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.

No comments: