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Thread: The Passion of the Liger

  1. #1
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    Default The Passion of the Liger

    Hi everyone! I'm currently writing a fantasy adventure novel online. My main site is, and I also post it at , but I thought i'd post it up here too, in case anyone wants to read it ^^ I'm just writing it for fun, but I definitely intend to finish it. So far i've been posting up a scene roughly about once a week on average, but I'm making up the story as I go along.. so some days it takes longer for me to think of the scene than other times The general idea of the story is the main character's mum gets turned to stone by magic, and he has to go find a way to cure her and return her back to normal. I'm trying to make sure the world of the story doesn't contain too much magic at all, and that he has to travel to a land where people fight with martial arts in a wuxia type way.... since i love those stories! Thats the plan.. but who knows where the story will go ^^

    Each time I finish writing 10 chapters, I'll be uploading them as a free ebook volume that you can download at my smashwords site if you like:

    I've been reading the wuxia translations on this site for years now, (i started with Noodles translation of ROCH!), and now am having such a good time reading other Jin Yong translations here too. I think its so nice that the translators spend their time translating the stories for us to read... so in this post, i just wanna quickly say thanks to them!

    Hope you guys enjoy reading the story! I cant guarantee it will be good.. but i can guarantee i won't stop until i finish it ^^


    PS: The title of this story is now "The Passion of the Liger"
    my friend suggested i give my story a title and said there were some good random title generators on the internet. that was the very first title i saw on one of the generators and it really made me chuckle the first time i saw it, so thats the title!
    Last edited by Suet Seung; 01-10-19 at 11:24 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Chapter 1

    Narteb lay there on the grassy hill. it was a sunny afternoon and he was having a very relaxing day. He was laying on his back, with his hands behind his head and his knees bent. He was looking up at the sky. Big fluffy white clouds, looking majestic and mysterious. It was fun to look at them. Every now and then he would even look at the brilliant white sun. When he was a kid, people told him not to look at the sun, or you’ll go blind. He was a daredevil type these days and quite regularly would glance at the sun. Not for long mind you; but just long enough to prove to himself there was no real harm in an occasional glance.

    Presently, he plucked a nearby dandelion, that had been swaying in the breeze invitingly for the past half an hour or so.

    How did this work? Blow all these fluffy things off it in one breath, and make a wish. Was that how it went? He figured he had already plucked the dandelion, it would be a waste not to attempt to make a wish.

    He blew.

    And for the first time in his life, he actually managed to blow off all the fluff.

    Make a wish…

    I wish for a fun and exciting life. He dwelled on that thought long enough for the wish to register, with whoever was in charge of granting these wishes.

    He smiled. He wondered if his would would come true.


    He sighed. It was his mum calling. No doubt this meant he had some chores to do.

    “Come down and hang up this washing!” she called up to him.

    For a moment, he continued to lay there.

    “Get down here before I kick your ***!” said his mum.

    At that polite request, he decided it was best to get a moving. He got up and strolled down the hill to help his mum hang up the washing.

    After all was said and done, he was indeed a good son.
    Last edited by Thuaners; 08-24-11 at 07:19 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Chapter 2

    Two figures trudged through the snow. It was windy and very cold, and flakes of snow were falling all around them. They were going uphill, and looked like they were reaching the peak of a mountain. One was a lady with flaming red hair, the other was younger, probably in her teens, with jet black hair.

    The lady with the red hair, reached into her knapsack and pulled out a scroll. She unravelled it. ”According to this map, we should see Anton’s village just as we get to the top of this mountain.”

    In a few more steps, they had reached the peak . They could see all the way to the horizon in every direction.

    “So,” said the girl with the black hair, “Where is this village?”

    They both looked around for a minute or so. No village in sight.

    The black haired girl, whose name was Fog, came over to take a look at the map in the red haired lady’s hands. One glance and immediately Fog knew what was wrong.

    “Is this the way you’ve been holding this map the whole time?” said Fog.

    “Yes….” said the red haired lady, whose name was Maruska, “How should i be holding it?”

    Fog took the map out of Maruska’s hands, rotated it the right way up, then handed it back to her.

    “See that compass picture in the corner?” said Fog, “That ‘N’ should be pointing upwards.”

    “I see,” said Maruska slowly, “so you mean to say that for the past two months…. we have been walking in the wrong direction.?”

    “Unfortunately, yes,” said Fog.

    “Hmmm….” said Maruska, “Well that explains that ocean that we crossed that wasn’t on the map.” Maruska turned to face the other way, back down the mountain. ”I guess we go this way then, I suppose. Come, Fog, let’s get going. It appears your master has made an error.”

    Fog smiled and the two of them began trudging back down the mountain.

    “Mistress Maruska,” said Fog, “It’s going to take quite a while to get to this man’s village. Are you sure this is something that you need to do? We can just go home and you could forget all about him, you know.”

    Without any hesitation, Maruska answered Fog’s question.


    Four months later….

    “Manangatang village!” said Fog.

    They were both standing on the top of a mountain. Another mountain. It was nice and sunny. Down below, at the foot of the mountain, was a little quaint-looking village.

    “Yes,” said Maruska, “We finally made it. And not a moment too soon. I think my shoes have nearly worn out.” Just to prove it, she held up her boots and there was a hole worn through the sole.

    “T’was a lot of walking,” said Fog. Then she said to Maruska, “So what now? We go down to confront him?”

    “Nay, my impatient little apprentice,” said Maruska, “We wait until twilight. I always imagined I would do this at night. It seems cooler. Sunny afternoon like this seems a tad too happy.”

    Fog nodded, and the two of them found a nice spot nearby, to set up camp and wait until nightfall.

  4. #4
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    Default Chapter 3

    It was a dark night. Almost the entire sky was covered in thick black cloud. No stars could be seen. The moon peeped out from behind the clouds every now and then, but for the most part, it was a dark night.

    The mood suited very much how Maruska felt inside.

    Maruska and her young apprentice, Fog, were now standing before a lone house. The house was on the outskirts of Manangatang village. They had come down the mountain a few hours prior and asked some locals the whereabouts of Anton DiManlen. Maruska had told them she was an old acquaintance come to pay him a visit. This was not really a lie, and was an approximation of the truth. However, had the villagers known the true intent of her visit, they surely would not have given her such thorough directions.

    “This looks like the house,” said Fog, “There’s the big elm tree, and over there, the cows.”

    Their eyes had become accustomed to the darkness and they could both see the dark shapes of the cows asleep in a fenced off paddock.

    “I feel like going to push one of them over,” said Fog, “I hear you can do that when they are sleeping.”

    “Nay,” said Maruska, “We didn’t travel all this way for you to push cows. Silence now, as I focus and mentally prepare myself.”

    Fog obediantly went silent, for as long as she could; which was about ten seconds.

    “Mistress,” said Fog.

    “What!” said Maruska.

    “Can I look at the orb?”

    Maruska reached into her robe, and pulled out a small glowing sphere and handed it to Fog.

    “Be careful,” said Maruska, “Words can’t describe what I will do to you if you break it.”

    Fog nodded slowly, but was preoccupied with staring at the orb. It looked amazing. It was small, about the size of an orange. The outside was made of clear glass. Inside the orb was a pinkish-purpley liquid that was thick like honey, and glowing faintly in the dark. Suspended in the liquid was a dark grey cloud of ash, that looked like a mini thundercloud. If you looked carefully, you could see small crackles of electricity sparking all the time within the cloud. It was fascinating to look at.

    Fog’s fingers were trembling a bit. In her hands, was possibly the deadliest object in the world. She handed it back to Maruska, being extra careful not to drop it. If that thing did break, she did not want to be anywhere near it when it did.

    “Do you really think that thing will work?” said Fog.

    Maruska tucked the orb safely away into her robes before answering. ”It will work. I did everything correctly when I made it. Now,” said Maruska, “It is time for you to leave. This thing I must do, I must do alone. Go back to our camp up in the mountains. I will meet with you there when I am done.”

    “Maybe I should hang around,” said Fog, “I can hide up in that tree there. What if you need help or something?”

    “I will not need help to deal with Anton,” said Maruska, “Now leave. That is not a request.”

    “Okay,” said Fog, “I’ll meet you up the mountain. Don’t make me wait too long!” And with that, she turned and left, disappearing into the night.

    Maruska stood there for a while, the cool breeze blowing on her face. She would have liked to have stayed there a while longer, but just then, the front door to the house opened. And a man walked out. He was walking towards her. He hadn’t seen her yet. But she could see him. There was no mistaking who it was.

    It was Anton DiManlen.

  5. #5
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    Default Chapter 4

    Twenty-five years before…

    Standing atop a sheer, craggy cliff face overlooking the ocean, were two people. One was a tall rugged looking man with scruffy dark brown hair and a strong face. Standing beside him was a strikingly attractive girl, with red hair tied up in a ponytail.

    The man was standing close to the edge, unable to take his eyes off the massive waves below. They were crashing hard on the base of the cliff. It did not look pleasant. He feared very few things in this life, but it would have been a lie to say he wasn’t scared at the moment. Although scared might not have been the best word; apprehensive was probably a closer fit to how he was feeling.

    “The water looks really cold,” said the man.

    “You don’t have to do this, Anton,” said the girl, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

    “You really should know me by now, Maruska,” said the man, whose name was indeed Anton DiManlen, “I already made up my mind a long time ago that I was going to do this.”

    He finally tore his gaze from the monstrous waves below and looked around at the view around him. It was sometime in the afternoon and the sky was full of pale grey clouds. There was no blue in sight. It was a dreary day and there was a bitterly cold wind blowing.

    “I guess I’d better get this done,” said Anton. He took off his tunic and pulled off his boots and now he was standing in his underwear in the freezing cold.

    Although she had seen it many times before, Maruska could not help marvelling at his muscular frame. Which at the moment was shivering slightly.

    “You look cold,” said Maruska.

    Anton reached down to one of his boots and pulled out a knife that he kept sheathed on the side of it.

    “Not as cold as I am about to be,” he said, “Um, tell me again what it is that I am looking for?”

    “It’s called Dahrion’s Tear,” said Maruska, “Down there, you will see some giant clams. If you pry them open, one of them may contain a light bluey-green coloured pearl.”

