Dawn broke and with it a fresh surge of hope. They could do it. Rogue yawned and sat up as rays of light shone through the forest green canopy above her. Only now did it strike her now beautiful the forest was. Rays of sunlight appeared cracked as the forest was slowly waking up. She could hear birds chirping as she stretched.
“Eris, Aerys… wake up” she cried rubbing her eyes. There was no response. “Aerys” she turned around to shake him awake.
But, she was looking at a dead tire and a pack. Aerys and Eris were gone. “Aerys”, she said, uncertainly this time.
Where had they gone? Surely they hadn’t left without her? Had Aerys been taken away? A million questions flashed through her head as anxiety took over her mind.
Suddenly, she heard the distant noise of footsteps. It was them at last. “Aerys, where were you? I was so worried”. She shouted in the direction of the footsteps. Until she saw who it was. No, this wasn’t Aerys. No, it wasn’t Aerys at all.
The forests of Ashanti were home to a variety of creatures. Tigers, leopards and panthers roamed the forest, making it extremely dangerous to venture into.\
But, there were some who lived there. They lived up in the trees, in caves, slithering in and out of shadows to catch their prey. If an animal ever happened to venture into a secluded cave, it found itself caught in an extensively elaborate trap.
The feroz have lived and thrived in the shadows of the dark forest for years, preying on animals and living of the trees. Legends describe an ancient Ferozi who originated from the kingdoms of Ashanti. They mostly kept to themselves and met once a year at a swathe or clearing to perform their yearly rituals. They would sacrifice an innocent creature in the name of the gods, invoking the earth to lead them to better lands.
The Ferozi gods were the earth, the forest and the sky. The people of the forest seldom ventured out of the shadows and were hard to spot even in the forest because of their dark complexion. They would hunt animals and the occasional villager from Ashanti who chanced to venture into the forest.
A friend of Rogue's father had once be held captive by the Feroz for a fortnight, and when he had come back he was speaking deliriously. Even after a few days his speech was sluggish, and when he could speak he described a ritual that had chilled his blood. Rogues couldn't sleep for days after that.
Rogue, aware of the Feroz was captured, and her hands were tied behind her back. She was being prodded forward by a tall and slender man with muscular shoulders. He had a qicked scythe shaped blade in his hands. Confused and worried, Rogue thought it best to keep her mouth shut and move forward without a word. She was sure her captive was stronger than her, and if she had known he was Ferozi she would have feared him even more,
Rogue was led into a clearing after what seemed like ages of prodding, muttering and screams. She had kept a watch on her captor, waiting for him to fumble but to no avail. She had also tried talking to him, but even his eyes were blank.
Her captor was tall and muscular with broad shoulders and a broad chest that had markings in different colours. Around his chest, was a bow and in one hand he carried a silver scythe like blade that was curved and had wicked edges. Around his head he had a yellow cloth tied. She had tried breaking free of him, but her hands were tied in a knot even she didn't know how to unravel. Rogue wondered which tribe he belonged to, and was eager to find out.
Fear clouded Rogue's senses as she was anxious as to where Aerys and Eris where. She wondered if they had abandoned her, but that they couldn't have done. All she could hope was that they had heard her screams and were following her in the shadows. What she didn't know was that her captor wasn't the only one around. There were three other pen silently following them, keeping guard any other tribe decided to pay a visit.
As they approached the clearing, Rogue could hear the sound of drums. She could also hear the roar of people. It looked as if some sport was going on. Before she could get a closer look, her Ferozi captor led her into a hut. Seated on a stool was a man who seemed to be chief of the tribals. Instead of the the yellow band around his head, he had a red one and he exuded a powerful aura. Rogue would have to be on the guard against them.
On closer inspection of the mad on the throne, Rogue gasped. Wasn't the man who had come to church whispering deliriously about the Ferozi a madman? Why was he here? Hadn't he been declared mad and sent to the outskirts of Ashanti for treatment?
Fear rippled through her body as she realized she was at a fabled Ferozi swathe, and part of their ritual. Oh, what had she got herself into? The Ferozi hardly realized their captives, and the man had described gruesome torture and death to the captive.
The chief beckoned to Rogue's captor to untie her and he obliged. He didn't seem to have recognized her.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Ah so someone can speak the common tongue after all.”
“Oh yes, I was exiled by your king long ago. I chanced upon this tribe for a second time. I was worried, tired and broken and they took me in. The sky has shown me the right path again.
“Oh” was all Rogue could manage. What else could she say? She herself was running from the king. Maybe she could get onto common ground with the chief using the fact that both of them were hated by the king and hated the king.
