The wind rustled through the forest's thick canopy, sending leaves spiralling gracefully to the ground, as a steady, tribalistic drum beat emanated deep into the woods, originating from a small medieval-style village in the centre of a clearing.
Along the dirt road that exited the village, long, wooden tables were arranged in a haphazard manner, adorned with a wide variety of food and drink, as villagers wandered between them, talking, laughing, with a few even crying as they are comforted by others.
Toward the edge of the clearing, still covered by the dense underbrush, the figure of a young, white-haired boy solidified from the shadows before falling to his knees, panting heavily.
Shaking his head in an attempt to dispell the disorientation caused by his new skill, Mors spat on the floor and looked around. "I... am not doing that again."
Unbeknown to Mors, mainly because he was still too ignorant of this world and that he lacked a status stone, Mors had just discovered his first 'learnt' skill, Shadow Step. The aftereffects he was currently suffering, disorientation, nausea and impaired thinking, was due to its first-time use, never having activated an ability before and that his body was still in an incredibly weakened state. It was not much of an exaggeration to say that if he had remained in his shadow state for a few extra minutes, that his life would have been in danger.
Standing up and walking stiffly to a large tree in front of him, Mors peered out into the clearing, his gaze being instantly drawn to a large hog roast as his stomach let out a deep rumbling. "Oh, I haven't eaten since... well, ever."
Trying to ignore his hunger, Mors scanned the villagers in front of him, noting that the guards that were patrolling the area walked with clear, purposeful movements and were constantly surveying their surroundings as well as other signs that they had experienced multiple life and death situations. Listening to his gut feeling, Mors decided that he was not strong enough to confront them directly and that in order to liberate some food and information, he would need to do it stealthily.
As Mors was salivating at the thought of devouring as much food as he could, the deep, raspy voice of an old woman attracted his attention. A group of children, ranging from five to fifteen, were sitting just to the right of Mors's hiding place, engrossed in what appeared to be some sort of lesson.
Ignoring the tantalising smell floating on the wind, Mors remembered his original objective and crept closer to discover if the lesson was on a subject worth his attention.
It was a slow process as Mors had to constantly freeze when the guards looked in his direction as they did their rounds. Although they were drinking along with the villagers, it seemed the guards were still prepared to respond to any danger, sometimes giving off a faint, bloodthirsty aura.
When Mors reached the group, he realised the children were being given some sort of history lesson and settled down to listen as two guards, with greying hair, walked over to the old woman, who was dressed in a dark-golden dress and had many colourful rings adorning her wrinkled hands. The woman cleared her throat as one of the guards passed her a drink and whispered something in her ear nonchalantly, causing her to laugh, telling him to sit down and enjoy the show.
As one of the guards sat with the kids, the other loitered close to the forest edge, leaning heavily on his spear with a tired expression, the woman continued her lecture. "Right, so where was I? Oh yes, I was telling you about when our glorious kingdom was at peril from the combined efforts of heathens and the demonic horde, before the Sacred Temple, in all it's divine glory, came to our aid, providing knowledge, holy artefacts and the support of their sacred army."
And my first source of information is a religious zealot... great, thought Mors as his left eye subconsciously twitched and he exhaled in irritation.
The old woman became animated as she continued talking, using sweeping gestures to emphasise her words. "After the Sacred Temple's army defeated the demon invasion and purged their sympathisers, they helped us reclaim the Trekan pass fortress, making vast improvements to both its offensive and defensive capabilities, ensuring that the demons would never be able to threaten our great nation again. With that, Vonai's great army was victorious and showed the world that the human race is not to be trifled with."
The children clapped and cheered, a few thanking the Goddess of Light and the Sacred Temple for their mercy and protection, as they became excited and shuffled forward to get closer to the woman.
A ridiculing smile crept upon Mors' face as he was about to move away, muttering something about indoctrination and the curse of religion, when the woman's next sentence caused him to stop and turn back.
"As the mighty heroes of Vonai and the Sacred Temple executed five of the great demon lords, including the Lord of Wrath, the horde dissolved and was quickly exterminated, dealing them a crippling blow which their species will probably never recover from. Because of this single war, demons were declared an endangered species, one that is hated and despised by all that is holy. As the Goddess of Light teaches mercy, the Demonic Plains were set aside for them as a reservation," said the woman, apparently annoyed that the demons were given a safe haven.
"So why did Uncle Drake have to die," whimpered a small girl as she pointed to a wrapped body lying on top of a wooden funeral pyre on the opposite side of the clearing. "He was only guarding the fortress and didn't do anything to the demons."
"That," spoke the woman, in a cold, hate-filled voice, "is because the demons see our act of mercy as a sign of weakness, refusing to stay in that wasteland that is already too good for them."