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.

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.

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