The soft songs of birds, the rustling of leaves and the creaking of branches stirred Isidore awake, though the sudden nausea made him wish he was still passed out. Blood had been rushing to his head for some time now as he hung upside down in a quite sturdy tree, his cloak having been caught by a few of the thick branches. He struggled a few moments, trying to free himself, but to no avail.
“Damn it”, he grumbled to himself. He was without a weapon, his sword having been destroyed and his dagger knocked out of his hands when the Minotaurus threw him to Gods know where, leaving him no way to cut himself down. Sighing and grunting in frustration, he unfastened the chain around his neck that kept his cloak together, allowing him to slip free onto the ground, unfortunately falling flat on his back.
“Aaaargh! Fuck!”, he swore, slowly sitting up in pain, bones creaking and muscles protesting with soreness and stiffness. His leather armor was pretty much useless at this point, the battle at the Order camp left it pierced and cut in more places than it would actually protect. Seeing no other alternative, Isidore undid the buckles on his small shoulder pads and pulled the rest off, tossing it aside and leaving him with only his leather boots, his mask, trousers, gloves, and slightly less torn up black undershirt.
His shirt was tight fitting so it wouldn’t interfere with his armor, but wasn’t the most breathable fabric, something he was able to ignore for the most part unless it was a particularly hot day. The thin and torn garment did little to hide his muscled body, showing off of a six pack stomach, well toned pecs, and strong arms. He rubbed his eyes as the blood returned to the rest of his body, the nausea and headache vanishing as a result. Shaking his head, he stood up and scanned the forest canopy, quickly spotting his cloak.
Refusing to go on without it, he climbed the tree it was stuck in and very carefully inched his way over the branches and tugged at his precious green cloak. He grimaced at the loud ripping noise it made as he pulled it down, freeing it from the branches but leaving a large tear down the left side.
“Oh come on!”, Isidore shouted in anger, slamming his fist down on the branch in anger, making it shake dangerously. Not wanting to risk another painful landing, the Mercenary slipped over the branch and dropped back down to the ground, this time landing on his feet.
Isidore quickly fastened the cloak back onto his person and stood up to take a better look at his surrounding. The forest was thick with strong, healthy trees that kept the ground covered in shade in many areas, moss overtaking much of the underbrush as a result. An animal path was the only thing resembling a road, and the tracks in the ground indicated game and predators in the area, though it could also have meant beastman type Monsters as well.
The Mercenary sniffed, taking note of the fresh, slightly piney smell of the forest.
“Hm”, he hummed to himself, enjoying the aroma. He took in a deep whiff of the forest once more before placing his mask back over his face, not wanting to take the chance of smelling the sweet nectar of an Alraune or inhaling the spores of a Matango. Under his mask, it smelt of sweat, charcoal, and a few alchemical ingredients that acted as smelling salts against Mamono manipulations, not exactly a pleasant smell, but Isidore was used to it, as he was with many discomforts.
“Damn that cow!”, he thought angrily as he started walking down the animal path, eyes scanning the foliage for any unexpected company. “So much for a happy family reunion. Hopefully those two are doing alright, though I have to wonder if Isaac is keeping his mouth shut for once. Little tattle-tale…. I hope he doesn’t say anything he shouldn’t around those Order louts. They wouldn’t be too keen on having an Incubus amongst them”
“My Lord, you cannot leave us here!”, a soldier protested as he followed Solomon down the dirt road back towards the camp, now shrouded in an unnatural darkness.
“You must go back to the city and make report what has happened”, Solomon said calmly as he helped Isaac with his equipment, the younger man looking unsure of things.
“But…”, the solider pleaded.
“My duty is to vanquish Monsters wherever they are found. They are here, so I must stay here”, the Hero said sternly, finishing the stapes on Isaac’s belt.
Isaac felt a chill go through his spine as his brother said that. He had hoped that the attack would have reunited his brothers and allow them to finally be happy(in the ways of Mamono), but instead it had ended in bloodshed and sorrow. Isaac had agreed to go find his Isidore alongside Solomon, and hoped that perhaps they would be overwhelmed after finding him.
“You haven’t forgotten how to use a sword have you?”, Solomon asked, standing back up to his full height, Isaac only reaching up to his chest.
“Not at all”, Isaac said, stringing to sound chipper. Solomon chuckled.
“Well then let’s go!”, Solomon cheered, ushering his little brother on with a playful shove to the back that caused the youngest brother to stumble.
Agatha glared at Isaac as she watched him and Solomon leave. Something about him wasn’t right. His charm was unnatural and his arrival was all too convenient. She never saw him participate in the fighting, and that only raised her suspicions even more, but Solomon trusted him, and she rationalized that if a Hero could trust someone it must be for a good reason despite the bad taste in her mouth.
