“So tell me a story.”
“What kind of story?”
“A story of your people.”
They had walked for some time and Kalli closed her eyes. She wondered why Lan was inquisitive about her people. “Like a folk tale? Our history?” She, for a brief moment, noticed he had looked into her eyes. Kalli was unsure why she felt such a need to not only document this occasion but to continue to reflect on that one blink of an existing moment.
Yun had crafted a counter plan. “Why don’t you tell us about your people instead.” This way he wouldn’t be focusing on Kalli. Yun thought the stratagem would be a success. Only then when Yun noted Kalli’s interest did Yun wish she could retract that statement.
“Well, okay, we have some ways. Let us begin.
“As the land above began it’s rule, there was a great and powerful diety who wished for all the world to bow before him. He summoned elemental gods to go forth and through the wind, the fire, the sea, the earth, and all that which blesses our existence. And forth they went, telling the world of man, and all spirits that they should unite to praise his glory.
“However, this made the gods jealous. A diety, yes, he was, but he was not above the others in his existence. He was merely just a vain creature, given rank and power beyond the norm. One god in particular, he went down and crafted a creation in a secret cavern. This creature, would destroy the image of the vain diety and spread discord. The Vain diety however had manipulated the people and the elementals for the sake of pressuring the ruling thrones of heaven into accepting his greatness. And while the diety could not overthrow the ruling of the heavenly leader, his power was unchecked, and he basked in the worship. Through his very existence, the powers of heaven were falling.
“But unbeknownst to him, the creature, the one born to defy him, was born. After years of cultivating and personal sacrifice, the creature was born not as a human, but as a horse. The heavens looked on as a bright light blinded the gods for a mere moment. It was in that moment that the gods decided to make a bet, he who could take the horse, in all his beauty, would be crowned the wealthiest of all the gods.
“So the vain diety sent in all his henchmen and elementals. He recruited the local people and all those who praised his name. And they turned over the world, trying to catch the creature, as he sped across the land. As the gods, the elementals, and the people were stumped, a wicked man had a plan. He saw in the horse, a devine light and knew, deep down which god had created it. The god was one who protected the children from evil spirits. Knowing this, he kidnapped three children and placed them in a burning house. He then called out to the horse.
“And as the sun began to rise, the horse came. With its furiousity, it saved an angry child. With its compassion, it saved kind child, and with it’s courage, it saved a brave child. When the evil man came to capture the horse, now weakened, there was no one there.
“You see, by those three deeds, the horse was transformed into a human saint, furious in its strength, kind with his heart, and compassionate with mercy. Recognizing the ascendance of such a creature, the once horse, became an immortal in the heaven.
“But now this immortal, through his deeds, became the attention and earned the affection, not just of the mortals below, but of the gods themselves. The vain diety grew angry and challenged the immortal to a duel. The two dueled, and with his furiosity, the immortal defeated the diety, with his compassion, spared the diety, and finally, with his kindness, lifted the diety up from his defeat with honor. The diety, no longer vain, and the immortal, loved and humble, taught my people how to live.”
Kalli smiled, such an interesting story, weird, no doubt, but interesting. “So how did that teach you how to live exactly?”
Lan explained, “Three deeds defined the person the horse became. We enter this land to be born again, we are given a weapon…the spear I hold has been in my family for generations. As for Er, he has been my childhood friend. His father, served my father. And in essence, my father served his. As you can tell my people respect horses. When I complete my three deeds, I will leave this plane and go back home.”
Kalli accidently let it slipped, “I’ll miss you.”
Lan looked at Kalli to try and catch what she said, and as he was able to put it together…he saw her smile at him.
Er then butted in between them. “Come now, we must hurry, night is going to fall soon.”
And so they picked a spot and Yun ordered the men on how to build a tent from scratch. Kalli just laid on her back and then began to feel the chill of the cold weather. She noted that Yun felt it too because Yun stopped barking orders.
There was an odd silence among them as the light sky began growing hazey, and then all together, flat out dark. Er embraced the chill and wished he could just run free in the cold. Of course this was just in his own nature, but that did not help calm the urges. He decided to hplay a guessing game of how long it would take for them to make it to the village, only to realize that unlike him, the human companions could not make a total jog, they would likely tire out and perhaps pass out.
Lan was the first to give up, much to Er’s surprise. “Please, I know this is urgent, but we need to rest.” Truth was, by now, the night was half done and soon the non sun would rise to greet the day. The decided to set up camp near the forrest.
Kalli and Er stayed behind. It was Lan who insisted among them that one of them stay behind rather then have both the males go or stay. Yun, still did not trust Lan enough with Kalli, so she volunteered to go with him. Their job would be to take the giant leaves of the foreest, sticks and branches and make a camp.
“So, tell me about yourself Yun.”
“What is there to tell?” Yun rudely asked.
Lan saw through her hostility. “Tell me, why are you acting so hostile? I mean I am sure you have a valid reason, as I don’t recall harming you…”
The deer instantly cut him off, “I see how she looks at you. And… I know your species too well.” Yun reflected on her own statement. She had always kept it inside of her, he was a male, and Kalli, the girl who saved her life, was letting her guard down against him.
“You mean my people? You know of…”
“Males… hunters… you are a hunter aren’t you? I mean on the other side. You are bred to kill creatures like me. “
The boy was not an idiot, “Something happened to you. Care to tell me?”
“My father. He was killed by a group of hunters. Me and my mom traveled the land and came near Kalli’s people. One day while going out for a walk, the males of the culture, the hunters, those killers, they are always the males, they tried to kill me.”
“Kalli’s people?” Lan took out his spear chopped down several branches. “So… Kalli saved your life then?”
“Even her teacher was against saving me.”
“So, you naturally…”
Again Yun butted in, “You don’t get it. You people, all of you, you are trained to kill. You may have your horses, your whatevers, but me, my kind, we will always be on the run from you. And you expect me to trust you with the girl who saved my life?”
Lan understood her at once. “I am sorry.” He put down his head sincerely to apologize. “My father was a butcher. He had a farmland and he raised the animals for slaughter there. However, I am not my father. Me, I am going into the army.”
“The army? Why?”
“I was sold there. My parents made a contract with the local lord. When I finish, me and Er, we are going to stop training, and enter into servitude. Truth is, my people believe that the three deeds we do here define us, but… they want me to use this place, to do three deeds worthy of entering the army.”
Yun backed off. “You are a monster.” Completely at a loss for words she just looked at him. “I can smell the blood on you.”
“The blood, I tried to wash it off. I thought I did. They came from two monsters. I saw them in the distance, they were going to devour these two… so, I rushed to save them and…” Lan lowered his head again. “I would like to think I made the right decision. I can see why you don’t trust me and…”
Yun slowly walked closer and asked, “What was it like?”
“Killing something?” Lan asked. When he saw her nod her head he went on, “It felt, right. I know that sounds weird. It’s just, I saw the evil in their eyes. I saw their strength, and I saw their viciousness, and when I no longer saw it, it was as if, that evil left the plane. In all honesty, they didn’t put up much of a fight. They attacked me, and they left themselves wide open. And there was a gratification.”
The deer could almost picture those two standing before her. “What kind of gratification?”
“Those who escaped. If they killed me, no doubt they would have ran after them. It was as if I felt the flames of their lives burn even brighter just by that one action. It was an empowering feeling to tell the truth.”
“My advice, be careful. You have the power to make Kalli weak, or strong. And for your sake as well as hers, you better take care of her. I may be a deer, but we have a certain type of wrath that cannot be equaled.” Yun began to walk away after picking up a final leaf, “you have something of hers, don’t misuse it.”
Lan looked curiously wondering what that meant. Then he too went back to camp.
Er was apparently telling Kalli jokes from Lan’s native people. Kalli was busting up laughing. Lan, on hearing her giggle, chuckled to himself. It was such a pleasant sound that he couldn’t help but chuckle. It was most likely the way she did it. Whatever it was, he wanted to hear it again. But as he saw in the distance, Er seemed to stop telling jokes.
“So Lan, I heard burned your mothers hair off.”
So it was that story. Of all stories Er had to tell!
Lan and Kalli instantly began to non-bicker of which was a better way to build a camp. Kalli naturally knew the architecture of her people, meanwhile Lan was dead set on the style of his own. “I will have you know that this way we can use less leaves and sticks and…”
“But come on, then why did we get so many, lets use them all?” Kalli retorted.
Er raised his hand, “How about…”
Both of them looked at Er crossly. Yun whispered into Er’s ear, “this is scaring me.”
While the two were arguing, Yun and Er mutally agreed to improve a build. The two humans seemed more to enjoy taunting eachothers “lack of intellect” then actual perfering a set of build for the tent. Kalli finally remembered how stubborn her Speaker was, so she wondered, does this mean all men are this stubborn? If so then she should quit and let Lan build his way, or… perhaps that stubbornness should be embraced as a future Speaker herself! Therefore, by this logic, she should fight him for every leaf, stick, tarp and blanket!
After they noted everyone had fallen asleep, they decided it was best that they follow suit. So they picked up the leaves, got cozy and together, they rested. It was a short rest. Kalli slept with an odd smile on her face, and when Lan woke up, it was the first thing he saw.
There was something hypnotic about her face. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he just kept gazing and thinking about it until…as if she sensed it, she blinked her eyes open. Lan tried to shift his gaze immediately. She caught him though, if only for the briefest of moments.
“What’s wrong?” Lan asked. He was trying to change the subject however Kalli just was oblivious. There actually was something inside Kalli’s mind that caused her to awaken.
“I need a weapon!” It all came to her in a dream. “I was being cradled by this shadow and these evil forms were coming after me. Then I head a voice, it told me that I needed a weapon to fend them off. And sure enough as it said so, the monsters vanished. So Lan, what do you think?”
“You alright Lan?” Kalli was growing concerned.
Lan smiled then went on, “So you need a weapon… want me to help build you one?”
As Er and Yun slept, Lan and Kalli ran together to the forest.
The Speaker once told Kalli that every Speaker needs a weapon. An instrument to call their own. Each one is unique, no two are the same. It is the duty of each Speaker to craft this item through their own efforts, and in essence make it an extension between their self and their spiritual connection to the world. It is through this, the Speaker can transcend the physical relm and speak through the metaphysical.
Kalli used a dagger once to exorcise a spirit, but if she was to continue her journey, she needed something more solid. Something of her own. She realized this in her dream. Now she was set on fixing this problem.
“What kind of weapon are you looking for?” Lan asked.
“I guess a staff. Basicly a pole. Nothing fancy.”
Lan looked at the tree then felt a childish itch to show off. “Move aside.” Kalli looked back then moved to the side, still not sure what he had on his mind.
Lan put all his pressure on his legs. Kalli wanted to laugh at the strange face he was making. Obviously he was going to try and jump as high as he could, but that didn’t stop him from looking like a cute idiot. Lan jumped as high as he could, and swung his spear, aiming for a large branch. He missed and the attempt became futile. Kalli let out a giggle.
“I got it,” Lan held his composure, saying in an attempt for her not to doubt his skills. He jumped again swinging. This time with less gusto on the jump, and more on trying to get the blade to connect. He succeded in throwing himself off balance. “You want me to…”
As Kalli began to offer her assitstance, Lan put up his hand as if to say “I will do this myself.” Kalli just sat down on the slump of a root, and watched Lan jump up and down, over and over, swinging at the air. She could see a stubbornness that just knocked her to her back, as she couldn’t breathe from the laughter.
Finally Lan heard it. “What are you laughing at?” He looked at her not knowing what was up. She tried to hold it in and flash a sincere smile that said, “I am not laughing.” That façade smile was in vain. Lan’s face had begun to go red.
“You do realize there are other trees.” Kalli then laughed again. She walked down some distance. Lan called after here, “Where are you going?” Kalli shot back, “There is probably one or two trees with low branches. I figure I’ll be safe. Don’t worry, I’ll be back.”
Lan stood there and thought about it. Kalli just went on. She began to notice, for a brief moment, she didn’t want to be alone…it was as if something about her doing this alone, was wrong.
Kalli sighed at this mental note then proceded to walk again. “Wait! I’m coming too.” Lan finally shouted, it was as if Kalli willed it to be so. After a moment, he was back to her. “You never know,” he began to puff, out of breath, “when something bad might happen.” She smiled at him, “Thank you.”
Nothing bad did happen to them. Time had passed and Kalli danced by the hours with an unmoving smile.
Kalli took the knife and had since carved out the majority of The Rod. Lan was all the while telling her just how much she and her people didn’t know how to carve. The Rod had taken it’s shape and was slowly becoming a testemant to her people, her culture, and an extension of Kalli herself. With each carving, a symbol was being put on.
Lan asked her what the words on the side meant. Kalli just smiled at him and laughed, then thanked him for being so useless. The Rod complete, she pretended she already know how to use it as an expert would a weapon and pointed it at Lan. She pretended to attack, drew near him and stopped.
She stopped infront of him, his figure not imposing on her, but she realized, she was imposing to him. He stared on, not sure what to do. Lan, the great warrior was struck with some kind of awe. Kalli felt this urge, to get closer, and as if, to be able to move through him. It was as if there was a warm tug. The giggle faded into a smile of uncertainty.
The boy tested his own ability and for some unknown reason took half a step closer.
Neither of them knew, they just proceded to gaze at eachother.
Lan’s eyes turned to dread.
He turned around at less then a moment’s notice. Kalli watched the boy walk away and felt an odd sense of abandonment. She stood there and reflected on the this moment. At the end she didn’t understand what had come over him and what was that once moment they had shared, if there was anything they had shared at all.
The Rod clutched in hand, she made her way back to camp.
The rest of the crew, Yun and Er were awake when she got back.
Yun immediately began getting offensive, “Where were you two!?” Kalli was remembered of a time, when she once hid away from everyone, wasn’t sure at the time if she was going to run away. She recalled how when she returned, The Speaker was waiting outside her hiding spot, as if he always knew. She remembered the thousands of questions, all inquisitive, that he kept droning out of his vocabulary. Yun had begun to sound like him, what just made Kalli that much more negative at the moment.
“What do you mean calm down. You could have been hurt. He didn’t try anything, did he?”
“Well why were the two of you…”
Kalli held out her staff. “We were making this. Incase next time we come across trouble, I can deal with it!” Kalli stormed off.
In the end, Kalli wasn’t sure if it was Yun’s non-stop barrage that made her mad or, perhaps it was the sudden feeling of abandonment. She tried to catch a glimpse of Lan. He had a troubled look on his face, or so she guessed. It was away from her, but Er seemed quite concerned as patted Lan on the back. Lan just threw Er’s hand, or creepy whatever one would call it, away from him. She was saddened by this sight. Lan was always so positive, sure of himself, now seemed like something was eating away at his being. And it ate her up that whatever it was, he was holding it all in.
Kalli clasped her staff. Lan asked her, what the native writings meant. She never told him the answer. She never told him it was the one affirmation she was willing to take with her into battle; “He will protect me.”
The four of them had walked in an uneasy silence. Yun, feeling Kalli’s momentary scorn, hooked up with Er. Kalli noted that they seemed to be very into whatever they were talking about and at a moments notice would look at either her or Lan with an odd face.
The crew was in bad spirits when they arrived at their destination.
The nonexisting sun was set. Kalli could just make out the outlines of the infamous mountain. During this time, she heard a Call. “Kalli…come.” Mentally drained and tired, the crew was slowly disappearing behind her. A different energy beckeoned inside her. It told her, her adventure was almost done. She could feel it, it’s heartbeat. It was the very living existence of her spirit guardian.
She could no longer see the mountains, but there was a small bright light. It was a torch, and Kalli could see the gate.
Kalli slowed down and the rest of the crew had been able to catch up during this period.
Lan gripped the spear, Er’s ears went strait up. As for Yun? She felt a strange sensation to trot away as quick as possible. And then came the rain.
Kalli’s ceremonial garb was becoming blanketed and yet this did not bug her. She took her staff in hand and walked foreward to the ominous individual who was there. The new day was several moments away, they should still be safe, so why this odd fear? The others felt it to. When she looked back, each of them stepped foreward with caution.
“Who are you?” The glowing creature had asked.
A step foreward and now she knew, she had seen that invisabilty before. She was speaking to a ghost.
“Who are you!?” The ghostly creature demanded at once with fury.
Yun walked to Kalli’s side then whispered gently in her ear, “Are we seeing the same thing? Is that…a ghost?”
The Shaman in Training nodded.
Yun then went on, “I think we should turn back. My instincts, they are pretty reliable, and they all say, go home. We can find shelter and…”
The deer was surprised to hear such determination come from Kalli’s voice. “What do you mean no?” Yun angrily whispered.
“We are coming into the village.” Kalli gave the apparition her own hostile look in return. The creature was unmoved.
Behind the two girls, the two boys were arguing what they should be doing. Kalli shot them a look, “This is not for discussion.” They quieted down, until she was no longer looking at them, then they proceded to continue yapping amongst themselves.
“I shall ask one more time, who are you!?” The living spirit was getting upset and Kalli could feel the unrest. Was it just the one? She closed her eyes and felt the presence of many others. The whole place housed the presence of many dead. This much she knew, and this along her quest, was a block in the road.
“My name is Kalli. I am a Speaker in training!” She shouted at the ghost. She thought somehow, saying this, would somehow weaken the hostile will of the creature. It did not.
“I know not of your ‘Speakers.’ What do you seek in the Village of The Passed Kalli?”
“Village of the Passed?” Yun had the courage to speak up.
“You come here, and you do not know your destination!?” The ghost looked even more enraged then before. Er tried to hold Lan back, “You can’t harm him with your weapons!” Lan shot back, “I have to do something!”
Lan ran forward, this time getting in between the spirit and Kalli.
“I am Lan. Who dares speak to her so insolently!?” He retorted.
Then there was a silence.
The dead creature laughed a freakish laugh that spoke of many tormented lifetimes. “So, you seek to protect this one? And with a weapon of a mortal no less!” Again it laughed.
Kalli then bluntly asked, “Who are you to laugh at us?”
A second ghost appeared. “Why have you come to this village?” The other asked.
“I am a Sp…Kalli looked on, she remembered when Yun used the term ‘shaman’ and how the people reacted differently, she tried it out. “I am a shaman, a priestess of my people. I am on a journey to find my guardian spirit in The Living Mountain.”
“The Living mountain is past here. This village guards its only pathway up. So I see. Lately we have been hearing the call of a bird spirit.”
“A bird!” Kalli exclaimed.
“We can only guess.” Said one.
“We heard a screech come from the top of the mountain to await the arrival of a girl dressed in foreign garb.”
“Await? Await for what?” Kalli asked.
“We…we are not free.” One ghost said. The other walked infront and bowed. “We have been in this state of limbo, unable to pass on for years.
Kalli moved Lan aside and stepped foreward. She then looked hard at their features each. One resembled a Fox, the other, some foreign animal she had never seen. “How can I help?”
“You… can’t. We would offer you safe passage, but tomorrow is the festival. This place is so heavy with death, that even weak spirits such as us can come and go as we please, but cursed to never leave this place.”
The other chimed in, “We watch guard, turning away visitors from meeting horrid potentially horrid fates. Tomorrow, the dead shall rise, all of them, and with that energy, no one will be safe here. The town is moving out tomorrow, during the day. But we fear the spirits may overtake them even sooner. These poor brethren have known no rest for years. Many of them have turned to hate. Yet, something keeps them in check.”
The first one then added, “We think it’s the spirit that lives in the mountains. Each year, it gets stronger. It has always prevented the fallen from rising out of their own bonds. And yet, this year, the fallen grow in number and strength. We fear for the lives of the populace.”
She hung her head low and went into deep thought. She could almost hear a voice tell her this would be an ultimate test. “What can I do to help?”
The two spirits looked at each other. “Help? You want to help us?” The stranger looking spirit then spoke up, “No, it’s too dangerous!”
No longer fearing the ghosts, Kalli stepped through. They tried to protest, “You cannot…” but she did. She went right through them as if they did not matter. Kalli then looked back at her comrades and asked them, “Are you going to stand there, or are you coming too?” Lan smiled, he nudged Er and Yun followed suit as well.
Thus the four traveled to the Village of the Passed, and their last trial.
The village had a nice tone to it. It reminded Kalli of a great town the Speaker once took her on for tribal relations. The entrance sat at the low foot of the town and shops were lined up on the outside forming a half circle. There was a big gap in the middle for a town center. Claiming an end to that gap was the village leaders mansion, which was vast in size. Then claiming a smaller semi circle, heading to the foot of the mountain, were the homes. There was a way opening from these homes, on the side that lead to a great church or place of local worship. Outside of that church, was a graveyard. Very massive and filled with unmarked graves.
A young Wolf creature was walking with a cub when they came across the newcomers. They were so greately startled that they told other local folk until, within moments of their arrival, Kalli and her friends were swamped with people.
They had begun to each ask a neverending barrage of questions. “Who are you?” “What bring you here?” and the like.
Yun looked back at the enterance and the ghosts, and the darkness around the land, seemed to vanish. There was something not quite so morbid about this place that made her feel very comfortable.
Lan talked to Er and recommended that Er tell Kalli that they need a place to rest.
Er would have gladly have done so if Kalli wasn’t surrounded by admirers wanting to know the source of a human being in their land, and for the other source of her odd cloathing. She told them it was a ceremonial garb.
“I’m sorry, but it’s raining and it’s dark, I think we need to find somewhere to rest.” Kalli politely asked the people.
“Niether dark nor the rain bothers us.” The mother wolf said. She took Kalli by the hand and then said, “You do look like you need some rest, come, we will show you a place to sleep, however, we must warn you, that you should perhaps leave tomorrow morning, while you can. Come sunset tomorrow the dead shall rise and…”
“I know the story. For now we would just like a place to rest.”
The wolf looked at Kalli and sniffed her. “What was that?!” Kalli seemed offended, never being sniffed at by a creature much before.
The wolf just laughed, “Oh, it is nothing, I can tell though, you are an honest woman. Come then, I shall take you to a friend of mine, he owns a tavern, and above there are rooms for the night.”
They walked to the tavern.
Inside, there was an odd smell and the strange folk of the land were definitely getting drunk. Kalli had only seen a drunk person once in her life and ever since then, was naturally afraid of them. She saw it as a possession. It was in her village some time ago and during this time, there was a man in her village who decided to keep eating a certain set of fruits. He became someone else within an hour and the entire village did not know what had transpired. Kalli was niave enough to think that the fruit spirit had possessed the man.
But she recognized the looks on the creatures immediately. She also at that moment made a note to never come downstairs alone in the tavern. “What is going on down here?” Kalli asked the wolf.
The wolf looked at her and responded, “They are trying to gather courage. Tomorrow is the day and when it comes, those who haven’t fled this place, for pride or what other reasons there are, are lieklly to encounter several spirits and…” She stopped.
Yun then asked curiously, “And what? What’s so wrong here?”
“She also at that moment made a note to never come downstairs alone in the tavern. “What is going on down here?” Kalli asked the wolf.
The wolf looked at her and responded, “They are trying to gather courage. Tomorrow is the day and when it comes, those who haven’t fled this place, for pride or what other reasons there are, are lieklly to encounter several spirits and…” She stopped.
Yun then asked curiously, “And what? What’s so wrong here?”
“Along time ago, there was a battle fought here. I don’t know what two sides fought for, and in that battle, the priest of the village lost her daughter. He claimed, then and there, that no spirit, which dies on this land, will go to the afterlife. I don’t know if it’s true, but each year. The village, that once celebrated the idea of a spirit transcending the mortal body, is now being more and more encompassed by ghosts.”
Er reflected then asked, “Why doesn’t everyone leave then?”
“This village, it is older that most people give it credit for. Most of us ha dour parents, and their parents’ parents born, raised, and died here. This village is more then just a home. We live and exist as apart of it.
The wolf then quickly introduced the group to Bonna, a creature with the features of an Antelope.
“I am sorry,” he went on to say, “but we only have one room available upstairs. It only has two beds. I hope that does not bug you.” Yun looked at the two males and got a defensive look. She whispered into Kalli’s ear, “I’ll make sure they don’t try anything.”
The four then went into their rooms and Kalli decided she would take the floor, Yun, thinking their would be a war over the beds leaped on one and said, “Mine!” Needless to say that this bed would be Yun’s for the night. Er gladly, like a servant of sorts, gave Lan the other bed.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door.
A soft voice was heard. “Can I please come in? If it isn’t too much to ask. I mean, if it is alright with all four of you. It is, is it?” The voice spoke numbers, soft, almost half frightened, not sure of it’s own message.
Then a whiskered, beady eyed creature stuck his head in with a “squeak” that escaped his lips.
He then assumed too much and entered anyways.
