So I made my first draft of Immortal Scars (Zenta's story) and I want you guys to give it a read. Feel free to share any thoughts and criticisms about my story.
A lone creature walked on the single path heading towards the mountains in the distance. Its fur was as white as snow and it walked erect like a man. Bearing two large fox-like tails, the beast was canine by nature and appearance. The greatest evidence of that was its head and face; sporting two incredibly large ears, long muzzle, and a reflective visor that covered the upper half of its face. The downpour of heavy rains showered the beast as it silently walked along the muddy path. With its fur drenched, the canine desperately tried to find a shelter to hide from the rain. Along the path, over a few hills, rested a large plot of fenced land with a large cottage. Within its walls, children were laughing and screaming and playing, all of which caught the beast’s attention, even from a distance.
Over the hills, through shallow puddles, and slippery mud, the fox approached the porch of the cottage and gently tapped his knuckles on the wooden door. From the other side, the children were heard giggling and scampering close to the door while a voice tried to hush them. Excited murmurs followed by shushing noises continued to catch the fox’s attention. He stood silently as the voice from earlier urged the children to back away from the door. The door opened slightly and on the other side was a bug-eyed female creature with a pink apron.
“Yes, hello, ma’am,” The beast spoke. “I apologize for intruding at such a late hour, but I was wondering if I may seek shelter here until the rains pass.”
The door creaked open some more, showcasing a crowd of children behind the curly haired woman. She inspected the beast curiously, wondering what he was. With a little bit of back and forth between the beast and fairy-lady, the canine was allowed to enter once he shook off the water from his drenched fur. The children stared in awe at how tall the beast was, gathering around him as they guessed how tall he could be while others wondered what kind of animal he was.
“I just finished making dinner, would you like a plate or two?” asked the young woman. “Don’t be ashamed. What did you say your name was?”
“Thank you, ma’am. A cup of tea would be most appreciated.” The fox smiled before taking a seat on the floor. “You may call me Zenta.”
“Zen-tah?” One of the children butted in. “Zen-tah needs milk, Ms. Tibbit! He’s so big, he’s still taller than me when he sits down!”
“Now, now, what did I say about being rude to guests?” Ms. Tibbit, the fairy-woman, scolded. “It’s not very nice!”
The children were many different shapes and sizes. Some had fur, some had smooth skin, others scales; there were hybrids of every kind and color from every spectrum. The older children circled around Zenta while the younger ones had fun swatting at the beast’s fluffy tails. Ms. Tibbit urged the children to take their seats for dinner as she prepared the plates of food for each child, starting from the youngest to the oldest. Zenta followed tow, making his way to the table, feeling his way for a chair that was not occupied and waited patiently for everyone to take a seat. Ms. Tibbit was impressed by his manners.
“Okay children, what do we say?” Ms. Tibbit said as she rushed to her seat.
“Thank you for dinner, Ms. Tibbit!” They sang in unison before each child sat down, fiddled with their forks and spoons, and ate cheerfully.
“Are these your children, ma’am?” Zenta asked while Ms. Tibbit poured some hot tea into Zenta’s teacup.
“Oh, heavens, no! This is an orphanage. I take care of these little ones and make sure they find a nice family to go home to!” Ms. Tibbit gazed at all the children. She occasionally rose up to help the younger ones cut their food or clean their mess. Every time her wings fluttered, they produced a tiny amount of fairy dust and glitter everywhere she went. Zipping back and forth, the fairy took a seat next to Zenta, enjoying the few minutes of rest she had. “May I ask where you are heading?”
“I am heading to the mountains,” Zenta took a sip of his tea. “But first, I must cross the forest. I rather wait until the rain subsides since I do not like my fur getting wet.”
“The forest is dangerous! There is a terrible monster that lives there. She has a very ferocious appetite and will eat any unsuspecting traveler that gets too close to her webs. She has already eaten a child that ventured too far into the woods...” Ms. Tibbit sighed. “It would be wiser to take the path around the forest. The journey is longer, yes, but it ensures your safety; that vile spider creature never sets foot outside her forest.”
