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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Forests of Bakazak - Chapter Eight

I was lying on the soft bed in the guests' room of Octaboona and Kallista's house. I couldn't seem to sleep, too many thoughts were running about crazily in my head. I tried, again, to close my eyes, and the image of Pyro's flushed face from earlier filled my mind. I opened my eyes, but the room was dark enough that I couldn't see a thing and his face swam in front of my eyes. My memory had somehow managed to capture how he looked exactly, from how his blush was only on his high cheekbones, to the many shades of yellow and orange of his flame.
The smile I hadn't noticed smiling disappeared as I thought of what had happened today. It all went horribly wrong, and it's all the Runes' fault.
Though... I was my fault, too. If I hadn't been so straightforward about the seriousness of it, then Kal - who, from what I had realized since meeting her, was an extraordinarily selfless person - might have had the chance to think about what she wants.
I twisted for a while, my mind unable to settle on only one thing. It kept moving from Pyro, to the Runes, to Pyro, to the Runes, to... Pyro, to the...


"Red!" whispered a voice. "Red, wake up!"
"Whu-.." I mumbled, trying to open my eyes, sealed heavily.
"We're leaving, Red, now!" I finally recognized whose voice it was.
"Kallista?" I said, sitting up and slowly opening my eyes. I rubbed them with my fists. I looked around, and saw thin strips of faint light through the closed shutters. "What's the time?" I asked, now slightly more awake and alert.
"About quarter-past-five. Come on, before Octa gets up."
I moved the blanket from me, feeling goosebumps creeping up my legs from the early-morning coldness.
"I'll be downstairs," she whispered as she exited and closed the door behind her.
I got ready quickly, so I went to the room Dilmon was staying in. I opened the door quietly, and found him sitting up on his bed with the shutters wide open and his eyes closed shut. He had a small smile on his face. I assumed he was listening to the hums of the early-awakeners' souls.
"'Morning," I said quietly. He wasn't startled, he just opened his eyes and looked at me, the small smile still there.
"'Morning," he answered.
"We're leaving now, Kal just woke me up..." I trailed off after seeing his smile disappear on the word 'leaving'. He sighed.
"Five minutes, downstairs," I said as I left his room and quietly closed the door behind me. I walked towards the stairs, and then I saw the door frame of the door nearest the staircase. I grinned as I looked at the burn-marks on the top of it, pretty certain I knew whose flaming hair had singed them there. My grin disappeared as I realized that if I go now, I'm probably never going to see him again in my entire life. My stomach clenched in pain at the mere idea of that. I couldn't leave him behind. I walked towards the door, my arm already extended in order to knock and then a part of my brain told me to stop and think what I was getting myself into if I offered him to come along.
I politely told that part of my brain to be quiet, and knocked anyway.
"Humnmnh," came the muffled reply. My grin returned, and I cautiously opened the door.
His bed was in the far corner of the room. The sheets looked odd, and then I realized they were covered in tinfoil. For a second, I didn't understand why, and then I saw Pyro's head, a small flame blazing on it, as always. I smiled. There was a table to the other side of the room, objects ranging from old toys, to piles of books strewn upon it. On the wall above the table, there was a shelf with a few clay figures and a realistic painting of a marble. I wondered if Pyro was the one who made it; it was really amazing. In the corner nearest the door, there was a chest. It was slightly open and I could just about see a metallic blade.
"Pyro?" I said quietly.
"Red?" he said, still sounding half-asleep.
"Yep," I answered. I hesitated again.
"Something wrong?" he sat up, rubbing his eyes.
"Well, Kal woke me up a few minutes ago, she decided to come." I breathed. "Would you... maybe... want to come with us?" I clutched the door frame, my knuckles whitening. I felt my cheeks heating.
His eyes opened wide, his eyebrows shooting up into his mess-of-a-fringe-I-found-absolutely-adorable. "Really?" he said, sounding rather incredulous, though softly so.
I nodded, and avoided meeting his gaze.
"I... I'd... yeah. Yeah, I'm coming with you," he said. I found myself grinning hugely. He grinned back.
"Be downstairs soon," I said, turning to leave and closing the door behind me. A warm kind of fuzziness was spreading in my stomach, along with a sensation rightly described as butterflies. My heart was thudding so loud and clear, I could feel it trying to break through my ribcage and float away dreamily.
We all met downstairs a few minutes after that, each one of us carrying a rucksack, filled with clean clothes, sleeping bags and food. Kal's rucksack had a rainbow painted on it.
"Got everything?" I asked Dilmon. He nodded, seeming glum. "What's wrong?" I asked. He just shook his head.
"Let's go," said Kal, and turned to open the door. It opened silently, and we went outside.
There was a light-blue glow coming from the east, though the sun wasn't yet visible. I wrapped my traveling cloak around me tighter to warm up; it was a cold morning. Kal was in the lead. I couldn't see her face, but her shoulders were slumped and jerked up occasionally. I wasn't sure, but I think she was crying. Dilmon walked beside me, and I knew Pyro was behind me from my flickering shadow that walked in front of me.
Both Kallista and Dilmon were down. I didn't need Aura-sensing skills to know that. I knew why Kal was so sad, and I hated myself and the Runes for forcing the cheerful woman I met yesterday to be like this. But I had no idea why Dilmon was so unhappy. It had been a while since he looked this miserable. Last time I could remember was before we had started planning this trip to Bakazak.
No one said anything while we walked. The sun was already shining its yellow morning light and it was slightly warmer by the time we reached the front gates.
"'Mornin'!" said Steve the guard cheerfully, and opened the gates. He didn't seem to mind - or notice - that no one answered him.
Kal walked forward one step. She wasn't outside Eladra yet, and she hesitated. She took a deep breath, and took the first step out of the town she calls home.
And then three things happened at once.
Firstly, Octaboona came running, still in his pajamas.
"Kal!" he shouted.
She turned around. Tears were streaming down her rosy cheeks. "Octa," she blubbered, falling into his arms.
"Did you really think I'd let you leave without saying goodbye?" he murmured to her.
While that happened, Dilmon turned to me. "I'm staying," he said defiantly. "I was up all night, thinking about it, and I want to stay here in Eladra."
But I couldn't hear him, because the third thing that happened blacked out my senses.
The second name.

