The old war hero Vidar finds himself at the bottom of another glass. Juris readies himself
|Vidar opened the Omni-Vial and looked at the pearlescent liquid shimmering around the glass container. He poured half of the vial into his goblet. The thick syrupy liquid ran down the side of the goblet and collected at the bottom. Vidar looked to Marci and Ronson who did the same.
“A lifetime supply isn’t too bad for Overexertion Deficiency.” Ronson smiled as he swirled the liquid in the goblet.
“We’ll just die sooner for it.” Vidar grumbled. He poured the honey coloured alcohol into the goblet, laying it thick on top of the Omni syrup. He watched as the two consistencies fought and battled, before finally the Omni dissolved into the alcohol.
“To us.” Marci said as she raised her goblet. She clinked it off Vidar’s and winked at him. Then she turned to Ronson and did the same. The three cheered and downed the drinks. Vidar drained it and slammed the goblet back on the table as the concoction slid down his throat and into his belly. Immediately Vidar felt the effects of the Omni in his system. He suddenly didn’t feel tired anymore, and the bleeding would stay away at least for the night.
As Vidar stood up, he felt lighter and lithe, his muscles in his legs tighter and ready for a marathon, or at the very least, a night of drinking. Moving towards the door, Vidar caught a glance of himself in the mirror. The scars on his skin felt pinker, like the deep violet had left them not as deep as before. The stubble on his chin was rough, but in a sexy way. Yet none of that captured his interests. What Omni actually altered was the iris in the eye. The normal murky dark brown had changed to a violet purple, like all of the remaining magic in his body gathered there.
“It is amazing, isn’t it?” Marci said, draping her arms around his shoulders, her lips at his ear and her eye cast towards the mirror. Hers too were purple. “You kind of forget how amazing it is.”
“Come on, we’ll miss the last train to Dunbracken if we don’t go now.” Ronson said, opening the hotel door and walking out. Marci followed him, holding onto Vidar’s hand and leading him out.
The hotel was luxurious to say the least. Vidar walked down the lush red carpeted hall and looked at the art on the radiantly white walls. The art was decadent and exotic. Even the hotel itself seemed like it was taken from another time or place.
The south of Sanctomia was still warm this time of year. Vidar wore his leather jacket with a plain white top underneath, showing off his tattoos and scars. Marci wore a black dress that showed off her pale skin. Underneath the dress she wore leather leggings, which accentuated all of her assets. She was very similar to Vidar, her tattoos almost matching his.
Ronson however was different. While Marci Darcelle was worse than Ronson, vowing never to marry and only to play men until her untimely end, Ronson was something similar, but less successful. The women he wanted were young and fresh, not believing in the scars that had torn his face apart. He was a hero of the Dark, they would gather around him, but never with him. Something of a celebrity, Blake Ronson could get leagues of women around him, yet he was always lonely, wanting someone with the youth and vigour that he had long lost.
They walked to the train and as it approached, they hopped on to what was almost a party in itself. The last train was always the best, filled with scantily clad women who grinded on men all too happy for them to do so. While others sat at the train’s bar, drinking down alcohol and feelings alike.
Vidar mingled in the crowd, as some cheered when they saw Ronson. The trio were old cougars and aged lions in comparison to the cubs on board. Not that that would stop Ronson, or Marci.
“I hope to see you later, hero.” A dark-skinned vixen purred. She wore leopard print, and her hair was curly and dark. She was gorgeous to say the least.
“Maybe you will.” Vidar said back. “El Fin?”
“Ratree’s El Fin it is.” She said and smiled again at him before walking off into the crowd.
Vidar smiled to himself and watched the woman walk off. He caught Marci’s eye for a moment. In her purple Omni induced iris, Vidar swore he saw jealousy, but as she blinked, she winked at him again and continued talking to the young stallion who had his arms around her, enthralled.
Vidar shook his head and walked over to the bar. The only other woman that got inside Vidar’s head like Marci did was long dead. Vidar ordered another drink and as the memories of the war flooded in, he tipped the rest of the Omni-Vial into his drink and with one quick head tilt, the drink was gone and along with it, the memories of his dead wife.
CHAPTER 5 - JURIS
Juris stood at the foot of the large tree. In the distance between the giant oaks and at the outskirts of the village, he watched as Dyzek and his father walked away together. The pit of snakes in his belly writhed in fear, and something more.
