Good Reef!

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Chapter 6

Travelling with magicians turned out to be very interesting indeed. First of all, they did offer to make the journey quicker, but when questioned as to what that meant exactly, the two of them just smiled mysteriously, which is rarely (if ever) a good sign. As a result Bronek hesitated, and the two warriors refused to partake in any travel that meant they’d have no control over the method or speed of transportation. Maya and Thesius seemed very disappointed and tried to explain to the others that they were missing out on something really special, but it all failed miserably. So, walking it was for them all. Thesius lead the way, with Bronek and Maya walking hand in hand behind him and the sibling warriors closing their ranks.

The dark forest allowed them to leave without any problems or apparent traps. There must’ve been some serious magic happening though, because Bronek was sure he glimpsed a Dragon (most certainly the same one that roasted Sir Honberg on the road not so long ago) watching them from behind some trees and bushes, clearly drawn to the magic in the air. Bronek didn’t want to scare it with any sudden movements and pointing, so he just calmly kept looking ahead.

‘There seems to be a Dragon hiding behind some bushes to our right,’ he said, in the conversational tone of someone who wants to share some fascinating news on the state of the cloth dyeing industry.

‘Really?’ asked Mateya replying in the tone of someone who knows everything there is to know about cloth and dye, but decides to humour the interlocutor in hopes of mocking them a second later about some vital piece of information they’re lacking, like the fact that people use fermented wee to prepare clothes for dyeing.

Bronek looked at Mateya and noticed her sarcastic expression.

‘Never mind,’ he mumbled and his wife giggled.

‘Believe it or not,’ Maya said ‘But this was actually rather quick for him. He never usually notices anything.’

‘We all saw the beast nearly half an hour ago, Bronek,’ Mathias shook his head.

‘I think calling this magical and beautiful creature ‘beast’ is just rude,’ interjected Thesius.

‘Exactly,’ agreed Maya ‘She’s called Caitleen.’

‘You can’t name a Dragon after my mother!’ protested Bronek in shock.

The warriors and Thesius burst out laughing and Maya tried to fight a smile.

‘Well, dear, she did use to spew fire in a way, didn’t she? Besides, if you see just how beautiful she is you might change your mind. Caitleen has grace and power like you’ve never seen before. She’s just a tad scared of people. And can you blame her?’

‘If she’s scared, why is she following us?’

‘She’s a bit of an old friend, really,’ answered Thesius over his shoulder ‘And Dragons are attracted to magic, aren’t they? So she quite likes Maya and me. Also, if you look around more closely later on, you might see more magical creatures coming out of their hiding places. I believe they’re all moving towards the Wall. Its magic used to be hidden, but now it’s being emitted like nothing I’ve ever seen. You can actually see it crackling in the air… Or you could if you were me,’ he added a bit too smugly for anyone’s taste.

Getting out of the forest didn’t prove difficult at all. The dark shadows continued to leave them alone, and no scary silence fell upon the group. It was actually becoming rather dull. Just a lot of walking. The trees, the birds and all that. Lovely, of course, and peaceful, but now Bronek was used to some action around his new friends, and was starting to expect exciting things to happen more often. His thoughts were interrupted by Mateya.

‘That girl we saw last night…,’ she said.

‘Bealla,’ answered Bronek ‘Everybody calls her Bee, though. It was her, wasn’t it?’ he looked at his wife, who simply nodded.

‘…well, that girl,’ continued Mateya ‘What did we really see? What was all that about?’

Maya kept on walking in silence for a while.

‘I’m not sure,’ she finally said ‘I can’t find her anymore. I used to be able to keep an eye on her from afar, like I did with Bronek, but now she’s hidden in some way. Can you see anything?’ she asked Thesius, who just shook his long, white beard in response.

