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.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Forests of Bakazak - Chapter Four


The Oracle gasped as her eyes rolled backwards in her head. She saw it again, she felt the agony of it all flooding through her veins like wildfire, burning her with the same heat as on her very first day of duty.
It had been a very long millennium. And since the first day, the Prophecy had been the same.
The girl, setting out once and for all for her final journey. She will reach Bakazak, and the Runes will speak to her. She will make the discovery.
And then there is a fork in the Path of Fate.
The fork is the agony and pain of it all. All the things that might be and must never be are revealed to the eyes of the Oracle. And it is her duty to make sure Fate travels across the safer road.
Fate depends on the life of the Heiress of Water, and the Oracle was determined that it would cease.


"Look!" I exclaimed, pointing at the wooden sign, half concealed by moss and vines.
The sign read: 'Bakazak, the Ancient City of Runes'.
"Told you we'd reach it today," said Dilmon. Eric croaked from his comfortable place in the front pocket of the rucksack.
I picked up my pace, eager to arrive. It has been two long months since Dilmon and I had left Ritherton and embarked on our journey, and it was so near its end.
I slowed down again. What will we do after this? Where would we go?
I was certain I wouldn't go back home - if you could call that big, cold castle a 'home' - for a few years, at least. On my seventeenth birthday, in a few months time, I was to be assigned a husband and begin my role as Heiress of Silvenya; a dull and boring life I was determined not to live.
"Red," said Dilmon. "What do you think the runes will tell you?"
"Frankly," I said. "I have no idea."
No one knew what the Prophecy says, but since I was proclaimed a water Magikan, it was clear that it was about me. Throughout the years, my parents tried to send messengers to Bakazak. All but one never came back. The last one came back possessed, and kept saying the words 'the Prophecy will be revealed to the Heiress alone'. That happened a year ago. I had overheard these words, and since then I had planned this journey. It was clear from the beginning that Dilmon would travel with me.
We reached another sign, this one with five arrows on it leading in different directions. We walked on the path leading to 'the Runes and Prophecies'.
Suddenly, a loud rumble erupted from the east. Birds ascended from the top of the treetops of the forest. A column of flame rose twice as higher than the tallest tree, and it was heading towards us.
"Should we run?" I asked Dilmon quickly.
"I don't think so. You can put out fires, can't you?"
"Not all of them..." I mumbled. Dilmon, a worried look on his face, came to stand before me, his left hand raised protectively in front of me.
I looked at the trees closer to us, properly frightened yet unable to move. The flame was close. I could feel it's heat lapping across my face. I formed a thin layer of water on it to protect it.
A boy stumbled out from the trees. The flame rose from his head. My fear turned into confusion.
"Don't just stand there, it's coming!!" he shouted, heading towards us quickly. "Run!!!"
As weird as the situation was, I had a feeling I should trust him. I grabbed Dilmon - who seemed utterly bamboozled by the past few seconds - and pulled him away from the forest swiftly. I was just able to see a huge silhouette emerging from the trees, knocking a few down as it drew nearer.
We both followed the flame-headed boy in to one of the smaller Amphitheaters. From behind me, I could hear the creature's panting as it bounded after us. The boy reached the opposite side of the Amphitheater and turned to face us, shouting incoherently. I had no time to try and figure out what he had said. I picked up my pace and reached the cool wall where the boy stood.
"What - did - you - say?" I panted, clinging on to the bricks to steady my breathing.
"That..." he said sheepishly. "That was the only entrance."
I stood up straight at these words, turning around quickly. "DILMON!" I shouted. He was only half way from the stone archway leading into the Amphitheater. He could still make it out before-
The beast leaped through the archway, ripping out parts of the stone as if it was nothing but a thin fabric tapestry. I saw it properly for the first time.

It had somewhat of a bear-like quality to it's features, but it's size..! It was muscular, and as it's mouth opened and let out a bone-rattling roar I could make out - even from about ten feet a distance - rows upon rows of sharp, yellow teeth. It's hide looked like leathery animal body-armour, yet distinct patches of grey-black fur were visible from in between the thick plates.