Octaboona Ambrosius.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


This is a monologue I wrote for Drama Club a while back. It's originally in hebrew, I did my best to translate it:

Don't look at me, and decide you know who I am. Don't see my ironed hair, my black eye shadow, my clothes, and think you have any idea what I'm going through in my life. Because you don't. How can you know that the only reason I blow up my eardrums with metal music is to drown out the shouts from home, echoing in my head all day, every day. How can you know that I hide behind a fringe that covers my eyes is so you won't see the tears? How can you know that I wear only long sleeved shirts to hide the cuts and bruises? You can't. And that's why, when you see me, sitting alone at school, you immediately think "There's another Goth freak", and don't think twice before you look away and keep living your stupid lives.
And what I can't get is how can you keep droning on about your miserable little problems. "My best shirt was ruined in the washing machine!" "My boyfriend dumped me!" "I failed my math exam!"... Just get out of the perfect bubble you live in, because you can't even begin to comprehend real problems. A real problem is waking up every morning, and being disappointed when you find out your life isn't just a nightmare you can wake up from. It's running away from home and sleeping on a bench for two days, because at home? Nothing good is waiting for you. It's being scared, terrified, every second of every day, that someone suspects what's going on in my house, that someone will tell. That can't happen.
So what I'm trying to say is.. not everything is as it seems. At least not in my case. And if you rely only on what you see? Then there's probably someone out there with slightly less tolerance than I have, that's sick of everything. Sick of life. You can think for yourselves what he'll do with that feeling.
Actually? That doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Forests of Bakazak - Chapter Seven

A woman in her early twenties opened the door. She had black hair in an up-do with strands hanging loose complimenting her grin that enlightened her dark-blue eyes. She wore a sepia-brown vest over a puffy-sleeved, white shirt, and a dark brown layered skirt shorter in the back than in the front.
"PYROOO!" She squeed, tackling him in a tight hug and then noogying him softly.
"Hey Kal," he said, grinning.
"Oooh, guests!" she said, turning to Dilmon and I. She half-walked, half-skipped to us and gave us each a warm hug. Her cheerful enthusiasm was contagious so that I found myself grinning and hugging her back.
She stopped in her tracks, looking at me with bulging eyes. My grin faltered and I put a hand to my head, finding out her hug had made the hood of my jacket fall, revealing my hair. I hastily pulled it back up lest anyone else see.
"Princess!" She exclaimed in a slightly awed tone. I winced and blushed as she curtsied.
"Kal," Pyro said, and began explaining all that happened in the past few hours. Surprisingly, it didn't take that long. "They both prefer to be treated as any other person in Eladra," he finished. I smiled at him gratefully.
"Oh," said Kal. She had listened intently to Pyro, and now she was smiling warmly at Dilmon and I. "Well in that case, welcome to my humble home!" She opened the door wide and beckoned us to enter.
Again, I was slightly shocked by how different this was than what I was used to, in the palace. The floor was a plain, wooden one, with some scruffy-yet-fuzzy-looking carpets strewn all over the place. The ceiling had thick, dark, wooden beams across it. The furniture was simple, bare. The walls were covered with works of art, both drawn and written. I walked over to a framed piece of parchment written on in golden ink;

