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Ride the Winds!

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Joined
Jan 17, 2011
Location
Magnolia City
Gender
Snow Queen: is azure sage trans
It's been a while, but it's finally time for Chapter 12! A major turning point is coming up soon, so look forward to that. ;) In the meantime, enjoy the start of Lana's newest adventure!





Chapter Twelve
The Third Voyage Begins​


The morning after her dinner with Sturgeon and Orca, Lana awoke in Anna’s house. Lenzo was not still asleep in the bed set beside hers, which was unusual. When she descended the ladder down from the loft, Anna was waiting for her with a gentle smile.

“Good morning, Lana. I have some things for you.”

“Huh? You’ve already done so much for me, you didn’t have to-” she began.

“I wanted to. I prepared some food for you to eat on your trip, and I fashioned some sturdy clothes for you, as well. Would you wear them before you go?”

Anna presented the green tunic in her arms. It reminded Lana of the forest trees high up on the island’s cliffs. It had a buttoned collar and brown armguards over white sleeves. Under the fabric, she could feel chainmail. It seemed like it could take a few hits.

Lana felt a lump in her throat. “You’re really giving this to me?”

“Of course. On our island, green is a special color. It is reminiscent of the spirit of the Legendary Hero who once fought off a great evil in the days of old. Whenever a member of our island goes somewhere dangerous, they don a green tunic in the hopes that they will be protected.”

“But... I’m not-” Lana tried to say.

“Don’t be silly. You are just as good as one of us, you know. All of us have grown rather fond of you. We will miss you dearly, and if anything happens out there, you will always be welcome to come back here.” Anna said, beaming that gentle smile as bright as the sun.

Lana began choking out tears. She had come to love Outset, but she didn’t expect that feeling to be reciprocated so quickly. With Anna especially, she felt as though she had a new lifelong friend and a new place to feel at home. Lana threw her arms around Anna and hugged her tightly. Anna let out a small gasp, but she smiled and returned the embrace.

“Thank you so much for everything.” Lana said.

“Be safe out there, you hear?” Anna said.

And so, Lana changed into the green tunic, though keeping her own trousers and water boots. It felt surprisingly comfortable. Anna must have made it especially for her, and that thought made Lana’s heart feel warm and fuzzy. She didn’t know much about the Legendary Hero; she recalled vaguely overhearing such a story on Greatfish once when she was young, but it wasn't often spoken of on that island.

- Wait a minute... This tunic reminds me of the painting of that boy in Emilia’s ship. I wonder if they’re the same...

Lana was curious, but she pushed those thoughts out of her head when she finished getting dressed. She strapped her sword to her hip once again, and felt even more prepared for a voyage than ever before. She gratefully accepted the satchel of goods from Anna, and departed her house for the docks on the beach.

Orca’s ship was docked there, and there he stood awaiting her. He, too, was clothed in a green tunic of sorts. It seemed to have more armor than hers did, but the collar was open wide to reveal those muscles he was so proud of. He had a sword of his own strapped to his waist. He looked just as ready as she felt. When he saw Lana approaching, he grinned widely.

“What do you think of my ship? She’s small, but she’s sturdy! I bet you won’t have any trouble with her.” he said.

His boat was smaller than the Gull had been, but still larger than her father’s dinghy. There was no below deck, but still enough space for the both of them. The sail and mast seemed sturdy, and the steering gear was the kind she was accustomed to. Indeed, she didn’t think she’d have any trouble at the helm.

“Lana.”

Lenzo’s voice called out to her from behind. Lana turned to see him standing at the foot of the pier. “Oh, there you are! I was wondering why you weren’t in Anna’s house.” Lana said, walking over to him.

“I came here to see you off.” he said, smiling. “You’re really going out to sea again, huh? You’re seriously amazing. Nothing out there fazes you, does it?”

Lana felt a bit of a sting from his words. “It’s not as though I didn’t agonize over this decision. It’s been really hard on me. But I really don’t want to give up. I want to find my ancestral home no matter what. For the sake of my parents, my friends who all supported me, and for my own sake, too. Today’s just another step toward finding it.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry, that was a little thoughtless of me to say. Nevertheless, I believe you can do it.”

The two of them shook hands. Lana looked him in the eyes and felt a bit sad at their parting. Sailing across the Great Sea through life or death situations, being welcomed into his home, and becoming his friend; all of these experiences were precious to her. And yet, she knew they had their own separate lives to live. They both knew this. It was time to part ways.

“It was a pleasure to have sailed with you, Lenzo. Goodbye.” she said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again, but take care of yourself, okay?”

“I will, thank you. I plan to rest on this island for a few more days before returning to Windfall. I’m afraid I owe the owner of The Sleeping Gull an apology and a fair bit of money when I get back...” he said with a laugh.

As Lana smiled at him warmly, Orca broke their conversation with a yell. “Alrighty! That’s what I call a heartfelt parting! Good stuff, good stuff! Now, my student, are you ready to venture into the unknown with me?” he said.

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I’m not turning back.” Lana said, returning to Orca and his boat.

As Lenzo waved goodbye, Lana and Orca boarded the vessel together. As her feet carried her away from the safety of land once again, a dark feeling appeared in her gut. What would the Great Sea throw at her this time? She had no way of knowing. She still had no money or a boat of her own, but she was working toward her goals one step at a time. Whatever was waiting for her out there, however many times she’d need to take that first step again, she was certain she’d overcome it, just as she’d done before.

- Into the unknown, huh? He’s absolutely right. But this time, I’m more ready for it than I’ve ever been. This time, no matter what happens, I’m not going to be discouraged any more.

* * *

Many hours passed, and the sun was high in the sky. The new day brought Lana into her third voyage. As she expected, she had no trouble at the helm of Orca’s boat. The sea was calm and the spray was gentle. The wind was at her back, and it made her feel relaxed and clear-headed. After the horrible ordeal a week prior, she was uncertain how she’d feel to be back on open water. Just like when she departed with Lenzo for the first time, she was glad to not have lost her love for the sea.

Unlike when she first departed with Lenzo, however, she found herself irritated. Simply put, Orca was annoying. Very annoying. Not a minute went by where he wasn’t muttering to himself about his glorious muscles or how great a master he was. He was also constantly swinging a wooden spear around, bouncing around the deck, and generally being a nuisance to her eyes.

- I’d rather listen to Lenzo’s babbling about his pictographs than this nonsense...

Lana sighed as she adjusted the steering gear. They were following a westerly breeze, and they expected to reach the Forbidden Woods late at night. They were making good time on this voyage. Lana felt a little grateful for that. She was also grateful that the trip had been utterly uneventful thus far. A small part of her hoped for something to happen so she could test her new weapon, but she new that was a stupid thing to wish for and shut it down fast. There’d be plenty of such opportunities in the Forbidden Woods. She just hoped they could make it there safely.

Eventually, Lana got restless, standing at the helm constantly on high alert. She decided to switch places with Orca so she could loosen up. She was surprised at how quickly he agreed to take the helm for a little while. She almost expected him to put up some sort of fuss about their deal, but it appeared he had his reasonable moments.

Now standing on the generously-sized deck, Lana began her daily exercise routine. She would stretch her arms and legs for a few minutes, roll the joints in her shoulders, and then do thirty reps of push ups and sit ups. When she finished that, she would jog in place for ten minutes and take a breather. That was the routine she developed back home, and she would repeat it three times every day before going out to fish.

“Oh, so that's your routine, huh?” Orca said, watching her from the helm. “You sure look like you know what you’re doing. Color me impressed.”

“Well, thanks.” Lana said. Then she recalled Orca’s advice about adding sword reps to her routine. “Hey, what’s a good way of incorporating my sword training into this?”

“I’m glad you asked! What a dutiful student you are, Lana!” Orca said, flexing in that self-proud way of his. “Best thing to do at your current level would be to drill the forms I taught you yesterday over and over. Practice the movements until they become second nature, or at least until you’re satisfied for the day.”

“Alright, thanks.”

Lana did as he advised and began. She moved the estoc through the motions she’d learned, and the more she did it, the more she began to feel her body moving along with the blade. She wondered if that was how it felt to be in control of a weapon. She figured she had to get used to that feeling.

“Not bad, not bad at all.” Orca said, grubbing his chin as he watched. “Keep that pace up, and maybe even a woman like you can kill a few monsters!”

Lana’s sword abruptly cut into the boat’s railing. The sudden noise made Orca jump. Lana turned to face him, glaring and starting to grind her teeth.

“Don’t start that nonsense again. Unless you want me to turn this boat around.”

Orca gulped and simply nodded his head. Even he knew better than to take a threat like that from a helmsman lightly. Lana could very easily turn the boat away from the Woods and disable the rudder, if she wanted to. And she told herself she would if she had to listen to any more of his remarks. She was done allowing people to look down on her. Perhaps it was her new weapon that instilled such confidence into her, but whatever the reason, she felt as though she wanted to be more like Emilia. At least, in that one sense.

* * *

The sun began to set when the Forbidden Woods came into view. Lana had expected it to be much darker upon their arrival, so she was very grateful for the extra light. Their voyage was also completely safe. No monsters had popped up to harass their boat, no pirates sailed by, no freak thunderstorms swelled up to sink them. It was almost scary how easy the voyage was.

- Why is it that nothing happens now that I’ve learned how to deal with these threats?

Lana once again felt a small wish for some action to test her weapon, but she shut it down just as quickly as last time. Nothing good ever came of wishing for danger. She couldn’t let her newfound confidence lead her into another disaster.

Their boat drifted cautiously to the edge of the Woods. Lana gulped anxiously when she examined the island up close. It was very tall, jutting out of the water like a small mountain. It almost seemed like a gigantic tree, and it was covered in massive, thorny vines. It screamed of danger and stank of monsters.

Orca, on the other hand, quivered with excitement. “Oh, yes! This is it! My blood is boiling with anticipation! There’s no way we won’t find a Knight’s Crest in a place like this!”

“What makes you so sure of that?” Lana asked.

“Winners of Knight’s Crests often come to such places for training or to test their skills. Naturally, not all of them leave alive. It’s the nature of the business. As such, there’s sure to be the remains of a warrior with a Crest somewhere in there, ripe for the taking!”

Lana grimaced. “Seriously? You’re going to loot a corpse for your Crest? How is that earning it? That doesn’t sound very knightly at all to me.”

“On the contrary! Fighting through the very danger a warrior succumbed to proves me to be his better! If that’s not earning it, I don’t know what is! Besides, he’ll be dead, so it’s not like he’ll still need it.”

