|Ancient Prophecy IV: Reunited
by Vipers ©
was split into 7 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
Despite the peaceful environment the villagers enjoyed, Whitewater was still a poor village surrounded by small farms and dense forest. The houses were mainly made of logs from the woods. A small river provided the village with enough fresh water throughout the year. A small temple was the only indication that this village was more civilized than a normal barbaric village.
Anna was sitting on a wooden chair in an inn. The villagers had brought them to the village before nightfall. A weird local drink was served to her. It tasted like herb tea and it did a good job in keeping her warm. Several villagers were sitting nearby, watching her carefully.
Then one man whom she knew as the group leader approached her and sat down in front of her. He put down his ale mug, then stared at her.
"Very well, priestess. My name is Gordon. I'm the village leader. What's your name?"
"Adriana Freesland, or Anna. I must thank you for helping us."
"Priestess Freesland... You saved Gideon a few months ago. You work for the government?"
"No, I'm not. Why?" Anna asked.
"Answer me first. If you're not a government spy, why are you here then?"
"We're here in our own will." Anna explained. "I'm looking for the man you called Bakara."
"And what makes you think we're going to believe you?" Gordon asked again.
"We're his... friend." Anna carefully picked her words. She could only hope that Atrus would be willing to recognize them. If he didn't want to see them, the villagers would not believe her.
"Do you have any prove that you know Bakara as your friend?"
Anna tried to recall Maya's description. "I know his name."
"But we don't." Gordon said. "We called him Bakara."
"I know that he is a well-trained Ranger, the son of Captain White Lion." Anna tried again.
"Bakara is a very enigmatic person. We know nothing about his true identity."
Anna tried to figure out what the villagers might know about Atrus. Finally she said. "He lives in pain."
Gordon stared at her for a while. "You know him... It's true. He comes to the village often and seems to be very friendly, but we all know he's hiding a deep pain inside his heart..."
"I know..." Anna hung her head. "I... I caused it... I'm here to put him back together..."
Gordon smiled warmly. "If you are truly a friend of Bakara, then you are our friend. We are very sorry for the trouble we've caused. We are getting sick of the government's plot on our village. We are no longer loyal to the kingdom. That's why we don't trust outsiders."
"I understand." Anna said. "The king should pay more attention on the people's welfare."
"That's why we love our Bakara." Gordon said. "He helped us whenever he's around. He protected our village from the invaders. Moreover, he asked nothing in return. We have our own way to thank him in spite of our limited resource. We never charge him anything in the market. We occasionally made a small feast for him. We all love him."
"I know..." Anna just smiled. Then she remembered her friend. "How's Maya?"
"Your friend? Our doctor is examining her. Come..."
Gordon led her to a wooden door. He asked her to wait while he went inside. Soon he went out with another middle-aged man. His expression was gloomy.
"How is she? Can you cure the poison?" Anna quickly asked.
The other man shook his head weakly. "I've never seen such a violent poison before. I can only give a normal medicine to slow it down, but it won't stop the venom completely."
"Doctor, you must save her!" Anna begged.
"I'm sorry, but I can't cure her. But there's still hope..."
"I'm willing to do anything to save her!" Anna answered quickly.
The doctor turned to Gordon. The leader thought for a while before answering her. "Tomorrow we will take you to the mountain hermit... where Bakara lives..."
Anna watched over Maya right beside her bed all night. She was suffering from a terrible fever. Her body was shivering and cold sweat covered her skin. All night Anna sat beside her bed, keeping the sweat off her forehead. Maya's plea that she should get some sleep was ignored. They were so close to finding Atrus, and she was not going to let her friend die. The doctor occasionally came and gave her herb drink to keep her warm. It eased her fever, but wouldn't deter the poison.
In the morning, the villagers had decided to acknowledge Anna's sincerity. In turns they visited them and gave them fresh breakfast of newly baked bread and pancakes. Within an hour there was a huge pile of pancakes and three jars of honey on the table right beside the bed. Maya wasn't in a good mood to eat a lot and Anna definitely couldn't eat that much, so they decided to put them in their backpack for later use. Shortly after breakfast, Gordon came to pick them up.
In front of the inn there was a wooden chair with long poles on each side. The chair had a leather strap on the waist and a cushion on the seat.
"Since your friend wouldn't be able to walk well, we decided to carry her on this chair."
