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Rabbit Heart - Part III

Rabbit Heart

Part III Gilveidan, “The All-Knowing” had been sulking for the past 24 hours. Clearly, he wasn’t happy about this whole “Being dragged along to kill the Ultimate Evil” thing, but Muirne didn’t really care. It was his own damn fault for trying to kill her. As quickly as travel by foot would allow, they made their way across the unburdened plains towards the north-west. Muirne attempted to make conversation as they walked, though she wasn’t very successful at first. “So, who are you?” she asked. “I mean, I know that’s a highly loaded question, but considering that we’ll be fighting and maybe dying together sometime in the next week and a half, it seems like something I should know.” “We will definitely be dying,” he grumbled. “So what’s the point?” “Well,” she pushed, her eyes narrowing, “Would you rather die with a stranger, or with a friend? And besides, I’m the prophesied hero, remember? So odds are, we won’t die.” He shook his head, wearily. “Just because you’re ‘destined’ to destroy this evil doesn’t mean you won’t die in the process.” “And you’re just a lovely little cloud of sunshine, aren’t you?” Blinking, he paused. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I consider myself a person of the utmost pessimism.” “I was being sarcastic.” “Ah, yes. Of course,” he muttered, and for a while they continued on in silence. It was a hard trek under the burning sun, but after scrambling over giant boulders for two days, this was a piece of cake. Mm, cake. What Muirne wouldn’t do for a slice of cake right now. Her rations tasted like sludge in her mouth. Before too terribly long, the sun began to dip towards the horizon, and the two made camp. As they sat on the hard ground, a crackling fire in between them, Gilveidan sighed in the silence. “So what about you, then?” he asked. “Since you seem so eager to become ‘friends’.” “Well...” she began. “I’m the youngest princess of Atlantis, and I have two older sisters. I had a brother as well, but he, well...” Gilveidan nodded solemnly. “I see. A shame.” “Ai. He died when I was about eight, and he was fifteen.” “It’s... hard to lose someone so young.” “You sound like you know something about it.” He shrugged. “I may have had experience.” Muirne was really gonna have to coax this one out, wasn’t she? “Who was it?” “My sister,” he explained. “She was younger than me, twelve. It happened a year ago.” “I’m sorry,” Muirne hung her head. She wanted to ask more, curiosity pricked the back of her mind. But she barely knew this man, it’s be considered rude to ask him about something so sensitive. So she let the conversation fall to silence.” After a moment Gilveidan shook himself. “Thank you,” he mumbled. Before long, Muirne’s eyes began to droop, and she made to go to sleep. “Gilveidan, however, hadn’t moved from his spot. “I’ll take first watch,” he then shook his head as Muirne looked confused. “It’s dangerous out here in the wilds. Not all our enemies will cower from a simple fire.” Muirne shivered at that. It was true she’d never been outside the bounds of Atlantis for long; she had no idea what—or who—could be out here. She was going to have trouble sleeping now. “I’ll take second shift,” she volunteered, trying to put on a brave face. “Wake me up when you get tired.” He nodded, and Muirne rolled over in her cot, towards the darkness. She could feel both the fire, and his gaze on her back as she closed her eyes. And then it was bright and Muirne blinked as the scattered light from the clouds reached her eyes. Gilveidan still sat by the remnants of the fire, glancing through a book. Muirne couldn’t read the words on the cover exactly. “I told you to wake me,” she frowned. He shrugged. “You were snoring. It was vaguely endearing. Like a lost little rabbit.” Muirne’s frown intensified. “I’m glad I inspire you with such confidence.” “One could argue that rabbits are some of the bravest creatures to walk upon this earth. The only defense they have is their strong, able legs,” Gilveidan pondered as they packed up camp. Smiling, Muirne straightened. “Are you saying you were trying to compliment me?” “No, I was just thinking out loud. It was rather sad, really.” “You are not the most subtle person I know,” Muirne hoisted her pack over her shoulder and started walking, not waiting for him to keep up. A second later, he was suddenly in front of her. “I wasn’t trying to be.” “Speaking of which, you know magic! Why are we walking?” “I don’t know magic, I have magic. A very small but distinct difference.” He kept walking, his long coat billowing behind him. “And if you’re speaking of my ability to ‘jump’ from one place to another, it wouldn’t be very helpful. What I just did is the extent of its range.” “Well, you’re turning out to be a wonderful investment,” Muirne pouted. “My abilities are much more suited for combat then for travel,” he admitted, almost a little sheepishly. "Well, you might get your chance," Muirne pointed ahead, to where a patch of darkness had begun to loom over the horizon. "We're nearing the swamps.” Less was known about the swamps then the well-traversed Dragon’s Teeth. Not many people had made it that far. The most that could be said was that there was “danger” in the swamps. Which was incredibly descriptive. “That would be the most efficient route,” Gilveidan nodded. “To go around would take days. Not that I’m terribly thrilled about it.” “Do you know anything about what might be in there?” she asked, hoping for a warning of some kind. But he shook his head. “Unfortunately, I