Connor awoke hours later to warmth. His eyes opened and a reddish dome, with small knitted holes, surrounded him. A homemade knitted blanket covered him from head to toe, along with another, larger, wool blanket on top. He removed the blanket from his head. He smiled lightly, not taking in the scene. A dream! Ha-ha! A stupid dream!
Connor lifted his head from a pillow and noticed that he wasn’t in his room, he wasn’t home at all, but in an unfamiliar cabin. The light was dim. A few small candle lit flames were perched on a windowsill, complementing the storm outside. The cabin was small, and would never be livable conditions for more than one person. Connor only sat in the bed and his head almost touch the top of the wooden ceiling. Within a half a step he would be standing in the kitchen and dining area; a small, beaten, wooden table and two chairs that looked hand made. Within two steps he’d be standing in front of the fire.
He moved his eyes to the walls. An old, sharp, weapon hung on one wall, and a fox skin on the other. Nothing more.
Connor rose from the bed and moved toward the wall with the weapon on it. It was white and curved. Along the curve were jagged edges. The hilt of the weapon was covered with gold ribbon and had pearly white feathers and beads tied to it. Connor reached his hand out to touch the object when a gust of cold splashed against him making him jump back.
The door had opened and in its frame stood a small woman holding wood in her hands.
“It would not be wise to touch,” she said closing the door as she entered.
“I’m–I’m sorry,” he said, stepping away.
The woman waddled her way to the fire and placed the logs next to it. She shimmied past Connor and with a gestured finger said, “Sit.”
He took a seat in the homemade chair. It creaked. Between them stood only the wooden table. Connor eyed her cautiously as she fiddled with the wood.
“Who are you?” he asked softly, as if not to scare the old woman.
She smiled at the fire slightly; her teeth black. “Qui-dem is my name,” she said.
Without questioning he said, “Hello, my name’s Connor.”
She smiled again, “I know.” Qui-dem rubbed her hands together and moved an inch to the stove where a tea-kettle sat whistling madly; she poured herself a cup. “You sleep talk,” she smiled; mouth closed.
“You found me? In the snow?” he asked.
“Aye. I travel many miles a day. Find food, wood, water, then I find you buried in snow,” she said. Her face was like a fine leather, barely moving. The only time it ever made any motion was when she smiled.
“Am I still in...what’s it called again?”
She nodded, with a closed smile. “Soarona.” Then said, “Aye, you are. But this is, what was, Blidíra,” she said. “I do my best never to leave Blidíra. I alone cannot face the Raiders.”
She sipped her tea slowly.
“What’s a Raider?”
Her face made a strange frown. “Evil. That is the best word to describe. They are creatures with no soul, no heart, no mind, only hunger for death.”
Qui-dem’s lip trembled, “Akbar,” she sighed. “O’Mighty Akbar King of Soarona, has them do his bidding. His evil. My people, and others, try to fight him for hundreds of years; try to stop him from power. He too powerful. My people out numbered and defeated. He cursed our land for punishment. From then on we live in fear and cold.”
Qui-dem finished and Connor sat silently for a moment. “This Akbar? He’s an evil King or something?” he asked.
Qui-dem’s eyes grew large. “Aye! King Akbar is as evil as they come!”
Why is there always an evil King? Why can’t there be like a distressed Llama or something? Connor nodded, making sure not to voice his thought. “In the war,” he said, “did you fight?”
Qui-dem inhaled proudly. “My husband, Polo, and I fought side by side for thirty long years before my husband died and I lost my eyesight.”
Connor then noticed that Qui-dem was blind. Her crystal blue eyes glazed over him, but did not see a thing.
“I,” she finished, “was forced to leave battle. Leaving the remaining of my tribe to be slaughtered.”
“They all died?”
“Aye,” she nodded sadly.
“I am very sorry,” Connor said. She raised a hand in the air and shook her head, as if to say: No need to apologize. “Was that yours?” Connor asked, pointing to the antique weapon on the wall.
A black-toothed smile spread across her old face once again, “Polo’s,” she said. “Very loyal, very violent.”
“What does it do? How does it work?” he asked.
“He called it Jerön,” she said. “Polo was very skilled with it. He used it to cut open the chest of his enemies, it was effective in many ways.”
Connor asked, almost disgustedly, “He would cut open their chest?”
“The tribes’ weaponry are very brutal,” she said with a smirk. “A time ago before Akbar’s rule the tribes’ were very violent and thirsty for blood. Over time our ways changed and resorted to peace, but at the dawn of Akbar’s rule we welcomed many of the old ways.”
Connor nodded and silence grew over them. Qui-dem sat with her hands hugging her cup, every so often taking a sip of the still steaming tea.
Connor’s eyes caught the window. It was still snowing hard; it coming down quicker and faster now. If that were possible. I was lucky to have been saved by her. I would’ve died. As Connor began to get comfortable within his chair, throwing his hands behind his head, he remembered that this place called Soarona was not his own. It was not his home and was not where he needed to be. How am I going to get home, he thought. I need to get home. Come tomorrow morning they’ll worry.
“Qui-dem,” he said, “would you happen to know how I could get back to...Earth–my home?”
She wet her lips, “Returning home will be hard, a challenge worth accepting, but hard,” she replied placing her cup on the table. “I have, over the years, heard of only one true way for someone in your situation to return to their own land. It is called, Vúlí Aquí, the Pool of Wishes.”
