VIII – Five
THE SEARCH FOR BARUTO
‘This place is so dark and filthy, how has this man lived here all these years” he thought to himself as he strode into the lower west wing and stumbled into the cooking area to find plates, boiling pots, cups and glasses all left dirty, piled up on a worm ridden shelf, with flies circling about the room and he pinched his nose as the smell made him almost wretch.
“Aughk” he said out loud as he sprinted out the room, his flame flickering as he ran down a short corridor before emerging into a bamboo built room with a large table, a couple of plates left on the table with rotted food and he shook his head a the sight although the bamboo interested him. Bamboo only grew to the south and was rumoured to grow in Decabia too and was hard to come by. He stroked it and felt it, checking the sturdiness and quality.
‘This is what dad should be investing in, we would make a killing in the market’ he thought to himself as he walked about the room and approached another arch.
There was a small flight of steps which he had to climb up and if it wasn’t for the candle, he would have smashed face first into a wooden door. He pushed it open, needing some force before it dislodged and he stumbled into a library.
It was an insane collection of books and tomes, scrolls and maps, which filled all the bookcases which were lined up against all four sides of the wall and blocked out the window. Tables and cushions took up the centre of the room with several tomes left lying about. He knelt down and picked one up, looking at the yellow pages but the writing was one he didn’t recognise.
‘If that egg head Wexell was here now, he would be telling us the history of this poxy library. He always has something to say about everything, I’m sure he makes most of it up, just to sound intelligent’ he thought to himself ‘Might be that I’ll have to read one of those books he’s always going on about someday, see if he’s telling the truth but..ugh, the thought of doing so bores me’
He walked around the the library realising there were no further corridors or rooms when the door slammed shut behind him, the force of the wind blowing out his candle.
“Well that’s just great” he said as he waved his hands about in the darkness in despair.
‘Once I find my way out of here, I’ll let the others find the old man, this is not what I agreed to’ he thought to himself as he felt his way along the bookshelves when his head banged against something hard and he collapsed to the floor with a loud thud, shouting in pain.
He had walked through several rooms already but had found no trace of the old man but what he had found now was a room full of weapons. Sword and spears stacked up on pegs and wooden shelves on the wall held bows and arrows, crossbows and full suits of armour from all corners of the world hung on hooks on the wall.
He looked around at each of them with wonder, stroking and holding each one when he heard a bang. He jumped and turned round, thinking he had dropped something but realised that wasn’t the case.
He shrugged his shoulders as he went back to examining the delightful weapons. He imagined himself as a brave knight, travelling the lands and taking on all the enemies of the realm with an ebony glimmering sword in his hand as he span it about. After defeating the horrible beasts which threatened the realm, the king would shower him with gold, Dakar would have to bow down to kiss his boots and the princess’s would all flock to him in awe but he would act like it was nothing to him, just a regular day in the life of Wex, the knight.
‘Yeah right Wex’ he told himself ‘Like that’s ever going to happen. Fighting is too dangerous. One wrong move and you’re dead. If you read something wrong, you just look foolish for a few brief moments and that’s it.’
He put the sword down and left the room as he continued looking for Baruto.
The sun had disappeared behind the dark clouds and a cold wind had picked up. Manny held his arms as he shook from the cold and looked inside the house. He was tempted to call for the others but he decided against it.
‘How did I get myself into this?’ he asked himself as he sat down onto the floor and looked to see the Titan Warthog still pacing about, more agitated than ever and roaring louder too and he yelled at the beast to shut up.
He saw how all they had looked at him from the get go. They looked down at him, he could see it in their eyes, his mere presence, his clothes, everything about him made it obvious he didn’t belong in their group. He was used to it by now though, he never really felt as if he belonged anywhere not even Lemekia.
Ever since he had first ran away from the Temple all those years ago instead of following the other refugees to Urok, the capital province of Aludin and having made his way to Lemekia, where he had decided to stay, he had never felt accepted by its people.
He had naively thought, seeing as he was as close as possible to what had once been Omion, that a member of his family, his mother, his father, his siblings, his auntie, his uncle, his grandparents, any of them, would come for him.
They never had.
‘Except for her’ he thought to himself as the sky got darker. She looked at him as if he was a real person though her words said otherwise but he could tell there was no real emotion behind those words.
