Category Archives: The Cha Forest

The Cha Forest: Part 5

It was hard to tell which citizens had been infected but by the quiet street vendor’s and the chilling afternoon breeze, he knew many had been affected. The cleanup would be bad, many funerals to attend in the morning hours and even more paper work to pen. Not to mention with the King in quarantine it made it hard to run a town such was the size of Shorkvera. But it didn’t take long to find Sierra, the little girl possessed by the demon Nell. She stood in the middle of the street, finding them. Nell had a healthy revenge planned out for Soun and it was better sooner than later that she revealed her ugly face to them. As it turned out though, Sierra had no face as was Nell’s purpose to wipe mankind from the earth and in Pestorus mind it made this mission easier, to avoid the look of the innocent while killing her.

Thirty-five years, Pestorus. Your wife brings greetings from hell,” Nell hissed around them. Pestorus clenched his fists. Soun revealed a pocket sized book, no bigger than Pestorus palm and she began to read a passage from it.

“Tella bissa, nova sprite oosalvia, nell.”

Nell jerked on the spot and a piercing screaming laughter filled the air. Pestorus covered his ears and shut his eyes against the noise but Soun just kept reading as if she were immune to the demonic screeching.

“Nell, su alog Freda monsta, cha.”

“What the hell are you doing to her?” he called, elevating his voice to a shout but just like that the screaming stopped and so did Soun. He looked down the street and the body of Sierra lay still, crumpled against the dirty, rocky road.

“Soun?”

He turned and she was there. But it wasn’t Soun. The dark rivers of black veins clawed their way down Soun’s once beautiful face and her cooled ice eyes were now a crimson red evil. The earth shuddered around him violently like a giant’s rampage and Nell smiled with a hideous blank smile.

Your wife loves it in hell with me. So does the baby. Babby boy, babby girl. Did you want to know what it was?” Nell said using Soun as her puppet.

“Go to hell,” Pestorus shouted, raising the dagger high.

The ground shuddered again and Pestorus was knocked to the ground. The blade went flying from his hand and Nell grasped his throat with elongated claws. She licked him, the tongue stretching so far, running the length of his cheek and down his neck.

What was it like to slid that dagger into your wife, into your unborn child and kill me? Was it worth it, Pestorus? Worth the blood on your hands, for cha, cha Nell?” she laughed in that deep, demonic echo.

Soun’s hand gripped tightly around his neck and he felt the oxygen leave his body. Has my life just been one long road of innocent murder? He thought thinking of all the innocents he killed to protect the good of life. But was what he did really considered to be good? It was him that needed to die, he realized suddenly. Not Soun or Sierra. He was the source of everyone’s pain and he needed to be the forgiven. He let go of Soun’s hand and allowed Nell to do what she had planned, striking her nails in his throat. And maybe praying the last moment of life saved him because she suddenly went rigid above him, her hand loosening on his neck. He shoved her off his body and saw the dagger was plunged into her back. From red to black, the gem gleamed above where her heart should have been.

“Pestorus, are you okay?” It took him a moment to recognize the new recruit. Kygard. He looked supremely surprised and fearful, his hands shaking as he looked at the carnage he had caused to Soun.

“I-I’m sorry, she was attacking you and…and…” Kygard continued to say, flustered.

“It’s okay, son. You did good. In fact better than good. You did something I could never do. Go check the girl, she may still be alive,” Pestorus said letting the tears freely fall. He removed the dagger from her back and gathered Soun into his arms. He let out an anguished sob as she just smiled at him, burying his face into her neck.

“Pestorus,” she whispered, barely audible. He nodded, unable to speak as he stared into her crystal eyes, “This was how it was always supposed to be, Pestorus. Not your wife or your baby, but me. I needed to die to end this.”

“I love you Soun,” he said choking back the emotions that wallowed inside him.

She smiled and closed her eyes, “Never doubt yourself, my love. Doubting is for the devils that crave the human soul. Set yourself free as I will be waiting.”