“I heard we have a priestess here.” He then saw Yun, who looked nothing like a priestess, and bowed heavily.
“It’s not me you stupid mouse. It’s her!”
He then looked at Kalli, and then back to Yun, “You sure it’s not you?”
Yun huffed then asked, “And who are you?”
“Ah yes, my name. It’s Olava, a pleasure to meet your acquaintance. I am the village leader.”
Even Kalli couldn’t help but chuckle in that this clueless, shy, mouse, was the leader of the entire village. “Please, don’t laugh at me. I get enough of that from the wife.”
Er then did one of his horrid laughs then had to cover his mouth, which with the size of his teeth, wasn’t working to hide his gring. “Did you say wife?”
Olava then started to shelter up.
Yun was the only of them, to surprisingly have the courtesy to stand then ask, “And what brings you here?”
Offended, Olava responded, “This is my village, what brings you here?”
Kalli stood and bowed, “Forgive me. My name is Kalli and I am a Speaker…” she noticed again, no response, “Preistess?” Response. “I am a priestess…”
“Oh thank the heavens.” He grabbed her in a hug.
She finished the sentence. “…in training.”
The hug was aborted.
“A what?” Olava was getting cross again, which with his mousy face, was actually kinda cute. “Oh no. Here the word around town was that some one came to save us and then we find out it’s a fraud. What am I doing here? What are you doing here!?” The mouse began to speak so fast and incomprehensible that it sped up to a bunch of unending squeaks.
Er too the village leader by the hand and sat him by the bed. “Me and my companion her, Lan, are accompanying these two on a quest to find her spirit guardian. We have made some travel and because of the rain and the time, we are here to rest for the night.”
Olava thought to himself, unsure whether to believe these people or not. “And why here? Why not some other town. There are five, just some miles south, and a big city, not to far from here. Why here? Are you people telling me the truth. If you aren’t then…” And again his voice and words sped up too much that they became high pitched squeaks.
Lan covered his ears, “Can someone shut him up?”
Er was not to happy with Lan’s moodiness but again with finess was able to calm Olava down. “It’s okay. We came here because we needed to go the mountain and we need the rest. We will be out here by tomorrow morning. Is that a problem? If it is we can leave earlier.”
The noisy Olava was beginning to calm down. But Kalli had a question for him. “Wait, who told you I was a priestess?”
The mouse froze into silence. The rest of the group then looked hard at their seemingly innocent guest. “Yeah, and how did you know where to find us?” Yun butted in. Lan gripped the spear that was on the side of his bed. “You better start talking, if you really are the village leader, that is.” Lan then with a leap, was down from the bed and had his spear ready in a neutral position that basicly was begging to be used on any potential opponent.
“I… okay, the truth is, I am the village leader. But, we had a visitor not too long ago, that said a group of four individuals will be coming this way, on the day before the festival. When my secretary went out to investigate this, she claims that the visitor had disappeared. I myself took this as an auspicious sign. Perhaps a divine message that the spirits that have become corrupt and are threatening to cause a ruckus during the festival may finally be put to rest.”
“What did this visitor look like?” Kalli did not think of the divine, but perhaps someone who may have known them beforehand and merely made the trek here first. She did not conceive the fact that perhaps it was a divine message from a paranormal being.
“That’s the odd thing, all my secretary remembered was it’s dark and piercing gaze. Later on, she couldn’t make if it was male, female, mouse or dog. She said when she came back, it was as if, it took to the sky when she was not looking.”
The mouse then continued on his strange tale. “Strange thing was, the creature told us that you would help. You can help, can you?” Olava then walked forward trying to do a “we are so pathetic and weak” look. It would have worked but Kalli really wasn’t sure what would help in this situation. It was easy to say yes, but as the situation changed, Kalli was starting to feel overwhelmed by the entire thing.
Seeing her hesitation and not wanting to overstay his welcome, Ovala finished his thoughts, “We can talk tomorrow, I will be at the worship temple in town. We will be having a meeting there. Come if you can. We don’t have money, but any help in this situation would be much appreciated.” He then began to leave.
The door closed behind them and they were all speechless.
“So are we going to help?” Er asked.
“Er, can you play that song?”
Er looked at Lan. Lan, like a tired child, went on, “Please, it’s been awhile since I heard it, and truth be told. I am missing my home right now.” Kalli was interested again. She remembered Er once played the song for Lan and how it had enchanted her.
Er wasn’t in the mood, “How about tomorrow, these hands of mine are really tired. We been doing a lot of traveling and I think we need a good rest if we are going to hike tomorrow. Or are we helping these folk? I don’t know. Sorry, my head isnt with me right now.”
Kalli put her hand on Er’s arm, “Please play it again. It will help us think.” Kalli then put on the best encouraging smile that she could. Apparently it worked as Er took out his instrument and began to play.
As if on cue, Yun’s eyes began to blink. She tried to keep them open but the idea was failing to the soft sounds. Kalli too was being enchanted, in reality, she did not want to think, she wanted to be whisked away in a nice set of dreams. She wanted their warmth to take her away from this world of pressure, ghosts, and troubles and into one of peace and…she hoped she would see Lan in there as well. Why not? Maybe in her dreams, she could confront Lan about whatever was ailing him.
Kalli always thought it was weird, but ever since she was young, she felt that in her dreams, she could read people better then they interacted outside. Then again, this was likely due to the fact that as a child, she had little to no interaction with the people around her and as a result dreamt of getting to know her clan.
Lan thanked Er one last time then looked around the room. The two girls had fallen fast asleep.
As the girl slept and wanted to dream, she instead had a vision.
The images were blurry and Kalli could not make sense of any of the shapes or what they represented, she just knew that she was in this odd world, and in the world there was darkness.
And then she heard something cry out. Whatever it was, it was in pain. “Help me.” That was all she could make out of the words. “Help me.” Whoever she was in this dream was not her physical self, but still Kalli ran.
“Help me. Someone.”
Kalli saw a cracked egg on the floor. The egg was of giant proportions and yet, seemed to be bleeding. “You there, girl.” The voice inside the egg noticed her. Kalli, or whomever she was in this vision approached even closer without regard to caution. She touched the egg and the bleeding wound began to heal immediately.
At once Kalli heard a “cooing” sound. Whatever was inside had become happy and content. “Hold me close.” As strange as the request was, in her vision it was not so strange. Kalli understood immediately and lifted the egg. Depsite the size of the egg, she was able to lift it, and wrap her arms around it and place it next to her heart with warmth and affection.
“Hold me close, so that I may live.”
Kalli was herself again. The darkness was now an empty white plane of nothing but herself. The egg was gone. The warmth was gone and she was alone. “Hold me close so that I may live?” Kalli repeated the last statement to herself. “What does that mean?”
“It means, my child, you helped give me life when I was to not live.”
A cool wind brushed against her face. With it came an inner warm feeling across her body. It was as if she was in bed cuddled up to a warm fire and not a care in the world. She embraced this feeling and didn’t want to let it go. She then heard the searing sound of a bird. She looked up to the sky and saw nothing.
Kalli understood where she was.
“So, you are my guardian spirit?”
A soft yet strong voice blew through the nice wind around Kalli and answered, “My child, before you existed on this plane, you chose me.”
The girl was so confused, she spoke out, “I do not understand. Show yourself. Where am I?”
At once, the whiteness became the village she was at now, just several years ago. “This was the land that you now stand upon.” Kalli looked around then shrugged as if to say, “and?” The wind came again and Kalli sat down on the patch of earth. “What you see is the land before the ground became stained with blood. This was the land at happiest of times. Surely even you can sense the serenity of this?”
Kalli nodded her head, “Yes, it does feel peacefull here. Then again, I could just be feeling whatever you want me to feel. You do have that kind of power, don’t you?” The trees began to sway in the non existing wind.
“I do.” Kalli suddenly felt something funny come into her mind. She tried to hold it in, but she couldn’t. She started cracking up. “A gift,” the voice said. The laughter went away. Then came an image of Lan infront of her. Enraged Kalli yelled, “What’s he doing here? What have you done to him?”
“He likes that laugh of yours. Although he has rarely heard it, he finds it the most sweetest of all the music he has grown up with. Do not worry my child, here, he is just an image. Nothing more. Not even physical.” Kalli put her hand through his face, she felt nothing.
“Kind of creepy.”
“But do not fear what has become of him.” These words were odd to understand, even in such a way of knowing, Kalli found this to be extremely cryptic.
“You... you see Lan’s problem?” Kalli took in this moment, if the creature did know what was troubling her friend, she wanted nothing more to know the answer. The need was so much so, she knew in her gut, finding the answer would not be so easy as to ask.
“It is not a problem, but a demon he must face. But my child, know that he is still lending you his strength, but more importantly, that his strength comes directly from you. You may not comprehend your powers, but theire are some abilties that even spirit folk cannot possess. They can calm spirits, turn mountains, and yet, they cannot give strength to the weak, and solace to the scared. But you my child, you have this gift.”
Kalli pleaded with the non existing spirit, “What gift is this?”
“Before you see me, you will know. However, I fear when you learn, you will bear a tragedy of sorts on your soul. That is unavoidable. But when that is confronted, you shall awake and be who you are meant to be. Now, I need you to wake up. Tomorrow will be your biggest trial, and this will be one that your friends won’t be of any help. You will be scared but remember the words you carved on that staff. Let that be your final battle cry. And with that cry, all the spirits will atlas know rest.
It was just a vision. It would have been a dream if the spirit allowed her to simply dream. This was a vision, a warning, a blessing, a teaching, and a foretelling. For now Kalli was no longer in this vision, but back on the floor.
There was no music. There was no being whisked away into a beautiful song. She was just there, it was dark, and she felt anxiety attacking her. She wanted to wake Yun up. She felt the spontaneous urge to talk to someone but Yun was looking so peaceful in her sleep.
Then she heard an instrument she never heard before. It was like a strange call to her. She stood up and walked her way to the door. Beneath it there was a bright light. She heard laughing downstairs. Perhaps if this was any other time, she would get mad for there being so much noise when she tried to sleep, but for now, her curiosity was more in control then her feelings.
She cracked the door open.
Downstairs, Lan was drinking it up, something he hadn’t done in along time. Er, worried, had followed him down. The two had been there for some time. Someone had begun playing that odd instrument and Lan just sat there sleeping awake in his own thoughts.
“Come on, stop drinking.” Er pleaded.
“Er, how long have you been by my side?”
“Years. Why do you feel the need to ask?”
Er stopped Lan from taking another drink. “No lying to me, what’s wrong?” Lan looked offended then seemed to introspect. Er leaned in closer as if thinking he could read the boys mind. Lan jumped back and put his hand to his face.
“I don’t want to think about it!” He shouted.
Er curisouly asked, “Could it be that you do not know?”
“I…I completed two deeds right?” Lan then affirmed in his head, then stared hard at his hand, grasping his mind into this plane of reality. Er held up two of his warped fingers. “That’s right, two.” Lan nodded in conficdence. “Then all I got to do is escort this girl and her friend to complete their journey and I will be golden.”
“But look at you.”
“Look at me how?!” Lan spouted back.
“You have changed.”
Lan didn’t want a tear to roll down his cheek, he didn’t want it to drop to the bar, and most importantly, he didn’t want Er to notice. All these events did happen though. Lan was ashamed. “I…I know. Maybe its dread.”
“Dread you say? Of what?”
Lan looked up, then around him, “Maybe I don’t know what I will wake up to. Once my three deeds are accomplished, what happens? Does my body or mind spontaneously transform? What if I mentally become someone else and my soul is transformed into a different entity? What if, I am happy being who I am?”
Er patted his friend on the back, “No, that’s not what bugs you.”
Lan stopped. “I didn’t believe a word of what I just said yet, that has to be it. I mean these are thoughts I have thought about ever since we came here but, no that’s not it. Er, what is happening to me? Why…” He stops and downs another sip. “Why do I not want to know the answer?”
The horse smiled, “everything will be alright. There is nothing to fear.”
“I fear her.” Lan let that slip.
“Yun?” Er asked, then did his atrocious laugh.
Kalli had walked down the stairs and heard every word. She wanted to say “Hi,” or ask him, “you can’t sleep?” She had done a few scenarios in her head of just small talk. But she knew what Lan was talking about.
“Kalli. She is the only thing that scares me. And I…”
Kalli stepped foreward, “Why? Why do I scare you?”
