by Sara Zambo
I could feel and see that this dim blue layer of light on my skin was weakening. This light, this power that I’ve yet to understand was leaving me so soon. Quickly and enough so, that I started to notice the wolf’s sharp teeth attempting to dig into me. What made this worse was the quick pace at which we were going through this forest, and felt every bump this mutt made while trying to avoid tree roots, and really whatever was in the way. Its canine teeth would be my real concern, as it would try to stab repeatedly through arm.
We’ve already been going at this pace for about ten minutes now. And then finally, there was a big gap on the ground that this mutt didn’t slow down for, likely ready to jump over it. I might just die from lack of blood its teeth would make before we even get to where we are going. I didn’t want the jump to happen.
But it did.
Once we landed after the second in the air, many of his bottom teeth made it through, deep enough that some may have even reached the bone on my arm, and some on my back.
There was blood.
Not a lot, but enough to make me worry. Still, I didn’t feel the pain and my only guess as to why is the even lessened blue light covering me. At this moment, all I wanted was to get away from its mouth before I would inevitably close my eyes for good.
How long do I have? There was blood, but what little fell and left a trail on the ground was a small percentage to what was likely entering this wolf’s mouth. At one fifth the total blood left, the next stage would be entering into shock. Organs would start failing because of the small amounts the heart was pumping through the body and I would eventually die.
With that in mind, I hit the wolf with my fist, going to his face, but not close enough to go for the eyes. It’s useless. It didn’t even seem bothered.
I look at my hand. The blue layer was still covering me but just barely now. If I had a knife, then that might do the trick being this close to its face… but I don’t have one. Once the blue layer was weak enough, I started feeling immense pain through my body, but most importantly, all the parts that were being stabbed by its teeth were even worse. Luckily, none of them pierced near vital parts.
That’s when I noticed the light was receding to my hand until finally there was nothing layered over me. The pain became worse. Upon this worsening feeling a second button lights up and multiple needles grow out from it, stabbing the wolf on its body and in that moment, it flings me in the air. When I touch the ground, before I even knew what happened, I lose consciousness with nothing but a sudden pain on my cranium.
* * *
* * *
I felt my body was heavy when I returned to my consciousness, as well as a pain on my head that was increasingly painful as the seconds went by. Almost as if something was knocking on my head with a hammer.
Multiple people spoke. I keep my eyes closed, and bearing the pain to listen.
“Is her wound going to be okay?”
“No. It’s too deep..”
“Well, at least we got the boy.”
“It’ll be good coin once we ransom him.”
“I closed the other wounds he had, but the concussion is the only thing I’m worried about.”
“Check his clothes. See what family he belongs to.”
I felt someone grow closer.
“It’s a phoenix bird with a sword on its talon.. whose kid is this?”
“Oi, he’s from the far north, isn’t he?”
“Which families live there?”
“That’s too far north, ya idiot. We aren’t going up there for some dumb rich kid.”
“Well, how do you know he’s from the northern families?”
“… Only emblems of birds with open wings are from Taliqa. Otherwise… close wings for birds that no longer follow the flock.”
“Just get what we came here for.”
The same person who was nearby inches closer.
“He’s used up two stones. The others are on standby.”
“Stupid mutt couldn’t even keep the stones from being activated..”
“Taking them will be a problem… and then deactivating will be… a bigger hassle. We’ll have to kill him and then maybe we get… one?”
“These are bound to him. So, there’s no helping it unless he undoes their activation himself.”
“Then wake the bloody brat and force him to do it!”
I hear another set of footsteps come closer. An objects pokes me on my stomach and I pretend to wake up. It was a man, likely in his mid thirties. Wild hair and a thick beard growing out. A sword on his side seemingly seen use many times.
“Careful, ya bearded idiot. I don’t want his stones to aggro while I’m close,” said that man who was just a moment ago looking at my clothes. Both men take a few steps back and looked straight to me.
“Hand us the stones on your shirt, boy. Just deactivate them and hand them over,” ordered the ‘bearded idiot.’
I take a second to look around. There were a few others and a women in the group. She sat by Selsie, petting the wolf that was now on the ground and breathing heavily with traces of blood from its mouth. Not sure if hers or mine. The same man that asked for my buttons (stones) took out his sword and made a threatening pose, as if ready to strike me, the one by him stands back, moving farther away.
“Oi, don’t ya know you’re going to die if ya don’t do as I say,” he said. “Are you deaf?”
I try standing up, almost falling over from the pain on my head. The man swings his sword down on me, missing purposefully by a few inches. I flinched. The others step away farther.
“Give them to me,” he said.
In this situation.. I’d do as they say and then they might just kill me anyway, thus taking all of the stones for themselves… or option two, they kill me, and as the man said, they get maybe one stone from it. I might as well as make this as hard for them as possible.