“Zen-tah is heading to the forest? No! Ms. Tibbit, tell him no!” The children gasped. “The monster is big and scary! She’s got sharp claws and fangs!” The older ones warned Zenta as the little ones squirmed in their seats. “She’s gonna eat you up if you’re not careful! I heard that she can hypnotize people who see her eyes.”
“I see, I see,” Zenta took in the information while sipping his tea. “This monster sounds like a minor problem. You need not worry for a traveler like me, I am more than capable of defending myself against monsters.”
The children and Ms. Tibbit all gasped, stunned that Zenta was a fighter of some sorts. Appearance wise, he did not look the part. This bit of information excited the children. Admiration filled their eyes as they looked at Zenta as if he was a hero, or someone they wish to be. None was more apparent than in the green eyes of a little girl. With only a striped tail, she was normal compared to the other children. The girl refused to look away from Zenta; only when she was called over to play with the others, did she finally part view with the furry beast. The group of children, inspired by Zenta’s monster fighting capabilities, pretended to be the fox in a variety of scenarios. They each took turns being the monster and Zenta. The children were creative, using toys as substitutions for weapons and did their best impersonation of the wicked monster believed to live in the forest. Ms. Tibbit and Zenta enjoyed a conversation while watching the children play, occasionally cheering them on.
Once the rains began to subside, the grey clouds parted to show the light from the full moon above. It was around this time that many of the children, especially the younger ones, were getting sleepy. The older ones were allowed to stay up an extra hour and help Ms. Tibbit with dishes or other chores. Zenta knew it was time to go, but before he left, he decided to help out Ms. Tibbit with any chores as to let the older children play more. The little green-eye girl silently watched Zenta from afar, being careful to remain out of his line of sight; unfortunately for her, his massive ears captured everything, even the faintest tip-toes. No matter where he went, the beast would constantly hear the same child shuffle behind him. For the while, he paid no attention to it until it was time for him to leave. The children all gathered around him by the door, insisting that he stayed until morning. The little ones cried and the older ones begged Zenta not to leave, some going as far as to throw a tantrum on the ground, kicking and stomping until Ms. Tibbit scolded them to behave properly. Then came out the green-eyed girl from the crowd of children. She stood between the door and Zenta, trying to prevent him from leaving. The determination in her eyes stunned Ms. Tibbit, considering how timid the girl tended to be around others. This girl kept a strong stare directly at Zenta, outstretching her arms to show she was willing to stop him from leaving. Ms. Tibbit scooped the girl away and apologized to the fox profusely before setting the little girl down behind her. When Zenta was by the steps of the porch, the same little girl grabbed the beast by his tail, trying to pull him back or be taken with him. Zenta paused and lifted his tail to meet the girl eye to eye. The girl, in turn, stared at him where his eyes would be, instead, she saw her own reflection on his visor. Ms. Tibbit yanked the girl from the beast’s tail and gave her a flick on the forehead and ear as punishment.
“I am afraid I cannot stay, little one. I have a journey I must do,” Zenta said with a smile as he gently caressed the top of the girl’s head. “It is far too dangerous for children.”
“Please be safe on your journey, Zenta!” Ms. Tibbit waved. “You are welcomed back here any time!”
Zenta waved goodbye to the orphanage and headed down the path he was on earlier. The air smelled of dew and rain and the ground was still soggy from the downpour. The path he was on lead went through many green hills, each one having flowers in bloom at its base. The full moon overhead shined over the tiny droplets caught in the moist grass, making it glitter with every step Zenta took. Over and under the hills, Zenta finally came to a fork in the road. One lead directly to the forest just at the bottom of two hills and the other continued eastward following the edge of the forest over the horizon. The fox pondered silently if he should heed Ms. Tibbit’s warning but decided to go against it. He had nothing to lose. He continued forward, sliding down the slope of the hill until he reached the entrance of the woods. A sign caught Zenta’s attention, but it was old and eroded by the weather for anything to be read off of it. He brushed his fingertips across the wood, tracing the etchings very carefully and read what his fingers were able to tell him. Tangleweb Forest.
