The sun blazed high in the sky. The skies were clear, no clouds in sight.
Perfect flying conditions.
A dark shadow loomed over the fields and the snow-toped mountains.
Considered by Ozzarath to be a threat to all of the innocent and the Destroyer of Peace.
In the bridge, he stood silently, twiddling his knobbly fingers, awaiting instruction.
On a single throne in the centre of the room, the Lord sat, a hand resting on his young, smooth chin, cloaked in rich purple robes that shimmered like the night. Below him, workers were busy piloting the ship.
“All is ready, Captain. We shall report if there are any problems on deck.”
“Good,” replied the Lord through the speaker.
“Master, are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, its power is immensely strong…”
“Yes, I must see its power for myself. I must know how the stone’s power is before I unleash it’s so called might onto Bragverla.”
“That seems like a reasonable answer,” replied Ozzarath, “Any ideas on where to test the stone’s power?”
The Lord paused for a moment, scratching his chin. After a few minute he said,
“I have been going over this for quite some time. At first, I considered whether to blow up some poor village, but I’m going to save that for later.”
“So, where do you have in mind, my Lord?”
“I plan to destroy the Great Warlock of Terrona.”
“But my Lord, no-one can defeat him! His powers are immensely strong, better than our powers combined!”
“We have the stone now. This is the perfect opportunity. The battle between human magic and nature’s strength…”
“But, my Lord-”
“SILENCE! I have decided. This is the challenge bestowed upon the stone.”
Ozzarath fidgeted in the background, ashamed that he should dare question his master’s authority. The Lord gazed at the window to view the cloudless open skies ahead. Beside him lay the stone, cushioned by a deep red silk pillow placed on a metal stand. The stone, a pool of blues, greens and yellows, sparkled like the Caribbean ocean. The colours seemed to buzz with energy, and as the Lord stared at it, the more excited he became. ‘Warlock, you shall meet your fate soon, I’ll reveal your secret to all. You’re nothing but a fraud. A fake. Your Legend is over.”
The Rosethorn slowly glided on the sea of clouds, like a mighty ship passing through the raging sea. A mountain of clouds faced them, and the airship passed through.
Leaves began falling off the tree whilst Bridget packed their lunch away. They all sat in silence, the Cave of Lorei and its hidden depths boring into their skulls like chisels on wood. None of them liked the whole idea of travelling through an underground kingdom, especially if the inhabitants were aggressive and vulgar. Aeridel had told them not to worry;
“I have heard many stories about the Dolites. The minstrel would tell us a story every Sabbath. One of the tales was about a war between the humans and the Dolites. We were claiming land… but the son of the Dolite who signed the Peace Treaty has fallen under his grandfather’s spell.”
“A spell?” asked Tim.
“Yes, the grandfather told him that there was no treaty and that the Dolites won the battle and claimed the land as their own. He has put a spell on the King to make him believe the story.”
“I feel sorry for the king… Maybe we can help him and break the spell?” said Bridget, looking at her stone. She suddenly felt a warm feeling crawl up from her spine and resonate on her chest.
She heard voices in her head;
‘What a nice girl… So warm hearted…’
She jumped slightly when she heard these, she asked aloud; “What?”
“Hmmm? I didn’t say anything, Bridget are you okay?” asked Tim, concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine I thought I heard something that’s all…”
She shrugged it off thinking it was her imagination, but her thoughts went to the stone dangling from her neck. ‘Just what powers do you have anyway?’ she thought.
After that, everything was silent: everyone was too lost in their own thoughts to make any more conversation. The rustle of the leaves on the oak tree and the cornstalks swaying in the wind was all to be heard. A bird sung in the sky.
Bridget slowly got up and glanced at Tim before sighing and turning to talk to Aeridel. He was gazing into the hills, thinking. ‘He always had a thing for landscapes…’ she thought again to herself.
However, unbeknownst to Bridget, he was actually worrying about her. He dreaded to think what would happen if she got hurt, or worse even die. He felt sad, depressed by this thought. His stone sensed his pain. It began to grow warm on his chest.
He looked down and noticed its faint glow. It soothed him, and as he stared out into the hills, he clasped the stone in his hands. A cool voice rang in his mind, “Don’t worry, as long as you are with her, protecting her, keeping her safe, then no harm will come to her…”
He suddenly felt better. He turned towards Bridget. She was busy talking to Aeridel about hair accessories. He sent out a promise in his mind; “I will protect you.”
“Hey Aeridel, show me where this Cave is again on the map,” he said, walking towards them.
