Chapter 5 – Meeting (Part 2)

My mind always liked to play games on me, ever since mother vanished. Her disappearance created some sort of paranoia that I never imagined that I’d ever have. Friends would ask me to play with them back then but I just couldn’t. However, every time we would play any ball game, I imagined that the ball would spring spikes from the inside when it was passed to me. I ended up running away from games, ignoring friends, and avoiding going out. Every time I’d fall asleep, I saw that my friends and I would play tag, probably because at that point I missed the human contact. But every time someone touched me, I’d imagine them becoming a cloud of smoke and disappearing… just like she did. Liam was the one who pulled me out and started pointing out how my paranoia had become a sickness. He wasn’t that old and yet he had read up on it already. I don’t know how many hours he must have spent in that dreaded place but it was probably the first time we interacted after her disappearance.

And now, my paranoia is slowly coming back. I lack confidence. Following the old woman, I notice the leaves of the trees sway to the rhythm of the breeze. It almost looks as if they are waving goodbye, with the wind mocking us, a slight chuckle echoed. I stop as my heart skips a beat and I feel the urgent need to take a breath.

“Easy Lunar, he’s not going anywhere. He’s just intimidated” snorts the old woman, looking back at me. “Men, indeed, are sometimes useless beings.”

My paranoia shakes my mind once again. I look at Liam with dread in my eyes but his usual dull expression has not cracked. However, this time it almost seems he has a gleam of interest in his eyes. Something had caught his eye.

“Shall we move on ladies?” the old woman continues to walk, two steps and a tap from her cane. Liam follows her, and the wolf nudges at my legs, forcing me to walk after them.

As we approach, I can hear a mixture between fast running water, clashing of wood and steel, but also some sort of… battle cries?

“BOO!”

I jump up at the sound of… a little girl?! As I land on the floor, I instantly turn around panting from surprise and see a little girl laughing uncontrollably.

“Finally! I found someone to scare!” she laughed presenting a huge smile that created dimples on her cheeks. As she embraced her stomach, she fell on the floor attempting to tame her joy but also giving me a chance to examine her. She has light caramel color skin that shown almost gold. Her brown wavy hair looked like a lion’s mane around her round face. And as she calmed down she looked upon us, with striking jade green eyes that were complimented by her thick line of eyelashes and thick eyebrows.

“Good to see you’re enjoying yourself, Mania” stated the old woman marking her presence in front of the little girl. “Shouldn’t you be overseeing your sisters’ training?” she asked raising her chin, glaring at Mania who had already realized her mistake.

“Yes…” she said standing up, looking guilty as if tucking her tail between her legs.

The old woman nodded. Without uttering a second word she turned around and on command, the wolf and Mania started to follow. I stepped next to Liam who started walking behind them as well. I glanced over at him and he glanced down to me. We both shared the same thought… probably. Who is this old woman!?

As we moved further down, we notice that we approached a river, surrounded by 6 pairs of women who fought with wooden staffs. They paid no attention to us until one of the girls fighting swirled dodging a hit and turned our way, noticing us. She instantly stood up straight, with the other girls following her stead. The old woman nodded and waved with her hand, signaling them to continue. The girls nodded back, turned to their pairs, took a starting stance with their staffs and engaged in sparring once again.

“They’re over there” stated Mania, pointing at two large wooden poles in the middle of the river ahead of us.

As we look up we notice two shadows jumping back and forth, fighting against each other.  They seemed to cross paths in the air, as the constantly lightly dropped on opposite poles every single time. It felt like they kept on going non-stop, until the old woman gave a small shout to grab their attention from the fight.

“Come down when one of you wins” the old woman yells up to the two beings, and slowly turns to us with a snicker. “You might want to sit down. Sarah takes a while until she can take down Nef, unless Nef is serious.” Hearing that, we look at the two shadows again, as they collide once more.

From the distance, it appeared as if one of them striked down the other, forcing it to fall parallel to the pole. It seemed to attempt to pull itself up somehow, but the offensive shadow striked once more, throwing it to the river with a huge splash. The defeated shadow disappeared into the water for a while, as the winner landed to the river side, glowing from the obvious sensation of victory.

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Chapter 4 – Meeting (Part 1)

“You are both very special to me, and you should be very special to each other as well. You are brothers and best friends, and must look out for each other. Noone must get in between you two, understand?” 

“But mum, the other kids call him dead-eye and they call me hair-piss. I don’t want to play with anyone. It’s all his fault.”

