"Oh... Please stop crying...!"
Mono helplessly rocked the baby in her arms, knowing and dreading what it wanted. The baby was hungry, and his foster mother's small milk supply had recently run out.
Because of her discovery that her new home's fruits were poisonous (eating one made her throw up for days afterwards), Mono had not eaten for nearly a week. Or since she woke up in a strange place, found her fiancé's injured horse and a horned baby, and set up house in the garden above the hall she had been lying in. The reason Mono hadn't bothered to go out and find food was because she didn't want to leave the baby behind. Now though, she knew it was time to be brave and sensible.
After setting up a grass nest under one of the trees and placing the thankfully sleeping boy inside of it, Mono made her way back down to the temple's hall. She walked past the oddly new bridge ruins that still smoked in front of the entrance, the oddly damp but empty pool at the bottom of the ramp, and the oddly important-looking piles of rubble inside the hall. Just as Mono was about to walk down the set of steps Agro had used, something caught her eye. The girl curiously turned and instead walked up the steps to the altar she had woken up on. Looking past the altar, Mono saw what had caught her eye.
On the balcony behind the altar was a man. From what she could see, he was wearing a long, flowing cloak that wrapped around him snugly, with a long loincloth to match. The man had messy black hair that blew around in the breeze, and he wore no shoes. He was facing away from Mono, overlooking the plains in front of him.
Desperate for both human contact and directions to the closest non-poisonous fruit tree, Mono trotted up to the man and tapped him on the shoulder.
While she was expecting him to turn or at least look at her, the man did neither. But he did speak.
"Hmm... what brings you here?"
This caught Mono completely off guard.
"If you mean here in this spot, then you, I suppose. I need directions to a fruit tree, or something like that."
"Why? Aren't there fruit trees up in that lovely garden?"
"Yes, but they're- Hey! How did you-?"
"What's wrong with the trees?"
Mono looked down at her growling stomach impatiently.
"They're poisonous. If you wouldn't mind, I have a weird baby that needs me, and I need food. I haven't eaten in a week and-"
The man startled Mono by suddenly turning towards her. He had an extremely concerned look on his noticeably handsome, square face, and his shocking blue eyes were full of compassion.
"That isn't right. You shouldn't be starving here. Come with me."
Mesmerized by the man's eyes, Mono just nodded and followed him. When they reached the bottom of the steps that leaded onto the plains, her state of shock and hunger caused Mono to trip slightly. Once more the man startled the girl by grabbing her arm lightly and keeping hold of it. He didn't even look at her the entire time. As they slowly made their way across the plain to a passage through the mountains, Mono examined the arm that held her. On the wrist was a beautiful, intricately carved bracer that had a band of amber-colored stone going around its center. A quick sidelong glance revealed a similar bracer on the man's opposite upper arm. When Mono looked up at the man's face, she noticed for the first time that he had dark-gray, bighorn sheep-like horns curling around his ears.
"What's your name, sir?"
As they entered the shadows of the passage, the horned man smirked down at Mono.
"I don't wish to tell you yet. But you'll know. Don't worry."
At this moment, an odd suspicion came over Mono. Not only was this man suddenly a bit too mysterious, but the girl felt as though they were being followed. Mono voiced the latter thought.
Instead of smirking like before, the man stiffened and sharply turned to look behind them. Mono watched his eyes as they went from mysteriously unreadable to joyous. Oddly, at the moment where his gaze became joyful, the man nodded at something unseen. He then turned to Mono and grinned.
"Let's get going. There are friends I want you to meet at the fruit tree."
Now the man's grip on Mono's arm was stronger, and he was having them walk at a much more brisk pace. When they passed a cave with a natural column in front of it, the feeling of being watched returned. This confused Mono, because for some reason she felt like it was the lizards that cooled themselves in the opening's shade. Her odd suspicions only grew as one of them broke away and subtly climbed along the valley walls next to the quick-paced couple. When she turned her head to look at it, the lizard stopped and assumed a sunbathing position. Mono raised an eyebrow at the weird creature before turning her attention back to the excited man next to her.
