Chapter 6: A Light at the End

Chapter 6: A Light at the End

A Chapter by Andrew M. Davis

Back to Korbin's perspective. Get a little more hint as to what he's capable of, but more of a background on the D'karian's as well! Enjoy. Tell me what you think!



            You would think that being able to fly would keep me from falling from trees while I was dreaming, but that apparently wasn’t true in the slightest. I stood where I had crashed on the ground far below where we had been sleeping in the tree, scraping my tongue with my hand in an attempt to remove the sickening taste of mud from my mouth. Looking up, I could see Cyren high up in the tree laughing at me.

By now he knew I couldn’t get hurt. The three of us, Aura, Cyren and I, had been together for the past two weeks. During the times that Aura and Cyren were searching for food, I went out exploring in an attempt to take in all that I could about this planet. They were also looking for something, something that, so far, they have decided to keep from me.

            Back in the tree, Cyren’s armored scale mask folded in on itself, revealing his clear tan face. Cyren had short dark black hair, each tendril like a tiny spike prepared to impale you if you touched it. His ears, as well as Aura’s were pointed in three different places along their ridges. They jutted from the side of their heads. So far the spikes were the main noticeable difference between the D’karians and humankind. Though Cyren and his sister had powerful physiques, which I could assume was the same for all of their kind. It was highly unlikely that there were any fat D’karians. Their powerful muscles made it look like I was the weakest among us, but that was far from the truth.

            Once I had flown back up to the thick branch that we had been sleeping on, we spent a little time packing up, bundling the few supplies we had, which was solely food. We were wearing the rest of our possessions. After it was all bundled together, I flew it to the ground, while they deftly climbed their way down the thick trunk. Upon reaching the ground, we began to walk eastward. They believed that it would be best for me to stay grounded during the day, or at least beneath the canopy. My only choice was to agree.

Cyren had made a decently convincing argument. If anyone from D’karia happened to spot me, they would know, at the very least, that there was something on this planet that didn’t belong and investigate. That is if anyone from D’karia even chose to come to this planet. It may be that the sibling’s nervousness about those who may be searching for them could be misplaced.

            The trees creaked with the rhythm of the wind, dancing to the sonnets of the invisible, yet lively, creatures singing in the forest. Some of the creatures I had seen as of yet had similarities to those on Earth, but most were completely different. It wasn’t necessarily accurate for me to compare the Adjutorian wildlife to that of Earth’s. They were worlds apart, and, no matter how recognizable they were, each creature had its own set of unique traits and abilities that distinguished them from those on Earth.

The canopy loomed above us, supported by giant obelisks and watching over the beings far below. We marched between them as silent stalkers.  Both Aura and Cyren had their blades drawn out from their armor. It took a split second for their swords to be released, but they made the excuse that they should be prepared for any of the forest’s dangers unfortunate enough to cross their path, even though most of the creatures in the forest were nocturnal.

            We walked for a long time, conversing about random things. Aura and Cyren asked me questions about Earth, while I asked them questions about D’karia. Seeing that none of us were on our own planet, it was a difficult topic. The difficulty for them only rose when they talked about the places they had been on their own planet, the vast cities, the ancient ruins, expansive mountains, but, oddly, not when they talked about the different types of creatures and biomes that surrounded those places. Aura became far more animated when she spoke of the different fauna of the planet. She described many of them to the tiniest of details. Cyren wasn’t kidding when he said his sister liked her research.

On the other hand, I didn’t miss Earth, not yet, or at least not like they missed D’karia. Contrary to them, it was the animals and people that I missed on Earth, but, currently, there was nothing that was calling me back to it.

Out of nowhere, a strange bird fluttered down from a nearby tree and crossed our path as we walked. It hopped gracefully across the forest floor and pecked at the ground in search of food, much like an Earth bird searching for worms. The bird drew my full attention with its look of innocence. It was odd, I had been paying close attention to my surroundings, but I hadn’t heard a bird, only the sound of a calm wind.

“Hey, that’s something that kind of reminds me of home,” I said, referring to our conversations and pointing at the bird. I took a step forward and cocked my head curiously, but Cyren gripped my arm, stopping my movement.

“Do not mistake any of the creatures of this planet for the docile ones you have described from your own,” Cyren said, releasing me. “That is an Audra; it possess’ an uncommon power over the smallest tendrils of air. At its current age, it is not the most powerful creature on this planet, but, were it to be riled, it would still pose a great threat. If you feel competent, test it. Take a few steps. Let us see how capable you truly are when pitted against the powers of Adjutor.”

