The side story is completed so I hope everyone is happy. :nod
Side Story: Welcome Home
Kejuta looked out the window to admire the garden outside. She was sitting on one of the window seats where her papers were scattered all over it. Currently she was taking a break from her lesson with Brenton, who was currently reading his book. While she decided to stay in the small study room, Adia has decided to take a walk around the town since they rarely leave their new residence. Two years has passed since they first arrived on the island. Captain Wexen and his crew has already left back home though they did promise to come back to start trading. As for the Sea of Storms… Aundra told them that the violent storms will no longer trouble them anymore. Apparently it was one of the barriers that the gods had placed to block the people from traveling.
Pendance, on the other hand, was training with Aundra, which caused some discomfort to her. Hopefully, that woman wasn’t trying to seduce him. Kejuta shook her head and sighed. You have an active imagination, Kejuta, she thought drily. Shaking her head, she grabbed one of the sheets of paper and examined it.
While some languages came easier to hers, others were more difficult. She was having difficulty with the Fueran language. Why couldn’t they put their sentence in the typical noun-verb-object order instead of verb-noun-object order!? Likewise, the Duermon language was difficult because they used symbols for writing and some of which has at least three different meanings! Maybe she should ask Adia for help since she seemed to do very well with that language. On the other hand, Kejuta immediately learned all of the Versen and Purian language with ease. Speaking of which…
Gathering up all of her courage, she stood up and walked over to Brenton, who sat in an oversized, comfy chair. Kejuta didn’t know why she felt nervous; after all, she has become friends with the strange Ilmarian. She took a deep breath and began to open her mouth when he asked, “What’s the matter, Kej?”
Brenton, who could decide whatever age he wants to be, looked up at her with kindly eyes. Today he had decided to be a twelve years old boy because he promised to teach Adia, who still has some childlike qualities in her, some sort of game that the Kreesian children like to play. Kejuta’s mind drew a blank so she stuttered, “W-well, I was wondering about something and…” He nodded to show that he wanted her to continue. “…and… uh… oh yes, I was looking at the Purian language and I remembered what my late husband told me once. When he first met me, he mentioned that I look like a Purian or a Merzakian.
“I know that one of my ancestors was a foreigner who came to live in my hometown so I was wondering if it’s possible, may I see who my ancestor is. I want to know whether he was a Purian or a Merzakian and why he decided to leave his homeland. If it’s fine with you, of course!”
The boy just smiled. “Of course I can help you,” the Ilmarian of Time agreed. “It’s quite simple really. Just place your hand on my book and I will place mine on top of yours. I will then go back through your family tree until I find the person you’re looking for. When I do, I will broadcast the event in your mind so you can see it too.”
Kejuta did as she told and placed her hand on the black leather book, which has a golden insignia on the middle of the cover. “If it makes things easier, you can close your eyes when you do it. It helps sometimes,” Brenton suggested so she did. She felt a tingling sensation as the boy worked his magic on her.
After a few seconds, he declared, “I think I found him. Okay, I’m transmitting the image into your head right now.” Before long, images filled her head.
Roku inspected his horse, Steadfast, and sighed. His horse could no longer walk any longer due to the fact that one of his legs was swollen. It was most likely because they have been traveling for a week now with few breaks in-between. Even though he loved his horse, Roku knew that he had to give him away and hopefully found another fresh horse.
He knew that there was a farm nearby based on the trail of smoke billowing in the air. Hopefully he could convince the farmer to let him trade Steadfast for another one. Roku was reluctant to do so because he had been avoiding the main trail unless it was necessary, but it looked like he has no choice. Several of his former comrades have been searching for him since he has deserted the Temple Guards. There have been some close calls, but he managed to evade them somehow.
Before he made his trip, Roku needed to check on his sister, Kyah. He went over to her; she was lying against a dead ash tree. Even though her eyes were wide open, she hasn’t spoken at all and she has a faraway look in her eyes. Kyah, who was a former priestess of Puria, has been that way after she was kidnapped by the Merzakians and brainwashed to becoming their goddess’s priestess.
After concealing her up with dead branches, he whispered, “I’ll be right back, Kyah.” However, she kept staring off to the distance and didn’t respond. He has gotten used to it so it didn’t really bother him that much. Giving his sister a kiss on the forehead, Roku grabbed the reins on his horse and walked toward the rising smoke.
The journey took him twenty minutes to reach the farm. Luckily for him, the farmer was still out in the fields when he saw the approaching visitor. Roku waved at him and the old man waved back. He stopped plowing the fields and went over to Roku. “May I help you, mister?” the farmer asked politely.
“It’s my horse,” he explained. “He’s injured and I need to continue on my journey immediately. If it’s possible, may I exchange my horse with one of yours?”
The older man nodded. “Yep, he’s definitely done for sure,” he agreed after he inspected the horse. “Tell you what? Why don’t you come inside the house while I get one of my horses ready for you?” Before Roku could protest, the man yelled aloud, “Hey, Yeann, we have a guest so set another plate for dinner!”
A plump, middle-aged woman with her reddish-gray hair tied in a bun appeared at the door and examined her guest before she finally nodded. “Come on, young sir,” she gestured with a warm smile. “It will take my husband awhile. He likes to take things nice and slow, which can be irritating at times.”
Not wanting to be rude, Roku realized that he didn’t have any choice but to go inside the house. After he wiped his feet on the welcome mat, his hostess invited him to sit down at the table. While she continued cooking the meal, Yeann pestered him with a lot of questions.
“So what’s your name and where are you from?” she asked as she stirred the pot, which smelled of something delicious.
Roku did some fast thinking and replied, “It’s Lukin and I’m from Praeta.”
“I see,” the woman responded. “Are you in the Temple Guards?” He suddenly looked up in alarm. How did she know? Yeann must have noticed his expression because she clarified by pointing at his right arm, “Your armband.”
He looked down at the gold and black cloth band that wrapped around his arm. That was the only thing besides his sword that he has left from his old life. He had traded his armor to a merchant for some food provisions; that con man also wanted his sword, but Roku refused since he still needed it to defend Kyah and himself. “Yes, I am,” he admitted because he knew that he had no choice but to tell the truth.
The farmer’s wife looked at him peculiarly. “Why on earth would a Temple Guard be interested in this backwood country?” she wondered.
“I’m on a secret mission,” he lied. “There are rumors about some Merzakian followers around here so I come to investigate whether or not they’re true.”
“How awful!” Yeann declared. “I hope that they’re false and if they’re true, I hope you catch them. Anyway, food’s ready so enjoy!” She plopped a plate of steamy pile of foods in front of him. Roku was about to protest, but the smell of chicken and dumplings, green beans, and butter roll caused his stomach to rumble.
He gave his hostess a sheepish grin and apologized, “Sorry about that. I haven’t had a decent meal for weeks now.” The woman gave him an understanding pat on his back. “Anyway, thank you for the meal.” Grabbing his fork, he immediately chowed down.
By the time he has finished, the farmer came back. “The horse is ready if you want to see her,” he told Roku. “Shall I take you there now?”
Roku nodded and thanked Yeann again for the delicious meal. As both men headed down to the barn, Roku noted how dark it has become. Hopefully, Kyah will be all right by herself. A sudden guilt filled his heart because he was able to enjoy a nice meal while she was probably hungry by now. Maybe he could ask the farmer’s wife to give him some foods before he leaves.
They arrived at the barn and the farmer opened the wooden door. “Well, she’s inside,” he said as he waved the young man in. Roku followed inside and looked around. The barn was mostly bare except for the farm tools that were stuck neatly in the corner and hay covered the floor. The strange thing was that the only animals he saw were the barn cat and his horse. Confused, he turned around to ask the farmer about the promised horse when he heard the door slammed behind him, which caused the room to be filled with darkness.
That was when he realized that he must have fallen into a trap. Before he could react, something hit him on the back of the head and he collapsed onto the ground.
A bright light shining on his face woke Roku up. “Well, well, well,” he heard a gruff voice declared aloud, “Guess who decided to FINALLY wake up.”
Blinking, he squint his eyes to see who was in front of him. A dark tanned muscular man with scars all over his arms stared back at him with a pleased grin. Seven more men who looked almost similar to him were behind the man, whom Roku assumed to be the leader of the gang. Still groggily from the hit on his head, he tried to stand up but discovered that he couldn’t move his arms and legs. That was when he became aware of the fact that he was tied down to a chair.
Turning to face his captors, he demanded, “Who are you?”
“My name is Enmith,” the leader of the gang introduced himself. “You see, my men and I were hired by the Church to find a deserter from the Temple Guards who has kidnapped the Maiden of Puria. You see, we’ve heard rumors that people have seen a young man with a girl around this area. We figure that you have to seek help sooner or later so we asked the local folks to report to us if a stranger comes to their home. Well, farmer Tramlin sent us a message that a young man asked to trade in his injured horse a couple of hours ago and asked us to come in immediately. The funny thing is that you look awfully like the kidnapper based on his description. So where’s the girl, Roku?”
Roku sat there, stunned. Why on earth did the Purian sect hire mercenaries to find Kyah and him? That was so unlike them at all! Worse, they had lied about Kyah and the fact that she was no longer a Maiden anymore due to her corruption by the Merzakians. His instincts told him that Nanzi, the previous Maiden, was the one behind the orders. It would be like her to do this type of things behind the Church’s back especially since she has always hated him for some reason. Knowing her, she would parade him around the capital before he hangs at the public gallows. She would most likely gloating the entire time too.
