What if one day, the sun does not come up and I am no where to be seen? What would you do if you don’t find me next to you in the bed? What would you do if I no longer wake you up with a lazy good morning kiss? Would you miss the subtle smell of my cigarettes? Or would that be a relief? Would you get up, look for me or go back to sleep cuddling my pillow? Or would you throw it out like it had never meant anything to you? Would you remember my smell that you used to talk about every time or would you just shake it off of your head? Or would I stop existing for you? It’s scary the thought. For you’re and will always be my muse. And thus, I can’t lose you.
I saw you tucking your hair behind your ears. I saw you biting your lips, you seemed a bit scared.
You were staring into infinity. Probably thinking of a world with you and me.
I looked at you from a distance. Oh my carefree girl
I fell for you all over again oh my pretty girl.
I fell for you when I realised how much I had started caring for you. I fell for you when I realised that everything you said, everything you did, made perfect sense. I fell for you when I realised how much I loved the perfect smile that you wore.
I knew I was in love for the very first time when I realised that the things I loved to do all alone, made me want to have you when I did them. To many, it might make very little sense, to me nothing had made more sense ever. Remember when I told you about my dream of having a treehouse by the lake overlooking the mountains and the seas? I knew I was in love with you when I realised that I wanted you to be there with me. All the talks we had, all the plans we shared, all the songs we listened to, all the movies we watched together, they felt so much more when you were involved.
‘Why had I not felt this before?’ Was the question I asked myself one night. And when you came through that door, itching your cute little red nose, probably because of the cold weather outside, I had my answer. And I knew that I had fallen for you. So bad. It’s scary.
So the journey has begun. The thrill of the uncertainty trickling down my spine. As much as I tried to push the adrenaline rush down, I was convinced that this was something that I really had to do. Infact, I’ve been quite sure about this ever since it popped up in my head. May be I was just looking for a reason to start. A reason to need a reason. I’m off to Delhi right now where a friend will join me and we’ll leave for Chandigarh. Hopefully tonight itself. Nervous, scared but hungry to achieve this. Fingers crossed. It’s going to be fun.
En route manali from Chandigarh. Another friend joined us in Chandigarh. The mountains have started to show their mighty selves. The scorching heat and the sun is beating right at me from the glass window in this bus. Nothing seems to rethink my decision. I can see big industrial structures sitting like the kraken, engulfing anything and everything coming their way, all in the middle of this mesmerizing canvas. I cant help but decide if I should stay in manali for the night or head to kasol. Lets find out.
Spent the night in manali. Its really crowded this time of the year. Weather has me feeling optimistic. Perhaps the cool breeze surrounding me was exactly what I was looking for. We’re planing to leave for kasol today. Ate ocra last night. Can’t believe myself. This marks the beginning of the trip, officially. I’m excited. Hope everything goes as planned.
Camping at point x. I must say admit to my nervousness, but somehow restful state of mind. The Sky is cloudy today and still some stars have taken over the horizon. The beautiful snow clad mountains at the horizon are glowing in the dim lit night. “You don’t see this everyday”, I wondered to myself and also realized that I don’t feel _this_ everyday either. Burning fire to keep animals at bay. Bears are a threat here.
Overstayed at point x. Its almost sunset. Rushed back to the city as it was before nighttime. I walked faster than the other 2 did. While treading down I realized they weren’t behind me anymore. Funny how your mind tells you to believe your survival instinct. Figured they’ll take care of themselves, as I continued to move ahead hoping to make it before the sunset. Perhaps the most ill thought decision I made by far. Ofcourse I shouldn’t have left them because of the lack of safety. Although I made it to the base moments before the night fell, my companions were still up there, finding their way down. My clock read 8:15pm. What’s worrying me most is the tough and confusing terrain in the night while one of the friends finds his way back with a twisted ankle. After a long gasp, I ask the guys to keep me updated with their progress. I’m crossing my fingers for their safety now. All this while, I’m not alone if I may add A group of 4 dogs who initially intimidated me turned out to be my way of out of the tunnel. In the age of google maps, we often find bliss in little things like this. My friends fortunately have Atlas, the dog who gave us company since we started for it. Waiting for them now.
Left manali for kasol, one of the friends has stayed back to rest his sprained ankle. The weather is breathtaking. We’ll chill for a couple of days in kasol till our photographer joins us. Will resume the shoot then. All this while “Home is where the heart is” plays in the back of my mind
Stayed the night in kasol. It is a nice cosy little place. We’ll travel to rasol from here today.
Trekked to Rasol today. This trek ranks right up there with the toughest treks that I have done before. But once you’re up here, you realise it was worth it. It was all perfect. Stuff dreams are made of. The perfect mountain at the horizon, decorated with flowers of all colours sitting perfectly in the lap of the mountains of green that surround the whole place. Hell, I can hear the birds chirp. The sunset is breathtaking too. Made some friends here. Couple of them locals. These guys live life in style. Carefree, happy and high on life. I recommend this place.
To Be Continued….
What would you do if I go away? How would you feel if I stop existing in your life? Would you miss me? Would you try to find me? Would it even matter to you? I don’t know. It’s weird but I don’t know. No matter how much I love you. No matter how much you love me. I don’t know where we belong or if we belong at all. It feels bad; the idea of not having you. It would feel worse to see someone else be what I was supposed to be. But would thinking about all this help me in anyway? I don’t think so. So I choose to be happy with what I have right now, with what we have right now. Cuz honey, I can’t tell you the future, but I can fill your today with all the happiness that I can gather and try to do better tomorrow.
Destiny. Take a break for a while. Let me draw my future, with my own hands.
Let me run away to, the far away lands.
No matter what you’ve planned for me.
Destiny halt for a day or two oh please.
And let me make my own way oh please.
Cuz I have been wondering what’s in store for me for way too long
And I’ve been waiting, waiting for my time.
Oh lover. Take a breather now.
I’ll stay with you forever
Through the darkest nights and the coldest weather.
Oh lover. My sweet lover. Hold my hands and walk with me.
I wonder how these hands fit with yours perfectly.
I know you’ve loved me more than I have loved you.
But darling I’ll be yours. Forever and it’s true.
And I’m just waiting, waiting for my time. Waiting for my time.
Oh destiny take a break for a while!
My lover would you promise to be mine.
Forever and after the times end
Cuz I need you by my side my Friend.
I need you to speak to me.
Tell me it will all be fine.
After I am done waiting. Waiting for my time. Waiting for my time.
A lamppost flared over a deserted street that was hidden in the haze. The yellow leaves wafting in the breeze signalled that winter had set in. Someone with a small briefcase stood under the lamp post holding his greasy old overcoat tightly. His long curly hair was spread all over his rusty face. Tucking them behind his ears, he stared down the street.
“Waiting for someone, eh?” A pudgy man emerged from behind.
“Was.” The man replied with a smile.
“Yes. For now.”
“Me believes ye have what me needs.” The man looked at the briefcase and continued, “Will ye let me see?” His eyes glittered as he remarked, “Master has been waiting for this for so long.”
“I’d suggest you do not open it.” Arthur handed him the case.
“Well in that case, might me also suggest ye one thing?” He added, “Mind yer own business! Me shall open it. Take cover if ye wish, eh?”
The briefcase was opened and out came the most fantastic and horrid creature, the Shesha Naga, as the locals called it. With its five heads, all hissing at once, it charged towards the man. Twisting and turning, it proceeded to maul him.
