by The L.E.X.A
Could you survive the aftermath of the void? Open you mind, pay attention,find the truth!
13:13:13 – Moments after a global catastrophic event
On a faraway continent, pass the southern shores, beyond the mountain ranges, through the grasslands that resemble the Eurasian Steppe of the Silk Road, in a small forest, there lays a man stranded and covered in blood. His body bears no cuts or wounds; it was clear that this crimson life force was not his own. His body is placed amongst ferns and moss amid the valley forest trees. Surrounded by nature and an unnerving sense of emptiness in the atmosphere, his mind slowly emerges from his brief darkness. As his eyes begin to focus, his anxiety is triggered by him staring at the gory display that is his hands. Nauseated by the intense smell of iron and flesh; this man is confused. Wondering how it got there and how he suddenly arrived in this place. His thoughts, one by one, began to re-activate. He began to contemplate, but he cannot make sense of anything that is going on. Not knowing his whereabouts before this current state, the fears of being in an unfamiliar world, and this burdensome heaviness upon him is beginning to cause an overwhelming sense of panic.
He breathes in and out, trying to focus on collecting himself. He can feel the warmth of the sun fading, and the sudden cold draft of the evening seeping in.
“I’m half-naked; if I stay like this, I’ll freeze,” the man thought. He feels the wind blow on the left side of his face.
" The air is cold; North must be to the left of me." he thinks to himself.
The leather harness around his neck and shoulders were worn, his body chaffed and scarred as if he had just been in a scuffle. His various holsters are only partly equipped. Utility holders empty where kunai or even potions should be. Primary weapons are gone. The sheath of a dagger sits empty beneath his left armpit. His pants are slightly damp, and black boots are soaked and covered in mud. The only thing that remained was a book. It is snapped in and tied tightly to the leather straps and pressed against his left hip. Laying out hundreds of scenarios, thoughts are racing like a school of fish swimming down the stream of his convoluted psyche. He has to quickly assess his surroundings and find shelter.
The perimeter around him is penetrated by the glares of the local beasts that have been watching him in anticipation.
They circle him. Moving, looking, peeking through the bushes, branches, and leaves.
Sporadic emotions, mixed instincts, and beastly intuition.
The man and the creatures of the forest both are at the point of piqued curiosity. His nose smells the rotten meat in their teeth and the dampness in their fur. He can sense their numbers. Other creatures have taken it upon themselves to move in closer around him. Comfortable they are as they set on the prowl. He hears the cracking of branches and the slow-paced breaths of creatures trying to conceal their presence. He slowly gets up from the ground, gets on one knee, and allows his eyes to address the location of every savage animal that looked upon him.
His determination set.
His resolution is absolute.
“I will survive this!”, is the current thought and mood surrounding him.
“Come at me!” His voice thunders and echoes throughout the area. The pressure of his resolve pierces the hearts and souls of everything in his radius. Some of the beasts leave, are defeated and intimidated. Some come his way and lie at his feet. The tension changes, and the mood calms.
The Main District - Center City, Tenohira – 10 A.V.
It is the middle of the day, the major regions, cities, small villages, and towns are lively as ever. Merchants are selling their wares in the marketplace. Hirelings are doing their daily labor for local businesspeople and shop owners. Children roam the streets playing games, looking for food, or even looking for a pocket to pick. Sentinel officers walk the beat, keeping law & order, or also taking a bribe or two. An Old Man and Little Girl enter the city accompanied by three Deputy Agents. Coming off a two-week bounty quest, the duo needed to turn in the captured fugitives and receive the bounty payment. As they ride through the town, criminals bound together, the townspeople point and gaze in awe.
“Oh my god, it’s them!” said a woman nearby.
“Who did they catch this time?” said another townsman.
The three Deputy Agents served as watchmen as they sat armed in the wagon with the criminals. The team needed to ensure that the area stayed safe & secure and that no one followed them. The Old Man and Little Girl were famous throughout this region. With their reputation, lawbreakers feared them, citizens loved them, and the government endured them.
