Urgh... Where are we now?"
Travis consulted his map, as he and Steven trod exhaustedly through unknown countryside. His friend plopped down on a nearby stone to catch his breath. "We're still not even close to the trail... I don't even know which direction we're going!" Travis looked around him, analysing his surroundings to no avail.
"None of this matches up with anywhere on the map...", moaned the exhausted hiker, wiping his brow.
"You serious? Where did we even get split from the trail? That feels like hours ago", asked the other, panting, heaving under the weight of his backpack.
"I'm sure I followed the signs!", protested Travis. "Huff... maybe I need a drink... I could have been seeing things."
"Sure thing. I wouldn't mind a break either. My legs are killing me!" complained Steven, towelling his sweat.
"Did you hear any running water? There may be a spring close by..."
"I think I heard some water a while back. Somewhere over... that way? Or over those hills? Or..?" Steven pointed randomly, unable to recall the location of the spring.
"Let's just keep our ears sharp", advised Travis, leading Steven in any old direction. His friend looked to the sky.
"I think we've still got a few hours left in the day", observed Steven.
"It does seem to be getting a little darker... especially with the growing shade from the trees. The sun's really setting now."
"There do seem to be a lot more trees... hang on, are you leading us into a forest? Shouldn't we try to find someplace where it's more open?"
"Come on Steve, let's just enjoy the walk while it's still light. Honestly, I kind of enjoy the feeling of solitude here."
"Really? We're kinda lost and not sure where we should go...", moaned Steven.
"It's just a gut feeling. we may find a brook here. It... seems like the right location", wondered Travis.
"Alright, lead the way. I hope you're right, I feel parched..."
Travis did so, peering into the woods, viewing the scene. "It's like something out of a story. A babbling brook in a secluded glade..." He peered deeper, squinting a bit. "It even looks like it is... Kind of like a hand painted woodland scene." Steven looked around too. He had to admit the place did look very calming and peaceful, but the lingering sense of being lost emerged once more.
"I just hope there's no bears or cougars around that would have us for dinner..." said a fearful Steven.
"It's too serene for that", replied Travis, sitting down and putting his feet up.
"Uhh? What are you doing?", questioned Steven, watching his friend raise his boots into the air.
"Relaxing. It feels relaxing here. I felt there was no better place to do this", said Travis, calmly, panting slightly. Steven rubbed his neck apprehensively, continuing to look around.
"Yeah, it's nice. Quiet and relaxing but... aren't you worried about where we are?"
Travis just smiled, basking in the serenity. "Got to rest those feet..." He observed his friend's shrugs, as he set down his backpack and rested against a tree. "Nice, maybe you'll enjoy it too when you relax."
"Alright, alright...", said an impatient Steven. "I really think we should look for a way to the trail, but if you insist..." He leant his head back against the tree and sighed, Travis also looking up at the darkening sky.
"We could try, but I doubt we'd have the time. Want to set up camp?" asked Travis.
"Yeah, probably should. It doesn't feel like any bears are around. I'll get us started. See if you can find some firewood."
Travis had pulled out his map again. It seemed like they had ended up setting up camp in some sort of glade, although there was no evidence of such thing on his charts.
"You know, maybe we're the first people to discover this place. That's why it's uncharted", wondered Travis, wandering about, looking for naturally felled trees.
"Really? I would have figured everything around here was discovered by now... I mean, what parts of the world isn't?", questioned Steven, clearing the ground for setting up the tent. Travis wandered a short distance to collect a large log, and as he made his quick journey, he wondered curiously how this glade could have been overlooked. He dragged it back to Steven, who was hooking a canvas sheet to the pegs he had driven into the ground. He gave Travis his thanks, and asked him to fetch some rocks, reasoning that with both rocks and wood, they could build a proper campfire.
"Sure...", agreed Travis, leaving Steven once more. He wandered through the woods, under archways made by the leafy canopies, deeper into darkness, while Steven continued to put up the tents and set up camp.