“My, my!” The man was terrified. “Me had imagined it to be a lot smaller! A LOT!” He ran for his life.
“Now had I not warned you?” Arthur jumped between the Shesha and the man. “Run.” Arthur suggested him.
The man took cover behind a rock and observed the happenings.
Arthur and the Shesha stood their grounds at a distance and facing each other. With a loud roar from Arthur, they ran towards each other. The street now glowed under the moonlight and felt more like a battlefield. Whenever the Shesha tried attacking Arthur with its deadly fangs, he dodged artistically and when Arthur tried to grab the Shesha, it slipped right through his hands. None of them was able to inflict any harm on the other except for the one time when Arthur jumped over one of Shesha’s heads and gashed it. Pitch black blood fell on the street as the Shesha screamed in agony but, interestingly, it did not seem to affect the Shesha as it continued the battle with the same valour as before. They fought and fought for hours without giving up and without getting tired. When attacking from the ground seemed futile, Arthur, to everyone’s surprise, took to the air. He flew high and pranged against the Shesha. The Shesha was taken aback by the strike. It tried in vain to reach out to Arthur and attack. When Arthur felt it was time to put an end to the fight, he pricked its thick flesh with his hands and held it tightly. Black blood once again oozed out as Arthur flew high up in the sky. He cut the clouds charismatically and hovered in the air with the Shesha still in his grip and the full moon to his side. The man was gaping at the picturesque silhouette. Arthur roared again, threw the Shesha in the air and kicked it towards the street. A huge thud shook the ground as the Shesha fell. For a moment, it did not move while Arthur stayed in the sky.
“Is it dead?” The man was concerned.
“Looks like it is.” Arthur was about to say more when the Shesha’s tail twitched. Some of its heads sniffed the dust while others rose above the ground, still dazed by the blow. It was reviving and Arthur did not want that. Arthur, plummeted down and stood beside the Shesha.
“Yield!” Arthur commanded.
The Shesha dwindled till it became no larger than a meter, its heads merged to be one. It then crawled up Arthur’s body and coiled around his neck.
“Magnificent!” The man came out of the hiding. “Ye have earned me respect. Is there anything that ye want to say?”
“You talk funny.” Arthur smiled and vanished in the mist.
When Sufiyan woke up, it was all dark. No man he could see. He did not remember what had happened. In fact, He did not remember anything at all and his body ached badly. Strange still, he did not know where he was.“How did I get here?” Sufiyan was questioning himself but unfortunately he had no answer.
He stood up and realised it was a big room full of junk. As he took a few steps he stumbled upon something, a rapier may be. He picked it up from the floor. It was a rapier all right but very different and big. He kept it with him in case he needed it outside.
He felt his way out of the room touching everything that came on his way. It was bright sunshine outside and he was struggling to keep his eyes open. It seemed like Sufiyan was under the sunlight after a real long time. He realised he was in a large storeroom which was in the middle of a really big and barren compound. He could not find anybody even outside. There was a broken mirror lying on the streets. Sufiyan saw himself and realised that he desperately needed to take bath because his clothes were all tattered and dirty (and he smelled really bad!). But Sufiyan had no clue whatsoever of where to find a place to clean him. He started looking here and there so as to get some idea of the place while trying to recall how he got here. But all his efforts seemed to go in vain as no matter how hard he tried, he was not able to recollect anything. Sufiyan started strolling down a narrow path with his hands in his pockets. There was something in Sufiyan’s left pocket. He took it out to see what it was. It was a very old and complicated device. He tried to figure out what that was and how it came into his pocket.
After studying it for some time he finally found out what that was. “A watch”, he said. 1:30, it showed. There was something written on the back of the watch. “Go South for the time has come.” As soon as he read it, the time in the watch started running.
“Time for what??” Sufiyan asked himself.
Sufiyan started examining the watch more carefully. There was a small compass inside which helped him with the directions. He was still looking into the watch when he heard a chopper flying nearby. Sufiyan decided to ask for help so he ran towards the sound.
“Help! Get me out of here. Hey!!! Here!!! Can’t you see me? I am right here! I can see you! So don’t you dare to pretend that you cannot see me. Please help me!!!!!” Sufiyan kept on screaming.
They did not hear him. He felt so angry that he broke the already broken mirror further more.
“What do I do now? I need to get out of here”, Sufiyan said starting to lose hope.
He wanted to go home to his family but he did not have any clue where he lived. Sufiyan decided there was no use in sitting idle so it was better to walk and find some help. He used the compass for directions and decided to walk southwards. After walking for a while down the path there was an exit door.
As Sufiyan walked towards the gate, he heard the chopper again. This time its noise was loud and clear. He looked behind and saw it landing in front of the storeroom.
“Perhaps they had heard me”, Sufiyan said happily as he started running towards the chopper.
Two heavily armed guys came down from the chopper. They had really big guns like Sufiyan had never seen before.
“Oh thank god you came! I thought you did not see me. I don’t know how I came here. I was lying unconscious inside the castle and it was all dark there and when I woke up I did not remember a thing. I don’t know who I am and where I have come from. Please help me.” Sufiyan kept on speaking but they spoke nothing.
They were just standing there with their big guns in their hands. A man dressed in black came down from the chopper and said something to the armed guys. Suddenly they pointed their guns at Sufiyan.
“Whoa hey!!!! I thought you had come to rescue me I did not do anything wrong!!! Ya I broke that mirror in frustration but that’s not a crime, is it?”
“So, we meet again Sufiyan. But this time you won’t get away. Now give me the traveller and save us both some trouble.” The man said as he came closer to Sufiyan.
Sufiyan noticed his eyes. They were scary as he had no pupils!!! Sufiyan got a strange feeling that he knew this guy.
“I… I don’t know what you are talking about”, Sufiyan said taking a few steps backwards.
The guy became furious. “I said give it to me or I shall feed you to the zreha and you will become a myth.” The weather suddenly changed and black clouds covered the whole of the shiny sky.
Sufiyan got so scared he could feel the beads of sweat on his forehead.
“I seriously don’t have your traveller or whatever you are talking about!!! Why would I have something that is yours?? I mean I don’t even know who you are.” Sufiyan said hesitantly.
“You don’t know me? I am in no mood of joking Sufiyan.” He became more furious and the weather became worse. Lightning struck the antennae on the top of the storeroom violently making it glow bright. It was not safe standing outside. But those people seemed to care least.
“He does not remember sir”, said one of the guys with gun as they relaxed and put their guns down.
“Oh… I see”, said the man as he seemed to relax a bit too.
The thunder and lightning stopped with that but the clouds were still there.
“So, what should we do with you? May be we can take you with us in the Ozar and wait until you remember everything. What say Sufiyan?” The man asked.
“I… I don’t think that would be necessary. You don’t mind, I will take care of myself.” Sufiyan said with a fake smile trying to hide his fear.
“Ah… that you can. I know that very well because you are doing that for quite some time now. Taking care of yourself and willing to protect your people. But that is not going to happen; you don’t stand a chance fool!” The man said as he held Sufiyan’s shoulders tight and stared straight into his eyes with anger.
“You are weak and helpless. You will die soon boy!! But not before you tell me about the traveller. Get him!!!” The man ordered the guards.
