Chapter 12: Visions
It seemed that the brief separation from her body had triggered an increase in her vocal ability.
Loran now gibbered fervently, her words forming incomplete-and quite unusual-sentences.
“Tree fall swim to go to the!” she blurted in yet another of her verbal spasms.
“Is this normal?!” Draden shouted above the din the girl was making.
“Oh yes, quite,” Kladspir responded. “She should regain control of her faculties soon. Until then…” THWAP!
Loran crumpled to the ground under the sudden impact of Kladspir’s hand to the back of her head. The marsh returned to its state of tranquility. “Finally…peace,” Kladspir said with a sigh.
Draden stood there wide-eyed, then quickly acted when he heard gurgles coming from Loran facedown in the mud. He struggled to lift her up, finally getting her to lean against the decrepit trunk of a tree. “Now what do we do with her? I can’t carry her that long.”
“Not a problem!” Kladspir exclaimed gallantly, lifting the girl and throwing her over his shoulder.
Off they went.
As night fell and the sky peeking through the trees blackened, they stopped in a fairly open and spongy, spot, settling down for the night. They had left the marsh behind them an hour ago, and now the ground was gradually sloping downward to the south, angling towards the hilly region between the Forest of Lost Hope and Arema Lake.
Avoiding any revealing fire light, Kladspir took some red leaves out of his bag and handed one to Draden and another to the now conscious Loran, keeping one for himself.
Wary, they kept their eyes on Kladspir until he eagerly took a bite of his leaf, then they did the same.
It tasted bitter as Draden bit through its fleshy and somewhat thick surface, but then sweet juice burst into his mouth, making his tongue tingle in ecstasy. He involuntarily smiled, and to his left Loran started laughing.
“What?” he asked jovially.
“Your teeth are purple!” she exclaimed, exposing her own equally violet teeth.
“So are yours,” he chuckled. He turned to Kladspir. “What are these?”
“Dragon leaves.” He paused, and, noticing their inquisitive stares added, “There’s of course a story behind them, highly fictitious, but it can wait for another time. All you need to know is they are very nutritious and can keep your hunger away for hours.
“Now, for the matter at hand. I’d say we all need a good night’s rest. Gorginoths move so fast it makes no difference if we’re awake or not, so no watch tonight. Just sleep and we’ll get going again as soon as dawn arrives.” With that, he laid back against a tree trunk and closed his eyes.
Draden, feeling drowsy all of a sudden and wondering if it was an effect of the leaf, lay down on the springy grass. He closed his eyes and was asleep within minutes.
His eyes snapped open, staring at the starry sky above. There was a full moon shining on him, signifying the beginning of a new month, and consequently a new year.
‘The people at home won’t be having a celebration this year. Not after all that’s happened,’ he thought solemnly. He heard a rustle and remembered that it was the reason for his awakening. He could barely see anything within the clearing, let alone past the shadows of the trees. “Ligrano,” he whispered.
‘Where’s Flight?’ Draden wondered, worry creeping down his spine. Had the light orb been permanently damaged? ‘I thought that couldn’t happen.…’ Without light, he was forced to remain motionless, eyes trained on the darkness.
A darker shadow moved through the gloom, and Draden instantly moved into action. “Alektar!” A bolt of electricity sparked from his fingertips, sizzling toward the figure. The bright purple plasma illuminated the darkness, and Flagprim held up an arm, saying “Fractiniliium.” A green shield appeared and the electric bolt sank into it, vanishing in gray tendrils of smoke.
“What was that for?!” the elf growled, eyes glancing at the two shadowy forms sleeping on the ground.
“Well, I thought you were-”
“A threat; yes, no doubt. I kind of figured when I had a lightning bolt arcing towards me!”
“Well…if you knew, then why’d you ask?” Draden asked, confused.
“It was a rhetorical question, Draden. Anyway, to the matter at hand. Gorginoths are headed straight for you. They found the remains of their companions in the mountains and followed your trail in this direction. They won’t be long, so wake those two and we’ll continue from there.”
Draden shook the two sleepers awake, getting angry grumbles from both. A couple minutes later, the four of them stood together, awaiting introduction and explanation.
Flagprim immediately began, “There’s no time for pleasantries. What you must know is the Gorginoths are coming and they’re angry.” He turned to Kladspir, sizing him up. He noticed the wand strapped to the man’s side. “I assume you know a speed spell?”
“Good.” He turned back to Draden. “Just use Spaergo. It will increase the rate of your movement but will sap your strength. Kladspir and I will imbue you with an extra boost of the spell to keep you going. We will do the same for this girl. Now let’s go!”
This time, Draden did not need to be told twice. He said the spell and immediately felt its effects. His heart pumped faster and he could feel the blood coursing through his veins. His senses were heightened and he was suddenly very aware of Loran’s soft breathing.
Loran caught his gaze, and, startled, he forgot to drop it.
Flagprim’s voice brought him back to reality, “Let us go.”
An hour of this and they were still speeding through the d ark forest, many times slipping by the deadly solid tree trunks that came too close for comfort. They had probably covered six hours worth of walking in this time, and Draden wondered why Kladspir hadn’t made them do this before. ‘The man probably didn’t even know the spell,’ Draden thought bitterly.
His legs were moving abnormally fast, but it seemed and felt normal. He held in a laugh when he thought how funny it would be to see four people moving this fast through the forest. Then again, they were probably unnoticeable blurs.
They would be out of the forest in a few minutes, yet they’d done almost no talking. They had tried at the beginning but the voices were garbled from the speed, so they had given that up quickly.
