Yearning and Prosperity
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… Fifteen days after Lord Elwin had been slain, those heroes approached The Yearn. The mystical forest was surrounded by flat plainland in all directions. The trees were shaped strangely. Some contorted around one another while others split apart into more trees. Instead of leaves, pink and orange appendages hung from the branches. They were eerily still unless they sensed movement nearby, whereupon they would strike like the tentacles of a sea creature. It was a forest that mortals normally had no desire to be near, let alone enter.

"He must already be dead. The Phyriccian devours the people that he kidnaps. Do not throw your life away, Drune," said Gore. His crimson hair was thrown about by the wind. The wind violently screamed across the plainland as the band of five stared at one another.

"His soul is still in this world," said Drune defiantly. She wore bronze armor that hummed with energy and a shield engraved with runic symbols. Her brown eyes bored into the man's face as she continued. "Yemenor confirmed it. I will get Lind back."

"You won't survive. Just come home with us," Gore pleaded. "We've fought for so long and have finally freed the realm from Elwin's tyranny! We can finally have prosperity for our families!"

"Unlike you, I do not have anyone to return home to. If I go back now, I will have no family to share my prosperity with."

Drune turned away from the rest of the band. She had only taken a few steps before Gore's voice rang out again.

"We will remember you."

The woman paused for several moments. Eventually, she continued forward. The band of four watched her enter the forest without saying anything else to stop her.

Once she was inside, the warrior began to sprint. The appendages immediately swept out to wrap themselves around her. Many of them were repelled by the shield and armor. Those that managed to touch her flesh caused her mind to sear and burn. She felt as if her skull was splitting open as she ran forward. Whenever she broke free of one appendage, several more threw themselves onto her. It took all of her strength to rip them off of her body, each time feeling her very essence being pulled apart.

"My name is Drune. I'm from Kor. I fought to save the realm from an evil king. My friends who helped me defeat him are Gore, Hava…"

She said these things to herself as she pushed forward. The warrior repeated the things that she most desperately did not want to forget. Every touch from those appendages stripped away more from her mind and caused her immense pain. A heavy fog was beginning to form in the back of her mind as she struggled to remember specific phrases and locations. Voices were hazy and names were uncertain. Through all of this, Drune fought against her body's desire to collapse and forced herself to continue toward the center of The Yearn.

After several minutes of struggling, there were no longer any appendages attacking her. She was passing trees that were completely bare. She stumbled, out of breath and confused. It was only when she reached a clearing with no trees whatsoever that she remembered what she was doing. Drune walked forward with her head held high.

"The fool has come."

Drune looked to the source of the voice. There was a deep well of emerald water in the center of the clearing. Sitting on the other side of that well from her was the Phyriccian. It was a truly horrible creature. Three gaping mouthes protruded from a wide head. It looked vaguely human, but much too thin and far too tall. It had neither eyes nor hair, yet its face was angled directly toward Drune. It was altogether unlike anything she had ever seen before.

Its pale flesh was adorned with numerous injuries. She recognized a gash in its chest that had been made by Gore's waraxe. It had happened when the beast attacked them during their journey to defeat Lord Elwin. She tried to cling to the memory, but the very act caused her head to throb.

"Who are you?" it asked from one of its mouthes. Its voice sounded like a child's, sweet and innocent.

"I don't know," Drune said.

"Where are you from?"

"I don't know."

"What year is it?"

"I don't know."

"Why are you here?"

Drune's eyes widened at the question. The agonizing fog lifted and she spoke the answer out in a fierce yell. "To save Lind from you!"

"Oh? You would forget yourself before you would forget your beloved?" it asked. Its form was sat on a large stone that stood beneath a significantly larger stone arch. Runes far more intricate than the ones on her shield adorned this arch. The hands of the creature were brought together in mock prayer as all three of its mouthes twisted into gruesome smiles. "You truly are a fool."

She sprinted toward the well. Her mind was a mess. Questions about fragments of memories pounded in her head. Faces that she did not know leered through the fog. Drune focused on the green water as she drew closer. A body was floating in the middle, submerged just below the surface. Even though she could not make out its features clearly, their identity was clearer than anything else to the warrior.

"Lind!"

Just before she could dive into the well, the Phyriccian was swinging a fist at her head. The shield shuddered as it accepted the blow for her. Her body was sent rolling away from the well.

"He will replace me," it said with a young woman's voice. "My soul will move on soon. He must be transformed before that happens."

"No!" Drune rose to her feet with hatred etched into her visage. Her right hand was swept against her armor, the energy flowing from it producing a sword. It gleamed in the sun as the two combatants charged at one another. The monster tried to use its hands and large body to crush her into submission, while the warrior used the sword and shield together to beat it back. Beyond the two of them, The Yearn was deathly silent.

The burning sensation in her head had become too intense to consciously ignore. She lost herself to the rage of battle in order to avoid it. It was only when the Phyriccian was lying on its back, defeated and bloodied, that she regained her senses. The sword's searing wounds had left it unable to use any of its limbs. Drune stood above it, her shield shattered and left arm mangled, but still able to fight. The gleaming sword was raised overhead.

"You must die."

"You will regret it, fool," it said in an aged man's voice. "I am this realm's savior."

"That can't be true! You hunt and devour men!" Drune shouted. As soon as she spoke those words into existence, the fragments of memories that they were based on vanished. The warrior paused instead of immediately performing the killing blow. The defeated beast continued to speak as she hesitated.

"All of it was necessary to sustain myself. Without a being such as I to guard The Arch, all is lost. Any number of monsters far worse than Elwin or I will come through it. A serpent that feeds on dreams. An undying, crimson legion. A clan of wardens with a whole realm full of prison cells. They will come and take everything away from you. When that happens, you will-"

She ended its speech with repeated strikes to its torso. The warrior did not stop until nothing but blood flowed forth from its three mouthes. The sword vanished from the world as she dropped it. Stuttered steps brought her to the well and she pulled the unconscious figure from it. Beyond having pale flesh that was remarkably similar to the Phyriccian, he was still human.

"Lind. Lind!"

The male coughed, emerald water fleeing his lungs. His eyes opened and she saw that they were still brown. She cupped his face with her good hand, joy overflowing from her heart. Her head still ached. In her mind's eye, her allies waiting for her outside the forest were hazy, faceless figures. Drune blocked that out, pressing down to embrace the rescued man tightly. After a moment, Lind took a deep breath and reciprocated.

***

The threats that the Phyriccian had warned Drune about did not reveal themselves until long after she had passed. A few explorers and knowledge seekers came through The Arch during her lifetime, though. Lind ensured that they came and went in peace. No weapons of war were introduced to their realm and no living people were stolen from their realm. The Arch and The Yearn remained strange places that everyone deathly avoided.

Drune recovered some of her memories that she had lost in The Yearn. She could walk, talk, and recall some of her past. Her left arm had healed and was functional. Even so, she could not do most things alone. Lind took responsibility of her. He bore no children and took no wife. He hired caretakers for Drune when he was dealing with The Arch and those from other realms. Through means unknown to all, Lind was capable of passing through The Yearn without being harmed and could use The Arch to travel to other realms. Once in a blue moon, he would pass through The Arch to represent their realm in far off places.

Otherwise, Lind spent his time with Drune. He taught her old skills and told her stories of her own adventures that were long gone from her mind. They painted canvases, raised animals, and visited friends. They were not related by blood nor by spirit, but they were eachother's only family. Lind had believed in her when no one else had. Even with her mind decayed and scattered, Drune never forgot that fact.

Thus, the fool lived in prosperity with her beloved for the rest of her days.

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