“The least you could do is say ‘Please’, you ingrate!” shouted Aeridel. Bridget began laughing.
“Fine. Please show me,” he replied, and then to himself; “You witch.”
As Aeridel rummaged in her bag, Bridget sidled up to Tim and whispered, “I heard that. And you’re not insulting her because technically, she is a witch. But she’s a good witch, because she can heal.”
“Damn!” he muttered back.
“Okay, I’ve found it.” said Aeridel.
“Here’s the Cave, Tim.” said Bridget, pointing her finger on the spot.
“What’s that, next to it?” he asked, moving Bridget’s finger lower down.
He was pointing to a drawing of a hill, with strange grass. Suddenly, the map changed into the Maiden’s face.
“Oh, hi, erm… what’s your name?” asked Bridget.
“Well, I’m the Maid of the Map to most people. But you can call me Marian.”
“Nice name. Why have you suddenly appeared then?” Tim asked.
“I’m answering your question, Tim. The place is called The Fields of the Fallen.”
“Thank you.” said Tim.
Marian closed her eyes and nodded. She disappeared back into the paper and the map returned to normal. The drawing of the fields was imprinted on Bridget’s mind with fear. The remnants of many meals by the cave people, sher unconscious said to her. She shivered even though the sun was overwhelmingly hot; she never liked seeing the inside of the human body, even worse the bones.
“You okay?” asked Tim, “You look like you’ve been punched by the Reaper.” And he was right, Bridget’s face was as white as snow, but it had a slight greenish tinge. Though he couldn’t see it, her hands began to sweat and were shaking slightly.
“Yes, I’ll be alright in a minute,” she murmured, “The Cave is due north-east from here, right Aeridel?”
“Yeah,” Aeridel replied.
She rolled up the map and placed it in her rucksack, then threw it over her shoulders. With a sigh, she began to walk. Tim and Bridget followed a pace behind. For a while nobody seemed to talk to each other. They were both scared for one another, the fear of an unknown place taking its toll.
Aeridel however, was unaffected by the fear of the Dolites and the Cave of Lorei. The evening tales had taught her not to be scared. Because as well as the weight of the rucksack on her back, there was a heavy burden of homesickness as she thought for a passing moment about her parents. Would they be proud of her? How can they, when they may never know about her black magic training? ‘They should be proud’, she thought, ‘proud that I am helping the two heroes from our legend’. She smiled to herself as she led them on, the burden lifting off of her chest with each lumbering step.
Behind her, Bridget fingered the cuffs of her dress. It felt slightly rough, but was pleasant on her skin. Her hands were still damp with sweat. She kept her head down, looking at the trodden dirt path. She didn’t want Tim to see her face, to show him her fear. She felt embarrassed. ‘He wouldn’t be scared of bones’, she thought. ‘He isn’t scared of much, he’s so lucky. I wish I was brave like him’. She heaved a deep sigh, to try and relieve some of the nerves.
Tim looked at Bridget as she continued to stare at the ground. He could tell she was scared; this whole thing was scary. He wanted to put his arm around her, comfort her; but he couldn’t do it. ‘No’, he thought, ‘She’d shrug me off. She wouldn’t want me to feel sorry for her. To take pity. I only want to help. Well, it’s worth a try.’
“Bridget?” he asked. She looked up from the floor, into his eyes. He looked through hers, and he saw the fear, even though her eyes shone with the colour of the sky.
“Yes?” she replied. It was a relief for her to share the adventure with her best friend. ‘He could be a great comfort to me’, she thought.
“Oh, erm I was thinking, if you ever felt like talking or something,” he paused, feeling a little embarrassed, but he continued, “Well, you know that I’ll be here for you, right?”
Her face slowly crept into a warm, comforted smile, and placed his hand in hers,
“Yes, I do,” she said, grinning, “And you know that I’d do the same for you too.”
“Yeah,” he replied. He gave her a big smile, and then they started laughing. Bridget said, through bursts of laughter; “You looked really goofy when you did that!”
Aeridel turned around, curious as to why they were laughing.
“You two seem to be feeling better, you were so miserable before.”
They quickly broke hands. Tim said,
“Yes, thank you.”
Bridget simply nodded, her cheeks showing some colour now with a slight pinch of red. ‘What would I do without you, Tim,’ she thought.
“Well, you should be ‘cos we’re here,” Aeridel said. And all of the happiness drained out of Tim and Bridget like water in a sink. The fear came back in its place.