Lan jumped. Kalli felt guilty confronting him so candidly. “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to, but, you were talking about me, and with the way you have been acting lately, if we are going to continue on this journey together, I think you owe me an explanation or…”
“Or what?” He asked, the alcohol was talking, but their sounded like there was a small pain he was hiding. He spun around but before he knew it, Er had whispered into his ears, “Be careful what you say to her. She is strong, but she is fragile. You scare her too.”
Er stood up and simply bowed to Kalli as if to say, “He is all yours.” Er then walked back upstairs. Despite the music and the other folk that surrounded them, who were all drinking their own cares away, Lan and Kalli heard nothing but complete and total silence.
She just sat down in Er’s old seat. The bartender came up, “What will you be having?” She looked at him, possibly overwhelmed by the wquestion because she gave an odd puzzled face. Lan spoke up and simply said, “She wont be drinking tonight. But thank you anyways.”
“You know, I seen folks like you before. There were two the other day. They had the same kind of cloathes you wore.”
Lan noted that Kalli was simply staring intently.
“They were only here for a day. They paid for room and board, and then next morning they were gone.”
“I know why.” Kalli let it sink in. “I was assigned to be a Speaker, so I have to find my guardian. My people, they are training us to be adults, in this world, for one day, they act like adults, be on their own.”
Lan wanted to say something but Kalli looked at him with the same strange “abandoning” look he had given her. “I get it Lan. I don’t care what’s on your mind. It is of no importance what is eating you. That is your demon, and if I scare you then, perhaps it is best that…”
“Don’t say it.”
“I appreciate your company, but, I need to learn how to be an adult. I need to learn how to be strong by myself. And tomorrow, during the festival, I am going to go out their and put those spirits to rest. I am going to do that. And I wont let you interfere with my plans.”
“But what if something goes wrong!?” Lan slammed his hand to the bar. He continued, “I don’t want to lose you. I cannot let you get yourself killed.”
Kalli, almost cold, “It isn’t about you.”
The boy began to ask himself, what did he just do to her? What evil could he have possibly inflicted on her to turn her into this creature? Sure, there was definiatly an inner strength she carried with her as she said this, and it was an attractive quality, but she was not Kalli!
Meanwhile the girl, she began to mentally block her feelings for Lan out of her mind. This world was her training ground. This was nothing more then a trial to help her reach her goal. This wasn’t a world to make friends, or forge bonds. That all just happened, but was of no relavence.
In her mind she saw the grand design of things. A world being used as a means of personal growth. A legacy of her people visiting just so they can know what it means to be an adult, a Speaker, a Wiseman, a Chief. They would then leave this world and it would never exist to them again. Experience was the purpose, that and their ability to cultivate themselves into stronger beings.
She thought of Lan’s purpose too. He was here for the same reason, to become someone else. He was here to use her and her quest. When he would awake in the physical world, he would be changed, like part of a new life like Kalli and her people would be.
It seemed like the world stopped and in horror, Lan helplessly watched as Kalli turned her head from him, as if he was no longer any concern to her. He wanted to scream.
Instead he started to feel the need to fidget.
Kalli however was fixated on the bartender. “So tell me about your village leader and this village.”
“Heh, Olava?” The Bartender let out a laugh. Lan cut in, perhaps a vain way of letting Kalli know this was part of his adventure too. “What is so funny?” The plan had slightly worked, Kalli’s eyes twitched. She stopped herself from looking at him.
“He is a nice guy and alol, but all any of us ever hear are ‘his problems’ and ‘his wife’. I swear, if I have to hear about how insaine his wife treats him, I am going to drink myself into a slumber. But yeah, as I said he is a real nice guy. Never caused any harm in his life and we all like him. But the guy has no spine. I heard rumors that he heard there was a priestess in this village and that he searched high and low for her.” The bartender then began to laugh.
“What is so funny?” Kalli had begun to get offended.
“The last priest we had, cursed this land. Since then no priest or any religious figure dared to come here. It was as if that by his exile of practices, that it sent shockwaves and neither had the authority to stop it.”
This sent a sad look into Kalli, “That is so horrible.”
“Do yourself a favor, get out of her tomorrow morning. There is no telling what the ghosts may do and I don’t care if you are a priestess, there is nothing you can do here.” The Bartender then turned around and started fixing another drink.
“I am not leaving.” Kalli was blunt on this statement.
The Bartender turned around and handed her a glass. “Are you sure you don’t want to drink?” Kalli just looked at him offended but then thought about it for a second. At this moment Lan grabbed the glass and downed it. Kalli shot him an evil stare.
“What was that for?”
Lan looked at her sharp response. “You don’t need that stuff.”
“And what about you?” Kalli was no longer sure how she should be feeling. There was something extremely depressing about seeing Lan lose himself to alcohol. And then there was his audacity of interfering with her decision making. He looked at her and she could see a sadness in his eyes. As much as she wanted to look away, she wasn’t strong enough. The sadness grew and now she had a look of sympathy. Lan looked like a lost boy and Kalli for the briefest moment thought to herself, If she could just wrap him in her arms, maybe he would warm up and smile again.
She then briefly noted how odd a thought like that was.
“Pardon me bartender, but what exactly happened all those years ago that made all this happen?” Kalli was hoping the story would distract her yet again from Lan. Lan, despite being a good bit tipsy, was interested as well. The bartender smiled and simply responded, “Oh come, I doubt it’s a tale you would really want to invest yourself in. I mean people in these parts usually pass on by without ever knowing. Why would you people be so interested?”
Kalli inched in on the seat, leaned back and stated, “I am a fan of a good story. Plus I can’t sleep tonight.”
“Well miss, I don’t want to be giving you any nightmares. It’s a tale not best told over dinner or before bedtime.”
“What is that?” Lan asked. If he had half a brain left from the alcohol that was in him, he would have already know the answer. Kalli filled in the rhetoricle question herself, “It’s that bad? Was it violent? How many died? I mean I heard stories of people fighting eachother in large numbers but…”
The Bartender quickly interrupted her. “You don’t understand. I can see by the way you look, you have experienced a fair share of the things but, you have never seen two men fight to the death. Am I correct on my wager?”
She instantly thought of the bandits that tried to kill her and Yun. She knew a fight had broken out but she was not there to see its result. She remembered how Lan and the creature in the other village fought eachother but neither of them died. What did she know of death?
“You can try and come up with any story but you have yet to see true evil,” said the Bartender. The truth of the sentence was meant to humble the spirited Kalli. However she would not acknowledge this victory.
“I saw a friend of mine get shot. Almost bled to death. I…”
And again he cut her off. “But you have never seen two people fight, one die, and the other bask in their blood.”
Kalli was ready to tell him the time when she saw an evil, possessed, spirit. Before she could, “I have.” She turned to her right.
This time Lan didn’t say this to get her attention. He was serious. “My uncle. His best friend betrayed him for the sake of gaining favor with a group of people. The two men fought in a duel, my uncle won. But the ruling folk did not see the matter the way my uncle saw it. He was sent to prison.”
Kalli did not notice her right hand start to move towards Lan’s shoulder.
“That was the first time I saw someone die.”
Kalli’s hand froze in place.
But he was just a boy! She began to think to herself, what kind of cruel world would place that burden on a person such as he? She then noted that he placed a hand on his own weapon. She felt suddenly so uneasy. There was a sense Lan wanted to say something. Did he hold that spear to feel safe, a memory or something, or was it regret?
“You know, life, as morbid as it has been, it’s been pretty good to me. When I leave this place, I will no longer be in control of my destiny. But I have no regrets. My parents gave me enough affection. I had some friends when I was younger. Even, had some real wonderful moments in my life too. If I focus on the bad, then sure, I can say my life is aweful. But I take the bad with the good. And I use that good to define me.” Lan then looked at the bottle and said, “No more.”
“You sure?” The Bartender asked with a joke.
“I am going to leave this place soon. Before I go into my next life, I want to have some more happy moments here. I don’t want to forget it all the next day.”
“Well Lan, whatever may be burdening you, I hope I don’t lose you over this.” She then stands up, taps him on his shoulder.
“Where are you going?” Lan looked back at her.
“I got to prepare. I can’t sleep anyways.” She started walking up the stairs. Lan was thinking about joining her, he was feeling a schism between the two of them, and he was feeling so unlike the self he knew himself to be. But he just watched. A thought wanted to enter his brain and he instantly jerked his head, hoping to take that thought out with it. For the moment he had succeeded.
He then called back to her, “Hey, why don’t you stay down here if you can’t sleep? Keep me company?”
She looked back, a sad look on her face that ate away at Lan’s being. “I don’t think I like it down here. And personally I don’t like seeing you down here either. And I definitely don’t like seeing you like this.” And then she disappeared.
The bartender reached foreward, took an empty glass for the night, “My lady gives me the same look too when I used to drink. Hey, do yourself a favor and calm down. Tomorrow, she might forget all about it and welcome you with open arms.”
While not alone in the upper room of the inn, Kalli sure felt abandoned. She stared and watched the nonexisting sun rise. And then day came. And then came the screams.
All the chaos that was erupting was all caused by one disturbed individual who had long since past. The people screaming, being tormented by the dead, who were once good souls that had become corrupt for lack of rest. This was the hell reserved for this town, all one’s vengeance.
“This all started with a cruel creature. Now what most folk say is that this all started with warring parties went to war, and had a battle in this very town, claiming the life of the preists daughter. This is not so. Our people, our history is passed down by oration and folklore. I can tell you all sorts of mythology of our people and this fine town. But I do not think we have the luxury of time. So to make along story short, my people, this town, we fictionalize truth and romanticize the already romantic. Truth is, our people like the idea of a war being fought in this very town between two massive groups.
“Again, I say this all started with a cruel monster. I think creature is an insult to the truth. He was born in another town, not far from here. The script says little about his upbringing, but what little it says on that, it comments well into his ruthlessness. I don’t believe in demons personally, except for my wife, but this one would be a shoe in for one.
“One day, this creature decided he did not like to live by the rules of society and formed a group of brigands. Now this lifestyle suited him well for he went into old age with it and came out that much wealthier. His numbers were hardly that of an army, but more comparable to a small town guard. But this did not stop legends of his ferociousness from spreading.
“Being that he was an old one, it would make sense that he would bear children. This is true in his case. He bore a son. Now again, little is known about the son. However it is safe to say he wasn’t the monster his father was. I think this because there are no legends describing how horrible he was. I, personally, would like to think he was a good soul.
“Forgive me, I got sidetracked, but history has documented that one day, he came into the village that celebrated death as much as life, our village. And in coming here he found the love of the priest’s daughter. However the son did not come alone. The wicked father had sent a party to come and scout the land. Our people did not have a guard back then. So naturally if a group of bandits were to come, we would have no means to stop them.
“Over the course of some time, the son would come to this village to try and woe the priests daughter. The priest all the while had become a prominent figure and was always away. As such, it is no ownder he did not know that his daughter was seeing this man. However it was not long after that the evil bandit leader found out about these two. Fearing it would make his son weak, he ordered the son to lead a group into our town and raze it.
“The son did not return to his father. Instead he ran away to another village not far from here. The father, hearing that his son had betrayed him gathered his men and took our place by storm. He came to kill the priest’s daughter. The son, hearing the father had moved, gathered the town guard and they made their way here, the people hoping to catch the criminal, the son hoping to save his lover.
“They say the son was stubborn, willing to overturn heaven and earth to save her. They say the priests daughter was so fair and loving, that she attracted the heart of one who was destined to have been a criminal for life had he not met her. They say she had a fire that could not be tamed. And it was this fire, that attracted him to her.
“It was also this fire that she showed when they executed her before the son arrived. They said she died with her held up high, not fearing death. Yes, the son was too late and she was already dead when he arrived with a group of people. There was a battle and in the end both sides killed eachother. It would be nice to say the son made his way to his father and the two fought in an epic duel, but there is no way to prove that.
“And so the priest, in anger and losing his faith in life itself, became bitter. He had become so bitter he cursed the town itself, which he blamed for not protecting his daughter. This was the curse, that no dead, in this village, shall ever find rest.”
Kalli blinked. It was an interesting story no doubt. “But wait, how do you know this story and the others see it so differently?” Time had passed, since the screams had started, her and the crew were now held down in the church. The few that could stomache the trek also made it to the church. The place had become a dump filled with fear.
“It has never been this bad,” one had said.
The dead spirits had begun to wander inside the homes and buildings. The creatures of the land had begun to lose their sanity as the haunting proved too much for them. Not as many had escaped as they would have liked and now, only the hallowed grounds of the building of worship acted as a barrier.
