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 Chapter One - Beast Soul Awakening

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Paloma

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PostSubject: Chapter One - Beast Soul Awakening   Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:28 am



Chapter One
Beast Soul Awakening


“They say the past always catches up with you, sooner or later. I prefer sooner, because by the time later rolls around, the past has picked up a lot of speed.”

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East Forest
Magnolia

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All was quiet that morning save for Paloma's laboured breathing as she crossed the border between Bosco and Magnolia. Of course, it would be some time before she realised she had finally gotten out of that forsaken place. It was a place of crime, poverty and exploitation, and Paloma didn't ever want to step foot there again.

She slowed to a leisurely walk, allowing herself to feel a bit more relaxed. It had been over a day since she encountered the trappers who intended to sell her off to the highest bidder. The idea was laughable. Paloma would rather die than bow before anyone, but then she was resourceful enough. Even if she was captured, she was confident she would have found a way to escape. Fortunately, it had not come to that. The trappers were fools; too confident to even consider the need to have someone keep watch while the rest slept. It was a simple matter of slitting their throats while they were sleeping. Quick and silent, making sure to cover her tracks on her departure. No one was going to come after her.

Raising her gaze, Paloma caught glimpses of brilliant blue through the dense canopy formed by the gently swaying treetops. It was a beautiful day, and she didn't get to enjoy it. Hopefully there would be an end to all this woodland before long.

She reached into the folds of her kimono as she walked, producing her kiseru along with a tiny little tin. Opening the tin, she found that her supply of tobacco was almost depleted. Barely enough for one last smoke. She sighed as she used her finger to gather the coarse, hair-like material that was wedged into the corners, form it into a ball and then stuffed it into the tiny “bowl” at the end of her pipe, not really caring for the finesse of kiseru smoking at that moment. She put the pipe in her mouth and patted down her kimono, searching for her box of matches. Again, she was running dangerously low and would have to find somewhere she could restock, but at least she had a few left. She struck one of the matches against a tree and raised it to light her pipe, taking several puffs to allow it to catch before drawing in a deep lungful, relishing the taste of tobacco.

Before long, she saw a break in the woods. A smile played across her lips as she dared to hope that maybe she had finally found her way out of this forest. Her pace quickened, her breath stopped in anticipation. And then she stepped out into the fresh open air. Eyes squinting against the sun, she brought her hand above her brow to screen the glare so she could see a little better. Before her stretched several hundred yards of open field and... were her eyes deceiving her? What looked like a real civilised town! She promptly rummaged through the pockets of her kimono until she found her crudely drawn map. Tracing the path that seemed most accurate, she found that she had passed into the country of Fiore, so this town she had arrived at must be Magnolia Town.

She laughed, relieved to have finally found a place where she could think about staying in relative safety, at least for a while. Her thoughts immediately wandered to eating fine cuisine at one of the restaurants, refilling her tobacco tin, fresh clothes and a warm and comfy bed. She would need to find work, of course, so she could get all these necessities. That shouldn't be too difficult, even if it meant having to take some more tedious jobs.

Taking a moment to stretch her creaky bones and draw in a deep lungful of air, she set off towards the town. She barely took even two steps, however, when an ear-splitting shriek rent the air. “What the hell?!” she muttered, glancing around to find the source of that terrible sound.

A large shadow loomed over her and she turned around to see a bird towering above, perched precariously atop one of the trees. Paloma's eyes narrowed hatefully, recognising the beast immediately. “Never imagined seeing one of you this far from home,” she murmured. “Mum and Dad must be missing me.”

The giant bird shrieked again and spread its wings open wide before swooping down at her. She barely managed to throw herself out of harm's way; a less than graceful dive that rewarded her with a mouthful of grass and grit. Spitting furiously, she quickly got back onto her feet and took stock of her two options. She could either go and hide back in the woods again. There was no telling how nimble that bird was on its feet, but being under the cover of the trees might give her more of an edge. Or she could attempt to run for town. A few hundred yards wasn't that far, and chances are the town guard were already on alert. She could probably get their help in taking down this monster, especially if she lured it over.

Having made her decision, she kicked off her boots. The bird circled overhead in a large arc, preparing to make another dive for her. Paloma waited, her gaze fixated on the monster. “Come on, you fuck,” she spat contemptuously.

The bird swooped low once more, shrieking as it rapidly closed in on Paloma. She held her breath and tensed up, preparing to meet the beast head on. “Come on!” she roared, fearlessly facing down what many others would believe to be certain death.

At the last possible second, she produced a trio of kunai. Raising them up in front of her, she didn't appear to take aim before she let loose with them. Slicing through the air so fast they were little more than a blur, they tore into the giant bird's face. The bird shrieked in agony and fell to the ground in a tangled heap, skidding past only a mere couple of inches away from Paloma. The plucky blonde mage seized her advantage and set off at a sprint. She had bought herself barely even a handful of precious seconds, as the beast was already getting onto its feet. It shrieked again as it set off in pursuit, the ground trembling with each stride it took. Flapping its wings furiously, it took off into the air once more. Paloma glanced over her shoulder to see it closing in on her and dived to the side, only just about avoiding being snapped up in its beak.

She grunted as she hit the hard, compact mud, but didn't even spare herself a second before getting back to her feet and continuing towards the town. Breathing heavily with exertion, she struggled to maintain her pace. But she was getting close to the town now. She could make out the details of the individual buildings, the tall church and the surrounding shops and houses, and... there were people rushing towards her! She waved her arms frantically and yelled incoherently.

The approaching people were all garbed in the same garish uniform emblazoned with a large ankh-like symbol. Several of them raised their hands as they approached and a volley of fireballs surged overhead, smashing into the giant bird. It let out a frustrated shriek as it halted its chase. Angry at having been robbed of its prey, it seemed to take a moment to consider taking on this contingent of mages that had arrived. Instead, it let out one last shriek and flew off, heading east back over the forest.

Paloma collapsed to the floor, gasping for breath. The group of mages hurried over. “Where did you come from, traveller?” one of them, presumably their leader, asked.

Paloma pointed back towards the forest.

The leader turned to the rest of the group. “Medic, make sure this young lady is patched up,” he ordered. “We'll bring her back to town and report in to HQ.”

“What of the monster?” one of the others asked.

“That's up to the commander to decide, but rest assured we won't be seeing it near town again.”

The medic knelt down beside Paloma, producing a flask and pouring a few drops of water into her mouth. “You okay?” he asked.

Paloma nodded as she gulped down the water. She managed to regain some composure and sat herself up, glancing uneasily at the mages who were gathered around. The leader smiled. “You're in safe hands,” he said. “We're Rune Knights. We're assigned to Magnolia Town to defend against monsters and lawbreakers. So long as you stay out of trouble, you'll be fine.”

Paloma forced a smile, still wondering just how much she could trust these people. “Thanks,” she said, taking the flask from the medic and drinking some more.

“Wait a sec,” the medic said, grabbing Paloma by the wrist. “What's up with your arm?”

“What do you mean?” Paloma asked, glancing at her arm and then uttering a surprised exclamation.

It had transformed, up as far as her elbow. Taking on a yellow hue and a layer of thick scales. Even her hand had transformed; looking like a bird's talons. “Well I'll be...” she murmured, a grin spreading across her features. “It's my magic.”

She allowed the Rune Knights to help her to her feet and escort her into town. She was safe, for now at least... and it was apparent that she was not stuck without magic. “Beast Soul...” she thought, almost giddy with excitement. If she could train herself in its use, she could be a force to be reckoned with.

----------------------------
Unlocked Beast Soul – Garuda!
Word Count: 1647
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