Raum's Beginning

"Alone for a while…I've been searching through the dark…," a girl sang softly as she tramped through the last remnants of the enormous forest. The thorns and brambles that she had just hacked through stubbornly clung to her hair and prickled uncomfortably under her armor; she took a moment to remove them all before gazing up and down the small forest path that she had just emerged onto.

Quiet was the key word to describe the desolate dirt trail. It was actually little more than a winding dust clot, and it was only 3 feet across. Some poor soul who happened to be traveling here had dragged a log into the shade of a small tree, where it would afford any other unlucky explorers a shady spot. A tiny stream wound its way next to the path, cutting an unnaturally fertile track through the dry ground. However, the thing that shocked the female traveler the most was the heat; the late summer sun beating down on her shoulders would have been stifling even to a normal traveler, which she was not.

Thus far, Raum had had all her adventures in the forest she had just vacated- the secluded Ilex forest, where she had lived her whole life. Or, at least, as much as she could remember of her whole life. Some parts were still hazy and unclear, especially when she wondered how she came to be living in the forest in the first place. However, this did not keep her back from the adventure she was on- an adventure to find other people, other civilizations. She vividly recalled the day, not so long ago, when she had left her adoptive mother, Nevra, on a journey to see the sights her mother had described to her: large cities with high skyscrapers and many people, huge blue lakes, and tall, snowy-topped mountains. She had confidence in her powers, and her skills with a scythe. Her mother, a master swordswoman who had journeyed into the forest to train for ten years, had taught her well.

But even this hadn't kept Nevra from giving her a last piece of advice.

"Raum, I want you to realize that there will always be people or creatures stronger than you. That's why you've always got to keep training, even without me to oversee. And also..."

"What is it?"

"Never, ever tell anyone about your powers. And never use them in public!"

Raum had never heard Nevra speak so sternly. She suspected it was to cover up the intense vehemence and hatred she heard in the undertone of her adoptive mother's voice.

"But why? If people are in trouble-"

"That's up to you. But not all people are good or have good intentions. If people saw the gift you have, they might hurt you or worse, and use your powers for evil. So please, promise me that you'll exercise caution along with your magic!"

That sounded reasonable. She guessed that some people might be like that. Nevra herself had been shocked the first time she had seen a bobcat pouncing upon her adoptive daughter suddenly catch fire at a wave of the girl's hands. She had called it magic, and had encouraged her to practice these powers. Once Raum had understood that the odds of other people setting fire to a bobcat were astronomical, she had enthusiastically agreed to training with a weapon, so as not to attract too many odd looks.

"…Ok… I understand."

Now Raum sat down on the log and took her canteen out from her pack. She filled it with water from the stream - she had read somewhere that running water was usually pure - and took a long swig from it before taking a carefully folded map out of her pocket. The map showed her location, right outside of the Ilex Forest on the Garrim Trail, which led into… "Another forest?! I thought I left to see new things! I-"

She broke off as she heard a crackling noise towards the forest to the west. She paused for a moment, before her curiosity got the better of her, then grabbed her canteen and raced away. The map floated to the ground, forgotten.

Inside the West Forest, Raum glanced around. Several snapped and broken branches marked a game trail leading to her right, adorned here and there with what seemed to be blood. Could it be that the noise she had heard was an animal, badly hurt and staggering through the woods?

As Raum journeyed deeper inward, she spotted a clearing up ahead, and she thought she could see the spots of blood getting thicker, although it was hard to see anything in the pitch-black forest. She hesitated, looking around. She couldn't detect anyone else nearby. That solved, the young girl summoned a ball of light to show her the way.

Farther forward, the source of the blood became apparent. A doe, lying on its side and panting heavily, rested in the clearing, eyes glazed with fear and pain. A straight, deep cut spanned its ribcage, through which shining white bone could be seen. The light brown fur was crusty with dried blood.

Raum's stomach churned as she looked at the hideous injury. "Oh, you poor thing," she whispered, taking a small step towards the animal. Alarmed, the deer reared back its head, as though trying to stand and bolt, but the wound brought it back down to its former, helpless pose.

"Shhhh! It's okay," Raum muttered. "Don't get your fur in a snit." The doe snorted and stared at Raum through large, baleful eyes. Raum stepped forward again. A tremor ran through the deer, but it stayed still.

"Thatta girl," she whispered, kneeling down at the animal's side. "This won't hurt…I hope." She touched the deer's side with both her hands, praying that her peaceful intentions would be known. She could feel the animal shuddering beneath her fingers but, miraculously, it didn't bolt. Somehow, it knew to trust her.

Focusing, Raum felt her awareness entering the doe as first one foreleg, then another came under her control. She let out a sudden gasp as she extended her magic's reach into the animal's ribcage, and the pain flooded her mind, almost drawing her back out. Raum focused more firmly. At last, only the final bond between her mind and body was left. She let it stand, as a way to find her way back once she was done here.

Mostly deer now, Raum's mind seemed to be floating in an ocean of anguish and pain, threatening to seep through to her will and snap it like a matchstick. Tightening her resolve, she continue to let herself drift trough the deer, awakening its senses, until she was seeing with its eyes, hearing with its own, acute ears. She could feel her heart jerkily beating within her chest, could feel her ragged breath as it tore through her body in shallow gasps, and most of all, she could feel the deadly throb of the cut as her life's blood drained from her body.

That cut, the thought came, although agony besieged it from all sides. A wild animal couldn't have caused it. So what did?

The question, however, would have to wait. The magic connections at work between Raum and the deer were holding, but it was better not to tax them too long. Reaching deep inside the doe, Raum felt for the animal's center, the part from which all of its life originated, where the raw energy of life poured into the heart and soul of the animal, giving it life and motivation. It was the power within that could support the entire complex, fragile universe of a living body. She found it rather easily-she had always found this discovery to be the easiest, whether working with animals or humans. Snaring a gleaming, ribbonlike strand of the energy, she willed it upward, towards the animal's cut and damaged ribs.

Gently, she applied the strand of life energy to the wound. The girl felt it heal, the damaged flesh repairing itself as the muscle beneath knitted together. Raum let out a sigh of relief and fatigue as she withdrew into her own body.

"Done!" she told the deer cheerfully. The bewildered animal jerked its head up to behold the girl that had healed it. Glancing around, the animal tottered unsteadily to its feet. Looking back once toward Raum, it tottered back into the woods. Raum suppressed a smile as it went, its somewhat hesitant, disbelieving tiptoe turning into a gleeful, long-legged bound as it ascertained the truth of its healing, as though it were a blind man slowly discovering he could see. The smile erupted anyway, brightening the young girl's face as she watched her patient gallop into the twilight gloom of the forest.

"So!"

A loud voice behind her made her turn in shock. Nearly falling, Raum inhaled sharply as her eyes beheld a heavyset, tall man somewhere in his 30s and shouldering a huge, broad axe, standing right behind her.

How long had he been there? Seconds? Minutes?

No, she thought, her heart sinking into her stomach as panic overtook her, It wouldn't matter either way, would it, either way he saw me with that deer, he saw me, it doesn't matter when he started looking, he SAW me! She lowered her head as a thrill of horror rushed up her spine, and her mind whispered, He saw me use magic.

Edited 2-03-2007