Chapter 4: These aren’t my tears… I’m holding them for a friend
After Arthur went off on his own Morgana seemed to shut down emotionally, we stood on that embankment for a while and as much as I wanted to comfort her I didn’t know how. Emotions never really clicked correctly for me so when I tried to come up with a way to help her my first thought was that the both of us were sopping wet and judging by the large dark grey clouds starting to blot out the sky it was going to rain soon and rain hard.
“Hey… let’s get you somewhere dry to warm up” My voice was the only sound other than the sound of running water behind us and after a somber moment Morgana softly nodded her head and turned and started to walk into the forest in the opposite direction Arthur went with me following silently. While I was glad the confrontation didn’t come to blows I wasn’t expecting him to leave of all things, we’re still lost in a deadly forest and have almost died multiple times but he thinks we are dragging him down! Taking a deep breath I pushed away my indignation and focused on my newest problem, taking a glance at Morgana showed me that she was no longer crying but still looked absolutely devastated and with a pony face that looked heartbreaking. Redoubling my search efforts I was delighted to find a cliff side which meant a cave might not be far behind, while Morgana didn’t share my excitement she did perk up a bit when she saw me speed up slightly. The light under the forest cover started to dim rapidly which meant we didn’t have much time before what I assume could only be a storm broke, as we moved in a brisk trot along the cliff wall I started to pick up any dry twigs to use for a fire later and hoped we would find shelter before the rain started, it was another few minutes before the two of us came across a shallow cave. From where we stood we could see the end of the cave and that it was devoid of any threats, thanking whatever being that was watching over us I hurried into the cave with Morgana trailing behind. As I placed down the wood I had brought with me Morgana was checking out the back of the cave, the cave itself was nothing to write home about. Grey stone walls, a few damp spots here and there and a smattering of moss growing on the walls.
“Hey I’m gonna go out and get some more wood and maybe try and find some food” Morgana turned at the sound of my voice and at the sight of her expression my worry lessened as I could see a bit more light in her eyes as the brunt of the emotion pain passed. Nodding to her I turned and jogged out of the cave and immediately started to grab any wood I could find, glancing at my mana bar showed that it was almost full so I was free to use levitation to hold more and more wood for the fire which we would no doubt need. I was shivering pretty badly by now and I was about to hurry back to the cave until something caught my eye… a tree. Not just any tree but an honest to goodness apple tree growing wild. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes, just looking at the slightly unripe fruits made me remember just how hungry I really was. The apples themselves were slightly irregularly shaped but they were still apples which meant I wanted as much as I could carry back. I considered trying to buck the tree but I wasn’t really in any shape to be doing anything physical, my next idea was shooting them down with mana beam until I remembered I had the perfect spell to help.
Taking a deep breath I let the numb feeling of shadow magic fill me before summoning a tendril and thanks to the practice last night it was pretty easy to maneuver up into the tree and pull down any apples that looked ripe enough to eat. Now that it wasn’t as dark as night I could tell that the shadow tendril didn’t come from my body but from my actual shadow which meant if there was too much light it would be harder to cast unfortunately. I had around ten apples on the ground next to me and with a quick inspection I dubbed them safe enough to eat, plants aren’t really my forte so maybe Morgana might be able to help. What am I gonna do about that whole situation… I’m glad I stood up for her but I didn’t want to make things worse between them. I hope we run into him so the two can make up. Levitating up the apples and wood all together took quite a chunk of mana and some concentration so I had to dispel my tendril so I wouldn’t run out of mana before I reached the cave. There were no sound in the forest, no birds chirping, no bugs buzzing, and no small animals moving in the underbrush. Only the sound of wind rustling the trees along with its cold bite that only brought my temperature lower and lower. I was pretty sure the animals could feel the storm coming, I was about to increase my trot speed when I felt the first few drops of water land on my coat make me start sprinting in hopes I would reach the cave before I and the wood got soaked… again.
By the time I got back it had started sprinkling which mean the wood was still pretty dry and ready to be burned but I was pretty surprised to see the entrance of the cave was now covered by large leaf covered branches and small bushes obscuring the inside. My surprise was put to a stop by a particularly large raindrop landing right in my eye almost making me break concentration and drop all the wood and apples. Hurrying inside further showed me that Morgana hadn’t been sitting around while I was gone. Besides obscuring the entrance she had gone and picked a bunch of dry grass along with a smattering of what I assume are edible herbs and mushrooms. Before I had walked in she seemed to have been actually weaving a some long grass together into… something.
“You did so much… how long was I gone?” My awe at her actions was apparently funny as she cracked a small smile before noticing my cargo and letting her smile grow further in anticipation of having a full stomach which I completely mirrored.
“All of this was actually pretty nearby, I didn’t want anything trying to get inside during the storm so I thought I would make myself useful and things escalated from there” My smile dimmed slightly at hearing the callback to Arthur’s word choice and with a deep breath I went and sat across from Morgana while putting my haul down to the side.