    “And you need this to make those potions of yours,” said Anton.

    “Well I don’t need it,” said Maruska, “But it would allow me to make some of the more powerful formulas. I didn’t realise it would be so dangerous! We could ask around, maybe there’s another place where we can find these clams.”

    “No,” said Anton, “That guy said here is the surest bet to find them. And we’re here already. I’ll see you when I’m done.”

    He put the knife between his teeth, took in a deep breath and then leaped off the cliff face!

    Down….. down…..down…. towards the tumultuous ocean.


    Maruska, standing up on the cliff, watched the surface of the water. She was holding her breath.

    Sunddenly Anton came to the surface, he was kicking around in place as giant waves were tossing him up and down. He looked up at Maruska, and waved.

    It put her a little more at ease to see he was okay. She could breathe again. Then she saw Anton dive back under the waves and disappear.

    Maruska stood there watching the waves, waiting to see Anton. She was counting in her head, to time how long he had been under there for. He had told her that when he was a kid, he used to compete with his friends, to see who could stay under water the longest. He told her he could hold his breath for over two minutes.



    Maruska was counting. She was beginning to get nervous. She looked everywhere down there, trying to spot him.

    And then she saw something that caught her eye. It was a dark shape moving in the water! She looked again and saw nothing. She prayed hard that it was just her imagination playing tricks on her.

    Then she saw Anton! He had surfaced! He had a big smile on his face and was waving to her. He was holding something in his hand. At such a far distance, Maruska couldn’t see what it was, but really at this stage she didn’t care. All she wanted was Anton out of the water.

    “Get out of there, Anton!” she shouted down at him.

    But she didn’t need to. Anton was already swimming towards the base of the cliff. Once he reached there, he would be safe. Anton was the best rock climber Maruska knew. He would make it up the cliff no worries once he reached it.

    Maruska was starting to relax. Anton was very close to the-

    Suddenly, a green scaly…. thing…. came out of the water and with its mouth wide open, dived at Anton!

    “Anton!” shouted Maruska.

    There was a huge splash and both Anton and the…. (Maruska actually didn’t even know what it was…. except that it had pale green skin and red fins) vanished under the water.

    “Anton!” she shouted.

    All she could see when she looked down were the terrifying waves.

    Nothing. She could see nothing.

    Without thinking, she stripped off her tunic and threw it to the ground. She fumbled on the ground and picked up Anton’s other boot, which had another knife in it. She drew it, then put it inbetween her teeth. She didn’t even know why she did that, except that she had seen Anton do it.

    She looked down at the water and jumped.

    She pointed her body towards the water and held both her arms as straight as she could.

    You can’t even swim good! the voice inside her head said to her.

    Splash! Maruska entered the FREEZING cold water.

    If she didn’t have a knife in her mouth, she would have screamed!

    Now she was underneath the water, arms and legs flailing around. She forced herself to open her eyes. She was amazed that she actually see fairly well. She spun around and then saw them! Anton and the sea monster or whatever it was, were fighting, wrestling…

    Maruska swam through the water, kicking hard. She reached Anton and the sea monster. It had arms! It looked like a half-man, half-fish! Maruska really didn’t care at this point what it looked like. She took her knife out of her mouth and stabbed it! She wasn’t aiming, she just had stabbed randomly. Somehow she managed to catch a softer spot on its scaly skin. Her knife sank in deep.


    She heard the monster scream in the water. It turned to look at her and then suddenly she felt an excruciating stinging pain spear her in the back! She looked and saw that the monster had stabbed its tail into her!

    She pulled out her knife from the creature and tried to reach around to cut its tail, but just couldn’t turn enough to reach. Suddenly, she realised she was running out of oxygen. Seriously! She looked up and the surface of the water above them seemed so far away! She was going to die, she knew it. She resigned to that fact and decided to stab the creature as many times as she could.

    But then, just as Maruska had completely given up hope, she saw a splash of dark blood spurt out of the creature and it started to flail a bit and then stop. She saw Anton come over to her, push the dying monster away. She felt his strong arm wrap around her waist and then he began to swim up to the surface. Maruska felt her knife slip out of her hand and she looked down and watched it vanish into the darkness of the water below.


    Fresh air!

    Maruska breathed! They were on the surface! She breathed in again and again. She had never experienced anything as wonderful as the fresh air right then and there.

    Anton was swimming towards the base of the cliff, dragging her along with him in the water. Maruska felt a sharp pain on her back, near her shoulder-blade; each time the water splashed on it, it really stung. She tried to move her arms and legs, but they felt numb. She looked up at the sky. What a day she was having. The sky looked nice….. seagulls…

    “Maruska, can you hear me?”

    Maruska suddenly realised she had been daydreaming.

    “Maruska,” said Anton firmly, “I need you to climb onto my back and hold on really tight. I’m going to climb up the cliff. Can you do that? Can you hold onto me and not let go?”

    “Yeah…..” said Maruska, “I….. cannnnnn….do that….” She could hear her voice like someone else was speaking for her. She was shivering and slurring at the same time. Why was she slurring she wondered?

    Anton positioned himself so that Maruska could climb piggy back on him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and held on tight. She felt Anton testing her grip around him, to see if she was holding firm.

    “All you need to do,” said Anton, “Is hold on tight and don’t let go. We’re going to get up this cliff face and then we’re going to laugh at what a day we’re having. Are you ready Maruska?”

    Maruska nodded and said, “I’m holding tight.”

    Anton started climbing.

    Maruska watched as he climbed. She had never had such a good view of his climbing before.. from his back! She saw him reach at the edges of the rock face and make his way up. He was going really fast too. Maruska felt so safe. She really trusted Anton. She felt so lucky, to be with someone so trustworthy.

    Her hands were beginning to get tired, but she just squeezed her grip even tighter. She just had to hold on and Anton would do the rest. She closed her eyes. it seemed to make it easier, but not for long. Soon her hands were getting really tired. She just thought of Anton to distract herself.

    He must be having an even harder time…. climbing and carrying me, she thought.

    “No!” said Anton.

    Maruska felt Anton’s arm holding onto her butt. She realised her hands had slipped.

    “Hold on!” shouted Anton.

    “I’m sorry,” said Maruska. She clasped her hands around his neck again. And then her world started to go dark. Her hearing went all weird. Her body went all numb. She found it so hard to talk. And that wound on her back was throbbing!

    Then….. relief…..

    She felt the ground underneath her back. She was looking up at the sky. Where was Anton? She turned her head to look. She saw him lying on his back, arms and legs spread out wide. His chest was heaving up and down. He looked exhausted! She glanced at his hands; the palms and fingers were red with blood!

    “I’m sorry…” Maruska tried to say, but she could barely hear her own voice.

    Anton turned to look at her. He smiled at her, and in that moment, she felt alright. The pain, it was nothing. Anton was smiling at her.

    “We made it,” she heard him say, but the sound was all muffled.

    Suddenly, Anton’s face looked concerned. He said something, but this time she couldn’t hear him at all.

    “I love you,” Maruska tried to say. She knew she was going to die. She hoped he heard it.
    Last edited by Thuaners; 04-20-11 at 10:08 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Chapter 5

    “I am sorry,” said the old woman, the back of her palm feeling the temperature of Maruska’s forehead, “But there is nought that I can do.”

    “But you are Bruskala Dee!” said Anton, “You can cure anything!”

    “Or so I thought,” said Bruskala Dee, “But I have never seen such a poison as this.”

    They were inside a small hut. Maruska lay unconscious on a straw pallet. The shrivelled-looking old lady sat on a stool beside her.

    “What did you say the creature was again?” said Bruskala.

    “I don’t know what it was,” said Anton, “It was some giant fish, but it had arms like a man!”

    “Of such a strange creature, I have never heard,” said Bruskala, “So the ocean still holds many great mysteries…”

    “Is there anything we can do for Maruska?” said Anton, “Surely there must be someone in the world who can save her?”

    Bruskala sat quietly, thinking calmly to herself. ”There might be one person,” she said, “But alas, she is too far away. Even if you were to ride there on the fastest of horses, it is still a two day journey. This young lady would surely be dead by then.”

    “Who is this person who could cure her?” said Anton eagerly.

    “I never said she could cure her,” said Bruskala, “I said she might be able to do it. I’ve seen this woman work miracles before, with nought but her bare hands.”

    “Who?” said Anton.

    “Lady Joyce,” said Bruskala, “The King’s Royal Advisor.”

    “Joyce!” said Anton, “Of course! I will leave at once.”

    “You will not make it in time,” said Bruskala Dee, “At this rate, Maruska will be dead in a few hours.”

    “There is always hope,” said Anton, and he reached down and picked Maruska up gently in his arms. ”Thank you, Bruskala. I am in your debt. I must take my leave now. Until we meet again.”

    Bruskala nodded and said nothing. She didn’t even watch Anton as he carried Maruska out of the hut. She sat there staring into space. She was thinking about something.

    Outside, Anton went over to his trusty black stallion, Thunderclap, who was tied to a peach tree. He placed Maruska onto the saddle and tenderly propped her up so she was sitting upright.

    “Brace yourself, Thunderclap,” said Anton, “You and I are in for a long ride. We will not rest until we reach the King’s Castle.”

    Thunderclap snorted, as horses do. If you didn’t know better, you would swear this horse knew exactly what was going on, and how urgent the situation was.


    Anton turned around.

    It was Bruskala Dee, running out of her hut. In one hand, she was carrying a large flagon of water, and in the other hand, she was carrying a mysterious looking black root. It was small, about the length of a finger, and about the same width.

    “What’s that?” said Anton.

    Bruskala held up the root for him to see. Obviously it was something quite important, as she was holding it very carefully in her hands. ”It’s a piece of root from the Wurramunga tree. This tree doesn’t grow anywhere in Tuscan. In fact, the only place it is known to grow, is on a far away continent, beyond the sea of Ice. It was given to me by my master. I was saving it for a rainy day. And it doesn’t get much rainier than today.”

    “What does it do?” said Anton.

