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Aleksander wiped the sweat off his forehead with his muddy right hand and stopped to catch his breath. Finally finished climbing the stupid, muddy mountain he thought to himself. He rested his hands on his knees, took in three big gulps of air and looked up, not realizing whether what he was seeing was real or not. A big blob of blue was stretched out onto the land, and he couldn’t see until where. He heard a heave-ho when the rest got to the top, one by one, breathing heavily, cursing Valcus in their minds. Four days had passed since Valcus started leading them on some kind of treasure hunt. He had finished the last meeting abruptly and in the morning announced to everyone that they would depart soon. When he was asked what the destination was, he just smiled and said ‘Deep down.’ He made everyone pack their clothes and weapons, ‘as though we’re going to war.’ In the half hour that everyone needed to get ready, Valcus had been packing food and water, then he pulled out a small map from a back pocket, opened it. There were marked forests and which animals lived in it, bandit spottings and rivers. They had been told that they were supposed to get to the Northern Gate of Peril, but they had stopped near the Water Source.
‘A beauteh’’ Bras said, as everyone got near it. The Water Source was the biggest body of water in the world, considering there were only rivers that seemed to flow out of nowhere. There had never been a natural flood or a drought. They were looking at the still water, the reflection of the sun nearly getting into their eyes. Aleksander was surprised the most, he’d guessed. He never imagined something –anything, really- could become that big. He wasn’t even thinking of how deep it could be. He had been fascinated with water since he was little and his mother would read books to him, always thinking that if he could control something it would be water. Surprisingly, he loved drinking it too. After a minute of silence, he said:
‘Anyone want to get in with me?’
Everyone looked at him, then towards the water, then to each other.
‘What if there’s something in there?’ one of the Known Soldiers asked. The others nodded.
‘What if it’s freezing?’ Harth added. The others nodded again.
‘We can test those out, can’t we?’ Aleksander asked. He started going towards the water. Getting closer, he was starting to realize how truly gigantic the size of it was, seeming as though it was trying to swallow the horizon. About ten strides away, his knees started trembling, thinking he might slip, fall and drown. About two steps from it, he knelt down, took off his brown battle gloves and put them in his left pocket. His trembling hand was slowly moving towards the water when he heard Mary shout:
‘There’s someone in the woods!’
Aleksander’s heart was beating so loudly into his ears he thought it might just jump into the water with him. Everything was moving slowly; he could see an arrow coming towards him in the air, let himself fall with his head into the water and avoided it. He would’ve almost been happy about it, if not for the ice cold water that burst into his nostrils like a drill, piercing right into his lungs. He got up, coughed and wheezed like nobody was watching, felt dizzy while doing it, water coming out of his throat like a pocket-sized sprinkler. It was quite the opposite, in a way, because no one was watching him. After a few seconds he fell to the ground, let out a half mouthful of water and began seeing normally again. He shook his head, looked around. He froze for a second, taking in what had happened. He was looking for Bras but couldn’t find him. In reality, he could only see two people, a mountain and a valley with arrows here and there. Mary was on the ground, behind a Known Soldier that had a shield up, with an arrow stuck in her shoulder, but there was no blood dripping out of her armour. He put on his gloves and tried to calm the **** beating in his ears. He started running towards Mary, heard something thudding into the ground behind him, but just kept running. When he got close he saw Mary’s eyes widen.
‘Are… are you okay?’ he asked.
‘Yeah. I got lucky. Would’ve been dead without him,’ she said, nodding towards the Known Soldier.
‘Where’s everyone?’ he felt like he was shouting, slobber when he opened his mouth.
‘They’re in the forest. We were attacked by bandits, I think. You should go and help. Maybe that way Valcus will finally shut up about you not doing a good enough job.’
She was right, but he wouldn’t do it for Valcus’s sake, he’d do it just to save his comrades. He pinched her cheeks together with one hand, swallowed the abundant saliva inside his mouth and said ‘You owe me.’ He looked in her eyes, swore that they were blue and not green as he saw them now, but it didn’t matter.
The forest was dense and there were branches everywhere, trying to get into his eyes and nose. His head was hurting slightly, but barely felt it due to the adrenaline. He heard an echo coming from somewhere, like a grunt of sorts. Arrows were scattered about, but no blood anywhere. He tripped and fell onto something soft, got up and realized it was a dead bandit, looked around him and he saw even more. No one moved, but there was little blood next to the corpses, or so he saw, with his slightly blurred vision and the shadow from the trees. He could have sworn that everything was somehow coming towards him, but he guessed it was only his imagination. Sweat made its presence felt on his body, as though he would have just gotten out of a lake he swam in. Aleksander thought about slowing down and catching his breath, but he pressed onwards, content on doing anything for his allies. The sword on his back felt like it was trying to stab him, his armour heavier; maybe he was too exhausted from running like a madman. After all, how much had he run? He couldn’t recall. He never did measure his steps. For all he knew he could’ve been on the completely opposite side of the action, running around like a bunny. He stopped walking, let himself fall, felt the hard ground lash at his back. Everything was spinning. He could swear he normally didn’t get exhausted so easily, but reality proved otherwise. Lethargic would be an understatement at this point. The sudden urge to sleep washed over him, his eyes slowly closing, his vision darkening, as though a curtain were pulled to finish the act. The light from between the trees was no longer visible, along with anything but darkness.
He could see nothing, but felt like he was now laying onto concrete. No reason not to sleep, he thought to himself. He could hear water droplets falling and shattering onto the ground from somewhere around him, but the echo made it impossible to pinpoint exactly where. The water sounds were getting louder, like buckets were falling one after the other and he soon started feeling the freezing cold water on his skin. He didn’t like it, wanted to get up but it was like gravity was too strong for him to do anything except freeze to death. The cold was cutting at his skin, submerging it in shivering pain. There were small waves in the water that got above his neck now, Aleksander begging and screaming in his mind for mercy, clawing to regain his bodily functions, but hearing nothing except the water sloshing around. It was rising fast, like a river was pouring inside his little concrete room. He heard a human-like voice, but it was far away and echoed, so he couldn’t recognize it. It seemed as though the water had stopped pouring, but his ears were already submerged, freezing his brain. He heard something moving in the water, coming close to him. Eyes already closed, he took in a deep breath and played dead. He could bet that something was coming closer to him, giving him goose bumps. He felt a peck on his right arm, but then the enemy stopped and started running in another direction. Aleksander heard a wheeze and something heavy drop, then something bigger, like a bunch of mud. He started feeling dizzy, opened his mouth, got up and vomited liquid that tasted like metal, burning his tongue. His eyes felt like they were no longer attached to his body, but instead were spinning around aimlessly inside of their sockets, making him vomit even more. He realized that he managed to move, and consequently felt a sharp sensation on his left cheek. And another one. It took three and a kick to the ribs to give him the power to slightly open his eyes and perceive some sort of light; saw two blurry figures in sight, felt his throat burn, closed his eyes and passed out again.