His father was a council to Enki, the closest thing to royalty that was left to the Boscun Clans. That meant he was an errand boy almost.
“How long do you think it’ll take them?” Juris asked.
“A few days there, a few days of rest, a few days back.” His mother said, touching his arm. “Don’t be nervous, Juris.”
“I can’t help it.” He said, turning away from the edge and looking up the village that clung to the large oaks in the middle of the forest. New Zalmoxis was the first village in the Boscun Clans that was built in the sky, the wooden bridges between trees were firm and stable. The ladders and pulley systems were a nuisance for getting up to the village or down to the ground, but it was safer than the forest floor, where Shadows and mud floods could get you alike.
“They’ll be back in time for the Festival of Zola.” She said.
“Ok.” He said, biting his lip. He was worried about the festival. He knew that was when he had to make his decision. A decision that would change his life.
“Will you check on Ira?” His mother asked. “I’ve to check some of the patients throughout the village. Get her some food, please.”
“No problem, mother.”
“Thank you, son.” His mother stepped on her tippy toes and kissed him on the cheek. “I will see you later.”
Juris walked in the opposite direction of his mother. Juris looked at the forest in the early morning light. The rays of sunlight pierced the leaves casting a shade over their house.
Juris looked at their house, high up in the old ancient oak in the forest. It was a small house, with only three rooms between the five of them, but Juris loved it. It was the only place he would ever want to be, and some day, as the oldest sibling, it would be his. The wood of the house had been newly applied before his father went off on his job with Dyzek. The light colour of the wood contrasted to the dark wizened bark it clung to on the old oak.
He climbed the ladder up the old tree and to the front of the house. He hoisted himself up and looked past their small house to the wider community, all tucked neatly into the surrounding oaks in the forest. The oaks were tall and sturdy, so high into the sky, Juris was sure he had never seen the top.
"I'd never want to." He whispered, looking up to the leaves that held the mystery of the upper forest. He swore in his childhood, he could hear creatures beyond the leaves that lived high above them, never venturing down to their level. His mother had told them, they were the forest custodians, creatures brought forth from the earth to protect the Boscun Clans.
Juris walked over to the door and opened it. He walked into the main room of the small house. The bench and table were carved out of wood, just like most things as it was the main resource in the forest. He walked into his parent’s bedroom and went over to the large bed, the furs all piled around a little blonde head poking between the two pillows.
“Ira…” Juris whispered, gently moving his little sister. Her eyelids batted and she moved her hands up, stretching her arms and groaning. She stared at Juris before smiling slightly.
“Yuri.” She said in her small soft voice.
“Hello Ira.” He said back, picking the toddler from her bed. Her body was warm from the furs and had a thin sheet of sweat on it. “It’s morning time.”
“I’m hungry.” She said as Juris carried her into the main room.
“We will get you food after we clean you.” Juris said. He put his finger into the pail of water that had been warm for washing earlier. It was still lukewarm, the right temperature for Ira.
He dabbed the towel in the water and rubbed it across Ira’s sweaty face. She stood patiently, waiting for Juris to be finished so she could eat. When it came to it, Juris poured the last of the oats into the pot and placed it over the fire. He mixed it with water and some left over Jagoda berries. The sweetness of the berries burst into the bland porridge colouring it reddish pink in parts.
He fed Ira at the table and as she finished up, she smiled at him. “Thank you, Yuri.”
She was his parent’s joy, and Dyzek and Juris couldn’t deny it. Ira was polite and beautiful, cheerful and smart, and yet she was only turning four. Juris knew he would do anything to protect his family. That was a truth he knew in himself since he was born. He had woken up that morning, hearing the noises of his mother rustling around their home. He rolled out of the bed and sluggishly walked over to where his mother sat in the early morning light.
"Mother, why are you awake so early?" He asked.
"Juris, you're awake." She said, as she waited on the wooden bench in the main room. "Ira and I are heading out into the forest to look for some Jagoda berries for the Festival. They should be ripe now." He had walked with his mother until she had asked him to get Ira ready. The floor of their wooden home creaked and Ira appeared, carrying two large empty baskets. She waddled under their weight with her short legs.
Ira dropped the baskets at Juris' feet and smiled up at him. Her icy hair reached the bottom of her dress. "Are you coming too, Juris?"
Juris lifted her up and smiled back at her. "If you want me to."
Ira nodded and hugged him. "Maybe we will see Father today."