“Hey, I don’t understand anything that you are saying. Look, I am not interested in anything that you just said and I am not the guy you are looking for. I just want to find my family.”
“Oh… Sufiyan you are the most appropriate guy!!! Trust me. And yes, you don’t have a family you ignorant creature. You never had one.” The man said as the armed guys held Sufiyan’s hands and pulled him into the chopper while he resisted in vain.
“To Ozar.” The man ordered the pilot, “And quick! I am dying to get out of this place.”
The pilot nodded grimly and in a moment the chopper was air borne with a loud noise of the blades and dust flying everywhere. The chopper looked very old. It seemed to be made up of old steel welded together. It had no doors on the sides and the seats were made up of wood which were not comfortable at all. The armed guys took guard of both sides with their guns pointed outside.
Instead of the actual uniform, the pilot wore a black gown and black turban which covered most parts of his face as well and that made it difficult to see his face clearly. His hands were pale and he only had three fingers!!! And these fingers were long with big yellow nails like that of a lion. Green nerves were clearly visible on his bony hands.
“It is the cursed soul; the ghost. Very strong and powerful but foolish.” The man said as he observed Sufiyan staring at the pilot.
“Where are you taking me?” Sufiyan asked because now he was getting angry.
“You will know boy. And I can guarantee that you are not going to like it.” The man laughed.
Sufiyan decided to ignore the man and looked out of the chopper. The barren compound was replaced by green forests. At a distance, there was a large waterfall that made a noise so loud that the sound made by the chopper felt like nothing. It was all so beautiful that for a moment Sufiyan forgot he was held hostage by some strange people. When they were flying over the waterfall, Sufiyan looked at it again. Tiny droplets of water covered his face even though they were flying well above it. Such was the force of the waterfall. Sufiyan was mesmerised by the smell of water so he closed his eyes to enjoy the moment. Suddenly the chopper vibrated due to a strong jolt.
“Help me!!!! No…!” The armed guy who sat behind Sufiyan screamed as he fell into the waterfall.
“What was that????” Scared, Sufiyan asked the man.
“How could I forget!!!!!? Helsyia!” The man said outraged. “Stop it!!!” He ordered the other guard who started firing from his giant gun to stop the animal.
Sufiyan looked outside to see what it was that the guy was firing at. What Sufiyan saw was hard to believe. It was a strange animal with wings like crow that were on its upper back and body of a wolf, a very big wolf. It was completely black in colour with green eyes and it was very angry. It was also very swift because it dodged the bullets quite easily.
“You useless slave!!! You can’t even shoot that down!!!! Here, give me the gun! And take care of the boy.” The man said as he snatched the gun from the guard and started firing in every direction. The guard held Sufiyan tightly and sat behind the man.
“Not this time Helsyia!! Not… this… time!!!” The man said as few bullets hit the animal!
It screamed in pain and struck its head angrily against the chopper causing it to tilt ninety degrees and the chopper started moving towards the rocky side of the waterfall. The man lost balance (so did others on the chopper) and the gun fell into the waterfall. The guard still did not leave Sufiyan. They were holding the wooden seats to prevent themselves from falling. The creature got closer and looked straight into the eyes of the man.
“The boy will die! You will fail and sleep forever!” The man managed to laugh.
Hearing that, the angry animal struck the chopper again and this time the chopper inverted completely with its blades facing downwards. This sudden jolt caused Sufiyan and the guard to fall out of the chopper but Sufiyan managed to hold the entrance of the chopper somehow. The guard hanged outside the chopper holding Sufiyan’s boots while the man and the pilot held each other’s hands and vanished surprisingly as the chopper was falling straight down into the waterfall like a comet.
“It is not over!” These were the last words that the man said.
Sufiyan did not have much strength to hold longer because of the added weight of the guy. Just below the guy, the blades moved violently and Sufiyan was sure he was going to die. He was going to either get chopped or drown. Being chopped seemed more painful so Sufiyan put all his strength in holding the steel junk. Suddenly he felt his boots getting loose and realised they were coming off because of the guy’s weight. The guy tried to hold Sufiyan’s leg but it was too late. He slipped and went straight in between the blades which sliced him to pieces. He died so quickly that he couldn’t even scream. Sufiyan felt bad for him but was bit more relaxed now and prepared to drown so he closed his eyes and prayed. Just as the chopper was about to hit the water surface, something grabbed Sufiyan and pulled him away from the chopper as it collapsed in the water with a big thud. The blades caused water to splash out which drenched Sufiyan completely. When he removed water from his eyes, Sufiyan saw the animal holding his pants in between its teeth as Sufiyan was facing down.
“Let go!!!!” Sufiyan shouted. The animal then threw him into air like he was a shuttle cock!!!
“I did not mean literally!!!!” Sufiyan shouted as he was freefalling.
It then caught Sufiyan on its back and started flying towards the top of the waterfall. It was flying straight up vertically like a rocket and very close to the waterfall so Sufiyan was holding onto him like the lizard to prevent him from falling.
Sufiyan wondered what this animal was going to do to him once it got to the top. But somehow, he didn’t know why, he found it safer than those men back there. So, Sufiyan decided to stick with it. Sufiyan touched the water which was very cold but relaxing. This animal had saved his life and Sufiyan did not know why. He just hoped he was not the dinner for its family. The neck of the animal was bleeding.
“Must have been the bullet.” Sufiyan thought as he tore a little piece of cloth from his shirt and tried to wipe the wound.
The animal screamed so loud in pain that Sufiyan almost fell from its back. Somehow he managed to stay there but decided not to trouble the animal again.
When they reached to the top of the waterfall, the animal ran into the woods with Sufiyan. It ran as fast as it flew.
The forest was dark but beautiful. Monkeys chattered loudly jumping from tree to tree like they were warning others of Sufiyan’s and the animal’s presence. While moving deeper into the forest, Sufiyan saw an owl staring at them with its big brown eyes, a python swallowing egg from some bird’s nest and a porcupine peeping out of its hole. The forest was getting denser as they moved in. The trees got taller and the path was getting narrower. After sometime, Sufiyan saw a huge rock right in front of their way. It was a dead end or so Sufiyan thought. The animal jumped on the trunk of a large tree and gripped it tightly. Then it jumped on another and did the same thing each time climbing a little higher. Sufiyan, on the other hand, was trying his best not to fall. After few more jumps they were on the top of the rock. Right in front, was a small cave but it was big enough for Sufiyan to walk into it easily, not big enough for the animal. He was relieved thinking it was not the den of the animal and he was probably going to live. Sufiyan climbed down from its back and looked at the forest. It was very big and Sufiyan could not see where it ended. At the horizon, the sun was setting into the trees and the weather was starting to get cold. Sufiyan heard something and looked backwards. It was the animal falling unconscious on the ground. It had bled a lot. Sufiyan sat next to the animal looking at its wound. Sufiyan heard someone from behind.
“Don’t worry she will heal on her own. Helsyia needs to rest.” A man said. He wore white button less shirt and grey pants that were worn out. He was tall and fit. He had straight hair pulled back in pony and face was covered with beard.
“Who are you??” Surprised, Sufiyan enquired dragging himself backwards a little.
As soon as he asked that he saw a girl run straight towards him.
“Oh… Sufi!! You are all right! Thank god. I thought I am never going to see you again. I was so worried.” She said hugging him as Sufiyan felt her tears on his shoulder. This girl wore a black jacket over a white top and denim. Her hair was a mess.
