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Duhlrandir Chapter 2

Artenen, driven by a sense of urgent protectiveness over Rachel, sprang into action. He could tell that the leeches, now grotesquely transformed, had shifted from cleansing to harming, drawing out the vital lifeblood she needed to recover. Without hesitation, he began the grisly work of removing the monstrous creatures.

With grim determination, he tore the wings from their backs, halting their eerie flight and mocking noises. One by one, he carried the squirming, shrieking leeches outside, their cries piercing the quiet of the evening. There, in the cool air, he cut them open. The leeches' innards spilled onto the ground as their cries turned to gurgles, and then silence.

The healer watched from the doorway, his old eyes wide with a mixture of shock and bewilderment at the sight of such dark enchantment. This was a night of ominous signs, and the implications weighed heavily on both men as they considered what this meant for Rachel and the lands of Duhlrandir.
 
The old healer, tears brimming in his eyes from the harrowing ordeal, worked diligently to cleanse Rachel's wounds. His hands, though weathered by time, were steady and sure as he applied his knowledge to her care. Rachel lay still, her breaths shallow and infrequent, each one a quiet testament to her lingering life force.

The healer's brow was furrowed with concern as he administered his treatments, using poultices and herbs known for their curative properties in his homeland. As he worked, he murmured ancient incantations, calling upon the wisdom of his forebears to aid in her recovery.

Artenen watched, helpless and tense, his heart heavy with the fear of losing his companion. The gravity of the situation was palpable; the very air in the room seemed to throb with the urgency of Rachel's struggle against the darkness that had invaded her body. It was a pivotal moment for Rachel, for Artenen, and for the future of Duhlrandir.
 
*Deep within, Rachel's fight is far from over as a monstrous cloaked figure assailant her.*



A̸͖̞̗̙̿̋̈͊͒̃͋L̵̨̨̢̜͉̤͙͚̝̺͔͖̻̤͓̈́̾͒̈́̈́͗̀͒͗́͑̉͑̔̚͝Ļ̷̨̲̝̭͖̌͑͛́ ̶͈̥͔͚͙͎̺̞̦͓̩͖͖̲͚̍̐̐̄͐̀̈́͌̚̕͠͝H̴̨̢̢͖͇̣̯̠͈͉͚̅̏͜Ȍ̵̟̺̮̓͗͌̇̾̑͘͝P̴͉̰̺̣̭͕̲̠̖̳̫̲̻̼̥̥̌̈́̀ͅĒ̷̱̦̣̂̿̍̀͐́̾̚ ̸̰̬͉͖͇̬͉̟̝̟̘͙͇̬̪̏̆̒̈́̂͒̋̾̋̚W̸̡̧̢̛̤͍͈̼̭͇͚͕̥͇͌̅͆̀͗̋́͊̊̽͜ͅḬ̷̛̖͈̻̙̲̭̭̺͖͇͉̎͛͌̐̄̒ͅL̷̜̩͇̙̙͋̀̒̑̅̕͝L̵̡̛̼̗̼̦̼͆͐́͛̋̊̎̌͗̓͌̄ ̴̟̮̈̎̏̔̅͝B̵̟̖̟́̏̏̕͜ͅE̷͖̞͕̥͓͈̝̘͋̄̿̌́̔͋̓̈́̚͘͝͠ ̸̛͎͉̦̬̳̬͒̈́̒̿̑̄̌͋̿̎S̴̨̡̳͍̭̩̼̏͊͌̍̂̑͌͑̀̇͜͝͠È̸̗̳̪̹ͅĄ̷̮͉͕͎͉̻̱̈̈́͌̊̀̉́̐̔̋̏͘ͅL̷̡̏́́͐̑̈̓̇̈͘͝È̶̛̛̫͈̝̟͙͚͕̩͉̤͖̣̪̝͉̓̇͛͆̇̄̕͘D̷͓͆̊͊͌̑̾̏̿̚!̷̢̨͈͖͈͔̥͓̠̺͚̱̯̺́ͅ ̵̛͉̀̓̑̊̆͗͗͆͋̇͌́͋͋͝ ̵͓͔̠̘̦͛̀͂̾̏͒̄̈́̀͘O̴̢̧͚̞̱͔̗̼̳͉̞̮̤̺̜͈̐͐͋̔̿̍N̶̡̨̬̯̭͎̪͎̘͚̗̙̦̱̑̓͜ͅͅL̶̡̢̖̥͎̤̘̦͇̳̿̚Ý̶̨͓͂͑̌́̅̑̾̈̓͐̇̀̇̈́̚͝ ̴̧̖̞̖͓̼̜̩͕̙̖͔̗̈́̓̔P̶͓̝͈͆́͊͗Â̷͎̣̎̉̈͝I̸̝̹̮͔̰̙̬̣̟͚̞̎̍̔̄̂͐́̈́͊́̚͝Ń̸̹͕̤͗̃̚ ̵̨͉̻̻̪̼͓̤͎̥̦̟̙̬̭̦̄̊́̀͐̋͐W̵̧̛̬̻̙͎̣͉͔̱̲̱̆I̴̳̭͕̦̭̫̐͆͊͌́́̉̃̅̈́͌ͅL̴͓̰̻̰̺͉̣̙̻͒̾̃̽̆͛͐̀̋̓L̵̢̧͕̀ ̴͍͓͖͈͓͙͕̬͈͇͙̭̲̣̠̏̕ͅȐ̵̡̢̳̳̺̣̼̜̣̲̲͖̒̋̏É̵̢̡̤̭̘̼͓̭̦͙̳͔̦̼̲̖͛̄̒̈̾ͅM̶̦̪̞̘̖̅̔̇̀̕Ạ̸̛̅̾̉̀̾́͐̊̊͊I̴̢͚̫̯̺̞̭̜̩͓̗͊́͐̓̐̔̔̆̆̐͆̕ͅN̶̢̠͙̆̓͂̄͊͊͘͜͠͝!̷̯͓̯̮̱̗̤̆͒