"Maybe we will." Juris sat her back down on the ground. He had already put down the ladder. Juris returned to his bed and grabbed clothing from the chest in the corner of the room. When he returned, his sister Ira waited for him by the door. She beckoned him to her.
"Hurry Juris, hurry! We have to get the Jagoda berries!" She jumped up and down in excitement. Juris took her hand and led her outside onto the landing. Juris looked at the forest in the early morning light. The rays of sunlight pierced the leaves casting a shade over their house.
"What are you looking at?" Ira asked.
"Just admiring the house, Ira. It’s pretty isn’t it?" He said, smiling at it.
“The Forest Custodians like it.” Ira said, a frown on her lips for a moment before she smiled up at Juris.
Juris looked up at the house and spoke aloud. "The thatching on the roof needs done before winter comes, or we will be staying with our uncle again." The thatching was coming off in clumps. "When Father returns, I'm sure Dyzek will help us repair it."
"That boy is more set on adventure than chores I'm afraid." His mother laughed as she returned from her patients. Juris walked over and helped her up the ladder.
"Are you coming, or are you going to stay in a daze, son?" His mother called. She had strapped Ira onto her back as she began descending towards the ground. Juris nodded and followed her down the long ladder towards the earth below.
He found it strange that many of the villages that belonged to the Boscun Clans lived high in the forest, away from the earth itself. He once asked one of the elders, who had told him of a great mud storm that came every century that washed away one of the villages. It was because of that, the elders of majority of the Boscun Clans decided upon saving the race.
Juris heard rumours of other villages that lived in caves, and others that built great Earth Cities like the ancients. But they were rumours, and Juris had rarely any need to leave the village, never mind the forest. As he touched the ground, the smell of the rich soil underneath him rose up and greeted him.
"Don't you just love it on the ground, Ira?" His mother said, taking her off her back and setting her on the ground. Ira nodded enthusiastically. She started running around in circles giggling.
"Where are we going for the Jagoda berries?" Juris asked.
"The far edge of the East Meadow, but not as far as the Shrine to Zola." His mother said. "I guess we could squeeze in a visit to the Shrine, if you two want to go."
Ira squealed in delight, and Juris took that as a yes. "Let's go." As they walked through the large rooted oaks, Juris looked up to the silent sleeping village above. The only noise came from the rustling of the leaves in the morning breeze and the nesting birds.
The village was small in comparison to some of the neighbouring villages of the Boscun Clans. They were packed with families, all staking their claims for Ancientism. Juris had never really known his family history.
"Mother?" He asked, as they walked to the edge of the village.
"What's Ancientism exactly? I've never really known."
His mother stopped for a moment and touched her chin. She looked down at the brown earth below and then looked up at him. "Ancientism is the claim to the throne, essentially."
"Enki has Ancient Blood, and that gives him reason to be our leader. Ancientism is the term for the right to lead." His mother continued to walk. "Enki's forefathers were of high society, and it was his claim that made him leader. Kaia too can claim after Enki."
Juris shook his head, he was beginning to understand. "So, if our ancestors were of a higher class, we can be too, and become leaders?"
"Exactly." His mother nodded. "Do you want to know?"
His mother shied away from the conversation. She dropped her eyes and would not look at him. "I guess it is time I allowed you to see." She walked over to Juris and put the palms of her hands together, her fingers pointing in opposite direction. Muttering, she closed her eyes and let her palms open. Juris could see the small particles of dirt on the ground shake and lift off the earth. His mother raised two fingers to his forehead and opened her eyes, showing them as a vivid green.
"Cleanse." She whispered and Juris immediately felt the effects of her medic magic.
Juris felt himself go weak at the knees and suddenly he was plunged back in time. He looked down at his hands, and they were almost translucent.
"Mother, what have you done?" He whispered. He looked around him, expecting to see the great green forest he called home, yet there was nothing more than saplings in their places. Juris turned and to his shock, a huge building faced him, and he stood in its gardens. He walked towards it, made from some stone he had never seen before, yet its majesty thrilled him.
He reached the marbled steps and looked up to the building in front of him. It spanned the length of their small village and double. In the distance, Juris could see people, moving about, swarming like bees around blooming lavender. He moved towards them, heading inside the open doors of the building and through the middle until he was at the far end.
Juris didn't know what type of magic his mother had planned for him, but he was intrigued all the same. He followed the noises until he came to the crowd gathering around three juts of rock protruding from the ground. On top of each of the rocks, there were three people, each wearing crowns.
