Chapter 7: The Journey Begins
Draden stood solemnly in the town centre amidst a crowd of mourning people. The mood had quickly changed from that of victorious to that of reverence. Smoke could be seen billowing above the trees as, miles away in the desert, the bodies of the Fra’tsi burned.
Three days had passed since the battle, the casualties of the Perdfalians numbering only forty. However, in a society of little more than two hundred citizens, the effect on morale was great. Maltor was one of those that had lost their lives in battle. According to his comrades, he had been overwhelmed by Fra’tsi. He had fought fiercely until the very end, taking dozens of the enemy with him.
Katliana hadn’t even emerged from her house since Melana’s death, and Draden wondered how she was faring. He still planned to see Faline, so he added stopping by Katliana’s to his list as well. Kladspir had informed him that they would be departing for Cradof within the week, which meant Draden had to find someone to take care of his house and accompanying animals for if––and when––he returned. So far, he had no ideas as to who that would be. For now, he watched the red light from the sunset cast a bloody hue on the cloud of smoke rising to the heavens.
The burial for the fallen Perdfalian soldiers would be held after Draden had left, so in a way he felt like he was betraying his people. He had basically been the cause of the battle, and now he couldn’t stay for his own town’s funeral ceremony.
Someone grabbed his arm, and he turned to face the person. Through his slightly blurred eyes, he saw Melana silhouetted against the dying light of the sun, but then the figure moved to the right, and he saw who it really was.
Faline stood before him, concern in her eyes. “Are…are you okay, Draden? You’ve been through a lot this past week, and I wanted you to know I’m here for you.”
Draden sighed, stifling a sob. He wished Melana could be here right now. His only true love. “Faline…I'm not sure how else to say this, but I'm leaving.” Draden shifted uneasily. “And I don't know how long I'm going to be gone for. So I think it would be best if you found someone else.”
Letting go of his arm, Faline nodded quickly, responding, “Oh…okay. I––I understand Draden. I'm going to miss you.”
Draden didn’t know what else to say, so for a while they just stood there, letting the weight of their silence speak for them. As the glow of the burning flames died down in a last few bursts of black smoke, the bystanders began to exit the centre, returning home and back to their forever-changed lives. Finally, Draden turned to her and said, “I guess I should be going; I wouldn’t want to get caught in the forest when it’s dark. Goodbye, Faline.” He was still wary, though he knew the Fra’tsi were long-gone. Nevertheless, with the portal to the Gorginoths’ world so close, he wasn’t going to take any chances. Since the incident in the Realm of Doom, Draden had done a lot of thinking on the matter.
He had walked through a time portal and had witnessed the opening of another portal, a gateway…but not in his time of course. He figured that if the Elf King’s body had had sufficient time to decompose it had been decades since the exiled elf had hidden away in the Desert of Fire. Which also meant Kladspir didn’t know about it, being as he’d said the only portal he’d heard of being opened was before the exiled elf had been born.
Draden still decided he had better voice to Kladspir his suspicions, because the man hadn’t been specific enough. He had said that a portal to the land of light had only been opened once before; maybe he did know about this certain portal, because it certainly hadn’t been from any land of light. This means he had sent Draden blindly into this without warning.
But then…had this portal ever been closed? Sure, enough centuries had gone by that the decaying structure of the ruins Draden had seen were dust on the wind in his own time, but that doesn’t mean the portal would be gone––yet it was. Thus, it had to have been closed some time ago; but by whom?
His thoughts remained muddled as he entered the forest on his way back home.
Half an hour later, Draden was deep in the forest, no light coming from the cloud-covered sky above. He could just barely make out the path before him, and it was the third time he stumbled before he decided to light the way.
He held the newly lit branch before him, casting a small sphere of flickering orange light around him. Breathing out a sigh of relief at the comfortingly warm glow, he continued confidently forward. However, the second he moved, he noticed a black form in the corner of his eye and he turned his head to see an ebony blur launch toward him. The thing hit his side and knocked him down, causing him to skid on his face. Pebbles scattered into the dark forest beyond. In the sudden attack, Draden had dropped the torch, and it sparked and crackled in the dirt.
It was now atop his back, clawing at his shirt. Draden tried unsuccessfully at knocking it off him by rolling, but the thing merely scampered on his stomach, claws raking his skin, emerald eyes glowing fiercely down at him. Draden opened his mouth to speak a word of magic, but the creature clawed his face and instead he let out a cry of pain. He flung himself to the side, kicking the thing as it rolled with him. Draden stood up and ran down the trail, going only a few feet before the thing slammed into his back, knocking him once again face down on the gravel. The creature was well prepared this time when Draden rolled to face it, and it scratched down his chest. Draden grunted and he grabbed the black thing, trying to throw it off him. Under his fingertips, he felt cold scales.
It snapped at his hand and Draden roared, finally deciding to finish this. ‘Grangnir!’ he thought furiously. His eyes flashed brightly and he felt fire rush through his veins and to his hands. There, the flame was released, splashing into the creature’s face and quickly setting the rest of it aflame. It howled, the sound reverberating in Draden’s ears, the pitch rising higher and higher. It bounded off his chest, hoping to escape into the forest, but instead crashed resolutely onto the dirt, sliding to a stop where it moved no more.
