Template:PostIn CatH Post 24 The Bug lands in the Aggran Forest of Oeurwoud, expecting to find members of the Rebel Alliance. Telkrin Izep, however, stops the group when he announces that he senses a great danger through his soul. He says that the rebels are all dead and that they must leave the planet now. He intends to remain so he can investigate but wants his students to leave with Clear. They scramble onto the Bug just as The Darkness washes over the area. They attempt to rescue Telkrin but he is taken into the darkness and they must leave without him. Telkrin tells his students to go to Tangris.
The Bug lands in the middle of a forest. Kiron had updated the Bug's maps by hacking into Strang's systems, revealing information and key locations for the planet Oeurwoud. According to the map they have landed in Aggran Forest, spanning the majority of the large island they are standing on. Through the front window Clear can only see bark. Navigating through the canopy had been difficult enough, she's worried about flying back out again. She is the last to exit the craft and when she touches the open door there is a wall of moisture to greet her. The heat is oppressive and she cannot tell if she is sweating or if water is simply building up on her skin from the air. She looks up at the distant canopy. The trees are gigantic, much larger than anything she's ever seen before. She fancies she can see clouds gathering in the branches. She walks over to Princess Aurora and activates her holographic map.
Clear: "Can you mark where your guys ought to be?"
She pushes the holographic display and an fingerprinted dot appears. Clear orientates herself according to the compass and starts trekking in that direction. A few button presses later and the map data is uploaded to Pully and Kiron's visor displays. Even Aurora's chair has a map display.
Pully: "And what do we do if they turn out to be hostile?"
Clear: "Who are you talking about?"
Heul: "We break skulls."
Heul: "Sorry. We chop them to pieces with our shiny swords."
Lymn: "You'd only end up chopping yourself, Ffion."
Heul: "Says the nurse..."
Telkrin: "A little less noise. Both of you. I sense a... great disturbance. The souls of the land are discontent. A great... darkness spreads across the world..."
The two students fall silent with their eyes closed.
Lymn: "I feel it. The... darkness. It... consumes everything. It consumes life... reality even. Teacher! What is it!?"
Telkrin: "I have no idea, Kokoro. This is something I haven't felt since... you should all return to your shuttle."
Princess Aurora: "What!? Are you mad?"
Telkrin: "This darkness... it encroaches upon us even now. I think it's drawn by our presence."
Princess Aurora: "But what about my people!?"
Telkrin: "They're already dead. Consumed by this hungry beast. You need to leave immediately."
Clear: "You don't need to tell me again. Back to The Hopeful it is!"
Princess Aurora: "You're going to believe this religious bunkum!?"
Clear: "Dude has a glowing projection of his soul. I'll take his word for it."
Princess Aurora: "No! I refuse to leave!"
Pully: "Oh well. Guess you'll be left here then."
Nightstrider: "If the princess stays, I stay too."
Pully: "Again, oh well!"
Telkrin: "There is no time for this debate. I cannot allow you to endanger the lives of my students. Ffion, Kokoro, get aboard the shuttle now. Captain, please prepare to leave."
Lymn: "Wait - what about you?"
Telkrin: "It is my duty as a knight to investigate this blight so that others may know of it."
Lymn: "But Teacher!"
Telkrin: "To the shuttle!"
Heul: "If you stay then we'll stand with you!"
Kokoro runs. She says nothing else. She just runs. Ffion seems like she might continue defying her teacher's order but eventually she turns away and also runs. Clear gives Telkrin one last confused look before also heading back with Pully. They get onboard the ship and Clear ignites the engines. It's then that she sees it.
Darkness, like liquid, bursts from the trees like a tidal wave of ink. Its crashes down to the ground, spills and rises up. It moves with more speed than she might have imagined it capable of. Kiron suddenly bursts into the cockpit and sits down.
Nightstrider: "I brought the princess aboard. Let's get out of here!"
She takes off. The little Bug jerks in protestation as she forcibly handles the craft like it's never been handled before. The take-off is rough and the u-turn rougher. She hopes everyone is wearing their seatbelts.
She changes the display to show Telkrin. He faces the dark wave with his sword ignited. When the blackness looms over him he thrust out his hand and a dome of blue light bursts from within him. The wave strikes the dome and laps over it, unable to break through. Then it rises and attempts again to crash against it like an animal. The wave clearly is not a natural disaster but a conscious creature that wants to consume those it finds. The old man is able to hold off the Darkness but Clear doubts he can defeat it as more and more black water gushes out of the trees towards him. She jerks the ship to the left and then down.
Kiron: "What're you doing!?"
Clear: "You think you're a hot-shot pilot, right? Prove it. Keep us steady!"
Clear vacates her seat and rushes the short distance to the still open doors of the shuttle. She sees Telkrin below her.
Clear: "Jump! Quick!"
Hearing Clear shout, the two students are instantly at her side and willing their teacher into the ship. Kokoro holds out her hand.
Lymn: "Teacher! Now!"
Clear can tell the man is straining. It's only a matter of time before the Darkness overwhelms him. He looks up at them. He holds out his hand.
Lymn: "Take us lower!!"
But Clear sees that his palm is cast against them, not to them. Blue light springs from his open palm and sets against the shuttle. Violently the ship is thrust back and up into the sky. Black water spills to the area they had just occupied and then splashes against the soul shield of Telkrin. More and more Darkness floods the forest and submerges the knight.
The shouts of anger and sorrow from the two students are blanked from Clear's attention as she looks upwards. The Darkness is now spilling from the upper canopy of the forest like black rain. She slams the door panel and the doors close as she runs back to the cockpit. She grabs her wheel and jerks the Bug away from the black rain falling through the air. Kiron plots a course for a spacious opening and Clear heads for it. From broad branches the Darkness creeps and leaps at them like a horde of giant, inky gorillas. Clear yanks them to the left, avoiding the leaping dark. She pushes them upwards. The she sees the Darkness filling their escape route, crawling across the leaves of the trees and stretching across the obvious gap.
Clear: "We'll just have to do this the hard way."
Nightstrider: "Oh crap!"
Clear steers straight for the thickest canopy above them. Branches biggest than her shuttle and leaves masking them. Luck would be the deciding factor here.
They burst forth into the upper atmosphere. As they look out across the canopy top they can see the Darkness swelling in the area, creeping and spilling in on the land.
Clear: "That... was terrifying."
Nightstrider: "I can't believe we lost an Æon Knight... We have to spread the news of this. Whatever that creature is, if its spreads to other worlds... a populated world!"
Clear: "Telkrin said we should go to Tangris. Do you know the place?"
Nightstrider: "Home of the Æon. It's where the Æon Lords can usually be found. The students spend their first years there too. Learning. Until they're old enough to travel. I'm surprised you don't know of it."
Clear: "There's a lot I don't know."
The shuttle breaks into space and makes a heading for The Hopeless.
Clear: "I wish Telkrin hadn't..."
Nightstrider: "I doubt you're the only one..."