A punch on his face woke him up from his stupor. “I said, ‘Where’s the girl’?” Enmith repeated before punching him again. Nevertheless, Roku refused to answer so the beating continued. There was no way he’s going to reveal Kyah’s location to these thugs! Besides, his military training has taught how to endure this type of thrashing.
Finally, it appeared that Enmith and his men have reached an understanding that he would never tell them where his sister was hiding. After smacking him very hard on the side of his head that he became dizzy, the leader sneered, “Not talking, huh? Fine then. Maybe seeing your former comrades will persuade you.” Turning to his companions, he ordered, “Kylin, you and two others, get the horses ready. Dervin, I want you and two of the men to get supplies. I want Farst to get a messenger bird and deliver a message to the Purian army that we have captured the deserter. Meanwhile the rest will help me keep this traitor company.”
Hearing those words filled Roku with dread. He didn’t really want to face his superiors and his friends again. Imagining Commander Hodan’s disappointed face was bad enough as it was, but seeing his unit who idolized him? That’s going to be tough. However, the one thing that terrified him the most was that Kyah was out there in the middle of nowhere with no one to protect her. How was he going to get out of this mess?
The next thing he knew, everyone fell unconscious on the floor. Amazed, he felt the ropes that bound his arms and legs unraveled and soon he was freed. As he stood up, he rubbed his wrists and looked around the room in bewilderment. What on earth has happened? It was as if his prayers were answered. After grabbing one of the men’s swords, he ventured cautiously outside.
It was there where he met a strange man who seemed to be waiting for him. In spite of his white hair, the man has a youthful appearance. He wore a long white tunic that reached to his feet and a green overcoat with gold trimming. A gold diadem with an emerald in the middle adorned his head. Next to the stranger was Steadfast.
Before he could even speak, the man said, “I’m glad that you come out fine. I was beginning to worry that I might arrive too late.”
“Who are you?” Roku asked carefully. There was something special about this man but what?
The man gave him a warm smile and answered, “I am called Versen, the creator of mankind.”
Awestruck, Roku could only stare before he finally demanded, “Wait a minute! You’re the one who told me to leave with Kyah back at the military camp, weren’t you?”
The god nodded and explained, “I believed that leaving was the best opportunity for your sister and you. I know your reason on why you joined Puria’s Temple Guards and since your reason is now gone, you would have been miserable for the rest of your life. However, I didn’t expect any opposition from my sisters.”
Shaking his head, he continued dryly, “It seemed that Puria has taken a shine toward you so she was quite upset that you left, which is why she ordered Nanzi to send mercenaries after you. Likewise, Merzak was furious that you burned down her temple so she inflicted injuries to your horse with hopes that you would be captured and executed.”
He sighed. “I’m terribly sorry about my sisters’ behaviors. As the oldest, I should know how to handle those two,” he apologized. “You see, Puria is quite spoiled and can be condescending at times. She also loves to provoke Merzak, who has a very hot temper and is very self-conscious, so they fought nonstop. Unfortunately, my other siblings and I are stuck in the middle of it, which can be very irritating, and it looks like you and your sister are in the middle of it as well.” He suddenly became embarrassed. “Look at me! Telling a mere mortal about my family situation. That’s very unbecoming of me. I hope you don’t mind my venting.”
“No, not at all, Lord Versen,” Roku replied though he felt somewhat awkward hearing it. Puria is a brat and she was smitten by him? That cannibalistic Merzak is very sensitive? Versen couldn’t stand both of them? Who would have thought the gods have the same problems like everyone else?
Versen gave him a bemused look. “You don’t have to be formal with me,” he reassured Roku. “I’m not like Aerius. Anyway, we’re going off on a tangent so let’s get back on subject, shall we? You don’t have to worry about my sisters anymore. The others and I managed to ‘persuade’ them not to pursue your sister and you anymore. Puria has sent another divine message to Nanzi to let you go. As a mean of apology for causing you so much trouble, Merzak has healed your horse so it’s good as new while Puria has offered you some food rations that will last until you reach your destination.”
“Thank you,” Roku managed to answer, “but why me? There are other humans who probably deserve the gods’ favors more than me.”
“Let’s just say that I want you to have a happy ending,” the god simply replied as he handed him the horse reins. “Besides, I have a feeling that there is something special about your lineage. Now go. Your sister is waiting for you.”
After climbing on top of his horse, Roku turned to look at his savior. “If I may be bold, but is there anything that you can do to heal my sister?” he inquired as he recalled the words that Nanzi has told him long ago – that Kyah will never live a normal life.
Versen shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, I can’t,” he apologized. “I am already showing favoritism toward you by helping you escape. Any more would cause an outrage with my siblings since we’re not supposed to be biased. Kyah may not be like she used to be before the incident, but she will turn out fine. I’m sure of it. Anyway, should you be going now?”
“I see,” Roku said understandably. He has figured that Versen was already doing the best that he can. “Thank you for your help; I appreciate it.” With that, he turned his horse around and started riding back to camp.
As he was going away, he heard Versen shouted, “Keep going in that direction! You’ll reach your destination in three days! Take care, Roku, and may you find a peaceful life!”
During his journey, Roku was amazed by Steadfast’s new burst of energy. It was like he was a youthful horse again. He hated to admit it but Merzak has really kept her promise to her brother. Now he has to make a mental note to make an offering to her (besides to Versen and Puria) as a way of thanks. How ironic that he has to be grateful to a goddess who was supposed to be his enemy. But then, after hearing what Versen has said about his sisters, maybe Merzak wasn’t as evil as he was taught she was. I guess nothing in this world is truly black and white, he thought wryly as he urged his horse to move faster.
It was past midnight when he finally reached his destination. Luckily for him, there was a full moon out so he could still discern where everything was located. After he tied Steadfast to a tree, he rushed over to Kyah’s hiding place. With bated breath, he tore away the dead branches that hid his sister and was relieved that she was still there.
She was sound asleep and her peaceful expression comforted him. Flopping down next to her, he pulled Kyah closer so her head was resting on his chest. While he listened to her breathing, Roku stared up at the night sky and gazed at the stars twinkling above him. After his meeting with the creator of humanity, he felt at peace for some reason. It was as if a heavy burden was lifted from his shoulders – no more would he have to look behind his back for any pursuers or worry about getting supplies. Even though he planned to keep watch, he soon found himself falling asleep alongside his sister.
Versen’s prediction was right; the next three days were hassle free and relaxing. No one attempted to chase after them and most of the times, Roku and Kyah were by themselves except for a few animals wandering around here and there. The former didn’t have to worry about looking for food either; Puria’s bag of provisions seemed to be never empty at all. On the third day, the sound of water striking against the rocks first told him that they were near the ocean. The realization that their journey was finally over filled him with joy so he encouraged his horse to hurry faster. Before he knew it, the sight of houses and wooden fences were seen on the horizon, which told him that they have finally reached their destination.
Slowing down his horse so not to cause any alarm, Roku looked around the town. It was a pretty simple town compared to the main capital in the Purian region. In fact, it somewhat reminded him of his hometown except slightly bigger. Cottages lined up the cobble-stoned streets and most of them have a small garden growing in the backyards. A bustle of tan-skinned people was coming in and out of their houses as they did their everyday activities. Most of the villagers seemed to be heading toward the harbor, where they most likely worked. Some gave him curious glances especially since he was holding Kyah, but most didn’t bother staring at him. It was probably due to the fact that they have gotten used to outsiders visiting the town.
After a few minutes of looking around, he found someone who seemed willing enough to help him. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said politely to a middle-aged woman, who was gathering some flowers in her garden. She looked at him thoughtfully and nodded so he could continue, “Do you know where I can find the town chief?”
“You mean, the mayor?” she asked. “Of course, dear. Continue heading straight down until you reach the second street. Then turn left and continued walking until you reach the town well. The mayor’s house is located right behind it; you can’t miss it – it’s the biggest house in the area. I hope that helps. Oh, I hope your friend like a flower.” She put her hand into her basket and handed him a pink gladiolus.
Thanking her, Roku placed the flower in his sister’s hand and continued on his way. Soon he passed by a small marketplace where people purchased grains, vegetables, animals, and fruits from traveling merchants, who set up tents where they placed their wares. Roku thought he saw some Purian and Merzakian traders though they didn’t appear to notice him at all.
He then turned left and found himself at the small town square. A small well was at the center and several buckets were placed neatly next to it. Finding the mayor’s house was quite simple just like the old woman told him – it was slightly bigger than the rest of the nearby cottages and it was located on a small hill. Upon reaching the mayor’s house, Roku gently got off Steadfast after making sure that Kyah was still sitting safely on the saddle. Then he placed one arm under her knees and the other around her waist; after doing so, he lifted her down and placed her on the grass. Afterward he tied his horse to the fence railings. Carrying his sister, he walked to the front door and knocked with his free hand. Then he waited.
Mayor Archebard listened intently as Roku told him his story. While they were sitting in the mayor’s private quarters, Kyah was resting in one of the guest rooms where she was taken care of by the mayor’s wife and daughter. After the housekeeper answered the door, she immediately welcomed them into the house and sent for the master of the house. The mayor was very friendly and offered to hear Roku’s story to find out his intentions.