The forest remained oddly quiet, his breath sounding ominously loud. To his left, his torch flickered and died, letting darkness reclaim the area. He walked to the wall of trees and grabbed another branch, hoping to use the light to examine his adversary, when three pairs of glowing green eyes, identical to the ones the creature had possessed, shone from less than a few yards away in a clump of foliage. A rapid clicking sound followed by a slight rustling came from that direction as a pair of small, jade eyes drew closer.
He knew they had seen him, so there was no point in backing away slowly. He dropped the stick he had taken and ran as fast as he could to his house, leaving the dead creature where it lay.
He slept with his sword that night, dreams of the creatures haunting him.
The next morning, during the breakfast he had prepared, he thought about the encounter. Where had the thing come from? It had felt scaly, so it must have been reptilian. It was far larger, though, than any lizards in the area. Maybe it was a baby dragon. No…there exists no species of dragon with green eyes, and dragons only have one egg every decade, so four of them at once were highly improbable. It could be from the Gorginoth world, but the time portal was closed, so there must be some other portal open. But where?
Thus, Draden decided he would go back to where he had encountered the creatures and examine the dead one for further clues. He threw his dirty plates in a bucket for later cleaning and grabbed his cloak, sword already strapped on, as he walked out the door.
A fierce, cold wind slammed into him, knocking him back a few steps and blowing his hair in his eyes. Dark clouds billowed in the gray sky above, the trees around him creaking and swaying amidst the rush. Leaves swirled in the air and dust blew across his skin as the wind scraped the ground.
His hair flew out of his eyes and he saw a large, black figure standing at the beginning of the path before him. Draden leaned back against his porch, wind still gushing ominously. The tall creature rushed to the right in a shadowy blur. Draden tried to follow it with his eyes, but the wind roared faster and he was forced to shut them as a cloud of dust slammed into him. He blinked his eyes open and the black figure stood before him.
A gauntlet-covered hand closed around his throat and lifted him off the ground. Crimson irises pierced out of a black face up at him, and its mouth opened to reveal equally black teeth. The creature cackled, low and loud, and slammed Draden into the ground with as much force as the wind. Draden heard a crack as everything went black.
Kladspir had been walking––he wasn't so good at teleporting in the wind, though he wouldn’t be caught dead admitting it––up the path to Draden’s, ready to leave for Cradof, when he had been attacked by some small, pesky creatures. He had, of course, blown them away without a care, but this also confirmed his fears that Draden’s presence in the past had altered the present. He wasn’t quite sure of anything yet, but he knew that––right now––there were no other portals open.
He had just rounded the bend in the road when he saw the black figure, which he realized at second glance was a Gorginoth, slam Draden into the leafy ground and disappear still holding the now unconscious boy. Kladspir jogged over to the spot, seeing a Draden-shaped indent in the somewhat soft earth, and a dark blotch near the edge of it. He dipped his index finger in the liquid, then lifted it to his eyes. It was blood, he assumed Draden’s, and he whispered to himself, “Perfect.”
He pulled out his wand and touched it to a bloodied leaf, the tip of the wand turning wetly scarlet. He then pointed it at the ground. “Vaxilae,” he said aloud, moving his wand in a circle around him. A cyan line appeared on the dirt. The world turned black, and all he could see was the blue ring. He was on his way to save Draden.
Draden, meanwhile, was just awakening to the annoying jabs of a Gorginoth. He opened his eyes, focusing them on the black-skinned and clothed creature before him. He turned his aching neck to the side and took in the gaunt forms of four more affiliates. He was slightly delirious and had a throbbing pain in his left hand. He lifted the burning member up, mentally wondering why there were no bonds, and noticed that three of his fingers were broken, obviously what he had used in a futile attempt at breaking his fall. There was also a stick protruding from his leg, which he must have acquired in his hasty descent to the ground. Blood seeped darkly from around the slightly sealed wound. He returned his attention back to the Gorginoth standing in front of him who had just unsheathed a not-so-friendly scimitar.
‘If they think I’m going to sit here without a fight, they’re wrong,’ he thought angrily. Why had they brought him here in the first place?
The creature raised its scimitar to strike, and Draden cast magic. He focused his fury and then released it in a single blast. A spinning vortex of flame emitted from his chest. It blasted through the Gorginoth, raising its blackened body into the air. Flames spiraled from its clothes, and the creature spun in an erratic rhythm. A large, glistening spike of ice impaled its chest, quickly ending its descent and pinning it to a large tree trunk in a bright explosion of blood.
Shocked, Draden snapped his eyes to the right, seeing Kladspir standing firmly erect with his wand extended before him. The man sent a jet stream of water careening at the flaming corpse of the Gorginoth, dousing the flames that had been spreading up the trunk.
The other four Gorginoths moved into action. In a blur they had disappeared, moving too fast to follow. A gush of wind rushed past Draden and a sharp gash was cut down his shoulder. Draden cried out and blood dripped to the ground.