“Morgana… I know that I'm basically a stranger to you, but trust me when I say that you are far from useless. Don’t take what Arthur said to heart, tensions were high and we weren’t in the best shape at the time so he said something he didn’t mean so try not to let it affect you” I cringed slightly at my makeshift pep talk, being an only child I never had to deal with sibling conflicts so I was pretty far outside my comfort zone. Morgana’s eyes teared up slightly but her expression only changed to that of a soft resigned smile.
“Thank you for trying to make me feel better Marcus, but this was going to happen sooner or later. As you can most likely tell Arthur is my twin brother and you’re probably thinking ‘what kind of brother would abandon his own sibling’ well it’s kind of complicated while also pretty simple. Me and my brother were orphaned at a young age and put in the foster care system for a few years, most people wouldn’t want an already grown child so we bounced around a lot. I think I came out okay in the end, picking up a few skills here and there like weaving and basic first aid but Arthur… no one wanted Arthur for some reason. It wasn’t like he was a bad guy or anything but people always tried to avoid or pin the blame on him” By now the stone had well and truly broke but it did nothing to stop Morgana from speaking, if anything it encouraged her to speak up over the rain letting her tears finally fall while she spoke.
“ Over the years this started to change him and he became spiteful and demanding, but he always stayed with me and I always stayed by his side. The two of us were all the family we had but when high school started to come into the picture we started to drift apart. First when his grades started slipping and I started helping him, after a while he told me to stop helping him then it came to me handing out with him while his friends were around then at our current home when it came to chores. Something… changed him so fast, at some points I couldn’t even recognize him, either way I knew at the rate we were drifting apart he wouldn’t want anything to do with me by the time we graduated so as a last ditch plan to bridge the gap between us I suggested playing a game based on a show we both liked… and now look where we are.” I didn’t know how to help, Morgana was pouring her whole life story out to me and I was just sitting there staring at her. I felt some frustration bubble up aimed at myself for my own shortcoming and when she finished with tears still falling and a resigned smile on her face I did the only thing I thought would help… I gave her a hug. Hugs were few and far between in my life so when I or someone needs to know that you are there for them, I give them a hug which helps… sometimes.
“I’m sorry, I'm not the best with emotions or comforting others but at least know that you’re not alone in this” The hug was slightly awkward with hooves and all but it seemed to help a bit judging by how she leaned into it. Compared to Morgana and Arthur’s life mine seems dull or uneventful. I am the only child in a family that believes a standoffish approach to parenting was apparently the best method so things like emotions or familial quarrels are a weak spot for me. Feeling a few shivers rack through my body I released Morgana and busied myself around the cave setting up the fire and food.
“I know he’s your brother and you love him unconditionally, but you need to be the strong one sometimes especially during times like these. As much as I wish this would all end after we leave this forest, I have a feeling that we’re going to be stuck here until we get to the bottom of… everything. So for now let’s eat and recover then… try and cover some more ground when the rain stops” After getting the fire pit ignited with another steady mana beam I copied Morgana and started roasting the mushrooms on a stick while passing her a few apples.
“And from what you’ve told me, it sounds like he needs you just as much as you need him. It won’t be long until we see him again” Morgana let a smile grow on her muzzle as I ended my reassurances and almost in sync with me took our first crunch of an apple and let me tell you, when I tasted the slightly sweet yet tart fruit it was like a muscle I wasn’t even aware of finally untensed for the first time. I finally let myself relax for a moment and didn’t act like death was around every corner.
After that first bite the whole atmosphere of our camp changed, the two of us made jokes and told stories from our past. We talked about other shows we liked and if we would rather be there then here, about the cool things we could see after we left this forest as if we were suddenly tourists instead of interdimensionally Shanghai'd civilians. That growing bundle of panic and hysteria that I had been pushing down was ever so slightly diminished in the face of our laughter. Morgana was actually pretty funny and sarcastic once she opens up which was fantastic and after a good few hours of talking, eating, and a little bit of showing off the two of us had exhausted ourselves and even had a few apples to spare but the two of us were stuffed to the point of needing sleep so with a quick wisp summon and a ‘Patrol’ command we decided to take a rest and hopefully out-sleep the storm still raging outside.
We got only a few hours of sleep before something happened… I was startled awake by the hair mane pulling feeling of my wisp being destroyed, followed by the sound of the branches and bushes obscuring our cave being crushed as something crashed down on top of them. By now Morgana was also awake and was just as ready for a fight as I was. With a bit of trepidation we slowly approached the now still pile of foliage, I took a deep breath to calm myself. I glanced over at Morgana who seemed just as ready for a fight as I was. With a pulse of levitation I ripped off the top layer of branches to reveal the last thing I was expecting… a Pegasus. More specifically a player Pegasus judging by his blank flank though it was hard to tell by the brown mud covering most of his coat and mane. Morgana immediately started checking over the player’s body for injuries and dragging him out of the rain and into the warm cave but my eyes were drawn to a different accessory of the Pegasus… the broadsword strapped to his back.