“Why baby? Your brother has beautiful grey eyes like the clouds that bring us the rain for our crops, and you have gorgeous golden hair like the sun that shines on a clear day. Just because other kids don’t understand doesn’t mean that you should give up on him, or him on you. If you don’t stick together, you both will break. Kids are cruel, but once you grow up, I promise you it will be better, I promise you that you will find others that can see how you shine, but you must not give up. You hear me? You m-“

Must I be lectured by my mum even when I’m dead? 

“Did you see that? He’s probably dreaming…”

“Oh he’s so cute…”

“Shhh, you’ll wake him up!”

… Ok… Is this what death is like?

 I slowly open my eyes ever so slightly and take a glimpse around me. If this is what death feels like, then I don’t mind one bit. The room gives a warm sensation, what with the walls, floor and ceiling made up of wood. It is decorated with a long thin brown fur covering the two windows on two walls and a thick brown fur carpet laying on the floor. Multiple kinds of herbs hang next to the door, away from the windows. I notice two girls talking to each and giggling next to the wooden bed that I have been placed on, another one in the distance near the two windows looking at a pile of open books baffled, and and a fourth at the end of my bed attending to my-

“Wounds?!” I jump up in surprize and look at the deep scratch extending from below my knee to my ankle. It takes me a few minutes to try and remember what happened.

That’s right, we were camping and then I threw one of those weird nut crackers into the fire and we were chased down by some beasts jumping from tree to tree. Wait… where’s Liam?! I take a second look around me and I only see the four girls in here. Panic starts to take over. I knew I should have persuaded him to stay in the village!

“Relax… you will strain your muscles further than you have already.” Says the girl attending to my wound on my leg. “You fell against a rock and then passed out.”

I look over to her, anger and frustration starting to take over. “Where’s the other guy I was with??” I demand. The girl in the distance looks at me with the same baffled look she had when reading the other books and the two girls that were giggling sit next to me with a playful smile drawn over the mouths. “What?!” I demand a second time, trying not to be seduced by their full lips… tanned, soft… NO! Liam! “Where is he!?”

“Can you keep it down already!?” a familiar voice comes through the door. Liam walks in with his grouchy face. “I’m fine, and from the looks of it, you’re fine too” he states looking around the room and checking out the girls from head to toe, and back again. One of the girls sitting next to me gets up and hops towards him.

“You were asleep so I didn’t notice how beautiful your eyes are.” she sang pulling him from his arm. Liam’s displeasure was written all over his face and swiftly dodged her and paced himself towards me.

“We’re leaving as soon as your wound gets treated. Got it?”

The girls around him voiced their displeasure and started squealling. Their voices rang in our ears, but a loud howl echoing within the wooden walls of the room. The girls instantly stopped. A slim but limp corpse stood next to a large white wolf at the doorstep. An old woman supported by a tall wooden cane, which exceeded her by twice her height, inspected the room. The four girls took a step back and put on a serious facade, attempting to impress the old woman. Pulling her long cardigan that hung from her shoulders and wrapped around her frail body twice, she took a few steps forward to the center of the room. The wolf, pacing behind her, directed himself towards Liam, taking multiple careful sniffs around him. Circling him once, he swipped his fluffy tail on his legs, disregarding him, and then made his way to me.

“No, Biela. I’m in charge of this one” proclaimed the woman, swipping the air with her long cane, freezing the wolf on his tracks. Picking up on the command, Biela sat, carefully observing her Master as the old woman stared into my eyes.

It felt as if it took forever until she finally responded with a giggle and a snort. “You will have to do. Bring him outside when you’re done cleansing his wounds, Fey.”

 

Chapter 3 – Crackle and Chase

The days have passed more painfully than they should have. I expected this much from the time we left, but time is a cruel mistress. Having adventured our way to the mysteries of the inner forests beyond any mere human, we have battled with beasts, bloodthirsty demons, and the seductive visions of our minds. Huh, mother never prepared us for something like this, she never warned us about the terrifying potential of a craving mind. My, how scary it is indee-

“Can you shut up already, Lock? It hasn’t even been a week.” Liam grumbled wrapped up in his blanket, attempting to escape the early morning breeze.

My nerves pop to the sound of the crackling flames, or at least, what is left of it. As the sun slowly made its way up into the sky, dominating the measly light of what is left of the campfire, so did my blood pressure.

