by Nicki Tate
New Adult, Contemporary Portal Fantasy
| Chapter 5: Or Full of Hate and Rotten Within
For a few moments nothing happened. I was standing in a small empty room, the walls around me matched the deep garnet of the door and there were no firefly lamps so there was very little light to see by. Then all at once my senses were assaulted. Horrendous sounds began to violate my ears, women screaming, the metallic clang of steel on steel, and the wet squelching sounds of men being slain surrounded me. Before me, splashed upon the walls, a gruesome tableau played out. A fierce battle raged between the black winged creatures and what looked like humans from my world. A booming voice came from somewhere above me and began to describe the scene like some sort of fucked up documentary.
"Sometime after the second Rebirth, the grevirs attacked. Thousands were slaughtered on the orders of the new ruler known as the Worldshaper. This sudden purging of those who came before us was without cause or warning. The grevirs killed without discrimination, women, children, none were safe." said the voice.
The scene changed. Now a woman carrying a baby was running through a wide green field in terror. A black arrow pierced through her back as she ran. The baby fell screaming from her arms as she died.
"This was a dark time for the world, a time of terror and death." said the voice. Before the baby could hit the ground, the scene changed again.
A tall woman with long raven black hair, wearing a simple emerald green gown, had her back to me as she placed a gold coin in the open hands of seven stone like men.
"The grevirs were not enough for the Worldshaper, she needed generals to command her horde, and thus the Sandmen were created. Seven men made from sand and willed into life by seven magical coins.
"Nidra, Revata, Drapa, Duhkhasila, Ksutavat, Bhavika, Bhitimat." she said each name, as she placed the coins in their open palms.
Once the name was spoken the man came to life and stood at attention. When she had finished distributing the last coin, she stepped back and seemed to be surveying her work. With a jolt, I recognized the first man in the line as a much cleaner version of the man that had attacked me in the cabin.
"Find them, try to detain them, but do not hesitate to kill if they put up a fight." she said in a high, crisp voice.
The sandmen turned to leave and the scene went black. For a moment I thought the horror film strip had finished but then a new scene came into focus. This time it was different, there was no narrator describing what was playing out before me. It was as though this scene didn't belong in the reel I had been watching, like someone had spliced it in.
The smell of pine surrounded me and I realized I was standing in a forest at night, but where you would expect to hear the sounds of insects or creatures there was an oppressive silence. In front of me was an altar of some kind, and laid out upon it was a young woman dressed in a long sapphire blue robe edged with pale gold. The style of robe looked familiar and I realized she must be one of the Honeran's servants. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be unconscious. From behind me the snap of a twig being stepped on shot through the silence and made me jump. On the altar the woman's eyes snapped open to reveal a deep blue that matched the color of her robes.
"Where am I? Who's there?" she asked as she sat up and took in her surroundings.
A hooded figure in all black robes walked slowly to the altar. I couldn't see into the hood well enough to determine whether the wearer was male or female or...something else, but the woman seemed to know them because as it approached she said "You?" and her shoulders relaxed slightly.
The robed figure remained silent and pressed the girl back down so that she laid flat on her back. I began to get a sick feeling in my gut and wanted to tell the woman to run, but knew she wouldn't be able to hear me. The figure drew a long slender dagger from beneath its robes and raised it high above the girl. The realization that she was in mortal danger seemed to dawn on her and she began to struggle violently. The figure easily overpowered her and as the knife came down, her screams filling my ears, the scene changed again.
I was standing in the middle of a familiar orchard. To my left were thundering hoof beats and I was shocked to see my own face staring through me in horror as I rode away from the scene to my right. Knowing what I would see, I turned to my right as Nagalia and I disappeared from view. There was Garik surrounded by at least thirty grevir's. I knew what was about to happen but couldn't tear my eyes away. I watched in horror as the first grevir leapt at him. Garik moved with amazing speed, his sword blurred, almost an extension of his arm as he cut through them one by one. But as the battle raged on, it became clear that his skills with a sword were no use against the sheer numbers they had.
He fought valiantly and continued to cut them down as they came at him in wave after wave, but after a while his swings began to slow and his exhaustion was plain on his face. The grevirs began landing blows of their own. An arrow sprouted in his shoulder and at the same time another pierced his thigh, sending him to his knees with a short roar of pain. Another grevir off to the side aimed an arrow, I knew in my heart that this one would deal the killing blow. I heard myself scream to Garik to get out of the way, even though I knew he wouldn't hear me. A helpless spectator of events that had already happened. As I screamed, Garik looked up, and for one heart stopping moment his dark eyes seemed to lock onto mine. I had the insane thought that he had actually heard me, but then I realized it wasn't me he was looking at, it was the sandman that had appeared behind me.
As the sandman walked forward, the grevirs dispersed faster than they had descended upon us. Garik was left on his knees and bleeding heavily as the sandman approached. He attempted to lift his sword but had lost too much blood and nearly fell over instead. The sandman I recognized as Duhkhasila from the earlier scene, stopped and seemed to regard him for a moment.
"What are you waiting for? Just do it already." growled Garik.
Duhkhasila regarded him for another moment, then hit him over the head with his large meaty fist. Garik sprawled on the ground unconscious, his sword falling from his hands.
"No!" I yelled. Of course Duhkhasila didn't hear my objection, he bent over and removed all of the weapons from Garik's body, of which there were many. Then he slung Garik's limp form over his shoulder and began to walk back the way he had come. The scene went black, and suddenly I was in an empty room once more.
I looked around in a daze, and found myself on the floor. Hot tears burned my eyes as I got shakily to my feet. One thought burned through my mind, Garik was alive. Garik was alive.
