The Journey To The Middle Stone

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Denial, Chapter 2: The Journey Begins

“ C I A R A !”

“Is she even still alive?”

“Of course she is, look she’s moving! Ciara, wake the fuck up!”

“CIARA!”

Ciara suddenly jerked up from the moss, and it took her a minute to realize where she was. Still in the woods, but this time there were colors. The grey white mass was gone, and now Ciara could actually see the bright blue sky and the yellow sun above her. The trees had green leaves on them and the ground was all green and brown. Here and there were puddles of rainwater. There were no sign of the fog people nor of the pale woman. Even the memory of the pale woman gave Ciara the chills, and she had a feeling that it would haunt her for a long time. Maybe the rest of her life?

“See, told you she’s still among the living. Now, let’s get you up before you really get the cold or something.” One of the two women said as they helped Ciara up. Only now Ciara saw clearly who they were, Sheela and Odette.

Sheela’s the tiniest one of the three, and she wore a turquoise dress underneath her blue cloak. Her blonde hair was always in a braid, and Ciara can’t recall any time when she would have seen Sheela without a braid. Sheela is also a really nervous woman, and she easily worries about everything. She has a kind heart, but a fragile spirit.

Odette in the other hand was the opposite of Sheela. Odette wore her red wavy hair in a simple ponytail, and she wore a carmine red dress under her scarlet red cloak. Almost everything about Odette was red. Odette is a strong woman, mentally and physically. She takes no shit from no one, she’s blunt and isn’t afraid of speaking her mind or calling people out on their bullshit. Odette is like fire, that just continues on burning with a strong flame even though you would have thought it would have burnt out already. But no.

You would think that it would be little strange that how such a pair as Odette and Sheela became friends. Maybe Odette saw the fragile spirit but kind heart in Sheela and therefore decided that she would protect her. Odette is also much like a mother to people she cares deeply of.

“Hi, girls. What are you two up to?” Ciara asked as she looked at her two friends. Her feet started to sting of the coldness, and she only now saw that she was standing in a puddle. Yay flu, here we come, Ciara thought in a sarcastic tone. As Ciara was staring down at her feet and trying to move away from the puddle she didn’t notice the worried looks that Sheela and Odette exchanged.

“Well…, we could be asking the same thing from you.” Sheela said in a nervous voice. Before Ciara could answer Odette chimed in: “Yea, like what the hell were you doing out here last night? We also saw Moire earlier today and she told us that you just ran out to the woods, without SHOES,” Odette highlighted the word shoes with her voice and pointed at Ciara’s bare feet, “and when it’s about to rain heavily. And we heard that this wasn’t your first night out like this in the woods! Look at you, you’re soaked through! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”

“Odette!” Sheela cried out, and gave Odette a warning look, and she took the hint.

“I was just looking for Vida…, and for my shoes.” Ciara said in a child like voice, and Odette sighed.

“Okay, but let’s get you out of here now before you get really sick.” Sheela said and took Ciara’s hand in hers and started to lead her out of the woods. Odette came after them, making sure that Ciara really came with them.

“But where’s Vida then?” Ciara asked and started to look around as they walked. Here and there she could see a black goo like substance on few trees. Her eyes widened as she thought that had the fog people left it there on the trees after them?

“She’s probably at the market now. I think she probably wonders too that where you have been.”

“Maybe…”

“I think she’s there, but now we’re going to do things like this; Odette takes you to a bath, and I go looking for Vida, okay?” It wasn’t a question.

“Yup, I think it’s a good idea, don’t wanna get sick…” Ciara said and then she sneezed.

“We need to hurry, come on.” Sheela’s grip tightened around Ciara’s hand, and they were almost running out from the forest. As they came out of the forest, the cottage village had sprung alive. People flocked the marketplace, and here and there people were screaming about their products, trying to get others to buy whatever they had to offer.

“Okay, go to Merideth, she will take care of you, and I’ll come later there then.” Odette said and without saying goodbye she vanished to the mass of people. Ciara looked after Odette, and swallowed. Her mouth felt so dry.

“No need to worry, Ciara. Odette will find Vida, hopefully. Now come on.”