    “I’ve never used it, but apparently it allows the person who eats it to mimic death. As in your heart stops pumping, your brain stops working, your blood stops flowing. Everything in your body just stops. To the casual observer, it would be the same as if you were dead,” said Bruskala.

    “How exactly is this useful?” said Anton.

    “Don’t you see? said Bruskala, “If Maruska ingests this root, it will buy us some time. Twenty-four hours at least, maybe more. Twenty-four hours where the poison won’t spread.”

    Anton’s face lit up! ”Bruskala you are a marvel!”

    “Ah,” said Bruskala, “Don’t thank me, thank my master for giving this to me. Now, I have to give it to her, and since she’s unconscious, I have to… well, you’ll see.”

    Bruskala looked at the root for a moment, with an apprehensive look on her face, and then took a bite out of it.

    “Hmm,” she said, as she began chewing, “Tastes like licorice.” She shoved the remaining portion of the root into her mouth and chewed it all until it was a dsisusting mash of pastey black stuff. Then she went up to Maruska, who was still propped up on the horse, opened the young lady’s mouth and spat the chewed root inside, along with a good deal of old woman saliva.

    “That’s kinda gross,” said Anton.

    Bruskala Dee then moved Maruska’s jaw up and down a bit, and then looked inside, to check that most of the root had gone down her throat.

    “Good,” said Bruskala, “Now you’d better get going. And I’d better wash my mouth out. Thoroughly.”

    “I can’t wait to tell Maruska what you just did to her,” said Anton with a little chuckle.

    “Let’s hope you get the chance,” said the old woman, and she took a swig from her flagon of water, swished it around in her mouth, then spat it all out onto the ground. The liquid that came out was black.

    “Do you know the way to the castle from here?” said Bruskala.

    “Yes,” said Anton, “I’ve been to the castle a fair few times. I’d almost say I was a regular there, but I can’t really say I’m a welcome guest of his Highness.”

    “Our King is an imbecile,” said Bruskala, “Not being welcome there is a compliment.”

    Anton smiled, and then nodded, his face now donning a mask of resolve. ”Thank you again, Bruskala, for all that you have done. I am eternally grateful.”

    “Farewell, boy,” said Bruskala.

    Anton jumped up behind Maruska on the saddle, and shouted, “To Aerie Castle, Thunderclap! Ride!”

    And with that, the black stallion bolted off, and very soon had vanished down the road.

  7. #7
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    Default Chapter 6

    Sometimes in life, we have moments. Times in our life, that are etched in our mind with so much force, we will never forget them, be it ten years, twenty years or up until the day we die. The night Anton brought Maruska before the King and his advisor, Lady Joyce, was one of those moments. The passage of time has made parts of the memory fuzzy, almost like a dream. But it really did happen, even if it felt to Anton like it was in another lifetime.

    He remembered sitting outside the throneroom, on a wooden bench; Maruska, unconscious, was lying across it with her head on his lap. He remembered waiting.

    The King made him wait.

    It felt like a long time. He remembered gently touching Maruska’s cheek with the back of his fingers. She was warm. He was happy in a way, because it meant that she was still alive; but at the same time he was worried because that meant the effects of the black root had worn off. How much longer did she have? Anton rarely prayed, but he did nothing but pray, as he waited on that bench.

    He remembered he was so relieved when the big double doors to the throneroom finally opened up and a guard summoned him inside. He remembered carrying Maruska in his arms, and walking in. He remembered the first thing he looked for when he stepped inside and the first thing he saw.

    Lady Joyce.

    When Anton set eyes upon her, standing to the left of the throne, looking respendent in her white and gold dress, he felt relief. She was renowned as an incredible healer.

    “Heaven’s to Betsy!” cried Lady Joyce, when she saw the condition Maruska was in. She immediately began running down the steps towards Anton and Maruska.


    It was King Bastion.

    Lady Joyce turned to the King and said, “Your Highness, I must tend to Maruska at once! She will die if I do not!”

    “You will do nothing!” said the King, “Return to your place, or the only thing you will be tending to is your garden! Remember who is your King.”

    Lady Joyce reluctantly returned to her place.

    “Now,” said the King, turning his attention back to Anton, “I have been thinking. And I have come up with a plan where both of us gets what we want. Well, I get a fair bit more than you, but then again, I am the King. Now, I know you always keep your word, so that makes this very easy for me.”

    Anton did not like where this was going.

    The King rose from his throne and came down the many steps until he finally stood before Anton. He held out a plump, sweaty hand and said something that would change both Anton and Maruska’s life forever.

    “I need you to promise me something.”

  8. #8
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    Default Chapter 7

    Anton stopped.

    Standing before him on the path leading away from his house was a dark figure. The moon was still being shrouded by clouds and he couldn’t make out who it was. He was about to say something when finally the clouds cleared and the moon came out, illuminating the stranger’s face.

    Anton had been carrying a bucket and a fishing net attached to a long pole; the bucket slipped out of his hands and dropped to the ground.

    “Maruska!” he said.

    “Indeed,” said Maruska, “It has been a long time, Anton.”

    “What are you doing here?” said Anton.

    “Is it not obvious?” she said, “I came here to find you.”

    “How did you find me?”

    “I have ways and means,” said Maruska, “But now it is my turn to ask the questions. What are you doing here?”

    “I’m going to do some night fishing with my son,” said Anton, “We’re going to catch garfish.”

    “No, I mean what are you doing living out here, in such a remote corner of the realm. Your family doesn’t even know where you live. It’s almost as if you are hiding from someone.”

    Anton did not reply.

    “It’s good to see you again, Anton,” said Maruska.

    “Likewise,” said Anton.

    Maruska looked up at the sky, and then chuckled, “What a coincidence, now it comes out.”

    Anton looked up.

    The sheet of cloud had moved further to the east, revealing some glittering stars twinkling quietly in the night. When he saw the stars, a memory came back to him; and along with it, many other memories.

    “That constellation,” said Maruska, “Remember you named it after me?”

    “Maruska the Beautiful,” said Anton.

    He remembered how beautiful she was. And always laughing and having fun. She was still so beautiul, but now she seemed a sadder person.

    “You should go now, Maruska,” said Anton, “Just forget about me and forget I ever existed.”

    Maruska returned her gaze to Anton and said, “Oh I intend to forget you. But first I need you to answer me one question. That day we went hunting for Dahrion’s Tear, when we got attacked by that Ooberlesk.”

    “Is that what they are called?” said Anton.

    “Yes,” said Maruska, “I blacked out afterwards. When I woke up, I was at the King’s castle. Joyce had healed me. And you were gone. Bastion told me that some soldiers had found me unconscious in a forest, my body just left there. They brought me back to the King and he asked Joyce to save me. I want to know… did you really leave me in a forest? Did you think I was doomed and then left me there?”

    All was quiet.

    It was like the entire night wished to hear Anton’s reply, to hear the words Maruska had been waiting to hear for twenty-five years.

    “Yes,” said Anton, “It is just as Bastion said.”

    He spoke no more.

    Maruska was quiet. Anton had already cut out her heart by avoiding her for all this time, but now she felt a fresh wound; another stab in the hole where her heart used to be.

    A tear trickled down her face. Just one, down her right cheek. She wiped it quickly with the back of her sleeve, and along with it, she wiped away any love or sympathy she had been harbouring for Anton.

    She reached into her robes and brought out the glowing pink-purple orb.

    Yes, she thought, This is the right thing to do.

    Anton looked at the sinister-looking object in Maruska’s hand and became wary.

    “What is that?” said Anton.

    “This,” said Maruska, “Is your punishment.”