Ỹ̵̨̢̹̭͈̠͖̞͉̝͋͂͐̏͗̔̇͒̄̃͋̿̿̎̑͠O̵̗̦̔̇́̾͆͒̏̑̐͌͘͝Ȕ̵̡͖̩͕̠͇̗̻̟̱̖̱̺͍̿̕Ṛ̷̮̹͖̤͔̳̳̬̦͚̮̟̲̦̀̾̀͌̔͛̌͛͑̓͌ ̵̢͙͈͓̼͇͈̗̱͙̊̄̌͒̆̐̋̏̂̓͒̇̐̂̕͝ ̷̛̪̙̈́̑͐Ş̴̡̢̛͎͎̪͈̲̻̥̱͙͉̦̰̭͗̔̀̔̀͑̈́͋ͅṔ̴̢̪̪̞͕̝̼̙̘͎̭͖̜̫̑͜I̷̢͍̼̐͛̈̂̃͛̄͒̀͐̃̐̕͘͝͝R̶̦͉̱̟͙̈́̂Ḯ̷̛̛͔͔̘̾̾̀̂̏̀̄̿̒̆͑̚͝T̷̟̱̫̭̤͈͙͍̟̉̅͑ ̵̡̡͙̘͈̭̘̲͍̙͍̃̾̄̈́̋̈́͒́͜͝ ̶̛͕̖͓̪̯͍̳̤̟̼̯̏̏̆͒͊̿̉̎͊̃͊̾̒̇̕ͅW̵͙̭̗̜̰̤̮̣̖̭͓̜͑̈́̾̀Ī̵̢̨̛̩̞̫̹̗̲͈̤͔͚̪̊̀́͌͗̓̆̆̊͠L̷̢̡͓͈̫͉̪͔͎̙̖̑͛̒͒̇̄͋͊̋͘͜͝L̵͎̘̘̟̞͊́̅ ̸̛͚͖̘̱̣̲̜͇͈̘͓͇̉͊͆̆̆̋̌̇̊̃̓̋̾͊̋͂ ̵̨̢͓͈̥͇͕̳̹̳́͜ͅS̴̨̧̤͕̖͍̘̹͕̘͌͂̈́̒̔́͒̆̈͜O̸̞̥̭͚͉͉̭͚͆͆̕͘O̵̢͓̝̻̞͇̱͉̱̰̫̔̌́̅̌̅͋͛͑́̉̔̅͒̾̂́Ń̸̡̛͎̞̳͚̳͇̹̰̜̪̜̗̅̾͌̓̓̕͜ ̵͉̤̪̟̘̩̘̘̊̈́̊̔̂̋̈̇̍̈́̏͛̎͛̓B̶̧͎̝͇͌͆́̈͌̀̌́̐̈́͗̊̋̄̍͛̅È̶̢̥͉̪̺̳͔̤͇̩̹͈̅̎͌͘͘ ̷͔̦̬͂͆̍͌̎͆͜O̷̳̖͔̮̽̔́̅͂͊̂͊ͅŪ̶͔͚̳̹͓͙̘̫̐̀̏͒̀̑͋̎̒͛̆̔͋͘͜ͅR̸͖̹̺̪̖͎̐̐̀̅̐̒̀͛̀̽̔̈̚S̶̢̨̜̜̻͙̣̖͓̲͙͕͉̼͕̊̐́̀͜.̷͙̝̇͊ ̴̤̺̼̦̘͇̊̅̓̉̍̒̅̋ ̵̢̗̥͇͎̠͎̝̗̆̑̈̌̇̏̌͑̏̓̆̉͆͘Į̶̨̢̳̰̺̖̯̰͇͚̤̓̿̆̅̏̈͂̉̑̌͂̌̉̚͘N̷̺̼͂̆́̑̓̓̏̃̉̈́͗̀͆͝ ̶͖̫̥̮͖̯͖̦̞̎̓͂̊̆͒̀̉̔̊̿́̚͜͜͝Ṱ̵̢̡̢͍̬̦̞̳̦̦̪̑̈͜H̵̨͎̳̘̞̼͕̩̣̤̹̘͈͍̘̯̉̋͘Ę̴̦͓͔͚̙̩̙͍̩̦̱̫̲͕̲̙̑̇̌̇ ̴̡̝̩͙̟͔̾͐̌͜N̶̡̡͚̜̮̙̥̰̜̼̟̝͔̞̼͝ͅͅĄ̶͖̱̻͓̜͛̉́̑̋́̒͊̀͛̚͝M̴̹̝͎̠̪̀̔Ě̶͕̹̫̟ ̵̢̛̼̙̀͗̾̋O̴̧̡̡͙̖̟̠̫̺̠͛̉̄͂̿͆̏͘ͅF̸̧̡̯͖̮̟̥̬͇͉̮̥̺͕͔̫̈́͌̆̐̉̓́̐̐͌͆̊̎̀́͠ ̸̝̻̖͙̝͈̈́̓̀͗̓̄͋͛T̵̡͇̣̹̞͉̰̤̝̲̠͂́͝H̵̢͚͓͙̯̘͔̯̑̀̔̓̊̀͊̍̈́̈̑̇̕̚͜͠͝Ę̸̡̺͔̗̙̪̼̱̞̟̇͌̄̃̒̾̽͜͠ ̷̢̧̦̩̺̫̮̹̙͎̮̦̮͔̥̰͑̄̃̍̓̋͋̈́͘͜͝N̵̻̳͈̤̺͚̤̻̞̍̏͐̈́̍̏͐̆͒̐̒̌͜͝͝͝͝ͅḚ̶̊͂̿͆͛̒̋̉̆̓̀̎̓̚͠Ț̸̤̖̼̩̱̰̲͚͈͙̱̙͓̻͎̳̇̌̂͘H̷̟̘̲͇̺͓̼͓̪͙̥͌̅͌̂̓̌̎̓̊̆͗̎͠E̵̼̞͇͂͗͋̀̈́͂͝͝Ṛ̴̢̖̬̝̭̩͚͍̪͋̀̐̂̋͆̇̂̓̽̈́́́͝͠ ̵̨̛̳̘̪͎̠̍̊͘͠R̸͓̝͖͈̫̂̈́̈͌̉̂͆̇́͠͝Ę̷̢͍͇̺̗͔̥̘͖͚̯̰͈̝̣̀̉̉̒̀̿̊͌͂̍̂͗̽̃͜A̵̠̯̼̪̽M̶̦̳̪̜͕̟̰͕̈M̴̛̳̺͌́̒̀̎̽̀́̅͋̾́͛͘̚ ̴̢̛̗͚̤̭̪̳̱̜͗͋̍̀̇͐͝Ẁ̸̢̨͕͎̙̻͍̞̙̤̀̄̾̌Ẽ̷̢͇̝̬̻̤͕̬̫̹̙̬̫̐́͐̐̅̔͋̋̓̄̐͜ ̵̧̩̤̼̖̼͔̣͓̠͙̼̤͔̟̲͊͌̍̇ͅW̷͔͔̠̺͂͐̑̅́̇̆̓͒͑͝I̸̙͋̈́̈́͆̐͗͋̐̎͒̑͂̕͝L̷̛̪͎̦͕͖͛͘͜ͅL̵̬͉͆͂̈́ͅ ̸̳͉̖͍̖͔̤̰͓͉͙̪͚̆́́̔́͋́̆͊͂̚͝ͅE̴̡̟̦̙̝̙͔͇͑͐̐͑̀̓̓̂͘͝Ņ̴̠̫̥̜͕͎̝͓̲͈̮̠̌̍̅̎̏̃͐́͐͜͝͠͝ͅŚ̶̡̛̺͈̼͚̪͉̣̹̤̙͕͎͇͔̱͙̽͛̀̀̉̋̃́̔́͘L̶͓͇͈̖̻̰̰̥̰̫̤̬̞̻̉̓͂́̓̀̄̏͑̌͊́͜͝A̸̜̐̄͗͊͐͌̋̈́͝V̵̨̛̝̙̖̬͛̈́̈̈͛̇̉́͆͊̔͝ͅE̴̢̧̻̝̘̻̖̥͈̻͙̼̪̞̱̍̂͋̈́̓̀̏̒̐͆͗̑͜ ̶̧̗̝͉̬͍͎͇̦̹̺͓͖͕̮͗͂͂̑́͜Ý̸̧̨̧̹͎͙̖͉̖̞̳̜͙̼͔͈̘̏̕Ǫ̷̨̢̙̱͉͚͖̱́̅͝U̴̡̨̧̦̙͎̜͚̦͓͔͈̻͖̠͖͙̎̃͐̿̓̏̽̅͝!̸̨̨̨̢͓̝͈̯̗̪̩̝͓̗͒͑̈́̅̈́̃̊̎̀͑͘͘