“Here, carry this”, a soldier said, shoving a heavy crate into Agatha’s arms, making her lose her balance and fall forward.
“I just know something is going to pop out of the bushes”, Isidore thought to himself as he continued down the narrow path. He looked up at the sky for a moment, judging it to be about midday by the light shining through the trees. He was amazed that he had been out cold for so long that he wasn’t yet approached by any Mamono. He remembered how the camp was attacked after he met up with his brothers, thinking it was hardly an accident for them to show up right then and there. Considering Solomon was part of the Order, it only made sense that Isaac was in league with the Demon Realm, as fate had liked to play games with mortals like that if any of the old tales were anything to go by.
Isidore grit his teeth and scowled under his mask at the realization. “Isaac you little shit!”, he growled. “You led them right to us! Oh I’m gonna kill him!”
In his defense, he had said that many times before when they were kids, so you can take that threat with a grain of salt, even if the situation was much more serious this time.
“Who’s Isaac?”, a small, chirpy voiced asked from behind. The Mercenary turned around to see no one there, his body stiffening. The voice snickered, but Isidore couldn’t figure out where it was coming from despite looking everywhere.
“Up here, silly!”, the voice said. Frowning, Isidore looked up, the small blue eyes of a Fairy meeting his.
“Oh”, he said. The Fairy giggled some more, the lime green haired Fey buzzing down right in front of his masked face.
“So who’s Isaac?”, she asked again.
“An idiot”, The Mercenary replied bluntly. The Fairy giggled again, her butterfly-like wings fluttering quickly as she did.
“So what are you doing here?”, she asked.
“Do you mean why am I here in the forest right now or what am I doing while I’m in the forest?”, Isidore asked, slightly amused by the Fairy in front of him, as her childish demeanor was somewhat of a welcome breath of fresh air compared to most other people he made his dealings with.
“Uuuuuuhh…… Both!”, the Fairy said excitedly. Isidore grinned under his mask.
“Well I was thrown here by a Minotaurus I was fighting, so I didn’t choose to come here, which is why I’m trying to leave”, Isidore replied.
“Oh but why would yo want to leave the forest?”, the little Fey asked, buzzing to the left. “It’s all so pretty! And everything smells good and there are lots of sweet things to eat!”
“Because I have stuff I need to do outside of the forest”, the Mercenary answered.
“What? Kill the idiot Isaac?”, the Fairy asked, flying upside down, her dress starting to fall past her tiny hips.
“Exactly”, Isidore replied, turning to walk away before he caught a glimpse of her bare womanhood.
“Hey wait!”, the Fairy protested, darting back towards his face. “I’ve never been outside the forest! What’s it like?”, she asked.
“Big”, Isidore replied bluntly as he walked past her.
“That’s not what I meant!”, the Fairy said, pouting.
“I’d tell you more, but I can’t stay. This isn’t exactly a good place for me to be without a weapon”, Isidore said, still walking.
He didn’t get much more than a few yards before the pouty Fairy dashed her way inside his hood.
“Hey!”, Isidore shouted, reaching behind his shaggy black hair in an attempt to grab her. The Fairy moved too fast, making her way into his shirt, her wings and tiny limbs sending an intense and unnatural tickling sensation through his skin.
“Hey! Hehehehe! Cut it out!”, The Mercenary demanded through fits of laughter. The Fairy zipped through his clothing, her magic making his skin especially sensitive to her tickling. She tried to make her way into his pants, but his belt kept things too tight for her meager strength. Isidore seized the opportunity to grab her though a hole in his shirt, bringing the little creature up to his face, scowling fiercely as he did.
“Eeep!”, cried the Fairy.
“GIve me one good reason why I shouldn’t stick you in a beehive”, the Mercenary growled.
“Uuuaaah!”, the Fairy bawled. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please! Let me make it up to you!”
“Unless you know the way out of here or where I can find a weapon, you don’t have anything I want”, the Mercenary replied.
“I’ve never been outside the forest”, the teary eyed fairy replied, slumping onto his knuckles. “I did see something shiny fly through the sky though. Wiese said is was dangerous and we aren’t supposed to touch it. I can help you find it though since it sounds like something you’d want”
“Shiny and dangerous? Sounds like a weapon”, Isidore said. “Promise you’ll lead me to it?”, he asked. The Fairy nodded back sheepishly. “Lead the way”, Isidore said, releasing her.
“Kay!”, the Fairy cheered, circling around the mercenary once before zipping off through the forest.
“Hey! Wait up!”, Isidore called as he chased after the green-haired Fey.