“You’re probably right. But the thing is that I don’t remember anything from the evening with Vida, that how it went. I remember that we were happy and laughing and then suddenly it all cuts to black. And I wake up in the moss.”

“Hmm, little strange I see. You two were out drinking, weren’t you?” Sheela asked, and Ciara tried to dug in her memory, but it all was a blurry mess. She shook her head but then answered slowly: “I’m…, not sure. It could have been the case, that we were out drinking. Fuck, why I don’t remember a thing!”

The last part Ciara lashed out, and they got few strange looks from people who passed by. Sheela gave the people a quick glance as she then put her arms around Ciara.

“It’s bizarre, I have to admit. Maybe you should see a doctor or something?”

“No, no, not the doctor!” Ciara stiffed and started to panic, and Sheela realized she had made a mistake. Somehow Ciara had a fear of doctors, but she never had opened up about it. Sheela always thought to give it time, that Ciara will open up about it someday. It day has yet to come.

“Okay, calm down now. Look, Merideth is there, let’s go!” Sheela quickly said and so the walked quickly over to the bathhouse called Merideth. It was owned by a compassionate old man called Tyrone. He build it together it with his wife Merideth, and it was named after her as she passed away just before it was finished.

The bell rang as Ciara and Sheela stepped in, and Tyrone was carrying some towels as he saw them.

“Ah, Sheela! And Ciara! Nice to see you two young ladies here again!” Tyrone smiled to them as he put the towels on the reception desk.

“Hi, Tyrone! could we use the sauna or a hot bath? We don’t want Ciara to catch the cold.” Tyrone looked to Ciara who was shaking next to Sheela.

“Of course, of course! Sauna will be soon ready and then a hot herb bath would be at place?” Tyrone clasped his hands together and Sheela and Ciara nodded.

“That will be it then!” Tyrone chimed, and they followed him to the outside of dressing rooms and before entering in he gave them towels. Tyrone also said that he’d notify them when the baths would be ready. Ciara and Sheela thanked him and then they stepped into the dressing room.

“Wooh, it’s nice to go to the sauna, isn’t it? It has been a while when I were in one.” Sheela said and looked Ciara who seemed to be staring into nothingness.

“Hey, we’ll find Vida.” Sheela said in a calming tone as she put her hand on Ciara’s shoulder.

“You promise?” Ciara asked now turning to Sheela with a pleading look in her eyes. Sheela swallowed, since she knew what consequences there could be with making false promises, but with a sad smile she answered: “I promise, don’t worry about it. Now let’s first take care of you.”

After the sauna there was time for the herb baths. They washed themselves quickly before entering to the baths. Ciara was already in hers as Sheela suddenly stopped.

“I forgot the salve, I have to go and get it. You’ll be okay here?”

“Sure, I’ll be okay here. Just gonna soak here in the water.”

“Good. I’ll be soon back!” Sheela wrapped the towel around her and went her way. Ciara let out a long sigh as she stared up to the ceiling.

Why, why can’t you remember anything, you stupid lump of fat? Ciara cursed her brain as she once again tried to remember that what had happened that night. Was it like two or three nights ago? Shit, this is bad…, and the smell of these herbs are making me feel dizzy, crap I need to get up before I pass out! Ciara quickly got up from the water, and sat down on the edge of the bathtub. She started to rub her temples as she felt that a migraine was on the way. She already could spot green dim lights that seemed to be staring at her, or so she thought.

Shit, this too? Ciara cursed as she got up and took her towel that she wrapped around her body. Then she walked to giant window that was behind hers and Sheela’s bathtubs. Ciara moved the curtains away so she could look outside to the street. Down on the street she saw many people rushing by others and minding their own business. Few had stopped to talk to each other, and then she spotted a familiar looking pair. It was Moire and Odette!

Ciara couldn’t make out that what they were talking about, but they looked very serious. Odette was explaining something to Moire, and it was something important judging by the way how Odette moved her arms. Could it be something important?

Then Ciara spotted a familiar looking human that came down the street. Everyone else seemed to ignore the person, and then it hit her. The figure in the white cloak was Vida! Ciara was sure about it since Vida was the only one brave enough to go out with a white cloak. And there were green small balls of light dancing around her. Damn, has my migraine gotten that bad? Ciara thought.

