground.

Ella walked over, picked up his hand, and reattached it to his stub. A bright white light came off of her and sealed the wound shut.

Gabe-Red lifted his hand and said, "Leave a scar. Let him learn from it."

"No one is here to hold your hand, boy. Learn to deal with the pain and adapt. Grab that sword over there and follow me," said Gabe-Red.

Carter has been dealing with pain for what seems like an eternity. His life had pain, and now his death has pain. He has grown accustomed to it.

He looked over at the old, rusty sword Red pointed to and asked, "Can I have my short sword?" asked Carter.

"Maybe, if you earn it," said Gabe-Red.

"I have a feeling that short sword will cost me a lot more to get back than the first time I bought it," said Carter as he followed Red outside.

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