Dilmon, too had turned when he heard the stone breaking, and his response time was quicker than mine. He ran, meeting my eyes. He was scared.
My head got stuck. I couldn't think. The beast walked closer slowly (or perhaps it was just me, seeing everything in slow-motion), it's mouth curled in what seemed to be a snarl or a smirk. Dilmon reached me and grabbed hold of my hand. I gripped back tightly, thinking this may be the last comforting touch I'd feel.
"What's your name?" I asked the boy with the fiery head.
"Pyro. Pyro Dawn Tyromant." His voice was unsteady.
The beast's muscles tensed, ready to pounce. I buried my head in Dilmon's shoulder, breathing quickly and keeping my eyes shut. I held my other hand out to Pyro, who took it. No one deserved to die alone.
A triumphant roar echoed through the air, but there was something off about the sound. It was accompanied by a noise which reminded me of cracking ice. The roar turned into a squeal, which was cut off abruptly.
"Oh!" gasped Dilmon. Then he chuckled. He held me by my shoulders and I lifted my head up from his, still not daring to open my eyes.
"Red, it's OK," he said. "Look."
I opened my eyes so I only saw a crack of my surroundings. The sight in front of me was so confusing, I had to open them the whole way.
There was a stone statue of the creature precisely where it had stood before. It's eyes were wide with surprise and fright. There was a croak from behind it.
I took a few steps forward, until the croaking creature was visible from behind the beast's leg.
"Pwa-eeeeeeeeeeese!" it said smugly.
"Eric?!" I gasped. "You did this?!" He fluffed up his neck feathers and jerked his head up and down. I picked him up from the ground, looking into his eyes. I felt nothing. It seemed as though he had control over when he could use his power. I figured I must have dropped the rucksack on the ground when the beast emerged from the forest.
I turned around to where Dilmon and Pyro stood, Pyro looking wary and confused as Dilmon explained to him animatedly about Cockatrices.
"We found Eric just this morning." said Dilmon. "He seems to have a liking for Red."
Pyro grinned. "A pet Cockatrice! That's epic!"
"He's no pet," I smiled. "I think he's earned the title 'friend'." Eric inflated his chest.
"So what are you doing in Bakazak, anyway?" Dilmon asked him.
"Well, my village, Eladra, was attacked by that thing..." he glanced warily at the stone beast. "I'm the apprentice Mage, I'm kind of a wizkid at Fire Magika, as you can probably tell"- he pointed to his head -"and for some reason, it seemed that thing was after me. I had to do what I could for the village, and I lured it away, telling everyone not to follow me for their own good. It chased me through the forest, and I ran as fast as I could. I assume you saw it when my hair got out control." I nodded. "The beast almost took my head of then." He chuckled.
"Wouldn't you parents be really worried?" I asked.
"I... I don't have parents. I grew up with the village Mage, his name is Octaboona Ambrosius. We're not related, but he's the only family I have." He smiled.
"So this Octaboona, won't he try and find you?" asked Dilmon.
Pyro shrugged. "He might. He might not. He has ways of telling if I'm still alive or not, and assuming he knows that and accepts my request of not being followed, he probably won't."
"I wish," I sighed. "My parents offer a frotune to whoever brings me home ever time I run off."
There was a short silence in which Pyro's eyes became wider. "Y-you," he stammered, blushing, swallowing and taking a step backwards. "Y-you're the-" he pointed at my hair, wrapped tightly in a ponytail from the top of my head.
I cocked my head. "Yes, I am the princess of Silvenya. You didn't seem to mind that a minute ago."
"Um, yeah. Err... Sorry.. ahem.. your highness?"
It was my turn to blush. "There's really no need. I hate being the princess. Everyone is always expecting me to be perfect, all the time! I need to look perfect, act perfect, be in the most perfect company, have perfect manners! I'm always expected to be the best of the best, at Magika, at Arithmancy, at drawing, at singing, at dancing, and I'm sick of it! I can't stand the thought of waking up and having a kingdom to rule over, with some pre-assigned husband on the throne next to me! I just..." my voice trailed off as I saw the mirrored expressions on Dilmon and Pyro's faces. My blush deepened.