"The animals here are unusual."
"Really? I hadn't noticed."
"Well, how long have you lived here?"
For some reason this elicited a chuckle from him. But the man did not respond. Mono would have pressed him for more, but her gaze had snapped to the fruit tree looming in the distance. It sat on a ledge in front of one of many small mountains now visible around Mono. Lush green grass spread in every direction, interrupted only by random stones, distant mountain ranges, and the valley entrance she and the man had just subtly exited. The mountains on either side amplified the sounds of the expanse in front of Mono, and oddly enough she could hear what sounded like pounding ocean waves on the horizon.
"There's the fruit tree."
Mono looked back up at the man, who was grinning again.
"Two of my friends are already there. Can you walk faster?"
While she was expecting to be annoyed at how forward this demand was, the enthusiasm in the man's voice made Mono amused instead.
"I'm trying my best."
After a few more minutes of speedy walking, they finally reached the fruit tree. Looking away from the man to gaze in hungry wonder at the fruits above, Mono spoke up.
"Is there any way we can get those fruits? Maybe you can climb up...?"
"Er... not the best idea..."
When Mono turned to look at her companion, she was a bit shocked. The man was leaning heavily on the mossy tree trunk, panting, with his eyes closed.
"Are you all right?!"
She received a tired smirk.
"Believe it or not, that was the farthest I've walked in a long while. And I'm still recovering from something..."
Mono glared at him.
"Then you shouldn't have helped me! I would have understood if you were too tired. Although, I'm a bit confused."
"Because you had so much energy for someone who was 'still recovering from something'."
Before the man could speak, a chuckle and a voice sounded from behind the tree.
"After all these centuries, I still don't understand you, Malus."
Startled, Mono jumped to look behind the tree. There stood another man, who was leaning against the tree in a nonchalant manner. In one hand was a fruit that had already been bitten out of, and the other rested on the handle of a primitive looking sword that hung on one of his belt loops. He wore a short loincloth and a long cloak, with thick looking leather shin-guards and bracers. Unlike her rather young-looking companion - whose name was Malus, she now knew - the new man appeared in his fifties. His dark gray hair drooped listlessly around his square, rugged face. The man turned to gaze at Mono, revealing the same shocking blue eyes as Malus.
"Hmm... you look rather alive."
This brought Mono to raise an eyebrow.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
Another chuckle from the odd man. Though this time it had a dark sound in it that made the girl step back a pace.
"There's a funny story about that, actually. You see-"
Mono turned to look back at Malus. Her companion was glaring fiercely at the older man, and though his voice had been calm, it carried a commanding edge. But this only deterred Argus for a few seconds.
"I'm sure your handsome friend has already told you you'll be meeting some of hisfriends. There'll be all sortsof buddies here."
"Other rather nice looking guys-"
"Oh, and there will be tons of animals. Malus just has the biggest fetish for making friends with animals. Especially dangerous ones."
"For example... there's going to be a lion here! Make sure to stay away from him."
Mono's eyes widened.
"Because he's killedpeople. And because he loves cold-bloodedly killing somuch, he's sure to try and get you!"
A comforting hand on her shoulder kept Mono from turning around to look frantically for the rogue lion.
"Don't worry, dear, Argus is just a bitter old fool. The lion is actually quite nice."
This startled Mono, because the voice was not from the man behind her. Instead, it was a kind, feminine sounding voice from above that spoke.
"He loves people, and is one of the most compassionate beings you will ever meet."
At that moment, a fruit dropped down from the branches to land directly in front of Mono's feet. Remembering her hunger, the girl picked up the fruit and began ravenously munching on it. She was so concentrated on the food that she didn't notice the light weight that had appeared on her shoulder. It was when she finished her fruit that Mono looked to see what was there. The sight made her drop the bitten core.