Lana simply scowled at his logic, but didn’t care to argue with him any more. Her only job was to help him through the place and sail him back to Outset, victorious. The fighting experience was all she was after here. She knew it wasn’t the best deal for her, but she had to take what she could get.

After his speech, Orca grabbed ropes and stone picks from his bags. He tossed some to Lana, and instructed her on how to use them. They were going to scale the side of the island and find a way inside. After that, they could begin their search in earnest.

Both Lana and Orca strapped bags with food supplies to their backs as they readied themselves with the picks and ropes. They expected a need to make camp inside the Woods and search around for a few days. They had come prepared to last five days inside before needing to leave and restock.

And so, Lana took a deep breath and disembarked the boat with Orca. Together, they carefully scaled their way up the face of the cliff, avoiding thorns and vines as they went. They tied themselves together with the rope to make sure they could catch one another if they fell. The higher they went, the smaller their boat looked anchored at the water’s surface below.

Goosebumps pricked at Lana’s skin as she cut away thorns blocking her path. They looked sharp enough to pierce right through her chest. She did not want them anywhere near her skin. As she jabbed the picks into the cliffside, it occurred to her that the island wasn’t made of stone. It felt more like petrified wood. Perhaps the whole structure really was some kind of colossal tree. She looked over at Orca, and saw that he was no less excited than before. That kind of annoyed her.

- He better be taking the danger seriously... I am not going to end up like those old dead warriors he hopes to find in here.

Soon enough, they found themselves an opening on the side of the cliff where they could enter the Woods. Orca crawled in first, and helped Lana along by pulling her rope up toward the opening. Lana fit herself through it, and together they leapt down into the grass below. Finally, after replacing the picks and ropes back into their bags, Lana could take in the sight of the Forbidden Woods’ interior.

She had never seen a forest up close before. There were a lot of tall trees and vines hanging all over the place. Very little light could peek in through the gaps in the leaves. There was so much green overgrowth everywhere that it looked to swallow up everything in sight. Similar to the outside of the Woods, thorny vines wrapped around the walls and laid across the ground.

The air was stagnant and eerie. Pollen visibly collected and hung in the air. A low wind rustled the leaves gently. Lana could sense a hollow feeling beneath her feet. This place was deep, and it was full of life. Just, not the good kind of life. She felt a similar crawl on her skin from when she was locked in the Forsaken Fortress. She had no doubt that these Woods were home to many monsters.

Once again, Lana looked to Orca. However, she was surprised to see that all of his bravado had gone and been replaced by a fierce seriousness. His eyes were cold and focused. He was no longer playing around. He had one hand on the hilt of his sword, looking ready to counter a surprise attack from any direction.

- Wow, looking at him like this, he really does seem to know what he’s doing. Go figure.

Lana decided she needed to emulate this part of him. She took another deep breath and allowed her senses to take over. She let the eeriness of the Woods’ wind wash over her. It brought information with it; every movement of the leaves in the trees, sudden gusts seeping in from outside, and any other motion that disturbed the airflow in the room.

As Lana stepped forward, a sharp and sudden movement tore through the air at her feet. She leapt backwards and drew her sword, lashing out at whatever it was. To her shock, it was a vine. The thorny limb swiped at her, and Orca dove forward, intercepting it. He cut through it, but couldn’t sever it completely. As if writhing in pain, the vine receded away from them, curling up in the grass.

“What...? Are the vines alive?” Lana asked dumbfounded.

“Well, technically, all plants are alive.” Orca said. “Even grass has a reaction when you cut it. Some flowers will trap and digest bugs and stuff. I guess these vines are like that, reacting to anything that comes near them.” After pausing for a minute, he seemed embarrassed. “... You can thank my bookworm brother for that knowledge.” he spat.

Lana ignored his attempt to preserve his self image. She was worried. She expected monsters to be out for them, but if even the plant life was their enemy, this would be far more difficult than anticipated.

Orca noticed her concern and put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry. I won’t let any harm come to you. As your master, that’s part of my job.”

“Big words for someone who beat on me with a stick yesterday.” Lana said with a smirk. Despite her snide remark, his words did help her feel more at ease.

Orca laughed. “Hah! If your sense of humor is still intact, then you’ll be fine. Let’s press on. Our first priority is to establish a base camp.”

Lana nodded and followed him through the brush, wary of any more slithering vines striking out at them. As they walked, these vines slowly snaked through the grass toward them, as if they were stalking prey. After exchanging glances, the pair took off running. The increase in their pace caused the vines to frenzy with activity. They began flailing through the air toward them. The two slid through an opening in the wall and dashed down what felt like a corridor.

The vines could chase them no further, so they each let out a breath of air. Straightening themselves, they turned back down the hallway-shaped tunnel. Lana felt her heartbeat quicken as she walked through this place. All of her earlier confidence seemed to be melting away now that she was actually there and the danger was sinking in.

- I have to stay calm. I’m okay this time. I’m not alone, and I can defend myself. I’ll be alright.

Lana found herself gritting her teeth in anticipation. The wind blowing from the other end of their path felt churned and disturbed. There was a lot of movement up ahead. She informed Orca, and he agreed that he could feel monsters in the room ahead of them. Brandishing their weapons, they pressed forward.

They found themselves at the top of a tall room. It felt weird for Lana to think of the place as a room, since they were in a forest, but the walls of petrified wood around them made it feel more like they were in a building. They were standing on what was probably a protrusion of fungus, somehow solid enough to hold their weight. Trees towered from the grass below, and vines latching onto large seeds hung down from their branches.

And at the foot of these trees were a bunch of creepy, crawly monsters. Lana shuddered at the sight of them. Finding herself face to face with monsters yet again, she had to take a few deep breaths to calm her nerves. Orca patted her shoulder again, and for some reason, Lana found that helpful. Perhaps it was his experience that put her at ease.

Lana assessed the monsters she could see. The grass was covered in morths, little spiky parasites that stuck to their prey, weighing them down so they could take their time and feed. Aside from them, there were juvenile mothulas. They looked like oversized butterflies, and had sharp pincers for cutting through wood and flesh.

There were only two mothulas, but there were dozens of morths. If they weighed the pair down, they’d be easy dinner for the bigger monsters. Together, and quietly, Orca and Lana moved into a good position for a surprise attack. If they could swiftly kill the mothulas, the morths wouldn’t prove difficult to take care of at all.

With a flash of his hand, Orca signaled for Lana to leap down. They both jumped from the top of the cliff and grabbed vines, sliding down above the unsuspecting monsters. With impressive speed, Orca let go of the vine and stabbed his sword down through a mothula’s head, causing a green fluid to spray across the grass.

Lana winced at the sight, but quickly gripped the hilt of her sword tightly. She tried to copy what Orca did, but the remaining mothula saw her coming. It leapt back as her sword plunged into the grass.

“Ugh!” Lana grunted, pulling her sword out and standing at the ready.

She was scared, but ready to fight. However, the mothula turned its back on her. For a second, Lana thought it was going to run, but she was not expecting a swarm of morths to come bursting out from its backside.

“Wha?!” Lana yelped.

The morths covered her body instantly. They were slimy and sticky from being inside the mothula’s body. Lana wanted to vomit at the thought, but she had no time to do that. She fell to the ground, her body weighed down by the sticky creeps.

The mothula prepared to pounce on her, but it leapt away as Orca came to the rescue. He swung his sword at it deftly as the beast leapt around through the grass. Lana felt helpless laying there covered by gross morths, and for a moment, she thought of what kind of cutting remarks Orca might make about her battle ability and her gender.

The very idea gave rise to anger and frustration. Lana flailed her limbs and rolled around in the grass, and as she did, the morths started coming loose. She wasted no time to stand up and wipe them off her clothes and out of her hair, stomping on a few of them as she went. More started crawling toward her, but she stormed right through them and ran to Orca’s aid.

As the mothula leapt back from another of Orca’s strikes, it landed right into Lana’s range. Fueled by frustration and spite, Lana didn’t waste the chance to plunge her sword through its back. The beast cried out in pain as she ripped her blade out through its side with a splatter of more green fluid. The beast quickly fell quiet and still.

Orca looked at the scene with impress. “Wow, you got yourself right out of that mess and saved the day. Good work, student of mine!” he said.

“Thanks.” Lana said.

She felt icky and gross and wanted to take a bath at the earliest opportunity. However, those thoughts disappeared as she took a moment to stare down at what she’d done. That was the first time she’d cut anything other than a fish. That was the first time she intentionally killed a monster. The feeling welled up in her stomach more and more as she observed her handiwork.

It was not a good feeling. In fact, it was an utterly wretched feeling. She recalled the day she first watched her Papa fillet a fish. She cried because she thought he was hurting it, even though it was already dead. It took her a while before she was able to do the same without upsetting herself. She had come to accept that aspect of the food chain; she needed to eat in order to live, and to do that, she had to kill.

And yet she didn’t need to eat the monster she’d just killed. She killed it to save her own life, nothing more. That was a new experience for her. She felt sick at the idea, even though she knew it was a monster that would kill her without a second thought of its own. She felt awful, and she didn’t like it one bit.

“You okay, there? Don’t space out, or those morths will get the jump on you again.” Orca said, snapping her back into focus.

Lana turned and watched the remaining morths slowly crawling toward them. The eyes in the center of their bodies were all fixed on her. It was unnerving. She shook her head to rid herself of the distracting thoughts and nodded at Orca.

“Right. Let’s keep going.” she said.

The pair exited this area and continued on through the Woods. Lana was still rather shaken, so she tried to look at the bright side. She survived her first fight with monsters. She didn’t even just survive, she helped defeat one, too. She performed very well. She tried to allow herself to feel more confidence from this.

The two of them next found themselves in a vast, hollowed-out room. It looked like the inside of a tree trunk. Wriggling vines protruded out of the walls, swaying this way and that. They almost looked like wooden tentacles. Hanging by more vines from the ceiling was a large tree stump. It looked as though the vines had uprooted it themselves and pulled it into the air. Far below was a pool of polluted water and a vine-covered hole in the ground where it appeared the large stump used to be. It was a marvel of a room. Lana almost couldn’t believe it was natural.

More stiff fungus acted as cliffs, winding around the perimeter of the room. There were many other paths through the walls they could take; on the other side of the room, above them, and down below. This room didn’t have any stable footing, so once again they had to keep moving and search for a safe place to make a camp. However, in order to reach those paths, they’d have to navigate across the moving tentacle vines. The idea made Lana grimace.