“Eyes up, stay sharp; the city feels different today.”, said the Old Man.
His partner gave the nod and proceeded to equip her body with weapons and tools to replenish what she used in the previous skirmish.
They arrive at Barter-House One, and the Old Man signals to one of the deputy agents to go inside and inform the lobby of the delivery.
“These bounties are very high, so we must tell the house to be on alert.”, said the Old Man.
He used every situation as a teaching moment for his partner.
“Noted.”, she said.
They both jumped down from the wagon and proceeded to lead the way into the building, the deputy agents, and chained criminals behind them. As they walk through the lobby, many other agents and civilians stare and watch.
“Isn’t that the leaders of the Talon that they have cuffed?... Are they insane!?” whispered someone in the crowd.
“Their prices combined are equal to $325,000.00 Gold Coin!” said one more.
“Their family will retaliate; I’m getting out of town!” added another.
Eagle Eye, Black Falcon, and Red Hawk terrorized and pillaged multiple cities in the West. They were on Tenomachi’s most wanted list for robbing numerous gambling houses and the kidnapping and murdering of multiple courtesans in the Red District. No Senior Agent could catch them; Junior Agents couldn’t defeat them, let alone a Deputy Agent. The Parliament contacted these two Special Agents directly to apprehend the wanted offenders.
“We will fill out the paperwork, please escort them to the holding cells.”, said the Little Girl to the agents.
“Yes, Ma’am.”, said the three deputy agents.
As they went down the hall, a man in the crowd trips and bumps into the deputy agent that was holding the chains in the rear.
“Watch it, don’t you see who this is!” shouted the agent.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please forgive me!” said the man as he scurried away to the front door.
The agents continued to walk.
Then suddenly, one of the Deputy Agents fell to his knees and started to convulse, foam gushing from his mouth!
“Get back!” a Junior Agent in the crowd screamed.
The crowd gasps.
The Old Man, sensing the room, gave a command, “Batuo!”, and the Little Girl responded, “Bene!”. They reacted so quickly it was as if they said it together.
The prisoner swiped the keys and unlocked the shackles.
Red Hawk grabs the chains and tries to choke one of the Agents.
Eagle Eye kicks another Agent in the groin.
Simultaneously, the girl jumps the counter, cuts through the crowd, and jumps on the shoulder of a teller. She then leaps through the air, throws three darts to the chest of the prisoner, two knives to the throat of the other; Flips off the center pillar, and line-drives directly to the last.
He tried to hit the agent, but she lands in the space between the two, blocks his attack, and sends a palm strike straight through his chest. The force sending all three fugitives flying into the Barter-House wall.
Everything happened so swiftly that the escape attempt was abated as quickly as it started.
No one in the crowd had the proper time to react, almost froze in fear.
Others stood there in amazement.
Local sentinel officers and medics quickly assisted the Deputy Agents that were poisoned and hurt. They gave immediate medical attention to the incapacitated Talon Gang. Red Hawk, injected with a sedative exclusively used by this Special Agent team. Eagle Eye, on the verge of bleeding out, had to be immediately sutured; since the knife was dipped in the same solution, he lay there frozen in excruciating pain. Black Hawk, unconscious now, received a devastating blow to his chest cavity, cracking his clavicle, shattering six ribs, and individual vital sections of his spine; he’s partially paralyzed.
“Well…I’m glad the order called for dead or alive!”, said the Commissioner.
“I want to thank you for all your demanding work and support in this town, and don’t worry about finishing the paperwork, we will handle it!”
“Thank you, Commissioner Aiden, I know we can trust you. I take it, you know what to do from here, please put the remainder of our reward in our accounts.”, said the Old Man.
“Yes, sir!” I’m on it!
Commissioner Aiden began immediately on the orders that the Old Man gave. Apart from their reputation on the streets, this duo was known for always giving back to the unfortunate and helping those who help them. Commissioner Aiden already knew what the Old Man wanted him to do because of what happened. He paid the three deputy agents an additional check equal to their fees and a medical stipend to their families to cover six months of expenses while they’re out from work.