He was certainly a perfect embodiment of what a wizard should look like; with his pointy hat, flowing robes and a long beard he liked to stroke. On the other hand, he wasn’t helping the stereotypes and beliefs about wizards being stuck in the past. But, truth be told, Thesius was so very old, that he grew up in that distant past, and so what he grew up with was right for him. Also, the loose robes were very comfy, the hat made him taller and he liked to stroke the beard because he thought it made him look smarter. Not that he needed it of course…

‘Why would you watch her, though?’ asked Bronek.

‘Because she’s got magic within her. I merely wanted to keep an eye on her. Make sure she stayed out of trouble and help her keep it hidden from the Academy – no offence Thesius.’

‘I wouldn’t expect you to run to the officials and tell them about a special child, when you yourself were trying to keep a low profile,’ he shrugged ‘But there is something more about this girl, isn’t there?’

‘I’m certain she has the Sight.’

Thesius stopped in his tracks and faced Maya.

‘The Sight? Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘For the same reasons I didn’t tell you about her magical abilities.’

‘But the Sight… That’s different.’

They were all forced to stop now while Thesius just stared at Maya without a word.

‘Excuse me,’ interrupted Mathias ‘But what exactly is the Sight? I’ve heard legends but…’

Thesius looked up at him and considered the question for a moment.

‘We haven’t found anyone with the gift of Sight in hundreds of years. From what we know of those individuals, they can see beyond what’s here. They see the ‘essence’ of things,’ he looked away, lifted his pointy hat, scratched a bald patch on the top of his head and covered it again. ‘The way everyone sees things is like this,’ he motioned all around ‘You just see things. The Sight allows you to see what’s beyond that to the life within. Its life force, its past, possibly even its future – all the conceivable outcomes of the future. It’s a true gift.’

‘And a curse,’ added Maya sternly to which Thesius simply nodded his head, turned around and started walking again. Everyone followed. ‘Thesius makes it sound wonderful, but the truth is that all the recorded instances of people with this ‘gift’ ended in a disaster. Every single one of these people first lost their mind and then died in excruciating pain. Some took their own life before that happened. To be honest that was probably the better option. Those who didn’t, took ages to die, while their brain slowly trickled out of their noses and ears.’

‘Eww,’ commented Mateya ‘A quick death would definitely be preferable.’

‘I blame the magicians,’ said Maya to which Thesius turned for a second.

‘There’s no proof they did it out of malice,’ he finally said a bit sadly.

‘The children appeared to be quite happy where they were. It was assumed they would always have a problem trying to block out everything they could see, which would become a sort of constant noise to them, but they seemed to manage quite well otherwise. Once they were taken away from their families and sent to the Academy their condition would steadily worsen, and that slow horrible death would follow.’

‘How do you know about it?’ asked Bronek ‘You never went to the Academy.’

‘Thesius gave me access to his library. I’m glad I hid my abilities and never became a part of that system. The Academy never once informed the parents of those children about what had happened to previous Seers. The magicians were always sure that they could prevent it from happening again… And they were so interested in the Sight that they would do anything to be given a chance to observe such a child.’

‘Didn’t they ever find grown ups with the Sight?’ asked Mathias.

‘No. It seems that either, they found them all when they were still children, which seems improbable, or that some of them were able to hide their abilities. The ones the Academy discovered were still young enough to not understand what was happening, but they all knew that what was coming wasn’t good. They never wanted to go. Funny, isn’t it? The vast majority of children with ordinary magical abilities want to leave the house and go to the Academy. They want to learn more. But these rare children proved their Sight by refusing to go. Their parents were easily swayed though. It’s such an honour to have a magician in the family, and their parents could never teach them what they needed to learn. Interestingly, all of these Seers were born at the coast. There was only one case where a girl was found inland. Her family had moved away from their fishing village to a city and that’s where she was discovered by a wizard. Well, discovered… She wasn’t well. Healers and wise ones tried and failed to help her. She seemed to be losing her mind, and finally a wizard agreed to have a look – he knew straight away that she had the Sight. He was a decent man and instead of trying to drag the child before the High Council, he told the parents to take her back to the sea as quickly as they could. They left the city, but very soon the Council found out about what had happened and went after them. I’m not sure what the Council was hoping to achieve, because the parents already knew that if she were to survive, she’d have to stay with them. The family was never found and nobody knows what happened to them. Personally, I think that the girl got better and somehow managed to hide herself and her family from view, like all the other ones the magicians were never able to find.’