            I moved forward, unafraid of the Audra’s influence over the air. The Audra looked up at me, staring across its beak. Its eyes were tame, yet wild all in the same; curious, but understanding. It watched closely, and so calmly and still that, were you to simply glance around, you might miss it, even with the bright colors of its feathers. Its down was yellow, with a black stripe that flowed from the tip of its head all the way through its tail feathers. The Audra had five tail feathers protruding from the base of its back. The central one was purely black, while the other four remained as yellow as the rest of it. Its wings fit it perfectly and appeared strong, augmenting the Audra’s calm features with a constant air of ferocity.

I continued to edge forward with careful steps, all the while the Audra stared watchfully at my progress. It released a slow, shrill chirping sound from its beak, as if it was warning me to stay back, yet taunting me to come forward. I chose the latter.

            The bird was in the air, hovering with wings outstretched, before I had a chance to blink. It rose on tiny fingers of air, which flowed beneath it to keep it aloft without even needing to flap its wings. Circles of current swirled around its bright yellow wings as small tornados formed and spread out around it, finding their way into the forest as the currents gave them form, tearing up leaves, dirt and whatever else they came in contact with as they went, steadily growing stronger. The Audra gazed at me with a knowing look in its eyes. Its confidence caused me to begin to question whether I could actually hold my own against this creature, even with the might of my own power. Maybe the gale would be strong enough to pick me up off the ground and fling me wherever it chose.

The tendrils of air formed into a continuous stream, flowing swiftly, increasing in strength after every passing second. The Audra looked at me as if by now I should be on the ground covering my head. The speed of the wind picked up, churning with the strength of a hurricane, but remained quarantined around a specific, but large diameter from where I stood. I took a quick look behind me. Aura and Cyren hid from the tempest behind nearby trees. I also noticed that many of the nearest trees all leaned slightly in one direction, as if they too were trying to escape the gale. I was tempted to hide myself, to cower from my doubt, but I chose to stand my ground.

            The force of the windstorm that this creature was continuously creating was tremendous, yet it couldn’t move me. Even I had questioned my ability to stand my ground after I saw the confidence the Audra conveyed through its stare. It knows what it is capable of, and is used to the response given by Aura and Cyren, whereas I don’t fully comprehend the strength of my own power, but, apparently, it could hold off against one of Adjutor’s fiercest creatures.

The ancient trees that were leaning from the force of the storm began to creak in their opposition, attempting to stand firm in the midst of this ever growing whirlwind. The Audra was controlling the exact direction that the wind was to move. Low branches from the trees behind the Audra were bending towards me, crippling and cracking against the tumultuous force, and eventually losing their hold to the tree trunks and flying directly towards me. They crashed against my body, shattering into countless pieces as they made contact with my impenetrable skin. The unstoppable force had finally come face to face with the immovable object, and we were locked within a storm, facing off against each other with the resilience of a mountain.

After what seemed like a lifetime, the Audra released an annoyed screech and the gale dissipated into emptiness. The Audra hovered, quickly flapping its wings to stay aloft only a few feet from where I currently stood. I felt awed by its will and intensity. It appeared to be completely unaffected by the amount of power it had just produced. I reached out my hand with my palm facing upward in a gesture of surrender and respect, hoping that the beautiful creature would understand the motion. It looked quizzically at it for a few moments, hovering the same distance away and switching its gaze between my palm and me for a few seconds. Although I wanted to, it actually surprised me when it alighted onto the palm of my hand, touching down and then hopping up my arm to place its forehead on mine.

“First the Guri, and now the Audra,” Cyren said. At least he was consistent with always being so surprised when anything happened to me. “The most powerful creatures on the planet are showing you their respect, even bowing to you. In thousands of years the Audra have only shown reverence to their own.”

            “So what does this mean?” I asked, turning my attention back to the Audra as it angled its head sideways and nestled itself into the little nook between my neck and shoulder.

“She seems to like you,” Aura said.

“Yes, but that doesn’t answer my question. What does it mean?”

            “It means,” Cyren interjected, “that they recognize your power, your heart, what you try and hide, and even that which you currently refuse to become,” Cyren said knowingly.

After so short a time, could Cyren already see through me? I had done my best to hide the deepest parts of me, to let them see my fear. I had run from my home, from everything I had ever known and loved, and every day it felt like I had made a mistake, but I was on a roll when it came to justifying that choice. I refused to be Earth’s hero, to be a hero at all. Could Cyren truly see that?