“Oh, by the way, make sure the sentinels do a full investigation to find the man who got away, he’s dangerous, send me a report if you can,” said the Old Man.
“Yes, sir, no problem!” shouted the Commissioner, who was already delegating the Old Man’s request.
“That man is the top authority in here, but yet he calls you sir?” said the Little Girl.
“Men of wisdom, such as him, typically give out respect as much as they warrant it.
He and I worked on many cases in the past, not to mention the woman we saved in the Red District was his wife,” he explained.
“Ah, ok, got it,” she responded, nodding her head.
The Old Man and Little Girl left the main lobby and went to the trading section downstairs. They traded out jewels, fabrics, and materials only found in the valley where they live; their items always sold for a hefty amount on the market. They obtained rare meats, medicinal herbs, preservative spices, and custom-made fabrics that were pre-ordered. Before heading back, they stopped by a local tavern to relax.
“Yesss, I’ve been waiting for a drink all day!” she said.
“You’re lucky you are older than you look, little one.”, snickered the Old Man.
As they entered, the Old Man saw an acquaintance of his, who lifted his covert cowl and gave the nod as he walked in. He proceeded to the backside of the room to meet him,
“We’ll sit over here,” he said to her.
“Aye,” she replied. She flung back the hood of her cloak and took away the veil from her mouth and walked to the bar. There appeared a honey-chestnut visage; large windows void of care; alluring but ominous. Her mahogany obsidian locks shimmered in the shadows. A vigorous build with a sensual gait and a crooked leer. The men and women in the room could only stare; to them, she was a rare commodity.
“She’s fuckin gorgeous!” said one of the patrons as she walked by.
“Is that who I think it is?” said another.
“Bartender give me a pitcher of your strongest ale and a tall glass of something hard and sweet!” she said.
“Coming up, madam!” the young barkeep bellowed with a star-struck face.
Meanwhile, the Old Man sat with his friend, a druid priest from a distant land, and reminisced. Deep down, he figured it wasn’t a coincidence that he was here. It seemed that a lot of underground factions have been on the move as of late. During the bounty quest, the pair received a message from The Parliament that one of the five families was having a restricted auction and opened the executive hall to the public. “That could be a problem,” thought the Old Man back then. The government requested agents to aid in security. The unit had to be personally screened by the pair themselves, an abnormal request for an unusual event, at an inopportune time of year.
“Looks like your way of life has treated you well over time!” said the priest.
“It would seem so, I see you're still looking overly monkish as ever,” the Old Man shot back.
“You know people don’t like seeing my kind around here much; nevertheless, I knew I would see you here.”
The Priest gave him a small scroll sealed with a red symbol. The Old Man was filled with concern. They both sighed and gave a nod of confirmation.
“So, it’s time.” The Old Man felt a sudden tension around him, and his mind began to fret.
“I know you’ve felt it. Your intuition has always amazed me,” The Priest stated.
“Decipher the parable scroll as best you can, I’m only the messenger. Whatever is coming, I think its best you have this first”, he explained.
“So, you have others, besides me?” asked the Old Man.
“A few, but I have to use the flock to deliver the message; those guys are constantly on the move.”
At the bar, the Little Girl awaits her order.
“Damn, you sexy, I got something for you to put those cute lips on,” yelled out a drunkard in the corner of the bar.
“Bring that ass...” the guy next to him punched him in the ribs.
“Idiot, that’s the fuckin’ she-devil! Leave her be… you don’t remember the stories from that time?”
“Oh, right,” said the drunkard.
“Don’t forget, she also just took out those Talon leaders one by one today!” the guy explained.
The atmosphere in the room started to change.
After hearing those words, her body trembled in anger. Overcome with angst, she slowly turned and focused her attention in the direction of the two men. Her hair began to move as if it were alive, the shadows below her brows sunk in, her pupils a deep scarlet, enlarged, with a yellow glow, she began to move…
“Prohibere!” a command uttered sharply at a decibel only she could hear; immediately, she stops. The Little Girl turned her head and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and let out a long sigh; her nerves immediately calmed.
