Vedran opened his eyes. He found himself not in the green forests within the boundaries of the Empire, but a forest that was somewhat different - albeit familiar to him. He looked to his, and looked to his right - he looked down, and he looked up. On every side of him, there were golden and orange leaved trees, as if wherever he was still was going through Fall when it instead was the Amber Cold last he remembered. Alas, the fellow’s sense of time was skewed from traveling away from the walls of Caroulstadt and to other realms, Seconds had passed, perhaps minutes had passed before Vedran realized where he was.
A shiver ran down his spine as the realization hit him. It had been much time since he last traveled to this realm, for which he had no name. He knew very well what it was that lingered in these woods, and what lied past the reaches of the golden forest. He reached into the satchel that hung from his belt, grasping one of the many objects that lied within, and out from it, he pulled a feather - a feather that had an amethyst hue to it. He could’ve sworn that the feather glowed so very faintly, though perhaps it was his mind playing tricks on him. He slid the strange feather back into his satchel. He looked around once more, seeing a stream that was further up ahead.
Slowly he approached the stream, passing by several similar-looking trees. As he neared the stream, Vedran felt an odd sensation - a sensation that was like a buzzing of sorts, not like that of a bee or a wasp, but that of electricity. Apprehensively he took a few steps away from the water that ran along a natural pathway of pebbles and stones, turning around soon afterward, and hurrying off in the opposite direction. He ran for what may have only been two minutes, perhaps five minutes, maybe even a dozen minutes. However long it was that the brown-haired fellow ran, eventually he came to a stop, lowering himself near the roots of one of the golden trees littered throughout the Autumn forest. He cursed under his breath, cursing himself in particular.
“What is there to fear?” He quietly asked himself.
“There’s nothing to fear. You’re imagining things!” He said to himself, attempting to talk himself out of his paranoia.
Though it was futile, his paranoia still got the best of him, as it did every time before whenever he ventured to this unusual realm. All he could think of was the vague figure of the creature that lingered in the woods he just so happened to be in. He had no idea what the creature was, he returned to where he originally was before the beast could confront him. All he could tell was that the creature had something to do with that which laid beyond the golden forest. The same sense of dread he felt when he first saw the jagged, scarred, and floating landscape was what he felt every time he caught sight of the beast. Vedran was absolutely certain there was a connection between the two, and that it wasn’t a simple coincidence. Yet he wished that he’d thought it was a coincidence, he wished that he wasn’t absolutely sure that there was a connection, most importantly he wished he wasn’t here to begin with. Alas, that last bit was entirely his fault - and he knew it. But curiosity got the best of him, and he hoped the curiosity wouldn’t kill him as it killed the cat.
It was on that thought, that he heard rustling from behind him. He froze, the fellow paralyzed by fear. He didn’t need to look over his shoulder to know what it was - the same buzzing sensation was felt, almost numbing. He steadily paced toward the tree before him, not daring to look over his shoulder. Perhaps it was by sheer luck that he managed to walk all the way to the tree, and then walk behind it. Perhaps it was because the beast bore no interest in him, for the time being at least. Vedran hid himself behind the trunk of the golden-leaved tree, reaching for the stock of the crossbow that was slung over his shoulder and rested upon his back. One gloved hand gripped the crossbow’s wooden stock, the other hand grabbed the leather-sling attached to the weapon. He pulled the crossbow up and over his head and shoulders, lowered the weapon, and rested the front end of it against the forest floor that was covered in leaves possessing various hues of yellow.
He thought to himself, “Should I?”
Followed up by another question, “Could I?”
Finally followed up with another question, “Would I?“
He had his answer.
Vedran’s right hand moved toward the crossbow’s bowstring, his index-finger curling around the tough string. He slid one of his feet into the stirrup attached to the crossbow’s front end, he then started pulling the bowstring up, locking it into place once it was pulled back far enough. The sound of rustling continued behind the tree, and a bead of sweat ran down the fellow’s forehead. He moved his right hand away from the bowstring, and moved it toward the quiver that hung from his belt, his index finger and thumb pressing against the end of a quarrel’s end. Out from the quiver he pulled the Aurum-tipped bolt, then slid it into the crossbow’s groove. He murmured a prayer to Exalted Godfrey in hopes he’d make it out of this alive. He lifted the crossbow up so the haft of the quarrel was level with his eyes, his index-finger hovered over the crossbow’s trigger. Vedran stepped out from the cover of the tree, turning to face the beast that haunted his dreams for so long. There the beast was, only a stone’s toss away from him, its blackened eyes staring straight at him. The golden arrowhead pointed at the creature’s skull, which was adorned in several horns that either curled or pointed straight toward the foliage up above.
The beast dug its heels into the ground.
Vedran’s index finger neared even closer to the trigger, only mere millimeters away.
The beast lurched forward and toward him.
Vedran pulled the trigger.