  9. #9
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    Aug 2004

    Default Chapter 8

    Ginessa sat down on the small wooden stool and lovingly rested her fingers on the strings of her harp. She loved this harp. Her big sister Anna had taught her how to play this very harp when she was little; those were cherished memories to Ginessa. She remembered her sister had been so patient with her. She couldn’t picture her sister’s face anymore, but when she thought of her, she just remembered long blonde hair and kindness.
    The fireplace crackled away nearby. It was nighttime and the gentle fire was the only light in the room. Ginessa got a little churning feeling in her stomach; it was a good feeling. She was so happy. She was living a charmed life and was now about to relax and play the harp. Could life get any better?
    Her husband Anton had just left to do some night fishing with Narteb, and now she had some quiet time to herself. Playing the harp was one of her favourite things to do. She found it so fun and soothing, and it also gave her nostalgic memories of her late sister Anna, and her life when she was a little girl. She brushed her fingers lightly along the strings once, and then began to play.
    Beautiful music filled the room, and the small tongues of flame in the fireplace danced along joyfully.
    She was playing a song called ‘Canyon of the Soulflame’, and loving every moment of it. She really liked this song. She let her eyes close, and allowed the tune to go through her body, leading her imagination. The story of the song came into her mind, a story that was faint and ever changing, like a million objects inside a whirlpool. Today the song made her think of dark green forests, waterfalls, bittersweet adventure-
    Woof! Woof!
    That sure interrupted her lovely daydreaming. It was the sound of Paddles, their little black terrier barking. One minute he had been curled up content by the fireplace, the next he had run over to the front door of the house and was now barking loudly.
    Ginessa stopped her harping. There was something unusual about the way he was barking. It sounded urgent, as if he was trying to tell her something, or get her attention. She got up and walked to where Paddles was; he looked up at her and began scratching at the door with his paw.
    “You want to go outside, Paddles?” said Ginessa. She opened the door for him, and to her surprise, he just bolted out!
    “Paddles!” she said, and ran outside after him, into the darkness. What had gotten into him? Had he sniffed a cat nearby or something? She ran and chased the little dog down the front path of their house. She didn’t have to go very far, because just a few metres down, there were two people standing in the dark. One was her husband, Anton, and the other was a woman that Ginessa had never seen before. The most noticeable thing about the woman was that she was holding a small glowing ball in her hand. It looked very mysterious. Her husband and the unknown woman seemed to be in the middle of a very intense discussion.
    Woof! Woof! Woof!
    Paddles was standing in front of Anton, facing the woman and barking ferociously at her; it seemed as if he was defending Anton.
    “I’m sorry,” said Ginessa, and she went over and scooped up Paddles, “I thought he needed to go do a nature’s calling, but he just ran over here. I’ll take him back inside.”
    “No,” said the woman, “You should stay. There is something I need you for, actually.”
    “Leave her out of this,” said Anton, “This is between you and me, Maruska.”
    “I’m sorry, Anton,” said Maruska, “But you don’t make the rules.”
    “Ginessa,” said Anton, “Leave now. Don’t go back into the house. Go find Narteb.”
    Ginessa could sense something really serious was going down.
    “I’m not leaving you, Anton,” said Ginessa.
    Maruska laughed, “How very noble of you. Of course, maybe that is because you don’t know the gravity of the situation. Let me tell you what the current circumstances are, and then you can decide whether or not you want to stay. Not that your decision will have any effect on the outcome.”
    “Maruska,” said Anton, “I said it before and I will say it again. You can do whatever you like to me, but leave my wife out of this. She has done nothing to you.”
    “I am well aware of that,” said Maruska, “And in fact I harbour no ill feelings towards her. Except that she is beautiful and I am marginally jealous. But she must play her part, in order for me to get my revenge upon you. You see, I have only one of these orbs, and alas I must make a choice on whom to use it on. My instincts tell me that you will suffer far more seeing her hit by this, than yourself. Is that true?”
    “You will not use that thing on her,” said Anton sternly.
    “Ah…” said Maruska, “Finally, the Anton of old. I was a bit worried that you might have gone soft, living among these gentle country folk.” Then she looked at Ginessa, “This, my dear, pretty little thing, is one of the deadliest objects in the world. The secrets on how to make it, shrouded in mystery, discovered by people in the past who have long been forgotten by the passage of time. These people knew how to do real magic. And I discovered their texts and ancient tomes. And this orb, was their most powerful spell. It is irreversible!”
    Maruska paused for a moment. The orb in her hands was suddenly feeling uncomfortable to hold. It was a cold, numb feeling; a lot like holding a block of ice. It had always been cool to touch, but now it was distractingly cold. It was almost as if the orb knew that it was about to be used. That the time for its sinister purpose was here, and it was getting its internal magicks ready. This actually scared Maruska somewhat, but nevertheless, she continued. “It took me a long time. I travelled far and wide to collect the ingredients. Climbed to summits that went higher than the clouds, and gathered ingredients from the bottom of the sea. In the end, I made it. In all its deadly beauty. It is called a Ha Ni Sao in the ancient tongue. But I call it the petrification orb. When I throw this orb at someone, that person will be turned to stone. Forever.”
    “No way,” said Ginessa, “That’s impossible. Isn’t it, Anton?”
    “I don’t know,” said Anton, “But that crazy look on her face says she thinks it’s real. Let’s just assume that it is for now. Now, Ginessa, go quickly. And if anything happens to me, remember that I love you.”
    “I’m not leaving,” said Ginessa.
    “Go!” said Anton.
    “Oh, you two make me sick,” said Maruska and she threw the orb at Ginessa.
    Anton saw everything happen in slow motion. He saw the orb leave Maruska’s hands and start flying through the air, straight at Ginessa (and Paddles). Anton instinctively leaped at Ginessa and tackled her to the ground. Husband and wife (and dog) landed on the ground. Anton saw a soft pink light pass over him, and felt relieved.
    It had missed!
    He turned and saw the orb land on the ground some metres behind them. He wanted to relax, but he couldn’t yet. The orb had not shattered! It was lying on the ground, unbroken.
    Then an idea popped into Anton’s head. It was the only idea he had, so he went with it.
    “Let go of Paddles, Ginessa,” said Anton.
    Ginessa let go of their terrier, and as soon as she did, the little dog darted straight at Maruska!
    Grrrrrr…… grrrrrrrr……
    It started biting at her heels and viciously tearing at the loose robes near her feet.
    Anton got up, grabbed his bucket and fishing net. He ran over to Maruska and while she was distracted by Paddles he put the fishing net right over her head then slammed a bucket over it. Now she was wearing the bucket and couldn’t see!
    “Ye Cads!” said Maruska. She couldn’t see with the bucket on her head and she started flailing her arms around helplessly. She tripped over something small and furry on the ground (Paddles), and landed face first on the ground. The little dog was still biting into her robes. It was really annoying!
    “Let’s go! C’mon Paddles!”
    It was Anton’s voice.
    Maruska fumbled and tried to get the bucket and fishing net off her head as quickly as possible, but the faster she tried to do it, the longer she took! Finally, she got it off, and sat up. She looked around.
    She was all alone.
    Maruska stared down the path into the darkness, and was quite certain she saw some dark figures running away in the black of night. She stood up, and dusted herself off. Then she went over to her orb, which was still lying harmlessly on the ground. She picked it up carefully, just in case it had been cracked. Thankfully it wasn’t. She tucked the orb into her robes and turned to face the path away from Anton’s house.
    Husband, wife and little dog had gotten a head start on her, but Maruska was not worried.
    You can run, she thought, But you cannot hide forever.
    Last edited by Thuaners; 05-08-11 at 05:03 AM.

  10. #10
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    Aug 2004

    Default Chapter 9

    Ginessa was getting tired, but she ignored it.
    Anton was running beside her, leading the way. It was dark as they ran through the woods. Every now and then,, the moon would come out from behind the treetops and light their way momentarily.
    Ginessa turned to look behind them. Paddles was there running behind them, but he was slipping further and further behind. The poor dog was reaching his running limit.
    Ginessa stopped for a moment and picked up Paddles in her arms. He was nice and light. She would carry him for the rest of the way. She was suddenly glad that didn’t have a big dog as a pet!
    Anton came over to Ginessa and said, “Here, give him to me.” He took the little dog from her and popped him under his armpit, carrying him with one hand. He held out the other hand to Ginessa and said, “Stay close to me.” It was big, warm and calloused. She immediately felt safer and just knew that while she was at his side, he would do everything in his power to protect her.”
    They began running again, Anton matching his speed so Ginessa could keep up with him.
    “Where are we going, Anton?” said Ginessa, between breathes.
    “I have no idea, I’m still thinking,” said Anton, “We need to get away from Maruska. Really far away. Then we can decide what to do next.”
    They continued running. They were heading in the general direction of the village.
    Ginessa occassionally turned back to look behind them, to see if anyone was following them. She could see nothing. It was quite spooky in the dark, but she decided it was better to see absolutely nothing than to see Maruska chasing them.
    “Do you need to rest?” said Anton.
    Ginessa shook her head, “No, I’m fine.”
    Anton smiled. He was really proud to have a tough wife.
    Then suddenly, an idea popped into his head. It was half decent and he decided to go with it. In this situation, you take whatever idea you can get.
    “Let’s go to Ray’s house,” said Anton, “And ask if we can borrow his boat. Then we can get his boat, row passed the pier, pick up Narteb. Then we row down the coast a fair way and then set up camp somewhere to decide our next move.”
    “Yes,” said Ginessa, who was too puffed to say any more.
    Anton laughed, “Do you need a short rest?”
    “No,” said Ginessa.
    He smiled.
    They ran for another fifteen minutes, although to Ginessa it felt like fifteen hours! Finally, they arrived at a quiet place on the outskirts of the village.
    “No lights,” said Anton, “This doesn’t look good.”
    He was actually really tired too, and was thankful that they could stop for a moment. They stepped up on the front porch of Ray’s house, Anton put Paddles on the ground, but continued holding Ginessa’s hand.
    Knock! Knock! Knock!
    “Please be home,” said Anton. While they waited at the door, he turned to look around to see if they had been followed. He couldn’t see anything or feel anything suspicious. He hoped that they had lost Maruska. Just a little while longer and they would be away and safe.
    They heard footsteps approaching the door.
    “Yes!” said Anton.
    The door opened, and a little old lady appeared in the doorway. She was very wrinkly, and had wispy grey hair, tied up in a bun. It was Ray’s mother, Mavis. Anton always called her Mrs C. The most noticable thing about her, was that she had two milky white eyes. She was blind.
    “It’s me, Mrs C., Anton.”
    “Oh hello there, Anton! Are you looking for Ray?”
    “Yes, is he home?”
    “No,” said Mavis, “I’m sorry but he’s not home. He’s gone to the tavern tonight. He’s there learning the polka. He should be back home in about an hour or so. Would you like to wait here for him?”
    Anton’s heart sank. “It’s okay,” he said, “We can go look for him in town. Thanks Mrs C.”
    Anton picked up Paddles and he and Ginessa were turning to leave when suddenly, Anton had another idea.
    “Ginessa,” said Anton, “You stay here, inside the house.”
    “I want to go with you,” said Ginessa.
    “It’s too dangerous with us running around town,” said Anton, “Maruska might spot us again. Just lay low here. I’ll be as fast as humanly possible. I’ll go find Ray, then I”ll come straight back for you.”
    Ginessa didn’t want to let go of Anton’s hand, but she knew it would be easier for Anton if she stayed here. Running with him, she would slow him down and also be a target and he would have to worry about keeping her safe.
    “Promise me you’ll come back,” said Ginessa.
    “Unless Maruska does something to me, I will be back for sure,” said Anton.
    “No,” said Ginessa, “Promise me you’ll come back. Don’t let Maruska do anything to you.”
    Anton thought about it for a moment and then said, “I can’t promise that.” Then he went over to Mavis, who was still standing in the doorway. “Mrs C, is it okay if Ginessa waits at your house? I’m going to run to town to find Ray, then we’ll come back.”
    “Why certainly, Anton! She’s more than welcome to,” said Mavis, “Come inside, Ginessa, I’ll make you a spot of tea.”
    Ginessa stood on the porch, looking at Anton. “Don’t let her do anything to you, Anton. Please.”
    Anton put his arms around her slender waist and kissed her. He had kissed her countless times before, but why did this time suddenly feel like it would be the last time? He brushed aside such thoughts and reluctantly let her go.
    “I will return,” he said.
    He put Paddles down on the ground again, and said, “Stay here.”
    Then he turned and ran off, heading into town.
    “Come inside, dearie,” said Mavis.
    Ginessa nodded and she and Paddles followed the old woman into the house. The door closed behind them and all was quiet on Ray’s porch once again.

    A little too quiet.