Anna and Gordon carried Maya's limp body and put her on the chair. The strap was secured to keep her from falling during the trip. Anna double-checked Maya's condition to make sure she was strapped comfortably. Four men slowly lifted the chair and held the poles over their shoulder. A few men joined them later, each carrying a short sword. Gordon himself had a sword strapped on his back. Anna was very amazed.
"You... you're going to escort us there? I... I don't know what to say..."
"No need..." Gordon said. "This is the least thing we can do for the friends of Bakara."
Gordon's word troubled Anna. Did Atrus still think of her as his friend? He certainly loved Maya like a sister. He had too many reasons to love Maya. But he had no reason to like her after what she had done. Deep inside she cursed herself for her foolish action back in Gideon. She decided she would accept it if Atrus hated her, for he had too many reasons to do so.
Gordon talked about the village along the trip. He talked about how the forest around here became very safe since Bakara began his action. He talked about the mountain hermit who inhibited the small cottage behind the forest. He said the hermit possessed a powerful magic that also protected the village from invaders. But he was still a hermit. Nobody in the village had ever seen him.
They arrived at a large clearing in the forest. The men slowly put the chair down. Anna checked Maya's condition, but there's nothing she could do to make her feel better. She was suffering gravely from her fever. Her eyes couldn't focus really well. Her entire body was shivering and sweating. She had no power left even to speak. Anna was even more worried than ever. Maya might not make it...
Then one by one the men left them. "We will not go any further." Gordon said. "Bakara would see you here... if he wishes."
Again she felt worried. Atrus might not want to see her anymore. He might just take Maya to see the hermit and leave her here. All her efforts in trying to find him would be in vain with his refusal. She felt she was going to burst in tears, afraid to see the outcome of this reunion. Maya noticed this. She weakly caressed Anna's palm, trying to convince her that it wouldn't happen.
The forest around them was very silent. There was nobody around but Anna, Maya, and Gordon. The sun shone brightly on the sky and through the trees, creating bright patches on the ground. The thin morning mist from the nearby mountain covered the ground. This area hadn't been touched by humans. It was like Eden. The peace and harmony was soothing, yet overwhelming.
"Who want to see my master?"
They were surprised by the sound from the forest. Anna wasn't sure if that was Atrus'. The voice was rather vague, but audible. Gordon quickly answered it.
"We have visitors from out of the village. They claimed themselves to be your friends."
The forest was once again quiet. There was no answer. This time Anna couldn't hold it.
"Atrus...!" she cried. "I know you're listening to this... Please just hear what I really want to say..."
She paused for a while before continuing. "I know you're still mad at me for what I've done in Gideon. I know you hate me so much... I don't mind. You have rights to hate me... But Maya is gravely wounded here... I beg you... please help her..."
She couldn't stop the tears in her eyes. She could even hear Maya sobbing softly.
"If you don't want to see me... I will go back to the village now... I will leave the village tomorrow morning... and you will never see me again..."
When she turned around, she saw a figure standing in front of the mist. It was Atrus... He was looking into her eyes. His hair was a little bit longer than before. He still wore his usual leather suit, and a sword was strapped on his back. He was looking at her... and he was smiling...
"Anna... it's really you..."
Anna was stunned. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know what to say. She was speechless. But Atrus slowly approached her and put his arms around her body and embraced her lovingly.
"I miss you so much... Look at how much you've grown..."
"Atrus... I... I'm... just... so sorry..."
"It's not your fault." He quoted Jenna's words. "You were tricked. I understand your feeling. And no, I don't hate you. I miss you so much."
At last she cried so hard in his arms. All the tension that had been torturing her mind was released. He didn't hate her; that was all she needed to hear. She felt a great relief deep inside her mind. Atrus tried his best to comfort and support her.
After a while he turned to see Maya, still strapped on the chair. "You said Maya is wounded. What happened?"
"The demons attacked them, Bakara." Gordon explained. "We found them near the village. It seems that this girl was poisoned by one of the demons. We can't cure her, so we think that the hermit might be able to help.
Atrus approached and examined her. Maya gave him a weak smile and a faint whimper to tell him how happy she was to see him again. Atrus took her wrist and checked her pulse, only to be shocked by his analysis.
"She got venom all over her veins!" He turned at Anna. "What had happened to her?"
"I'm sorry... She protected my back in a battle with a bunch of orcs... The orcs hit her with a poisonous axe. I couldn't cure her on time... I'm just so sorry..."
Maya whimpered again, and Atrus represented her this time. "It's not your fault. There's nothing you could have done. I haven't seen venom so powerful like this before myself."
