Tales of Galaxia

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A collection of short stories set in the world of Galaxis and its twelve kingdoms. The drabbles of legend and histories untold.

Fantasy / Thriller
Aayjay Meraki
Age Rating:

Lord of the Mountain I

The tour through Dioscuri could only be described as wondrous; perhaps even beyond wondrous! The soil across the third kingdom’s land was rich with a brown, chocolaty texture that left dusty footsteps in my wake whenever I walked along its surface.

My horse seemed just as enchanted as I was. Her hooves moved so smoothly as we travelled along the open terrain. She never even galloped at full speed unless we were trailing along behind our guide up the edge of Dioscuri’s mountain side and I had to encourage her with a tap of my leather-clad heels. The weather was unreadable, but that did not seem to bother any of us.

I travelled this short trip with a newfound companion, idealising the thought my spirit might be enlightened with the thrill of adventure. This companion of mine was a pleasant fellow with a chirpy character. I met him on our first day of travel. He had been sitting under a large parasol, selling his wares to those passing by in the thicket of a leafy forest. When I approached him, he looked up at me with sparkling green eyes and a smile crossed his thin lips.

“You looking to buy or sell?”

Somewhat thrown off by his eager voice, my fingers tightened around my horse’s reins and I shook my head. “Neither, my friend. I simply wondered if you were part of our caravan.”

In regards to my comment, the gentleman lifted his head. The shift of his eyes towards the rest of my fellow travellers offered me the chance to glance at the supplies he had on offer. Nothing looked of great expense. There was a sheath made of crumpled leather, a wooden mask with inked markings riddling the edges of its base, a tooth from an animal of prey and an assortment of jewels and potions on stand to admire.

“Where are you travelling to?” Asked the man.

When our eyes met, I felt my face flush. “Dioscuri… I seek adventure there.”

“Many adventures have indeed been found upon the soft soil of Dioscuri. You are not an unwise traveller to be heading that way.” As he spoke, with a voice laced in deep velvet, he began packing away the numerous items on display and took down his large parasol. “If your offer still stands, I suggest we be on our way, yes?”

“You intend on coming?” I asked. My hands guided my horse towards the dust of our caravan and we trotted alongside the chirpy merchant. “Even though you were not a part of our fellowship?”

“I hope it’s not a problem,” cocking a smile which might otherwise be illegal to pull in any other kingdom, the gentlemen lazily took one arm across his chest whilst his opposite hand tipped his hat forward and he bowed. “Poe Geera.”

From atop my horse, I somehow felt compelled to look away from this gentlemen. This Poe. Having him offer such a gracious gesture towards me whilst I sat upon my stead made me feel as though our likeness was overlooked. It was as if he was picking us apart and ripping the characteristics that made us equals.

I hopped off my saddle and mimicked the bow. “Cass Phella.”

With my feet upon the damp grass, no doubt muddying the heels of my leather-clad boots, I felt as though our auras were complemented. We were equals on the same level and I no longer felt out of touch nor threatened by Poe’s generous character.

Afterwards, we began travelling and our first meeting was perhaps forgotten by him, but never by me. Some first impressions are not easy to erase and I could never wipe the sight of Poe’s glistening eyes and half-crooked smile from my mind, no matter how hard I tried.

“Your wares are rare,” one of the newest additions to our caravan had spoken up the evening we reached the border to Dioscuri’s mountain. Her eyes were a dark blue and she was adorned with handsome features which complemented the scar running across her right cheek, causing her lips to tilt in an odd direction when she smiled and sat beside Poe. “You must have travelled many places to obtain such trinkets.”

Poe smiled. He lowered his hand, taking the juicy body of a fish jammed with a thin stick away from his palate and he lowered it over the fire settled between himself and the other travellers who had taken to the smoky comfort under the night sky.

Cooking the flesh of his meal, Poe shook his head. “I am no traveller.”

The scar-faced woman withheld the grin on her face. “But surely you’ve seen many kingdoms? Most of your stock is from Typhon and Tipota, both of which are far from here.”

Poe shrugged. He took another bite of his fish. “I simply enjoyed going where my work took me.”

I was convinced he had looked in my direction, yet I was unable to meet his eyes. I had already been caught for staring during the evening and I dare not wish to have such humiliation befall me again. Perhaps tomorrow, when there are less travellers, but not tonight.

Needless to say, the scar-faced woman became quite friendly with Poe as the sky began to fill with stars. By the time the fire was void of travellers, Poe was no longer in sight. Nor was she. My only friend was my gracious steed as we watched the skies glitter and dance. But even after the fires had died and the world turned cold, my horse had trotted away to join her fellow kin knelt in a circle to keep them warm while they slept.