When he knew she was gone, he wiped his tears from his eyes and lifted her body. Sierra was already getting up slowly when he walked up to them, Soun draped over his arms. Sierra was shaken but otherwise okay and would heal over time, the fingers of forgetful memory already working on her as she clung to Kygard’s waist. Kygard looked tired and thin but he too would be fine in the coming days. Pestorus would make sure of this. It was time he taught someone else the craft.

“Kygard, I need you to come with me into Cha Forest. There are a few things I need to teach you about the world we live in that might benefit you greatly in your long years of life,” he paused thoughtful for a moment at Soun’s peaceful face, “maybe bring a shovel and a bouquet of delicate roses.”

END

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The Cha Forest: Part Four

Pestorus blamed his crazy morning partly on waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but the chill in the air was abnormal even this time of season and he tucked his fur coat tightly around his collar as he followed Soun up past the castle gates and into the barracks. This is a bad day. He dreaded this moment since leaving Soun’s house. The reveal of the faceless body to Soun. She had experienced enough pain and this was just going to bring it all back. Which he had wished to avoid in all the thirty-five years since the last outbreak. He stood just outside the barracks, staring at the door like it was a coiled snake.

“Rus,” Soun said gently using his old nickname and he entered.

The first thing he noticed upon entering the barracks was the unholy smell of diseased flesh. The second thing he noticed was the absent soldiers. The empty hall plagued him in ways he wished Soun had never picked up on.

“Mighty busy force we have here in Shorkvera,” she mildly joked.

“Where the hell is everyone,” he demanded entering further.

“Pestorus, they’re all dead. You know that. Let’s go out in the air away from this horrible smell before it does permanent damage to our very souls,” she said, offering her hand out to him.

He took it and cursed that she could seem so calm in such a dire, rapidly out of control situation this was becoming. She was right though, the air was a lot better outside but the smell still lingered in his nostrils.

“We know where to go from here,” she said. He laughed humorlessly and removed his shoulder armor in anger.

“We don’t go anywhere together, Soun. You go home and stay there. I don’t want a repetition of last time,” he said, struggling to unbuckle his cuirass. She stayed his fingers and undid the laces for him, smoothly popping him out of his wild restraints. He felt hot and dizzy. This wasn’t supposed to happen again.

“Enough, Pestorus. Hold that wicked tongue of yours before you say something you truly regret. The girl, where is she now?”

“Romn Inn,” he said with closed eyes, taking deep breaths.

She started rhythmically rubbing his chest, and his airways cleared giving him more oxygen to breath, to think. He never knew how she could do the things she could and he never asked. He protected her. It was the one thing he could offer her for saving the town from that one fateful day. Though he knew she felt much more differently about the situation than he.

“She latches to the girl. Pestorus do you hear me? This will be tough the girl cannot be allowed to live. Nell is trapped within her vessel and it is the only chance we have at putting her out,” she said gently to him.

“I remember the rules from last time, Soun. I’m no fool.”

“This needs to be pushed into her heart, like last time. Only when the red gem on the hilt turns black can you pull the dagger free. Bury her at the Cha stone, and bring no one,” she said giving him the dreaded dagger.

“I am old, Soun. This will only happen again, so what is the point?” he said miserably.

“The point is that everyone in this town, this realm, this earth will die horrible deaths if Nell is not contained. That is why we sacrifice the things we do…for the ones we love. When Nell is reborn to spew her plague once more, a new defender will be chosen as it always is and they will make the same hard choices as you.”

“Is it impossible of me to ask you to leave now?” he said. She tucked the collars of his shirt down and looked at him, the ghost of a smile appearing at the corners of her mouth.

“Too impossible.”

“Yes,” he said finally caressing her cheek like he longed to this whole time, “I suppose so.”

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The Cha Forest: Part Three

He left, leaving the corpse in the company of those who knew not of what was happening yet. Pestorus didn’t know he was heading to her house until he was in front of it. The slanted shingles falling off a rusted tin roof, the door barely able to close as its swelled wood expanded from the heat of hot summers. He took a deep breath and went to knock but the door was already open when he reached the top step, the fresh face of Soun standing there holding a cloth in her hand as it lazily dried out the china cup in the other hand. Her smile was thin, but otherwise welcoming in his presence. She had barely aged since their last encounter and he grimaced at the thought of how long ago that was.

