In the end, it isn't the dark itself that frightens us. It's what lurks in the shadows, just waiting for us to make that one step out of the road we were destined for that makes us wary, moving slowly, groping for an edge of reality we can hold on to and use as our guide in the dark.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Forests of Bakazak - Chapter One

"Red," he whispered. "Someone's coming. We can't stay for long."
I didn't doubt a word he said. He could sense the Aura of any living creature capable of individual thought. I nodded and quickly began to pack up the food we had stopped to eat. I lifted the rucksack onto my shoulder, grabbed hold of his hand, and together we ran, completely avoiding the path, winding between trees and bushes.
About ten minutes of running later, he came to a sudden halt, pulling my hand as I ran a few steps further.
"We lost them," he said.
"Do you know who 'they' are?" I asked. "Were they the same ones from two days ago?"
"No, we didn't get close enough for me to tell if their Auras were dark or light. They weren't the same from two days ago."
"Well, I suppose we can find a place to set up our things for the night, don't you think?"
He nodded. We started moving again, this time walking side by side. A while later, we came across a comfortably-sized cave that suited our needs perfectly. I lifted my hand before we entered and vaporised the drops of water that clustered on the ceiling due to the hot, humid summer day.
We both began unrolling our sleeping bags onto the hard stone floor. We placed them next to each other just in case we need to wake each other up quickly and get moving again. We both haven't slept over four hours each night in the past week, so we were hoping this night we would be left in peace. We had no need of shifts, as Dilmon's Magika was strong enough to warn him of people coming even when he was asleep.
I pulled the band from my flame-red hair. It fell down gracefully to the floor on which I sat. I took off my travelling shoes with a sigh of relief, and rubbed my bare feet. We hardly ever stopped walking or running today. But tomorrow, we would reach Bakazak, the Ancient City of Runes. It was told that there was a prophecy, from about a millenium ago, about The Heiress of Water. I was the first person in my family for the past millenium to control the Water Magika. It was rare that a family who prided in the Fire and Earth Magika to give birth to a Water Magikan. Not many dared to go to Bakazak because of the forests that surrounded it from every direction. They were filled with creatures. Wild, dangerous creatures. At least, they were supposed to. The most dangerous things Dilmon and I encountered in the forest were bounty hunters. But I had to face those where ever I went. Mum and Dad can be really pushy when they want to. But I suppose giving away a minscule amount of their fortune to whoever brings me 'home' alive is something you can do when you're the rulers Silvenia.
Dilmon, who had already taken his shirt and shoes off, was lying on his back, his arms above his head, on the sleeping bag beside me. His eyes were closed, but by his breathing I could tell he wasn't sleeping. He "listened to the hums of our souls" as he put it. He smiled. He almost always smiled now, and it was a nice change from the past two years, before we set out together, against our parents' will, to the forests. We've been travelling for almost a month now,but we've known each other for years. His parents are the Duke and Duchess of Romkan, a major city in my parent's kingdom. They are quite close, but I've heard how my mother speaks of the Duchess when they leave, and I'm sure my father thinks the same of them. They are diplomatically civil to each other, no more. Which is probably why the deep, instant friendship born between me and Dilmon bothers them so much. Which is partially why we maintain the best possible friendship we can.
I also laid down on my back, cosing my eyes. I was exhausted, and fell asleep immediately. I dreamt about my first Magika lesson, the one that determines which Element I will master.
"Alasia!" shouted the old, stout Sorcerer named Ramkol Eis. "You do not draw in your textbook! Textbooks are for reading, are they not? So read, child!"
"Yes, Sorcerer Eis," I had said with a naive voice described by all to seem like tinkering bells. I placed the lilac-coloured quill on the floor beside me. It was one-of-a-kind, that quill. It has been in the family for decades, since my great-grandfather had captured the last living Sipoura. It is being kept in the Royal Zoo for now.
I read nonchalantly the instructions and the incantation for each of the five elements: Fire, Air, Earth, Light and Water. Every human in the world could master one of the Magika Elements, but only if given the proper education, from an early age.
"Well then, you should have finished reading by now. Let's begin with the Fire Element, to match your lovely hair, and your family's legacy." The old Sorcerer chuckled and then cleared his throat. I got up from my seat on the floor and stood in front of him. I reached just past his chest. I closed my eyes, and recited the chant written in the book.
Heir Lemishpa Melakim, Dun Roshi Bekesem, Sor Esh Meh Libi.
I looked deep within, searching for anger, or passion. As four-year-old's go, I was rude, feisty. I remembered the time when my dad told me I couldn't play with my favourite teddy-dragon, and how I stormed off to bed, declaring a hunger strike. I thought of my mum, always at parties, leaving me to the maids and matrons.
"I suppose Fire just isn't you, after all," said Sorcerer Eis after a few minutes of watching me screw up my face in concentration. He chuckled to himself. "Who wouldve guessed, eh?" I just looked at him.
"Try Earth," he said. I began chanting silently again.
Heir Lemishpa Melakim, Dun Roshi Bekesem, Sor Adama Mekol Otai.
I recalled breathing techniques I learned with Sensai. A lash of wind on my red face in winter. Pictures of the spiral-storm in East Bolikame. But that wasn't enough either. After five minutes, Sorcerer Eis told me to stop. The same happened with Air and Light. And then came water's turn. If I was to fail at this, I would be declared as without Magika abilities, the first in my heiratage for the past one hundred generations.
Heir Lemishpa Melakim, Dun Roshi Bekesem, Sor Ma Yim Metik Votai.
I concentrated on every memory of water I had. Baths; warm, scented, soapy water. The Fountain; moving in majestic arcs, a spray of cool water on my face every time I passed there. Rain; the first drops on my face and the smile it brings to me. Rushing inside and watching drops merge on a window. According to the textbook, all my senses must be active. I recalled the sounds and tastes and phisical feeling. I felt something stirring in the depths of my stomach, and it wasn't an unpleasant feeling. Without planning to, my arms stretched forwards, fingers apart. I heard a gushing sound, and dared to open my eyes. I let out a small giggle at the sight in front of me. Sorcerer Eis was covered in water from head to toe, and he was trying to twist the edge of his robes dry.
"That..." he said, "was an excellent first try. Next lesson we will learn how to control the power enthrusted to you by your ancestors. Their Royal Highnesses will recieve a full report of your behaviour today. I think that is all. You may go."
I woke from the first ray of sunlight on my face. I slept the whole night, for a change. I got up and saw Dilmon boiling eggs outside, in a copper pan and water from the river heated by densified sun rays; the work of a Light Magikan.
"Morning!" I called, stretching my arms to the side. My back was stiff from my heavy sleep on the hard floor with nothing but a thin sleeping bag.
"You too," he smiled. I put on my shoes, grabbed the sleeping bag and wrapped it around myself like a blanket to shield me from the cool morning air.
Little did I know this was going to be the most important day of my life.