“And who are you?” Sufiyan asked as he was totally confused.
“It must have been the ivy. He does not remember anything.” The man said thinking.
“What are you talking about? Please help me!!!! I feel helpless. All I know is that I am Sufiyan and people want to kill me.” Sufiyan asked in frustration.
“Come with us.” The girl said as she stood up and pulled Sufiyan as well.
“And why should I do that? Last time I did that, I was almost dead.” Sufiyan said trying to sound braver than he felt from inside as he sat beside the animal again.
“We are with you Sufi. To help you.” The girl said trying hard not to cry more.
“What did the man say to you when he first found you?” The man asked Sufiyan as he sat beside him.
“He wanted me to give him the “traveller” about which I do not know anything and he called me Sufiyan. So now I know that my name is Sufiyan and apart from that, I know nothing.” Sufiyan said plucking the grass from the ground.
“So he did not take anything from you right?”
“No… I mean I did not have anything for him to take.” Sufiyan answered.
“Are you sure my boy? Did you not have anything?” The man asked in worry.
“Ya I am quite sure… Wait… Except for this watch that I found in my pocket and this rapier that I found in the storeroom where I woke up. I never got chance of using this with those men today. I thought it was best for me to not take it out.” Sufiyan said trying to clean the rust from the handle of the rapier.
“I am surprised it is still with me after all that flying and falling. And this watch, I am sure they were certainly not looking for it because all it does is show time and directions. Why would someone want this thing?” Sufiyan did not tell about the inscriptions on the back of the watch.
The man smiled and took the watch from Sufiyan.
“It shows time and direction. That is very true. But Sufiyan this is what they wanted from you. I am glad you did not give it to them or we would never succeed in our mission. Even though you did not remember anything, you protected the watch. I am proud of you. Indeed a true Norman. And that rapier belongs to me so if you could hand it back to me.”
“I… I do not understand. A true Norman?” Sufiyan asked the man giving him the rapier.
“Give yourself sometime. You will remember everything. Now would you like to come with us into the cave? It is getting dark now and believe me it is not safe out here.” The man said as he stood up and started walking towards the cave. Sufiyan and the girl followed him.
“So why did they want this watch so badly?”
“Manimos Nimoda commonly known as the traveller is a device magically designed which contains the key to the coffin of something that must not rise again.” The girl said as Sufiyan stared at her in shock and all three of them entered the cave.
With a clap from man, the torches on both sides of the cave started burning which caused thousands of bats to fly out of the cave.
“Watch your heads. And do not let them near you. They are vampires.” The man screamed between the noises of the bats as the other two ducked.
The cave was very deep with a spring of water flowing from one of the sides and bat guano on the other leaving a small passage in between to walk.
“Careful, do not step on guano, they have deadly bacteria”, the man said as he looked at Sufiyan’s naked feet.
“Lost them on the chopper” Sufiyan said to give justification and the man nodded.
It was humid inside and the even whispers echoed. The roof had the ancient paintings of some tribe. One depicted them killing a giant mammoth; the other showed a strange ritual in which few people had gathered around a large shrine throwing something at it which looked like human heads. There was one another carving that grabbed Sufiyan’s attention. It showed a monster tearing apart a man’s body and eating its heart.
Sufiyan felt a sharp pain in his head as he saw two hungry red eyes chasing him and he heard a girl, who looked like the girl he was with right now, scream;
“Run Sufi!!! We will meet you there!! They should not find this!!! We will distract them. You hide this somewhere. Go!!!!”
Sufiyan was about to collapse on the guano when the girl grabbed him.
“The effect of black ivy is fading. His memory has started to come back.” The man said as he lifted unconscious Sufiyan in his arms and started walking.
“What happened last night?” Sufiyan had a terrible headache.
“Here, have this. You will feel better.” The man passed Sufiyan a grey coloured berry when he woke up on a bed made up of stone and covered with palm leaves for blanket the next morning.
“It tastes like dry soil.” Sufiyan said with a disgusted look on his face.
“Rolnost.” The man laughed. “It helps in regulating the blood circulation in the brain and hence, helps during headaches. But one should be very careful. Overdose can be fatal. C’mon! Let’s go outside. We have to move forward in an hour’s time.” The man picked up his leather side bag and hooked his rapier on the side of his pants.
Sufiyan followed the man out of the cave. The sun was bright again and the fresh wind coming from the green forest caressed Sufiyan’s neck and he felt refreshed and relaxed. He took a deep breath.
Under a big tree sat the animal that had saved Sufiyan’s life. The wound on her neck had disappeared. When the animal saw Sufiyan, she stood up and came running to him. She touched Sufiyan with her claws and gave him a gentle push from her nose.
“She was checking if you are alright.” The man said and left Sufiyan with the animal.
“Thanks for saving me Helsyia.” Sufiyan patted on her neck.
From a distance in the sky, the girl came riding on an animal that looked exactly like Helsyia but it was pure white and had feathers of like a dove only much larger. Following them was another strange animal which looked like a heavier version of Helsyia. Its fur was light brown and the wings of eagle. They landed on the cliff and the ground trembled violently.
“Those are with us too. Do not worry.” The man said as Sufiyan took a few steps back in surprise.
“Are you fine now?” The girl climbed down and walked to Sufiyan.
“Yes… I guess. What are these?”
“Nauras. They serve us.” Girl said and all three of them sat on the edge with their legs hanging from the cliff.
“It is so beautiful. The sun, the forest, the wind… I wonder how the world will look like without them. Barren lands and deserts. God has his own way of looking after his children. Everything is perfectly balanced. Even a slight deviation can be devastating.” The man started the conversation.
“That man back there… was strange. He looked familiar to me. I guess he was not my friend when I remembered him.” Sufiyan said. “His eyes were the weirdest that I had ever seen. Completely white. When he looked into my eyes, I felt something. Something evil… like I was going to die… painfully. I felt helpless and weak. He said I never had a family… that I was all alone.” Sufiyan dropped a stone from the cliff.
“That is not true!!! You are my bother Sufi!! I am Sanaa! And… And this is Fernion… The royal guard. We have this mission. To find the book. Try to remember Sufi!!!” Sanaa wiped her tears and hugged Sufiyan who hugged her back feeling awkward.
“Sanaa…” Sufiyan said and something flashed in front of his eyes again.
The room was on fire and Sufiyan was screaming, “Sanaa!!!! Are you all right? Call ruby! We have to get out of here now!!! The roof is collapsing. Why did we even come here??? There was nothing for us! It was just a trap!”
One of the logs from the roof fell and the fire became more violent.
“Sufiyan!!!!” Sanaa screamed.
“I am coming!!!” Sufiyan grabbed a blanket and jumped into the fire.
“Get inside!” He pulled Sanaa inside blanket.
They tried real hard to get out of the room but the fire was so intense that they could not do that. Suddenly three large blocks of wood fell on the floor blocking their way from every side. The fire started approaching them slowly as they stood right in the middle restlessly.
A part of the roof collapsed again and in came Ruby… both of them climbed onto her quickly as she flew out of the room which burst into flames and collapsed completely.
Sufiyan felt dizzy and gripped his head tightly again.
He touched Sanaa as tear drops rolled down his eyes and he hugged her tightly.