When Roku finished his tale, he looked hopefully at the mayor. Archebard’s eyes were closed as he contemplated what he just heard. Finally he opened his eyes and declared, “I see that this is the gods’ will that you and your sister stay in this village after what you have to ordeal. Very well, you can stay here for the night. Don’t worry – the people of Alethesia are very welcoming and will be willing to help you settle down. I should know because my parents were foreigners as well.”
Now that he thought about it, Roku noticed that the mayor’s appearance was different from the others. He has light skin and ash blonde hair, which was similar to a Purian or a Merzakian. However, he decided not to ask the older man about it since it seemed too impolite and nosy.
“Thank you, sir,” he replied gratefully. “But are you sure that you don’t mind our staying at your house? I don’t want to be too bothersome.”
:”Nonsense!” Archebard waved his hand as if he was shooing a fly and winked. “You’re our guests and you won’t be any bother to us. Besides, my wife loves to entertain so think of it as a way of letting my wife have fun.”
He stood up so Roku followed suit. The mayor took his hand and gave him a firm handshake. “Now I know you must be exhausted so I have a room prepared for you. It is right next to your sister’s so you can check on her once and awhile.”
The young man nodded but answered, “I think I’m fine for now. I was planning to explore the town a little bit more before dinnertime…”
“That’s fine,” the mayor interrupted. “I can have my daughter, Seraphin, give you a tour. I was planning to ask her to send for the town doctor to examine Kyah so that will kill two birds with one stone, eh? Too bad my son, Lohjin, isn’t here to help out. He’s out on the fishing boat at the moment. Wait here. I’ll send the housekeeper to get her.”
A few minutes later, a young woman appeared at the doorway. The mayor’s daughter’s features were somewhat similar to her father’s except that her hair was a brownish blonde color and her skin was lightly tanned. Her hair was pulled back and her hazel eyes have a gentle look. She was wearing a short-sleeved maroon shirtdress and leather sandal slippers. From the moment Roku saw her, his heart skipped a beat. She was as beautiful as Este, whom he sorely missed.
Her father led her aside so they could have a small chat. He could barely hear their whisperings to each other. Not wanting to eavesdrop, he looked outside the window and admired the rose garden.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked politely. Since he couldn’t say a word, he just nodded and followed after her.
“Well, this is the final stop of our tour, and this is the harbor where several of the men work as fishermen,” Seraphin explained as they walked around the dock. Roku stopped and looked around the area. This was the very first time he has seen the ocean and it was marvelous! The smell of fish and salt filled the air while the sounds of the crying seagulls and the splashing waves were heard all over the place. The sunlight seemed to glimmer on the deep blue water with its white foams. He wistfully thought that his family and Este would have loved to see it.
“Is this your first time seeing the ocean?” Seraphin’s voice broke his train of thoughts.
Startled, he looked at her and grinned embarrassingly. “Yeah, it is,” he admitted. “It’s beautiful.”
An awkward silence then occurred between the two until the girl suddenly plop down near the edge of the deck so Roku followed suit. Swinging her legs back and forth, she asked slowly, “Umm… are you a soldier by chance?” He raised his eyebrows quizzically so she added, “I noticed that you have a sword in one of your belongings so I was curious. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“It’s all right,” he reassured her, “and to answer your questions, yes, I am or rather was a soldier. I was a captain in the Purian Temple Guard and had my squad. However, I deserted the army when I fled here with my sister.”
“I see,” she replied. “My father told me a little bit of your story. I’m so sorry about your sister. Kyah, was it? Doctor Vertagas is the best in the village so I’m positive that he will find a way to cure her. He and everyone in the village will make sure that you and your sister will get adjusted living here. My father once told me that after he and his family first arrived in the village, he felt like he was at home and that he never wanted to leave. I’m sure that the same will happen with you.”
Roku decided that it was a perfect time to ask his question. “Where did your father come from originally?” he inquired.
He observed that Seraphin hesitated before finally answering, “My paternal grandparents were Merzakians. When my grandmother was pregnant with my father, they decided to leave to a better place because they have become disillusioned with Merzak’s promises. However, they knew it was dangerous to flee since they could be used as sacrifices if they were caught. Luckily for them, a merchant was willing to stow them away in one of his wagons and led them here to stay. Umm… I know that you’re a Purian so I would understand if you have some animosity toward the Merzakians…”
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he interrupted taciturnly, “Besides, I don’t have reason to begrudge you or your family just because you have Merzakian in your blood.”
Silence filled the air again, but Roku didn’t mind because there were a lot of thoughts running through his head. Ever since he was a child, he has been taught that Merzak was an evil goddess who wanted to eat human beings just like the wolves that attacked the flock of sheep. On the other hand, Puria was a kind-hearted goddess who used her powers to protect her people from her sister’s evildoings. After his meeting with Versen and learning about these two sister goddesses unintentionally, Roku began to question everything that he thought he knew. What if Puria was the instigator and caused the whole rift between the two religious groups? Was Merzak truly cannibalistic? If not, why did her followers and the others believe so?
After a few minutes of contemplating, he decided that it was time to go back to the mayor’s home. Standing up, he offered a hand to Seraphin, who graciously accepted it. “I’m sorry about my earlier remark,” he apologized. “It was very rude of me and I shouldn’t have said that in that manner.”
“It’s okay,” the woman replied. “I think I understand how you feel. I would feel the same way if something happens to my brother.”
After she patted her dress down to get rid of the dust, she continued, “Well, shall we head back then? My mother is probably anxious right now since the sun is almost setting. She’s a perfectionist when it comes to cooking so she wants to make a good impression on you. By the way, I hope you like roast fish because that is what we’re having for dinner tonight.”
“Dinner was delicious!” Roku declared and wiped his face with his napkin. Floria, Archebard’s wife, looked at him apprehensively.
“Are you quite sure?” she asked nervously. “I didn’t burn the fish, did I? I hope the steamed potatoes were cooked thoroughly…”
Lohjin rolled his eyes. “For the gods’ sake, mother, he said it was delicious not that it was terrible,” he said dryly. His father gave him a stern look but he just shrugged. Roku smiled amusingly in spite of himself. Lohjin was the splitting image of his father except that he has a sharper chin and his hair was a light brown.
He then turned his attention to Roku. “So I heard that you and your sister are the newest members Alethesia. I truly hope you enjoy your stay here. Have you ever be on a boat before? If not, why don’t you ride with me one day?”
“Lohjin, it’s too early for that!” Seraphin admonished. “He just got here and you’re already inviting him to go on your boat. Wait until he settles down and gets used to living here first!”
“All right already! Geez!” her brother grumbled but smiled at Roku. “My sister can be bossy at times, can you tell? Anyway, think about my offer and whenever you feel like it, come to talk to me. My friends and I will be willing to have you aboard.”
“Thanks, I’ll think about it,” Roku answered. There was something about Lohjin that he likes; he seemed to be carefree and has a sense of humor, but he seemed very gregarious and friendly. Roku has a feeling that he and Lohjin will get along just fine.
After he helped wash the dishes (he insisted on helping in spite of Floria’s protests), Roku went to Kyah’s room to check up on her. The room was quaint but very roomy. The pale yellow walls were mostly bare except for a few paintings of flowers here and there. A wooden chair with a seat cushion and a small table were placed next to the window, which looked out to the garden. The dresser was against one wall and the bed was on the opposite side.
Kyah was lying on her bed fast asleep. An empty bowl was on top of the end table; before dinner, Floria has fed her a bowl of fish broth for her supper. The gladiolus that the old woman has given to her earlier was placed in a simple vase filled with water. That was also on the table as well. Another wooden chair was next to the bed.
Walking over to her, Roku placed his lantern on the table and sat down on the chair. They must have changed her clothes because she was now wearing a white cotton eyelet short dress, which he presumed to be Seaphin’s. A pink and white quilt covered up to her chest where she has her hands clasped together.
Seeing her sleeping so peacefully caused Roku to think of what the doctor has told him. Vertagas has told him that he theorized that Kyah has refused to live in reality due to the trauma that she has experienced. However, he believed that she may wake up from her stupor state if she sees or hears something that she recognized. That’s why he recommended that Roku keeps talking to her with hopes that she might wake up upon hearing his voice.
“Hey, Kyah,” he said softly as he stroke her hair. “How are you doing? I bet you’re happy that you’re sleeping on a nice, comfortable bed instead of the hard ground. I think you’re going to love living here, Kyah. The people seem nice and very helpful. Oh, you should see the ocean. It’s amazing to look at and nothing from the text we read does it justice! Maybe you can go see it one day when you’re feeling better.”
Kyah didn’t even stir at all in spite of his effort. Roku sighed; well, Dr. Vertagas DID mention that it will probably be a long and tedious effort so he would need a lot of patience. He kissed his sister goodnight and went back to his room, which looked similar except the room color was almond and the quilt was blue. After he took off his boots, he flopped down on his bed. Looking up at the ceiling, he wondered if Kyah will ever be normal again. However, exhaustion soon overcame him and he was fast asleep.
The people of Alethesia were very willing to help them settle in especially after they heard about Roku and Kyah’s story. A retired fisherman offered them his cottage, which was located near the harbor, since he was going to live with his son and his family. The men offered to lend Roku a hand as he fixed up the place, which was slightly damaged. Some of the women gave them some clothes for them to wear while others brought them food. A few gave him old garden tools and some seeds as well.