  11. #11
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    Aug 2004

    Default Chapter 10

    Ginessa and Paddles followed Mavis into the house. It was dimly lit by candles scattered around here and there. The candle flames were still and the living room had a calm and tranquil aura.
    “Take a seat, dearie,” said Mavis, “I’ll fetch you a cup of tea. I was just bringing it to boil before you arrived.”
    Ginessa took a seat on a soft velvety couch and Paddles lay on the floor near her feet. He seemed more relaxed now they were inside.
    While she waited, Ginessa examined the living room. There were some paintings on the walls, but in the dim light, it was quite hard to make out what they were. One seemed to be a portrait of a lady, and another was a landscape; rolling hills and a tree in the foreground. She couldn’t make out what the third painting was.
    Mavis re-entered the room, carrying two dark cups. The cups had no handles and were made of polished wood.
    “There you go,” said Mavis, “Be careful, it’s rather hot.”
    Ginessa carefully took the cup off the old woman and immediately felt warmer holding it. The aroma was unusual, but pleasant. She took a sip.
    “Wow,” said Ginessa, “What is this?”
    “Corn tea,” said Mavis, “How do you like it?”
    “It’s really nice,” said Ginessa, taking another sip. She had never had corn tea before. She liked trying different foods and drinks.
    Mavis took a seat next to her on the couch; Ginessa was so impressed how well the blind lady was able to get around.
    They sat in silence for a while. Eventually, the old lady spoke.
    “You have a very good energy about you,” said Mavis.
    “Oh?” said Ginessa, “What do you mean?”
    “Being blind,” said Mavis, “I have to rely on my other senses a lot more. I’ve come to learn that people have different energies. Sitting near you, I feel calm and relaxed.”
    “Maybe it’s the tea,” chuckled Ginessa amicably.
    Mavis smiled. “It’s always a joy to meet one such as yourself. Hold still a moment, I want to feel what you look like.”
    Mavis put her cup of tea on a small table nearby and then reached her fingers up Ginessa’s face. Both hands started up at Ginessa’s forehead and traced their way lightly down past her eyes, nose, mouth and chin. The old lady’s hands felt warm and somehow Ginessa felt very relaxed afterwards.
    The old lady was about to say something when suddenly there was a loud crack of thunder from outside, and moments later, heavy rain began pouring down outside.
    Ginessa thought of poor Anton, running around outside in the rain.
    Suddenly Paddles sat up, and started barking.
    Ginessa turned to look at where Paddles was looking; it was the window at the front of the house, next to the front door. It was too dark to see outside, but Ginessa could somehow sense that something was wrong.
    Lightning flashed outside. It illuminated everything outside for a split second.
    And Ginessa saw the silhouette of someone standing in front of the window!
    Even though the lightning had flashed for the briefest of moments, there was no mistaking who had been standing there.
    It was Maruska.
    She was standing outside the front door now.
    Ginessa turned to Mavis. She had to get this little old lady out of harm’s way.
    “Mrs C.,” said Ginessa, “I can see someone I know outside your front door. I have something really important I need to discuss with her in private. Would you be able to leave us alone for just a few moments?”
    “Why of course, dearie,” said Mavis, “I shall retire to my room. It’s about time I headed to bed anyway. Just make yourself at home. You can offer your friend a cup of warm tea if you like.” Mavis picked up her cup of tea and disappeared down the corridor.
    Ginessa calmly waited on the couch, sipping her warm corn tea. Paddles was growling defensively at the front door. OUt the corner of her eye, Ginessa could see the handle of the front door slowly turn. The door silently opened and a figure stepped inside the house, and closed the door quietly behind them.
    Ginessa continued to sip her tea, and didn’t look up.
    Woof! Woof! barked Paddles.
    “Shh!” said Ginessa, “Stay.”
    Paddles obediently lowered his bottom to the ground and sat. Instead of barking, he now whimpered occasionally, as if begging to be given the order to attack.
    “So,” said the intruder, who was of course Maruska. “Any last words before you get turned to stone?”
    “None that I want to say to you,” said Ginessa, still drinking her tea.
    “My, you certainly are calm,” said Maruska. She reached into her robes and pulled out the deadly glowing orb. “Do you not realise what this thing does?”
    “I was afraid before,” said Ginessa, “Because I was worried something would happen to Anton. But he is not here, so there is nothing for me to be afraid of.”
    “Oh, that is where you are wrong,” said Maruska, “He will suffer greatly from what I will do to you. And so will you actually. Flesh turning to stone is excruciating, I am led to believe. And once it happens to you, that’s it. No one will be able to rescue you. An eternity spent as a stone statue. Unable to move. Unable to talk. Unable to hug and love your dear, sweet Anton ever again. How does that sound?”
    Ginessa drained the rest of her cup and put it on the small table beside her. “Corn tea is quite nice. Have you ever tried it? I can pour you a cup if you want.”
    Maruska smirked, “I must admit, your calmness impresses me.”
    “I care not for the admiration of fools,” said Ginessa.
    Maruska snarled, “You think I am a fool? In my place, you would do the same.”
    “No, in your place, I would have just walked away from Anton and continued with my life,” said Ginessa.
    “I can’t do that,” said Maruska.
    Ginessa now stood up from the couch and turned to face Maruska.
    “What are you doing?” said Maruska.
    “If I’m going to become a stone statue, I at least want to have a cool pose.”


    Mavis was lying down on her bed, just about to drift off to sleep. She was feeling so cosy and warm. It was perfect sleeping conditions. The heavy rain outside, wind howling at the windows, the occasional thundercrack.
    And an extremely loud pop sound.
    Mavis opened her eyes.
    An extremely loud pop sound? What was that? It sounded like it had come from the living room. She quickly got up out of bed and went to investigate. As soon as she opened her bedroom door and went into the corridor, she immediately began coughing and spluttering uncontrollably. There was a smokey smell in the air; she could feel dusty particles as she breathed. Was it ash? Why would there be ash inside her house? She gradually made her way into the living room.
    Woof! Woof!
    It was Ginessa’s dog barking at something.
    “Oh, get away from me you dumb mutt!”
    It was a woman’s voice. Mavis had never heard this voice before. It was not one of the villagers.
    Suddenly, Mavis heard the dog whimper and stop barking suddenly.
    “Ginessa?” said Mavis, and she coughed once again from breathing the ashy substance that was still floating around.
    There was no reply.
    Mavis heard the stranger leave through the front door, without saying another word.
    “Are you okay, Ginessa?” said the old lady. She was walking slowly through the room, with her hands held out in front of her, feeling through the air. At times like this, she really hated being blind. Where was Ginessa? Was she okay?
    And then, Mavis’ hands touched something.
    Something hard and cold. Cold like stone. It was shaped like a person. before long, Mavis had realised it was a stone statue. What was a stone statue doing in her living room? It was very strange. And where was Ginessa? Suddenly a scary thought entered Mavis’ head.
    “It couldn’t be,” she said to herself. But just to make sure, she fumbled her hands onto the statue’s torso, up the neck and placed her fingers on the face.
    And then she froze. She recognised this face immediately. She had only felt it a few moments ago. But how could this be? What did it mean? The old woman had no idea, but there was one thing she knew for sure.
    The face of this statue was the face of Ginessa DiManlen.

  12. #12
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    Aug 2004

    Default Chapter 11

    Narteb sat on the pier with his legs dangling relaxedly over the edge. It was raining, but it wasn’t so bad. He was actually having a rather good time. He was currently doing some fishing, with very little luck.
    Sitting next to him on the pier was his friend, Pip, who was blowing away on his ocarina. It was a small triangular shaped instrument made of clay and had a hole to blow through and little holes for the fingers, similar to a flute. Pip had his eyes closed and seemed to be entranced in the music as he played. Pip rarely fished when Narteb and his friends went fishing. He chose instead to bring his ocarina and practice.
    The song Pip was playing was a slow, sad one, but strangely, it made Narteb feel happy as he listened to it. He had heard Pip play this song, which was called ‘Eventide of Evermoor’, countless times, and often on repeat, but he never got tired of it. On a night like this, with the horrible weather and lack of fish, Narteb was really glad his friend was there with him and playing music.
    Narteb turned to look back at the pier. He had been checking periodically for the past hour or so. His dad was supposed to come join then, and they had been fishing for a few hours and he still hadn’t arrived. This made Narteb worried because Narteb’s dad, Anton, never broke a promise. If he said he was going to be somewhere, then he was going to be there.
    The music stopped.
    “Hey, Narteb, where’s your dad?” said Pip.
    “I don’t know,” said Narteb, “It’s not like him not to show up.”
    “Well, I think I’d better get going now,” said Pip, “If we stay out any later we’ll be dead at school tomorrow.”
    “Yeah, I guess,” said Narteb, “I wanna check at home anyway, I want to know if anything’s wrong.”
    The two boys packed up their things. Narteb took a bit longer than Pip, because all Pip had to do was put the ocarina into his pocket and stand up. When Narteb had gathered his equipment, the two of them made their way back up the pier towards shore. Thankfully, by now the rain was easing up to the lightest of drizzles.
    The two of them walked along the dirt track that led back to the village. It was cold and they were both soaked, so neither was in a real mood to chat. They stomped through the night in comfortable silence. Which was why it was easy for them to both hear footsteps of someone approaching them out of the darkness ahead.
    “Is that someone running towards us?” said Pip.
    “Looks like it,” said Narteb.
    The two boys stopped walking and waited to see who it was. It wasn’t long before they could make him out. It was one of the men from the village, Bob Denton, father of their friend Cedric.
    “Hi, Mr Denton,” said Narteb.
    “Thank the Gods I’ve found you,” said Bob, “Narteb, something happened to your mother.”
    A shiver ran through Narteb as he heard that. He was already worried that something might have happened, but to actually hear someone say it…
    “What happened?” said Narteb.
    “I…” began Bob, “I think it’s better you see for yourself. I really don’t even quite believe it myself.” His voice sort of drifted off.
    “What happened to her, Mr Denton?” repeated Narteb.
    Bob shook his head and turned around, “Come with me. You have to see for yourself.”
    He started running back towards the village and the two boys followed closely behind him. Butterflies were churning in Narteb’s stomach.
    “I hope everything is okay,” said Pip.
    Narteb grunted in agreement.
    Finally, they reached a lone house on the outskirts of the village. Narteb knew this house. It was the home of his dad’s friend, Ray. There was someone sitting alone on the front steps of the house. It was an old lady. Narteb knew this old woman; it was Ray’s blind mother. She looked like she was in shock.
    “Where did everyone go?” asked Bob.
    The old woman said quietly, “They took her away. Back to her house. Everybody went with them.”
    “What happened?” said Narteb, “Did something happen to my mum?”
    The old lady said, “Who is it?”
    “It’s Narteb, Granny C., Anton and Ginessa’s son.”
    The old woman put a hand over her mouth and shook her head. She stood up and reached out towards where she heard the sound of his voice. Narteb walked towards her and touched her hands to make it easier for her. She wrapped her bony arms around him and gave him a hug.
    “I’m so sorry,” she said.
    “What happened?” said Narteb.
    “You don’t know yet?” said the old woman, surprised.
    “I didn’t tell him,” said Bob, “I can hardly believe it myself.”
    The old woman let go of Narteb, and said, “You should go back to your house.”
    “Can you tell me what happened to her?” said Narteb.
    There was a long pause.
    Finally, the old woman spoke. “I don’t know how it happened… but I think your mother was turned to stone.”
    “What?” said Narteb. He didn’t understand what he’d just heard.
    “One moment she was normal,” said Mavis, “And the next, she had become like a stone statue. I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but I felt it with my own hands. I still don’t quite believe it. I didn’t know such things could happen…”
    She explained to Narteb all that had happened that night. “And then your father came by later on, and said that your mother had been turned to stone. By some woman named, Maruska. Yes, I think he said her name was Maruska.”
    This was all too much for Narteb. Turned to stone? Was this all a big joke someone was playing on him? If it was, then it wasn’t funny at all. He felt really confused.
    “Come, Narteb,” said Bob, “We should go back to your house. That’s where everyone is.”
    Narteb nodded. He turned to Mavis, and knew that he should say goodbye to her, but was still in such shock that nothing came out of his mouth.
    The old woman took Narteb’s two hands in hers, and held them tenderly for a few moments, before letting them go. She too could think of no words to comfort him.
    Narteb, Bob and Pip began running back towards Narteb’s house. Narteb shot passed the two others; he was fully sprinting. He wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but he knew that he wanted to get home as soon as possible.
    Last edited by Thuaners; 06-02-11 at 06:34 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Chapter 12