“Give them to me!” he yelled.
“..No,” I answered.
The man swings his sword at me with seemingly full intent on making contact. I close my eyes tightly before the impact and hear a sound cutting through flesh.
I felt no wound.
I open my eyes and another of my stones became active. A large sword like object, dimmed blue and seemingly made of energy, grew out from one my stones on my shirt and pierced the man’s head. He drops down, lifeless. The sword recedes back into the stone.
“What a fucking idiot,” said another.
“I’m surprised Selsie had this little bastard in her mouth the whole time. You’d think she’d drop dead before she even made it here.”
“Don’t take her lightly,” said the woman, she keeps petting the wolf Selsie.
“Well? Anyone else want to take a crack at getting the stones? This kid wears them like a fashion statement.”
The others either shake their head or stay silent.
“Are you going to let me go?” I ask, and I look to the man who was killed a few feet away. One starts laughing, it was the one who first crept in to look at the emblem on my shirt.
“No,” he said, “We can still ransom you and make a deal with your family.”
“And you’re going all the way north?” I ask, remembering that Zeyl said it would take a year on foot, and a few months on horse.
“This little shit has been listening in on us,” said another, “What a little shit!”
“How about we trade?” I ask, noting that my breathing became heavy. The pain in my head felt like it was worsening.
“How noble of you,” he said sarcastically. “Funny how rich folk like bargaining for their life.”
“…” I stay silent.
“… What do you have in mind?”
“I’ll give you three of the five remaining standby stones.”
“I’ll need the rest to assure my survival,” I added.
“Do as you wish, my young lord,” he said, vowing and laughing shortly after. The woman who sat by Selsie stands and walks over to me.
“I’m Lis,” she said.
“Lee,” I responded.
“Do you know how to undo the activation, Lee?” she asked.
“… No,” I said, hesitating on whether to answer. Mostly because I didn’t understand their function in the first place. I don’t want to be tricked into doing something that won’t land in my favor.
“Place three of the stones on the ground, then just draw a circle around them and finally a triangle on the outside. Opposite of the activation sequence. Right–”
“Oi, before we do that, let me take a closer look at the stones.” The man comes closer, but far enough to move away from a sudden attack. “The one that killed that bloody idiot is still very much active, so yes, five remain on standby,” he continues inspecting them one by one. “I only recognize one of them.”
“Which is it?” Asked Lis.
“It’s definitely a seeker stone.”
“Can we sell it?” asked another member of the group.
“No, we need the twin that goes with it to sell it.”
“Boy… Lee,” he said, “… We’ll take the bottom two. You can keep the others.”
“Only two?” asked a member of the group. “He said three.”
“N-no,” I said, “I will not remain with just one while I also wait for the one that killed your friend to stop working,” and remind them of their friend that lay on the ground, who attacked and blamed their side for forcing one of the stones to attack.
“Better than maybe one,” said Lis.
I proceed to take the bottom two. Place them on the ground and follow their instructions.
The two inside the circle begin to revert back to their normal state, no longer shining with a beautiful dim color. The others I wore still shinned. I at least felt safe because of that. I step back, far enough for even them to feel safe away from me as well.
“It’s a done deal, then,” he said, and gathers the small stones and places them in a small leather bag.
The rest of the group begin packing. Lis, on the other hand, walks toward me, unafraid.
“Here,” she said, handing me a small bag with something in it. “It’s medicine for your head,” she points to the place on my head, where the pain is felt worse. I thank her. She then walks to Selsie, the wolf, and pats her one more time, but this time, Lis’ hands glow and small particles of light can be seen flowing from them.
“What are you doing to her?” I ask.
“This way, she can just fall asleep and not have to deal with the pain,” said Lis, “She won’t wake up after that.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologize, only because I am sure Selsie was only following orders. Lis then proceeds to laugh faintly. I walk over to her and Selsie, but fall from the pain on my head as I get within a few steps away. Liz flinches and lets out a small yell. My stone seemingly lit itself brighter, but then dims back to a normal bright shine.
That was close.
She sighs with relief and makes sure to get a few more steps away. I get up
“I’d undo the activation on those stones of yours when you’re around people you know if I were you,” she warned me, “these stones don’t know friend from foe.”
“I will,” I said. She leaves along with the rest of the group.
Then the they disappear from view a good few minutes later along with their unfortunate companion. Selsie and I remain. She sleeps.. and likely wont’ be returning.
Now about Zeyl. I don’t even know the direction to start my search. I sit next to Selsie, thinking of my next step. She doesn’t look vicious when she’s asleep. And now she’s not going to wake up. I remember about the medicine Lis handed me. I open it and there is a note along with small brown pills inside.
Take two each day until there are no more. There is enough for five days. Use the seeker stone to find your family.