“Well, if it isn’t Pestorus. How long has it been…twenty? Thirty years?” she said as if she’d read his mind but her smile never faltered, “come. I’ve prepared tea.”

She stood there still, holding the door open and as he passed her he couldn’t help but take in her intoxicating smell of beauty and fresh summer wind. Her house was the same as it had always been, slightly cluttered but in a pleasing homey feel. Cabinets lined the walls with trinkets of every sort, and books marked with hundreds of assorted bookmarks claimed couch cushions and fancy oak chairs. He knew his way to the kitchen and by the time he entered the little cooking area, she was already pouring tea into the freshly washed cup. She handed it to him and sat down on a stool, gazing at him lovingly like she always used to.

“To what do I owe such a pleasant surprise?” she asked in that sing song voice of hers.

“There’s been a murder,” he said choosing his words wisely.

“And you suspect me? The honor I must be feeling right now,” she said in mock entertainment.

“No, Soun. I don’t suspect you. It was…dark,” he said looking away.

“Drink your tea. I promise there isn’t any poison in it this time,” she smirked.

“A boy was found with no face,” he said. Soun’s smile disappeared rapidly.

“You know we’ve seen this before. And you know I cannot help you this time. Pestorus, I may love you still but there are some things that even I cannot change, I pray you understand that. That kind of power exceeds my own.”

“I just wanted you to look at the body. To confirm my suspicions,” he said. Soun looked fretful, but she stretched her fingers across the table and clasped his worn hand.

She was cold, but then again she always was. Her eyes were ice blue, so chilling but mesmerizing, mimicking the coolness of her skin. He longed to stroke her cheek, to feel her smooth skin under his rough hands once more but he settled for a gentle squeeze instead.

“Fine. To make you happy once more, I shall do as you request.”

“Thank you Soun,” he said huskily, breaking contact with her.

“Don’t thank me yet, love. If this is what you think, our sorrows are only just beginning.”

.  .  .  .  .

Darmi’s hand shook violently as she tried to stick the thread through the eye of the needle. The thread shivered violently in her hand before missing once more and she cursed, tossing the needle on the table. Arthritis was a bugger, and in her old age she couldn’t seem to have a moments rest from the crippling condition.

“Terei? Can you bring me some of those herbs from the cellar? Unless you want your pants done and sewn proper, I’m going to need a tea for my fingers.”

“Maybe I don’ wanna wear pants,” he grumpily called from the kitchen.

“Shut your damn mouth and get the herbs. You’ll wear pants and you’ll like it,” she fired back at him.

She could hear him grumbling as the chair legs squeaked against the rough tile floor. She added a second log to the spitting fire and checked the pot, making sure there was enough water in it to sustain enough tea for the rest of the day. She made a mental note to pick up more of the herbs from Soun. It had been well over three weeks since her last medical resupply. The village had grown quiet over the early hours of the morning since the death of the small child. She had not a single clue where the children came from but she felt it had been her motherly duty to calm and claim them as her own until their parents showed up. The young girl, Sierra, sat on the patched couch sipping a cup of tepid water quietly. She hadn’t said a single word since leaving the inn but it was not Darmi’s place to question her after such an ordeal—some things were better left unasked. Darmi offered a cookie to Sierra but she merely shook her head and continued to stare at the back wall. There was a loud crash from the cellar door and Darmi dropped the platter of cookies to the floor and rushed as fast as she could.

“Terei? Are you okay?” Darmi flicked the light but the bulb flickered and burst.

“Terei? Sierra dear, please go fetch the neighbours. I think Terei fell down and my old legs can’t get down the stairs,” but when Darmi looked back at the couch, Sierra was gone. She narrowed her eyes.