“I agreed to come on this journey to escape the village. I agreed to come on this journey so that you wouldn’t be alone. But I didn’t realize you didn’t have an actual plan?!” throwing my cover to the side, I stomp to the ground and get up, storming through my backpack. I find some of the leftover nuts from yesterday’s gather and start nibble on them. “And for your information, I don’t do well with mosquitos, nor angry rodents. So excuuuuuse me if I complain!”

Liam slowly got up and rubbed his forehead and eyes, displeased with the sound of nothing else but my whining. Pushing his pitch black hair back with both his hands, he drops his head and groans. “You were stealing their food, no wonder they chased you.”

“Yeah, well, I want to survive just as much as they do. And so far, this journey has only been a hassle.” I mumble displeased and bite into another nut. Ouch! And here I thought rodents knew how to pick their nutrients. Looking at the nut again, it didn’t look bad, but I threw it into the fire anyway.

CRACKLE!! POP!!

“Woah!” I yell out in surprise.

Liam also seemed to suddenly wake up, staring at the newly born fire. “What was that??”

Looking down at my pile of nuts, I scatter through them to find another one similar. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, but it looked like a teardrop, was really dark brown, almost black, quite hard… If only I could find another one – Ah! There we go! I pass it to Liam and as he slowly examines it, his face starts to distort from utter confusion to dread. As he apparently comes to a realization of what it is, he quickly stands up and throws his things into the sack he carried, but unable to completely close it. “Cover the fire with dirt, put it out quickly!”

Without a second thought I begin to carry out his orders. As we’re almost done, a flock of birds fly off from the distance. Something was coming… and at high speed.

“Run!” Liam exclaims under his breath, quickly turns the opposite way and starts to run as quickly as he can. I swiftly rush behind him. The leaves of the bushes brushing our bodies for a split second each and the trees blocking our way were the only witnesses of our path. But even so, whatever was coming up behind us definitely knows how to catch up.

“What was that?!” I asked realizing that that weird-looking nut was the cause of this initial attraction of the beast.

“C-nat.” huffing and puffing from the run, Liam continued to avoid obstacles in his way, not slowing down one bit. “It’s made small and light so that hunters can carry them when hunting and for warriors to carry as many as they can in battle. It’s made to look like an almond so that enemies aren’t alarmed by the quantity carried, but animals often confuse it for food. They can’t eat it so they throw it. Hunters hope that the unfortunate prey will somehow ignite it and then they start chasing it for food.” As he uttered those words, he looked at me while still keeping his pace. “Food Lock, thanks to you. So keep on running and don’t stop for a second, cause it’s getting closer!”

As he warns, I look behind me and I see the top of the trees shaking, each shake signaling a closer reach of the beast towards… no, not one beast. “Liam! There’s at least 3 or 4 of them!”

Liam grunts and looks around for an idea. But, too late…

I’m about to call out to Liam as the beasts push us to the ground but something knocks on the back of my neck, and my surroundings turn to pitch darkness…

……….

Chapter 2 – Two feathers left behind

By the time I felt my bed sheets surrounding my shivering body, the storm had thrown its tantrum and the full moon had silenced the night. I held my eyes wide awake with its bright light intruding through my window beside my bed. I looked at it in hopes for someone to give me an answer, “Should I leave my friend to go on that preposterous journey alone, or should I waste my time following an imbecile?” No surprise, the moon stayed silent.

It was on nights such as these when Liam and I would stay up and wonder what it would be like if we were beasts of the night, howling at the sight of a bright ball pinned to a navy velvet sheet, with fragments of itself scattered throughout it. Mother would always get angry at us for not going to sleep, but like the nine-year-olds we were, we didn’t listen. We dreamt for something mysterious and magical to appear before us and give us a reason to escape this confined village. But with the passing away of our Mother six years later, Liam moved out, unable to remain in a home that was filled with the memory of ‘us’. I however stayed where her memory was still eminent. It’s been another six years……

I sit up and look around my room. The moon shines on the dresser across me, where Mother’s small rectangular wooden box sits. I flung the sheets off and take steady steps towards it. Just a centimeter away from it, and I can already feel the pressure of opening it, as if I am to open Pandora’s box – but nowhere near as “cosmic distraction” as that. My fingertips tingle as I open the lid and reveal her one and only necklace. It had one bloody red feather and another larger but dark blue separated by a pearl, accompanied by three small green beads on their ends, all supported by a thin black leather string. She picked them out specifically to represent Liam and me, blue and red respectively, because I was always smaller than him. But she always wore it, saying that wherever she goes, reminding everyone of “her two perfect sons”.