have not known many people live to tell about it.” “Well,” Muirne hoisted her pack higher on her shoulders. “I don’t see what we’re waiting around here for.” Gilveidan would have responded with something along the lines of “Christmas,” but it wouldn’t be invented for another 4000 years yet. The sky seemed to darken by several shades as they found themselves between the thick, drooping leaves on the trees. At first, the ground merely squelched unpleasantly beneath their feet, but before long they were wading through ankle-deep mud. Though so far, they hadn’t run into anything dangerous, besides a few mosquitos. But just as she began to relax, Muirne suddenly looked down to realize that she had almost put her foot down into a pool of inky-black... something. Gilveidan grabbed her arm, and pulled her back as the liquid-like, gaseous material reached up to grab the offending foot. “What... is that?” she asked. “Corruption,” Gilveidan shook his head. “The evil is spreading faster than I had supposed.” Muirne paused. “How do you know so much about this?” “I’m a warlock,” he said, a little too quickly. “We’re supposed to know these things.” Narrowing her eyes, Muirne made to open her mouth and call him out on the lie. But she thought better of it. “So what... if I touch it, it’ll ‘corrupt’ me?” “Yes.” "I don’t know what that means.” “It’s better that you don’t,” Gilveidan shivered. “Just attempt to avoid it.” But as they continued onward, they found more and more of the strange corruption, and it became difficult to avoid. They had to continuously look down at their feet to step around them. After a few hours of this, Muirne was quickly becoming annoyed. She was tired, sore, and soaked to the bone, not only from the muddy ground but from the very air itself. And Gilveidan being damnably cryptic was certainly not helping. “Alright,” she said, “You’re not telling me something.” He didn’t miss a beat. “I have no clue what you could possibly be referring to.” “Obviously, you know something of this evil!” the floodgates finally burst. “You have more information about this corruption than a simple excuse like ‘I’m a warlock’ can cover for, you’ve been vaguely cryptic about your past, and need I remind you that you tried to kill me before I could even confront this evil!” “Mere coincidence,” he said. “Bullshit!” “So what if it is?” he glared at her. “I’m not going to bother now that we’re just going to die anyway.” Muirne wanted to scream at him, and her voice grew louder and louder. “The information you have might prevent us from doing so! You may have a deathwish, but I certainly don’t!” “It doesn’t matter!” “It does!” “Fine, have it your way,” he spat. “I’ve never told anyone what happened to Viola, and if I do, then that’ll make it re—” But he didn’t get a chance to finish, because he hadn’t been watching where he was stepping, and nearly fell out of sight as the corruption twisted around his legs and began to pull him in. “Oh bother,” he grunted as his legs began to sizzle. Muirne panicked, trying to find a branch or something to reach him. “Is that all you have to say?” “Yes?” he said, before conjuring a rather small ball of light and waving it around the corruption, which shrieked and crept backwards. But not enough to stop it. “I knew I should have put more effort into light,” he muttered. “Blast. Well, I guess I’ll die now.” “Not on your life!” Muirne grabbed a vine wrapped around the trunk of a tree and braced herself with one hand as she attempted to grab him with the other. “Oh, are you going to save me?” he asked. “I thought you hated me.” “I never said I hated you,” she grunted with effort. “Good, because this is actually becoming rather painful.” “Then reach, you bastard! Reach!” He tried. They both stretched their arms towards each other. But it wasn’t enough, and Gilveidan kept sinking. “There’s gotta be something,” Muirne glanced around frantically. “What about light? That seemed to hurt it.” “It... it would have been more... effective with natural light,” Gilveidan’s face scrunched in pain as the sizzling increased in intensity. “But there’s no way to deliver it... down here.” Suddenly, Muirne smiled. Quick as a whip, she reached into her pack and pulled out Ròs’ mirror. She danced around for a moment, attempting to find a spot where the sunlight stretched down through the pale leaves of the trees. Then, finally, the gilded surface of the mirror caught the light, and she angled it down towards the corruption, which was now up to Gilveidan’s chest. The substance shrieked, squealed, then finally began to shrink away. Muirne shined it here and there, until the corruption was weak enough for her to grab Gilveidan’s hand and pull him back onto—vaguely—solid ground. Much to her surprise, he immediately threw his now tattered coat off and then went for his shirt. “What in Mor’s name are you doing?” she asked. “I need to check,” he mumbled vaguely, glancing down at his arms and turning to and fro like a dog chasing its tail. “For what?” “The corruption, obviously, it can spread, do terrible things, I—” he paused then, and looked over at her as if he just realized she was there. “You... saved my life. You didn’t have to do that.” She shrugged. “I sort of did. I am the one who dragged you into this, after all.” “Believe me, you didn’t,” he added gravely. “But in the end, you were right. If you want a shot at surviving this thing, you’re going to need my full cooperation.” Muirne smiled. “Let’s get out of this disgusting swamp first. And then you can tell me the whole story.”

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