I stood along with all the other servants, all of them eagerly waiting for the carriages to come and take them home. Ana, Evelyn and Lisa went in the same direction and the carriages taking servants in that direction had already departed.
It was an uncomfortable good bye as Ana kept on giving me sad looks, Lisa and Evelyn were oblivious to Ana’s worry, which was for the best for I believe they would have tried to make me go home with her and or them.
I had spoken to Miss Hatchet, I wanted know where the carriages went. She told me to speak to the carriage men because she had other things to attend to. After speaking to one of the carriage men, I was able to find out the last carriage went to an area surrounded by chilly mountains with a thick and almost impenetrable forest. The forest was not far from the town of Deneve.
It was in that forest that I planned to spend the rest of my autumn and winter. It had reached middle sun, and the number of servants had greatly reduced leaving only Miss Hatchet and myself.
“You aren’t planning to stay here for the winter? You know it is prohibited, the Holy Mother only knows why,”
“No, I am waiting for the carriage for Deneve,”
“You don’t look like a person who hails from Deneve, but you do have the traits of one,”
I found her comment quite interesting, maybe there were warriors in Fortress Forest Kingdom “How so?” I ask.
“Well I should know, for Deneve is my home, what business do you have there?” I did not have a good reply for Miss Hatchet, for I knew lying would not help the situation as she was quite sharp, but I didn’t know how she would respond to the idea of me spending the winter in the woods.
“I heard it had a beautiful mountain and forest from one of the carriage men and decided it would be worth seeing,” Miss Hatchet looked at me fondly, pride swelling up in her eyes.
“Well yes, the town of Deneve neighbours the Moroto Mountain and the Custos forest is most evident there, I hope you do not plan to stay sightseeing for too long for it gets dreadfully cold this time of year,”
“I only plan to spend the necessary time,” She was about to say more when the carriage to Deneve arrived.
“Let us make haste! We have a long journey ahead of us!” shouted the driver he armed himself with fur coats and a big hat, it was quite hot at the time and I could see a rim of sweat on his forehead. I turned to take one last look at the Castle. I felt the sensation of being watched. I search the grand castle for the source of the sensation when my eyes met silver eyes from a window. But as soon as I caught sight of them, they vanished.
“Amooti, we do not have all day,” calls Miss Hatchet.
“Yes,” I replied and made my way into the carriage.
The ride to Deneve took a ten days, and though Miss Hatchet was tough person when at the castle, she was quite kind when off duty. She told me how she has served the castle for the past 20 years and about her daughter and grandchildren. Apparently after the death of her Husband, she had found it hard to stay home, so decided to work away till she healed. Now she has but is happy with her work in the castle.
I inquired about the kingdom and by what she has told me it was a vast kingdom. There were once five cities, but over many years, they reduce to four. The Cities of Clare which was the capital, Miria, Helen and Deneve. All cities were near a forest, but apparently all the forests were one forest known as the Mystical Custos Forest spread out into smaller ones. The Kingdom was so mysterious.
We would make occasional stops at resting houses for food and to ease ourselves and when we could finally see the shape of the Moroto Mountain, we were all quite exhausted from the journey.
Miss Hatchet slept quietly across from me and as we got closer to the mountain, my breath was taken back by the beauty, it seemed so magical the forest was a mixture of tree types from pine, eucalyptus, oak and other random species, the air was cool and filled with energy, I felt a twinge of nostalgia looking at it, as it reminded me of Mount Wagagai.
“Mr. Ben,” I called to the driver.
“What is it? Don’t tell me you have to go, we are almost to the town,”
“No, I wish to be dropped off here,”
“What, are you sure?”
“Yes, don’t worry about Miss Hatchet,”
“Well you better watch out Miss, the forest is dangerous with wild bears, forest lions and a bunch of other critters,”
“Do not worry, I can fend for myself,”
“Your funeral,” he then pulled the reigns and brought the horses to a stop.
“Winter is in a fortnight, wouldn’t you at least want some warmer clothes?” I was wearing the dress Evelyn and Lisa had given me, it was light, but I wouldn’t be wearing it for much longer.
“I shall be fine,” I said than took my ruck sack and exited the carriage and I was welcomed by the cool autumn breeze. I looked up at the massive mountain and smiled, it was in this beautiful place that I was to carry out my training.
Being out of the enclosed carriage, out in the wilderness, away from the strange people, I could almost cry at how happy I was. I jumped off the stone carriage road, right onto the lush grass that was the entrance into part of the Mystical Custos Forest I currently was facing. I couldn’t stop myself, I had to run round in circles, jump and flip through the air, reveling in this freedom I finally had. Sure it wasn’t as good as home, but it was close enough, and after all those days spent in the castle, I welcomed it whole heartedly with open arms.
I then fell onto the grass, the blades poking into my dress, but I would rather feel that than the itching sensation of stockings. I let out a loud sigh, as my body began to relax, I stared straight at the sky watching the irregular shaped clouds, always carefree, never stopping for anyone or anything, always moving forward.