For you’ve asked the greatest question
Which is simply labelled Why?
What’s the point at all in living

"When eventually you die," whispered Kal from behind me. "This is a verse from The Loss of Hashiness, by Octaboona, sometimes known as the Purple Poet. My Purple Poet!" She grinned, waggling her eyebrows. I chuckled.
"Speaking of which," she said, a little louder so that both Pyro and Dilmon could hear as well, "he really needs to get home soon!"
And then, with perfect timing, the door opened, and a man I took to be Octaboona entered the house.
"Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!" he half-shouted, half-sang, picking her up and spinning her around, finally stopping to dip her and plant a kiss on her lips. He then looked up.
"Oh," he said. "There's guests. Hello."
I waved awkwardly. Dilmon just stared at the couple. Pyro was trying not to laugh.
"And you are?" he asked, smiling as he got up from his dip with Kallista and inclined with his head at Dilmon and I.
"That's Dilmon, there," said Kal before I even opened my mouth. "And this is Red Waterfall."
"Oh! We're in the presence of Royalty?" His wide grin stopped me from taking his question seriously.
"Not today," I grinned back. "Today I'm here for something else."
"And what might that be?" asked Kal. Pyro hadn't mentioned the fact that the Runes had told me to get Kallista to come with us.
Octa took her by the hand and they sat down on a rather small armchair. Both of them. Hmm.
He beckoned us to sit on the sofa, and we did, me sitting between Dilmon and Pyro. I explained what I understood of what the Runes had told me, about the dying World and the first part of the Prophecy, in which I was told I was one out of the two people in our entire World that could actually speak to the Runes.
"Wait, what does Kal have to do with all that?" asked Pyro.
"The Runes chose a group of people, from all over our World who deserve to survive... it." I said. "Kallista's the first on the list." I smiled at her.
"What?" she said. "Me? I don't deserve to be saved, no no no, there are other people more important-"
Octa interrupted her with a kiss. "Sometimes you're too modest for your own good," he said. "It's natural that you're the first on the list, you're the best person there is!"
"You're a teeny tiny bit unobjective, don't you think?" she said, sticking her tounge out at him.
"You have to choose whether or not you want to come with us," I said. "You have to choose now, because there's no time to waste. We leave in the morning."
Dilmon sighed. He hadn't said much at all since we reached Eladra. I could tell by his face that he was deep in thought.
"I'm coming with you," she said. "Me too," added Octa.
Suddenly, my vision went blank.

The World, it sings it's pained and broken song
You mustn't make a step that's out of line
For if another joins that isn't named,
The World will reach a devestating end.

You have to realise you hold the Fate
Of both your World and all the Worlds beyond
Kallista Pendragon must come alone
Until she does, no other name will show.

If you do not hurry up and quicken
Then all you know will fall and crumble, break
So you cannot leave without Kallista
For then all Worlds will reach their horrid end.