“They wish to show you that they are on your side, that they would fight for you,” he continued, breaking through my thoughts.

Fight for me?

“Why would they need to fight for me?” I asked, perplexed.

“It is not that they need to fight for you, because they do not. It is that they will if you were to call them to.”

            “That is the thing that’s confusing,” I said. “For what purpose would I ever need to call them to fight for me?” Cyren focused and turned his head in thought in response to me, trying his best to figure out what he could say to get me to understand.

He sighed, “When I glimpsed your fiery descent from the sky, I fully understood in an instant that you held the capabilities to assist my people. After these weeks, having spent further time with you and slowly unveiling who you are, I understand to a greater extent that it is you who can bring my people back from the brink of whatever edge they currently stand on. It was more than circumstance that brought you here, more than coincidence. How I would develop the desire in you to help, I had no idea, but, somehow, I needed to find a way.”

            “Accomplished,” I said with a hint of humor.

            “I’m not saying that was all I craved,” he said, placing his hand on my shoulder, the shoulder that was not currently occupied by an Audra. “Look at how far we have come in the past few days, Korbin. None of your drive to help us came from me; it came from this world, from beauty, a beauty you wish to preserve.”

I looked over at him, smiling, “Cyren, I’m not mad at you trying to manipulate me into helping you, you know that right?”

He brought his eyes to mine. “Oh,” he said, slightly surprised, removing his hand from my shoulder. “All I was trying to say is that I also acknowledged your power, as both the Guri and the Audra have, and I hoped, and still hope, that you could be the bridge to liberate my people from the ones who took our world.”

            “That is the reason I stayed, Cyren,” I said, turning aside and looking in the direction we had previously been walking. “But, in order for me to help at all, you have to tell me what it is we are searching for on this planet. That is if you’re actually looking for something, and not just roaming this world aimlessly.” I knew they were looking for something, but I didn’t know what it was, or why.

            “It is a place,” it was vague, but it was a start.

            “What sort of place?” I asked.

            “It is an ancient temple called Siela Rumai. Its builders created it to move anyone inside from one place to another in a heartbeat. At least, it used to. It has been dormant for some time. It has been many years since anyone from D’karia has laid eyes on it; there is no telling the shape that it is in. It could easily be broken beyond repair, but we will figure out what we will do if that situation arises later. For now, we simply need to reach that location,” the explanation seemed good enough to me.

            I hung my head in exasperation. “It seems like we have our work cut out for us. This isn’t what I expected, but it’s not a bad start.”

My gaze met that of Aura.

“You do not intend to leave us now, do you?” she asked.

I looked through her, and then beyond, into the shadows of the forest behind. I listened to the noise around, to the slight hum of the Audra cradling itself in the little nook in my neck, and the breeze it created every time it took a breath, rustling the leaves and surrounding foliage. I heard low growls far off in the distance. My hearing was filled with the sounds of all the creatures in the forest. In time, if I didn’t help the D’karians, what would become of this place?

“No…No, of course not,” I reassured her, returning my gaze to her own. The Audra hopped twice on my shoulder and lightly pecked at the lobe of my ear in affection.

“Good,” she said, assured. “The Audra seems to have already taken to you, Skyboy,” Aura observed. “I do not think she intends to leave you either. It may be premature, but you may wish to give her a name.”

I looked over at her, surprised, and then to the Audra who stared at me expectantly. “How smart is she?” I asked.

“Compared to us? If you taught her well, she would be able to understand you fully,” Aura explained. “The Audra are an intelligent race, and possess the competencies to hold just as much knowledge as you or I.”

            “Well then,” I said, bringing two fingers to the base of my shoulder, hopefully indicating to the Audra that I wanted her to get on. She understood, cautiously stepping onto my extended fingers. She gripped her talons around them in security, though I doubted even if she fell that she would even get close to the ground before a gust of wind brought her back up, or she spread her wings to glide safely to the ground. “Alright…umm…how about…” I didn’t know what to say.

“How am I supposed to name a bird?” I glanced over at Aura, she was the expert on the species of the planet.

“Just search within yourself. With creatures as powerful and serene as the Audra, a name should not be a hard thing to find.” Aura sounded like a Zen master. Search within myself? I’m not naming a child.

            “That’s easy for you to say. I’m from Earth,” I mumbled under my breath. I don’t think they understood what I meant by that.