But he knew how it went. He’d never had true friends, only people that he’d get to know for a few months and then they were gone from one day to the next. That had been the story of his life for as long as he could remember and he knew these were just another four faces that would eventually fade away like the ones of his family.
“Hey you” said a voice.
He would have jumped out of his skin at the fright that the voice gave him as he leaped up onto his feet and span round to see a man leaning against the wall. Cross armed, he was wearing rags worse than his and he was wearing a hood, his face shrouded in darkness, he could only partially see his face, his skin pale and a green eye shone from the darkness of the hood.
“Are you Baruto?” said Manny “We’ve been looking for you. Uh, we’re meant to escort you down to the city, we’re leaving today if you forgot” but as he closer at the pale man, he realised he was too young to be this Baruto, unless he had aged incredibly well.
“Release him” said the young man nodding towards the warthog’s cage, as the giant creature started trying to climb over it’s enclosure “And Manniro, you better hurry, you’re in danger, as are the other four.”
“What are you talking about?” said Manny as goosebumps rose across his skin “Wait, how do you know my name?”
“You’re running out of time, they’ll be back soon” said the man.
“Wait, who are you? Who’s they?” said Manny feeling as frightened as he had ever been in his life, and not much scared him.
The man smiled sadly at Manny before vanishing right before his very eyes.
“What the…” said Manny stumbling back. He looked around him, certain his eyes were playing tricks on him but no, the man had just vanished before his eyes.
“I’m losing my mind” he said holding his head in his hands “It must be the mountain air or something” he convinced himself as he looked towards the warthog bashing against the gate of his stables.
“What the hell is going on?” he said out loud when he saw someone huge emerge from the trees to his right and stride towards him.
“And who are you?” he asked out loud, stopping the stranger in their tracks.
She found this place strange. It was so dark and too silent, she didn’t like this feeling this place gave her.
She walked down the corridor, peaking through the rooms to her left and right, most were bare and empty besides a bed or two, with a wardrobe and a desk inside each one of them. Maybe when this place had been full of Nephlin, they would sleep inside these rooms but now no life remained in these rooms. She had nearly reached the end of the corridor when she heard a bang coming from downstairs and she span round.
She kept listening but she heard no one call out so she figured someone must have dropped something. She poked her head through the door to her right.
She turned round and walked to the room opposite when she found something.
The bed of this room was covered with clothes, plates stacked up on the desk and tomes had been left open beside the bed.
She walked inside and looked about.
‘This must be the old man’s room, no sign of him though’ she thought to herself when something above her caught her attention. There was a symbol painted on the wall right above the bed, a large circle with lines cutting through it at different lengths and angles and as she got onto the bed and brought the candle closer to the ceiling, she realised inside the lines, were strange runes and she slid her finger onto them, realising they sunk into the ceiling, it hadn’t been painted on.
‘Okay…’ she thought to herself when she heard a yell from outside.
‘That sounds like Manny’ she thought to herself but she dismissed it as she continued looked about the room, hoping the others were having better luck in finding the old man than she had though she had heard no call from any of the others yet. She sat down on the end of the bed and looked down at the clothes that had been left on the bed.
She suddenly realised something that she hadn’t got the first time looking at these clothes and placing the candle by her feet she reached out and grabbed one of the shirts, holding it out before her.
‘It’s so small’ she thought to herself as she held it before her ‘It’s a not an old man’s shirt, unless he’s extremely small. But, I thought only Baruto lived here.’
She had no time to think further as she heard a sound coming from down the corridor which chilled her to the bone. It was a high pitched scream that seemed to shake the house and she leaped up to her feet in a heartbeat and she pulled out her dagger from it’s sheath tied to her waist.
“Dasha” she yelled and ran out the room, darting down the corridor and in a matter of seconds she had reached the stairs when she heard Dasha scream again, this time louder than before.
“Dasha, I’m coming” she yelled as she leapt down the entire flight of steps and leaping up the steps, started running down the Eastern wing corridor at full speed towards the sound of the screams until she found the room they were coming from and ran inside, dagger at the ready.
Nothing could have prepared her for the sight she was about to see as she stormed into the room.
Dasha turned round with her face full of pain and Isa looked down at her own feet to see them soaked in red and she looked up to see an elderly man, his white hair soaked red and his face slumped on it’s side, lying on the ground, a red symbol drawn around him. He was not moving. And slumped against the wall beside the elderly man, was a young boy her age, with a white tunic that had been stained red and a red drenched sword in his hand. He too remained completely still.
“What…what” she stuttered when Dasha’s eyes widened as wide as plates.
“Isa, behind you!” she yelled but as she span round, she was too late. Something had leapt out of the darkness, grabbing her and pinning her to the ground, roaring in her face.
She screamed as she looked up to see an elongated skull with fanged teeth looking down at her, it’s eyes were alight by dark black flames, wearing a black cloak and it’s scaly arms held her down with a tremendous force as she felt the heat of it’s breath on her face.
“How great” said the creature in a hoarse voice which seemed to come from afar and made her hair stand on end “I thought I’d have to wait longer to eat but here you are, hahaha.”
Isa screamed as the creature laughed mockingly and went to bite her face when a loud crack filled the room and the creature let go of her for a brief second, enough time for her to knee the creature in the stomach and roll out from under it.
She leapt up to her feet, trying to find the dagger but she realised it must have flown out of her hand when she had been tackled. She found herself panting as she saw Wex standing over the creature, with a giant iron club in his hand and he gave another swing, smashing the skull into a thousand pieces, the body of the creature collapsing to the floor.
They looked at one another in shock and for a few seconds, nothing was said when she screamed out loud “What the hell is going on!”
“That hurt” spoke a voice and they looked at one another with dread.
The body of the creature rose up to it’s feet, the shards and pieces of it’s skull lifting off the floor and they hovered above it’s neck, forming back into a skull and the black flames were alight once again.
“What the hell is this” yelled Dasha as Isa could only watch in horror, her lips trembling as Wex quickly readied another blow, though he was shaking so violently, he risked hurting himself more than he had done the creature.
“I wouldn’t try anything like that again human, unless you want to see if your friend here can do the same as Hekkel with his head” said a voice at the entrance of the room and they turned round to the corridor to see a second creature stood there, Dakar locked in it’s arms, it’s face grinning menacingly.
“Dakar” they yelled.
“This is so not worth twenty gold pieces” he yelled back at them as he struggled against the creature’s tight grip.
“All good Hekkel?” said the second creature.
“Yeah, this little fool caught me by surprise, it won’t happen again though” said the creature called Hekkel and in a swift movement he swung his arm, cutting clean the club, the top sliding off and slamming onto the floor. Wex dropped the bottom half of the club in shock and found himself trapped between the two creature’s.
“Let’s eat this one first, this one dared to hit me” said Hekkel and the second creature laughed.
“Sure thing, I wanted to eat this one” he replied shaking Dakar “since the moment I laid eyes on him. We can save the girls for later.”
“No, please, leave them alone” said Dasha in the bravest voice she could muster only for them to burst out in laughter.
“I’m shaking in my boots Reken” said Hekkel as he drew himself up and composed himself “Maybe she can be the appetiser, she’s small enough though her life energy is bigger than all of these ones combined, I’m certain of it.”
“No” yelled Dasha as stood back and stepped over the old man, reaching into her pouch.
‘Life energy’ she thought to herself ‘What are they talking about? What are they?’
“Go ahead Hekkel” said Reken “Though if you take her, I want the others for myself, deal?”
“Sure thing” said Hekkel turning round to face her and she closed her eyes mustering up the greatest strength she had ever needed and unleashed the strongest flame she had ever dared in her life, engulfing Hekkel in a ball of flames and she could feel the heat burn against her skin, her eyes watered and she could smell parts of her clothes start to burn under the intensity.
She finally stopped, having exhausted her stash and she breathed heavily. She had learnt from Akello that trying to use a large amount of fire at once could easily backfire but somehow she had been able to pull it off. She would have smiled if the situation had been any different.
The flames died down, the smoke cleared and Hekkel stood still on the spot.
He shook his head and Dasha’s jaw dropped in horror.
“Okay, now you’re definitely the first up. I’ll enjoy taking your energy” and with that he leaped at her, his mouth wide open, his hands exposing long claws as thin as needles and as long as swords.
She screamed, raising her arms before her face, bracing herself for what was to come.