“Ruby…” Sufiyan stared at her as she licked her claws.
“Well… it is time now… we must hurry! We still have to go a long way.” Fernion climbed onto the naura with brown fur.
“By the way… where are we going?” Sufiyan asked as he stood up and helped Sanaa with the same.
“The Himalayas” The man smiled.
Cometh the darkness and feeds on fear;When the darkness falls you don’t come here;
For once you witness the deadly beast;
It steals your soul and has the feast;
Brave warriors came and died;
No light to be their guide;
Until a little lad was born;
To rule the land of the dead and gone;
Bestowed with power beyond control;
Follow the heart and you’ll know more….
“I am not afraid of the dark.” Your father said to me on the day he died. The king had ordered him to search for a prisoner who had disappeared into the prodigious woods of Zad. Haunted by the ghosts of the dead and many abhorrent creatures, it was one of the most dangerous places on Zad, the fifth of the seven planets that revolved round Sufiyan, a tiny star in the Sara’s Galaxy many a mile away from the earth. No Zadine ever dared to tread its lands for once they went into its depth, there was no coming back. But all those stories of flesh eating filthy creatures and the shadow dwellers did not stop Rehan from obeying the king’s order. He was confident that he would definitely find the convict and bring him back. I, on the other hand, was sceptical. And I feared. I feared that he would not return. But, nevertheless, I chose to accompany him on his quest for I trusted him.“I am not afraid of the dark. Its serenity intrigues me. A low pitched hiss here or a soft chirp there is intensified and heard loud and clear. Who needs vision to explore the dark when one can feel it? It helps in development of one’s other senses too.” He smiled as we tried to find our way through the thicket.
“It scares me. Who knows what this dreadful place is hiding? What if something from behind the bushes attacks us?” I said as the fear struck me.
Ozar, as the forest was called, was so dense that darkness prevailed over it even when Sufiyan shone with all its strength. The mysterious Ramak trees blocked all the light that fell. Every now and then, the trees would change their positions and so it was almost impossible to remember the directions. Nobody could figure the way out. Of the ones who went into it, some died of appetence and the others became feast of the Ozar. But it was rumoured that there was once a man by the name of Myron who had returned without a wound on his body. Stories of his chivalry spread across the whole of Zad like the fire. Some claimed that he could speak with the Ramaks and they showed him the way while others said that he could fly and fight the deadly creatures without help. They said that he killed every devil that came in his way and then flew above the trees to escape. Of course, these stories had neither head nor tail but then again, it was only natural for Zadines to talk about the incidence that was always considered impossible. One such story was that Myron had happened to find a strange rapier from the magical forest situated at the far end of Ozar. Blessed by the touch of the lords and carved on the sacred lands of D’tae by the highest of our kinds, the weapon contained in itself the rage of Sufiyan, the power that all the creatures of the dark feared. And it was this rapier that aided Myron in his return back to the kingdom.
“No Norman can succumb to fear my brother. We are trained to embrace it. We do not run away from death if it falls upon us. We face it and protect our dignity till the very end. Do not let the fear overshadow the strength you possess. You are a great warrior like every other Norman and acting like a new-born does not suit you.”
“Why does the king want him back after all? Why does he just not let him die in here? There is no way he is going to survive this no better than a dungeon sort of place! And that my friend is a punishment harsh enough according to me.”
“My dear Fernion! Do you even know why we are here?” Rehan sounded frustrated.
“Yes, of course I do.” “Would you like to elaborate?”
“To find Amaan, the king’s prisoner, and take him back.”
“And do you know why Amaan was incarcerated?”
“Because he had stolen something from the king.”
“Something? He stole the Manimos!”
“I… I do not understand. Manimos?”
“Long ago, when King Surivan, the father of Arsuvian, ruled over Zad, the kingdom was a different place. There were no wars, no ghosts, no enemies and Ozar was as beautiful as the lord’s own orchard. Every Zadine lived in tranquillity and the kingdom prospered. The harvest of the farmers was the best; the mines had precious stones in abundance, the animals roamed freely and the Zadlings could wander into Ozar even in the nights. Zadines played for fun, danced to merry songs and loved their king. All was going well when the three priests from the north visited the court of Surivan. They came to warn Surivan of a premonition that they had about the destruction of zad and about the existence of a loathsome creature that was never seen before.”
“The king would die.” The priests said.
“Surivan was a brave king and he did not fear the premonition. He believed that he could fight anything no matter how mighty it was. But for the safety of his kingdom and his people, he ordered his men to guard its boundaries. Days passed but nothing happened. The king slowly became negligent of what the priests had said and gradually withdrew his men from the borders. This was a big mistake. The beginning of the second fortnight of the month of December brought a curse with itself. Under the full moon, came into existence a spirit so fearsome that the whole of Ozar froze to its demise. The priests were right. The unknown had risen and it threatened to turn zad into a dark place; a place haunted with evil, with the kinds raised by the spirit. Soon, the spirit along with its army stormed past the gates of the kingdom and destroyed everything that came in their way. The spirit, with its bloody red eyes, tore the souls apart from the bodies of the Zadines and with its pale white skin, it took their warmth away making them the soul-less, life-less animals; the ghosts. Indeed, the spirit was something that could not be explained by even the wisest of the zadines. And yet, it existed, a spirit that knew no bounds.”
“Bow to me.” The spirit hissed as it looked into the depths of Surivan’s eyes. Surivan resisted but his knees did not seem to follow him. They became weak as he tried in vain to keep himself off the skinny legs of the spirit.
“What are you? You gruesome creature!”
“I am your master. The one who owns your soul. This is my world now and you are my slave. I… I am your fear.” The spirit roared as a violent thunderstorm covered the kingdom.
The days that followed brought nothing but sorrow in the kingdom. Women and the old were killed while the men and children were enslaved. Ozar was no longer beautiful. It was now owned by the spirit who turned it into a place where one dare not tread. The once colourful and exotic Ozar became as dark as a night without the stars and as quiet as the calm ocean. The occasional cries of the ghosts were the only sound breaking the silence of the forest. No zadling wandered there anymore.
The priests had asked Surivan to let them take his son, Arsuvian, with them because the heir to Zad’s throne had to be protected. The king did not want to part with his son but he revered the priests too much to decline. Reluctantly, he let Arsuvian go with the priests and sent five of his most trusted Zadines with them. The zadines that accompanied Arsuvian and the priests were Peatogo, the warrior; Zarkan, the enchanter; Kimara, the healer; Grima, the blacksmith; and Myron, the minister.”
“Myron, the great minister of the king.” I said recalling the tales of his bravery. “Tell me Rehan. What was Myron?”
“Myron, son of Rubala, the miner; was a great friend of the king and had been with him since they were children. They grew up together, training in the same court, playing and travelling and everything. Therefore, when Surivan was being crowned, it was palpable that Myron would be the minister for a minister was an alter ego of the king and Myron was that and more. Myron deserved it too because he was no less than any of the zadine who had ever got the chance to take the responsibility of being a minister. The best trait of Myron was that he was loyal to the king and the king trusted him with his life and his family’s. Hence, when the priests asked for Arsuvian, the king turned to Myron for ensuring the well-being of his only child.
“Take the best men of my court along with you for you will need them. Never let the prince go out of your sight, brother.” Surivan had requested while trying to control his tears.