“Darmi? I fell. Blasted shelves fell on ma’ head,” he called from the darkness of the basement, “I think I broke my hip.”

“Shit,” Darmi said taking the steps one at a time as slow as possible, “Hold on you old idiot, I’ll be there in a minute.” When she reached the dirt floor, she scanned the darkness for any sign of Terei. A few spilled jars littered the floor in the immediate circle of light but Terei was not among them.

“Alright where are you?” But he didn’t answer. In fact the only answer she received was a child’s giggle.

“Sierra? Did you come down to help Terei?” Darmi said smiling.

“I came down here to eat his face,” said the child’s voice and Darmi stopped advancing into the cellar, goose bumps riddling her arms.

The voice was human, but it had a supernaturally charged demonic quality to it that chilled Darmi’s spine to the core. When Sierra came into view she was not alone. In her hands was a young boy. Neither children had a face but she had the strange sickly feeling that this boy was the same murdered boy from the front gate. Darmi backed up and fell, tripping over a glass jar and landing hard on her hip.

“W-where are your parents?” she asked.

“Dead.”

“Wh-who are you?”

“Cha…cha…cha. Only the Nell of the Cha can save you…Darmi,” said the little girl tilting her head.

Darmi screamed and in the corner of the cellar her husband huddled unseen, afraid to move as the demonic children ascended onto his wife. He held back his silent tears as Darmi’s screams escalated and then stopped altogether.

.  .  .  .  .

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The Cha Forest: Part Two

“Sir Pestorus! You must come, there is a disturbance at the front gate,” cried a young man breathing heavily, barely old enough to fill out his newly tempered armor. Pestorus nodded grimly and placed the apple back onto the stand. The young woman tending the stand looked disappointed but she plastered her smile on all the same.

“Another day than,” he smiled warmly to her.

He knew it was going to be a rough day when he couldn’t even buy an apple for his lunch in peace. He hitched his sword belt upward and walked down to the gate where a massive horde of people were occupying a space just beyond the gated front walls. There was a mass of whispers filling the air and random accusations as they let him through easily but Pestorus paid none of them attention until he came into view of the young solider. He vaguely knew the new recruits name was Kygard and he was kneeling down beside a black tarp with a few mild rips in the sides. When Kygard noticed Pestorus presence he stood immediately.

“Sir, this young lady needs to speak to you. It’s…urgent,” he said and walked away with a wary, unsettled look.

The young lady walked up to Pestorus timidly, just a young girl maybe the age of seventeen or less with a thick head of grungy blond curls. She was holding the cords to the tarp closely, clasped to her chest like she was afraid they would blow away in some unforgiving wind. Her face was completely muddy and her clothes were severely torn. At first Pestorus thought he was dealing with a victim of abuse, but when he saw her deeply disturbed blue eyes, he knew he was dealing with far more than just a minor altercation. He knelt down beside her, hand on his rickety old knee and gently smiled.

“My name is Sir Pestorus. May I have the pleasure or yours?”

“Sierra,” she said shyly. An older woman in the crowd placed a worn calloused hand on the girls shoulder. The older woman nodded for Pestorus to go on.

“Can you tell me what happened to you?”

Her eyes betrayed every emotion she owned and she backed up into the woman, fearfully shaking her head violently. Her refusal only deepened Pestorus confusion and curiosity.

“She’s just a child for god sakes, let her breath,” said a man from the crowd. Pestorus held an irritated hand up to the crowd, a warning that his patience was already worn thin.

“Okay, okay. May I have a look under the tarp?”

She looked terrified as she bit her lip but finally she handed him the strings to the tarp, her seemingly greatest treasure. He undid the secure knot at the base of the tarp and when it tugged free he lifted the tarp. The first thing that hit his nose was the rancid smell and he pulled away, choking back the need to vomit all over the scene. Kygard handed him a handkerchief to thwart the smell and he accepted graciously. When he peeled the tarp off fully everyone in the crowd gasped loudly. A few screamed in terror, another man fell to the ground in a fainted bliss and others turned away to empty their stomachs. Pestorus eyes grew wide and he barely knew what he was looking at. Immediately this had become a crime scene and it didn’t take long for the guards to rope it off from the public. Word reached the castle faster than Pestorus would have liked and as he watched the jittery man jump from his steed he thought, what a day for the last of my retirement days.