Vision returned, and at first, everything was blurry. I gulped in deep breaths, coughing slightly.
Only after fully regaining the ability to breathe I noticed I was on the floor, everyone huddled around me with worried looks on their faces.
"I'm fine," I said, getting up. I sat down on the sofa again, and everyone sat down where they were before. "It's fine," I reassured their still-worried faces. "The... the Runes just spoke to me. I didn't know they could do that outside Bakazak. Took me by surprise."
"What did they say?" asked Octaboona.
I recited what they had told me.
"So... I can't go without Octa?" Kal's voice wavered.
"I'm sorry," was all I could say.
She took a deep breath, and her lower lip trembled slightly.
"And all the Worlds depend on whether she comes with you or not?" asked Octa, protectively cuddling her.
I nodded. "It seems so."
"I guess.." Kal said slowly. "I guess I have to come with you. I have to... leave Octa, for now." She looked up at him.
"Sleep on it, Kal," I said. "Don't rush with this decision."
"Okay," she said. She and Octa looked into each other's eyes with such intimate intensity, that I felt I had to give them time to themselves. I got up and went outside.
I sat on the front porch, head slumped on my hands. That was insanely cruel of the Runes, making Kal choose between her happiness and love, and Worlds she never even knew existed.
It was dark, with only a hint of light blue at the horizon, where the sun had set. I didn't hear the front door opening, but the orange blaze lighting up the porch told me that Pyro had come outside, too.
"Runes are evil," he stated, sitting not quite next to me, but close enough that the heat from his flame warmed me up from the now-chilly air. I nodded.
"Where'd Dilmon go?" I asked him.
"Upstairs, to the guests' bedroom. Kal offered you'd sleep here and he agreed."
"That's very kind of her," I said softly.
Pyro sighed. "Something wrong?" I asked him.
He shrugged. I smiled at him. He smiled back.
He looked away, and I could just about see a slight redness in his cheeks. My smile widened as I felt my own cheeks heating in a blush.
Despite the slightly awkward silence, I was comfortable. I think I could've stayed there for a while, with the moon just about rising, the nice, cool air, the soft, warm blaze of Pyro's flame... there was just something about Pyro that made me feel... free. Made me feel myself, without any masks or forced emotions.
But.. wait. What am I thinking?
I'm thinking that... well...
But I only just met him a few hours ago!
And yet it feels like I've known him for years...
I felt my eyes widening as I took in my epiphany.
I.. I had.. feelings for Pyro.
Yes, I was certain of that.
But.. how does this all work? As the Heiress of Sylvenia (sigh), I haven't exactly ever thought of boys. I didn't need to. I was to be assigned a husband at the age of seventeen and that's that. I had no choice in the matter.
But it didn't matter. Not anymore. Not since this entire World is going to die.
But then when will I have a chance to tell him??
I felt like hitting myself. No way am I going to tell him. Ever. There's no way he'll even ever think of me like that. I'm just this weirdo princess picked by mystical forces to gather a group of people and save them from destruction. I internally groaned at how true and awful that was.
I peeked back up at him, clicheicly meeting his gaze. I immediately looked back down at my lap, my cheeks growing more and more like the colour of my hair.
I took a deep breath, about to say something when-
"How can you even say that?!" shouted a voice from inside the house, making both Pyro and I jump. The shout was Kal's.
"Kal, calm down," said Octa. "All I was saying was that you don't have to do this, not if you don't want to."
"You expect me to just sit here and live my life while a World dies?!"
"Kal, I'm saying you should do whatever you want to. And sure, I'd love it if we didn't have to be apart, but you-"
"How can I possibly leave after you tell me that?! You know how much I love you, and how I'd much rather be with you forever, but I don't even think you understand! A whole World is at stake. Thousands, if not millions of people will die, because Kallista Pendragon was a selfish person and stayed with the one she loves more than anything!" Her voice broke, and I heard sobbing, gradually fading, and then a door slammed shut. Octa sighed.
I closed my eyes and rubbed my forhead. I hated the fact that Kal and Octa were fighting over it now. It was my fault. They seem such a lovely couple and now, because of me...
The orange light shifted, and Pyro got up and went back inside. I stayed outside.
It was pitch black now; the half-full moon was just behind a small cloud. I leaned my head on my palms and sighed. I closed my eyes. It was nice, being just me in the dark.
Without Pyro's flame, I got cold, and my teeth started to chatter. I went back inside.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Forests of Bakazak - Chapter Six