    Maruska slowly trudged up the wet, slippery mountainside. She was deep in thought, and barely looked up from the ground as she walked.
    Was this the end? she wondered. Would she never think of Anton ever again? She wasn’t sure about that. The only thing she was sure about, was that she felt horrible at the moment.
    Eventually, she came upon the gnarled birch tree. She stopped and looked behind it and saw the mouth of the cave they had set up camp in the previous night. She went into the cave and saw a smouldering campfire, and lying next to it a bundle of blankets, underneath which was her apprentice, Fog, fast asleep. Maruska entered the cave and sat down next to the dying embers of the campfire.
    Fog, who was rather light sleeper awoke when she heard her Mistress sitting down. Fog sat up, rubbed her eyes and said, “You’re back, Mistress! How did it go?”
    “I have done what I came here to do,” said Maruska.
    “So it worked?” said Fog, “She was turned into a stone statue?”
    Maruska nodded, “Aye.”
    Fog didn’t know what to say. All this time she always had a small, lingering doubt that the petrification orb would not work; that such talk of magic and petrification spells, was all hogwash.
    “What was it like?” said Fog.
    “Terrible,” said Maruska.
    The two sat in silence for a moment.
    “She was fearless, you know,” said Maruska.
    “Who? Anton’s wife?” said Fog.
    “Yes,” said Maruska, “She didn’t run. She just stood there and took it. I always imagined that she would be running. She didn’t even look scared.”
    “How do you feel now?” said Fog, “Now that you’ve done it.”
    “I feel horrible,” said Maruska, “Revenge. It has a bitter aftertaste, I have learned.”
    Fog resisted the urge to say ‘I told you so’ and held her tongue.
    “What will we do now, Mistress?”
    “We will return to the castle,” said Maruska, “Let us leave at once.”
    “Now?” said Fog, “Can we not leave in the morning? This is a very cosy cave. Good for sleeping.”
    “No, I wish to leave this place as soon as possible,” said Maruska, “I want to leave it all behind me. And all that I have done here.”
    Fog knew better than to disagree. She got up and began to pack up her belongings. Maruska in the meantime merely sat and stared at the burning embers in the campfire, and thought about what she had done.

  14. #14
    Junior Member WhiteHairedMaiden's Avatar
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    Hi, I've just begun to read your story and like what I've seen so far. I might be following it from your blog site as I'd prefer to read it there (format preference). I like your dedication and attitude, and straightforward writing style. Hope you continue to have fun working on it and that more others read it.

  15. #15
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    thanks so much! hope u enjoy reading the rest of the story when i write it ^^ if theres any delays between posts its just me stuck thinking of what to write next! hehe... thanks for your comment!

  16. #16
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    Default Chapter 13

    When Narteb arrived back at his house, he got a small shock, because gathered outside was a big crowd of people. Many were carrying torches or lanterns and from a distance, they looked like a bunch of fireflies. When Narteb approached, he heard one of them call out, “Narteb’s back!”. The group murmured as a whole and a few of them came up to him and offered their condolences. It was all a bit of a blur for Narteb who was still in shock and didn’t quite know what was going on.
    “Where is my mum?” he said.
    “She’s inside the house,” said one of the villagers.
    Narteb walked to the front door and went inside. It was the strangest feeling. He had gone through that door countless times, but this time he was feeling a mixture of nervousness and trepidation. What would he see when he went inside?
    There was already quite a few people inside his house, standing around. One could almost mistake it for a party; the big difference was that no one was smiling. It seemed that most people were gathered in the living room, so Narteb made his way there.
    And then, he saw it.
    In the middle of the room, was a stone statue.
    It was unmistakable; it was of his mother.
    Narteb’s entire body went cold.
    So it was true… his mother had been turned to stone!
    Two people in particular were standing close to the statue. One was a brawny, muscular man, with an orange bristly moustache and shaggy orange hair. He was Boris, the village stonemason. The other was a plump lady, with a round face, and small, but kind eyes. She was Helga, Boris’ wife.
    “There’s no way you can convince me that this is Ginessa,” said Helga, “It’s a stone statue. People do not get turned into stone statues.”
    Boris circled the statue, eyeing it carefully. Occasionally, he would reach out and tap the stone with a fingertip.
    “There’s no way this could be a statue, Mum.” (Boris had a habit of calling Helga ‘Mum’ or ‘Ma’, even though she was his wife) “Look at the detail on this. No one can make a statue this detailed. Look there are individual eyelashes made of stone!” He peered even closer, inspecting the statue’s face. “Look! There’s even nose hairs in here!”
    “Boris!” said Helga, “Don’t be talking about her nose hairs!” She was about to say something else, when she turned and saw Narteb.
    “Tebby!” said Helga.
    All the eyes in the room turned and looked at Narteb. It all went silent; nobody knew what to say to him.
    Narteb walked up to the statue and examined it. He was amazed. From the tiniest of wrinkles on her face, to the look in her eyes; if it really had been sculpted by someone, they had captured her perfectly.
    He reached out a hand and touched her cheek with his fingers.
    Cold and hard.
    …and something else.
    Narteb was startled. Something strange happened when he touched her! He suddenly got a feeling that his mothers spirit, or essence, was somehow inside the stone; that she was still there buried deep within. There was no way he could have explained this, but it was just a feeling that he had. And it was a strong one.
    “This statue is my mum,” said Narteb quietly, “I’m sure of it.”
    And now, there was only one thought in his head.
    He had to fix this. He could not let his her stay like this.

  17. #17
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    Default Chapter 14

    Narteb woke up the next morning in bed. The house was very quiet. It seemed that everyone had left after he’d gone to sleep. He lay in bed just a little while longer, thinking. The events of last night were so unusual, that he almost wondered if it had all been just a dream.
    He listened closely, trying to hear the sound of someone moving around his house, or even better, his mum’s voice. But he heard nothing.
    He waited.
    Nothing but the sound of birds chirping outside.
    Finally, he decided to get up. He climbed out of bed, and headed straight for the one place in his house that he was dreading going into.
    The living room.
    And when he got there, he saw it.
    The view was different from last night. This time, there was no one else around. This time, there was light coming in through the windows, illuminating the room in peaceful morning sunshine.
    But his mum was the same. Exactly the same as last night.
    So it’s real, thought Narteb, Not a dream.Then something caught his eye. There was a note left on the table. He picked it up and immediately knew that it was from his dad.


    Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you. Plus I am no good at goodbyes. By the time you read this, I will be gone. I have gone to look for a way to cure your mother. Last night, my ex-girlfriend from many years ago came to our house. A long time ago, I abandoned her, and she has never forgiven me for it. Her name is Maruska, and she can do magic. Real magic. She used a small, glowing glass ball and turned your mother to stone. She did that hoping it would hurt me, in the same way as I have hurt her in the past.
    I don’t know when I will return, but I will return as soon as I can. I do not know where I will go. If by some small chance I do not return, know that I am tremendously proud of you.

    Till we meet again,

    P.S. Paddles is in the backyard. He was put to sleep by Maruska last night somehow. I thought he was dead, but this morning he was awake, thank the Heavens. He is a little bit drowsy, but fine. Take good care of him until I get back.