Lan had a horrible headache. He moaned. Yun looked at him then spouted with her tongue sticking out, “Serves you right.” This time however, there was a slight joke in that statement and not one of spite or untrust.
“Well as I said, the village loves to romanticize. So what was once a group of bandits becomes an army. And the town goes from just happening to be the scene of a minor clash, to the finale of an epic battle. The village uses oral tradition, but we in office, have actual written documents. We use those to know where we have been, so we can decide where we will go for our future.”
Olaf then became frightened as someone else screamed. The door to the shelter opened and a poor older creature…it was the wolf who introduced them to the village. “My daughter!” she screamed. “She fainted outside!”
As if the hero inside Lan was trying to be awakened, he attempted to struggle to his feet. “What happened?”
“I… she tripped. They began to swarm her. I tried to chase after her, but she went insane and ran towards the gate…but the gates are closed!”
At once there was much chatter in the room. The gates were supposed to be open. Now that they were closed, there was no way to escape. Everyone was trapped in the Village of the Passed, with the passed who all have yet to pass on.
In other parts of this strange world, there is a sense of respect for the dead, and the dead give a sense of respect for the living. However here, the dead had no respect for the living. Not anymore.
There was a young voice that cried in terror. The mother wanted to go out, but strangers held her down. They were trying to protect her, thinking the young pup was forever lost now. Kalli had begun to pace in circles. It was easy for her to say that she would take care of this problem, but now, she had no idea where to start. An odd thought crept into her mind. Perhaps, they should wait till tomorrow, when the ghosts were weaker to…somehow put them to rest. She wasn’t liking the way her brain was basicly pleading with her to take a cowards approach. Would this village even survive the night?
She tried to focus on the moment when she confronted the two vengefull spirits in the past who became demons of their own. Was this the same thing? Kalli remembered how she had used a dagger in place of the ceremonial staff. The staff… oh no, she forgot to bring her staff! She nervously looked around the room and felt as if everyone could see her error.
Olava had so quickly ran them out of their own room that they didn’t even have time to pack. Lan brought his spear just because he is practicly attached to it by an invisible line. Could they see her ingnorance? Could all these folk know, she was to save them, but she was so inexperienced she lost her only way to combat the ghosts? Er was the only one that was nearby at this exact moment, Yun was seeing to the lady wolf.
“Pssst.” Er’s ears pricked up. “Pssst!” This time he knew where the direction was coming from. At first he thought someone sneezed. But there was Kalli looking right at him. She whispered in his ears, he noted how horribly unsecretive she was for what seemed like something that was meant to be said unnoticed.
“I lost my staff. We left it at the inn.”
“Oh boy.” Er sighed out loud. Kalli wished he had been more subtle in the sigh segment. She also noticed other people noticed what she said. Fortunately none of them understood the purpose of the staff. Yun however had better hearing then Kalli would have given her credit for.
“We lost your staff!?” This she yelled out loud, and this was also amplified by the architecture of the building. Yun now at this point had already contemplated going out to save the poor pup of a wolf. She remembered her mom telling her what she went through when Yun was laying dying, and in the arms of the humans. She remembered the tears. All she needed was an excuse to go.
“Let me go Kalli. I am light, and fast on my feet. I can get in and out before the ghosts are aware I am there.” Yun then tried her cute look on Kalli. “Please?” Kalli was going to say something but Er spoke up too, “I am going with her. You stay here and make sure these folk are alright, and start planning whatever you need to plan. We lose you out there, then things start getting pointless. I am quick too. We shall have your staff to you in a brief period of time.”
Kalli would have protested but the heroism in them, perhaps spawned from their time with Kalli and Lan, and all their deeds, lead them to this mentality. In an instant they were gone. She did not know what to do, but before she could say something, the door had closed behind them. Yun, the once frightened little dear, and Er, the horse of noble intention, were intent on playing hero.
The two had not stepped far when they saw ghosts closing in on all sides. Perhaps they were foolish to think they could get away with running into the midst of chaos and surviving. The corrupt souls began to rise and Yun realized at this very moment that they had overestimated their own abilities and now they were in deep trouble.
She noted too that Er had frozen in place. His freakish head was bucking back in forth, his eyes widened with fear. With a slight glance back, they were surrounded. Yun grabbed Er’s hands. At this moment Er was snapped back to reality. “We can’t just do nothing.” Yun whispered. At once he had understood.
In a single amazing moment, the two began to run faster then they ever ran.
Time was slowing down for Yun. She saw all there was to see within mere moments but the memories held firm, not getting lost with the other input. What was less then a second was being analyzed and combed over several times to get the best of every detail. It was using this ability that Yun saw the city for what it really was.
It was a haven for the damned. There were faces, frozen in fright, their bodies had stoped moving long ago. Dead? No, just frightened to the point of insanity. Here and there, there went two folk running for another building, they wouldn’t make it. There was one individual screaming for his dear life.
The streets were filled with many. Generations of dead. By not even counting she could tell the ghosts outnumbered the living. She watched in terror as a house collapsed on itself. The spirits grown so powerful that even the physical realm could feel their wrath.
Yun put her hand on the door to the inn and noticed it was locked. There were still folk inside! Then the sounds of torment were also coming from within. Er had been trying to play catchup, but when he did, he did not check to see if the door was locked, he bucked his legs and kicked through the door in one swift motion.
“Er, head upstairs!” Yun yelled.
“What about you?” Er quickly replied.
Yun saw the scared faces, and several ghosts chasing them around. “All of you!” She shouted as loud as she could. Some of them made brief eyecontact with her. She straitened her back and held her head up high. “Come with me! We must get to sacred ground. They can’t touch us there!”
“Oh but you are wrong!” came a dark and almost possessed voice of a fallen spirit. Yun looked in horror, it was a bear spirit. She could see the evil fangs that wanted to feast again. She froze at his evil gaze. “By nightfall, we will have the strength to enter that temple. And we will tear it down. And we will crush the spirits and will of all those inside.” He let out a hideious laugh.
The deer began to freeze until the words fell out, “You are wrong.”
The dead bear could here a sincerity in the statement and saw she was growing courage over him just by uttering that thought. “What do you mean I am wrong. Fear me!” Yun felt a wave of horribly dark energy that shook all her senses.
“She will stop you! She will stop all of you!” Yun screamed in the chaos that was threatening to darken her entire mind. The dead bear, now gaining physical strength, pushed a living one out of his way to approach her and roared with pure ferocity. “Who is this ‘she’ you speak of child!?”
Yun heard the demon give a loud laugh that almost made her wish he would kill her there to get the inevitable over with. However instead, she again retreated into her mantra. “She has dealt with stronger spirits then you!” While she had her eyes closed, saying it made her confident again. “She has dealt with the possessed, demons of high caliber and evil deeds that put you to shame. What makes you think you are so special!?”
In this boost of confidence, it was Yun who approached the spirit with gall and anger that the bear almost felt intimidated. Yun went on. “She is a shaman of great skill and we have come to put you and your kind down for good.”
“A priestess? Really?” The bear then tried to laugh. He was vainly hoping it was a lie.
Er had found Kalli’s staff from the room upstairs. “Let’s get these guys out of here now!” Yun looked at Er as he made this statement. So did the wicked bear. He then saw a priestly looking staff. And in it, he felt a certain aura. He froze. The demon, once high and mighty with power, feeding on fear, froze in awe. “She… she can’t stop us.” It was a vain statement in that the bear, hoping by saying it, would make it true. In actuality, there was little confidence in his statement.
The inhabitants noticed the pause and with a motion from Yun, they all began to flee.
No sooner had they all got outside when they were getting swarmed. The dead found fresh meat out in the open and now it was anyone’s game. Yun did not wish to ditch these folk for her own safety and in such came a moral dillemna. Plus she knew there was still a child that was missing. “Please let us through,” Yun asked. The strength she had to step up to the previous spirit was leaving her in an instant.
“Please let them through.” It was a child voice that said this. Again nothing happened but then came a loud roar. “LET THEM THROUGH!” At once all the spirits had a mixed set of reactions. But they did part ways a bit. The voice that said this was a fox spirit. Yun pondered, then wondered why a group of the ghosts actually moved aside.
Er whispered, “that’s one of the guardians we met on our way here. They were blocking our enterance. What’s he doing here?” Beside the fox spirit was a little pup wolf, living. Then came another voice, “Let them get to their destination. After that you can do what you will.”
Yun looked hard, and saw a second spirit, it had its hand on the pups shoulder. Then whispered something in the pups ear, “go ahead.” The little wolf then ran to join the group with a smile, “you going to take me to my mother?” Yun smiled, “Of course we are.”
The two gate guardian spirits stood side by side. “We told you to let these people reach their destination!” Some of the spirits backed off instantly. Others however had refused to move. “Very well,” the other guardian said, “we will then accompany the party to their destination, if any of you try anything, you know what wrath awaits.” Instantly, more of them had backed off.
Slowly the party of the living had moved on. They moved cautiously as the horrible world wanted to attack them. “So, why did you risk yourselves coming out here?” The fox had asked. Er simply responded, “Our friend needed something at the inn and we just couldn’t let these people be unprotected. That and the pup’s mother wanted someone to save her daughter.”
“We were watching her. Keeping her safe.” Yun took an odd mental note at their grace of doing such a favor. “Why?” she asked. “Not all of us are monsters. Some of us are just waiting with dignity. I couldn’t let them harm an innocent child.” The deer peered at the stranger looking guardian and noted how pretty she was. She then noted how for a brief moment the fox spirit smiled at the other one.
Er asked, “Why are you two so strong compared to the others?” The fox smiled as best as he could. “We are all tired, but when you have something worth living for, something real to anchor yourself to, then you don’t become a shadow, you stay your true self. We have love. And that love has protected us from decay. Love does not make us bitter, it makes us strong and powerful.”
“So,” Yun began, “you two are the cause of all of this.” The dead son of the bandit leader stopped in his tracks and laughed. True it still held the torment of his very existence in the state of limbo, but Yun filtered through that and could hear a hearty laugh. Er looked at the once Priest’s Daughter and bowed, “It’s an honor.”
“My father, he was away when I died. But he always warned me to stay away from the likes of my lover. But I refused to listen. It was only natural that when I died, he would get mad. However, in cursing the entire village, he also cursed me. He grew spitefull of me not following his household teachings. He cursed me and all those in this village over something that was horrible, but not worth the damage that it has done to us.
“But not that he would curse me, but the entire village, and all those who die within its walls. After my personal hero tried to rescue me, all those who fought were stuck here as well. And a lot of those souls have not known piece for so long, they have lost their own memories and their own being. Many of us are nothing more then a shadow’s existence. They are shells that only know their own torment and wander in hopes of release.”
Er agained curtseyed. “I am sorry. But I have faith that we can help.” By this point they had arrived to the temple and Er, nobly, opened the door for the people to run in. The girl spirit then spoke a final word of warning, “We won’t be able to influence the others for long. You must hurry because next time, there will be no help.” At this they faded.
“Mom!” the child ran to her mother. The mother who was once all gloom had now lit up. The two embraced. Meanwhile at the head of the temple, where the priest used to give his speeches, Kalli was pacing back and forth, Lan clearly trying to calm her down. It was not working. Olava was there being swarmed with scared villagers asking him to save them.
Kalli, as if sensing her staff looked up. She saw Yun and Er walk in, they were sweating heavily. She simply went to them and nodded. Er went to his knees and presented her to her weapon. Lan walked to her side and asked, “Are you sure? I am willing to escort you.” Lightning struck and instantly members of village began shreaking. Kalli upon contact felt a strange rush. She smiled and said softly, “All will be well.”
She then walked, with the staff in hand to a back room. “Where are you going!?” Olava shouted after her. “I have to meditate on this.” It was not the reply he was hoping for. However Kalli still wasn’t sure on what to do, however an idea was slowly starting to form in her mind and all she knew was she would just need to gather her thoughts and her strength. The rest would come naturally. She almost heard a searing battle cry of a bird. Yes, all will be well.
She drowned out all the noise and the world around her became black. She pictured herself, strong, and able. However she felt the burden of the task and was trying not to become overwhelmed. Was this doubt? He will protect me, that was the mantra. At once she pictured Lan holding her in his arms. What was this? She pictured his face, smiling at her. It was the same look at the forrest when she fell…
“He wont be here to protect me, I need to do this by myself.” She tried to etch out the idea of him holding her, being with her, his stupid smile that was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, she wanted to just go mad! “Remember, all will be well my child. I will protect you as you have protected me.” She recognized this voice.