Juris looked at the person on the left. She was a woman, with long dark hair twirled around in a braid of dreadlocks. She smiled and waved to the crowd below her, as she was dressed in formal Boscun clothing, a dark tan dress the was longer at the back with jewels encrusted into the belt at her waist.
She oddly resembled someone he knew, yet he couldn't figure it out. Beside the woman stood a man. He was strong and muscular, with a dark beard and a crown on his head. He wore rich robes and held a staff in his hand, with a large emerald encrusted on top of it. He reminded Juris of his grandfather vaguely, yet he had died when Juris was merely beginning to walk. Yet neither of those people caught Juris' eye straight away. It was the young man to the crowned man's right.
He had dark brown hair, tied back into a ponytail in an intricate fashion. He smiled to the crowd, just as the woman did. He was tall and well built, and still growing. Juris looked up at him and saw a direct copy of himself. Juris gasped and moved into the crowd, trying to get closer and closer to him.
The crowned man moved forward. "Citizens of Zalmoxis, I gather you here today in celebration of my heir's sixteenth birthday!"
The crowd cheered and the Juris' look-a-like smiled and waved at the crowd gathered at the rock.
"All hail, heir to the throne of Zalmoxis, Jurisan!" The king shouted, and the crowd mimicked. As the magic spell began to fade, the people and the rocks disappeared, and Juris opened his eyes to see his mother and sister standing in front of him.
"So now you know." His mother said, looking away from him. "We are the direct descendants of the Kings of the ancient city Zalmoxis, and you are the heir."
Juris looked at her in disbelief. "I? I am?"
She nodded. "A woman is not an heir to the throne, and forever I shall be a princess. That is the ways of old, and although it has changed since the Boscun Clans formed, we would still be praised as royalty, Juris."
"Why did you not tell me?" He asked. "Why did you and Father not say anything to Dyzek and I?"
His mother took Ira's hand and began to walk. Juris followed. "Your Father does not know he married royalty." His mother smiled at him weakly. "You are the only one that knows." She looked down to Ira and smiled. "And you. But you will keep our secret, won't you?"
Ira laughed and put a finger to her lips.
"That's my princess." She knelt down and kissed Ira on the cheek. They continued walking to the outskirts of the village. "Juris, you must understand. I have my regrets about not claiming your heritage and seeking to move up in society. Maybe if I had, we wouldn't have to endure hardships like we have, and maybe if we hadn't, we wouldn't have had to worry about fixing the roof on our house, or if Dyzek and your Father would be safe."
"Then why didn't you Mother? You can still claim, can't you?"
"Enki is a good man." She said simply. "He leads us in the right direction. I wonder about your Father's safety, it is true. But if I were to claim, would I be able to love him wholly? Would I be able to put my family first? I chose love over power, and to this day, I will stand by that decision. For I am happy, Juris."
Juris remained silent and they walked to the edge of the village. He could see the guards approaching them.
"Marija Dimitar, why do I owe the pleasure?" One of the guardsmen said, as they approached the edge. "What brings you so far out?"
"I'm going to pick Jagoda berries to make pies for the festival, Ivan." She said. "How is your daughter? Is she feeling better yet?"
The guard smiled. "She is feeling better, all thanks to you and your magic."
"I'm glad to hear that. The fever is gone, I presume?"
"Like it was never there in the first place." He laughed. He looked at Juris and Ira and his smile dropped. "Be careful beyond the pits. We caught two last night. Killed them this morning."
"Two? This far in?" His mother asked.
"Shadows?" Juris asked, looking between the guard and his mother. Both nodded their heads.
"I'm afraid so. They're getting bolder." The guard bit at his lip. "Not to worry though, we will be safe behind the pits. They're mindless anyway."
Juris nodded. "We will take care, thank you."
They walked past the guards and onto the wooden bridge above the pits. As they crossed, Juris looked down at the deep trenches below. Large wooden spikes rose out of the ground in all directions. Juris noticed the needle thin spikes covering each of the other spikes. The guards looked at him as he hovered near the pits.
"We have wood witches magic on the spike." The guards called over.
"Wood witch magic?" Juris asked. He had never heard of a type of magic like that.
"Rare magic." The guard called back. "Boscun Clan witches who can control wood, as the trees are part of the land."
Juris nodded. He had more of an understanding of Boscun magic than others did. Not that anyone knew about his own secrets. "What does the magic do?"
