Chapter 6: Beyond the Wall

The great wall. A massive structure of white stone, carved with holy symbols to ward off the various creatures that lived beyond its heights. The gate cities, each nestled up close to the wall, acted as access ports to adventurers and other such people who chose to venture beyond the wall into the foreign lands that lay beyond.

Sure, those lands had once belonged to the humans as well, just over a century earlier. Yet somehow, the influence of those ‘other’ beings that now dwelled in the lands had changed everything. Stepping through one of the gates, crossing the barrier of the wall… was almost like stepping onto another world.

On the human side, even through mid-fall, the grass had been lush and green, the trees blooming in explosive shades of orange, red and yellow. The forests practically awash with colors, the trees healthy and robust. Out here, however, things were very different.

The trees were far thinner, and a pale, milky-white, almost as if they had shed their bark sheaths to reveal the tender wood beneath. They glistened almost wetly, occasionally leaking a cloudy liquid through the wooden fibers that would make the skin itch and blister on contact. The branches of the strange trees swayed in the breeze, seeming more like stiff whips than solid branches. In fact, picking up a fallen branch, one would discover the wood rather flexible, even if bone-dry.

The leaves of these strange trees also drew a stark contrast to those of their counterparts across the wall. While in spring they bloomed a bright green as normal, they would quickly fade to a shade of vibrant red, before turning brown, then black and hard as fall came. These hardened leaves, once fallen, would crunch noisily beneath a boot, far louder than a normal leaf would. Even the most experienced hunters would have difficulty traversing these woodlands without proper knowledge and plenty of practice.

Gil crouched on his shins in the woods, careful not to touch the tree he was currently using as cover. The dry, brown grass on the forest floor was oddly sharp, and would cut his skin if he lay down, so he used the metal greaves to protect his legs as he knelt. Lydia emerged from deeper within the forest, her leather boots making hardly a sound as she walked with an odd, swaying gait, swerving around branches and piles of leaves as she approached his position.

“My head hurts…” Lydia let out a quiet whine, massaging her temple.

“Not my problem. What did you see?” Gil frowned at her complaining, for more than one reason. She was reliable in a fight, sure, but could truly be all to carefree at other times, which usually ended in him getting dragged into trouble of one sort or another. In fact, it could probably be said that their whole situation at the moment was entirely due to Lydia’s impulsive nature.

“Aww, that’s just too cold…” Lydia put on a pouting face for just a moment, before sighing, dropping back into a serious expression. “Three of them, seems like a wall patrol. All of them appear to be Skordi. Two worker types and an elder wasp type.”

Gil let out a slow breath, the scarf wrapped around the bottom of his face muffling the sound and the steam from his breath. “Just the three. You’re sure about that?”

“Of course I am. I may not have eagle eyes, but i’m confident in my abilities as a scout, at least.”

Gil nodded, saving his words for later. He rose to his feet quietly, absently clenching and unclenching his fists before reaching to the back of his belt, undoing the clasp on his thick knife; he’d be needing it soon enough. Adopting that odd, swaying gait that Lydia had displayed earlier, he began to move through the woods. His boots never rose more than an inch off the forest floor, sweeping aside leaves gently before setting down quietly.

It”s been a while since the last update, but i’ve published another chapter of my book! give it a read, and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think!!

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