‘But why go after them like that?’ asked Mateya.

‘Power,’ said Bronek simply and Maya smiled sadly.

‘Exactly,’ she said ‘If you get your hands on the child early enough, you can completely sever all ties to its family. Teach it to value what you want it to value. And if the rumours about the Sight are true, you could have knowledge of all possible futures. With that you could influence world events. You could rule over all. Nobody should have that kind of power, but that’s what those children would be used for. And if not, their presence in the Academy might, even if only for a short time before their death, give an insight into the rare gift they possessed.’

‘Bastards,’ spat Mateya ‘Bloody magicians.’

Thesius turned around.

‘I’m not responsible for what happened so long ago, am I? Personally, I do think that those with the Sight should stay by the sea for their own safety. But if, with their help, you could prevent war or disease, wouldn’t you?’

Everyone fell completely silent. They walked for a few more minutes with just the sound of birds surrounding them and a few twigs breaking here and there under the feet of Caitleen, who was still following them. Keeping a safe distance, of course. You can never trust people, no matter how full of lovely, delicious magic they are.

Finally Mathias broke the silence.

‘I would assume that most people are decent,’ he said playing with his earring ‘Not all of course, but most. And so, I think it’s safe to assume that of all those hidden children with the Sight, at least a few of them grew up to become decent adults. Wouldn’t you think that if they could see a way to prevent war or disease or some sort of cataclysm, they would let someone know? Maybe the world is on the right path? Maybe, if you try and mess with things, it only gets worse?’

They all thought about it for a moment.

‘Or maybe they knew the world was going to end soon anyway?’ added Mateya.

‘I don’t think the world is ending,’ said Maya ‘Something is definitely ending, but I don’t think it’s the world.’

‘One thing seems unclear,’ said Bronek ‘If the magicians knew that they could find children with the Sight by the sea, didn’t they look on a regular basis to see if there were any born somewhere along the shore? I’m not saying they should have. I’m just saying that if they were so interested in those children, they would do something like that.’

‘They did,’ said Maya and Thesius looked wretched ‘But it’s not easy to travel to every single seaside village, town or city along the continent on a regular basis, is it? They tried to find them the way I find you from far away. There are magical ways to do that. But it turned out that these children were hidden from magical searches, at least to an extent. You could probably find them if you knew exactly who you were looking for, like the way I kept my eye on Bee. After that, maybe once they reach a certain age, it’s possible that they develop a more conscious way of hiding from view. I hope that’s why I can’t see Bee. Anyway, the Council would sometimes send its people to random seaside towns on the off chance they’d find someone and if they did, then they would do their bit and soon enough send the child’s family the news of its death. After that, any parents suspecting that their child had the Sight began hiding them from the magicians.’

‘Should we assume that it was the people with the Sight on that map in the tower?’ asked Mateya ‘And that they are the explorers, who disappear from time to time?’

‘I would certainly think so, yes,’ said Maya ‘They all seem to be born by the sea, and their powers are strongly linked to it. Oh, I do wish you would let us use magic to get there faster.’

‘You do what you have to, but I’m walking as nature intended,’ said Bronek.

‘Then horses and carriages are unnatural?’ she laughed.

‘Well, yes, actually. But they’re still fine. You have to give me some time to get used to the fact that my wife is a witch. And during that time I’d prefer to walk. And we should be there by the end of the day anyway. We’re not going to miss much, are we? If you can’t keep an eye on Bee, can’t you try and see what’s happening in the village? Surely it isn’t hidden from you as well?’