“Vida!” Ciara yelled as she pressed herself against the window. No matter her screaming attempts or banging on the window, no one seemed to notice Vida. Vida also just walked straight by Odette and Moire, and they didn’t make any effort to notice her. What the fuck is wrong with people? Ciara thought as she just continued bangin on the window with her hands.

“Ciara! What the hell are you doing?” Quickly Ciara turned around to meet a pretty shocked looking Sheela, who had now two bottles of salve with her.

“I…” Ciara began, but Sheela cut her off: “Back to the tub now! Shees, Ciara! And even you towel had fallen off!”

“Alright, alright!” Ciara lifted her hands up and went back to the bathtub. The herbs made Ciara want to throw up, but still did as Sheela told her.

“Is the migraine coming up again?” To that Ciara just nodded as she now could feel the slow throbbing pain.

“Okay, I suspected that. The way you were looking around and not really focusing on anything. Now sit up, so I can put this salve on your face.” Once again, Ciara did as told, and so Sheela put the green salve on her Ciara’s face. It helped a little bit, but Ciara knew she would need something stronger to kill the pain.

“Is everything okay here?” Hera, a woman with one blind eye came and asked them as she stepped in to the bathing room.

“Um, yes, but could you stay here for a while? I need to use the toilet.” Sheela sounded little embarrassed, but Hera just waved her hand.

“It’s okay, little one. I’ll keep company to Ciara in meantime.” With a thank you Sheela left, and Hera came to sit on the edge of the bathtub that Ciara was in.

“I understand you’re in pain again.”

“Who wouldn’t be?” Ciara threw back in a lazy voice. Even if she still felt the pain, she was so tired of everything that she could fall asleep.

“No need to be long.” Hera said and laid one of her hands on Ciara’s head.

“What…?” Ciara asked but the shut the second as she heard that Hera started to mumble something in an unknown language:

“Mene kipu kiven kolohon,

alle paaen pakkuraisen,

ei kivi kipuja itke…”

It sounded so familiar. The language. Ciara felt a warmth from Hera’s hand, and she closed her eyes. If Ciara only could have seen from the outside, she would have seen the golden lights that came from Hera’s hand, and danced around her head, healing the pain away. But soon she was drifted away to sleep by Hera’s shooting words.

Suddenly Ciara opened her eyes. In disbelief she looked around as she once again found herself in the forest. Everything were back to grey and the same familiar thick mist was once again creeping among the trees.

“Oh, nonoNO! Fuck no!” Ciara screamed, and she felt like she would go mad. She had her dark grey cloak on, and her white gown, but now it had some red stains on the hem.

I see you are in trouble”

Ciara heard a deep voice behind her, and as she turned around she was face to face with a demon monster looking thing.

It was way taller than Ciara, and it had deer skull with giant antlers as a head. There were also black string going between the antlers. Some of the ends were hanging down and had some symbols tied to them, symbols that Ciara couldn’t recognize. It had long black arms and slender fingers with pointy nails that looked really sharp. It had on a grey looking robe, and there were feet would have normally been there were thick black smoke. Wonder if you have feet at all? Ciara thought. It had a belt made of rope on it’s waist, and a hourglass, a clock, a dice and a cross were hanging from it. Ciara should probably have been scared, but no, she wasn’t. She was more intrigued by the creature.

“How am I in trouble?” Ciara asked, as the air around them become colder each minute that passed.

“No one can hide their troubles from me. I see your mind isn’t at peace”

The creature spoke.

“How are you sure? I mean, you aren’t wrong about it…” Ciara said and put her arms around her. Shees, it was cold.

“I see you have things that you want to figure out. But are you ready to face the truth when the time comes?”

The creature asked Ciara, and it made her feel little anxious, and so many more questions rose to her mind.

“When the time comes? What do you mean by that?”

“Only time will tell, how you’ll find it, which path you’ll take. Before that you cannot rest.”

“You don’t say…, but this has something to do with Vida? Hasn’t it?” Please tell me what happened to her!