“Pestorus what the hell is going on?” demanded Jaried, the emissary to the king, as he waddled over with an air of importance closest to that of a piece of dung. Jaried was wearing heeled boots and a green and orange velvet suit with large puffy gray pants to top the overzealous number off.

“I don’t know,” he said looking at Sierra again. Jaried looked at the girl than back to Pestorus with slight confusion.

“Is she responsible for this? What is this? A dog?” he said with his nose stuck firmly upwards, pulling the tarp back. He gasped and released the tarp, eyes wild as he looked to Pestorus for answers. Pestorus only shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t know if she’s responsible. Can a little girl remove the face of child?” Pestorus said almost sarcastically.

“R-remove? It’s completely smooth! It’s just skin!” Jaried cried.

Pestorus shrugged his shoulders once more. There was more to the body than just the face though the face was the focal point to the mystery. The torso had deep wounds that had been dealt after the boy was dead, he could tell from his long term service to the royal guard. Of course this would all be explained by a medical doctor but until then, Pestorus held his tongue. He called Kygard over to him, ignoring the outrageous rant of Jaried.

“Take this girl to the Romn Inn. Tell Ferry I sent her and that she is to have everything to make her feel comfortable. New clothing, food, water. Anything she wants.”

“Yes sir,” he nodded and ushered her away. The paleness of her face still visible in Pestorus memory clearly, the pain of her loss only reflecting his own losses he had endured from life.

“What do we do?” Jaried said standing next to Pestorus, hushing his words as if no one else could hear him.

“We inform the King and pray for some kind of bloody miracle,” he said and Jaried walked away from the pretentious little man.

“Take the body to the barracks and no one is to touch it until I say. Understood?”

“Yes sir,” said a guard.

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The Cha Forest: Part One

By Terrin Jarrell

The wind was endless and the moon was waning on that cold night. Tardo could barely make out the fine path as he crawled up the mammoth stone that resembled the head of a charging horse. The torchlight from the other side was little enough to cloak him in shadow but still allowed him to see vaguely where he was going amongst all the moss and vines. He hefted the smaller, leaner Bello up and dumped him down beside him.

“What is it?” whispered Bello from beneath Tardo’s arm.

But Tardo didn’t answer him because he barely knew himself what his mind was trying to refuse. The creatures were gathered in a half circle, in the center was a stripped woman whose eyes milky white but oddly fearless in the presence of the beasts. She had an enormous pregnant belly sticking out like a round ball from her stomach and she kept mumbling something lowly under the firelight as the creatures surrounded her, dancing in their odd, fluid way. The firelight stroked and teased her taut belly skin and unusual images arose on her barren skin painted in black shadow.

“I…I don’t know,” Tardo said quietly, his breath glistening against the cold night.

“We should head back, tell Sir Pestorus or something,” Bello whimpered in his usual nervous self but was unable to move from his spot just like Tardo.

“Shhh, Bello,” Tardo waved him off.

The creatures were hideous yet fascinating to watch as they moved oddly, swaying here and there in rhythmic maddening motions. They had dark shimmery hair covering their bodies and in the firelight it looked to glow purple, or possibly blue. Their eyes were deep orange, darting constantly and never settling on one thing for too long. The fangs were the most grotesque sticking out from chapped gray lips like enormous tusks and the claws were sharper still, making an ear grating noise when they rubbed together like knives.  The woman withered in the circle but nothing more happened. The beasts were just watching her, waiting it seemed as they danced to inaudible music. To Tardo’s seven year old mind, it was incomprehensible but cool to watch. He couldn’t know the possible danger it was to stand watch at the unusual ritual.

“Tardo, let’s go,” Bello whined and Tardo turned on him, punching him in the nose hard with a tightly clenched fist. Tardo pulled back, barely noticing the wet blood against his knuckles as he sneered at Bello.