Myron ensured Surivan that his promise would be kept and requested the king to look after of his wife while he was gone.
For months they travelled in the north, looking for the master priest who was thought to have a solution of the curse that surrounded zad. Many a forest, mountain peak, loch and great-river did they cross in their quest for the master. Days and nights were spent travelling through the vulnerable paths of the baleful sand-land of the northern plains followed by the stormy nights spent sailing through the never ending ocean finally to reach the notorious Azas, the range of hundreds of violent volcanoes erupting every now and then with a thunderous roar and painting the sky red in the process. It was believed that the master meditated there.
It took them days to find the cave where the priest had been meditating for decades.
“The kingdom is drowning in its own blood. Few have managed to escape but their efforts are futile for ozar is not a place to seek refuge. The rest are killed or enslaved. The kingdom has been consumed. The king has fallen.” The master priest said when he was found. “The spirit cannot be killed by any weapon forged, nor can it be destroyed by a zadine. You must find the book; you must locate The Script of Zad to find a way before it is too late. The Manimos will prove fruitful. Take it.”
The priest gave them the Manimos, the object that had it all. It showed the secret way to D’tae; to the temples, to lords and the superiors. The book was believed to be kept in one of the temples of the sacred land and contained all the secrets of the lords of the planet and the ways to control the Sufiyan, its rage and the prophecies. The book had the answer to all the questions. If they could find the book then they could find a way to defeat the enemy. So, the book was their only hope and for that, Manimos was the most important object.
After that, they set for Tukqyana, a small province with no ruler at a distance of two nights from the kingdom of Surivan. Upon arriving in the province, Arsuvian was crowned as its king and was declared the protector of the Manimos by the priests. The young king immediately ordered Myron to create an army so powerful as to face the spirit and its army and rescue the slaves. Myron then hand-picked one hundred young, agile and strong zadines of the Tukqyana province and trained them for years under rain and storm and snow and sun, slowly but surely carving them into brave warriors, the ones who knew no fear.
Armed with the weapons forged by Grima and enchanted by Zarkan, they were truly the strongest army Zad had ever seen. One stormy night the army invaded the kingdom spilling blood of every enemy that came in their way. Gradually they moved towards the castle in search of the slaves. Upon entering the castle, a cold wind struck each of the one hundred warriors and Peatogo, Zarkan, Grima and Kimara; and everything felt gloomy. The brave warriors felt cowardly, they regretted being inside the castle, cried for Myron for help who was nowhere to be seen. One of the beasts of the spirit, before dying, told Myron that his beautiful wife had managed to escape into the ozar before they could sacrifice her for the purpose known only to the spirit. The endearment of his wife made him enter the dangerous ozar. He went looking for his wife in every corner of ozar hiding from the ghosts and the animals. Finally, he did find the group that had escaped but his wife was not one of them.
“The ghosts! The ghosts took her to the magical part. We saw it but we could do nothing. How could we do anything? They are just so merciless. And we so weak!” One of the refugees told Myron.
Enraged Myron stormed towards the magical forest looking for his wife. There, he saw his wife sitting on a rock, wearing the gown Myron had presented her before leaving. She smiled upon seeing Myron and called him opening her arms wide open. Happily, Myron ran for her and embraced her and then she felt cold, stripped of the warmth that she once possessed. The charm that she always had was gone. Myron looked into her eyes. The once adorable big eyes were now gone and she smelled not wonderful, but pungent. It was the time when Myron knew that he had finally found his wife, the ghost. He pushed her away and wept for possibly the first and last time. He cried as he bludgeoned her with the stone. He cried for his love was lost and with it, the hope: the hope of living freely with his wife and having a family.
After burying his wife under a big tree, he sat beside the grave, dejected he started hitting the ground underneath when he struck something. It was hard. He dug it out to discover that it was a rapier. The rapier had engravings that proved that it was carved in D’tae. Suddenly Myron remembered that his men were still fighting and he took the rapier and ran for the kingdom but ozar played games. Thrice, he returned to the same tree and twice, he felt someone following him. The trees aligned themselves differently every time he went past them. He was clueless about the way out when the ghosts attacked him. Myron recognised them. They were the ghosts of the refugees whom he had found while he was looking for his wife. Without knowing the power of the rapier, he took it out for defence. Mere view of the rapier scared the ghosts so much that all of them screamed and ran and disappeared in the trees. Astonished Myron stared at the rapier when the path started glowing as if to show Myron the way out. He ran on the glowing path, holding the rapier firmly, and got out of the ozar to reach back to the kingdom. He had not even suffered a scratch on his body. He went to the castle to find his army which was on the mercy of the spirit.
May be it was the rapier or Myron did not know the fear because unlike others, he stood firm in front of the spirit and not a hint of timidity was reflected on his face. He was furious as he jumped at the spirit. What he did not know was that his attack was futile as the spirit was the umber. The spirit dwelled in shadows, it was the shadow. Before Myron could gather himself again, the spirit held him in the air by his heart and crunched it. Myron roared in pain and tried in vain to kick the spirit. Soon, he had tried everything but nothing seemed to do any harm on the spirit and then, Myron remembered the rapier and what had happened in the ozar. Quickly he took it out and as expected, the spirit immediately threw Myron away.
“Where did you find it? The blade!” The angry spirit enquired.
“Somewhere!” Myron replied as he jumped at the spirit again.
Myron had finally slayed the spirit which diffused in the cold air of the castle. The spirit had gone and took all the gloom with itself. The warriors stood tall again. They praised Myron and reclaimed the kingdom. The message about the victory was sent to the Tukqyana province. A week later, the king arrived with the priest and took what was rightfully his, the throne of the kingdom.
The slaves were freed and the kingdom was rebuilt. Tukqyana province was also added to the kingdom. The zadines were not living in fear after a long time. They danced, sang and played again. The king announced a feast for the entire kingdom and everyone started preparing for it with full zest. The fishermen were asked to deliver the best fish to the royal kitchen. Spices from the best provinces were bought. The houses were decorated with all sorts of colourful and scented flowers and candles with flames of green, blue, yellow, red and all the other colours of rainbow. Fruits and vegetables and meat; everything was to be there for the great supper. The whole kingdom smelled of either delicious food or the wonderful flowers and it glowed like it had never glowed before. The merry time had come again.
As soon as the clock tower struck twenty-one, the king descended on the ground from the flying naura followed by the three priests and the army that defeated the spirit. The whole of the kingdom welcomed them with applauds and screams of praises. Myron, however, was greeted even well by the zadines. The miners gifted him the finest stone that they had found and showed pride in him because he was the son of a miner, the forgers gifted him a sword that looked exactly like the rapier he had, women offered him a handmade shawl which had the images of him slaying the spirit and the zadlings offered him flowers that they had plucked from houses which were closer to the big lake where the supper was planned to take place.
“My fellow zadines! Tonight is a memorable night for we are celebrating the departure of evil from our land! Tonight we shall not fear. It is a wonderful night full of surprizes, enthusiasm and excitement. Let us cherish the moment for this is the time that we have longed for since the enemy took over. Let us enjoy the stars as they shine upon us, the colourful flowers that blossom for us and the cold breeze that caresses us for tonight is the night we will cherish.” The young Arsuvian continued, “I would like to express my humblest gratitude towards our dearest Myron and his army as it is because of them that we were able to reclaim our lands and free our people. For months they fought the spirit and finally they succeeded. They were but victor, they are but brave and they will be but the guardians. I announce that our brave warriors will henceforth be known as the Normans and none but the sons of the Normans will take their places in the future. We shall honour them, and admire them. And now, let us thank our lords and enjoy the feast!”