“Pool of wishes?”
“Aye, legends say that when you enter the pool you are granted a wish,” she said.
“Where would I find this? What language is that?”
“The language is ancient. Descending from a rare race called the Velnorians, that is a discussion for another time I’m afraid. As of the pool, that, no one is sure of,” she said. “Although, a place to start would be Majnoric, a city southeast of the Greyden Desert. I have heard many things about Majnoric, I feel it is a good a place as any to start there.”
“Okay, and how can I get there?” he asked.
“Greyden is across the Blodric Sea,” she said. “You have quite the journey, Connor.”
He smiled wirily, “Yeah, I guess I do.” He ruffled his hair and wiped sleep from his tired eyes.
After taking one glance Qui-dem dismissed Connor to bed. She decided that he leave first thing in the morning, if the storm has ceased. Qui-dem quickly made Connor a bed of blankets on the floor near the fire and he nestled down into them without complaint. He lay on his back for a time, hands behind his head, watching the snow tumble outside the window. The room was a peaceful dark. No candles, or lanterns. Just the warm flickering fire and the white light from outdoors. The gentle swoosh of the storm rocking him to sleep....
Morning came quickly as Connor awoke to the sun breaking through the window above; shinning heavenly on the area he had slept in. Qui-dem was in the kitchen, standing over the small stove frying something in a pan. Connor rubbed his eyes and sat up from the floor to see what she was cooking: fish. He had never been a fan of the thing, ever since he tried it once at a wedding. But the smell of the food lingered in the air and teased his stomach and, without wanting to, his mouth began to water. Connor watched Qui-dem as she cooked. It amazed him how well she coped with being blind. His staring was interrupted by a plate of food falling in front of his longing face.
“Sorry,” she said, “not much food.”
Connor frowned, with a slight smile, “It’s fine, Qui-dem. Really. Thank you.”
There were no utensils so they ate with their hands. Connor constantly feeling the need to wipe them with a napkin, but they didn’t have napkins either. After a while of battle with his father’s voice in his head telling him to use his manners, he dove his teeth into the side of the fish and ripped out the white meat-like substance from its body.
Moments passed and once they had finished eating Qui-dem looked up from her plate and said, “Connor, I would like to give you something.” She stood and brought the dirty dishes to the sink.
What more could she give me? She’s already given me a place to rest, a place to eat, and given me directions on how to get home. What else could she do?
She waddled back to the table with something in her hand. Connor couldn’t quite make it out because it was wrapped loosely in a beaten green cloth. Qui-dem took the cloth off and placed the object on the table.
“This,” she said, “is a tomahawk. Its name is Toroak and it was mine.” She held it out to him, “It is yours.”
The weapon was shaped like a small axe. On one side it was sharp and agile, and on the other it was round and heavy. It had a sleek black hilt with a grey horse hair tied to the end of it.
“It’s beautiful,” Connor said. “But Qui-dem, I–I can’t just take your weapon.”
She smiled, “You can and will. I no longer need it. I am safe and you are not.”
Connor blushed slightly. “I don’t know what to say,” he said looking down at the weapon, now in his hands. Will I really need to use this?
With a grin, Qui-dem reached within her brown robe and pulled out ten gold coins, “This is Zon,” she said holding a piece up to Connor, “the money you have will do you no good. Ten Zon will buy you food, and anything else you need for a time.”
Connor thanked her again, but felt it wasn’t justified. He gave he a hug instead.
After they parted Qui-dem spoke, “Many, many men and woman have stayed in this cabin and none of them have been as brave as you, Connor.”
Connor smirk lightly, “Me? Brave?” he laughed. “How do you know I’m brave?”
“I can see it,” she stated.
“Qui-dem, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re blind.”
Qui-dem’s mouth stretched wide and for the first time Connor heard her cackled laugh. “Oh, bravery is not something many have. But one, such as old as I, can recognize it in ones voice.”
Connor nodded as Qui-dem began to stand, signifying his time to leave. “Qui-dem, before I go...last night you had mentioned something about...tribes? I was wondering if you could tell me about that?”
Qui-dem frowned. “I will not tell you everything because time is short and you must be on your way. I will tell you this: When my people first arrived in Soarona we were a unified tribe called Dä Gèn dü Ali, meaning ‘Tribe of Gifted Animals,’ but as time progressed the tribe grew hostile toward one another and they split into five different tribes: the Rhas, the Sarcína, the Cota, the Ulungí, and the Sincorí. Those are the tribes I spoke. Since we have split, two of those five tribes are no longer with us, they have died out. The remaining tribes refer to ourselves as Devnir, or Devine.”
“What tribe are you apart of?” he asked.
“I am one of the few Cota’s left breathing,” she said, an unnoticeable frown appearing.
That ended their conversation. Connor helped Qui-dem straighten things out in her home before he went. She packed him a small pack of supplies, nothing too extravagant. Within a half hour he stood outside the cabin looking at Qui-dem for the last time.
“You should reach Sta Detínú by night fall, a small town just north of here,” she said lastly.
Connor’s eyes touch the ground, “I owe you,” he said, “for everything."
“No,” she said, “you do not.”
He waved goodbye and entered a light snow. Connor reached a small hill and looked back. The cabin’s brown exterior complementing the snow. That’s something you’d see in a catalog, he thought. The smoke from the chimney still puffed healthily, and he could still see the small woman standing in her doorway, probably with a smile across her wrinkled face.