Further and further he went into darkness, although... what was that? In a small opening in the distance, he saw rays of light dancing through the treetops. A way out? No, it'd be too dark outside the forest... so what was the source of this curious illumination? As Travis entered the clearing, he discovered that it wasn't so dark outside after all. The sun was almost down, but the sky was red, and what little daylight was left shone intensely through the branches above onto a large stump on the ground. There seemed to be something sticking out of it...
"Steven?", shouted Travis, with as loud a voice his exhausted lungs could muster, but it fell flat, refusing to echo or escape the clearing. With no response or hope of one, Travis instead decided to focus on that stump. Funny what he said about storybooks, because this felt somewhat like something he read in one...
The embedded object was somewhat dark, but still had a noticeable shine in the light's rays. Tentatively approaching closer, things got clearer; Travis saw it was a sword, though one of unusual shape and coloring. The steel blade was hued navy blue, and the sword was jeweled at the hilt. This was definitely the stuff of fairytale. Travis cast his mind back to Arthurian legends, the tales of the sword in the stone... however, this one was embedded in a stump. In the search for rock, it felt like the forest was mocking him. Travis sized up the sword. It had a radically different appearance to those expect to turn up in the fables and stories. This sword's shape hardly lent itself to any sort of historical design. Sharp teeth could be seen along the blade's edge around the area where it penetrated the stump, splintering the wood in which it was embedded. Maybe this sword would be a little easier to remove than Excalibur. Perhaps it could be useful for hikers fending for themselves in the glade. As the light faded, Travis stepped onto the stump, breathing onto his hands, knowing that now would be a better time than ever to release the blade.
The lost hiker readied himself, and clasped his hands around the hilt. As he made contact, he felt a chilling feeling through his body, a gust of wind blowing around him, if for only a moment. He felt that was the signal to make his move, the harbringer of night's fall, penetrating even this most sacred hollow. Travis held tightly, and slowly drew his arms upwards, pulling at the hilt. The weapon, at first, resisted the tug, staying stuck in the stump. But with another pull the sword suddenly glowed with a blue aura, unusual characters glowing on the face of the blade. The glint of text caught Travis's eye, and, still holding the hilt, he swung his head down, observing the blade, and the characters that appeared.
-----It had been ninety minutes since Travis had left Steven to work on the tent. After a few attempts at getting the stakes put in and the rods pulled through the fabric he had managed to put up a decent tent up. All that was needed now was some firewood and stones for a campfire... Travis's duty. He hadn’t realized how long it had been since he sent Travis out to gather wood. A check of the watch showed just how much time had passed since his friend had left for the depths of the forest.
"Travis?", Steven called out to the general area, thinking he wouldn’t have been too far off from camp. After a minute with no response, Steven called out again, louder than before. Still silence before him. "He must have gone in further ahead", thought Steven as he looked back to the campsite behind him. "Although, why would he go in that far just for wood?" Part of him thought to go out and look for his friend but the other part figured it would be better to stay and wait to ensure the campsite wasn’t left alone. "Damnit, Travis, what are you doing out there?", Steven asked aloud, frustrated and unsure of what to do. That would be answered in short time and in the most unexpected way...
Travis was took aback as a whisper sent shivers down his spine, and with a sudden uplift the sword was freed from the stump, the blade flashing a blinding light, which spread throughout the glade! Carefully, he tried to control the weapon in his hands. Its sharp edges told the lost hiker that this was not a weapon to be trifled with. He rotated the blade, looking for those shining sigils.
"Dust... hear my voice."
"St- Steve? Is that you?" Travis called out in a confused voice, squinting in the brightness at the blade, questioning the voice.
"Dust... you must wake up!"
With each syllable that sounded out of seemingly nowhere, the sword's glow seems to pulse in harmony... was it the sword talking? Travis tried to respond.
"I... I am awake. But I was planning on going to sleep. It is getting late..."
And what is this... "Dust" that keeps getting mentioned?" Travis's voice grew more panicked, as the other grew more commanding.
"Wake up Dust! Hear my voice!"