It continued, “Together, we can do this. We were destined to do this.”
Kalli stood up, “Yes, I understand.”
“You want to see him smile again, don’t you?”
“Then let’s not lose this last battle.”
The rain had poured. The demons outside had gained a final lap of strength as the moon glared down. It was night, and they wanted to celebrate the festival with the destruction of the entire town. It was night and all hope was lost.
“No, Kalli, please think about this, there must be another way.” She did not hear the voice.
She walked on. “Are you sure about this?” Another voice went by her head. She did not hear it.
Lan stood infront of the doors. He looked at her, “Just ask me to get out the way if you think you can do this.” Kalli nodded. He moved aside, “Good luck.”
As the door opened, the walls began to tremor. The windows began to shatter and the demons now demanded blood. The called in, they taunted. The villagers were terrified and why shouldn’t they be? Still Kalli moved foreward without a second thought. In a last moment, she was out the door and there was a final tremor.
They stalked her as she took her first steps. Kalli just looked up at the sky. It was dark and the water was threatening to cover her. Despite the darkness, there was a bright ray of light, it was her. For a brief moment she blinked and time stopped.
She knew she could do this. She had to know she could do this.
Kalli remembered her own people at this moment. She remembered having to watch all the people her age from a far distance, sheltered. She longed to belong with them. They would look at her and they each had their own thoughts, all of them would not be known to her. Did they dispise her? Idolize her? She just knew she never belonged with them because of her ranking. It was her lot in life to be alone.
The Speaker trained her in many ways. One of them, while she felt was pointless at the time, was a simple ceremony. When one member of the village would die, they would hold a ceremony for the departed. She did not think she knew the exact purpose of this other then simple tradition. Sure the words asked for a safe passage of the soul, but she thought little of its power.
That was until now. Now, what would her fellow villagers see of her? What would her Speaker think of her in this position? What would he say? She never realized till this moment, what trails did he have to go through? Did he ever doubt himself? She would have to ask him when she finished. Her eyes opened and she stared at ghosts surrounding her knowing that they had no dominion over her.
She slammed the end of her staff on the ground and at once all the spirits stopped in their tracks. In one moment, they were causing chaos, the next they froze.
One by one the villagers noticed this. They looked out the window and through the front door. There they say the girl, surrounded by the creatures, and they refused to move. They were horrified something ill was about to happen to her.
Kalli whispered, “Come my children, the time has come.”
No matter their size, history, or species, the ghosts one by one moved aside and then bowed humbly before her. Kalli nodded to them as they slowly formed a corridor for her to pass through them. She walked foreward and as she passed, they would bow down to stand one knee. One of them thanked her. She just nodded some more.
“What is she doing?” Yun looked with surprise.
The villagers watched as the ghosts then walked bhind Kalli as followers would a great leader. At once the villagers were coming into commotion at this aweinspiring sight that in just one moment, the fierce spirits became tamed under her very will.
Kalli walked them to the cemetery. She turned around and they all stood still. She could feel him. Her spirit guardian watching over her with a smile. This time the clouds had moved and a ray seared the land with a bright light, covering Kalli with a noble light.
“Along time ago, a priest became wicked and cursed this land. I know some of you may have done ill in the past. But nothing is worth the torment you have all had to endure. Some of you fought for a good cause. Some of you died leading noble lives. For this moment I would like to take a moment of silence to remind you of who you were and reflect.”
Kalli nodded her head and there was not a single sound. She smiled at them with motherly affection. “I know how it must feel, but I can’t imagine what you have all gone through. To be abandoned. To be cast aside, no one to mourn for you, no one to praise your memories. I know what it is like to be alone. I have been alone my whole life as well. I am a priestess, a shaman, or in my village, a Speaker in training. Where I am from, no one comes to visit me, unless it is of business concern. No one ever played with me as a child. I say this because you all know what that is like. By your own deaths you have become outcasts. The very essence of this village that once celebrated you has become bitter over you.
“This bitterness becomes you and you become a bitter lost soul. My children, that ends tonight. Tonight is the festival where all of you play, but we all know what you really want. And to honor you, I will lay you down one final time. All I ask is when you see the one or ones who created you, you hold forgiveness in your heart for the ones who were supposed to love you and treasure you.”
She turned her back to them. She had nothing to fear. In an ancient language, passed from Speaker to Speaker she recited, “May your living burdens be lifted, may your virtues be carried for you.” Kalli then took up some of the wet mud in her hand. “Rest awaits.”
She then tossed the mud away. The mud, upon her touch had become purified and when it returned to the earth, it threatened to purify the rest of the town as well. There was however a final obstacle in the way. The curse did not want to go away. The anger of the priest had laid dormant in the land and it wanted to fight for every inch.
There was a darkness in the land that had taken root. Sensing its own doom, in honor of its master, it fought back. Kalli could sense its approach. It was hoping to take claim of the cemetery where all had been buried. Before the purification could take the cemetery, the darkness had stood its ground. It needed to reclaim the village.
Kalli looked at the dark energy. She had summoned it to face her and now she would exile it all together. The priest who laid it, was indeed heavy with hate and spite. The light energy was slowly losing. For the sake of those who died, Kalli needed to expel it. In defiance to the old preists way’s she clasped her staff.
At once, invisible wings that did not exist in the physical realm, sprouted from her back. A blinding flash of light permeated from Kalli’s body. All those who watched were in awe. Kalli then made a curse of her own in the ancient language, “Darkness begone!”
She waved her staff over the entire graveyard and in that instance, the darkness failed, was push backed, and destroyed altogether.
The clouds began to move away. The non-existing moon shown brilliantly over the land. Kalli turned around and one by one the ghosts began to disappear, finally meeting the rest they so craved. Finally able to pass on.
Kalli noted that there were two of them left, who hadn’t passed on quite yet.
“Again thank you for all you have done. The bird was right. You did save us. For that you have our eternal thanks.” The two bowed before her one last time. Kalli responded, “It was my pleasure. By the way, you two look familiar. Have we met?”
The fox looking one nodded, “Yes Kalli, we were the ones who warned you to stay away from our village. Clearly our mistake. However I do not think we have properly introduced ourselves. I am Luto, the evil bandit that raised this land was my father, and this is my wife, Sona.” Sona smiled and this time knelt down to kiss Kalli’s hand.
“You two, you two are the bandit’s son and the priest’s daughter. I see. Well, I am sorry about the war between your fathers. But if you want my opinion, you two are not to blame for any of this. I wish you lovers a blissful afterlife.”
“Do you have anyone you love Kalli?” The female asked.
“I…” she looked at the church, “yes. I do.”
“My opinion then, don’t let him run away.” At this bit, she playfully poked her lover for leaving her albeit it was many lifetimes ago.
Kalli reflected on these words. “I won’t.”
“Goodbye Kalli” the two said in unison as they diseapered into nothing.
She stood there for a brief moment, not sure wether she should be feeling a great weight lifted or some sort of sound proclaiming a victory. There was none. So she stood there, waiting for some sign to tell her that it had all come to an end. A look to the left, a look to the right. The town was free and so was she. Deep down she knew there was nothing left in her path to see her spirit guardian and nothing stopping her from climbing the mountain.
Light had finished coming out from the clouds and the villagers began to come out of hiding. Kalli, rather then rush to her friends or make her way to the exit, took another moment of silence in rememberance of those who now passed on. She figured that the villagers would rather run around and celebrate then take the time to honor the dead. So in her way, she did one last passing note to all of them in place of the villagers who finally broke into cheers.
She felt a warm feeling inside her. She understood why the Speaker always spent time honoring the dead. Kalli felt as if she had given charity to these and could almost feel their thanks in return.
“Is it over?” Yun asked.
She was happy to note that the other felot the same curiosity she was feeling. Was it over? Kalli asked herself over and over again and all the evidence pointed to an affirmative answer. “Yes. We did it. We finally did it.” There was a spontaneous rise of energy and without even thinking, Kalli dashed for Yun, leaped like an animal and held her tightly in her arms.
The boys had just came out of the chapel and Lan saw this action. Inside he wished he was in Yun’s place.
Yun and Kalli stopped the embrace, held eachother’s hands, and started jumping up and down together, moving in a circle. They were both giggling like children who found that they were both going to be getting the greatest gift in the world. They stopped and held each other again.
Lan huffed to himself, “Lucky.”
He noted Kalli’s smile. It was so beautiful, he felt like he had forgotten it. It was not the smile that got to his heart, it was seeing her be this happy. He broke one himself. “Feeling better now Lan?” Er asked. Lan turned to his friend, “Yes. As a matter of fact I am.” Perhaps more so that he was missing out on the partying and potential physical contact with Kalli, he nodded to Er to follow him so they could congratulate Kalli together.
Honestly, he did not know what type of reception he was going to get. And the more he thought about it, the more sleezy he felt for it. Lan stopped in his tracks. Maybe this was a bad idea, he thought. But Kalli met his gaze. The strong woman she had become in the past disappeared to the beautiful girl who was playing with him in the forrest. She tackled him before Lan could move.
She fell over and started slipping trying to get up, but still laughing. The folk around the village were each celebrating in their own way as well. “Er, can you give me a hand up?” Kalli raised her hand for Er to grab it. Lan laid motionless. It was rougher then he would have liked, but he decided it was best to savor that moment.
Kalli was able to use the leverage to get up. She looked down at Lan who seemed to be smiling to himself.
“It’s good to see you happy again,” Kalli noted to him.
Yun, in a playful mood, tapped Kalli on one shoulder then leaped to the other side. When Kalli turned and finally caught Yun, the deer remarked, “So you ready to get going? The road is clear from here to the end of the way!”
Olava noticed them talking about leaving. So had his wife. “You aren’t going to just let them leave, are you?” She then nudged her husband so hard that he almost stumbled over. He tried to retort in a soft voice, “Can you not boss me around in public? It is bad enough I have to do all the work in this place.”
In a moment his beautiful looking wife became a demon, “What did you say to me?”
At once he retorted it a backbone of his own, “I do all the house work at the end of the day, and leading up to that I run this town. What do I get…”
“Don’t you use that tone of voice with me!”
At once both of them began to speaking in such high speed it became nothing short of high pitched volumes of mouse chirps that seemed never ending. By the tone, degree, and length, it was clear they were getting pretty foul with one another. Apparently the right words to the situation were spoken by the wife and eventually the mouse like ears on the town leader bent, and his face looked down, begging for sympathy for the onlookers. The onlookers, knowing who his wife was, and knowing him as well, gave it to him, that and a few laughs.
Olava turned around and caught up to the strangers who were now being seen as heroes. “Um, can I get a word in?” Nothing. He tried again, “Can one of you please look at me?” None of them did. “Um, lady, priestess, whoever you are, I need to ask you…” He noticed they were now walking away, laughing with eachother. What was worse, they still weren’t paying attention to him, and by walking away, it was like a negative sense of paying attention, they were in effect taking attention rather then giving.
Not knowing what to do, and feeling the pressure of his wife on his back, Olava, foolishly, threw a rock at the group.
The stone, though small, hit Er smack in the back of his head.
Er turned around with fury. “Who did that?” Olava felt his spirit leave him and his body turned on his defense mechanism and he instinctively pointed at his wife. The other travelers now looked back as well.
“What are you pointing at me for!?” His wife had become a threatener of lives at this point. Realizing the validity of this threat, Olava’s hand slowly lowered not wanting to anger her anymore either. Deep down inside, he knew he would never be able to win. He proceeded to die a little on the inside.
The leader of the village then pleaded, “Please don’t go yet.” When he looked up, he could see that the group of travelers were curious and perhaps wanting of a reason to stay. He walked up to them, shifted his head up high, then continued to speak, “Please stay with us for another day. I know it is a lot to ask of you but the way up the mountain is a bit long and I promise, if you stay with us, just as an indulgence, then we will make sure you are properly taken care of and well supplied for your trip.”
Kalli shot Lan a look, “Promise not to drink?” Lan’s head was beginning to hurt just thinking about it. “No, I learned my lesson last time.” Kalli then stepped foreward. “We accept your gracious offer.”
Yun pulled at Kalli’s side. “Why? Why are we staying here? We finally have a chance to finish this journey and I am sure you and Lan want to go home. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can all go back to our normal lives.”