Perfect. Ha… that’s a funny word. No one is perfect. Not even the Gods. But we were so young then, we didn’t know any better to dream of being perfect, rushing for adventure, imagining the wonders of the world, wondering what it was like to see the beyond this village. Liam would be the guide and I would… be by his side… because we’re brothers. And brothers never fail each other.

“What am I doing?”I clench my hand around the necklace and take a deep breath.

I’ve decided.

* * *

As the rays of light attempt to slowly peek over the mountains, I run as fast as I can to the library. To my relief, I see Liam. His wide shoulders cover the sight of the bag behind him, which is full of, what I can only assume as ‘necessities’ for Liam’s travel. On his left arm, he’s holding the leather book he showed me last night and I’m greeted with a big sigh.

“I honestly thought you wouldn’t come, Lock”.

I slow down and make a stop in front of him, panting. “I was considering it, but I can’t let my brother do this alone.” As I look up at him, a slight smile forms on his face, responding to mine.

Liam gestures me that it’s time to make a move when his sight is diverted to my neck. “Mother’s necklace?” His frown alarmed me.

“Wouldn’t be an adventure without her, would it?” my question clouded Liam’s expression for a split second.

With another heavy sigh, he glimpsed at the necklace and snorted. “She would have definitely not let us go like this.”

And you know what? “You’re absolutely right…”

 

Chapter 1 – Planning during the storm

The drop of water that somehow slips past the collar of your coat, leaving a freezing trail down your spine. The moonlight, which sends black fingers dancing on the walls as it shines through the bare winter trees. Liam, that bastard, who told me he would meet me at the library after its closing time and has yet to show his bulky self.

“One more minute. One more bloody minute and I’m outta here.” I think to myself, shivering as the wind deposits another raindrop down my back.

“Ah, there you are!” A resounding low voice from a familiar friend – Liam stands in the doorway of the ‘closed’ library, face scrunched against the cold. Fantastic…

“What do you mean “there you are”!?” I hurry past him to escape the cold caresses of the rain and look around the library, hoping to find the warm embrace of the fireplace. I can only assume that Liam buried himself into the books again as a wisp smoke waved from above the ashes of, what used to be, a fire. As the door creaks to its close with the help of the wind, I throw my coat onto a nearby desk and grab two small logs from underneath the brick fireplace, in hopes of managing to start some warmth. Dust of ashes flung into the air as I lay the pieces of wood onto the grey bed and peak over my shoulder to ask for some assistance. But I should have known better, that Liam would disappear into thin air in a place where trees are sacrificed for the sake of forever knowledge. I have tried to use that argument before to save myself from having any sort of relationship with them, but as long as Liam sticks around here, Lady Luck will never be on my side.

A heavy sigh comes out from deep within me, as I look beyond myself. The shelves seem as if they support the roof, as if without them it would all come tumbling down. The length races far beyond my will to reach the end. This library alone is said to have manuscripts and books from the very beginning of this world’s creation. But who am I to argue with the wise men of time.

Speaking of time, this is a waste. “Oi!”

From the very distance, heavy shuffling rumbles through the wooden floor and Liam rushes from in between the bookshelves, carrying a stack of four different books, all different in every way, and places them down on the table next to the fireplace with a loud thud.

“I came here for storytelling?” I grumble.

“Funny, Lock. I told you to come here to tell you that I think I might be on to something that will make us rich” he nods to himself, pacing past me and scouring through the wood from underneath the fireplace for something flammable. I frown at him, questioning his thought process and wondering what he is attempting to look for. “Ok, fine, not rich wealthy-wise, but rich in other ways. You know the story about the Goddess of Darkness and the God of-“

I sigh, warning him.

“No-no-no! Listen to me.” Liam stands up holding a small piece of double-folded paper, flicking it in the air. “You know the story about the Four Elements? How Water turned against them? Tried to erase them out of existence which made them flee and turn into humanoids? Well, i-i-it’s all… absolutely wrong! I don’t quite understand it, but it’s all, just wrong” he pants, peeling the two pieces of paper apart, throwing them onto the logs.

The two pieces of paper unite with the logs, resulting in a dance of flames. Crackle, pop, the flames sing in appreciation of their birth.

I watch the celebration commence and unravel before me. And it struck me. “I blew Mary off for this bull?”