The forest was thick with trees that barely any sunlight (or moonlight in this case) penetrated the canopy to reach the forest floor. It naturally looked dark and gloomy inside and many of the tree branches were bent over to reach for the ground instead of the sky, similar to a willow tree. The tallest of the trees would only have their incredible trunks visible because all the smaller trees blocked the view to the sky. Vines and mosses dangled between the twigs and bark of the thousands of trees, tangling those unlucky enough to get snared in them. Multicolored bioluminescent fungi grew from the ground and latched themselves onto the lowest branches of the willow trees. Whenever the wind swayed these branches, the glowing fungus would dazzle and amaze all who saw them. The largest of these fungi grew in clusters between leafy shrubs and near the roots of the trees. Although the light from the sun (and moon) was not present, the mushrooms lit up the forest well enough for people to make their way across.
Zenta faced the forest and took a deep breath. He noticed two things; someone or something was watching him and the forest reeked of blood. The first thing did not bother him as much as the second, nonetheless, he continued to press forward into the forest. The beast walked through the thicket, carefully maneuvering between the vines and low hanging branches. Every step he took was precise and his ears flicked at every snap of a twig, yet, he did not seem worried or alert despite something watching and following him through the forest. In fact, the fox seemed distracted by the gentle breeze flowing through his fur and the distant trickling of a faraway stream. The only concern he had was the smell of blood that covered the forest. When Zenta made his way through the branches of a willow tree, the being following him grew closer, so close that the beast was able to hear its footsteps; however, when he turned around, he saw nothing behind him. He pushed away the bushes, peering over them to see if he may spot his stalker but saw nothing yet again. He searched the nearby area, but not very thoroughly, and almost playfully, all while he kept a smile on his face. After a few minutes of poor searching, the beast gave up with a shrug. Looking up, the beast nodded his head and then squatted down, preparing to jump. In a mighty leap, Zenta bolted off from the ground and into the canopy, disappearing from view. He did not move; instead, he thought this would uncover the identity of whoever was following him. He waited silently, peering from between the leaves until the stalker came into the light of the mushrooms. When it finally appeared, Zenta’s smile only grew.
From within the bushes, the little girl from the orphanage popped out! She had tiny scratches on her arms and legs, no doubt from the branches and shrubs, and covered in dirt, almost as if she was trying to mask herself from Zenta’s view. The child glanced up at the canopy, narrowing her eyes to see if she could spot the elusive fox beast. As much as she looked, she could see nothing. Her next step was to attempt to climb the willow tree, but climbing a single tree to the canopy is incredibly difficult, especially when not all the trees that grew reached that high. Try and try as she might, the little girl continuously fell off the tree. Zenta watched as the girl attempted over twenty times, getting back up every time she fell down. Once the girl was finally able to reach the first high branch of the willow tree, she continued to trek higher and higher. A fall from this height could prove fatal to the little girl but she continued on, ignoring her safety, eager to find the beast. Amazed by her determination, Zenta continued to watch the girl’s slow ascent to the canopy, curious to see how far she was willing to go. Once she reached the incredibly high treetops did the beast started to move to avoid detection. Never once did Zenta take his gaze off of the little girl, not even for a second as he silently slipped between the branches to stay out of view.
The girl squirmed and wiggled between the vines, being overly careful where she placed her foot to avoid falling. She was unable to see in front of her thanks to the light from the mushrooms not being able to reach up through the leaves into the canopy, and the moonlight overhead blocked by the trees higher up, making this section of the forest pitch black. No matter how careful this little girl was, her hands and feet would slip through patches of weak branches, and every time she recovered, she would suffer another slip. Her lips formed a pout, getting visibly annoyed that she has not spotted Zenta, failing to realize that he was watching her every move in silence directly behind her. In a desperate act to find the beast, she prepared to hop through the pitch-black branches, but in her attempt to stand, the branches under her feet gave out, sending the child falling straight through the canopy. At this height, with nothing to soften her fall, and nothing to break it, there was little chance the child would survive the fall.