On her shoulder sat the most beautiful bird she had ever seen. It was a small eagle with cloud gray feathers, and a luscious crest that went down to the base of her wings. Her tail was unusually long, and her dark gray talons and beak were perfectly polished. The eagle had the same blue eyes as the men, and they were filled with understanding and kindness. It was also clear this bird was the one who had spoken from above. This astounded Mono, for she had never been told that animals were capable of human intelligence.
"Well, most aren't. But the animals you'll meet are different."
Her attention snapped away from the eagle, Mono looked back confusedly at Malus.
Oddly enough, the man seemed to realize he had done something abnormal and leaned back against the tree, staring at his hands.
"I know it's a bit early, but my name is Avion."
Mono turned back to the eagle.
"Oh, my name is-"
"Don't bother, dear. I know already. Everybodyknows."
This was even more confusing then everything that had happened before.
"Wait... what? How?! Did you...? How could you...?! Who is everybody?"
"This whole vague thing is getting on my nerves. Alright, kid, I'll tell you what's going on."
Mono was ready to explode. The lizard from her journey, which actually turned out to be some kind of gecko, had managed to sneak onto her other shoulder. It was staring up at her with big, annoyed blue eyes. Completely exasperated with the talking animals, weird men, and long distance from the freaky horned baby that needed her to survive, Mono started yelling at the top of her lungs.
"Where did you all comefrom?! Why are you even here?! What the bloody goddamn hell is going on in this godforsaken place?! And you! You little lizard thing! What the hellare you doingon my shoulder?!"
Instead of flinching away, the gecko blinked calmly up at the frustrated Mono.
"I'm sorry, is this seat taken?"
With a small scream, the girl ripped the lizard off her shoulder and threw it to the ground. However, she instantly regretted it. With another small scream, Mono hurried to pick up the stunned gecko, and cradled it in her hands.
"Oh my, I'm so sorry!"
Instead of replying, the lizard groaned and flipped over, revealing a brownish-white underside. Observing the gecko's belly, Mono spoke with a heavy tone of dismay.
"Look at the marks I gave you! Oh, they'll be there forever..."
Avion was also looking at the lizard's belly.
"Hmm... I wouldn't worry, dear. Those marks are scars, not injuries."
Upon closer inspection, Mono saw that her eagle friend was right. The marks were actually seven-pointed star like scars, one on his stomach and one on the base of his tail. She would have looked longer, but the gecko had flipped back over. After shaking its head, the lizard glared up at Mono.
"I knew I shouldn't have trusted you! All you Wanderers are ins- HEY!"
The gecko soon found itself pressed up against the girl's chest in a sort of hug. He cried out in protest, but was silenced when his would-be-assailant placed a kiss on his snout.
"I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you! Oh, what's your name?"
Blinking up at Mono in confusion, the lizard replied slowly.
"Er... Kuromori, I believe..."
"This has been fun, but can we get back to that garden of yours?"
Mono looked over at Argus, placing the gecko on her shoulder.
"Of course. I just need some fruits to take with me..."
The girl stopped talking when she saw that Malus already had a pile in his arms. He smiled at Mono before beginning to walk back in the direction of the entrance valley. Argus followed him, gesturing at the girl to come also. Mono walked behind the two men, looking at both her shoulders. Avion was on her left shoulder, and seemed to be busy preening her wing feathers. Kuromori was on her right shoulder, splayed out in a sunbathing position. Mono took note of the fact that one of his eyes was half open. When she looked up, though, the sight she found was incredibly different than the one before.
Somehow, in the small amount of time Mono had spent examining her companions, a few more creatures had joined the group. There was a legless dragon spiraling gracefully above their heads, a large red-furred boar with sideways tusks was trotting along next to Malus' legs, and an odd looking man had also joined them. The man's cloak and loincloth were ragged and green with algae, and he had green hair that grew from the back of his head to the base of a mossy lobster tail that drooped to the ground. When he turned back to look at Mono, seeming to realize she had been staring at him, the girl gasped. Covering the man's face was a slotted, shield-like mask.
"Hey! What's wrong?! Have you seen how Celosia is glaring at Argus?! She hateshim! Haha! Don't be scared of her, though! Oh, and have you seen my rock collection?! It's awesome! Avion knows, right Avion?!"