Kalli just whispered a reply to her deer friend, “I want to enjoy this moment. I am in no rush. And plus, when we all leave, what do you got to look foreward too?”
“Um…actually…” Yun seemed like she was hiding something. Kalli thought she noted that type of face before. “I don’t believe it!” Yun grew a bit nervous. Kalli gave her another glimpse over, but Yun nodded. “Yes, there is a boy in my village.” Yun then stuck her tongue out at Kalli as if to say, “so what?”
Er then put his arms around both the ladies, “I don’t know about you but I am starving. I say we take advantage of the hospitality and gorge while we still can.” The village leader nodded to this statement. “I promise, we will throw the greatest feast in your honor and you will stay in the best of rooms as long as you want. For saving our town, there is nothing too big that we can do as a means to thank you all.”
Kalli noticed the folk around her starting to bow in their direction. Lan nodded to Kalli as if to say “are you sure you want to stay?” She nodded back. “We would be honored to take in your hospitality.”
And so the crew traveled with the town leader. The leader talked to them about the towns past and his misadventures in being married. Eventually they all arrived at a mansion. “Our greatest of nobels lived in this very house. For as long as you want it, it is yours.” He failed to tell them that he was planning on retiring to that house, but figured with their journey and collective backgrounds, they wouldn’t be living in it any time soon.
As they went in he said a final goodnight to them, “Tomorrow, when noon approaches, we shall all gather to celebrate your triumph over death. Goodnight heroes.” He closed the door behind them.
Yun instantly began running around the house with a sense of infinite freedom. Lan just marveled, closed his eyes, and was able to picture himself a royal leader. Er just laughed at Lan, “Your time has not come yet.” He then laughed at his human companion. Lan did not find that funny. “Atleast let me be able to be happy for one moment. Stupid horse,” Lan teased in response.
“I may be stupid, but you and me are stuck for the long run. And remember, I saved your life so you better watch or this horse will leave imprints in your silly face.” Lan admitted defeat to Er’s logic, “You were always the better when it came to an argument.” Er accepted, not so graciously, Lan’s surrender. The two then laughed. They truly were old friends albeit they only met, soul to soul, days ago.
When everyone had finished playing around, they noticed that Kalli was nowhere to be found. Lan looked at the lower rooms, Yun checked the upper. Er just felt that it most likely was no big deal and just looked out the window, admiring the view of the village. The house had been built on a slope, and from this point, one could see every building that comprised of the land. Er heard play shouting come from Yun to Lan about Kalli going missing being his fault. Er sighed.
He knew in a few days from this moment, this would all be nothing more then a memory. He was also glad that Lan was acting like himself again, albeit there was something bugging Lan still. But for now Lan did not let that control him. Er made a note to confront him on it later. For now, he saw the light of the nonexisting moon shine down.
“I found her!” Yun yelled. Instantly Er heard Lan make a “Shush” sound. Er walked into the room in which they found Kalli, and there she was, asleep. He had never seen an individual look so peaceful.
Kalli drifted once again into the realm of her guardian.
“Welcome again my child.”
Kalli just heard this voice and smiled. With its utterance, came a blanket of feelings, both fresh and warm. She felt these wings hold around her. She opened her eyes and realized they were hers! “What are these?”
“It is simple my child. They are as apart of you as I am. In the realm of the spirit, you have the power to soar. And so, whenever you call on me, I shall be with you. And these wings, although are yours, they come from me. We are one my child. We always have been. Our destinies have always been and will always be the same. It’s a truth your Speaker has always known, and is the same with every speaker and every generation.”
Kalli then raised her head. “I want to see you.”
The voice from the distance merely noted, “I lay at the top of the mountain. You are free to climb it whenever you so wish. I will await for you in my true being there. I can feel your presence my child. And you have grown strong. I knew you could succeed in this final task.”
A brow was moved up on Kalli’s face. “So can you see the future? If so, what will happen to me… and Lan? Does he care about me? I get this feeling that he really just wants to shut me out. When I am with him, before it was like I was actually not alone. I felt his presence… that sounds common but that’s not what I mean. I mean it’s like…”
“You feel him, there, with you, in the moment, like you two exist on the same plane, separated from the world, but not isolated.” The voice then continued this logic, “I feel your feelings. I know your deep thoughts. Now when you are near him, you feel alone. Deep down inside you feel that he should open up to you as you are willing to open up to him, instead he betrays that when he bottles his feelings in.”
“What should I do? He is friendly one moment, on guard and scared of me the next. Does…he hate me?” Kalli, on this thought began to feel a loss in that self esteem. Her wings melted. She looked around in the vastness and there was nothing there but herself. Then came a figure of Lan.
“What are you doing here?” she asked the vision.
The vision did not respond. The voice however had not left her. “I do not see the future, nor do I know the world inside and out. I fortold your coming to the towns people and their spirits because I know what trials laid before you, and I had absolute faith in your success. However I failed you.”
“What do you mean you failed me?” She asked the voice. “He is the only trial I cannot help you overcome. And I did not foresee him being a burden on the journey.”
Kalli was offended. “Lan, a burden? But he saved my life, how could this be possible?”
The vision of Lan walked foreward. He stoped until he was infront of Kalli. She stood motionless. Then she noted that the vision wasn’t moving, not even to breath. He never blinked or made any other movement.
“His burden carries a great weight on him, and thus he carries it on you.”
“So I should just leave him!?” Kalli yelled with disdain.
“No. You would never do such a thing. And if you did, you would fail this final trail.” Kalli circled the vision, her mind threatening to go insane of the jumble of words going in her head.
“Then what am I supposed to do!?” She screeched, this time demanding of her guardian.
“This ordeal is of a personal nature. This trial will not be won by the calming of spirits, or communing with nature. This trial will be overcome by you not hiding. You must be who you are; strong, vigilant, and loving.”
Kalli sat down on the non existing ground. “That makes no sense!” She felt like chuckling herself to insanity. “I mean what is the purpose of this trail? What does this have to do with me being a Speaker? What if I fail?”
The voice spoke soothingly, “There is no purpose to this trial. It has nothing to do with you being a Speaker for your people. Kalli, my child, this burden, you feel it, will you let it defeat you, or worse, will you let it defeat Lan?” She sat there, she then looked at the false vision of Lan. She looked closely, he looked like there was a sadness in him.
She put her hand across his face, “Tell me what is wrong. Please.”
“You want to know what you have to lose…it’s him. Your journey is almost at an end, and you two will depart, but will you depart from him with your relationship forever in this condition until it is forgotten?”
Kalli bows her head towards a random direction, “I understand.”
“You are strong my child, and you are compassionate. I will await you at the top. Good luck.”
The next day had already arrived. Kalli sat up and noticed Yun had been sleeping horizontally near her feet. She was snoring. Yun was clearly enjoying her sleep and Kalli let out a giggle. With an inhale, Kalli knew the truth, “It is time for us to go.” She pondered on a brief moment, but then decided to playfully boot Yun awake.
“What’s wrong? The spirits are back!” Yun shot up, her ears started to twitch from the many different instincts she knew. Eventually they went stiff and Yun froze in place. Kalli put her hand on Yun’s shoulder and Yun jumped, almost near buck kicked Kalli in the process. Yun turned around and when she saw Kalli, “Please don’t ever do that again.”
Lan charged through the room with his weapon in hand. “Where are they!?” He saw Kalli laughing and just said “Oh.” He proceded to leave the room. Aparently Lan told Er what happened because Er started doing his weird laugh that was heard by both the girls.
“You know, I am going to miss you all,” Kalli said. Yun turned to her, a tear fell through her eye, and she braced Kalli in her arms. “I will miss you too...even the boys as well. You know, I think, once you leave, I will never, ever, really get to hug you like this again. But I promise, me and my mom, we will be watching over you and your people. I promise.”
The rest of the crew up, they each got ready for the new day that was now ahead of them. Unknown to them however was a massive crowd was slowly starting to form outside their new personal villa. After a good debate the rest of the crew ready, were heading out the door when they came across the mob.
“Good morning.” It was Olava, his wife standing behind him with her hand, threateningly, set against his shoulder. “So are you going to grace us with your presence on this fine day? We have gone through many and countless times to get the feast just right.”
When it came to the debate on wether or not the group should stay or hit the trail up the mountain imediateyl, Er negotiated the thought, “We will need a full set of stomaches if we are going to get up there in good timing. There would be no point doing all that work on an empty stomache.” Lan then immediately agreed.
Yun whispered into Kalli’s ear, “Is it me, or does Lan seem unsure if he wants to stay or go?” Kalli then whispered back, “I don’t get that boy.” Yun started laughing out loud.
The group was seated at a big wooden table that used to be used to serve royal guests and now it had been placed in the towns middle park for everyone to watch the saviors eat, drink, and do be however merry they so choosed. The wolf and her pup personally were there to thank Yun and Er for their bravery. Meanwhile Olava got the gall to get up and do a special toaste.
“To my fine people of the town, I would like to once again thank myself, and my wisdom for hiring these brave…,” he noticed at this point that his wife let out a mously growl which scared the peepers out of the toaster, “ahem. My lovely wife’s idea to hire these brave…” and so on he went.
“Psst, I don’t recall us ever being hired.” Yun chuckled as she said this to Kalli. Kalli at this point almost had liquid come from her nose. She didn’t want to be rude but there most definitely was an overglorification on Olava’s part. So naturally when Yun said something she didn’t think Yun would have the frankness to say in public, Kalli couldn’t help but laugh. Fortunately other than Er and maybe Lan, no one else heard it. Kalli knew Er had heard it because of the freakish grin that was slowly spreading on his face. In response Kalli nudged Yun to “shush.”
Before the non existing sun was willing to set, they had all finished their meal. Then came the inquiries about each individual. Lan told the village people about his quest to accompany the girls on their journey and when everyone had their say, Kalli became the main speaker of the evening. She told them about her life, growing up alone, the royalty upbringing and how she never got to really play or get to know her own people. She spoke of her training and how she saved Yun’s life when even the Speaker himself did not seem so concerned.
Kalli briefly noted that Lan was taking in each word intently. Had she told him all this before? He kept nodding his head as if trying to understand what her life must have been like. She then told the folk of the village that she was a priestess in training and that she was sent to find her spirit gude. She told them about the taxation on her life and the culture of her society in how she trained. Kalli realized this, but in all her talkings of her life, she sounded vastly unhappy. She noticed she was special, but she was not happy about it.
Despite the fact that the locals learned that Kalli was not indeed a full fledged priestess, they continued to thank her for what he had done and for her bravery. It was also heavily noted that they wished her all the best of luck on her journey. She was still a hero to them and none of them would ever forget the sight, when a single young women, went out alone, to challenge the armies of the underworld. She did not know, but she was about to become a myth in that town, like many other myths and would be an eternal hero.
The sun had begun to set. Olava, finding a good excuse to get away from the wife, walked the group to the edge of the city, to the base of the mountain. He gave them some final words of advice.
“I know you cannot stay with us, but I want you to know, as long as you wish, you will always be welcomed in The Village of the Passed. You have not only helped us lay down our burdens, but you have directly saved the lives of countless folk. Up ahead is a strait and simple climb, it should take you two days to get to the top. It’s a nice walk. When you get about half way up, you will be able to see miles across. There are no creatures of evil intent on the way. I know you have all traveled along way, but I hope you enjoy the trip. You might not believe me, but I met my wife on that mountain. I met her near the peak. We may have our quarrels, but it was there we first fell in love. No doubt a spirit has laid claim to the land. We all have heard it, and we all have felt it. No doubt it is waiting for you.”
He then unpacked some sacks, “Take these. It isn’t much, but this should help you remember us, as we no doubt will always remember you. Farewell heroes.”
Like that, the village was gone to them. It hadn’t disappeared, there was no longer any looking back, therefore the sounds, the shapes and even the colors did not enter any of their senses. They began their final trek.
Lan brought up the lead. Kalli brought up the middle, as Yun stayed by her side. Er just walked on the side. It was an odd formation. Kalli was getting self conscious. Did she drive Lan away? Was it her personality? Did she do something wrong? Yun tapped Kalli’s shoulder, “It will be okay.” Aparently Yun knew Kalli better then she thought possible. Kalli whispered back, “Thanks.”
Er noticed Lan was slowly starting to shake. So the horse figure slowly walked closer, without making it apparent to the girls in back. “What’s wrong?” Er stealthfully whispered. He began to hear Lan’s spear begin to shake. “Are you alright? Do you need help?”