There were more than two hours until sunset when we left Bakazak and started trekking north, to Eladra. During the easy course in the forest Dilmon and I asked Pyro questions. He wasn't the talkative type, but after a short while conversation was flowing.
Pyro told us more about his history. He had lived in Bakazak for his entire life. When he was four, and had his first Magika lesson he had recited the Fire chant and his hair started blazing. It was quite the sight at first, but everyone got used to it. From the short hours I knew Pyro, it seemed he wouldn't quite be him without the flame on the top of his head.
He had lived with his parents until he was eight. And then, in a terrible accident he wasn't told much about, his parents had died. He didn't remember much of them, which seemed odd to me. I can remember with clarity thing that happened to me ages ago.
It was arranged Pyro would live with the village mage, Octaboona Ambrosius, and his wife, Kallista Pendragon. They were both warm and welcoming people, and Pyro counted them as family. He had his fights with Octaboona (once, he had told us, Octa got mad at him for losing his sneaker), but they were hardly ever serious, and even if they were, Kal always managed to work it all out.
He also asked Dilmon and I about a life of luxuries.
"Well," I said, "it's not that I don't like king-sized beds and fancy baths, but I'd much rather sleep under the stars than under a four-poster."
"Why go so black and white?" Dilmon interjected. "You don't have to settle for stars. To be honest, I think I'd be better off as a normal person, doing things for myself, for a change. I would give anything to have the opportunity to stand in a trade market and sell paintings I drew for a new pair of shoes, something that could never be possible when you're the son of the Duke of Romkan! All I have to do is point out I have a tiny hole in my shoe, and one of the servants"- he spat the word -"holds out a brand new pair for me. I don't have one thing I've earned myself!"
I smiled at Pyro's expression. I was already used to Dilmon's passion for ranting. But I had never heard this particular rant before.
"I wouldn't mind trading with you," Pyro said. "The only thing I do is practice Magika with Octa, and whenever I try and help out with anything else, I keep setting stuff on fire..."
I laughed, imagining him bending over and picking a carrot while his hair sets a crate on fire. Dilmon chuckled too.
"It's not very funny," Pyro mumbled. A hint of a smile was visible in the corners of his mouth.
We reached the edge of the tree-line and Eladra came into view. From the peak of the small hill we stood on we could see the entire village. Most of the houses were small cottages, clumped together in patches hard to define as streets. Then, slightly west to the houses, there was a marketplace. There weren't a lot of people, and most stands were getting ready for closing for the night. Close to the marketplace there was an inn, where a few people crowded in the warm evening air. Then, in the very west corner of the village, there was a big, stone building; the Town Hall, I guessed.
"See that house there?" Pyro asked, pointing to one of the smaller clumps of cottages. "The one with the purple roof?"
I nodded. "Is that Octaboona and Kallista's house?" Dilmon asked, his grin audible in his voice.
"Yep," answered Pyro. "Let's keep going!"
We walked down the grassy hill, and I let Eric out of the rucksack for now.
It was already dusk by the time we reached the gates of Eladra. I pulled the hood of my jacket up; the last thing I wanted was somebody to recognize me and make a scene out of it.
The guard exited his cabin with a slightly surprised grin on his face. "Pyro-Dawn!" he said. "You're alright!"
Pyro awkwardly nodded.
"I was actually pretty sure that that beast would be the end of you." His grin turned into a serious expression. "All of Eladra are very grateful. It was a very heroic thing you did."
Pyro slightly blushed. "Thanks," he mumbled.
"So who are our guests?" said the guard, the smile lighting his face again.
"We're travelers," I said, before Pyro could think of anything. "We were in the area when Pyro led the beast away." I picked Eric up from the ground, grinning. "This is who saved us!"
The guard loaded his crossbow and pointed it at Eric, squinting his eyes. "Miss, please put that dangerous thing on the ground!" His voice quavered.
"Dangerous?" I said, then I realized. "No, no, you have it all wrong! Eric's a friend!"
"You named it?!" Said the guard.
"Told you it was weird," muttered Dilmon.
"Steve," said Pyro. "It's fine. This Cockatrice is cleverer than it seems. It turned the beast to stone, and it won't turn people who won't hurt it into stone."
"Oh," said Steve the guard. "Sorry, miss. My mistake."
I giggled. "It's fine," I said. The guard opened the gate and let us in.
The first thing I noticed as we walked was how different this town was than any other place I've been to. No tiles, but wood. No marble, but tin. No agricultural fields, but small garden patches. No fancy suits and dresses (sigh), but plain clothes, in brown-ish colours.
The second thing I noticed was the atmosphere. It was... free. I smiled as a few small children ran barefooted, one caught the other's hand and happily squealed 'You're it!'. Three cows stood in a small grassy patch, chewing nonchalantly.
"It really is nice here," Dilmon said. "Everyone's Auras are... good. You never see that in big cities like Romkan or Ritherton."
"You sense Auras?" asked Pyro.
"Yep, I chose it as my light Magika specialty."
Every Magika, apart from the basic control over the element, has two specialties you can choose from. Light has Auras or electricity, water has steam or ice, earth has changing materials or plants (dividing into subsections), air has flying or sensing presences, and fire has lava or inhuman physical strength (very hard to master).
Rarely, you have people with special specialties, more commonly known as Talenotes. I have a second cousin who's a Talenote, he can turn earth into clay men who think for themselves. It's great for parties.. and battlefields.
"What's your specialty?" Asked Pyro.
"I chose steam for mine," I said. "Helps me out a lot."
"I'm a Talenote, though I can only use it when I'm unconscious."
I was surprised. For some reason, I actually didn't think Pyro would be a Talenote. They're very rare. Then again, I didn't really manage to picture him having the lava - not to mention strength specialty.
"What can you do?" Dilmon asked.
"Basically, the flame on my head grows into a sort of silhouette of myself. It's basically me, but made of fire and attached to my head."
"Epic!" I said, impressed.
We reached the doorstep of Kallista and Octaboona's house. Dilmon and I stood awkwardly behind Pyro as he grinned and knocked on the door.