There was a "mmph" of affirmation from the preening bird, who subtly turned her head away to preen her tail. Mono just raised an eyebrow at the masked lobster-man.
"No, I'll have to see it sometime."
"Yeah! You'll love it, I know!"
With that, the man turned away and ran ahead to walk with Argus, who grimaced at the oblivious creature.
When they finally exited the valley and got out onto the plains behind the giant temple, Mono saw something running towards them from a different valley opening in the distance. As it got close, Mono saw it was a beautiful light gray horse. The horse cantered past the three men, who didn't seem to care or notice, and turned to walk beside the girl. By now, the sight of stunning blue eyes on an animal didn't bother Mono at all.
"So you're the one."
The girl couldn't help but give a confused look up at the horse, who she now knew was a stallion because of his masculine voice.
"The one what?"
"Hmm... they haven't told you yet. Ah, and Malus is giving me a strong 'don't talk anymore about this' message. I'll be quiet."
Mono looked over at the man, and didn't see any sign that he had conveyed a message to the stallion. However, Malus did seem to recognize when the back of his head was being stared at. Slowing down so he walked in pace with Mono, the man spoke in a cheerful voice.
"Well, all the rest of my friends are already in the garden. They're all extremely excited to meet you."
The girl felt her bones freeze.
"What about that lion Argus was talking about...?"
Malus' cheery disposition was abruptly sobered as he threw a concerned look at Mono.
"Avion told you. The lion is very kind and a creature you could trust with your life."
Both the girl and the man ignored Argus' snort of disbelief.
After a few moments of looking down reassuringly at Mono, Malus looked up and grinned.
"My, how time flies!"
The man was right. Mono also looked up and found that they were climbing the steps into the temple. Up until that point, all the beings in the group had been conversing loudly and occasionally laughing. But as they walked past the piles of rubble in the giant hall, everybody was silent. When they passed the empty pool before the ramp, some of the creatures gasped. Avion took off from Mono's shoulder, and slowly circled upwards with the dragon as the group made their way upwards. When they reached the top, the eagle and dragon flew ahead to the entrance. Instantly, a cry was heard that made everybody speed up to exit.
"No! Where has it gone?! Where is the bridge?!"
When the group finally made it out into the light, all of Mono's new companions froze and stared in horror at the long line of rubble that stretched into the far distance. Avion had landed on the edge of the entrance's platform, and was staring down at the rubble sadly. Mono looked up at Malus, who merely gazed forward with a solemn face. After a while, the man realized the girl was staring at him, and he turned his gaze towards her. His mouth twitched up into a slight smile.
"Come on, everybody. There are some important folks waiting for us."
After finishing their ascent up a shallow ramp, the group stepped through an entryway into the garden. Awaiting Mono was an unusual sight. Eight random beings were lounging around in various spots. A minotaur was leaning against a tree, passing its club from hand to hand in a bored fashion. Two completely different-looking snakes were coiled up next to each other conversing in the sunny middle. Sitting cross-legged near the snakes was a thin, gray-haired man who seemed to be rolling a large tortoise shell back and forth in front of him. Another man, with a large, light-gray beard, was standing under another tree with one hand on the flank of a grazing bull. But the creature that caught Mono's attention the most was a stone-gray, amused-looking lion that was lying under a tree only a few yards from the girl.
Why did it look amused?
Because the horned baby that Mono had tried so hard to take care of for the past week was between the lion's front paws, tugging on its mane.
Up until this point, Mono had believed everything Malus and Avion said about a certain lion friend. The dangerous sight before her, though, completely erased that from her memory. With a shout of,
Mono ran up to the lion and kicked it in the side as hard as she could. While she expected it to leap up and attack her, the lion instead yelped and gently removed the baby from its paws before standing and backing away a few paces. Its big blue eyes stared up at her in confusion. The lion continued to watch Mono with its confused eyes as she swiftly picked up the child and cradled it in her arms protectively. Mono glanced between the baby and the lion for a few moments before she realized everybody was staring.