Orca started toward the vines first. He seemed unafraid to cross them, despite their swaying. Lana was about to follow behind him, but a fierce disturbance in the room’s air halted her. She quickly looked up, her eyes widened, and she made a dash for Orca.

“Watch out!” she shouted.

Before she had a chance to think it through, she grabbed his shirt and pulled him backwards as hard as she could. As she threw him behind herself, she was snatched up into the air in his place. Orca watched on with horror as this new monster, seemingly come from nowhere, flew higher with Lana in its clutches.

Lana looked up at the assailant and realized it was an adult mothula. The adults were far bigger, with a more impressive wingspan and even more impressive pincers. The beast looked enraged. Perhaps it was its offspring that Orca and Lana had killed just a bit ago. Whatever the reason, Lana was not about to let it take her away. She struggled to free herself from its grip.

And in her struggle, it dropped her. She plummeted far down below, breaking through the vines that covered the hole in the floor. The last thing she was able to hear was Orca crying out her name in a panic.

After that, everything went black.
 

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Joined
Jan 17, 2011
Location
Magnolia City
Gender
Snow Queen: is azure sage trans
It's already time for Chapter 13! I got this out pretty fast, but I was excited to write it. We're just about at that major turning point of the story now. So close! This is gonna be fun. :) Enjoy!





Chapter Thirteen
The Third Voyage Ends Already​


Lana’s head swam as her vision gradually returned to her. Her body swayed to and fro, and her forehead ached. She reached up to feel it, and her hand came back covered in blood. She groaned and looked around. It took her longer than it should have to realize she was hanging upside down, her left leg tangled in vines.

Fresh drops of blood oozed out of the cut on her forehead and into the murky water below. Her tunic was torn in a few places, but the chainmail underneath had protected the rest of her body from harm. Miraculously, her sword was still in its scabbard at her side.

- Yeesh. I’m lucky to be alive, aren’t I...

She looked up to where her body was caught in the vines. There was a hole in the ceiling of the room, so she surmised she had fallen through the place where that giant tree stump had been uprooted. She couldn’t hear anything beyond that hole, even though she expected to hear sounds of Orca battling that adult mothula.

- I wonder if their fight is already over. How long have I been out? I need to get myself out of these vines.

She looked around and spotted a bank of grass on the edge of the room with another path through the Woods. That was one way she could go, however she figured she should probably try to climb back up to the room above to see if Orca was still there. She began to reach for the vine wrapped around her leg to pull herself up, but then she detected movement.

Some of the vines on the ceiling started to squirm. Lana hadn’t noticed until then, but unlike the green and brown vines she’d seen, these were purple. And they had mouths.

“Uh oh...” Lana moaned.

She knew what those were; dexivines. They were a type of parasite that camouflaged themselves to blend in with the scenery, before attacking and draining the vitality of their victims through those creepy mouths of theirs. If they latched onto her, she’d lose all strength and shrivel up.

The dexivines started stretching down from the ceiling and reaching for her. Lana acted fast. She drew her sword and started swiping them away. She cut through a few of them, and green viscous fluids spilled out into the water below. Then she started swinging her body, knowing it was too dangerous to climb back up with those parasites around.

She rocked back and forth, cutting away at more dexivines as she prepared to sever the vine wrapped around her foot. Once the arc of her swing reached its peak, she quickly sliced through her entanglement and sailed through the air, landing with a skid on the grassy bank.

She was now safely out of the dexivines’ range. They continued reaching out for her, but they were not long enough. Lana sighed with relief now that she was out of danger for the moment. She stood, brushed the dirt off her clothes, and tended to her forehead.

It was still bleeding. The scrape was more serious than she thought. She wanted to bandage it right away, but the bag full of supplies she’d been carrying had fallen into the polluted water. It wouldn’t be safe to apply anything inside it to a fresh wound. To her great frustration, she had to leave it behind.

Lana had been separated from Orca, her supplies had been contaminated by polluted water, and she had an open wound. She was in very bad shape. Once again, she found herself deep into a crisis.

- I seriously can’t travel anywhere without getting into trouble, huh? This is really getting old.

Lana paced back and forth on the bank, her mind spinning with worry. She wiped her forehead with her sleeve again, and decided she didn’t have any choice but to push on. She still had her sword, and she knew how to defend herself. Even if she was alone, Orca was still somewhere in the Woods. She just had to find her way back to him.

- I can’t let myself fall into another slump here. I have to stay positive.

She thought as much, but the fear egged away in her mind all the same. She took a few deep breaths to calm her nerves. She turned to face the path in front of her and started to press forward.

She took a few steps, and then stopped. Something had occurred to her. She looked back to where she had fought off dexivines while hanging upside down, and recalled Orca’s unorthodox test.

“Well, what do you know? His crazy lesson actually came in handy.”

Lana giggled to herself, feeling a little more confident. She stepped forward once again, this time with more conviction.

The path snaked through an opening in the wall, and led her to a room filled with a pond of that polluted water. Stepping stones marked a safe way across, but of course, each of them was covered in morths, all staring hungrily right at her. Lana sighed and drew her sword.

She leapt to the first one, stomping her feet down as hard as she could as she landed. She crushed a few of them with that landing, and then sliced through as many as she could in that next moment. Some did manage to jump and latch onto her clothes, but it only took some forceful brushes of her arms to knock them off into the water.

She repeated this for the next two stones, and landed safely in the grass on the other side. At least, it was safe until green chuchus started dropping down from the ceiling. Lana yelped and dashed through them, stabbing her sword into a few of their gelatinous bodies along the way. The slimy creatures were too slow to keep up with her.

Lana left that room behind and continued on, panting as she marched through the grass. She wiped her forehead again, and saw it was still bleeding. She really didn’t like the idea of walking around such a dirty place with an open cut. She feared it would get infected. She needed to get out of the Woods fast, or find Orca and use some of his supplies to treat it. Whichever happened first was fine with her.

This time, she found herself facing a river of that polluted water. She groaned, knowing there was no way forward without crossing it. Relenting, she dipped one of her feet into it. It wasn’t too deep for her to wade through, and her waterproof boots kept her feet dry, thankfully. She was glad she’d kept them this whole time now more than ever. She waded across the river, trying not to let the water touch her bare skin.

After crossing through that filthy stream, she pulled herself up onto another bank of grass. She shook her legs as hard as she could, wanting to get them as dry as possible. There was now a lot of grime on her trousers and boots, and she felt disgusted looking at it all. She was right to leave behind her bag of supplies if this was the water they’d been soaking in.

She continued on, and found herself in a large room with an open ceiling. She gulped down some delightful fresh air flowing in from the outside and breathed a sigh of relief. She thought it might be possible for her to climb out of the Woods through this room. She examined the walls, and the vines and ivy looked sturdy enough for her to climb. She wanted to get out and wash the grime off her clothes in the ocean. She could then swim around the perimeter of the island to Orca’s boat and use the extra supplies they’d left behind on it to treat her wound.

That was her plan, however a sudden forceful disturbance in the airflow caused her to whip around and draw her sword. Sure enough, there it hovered above her head, wings beating the air and humming threateningly; that adult mothula again.

“What?! I thought Orca would’ve beaten it by now! Did... Did he lose?”

She vocalized her fear and examined the jaws of the beast. To her great relief, there wasn’t a sign of blood or fabric minced up in its pincers, so she figured Orca was safe. Unfortunately, she was now anything but safe.

The mothula dove down, screeching toward her with ferocity. Lana shrieked and rolled out of the way. The mothula gracefully spun through the air, rising higher and preparing another divebomb. Lana’s eyes quickly scanned the room, searching for a way out. However, this room appeared to be a dead end, and the way she came was blocked by the polluted river.

Lana knew there was no way around this encounter. She had to fight. Taking another deep breath and gritting her teeth, she brandished her sword and glared at the mothula as it flew around for another pass. As the beast made another dive, Lana ran toward it.

Letting the airflow guide her movements, Lana sidestepped the beast’s assault and swiped at its wings with her sword. She sliced through one of them, causing the beast to yowl in pain and stagger through the air. To her surprise, it managed to stay afloat, beating its remaining wings with tenacious force. Lana gripped her sword more tightly and ran toward it once again.

As the beast stumbled trying to fly higher, Lana ran up the side of a tree trunk and leapt off, cutting through another wing as she came down through the air. At last the mothula fell, vibrating its two remaining wings angrily. Its feet hit the ground, and it lunged at Lana immediately.

Lana dodged out of its way, and started coming in for another strike. However, a swarm of morths erupted from its backside, catching her off guard and covering her like before. Lana lost her balance and fell backwards, breaking through dead vines covering a hole in an old tree trunk.

- Damn it, how did I fall for the same trick twice?!

She struggled to release herself from the morths’ embrace, but as she did, she caught sight of something that turned her blood to ice. Inside the hollowed-out trunk she’d fallen into was a ghastly sight. She had stumbled right into the face of a corpse.

Lana screamed as she lurched back, her mind now fixed entirely on the dead body. It looked very old, as it was nothing but a skeleton. It was propped up against the trunk, as if it had sat down and died right where it fell. Its bones were covered in rusty armor. But, for some reason, the emblem on its belt was still shiny and clean. It was uncanny how untouched it looked compared to the rest of the armor.

“Wait... Is that a Knight’s Crest?” Lana said, the epiphany hitting her.

The screech of the mothula drew her mind back into the fight. She turned to see the beast ready to pounce on her. She rolled out of the way as it tried to pin her. Even with the morths still weighing her body down, she raised her sword and stabbed it into the beast’s gut before it could react.

The mothula cried in agony as Lana ripped its stomach open with her sword. The beast’s insides spilled out inside the tree, causing Lana to gag. She hurriedly shook off the morths and crawled back into the open, trying not to vomit. After coughing out some stinging spit a few times, she finally got her stomach to settle down.

- That was revolting...

Lana wiped her mouth with her sleeve, and turned back to face the dead monster. It was now no less dead than the corpse sitting inside the tree. Lana was the one who made it that way. This knowledge caused more discomforting feelings to rise up in her gut. She tried to convince herself that her survival was what’s important, but it wasn’t an easy thing to believe in the moment.

Then she remembered about the Knight’s Crest. She didn’t know what they looked like, but that emblem on the dead warrior’s belt looked too important for it not to be the Crest. She walked over and reached down to take it, but then she recalled how she felt about Orca’s idea to loot one from a corpse.