I looked into the bright blue eyes of the Audra, attempting to look both within it and myself at the same time, trying to search for a good fitting name. “Ok, I think I got it. I’ll call you Serene.” Its eyes flashed like wildfire, clamping its beak down on my fingers as hard as it could. To anyone else that probably would have hurt…a lot.

“So, you like it?”

She jumped up and almost literally head butted me.

“Then it’s a no?”

She bobbed her head.

“Well then, back to thinking,” this time she looked up into my eyes as I looked down into hers. I think she was trying to convey a name to me, like she already had one, but she hadn’t yet grown enough to make it easily known.

            Her eyes were so bright and beautiful. They shined radiantly, standing in full approval of the bright yellow of her feathers and the black tips of each of her wings; she would be a perilous creature to have as an enemy. She was small, but she could clearly hold her own.

“I think her name is Nadari.” Our eyes were focused on each other. “Yea,” I paused, clearing my mind, “it’s Nadari.” Now that’s not a name you can just come up with.

Nadari fluttered her wings, flying back to perch on my shoulder. I’d barely been on this planet for two weeks and I already had a pet, maybe even a partner. At this point, I had no idea how far she was willing to go for me. What I did know is that I wouldn’t make the mistake of calling her tame. I had seen her fury.

            “So…uh…where to now?” I asked Cyren.

            “We head east. The temple we are going to, as I explained before, Siela Rumai, will take us six weeks to reach on foot. There are some creatures here that may allow us to ride them, which will speed our progress, but we cannot have that assurance until we pass through the mountains.”

I put my hands into the pockets of my tattered jeans, the same jeans I had put on the morning before I left earth. They started to get torn up a week ago, when I stupidly chose to run through some of the razor ferns. In my defense, I didn’t know that the ferns were there. On top of that, I probably smelled too, and my black hair had become a wonderful compilation of grease and dirt.

The color had changed from when I was younger. It didn’t used to be black. It was a lighter brown that somehow turned to the slick black that it is today. My shoes were torn apart two days after I crashed here, due to all of my hard landings on the forest floor. So, now I am barefoot, which isn’t a problem. My shirt also used to be white, but now it was…not. My eyes were the color of the oceans, a bright blue, they changed every once in a while, but, most of the time, though, they were just blue. My fathers’ ring was still on my right ring finger, the fateful words still bearing no meaning to me.

            We were coming to the edge of the forest, finally, after so long. I could see the range of mountains Cyren had spoken of not too far beyond it, which didn’t seem like it would be a fun trek. Who knows what types of creatures could be dwelling there, lying in wait for the unsuspecting passerby. I didn’t know this planet, but every creature seemed to have some sort of unnatural strength, which was far different from earth, where the most fearsome creature was the human itself and only because we had the technology to hold off the other predators. Alone, your average human wasn’t strong by any means. I’m strong, but I am the exception.

            “We’ll have to travel through the mountains, but be wary, they are the opposite of the forest, but are by no means any tamer. The mountains are treacherous continuously from when the sun rises in the morning to when it chooses to rest at the coming night.” Cyren pointed out to the three highest peaks. “On top of those, live the three most fearsome creatures on this planet, each old and powerful, yet none were born here. You should hope that we do not cross paths with them. I do not know if you would be capable of defeating them.”

            I could take them, I thought to myself. Nadari turned her head to me; it almost looked like she was rolling her eyes, as if she already could read me. She really was an unusual creature.

            We set up camp in the middle-ground between the forest and the unpromising mountains, placing ourselves on the greener of the two sides. The mountain rang was not deep. It was more like a wall with two or three large mountains springing up between us and the other side, but it stretched on as far as the eye could see, and undoubtedly beyond. There was a definitive line between the mountains and the forest. They looked ominous, releasing the aura of death, which percolated out from them within the ground. The grass was green up until the edge on which we stood; from there it just died, shifting instantly into a decrepit landscape of brown.

“This decay is their doing,” Cyren explained, nodding back towards the peaks.

“This planet seems to be in need of just as much liberation as you claim D’karia needs,” I said. “Was it always like this?”

            “No,” Aura said, turning to me with a fore longed look in her eyes. “When we were children, Cyren, Aeron and I would come here and explore. These mountains were beautiful then. The stench of death held no power here.” She turned her attention back to the peaks, “And then those creatures came. They made their home on the mesas of the tallest mountains. Destruction followed soon after. They destroyed many of the Guri and Kalju Isa.” She paused, seeing the confused look I gave her, “they are what we call the Stone Fathers. They hold the memories of the Guri. As a new one is created, they share their wealth of knowledge with them. You may have seen them as you entered the quarry, they wear the crowns. But, because of the Igna, only two remain. The creatures leave their nooks only during the day, when they move to hunt.”