Her original group had spread through the garden, and now joined the new group in gazing at Mono in a mixture of amusement and worry. Mono flinched when she noticed the boar, whose name was apparently Celosia, had positioned itself in front of the lion and was glaring at her intensely.
"I don't know who you think you are, but-"
"Celosia, it's alright. I don't blame her."
"But her reaction-"
"I know, I know. We just have to get used to the fact that some of us might not be so... er... approachable. "
"Oh, don't try using choice terms with me! And why is that little sprag so important that she has to go around assaulting innocent creatures, anyway? You! You're not old enough to have a child! So why-"
Celosia and the lion turned to look up at Malus, who was now standing beside Mono with a stern look on his face. Avion had landed on his shoulder, and she was giving an especially scalding look down at the boar. Celosia and the lion both bowed their heads. Malus then turned to the group of creatures that had gathered in front of him and Mono.
"There are several important things we all, including this young woman, must discuss."
A tense pause followed. While most of the beings nodded carefully, a few... namely Argus... appeared skeptical. To break the silence, Avion hopped from Malus' shoulder back to her original position on Mono's left.
"Dear, do you read?"
Mono raised her eyebrow.
"Of course. Back in my village I read everything I could get a hold of."
"Did you ever read anything on history?"
"Yes, that was actually my favorite topic. I loved to learn about-"
"Namely, dear, did you read anything about the Colossus Valley...?"
At this, the girl's eyes brightened and she grinned.
"Oh, yes! Even though Lord Emon described the place as being horrible and cursed, all the scrolls in the temple library described it as being a hospitable, fertile place. How kind and great the Colossi were. There are some of them I wish I could meet in person. I want to meet the beautiful Eagle, the noble Lion, and the wonderful Titan. It also wouldn't hurt to meet the Gecko. I bet he's sweeter than all the readings said."
Mono looked up from her reminiscing to find the mood in the garden had changed drastically. Several of the beings were chuckling, and the two creatures on her shoulders looked very pleased with themselves. However, one of the beings did not look happy. Argus walked right up to Mono, grimacing in her face madly.
"Those Colossi you're talking about? They died. No, wait... let me clarify. They were murdered. For what I can see now had little purpose."
Quickly the girl's expression changed into one of sadness.
"That's horrible! What kind of sick, cruel person would kill sixteen fantastic creatures... for nothing?"
At this, Argus grinned and gave a short laugh.
"How ironic. You know, Malus told me about how you were wondering about your fiancé. Hewas the one who killed them. In the process, he became a demon. In the end, he met a suitable fate. The little bastard is with Dormin, now."
Those words set off several reactions. First, Mono fell to her knees in shock. Second, Celosia charged up behind Argus and hamstringed him with her tusk. Third, Argus collapsed in pain while the other beings circled around Mono. The horned baby began crying.
Malus kneeled down next to the girl and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. When she turned to look at him, tears already forming in her eyes, Mono was surprised to find a smile on the man's face.
"Don't cry, dear. While Argus was right, the Colossi were murdered by your fiancé, everything else he said was wrong. First, it was not for nothing. I'm not sure if you remember anything, but you were killed unfairly by your Lord Emon. The Wanderer... your fiancé... came here to bring you back to life."
Mono's eyes widened.
"Oh my... He wasn't joking."
"I already knew from the scrolls that Dormin could revive the dead, and I showed the particular scroll to Wander because I thought it was interesting..."
Kuromori interrupted, looking slightly annoyed.
"Wait, wait... hold up. You're saying that your fiancé, who was from the Wandering people, was named Wander."
Mono blinked down in confusion at her companion.
Malus then interrupted.
"We have different terms for things than you do. But anyway, this... Wander... heard from you what he could do?"
"Well, I asked him jokingly if he would kill sixteen Colossi to save my life. He sort of laughed and nodded, but I realize now his eyes were serious..."
Because Mono's face had taken on a devastated look, Malus tightened his grip around her in a sort of reassurance.
"My dear, the Colossi live."