“Draden, protect yourself!” yelled Kladspir, a red, glowing shield already around him.
Draden recalled the words Flagprim had used and yelled, “Fractiniliium!” as a Gorginoth sped by. A blue, phosphorescent shield formed around him, and the Gorginoth crashed into it, trapped inside with Draden. ‘Not good,’ he thought dryly. Then he had an idea, to both kill the creature and protect himself. Even in the small space the shield provided, the Gorginoth was speeding past in a blur, cutting biting gashes in Draden’s flesh.
Draden crossed his arms, placing his hands on his triceps, and repeated, “Fractiniliium.” Another blue shield encased him, structuring to conform to Draden’s skin. Now for part two of the plan. He focused his mind on what he wanted to occur, and said, “Grangnir.” Lava pooled around his feet, splashing against both blue shields. It filled up inside the space, and the screams of the Gorginoth verified that Draden’s plan was working. Soon, there was no other place for the magma to go, and the outer shield broke, spewing lava across the ground and releasing the melted mass of the Gorginoth.
“Good one, Draden!” praised Kladspir, who had dispatched two of the creatures himself.
One more to go.
And there were two of them.
The creature took one look at Draden, cackled as it had before, and disappeared to some other place in a sparkle of blue dust.
“J’herdit, I was looking forward to killing that one,” exclaimed Kladspir. “He’s probably off to get more of his friends. Too bad we won’t be here when they arrive; I’d very much like to meet them with my blade.”
“Why––where are we going?” asked Draden, sitting down to take care of the stick in his leg.
Kladspir laughed, “To Cradof of course. That Gorginoth will most likely return with more Gorginoths than we can handle. We must leave now so they can’t follow us to the King’s city.”
Draden gasped as pain shot up his leg with the sudden removal of the wooden rod.
“Here, Draden, do this,” said Kladspir, who took his wand and placed it on his only wound: a small line on his hand. “Ditiri.” His cut closed, leaving clear, unblemished skin.
Draden copied the action, placing his palm on the bloody cut on his leg, saying slowly, “Di...ti...ri.” Blood squeezed out as the sides of the gash connected, leaving it smooth and ridding the wound of pain. Smiling, Draden then repeated this process for his other wounds, saving his broken fingers for last. He clasped his good hand around them and repeated the healing spell. They cracked back into place, moving abnormally as the bones shifted to normal. He flexed the newly repaired digits, satisfied with the result.
“Get up and let us go. The Gorginoths will be coming soon,” commanded Kladspir, exiting into the trees.
Draden took this moment to finally recognize where he was. He was standing near the southwestern edge of the Realm of Doom, the shards of the time portal glittering about a hundred yards in the distance among the rays of the waning sun. He jogged into the forest after Kladspir, feeling exhausted from the encounter and from the use of so much magic.
An hour and a half later, they were leaving the houses of Perdfale behind them. They had paused for a brief moment to retrieve food from the inn and for Draden to recover his strength.
Kladspir, noticing that Draden appeared tired, chuckled and said, "I'd forgotten what it was like to be a beginner to magic. Using too much magic in a short period of time can quickly exhaust a person, even kill them," he explained to Draden who was sitting on a barstool, chewing on a piece of meat. "Your capacity for magic will increase over time, but everyone who uses magic can be affected. The trick is to know your own limits! Some spells are only capable by the most magically attuned," Kladspir pointed to himself proudly, "And other spells will instantly kill the caster upon use." Seeing Draden's interested expression, Kladspir added, "Those are forbidden."
Draden's shoulders fell in disappointment. Kladspir continued, "If you're lucky, I'll tell you about them on our journey. Just don't be foolish and try using them; the last thing we need is for you to die from misuse of magic. You will also receive special training in magic once we get to Cradof, as well as martial training. We need you to be an excellent fighter if we're to keep you alive in the events to transpire." Kladspir wouldn't say what these events were, or even elaborate on the subject, so Draden gave up trying to get more information out of him.
The plan, as Kladspir relayed it to him, was to follow the main path to the Saero River, then cut off into the Mountains of Death, and from there across the Saero River again and through the forest to Grigmire Village. There, they would acquire a boat and sail across Arema Lake to Cradof. Kladspir explained that they couldn’t teleport to Cradof because the city was magically protected, and the Gorginoths could sense rifts in space caused from teleporting that they could follow to wherever the previous traveller had gone. The last thing they needed was the Gorginoth's following them.
Thus, they were forced to walk, without horses, the five or more day journey to Cradof.
Draden had also asked Kladspir if he knew why the Gorginoths had taken him back to the Realm of Doom. He had his own suspicions, but he wanted Kladspir’s confirmation.
Kladspir suggested that with the broken time portal so close to where they had brought Draden, they had intended for him to fix it so they could get more creatures from their world through. Of course, it couldn’t be done. At least, not by Draden.
With nothing left to discuss, they walked silently down the road toward the Saero River.
Vaxilae = Văz-ĭ-lay
Ditiri = Dĭ-tēr-ee
Saero = Sār-ō
Arema = Ŭ-ree-mŭ