“Ummmmm, the drinks are on the house!” said the young barkeep as he stood ever so still, nervous, with his face fixed and blushing, eyes filled with water, body froze in fear, one blink and the tears would drip right down.
She stood up and leaned over to him, gently touched his cheeks, moving him closer; the young man swallowed deeply, his eyes were blurry from the frightful tears that have yet to fall, she turned her head and pressed her lips against his. The tension in his shoulders slowly went away as they stood there, leaned over the bar; he felt a sense of relief as his eyes closed, and the tears trickled down his face; he slightly moved his left hand and placed it on her arm.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
She grabbed the drinks and walked away, smiling, heading towards the table. The scene seemed so quiet that a pin drop could have started a riot. The young man finally opened his eyes. The whole place went up in a sea of laughter and cheer.
“Yeahaaaah,” screamed one side of the room.
“That’s our boy!” screamed the other.
The young barkeep walked pass the owner of the bar, placed his keys and apron in his hand, and headed towards the exit.
“Sorry, I’m late!” said the Little Girl, as she placed the drinks on the table.
“Was all that necessary young lady?” asked the Old Man.
“Absolutely!” said the Little Girl with a huge grin.
The three of them drank and spoke some more. Soon it would be time to part ways.
As they began to head out, the two drunkards happen to be at the front door. Their eyes meet as the Little Girl walks closer. The two men began to fill nervous tension.
As she gets nearer, all eyes are on them. People are anticipating the next action, the music seems to quiet, and all that can be heard is the steps of the Little Girls' boots getting closer and closer. She suddenly approaches them. With her fists cocked back to make them flinch, the men screamed and jumped backward. In a clumsy motion, the two knocked over the table, with drinks spilling all over them. The Little Girl burst out in laughter, and the crowd follows, pointing at the two men. The music starts back up, and business continued as usual.
The three of them finally make it outside to their wagon.
“Heading back to the valley?” asked the Priest.
“You know I am,” said the Old Man.
“I still can’t believe you live there; you have the means to stay wherever you want,” he said with a confused face.
The fame of being a special agent of their caliber allows them to live in the best villas in every town without the need to pay, not to mention they have enough money from their quests to run a city.
“I know, but we like it here. We’ve gotten accustomed to the neighborly kindness and solitude of the valley; you should come back and visit”, the Old Man said with a sincere face as he packed and secured the wagon.
“You don’t have to stay away, you know?” he explained in a reassuring tone.
“In due time, I’m not ready to face my family yet,” the priest had a falling out with his family years ago; they currently live in the valley with the Old Man and Little Girl.
“I understand,” said the Old Man. The two men shook hands, hugged, and parted ways.
“He’s cute, Pop!” said the Little Girl.
“Shut your face,” said the Old Man. The Little Girl chuckled as they traveled back to the valley.
They set up their living quarters and campsite at the bottom of Valle Mortis, Death Valley, alongside the base of the mountain. There is a dense fog that continuously moves around the edge of the valley. There is also constant storm activity above the tree lines; no one expects a person to live here. The scene strikes fear in the heart of the bravest warrior; It is no wonder that citizens are reluctant to enter. Unbeknownst to them, the valley is filled with the best that nature has to offer in this western land.
The Old Man was adamant about privacy and protection. The two of them never had to worry about any outside threats because they would have to be extremely skilled to even reach them. He was not proficient in the Semita De Artium that dealt with the Dark Arts, but with the help of witches that lived nearby, he was able to create the spells that he needed. They were to be written on the skin of the birch, underneath the bark itself. He was able to remember what they taught him, and he honed his penmanship and literary articulation to carve the barrier spells around them using dragons blood resin.
