Chapter 7:

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Theodora Plays to Win (With Cheat Codes)

Theo set her pack down, deciding to wait a couple of minutes. She suddenly felt tired from all the running, maybe Edith really did cast support magic. Theo had started feeling a bit better not long after they started on the first leg of their journey, but that amount of running should have still been beyond her, even on a day when she was perfectly healthy.

Theo laid her head on her pack. This was not a not a safe spot to nap and yet her eyelids started to blanket her eyes.

A scream.

Theo shot up. How long had she been asleep. Sleeping was a bad idea in the forest, particularly at night. A hissing sound came from her right. Theo got to her feet and hoisted the pack back onto her back. Was that a scream she’d heard. It came from the same direction she’d seen Edith walk off in. It’s possible she was already dead and it wouldn’t due to walk in the same direction as a potential threat, weather that threat is Edith or a monster chewing on Edith. This entire idea was stupid to begin with, we should have been trying our hands at the Minowan border. Defectors may not have been a safe play but maybe we could pass ourselves off as really young looking adventurers, sans adventurer cards. Losing them was probably common, it would be a tough sell, but it’d still have been more worthwhile than Hanover. We’d probably get nabbed by their enforcers the minute we entered the town. Theo went around in circle in her mind while mindlessly moving forward. Her foot suddenly snagged under a root.

Theo attempted to pull up her arm but another vine restrained her. What had been a fairly barren 10x20 plot of dirt had turned ropey in the time she’d been sleeping. Roots crisscrossed and intersected across the dirt. They picked her up and flipped her on her back by her pack. Vines crocheted their way toward Theo. The breath had been knocked out of her. While she’d been lazing around, the forest had been slyly knitting a trap for her and she tripped right into it. Edith would probably just point and laugh, in fact that was probably what she’d heard upon waking. Her wicked half-sister had probably realized the events that were about to unfold and was laughing at my misfortune. My legs and arms were pinned and the tendrils of the dark forest were slithering over my stomach.

I could laugh too, Edith. I boasted about my forest expertise and yet I’m the one whose about to be eaten, while you swish and thwack your way through to the other side. What a world we live in. I’ll bet you’re probably oblivious to the entire thing. You didn’t even give me a second thought after you left. I might have misheard, perhaps it was the forest screaming victory when I first awoke. This stupid human girl fell right into our clutches, she curled curtly on our tongue and begged to be swallowed whole. That’s probably what it’ll say to it’s king.

Theo gave up struggling. What could she do at the point, the vines kept layering onto of the last. It feels warm under here. All Theo could think of was how warm the branches were as they piled on top of her. Her blankets at home rarely kept her from feeling the nightly chill. She was actually more comfortable now than she’d been in a long time. This wasn’t a bad a way to die. The vines lifted her up into the sky. The roots suddenly pulled together and opened wide. A craggily golden crevice opened across the forest floor taking up the entire area below. She was about to be dropped into it’s ginormous mouth and she had no tears to cry or guilt to console her. She was an empty girl fit to be nothing more than food.

The vines let her drop.

Theo closed her eyes.

The ground grumbled in anticipation.

Huge piercing teeth caught her bare leg.

Pain. Blood. And…




Theo was on the ground, not in the forest’s mouth. Theo opened her eyes and gasped.


“You sure like hanging out in this forest a lot.”

Theodora stared up curiously at Callum who as usual stood some distance and elevation away. She waved her feet from side to side listening to the echo of a small stream on the other side of her.

“It’s peaceful. The animals don’t hate me.

“I suppose that would be appealing.” He moved from her right to her left, on the other side of the stream, “But this forest is actually pretty dangerous to frail little girls. It not particularly safe to be playing our here.”

The girl looked up at Callum. It was a relaxing spring morning. The birds chirped lackadaisically, taking flight overhead, and grasshoppers chirped out their little tune amidst the background of the babbling stream.

“You’re here.” The girl named Theodora splish-splashed her left hand from side to side in the stream.

