7: Down to the locker
Her thoughts had been weighing her down of late. Mylene’s journey has not sprouted even the tiniest amount of hope. The last thing that she had left in this world had disappeared.
When her house burned to the ground, Mylene had gathered her things as fast as she could and then fled the city in the fastest direction. She had no idea which way her daughter went and, so any heading was better than no heading.
The past few weeks were miserable and tiring. Mylene had left Ruinpine by the eastern gate and has followed on the eastern road thus far. Each day was as miserable as the last. She didn’t get much sleep or food. She would stop at inns along the road if luck permitted her to come across one by nightfall. If not, she wouldn’t stop. She would walk all day, and all night just hoping to find some clue or some small thing that could lead her in the right direction. If she wasn’t moving forward, she felt as though her mind was going to explode. All she could think about was her daughter and nothing else. The thought of finding Alyssa carried her every step.
When night time began to fall, Mylene would look for a village along the road, or an inn to sleep at. But they were scarce, and the places she did find didn’t always accommodate her. Ever since the bridge that connected Ruinpine to Ceptai was destroyed by pirates, the traffic between the two cities had slowed down. If Mylene got lucky, she got food and a good night’s sleep at an accommodating inn or hut.
Two nights past she stayed with a nice elderly lady. She made Mylene feel very welcome, and they spoke like two best friends. It was nice for her to sit down and talk and take her mind off things. Mylene knew that if she didn’t eat or sleep that it would be no good for her later along the road. She would collapse or starve to death before she could even reach the ferry to cross the Green Valley River.
It had been two days since she left the old lady’s house, and it had been two days since she had seen any village, inn or hamlet. She stuck to the road and would only veer when she had to void her bowels or when she heard the sound of running water. Mylene had learnt to appreciate her senses and in doing so, rewarding herself with fresh water to drink. She didn’t have much with her, only the leather backpack with a change of clothes and a few coins, enough for a few more days, and a small boot knife. Her husband had taught her how to hunt, but a small boot knife would do her no good. She took her knife out. “I can do nothing with this thing.” She thought to herself one day as she spotted a squirrel standing on the road. “A bow would be helpful or even a spear.” If she had a proper hunting weapon, she wouldn’t have to spend her money at the inns and on food. Building a fire was easy for her, but with-out a proper weapon to protect her, sleeping outside would be too dangerous. She didn’t want to risk running into a cut-throat while she slept and get raped.
Another day passed of walking through gloomy pine forests and grassy fields. It was very foggy that morning, but as Mylene neared the top of a large hill, the fog began to clear and in the distance she could see the Green Valley River glittering beneath the morning sun. She looked on and also spotted the broken bridge on the horizon about another days march away. As she started her way down the hill, Mylene was so focused on the gleaming river she saw in the distance that she took little notice of the small hut that stood beside the road at the bottom of the hill.
When Mylene reached the bottom, her eyes turned to the hut beside the road. It was old or looked old in her eyes. The outer walls were constructed from planked wood that looked as though it had seen to many days. There were no windows, only a front door, like a black hole en-trance of a dark cave. The hut stood in a dirt yard with a stone well on the left and a wood chopping stump in front. But what immediately caught Mylene’s eyes was the axe that was wedged into the stump. She stepped forward a bit. “Hello?” She called out. “Is there anyone here?” She called out again and still got no answer. Cautiously, she decided to take her chances. “That could keep me safe. It’s better than nothing.” She thought to herself as she stepped towards it.
She stepped up behind the axe and grabbed the handled and then pulled. But the axe was buried deep into the stump. Mylene’s face turned red from the force she put into pulling and she decided to let go and take a breather. Moments after, she tried again. This time she grabbed the axe with both hands, put her right foot up on the stump and pushed down on the handle to try and loosen it from the stump. Just as Mylene felt the axe move and loosen, a fearful chill went crawling down her spine. A voice threatened her. “Let go of the axe. Get away from my stump and get on your knees. You pirate scum have caused enough sorrow!” A boy, about fifteen years of age, hooded and cloaked, held a bow and arrow up the back of Mylene’s head. She sunk to her knees. “I’m not looking …” She was interrupted.
The boy pushed her forwards with his boot, causing Mylene to fall to her hands and knees. “Quiet! I tell you when to speak here. Lest you care to have an arrow sticking out of your skull.” his threat hit the spot. Mylene didn’t try anything. The boy pulled her back up to her knees by a shoulder. “Now then, who are you and what do you want?”
Mylene raised her hands and slowly stood up while the hooded boy kept his arrow at the ready. Mylene turned towards the boy and was startled by what she saw. She couldn’t make out the boy’s face, but his eyes shined green, and they did not have any pupils nor any white. They were just glowing green. The boy was tall, very tall. He was at least three feet taller than Mylene but very slender, and yet, he stood strong.
She composed herself and spoke. “I am truly sorry to have trespassed as I did. I thought this hut was abandoned, but I misjudged.” Mylene dared not make any sudden moves. “My name is Mylene Rothaide. I travel from Ruinpine in search of my daughter. She has long brown hair and pale green eyes. She is fourteen, but she is tall for her age. Have you seen or heard anything about someone that sounds like her?” asked Mylene, desperately.
