I woke from a deep and, as far as I knew, dreamless sleep. The world began to come into focus and I jumped.
I was looking into a pair of eyes. Not just any eyes, but the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen.
I stood and took a step back. The eyes belonged to a creature that was about the same size and shape as the goblins I had seen the night before, and just as sexless, but was as beautiful as they were ugly.
“And who might you be?” the person asked.
“I’m just a traveler. I came in here to escape the dark of night,” I said.
The person looked up and said, as if to itself or to a higher being, “This is a sign.” It looked back at me, and smiled. I flipped a coin in my head at this point, to avoid confusion. “She” said, “xxxxx.”
“What?” I asked.
She frowned slightly. “xxxxx.”
I shook my head.
The woman’s face fell. “I was so sure, but, no. Sorry, stranger. I will help you on your way. Are you heading to the large Goblin village on the mountain or to one of the camps by the sea? I can get you there either way.”
“Why would I want to go to a Goblin village? I want to stay as far away from them as possible. I need to get to…, I have no idea where I need to go, but I am on a quest to save the… oops, I guess I shouldn’t say any more.”
Her face lit up again. “Ah, you are a Human, aren’t you? You said you were escaping the Goblins? How did you get into my home? I never asked.”
“I was near the sea and needed to get past the watch fires. The wind whispered in my ear and led me to the water. And then the water called, the voice echoed by the solid rock of Earth. I followed the voice into this cave.”
“The Wind? The Water and the Earth? The Wind, the Air, called you? Then you can See and Hear?” I nodded. “I did read the signs correctly, you are the One! I will help you.”
“Thank you, I have no idea where to go or what to do. Uhm, who are you? You don’t feel evil, but I thought this was the land of evil.”
“You must not know the story of the Four Lands, then,” she said. “We don’t have much time, but you need to know. As I’m sure you know, there are four lands, the…”
“Four lands?” I asked. “I have never heard that.”
“Well, there is the land of the Humans, which you know. On one side of it, so close that they are almost one, there is the land of the Fair Folk. A little farther away, on the other side, is the glorious land of Beauty, Blavour, my home. On the other side of Blavour, so close that they are almost one, there is the land of deep magic where the wizards were born.”
“Blavour, beautiful and glorious?” I asked.
Ignoring my question, the beautiful creature continued, “Just as the Fair Folk and Humans had a series of destructive wars, so did the people of the lands of Beauty and Magic. Besides these wars, the land of Magic had its own civil war. The evil faction, led by Glumoric, lost, but didn’t admit defeat. The evil ones, instead, carved out a place in the land of beauty, Blavour. It didn’t take long for them to conquer my world, driving most of the citizens underground. Those that couldn’t escape, were captured and twisted into the Goblins. After Blavour was secure, Glumoric and his minions set their sights on the worlds of the humans and the Fair Folk. The wizards, feeling partially responsible, sent emissaries over to help in the fight. After much struggle, they finally were able to put Glumoric to sleep.”
I felt the stone in my pocket. Did she know I had it?
“The problem was that they didn’t’ finish the job by sending Glumoric to the Void. Although his evil slept, it was still here. We reclaimed part of our land, but his evil still lurked and held us at bay. And then he awoke…”
She smiled brightly, and became even more beautiful, though I didn’t think it was possible.
“There is an ancient prophecy that a Human who can See and Hear would come and restore balance. There has been much speculation on the meaning of the words, but the consensus is that Glumoric would be returned to the Void and that there would be a lasting peace between all four lands.”
“That puts an awful weight on my shoulders,” I said.
“And on mine,” she said. “The prophecy states that I would be the one to help, and that it would be our partnership that would win through. If we win, that is, which is doubtful. The prophesy seems to indicate that even if we win, we most likely will die in the attempt, but it states that our chances are very slim, and that we most likely will lose, throwing all four worlds into an everlasting darkness.”
“Thanks. That helped relieve the stress.”
“You are welcome,” she said. I decided at that point to no longer attempt sarcasm. “Now that you feel better, we must go, we have wasted too much time.”
“Then you know about the, uhm, well, you know?”
“Of course I do. How can I be in its presence for even a minute without knowing? I have to fight with all of my strength to remember anything. That’s why we must go now, before we forget our quest.”
We came out from behind the waterfall and I was surprised that it was full daylight. Had I slept that long? She didn’t look back at me, but followed a secret path that I never would have made out. A breeze played gentle in my ear, seeming to say, “Yes, follow and be brave.”
After a few minutes, following the lady became difficult. The ground wasn’t treacherous or anything, but I couldn’t see her. She blended in with the surroundings so well. I also began to realize that the surroundings were gorgeous. The World of Beauty was a great description!
About 30 minutes into the walk, we entered a clearing. I could make out a small house or cottage half hidden on the far side.