‘No, you’re right.’

‘I don’t get to hear that very often,’ he said with a smile.

‘Oh, shut up,’ she laughed.

‘Not to ruin your moment or anything,’ interrupted Mateya ‘But there’s something to our left.’

Maya looked between the trees and laughed again.

‘Thesius did say that there may be more of the Ancient Ones coming our way soon. That’s a Unicorn I think. Or a few of them.’

They all watched as, from between the trees, the Unicorns walked gracefully in their direction. They came closer and surrounded the group of travellers looking at them with interest. There were six of them, and each one was breathtakingly beautiful. The Unicorns stared for a while and were particularly interested in Maya and Thesius, which caused snorts of laughter to come from Mateya and her brother.

‘Oh, stop it,’ snapped Bronek impatiently, causing even more laughter ‘Maya’s a witch. That’s why they’re interested in her!’

Thesius greeted the Unicorns politely and then just kept on walking. The others followed. And so did the Unicorns. And the Dragon. And some other, smaller creatures, that were for the moment hidden from view. It was fast becoming quite a large group.

Very soon the road appeared in the distance, and while the people emerged from the forest and turned right, their other companions followed but stayed hidden among the trees of the dark forest.

Morning was slowly turning into noon and then afternoon, to the quiet accompaniment of more and more magical and Ancient creatures all travelling in the same direction. There was so much magic in the air, it was now impossible not to notice it. Bronek decided it best not to look around anymore. He didn’t want to see something he wouldn’t be able to un-see.

‘I wouldn’t worry,’ said Maya squeezing his hand ‘They’re mostly benign. Some of them can be mean, and some just plain dangerous, but at the moment we all just happen to be going in the same direction. Everything’s drawn to the Wall now. I doubt any of them would be interested in us any way. And if they were, there’s always Thesius and me they’d have to deal with.’

Bronek felt both reassured and slightly ashamed at the same time. He realised that in this relationship, it was always Maya putting his mind at ease, not the other way round. He was about to say something manly and strong but a low rumble suddenly interrupted him. They all stood in the middle of the road looking around. The ground was vibrating a little but it didn’t feel like one of the regular tremors. Everything else went very quiet and the low rumble became a much louder rumble as if it was travelling their way. Mathias’s and Mateya’s eyes darted here and there not missing anything, and finally they noticed something that certainly deserved a more serious worry than a few Unicorns and a Dragon in the bushes. Far off in the forest to their left, the trees were collapsing like a narrow wave. And the wave was definitely moving in their direction. The siblings grabbed everyone by their clothes and showing absolutely no respect to their dignity, they first pushed and then ultimately dragged them trying to make them all run faster and faster down the road. After a few mild protests, everyone decided to trust those two, who didn’t normally run from things. But if they were running now… well there must’ve been a good reason. Sure enough the rumble became a low cracking noise behind them and then went silent. They all ran a bit further just to be sure, stopped and looked back around only to see a very impressive, well, ‘rip’ in the ground. No other word would do it justice. They slowly and carefully walked closer and took in the destruction. The earth had simply split, and that split seemed to go on for quite some distance, judging by the line of fallen trees in the forest. However, the dark forest on the other side of the road was untouched – the split came to a stop right at the treeline. Well, it was obviously protected against everything and anything. No wonder all those magical creatures had been hiding in there for so long. It was the only safe place in a world dominated by people.

The group got a little closer and peered inside the rip. It was maybe seven feet wide but looked to be bottomless. It kept going down and down until it was just too dark to say if the ground had a bottom or if the hole went right through the world and opened up onto the roots of the Great Oak itself.

Everyone just kept on staring in silence, but the forests on both sides of the road began showing signs of life again. As did the split in the earth. Something was starting to move far inside, and strange, quiet sounds were beginning to reach the surface. The travellers looked at each other, looked back at the rip, and without a word turned around and started walking again.