"Churns the wooden spikes, killing the Shadows that fall into them." The guard said. "The bodies are then burnt. No point risking men to remove them."
Juris nodded. "Thanks for the information."
"Awareness is key." He said simply, returning to his post.
Juris followed his mother and sister across the pits, to the outskirts of the village. Past the pits there were only guards' buildings and outposts. There were measures in place for any invasions. The first protective protocol was the pitfalls, as Juris had just witnessed.
"Juris, don't hate me for my decision." His mother said.
"I could never hate you, Mother." He said. "In fact, I would thank you for keeping our heritage a secret."
"You would?" She asked.
"My feet hurt." Ira said.
"I would. You gave me the choice. I can claim if I so wish, but I can remain invisible too." He said, bending down and letting Ira climb onto his back. He stood back up again. "Dyzek would be even more arrogant than before. I could imagine him caped everyday calling everyone else peasants."
His mother laughed. "I guess we were saved in that respect."
"But I also thank you. Our way of life has taught me something dear, and I would wish everyone to learn it. It taught me how when life is tough, we can get through it together. Like that time Father took sick and you were away healing in a different village. None of us had any idea of how to heal him or ease his pain. He was crazed, talking about Zola the goddess in a goat form."
His mother smiled. "I wish I was there."
"So, did I. But we gave him tea you had given to us before, his fever disappeared, and he became coherent again. I'm thankful for the experiences this life has given to us. Everyone should know that a family, or even a community, can be united through hardship and come out of it stronger."
He felt her cold hand rest on his cheek. "Juris, you would be a great leader."
"Yet I would not have that insight if I had not been through the thick of poverty." He said simply. "I don't regard your decision as selfish, but as an act of charity. It was your actions, Mother, that gave me perspective and I thank you wholly for that."
His mother rubbed at her eye. "I thought you'd hate me for denying you your birth right."
He smiled. "I could never hate you, Mother."
They moved forward following the dirt track away from the village and deeper into the forest. The track narrowed and began to wind around the large ancient oaks that stood tall with their large gnarled roots spreading across parts of the path before digging back deep into the ground. The wind rose and the leaves sang a song of the wild far above them, and Juris knew summer would soon be approaching.
It was nearly an hour before they reached the meadow, where the Jagoda berries were known to flower. As they reached the edge of the grove, Ira let out a squeal and squirmed down Juris' back.
"Gagoga berry!" She screamed in delight, running towards the bushes filled with the fleshy red berries.
Juris and his mother followed Ira to the colourful bushes. They began picking the ripest berries, those that were filled with colour and looked ready to burst. Soon, they each carried two baskets full on their arms, with Ira struggling to carry one.
"I wonder who has been eating our berries?" His mother said in a fake tone of voice. "Was it you, Juris?" His mother whipped round and pointed her finger at Juris. He acted shocked and denied the accusation, much to the delight of Ira and her red stained face. "If it wasn't Juris, who could it be?"
Ira threw her hands up in the air, spilling the basket of berries as she did. "It was me!" She squealed and ran into the grove. As his mother chased her around, Juris laughed and picked up the spilled berries and put them back in the basket. When his mother caught Ira, she carried her back to Juris.
"There is a good harvest of the berries already." His mother said. "It could be a good year."
"Hopefully, the pies are always the best." Juris said. "Shall we go see the Shrine to Zola now?"
His mother turned to Ira. "What do you think? Will we go see the pretty goddess?"
Ira smiled and nodded, before turning on her heel and darting off across the East Meadow. Juris and his mother carried the baskets through the lush green grass surrounded by Jagoda berry bushes and tall oaks.
"What is keeping Father this long?" Juris asked. He hadn’t been on a long mission in a while.
His mother sighed. "He should be back by the Festival.”
"What was his task?" Juris asked. He had never taken a real interest in his Father's work as a mercenary of sorts.
"It was from Enki." His mother said, catching his eye. Juris looked away.
"What does he want?" Juris asked. As they neared the entrance of the Shrine, Ira came running back to them, a frown placed on her lips.
"What's wrong Ira?" Juris said, kneeling down to be her height. She ran into his arms and buried her head in his shoulder.
Through the muffles, Juris heard what she said and repeated it for his mother. "She says that all the Jagoda berries are dead."
Together they walked closer to the cave where the Shrine to Zola was. At the entrance to the cave there had been large bushes filled with Jagoda berries, a proud symbol of the flourishing communities under the protection of the goddess Zola. Now there were black weeds the oozed tar like liquid into putrid puddles staining the ground.