“Perhaps it has…, but that is your job to find out…, to find and face the truth if you can, or sink into the darkness…”

It said and pointed at Ciara, and now she started to feel little afraid. But at the same time the creature started to fade, and from somewhere nearby Ciara could hear faint laughter and music. The fog people!

“No, wait! You can’t go yet! How-” It was too late, the creature had vanished. Tears burned Ciara’s eyes and she just wanted to scream. Again she saw the fog and the masquerade people with in it.

Great, fucking great! Now Ciara was just annoyed by their presence. As they came, so came the music. Now it could be heard more louder and clearly, and it woke something up in Ciara’s memories.

I know this song! Ciara thought as she started to go towards the music. The same oh so familiar female voice. As it was before so was it now, she couldn’t understand anything that the voice was singing. Somehow these songs in an unknown language were tied to Vida, Ciara was sure about it.

“Aavehuudot korviin kaikuu pyytää seuraamaan,

uskallatko nousta kohti vuorta kulkemaan…?”

Ciara followed the voice, and she came to it, she saw a figure in a white cloak sitting on the ground singing the song. The figure had her back turned towards Ciara, who could feel her heartbeat only getting faster.

“Vida…?” Ciara said with an unsure tone, that happened to be her biggest mistake in life.

The singing stopped.

Still the back turned towards Ciara, the figure got up.

And just stood still.

And then in a quick move, it turned around, not to reveal Vida.

Oh, no.

Ciara screamed, as the butterflymasked woman plunged towards her, with her mouth open.

Suddenly Ciara snapped wide awake. Still screaming, she scared Hera and now Sheela and Tyrone came running to the room. Hera had fallen on the floor, and Sheela rushed to her friend.

“Is everything okay? What happened?” Sheela asked, and Ciara felt really dizzy as she clung to the outline of the bathtub.

“The woman…, she-she came at me…, and the antler creature…, oh god I thought it was Vida!” Now Ciara started to wail loudly, and Sheela took her into her arms.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, dear Ciara. There’s no woman, okay? What if we get something to eat after this? You’re gonna need it.” Ciara just nodded, and so they quickly moved on from the bathhouse. Ciara was still in shock of what had happened. Like her body had stayed behind in the bathtub, but her mind, spirit or soul had travelled into the woods? And then she had met this antler creature…, what was it? Ciara still shuddered from the memory that how close the woman had gotten her…, what would have happened if she had actually caught her? Quickly Ciara shook that thought out from her mind, because she didn’t wanna think about it.

Soon Sheela and Ciara came to the local tarven called Night Owl. They stepped into it and saw that Odette was already inside there with Moire. Odette waved at them and they went to sit with them.

“Hey, finally you two found your way here. Did the bathhouse do any good?” Odette asked and before Sheela could answer, Ciara quickly said: “Yes, it did some good. But now it’s time for some food, eh? I feel like starving.”

“Heh, glad to hear that. Hey, Mic, can you come?” Odette shouted after Mic, who ran to place with his family. Mic was the same age with Ciara, and he had dark green eyes with a hint of gold in them and dark brown hair. He usually wore a simple green or grey shirt, together with brown leather pants and boots.

“Hello to all of you! It’s nice to see you here.” Mic greeted the women, and they greeted him too. So they ordered some food and ate as much as they could. Ciara also asked if they had seen Vida, and Odette and Moire just shook their heads. But the taylor had said that he had seen her going to the other end of the down. But after that nothing.

This troubled Ciara even more, and it was starting to be really late.

So they also asked if there were any rooms available, and for their luck there were.

Moire went back to her cabin, and so Odette, Sheela and Ciara stayed at the Night Owl. They went up to their room and once they had hit the hay, Sheela and Odette fell asleep almost immediately. But Ciara couldn’t.

There were too many things on her mind, and she decided it couldn’t continue like this. So she made her mind up.

Slowly and carefully she got up from her bed, grabbed her cloak and went downstairs quietly as a mouse.

Once she was out of the tarven, she ran into Elion, who was the older brother of Mic and a good friend to Ciara.

“Can’t catch the sleep?” He asked and Ciara let out a small laugh.

“No, I’m afraid. I just need to clear my thoughts, and usually a walk makes the trick for me.”