After the house was fixed up, Roku and Kyah were ready to live in their place. The spacious foyer led to the kitchen and eating area on the left side and the sitting area on the right. The stairs led to the bedrooms upstairs. Roku has decided to make the room closest to the stairs his so he could be ready just in case an intruder tries to come in. Kyah’s room was the corner room because he wanted to make sure that she could face the ocean. The other two rooms were used for storage for now since he didn’t have any use for them yet.
As a way to show his gratitude, Roku did some odd jobs for the villagers such as fixing the roofs or descaling the fish that were caught. While he was busy working, Seraphin and some of the other women (those it was mostly the former) took care of Kyah, who didn’t show any signs of improvement by bathing her, feeding her, and talking to her. However, no one gave up on her and many began to view her as the “little sister” of the village.
One day, he was beginning to feel restless. Sure, helping the villagers with the tasks kept his occupied, but it wasn’t fulfilling. Besides, he felt like he was a charity case and he wanted to do something that best fitted his qualifications. He told Lohjin his frustrations and asked for his advice.
“Hmm…” Lohjin murmured thoughtfully after he heard Roku’s story. “Remember the offer from dinner that one night? Why don’t you join my crew to see if you’re interested in becoming a fisherman? You may have a knack for it and just didn’t know it. I can talk to my boss about letting you get on the ship, and I’m sure that he didn’t mind at all. What do you think?”
Roku hesitated. He has never been on any kind of boat before, but his friend was right – he may be good at fishing. Not to mention, it didn’t hurt to try, right? “Sure, I’m in,” he replied. “So when should I start?”
Lohjin looked pleased. “Tomorrow, most likely,” he said. “My boss likes to see new workers’ abilities as soon as possible. Well, I better tell him about it then. See you tomorrow, Roku! I’m sure you’ll be a great fisherman!”
Lohjin was wrong on that account. As soon as they were out on seas, Roku began to feel very squeamish from the rocking of the boat and immediately rushed over to the side of the ship to release his stomach content.
“Well, I guess you’re not made to be a fisherman,” Lohjin sighed in an exaggerated manner, which caused the others to burst out laughing. “I think you should move to the back of the ship because you’re scaring the fish.”
Roku thought to himself that he was probably a poor sight to see and wanted to laugh as well. Unfortunately, he was too busy retching to do that. For the rest of the trip, he just spent his time emptying his stomach or sitting down while watching the other men haul in the fish. By the time they arrived back on the shore in the evening, he felt exhausted.
“Hey, man, are you okay?” Lohjin asked as they walked on the docks. Roku grabbed a spoonful of water from a barrel to gurgle his mouth so he could get rid of the taste of bile.
After he spat the water out to the sea, he answered, “Yeah, I’m feeling a bit better except my pride is somewhat wounded from the experience.”
His friend grinned at that remark. “Hey, I want to talk to you about something. Do you have a minute?” he inquired. Roku nodded so they headed to the same place where Seraphin took him during his tour.
As soon as they got there, Lohjin questioned matter-of-factly, “So when are you and my sister going to make it official?”
Roku almost stumbled upon hearing that, which the other man observed with great interest. “Umm… beg your pardon?” Roku gasped. “What on earth are you talking about?”
Lohjin gave him a disbelieving look. “You didn’t know?” he replied scornfully. “Isn’t it obvious? Sera and you are madly in love with each other. I see the way you two look at each other. Not to mention how my sister always goes to your home to take care of Kyah while you’re away and that she stayed to eat dinner with you. In fact, everyone in the village knows about it!”
“Wait a minute, Lohjin!” Roku protested halfheartedly. “We’re just friends. I don’t know where you get that silly…” However, his friend refused to listen.
“Father and Mother approved of you, you know,” he continued as he ignored Roku. “Just the other night, Mother was saying how you would be the ideal husband for Seraphin. You’re hardworking, devoted, and respectful. I have to agree with her so I have one request.” Looking at Roku intently, he demanded, “I want you to take good care of my sister. If you do anything that hurts her, I’ll make sure you’ll regret it. Got it?”
Before Roku could even reply, Lohjin waved goodbye and walked away. Roku could only stare at his friend’s back and shake his head before heading back home. Now he has that chat with his friend, he has a lot to contemplate. He really appreciated Sera for her help, but was it really love? But then, he was always happy to see her whenever he came home from work and he enjoyed spending time with her. That’s the definition of love, right?
The next day, Roku got a summons from the mayor, who asked to see him. Anxious, he immediately walked to Archebard’s house and wondered what it was all about. After what happened last night, he thought that the leader of the village may want to discuss about Seraphin. However, that was not the case.
“You were in the army, correct?” the mayor asked once they sat down in the parlor. Confused, Roku nodded so the he continued, “You see, we have been having a lot of complaints from the merchants and shoppers that there are a lot of pickpockets and thieves roaming around the marketplace. Likewise there are some bandits who would rob travelers near the outskirts of town. Since you have some experience with military training, I thought you would be interested in training some of the young men to become the village watchmen.”
“I’m honored, but I have never trained anyone before. Besides I don’t know if anyone would be interested,” Roku stated uncertainly, but Archebard gave him a confident smile.
“I’m positive that you will do fine,” the old man said, “and don’t worry about the list. There are already a long list of men who volunteer to train under you. They were pretty excited because they wanted to train under a war hero.” He chuckled. “It would also help because at least they have something to do and not be idled.”
Roku closed his eyes and after a minute or so, gave his answer. “Okay, I’ll do it,” he decided. “So when shall I begin?”
“If it’s possible, would tomorrow be fine?” was the mayor’s reply and Roku said that it was fine. “Good! Now that issue is over, why don’t you have lunch with my wife and me? We will like to discuss your intention with our daughter…”
In spite of his concerns, Roku found out that he did well in training the men on how to become disciplined and skilled law enforcers. The men were willing to learn and mastered using their weapons quickly. Within weeks, they were ready to patrol the village and keep an eye on any troublemakers. Unfortunately, training the men and leading the patrol meant that Roku couldn’t spend much time with Kyah. Luckily, Seraphin has been keeping her company. Speaking of Seraphin, it seemed that her parents have given him their blessing to court her. However, nothing much has changed between those two. Well, except the fact that she stayed the nights at his home most of the time and they sometimes gave each other a peck on the cheek.
Several months have passed when something miraculous happened. It was the middle of the day and Roku was teaching some of rookies how to swing their swords when suddenly a boy came storming into the middle of practice.
He was out of breaths but he managed to deliver his message. “Mister Roku,” he gasped while he was trying to catch his breaths, “Kyah is speaking and she’s asking for you so you better hurry!” Upon hearing that good news, Roku quickly dismissed his students and rushed back home.
He burst opened the door where a crowd of women was waiting in the foyer. “How did it happen?” he questioned quickly.
“Lacesa just placed a bunch of baby’s breath flowers in the vase when suddenly your sister started to talk,” one of the women explained. Roku nodded understandably. Baby’s breath flowers were common back home so that would make sense that she would recognize it. After thanking the ladies, he headed upstairs.
Seraphin and Vertagas were waiting outside Kyah’s room; however, they looked very disturbed. “What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly when he saw their expression.
“I think you should come inside and find out,” the doctor warned as he opened the door. He and Seraphin came into the room first.
“Kyah, Roku is here now,” Seraphin called out softly before motioning Roku to come in. He entered the room and saw Kyah’s beaming face. She was sitting up on her bed and looking at him happily. Roku discerned that she was probably nervous because she didn’t recognize anyone there at first, but she was relieved once she saw him.
“Hey, Kyah,” he said as he knelt beside her bed. “How are you feeling?”
“Great, Roku,” she began but her expression was confused. “But why is Maglin calling herself ‘Seraphin’ and where is Father? Is he tending the sheep right now?”
Roku’s heart sank. Maglin was their oldest sister’s name, and she died several years ago due to an accident. That’s why the others have worried faces. “Kyah, she is not Maglin. Her name is Seraphin,” he explained slowly, “and Father isn’t here right now.” Then he stood up and walked away.
Seraphin found him moping over at the watchmen’s training ground. “There you are!” she said, relieved. “We’ve been looking all over for you!” He nodded but looked away. He has been depressed ever since he saw Kyah again. Seraphin sat next to him and touched his arm.
“What happened to her?” he finally asked.
She answered, “Vertagas believed that since she was traumatized by her experience with Merzak’s followers, she suppressed her memories and wished to live in a more ‘happier times’ in the past.”
Roku thought about what Versen said and how she won’t be the same. “Is there anything that can help her?” he inquired hopefully.
“Just time mostly,” Seraphin replied. “We have to teach her in a patient and slow manner. Vertagas recommends not mentioning Puria or Merzak to her since that may cause her to have another nervous breakdown. I’m sure that we can do it. Oh, the doctor said that we need to keep an eye on her since she may wander off and since this place is new to her, she may get lost or accidentally drown in the water. I bet you’re exhausted so I’ll take first watch tonight. I hope you don’t mind, but I have set up a room in one of the empty bedrooms.”
Roku perked up when he heard the last sentence. “Wait a minute,” he began. “Are you implying that you’re living with us?”