Never!!!!

*Rachel focuses through the Key of the Star, calling to Artenen's soul.*
 
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*As Artenen searches frantically for Rachel in the healer's hut, he realizes with a sinking feeling that she is nowhere to be found. Her sudden disappearance amid her critical condition fills him with deep concern and a growing sense of urgency.*
 
*After multiple times trying to call out for help, Rachel realizes this dark space has not only imprisoned her soul, but also consumed her physical body.

The focus used trying to keep that mocking voice from overwhelming her will starts to wain as the shadows crowd around her.*
 
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Meanwhile, Julian, though still only young kit realizes the time to step into his role as leader of Rachel's familiars. He calls them together outside the hut to discuss.

"Alright, everyone spread out and search!!! Leave no stone, pebble, leaf or blade of grass unturned. I'll stay here to keep our link with Rachel.*


***When Rachel and Julian were first paired as familiar and mistress, the edict of their binding enchantment stated that he was never to stray from her, but for so long, lest the forces of darkness tear her soul and magical essence to shreds. Each successive beast is bound by the same rule and as such can watch over Rachel in turn without causing her diistress.***


After watching Epona, Ari and the snowy owl race off into the chilly night, Julian looks back toward the healers hut, watching Artenen pace the floor in worry.

What in the name of the Seasons is the .matter with him?

"Courage, Brother Aeolus!" "To lose hope now would be tantamount to dooming Rachel to the Seas of Despair!"

The young kit spoke boldly as he entered the hut.

"My fellow familiars and I are worried as well, and we are searching hither and yon, but you have the most important role of all right now. "
 
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Elsewhere, Epona and the others take Julian's words to heart as they comb over every nook and cranny of the fledgling realm. After about an hour, the trio were just about to head back and report when something catches the eye of the snowy owl. Ari is next to take a look as she spots a dim but familiar sparkle at the foot of a shadowy hill .


The pair land s to take a closer look. They hope that opalescent sparkle is their mistress' talisman. Epona's heart leaps as rhe owls' hoots of excitement confirmed the find.

Rachel is alive. Barely!
 
*Julian ears perk up as he peers into the frigid evening. Save for the faint glimmer of the candle on Master Ealdwine's desk, light is a scarcity to say the least. All at once a sound in the distance catches his attention.*

"Epona, and she's in great haste!"
 

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