‘Can anyone explain, what exactly is happening?’ asked Mathias in the not worried tones of someone who is worried. Not worried about dying, because that was the hazard of his job, but worried that it might happen before he got a chance to see his gran. But then… which was going to be more unpleasant?

‘I believe it would be safe to assume,’ said Thesius a bit tired from the day’s excitement, and it had been ages (quite literally) since he last ran (he hadn’t liked it then and he didn’t like it now) ‘that the magical and Ancient creatures of the land are coming out from wherever they usually dwell to see what all the commotion is around here.’

‘So that crack in the road…’ started Bronek.

‘…is a doorway for someone living underground,’ finished Thesius. ‘But I think it was created more for fun and a bit of show because whatever lives down there, I’m certain it has other ways of coming up to the surface, without destroying part of a forest and splitting a road in half.’

‘Should we have our backs to it?’ asked Mateya glancing over her shoulder at the gap slowly disappearing behind a bend in the road.

Unseen by anyone, a large Troll emerged from the dark forest and rather quickly began fashioning a bridge out of a fallen tree.

‘Oh, I wouldn’t worry,’ smiled the mage ‘We’re under constant protection. You’ll know if we’re in danger.’

They looked around, and everything appeared peaceful once again. There was now a constant murmur coming from the forest. It was hard to determine however, if it was actual conversation or just the sound of many, many feet, paws and claws on the ground and wings in the air.

‘Is anyone else hungry?’ asked Mathias.

‘Oh, where’s my head?’ said Maya going slightly pink and diving into her small, travel bag. ‘I was completely elsewhere. Sorry. I did pack some food for us.’

‘Wonderful!’ said Thesius. He never bothered with thoughts of such basic things, that is until his stomach would start to rumble. ‘Shall we sit down somewhere for a meal?’

They chose a little grassy patch on the right side of the road and sat around in a rough circle. Probably due to a safety habit, Mateya and Mathias sat across from each other with weapons at hand, so that they could see behind each others’ backs; Mathias facing the forest and Mateya the road and the trees on the other side. Nobody else cared much. Maya unpacked her little bag and handed out some crackers and cheese.

‘It’s not much,’ she said ‘But I thought it would keep us going until we got home. We can feed you all properly then, and it’s only a few more hours’ walk.’

‘It’s lovely. Thank you,’ said Mathias ‘And we probably still have some dried meat, don’t we?’ he looked at his sister, who jumped a little remembering.

‘Yes! I completely forgot,’ she looked in a little, leather (of course) pouch attached to her belt and pulled out a paper bundle filled with dried pieces of meat, which she promptly spread in front of everyone ‘Help yourselves. It’s not the same as fresh meat but it’s not that bad, either.’

‘So,’ started Bronek hoping for some nice conversation ‘We can offer you beds at our house for now, but what are your plans?’ he turned to Mathias.

‘What do you mean?’ he picked a piece of meat from the bundle in front of him and, closing one eye in the effort, tried to bite a bit out of it.

‘Well, there’s clearly some very interesting things taking place at Blumenport, and apparently the end of the world is not coming, so are you going to stay a while or are you still going to see your gran?’

The siblings stopped chewing and glanced at each other with fear. A split second later, Mathias noticed something moving behind his sister and slowly reached for his axe on the ground. Mateya put down her food, about to grab her swords but Maya, sitting to Mathias’s right touched his hand and shook her head imperceptibly to both of them. Thesius seemed completely unperturbed, but now everyone was watching the trees behind Mateya. A pack of wolves howled nearby and after a few moments a tall, thin man emerged from the dark forest followed by a few interested wolves, who stayed among the bushes and trees. Despite the warmth of the day, the thin man was wearing a very long, brown coat and a rather large fur hat. He smirked a little under the black, long moustache adorning his skinny face and came closer.