“Why not?” She raised her eyebrows. “I’ve been practically living at your place anyway and Kyah seems to be comfortable around me. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise because I’m staying and that’s final! Besides, I’m getting somewhat impatient waiting for you to propose to me so I decide that I’ll do it myself. So get used to the fact that I’ll be with you for the rest of your life.”
He listened to her, stunned. Roku was not quite good in expressing his feelings to others, but he was quite happy that Seraphin wanted to be with him. “Thanks, I appreciate it,” he said with a smile and kissed her to show that he meant it.
Several years have passed since Roku and Kyah first arrived at Alethesia. Roku was still in charge of the village watchmen, whose numbers grew significantly once it was proven that it was effective against crimes. It was evening, and Roku was finishing his rounds. After making sure that everything was fine, he dismissed the evening shift, and the night shift started their rounds.
Roku decided to take the scenic route on his way home so he could admire the view. The flowers were beginning to bloom and the ocean was pretty calm today. Ever since he has lived in this place, Roku felt like this was his home from the very beginning. His memories of living in his original hometown and being Puria’s Temple Guards were like an afterthought now.
As he walked up the pathway leading to his home, his oldest son came running down to greet him. “Welcome home, daddy!” Xavandi shouted as he jumped into his father’s arms. Roku swung around in the air, which caused his son to squeal with glee. “Guess what? Uncle Lohjin let me ride on his boat today and it was so much fun! He told me that I did a much better job than you, daddy!”
Roku chortled ruefully. “He’s never going to live it down,” he sighed and gently placed his seven years old son back to the ground. They entered the house where his other son, Juxe, waited for them in the foyer. The five years old boy didn’t seem happy for some reason.
“Daddy, Auntie Kyah called me ‘Mika’ again,” he pouted. Roku gave him a sympathetic smile. Mika was his little brother’s name.
He knelt down in front of his son and explained, “Remember how I told you that sometimes Auntie Kyah gets confused and lives in her own world sometimes?” His son nodded. “Well, she was just confused at the moment so she didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. We need to be patient around her, okay?” He messed up his son’s hair, which caused Juxe to laugh.
Afterward, his sons went over to the sitting room to play with their toys, which were scattered all over the place. Roku noticed that Kyah was sitting on a chair and looking out the window to the ocean. After a few years of patience, Kyah was now living in the present though she did have her moments in which she thought she lived back in their hometown of Pillar. She seemed to forget that she was the former Maiden of Puria, which was probably a good thing. No one really mentioned the names of Puria and Merzak in front of her as well just in case she may have a bad reaction upon hearing the goddesses’ names.
Roku went into the kitchen and greeted his pregnant wife, who was cutting the vegetables, with a kiss. He placed his hand on her stomach and felt the baby kick. They have agreed that if it was a girl, they would name it “Este” after his fallen comrade. “Guess who went to the marketplace with Juxe and me?” Seraphin said matter-of-factly.
He raised his eyebrows. “Kyah? How did she do?” he wondered. Kyah rarely left the house except to walk around the yard.
“She did fantastic,” she praised. “She even talked to the merchants and bargained with them. There were some Purian and Merzakian sellers, but she seemed to be fine with them. I almost forgot but Lohjin is coming here for dinner.”
Hearing the good news, he gave his wife a hug and kissed her again. “What was that for? Are you that happy to see my brother?” she teased so he smiled.
“I’m just happy,” he replied. Everything that Versen has told him was true. For once in his life, he was content and surrounded by the people he loved. He was home.
Kejuta opened her eyes. “Well? How was it?” Brenton asked curiously.
“Very informative,” she replied. “So my ancestor was a Purian and he married a woman of Merzakian and Alethesian descent. Just one question: what happened to Kyah?”
Brenton answered thoughtfully, “From what I’ve seen, she lived with her brother and his family for the rest of her life. She never married, but she became popular with the village children, whom she took care of. When she died at the ripe old age of eighty-four, she was buried next to her brother. Did that answer your question?”
Kejuta nodded. “Thank you again,” she said graciously. “I owe you one.”
However, the Ilmarian of Time just shook his head. “It’s not necessary,” he said. “Anyway, shall we go back to your lesson? I think you have made some syntax mistakes with your Fueran translations…”
---------- Post added July 09, 2012 at 03:39 PM ---------- Previous post was June 28, 2012 at 04:24 PM ----------
Okay, Ch. 4 is finished! I found the original story concepts in my old laptop and was amused to see how much alteration I made (e.g. Kejuta was supposed to be a well-intentioned extremist, the world is supposed to be set in different dimensions, etc). :amuse
Chapter 4: Marika - "My role is to guide the Seeker"
“So you’re telling me that this ruththaw leaf would help stop bleeding?” Marika asked as she studied the ridge-edge leaf. The Duermon apothecary nodded.
“Of course!” he acknowledged and he held out the small leather bag of herbs that she gave him. “I’m impressed about your medicinal herbs knowledge. Who would have thought that blending pinkcloak root and tristian leaf would alleviate morning sickness? My clients would love to learn about it. Some of the women in the royal family have been feeling ill lately.”
“I’m glad that I’ve been very helpful to you,” she replied as she grabbed the bundle that her colleague has given to her. “It’s a pleasure talking to you, but I must get going.”
The Duermon stood up and shook her dark-skinned hand. “Normally I wouldn’t do this, but since I like you, I have to tell you this: I wouldn’t go near the border if I were you,” he warned. “That is where the parasitic and possessor Duermons live and I’m sure that they would love to use you as a host.”
Marika gave him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I have my methods of getting around. Thanks again for everything. Take care!”
She gathered her belongings which were resting beside the door and with a wave, left. The tiny rings that dangled from her khakkhara and chain belt jingled as she walked through the door.
After a short walk, Marika paused and looked around her surroundings. No one was really paying much attention to her; that’s good. She discreetly went off the main street and to an empty alleyway.
“Well, that was my last stop,” she said aloud to herself. “I guess it’s time for me to meet my fellow colleagues.”
She grabbed one of the rings from her belt; upon closer look, one would notice that it as well as the others has two pointy ends, which faced the opposite directions. Marika pricked her finger on one of the sharp point and let the blood covered the entire ring. Then she tossed the ring in front of her, and it hung in midair. The ring slowly expanded until it was big enough for her to go through – a portal of some sort.
If one looks from the back of the portal, all he would see was a strange distortion as if looking at a mirage. However, for Marika who was standing in front of it, she could see a new “world” – a tree-covered land surrounded by the ocean. From what she recalled from her dream, that place was called Kreesia. That is where she will meet the others who shared the same fate. Smiling, she went through the portal, which shrank as soon as she walked through.
Kejuta sat impatiently in the meeting room with the others. Brenton has informed them that the newest Ilmarian was supposed to arrive here today so Aundra wanted everyone to be there to greet her.
“Wait, how did you know it will be a girl?” she remembered asking.
To which, Brenton replied simply, “Only a woman would have bosoms that big.” Of course, she immediately started blushing with embarrassment. That was awkward hearing that from the six years old boy’s mouth.
Anyway, two hours have passed and still no guest has arrived. “Are you SURE that she’s coming today?” she asked testily. Brenton looked up from looking at his book and nodded.
“Patience, Kejuta,” Aundra said with a smile. “I’m sure our guest will be here soon.”
Kejuta sighed. Why does Aundra make her feel like she’s a little girl even though she’s older than the Ilmarian of Magic? She pretended that she didn’t hear that comment and admired her new dress instead. During their training, Aundra has presented her children and her with new clothes. Her reason is that as the new immortal protectors of Samara, they must look “the part”. Besides, they have special qualities – they will never stain or get damaged.
Even though the Ilmarian of Fate has some misgivings about her fellow comrade, she has admitted that she has good fashion sense. Kejuta wore a short-sleeved yellow dress with a flowing skirt and green trimming, green slippers, and a simple green headband. She still wore the pendant that her late husband gave to her; no matter what, she would always remember him.
Adia, who was sitting nearby, wore a simple white, sleeveless, short dress with a red sash across her waist and red lace-up sandals with ribbon ties. Her long hair was tied back with a red ribbon too. Her son, Pendance, wore a black tank top, a pair of black pants with gold trimming, and black boots.
Currently her children were keeping themselves occupied by reviewing over their lessons. Kejuta thought to herself that she should have done the same. She was debating whether or not she should head back to get her notes when suddenly the air in front of her began to… shimmer.
She must have yelped because everyone looked up and stared at the strange phenomenon. Then a tiny hole appeared and it grew larger until it was slightly taller than her. From Kejuta’s view, she could see a dark-skinned woman and behind her, the town of Draia from that strange opening. The woman waited for a second or so before walking through the strange gateway and into the room.
Brenton was right; the newcomer did have an impressive bosoms. She was wearing a violet-blue tube top that has a leather string with a crisscross design down the opening, which was in middle of her front. She also has on a violet-blue capris pant and woven gladiator sandals. A sarong, which color reminded Kejuta of amethyst-colored hydrangeas, was wrapped around her waist and a thin chain belt with around twenty rings was placed on top of it. Her jewelry was just a shell necklace and hoop earrings; her cornrows were tied in a bundle. She was also have a satchel and held a monk staff with twenty rings, ten on each side of the pole.
As soon as she entered the room, the huge hole shrank back to the side of the ring, which the woman picked up and placed back on her belt. She looked around the room, impressed, before settling her eyes on Kejuta. Kejuta immediately stood up and offered her hand to the woman. “Welcome,” she greeted. “My name is Kejuta and over there are my children, Adia and Pendance. Their names are Aundra and Brenton. You must be the Ilmarian whom we were expecting.”