"I can hear you loud and clear, sword!", said an afraid Travis, as the sword flashed brighter as it repeatedly annunciated that Dust must awaken. Suddenly a blast of wind blew straight at the lost man, a strong breeze hitting his body. He heard an odd noise as the gust hit his body, sounding from behind him, like flapping and billowing, despite his jacket being tightly fastened up when he entered this hollow. Instinctively, Travis used a free hand to hold onto his clothing as he fought the breeze blowing in his face, while the other remained on the hilt... oddly, the hiker's clothes did not feel the way they used to. Not as thick. More like a cloak than a coat, which explained the sound he heard of his cloak fanning out behind him. Curious, Travis twisted the shining sword, hoping to catch a glimpse of this new clothing in the blade's reflection... but it turned out the changes were much more drastic than what he first felt or thought. Sleeves of black cloth flowed past his elbows, part of a long-sleeved shirt that was covered by a black vest trimmed with crimson. He was wearing baggy teal pants made of a material most unlike the hiking cargos he had started the day with, and black boots that reflected the blade's illumination with the clarity that newly polished leather produces. Wrapped around his shoulders was a frayed teal cloak, with the hooded portion covering a conical hat. Feeling the breeze in odd places, he noticed there seemed to be holes in the hat, and in the seat of his transformed pants.
"Dust...", repeated the speaking sword, as Travis tilted it, aghast at the changed clothing and desperately wondering how what brought on the change. Was this the power of the mystic light that this sword shone? The sudden breeze that hit him without warning? Travis questioned the sword once more.
"Dust? Who is Dust? I'm Travis. Do you have any memory issues?" He continued to analyse his reflection as the image that the blade displayed changed again, the hiker's skin turning a now familiar teal colour, his hair's hue becoming silvery blue. He quivered as a feeling of warm crawled across his skin, shorthaired fur spreading across his whole body. He felt even more confused... first what he wore, now what he were? He tentatively felt his cloak, his trousers, his vest, his boots... Just what material have they become? It felt odd, alien, perhaps due to the fur brushing the inside of the garments. The breeze struck once more, up into his face, and Travis could feel appendages grow from the top of his head, pointed ears emerging through the holes in his hat. The breeze changed direction, blowing from behind, its force seeming to stretch his face into a feline muzzle. Then with one final blast of cool air from ahead of him, a long fluffy tail stretched out from the hole at the seat of his pants, swinging and swaying nervously while the ears twitched around, as a confused Travis, now the owner of a few "animal" features, turned the cogs in his head. Transformed by the light of this sword, he had become a mysterious creature, clad in unfamiliar clothing. Was this the power of the sword? To strip those who are illuminated of humanity and clothe them in something else? Something more befitting their new form? The beast felt the holes for his ears and tail, which twitched as his paws neared, sensing their presence.
"Dust! Awaken, Dust! Hear my voice!"
That sword was harping on again... Dust! Dust! Who was this Dust? What did this sword want with Dust? Why did it keep screaming this name at... him...? A mental block was suddenly forming, it was getting harder to think... what was his name again?
"Dust! Dust!" That name echoed in Travis's mind, over and over, making it hard to focus. Travis held tight to the hilt with both his paws, struggling to form a response.
"I hear you... Sword... I see what you have done... but... it's awakened only my.. curiosity..." He was starting to shake, mind rapidly wracked by the echo in his head... Dust... Dust... Dust... His mind was slipping, memories fading away... random questions were darting about... who, or what, was this Dust? Where exactly was he? What was this sword? What was he? Who was he? And then suddenly...
With one final, loud exclaimation, the mental tumult was enveloped by pure sonic buzzing, and everything went blank...
As Steven looked deep into the forest, pacing into the depths, a sudden flash of light followed by a powerful shockwave burst from the centre of the forest, the roaring energy shaking the trees and coming right for Steven. Unable to react, let alone comprehend it in time, he found himself lifted off his feet, thrown back into the open flap of his tent, colliding and pushing enough to cause the stakes and rods to all come free,tangling him up in a mess of orange and blue nylon. Taking some time to free himself from the mess, the wriggling man inside was yelling obscenity after obscenity. "What in the- Get off me, tent!" After much struggle and finally free, Steven panted, looking to the glade and the remains of the campsite he had set up, now looking hit by heavy winds. Only the heavy bags managed to only fall onto their sides rather than go flying.