As Mylene spoke, the boy’s green glowing eyes shot wide open, and he slowly began to loosen his bowstring until he held his bow at his side when she was done. “I am sorry, my lady. I thought you were someone else. Recently, pirates have been spotted trespassing under the cover of the night and kidnapping some of the little ones.” The boy put his arrow away in its quiver that hung on his back. “Please, no one will hurt you here. You may lower your hands. As for your daughter, I have not seen her.” He strung his bow around his back and chest in order to free his hands. “I must ask. You said your name was Rothaide?” He seemed worried but curious.
Mylene eyed him curiously, as well. “Yes. I am the wife of Grimald Rothaide.” she stated.
The boy immediately dropped to one knee in front of Mylene. Mylene stood there baffled by what was happening. “What is happening?” she asked the boy.
He stood up straight and took off his hooded cloak. Mylene covered her mouth in surprise. She was unsure how to react to what she saw standing in front of her. But before Mylene could think of how to react, the boy spoke first. “My lady, my name Weerscrow and I can tell you are surprised by what you see. But do not be afraid. We are peaceful by nature. We are elemental.” His hair was like leafy vines. What stood there nearly eight feet tall was one of the ancient beings of this world. These creatures could bend their elements at will. Little of these people remained in this age, so little that this one could be the only one left. Each elemental is a human born from the element from which they are chosen. In this case, Weerscrow was born from the soils of the earth, bound by all things that grow to remain peaceful and grow with time as a tree grows. The average lifespan of any elemental was over two-hundred years.
Curiosity took over, and Mylene interrupted Weerscrow for a moment. “You said we?”
“Yes, my earth-born sisters and I have lived here in peace for a few years and would like to keep it that way.” stated Weerscrow. That was when the children emerged from the hut. All green-eyed and they all had vines for hair. She counted nine of them, the oldest no more than eight years of age. But it was hard to tell, they were all incredibly tall for their age. Mylene turned back to Weerscrow.
He spoke again. “Your husband… He was a great man.”
“You knew my husband?” she cried out in surprise.
Weerscrow nodded. “Yes. Seven years ago when our true village in the Earth-Bound Forest was burned to the ground, your husband led the defenses against the fire elementals and in the end with many lives lost we won. He was the first human to help us and not shun us for what we are. He considers us one of Melingra’s creations just like everything else in this world. For that, we are grateful and after all the fighting our Elder anointed him a trusted friend to the Earth-bound, and he was welcome among our people always… That very same year, our elder died, and I was the oldest left. We couldn’t stay in our ashen village any longer, and so with the help of your husband, we relocated here to live out our days in peace.”
“I…” she hesitated. “I had no idea.” She thought back to all the times her husband had been away hunting and the day he was reported dead. Nothing came back to her. Nothing belonging to her husband was found. Mylene eyed the bow around Weerscrow shoulder closely. “That bow…” she pointed. “It all makes sense now, why nothing was found where the reports said he died.”
Weerscrow nodded. “Aye, your husband gave me this bow after the attack. About a year ago, as he was traveling the eastern road, not far from here, a fire elemental came out of nowhere and pierced him through the chest with its flaming arm. As he lay there dying, I came upon him struggling to keep a hold of his life. In that moment, he gave me this bow. I was desperate…” Weerscrow sighed in sad-ness. “…I couldn’t let him die this way…” he hesitated. “…if I tell you what happened next, you will have to leave here and promise to continue your search for your daughter and you will not ask me any more questions. Some things are better left unsaid.”
The subject brought tears to Mylene’s eyes. “I promise.”
“What we did to your husband was an ungodly thing. Come with me.” Weerscrow turned around and walked to-wards the back of the hut and Mylene followed unsure of what to expect.
On the other side of the hut, there was a very large mound overgrown with beautiful green grass and violets. On top of the mound grew a small birch tree. It was still quite young. Weerscrow pointed at it with an open hand. “Here is where your husband’s body lays. But before he died, I used my powers to extract his spirit and set it free into the world. That is all I can say about your husband.” Weerscrow stood beside Mylene with his head bowed deep with grief. “Now I have told you the truth. You can make one request of me and be on your way.” He turned to her.
“I cannot ask you more about my husband, but perhaps you can give me a part of whom he was to leave with.” A tear fell from her eye. “I wish to have my husband’s bow and arrows. Both for the comfort of knowing he once held it and for my very survival.” She asked.
He reached up and took off the bow and unclipped his quiver and then handed it to Mylene. “It is a fit gift for one who has lost so much. I give this to you with happiness and honor.” He nodded in agreement. “Also I will present you with another gift my lady. It is a gift only the elder can give and that being me; I present to you the gift of silence.” His eyes seemed to glow brighter for half a heartbeat and then faded back to normal.
Mylene was confused. She scratched her head. “Ummmm… what is the gift of silence?” she asked.
“Well, walked around and then tell me what you hear.” Weerscrow replied.