Marika took the woman’s hand and shook it. She sat next to Kejuta, whom she has an immediate liking to. “Thank you,” she said in her husky voice. “My name is Marika and it’s a pleasure to meet all of you. My dream led me here to you.”
“Your dream led you here?” Aundra looked at her with great interest. “May you tell your dream that you had when you die to us? Oh, before that, tell us how you became an Ilmarian like us.”
“Certainly,” Marika assented. “It happened three years ago when I lived in the desert land of Isha. Back then, I was a traveling healer who went to village to village to take care of the sick. During that time, there was an epidemic that was spreading throughout the land. It was a strange illness. The sick would have a high fever and sores all over their bodies. Then blood would flow from their orifices until they bleed to death. Many people – old, young, woman, and man- suffered and perished from this disease.
“My fellow healers and I tried our best to find a cure, but we didn’t have any luck. Before we knew it, we also began to develop the same symptoms. Hoping to prevent the spread of the illness, we decided to stay put in the village we were staying and prayed that the plague would not extend any farther. One by one, I watched my patients and friends died before my eyes until I knew it was my time. With my last breath, I closed my eyes for the very last time.
“When I opened my eyes again, I found myself floating in the sky and looking down on the world. There were four main continents surrounded by water. I immediately recognized the land of Isha due to its large desert, but I didn’t know about the other landforms; yet somehow I knew their names. At first, I was confused and thought that I was in Heaven until I heard a strange voice booming from somewhere. He told me this:
KNOW THY WORLD AND GUIDE THE SEEKER IN HER JOURNEY.
“Before I could ask him who he was or what he meant by those words, I felt myself falling down from the sky. As I was falling, several visions flashed before my eyes and that was when I woke up. Surprised, I jumped off from my mat and noticed that the lesions on my skin were gone. Likewise there were these strange, glowing, white flowers surrounded my bed. Initially, I thought it was just a dream so I pinched myself, which told me that I was not.
“Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and before I could answer it, a woman barged through it. She was holding her sick child and begged me to help her. Without thinking, I told her to place him on my bed, and we were amazed to discover that the flowers healed him. Astonished by what I’ve seen, I immediately ordered the other patients to be brought to my bed and the same results occurred as well.
“Soon words spread throughout the scattered villages and many traveled to that village to be cured. Some of the other healers wanted to bring the flowers to the distant villages but we found out that if we tried to cut these flowers, they would dissipate. That was when I decided to make a journey throughout the desert villages and offered a little bit of my blood to create those flowers. After several months, the epidemic was over.”
“After I came back to my village, I began having that strange dream again. But this time, I saw everything more clearly. The strange voice was telling me what I was supposed to do. My role was to guide the Seeker in her journey. I knew where and when I need to go. I also knew HOW I was supposed to get there too. With my eyes opened, I sought out the village elders and told them everything.
“That was when they told me that I was chosen by the gods to do an important task. When I asked what they were talking about, they told me that long ago, our ancestors brought shame by defying the gods. At the end of the war, they saw the god Fuera, who was dying, and realized their mistake. They begged him for forgiveness and not to leave them. However he told them it was too late but reassured them that everything will be all right and not to lose hope.
“He told them that one of their descendants will take his siblings and his places as caretakers of the world. Fuera then requested them that when he or she appears, they have to make sure that the chosen one does not make the same mistakes that he made. Afterward, he disappeared right before their eyes.
“They then declared that they would help me prepared for my journey. My brother the blacksmith created these rings that you see now. The elders gave me this belt and staff for me to place the rings for safekeeping while the rest of the villagers gave me supplies. After everything was ready, I was prepared to leave the only home I knew. The village has a gathering so I could bid farewell to my people. Remembering my dream, I pricked my finger on the sharp point of the ring and let my blood covered it. Then I tossed the ring into the air and to everyone’s surprise, I had created a portal to a land where huge trees that we would never imagine existed. After I said my goodbyes, I went through the gateway and began my journey.”
“I would have arrived here sooner, but I knew that I needed to learn more about the world beforehand,” Marika concluded. “I realized that in order to help the Seeker, I must know the different people who lived in this world and understand their cultures and customs so that there won’t be any misunderstanding.”
Adia listened to her every word in awe. Imagine traveling around the world in just a single day with that ring! That would mean that they won’t have to be stuck on a ship for several months or worry about finding a ride to some place. Not to mention the fact that she wouldn’t have to climb that long flight of stairs, which were pretty exhausting some times. Aundra seemed to be impressed as well because after a brief descriptions of their powers and how they became Ilmarians, she requested, “May I see one of those rings, Marika?”
Marika handed her one and the Ilmarian of Magic examined it with scrutiny. “Amazing!” she murmured. “Who would have thought this form of magic exist in this world? I’m sure that the gods didn’t expect this ability to come about when they gave their powers to a mortal…”
Is it the same as teleportation? Adia asked, remembering how the Kreesian taught her that there were hundreds or maybe thousand forms of magic that are in this world; some of which have not been discovered yet.
“Not quite,” she replied as she still looked at the ring still. “Teleportation will only allow you to move a short distance while this form lets you travel throughout the world. Likewise, it appears that you need a catalyst in order to work. Am I right?” She turned to Marika.
“You’re correct,” she confirmed. When Aundra tried to return the ring to her, she refused. “No, you’re supposed to keep them. In fact, I have my brother created extra so that I can give them to you. You guys would need it to go around.” She gave each of them a ring, which Adia noticed has two sharp points. “Don’t worry; I’ve already blessed them so they should work. Just do the same thing like I did.”
“One question,” Brenton raised his hand as if he was in school. “What was the mistake that Fuera talking about?”
Adia gave Marika a thoughtful glance as the woman explained, “According to the elders, he said that the gods were too distant and uninvolved with their creations, which caused them to feel resentful. He wanted us to make ourselves present so that everyone knows that we are here to help them.”
Everyone else became silent as they pondered what they heard though Aundra seemed to nod with approval. Finally Pendance stated, “You mentioned that you traveled around the world before coming here. Can you tell us about what you learn?”
Marika smiled. “I can tell you, but I think showing you would be better,” she responded and walked over to the pool of foggy liquid so everyone else followed. She waved her arm over it, which caused the liquid to flicker and soon a map appeared. Four continents of different sizes and shapes were scattered across the map. “This is the world of Samara.”
First, Marika pointed the largest landmass, which was located in the northwest hemisphere. “This is the supercontinent, Ongera-Illica, which is separated by a large mountain range. The western three-fourth is Ongera, which has mostly deciduous trees, plains, and rivers though it is mostly ice and snow up north. I’ve seen a lot of farms while I was traveling around and several minor kingdoms are being developed right now. I believe that is where you and your children were from, Kejuta.
“The eastern one-fourth is known as Illica, which has mostly rocky soil though there are a few places to farm and dormant volcanoes in the south. That is where the Aerians, Duermons, and humans live. The humans live in the kingdom of Sendoa, which is located in the northern part. The Duermons reside in the Idilarys Empire, which is in the southeastern peninsula while the Aerians live between the two so they can act as a buffer. Of course, there are a lot of animosity and tension in that region. While I liken the Ongera side to be shaped like the front half of an ox, I envision Illica as a shape of a rooster.
“Across the western ocean lies the second largest continent of Enkrum, which is shaped like a comma. There is a mountain range on the western coast and it’s mostly similar to Ongera except there are a lot of swamplands in the south. In spite of the land size, much of the land is uninhabitable.
“Below Ongera-Illica is the continent of Isha, my homeland. I like to say the shape is like a turtle. While it is mostly a desert, there are oases spotted around. There is also a small mountain range in the north, savannah to the south. You can find interesting creatures in the desert including the Grandehi, a tribe of people who can only survive in the desert due to their dependence to the sand.”
“Last and not least, this is Kreesia,” she said, pointing to a crescent moon-shaped island between Ongera and Isha. “You all should know about it already so I won’t bother explaining. And that’s all the continents in Samara!”
Marika paused and then continued, “Of course, there are also the hidden worlds.”
An intrigued Brenton raised his eyebrows. “Hidden worlds?”
“It seemed like when the gods created this world, there was a side effect,” she explained. “A lot of invisible worlds were made though they are pretty small – mostly they’re size of a large room. However, it seem like they can be manipulated by a user to be whatever he or she desires. Likewise, it appears that you can place a ‘lock’ on them so no one can enter them without your permission. I think the gods want us to use these worlds as a place of solitude, which was another reason I gave those rings to you.”
“Oh, so they’re like bedrooms,” Brenton nodded thoughtfully. “I see.”
“Anyway, shall we go?” she offered. “I can give you a tour of the world that we are supposed to protect. You won’t need anything because I can always take you back here if you need to get something.”
Everyone nodded. “Before we go, we need to give you a title,” Kejuta decided. “Would you mind being called the Ilmarian of Worlds?”
Marika agreed, “Not at all.”
“Now that issue is settled… so, Ilmarian of Worlds, where are we heading first?” Aundra asked curiously.
The newest member smiled. “During my travels, I met an interesting creature who requested that I sent Adia and Pendance to her,” she said. “We’re going to the world of the dead, Valendor, first then we’re going to the Pillar of the World, Corawell. Both exist outside of this world.”
