O' mighty warrior, An ode to thee.
O' mighty warrior, Don't die for me.
Heavens be good,
Death away, O' might warrior, Live for the morrow to say.
Defeat thy enemy,
Let us live for Tomorrow, oh hope we pray.
It was all happening so fast. Aerys was on the ground, his hand raised to protect himself as the tribal stood over him, a wild grin on his face. He turned towards Rogue and flashed her an evil grin as though taunting and goading her.
With that, the tribal swung his hand downwards. Rogue screamed and covered her eyes as tears flooded them. Aerys couldn't die. Not for her. Life was unfair, death even more so.
No he couldn't.
The sword never reached Aerys, as the tribal suddenly stumbled forward as if hit by an unseen force. It was Eris. Rogue opened her eyes to the sound of the clang of a hammer against the sword, and the sword was thrown out of the tribesman's hand.
The crowd booed at the ungainly tribal who had taken his fall from grace too harshly.
He swung his sword, ruthlessly sidestepping, jabbing and slashing but to no avail. A hammer was stronger and he was fighting against an invisible force.
Suddenly, the tables had turned, and the tribal was on the ground, sword away from his reach. The match was finally in Aerys' favour. However, instead of finishing of, Aerys stopped and gave him a hand, lifting him up and putting him onto his feet.
The crowd cheered at this unexpected gesture and Rogue secretly smiled. That was the Aerys she knew. Now all Rogue could hope was that the chieftain honoured the agreement and let her go.
Rogue could see the shocked tribals, who were in awe of Aerys and his generous act. The chief was impressed too. And he said a few words to Aerys before directing the guards around Rogue to free her.
It took an enormous amount of selflessness and control on Aerys part to risk everything, even his life for her. He had prioritized her before himself. “What your friend did today took great amount of courage and selflessness and we honour and respect him for that. You are free to go because of him.” the chief said to her. “Also your friend tells me you plan to wage war against the king of Ashanti. You have no army, and we would be glad to help you. The Feroz will join forces with you when the time is right. Till then all we can hope is that you succeed in you quest to get supporters. The hills have many tribes that hate the Ashanti and we will convene a tribal meeting where I will get you your swords. May god be with you.” and with that the tribals left, leaving Aerys to her.
“Don't say a thing” he said to her as she hugged him. In that one tight hug, she conveyed her thanks, all her feelings for him. How grateful she was for him, how glad she was that he had come back for her. He had sacrificed everything for her and here he was sacrificing everything for her again. He put her before himself all the time. Without him she would have been dead long ago.
Suddenly, Eris materialized before them.
“Thank you” she said to him, tears blurring her eyes. “It's the least I could do” he said, referring to his timely intervention that had saved Aerys' life. “I don't know what I would have done without the two of you” Rogue started to say as they walked back into the jungle with fresh hope and tribes of support at their disposal. The length of their journey had reduced considerably, as the tribe had shown them the shortest way out of the forest. The mountains were waiting, Rogue thought as she set her foot onto the green grass yet again. The mountains were waiting.
As they marched through the forests, they could see the looming mountains, they could see that the forest was very much alive. The animal sounds echoing all-around of the canopies. After a while, the forest cover was visibly reducing as they were almost out of the forest. Finally, they were getting somewhere. The trio stopped for a break, their foreheads dripping with perspiration. It was then that Aerys told them about the journey ahead. Rogue realized that Aerys was unofficially their leader. Both she and Eris naturally looked at Aerys for guidance, and maybe had accepted the responsibility without any complain. He was made for this.
“The chief said that after the forest we would come across the red wastelands, a stretch of desert separating the forest from the mountains. We will have to be careful and reach the mountains in a day because the chieftain said that no one could survive a night in the wastelands. We will also have to be careful about the strong winds that can unsettle the strongest of men. After that come the mountains. In the mountains, there are caves with dwellers who we can ask for help. As we navigate through the caves, we have to look for a valley where an ancient civilization resides. We may get help and make common cause with them. We might even have to prove our strength to them. In the meanwhile, Eris you have to learn the art of the sword. Lessons start tomorrow and Rogue you will teach him how to use the dagger. If we want to make it across the mountains and the sands alive, we are going to need a third fighter. Tomorrow at dawn, I will teach you basic strikes with a sword. The tribals gave me two and I know how to use them. You can learn more in the valley. As for you Rogue, use your senses to make out any danger. This time we stay together and try not to leave anyone alone for even some time.” Aerys said looking at Eris and Rogue. The journey that awaited them was a long and tiring one, and it was even more dangerous. Their path was sure to be plagued by dangerous, but each one of them hoped they would make it out. But the question was would they make it out in one piece. Also, anything was better than facing the dreaded king’s soldiers. They had to amass an army of the good and take on the army of Satan and they couldn't let the enemy take Eris or else everything was over. Eris would have to be guarded at all times.