            “What are they?” I asked, staring at the peaks, hoping to catch a glimpse of movement.

            “They are called Igna. They are savage beasts from the planet Ra’gor, a world of Magma. But, currently, they are unimportant; we have other matters to focus on.”

I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the peaks; I imagined the sad fate of what would happen if the three creatures lost their tempers. The sky would erupt in fire around them, turning the mountain range into a smoldering wasteland like that of their home world, assuming that they too were creatures of fire.

Unimportant? I thought to myself. How could this at all be considered unimportant?

 Then again, I have been feeling high and mighty lately, believing I can take more than I may actually be able to. Between the creatures in the ocean, the Guri, and the Audra, the odds were in my favor that I would win, but then there was that vine creature, which I couldn’t even stand up against. It could bring me down to the ground by simply screeching. No matter how hard I had tried, I was incapable of tuning it out. It bore into me like a nail, immobilizing both me and my power from within.

            Wouldn’t now be the perfect time to talk about the Igna? We were waiting till night to head through the mountains, and still had a few hours to do so. Why was it such a sensitive topic to Aura that she would mention them with malice and then avoid giving any information?  

            I waited to see if Aura would say anything before I asked the sensitive question running through my mind. It was hard to tell how she would react. She sat cross-legged on the grass, staring off into the distance. She had zoned out.

            “There have been many times that the Igna have ravaged lands that do not belong to them. Lands that they desire to conquer, and yet would never truly live on. Their sole desire in life is to destroy. Their purpose is to ravage worlds, and all the history we know of them is built upon their destructive nature. They care not for the people who they hurt, nor for the destruction they cause. They hunger for war; it is an innate desire of theirs to be in battle at all times. There is no greater purpose to their life.”

            “Ten years ago they made their way to D’karia in an attempt to overthrow my father’s rule, like many others had tried before. The difficulty with fighting the Igna on our planet is that there is no telling when they will attack. We have no warning. They come in thousands in an attempt to desolate my people, because their true numbers are innumerable, they cannot be counted. They have always struck right at the capitol of Corusca, attacking without cause. Corusca had been unprepared for such a siege. Teirm, Odeima and the other four cities had been cut off, we had no way to contact them and request assistance.”

            “Cyren and I were told not to fight; we were too young and were believed to be untrained for such a battle. The five Kunga came together outside the city and defended it with their might, while they waited for the cities soldiers to prepare and make their way outside the main gate to the field of battle. They held the Igna back, but were forced to retreat when they could no longer hold the portal, which was the window from which the Igna had come,” Aura continued without explaining what the Kunga were. I would ask later.

            “Cyren and I, contrary to what we had been told to do, made our way to the portal through a multitude of tunnels that fill the underground of Corusca. We exited five hundred yards behind the portal. We had made a makeshift explosive device that we were going to use in an attempt to close the portal, but we had to get it in to the other side, otherwise our efforts would be in vain. Cyren remained by the tunnel opening, barely visible, so that I could make my way back without fear of missing the entrance.”

            “I then moved towards the portal, staying within the shadows so that I would not be seen. I held the explosive close to me. My destination was the direct center of the portal, where the two worlds collided with each other to open the rift that allowed the Igna to pass through. Doing so would disrupt the field and shut down the Igna’s window to D’karia. As I neared the portal, I set the explosive on the ground and struck my swords together to create a spark. After a few tries, I succeeded in lighting the fuse to the explosive. I moved swiftly, lifting it from the ground and sprinting towards the open portal, dropping it perfectly between the two colliding windows connecting our worlds together.”

            “The device exploded and enveloped the portal in a flame that erupted into the sky. The flames lingered for a short time before dissipating to offer a view of the flickering portal, barely visible through the smoke created from the explosion. The rift shook and swayed, its hold on the world fading rapidly. The Igna, having realized their gateway was fading, rushed to retreat through the portal in time, but many were incapable of making it through in the confusion of their panic. The Igna who remained locked out from their world were quickly annihilated, bringing an end to their short, now futile, battle for D’karia.”

Aura paused for a time after finishing the story. I waited in silence, afraid to break it.

She shook her head, calming her irritated nerves. “Can you now understand why it is that I hate them? It is because of their desires, desires that cannot be sated, because of their unquenchable thirst for chaos. They destroy, and they ravage, and they conquer. They burn without question; in return, I hate them with every destructive emotion within me.”