The Old Man reinforced the spells every seven days by reciting an incantation. Afterward, he would make a hearty meal to celebrate their safety and give thanks. The laid firewood burned brightly in the brick pit as his young companion stared attentively. He had multiple cuts of impala that he purchased from in-town, already prepped and ready to cook. The aroma filled the campground. The venison had been marinating for three days. Savory meat soaking in a large cherrywood basin filled with smoked honey-maple wood, fresh thyme, mountain rosemary leaf, marjoram, dark winter savory, English lavender, and multiple types of vegetables that he would use in a stew to go with the main course. While he was cooking the meal, the Old Man could not help to think about their journeys. Looking back on the past, present, and future experiences. The Old Man felt that all the questions that many people have been asking would be answered soon.
“Quite some time has gone past since the event of the Void 10 years ago. This reoccurring vision of war and bloodshed plagues my mind. The skies were red with fire, and the ground soaked with blood. All I could hear was the sounds of metal clashing, projectiles ricocheting, beastly roars, cries, screaming. It hurts to even think about it sometimes.”
The Old Man mused to himself as he continued to stir the stew.
“My partner and I constantly speak about our past lives and what they could have been. We wondered if we had or have family out there. Imagining what it would be like to have siblings. If we do, there are still no signs of relatives, anywhere.”, he thought to himself.
“Pop, can we go back to the waterfalls soon?” said the Little Girl, so innocently as she smiled and watched the flames.
The Old Man lets out a sigh of reluctance.
“…Let me think about that, you already know what time of year this is, it may be quite difficult to do as we wish when there’s a lot of people around.”
“I know Pop, but I want to go! We have a license and a badge; we should at least take advantage of some of the privileges that come with it!”
“That may be true, but just because we have jurisdiction in foreign countries doesn’t mean we should just waltz in these areas. I know you have a certain knack for befriending people, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be friendly.”
“That may be true Pop, but if the pushing becomes the shoving, we can MAKE them friendly,” the Little Girl looked at her hands and clenched her fists together.
The Old Man shakes his head and smirks. “Sometimes you scare even me, little one… let me sleep on it.”
The Little Girl gave the biggest smile as she sat on the log, her knees moving up and down in anticipation.
The Old Man finished preparing the meal for that evening, and the two of them ate their fill. They conversed through the night about everything that took place that day. He took the scroll out of his bag and broke the druid seal.
“Wisdom and knowledge are the only things that will keep life stable,” said the Old Man.
“Wisdom is applied to everything that we see and don’t see; we must remember to always stay on the path.” The Old Man spoke as if he felt something was going to happen soon.
“How will I know when to apply it, Pop? I just…the Little Girls stomach turned as her mind filled with anxiety.
“I just don’t want to mess anything up and wind up losing what I care about in the process!”
The Old Man stood up and walked over to the Little Girl as she sat there staring at the igneous rocks that lie on the ground, his austere stature and stern eyes looked at her,
“Stand up…”, he said.
The Little Girl looked up at him with bloodshot eyes and tears running down her face as the Old Man grabbed her and held her firmly.
“Everything will work out in the end… we just need to endure, and we will be saved.” Later that evening, the Old Man and the Little Girl laid down to rest. They both wandered off into the dream world as sudden heavy thoughts weigh down on their minds.
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to head to the ruins, although I am not looking forward to the trouble that may come. Last time we went, we encountered the worst thing we could ever encounter…, the Fang. We managed to get out alive, but we almost didn’t make it; we have the scars to prove it.”, he thought to himself.
“Yeah, they give me the heebady jeebadies!” said the Little Girl, as she held her arms and pretended to shiver.
“What the hell!?, the Old Man said with confusion.
“Whaaaat!?, the Little Girl screeched.
“How.....?” the Old Man stared at the Little Girl with squinty eyes.
“You know what… never mind just go to sleep.”, ordered the Old Man.
“Okay, Pop!” the Little Girl tucked herself in; she had the biggest grin on her face.
As they lay through the night, a dark figure lurks under the moonlit valley. It stares at the skies above as its long cloak sways in the wind. The creature proceeds to sit atop the highest point of the valley, its glowing eyes are fixed directly where the Old Man and Little Girl reside, and it utters words in an unknown tongue.
To Be Continued…