"Son of a-," cursed Steven again, feeling sore from the fall, "What in the hell was that?" Observing the remains of the campsite he contemplated the source of that shockwave before his stomach sunk like a stone. "Travis!"
Abandoning the site and gear, Steven ran quickly into the glade. Being hit by the blast from that range was bad enough, but if Travis was still in there he could have possibly fared worse! Praying not to find a broken body against some tree trunk he darted through the glade in all directions in hopes of finding his friend. As he ran the trees around him felt ever more looming, somehow even larger than before. Panting and trying not to trip, Steven looked around, calling out for Travis constantly. No matter how much he yelled, however, the trees of the glade blocked out almost all sound, none of it managing to travel more than a few metres. Getting concerned and frustrated even more, Steven could not see that the clothes on his body were looking quite baggy on him now, feet stomping so hard he couldn’t feel the changing size in his shoes. That was, until he made a big trip. Failing to lift his shoe one small inch caused him to hurtle forward, pants, shoes, socks, and even underpants sliding off from behind him while his overlarge shirt clung onto his shoulders as he rolled and tumbled.
"Oof! Argh! Yahhh! Owie!", Steven shouted at each landing before finally sliding to a stop on his back. Groaning, he slowly lifted himself to a sitting position to find only his shirt and nothing below it. "AUGH! Something cut me in half!", Steven screamed, yelling in pain he thought he felt before he realized one of his feet was wiggling toes. Utterly confused, he reached to grab the edge of his shirt before seeing a hand that was not extending by his usual reach... nor was the hand familiar. It was orange and white, covered in fur and ending in claws. Sending shock throughout his body, he let out another scream, though he also heard one that was far higher pitched and shrill than his. He shook his head wildly around, was there someone else also here? As he shook he felt something on the top of his head that felt fuzzy and floppy. Quickly looking up he saw more orange furred pieces, looking like ears right above his head. Something was right on him!
"Ack! It’s on my head! Get if off! Get it off!", Steven screamed, ducking out from the large confines of the shirt and backing up quickly, making sure to hover high above so whatever was below didn’t get him… wait... "hover"? Steven turned around quickly, unable to see anything behind him but below him it was certainly clear: somehow he had managed to lift off from the ground and hover!
"H-how am I... W-what…?!", Steven panted, catching himself by surprise when he realized what his voice was sounding like. Putting his hands to his mouth he was instead greeted to two fuzzy clawed paws slapping over them instead. This sudden surprise caused him to recoil back into a tree trunk, where he felt something on his back brushing up to the bark. It was then that he finally saw what it was. Wings, large and furred, flapping behind his back, keeping him suspended in the air. Lowering his hands he saw that the paws moved whenever he willed them. Looking further down he saw a small body, orange and white furred, below his neck. What he had thought to be some monster chasing him had been himself… "Oh n-no! I-I’m a monster!!"
A cyan creature awoke in a grassy clearing, the sun shining from above, through an opening in a canopy of trees. Groggily, he awoke, his head spinning, asking questions of confusion... where were he? The sunlight... was it day? A voice from behind was calling, possibly for him.
The beast had been having an incredibly vivid dream, of creatures with furless pink flesh, exploring a forest somewhat like this one... it was hard to recall any other details, especially because he had been rudely awakened by the shouting from behind. He put his paws to the earth and pushed himself up, back flipping and landing gracefully, then spun to face the source of the shout. A shining sword floated through the opening, glowing in sync with the voice.
"Dust... you are finally awake."
"H... How long was I sleeping...?", replied the groggy creature, not making much sense of the situation, head buzzing.
"I cannot say, I have found you here after hearing your call to summon me."
"Urf... it sounded like you were calling to summon me...", said the being, still displeased by his slumber being interrupted so suddenly... he was starting to pay more attention though... this sword said he was trying to summon it... he couldn't remember summoning any sword... he couldn't recall any happenstance of the sort... in fact he couldn't seem to remember anything! This sword seems to be calling him Dust, though... was that his name?