I understood her revulsion against the Igna, and, given what this mountain range looks like, I would guess that almost all Igna are exactly alike. We sat in silence; none of us had any further comments to make. I hung my head, yet again, with my elbows braced firmly on my thighs. I had no idea what I had signed up for. The pain of an entire world rested on my shoulders, but would I have the strength to stand by my word? We were all so young. It shouldn’t make sense that so much pain could radiate from each of our past, and present, situations. At least they still had each other through this. Maybe that was all they needed. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if either Aura or Cyren were alone now. Though clearly they could handle their own, it’s just better that they have each other to lean on.  

The light of the sun was beginning to fade, allowing twilight to place its mark on the dead lands beyond where we sat. It was a threatening landscape, forcing its presence to be known by the sickly look of its surroundings. The light eventually winked out, but we stayed in wait for a few hours longer. We needed to make sure that the beasts were sleeping soundly before we began our trek through the treacherous mountain range.

I was the first to set foot on the dead grass. It released a scream as it crackled and broke beneath my feet. The particles of dust slowly drifted away with the slight breeze created by Nadari’s restful breathing. By my count, it was nearing one in the morning, which meant that we only had a few hours before the sun came back up. So, carefully, we made our way to the towering mountains.

The empty plain was ominous. The entire time we were on it, it felt like something was going to swoop out of the sky and snatch us up. There was a break between the mountains not far ahead that led into a path that we were directed towards. Cyren had mentioned it before we left, and had apparently guided us through the forest in the general direction the gap was in, which happened to be almost spot on. Being the only one who could really see anything, I was currently the acting guide. To Cyren and Aura it would be nearly pitch black, any light would be too dangerous, so we were stuck relying on my eyes to get us through the mountains.

The night seemed cold, and gave me the feeling that we were walking into some sort of trap. The path wasn’t difficult or arduous by any means, in fact, it was quite smooth. I could tell that in the past this path had been used frequently by creatures that used to call these mountains home. There were large stones occasionally scattered along the path, but everything else was ground into finer gravel. Every few hundred feet we passed by caves or crevices that bore into the mountainsides, some were empty, but in others I could see glowing eyes shrinking back in fear of our unwelcome presence. If these creatures knew any better, they would have left long ago, but they didn’t, this was their livelihood.

The path started to get tougher as we progressed through the mountains. The ground slowly began to look more like ash rather than dirt and stone. It was eerie, these paths were empty, and night was supposed to be the safest time, but there were no creatures out, and no sounds but the shuffling of our feet and the almost silent breathing of Nadari perched on my shoulder. A roar came from far off, from somewhere up above us. It didn’t feel like it was meant for a challenge, just a harmless roar, harmless, right?

Aura shivered beside me.

“Are you cold?” I asked her.

“No. It is simply me being conscious of the dangers that may await us as we go deeper.”

“You need not fear, Aura,” Cyren said stepping closer to her.

“I did not say I was afraid, brother.”

The quick exchange put us all back into silence.

A few minutes later, Nadari chittered a few notes into my ear and then shot off into the shadows ahead. I almost went after her, then realized the path forked ahead and she was only going to scout out which direction would be the best to choose, hopefully. We continued forward on the rugged path until we reached the junction. I stood there like a sentinel waiting for Nadari’s return.

I could hear muffled wing beats coming from the left road. Nadari flew back and circled around my head to land in the nook of my shoulder. A slight jolt of wind was pushing us to the right, which was a path that was even more run down and rugged than the last. It was becoming clear that the farther we went, the crueler the paths we took would become.

We traveled on the new path for what seemed like hours, and it may very well have been hours, which would leave us right at the brink of the coming dawn. The mountains were so close together that many of them overlapped and blocked passage between. Our path had led us for miles in every direction. I had assumed it would only take an hour or two to traverse the mountains, but the sheer amount of twists and turns was confusing. We had to back track twice.

I wanted to fly us all to the other side of the mountain, but Aura and Cyren both insisted strongly that I stay grounded. They didn’t want to take any risks whatsoever of waking the Igna and calling their attention to us, but, either way, we had to hurry, or it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

The path eventually led us into a long and narrow tunnel running beneath one of the many mountains in this range. The tunnel was only wide enough to fit us one at a time, which made me nervous, but it was at least tall. The tunnel dropped down a few feet on a gradual decline, but the ceiling didn’t follow us down with it, instead, it grew higher until it was about fifteen feet above our heads. Sadly, the path grew no wider.