She was amazed that there was indeed a fallen warrior with a Crest in the Woods. The fact that Orca’s hunch was right on the mark seemed to make this all worth it. She wanted to take it and bring it to him, but she remembered how disrespectful she’d thought it was to loot one. Dead or not, she didn’t feel it was right for her to just take it from this man.

Nevertheless, she still found herself reaching for it again. After going through all this trouble, she hated the idea of going back empty-handed. Not when the Crest they’d sought was right before her eyes.

“I’m sorry about this, whoever you are... But I need to take this back with me.”

She suppressed another gag as she removed the crest from the dead man’s belt. She then brushed it off and tied it around her own waist. She almost expected to feel something special when she put it on, but she didn’t feel a thing. She found that a little disappointing.

“Well, I guess I’ll give this to Orca when I see him again.” she said.

“Oh, goodness! There you are!”

Lana jumped at the sudden voice. Her first instinct was to believe it was Orca, but the voice sounded far too childlike to belong to him. She looked around, but didn’t see a single person in the room with her.

“I’ve been looking all over for you! I was so worried when I saw there was a boat outside of the Forbidden Woods!”

The childish voice spoke again, and this time Lana followed it to see something strange floating in the air above her head. It looked like a clump of wood with a leaf stuck to it, and it was... It was holding onto a spinning leaf?

“... Wha?” Lana said, looking slack-jawed at the odd sight.

“I’m glad you seem okay! Wait. Oh no, you’re injured! You should come with me right away! My friends made a raft for you!”

The voice was unmistakably coming from the clump of wood. Lana simply stared at it in astonishment. She couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing and hearing. Perhaps she’d gone crazy when she’d hit her head. Or maybe putting on the Knight’s Crest was causing her to see hallucinations. Yeah, that had to be it.

“What’s wrong? You’re giving me a funny look... Oh! Is this your first time seeing a korok?” it asked.

“A what?” Lana said. She wasn’t really sure why she replied to a piece of wood.

“A korok! That’s what I am! We’re spirits that live in the Forest Haven! Don’t worry, we’re all nice and friendly! It’s not every day we get to meet humans, so a lot of us are really excited to meet you!” it explained.

“That’s it, I’ve gone crazy. I’ve lost my mind.” Lana said, placing her face in her palm.

“Hey, that’s rude! You don’t think I’m real, do you?! Next you’re gonna tell me fairies aren’t real either, I bet! Humans these days...” the korok huffed.

Lana felt a twinge of guilt over her remark. She recalled Sturgeon telling her about fairies and not believing him, but if a floating, talking piece of wood was real and in front of her eyes, she probably just had to go along with it.

- I guess if the ghost ship was real, fairies and koroks can be real, too...

Thinking as much, Lana apologized to the korok. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me. My name is Lana. You said you came here to help me?”

“That’s right! My name is Peeks!” the korok introduced. “I saw your boat docked outside the Woods and freaked out. No one’s supposed to enter these Woods, after all. That’s why they’re called Forbidden. It’s way too dangerous in here. Let’s get you out and in the safety of the Forest Haven. It’s only a short float from here.”

Lana agreed to follow the mysterious korok, and climbed out of the Woods using the ivy path she’d identified earlier. Just as Peeks had said, his korok friends were waiting with a makeshift raft at the base of the island. Lana climbed down and settled herself on top of it.

“Wow! A real live human! So cool!”

The koroks floating around her cooed and doted on her, making her feel a bit awkward. Then she remembered that she still hadn’t found Orca.

“Oh yeah, I came here with a companion. Did you guys find him?” Lana asked.

“A companion? Was he big and muscly? We saw a guy like that.” one of them said.

“Yes! That’s him! Where is he?” Lana said, feeling relief that Orca was safe and sound.

“He left.” the korok said plainly.

All of Lana’s relief vanished instantly. “He left?” she asked.

“Yeah. We saw him leave the Woods, get on his boat, and sail away as fast as he could. We tried to call out to him, but he was blubbering a lot. I don’t think he could hear us.”

Lana sat on the raft, feeling absolutely dumbstruck.

- He left me? Seriously? He ran off and left me here? Just like that?

She didn’t know how to describe what she felt. Orca, after promising to keep her safe and to protect her as her master, had abandoned her and saved himself. Was that really the kind of person he was? Was he really the type to leave behind his own student to save his own skin? Sure, she didn’t like him terribly much, but she never thought he’d ever do a thing like that.

“He sure looked upset when he left.” another korok said. “He was crying his eyes out, mumbling about how he ‘lost her’ and how awful of a master he was. I guess he thought you died or something, huh?”

“... Oh? Really?” Lana said, feeling surprised to hear that.

- So maybe he didn’t mean to abandon me. He left because he thought I was dead. I guess that makes sense... I was unconscious, so I wouldn’t have been able to yell up and let him know I was still alive. And with that mothula there, he couldn’t climb down to check on me. I suppose it’s only natural for him to assume I died.

She wanted to believe that Orca didn’t mean to leave her behind. And with the way the koroks described him crying, having to do that must have upset him greatly. For that self-proclaimed muscle master to cry like that, there was no way he didn’t care about what happened to her.

That’s what Lana decided to believe. Orca didn’t seem like the kind of person to knowingly leave behind a student, but he sure did seem the type to mourn one. She couldn’t very well begrudge him for that, but she was still annoyed he took off. After a heavy sigh, she decided she’d just have to go to the Forest Haven for the time being.

The koroks seemed to have some power over wind, or at least the leaves they held did. They used them to make little gusts that pushed the raft along through the water. The Forest Haven towered over them, not very far from the Forbidden Woods at all. The two parallel islands were identical in height, but the Haven was not covered in threatening vines. It looked very peaceful and safe there. She recalled that Lenzo had been there before, too. She was looking forward to seeing it a little.

However, as she sat there, floating along on the raft, it quickly sunk in. She was, once again, for the third time, stranded. She, for the third time, had no boat, money, or supplies. And this time, she was stranded on an island with no civilization that could help her reacquire these things. How was she ever going to leave the Forest Haven?

As the raft drifted closer to the Haven, she drifted farther from an answer. Her head was beginning to spin with that all-too-familiar routine of self-doubt, even though she swore to herself that she wouldn’t let that happen again. She didn’t have much time to mull it over, as the koroks started yelping and panicking. Lana looked around to see what had spooked them, and she soon spotted their cause for concern.

A small boat was anchored at the edge of the Haven. Leaping off that boat and pouring onto the grass was a pack of bokoblins. They were carrying torches and jeering at each other in monsterese. Lana’s raft washed up at the edge and she leapt onto the grass, not far from where the monsters had landed. And upon seeing them, she felt a glimmer of recognition. That glimmer grew into a roaring terror that almost choked her heart into a full stop. The monsters seemed to share the same recollection of her, as well.

These bokoblins were among the monster pirates that had once captured Lana.
 
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Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
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Jan 17, 2011
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Magnolia City
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Snow Queen: is azure sage trans
Another day, another chapter! This is it, the turning point! Next chapter will end the third arc, and the story will be sailing off in a new direction from there! Look forward to that, and enjoy the fateful reunion that sets it all in motion!





Chapter Fourteen
A Hazy Memory of a Red Boat​


“No... Why are they here?”

Lana’s voice shuddered with terror. She was face to face with the very same monster pirates that had captured her when she first left Greatfish Isle. She would recognize them anywhere. She remembered every detail about them, right down to the dark spots on their green skin. They seemed to know her, too, as they pointed to her and laughed among themselves. They remembered her just as she remembered them.

It felt like all of her insides had shut down. She stood frozen stiff, watching them circle around her, twirling their torches, brandishing their weapons, and daring her to try and run again. Their eyes told Lana how lucky they felt to run into their escaped prisoner. She was sure that's what they were saying to each other in monsterese, too.

- No... Not again... I can’t let them take me again!

Face to face with the source of all her hardships, Lana could do nothing but stand there and shake in fear. She felt herself revert back to the timid, powerless girl she was when they first took her. What could she do now that she faced them once again?

“Lana! Your sword!” Peeks called out, snapping Lana out of her daze.

“Huh?” Lana said.

“You have a sword, don’t you? Please, you have to help us! They want to burn the forest! You can’t let them do that! Please!” Peeks yelled.

“My... sword?”

Lana gazed down at the weapon sheathed at her side. How could she forget it was there? Did they really scare her so much that she’d forgotten she could defend herself now? This was the whole reason she learned how to fight in the first place. She herself imagined that first encounter turning out differently if only she’d had a weapon. This was her chance to prove it.

- That’s right... I’m not the same as I was back then! This time is gonna be different!

The fire inside Lana caught a spark and burned into a magnificent plume. She exhaled and focused her mind on what she had to do. She drew her sword and held it at the ready. She was going to fight this time. She was not the timid girl who could do nothing but shake in terror anymore.

“Thanks, Peeks. Don’t worry, I have a bone to pick with these guys, too.” Lana said.

The more she thought about it, the more her courage became mixed with fury. These pirates were the ones who burned her boat. They sank the boat her parents poured nearly all of their savings into. They stole her money, food, and everything else she’d brought with her. They locked her in a cell to meet an uncertain and terrifying fate. They ruined her grand adventure. It was all their fault.

“What you guys did to me... You’re gonna pay for it!” she growled.

The group of monster pirates laughed. They jeered and mocked her in their devilish tongue, drawing closer and closer to her. Their sadistic expressions told Lana that they’d gladly hurt her before bringing her back with them again. She wasn’t going to give them that chance.

Lana’s cautious steps erupted into a dash as she lunged forward. The monster pirates were caught off guard, and she was able to break through their ranks with her swift attack. She turned on her heel, swinging her sword around in a wide arc. Her blade slammed into a bokoblin’s machete. The brute barely had time to raise it, and it was knocked right out of its hand. Lana didn’t waste the chance to cut him down.

She felt the feedback of her blade slicing through its skin travel through her whole body. Red blood sprayed from its wounds as it cried out and stumbled into the sea. It did not rise to the surface. No air bubbles could be seen coming up. It was well and truly dead.

Lana felt a severe chill all over. Her fury melted into disgust over what she had done. She let herself kill something again, this time out of anger. She didn’t like this, not one bit. But what choice did she have? These monsters weren’t going to give her time to consider anything. They had seen what she was now capable of, and their bravado turned into anger.