The girl slowly turned up her gaze to look at the kind, horned man.
"What...? But you said..."
"There were three that placed measures to prevent many a bad thing from happening after the Colossi died. First was an important woman who lived very long ago. She created magical swords, most of which sat in temples being admired. But one of her creations left the land, at the same time almost every living thing was killed by Dormin. It returned here in the hands of your fiancé, and was the sword that felled all sixteen Colossi. But because the woman hated the idea of her creation being used to harm the world, she placed strong reversal spells that were sure to undo anything her sword had done if they were unlocked correctly.
"Second, was your Lord Emon. He came here to try and stop Wander from ending the Colossi. Unfortunately, he and his men arrived just after the sixteenth battle was won. But he found the incantations that would reverse the sword's doings, and he was able to stop Dormin in Their tracks.
"Third, was I. I placed spells that would insure the lives of the land's inhabitants. Mono, did you ever learn the names of the Colossi in your scrolls?"
Mono frowned up at him.
"No. Emon inked them out. I don't know why..."
Malus smiled down at her.
"My dear, we are the Colossi. You now know our names, for the most part. Introductions, anybody...?"
Both the amazed girl and the happy man gazed up to find the beings who circled around them nodding their heads in a sort of bow.
"I am Valus the Minotaur."
"I am Quadratus the Bull."
"I am Gaius the Knight."
"I am Phaedra the Horse."
"I am Avion the Eagle."
"I am Barba the Bearded One."
"I am Hydrus the Sea-Serpent."
"I am Kuromori the Gecko."
"I am Basaran the Tortoise."
"I am Dirge the Sand-Serpent."
"I am Celosia the Boar."
"I am Pelagia the Masked One!"
"I am Phalanx the Dragon."
As if to top it off, the lion Mono had kicked earlier stepped up to her and licked her on the nose kindly, before bowing his head.
"And I am Celobia the Lion."
Malus nodded over at the still writhing man nearby.
"That is Argus the Sentry."
Mono glanced over at the Sentry, but gave a raised eyebrow towards the man who still kept his arm around her.
"So that means you are the Titan."
She received a grin in return.
"You read well. Now, I'm sure you have many questions for us..."
"Why are you all not...big?"
"That was fast. Well, I'm actually not quite sure. I believe it may be the fact that the sword's reversal spells were not quite strong enough to make sixteen Colossi fully immortal again. So now we're sort of... semi-mortal. Yes, that's the term. Semi-mortal."
"Malus, there is something else you need to get to."
Mono looked over to see Phalanx... the dragon she had seen earlier... who was wrapped around Pelagia's shoulders. Her calm blue eyes were focused on the Titan, and it was clear the scratchy but feminine voice had come from her throat. In return, Malus nodded.
"You are right. Mono... there is something else that Argus untruly said. Wander is not with Dormin."
Mono bowed her head.
"Then he is with our ancestors now..."
At this moment, the baby curled in the girl's arms began pulling on her hair, gazing up at her with confused gray eyes. Malus gently placed his free hand so the child's fingers instead gripped his own fingers. Without looking up at Mono, the Titan spoke in a quiet voice.
"Wander lives. This...is Wander."
At the beginning of this not-so tragic story, I told you there had always been peace in the Land of the Colossi.
Though by now you surely think that record has been shattered and all of its bits pushed aside with no hope of return, at the end of this story the record remains intact. Because when it comes down to it, there really hadalwaysbeen peace. The people died not because of the result of their own mistakes, but because of the unmistakable evil in another creature's heart. Their own peace was never disturbed.
Even the Colossi were felled in a way that did not scar the record. After all, the story's anti-hero was just that... an anti-hero. His intentions were pure, despite the horrible results. Wander loved Mono so much the peace record cannot possibly be broken. And who can ignore the fact that the Colossi lived in the end?
No, it would take something much darker and much more unexpected to scar the record. Something that would sweep aside bonds and promises, and set many events in motion. But until then, always remember this corny, but extremely true fact.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Liz Sawshark SautterWrite a Review