“Shut the hell up, baby,” he said but for the half second or more it took to say those words, he instantly regretted them, wishing he could pull them back into his nasty mannered mouth. Bello yelped as he touched his now bleeding nose, crooked to one side absurdly.

“That hurt! You punched me in the nose you ass!” he whined. Tardo looked back at the group and ducked. Every creature had stopped and Tardo had the overpowering feeling that they had been heard. The vivid dancing of the creatures no longer painted the leaf ceiling above but rather stood eerily still in the cold.

“You bloody idiot…they heard you.”

Bello’s face paled and he scrambled up the top of the rock to prove Tardo wrong, the fear rising in him as the blood dripped down his soiled white shirt. He was quiet staring at nothing, sitting straight up like a statue and Tardo watched him collect thick fistfuls of moss in a momentary spasm. Tardo was vaguely aware of the scent of urine in the air as he watched Bello intently. When Bello looked back at Tardo, his face was completely blank. Only white, glazed eyes glared at Tardo. His mouth, nose and eyebrows were all gone, completely vanished from his face and yet Bello was still able to talk, still able to produce sounds so eerie they came out as a lisped whisper.

“Tardo, they’re gone. All gone. Nothing more to see. Will you join us, Cha?” he said strangely as Tardo watched in horror at the spectacle his childhood friend had become.

He stole one single glance over to the ritual space and was surprised to find it completely empty. Not even the torches were still burning, or the withering woman on the ground. The space was empty and night surrounded them both in a shroud of black deathly stillness like an ominous demon.  Goose bumps rose on his arms and he longed to itch them away, to go back home to a warm bed but he knew that was impossible now staring at his blank friend.

“Cha, nothing to see,” Bello repeated again disturbingly beside Tardo.

Though Tardo couldn’t see Bello in the darkness that engulfed them suddenly, he could feel the dead eyes staring inches from his face and he scrambled from the rock they both occupied. The fall from the rock wasn’t terribly steep, but Tardo felt the rocks below his knee’s dig deep and he winced in pain when he tried to stand. On two shaky legs, he ambled through the forest, trying to distance himself from the scene and the creatures and Bello. But it was especially Bello he was running from. Dark trees past him, dark shapes, disembodied voices surrounded him as he fled and the fear only gave way to erratic jerky turns that lead him nowhere inside the maze of the forest. Whose idea was it anyway to come into the forest? Was it Bello’s? No, it was Tardo’s. It was his fault they got into this situation, his fault that Bello was dead. The Cha Forest was known for its mysteries but did Tardo know this was going to happen? That an innocent adventure would turn into death of nightmarish proportions? His foot struck a stray stone sticking from the earth and he toppled, arms flaying as he reached for anything to hold him up. His face smacked first, sending tingling lightning bolts flashing through his skull as the rest of his body crashed around him in an ungraceful landing. He cried out in pain, trying to remain calm and move slowly as he felt his bloody, cracked chin. Something rushed past him, a dark blotchy blur and nothing more. He bit his lip against the pain and stretched out his broken leg. Would it be too much to go insane? To not know what’s about to happen to me, he thought desperately.

Tardo…Tardo, cha. Come into my arms and be warm and safe. Your bed is here, you mother is here, Tardo.”

“You’re a liar! Stop talking, stop talking. STOP.TALKING!!” he shouted. There was only a brief momentary pause.

“Bello is with me. Do you long to see your friend?

The voice was so far off he nearly passed it off as wind through the trees. Tardo was confused. Was that the voice of the woman? The pregnant one from the forest? Whispering enfolded him and he cowered, covering his head as it got closer to his ears, the smell of rancid meat and defiled underpants filling his noise.

“Leave me alone!” he cried into his arms.

“Tardo, it’s okay. We’re all safe now. Bello will hold your hand,” she said so close to his ear now and he screamed as a cold wet hand grasped his. The scream ripped through his throat only to reach closed, dead ears.

.  .  .  .  .

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