A bokoblin began to swipe at her, so she jumped back. She started backing away from them, ascending a small hill outside the Haven. The monsters pursued her up the hill, tossing their torches aside and brandishing their blades more seriously. Two of them moved in for a strike together.

Lana sidestepped their blades, and parried another strike before leaping into the air over them. Having the high ground helped her here. As she came back down, she landed on top of a bokoblin in the rear, planting her boots into its face. As she stomped it down to the ground, she stabbed her sword through its skull. The brute went quiet and still almost immediately. It frightened her how fast she was able to end its life.

She turned to face the remaining monsters. Only four to go. They all charged her at once. Instead of backing away again, Lana met their charge head on. She ducked under the arcs of their swings, knocking one of their blades up as she slipped through them. She cut through another one’s back afterward, and before they could turn around she stabbed right through a second. Two were down and wounded. The remaining bokoblins seemed to be rethinking this fight, much to Lana’s relief.

They grabbed their wounded friends and retreated to their boat. They rowed it away from the Haven, and before long, they had vanished into the distance. The koroks, huddled on the raft, all started cheering. They celebrated Lana’s victory, overjoyed that she had succeeded in driving them off.

However, Lana felt no such joy. She wasn’t happy, not one bit. Yes, she succeeded in fighting them off. Yes, she was able to stand up to the monsters that had ruined everything for her. And yet, she felt awful and sick to her stomach. She couldn’t take her eyes off the blood spatter in the grass. She stared hard at the dead body of the bokoblin before her. She did that. She was the cause of its death.

- I thought it would feel good to finally be able to defend myself. But this... This doesn’t feel good at all. Not one single bit.

The hand that gripped her sword began to shake. She almost wanted to toss this blood-stained sword into the sea and be rid of this burden forever. Maybe she wasn’t cut out for it. Nonetheless, she knew that she couldn’t cross the Great Sea without it. She knew it would have to come to this when she decided to learn how to fight. What else did she expect? Fighting meant killing. She knew, and still, she felt sick about it.

“Lana? What’s wrong?” Peeks asked.

“I just... I guess I really hate to kill things.” Lana said weakly.

She sighed, and gazed out to sea. She hoped the tranquil waves would calm her whirling emotions and settle her churning stomach. As she kneeled down in the grass, a few of the koroks sat down around her. Their tiny wooden hands gently patted her back. They were very sweet, and Lana was grateful for their company.

She was right about the ocean’s calming effect on her. Watching the water gently quake set her nerves at ease. She felt the doubtful fog in her mind beginning to clear up. She was stranded again, and this time on an island with no civilization. But, she was not going to despair anymore. She promised herself that she wouldn’t. She would find some way out of this situation, too. She just had to think about it some more.

But before she could start thinking, something appeared on the horizon. Lana’s heartbeat quickened, fearing the return of the Forsaken Pirates. She placed a hand on the hilt of her sword, and stared hard at the silhouette of a boat as it steadily drifted closer to the Haven. As it got closer to her and details became visible, she was struck with an odd sense of recollection.

- Wait... That boat... Have I seen it before?

It was very small, probably only big enough to fit her and maybe one other person. That said, it was rather impressive in appearance. A brilliant red coated the hull, and it had its own bow adorned with the crested mane of a lion. There was no one aboard, and yet it floated with purpose before coming to a stop directly in front of Lana.

Suddenly, a flashback hit Lana hard. She audibly gasped when it came flooding into her mind. It was very hazy, but she had definitely seen that boat before. Just once, when she was very little, she had seen it, looking up from beneath the waves. That day, she was sinking to her death after falling overboard in a squall. The red of its hull and a strange voice were the last things she could recall of that time.

“This boat... Is this really the one that saved me?” Lana puzzled aloud.

“Have we met before, young lady?”

The lion head on the boat’s bow suddenly spoke. Its wooden mouth moved along with every word perfectly, as if it were a human speaking. Lana yelped and stumbled backwards.

“Wha?! It talks!” she yelled.

“Hahahaha! I never get tired of those reactions! My apologies, miss.” the boat said. “Forgive an old boat his guilty pleasures. I am called the King of Red Lions. What is your name?”

Lana quickly recognized the boat’s voice. It was the same as the strange voice she heard when she was drowning that day. She rubbed her eyes in shock, expecting this to be a dream or delusion. But as she rose to her feet, the scene before her did not change.

“A talking boat... Talking pieces of wood... And ghost ships...” Lana said. “I don’t know what’s real anymore...”

“Ha! I’m sure there will be many more such shocks in your time, miss. But please be at ease. I mean you no harm.” the King of Red Lions assured her.

“Yeah, I believe you. I’m certain I’ve seen you before when I was a little girl.” she said. The boat looked intrigued. “My name is Lana. One time, I fell overboard during a storm, and I wound up safe back home somehow. I vaguely remember seeing a boat that looked just like you and hearing a voice that sounded just like yours as I was sinking.”

A flash of recognition lit up in the boat’s eyes, despite them being made of wood. “Ah! I remember now! I did once save a drowning little girl a few years ago. I must admit, it was merely a whim as I was passing by. I could not ignore someone in trouble before my eyes, after all...” There was a solemn expression on the lion head’s face as it spoke. “I vanished myself quickly after I dropped you off on the nearest island, though. I try not to be seen if I can help it.”

“Really? You sure showed yourself to me without much trouble.” Lana said.

“Yes, well, there are exceptions to everything.” the King of Red Lions said gravely. “I showed myself to you because I saw that I could trust you. You defended the Forest Haven from those pirates. I thank you for it, but I’m afraid the trouble isn’t over. Those fiends have a large ship docked not too far away, and a much larger force awaits. What you drove off was merely the advance party.”

The boat’s words caused Lana to shudder. “You mean... More are going to come?”

“That’s correct. I don’t know what they want here, although I do have my suspicions...” the boat had another odd expression, as if it were thinking of something secret and important. “I’m sure it goes without saying, but we can’t let those pirates have their way. The Forest Haven is home to a Great Spirit, and no harm must come to it.”

“A Great Spirit?” Lana asked.

“Yes, there are three such spirits on the Great Sea. You can think of them as guardian deities.” the boat explained.

- That sounds like that Jabun deity back home... I wonder if that’s actually one of the three.

Lana thought this, but she didn’t say anything about it. She was more concerned with the matter at hand. “So this Great Spirit is in danger right now, right? What are you going to do about it?” she asked.

“Funny you should ask. I was going to enlist your help.” it said plainly.

“Huh?! Me?” Lana said. “Why would you ask me to help?”

“You chased off the pirates once already. I’m simply asking you to do it again.”

The koroks, who had been listening quietly up to this point, appealed to Lana, as well. “Please, Lana! Help us! Save the Deku Tree!”

“Deku Tree? Is that the Great Spirit’s name?” Lana said.

“Indeed. He is quite literally rooted in place. He would not be able to flee from the pirates. That’s why we must drive them away.” the boat explained.

Lana thought quietly for a minute. “Hang on. You’re asking me to do this? You said there’s a huge force of pirates waiting nearby. If they all come at us at once, I won’t survive! None of you can fight, right? How can you expect me to handle this by myself? That’s impossible!”

- There’s no way I can do something like this. I just can’t...

Lana’s thoughts trailed off, and she fell silent. The King of Red Lions simply gazed at her, as if to study her. The koroks huddled around her legs, shivering like leaves in the wind. They were all counting on her to do this. But could she?

Impossible. Lana had said that word many times before. She said it when she was imprisoned in the Forsaken Fortress. She said it when she was adrift at sea. And now she was saying it again. Yet, here she stood after making it through every impossible trial of her life thus far.

- Impossible, impossible... Is that really all I know how to say? How many times have I proved myself wrong so far? What was the point of anything I’ve been through if I’m still hiding behind that word?

Lana’s hands balled up into fists. She hung her head down and stared at her feet. Her eyes caught sight of the sword at her waist, and she recalled all the confidence it had instilled in her. She also recalled that instilled far more than just that; it allowed her to defend herself, and it had just allowed her to protect others, as well. Was there any reason why that would stop being true now?

- Still, fighting a whole force of pirates by myself is a tall order... There has to be something... Some way to turn this situation into something possible. I just have to find it.

“Okay.” Lana began. The boat and the koroks both perked up upon hearing her speak. “This is probably still impossible for me, but I’m going to try anyway. Can I meet this Deku Tree? I want to know everything I can about this island if I’m going to defend it.”

The koroks all leapt into the air in joy. “Yay! Lana’s going to save us! Right this way, we’ll take you to meet him!” they said, grabbing her arm and pulling her forward as they floated through the air.

“W-wait, hang on! I can’t promise anything! I just said I’d try!” Lana fussed.

“Lana.” the King of Red Lions called out. “I’m afraid I can do nothing to aid you. You’re on your own from here. If you are the same girl I saved many years ago, show me the fruits of my actions!”

Lana gazed back at the boat as she was tugged along by the excitable koroks. She didn’t understand what exactly this King of Red Lions was, or what it was after. However, the fact remained that it was the boat that rescued her. She had a strange feeling in her gut as she thought about that.

Reuniting with her childhood benefactor was certainly a complicated feeling, but she shook her head and pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind. She now had a job to do, and she was going to see it through.

* * *

The group of koroks led Lana into the forest within the towering walls of petrified wood that encased the island. On the inside, it was far more open and tranquil than the Forbidden Woods. Not a monster in sight, and the water was crystal clear. Lana took a moment to wash the wound on her forehead in the stream as she trudged through it. She also washed as much of the grime off her clothes as she could.

Lana followed the river to a small basin of fresh springwater. The koroks told her the water was safe to drink and revitalizing, so she took a few gulps to quench her thirst. After refreshing herself in the water, she gazed around at the Haven before her eyes.

The trees were tall and full of vibrant green leaves. The grass was tall, but not unkempt. Magnificent fireflies danced in the air, lighting up tufts of pollen wafting from a myriad of flowers. The spring she stood in was covered in lily pads and lotus blossoms. It was a peaceful and relaxing sight.

“This is lovely...” Lana said, feeling in utter awe.

“All the more reason we have to protect it! It’s our home!” Peeks said.

“You’re right. So, where is the Deku Tree?” Lana asked.

“He’s right in front of you, silly!”

Lana looked dead ahead, bewildered that she hadn’t noticed the Great Spirit before. But the only thing in front of her was an enormous tree. In fact, now that she was looking at it properly, it was indeed titanic in size. It dwarfed all the other trees in the forest by comparison. It even appeared to have a... A face?