She then demonstrated how to activate the portal ring to everyone and tossed the ring in the air. On the other side of the gateway was a rocky terrain. A long and thin path led down the slope to the ground below. “Are we ready to go?” she questioned. One by one, everyone went through the portal, which closed once the last person entered.
Pendance gingerly walked down the narrow, rocky path. Luckily for them, ambient light orbs lit the way. The place was similar to what he has seen in his death dream, but it was different as well. This time, he could see that Valendor was mostly the color of copper instead of black and white. Even though he knew that he shouldn’t look down, he took a peek and noticed a sea of souls was roaming below. Was that where he was in his dream?
After several minutes, the group was almost near the bottom. Pendance noticed one of the fairy creatures was waiting for them. That was when he realized that the light orbs that he saw before were actually them. He turned to tell Adia about it, but he realized that she saw it as well. When he was about to tell the others, his mother asked, “What is that creature? Is that the one you and Adia told me long ago?”
You can see them? Adia asked, startled so Aundra explained, “It’s probably because this is their home. They only appear invisible in Samara because people would be terrified of seeing the deliverers of soul flying around.”
That makes sense, Adia admitted. She turned to look at Pendance. This place feels… different. It’s like the atmosphere is heavy but at the same time, light. Seeing all of those dead people makes me feel uncomfortable for some reason. Maybe it’s the way they’re glaring at me as if they resent the fact that I’m alive and they’re not. Do you feel the same way?
Pendance thought about his sister has said. To be honest, the air did feel different all right, but for some reason, he felt at home. While the spirits seem to be look at the others with hateful eyes, they lowered their eyes out of respect when they look at him as if they knew that he’s in charge around here. How did they know?
As they came closer to the fairy, Pendance was able to get a closer look and determine that it was a female. It seems like the creature was made out of light itself so clothes wasn’t necessary and was the size of the palm of his hand. Butterfly wings sprouted from her back and she held a lantern staff in her right hand. Soon the sprite approached them and gave them a warm welcome. “Welcome to Valendor,” she greeted. “My name is Ume and I’m the Head Wisp. If you please follow me to the late Lord Seitha’s office, I can tell you his last message he wanted to give you.”
Kejuta followed the wisp through the crowd, which dispersed so they could go through. Ume has told them to stay close to her and the other wisps that have joined them because the souls were not quite thrilled to see them. “It’s because you’re alive and they’re not,” she has explained.
Glancing around the crowd, Kejuta knew that to be true. It was as if they were envious of the fact that she and the others cannot die at all. Don’t they realize the fact that being immortal isn’t all what it cracked up to be? In fact, she recognized some of the people in the horde. Resma gave her a venomous look while her husband, Mathes, and Pilur looked at her nervously. Likewise, the other slaves seemed to be ashamed as if they realized that they had mistreated her family poorly.
As they were climbing up the stairs, she noticed a throne on the platform above. She felt someone tapped her shoulder and heard Pendance hissed, “That was the very throne that I saw Seitha was sitting on and father was standing next to him! Where is father anyway? I would think he would be here to say hello…”
Now that he mentioned it, he’s right. Kejuta frowned as she looked around the room. Where is Thesben? Of course, it’s impossible to spot him in this huge crowd, but still… wouldn’t he come forward and meet them?
“Would you come this way please?” Ume directed them to a small room located to the right of the throne. She tapped the door gently with her lantern staff and it opened. She motioned them to enter the room, which was mostly bare except for a simple bed, a desk, and a chair. There was a door that led outside to the balcony and next to it were wall shelves with bottles of floating black orbs that twinkled like the night sky. Another wisp was waiting for them.
“Hello, my name is Un and I am or rather was Lord Seitha’s assistant,” he introduced himself. He flew straight up to her son and continued, “You must be Lord Pendance, the next Guardian of the Dead. Un and I are going to tell you our previous master’s last message first. Then we’re going to train you on your duties in the Life Cycle. Why don’t you have a seat? You can sit on the bed if you like.”
After everyone was seated, the two wisps convey the former God of the Dead’s message. “I’m sorry that you have to be pay for the sins of your ancestors, but my siblings and I didn’t have a choice. The world that we have created would have been destroyed after we died so we needed someone to take our place. I understand if you feel resentful so I don’t blame you if you hate us. If I could, I would go back to the past and make sure that the Caeculum War never happ
“So I have a request for you – please let the world know that you care. Make your presence known. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. You can just walk around with them. Just let them know that you are not taking them for granted and using them as tools for enjoyment.”
The wisps looked at them solemnly. “Can you keep that promise?” they asked. Everyone looked at each other and nodded. Pleased, Ume stated, “Beside that message, Lord Seitha has left gifts to some of you because they’re important if you are to govern this world.”
The wisps flew over to Aundra and said, “Lord Seitha left you this.” They handed her a small sealed envelope, which she opened carefully. Kejuta noticed that while the Ilmarian of Magic was reading the letter, she was blinking tears from her eyes. How odd…
Finally, Aundra took a deep breath before announcing, “What a useful spell! It seemed that Seitha has left me a new spell that was meant for us. It’s called ‘The Gods’ Blessing’ and it supposed to protect us from being influenced by others.”
“Being influenced?” Kejuta frowned. “What does it mean by that?”
She explained, “It means that we won’t be brainwashed or be possessed by one of those special-type Duermons. Of course that means that WE can’t use our powers on each other as well so Kejuta, my dear, you can’t manipulate us. Well, I should clarify – we can use typical magic like healing on each other still. So… who wants to go first?”
Brenton raised his hand. “I will,” he volunteered. Kejuta wasn’t surprised at all. He was her little devoted “pet” after all. Aundra smiled and began the chant:
“Fluris ri oniverse sylliphis et!”
Suddenly, a gold arcane circle appeared below Brenton, who was lifted a little bit above the ground. A golden aura surrounded his entire body and during the process, Kejuta noticed that the chains that were wrapped around him slowly faded away and that she could no longer grasp them. Then the magi circle diminished and the Ilmarian of Time was back on the ground again. Opening his eyes, he reassured the group, “It doesn’t hurt at all though it was little ticklish.”
Aundra nodded and looked at the others. “Who wants to be next?” she asked casually. While everyone else was taking their turns, Brenton sat next to Kejuta and watched.
“Don’t feel bad, Kej,” he said. “It seems like my power isn’t as effective either.”
Kejuta turned to look at him. “What do you mean?” she asked. She didn’t know how the power of time could be used to manipulate the others.
“Well,” he began, “I can still see your past, but your future has more static. I could see a few glimpses but it’s more difficult. I understand why the gods gave us that spell, but why hinder the ones that may help us? Maybe Aundra can modify it, but I doubt she would.”
“And we’re done!” Aundra exclaimed after she cast the spell on herself. The two wisps nodded approvingly. They then turned their focus on Adia and Pendance.
The wisps motioned to them to come to the desk where they noticed their gifts. Adia’s was a silver dead bell with a red handle while Pendance’s was a lantern staff and a tattered black cloak with gold trimming. An ancient writing was on the trimming, which Adia and Pendance couldn’t decipher.
“That was Lady Allaura’s bell, which was a gift from her twin brother, Lord Seitha,” Ume said. “Whenever a soul is about to be reborn, she would ring the bell to announce the event to the other awaiting souls.”
“And those are Lord Seitha’s belongings,” Un stated. “That staff is supposed to represent that you’re guiding the dead in their journey. Even though it doesn’t look like it, that cloak has a magical quality. I’m sure Lady Aundra could explain it better.”
Before her brother could ask Aundra, she was already heading toward them and snatched the cloak from his hands. “Tsk! How could he have left it in this condition!? I would have thought he would be more responsible especially since he has a very important duty…” she grumbled as she examined it. She grabbed Pendance’s arm and dragged him to a corner. “Don’t move! I’m going to fix this rag and make sure it fit you perfectly.”
While they were occupied, Adia went over to the others to show them the bell. “I believe it’s called the Bell of Awakening,” Brenton mused as he admired it. “From what I’ve read, whoever hears that bell will feel at peace.”
Just then Aundra and Pen joined them. “So how do I look?” he asked as he showed off his new clothing.
“Lovely,” their mother answered. Adia agreed, It looks nice on you, Pen.
Pen smiled gratefully and grasped his lantern staff carefully. “So what’s next?” he questioned the wisps.
“Now we are going to show you your full potential, Lady Adia and Lord Pendance,” Un said. “You’re in charge of the life cycle, which is for most of the population except for the Grandehi tribe and certain Duermons, so we’ll explain what your roles are.”
“First, since we’re here already, we’ll show you what you are supposed to do, Lord Pendance,” Ume continued. “Your role is to purify the soul so it will be ready to be reincarnated. We usually wait after three generations for a soul to get purified because of the Yuzema Pact.”
“Yuzema Pact?” A confused Pendance inquired.
“It’s an agreement with Lord Seitha and the tribe of Yuzema,” Un explained. “It stated that once a year, Lord Seitha will open the door of Valendor so the spirits of the dead can visit the world of the living. Three recent generations except for those who committed grave crimes are allowed to see their loved ones though they are forbidden to talk about their deaths and about Valendor. The Yuzema tribe’s only duty is to send candles floating down the Marverin River to light the way for the dead. The human called it ‘The Yuzema Festival’ if I recall correctly. Unfortunately, the tradition has been discontinued due to Lord Seitha’s weakening powers, but now that you’re here, maybe it can begin once again.”