‘Good day to all.’

‘Good day, friend,’ answered Maya.

‘Would you be willing to share your meal with me?’

‘Of course we would,’ said Thesius squeezing in a bit towards Mateya to make more room ‘Please, sit down with us, traveller.’

‘Thank you. That’s very gracious of you,’ he came closer and sat between Thesius and Mathias. Nobody else moved or made any kind of noise. The two magicians seemed to know what they were doing though, and they offered the stranger some food and politely asked if he had a long way to go.

‘I think everyone and everything is going in the same direction now,’ he replied.

‘Well, then, if we’re going to the same place, why not join us?’ asked Maya cheerfully ‘The more the merrier.’

The stranger looked at her and seemed to consider the question, chewing happily. He swallowed and opened his mouth, but instead of giving her an answer he just bit off another piece of dried meat.

‘Where’s home for you, friend?’ asked Thesius and the man laughed.

‘Far away,’ he said ‘You’ve never been there.’

Bronek was getting bored with this strange exchange, so he picked up his food and glanced at Mateya and Mathias who were both very preoccupied with the stranger’s legs. Bronek followed their gaze. There appeared to be nothing wrong there. He studied the siblings again but they were now pretending to be politely following the pointless and bizarre conversation between the man, Thesius and Maya, while chewing on their cheese and crackers. Bronek looked at the man’s crossed legs again and a twitch caught his eye. The stranger’s coat was very long and arranged so that his legs were completely hidden from view, but there was something poking out from time to time. Whenever he laughed that strange laugh or lifted his hands to take another bite of food, something would lift the coat a little. And then it hit him: a tail! He had a tail, and it moved a bit like a cat’s. And it even had a little tuft of hair at the end. Bronek swallowed hard and looked at his wife, who showed all signs of politely listening to another of Thesius’ pleasant questions, but Bronek was positive she shook her head in the tiniest of movements and touched her husband’s knee. He guessed she meant: don’t stare; stay out of it. Who was he to disagree with a witch? ‘Ha!,’ he thought ‘Now, if we fight (not that they did a lot) I can call her a witch and be right.’ He shrugged his shoulders and went back to chewing. The dried meat was rather tough. Tasty, though.

‘It’s all quite different to what I remember from my previous travels. It has been a while,’ said the stranger.

‘I used to travel a great deal,’ said Thesius ‘Maybe we bumped into each other elsewhere. I have a feeling that I’ve seen you somewhere before.’

The stranger laughed again. Really, it was getting a little tiresome.

‘I think not. You wouldn’t have been born. I must say, there’s more people around than I would ever think possible. They seem to spread, don’t they?’

‘Like any living thing, any animal, I suppose,’ answered Maya.

‘Or a virus. Spreading and killing everything in its way. Oh, some people are decent, but they cannot help belonging to a race that is destructive in its very existence. Destroying who and what came before them; all the magical and Ancient creatures. This land was once teeming with them. So much life and magic. What’s left now? They’re cowering in the dark forests across the lands, protected only by its reputation. Or hiding underground,’ he shook his head sadly ‘Well, now the people of this world, before they have a chance to destroy themselves or the land that feeds them, are facing something that can wipe them all out,’ he laughed happily. ‘Well, I must away. Thank you for sharing your food and conversation.’

‘You’re welcome,’ said Maya ‘Whenever we meet, feel free to come and join us, friend.’

‘We are certainly not friends, but you’re decent people and you shared your food with me, so I’m going to wish you luck – because you’re going to need it,’ he said standing up and walking towards the forest, where the wolves were getting up, stretching and beginning to pace around impatiently.

‘Will you not travel with us?’ asked Maya.