"It was all I could do to awaken you from your slumber. It took some time to wake you though. Allow me to introduce myself."
Dust stepped forward, curling his paws around the sword's hilt. If he did summon it, he may as well use it.
"I am Ahrah, one of the five blades. I have been summoned by you, and there is a quest which only you must undertake."
Unable to recall anything about summonings and quests, the cyan creature could only introduce himself with the name the sword was calling him. "OK, Ahrah... and... I'm Dust, apparently... quest... lay it on me, Ahrah."
"Let us start by heading for Aurora Village, it is not too far from The Glade. I sense some troubles, master. Worry not, this quest will answer any questions you may have about who you are... but there are other important matters at stake, we must make haste!"
"Haste?" Dust looked down to examine the quality of his boots. The quality was surprisingly good. Almost brand new even. His entire garb, with the exception of the ragged cloak, seemed to be in exceptional condition. They were certainly in good shape for the haste Ahrah demanded. "Haste it is." Dust croucheed, and dashed off, blade in hand... then screeched to a halt. "Where is Aurora Village?"
"Head to the east, Dust. Aurora Village sits at the edge of the Glade."
Dust hung his head. "I would head east, if I had a compass."
"Then allow me..."
The sword pulled at Dust's arms, sending Dust skidding in the direction it flew. Mud, twigs and leaves clung to his boots, the being sliding on the forest floor. He was being catapulted into an adventure with no idea of any direction, and no memories to guide him... just a hope that this sword would lead the way... and that the village had a cobbler who would polish Dust's boots...
"I'm... I'm a monster..." Steven was panting, and crying out in a shrill voice, sounding nothing like his old self. Hell, it could hardly be called Steven’s old gender. His head darted around; further inspection of his body, it's figure, revealed a dreadful truth to him. He was no longer a he. "No... but that’s impossible! What’s happening to me!?", the now 'she' screamed, her voice wailing in confusion and concern.
"Fidget… come", called a voice suddenly. Smooth and calming, the tones entered Steven’s large ears and helped her breathe easier. She was still scared out of her mind and unsure of what was happening but she felt compelled to answer the voice.
"Fidget? I don’t know who you’re talking about. I’m Steven… or was… or I don’t even know and I’m freaking out over here!!!"
"Come Fidget, to me", called the voice again, with the same tone and calming disposition.
"I said I’m not Fidget! You’re not even listening, are you?", she called out in frustration.
"Gah! You aren’t listening! What button have I gotta press to skip this talk?”, Steven said, unaware of saying anything out of the ordinary.
"Someone has claimed me, Fidget. Come." The voice seemed continued to call out, desiring to draw her even deeper into the forest.
"Claimed you? I don’t even know who you are, disembodied voice in my head- Oh no! I have voices in my head! What am I doing?” What was she doing? Why was she on a tree branch covering her ears? What was this voice calling to her? WHY WAS SHE A SHE?!
"Fidget", the voice called out, echoing above her, causing her to look up. "Awaken!"
On the voice's command, it came back all to her suddenly. Those formerly brown eyes turning a vibrant green as she finally remembered what she was doing! Ahrah! That sword had gotten loose and floated towards this glade! She, as the guardian of the sword, was supposed to keep it safe and secure! Ohhh if anyone of her friends found out… it would be totally embarrassing and maybe make her hit the top 10 lists of worst gaming heroes!
"Ohhhhh you stupid sword! When I get you back I’m gonna SO throw you into the ground and lock you under, like, 20… NO, 30! 30 locks and hide all the keys! No way are you getting away from Fidget!" Flapping her wings fervently, Fidget zoomed off in the direction of Ahrah’s energy. As she did she came upon a most unusual sight. The sword was flying by and being dragged behind it was a cyan catlike creature, clothed in turquoise and black. Before she had time to respond, the sword and being sped right past her, causing her to spin around dizzily.
"Hey! Get back here Ahrah!", screamed Fidget, regaining her senses. "At least let me get some kind of cutscene button or something next time! Ahrah! AHRAH!!" And with that, Fidget chased once again after the sword, that blue cat, and, unbeknownst to her yet, a grand adventure.