- Wait... Deku Tree... Is this-

Just then, the lily pad Lana stood upon raised her into the air. She cried out in surprise as she staggered in place. A root had sprouted beneath the pad and lifted her high into the air until she was level with the face on the tree. And then, slowly, what appeared to be eyelids set into the trunk began to droop open.

“No way... This is the Great Spirit?!” Lana said, astonished.

The Deku Tree was quiet at first. It merely gazed upon her in consideration. After what felt like a long minute of silence, its eyes shot open wide and its mouth began moving excitedly. However, nothing it said made any sense to Lana’s ears. There was clearly passion and fervor in its words, but the words themselves were utterly unintelligible to her.

It took a moment of watching Lana’s dumbstruck face for the tree to realize that she had no idea what it was saying. It looked rather disappointed by that. It made a sound as if it were clearing its throat, and at last spoke in a tongue Lana could understand.

“Forgive me, young one. That green you wear... It brings back many memories for me. I fear I have acted quite rudely to you, my guest. Please do not be alarmed.” it said.

“Uh... Yeah. Okay. It’s okay.” Lana said.

- Talking trees now, too? The world sure is full of crazy things.

Lana took a moment to reflect on all the unimaginable encounters she’d had since leaving home, and then gazed up at the Great Spirit in earnest.

“Deku Tree! My name is Lana. I came here because the Forest Haven is in danger. The, um... The King of Red Lions sent me to help.” she said, not certain if the spirit would recognize that name.

To her relief, it did. “Oh, my old friend has sent you? Wonderful. I trust his judgement. I am aware of the pirate menace convening in our waters. I also know what they seek. But they must not get their hands on it. It is a precious artifact meant only for the Legendary Hero.”

- The Legendary Hero, huh? I wonder if that's why he freaked out when he saw my clothes. This Hero was important on Outset, too. Hmm...

Lana decided she was better off thinking about that another time. “Why are they after this artifact?” she asked.

“I could not say. I suspect simple greed. And yet... No, I do not believe it has awakened yet...” the tree said quietly.

“Awakened?”

“It is nothing. I am referring to matters that concern the Hero, but it is not yet time for those matters to come to light. This is why we must safeguard the artifact, for that time will come one day.” the spirit explained.

“So basically, it’s not important right now, but it will be in the future, huh? I guess that makes sense.” Lana said. “Alright then, now how to defend this place... It’s awfully big. That’d be hard for just me.”

“Lana! We can help! Let us help!” Peeks said.

“Really? But you guys can’t fight, can you?” Lana said.

Then, something occurred to her. The more she thought about it, the more this information seemed to be the answer she was looking for. A glint of hope appeared in Lana’s eyes as she turned to face Peeks.

“You guys made that raft for me, right?” she asked.

“Yeah, just out of tree bark and vines and stuff. It’s nothing special. Making that sort of thing is easy.” he explained.

“And how many of you koroks are there? What do you think you could make if you all pitched in together?” Lana said, a grin starting to spread across her lips.

Peeks became perky and excited. “Aha! I see what you’re getting at! Come on out, everyone!”

As the korok called out to the forest, his friends came out of hiding all at once. Dozens of koroks leapt out from the leaves in the trees above their heads. They danced through the air, carrying leaves like wind turbines and floating gracefully through the forest. Some were giggling, others were cooing, and every single one of them looked determined to protect their home.

- There’s so many! This is even better than I expected! This is gonna be hard, but this is exactly what I needed.

“We can... We can do this! Even if it’s impossible, we can do this!” Lana said.

The Deku Tree smiled warmly. “I’m counting on you, my children. Give Lana all the aid you can.” it instructed.

The voices of the koroks all rang out in unison. Their sound filled Lana with courage and inspiration. This battle would not be hopeless. Together, they would protect the Forest Haven from the Forsaken Pirates. She was not going to let those monsters have their way. For the koroks who called this island home, for the kind Great Spirit that couldn’t run from this threat, and for the mysterious red boat that had once saved Lana’s life; they were all counting on her, and she did not want to let them down.

“Okay, listen up! Here’s what I think we should do.” Lana began.
 

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Joined
Jan 17, 2011
Location
Magnolia City
Gender
Snow Queen: is azure sage trans
Alright, everyone! It's here at last! The end of the third arc, and the finale of volume 1! Ride the Winds! is now half over! Can you believe it? I'm glad I've managed to come so far with this story, and all of your support has been a big motivator in making that happen. From here on out, the story is going to go in a new direction. I hope you will enjoy the second half of Lana's adventures when it comes time for it. For now, enjoy Chapter 15!





Chapter Fifteen
The Impossible Battle for the Forest Haven​


Preparations were well underway. The moon had risen high into the sky by this point. It was far past midnight, closing in on dawn. Lana predicted the pirates would make their move before daybreak, closing in while still under the cover of night. She’d asked Peeks to keep a lookout for them while they worked.

The koroks were surprisingly skilled with their hands. It was no small wonder just a few of them were able to put together a functional raft to rescue Lana from the Forbidden Woods. With the dozens of them working together, crafting the items she had requested of them was going better than she could have hoped. The forest gave them everything they needed.

Around four in the morning, Peeks came flying in from an opening high in the trees. “I see their ship! They’re starting to close in!” he announced.

A shudder washed over the koroks like a wave. Lana felt anxious, as well. They hadn’t finished construction of all their tools quite yet. Still, what they had would have to be enough to hold off the first assault.

“Alright, everyone! Get into position! No matter how impossible this seems, we can’t give up! There’s nowhere for us to run, so we’ve got to win! We can do this!”

Lana’s call of encouragement spurred a raucous cheer from the spirited forest dwellers. However, another voice called out to her in return.

“Lana, a moment, please.”

“Deku Tree? What is it?” Lana asked, walking over to meet with the Great Spirit.

She was once again lifted to the spirit’s eye level on the lily pad. The tree had a determined glint in those wooden hollows of his own.

“I have a gift for you. It should prove useful in the upcoming battle. Please use it as much as you see fit.”

The tree shook its top branches as if it were shaking its head. A rather large leaf came loose and floated down to find itself in Lana’s arms. She could feel a mysterious power welling up, and felt an odd change in the wind surrounding her.

“That is a deku leaf. As it came from my body, it possesses magical properties. Use it well, and you can command the airflow around yourself to your whims. The koroks use my leaves to fly, so a large one such as that should grant you the same privilege.”

“Wow... Thank you so much!” Lana said, feeling more confident than ever.

- If I can move through the air, that will change everything about how I can interact with this battle. I’ll have to take full advantage of this.

Thinking as much, Lana wrapped the leaf around herself like a mantle. Testing its powers, she held its edges open wide, and swung her arms down. Sure enough, a fierce gust was created around her, lifting her high into the air.

“Whoa!” she yelled.

She couldn’t contain an excited grin as the air caught inside the leaf, still draping around her shoulders. It opened out like a sail, allowing her to float in the air like the koroks could. Taking a few moments to figure out how to move her body, she was able to decide which way to glide by swinging her legs in that direction.

- This is amazing! With this, I can dip in and out of the enemy ranks as I please!

Feeling invigorated thanks to the power of her generous gift, Lana collapsed her arms to descend and landed safely in the grass. The shawl of the deku leaf gave her a newfound sense of determination. The battle was seeming less and less impossible.

“Okay! Are we all ready?” Lana called out.

“Everything’s good up here for the first phase!” a korok named Maca said excitedly.

“Second phase is still in production, but we should be ready before they can enter the forest!” a korok named Hollo assured her.

“Third phase may need a bit more time, but if we share supplies with the first phase, I think we can pull it off!” a korok called Chio said confidently.

“Better than expected, given how much time we had.” Lana said.

“The pirate ship has docked! It looks like a force of around forty bokoblins is disembarking! They’re heading straight for the forest entrance!” Peeks announced.

- That’s twice as many as the ones that captured me... This is gonna be rough.

“Also, there’s a moblin with them! I think he might be the one leading them!” Peeks continued.

- A commanding officer, huh? For monster pirates, they're pretty organized... But I bet they’ll fall apart and retreat if we can defeat their leader.

“Okay, thank you! Get ready, everyone!” Lana shouted.

“Yeah!” the koroks shouted back.

Together with the koroks, Lana used the deku leaf’s power to take to the air. She positioned herself with the first phase unit of koroks, assembled under Maca. They huddled together in an opening in the Forest Haven’s boundary, high above the ground.

There were many openings in the walls of petrified wood that encased the Haven, but only one of them was on the ground. The shallow river from the spring in the center of the Haven flowed outside through that opening. The pirates would have to trudge through that stream to get inside the forest. Lana did not miss the opportunity for strategy that created.

Just as Peeks had described, the force of bokoblins marched through the stream, steadily approaching the only way inside they could reach. The sheer number of them was intimidating. Lana grasped onto her courage as hard as she could.

- Deep breaths, Lana. It’s going to be okay. I’ve turned impossible situations around before, and I’ll do it again!

The pirates were closing in. They were laughing amongst themselves, speaking in monsterese, probably excited to wreak havoc and burn the place down. Nearly all of them carried torches, and their eyes gleamed with a thirst for arson. And thus, the purpose of the first phase was clear. They had to get rid of those torches, and what better way to do that than to make them drop them right into the stream they were marching through?

“Now! Let’s go!” Lana called out.

A small but hearty battle cry echoed through the air. The pirates stopped in their tracks and looked around, trying to identify the source of the noise. Before they could figure out what was happening, the koroks took off flying, dropping the tools they’d made at Lana’s suggestion over the monstrous heads down below.

Lana remembered that Lenzo’s pictoboxes were inspired by the fireflies from the Forest Haven. He studied them in order to develop his flash pictography. And so, she got the idea to use their flash another way. When those fireflies are frightened, they emit a bright flash of light to defend themselves. And so, trapping them inside seed casings and tossing them down at the attacking bokoblins was an ideal way to make a surprise attack.

Just as expected, as soon as those seeds shattered, bright flashes of light came bursting forth. The light was blindingly intense with so many concentrated together in one place. The pirates shrieked and covered their eyes, dropping their torches right into the stream in the process.

“Just as planned!” Lana exclaimed.

Thrilled that her plans were actually working, Lana used her deku leaf to fly down and take full advantage of the chaos. The bokoblins were too busy covering their eyes and howling from the stinging pain to notice her drop in. Gritting her teeth and clenching her stomach, she prepared to do what she needed to.