“Satan we are coming” they cried in unison. A cry heavy with hope and courage.
Eris flew above Rogue and Aerys as a precaution to watch out for dangers one might not be able to see on foot. It was nightfall by the time they reached the outskirts of the forest, and they decided against going any further. Eris was worried about what lay in store for them. Slowly and steadily, as his eyes got accustomed to the darkness, he could make out a stretch of plain land with no vegetation. He decided to go check this new land out. From above, he could see no creatures, no plants, no trees, only sand. There was no place for shelter, and the three would have to cross the wasteland into the mountains for shelter. He could feel the strong winds blowing him of course, and he decided it was better to head back to the place where they had set up camp.
“There' a barren wasteland that we will have to cross tomorrow before night falls. There is no shelter, no food, no water and we will have to make it across as soon as possible. The chieftain was right, no one can survive a night in there. Even now the winds almost blew me away, and only god knows what might happen tomorrow. We will have to start early and tread lightly and quickly to reach our destination on time. In the mountains we can start my training Aerys, but not here. We leave at the crack of dawn, get some rest till then” Eris said as they lit a fire.
After a while, the fire was lit, and as they sat around it warming themselves, Rogue asked them a question that appeared to have been on her mind for quite a long time, “So, tell me, where were the two of you today morning?”. Eris and Aerys looked at each other uncomfortably and in embarrassment, and Eris started to say something when Aerys cut him off. “Things that happened in the past aren't worth talking about in the present. Let us look now to the future and our journey ahead.” Rogue shook her head and laughed, “Stop evading my question” she said exasperatedly, and to argue her bit” Isn't it better to live in the present than dwell on the future?” and to that Eris said “Sometimes, but one must always prepare for the future. You're right while saying one must live the present, but it is better to be prepared for the future as well” and Rogue seemed to accept that. “Well as you guys have successfully evaded my question with your philosophies, you don't need to tell me if you don't want to” Rogue said, “But I'm sure I'll get to know sooner or later. I will glean the information out of you guys.” she said as Eris sat and listened to the squabble. A sense of warmth rose in him as he realized this was how belonging to a family felt like.
The squabbles, the sense that you had each other’s backs, the unconditional love, all of this made him feel wanted, and believe me it’s a nice feeling to feel wanted. Everyone wants to feel wanted, useful, loved. Humans weren't so bad after all, and Eris was beginning to see their good parts. He had come to the conclusion that everything had exceptions, and that he was wrong on his part to have framed an image of the humans based on first instances. These two had proved how wrong his image of humans had been. He was beginning to see more than superficiality in humans, and in most of their actions and beliefs. They were one of the races who were privileged to have been given power, and with power comes responsibility which humans would have to undertake. He had come to understand the things human actions were governed by, the love, their likes, their dislikes. He had to begin to understand their reasons for certain things they did. He had begun to understand how it felt to be part of a family, he had understood the bond of friendship. He would do anything to help those friends of him. Eris sighed as his eyes drooped. He wished this moment remained suspended, forever, but he had come to realize that forever never lasted, but in the back of his mind, he wished this forever really did last. He wished they could stay suspended like this, without any worries surfacing, and maybe after all this was over they could revisit this memory. Till then, he hoped when dawn came he would remember this, the three of them around a fire, silent, drinking in the warmth of each other’s presence. It was the kind of silence that was comfortable, not awkward. It was the kind of silence when you don't need to talk, just be in the presence of others. It was the kind of silence which happened only between friends, and it was the kind of silence where you know that you have found where you belong. They had done so much together, and yet the majority of the journey lay ahead. He hoped they would make it out alive. He knew they could.
And that night, Eris dreamt that Satan was finished and the three of them were alive. He dreamt of a story, his story, Rogues story. And like all good stories, it had a good ending. A good happy ending where all was well.