‘I think not. But let me tell you something. You are clearly going to get involved with what’s happening by the sea, and, even though I wish ill on all your kind, I wouldn’t curse you to die just yet. Do not concern yourselves with something you don’t understand. I know your kind. You rush in without thinking. You look and you judge immediately. Don’t be fools. Think. Listen to those who understand more than you. Make your decisions then. But, if you rush in and die…,’ he shrugged ‘And you,’ he pointed to Mathias who immediately swallowed whatever it was he was trying to chew ‘You will have a chance to save a life today. Do that and you’ll save more than you might think. Don’t and, well, prove yourself to be a brainless simpleton from a backwards village. Like a true representative of your race,’ he shrugged again and disappeared between the trees.

Everyone stayed silent for a long while, just staring after him. Finally, Maya gave a sigh of relief, and it seemed to be a wordless sign that everything could get back to normal now.

‘That’s what gran used to say,’ burst Mateya.

‘What?’ asked Thesius.

‘Our gran. She used to say that: ‘brainless simpleton from a backwards village’, didn’t she?’

Mathias nodded and swallowed again.

‘Whenever she wanted us to do the right thing. Or the thing she thought was right.’

‘Well, I’m not surprised he knew that,’ said Maya ‘And I would pay heed to his advice, whatever happens.’

‘But who was he?’ asked Bronek ‘He had a tail, didn’t he?’

Thesius nodded.

‘Boruta,’ he said simply.

‘Boruta doesn’t exist, though,’ protested Bronek ‘It’s just a legend.’

‘You can accept a Dragon because people still find them. What about a Unicorn? Or a Striga? Legends do come from somewhere. It’s true that nobody has seen him in a very long time, but he undoubtedly just emerged from wherever he was living until now. That rip in the ground was presumably him. He likely followed us for a while and then decided to test us.’

‘I’m glad you were here,’ said Mateya ‘We could’ve killed him.’

‘I seriously doubt that,’ smiled Thesius and took a bite of cheese ‘But it’s far better to be friendly and offer him food and company when he asks for it. He’s more apt to be positively inclined towards you later and not cause you any harm. He can be very dedicated to that. And he left us with some good advice I believe.’

‘How do you know it wasn’t a trick?’ asked Mathias ‘Everybody knows not to rush into things, and it could’ve been just a ploy to make me believe otherwise.’

‘That’s possible, of course,’ answered Maya, since Thesius had his mouth full, ‘but highly unlikely. That’s not how it works. If you’re kind to him, then he’ll be kind to you.’

‘He was quite nasty, actually,’ said Bronek.

‘Believe me, dear, he was kind. He could’ve just left without saying anything, but he chose to give us advice. I’m assuming he hadn’t eaten proper food in hundreds of years and must have been grateful – to an extent.’

‘Incredible,’ said Bronek in awe, his brain already coming up with rhymes and a melody ‘Boruta! Real, actual Boruta. Amazing! That’s why he had the hat, too, isn’t it? The coat was to hide the tail and possibly the hooves but the hat was for the horns, right?’

Thesius nodded, and Bronek beamed. Soon afterwards he started to hum. There wasn’t much food left after Boruta had finished with it. Surely he had been in a charitable mood because he could have eaten it all, but whatever was left disappeared rather quickly, and the group got back on the road, which soon began to look familiar. In a few more hours they’d reach Blumenport.

The trees on the left stayed behind giving way to a wide, golden coast and a beautiful view of the sea. Now it had become quite discernible just how much the water had receded, and everyone stopped and stared for a moment. The Wall was far away but very visible, shining in the afternoon sun and stretching along the coast, to finally disappear from view.

‘What in the…’ started Bronek and gave up ‘That’s…’ he tried again and failed.

‘It’s beautiful,’ said Maya.

‘Beautiful and with a purpose…’ said Mathias ‘That’s rarely good.’

Nobody knew what to say to that, so they just started walking again. The dark forest to their right slowly dwindled and gave way to a few fields, which very soon turned into another forest. A benign one. Well, full of wild animals and other dangers, but very few of them were supernatural in nature. At least not until very recently.

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