Zoe and the Outcasted
Metal Among the Trees
Chaff was cloaked in an old robe that once belonged to Zoe’s father; hiding his unique appearance. He and Zoe made their way through the streets of Pinevale without any notice at all. They had considered making their way around the city, but decided it would be faster to cut straight through. Also, they hoped that Pinevale’s magical energies would drown out the power of the gauntlets. The minions did not dare attack inside the walls of the great city. Their reasoning was sound, and nothing bothered them.
However, they had to travel through dense forest to get from Pinevale to Locwood, the home of the orcs. The major road was dangerous, as many displaced orcs sought easy prey. A fourteen year old girl and a harvester would be no match for a group of robbers. So, the duo was forced to take their chances in the pine forest.
Both Zoe and Chaff were amazed at how beautiful the pines grew. The admiration did not last long before the minions of Rainor stormed over them. It was as though they had been waiting for Zoe.
There were thirteen of the winged beasts, and they ranged from tamarin to gorilla. Chaff ripped off his cloak and raised his bladed arms. Zoe raised her magically armored hands. The rubies encrusting the gloves glowed red, and Zoe herself seemed to radiate heat. The winged minions hooted and screeched at the display of magical power. Their excitement was short-lived.
From each gauntlet sprang a flaming whip, ready to do the girl’s bidding. Zoe spun her new weapons around, getting a feel for their length. One of the gorillas attempted to take the gauntlets, but he was met with lash after fiery lash from the whips. The other minions hesitated before staking their claim on the magic item. Chaff was not interested in letting them regain their composure. The harvester sprang on them with his scythe-like arms cutting several of the smaller monkeys down among the pine needle floor.
A few of the quicker, smaller winged monkeys manage to escape the carnage. A large and hairy orangutan with tiny wings was not so quick. Zoe wrapped him in her burning coils as he attempted to flee into the forest. The dying creatures cries could be heard in both Pinevale and Locwood.
The battle with the minions was over as quickly as it had begun. However, there was a new problem. The dried pine was igniting from the flames of Zoe’s gloves. She dispelled the whips with merely a thought, and started trying to put out the flames. Chaff used the old robes to smother the blaze, and eventually all of the fire was out.
Zoe and Chaff were exhausted and covered in soot and ash. They needed to rest, away from the still smoking remains of their forest fires. Chaff led them down a small trail. The trail ended at a strange, vine covered tree. Chaff leaned against the tree, and threw his head back into it.
The strange tree wasn’t a tree at all. Zoe started pulling vines away, while Chaff cut, In no time, they had uncovered a large metal humanoid. The sculpture must have stood nine feet high and carried a huge axe, which was half buried in the earth. Its legs were wide cylinders, like an elephants. The arms and torso seemed to have giant springs cleverly worked into the metal frame. Zoe could not get a good look at the face, it was too high.
“I wish he would lean down so I could see his face,” she pouted.
Chaff’s heart dropped into his stomach as the metal giant slowly dropped down to one knee. It put its face down at eye level to Zoe.
“Stay back, fiend!” Chaff tried to sound brave when he finally gained his composure.
“He won’t hurt us,” Zoe stated with a certainty that the harvester felt was unwarranted.
“You don’t even know if it is a ‘He’ at all.”
The metal titan turned to Chaff and spoke in a voice that was deep and strong. “I am a he.”
Zoe and Chaff spent hours asking the creature questions. Most normal people would have grown weary of answering the non-ending barrage of questioning, but this was a machination. He was created by Rainor during the War of Hoarded Magic. This particular machination, which Zoe named LJ, was clearing a path through the forest for the orc army when the war ended. He was left with no more orders, so he had been sitting and waiting for someone to come along and give him a purpose.
Zoe and Chaff had no problems giving him orders. Once they had learned of his purpose, they asked him to cut down a large pine tree. LJ readied his huge axe and turned his torso. The great spring inside groaned under the strain, but LJ continued to turn. Finally, in a motion so quick and powerful that Zoe and Chaff hardly registered it, LJ let the tension loose and sliced through the pine in one chop.
“Yeah, he can stay with us!” Chaff stated and they shared a laugh. Even LJ seemed happy to once again have something to do with himself.