I was left to wander alone, trudging through the camp and across our makeshift border for the night. The sky became blocked out as I moved, ducking under the twisted branches and coiling vines linked together. I had spotted a lake earlier, just a few banks from our camp as we set up; the distance seemed arms-length during the day, but the creeping night made the journey appear long with the possibility of getting lost in the forest around me.

Cold air and the sound of trickling water was the announcement of my chosen destination. A clearing from the woods and soft grass against my heels, completed with the lake reflecting stars above. The water would be cold, I knew as much before I slipped my clothes off and dipped my lower half into the welcoming laps of nature’s wet embrace.

It was shallow enough to stand as I washed my hands, picking my nails clean and scrubbing off the grit and dust etched into every wrinkle and crease. My defences had dropped, dismissing Poe’s figure hunched in the lake just out of my reach. I gasped upon seeing him, my arms flopping into the water with a splash to signal my position.

“I had not meant to frighten you,” his chirpy voice filtered the wafting laps hitting my stomach. He scratched the back of his head, ruffling his hair against his broad shoulders. He looked bigger with no clothes on. “I thought you would have retired to bed by now.”

“As I thought you had.” My reply was perhaps sharp. I wished I could take it back. “Apologies, the long days are beginning to catch up with me.”

“No sorries, friend.” Poe waved his arm. Muscle tightened along his chest and biceps. He was riddled with scars and tanned flesh. As he moved closer, the moonlight caught the shine of the pendant around his neck. He smiled. “Turn around.”

My brows rose. I felt compelled to follow his command and slowly turned away. The water seemed colder somehow; making the palms of my companion warm when they touched my back. He began to knead the skin, easing the tangled knots of muscle and swiping the dirt away at the same time. I felt small, enclosing my hands into fists against my chest.

“...you’ve done this before?” I finally spoke once the silence had grown too strong. I felt at ease and nervous all at once.

“I have learnt many things during my visits here and there,” Poe’s hands travelled across my shoulders, cupping with experienced palms. He squeezed, causing my balance to drift and I put a foot out behind me to stop myself from falling onto him. He chuckled. “I learnt this particular move during my first visit here, in Dioscuri. The people within this kingdom have a great understanding of calming the mind and body.”

I stared into the murky water at my waist, watching our reflection merge together in waves and ripples. I had not noticed Poe’s decrease in working my shoulders until his hands went completely still, encased at my sides. It lasted longer than I had expected. He was moving back when I turned to confront him.

“I shall let you continue with your bathing,” Poe’s smile was mesmerising in the moonlight. “I will see you at dawn.”

Had I responded with a ‘good night,’ I could not recall. My body felt lighter, unattached from reality. Not even the cold sweeps of the shallow tide could collect me from this feeling of high. I was perhaps standing in the middle of the lake for a good ten minutes after Poe’s departure before I willed myself out of my thoughts and dunked the rest of my body into the icy waters. It was enough to make me feel alive again.

Morning was quick to arrive. I had not slept as easy as I thought I would. My eyes kept opening to stare at the skies. Every sound and motion around me would do well to keep me awake. Dawn was my calling and I sat up before the rest of my fellow travellers could pry themselves from their slumbers.

My horse was perhaps unhappy with my choice of waking so soon. Her eyes were glassy when I nudged her thick neck and coaxed her to stand. I strapped her saddle against her back and climbed up without thought. I needed to return to the journey; needed to wear myself out. Tonight I would sleep easier.

As the camp came to life, everyone packed their bags and hurried with their breakfasts. I watched them rush as I chewed an apple taken from my satchel. The scar-faced woman who Poe had been conversing with the night before seemed especially keen to pack her bags and climb onto her horse. She mentioned something along the lines of ‘going her own path’ and took off before anyone could question her. I never saw her again.

We left an hour afterwards, slowly following the long line of caravans, wagons and horses. Poe showed his face shortly after our departure, travelling on foot with his large backpack and parasol. As he drew closer, I turned to him - steadying my pace.

“Would you like to ride for a while?”

Poe seemed surprised. His brows were high as he looked up, watching my face as if I were to take back the offer. He eventually laughed and made a swatting motion with his spare hand. “Many thanks, but I prefer walking. Makes me appreciate the road more.”

Clicking my tongue, my horse stopped. I shuffled the weight of my belongings and hopped down, joining Poe’s side. I said nothing and simply guided my horse as I took Poe’s advice and appreciated the world from his point of view. The caravan was never moving quickly and I found the pace enjoyable. Perhaps even relaxing.

Poe had smiled. Even if the man had been nothing but a blur from the corner of my eye; I could never miss the motions his lips made when he was happy.

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