Half an hour later they had left the dark mass of trees behind them and entered the hilly expanse of the Barren Plains. Flagprim signaled for them to stop.
The physical strain of the magic suddenly hit Draden in full force, and his breath came raggedly as exhaustion overcame him.
Flagprim’s eyes were knowing as he said, “We will rest here until dawn so that you may regain your stamina. I will keep watch. Now rest.”
Draden’s eyes were closed before he hit the ground.
Flagprim’s eyes scanned the pale horizon as dawn approached. He heard a yawn behind him and turned to see the girl stretching as she stood up.
She walked over to him and sat down.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, then Flagprim introduced himself. “I’m Flagprim, an elf from the elven city Lashalim.”
Loran smiled and replied, “I figured, you know, by the ears.” He laughed. “I’m Loran, from Marfrod.”
He nodded, then asked in a voice totally indifferent so as to not be pushy, “Why’d you stay with those two,” he indicated the two sleepers, “instead of going back to Marfrod, after you were rescued?”
She averted her eyes from his, head tilted downward. After a few moments, she lifted her head and replied, “It’s a long story, but I can’t go back to Marfrod…I’m not welcome. I decided to stick with Draden and Kladspir because, well, it’s safer.” She laughed. “Although, we do seem to have gotten into our fair share of danger since then. Regardless, wherever their journey takes them, I’ll be there. At least, for a while.”
Flagprim nodded. “You are very open to your destiny for such a young girl.” It was a compliment but she knew it had deeper meaning than she now knew. “Well, we’d better wake those two and get going. We should be at Arema Lake before dusk.”
Draden was shaken to consciousness by Loran, and his eyes opened onto her face he couldn’t think of a better way to start the day.
Kladspir handed out more of the dragon leaves, which they ate gratefully.
“Let’s get going,” Flagprim suggested when they had finished. “We don’t want the Gorginoths to catch up to us.” They cast their spells and resumed their journey.
The lush hills were laid out before them in rising and falling mounds of green grass. Colorful bushes and flowers adorned the hills’ crests like royal crowns, giving off beautiful aromas that floated on the cool ocean breeze from their right. The ocean was still out of sight, but that didn’t keep them from feeling it. The plains tilted gradually downward to the south and the west and eventually levelling out with the ocean and with Arema Lake.
The four of them travelled up and down the hills, causing a wake-like wave in the grass behind them. Though the speed of travel was incredibly fast, the distance was great, and there was still no sign of Grigmire Village by mid-day.
‘This spell is wonderful! I feel no strain on my muscles whatsoever!’ Draden thought happily. He knew he would be tired when they stopped, but for now he relished in the experience.
Ten minutes later, they were standing on the last crest of a hill, plains sliding off below them to unite with Grigmire Village. It was a quaint town, small wooden shacks and buildings, but it was buzzing with energy: they could see the streets filled with people going from one place to another. There were about a dozen barges floating lackadaisically in the water; it seemed that no one was in a hurry to leave. A low, dense mist hung above the village, blurring its features.
“Well, there it is,” muttered Kladspir. “Nothing compared to my King’s city! No matter…we shall walk the halls of his palace by evening tomorrow!”
“It’s about time!” grumbled a none-too-happy Loran. “I will no doubt have to visit a healer after the concussion I received from you,” she glared at Kladspir.
Draden chuckled as he glanced at the obtrusive bulge on the girl’s head. “Could I take a look at that?” he directed at Loran. “Maybe I can make it…erm…better, somehow.”
“Oh-” Loran started, but was instantly cut off by Kladspir.
“Now, now, Draden. I do think it would be best for someone of my…stature…to attempt such a difficult task.”
Draden sighed. “I could really use the practice.”
Kladspir eyed him thoughtfully. “Very well,” he said at last.
Draden, shocked that Kladspir was actually allowing this, turned to Loran. “Hold still, this shouldn’t hurt.”
“And if it does you’ll receive my fist against your head.” She smiled angelically.
Draden gulped. He placed a hand amidst the swirling strands of her dark, amber hair, parting the waves and settling on the bump. ‘Here goes.’ “Ditiri,” he whispered. He felt the magic rush to his fingertips and depart into Loran. Everything went fine.
That is, until everything wasn’t fine. Images flashed before his eyes, visions of both life and death.
The first was gruesome: the mutilated carcass of some animal.
The second was calming: lilies bending in a breeze amidst freshly turned earth.
The third was a sparkle of yellow, maybe sunlight, but it was gone too quick to be certain.
The last was a burgundy-covered book, the title blurred and indecipherable.
When the slideshow had stopped playing, his eyesight refocused. Both him and Loran were lying on the ground.
“What the hell was that?” Loran blurted.
’And here I told the boy to let me do it, but does he listen? No! And what happens? He ends up getting them both knocked around.’ Kladspir shook his head. “All you had to do was a simple healing spell; how could it have gone wrong?!”
Draden blushed. “Well, it didn’t go completely wrong,” he pointed to the side of Loran’s head, “Her bump healed.”
“And that led to you sprawled across the grass?”
“Not really.” Draden shrugged. “I’m not sure what happened. Everything worked perfectly and then all of a sudden these images started flashing before my eyes.”
“Mine too!” Loran said in surprise.
“Excuse me,” the elf interrupted. “But might we get going? I don’t need to remind you the Gorginoths are trailing us. We can discuss this later.”
“No, you’re right,” Draden agreed.
“Then let’s move, shall we?”
They continued briskly down the slope, soon stopping a little ways from the village. They were now close enough to see why the town had looked so busy:
Fra’tsi swarmed the streets. They had taken over.
“Well, that’s not good,” Kladspir exclaimed.