Lana drew her sword and began slashing through all of the bokoblins around her. One by one, she cut them down. Blood flew in all directions, dying the water and staining her clothes with a gritty red. She bit her lip, trying to force back the gut-wrenching swelling in her stomach. She was doing what she had to in order to protect the innocent koroks and their home. That was what she needed to tell herself in order to go through with this.

She had cut through seven pirates before they finally got themselves together. They were starting to see again, and finding Lana amongst them hacking away at their friends sent them into a frenzied fit of rage. They drew their weapons and began closing in on her.

Knowing her time was up, Lana used the deku leaf to leap into the air. The force of the gust pushed a few bokoblins back. After flapping her arms a few times to gain some more height, Lana retreated back into the Haven from the path she’d come through before.

“Okay! The first phase is done! Second phase, are you ready?” Lana shouted.

“All ready!” Hollo announced proudly.

“Then let’s do it!” Lana said, nodding to her companions.

Knowing that the enraged pirates would make a mad charge for the forest entrance, the second phase was a trap designed to take advantage of their anger and bloodlust. The path through the boundary of the woods was a narrow and secluded tunnel. As the bokoblins crawled over each other, each trying to get inside and start cutting down everything in sight as fast as possible, the second phase was put in motion.

Before even one of them could make it all the way through the tunnel, the koroks dropped down a large barrier, cutting off their route of entry. The horde screeched to a halt, tumbling all over each other and piling up in front of the barrier.

Without their torches, they couldn’t hope to burn it out of their way. And as they started whaling on it with their weapons, they were met with a deadly surprise. The barrier itself was made out of layers of reinforced tree bark. However, many holes dotted its surface. There was a very specific reason for that.

The holes were just big enough to fit the blade of Lana’s sword. And so, she dropped down on the other side of the barrier and began thrusting away through those holes. With each thrust, she felt the feedback of cutting through flesh. Her attacks were working.

With the pirates crowded together against the barrier like that, there was no way she could miss. The brutes were taking heavy damage, dropping like flies on top of each other. With so many packed into that tunnel, they couldn’t take up proper positions to counterattack. They fell right into Lana’s schemes. And yet, that was not the whole of the second phase.

Any beings with a modicum of intelligence would know strategic retreat to be the best option in such a situation. That was true for the pirates, and it was true for Lana, as well. She knew that’s what they would do, and she was not going to let that happen. The majority of the enemy forces were in that tunnel, after all.

And so, just as the pirates began turning around and going for the exit, a second barrier was dropped on the other side. They were trapped like rats from both ends, unable to escape the tunnel.

“Do it now!” Lana shouted.

Hollo, who was in charge of the second phase, led his unit of koroks into the tunnel, flying safely above the enemy’s reach. They were carrying another tool, this one suggested by Hollo himself, utilizing more of the forest’s natural resources. First it was fireflies, and this time it was chuchu jelly.

Chuchus were a common monster found across the sea, and apparently they were especially plentiful in the Forbidden Woods. They were weak pests with bodies made almost entirely of a gelatinous substance. When boiled, chuchu jelly was used in medicine. However, in its raw state, it was incredibly sticky and a commonly-used adhesive. The koroks liked to use it when making things, so they had plenty stored up in the forest. It was even what held the barriers in place against the edges of the tunnel.

The monsters were doused with it as the koroks tossed more seed casings full of the gooey material. They dropped enough to cover most of the brutes with it. They were sticking to each other, and becoming even more frantic than before. After all, raw chuchu jelly wasn’t just an adhesive; it was also flammable. It was used for blasting jelly in explosives. And those pirates knew it.

And Lana knew it, too. “Now! Light them up!” she yelled.

A second wave of koroks handled the outside end, while Lana handled her end of the tunnel. They lit torches of their own and tossed them over the barricades before ducking for cover. Almost immediately, the tunnel erupted with flames and screams.

Lana’s heart ached at the sheer sound of it all. Even though they were standing in a stream, the chuchu jelly sticking to their skin had been ignited. Any flesh touching that jelly would burn away before they had the chance to duck under the water. The cries of pain within the tunnel were severe. Biting her lip harder, Lana tried her best to reassure herself that resorting to such tactics was the only way to win against the large number of pirates.

Before long, the flames died down, but the screams did not. The fires burned away most of the wood making up the barriers, but the bokoblins were too wounded and panicked to advance on the forest. Lana estimated that they'd taken care of at least three quarters of their forces, if not more. Their numbers were getting more and more manageable.

“Alright, third phase, you’re up! If we keep pushing like this, victory will belong to us!” Lana called out.

However, instead of a battle cry from the koroks, her rally was met with screams of terror. The second phase unit flooded in through the tunnel in a panic, and what followed ferociously behind them was the moblin leader who brought the force of pirates ashore.

“Oh no! Third phase, hurry!” she shouted.

“O-okay!” Chio cried.

Much to Lana’s dismay, it was too late. The moblin had broken through and entered the forest before Chio’s group could drop the barrier for the third phase. The moblin was the only one to make it through, but the remaining bokoblins were hot on its heels and scratching at the new barrier as soon as it was in place.

- This isn’t good. I’m the only fighter here. I can’t let this thing hurt anyone!

“Chio! Keep the third phase going! I’ll deal with this one!” Lana instructed.

“If you’re sure, Lana...” Chio said nervously.

The third phase was a combination of the first and second. They were to pick off the remaining monsters using more flash and jelly seeds. Lana was going to dip in and out of the chaos, slashing down whatever monsters she could, until there were none left or they retreated. However, now that the moblin was inside the forest, the koroks would have to hold back the remaining bokoblins and defend the barrier until she could defeat it.

Lana brandished her sword and stared daggers at the encroaching moblin. She was certain it was one of the ones that had captured her. It might have even been the same one that jabbed her in the gut with its spear to shut her up. The brute definitely seemed to share her recognition. It flexed its muscles and twirled its massive spear over its head before bringing it down to aim straight at Lana.

Before attacking, it began speaking monsterese at her. Lana had no clue what it was trying to say, but Peeks seemed to understand.

“He said that you're really craft for a little girl, Lana.” he translated with a dose of fear.

“You speak monsterese, Peeks?” she said in surprise. “Well, I had no choice to be crafty. You pirates are trying to burn down this forest, aren’t you? Why would you do something like that?”

The moblin scoffed and spoke again. “He said his boss wants something here. He doesn’t know why, but he doesn’t need to know to follow orders.” Peeks interpreted.

- It’s gotta be the artifact the Deku Tree mentioned... I wonder if he means the boss of the Forsaken Pirates. Who on earth is that?

“Well, it doesn’t matter what your boss said. I won’t let you do whatever you want with this place!” Lana yelled.

The moblin sneered and spoke once more. “What?! Lana, he says his boss wants you found and brought to him ASAP!” Peeks gasped.

“What?” Lana said in shock.

- It must be because I escaped, right? But wait, what did they even want with me in the first place?

Lana shook her head and regained her composure. “I don’t care! I’m gonna defeat you and protect this place no matter what! Get ready, ‘cause I’m not the same scared girl I used to be!”

With that determined shout, Lana started the battle herself. Slamming her feet down in the shallow river, she launched herself forward with a thrust. The moblin easily parried her blade, and as he began to lead his spear into a swing, Lana leapt away.

As soon as her feet touched back down, the attack came. Lana ducked under the spear and advanced again. She tried another thrust, but the moblin sidestepped out of the way and swung his spear right back at her. Lana raised her sword to guard, bracing behind it with her arm. When the hit landed, she was sent flying.

Lana’s back hit the riverbank hard. She coughed up some spit and felt the breath leave her body. Her head was clouded in a daze for a moment. The moblin rushed at her, now being the one to thrust. Lana dove out of the way into the water, rolling back up to her feet.

This time she tried closing in for a proper slash. She ducked and parried under more wide swings before leaping forward. Once again the moblin dodged her, but she did not falter. She kicked off the ground and dug her elbow into the moblin’s chest. That was a counter move Orca had taught her.

The moblin was knocked off balance from her strike. Lana didn’t miss that chance to bring her sword around and swipe at him again. This time her blade did find its mark, tearing a cut into the moblin’s chest. The brute grunted before regaining his balance. The shallow wound wasn’t enough to slow him down.

Lana was in close quarters now. She thought that’d give her the advantage over the moblin’s wide reach, and started closing in for another blow. However, the brute was quick on its feet. As she moved, it leapt back and swung its spear around at the same time. The shaft slammed into Lana’s side, sending her flying once again.

She rolled to a stop in the water and came up choking for air. The chainmail under her tunic had protected her from much of the impact, but she was still in severe pain. She staggered as she rose back to her feet. Her breathing was haggard as she lifted her sword back up.

- Man, that hurt... I’d better end this quickly. Come on, I can do this! I was taught by a master swordsman, after all!

Trying to psych herself up, Lana prepared herself for another assault. She and the moblin circled each other, watching for sudden movements. Finally it was the moblin’s turn to strike first. He charged right for her, spear extended out with intent to impale.

Lana returned the charge, eyeing the spear carefully. When the moblin thrusted it forward, Lana found her chance to parry and allowed her sword to grind along the shaft as she closed in. As soon as she felt the brute pushing back against her, she ducked under and lunged forward.

The moblin dodged her yet again and prepared to counter, but Lana stabbed her sword into the river and used it to vault herself away. Twisting around in midair while passing over the spear’s arc, she landed on her feet facing her enemy. Once she touched down, she sped forward once again.

The moblin was not yet in a position to strike back, the disadvantage that came with wielding such a large weapon. By the time he could bring his spear back around, Lana was ready for it. She swung her blade to meet it as hard as she could. The edge of her weapon smacked hard against the wooden shaft, with a cracking noise ringing out through the air.

Sparks flew as both fighters felt their grips loosen. Lana’s hand was burning with friction from the force of the collision, but she gritted through the pain and held on. The moblin, on the other hand, began to falter. Lana had never been one to waste an opportunity, and that wasn’t about to change.

Finally seeing the chance to win, Lana sprang forward with purpose and fierce drive. Before the moblin could get his guard back up, the tip of Lana’s sword pierced its way through his chest.

“Gack!” the moblin heaved out an awful cough.

“I got him!” Lana breathed as she withdrew her blade.

She leapt back a few paces and waited. The moblin began to crumple down before her eyes. Blood spilled from the wound and from between his quivering lips. He dropped his spear into the water, clutching the bleeding hole in his chest and glaring at her. The light was fading fast from those intense eyes, and before long, he collapsed face first into the river without any last words.