“Would you keep your mind off of women for one second? Look here! I found this book,” jumping up, swiftly stepping over to the table and caressing the cover of a leather book, he grabs and opens it down the middle. The pages glistened in a pale gold-like tone in front of the flames, showing off its well-maintained age. I peeked over and, to my surprise, the pages were as clear as untouched papyrus.

“Am I supposed to say something specific?”

Liam snorts cockily and curls his nose. “The pages aren’t visible to the human eye!” As he snorts again, I can’t tell if it is the fire or my blood slowly boiling that is making me feel hot.  “By combining information with other books, I found that the closer we get to any of the four Elements, the more information will start to somehow reveal itself on the book!”

His eyes sparkle as he reveals the ‘big secret’ he stumbled upon, and my knuckles tingle to the urge to either meet with his jaw for dragging me in the rain for this, or mine for letting myself be dragged out. “And why would I care about that?” turning my back to him, I discretely lash out at the fire by poking it with a long metal fork that was sitting next to the fireplace.

“Aren’t you curious?!” Liam exclaims, echoing in the empty library. I proceed to poke the burned wood once more, allowing the silence to answer for me. “Fine, I guess then I’m leaving to sort the mysteries out on my own in the morning” he proclaimed slamming down the book. He quickly grabs the rest of the bundles of pages, leaving the leather looking one resting on the table and disappearing into the distance, in between the forest of time.

I know at this point that I should be worried because he hasn’t been anywhere else apart from the village. Like a mother worrying and shuffling through all probable and improbable scenarios that could occur, I jolt from in front of the fire and attempt to find my ‘child’. “You’re going to go by yourself?! Where are you even gonna start from?!”

“That’s why I asked you to come with me” he yells from the other side of the library. Gosh, he’s fast on his tracks for a man his size.  “Think about it and if you are up for it, come meet me tomorrow morning here again when the sun peeks through the mountains”. Once more, silence rests, leaving the fireplace have its own dialogue with a crackle and a pop, queuing me to leave the premises.

Dragging my feet towards the fireplace to warm myself before I meet with the cold touch of the rain, I abruptly stop, rubbing my temples to ease some of the pressure out caused by someone’s lack of consideration. The fire hypnotizes me and I don’t notice how long I must have been standing nearby as I can feel my face slowly burning up. With one swift movement backwards, I attempt to keep my balance, feeling dizzy from the heat. As I step to grab my coat from near the door, a small light seduces my glance and stops me in my tracks.

But I must be hallucinating from the heat because there’s no way that just happened. I rub my eyes and nothing appears apart from the book itself and its blank pages. I rush to the door and let out a small laugh as an attempt to persuade myself that I am not crazy. I’m not, I’m not…

“You will be the first t…”

Prologue

 

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Created by Adrian Brayley – @adrianbrayleyartist

Legend has it there were two deities: the god of Light and the goddess of Darkness. They seemed to complete each other in different ways but never fulfilled. Light could not see Darkness and Darkness was blinded by Light, and so for time beyond time they struggled and grieved. Together in due time they created life to ultimately unite them: the stars, the human and animal life that soon inhabited the world. And in this creation, their sons, Water, Fire, and their daughters, Air and Earth came to life. The gap soon came to a close as Light and Darkness met with true happiness with what the human race called “family”. They taught their children what it meant to feel and think. The children in turn came to be intelligent as they observed and acknowledged life; they became emotionally smart as they started to battle with emotions.

 

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Created by Adrian Brayley – @adrianbrayleyartist

Air, the older sister, found herself to be mischievous above all, glad that nothing could grasp her long enough to stop her habits. Earth, the calmest and most nurturing out of all, looked up to her sister and her free spirit but preferred to offer a soothing place for when her siblings grew tired. Fire was older still, and drew away from the others, always mindful of his destructive presence. He grew fascinated with the things he could not touch, the life that grew all around, and ensured their safety during the harsh winter months. The oldest brother, Water, struggled to accept his nurturing side. He saw life as a trinket at best, and marveled at the charred husks his brother left behind when daring to reach out to his beloved toys. How sad Water was when nothing approached him and how appeased Fire was when everything was drawn to him. Fear and panic were such grand emotions in Water’s eyes but he was not the one to initiate them within the immortal beings’ hearts. Envy grew like a sickening weed and so Water was the one to crack and fracture.

Even the Gods cannot be perfect…