Chapter 2.2: A Slight Detour

Gemini's words rumble through your head.

...a half-baked horror story from Illuden who have so easily manipulated you...

"Am I being manipulated by the Illuden? By Alice?" You ask Chester, who's hopping slightly ahead of you, almost like a cute GPS. You don't fully know how much he understands, but it's nice to have someone to talk to.

It doesn't make sense though, you think. You trust Alice. You trust Robert and he trusts Alice. But you worry. You're the Bearer of the Mark of Merlin. You are supposed to know what's right and wrong... right?

"Gemini's just trying to get into my head," you groan out.

Chester suddenly stops and, in your distracted mental debate, you almost trip over him.

"Oh sorry bud—" You look down to see Chester completely redirect and sprint in another direction. "Wait! Chester! Where are you going?!"

You sprint after your wily rabbit, trying to keep up with how unnaturally fast he is. It almost feels like you are reenacting a scene from Alice in Wonderland, rushing through the woods. You manage to keep up with Chester, until your foot gets caught on something and you are sent sprawling onto the ground.

Picking yourself up off the ground, you look around to see if you can spot where he went. And while you don't spot a magical bunny, you do spot something crawling out the ground.

You can only help but stare as you see the figure grasp and growl as it goes from a series of hands sprouting from the earth to a full-blown body lumbering around. The skin of the body is grey and decaying. Black veins crawling all over their face and hands. It reminds you of the monsters from childhood horror stories.

"Oh… my…" The words fall out, drawing its attention towards you.

Alice and Robert were right! Alice and Robert were right!

The body turns to face you. Its eyes milky, dead. It stares at you intently. You feel a shiver go down your spine. Everything about this feels wrong to your core, and yet it's happening right in front of you. The body lets out a low howl and starts to run towards you.

Alice and Robert were right...

You scramble away from the undead figure, trying to keep calm and access your magic while simultaneously trying not to get your face bitten off. You manage to cultivate some sparks, but nothing more. You just can't concentrate while your lungs are burning from sprinting.

You turn to hide behind a boulder, hoping that it isn't smart enough to find you. Trying to keep quiet, you attempt to slow down your breathing.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

A low snarl rumbles nearby and, out of the corner of your eye, you finally manage to find Chester hunched over in some tall grass. He seems to be waiting. His ears are back against his head. His eyes— trained on the creature in the distance. You hear the undead monster approaching and brace for some sort of impact.

For a moment, there is near complete silence.

Then you hear a tinier growl, a shuffling of grass, and… the sound of something evaporating?

Looking from behind the rock, you find what looks like the ashy remains of the monster with Chester sitting prominently at the center of the explosion. You feel a residual magic in the air.

"Uh… Good job, Chester!" You say, picking him up. You reward his heroism with a few scratches behind the ears.

"Maybe let's stick with the main roads from now on, huh?" You hurry to leave the forest before more anything else shows up.

Now you really need to be heading to Edwin and the Illuden.