“Alright, just don’t wander off to the woods.”

“I won’t.” Ciara answered and lift her hood up. She had other plans.

Ciara walked and walked till she came to the other end of the town that was near a deep pond. And there on the other side of the pond she spotted what she was looking for, the witch’s cabin. Invisible to the eye who doesn’t know what to look for.

Ciara walked around the pond until she came to the cabin. To her surprise the witch was waiting for her outside of her cabin, and with a knowing look in her eyes she looked at Ciara.

“Troubled minds are often restless.” The witch said as Ciara was in front of her.

“They often are.” Ciara answered back, and the witch smiled.

“And answers they want. Come in, dear child. Let’s see what’s troubling you.” In to the witch’s cabin they went, and it was surprisingly a really nice looking place. Shelves full of books, herbs, bottles and other small stuff. A table in front of a window that was full of papers, more books and a notebook that the witch kept shut. On the table slept also a black cat, and it had a white circular dot on its right eye.

“I call him Moon, it’s not hard to guess where he got the name of.” The witch smiled, and Ciara smiled too. Then she joined the witch who was sitting at the fireplace.

“So, tell me child, what it is that is on your mind.”

“Well…, it has been a crazy day…” Ciara said and then started to explain what she had gone through before this moment. How she had had problems with her memory, about having no clue where her dearest were, about the butterfly mask woman and the weird demon like looking creature, who spoke about something like finding the truth and of that that would Ciara be ready for it.

The witch listened, and thought for a moment before answering: “Seems like you ran into the demon god of time and fate, Aionos. Even though most of the time he seems harmless, but be careful what you hear from him. He’s a cryptic one, and sometimes he likes to gamble with the fate of the innocent. So, be careful.”

“Will remember that…, but what about the woman in the butterfly mask? Or the fog people, or what the fuck is wrong with my memory?”

“Oh, the fog people are harmless, so long you don’t piss them off or anything else. Behind the fog people is a sad story. They are lost souls, or souls who haven’t found peace after they dead. So at night they will come out, dance in confusion as they don’t know what to do. Truly sad, it is…, but then about the mask woman you told me about…, I’m afraid that you have to look elsewhere for the answer, for I have none to offer. But this all seems to be tied together with your dearest one…, she was very important to you?” The witch asked and tilted her head. Ciara looked away and blushed a little bit.

“She IS, she isn’t dead,” Ciara hissed, but then quickly added, “but where could I find answers then? I don’t wanna be stuck like this for the rest of my life.”

“It’s up to you to find the way, my dear. But one hint I can give you; in the neighbour village you could find some answers. Just let the gut lead you.”

“Okay…? Guess I need to travel there then. I think I-” Just when Ciara was to rise up from the chair, the witch put her hand on Ciara’s and said: “I wasn’t ready yet, wait.”

A second later she gave Ciara a roll of paper and a small bag something moving inside of it.

“Here you’re gonna need these, but don’t open them here now, because then they might not work.” Then why did you give me these in the first place? Ciara thought but took the items anyway.

“Thank you, so it would best to start at the neighbour village?”

“Indeed, and hopefully you’ll find the way to the truth. But remember once it is shown, you can’t escape from it.” Ciara felt a weird knot in her stomach, because that was the same thing Aionos had said to her, but just in a different way. She thanked the witch again and left. The witch watched after her and when she had shut the cabin’s door, did she feel another presence in her cabin.

She let out a deep sigh and asked: “What have you done now?”

In meantime Ciara made quickly her way to the village’s stables where the horses were kept. Good thing her gown had pockets, and she had put the things there that she had gotten from the witch.

Once she were at the stables, she started to look for the right horse.

“Peppermint, peppermint, where are you…? There you are!” Ciara said happily as she stopped in front of a stall that belonged to a beautiful black horse. The horse, Peppermint, became also happy to see Ciara.

“What do you say, that we go for a ride to the neighbour village? We should be there by morning.” Ciara spoke as she petted Peppermint’s muzzle. Peppermint neighed shortly, and so Ciara saddled Peppermint up. Once outside of the stable she got on the horse, and so the journey had begun.

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