At that very moment, the remaining bokoblins finally managed to push through the barrier. The koroks scattered in fright, fearing the worst. However, the pirates all came to a stop when they saw what had become of their leader. He was dead in the water, with the stream carrying away trails of his blood.

There was a very apparent fear growing in their eyes as Lana turned to face them. She met their gaze head on with a powerful glare of her own.

“Your leader is dead! Now get out of here before the same happens to you!” she shouted at them.

In truth, it was a bluff. She was exhausted, and it took all of her focus to not visibly pant in front of them. She tried to make herself look as unhurt as she could. Whether the pirates would buy it and run away or not depended on luck. There were only around ten or eleven remaining, but that would be too many for her to take on after such an intense fight.

Her luck paid off as the cowardly bokoblins backed away. One step, two steps, three steps, and then a full-on run. They fled the Forest Haven in terror, fearing for their lives. They returned to their boat and took off without looking back.

At long last, the protracted battle was over. After that fact had sunk in for a few moments, the koroks erupted into wild cheers and jubilation. They danced in the air and yelled out shouts of victory. Lana let out a long-held sigh and slumped down to her knees in the water. She finally allowed herself to breathe again.

“We did it... I can’t believe it... We did it!” she said between breaths.

- We actually drove away a force of forty pirates all by ourselves! We defeated so many of them, too!

For the first time, Lana felt happy to have won a fight. Despite her continuing distaste for death, she was able to defend the koroks, who would have been helpless without her aid. Every single one of them had made it through that fight alive. She may have killed many pirates, but she protected all of the koroks from certain death. That positive seemed to outweigh the negative.

She gazed down at her sword. Orca’s teachings had given her the power to not just defend herself, but to protect people in need. That sat with her far better than killing in self-defense did. She wished Orca hadn’t left. She really wanted him to see what she had accomplished. After all, when all was said and done, he was her master, and she was his student.

Peeks flew down and buried his face in Lana’s arms. He was shaking and sobbing. “Lana! You’re alive! Thank goodness you won! That was amazing!” he cried.

Lana grinned and patted his head. “You guys are the amazing ones. I couldn’t have done it without you.” she said soothingly.

As she stood back up, she raised her sword in triumph. Peeks took to the air with the rest of his brethren, and together the defenders greeted the dawning sky once more. The Forest Haven was finally safe.

* * *

It had been a long and rough night, so it was late in the afternoon when Lana had finally woken up from a much-needed rest. The koroks had made her a comfortable bed out of soft and plush leaves. It was almost as cozy as a real bed. She hardly wanted to get up. As she stretched her arms, she crawled out of the hollow in a large tree trunk where she’d been put up.

“I guess I should go report to the King of Red Lions... This was a favor for him, after all.” Lana wondered aloud.

Before she left the forest, she met with the Deku Tree one last time. The Great Spirit, relieved to see the rest had done her well, had nothing but praise for her when she arrived.

“Lana, your efforts were incredibly admirable. I am very grateful that you were able to defend our home and pull my children together into such a coherent plan so quickly. You’ve got quite the head on your shoulders, don’t you?” it spoke.

‘Your words are too much for me... But, thank you.” Lana said shyly. “I’m just glad everyone is safe. Honestly, I can still hardly believe we pulled this off.”

“I never doubted you for a moment, dear child.” the tree smiled. “After all, you had the trust of my old friend, the King of Red Lions. I can sense him outside the Haven, awaiting your return.”

“Yeah, I thought he might be waiting for me. I should be going now.” Lana said. “Do I have to return the deku leaf you gave me?”

“Of course you don’t. That was a gift, after all. It is yours to keep. I hope it will continue to aid you well into the future.” the tree said, smiling more widely than before.

Lana’s face lit up. “Thank you so much! I promise I’ll take good care of it. Then, if that’s all, I’ll be on my way now.”

“Goodbye, Lana!” Peeks called out.

“Thanks for everything!” Maca yelled.

“You’re our hero!” Hollo joined in.

“I’ll never forget you!” Chio shouted out.

“Goodbye, everyone!” Lana said, beaming and waving at her forest friends.

“Take care on your journey, Lana. May your travels be safe.” the Deku Tree prayed.

And so, Lana marched out of the forest, each step full of pride. She had never felt quite like this before. Ever since she left her home, it had been one disaster after another. And yet, she overcame every single one of those disasters. Now here she stood, the victor in a defensive battle against fierce monster pirates. She felt her confidence growing with each step she took forward.

A lot had happened since setting out. Between getting captured by the Forsaken Pirates, escaping their fort on her own, drifting at sea for three days, fighting through monster-infested woods, and now this, Lana began to wonder just what else she was capable of. It wasn’t just anyone who could do all of what she had done, right? Perhaps she really could find her ancestral home, after all.

Indeed, all the doubt that had plagued her since her failed departure had gone and left her. What took its place was sheer courage. Lana felt more ready than ever to take on the Great Sea and find her motherland. Nothing was going to get in her way anymore.

The only problem left was the matter of leaving the Forest Haven. How was she going to get off this island? She thought the answer to that might lie with the King of Red Lions. After all, he was a boat. Surely he could give her a lift.

And there he was, floating at the edge of the island. He appeared to have been waiting patiently for her arrival. He gave her a warm smile upon seeing her.

“Lana, welcome back. You’ve done extraordinarily well. You’ve far surpassed my expectations. I’m very proud of you.” he said.

“Aw, shucks... You’re gonna make me blush.” Lana said, feeling embarrassed. She wasn’t used to such praise coming from people that weren’t her Mama and Papa.

“You deserve every bit of praise you’ve received. You defended the Deku Tree and the Forest Haven, as well as all of the koroks that call this island home. You drove off a force of forty pirates through pure wit and ingenuity. I am highly impressed with you.” he continued.

“Thanks...” Lana said, shyly twirling a lock of her hair. “So, you know, I was wondering... Could you possibly ferry me to another island? Preferably an inhabited one, of course. I have a journey I’d like to continue.”

“Hmmm... Indeed...” the boat said.

- Huh? What, can’t he do that?

Lana felt a twinge of worry after seeing the consterned expression on the lion face. “Is something wrong?” she asked.

“Well... It wouldn’t be difficult for me to ferry you where you want to go, but... Truth be told, there’s another matter that needs my attention. And I’m afraid it’s again something I cannot handle on my own.” he explained.

There was a hint of deep concern in his voice. Whatever the problem was, Lana could feel there was dire importance in it. Perhaps it had something to do with preserving things for the Legendary Hero, like with the Deku Tree’s artifact? That was Lana’s first guess, at least. But then what did that make the King of Red Lions? Why was he so concerned with stuff like that? She didn’t understand anything about him. He was a complete mystery to her.

“So... Are you going to ask me for my help with this, too?” Lana almost hesitated to ask.

“I would very much like to, yes.” the boat said.

- Oh, boy... I just want to continue my journey already... I’m tired of being sidetracked by all this craziness.

Lana sighed, and against her better judgement, decided to ask what exactly the King of Red Lions wanted her to do this time.

“So, um... This new favor you need... What exactly is it?”

“Well...” the boat began.

He seemed awfully hesitant to tell her. That only made Lana feel more nervous. She felt herself subconsciously gulp. Whatever he needed help with, she could feel it was going to be a big deal.

“The truth is, I’d like you to infiltrate the Forsaken Fortress and retrieve some stolen treasure for me.” he said.

Lana stared at him blankly for a few moments. She wanted to pretend she didn’t hear what he said, but the insanity of his statement was too much for her to bear. Whatever she’d become capable of, she did not want to go looking for trouble anymore. She could only hold herself back for so long before she had to let the words out.

“You want me to WHAT?!”

The water seemed to ripple a little from her outburst. The King of Red Lions winced, but there was no sign of him retracting his plea. Whatever was going on in this boat’s head, Lana was sure it’d be a long time yet before she could get back on track.
 

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Joined
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Location
Magnolia City
Gender
Snow Queen: is azure sage trans
Alright, before I continue writing, I wanna take a moment to pause and reflect on the story thus far.

So, anyone who's read up to this point should know what this story is about. Lana has left home to search for her motherland, the ancestral home her parents were born in. In order to find her homeland, Lana set out to be a voyager, but has done nothing but encounter danger and setbacks every step of the way. She has constantly been losing everything she gains only to wind up worse off than before every time. And yet, even as she sinks into despair and believes she's reached the end, she still continues to struggle to find her way forward. And as we've seen, she is growing to recognize her own capabilities and find the courage she needs to keep moving forward despite everything bad that happens.

That's what the story's been about so far, but that's just the first volume. I have plans for another 15 chapters. So, to those who have read this far, I want to ask:

1. What has been your favorite part of Lana's journey so far?
2. What do you think I'm doing well with in regards to the writing?
3. What do you think I could have done better, or what do you think I need to improve?

As the writer of this story, I'm always looking to better myself. I would appreciate honest answers to each of these questions, if you can find the time to answer them.
 

Echolight

A caring crazy comforting cool cat lover
ZD Legend
1. What has been your favorite part of Lana's journey so far?
Her journeys with Lenzo I like a lot, and the defending of Forest Haven. that fighting scene was intense, and I even felt like celebrating when she drove them off. Pretty much the story is amazing, but those are my two favorite spots.

2. What do you think I'm doing well with in regards to the writing?
Definitely action scenes. You write fighting scenes very well. Its very smooth, and I can picture it perfectly in my mind. You also have done a good job with Lana's character arch, her fighting on and becoming stronger after every trial she faces. Now she can wield a sword and fight! Lana's thought are also very well written, I can completely relate with her. I haven't really made action scenes, but your fighting scene writing is helping me a bunch! Thanks! :)

3. What do you think I could have done better, or what do you think I need to improve?
I think most of your writing is fantastic, but if I have to critique it, I think you should work on, maybe make more thoughtful, calming scenes. You don't have to, but its something I like to put in my stories a lot, especially after action, just sitting back, and describing the scene, the waves lapping at the shore, the shady trees waving in the calming breeze, and lilac flowers blooming, their light violet colors shining as the sun set, sending the sky into a glorious rainbow of pink and purple shades, till, at last, the crickets started chirping; night had come at last.

Sorry, sorry, I just had to write some sort of scene, especially when reviewing writing, makes me want to start writing lol

But really, most of your writing is really great! I love it! Looking forward to the next chapter <3
 

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