While every other zadine was enjoying the magnificent meal, Myron sat lost in his thoughts in front of the lake. He was thinking about what the master priest had said. He had said that the spirit cannot be killed and this worried Myron. He knew that the spirit would return and he also knew that the kingdom would not be prepared for it this time.
That night, Myron paid a visit to king Arsuvian during his night stroll in the garden and expressed his concerns about the returning of the spirit.
“We should start looking for the book.” Myron suggested the king.
“Now is not the time to worry, Myron. The spirit has gone. You destroyed it. Are you questioning yourself?”
“But… the master priest…”
“Oh… can’t he be wrong? You saw the spirit die! May be the priest was wrong or maybe he did not know anything about the existence of the rapier you possess.” Young Arsuvian interrupted Myron.
“Maybe. But what if the priest was right? What if the danger still lurks upon your kingdom? Are you willing to endanger the life of your people again? Something has to be done to be sure that the kingdom is protected and for that, we must find the book.” Myron emphasised.
“Well, we fought it once, we can do it again. We have the brave Normans and we have you. No spirit can dare tread upon our kingdom again.”
Myron realised that the king would not give in and therefore he did not reason with him anymore. “Just do not commit the same mistake as your father’s.” Myron bowed and went away.
Myron could not sleep in the night. He stood at the lake side contemplating the stars. It seemed as if he was trying to locate his dear wife in the sky. Suddenly, he felt a familiar breeze pass through him; it was the air of the spirit. Myron took out his rapier quickly as his heart ached the way it did when it was grasped by the spirit. The breeze struck him again and he fell on the ground. Myron started slashing the air in all directions and he cried for help but none came. The breeze returned for the third time, it grabbed him by his legs and dragged him into the ozar. The place became quiet again as if nothing had happened. No one saw Myron after that. The hero, who gave the people of the kingdom their freedom, was lost. The people moaned him for some time and then gradually forgot him.
For years the kingdom thrived under the reign of the king. The people lived in tranquillity and the dark past of the kingdom was long forgotten when the dreadful news came from Tukqyana. Children had started disappearing from the province. Mothers put their children in their beds and the next morning they were gone. Each and every home was searched. Even the priests’ and the king’s place were investigated but they found nothing. Not even a hair. Arsuvian did not know what he could do.
He was helpless when the priests suggested him to go look for Myron for they feared that the spirit was reviving. Arsuvian remembered what Myron had said before disappearing and now he regretted not listening to him. He decided to go look for Myron and find the book immediately. When he left, he was accompanied by Amaan; the then minister of the kingdom. Amaan was an ambitious zadine. He wanted to be known around zad. He wanted to be rich and he wanted it at any cost and because of his ambitions, unlike Myron, Amaan was not a loyal minister. During their adventure, greed of Amaan took hold of him. Rumours that were heard said that the enemy had known the calibre of the Manimos and were willing to pay a fortune to any zadine who brought the Manimos to them. Amaan saw this as an opportunity to get what he wanted. And therefore, one night, when Arsuvian was asleep, Amaan stole the Manimos which the king used to keep tied around his neck all the time. He took the Manimos and headed towards the enemy lands; the land where the army of the spirit exiled. Lost in greed as Amaan walked away from the king, he encountered someone he least wanted to see; Myron. Mighty Myron was always there as if he was fulfilling the wish of his friend Surivan of looking after his son. The reason why he did not show himself before that day remains a mystery. It was then that Amaan was imprisoned and the Manimos was returned to its protector safely. Hence, Myron became the hero of the kingdom again.
Learning from his mistake, Arsuvian called Myron and said, “Let us find the book Myron.”
Arsuvian took out the Manimos and pressed a button on the side of it. Myron and the king struggled to keep their eyes open as the Manimos glowed like Sufiyan. After a while, Arsuvian saw something written on the back of the Manimos.
“When the two worlds agree, what you seek reveals itself.”
The addled king went to the priests for deciphering the riddle when the priests told him a story.
In the earliest of the days of the universe, there was a lord and the lord had two sons; Vyom and Adam. Together they lived in the holy lands of D’tae. The lord was the creator; he created the universe that we see today. His sons created the temples and the wise men to guard the temples on D’tae. These wise men later formed the part of the court of the lord and became the highest of our kind.
When the sons of the lord grew up, the lord created two planets for each of his sons and then asked them to go there and create lives. The lives that would worship the lord. The elder son, Vyom, was sent on Zad and Adam was sent on Earth. Bestowed with the power vested in them by the lord, they did what was asked of them.
Vyom started with trees. Trees and flowers of all kinds and beautiful too. He then went on to create lochs and streams having the power to heal when in pain, rejoice when in sorrow and love when hatred prevailed. Finally he went on to create the finest species the universe had ever seen, the zadines. He created them to perfection. They were elegant, soft, blessed with skills of the wise men, beauty of the stars and heart of the warriors. And to complement them he created Nauras, the fierce beasts that could fly, run on water as gracefully as on lands and loyal to their masters. A zadine with his naura was unbeatable and unforgiving.
When Adam reached earth, he wandered and after wandering on the barren lands of the earth for thousands of years, he transformed himself into a sound. A sound that created gods on the earth and the gods created life. They created men. The sound became the sound of the universe. It was surreal. It was not ephemeral but perpetual, not fugacious but eternal and it was called Ohm. Hence, from the sound, came into being the wonderful life on the earth. All of it.
Vyom too, after living for thousands of years on zad, decided to leave the planet on the mercy of the zadines and so, he diffused himself into the winds of zad and vanished forever.
“To see the door, amalgamate the Ohmkara with the winds of zad for only when the brothers are together can it be revealed. Neither of them can do it alone.” The priests said.
So now Arsuvian knew what had to be done but he still did not know how to do it and again the priests came for help. Gathering all their strength they created a space-time corridor; a portal that opened on the earth. Trusted Myron was asked to go to the earth to look for the way to bring the sound to zad while the king stayed to protect the kingdom.
Meanwhile, the disappearance of zadines did not stop in the kingdom and now not only the little ones but the elders had started disappearing too. One by one every zadine of Tukqyana was vanishing and hence, the king ordered to vacate the province and bring the survivors in the capital. For many days no one disappeared from the kingdom but just when everything seemed to get normal, the prisoner of the king, Amaan, disappeared.
“And that is when we were asked to find him and bring him back.” Rehan said looking tired due to all the narration.
“Why did I not know all that?” I wondered.
“Because you were too busy admiring the queen’s maids when Peatogo was teaching the past of the planet.” Rehan teased me.
“What? I was certainly not doing that. I think you mistook my meditation for stare.” I blushed as I tried to cover my embarrassment.
For few moments we walked in utter silence when finally Rehan decided to halt to rest. We found ourselves a small cave over by a large rock and lit the fire in the front. We roasted our Kaboosh and had our supper.
“You may think that I do not fear anything and that I am so brave to choose to come to this place when no one else volunteered.” I nodded as Rehan continued, “But I too am scared. Not of death but of not seeing my family again; my beautiful wife and my little son. I am scared because I am not there to protect them at a time as dreadful as this. I just wish I get to play with my son and hug my wife again. I wish they are out of harm’s way.”