I got to my feet and stumbled out of the room, before the horror show could start again. Gabriel stood there waiting for me.
"What did you see?" he said.
I described the scenes that had played out before me but I held back the last two. I didn't think Gabriel knew about those scenes and something in my gut told me not to tell him. I would tell Nagalia about Garik in private the first chance I had (if she ever stopped avoiding me) and see what she thought. As for the girl on the altar, I felt that held more significance than I knew at this moment and would keep it to myself for now.
"Do you see now why she must be defeated? Are the horrors you witnessed enough proof for you?" he said eagerly.
"I have no doubt that she needs to be stopped, I just don't know how you can expect me to stop someone with so much power." I said.
It wasn't totally a lie, if I believed what I had seen in the scenes with the voice overs I would completely agree that she was evil and needed to be stopped. But the other two scenes were different, they seemed to have been spliced in without Gabriel knowing and I got the feeling that there was more to the story than just the propaganda he had wanted me to see.
"You have power of your own young one. We will begin your training tomorrow." said Gabriel.
The horse in front of me pulled up short and our party came to a halt. Word came down the line that we had finally reached our new location and a round of cheers went up. I think I probably cheered the loudest of all. I hadn't been able to feel my ass for days and things had been so chaotic on our journey that I hadn't even seen a glimpse of Nagalia. I hoped that now, with everyone staying in one place for longer than one night, I would be able to track her down and corner her. It had been three days since the Honeran had shown me that room and the news that Garik was alive had been burning inside me. We couldn't just leave him to the sandmen and the Worldshaper, we had to do something. Â
Ever since my arrival, I had been closely monitored by no less than three armed guards at a time. I imagined Nagalia would be pleased to know that it took so many men to replace her.
As the days had passed I came to realize how burdened my mind had been back home. There was always some distraction to pull me in several directions at once, television, social media, schoolwork, even friends. Now though, with nothing but the endless trail to our next destination, my mind was free to wander. With this new freedom, I discovered I was rather good at plotting. I didn't completely trust Gabriel and so I had begun to make note of the guard rotations in the event that I might need to flee. I had even come up with a way to get Nagalia alone without raising suspicions. I liked to think Garik would be impressed with my forethought, though why I wanted to impress a man I barely knew was something I tried not to focus on too much.
The Honeran Disciples (my pet name for all of the golden eyed women that served Gabriel) set out the fabric swatch that would become the massive gold tent. Gabriel himself walked around in a large circle and placed tall rods in the ground, as I had seen him do before each time we stopped for the night. Once the rods were all placed, they would link together to create the magical barrier that hid the camp. There was a flurry of activity everywhere as the Ankarthans set up their homes and storefronts. The market sprang up before my eyes along with hundreds of other tents. The Ankarthans were so efficient that the entire camp was set up within fifteen minutes. I was ushered into the Honeran's tent and sent to my quarters by two disciples I didn't recognize. There seemed to be more of them every day, it was impossible to meet them all. Waiting in my room with a timid smile was Grenid.
"I hope you were not too uncomfortable during our trip Miss Rilea- Miss Riley." she said.
"Ask me again when I've gotten sensation back in my rear." I grumbled. Grenid blushed.
"Well with any luck we will not need to run again for some time." she said. "At any rate I am here to assist you with your robe selection." she said perking up.
"My robe selection? Why do I need assistance with that?" I said. Granted I had never been much of a girly girl in the clothing department, so the need most women seemed to have when it came to shopping in numbers had always escaped me. I could tell that I had made just such a blunder when Grenid's face fell and she said,
"No of course you don't need assistance, I will leave you to it." She gave me a slight curtsy and turned for the door.
"Wait er, no I do need help..." I said casting about for a way she could help me. "I don't know which color to pick!" I blurted.
Grenid's eyes lit up and she bounced on the balls of her feet over to the large wardrobe in the room. It was clear that she loved clothes by the way she immediately began babbling about my red hair along with something about amethysts or emeralds. When she emerged from the closet, she carried a stack of jewel toned robes in her arms. These were different from the robes she and the other disciples wore though, instead of the flowing Greek goddess gowns, these seemed to be designed for movement more like Tibetan Monk robes. None of them had that pale gold edging so I guessed that meant it was a symbol of your devotion to the Honeran or something.
The first set she held out was made of a pale purple flowy fabric with darker purple accents that reminded me of Meg from the Hercules cartoon. I had always loved her sass as a kid.
As soon as I put it on, Grenid let out what could only be described as a squeal of delight and threw the other robes back into the closet.
"It's perfect!" she sighed. I would have to take her word for it since I still had yet to find a single mirror.
"Now that you have the right outfit, the Honeran would like you to meet him in the training room. I have other duties I must attend to so I'm afraid I cannot walk with you. Go now, you mustn't keep the Honeran waiting!" Grenid said before disappearing through a side door.
I was in no hurry to get to my training, I took small pleasure in making Gabriel wait. After showing me the little room of horrors, he had begun my training in earnest. At first it was just archery since we were wearing the bulky travel clothes and hand to hand combat training would have been difficult. He dared not begin my true training (my supposed Worldshaper abilities) until we were safe within the magical barrier at our new location. I had been decent at archery but nowhere near as good as Nagalia. I comforted myself in the fact that she had been training since birth and I had only just begun, but I doubted I would ever be all that good. I wondered if my change of wardrobe meant we would be starting hand to hand today or if perhaps we would finally begin the real training.
While I still questioned Gabriel's motives, I could not deny he was an excellent trainer, and as long as I was here, I would learn as much as I could from him. After all, whether the prophecy was true or not, I suspected I would have a large battle ahead of me regardless, and I wanted to be prepared.