I then pushed myself up, and turned back to the road, my rucksack still there, I hurried towards it, and brought it down to the soft grass and using it as a pillow, and I had the soundest sleep I had had in a long time.
When I woke up, it was late in the afternoon, feeling well rested, I got up and brushed the grass from Lisa’s dress, thankfully it hadn’t been stained or ripped as I played and napped in the grass. I knew for sure, that I could stay in the forest with this dress, so lifting up my dress and unsheathing my dagger, I strapped the rucksack around my shoulders and ran off into the forest ahead of me.
Inside the forest, you could really notice how tall the trees where, the air was crystal clear and I paused and took in a deep breath letting it fill my lungs and give me strength. The forest was noisy with animal life, birds singing, the sound of deer feeding off the plant life, the buzzing of bees, the fluttering of butterfly wings.
I set my eyes on the sturdiest tree and climbed high into its branches and resting comfortably on a high enough branch, I searched the forest for a water source and game to hunt. From up in the tree, I could hear the sound of running water, and after looking and changing the direction of where I was searching, I saw a river, with a group of deer drinking from its waters.
I jumped down from the branch, landing softly on the grass, and then broke out into a run, making sure my steps couldn’t be heard. My heart raced as I anticipated the start of my hunt.
By the time the sun had begun to set behind the Mount Moroto, I had caught two deer, three forest hares, five quails, a pheasant and a wild boar. Though the dear skins were thick with a winter coat, they weren’t warm enough to keep me warm through the harsh winter I knew was fast approaching. I knew that after training, I had to hunt for a warmer pelt.
I cut branches from trees and forest vines and was able to make a make-shift slay in which I the meat. I had about two hours before night fall and by midnight, I had to be ready. I tied the straps around my shoulders, my slay’s weight adding on to the weight of the rucksack on my back.
I made my way to the edge of the mountain, and after hours of hiking, noticed how the land became steeper and the soil had less grass and more stone. I then began to make my way up the mountain, searching its sides for any opening, and after another thirty minutes or so I came across a cave.
Inside the cave was dark, hanging and protruding sharp rocks littered the floor and ceiling, from the ceiling rocks, water dripped at a constant pace, falling into the pond that sat at the center of the cave, its water the purest of blue. I found this cave perfect.
I found a spot that didn’t have any sharp rocks and sat down, lighting a fire, I began the task of skinning the animals, dividing the meat and prepare the pelts, and by the time I had finished the moon was already shining brightly. I stood up, and made my way to the mouth of the cave and stared intently at the full moon. The night animals had taken over, their noises filling the forest below me crickets playing a sweet melody. The night air picked up, and I welcomed the breeze.
“Hoot… hoo” I called out to the forest
“Hoo hoo hoot,” chorused the owls in response.
There answer assured me that I had enough time, as winter was in a fortnight. I returned back into the cave, I was still in the dress, and when I had finally removed, I could see it needed a thorough washing, but I didn’t have time to worry about that now. I began to stitch the animal pelts into clothing, cutting them with my dagger, sowing them with the needles and thread and lining them with the cotton fabric.
When the clothes were done, I washed myself in the pond water of the cave, the ice cold water send shivers through my body, I then dressed in my new clothes, and nicely folded the dress and placed it back in the rucksack. I turned my attention to the animal meat and selected the best parts of the animals, the belly and one thigh of each animal. In the case of the birds, I brought the thigh and the breast.
I brought these near the fire, and gathered my spices I their correct proportions into a bowl, I made sure to add more wood to the fire, so that it burned brighter. I placed the left over pelts by the fire, along with the feathers of the birds stitched into cotton cloth. And sitting in the makeshift nest, I waited for the time to come.
When the time came I stood up, holding the spice bowl and raising my arms, I called out.
“Dear Great Creator, hear my call!” I shouted towards the heavens and thrust a handful of spices into the fire and it released a satisfying scent. The fire turned blue and produced smoke that rose to the heavens once leaving the mouth of the cave.
“I come before you as your humble servant, please grant me my wish O Great Creator!” I threw more spices into the fire and they crackled in the heat.
“Please allow me to harness the full abilities of the Nixan,” the fire than froze for a few moments, erect and straight, it didn’t flicker. I brought my dagger forward and placed it before the fire.
“You gave it as blessing to us at the dawn of our people, and I as its sole survivor of my clan, I wish to learn the ways of harnessing its powers, so that its skills may live on through me!” with that I threw the rest of the spices into the fire.
“Accept my offering oh Lord and please grant me your blessing and protection during the twelve days of training,” I got the meat and put them one after the other into the fire and they burnt in an instant showing the acceptance of my offering.
“Hoo…Hoo…Hoo” sang the owls. I went out of the cave and saw the moon nearing the centre of the sky, I turned back into the cave and crossed my legs on the bed nest of fur. I placed my dagger in the gap between my legs and placed my hands as if in prayer, shut my eyes and began meditating.
“Hoo…Hoot,” it was now midnight and I entered a deep trance, which I was to wake up from after twelve days.