“Er…” Lan said, “I am scared. I am getting terrified.” Er noticed a tear come down from Lan’s eye. The horse knew Lan well enough to not openly confront him about his feelings infront of other people, so he pretended his foot got injured and then leaned his arm around Lan’s back so the girls could not see or hear.
“What is it?” Er asked. Lan’s face was slowly succumbing.
“I…I don’t know if I can go on. Not now. If we took a break, maybe. If I could sleep it off and start during the morning then I am sure I can…Er am I losing it? I can’t be allowed to lose it. Why now of all times.” The boy wasn’t sure if he should let the tears come or if he should practice getting angry instead.
“What are you scared about?”
“I am scared to go home. But that’s not it. I mean, I am scared to be here. Er, I feel like the world is closing in and I need to get out. Er, this isn’t normal. I can’t control my own thoughts.”
Lan felt his companion slightly tightened his grip in a soothing manor. It worked, albeit it was a temporary remedy. “All will be well. Lan, all will always be well and it always is.”
“I’ve been acting strange lately. Haven’t I?”
“Lan, you’re a boy becoming a man. You all act strange. It’s in your nature. I will have you know, even women act just as strange. Kalli for instance.” Lan tried to figure Er’s logic, “What about her?”
“You never noticed it? One moment she is outgoing, the next she is quite and reserved. You saw what she did, walked outside alone, that wasn’t the same girl who we were traveling with days before. She is figuring out who she is, becoming an adult, just like you are. I know we’ve known each other since we were both young, but I have observed your people my whole life. It is natural to feel the weight of chance. Lan, there is something I have learned that I have always wanted to tell you. It is not the deeds that define who you become, it’s the intent. You have been focusing this whole time on doing good for the sake of being a better person, but couldn’t you also say that you have been doing them for the sole sake of trying to leave this land? Perhaps these deeds you are trying to do are for more selfish reasons then you think. Then what Lan? Perhaps, after this, you fear what you will become when you go home.”
Lan stopped, “What if Kalli leaves, she gets to go home, and I am stuck here?”
Er finally said, “Lan, be yourself, and you will have nothing to fear, not in this world, or who you will awake as in yours.”
As the boy took a moment to stop he realized they were at a high altitiude already in their ascent. Below them was the land. Towns existed, and in the distance a city. A lake to the far side, and beside that was the forrest where he and Kalli almost shared a moment.
He thought it! He instantly wanted to un-think it! He fell to a knee, crutching the spear, hoping to use it as a crutch. Two thoughts were slowly coming together, he had to stop them from connecting. He looked at something in the distance, and yet he was reminded of…
“It’s beautiful.” Kalli stoped and admired the landscape before them. She did not notice, Lan had begun to hum his favorite tune. She sat down and dangled her legs over the side. She pictured herself flying and the world below was the view infront.
Yun sat down and so did Er, before long, the four just sat there, not thinking, just admiring the view. It had went from evening to complete night.
They stayed in silence.
The boys soon started talking, apparently Er had decided to tell jokes.
Yun and Kalli’s eyes met. “Kalli, I know we only formally met not that long ago but I would like to think we have known each other for along time. Right?” She watched Kalli tilt her head to ponder that thought. The girl then nodded her head in agreement.
“I am glad you think so too. We have been through a lot together lately. We almost died, we exorcised not one, but two ghostly spirits, and we calmed an entire town from an army of vengeful spirits. Me, I would have stayed home and watch the days go by if it wasn’t for you. Actually, I would be dead if I never met you. You saved my life Kalli and I don’t think I ever properly thanked you for it.”
Yun looked like she was about to burst into tears. To Kalli’s surprise, Yun was able to hold it in.
The cute young deer continued to say, “You are my best friend. I never really had any friends either. My father died and me, I just was always too scared to leave my mothers side after I got wounded from your people. I always kept to myself, but you know what? I always watched over you.”
The deer then moved in close, smiled and then nodded to where Lan was talking to Er. Kalli looked and understood immediately.
“Kalli, I promise, me and my clan will bless and watch over you and your people. We are a little more then a day away. If you don’t sleep, at your pace, you can make it to the top of the mountain by this time tomorrow. I am sure of it.”
Kalli understood what Yun was saying, “Are you sure?”
“You know what you have to do. Goodbye Kalli. This may be the last time you see me like this, but it won’t be the last time we meet.”
The two hugged, both feeling the weight of eachothers tears. “Goodbye my friend,” Kalli replied.
Yun then stood up, walked over to Er, whispered something in his ear, then she went to bed.
Kalli stood, staring once again at the world below her. She said nothing to mark the quiet serenity, just gave it respect. She stood waiting for her chance. Eventually Er said something to Lan, the boy had a confused look on his face, and Er went to bed. Kalli felt so nervous, she didn’t know what to do. Lan looked as though he had been abandoned. It was time.
She walked her way up to Lan, “Come.” That was all she said. Lan at first looked unsure, but then he understood. While the creatures slept, their journey at an end, the humans walked in silence up the land.
The wind gave birth to a chill. Kalli wished she dreamt warmer. Time had passed and soon the non existing sun would rise. The two continued to walk. Despite the fact that neither got any sleep, there was no tiredness between them. Both had a goal, both walked with purpose. Together they walked for their individual destiny.
The light came up and Kalli stopped to admire the view some more. They no longer were in the right climate to view the world below them, but that didn’t stop the last sunrise either of them would see in this world.
“Come Kalli. We still got ways to go.”
“Sure thing Lan.”
While they both exercised their way up, neither wanted sleep nor food. Kalli, rather then thinking of food, worked on clearing her mind. She worked on gaining focus and more energy. She reflected at all the people home who were waiting for her. As much internal work she was doing, she never kept her eyes off the boy next to her.
He origianly walked in front, now he was side by side next to her. The non existing sun and reached the middle of the sky. “So tell me about your people Lan. What exactly will you be looking towards in your future when you get back?”
Lan started talking. Kalli listened. She noticed however he was slowly starting to move slower. So she decided to tell Lan about her people some more. She told him some life experiences she had and even worked on some of the ancient folk tales. She even sang him a song in her native culture.
The boy’s condition was getting worse. She noticed, as the new evening was approaching he was starting to shake.
“Lan. Tell me; what’s wrong?”
She saw, he was becoming completely defensive again.
“It’s nothing.” He was quick to spout these words out.
“Look Lan, I don’t know what your problem is, but you have been acting this way ever since the forrest. Did I do something wrong? Is it me? Why have you been getting so hostile one moment, friendly the next, and non existent after that?” She was starting to get mad.
“I told you, it’s nothing!”
“Lan, we may have just met, but you promised you would protect me. How can I trust you when you are closing yourself off?” She was starting to try and deflate the tension.
“We are almost there. I have protected you through all our obsitcals, I am just going to walk you the rest of the way because I promised.” She noted his body language was changing on her for the worse. She closed her eyes contemplating her next move, she couldn’t think of one.
It was defeat. Was she going to lose him forever? When she would find her guardian spirit, would her memory of this land be the rift that she may have created between them? Would that be his memory of her?
“Do you hate me?” Kalli asked, dreading to hear any kind of answer.
“I… no. It’s not that.”
“Is there something wrong with me? What did I do?” Kalli was trying not to break down. “Why are you so scared to be around me? How come every time I try to be nice or even friendly, you turn away?”
“I don’t see a problem with you. You are beautiful, compassionate and…”
“And what?” She was surprised to hear him say that. Truth was Lan was surprised too.
“You scare me. When I think about you…I get scared.”
Kalli just looked confused. At this point she refused to be confused any longer. “Lan, look me in the eyes.”
Clearly there is hesitation to turn his head, but slowly he does.
It happens, they both feel the connection, just neither knows the other party does. They stare, they gaze, and they both are no longer thinking.
She walks forward, just a small step. “Lan. I am sorry. I shouldn’t get mad but, of all the people I have ever met, you are the one person I would never want to alienate. So everytime I get that cold feeling from you…I think I am going to lose my mind.”
“Kalli, please don’t come closer.” Lan’s statement was a plea rather than a request.
“Lan, I love you.”
“I know why I am scared of you Kalli.”
She saw a small smile rise from his face.
“You are my third deed.” A serene look enters him and he seems to enter into a state of clarity and maturity.
“I saved two lives from bandits. I spared a life after a battle, and third…I fell in love with you.”
She froze. Was this it? Was this how the world ended? Somehow Kalli felt complete, and could not picture anything existing but this moment, and even she knew this moment would be brief.
Lan did a slight giggle of his own. His face was turning red. “It was in the forest I knew. When I looked at you, and you were as close to me as you are now. I also knew, that I no longer had a reason to stay. My job was done. So, I think I tried to suppress this realization, knowing that as long as I did not understand my feelings for you, I could stay with you as long as I wanted. Kalli, being able to give love, that’s a deed. Not everyone can fall in love, and those who do, who truly do, unselfishly, loyally, and honestly, fall in love, they can be defined by that moment.”
Kalli and Lan held each other. Kalli closed her eyes and rested her head against his.
She whispered into his ears, “Now what?” she felt his rub his hands across her hair.
“Now, I have to leave you.”
“What!?” Kalli opened her eyes, horror beginning to set in.
“I have completed my three deeds, it is time for me to awake.”
They moved for a kiss.
Kalli opened her eyes, his body had begun to fade. His arm was still holding her, until she felt that too begin to fade. “Please, don’t go. Not now.”
“All will be well Kalli.”
“But Lan I…”
As Lan began to finally disappear, he said these last words, “Search for me.” Then Lan was gone.
Kalli couldn’t remember a time she sobbed harder. She took a deep breath then held her staff, the words, “He will protect me” were there.
What did he mean “Search for me?” Kalli’s mind was beginning to jumble around her grief and loss.
“It means my child, he will await for your arrival when you wake up. Now come. I await your arrival with every passing moment.”
Kalli recognized the voice and broke into a run.
Time no longer had any meaning. Her mind no longer thought of anything. She had a destination and she had legs. She would use those legs to reach her destination. She heard her guardian’s call. Closer it demanded of her, closer still. She did not want to keep it waiting. Each step became a curse. A curse on the Speaker who shaped her in his image. A curse to her tribe who made her an outcast and an idol at the same time. A curse on the tradition that binded her to their will. One final curse was made, it was on destiny itself. She would no longer be it’s slave.
And she was there.
She only saw drawings of them when she was younger, but she never saw an eagle. That was until now. Before her, on two claws, standing triumphant in it’s nest was a giant eagle! Not some hybrid looking creature, but an actual bird!
Kalli could not believe how majestic and noble he looked. She felt raw power emanating from within. And yet, as terrifying as she might have thought the bird to look, it’s eyes told of kindness and compassion. It did not make a loud screech like she would have expected. Instead, it bowed in its own way and she understood the gesture.
From it, came the sagely voice she knew all to well. “Welcome my child. Atleast we can truly meet face to face.”
Kalli was humbled within seconds and bowed. “It is an honor.”
“No, it is not. You have no reason to honor me. After all it was you who saved my life. In the heavens before you were born, your spirit spoke on my behalf with our creator. I owe my glory to you. And to you, that glory is now yours. It is that same compassion that gave Yun-ce her daughter Yun. And it is that compassion and love that gave you a loyal friend to where you would have had none. It also won the love and affection of a boy seeking to become a warrior, thanks to you, he now knows mercy and love. These qualities I have no doubt will serve him well and continue to shape him into an individual of nobler qualities.”
Kalli stood up. “You have been watching me since I got here. Havent you?”
“My child, I watched as you were born. I watched as your destiny was carved infront of you, and in the heavens we made a pact. You have proven your worth as an able Speaker for your tribe and I am honored that you have selected me to help advise, guide, and protected you in your journeys ahead.”
The girl looked deep into its eyes. She could see her true form from within them.
“Our bond is strong,” it continued, “even should you sway or lose your path. Should your faith be lost, or your pride abundant, I will still be there.”
“So, you are my spirit guardian?” Kalli finally asked.
“Kalli, you have made me proud during your time here. And I look forward to what lays ahead.”
Kalli then raised a quick question, “What about Lan, Er, and Yun?”
The Eagle then responded, “I will watch and protect them both on their journeys homes. Yun, I have no doubt will live her end of the bargain and her clan will watch and protect over yours. As for Er and Lan, I cannot see the future but I see no reason to doubt nothing but good fortune ahead. My child, the other kids have become adults, and you have slept far too long.”
Kalli understood. “I am ready.”
“Awaken Speaker Kalli.”