"Just call me Red," I said.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Forests of Bakazak - Chapter Three

"So what are you going to do with the axe?" asked Dilmon, after a few minutes of silence.
"He can... keep it." I said, a bitter tone leaking to my voice. "Even if I did take it, I couldn't use that wretched thing again..."
"Let's get going again, we can still get to Bakazak today if we pace up," said Dilmon.
I nodded, smiled, took the rucksack from the ground and started walking, him right behind me.
I stopped in my tracks and squealed. Dilmon bumped into me from behind.
"That. Is..." I said slowly. "The cutest thing I've ever seen!!" I bent down on one knee and looked at the tiny creature on the ground.
It had deep indigo scales with red stripes. His red, feathery wings were folded at his sides. He turned his chicken-head sideways so his snake-like eye can look at me.
Dilmon pulled me backwards by the wrist. "Careful," he said. "That might be just a pup, but I bet it can still be dangerous. Just don't look it in the eye."
"Who's a cute little Cockatrice?" I crooned to the creature. "You are! Yes, you!" Dilmon groaned.
"He's just a baby, Dilmon! You know just as well as I do that they're glares aren't fatal until they reach maturity!"
"Great, now I'm relaxed," he said, rolling his eyes. "And before you get the chance to ask, we are not keeping it!"

"But Diilmooon!" I said, slowly picking up the tiny creature. "He's so cute! How can you possibly say no to him!"
"Remember Puff? The baby Fire Dragon? I had to put that stinking paste on for a month until the burns healed! And what about Gizmo the Flying Fish, eh? He tried to bite my nose off! How can you possibly love those hideous things! They can kill you when they get older, you know?"
"Jealous much?" I grinned. "It's not my fault they hate you. Maybe it's 'cause you don't treat them well. Besides, I always release them to the wild before they're old enough to do any harm. And I haven't had a pet in years! Not since mum found out about the Earth Salamanders... She could have just let them stay and order someone to fix the Botanic Gardens!"
"You are a spoiled little brat, you know?" A glimpse of a smile was just visible on his face.
"Pwetty pwease, Dilmon?" I begged. "Pweeaaase can I keep Eric?"
"You named it?!" Dilmon shouted, making Eric screech, fluff his wing feathers and inflate and flatten his neck.
"Look, now you scared him!" I pouted and held Eric in both my hands close to my chest. Dilmon rolled his eyes again.
"Pwaa-ie Pwees Dilmun! Pwaa-ie Pwees Dilmun!" came a voice. Dilmon and I looked at each other quizzically. Neither of us had said a word, and there was nobody around but us and...
"Eric?!" we both looked at him incredulously.
"Pwa-eeeeese!" He squawked.
We both burst out in a laughing fit. I was laughing so hard I had to put Eric on the ground in fear of squishing him with my hand. It ended after a few minutes, though. Dilmon and I lay on our backs on the grass, clutching our aching stomachs with one hand and massaging our jaws with the other.
Dilmon sat up. "Fine," he said. "Eric can stay."
I bolted upright, and my wide smile hurt my jaw. "Really?" I said. He nodded, smiling a crooked smile. "Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you!!" My jaw really hurt, but I just couldn't help myself.
I picked up Eric and held him level with my face. He cocked his head sideways and I looked straight into the complex patterns of his eye. It was fascinating, really. I released my stare after a few seconds, so Dilmon won't panic and think Eric had paralyzed me.
I got up, one hand holding my new pet, and the other helping Dilmon up.
We continued our journey, walking so fast we almost ran. I was so excited that I didn't even notice my hand (the one that wasn't holding Eric) swirling the water droplets in the air around and around, creating an orb of liquid around it.
Throughout our walk, I tried to teach Eric some more words unsuccessfully. All he ever seemed to say was "Pwa-eeeeeeese Dilmun". Dilmon just looked at us, half-bemused, half-annoyed.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Forests of Bakazak - Chapter Two

We sat outside as the sun wasn't too hot in the early morning. We ate our eggs, laughing about that time about a year and a half ago when his family came over to my palace and we went to the pond. It was so muddy that when we came back both our mothers litteraly fainted at the sight of us, covered from head to toe with brown sludge.