We moved forward in a single file line like Kindergarteners going to lunch. The walls were soaking wet. A thin waterfall ran down the wall, and droplets fell from the ceiling, hitting the stone floor and causing a quiet, eerie echo to resonate through the tunnel. The water, however, didn’t pool on the ground. There was a small crack all along the base of the wall that allowed the water to drain down through it. If I listened close enough, I could just barely hear the sounds of a river flowing swiftly beneath us.

It felt like the walls were pressing in on us, but they were stuck in the same positions they were in when we entered the passage, which is a slightly amusing part of claustrophobia. It makes you feel like the walls are closing in on you, but, in reality, they aren’t moving a single centimeter, but I understood the fear. Cyren and Aura, blinded by the darkness of the tunnel, had been running their hands along the damp walls the whole way. They stepped carefully, occasionally hitting their feet on small, loose stones and kicking them down the tunnel and creating an echo.

After an hour of careful movement through the tunnel, we came to a place where a part of the tunnel was blocked by a thick stone slab that jutted out from the rock wall, almost cutting us off completely from the opposite side. The other side could be seen through a small crack, but it would be impossible for us to bypass. The thick slab rose from floor to ceiling, leaving no room for any of us to fit through. Nonetheless, I tried to squeeze past it, even though I knew that I wouldn’t be able too. I could see that the tunnel widened out again on the other side of the stone after about four feet, but seeing it wouldn’t help us unless we were actually there.

“Stand back, I have an idea.” I drew back my fist as if I was charging it. I slammed it against the wall once, causing pieces of it to crumble off and fall into a pile of shattered stone at my feet. I repeated punching the wall two more times before the gap had become large enough for us to fit through comfortably, but still one at a time.

Flexing my fingers, I turned my head and smiled at Cyren, “See? I handled it.”

At that moment the entire tunnel began to shudder. A rumbling sound resounded like trumpets through the underpass. The ceiling directly above was beginning to give way; it was going to cave in. I flew up to it and pressed my palms against the wet stone and pushed up with all my might, placing my legs on either side of the tunnel wall to brace in an attempt to exert even more force upward against the mountain. My feet dug into the wall, scarring it deeply. They had to, otherwise they would quickly slip down and give me no leverage because of how slick the walls were. Apparently the force of my punches had not only broken the wall stopping our progress, but also send tremors through the mountain, causing the tunnel to cave in.

“Nadari,” I yelled, “go! Meet me on the other side,” without hesitation she rocketed away until she was out of sight. “You two, move! I’ll hold it as long as I can. Hug the wall, it will help you move faster in the darkness, but the tunnel will crumple sooner or later. I can’t hold it forever.”

They rushed by beneath me as fast as they could, without a sound in response to my rapid command.

“Ugh,” I grunted from the effort. I had never tested the full extent of how much I could lift, but I guaranteed I was currently holding up an entire mountain, and this slim tunnel had brought us beneath one of the biggest ones.

A rush of air brushed past my face after what seemed like hours after Aura and Cyren had disappeared from view. I was hoping it was Nadari notifying me that they had made it to the other side, because, if not, what would happen next would crush them. I released the ceiling, diving down and through the open hole I had made and quickly flew in the direction of the exit. Rock and debris were beginning to fall on top of me. They were hard to avoid in the small, cramped passageway. I was forced to let most of them hit me and hope that they wouldn’t knock me off balance.

It wasn’t long before a large boulder sized stone dislodged itself from the ceiling and fell on top of me, bringing me hurtling to the floor. I rolled around onto my back quickly before I hit the ground and shoved the boulder off of my body and back into the collapsing tunnel, rolled backwards, and shot off along the tunnel again, spinning back around and following as low to the ground as I dared.

Up ahead, covered in darkness, I glimpsed a fallen mass of rock that offered only a small amount of room for me to fit through. The stones had fallen heavily there, blocking most of the path forward. The small opening was near the top right corner, and only barely large enough to fit me. I curled into a tight ball and started spinning, hoping my trajectory was accurate, but, just in case, I was prepared to smash through. I had measured my path perfectly, somersaulting straight through the hole. Once I broke through I straightened myself out, rocketing forward through the further collapsing tunnel.

Now the walls were literally closing in on me, pressing closer with each passing second. At this point I was flying sideways to avoid the masses of falling rock, and brushing against the wall with my fingertips to keep me steady. I saw the light of the exit far ahead and increased my speed. I could make it before the tunnel collapsed. How long could this tunnel be?