Mylene took a few steps and walked in circles for a few seconds, and then turned back to Weerscrow slightly frustrated. “I don’t hear anything.” She complained.
Weerscrow looked down at her and smiled. “Precisely!” he exclaimed. “You will be as silent as the wind when you walk, run and crawl. How else do you think I snuck up on you?”
Mylene smiled and thanked him and then eyed him curiously. “You are very perceptive for one so young.” She stated in amazement.
Weerscrow gave her a humble smile. “We Earth-Bound mature far faster than any other living creature. It’s what makes us whom we are my lady.” he explained. “But now it is time for us to part ways. You must resume your search for your daughter and forget our meeting ever happened.”
The last thing Mylene saw were his eyes light up so bright that the world around her turned white and then her mind went blank.
The next thing Mylene knew, she was standing in the middle of the eastern road, and the last thing she could remember was seeing the river from atop the hill. She had her husband’s bow on her back and a quiver of arrows that she couldn’t explain how she obtained. She found it very strange to be walking and not be making any noise what so ever. When the fog in her head cleared, and the world around her became apparent, the only thing she remembered was her goal. She had to find Alyssa at any cost.
As her eyes adjusted in the sunlight, Mylene could hear the cries of seagulls overhead and the smell of salt water filled her nose. She peered off into the distance and saw the ferry docks. The docks were only ten minutes away by Mylene’s judgment. She had walked an entire day in total emptiness. “How did I get here so fast? I don’t remember walking. How did I get my husband’s bow?” All these questions invaded her mind, and it made her frustrated. She stopped walking a moment and inspected the soles of her boots. “And why don’t my footsteps make any noise?” she cried out.
In the end, she decided not to question what might have happened to avoid any more unneeded stress. When Mylene arrived at the ferry, she was relieved. The village surrounding the ferry docks was small but very accommodating. Anyone who purchased a ferry ticket was allowed accommodation everywhere in the village free of charge. She didn’t wait second longer to buy her ticket at the docks be-fore she was at the village inn enjoying a nice warm bowl of beef stew.
The inn was small and typical. Wooden floors and walls covered with wallpaper. Mylene sat in the corner by candle light. The room was filled with all sorts of people chatting among each other, and someone was playing the violin near the hearth on the far wall. Every bite of stew was heaven to her mouth and the spiced wine from Ceptai made it even better. She had not let wine pass her lips for a long time, but after weeks on the road with hardly anything to drink or eat, anything tasted good.
As Mylene was eating, she noticed the man two tables over was very fixed upon her. When their eyes crossed for half a heartbeat, the man got up and awkwardly made his way over to her table and then sat down in the chair across from hers. Mylene went on eating; doing anything she could do to ignore him. For a long while the man sat there watching her eat, and he drank from his cup of ale. “Enjoying the spoils of travel like I, eh my lady?” the man said. He took another sip. “Name’s Olrick and how about you, my lady?” Ol-rick wasn’t what you would consider the noble type. He had lost an eye in battle long ago, which he then had sown shut. It wasn’t a very pretty sight, and he never wore an eye patch. His greasy brown hair flopped down over his makeshift bandana, and his words came out in a slur when he spoke in his drunken state. Olrick was a very merry person when he was drunk and sober for that matter, but when he was sober he was also a fearsome fighter. He liked to refer to strangers he met as ‘My lady’ or ‘My lord’ in a joking fashion because there was no such thing as noble blood in his eyes. As fearsome as he was, Olrick always had a passion for music and songs.
“My name is Mylene, Sir.” she replied.
Olrick laughed loud and smashed his fist on the table for his own amusement. “I ain’t no Sir Lady Mylene.” He smiled and chuckled. “Well, Mylene you came to the right place for merry meal.” Then, as Olrick finished speaking, the violinist changed the tempo and Olrick jumped from his chair and then leaned over the table and began to sing. Only a moment went by before many others clapped and stomped and took up the song as well:
Oh! The beautiful woman with long brown hair,
She walked into our pub without a care.
The next thing we knew,
She was eating our stew.
We look to each other then ask how does she daaaare,
Oh! The Beautiful woman with long brown hair.
Oh! The beautiful lady with long brown hair,
She walked into our pub without a care,
Looking at me all but aware,
That she is the one that should beware.
So eat your stew and stay in your chair,
Oh! My beautiful lady with long brown hair.
When the song was finished, Olrick leaned in beside Mylene and whispered in her ear. “My beautiful lady is unaware.” Olrick stood up straight and nodded to a man behind her. Mylene bad given Olrick a most confusing look before a bag was thrown over her head. Immediately, she began to jump about and screamed for help, but she was quickly subdued by the men of the inn.
The music had stopped, and Olrick drew his club from his belt and whacked Mylene in the back of the head, sending her crashing into her hot stew. She screamed in pain as the stew burnt through the flesh of her left elbow. She couldn’t see anything inside the bag, and before she knew it, she was pinned against a wall and her hands were bound. The last thing she remembered was the sound of Olrick’s club hitting her in the back of the head again and Olrick shouting. “One more for the locker, lads!” and the men of inn cheered and laughed.