    Narteb read the note twice, mainly because his brain wasn’t working properly and he was having trouble thinking; so much had happened in the past few hours. One minute he was living a relatively normal life, the next his mother had been turned to stone and his father was gone. And his dog had nearly died.
    To his credit though, Narteb didn’t get overwhelmed by all this. He put the note down, quietly went about having a hearty breakfast, then began gathering equipment for his journey–for he had decided that he would go look for a way to cure his mother. Two DiManlen’s looking for a cure meant twice the chance someone would succeed.
    He packed an ample supply of food, or as he liked to call it, ‘rations’, and grabbed various other items that he thought he might need: rope, compass, stone and flint, skinning knife, and other such things, and put them all in a backpack. Next, he searched for all the money in his room he could find (he found dozens of silver and copper coins underneath his bed!), and put it all in a small leather pouch, which he tied to his belt. Finally, he grabbed his wooden training sword. It wasn’t much, but it was the only sword he had.
    Once he felt he was as fully equipped as he was going to get, he changed into something more suited for travelling. He put on his leather pants and tunic, and pulled on some leather boots. Now, that he was done, he picked up his sword, attached the scabbard to his belt and slung the backpack over his shoulders.
    He went into the living room one final time. He stood in front of his mother and said to her, “I’m going to find a cure for you. Goodbye, mum.”
    He gave the stone statue a hug. Narteb was not the type to often voluntarily hug his mum, but today, he felt like it. Plus she was a stone statue and no one else was watching.
    He went into the backyard and saw Paddles resting in his kennel. Paddles got up when he saw Narteb, and started wagging his tail weakly. Narteb could see he really was looking quite drowsy and tired. He picked up the little dog and left his house.
    It was a grey sort of morning and the air was crisp. He began walking to Pip’s place.


    “Here we are,” said Narteb to Paddles, “Your new home for a little while.”
    They had arrived at Pip’s house. It was a log cabin, and the general shape could best be described as wide, large and flat. Narteb always felt happy when he saw this house. Currently, there was a gentle curl of smoke coming out the chimney, and when Narteb breathed, he could smell a delicious aroma in the air. Pip’s mum was a fantastic cook, and was probably baking something inside.
    Narteb went up the steps that led to the porch, and knocked on the front door. Hopefully, Pip was home. Narteb wanted to say goodbye to him before he left.
    The door opened and out came Pip, still in his pyjamas, munching on a slice of cake. Pip took one look at how Narteb was dressed and said, “Whoa! Where are you going?”
    “To find a cure for my mum,” said Narteb.
    “And you’re taking Paddles with you?” said Pip.
    “No,” said Narteb, “That’s why I’m here. Can you look after him for me until I get back?”
    Pip looked at Paddles for a moment and then shook his head solemnly. He said, “I’m sorry, Narteb, but I will not be able to look after your dog.”
    Narteb could not believe what he had just heard. He had been certain Pip would say yes.
    Then Pip smiled and continued. “The reason I will not be able to look after your dog, is because I will be going with you. My parents can look after Paddles.”
    Narteb sighed with relief, but then said, “No, definitely not. I have no idea where I am going. It could be dangerous. You have stuff to do, you shouldn’t be wasting time helping me do this.”
    “Your stuff is my stuff,” said Pip, “And besides, do I look like I’m asking for your permission? I’m coming with you. Now let me grab Paddles and break the news to my mum.”
    Narteb knew there was no way he could change Pip’s mind, and to be honest, he really was very happy his friend was coming with him. The big, wide, unknown world is not half as scary when you have your best friend with you.
    Before he handed Paddles over to Pip, Narteb looked his little dog in the eyes and said, “Stay here for a while. I will come back.”
    Like always, Narteb really felt that his dog knew what he had said, or at least gotten the intent from the way he said it. Narteb handed Paddles over to Pip, who took him and vanished inside.
    Narteb stood on the porch and waited patiently. He looked around at the surrounds–the tall, slender trees of the forest–their leaves blowing gently in the wind. He had seen this view countless times, but now it all looked different. His stomach was buzzing. It was because he knew, very soon, he would be venturing outside Manangatang village for the very first time in his life. The prospect was daunting and exciting at the same time.
    Someone came to the door. It wasn’t Pip this time, but Pip’s mother. She did have a name, but to Narteb, she was simply Pip’s mum, and one of his favourite people in the world. She was wearing a flour covered apron and indeed looked like she had been in the middle of baking.
    She said nothing, but just gave Narteb a warm, tender hug. It immediately made Narteb feel better. When she finally let him go, she handed him a small cloth bundle, tied up securely with string.
    “These are some oat slices I’ve just made,” she said, “It’ll give you boys some sustenance on your journey.”
    Narteb thanked her and placed them carefully into his backpack.
    It was then that Pip reappeared at the front door; Narteb got quite a shock when he saw him!
    “You look cool!” said Narteb.
    “My new clothes,” said Pip, “First time I’ve worn them!”
    He was wearing some tan coloured leggings and a dark, leaf-green tunic. He had on the obligatory adventuring backpack and also a long hunting knife attached to his belt. And most importantly, in his hand, he was holding his clay ocarina!
    “We’ll have music for the journey,” Pip chuckled.
    Pip’s mum gave her son a hug, and said, “Can you wait until your father gets home at least? He will want to say goodbye.”
    “Narteb has to go now, mum,” said Pip, “Tell the old man I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
    Pip’s mum looked like she was going to start crying any second now. “Promise me that you boys will stay safe,” she said, “And that you will try not to get in any danger.”
    “Safe?” said Pip, “Narteb has never heard of that word.”
    Tears started to well up in her eyes now.
    “I’ll look after him,” said Narteb.
    “Thank you,” said Pip’s mum.
    “We better get going, Narteb,” said Pip, “Or my mum’s going to start crying on us.”
    Pip’s mum smiled through the tears and waved goodbye as the two boys left.
    Narteb and Pip left the house and followed the path until it led them right out the northern end of the village. Very soon they were travelling on the road they had always known simply as ‘North road’.
    “Where are we going?” said Pip.
    “I keep getting this feeling we should go to the Crossroads,” said Narteb, “So that’s where we will go first. There’s a lot of people there. Maybe someone can help us.”
    Pip’s face lit up. “The Crossroads! I’ve always wanted to go there. You know, they say it’s a bustling hive of thieves, thugs and rascals. The whole place is trouble!”
    “I know!” said Narteb.
    They were both very happy about that.
    Although a large part of Narteb’s mind was still dwelling on what had happened to his mum, having Pip around was cheering him up. After they had walked a while, they finally came upon a large wooden sign post.
    “I’ve never been this far before,” said Pip, “Look at that.”
    On the sign post were two arrows. One arrow–pointing to the south, the way they had just come–said ‘To Manangatang Village’. The other arrow, which pointed to the north, read ‘Southern Marsh Highway’.
    According to the boys’ knowledge, if they followed this road all the way north, it would eventually lead them to the Crossroads. They began walking again, and Pip decided it was time to pull out the ocarina. He started playing an uplifing, adventurous sounding tune, called ‘Knight on the noble steed’. All morning, Narteb had been feeling mixed emotions; shock and sadness at what had happened to his mother, fear about whether or not he was up to the challenge ahead, and also the underlying buzz he couldn’t help but feel as he ventured outside his village for the first time. As Pip played his melody, all these heavy emotions inside Narteb, became like mist and the breeze carried them away–leaving only one, very simple emotion behind.
    The joyous feeling you get when you are travelling somewhere with your best friend.
    Last edited by Thuaners; 06-22-11 at 10:17 PM.

  18. #18
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    Default Chapter 15

    Three and a half weeks later…

    A lone figure, walked down the quiet backstreets of Firgenduke, the grand city which was the capital of Tuscan. This person was a stranger to town and had just arrived earlier in the evening, appearing not long after the sun had set. He wore a thick, warm hooded robe, that was the colour of blood. The hood was pulled far over his face and at this late hour, it was impossible to make out his face.
    Whoever it was, it was obvious he was trying to be inconspicuous and stuck to the shadows as he made his way deliberately through the city. It was a quiet part of town, and there was hardly another soul on the streets. There was a fine mist of rain coming down; unlike most rain, this light drizzle was rather pleasant.
    The stranger stopped when he encountered the fountain. It was in the middle of a large intersection. Exactly as he had remebered it. Locals called it the ‘Guy on the Horse’. It was a large statue of a man on a horse that was reared up on its hind legs. The man looked like a warrior and had one hand on the reins, and the other holding his greatsword high up in the air.
    The stranger just stood there and took everything in–the statue, the moonlight above and the faint trace of rain. It had been a long time since he had seen this statue. He had almost forgotten it. Seeing it now brought back many memories.
    He sighed.
    He had grown up in Firgenduke, and had not been back in over twenty years. Being here now, he felt a heavy weight on his chest. He realised he missed this city.
    From a leather pouch at his waist, he pulled out a golden coin and threw it into the fountain. He closed his eyes and made a silent prayer. He did not need long to choose his wish–there was only one thing he wanted.
    He took one last look at the statue, and then turned and continued his journey. He walked silently along the cobblestone road for a little while longer–even though it was dark, he had no trouble knowing where to go–it seemed his feet remembered where to go, even if his mind had forgotten.
    Finally, he came to a stop. He had reached his destination.
    It was a large building, made of stone bricks. There was a big wooden door at the front and a sign above it, that read:

    “The Encumbered Adventurer”

    It had been so long since he had seen this building. It was like seeing an old friend again. From behind the door, he could hear the jolly sound of boisterous voices chatting away, and his nose picked up the delicious smell of food.
    Without further ado, the hooded stranger pushed open the door, and entered the tavern.