“The king himself promised you that he will look after your family while we are here. There is nothing to worry about, brother. Your family will be safe. Do not let this muddle your thoughts. Stay focused on what we have to do.” I tried to explain to Rehan.
“I am thankful that you came. I needed a friend whom I could trust with my life.”
“Oh do not say that, brother. What would have I done in the kingdom without you? There is no fun in riding nauras with anyone else but you.” We smiled as Rehan (as he always did) started writing his journal.
“What do you write anyway?”
“Nothing. Just about the days of the life as I lived, things that should have been done, the things that shouldn’t. Sometimes I write poems. I like poems. They are soothing if crafted with shear passion and if they come straight from the heart. I like to write about Sofia when I miss her. I like her eyes; big and blue. And her smile…”
“Seems to me like I should leave you with your journal, brother, for you have so much to write today.” I humoured.
“Hush!!! Did you hear that?” Rehan had heard something.
“Take your bag. We have to go now.” Rehan quickly poured water over the fire and stormed out of the cave.
“What is happening Rehan? What did you hear?”
“Ghosts. They must have seen the light from the fire. Oh such a foolish thing to do!!! Now they are all around us. We have to find a way to escape them.”
We hid in the thicket and tried to crawl as the ghosts came closer and their screechy voices became louder. The land ahead was damp and muddy and it made the crawling a horrendous task. We struggled for every inch in the mud which had covered our entire face making it extremely difficult to even see and breathe. I remember taking big noisy breathes from my mouth every other second and swallowing mud in the process. There were moments where I would have preferred coming face to face with the ghosts and fight them but I decided to go against what my mind was thinking of doing and I followed Rehan.
“Do not move. See.” Rehan said as softly as he could while pointing towards the ghosts. It was the first time that I saw the ghosts properly.
They were tall and skinny with the pale putrid bodies. They talked in a high pitched voice that hurt the ears. Sans eyes and heart, they tried to smell and hear everything that existed around them. Their nails had grown into spirals that seemed to weigh them down which was evident from their drooping shoulders. They looked dull but I did not have any doubt about how agile they were. Their smell was repugnant. Even though my face was covered in mud and perhaps my lungs were stuffed with it but still I could smell them.
The horrible smell made it hard for me to concentrate on the situation. I moved my hands to cover my nose and this movement captured their attention towards us. One of the ghosts came right in front of my face and tried to smell me. Its face was covered in boils. I covered my mouth and my nose as firmly as I could while I stared at it with my eyes wide open. It was because of all the mud that had covered our bodies that the ghost failed to find out about us. After looking for us for a little while, they went away and we resumed the crawling.
“One stinky creature they are!!!” Rehan said with a sigh of relief, “Let’s get out of this place.”
“There is no getting out you fools!” Standing right in front of us was Amaan and behind him was an army of ghosts ready to eat us alive. “Did you really think you could take me back?”
Amaan looked nothing as we knew him before. His eyes glowed in the dark, he had more muscles on his bones and he carried with himself a large shiny sword. The ghosts obeyed him.
“What was there to think about?” Rehan did not look scared.
“Do you see me? Look at me. Look at what I have become. I have the power, the strength and these disgusting animals are my slaves. One day while I was sleeping in the prison I was summoned by the spirit himself.” Amaan noticed the surprise on our faces, “Yes, the spirit still dwells. I was assigned a task. The master wanted me to do something for him. And in return, he gave me this. Look. It is everything that I have ever wanted.”
“What task?” I managed to ask.
“How do you explain the disappearance of the zadlings? It was no one but me who made them disappear.”
“But… you were in the prison.” Rehan was confused.
“Yes and hence, I needed someone else to do it for me and so I chose the guardians of the zadlings. You see, I was born in the family of witches so I know how to manipulate zadines. All it took was a small spell and the guardians took their children and left them by the first tree of the ozar. One by one, every zadling from the province was gone.”
“But why did you choose the little ones?” Rehan was enraged.
“Oh do not blame me. The master!!! He wanted them. He wanted their blood. Oh the fresh warm blood. What a medicine for revival!” Amaan’s tongue stuck out as if he tried to taste it.
“You traitor!!!” Rehan jumped at Amaan in anger. I could feel that his eyes were wet.
Just as Rehan was about to attack Amaan, he stuck the sword that he had into the stomach of Rehan.
“No!!!” I screamed.
“Why did you have to do that?” Amaan said as he took out the knife and Rehan fell on his knees.
The ghosts got excited as they smelt the blood but they did not move.
“You can have him. But I want the other one alive.” Amaan said cleaning his sword, “It is time. Tonight we besiege the kingdom.”
That night your father was killed and I was captured by the ghosts. They had a map which helped them find the kingdom. They brought me to the kingdom and tied me to a tree. The war had begun again. The enemy was much stronger this time but so were the Normans. They fought for their land, they fought for their family and they fought for their king. I witnessed the bravery of the Normans for seven long days. I had had no food and my lips had gone dry, my eyes had gotten heavy, my legs shivered and my face was hanging. Just when I was closing my eyes for the last time, I saw a Norman slay the ghost guarding me and the next thing that I remembered was lying on the big bed in the castle. I was clean again.
“Here, have something to eat.” One of the queen’s maids came to me and offered some fruits.
“How long have I been here?” I asked as my head hurt.
“What is the news from the war?”
“We have lost.”
“How? I saw the Normans fight bravely. I believed victory was certain.”
“It was until yesterday.”
“What happened yesterday?”
“Just when the Normans were about to chase the enemy away, a shadow came and killed every Norman in matter of moments. The Normans just vanished. In the blink of the eyes, they were gone. We lost our warriors and with them, the war. The enemies have taken over the kingdom again and as they wait for their master to revive completely.”
Just as I was about to say something, I heard the priests talk to the king, “It has to be done. The queen is not safe here.”
“How will she survive there?” Arsuvian was concerned.
“The house of Adam, the place where Myron was asked to go, will keep her safe.”
“Then we must hurry. It will not take them long to find out.”
“We need a guardian to look after the portal so that no one else in that place can know about it.”
“Our only survivor is Peatogo. We can trust him with this task.”
“What about the boy?” One of the priests asked.
“The boy will go too. I had promised his father to take care of his family. I failed to save his wife; I will certainly not let it happen with his son.”
The king then came to me and said, “I have something for you Fernion. Can I trust you with that?”
“What is it my king?” I bowed.
“The priests believe that it will be safer for the queen and my daughter to live on earth and I trust the priests. But no one knows what kind of place that is. I want you to go with them and look after them for your king.”
“It will be a great honour my lord.”
“While you are there, look for Myron and help him in his quest. We need the book to put an end to this tyranny.”
Later that day, the queen, the princess, the boy, Peatogo and I were sent to the earth along with the Manimos which was also thought to be better kept away from the spirit. We also brought with ourselves three offspring of the nauras for our aid.
Since then, we have lived here on the earth doing what was asked from us to do. Peatogo looks after the portal, the queen looks after the princess, the boy and the Manimos and I look after them and look for Myron every day. If you still do not understand then Sufiyan let me tell you, Cazila is the queen of the kingdom, Sanaa is the princess and yes Sufiyan, you are that boy.”