Ume cleared her throat. “Anyway, we’re going to show you how to purify the soul. We have a soul who has volunteered to be the first one to be purified by you and he’s waiting out on the balcony. So would you please come with me?”
Imagine Kejuta’s surprise to find Thesben waiting for them there. “Hello,” he greeted them cheerfully. “It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?”
The next thing she knew it, she and her children were embracing him. “Thesben!” she cried. “Oh, how I miss you! How are you?”
“I miss you guys too,” he whispered. “I’m doing quite well even though I’m dead. Seitha was a good leader and he has high expectation for you, Pen.” Pen nodded knowingly. “Now before you begin purifying me, let me have a few minutes with your mother.”
He grabbed Kejuta’s hands and led her aside. “You’re wondering why I volunteer even though I still have a few years left,” he guessed and she nodded. “I figured sooner or later, Pen would have to do it so I thought might as well get it over with. Besides, I can see you one last time.” He brushed her cheek and noticed her pendant. “I see that you still have it. I’m glad.”
She replied, “It’s so that I will never forget you and how much you love me.” He smiled and kissed her forehead.
“No matter what happened, I will never forget what you mean to me,” he vowed. “Take care of our children, okay? Tell them that I will always love them.” Then they wrapped their arms and walked back. “Shall we begin?”
The wisps nodded. “In order to purify him, we need to wipe away all of his memories and sins,” Un directed. “Thesben, you need to kneel and Lord Pendance, place your hands above his head. Activate your power until his soul transforms into an orb. That means that he has been purified.”
“What happens to his memories?” an alarmed Pen asked as he reluctantly followed their directions. Brenton then stepped forward. A gray mist appeared above his father, who was slowly changing into a ball of pure white.
“That gray mist that is swirling above him contains his memories and past, which goes into my book,” he said as he held up the book. Sure enough, Thesben’s memories seemed to be lured to it and were absorbed into the book. “If you want, you can see his memories whenever you want, Kej.”
Kejuta gave the Ilmarian of Time a grateful look to show how much she appreciated it. Meanwhile, her son has finished the purification process so Un continued, “Now one of the wisps will usually carry that soul to Corawell where Adia will fulfill her role, but for today, I will. Any questions?”
“Just one,” Pen replied. Pointing to the jars of black orbs, he asked, “Why are they there?”
“It’s because the souls have been too corrupted that they are no longer able to be reborn again,” Ume explained. “Those are the souls of those who committed grave crimes such as rape and murder.”
“So what do you do with them?” Marika inquired curiously. “You can’t just let them stay here forever.”
Before any of the wisps could answer, Aundra declared, “I’ll handle it.” She smirked at everyone and continued, “While it was true that magic appeared after the ancient Kreesians mated with the Neriads, it actually happened because Seitha and Allaura figured out how to deal with the growing population of corrupted souls.” Grabbing one of the bottles, she opened it up and grabbed the darkened soul. Without hesitation, she crushed it that everyone yelped with surprise. The only thing left of the orb was sparkling black powder.
“They realized that they can be used as the foundation of magic,” she said, ignoring the others’ looks of disbelief. She fiddled with the swirling powder until it changed color to a light green. Then she absorbed it into her body. “Hence why’s there is always a new discovery of magic in the world. That is what Clarise told me anyway.”
“Wait a minute,” Kejuta said slowly, “are you saying that Clarise was made out of destroyed corrupted souls and since you took her place, you’re made of those things as well?” Aundra just gave her an innocent look as her reply.
“Now that’s been cleared up, why don’t we head to Corawell?” Ume said dryly. “Like Valendor, Corawell is located outside of Samara. Would you please show them the way, Lady Marika?” The Ilmarian of Worlds nodded and after opening the portal, led the others to the Pillar of the World.
Unlike Valendor, Corawell wasn’t cramped at all and was rather spacious. They landed in a field with flowers and an umbrella acacia tree except that it bore souls as “fruits”. “Lady Allaura loves to sit under that tree and works,” Ume sighed happily. “Oh, in case you’re wondering, Corawell is the name of the tree, which is also the Pillar of the World. Let’s have a seat over there, shall we?”
After everyone was seated, the wisp began, “After the soul has been purified, it will brought here while they rest until it’s time. When you ring that bell, the souls that are ready to be reincarnated will come to you. We sped up the process for your father so ring the bell.”
Adia did as she was told and the soul that was her father came to rest on her lap. “Now hold it gently and imagine what you want it to be. Do you want it to be a boy or a girl? What are its hair and eye colors? Where will it live? Think of the physical characteristics. Don’t worry about its personality; it has been ingrained in the soul already. When it’s done, the soul will disappeared, which means that it is now in the world of Samara.”
She closed her eyes and thought hard on what she wanted her father to be. During that time, the soul began to fade away until finally it was gone. “Good job, Lady Adia!” Ume praised. “And that is how you both perform the life cycle.”
Turning to her mother, Adia told her, I made father into a Kreesian boy because I figure that you may meet him again since we mostly stayed there. Kejuta patted her thoughtful daughter’s head.
The wisps cleared their throat. “Um… we didn’t tell you?” Un started. “You two must stay in your respective worlds for the rest of your life since these jobs is a 24/7 one. Deaths and births happen every day after all. Well except on the Yuzema Festival since that is your only day off; this means that no one dies or is born on that day.”
Pendance and Adia looked at their mother worriedly. They knew that she would be upset that they won’t be there with her. “Don’t worry, Mother,” he comforted her. “You can always visit us, right?”
Un and Ume glanced at each other before exclaiming, “YOU’RE their mother!?”
Kejuta nodded. “Is there a problem with that?” she wondered. They shook their heads.
“Actually no, but I thought you were their aunt or another relative,” Ume shifted awkwardly, “Lord Seitha has told us that their successors were supposed to sterile just like them. But then, he did say that there may be an exception since he didn’t know how their powers would affect mortals…”
Aundra grinned. “Hear that, Kejuta?” she said amusingly. “You’re an exception! Hey, since you can give birth, why don’t you give birth seven times so that we can get all of the Ilmarians instead of waiting for who knows how long?”
The Ilmarian of Fate scowled. “No thank you,” she replied. “I promised myself that I won’t have any more kids and childbirth is rather difficult to be honest.” The other woman just chortled.
Adia went over to her mother and hugged her tightly. Don’t worry, Mother, she declared. I won’t be lonely because I have the wisps to keep me company. Besides, what Pen said is right. You can see me whenever you want. Kejuta hugged her in return.
After the Ilmarian of Life bid everyone farewell, they returned back to Valendor to drop Pendance off. “Take care, Mother!” he said as he hugged her. Looking at the others, he continued, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll do my duty with the utmost responsibility that Seitha would be proud.”
“Make your father and me proud,” Kejuta said sadly and walked back to the others. Marika created a portal to Samara and they disappeared. As Pendance watched the gateway shrunk, he felt sadness in his heart. This was the first time he was not with his mother and sister. Looking at the souls below him, he wondered if there was anyone he knew or at least a friendly face.
“I’m going to take a walk,” he told the two wisps, which followed him. Walking among the crowd, he studied them but they seemed to be cautious around him. Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice. “Pen! Is that you?” a woman’s voice shouted. Turning around, he was surprised to see Eloria. She looked to be around thirty years old.
“Eloria!” he shouted with surprise as he hugged her. “Why are you here? What happened to you since we last met?”
“I’m dead, you silly,” she teased. “Anyway, my family and I settled into a small kingdom of Lycia after we escaped and a few years later, I married the mayor. Unfortunately, I died giving birth to my son. Imagine my surprise that you’re the new god of the dead. I knew that there is something special about you! Why don’t we find a quiet place where we can talk privately and catch up?”
Offering his hand, Pendance replied, “I would love that.” His friend took it, and they walked together while chatting about the good old days.
Meanwhile, the others landed in the middle of Ongera. “Are you okay, Kej?” Brenton asked. She nodded.
“I’m fine,” she reassured him but sighed. “I guess I have to get used to the fact that I’m an empty nester now. Anyway, what’s next in our agenda?”
“I was thinking of showing the world to you,” Marika noted. “That’s way everyone will know more about the people and their cultures.”
Aundra nodded with approval. “We would love that,” she answered. “I think Kejuta would benefit most since she is most likely the Seeker whom you’re supposed to help because she is in charge of gathering the Ilmarians together. I would join you in your journey for a little bit, but I have to go back to Kreesia to do my political duties. Brenton can stay with you and help you out. Likewise he can teach you the languages, Marika, during your travels. Which reminds me, when will the next Ilmarian appear?”
He closed his eyes as he touched his book. “Hmm…” he mumbled. “It looks like we would have four more Ilmarians within the next century. Remember that Marika mentioned all of the small kingdoms being established in Ongera? Well, it looks like they’re going to be at war with each other so a lot of Ilmarians will be born then. I don’t have the exact year, but I think the first one will be at most thirty years from now.”
“Then I suggest that we begin our excursion quickly before we get caught in the war,” Kejuta recommended. “Despite the fact that we can’t die, I don’t want to die again because it’s still painful.”
Everyone agreed and after making sure that they got everything, they set off on their journey.