  19. #19
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    Default Chapter 16

    King Bastion, ruler of Tuscan, skipped up the stone spiral staircase, which led up to Maruska’s room. She had been gone for months and he had missed her terribly. It was so good to have her back.
    As he bounded up the stairs in a gay fashion, his foot stubbed one of the steps, and he nearly tripped. He managed to catch himself somehow, and it was lucky for him, because he was carrying a tray which had on it a steaming hot dinner, that he had spent the past few hours making. Since returning to the castle a few days ago, Maruska had barely left her room and according to the people serving her, had not eaten a single meal.
    I shall rectify that! thought Bastion to himself, as he continued his exuberant ascent of the stairs.
    Finally, he arrived at the top. At the end of a short corridor, which was illuminated by a few torches on the wall, was a simple wooden door. Two burly guards stood there. Initially they had looked bored, but they stood to attention when they saw who was coming.
    “Evening, Your Highness!” said one of the guards.
    “Is Lady Maruska in her room?” said King Bastion.
    “Yes, she is, Your Highness,” said the guard. He sniffed the air with his large bulbous nose, “I must say, that food you’ve brought smells really delicious!”
    “Enough with the small talk,” said King Bastion, “You two leave. I want to spend some time alone with Lady Maruska.”
    The two guards obediently left their post and went downstairs.
    King Bastion cleared his throat and then knocked thrice upon the wooden door.
    There was no reply.
    After a few seconds, he got impatient, and knocked again, this time more firmly, and six times instead of three.
    “Who is it?” came a voice from inside.
    It was Maruska’s voice; music to Bastion’s ears.
    ”Tis I, Bastion,” said the King, “I heard that you had not eaten, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I have cooked a meal for you. I will sit beside you as you eat it, if you like. It is a rather unique dish, if I do say so myself. You will not find another like it in all the seven kingdoms. I took an ingredient from each letter of your name, and combined them to invent a new meal. For ‘M’, I chose marshmallows. For ‘A’ I chose artichoke. For ‘R’ I chose radish. For ‘U’ I chose sea urchin. I know that starts with ‘S’, but I think it’s close enough. For ‘S’ I chose salad. There is a side salad. For ‘K’ I chose carrot. I know carrot starts with C, but again I think it’s close enough. For the final ‘A’, I chose apple. A juicy red delicious, as sweet as your kiss. Not that I know what your kiss is like… but if you’d like to show me…”
    “I’m not hungry,” came the voice from inside.
    King Bastion felt deflated. He had spent the entire day fussing over this dish. He had even named it. ‘Maruska’s Delight’. A more apt name would have been ‘Maruska’s Undelight’, he thought to himself now. He laid the tray of food down on the ground.
    “Well, I’ve left it here on the ground for you,” said the King, “You can eat it when you get hungry. If you do eat it, remember to tell me how it tastes, I’m curious to know. Did I mention it took me over two hours to make? I-”
    “Excuse me, Your Highness.”
    King Bastion turned around.
    Standing there at the end of the corridor was a stern looking man, with dark hair and a wispy goatee. He had a black eyepatch over his left eye. It was Javier, Captain of the Guards.
    “Don’t sneak up on me like that!” said King Bastion, “I nearly had a heart attack. What are you doing here?”
    “I have urgent news for you,” said Javier.
    “Can’t it wait?” said the King, “I’m kind of in the middle of something.”
    “I think you’ll want to hear it, Your Highness,” said Javier.
    “Fine, what is it?”
    Javier looked at the door to Maruska’s room and shook his head slightly, then went back to the top of the spiral staircase, beckoning the King to follow.
    Bastion went over to where Javier was standing and whispered, “What is this about?”
    “He has returned,” said Javier, “He has been spotted in Firgenduke today.”
    “Who?” said the King, “Who has been spotted?”
    Javier turned to look back at the door to Maruska’s room and said in a low voice, “Him.”
    The King looked at Maruska’s door and then back at Javier, his brain suddenly registering who they were talking about.
    “But he said he would never return…” said the King.
    “I know,” said Javier.
    “After all these years…” said the King, his voice drifting off.
    “What shall we do?” said Javier.
    The King’s face became stern. “I want him found. I want him captured. I want him put in the dungeon. In a cell all by himself. When you have captured him, call me.”
    “You mean to kill him?” said Javier.
    “I need him silenced, one way or another,” said the King, “Or I shall never be able to sleep in peace. Go now, Javier. And make sure it is low key. I want no one to know of this, except your most trusted men.” The King glanced back at Maruska’s door, and said in a hushed whisper, “She must never find out. Do you understand?”
    Javier nodded and then bowed, before disappearing down the stairs.
    King Bastion stood there for a long time, not moving.
    “My own web of lies,” he whispered, “Too sticky to get out of.”
    Last edited by Thuaners; 07-28-11 at 06:42 PM.

  20. #20
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    Default Chapter 17

    Lena Straud sat behind the bar, eyes fixed on the stranger in the red hooded cloak. He was seated in a shadowy corner of the tavern, away from the warm amber of the fireplace and the room’s flickering candlelight.
    “Penelope,” said Lena, to the buxom young waitress who was walking by, “That man in the red robes. Who is he?”
    “Never seen him before, ma’am,” said Penelope, “Seems nice enough, but very mysterious. His hood comes down so low, I couldn’t make out his face. He has a bushy beard, but that’s about all I can tell you.”
    Lena nodded, her eyes still boring into the stranger across the room.
    “Did he order a meal?” said Lena.
    “Roast boar,” said the waitress.
    “With mint sauce?” said Lena.
    “Yes’m,” said the waitress, “How did you know?”
    Lena didn’t answer. She seemed to be thinking about something.
    Penelope looked down at her little notepad, and said, “He also ordered a tankard of-”
    “Butterscotch mead,” they both said together.
    Penelope looked at Lena, “You know him?”
    “My instincts tell me it is a man I knew long ago,” said Lena, “One day he left, and never returned. Why he should return now, out of the blue, I do not know. Perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps this is simply a stranger passing through Firgenduke. In any case, I will speak to him, to put my mind at ease.”
    Lena got up and made her way over to the dark corner where the man in the red robes was seated alone.
    “Greetings, stranger,” said Lena.
    The man nodded his hooded head slightly in greeting, but made no sound.
    “Do I know you?” she said, “You seem familiar.”
    There was a long pause.
    “Yes,” said the stranger.
    “Who are you?” said Lena.
    The stranger reached out his hand and clasped it firmly around her wrist, holding her in place. His grasp was incredibly strong, and Lena knew she was not going anywhere until he let her go. She made not a sound; her heart began to beat fast.
    The stranger brought his other hand up–with index finger pointed–to his mouth, indicating that Lena should not make a sound. Then he tilted his head up, his face coming into view.
    Lena couldn’t believe it. Even if he hadn’t been holding her wrist, she was too stunned to move.
    The piercing green eyes. The face–aged since she had last seen him–still ruggedly handsome, his beard longer and shaggier than she had remembered.
    “Anton!” whispered Lena, “It’s you!”
    “Please, Lena,” said Anton in a low voice, “I need your help. No one must know I am here.”
    Lena nodded, “Come with me. We can speak in private.”
    Anton stood up and followed her. The two of them weaved their way through the crowd, until they came upon a set of stone steps at the back of the tavern, which they descended. When they reached the bottom, Anton found himself in a small square room. Aside from a few big wooden kegs, there was not much else in the room. Even though there were four wall torches–one in each corner of the room–the light was very dim; Anton could barely make out Lena’s face, and she was standing directly in front of him. But even though it was dark, he could tell that she was not happy with him.
    “Why,” said Lena, “After all these years, have you suddenly decided to return? And under such a shroud of secrecy.”
    “I cannot explain,” said Anton.
    “Then I have another question,” said Lena, “Why did you leave in the first place? You just vanished! Without so much as a goodbye. Maruska was poisoned and on the brink of death. They found her alone in the forest. Did you know that?”
    “Found alone in the forest?” said Anton, “Is that what they said?”
    “Yes,” said Lena, “Is it not true?”
    Anton paused.
    Eventually, he said, “Yes, it must be true then.”
    “Answer me, Anton,” said Lena, “I want to hear it from your mouth. Saxon keeps defending you and says you must have had a good reason for disappearing. That you probably didn’t even know Maruska had been poisoned. So now that you are here, I want to hear your side of the story.”
    “My side of the story,” said Anton, “Is that I knew Maruska was poisoned and abandoned her.”
    There was total silence.
    Lena looked at the man standing before her. Physically he looked like the man she remembered. The strong, brave, honest Anton. The man you could always depend on. Now as she looked at him, she saw that he was different. He seemed broken, vulnerable, desperate and weak.
    “Leave,” she said quietly.
    “Lena,” said Anton, “Please, I need your help.”
    “Leave,” she repeated more firmly, “I will not help you. Leave my tavern and never return. You are not welcome here. You abandoned my friend and left her to die.” She looked him in the eyes and said, “The next time we meet, we shall be less than strangers.”
    Anton got down onto his hands and knees.
    Lena could tell by the way he did it, this man was not accustomed to begging.
    “Please, Lena,” said Anton, “Help me get to Maruska. My wife’s life depends on it.”
    Lena could not believe her ears. She was struggling before, but this really pushed her over the edge.
    “Your wife?” said Lena, “You got married to somebody else? You left Maruska to die, and the reason we never saw you again was because you went and got married?”
    Anton just kept staring at the ground.
    Lena wasn’t done yet. Two decades of bottled up anger at this man all resurfaced at once. “Maruska would have died for you. She loved you! You broke her heart. You didn’t see her after she recovered from the poison. She kept saying ‘Something must have happened to Anton. I have to go find him!’. After years, even she gave up hope. She wanted to kill herself! Maruska is alive now, but the Maruska we all knew and loved died years ago. And it’s your fault!”
    Lena was furious. She was normally quite a calm person but she was spewing forth such venom at Anton. She took some deep breaths to calm herself down.
    Anton said nothing. He just stayed kneeling before her and looking down at the ground.
    “I didn’t mean to hurt her,” he said quietly.
    Lena just looked at him. He had just taken her verbal barrage without even flinching. He wasn’t completely weak.
    People make mistakes, said a voice inside her head, We all do.
    Lena took in a deep breath and when she exhaled, she blew out a lot of the anger from her system.
    Lena looked up at the stairs. Penelope was standing there.
    “What is it, Penelope?” said Lena.
    “It’s the Royal guards. The Conquistador actually. He’s looking for a man in red robes,” said Penelope, “What should I tell him?”
    Lena looked back at Anton. Memories from the past came flooding back to her. Memories of the times when Anton had been like a big brother to her. He had always looked after her.
    This man kneeling before her now, she didn’t know if he was the same man anymore. But he looked like Anton DiManlen, her friend. And for that reason alone, she gave him the benefit of the doubt.
    “Tell him that we have seen no such man,” said Lena.
    Penelope glanced at the man kneeling there in the red robes and nodded, then vanished upstairs.
    “Thank you,” said Anton.
    “Don’t thank me yet,” said Lena, “I am still undecided.”
    She began to head upstairs, leaving Anton alone in the cellar. Before she reached the top, she turned and said to him, “If I was you, I would pull that torch in the corner.”

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