We finished eating, wrapped everything up, and began walking towards Bakazak.
We walked for the next few hours, and the mid-sky sun made us sweat. We had to stop and sit down or we would get dehydrated, so we found a couple of large stones that we used as chairs and drank from our canteens for a while, fanning ourselves with our hands.
Suddenly, a hand grabbed my mouth from behind. I instinctively bit it and heard a yelp from behind me. I couldn't see Dilmon.
Before I turned around to face my attacker, I sent a whip of water in a horizontal arc behind me, using the moisture in the air. I twisted as I heard the 'thwack' indicating I had hit my target.
My assailant was masked, but I could tell by the physique it was a man not over the age of forty. He pulled out a menacing machete. I smirked, expanding the water drops caught inside the poorly-made metal. The blade became almost instantly rusted. The man threw it aside, and before I knew it he was holding my arms in a crooked position behind my back. I groaned in pain as he pulled them higher, almost taking them out of their sockets. With one hand still holding my arms, he turned around, caressed my face and punched my jaw. My mouth was slightly open and I could feel my teeth searing open my lower lip. My eyebrows contorted as I resisted the urge to lick the gushing wound. But I knew what to do.
I relaxed, standing utterly still. I let out my power and the man let out a cry of pain. His whole body had been scratched at the surface. His clothes had tiny rips in them, and the skin below was filled with paper cuts from thin strands of water.
"You're not worth it," he muttered as he turned and ran away.
I hurried back to the place we sat and drank, but I saw no-one. The short yet efforted fight had led me away. I heard a yell, and then silence. The yell was Dilmon's. I picked up my pace and sprinted to where I heard the yell from; unlatching the small throwing-axe I kept in my belt.
"Dilmon!!" I shouted, as I saw the scene about ten feet in front of me. He was laying on the floor, on his back, a sword about to be driven through his chest. Still running, I threw the axe, praying it'll hit the target. With a half-cringful, half-satisfying crunch, it drove it's self into the man's skull. He dropped to the floor, dead.
Dilmon slowly got up and backed away from the body. Blood was dripping on the grass. Dilmon closed his eyes, swallowed, and opened them again, avoiding the man on the ground beside him. He looked at me.
"You're bleeding," he said, taking out a piece of clean cloth as he walked towards me. I let him softly dab it to my lip and chin. The formerly white cloth became almost as red as my hair.
"Are you hurt?" I asked him.
"Bruised my chest, but I'm fine..." his voice trailed off. He looked into my eyes warily. "You killed him." His voice was barely a whisper.
"I had to," I said in the same volume. "He would have killed you. He was going to, and you know it, too."
"Yes, but-"
"No but!" I shouted, making him jump away from me. He was scared. Of me.
Tears of anger built up in my eyes. I saved him. That was it. I had to kill that man. But did I? I knew more than enough ways to knock a person out with water attacks. By the time he'd wake up we would be long gone. The anger turned into a combination of sadness, despair and shame. I had killed someone. And I didn't even have to. It all became too much, and I fell to the ground, unconscious. The tears piled in my eyes dropped with me.
"Red," I heard a murmur. "Red, please wake up. Please. I shouldn't have been scared, you were right, you had no choice. I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for you. Please, just wake up." His voice broke on the last word. I became aware of the grass touching me, and of a large, rough hand holding both of mine.
"Dilmon?" I breathed. He sighed with relief.
"I'm here, everything's fine," he whispered to me. I opened my eyes. The tall evergreen trees surrounded us. He was sitting on his knees beside me. Everything was blurry.
"I'm sorry, Dilmon. So sorry..."
"You have no reason to be," he said firmly. "I'm the one who should be sorry... If I only concentrated on the Aura Field..."
I tried to stand, and with the hand still holding mine he helped me up and stood on his feet. I couldn't look him in the eyes. I hugged him and he hugged me back.