We had only taken a few steps into the little meadow when the sky burst apart in flame.
“That is a sign that they are looking for us. They must have discovered that the Stone is missing. Hurry! We don’t have much time!”
The fire grew brighter. I could feel the air burn as we raced across the field. Although it only took a couple of seconds, it felt an eternity to reach the cottage.
Entering, my suspicions that it was a type of hunting lodge seemed confirmed by a stag-skull trophy on the wall.
“Quick, press the middle skull,” my companion said.
When I approached I realized that they weren’t stag heads. They had a sinister feel. As I studied them, trying to figure out which head in the triangle was the middle, I recognized the skulls as coming from a dragon like the one that had attacked Whindel and myself on the plain.
“Now! The middle one!” A blinding light was entering the windows causing long shadows. The ground began to shake.
I started to reach for the skull at the top, the apex of the triangle, but my hand acted on its own and pressed at the point on the trophy that was equidistant from the skulls. I was surprised that I could feel another skull, an invisible one, under my hand. Only it didn’t feel like it was shaped the same as the other dragon skulls.
The shaking increased making it difficult for me to stand, and then stopped. The light went out, but a lamp came on, softly illuminating the room. I recoiled my hand in horror. It was resting on a bloody, rotting human skull.
“Thank you, we should be safe for now. When it is a little darker we will continue the journey.”
“Darker?” I asked. “I thought it was early morning.”
“It was, on the other side of the world. We are just outside of Glumoric’s capital, Malure.”
“Oh, OK, sure,” I said.
I must have looked confused, for she smiled reassuringly and drew closer. “Trust me. And to prove my trust in you, I will tell you my true name. I am Asheelin.”
“Asheelin,” I repeated. It sounded prettier when she said, my tongue seeming to dirty the word. “And I’m…”
“Brandon,” she said.
I realized that I hadn’t said or heard my name since the adventure began. “Uhm, how…?”
She nodded. “That’s a sign. Your name was foretold.”
“My name? But it is such an ugly name.”
“No, it is beautiful. It is the name that we have rested our hope for many millennia.” She hugged me, and though she was only a little bigger than Cate, the hug was that of a full grown woman. “It is nice to meet you, at last, Brandon.”
“Nice to meet you too, Asheelin,” I said. After the hug I stepped back, but she kept my hands in hers.
“I was born under the Sign and it was understood I was to be the Chosen One to join you. Fulfilling the prophecy that the worlds would be saved by one called ‘Alashina’, my mother tried to give me that name. But somehow, it never came out right, so I took the name the Wind gave me instead. We are the creatures of the Air, you know.”
“Just as the Fair Fold are creatures of Water,” I said.
“Wait a second,” I said. “Thinking of the Fair Folk, there is one with that name, Alashina. I know her! Oh, my head, this is confusing.”
“The Fair Folk! That does make sense.” She dropped my hands and took her chin in a hand, as if deep in thought. “And yet, I know I have a part to play. A big part. All of the signs pointed towards me. Was something missed?”
We were interrupted by a knock on the door. She was still lost in thought, so I walked over and opened it, without thinking. The wizard, Whindel, walked in.
“Oh, there you are, my boy. Funny how it all works out. You see…”
He stopped, just catching site of Asheelin. He stood, frozen, with his mouth open.
“xxxxx,” Asheelin said.
“yyyyy,” Whindel answered.
Asheelin nodded. “I understand now. How did we ever misread it? Welcome, Whindel the Wizard, worker of wonder, bringing substance from the Void.”
After a deep bow, he looked at the beautiful Asheelin, his face glowing. “It is not yours to know all secrets, Asheelin the Foretold, light as air and a fairy kiss from the breeze. If your people did truly understand, this meeting never would have happened, we would have remained strangers forever.”
The two turned to me. Whindel no longer appeared old, but as a man in his prime. At about the same height he was when I first saw him, he seemed the perfect match for Asheelin.
“I have seen the signs,” she said. “He is the One. Together we will prevail.”
“Or together we will fail,” the wizard said. “No matter, what is to be will be. As for our Human, Brandon, I felt he must be the one, but now you verified it.”
“Yes, he is the key. He can unlock any gate. Only he could have unlocked the skulls. Only he could have removed the Stone.”
“Ah, the Stone,” Whindel said. “I almost forgot. Not good. Is it acting on me too? What to do with the Stone…”
They continued to stare at me as if expecting me to answer, but all I had were questions!
— — —
What are they to do with the Stone? Does the author have any ideas yet? And why the similar names between the two leading ladies yet the men’s names are so far apart? And why are the ladies physically beautiful with no mention of skills or intelligence? Is the author sexist? All of these questions and more, will soon be answered! Stay tuned for our next exciting episode – same blog channel, same blog time!!