Out from the canopy leaves, a blur of white fur rushed out to grab the little girl before she hit the floor. Zenta held the youngster under his arm as he landed gracefully on the forest floor, barely disturbing the ground. He placed the child on the ground, allowing her to catch her breath. The poor child’s face had tears rolling down her cheeks and hiccups from her low whimpers and faint crying. When the child looked up to see Zenta smiling down on her, she gasped and wiped away any tears she had before taking a step back from the massive beast.
“Now, now... it is quite alright. You are safe now,” Zenta said as he lowered himself to meet the girl’s height. “You are the young girl from the orphanage, yes? My, how bold of you to follow me to such a dangerous forest! Are you not scared?” The little girl shook her head.
“Then why do you follow me? I have told you before, my journey is too dangerous for children. I cannot bring you along, little one.” The little girl remained silent, lowering her head to face the floor as her lips formed a stubborn pout. “Well now, I suppose I have to take you back to Ms. Tibbit. She must be worried about you.”
The child shook her head and immediately wrapped her arms around Zenta’s shoulders. He paused, feeling the child’s grip tighten around him. Even as the beast straighten himself out, the girl refused to let go, dangling off the fox’s body like a necklace. Zenta let out a long sigh.
“Are you going to follow me everywhere I go? My, that is quite a tenacious spirit you have, little one.” Zenta managed to pry the green-eyed girl from his shoulders and gently place her down, squatting down to meet the girl at eye level once again. “I cannot leave you all alone in this forest, and taking you back to Ms. Tibbit will do little to deter you from following me it seems. Very well, you may accompany me to the other side of this forest, but once we reach the end, we must part ways, little one.” Zenta smiled to the youngster and petted her head. The eyes of the girl lit up with fascination and, for a moment, she felt tears form in her eyes, but with a quick flick of her wrist, she wiped them away before they ever showed.
“Now then, do you have a name that I may call you, young one?” The child shook her head and gripped her stripped tail, embarrassed.
“Hmm, I see. I suppose I can give you a temporary name for the meanwhile. Let’s see...” Zenta sat down on his bum, scratching his chin.
“You are small, strong willed, and have an unshakable spirit. Hmmm, ah! What do you think of the name ‘Cuki?’ Where I am from, it means ‘strength from within.’ I think it suits you rather nicely!”
“Cuki! Cuki!” The girl, now named Cuki, hopped in place from the excitement of being given a name. “Yep! I like it! I like it a lot!”
“Ah, so you can talk.” said Zenta. “Any reason why you were so quiet before?”
“I didn’t want you or the monster to hear me.”
“Ah yes, the monster, of course!”
“You’re going to slay it, right?”
“Cuki, I am not here to fight the monster; I am simply here to cross the forest. If I come across the rumored monster, then I will defend myself, but I did not come looking for a fight.” said Zenta. “Why do you want me to slay the monster?”
“Because that monster is ugly and mean! All it does is eat people and scare everyone, and that’s not nice!”
Zenta let out a sigh followed by a chuckle. He straightened himself out and rose to gazed towards the forest ahead of him. “Well, that is certainly some ambition you have there, Cuki, but it is as I said; I did not come looking for a fight. I actually try to avoid fighting.” The beast tilted his head down towards Cuki. “If you wish to follow me through the forest, please stay close to me. I would not like for you to get lost...”
Cuki nodded to the beast and followed him through the thicket of the forest. The two would come across a small opening within the forest that managed to have no trees, only stumps and a mushroom in the center with a hood so massive, it provided shade from the open sky. The moon overhead shined down on the beast and child as they came to the center of this opening, standing under the giant cap of the mushroom. Cuki was starting to get sleepy, and Zenta knew he could not continue with a child who dozed off as she walked. He took the back of Cuki’s shirt and lifted her up and placed her on top of his two giant tails so she can rest easier. In no time at all, she fell asleep and the beast drifted off into meditation, being careful and aware of his surroundings.