The sensation lasted longer than the fall itself, longer because inside his mind he was still falling. He could feel the poison now as it coursed through his system. Curse? Spell? It didn't matter. All that mattered was that he get out of the valley– get somewhere where he could call for help. The others needed him.
Sounds and images flashed before him as he ran. Davy– proudly displaying the trout he'd caught. Tommy eying the fish and then the cookbook he'd brought with him. Joey– laughing.
His brothers-- they were depending on him.
As the sound of Joey's laughter faded from his mind, he forced himself back up, forced himself to continue. They would die if he didn't get help. A wave of vertigo washed through him and he faltered. It felt as if he was broiling from the inside. He pushed on.
Around him the sounds of the deep forest seemed to change. He couldn't tell if it was real or not. The inviting greens that had drawn them to the valley were changing– shifting.
The trees seemed to come to life around him, reaching out for him with their branches, trying to trip him with their roots. It was a nightmare. Cool liquid seemed to pour off their leaves and he welcomed it. It was cool– soothing. As it touched his skin it seemed to soothe his fever.
Then the pain began. He looked where the liquid had touched his skin and saw it melting away. He screamed.
It was all around him now, melting the trees into horrific mockeries of their once majestic beauty. Even the scrub pine weren't spared. As he tried to get his bearings, the fumes of waste and decay filled the air.
He shook his head. No– this wasn't real. It was what the mage wanted. It had to be.
Pain? Spell? He tried to remember, but he couldn't. All he could remember was that he needed to escape the terror– the pain that was the toxic shaman's world.
He fell again. It was getting harder and harder to stay standing. He tried to remember why– tried to remember what had happened, who he was. It was getting harder to...
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