“So you see, I do my best to capture any Ashanti dwellers loyal to the king. You must die. You will die under the very tree that gave me hope, the sky that showed me the way, the soil that I tread on and the forest that the Ferozi thrive on. You will pay for your sins and be purified by fire and the Ferozi branded on your body. Guards take her away. Chain her to the big banyan far away from the games, only at a distance where she can see the games but not harm anything.”
The captor and a few other tribesmen dragged Rogue and chained her to a tree. She kicked and screamed and cried but to no avail. She was being dragged by a strong hand and chained. Only one day to live? Or would they not grace her with that much? Where were Aerys and Eris? Oh, there were so many questions left unanswered.
Fromm the tree she was chained to, Rogue had a fair view of the games that were going on. All she worried about now was the looming prospect of her death and how she was going to have to escape death yet again. She tried to comfort herself saying death didn't scare her, but really the external facade was fading. She did fear death, eve4ryone does eventually. At least a little on the inside, and Rogue feared death too. She feared that she would not be able to atone for her sins by helping the people of Ashanti, she feared that she wouldn't be able to walk on the green grass, she feared that she wouldn't be able to love, she feared that she wouldn't be able to see Aerys again or Eris for that matter, and she feared she had been given very less time. Death scared her because her life wasn't complete yet. Death scared her because she was young and she was sure that life had lots in store for her. IF it wasn't so, life was unfair, and maybe death's justice would be better. But Rogue hoped that was not the case.
Rogue was driven out of her melancholy thoughts by the roar of the crowds. Fighters streamed in from each side of the arena, and hacked each other to death. The crowd was egging the fighters on with chants in an entirely foreign language.
Oh woebegone, where were Aerys and Eris?
She watched men die with gruesome wounds as they hacked at each other and any animal they could find. She watched as the crowd egged them on with chants, calling on each fighter to kill the other with what seemed like endless cheers, taunts and jeers. She hadn't never seen such a crowd before or an arena as such as the one in front of her eyes. And she hoped she would cheat death and escape from this place finally.
What fun did people find in killing, and in dying? Her earlier self would have liked this game, but she had changed for the better and found this gruesome and heinous act horrifying and terrible. Was blood and glory really worth the risk of ones life? She watched yet again as two fighters swapped scars. One had a sword, and one a spear.
From what Rogue could make out, the man with the sword had an edge. From Rogue's knowledge about weapons, it was always better to have a sword. The blade could easily snap the blade into two, giving the swordsman an easy and swift kill and win. But here Rogue was wrong. The man with the spear showed extraordinary skill in dispatching his opponent, dancing around and using the butt of his spear to keep the opponent at bay. Finally, the swordsman, exhausted slowly struck at the man with the spear, expecting the spearman to be tired but to no avail. In the flash of a moment, the swordsman was dead, a spear through his chest and the crowd was going wild. All Rogue wanted was to get away from the swathe, away from the jungle. Rogue had never felt such a strong urge to run away.
Death seemed inevitable to Rogue now. Everywhere she went, it followed her. Ever trailing, but never too close. It was her shadow, looming closer or going far away, disappearing sometimes but also appearing back. Sticking close to her. He had come to her in her dreams, calling to her, he had come in visions as she so called them. A man clad in black. The grim reaper. And blood all around, lots of it. Fountains ran red, rivers red. Blood all around. A premonition. But death had always kept its distance and had never been so close. She could feel him creeping into her skin, ready to take over her body. A coward would have given up by now but she was brave.
Rogue still had hope, she believed in Aerys and Eris. She believed they would come for her. She knew they would come and help her thwart death again. She knew they would help her thwart death yet again. She knew they would come, and she believed in them. And the hope pushed out the remaining morbid thoughts out of her brain and she turned her attention towards the crowd in front.
The games were still going on, but it seemed as if there were two factions now. Warriors entered the ring, challenging anyone and everyone ready for a fight. They resembled a pack of hungry lions, baying for blood. Ruthless and no less eager in anticipation for blood.
Suddenly, a cry rose up from one side. Her captor was in the centre, and undefeated yet. He had just been challenged, and Rogue pitied the man who dared do so and still admired his bravery and courage. Rogue strained her eyes to see the brave challenger.
It was Aerys. Aerys with his war hammer. What was he doing here? Suddenly she realized they were looking at her and talking. Was he fighting to free her?
The whole tribe seemed to have come out in anticipation, even the chief was there.
Warmth spread through Rogues body as she realized he was fighting for her life. Rogue felt wanted, loved.
Suddenly, Rogue hear the sound of a horn. The battle was on. Aerys was the strongest person Rogue knew and if nyone could defeat the tribal, it was Aerys with his hammer. The hammer acted as an extension of his arm. He could work wonders with the hammer, defeat anyone. She was soon broken out of her thoughts by a loud cheer. Aerys was on the ground and the tribal stood over him, ready to strike.