The boy named Callum smiled. It was a thin smile but a smile, nonetheless. “Not always.” A little fish attempts to swim upstream but a bird swoops down and grabs it. The bird swiftly flees with it’s prey just barely missing running into Theo, “You’d be much safer back home.”

“You say that but you know what they’re like, right?” She continues tracing the water with her left hand, keeping it submerged.

“Is there something wrong, Theo?”

“Cambria burned my hand.” Theodora takes her hand out of the water and show Callum what’s left of her hand. The skin looked to be partially falling off, with white and black crisping around the edges, muscle sinew was caught in a frozen drip partway down her fingers, and boiled red skin clung in patches around partially visible bone. It looked more like her hand had been melted like candle wax than strictly burned.

“Oh my! How horrible! You must be in incredible pain. You mustn’t be so calm!” Callum’s usually fairly stoic face betrayed real concern for her well-being. How could a human, her sister no less, do this to her?” This goes far beyond childish jeers and pranks.

“It hurts a lot but I don’t really feel it anymore.” Despite the state of her hand she really didn’t seem to be in pain.

“That’s really not good, Kat – Theo. You need to see a doctor!” He’d almost had a slip of the tongue, he was so overcome with worry for her, like a parent seeing his child come home with bruises and being told they’re from the class bully.

“Mother says we can’t afford one at the moment. And the town doctor won’t have anything to do with me anyway.” She didn’t really know for sure if her mother could afford one or not but she wasn’t the type to go out of her way to cause trouble for anyone who didn’t deserve it, especially her mother, who at least had the decency to ignore her instead of outright hating her.

“What a terrible predicament.” He begins to panic a little. Callum pops from one place to another looking around for something while still keeping a perimeter around Theo.

“What are you looking for and how do you jump around like that?” Callum stops by a twin tree on her right, “I’m looking for a medicinal plant. Anything that might be able to ease your… to help you.”

“Here’s a leaf.” She picks a randomly leaf off the ground.

“I don’t think a leaf…” He stops and stares at the leaf. “What luck you must have.” It was a mostly normal looking leaf. If was a perfect leaf shape and a striking yellow color not seen much outside of the fall season, and it was a bit larger than average but otherwise a completely normal, standard leaf.

“I want you to wrap that around your hand.” She attempts to do so. She balances it on her hand for a couple of seconds before it floats gently back to the ground.

“You…don’t have mana…”


“Right! You don’t have mana!” In a panic, he’d forgotten. He closes his eyes in frustration. He’d rarely ever been this worked up about something. There was so much he couldn’t do in this situation and what he could do was absolutely useless.

“What about you? You’re a mage, right?”

“Uh, no, not exactly. My magic is a bit different. I can’t really explain.”

“But, you’re saying if I had mana then I could heal myself with this leaf, right?” She walked on her knees up to Callum, “Is there anything else you can tach me? Maybe I could play out here if I knew about all the dangerous animals that live in the forest?”

“How did we get back to this. Also, too close.” He jumped back a bit.

“You said that you wouldn’t always be there to help me, and I’ll probably continue coming back to these woods weather you’re here or not.”

“I don’t think that’s-”

“Pwease!” She wiggled closer to him.

“It’s not really a good idea for you-”

“I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live in that house either. They’re so awful to me, so I come out here. Wouldn’t it be a weight off your conscience to prepare me for what to expect.”

“You do have a point-”

“I’ll go home for the day if you tell me about one monster. I promise. Teach me, pleeeeeease!”

“Fine.” He finally relented.


“But you’re going straight home afterwards to see about that hand.”

“On my families honor.” She replied with a smirk.

“Okay. The first monster I’m going to tell you about is also the most dangerous to any mana-possessing being on the planet. They’re known as Manabeasts."


A large beast with a large face, large flat tail, chestnut color fur, and pointy ears stood above me. It’s mouth salivated fresh blood. I heard a “thunk” as it dropped something beside me. Fear was all consuming, and I could do nothing but stare up in horror at the giant set of teeth I would soon be turned into a toothpick for.  A Manabeast had appeared to end my journey before it had even begun.