In my haste of coupled fear and anxiety, I chose to go supersonic. A loud boom rang out from behind me as my speed increased tenfold. The blast of the sonic wave shattered the tunnel walls, raining down heavy stone and debris. I was forced again to the floor, but this time the mountain wasn’t gracious enough to offer me a way out.

…it was dark; my lungs were almost straining to breathe as I inhaled the dust of the ancient mountain. I was being crushed by more weight than I had ever held in my entire life, completely unsure of how long I could sustain it before it broke me. Could I actually die? Had my vanity finally won over?

I didn’t think anything could harm me; then again, I never thought a mountain would be only a few inches from crushing me. I was stuck, and beginning to panic. My arms shook with tremors. I could feel beads of sweat sliding down my forehead and face, dripping to the ground and forming a small puddle of salty liquid beneath me. I guess with enough exertion it was possible for me to sweat too, or enough fear. I’d never felt like this since before I was nine, but it was cold. It made me afraid, very, very afraid.

            No matter which direction I tried to shift my body to get out, I couldn’t move. I was stuck, prone and exasperated. In one last attempt, I tried to shift my body onto my stomach. Maybe I could use the leverage of my own body to get out. With the small amount of room I had, I released my arms from holding up the mountain and in the same motion rammed my shoulder into it. It jumped up, giving me just enough room to spin around and brace my hands against the floor, shifting the weight of the mountain to bear down on my shoulders rather than my chest, which made it feel significantly lighter than it had previously. I had room to breathe at least.

“Congratulations me,” I grunted under my breath, “You just became Atlas.”

My next job was to move my feet beneath me so I could push the mountain up and get out. It would be a difficult task; it was straining enough to hold the mountain’s weight on my back. My arms continued to tremble, and my knees began to sting as they ground the stones beneath me into dust. My hands and knees were pushing into the ground with enough force to crack it and compress it a little, giving me just enough room to move.

            I released all the air in me, breathing out slowly. With a sharp intake of breath I pushed up against the mountain with all my might. The mountain shifted and began to rise, slowly; this was the true test of my power, and if offered me a view of the fullest extent of my strength. With everything I had left, I shoved the mountain upward. I had given myself enough room to potentially stand beneath it, but I didn’t have much time, mere moments at best. Instantly I pushed off with my feet from the crawling position I had been in and shot in the air, skimming the ground at supersonic speeds. I had a millisecond before I would ram the stone wall that kept me confined within this tomb. It was my way out.

In a burst of speed and strength, I slammed into the wall with all the strength left in my bones, shattering it and breaking out into the sudden, and blinding light of the day. I was out in the open, and in the midst of a roiling hurricane. I flinched unexpectedly as I was hit square in the face by molten lava and dropped to the ground, rolling a short distance before catching my balance and returning to my feet in a crouch. I reflexively brought my hand up to my cheek, rubbing the spot that the lava had struck.

 It wasn’t actually day time. It was close, but not quite yet. I had been confused by the unusual light. I was out in the open, standing in a small clearing between the mountains. To my right stood a creature whose body was shrouded in an eternal fire. The light it emitted was bouncing off the nearby mountainsides, illuminating the open clearing, which gave the illusion of day.  But, the illumination that it offered was a very deep red.

The creature’s features were not unlike those of the gorillas of Earth, but it was twice as tall and looked ten times more brutish than any gorilla I had ever seen. Trails of magma flowed along its body, ending at the peak of its head in an illustrious mane. It seemed to register me as the bigger threat, or maybe the more amusing prey. Instantly, it shifted its attention from Nadari to me and a bolt of lava the size of a soccer ball shot towards me. I deftly dodged it and shot forward in anger towards the flaming beast, but I had acted too quickly, without thinking. My face collided with the creature’s fist, wrenching my head backwards, and, for the first time in a long time, I felt real pain coursing through my body. I dropped to the ground onto my back. My vision faded to the creature’s flaming foot pressing down upon my chest and scorching the last remnants of my tattered shirt.

I blacked out. 

© 2016 Andrew M. Davis

Author's Note

Andrew M. Davis
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Added on July 2, 2016
Last Updated on July 12, 2016
Tags: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Magic, Power, Superheroes, Dark, Story, Teen, Young Adult, College, villain, mage, tyrant, sword, blade, fighting


Andrew M. Davis
Andrew M. Davis

Roseville, MN

My name is Andrew Davis. I am an avid writer who spends most of his time writing in the realm of Sci-fi/Fantasy. I have written two novels with the overarching title of Genesis. The first one is self-.. more..