"Praise Zola, what happened here?" His mother said, walking closer to the decaying bushes.
"Don't touch it, Mother." Juris warned.
"I know." She said, raising out her hands and closing her eyes. A green glow emitted from her hands, but the bushes remained the same. "Earth medic magic won't work." She said simply.
"What does that mean?" Juris asked.
"Something dark passed through this way, something evil." Juris' mother stepped back from the cave entrance. "We have to see if the Shrine is harmed."
Juris nodded. He set down the remaining baskets and followed his mother with Ira in his arms. He side stepped the puddles of rancid liquid and entered the cave. The torches flickered lining the cave's descent to the Shrine. Juris could feel the heat of the land rising as he descended deeper and deeper.
The Shrine was at the end of the cave, thought to be where Zola herself took shelter from the storms of old. It was of archaic design, carved stone that over the years held a pristine cleanness that was otherworldly. The statue in the centre of the Shrine was of the goddess Zola, the lady of the living forest. She was the primary deity between the Boscun Clans. There were others but Juris never had any time of day for them.
The main statue was of Zola sitting on her knees with her feet behind her in a long dress. She has a young face, with plaited hair down the sides of her face and long straight hair down her back. Her eyes were closer, and her lips parted, believed to be in a prayer to the Elder gods for help during the storm. Juris always believed the stories of Zola while there were doubts in her abilities to protect.
Zola's prayers caused the earth to rush towards her and come around her as a protective cave. Juris looked at the cave now. The black tar clung to the statue of Zola, covering her body and her mouth.
"Mother, take Ira away from here." Juris coldly said, as he looked at the carnage in front of his eyes.
Three bodies lay covered in the black Shadow tar.
"Dear Zola!" His mother cried out before shielding Ira's eyes and taking her away. Juris stepped closer to the bodies. Looking at the corpses he noticed that they were partially Shadows.
"What happened here, Zola?" He asked. He bent down and looked at the bodies closer. He could see the dress underneath the tar. It was dyed a red colour foreign to Juris' clan, so he knew it was a pilgrim.
Juris stood up and ran out to his mother and Ira. He could hear Ira's tears as he entered back into the shaded light of the forest. He took Ira off his mother and slung her around his back.
"Ira, sister, hold on tight." Juris bent down and picked up the Jagoda berry baskets. He looked to his mother who had tears in her eyes. "Let's go." Together they walked in silence, hurrying as much as they could, laden down by the baskets and Ira on Juris' back.
"Juris..." His mother finally whispered.
"What was that?" She asked. Her voice shook as she spoke, and tears rolled down her cheeks. "What happened to those people? Were they even people?"
"Pilgrims." Juris said, remembering the red dress that didn't belong to their village. "Pilgrims for the Zola Festival it seems. They weren't Shadows."
"How did they die with the Shadows on them?"
"I think..." Juris paused. What he thought was only something he had heard whispers of, but they were enough to scare him. "I think something fed on them."
Juris' mother stopped. "You don't mean the Marauders?"
Juris nodded. "I don't know if they are true or not. But the legends tell of the first Shadows on the boats that would talk and command the victims of the Shadows. It was those victims that-"
"That they fed on, taking their souls and powers." His mother finished off. She had gone pale and Ira started to sob again. "Juris, your Father must return soon, we need to inform the Earth Council."
As they reached the guards' outpost, his mother walked to the pitfalls where the guards were posted. They stopped slouching as she approached.
"Marija, how were the berries? Did you get many?" They called but as she grew closer, they saw the concern on her face. "What is the matter?"
"Deny any movement outside the borders. Keep everyone in, no matter how urgent the call. I'm acting as Councillor to the Hearth, in the absence of my husband. Grant anyone the pleasure of joining in the Festival of Zola but once they enter the boundaries, they cannot leave." His mother ordered. "This is for everyone's safety, there are victims in the Shrine to Zola. Shadow victims."
The guards gasped. "What? In the Holy Shrine?"
His mother nodded. "Take care on patrol and watch the pitfalls all around the village."
They nodded and rushed off to tell the other guards. As Juris, Ira and their mother crossed the bridge back into the safety of the village, Juris carried Ira back to the old oak that held their humble home. Ira held on to his back as he gripped the rope ladder and began his ascent to the house he knew so well.