Atrus turned at Gordon. "I want to thank you for saving my friends and bringing them here."
"No need, Bakara." He answered. "You've always been our friend. Please come by our village sometime. We will make a feast for you and your friends." Then he bowed and left.
"Anna, help me with her! We must bring her to my master!"
After a short walk, they arrived at a small cottage on the other side of the forest. It was located on a ledge leading to a valley down the hill. From there they could see the thick forest covering the valley. The Elven border was only a few hours from here. On the southern land was a huge black mountain, towering the land.
Aragon people called it Mystic Mountain. When early travelers passed this to chart the land, this mountain suddenly rose from the ground with thundering roar and unleashed a violent earthquake that reached the capitals of both humans and Elven kingdoms. The travelers retold the mountain as "raised by a mystic power from the underworld". Nowadays people knew that it was a normal natural phenomenon, but the name was retained. Rumors said the mountain had some nasty critters inside.
The cottage, despite its size, was warm and comfy. There's a fireplace nearby. The furniture was simple, mainly made of logs. There were two doors leading to other rooms. Candles illuminated the rather-dark room. In the center sat a hooded figure. He was meditating on the floor.
"Master, I've returned. And I bring two friends here. This is..."
"Adriana Freesland... I've been expecting you..."
Anna was stunned. "How do you know...?"
The figure opened his hood and stared at her. He was an old man. His thin hair had turned white. A long white beard was dangling on his chin. But his face was familiar.
Anna quickly fell on her knees and bowed. "Lord Falagor...! I'm sorry I didn't recognize you... Anna Freesland, at your service..."
"Don't worry... Even my apprentice here didn't recognize me." He smiled.
Atrus was also stunned. His master was actually Lord Falagor, the royal advisor and the supreme wizard of the realm! He put Maya on the nearest chair and knelt down. "I'm sorry, master."
Falagor chuckled again. "Stand up. I'm no longer a royal advisor. I'm just a hermit living in a secluded cottage now... And I see that your little friend Maya Murdock was in need..."
Both Falagor and Atrus approached her body. Her stare was weak. Falagor took her hand and examined her. Atrus slowly stroke her long hair and looked into her eyes with great concern.
"Master, could you heal her?"
"I can't tell. I haven't seen the poison before. I'll bring her to my room for further examination." He looked into Maya's eyes. "I need to identify the poison. The process will hurt; you won't be able to endure it. Therefor I will shut down all your nerve system, except your sight. You can see, but you won't feel or hear anything. If you comply, close your eyes."
Maya helplessly looked at Atrus. "Don't worry, you can trust him. He will cure you, Maya... I'm sure you will be just fine..." Then he tenderly kissed her lips. Maya's heart was flushed with joy. Her master was here, and he was not going to let her go. Her fear vanished instantly. She turned back to Falagor and closed her eyes...
Anna stood in front of Atrus, her mace ready in her hand. She carefully watched him as he walked slowly, circling her position. She's not going to lose, she thought... not when he couldn't hurt her.
Atrus slowly circled her, trying to find a chance to strike. His bare feet produced almost no sound as they stepped on the rough ground. In his grip was a long rattan stick.
For her, the odd was clear. He couldn't kill her with his stick, but she could. Her mace was enough to crush his skull. His flexible stick might create welts and bruises, but those were easy to be healed. But Atrus still insisted that she should use her mace in this match.
"Don't hold back." He said.
Anna dashed toward Atrus and swung the mace, but Atrus was faster... way faster. He slid to her side evading her blow, then quickly tackled her vulnerable boot. When she regained her balance, the rattan stick was only an inch from her neck.
"If I've been a demon, you would have died by now. You must fight faster than that!"
Anna swung the mace again, but Atrus dodged it easily. Atrus dashed from one spot to another, and no matter how fast she tried, she couldn't match his speed. In one occasion, she got exhausted and rested for a while, only to find him dashing at her. She tried to cover herself, but the rattan stick was unstoppable. A long welt was formed on her left hip. It was nothing she couldn't heal, but it was annoying.
"I can't match your speed! You're simply too fast for me..." She said while panting.
"Nonsense! I presume until now Maya has been holding herself back against you..."
Anna couldn't accept the taunt and charged at him. This time she was faster. She began to study Atrus' movement as well. Slowly she built her pace to match his, but again he was faster. Her power didn't last forever, and when fatigue claimed her, Atrus created another welt on the other hip. It hurt a lot.
"You're still a sitting duck! You won't survive a battle with such ridiculous
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