Chapter 2 – Acceptance
I did not leave immediately, my body did not allow me to.
I stood there rooted to the ground, facing the door with tears dripping down my face. They had grown sticky, with new tears overlapping the half dried ones on my face. I hastily wiped them away.
I was leaving my parents behind, I don’t want to leave them behind. I couldn’t accept the fact that I was leaving home.
Home, where my parents are.
“Where we will always be.”
I forced myself to stop sobbing, allowing myself to take in my surroundings. I was used to the darkness, I wasn’t afraid. The tunnel clearly led to the forest, I was going to leave the village behind, and I was going to leave my old life behind.
Though I was kept away from the village elders who taught the children, my parents brought up in a different way, a way of their own.
Come to think of it, it’s like they had foreseen this, and had armed me with a soldier’s mindset to survive. I knew I had to calm myself down, and analyze the situation. The clockworks in my mind sprung to life.
Can I stay? No. They are coming for me. They are coming for my family too, that was what my father said.
Where should I go? Anywhere but here. Look for help. I’m sure my parents gave me enough supplies to at least survive for a few days.
Why would they want to kill my parents? I’m the only one cursed here. The Sovereign has its laws, and killing has always been the best option for them, saves cost, saves the hassle.
Is there any way to save my parents?
The clockworks jammed.
But I already knew the answer. There was no way, I didn’t know anyone that could help, and I didn’t have any powers to fight the officers with. I was literally useless.
Can I exchange myself for them? Negotiate with them?
“Always remember Seraphina, the Sovereign are cold-hearted and unforgiving scoundrels. They will never negotiate with normal people like us, never make the mistake to do so, they will condemn you further for those actions.”
I remembered every single word my father taught me, and he had taught me well.
It all came to a conclusion. Two dead bodies are better than three. I wanted to slap myself for thinking that way, but my mind was screaming at me.
“This is the truth, whether you like it or not. It’s happening, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
I forced myself to walk towards the other end of the tunnel.
I had to, I had to leave.
From slow steps, to a steady walking pace, I allowed my mind to slowly settle with the current situation. It was hard, but there is no other choice.
The cold night air helped clear my mind, yet it couldn’t take away the dull ache in my chest.
When I finally reached the end, there was a small clearing that separated me from the forest. It was the dead of night, the villagers were all asleep. It would take less than 5 seconds to pass that clearing but I hesitated. Crossing this line meant a decision that I may regret. My heart wanted to scream in sorrow, the pain was so hard to bear. But there was no other choice, I had to leave.
I ran into the forest, taking huge leaps towards it, and I kept telling myself there was no other choice. My tears have stopped, but my heart refused to grow numb to the pain.
My mother had an array of maps back at home, and I have studied some. The village after the stretch of forest is Gairon, some of them had earth-controlling powers. Whereas my village, Suyoi, was known to have strength that exceeds normal human beings. There were other villages too, but they were much further away.
After some speculations, I knew I couldn’t pass the entire forest within a night and I had to find a place to rest before continuing on my journey. I heard a wolf howl not far away, the trees towered above me, covering me in their shadows. But the moon guided me with its serene light. I managed to find a hiding spot under an old tree’s roots, where the soil had fallen away. I was small enough to fit into it and I clambered in.
“It’s getting crowded in here,” a voice called from within and I jumped.
Was it one of the villagers?
A sandy-haired lad poked his head out, he had light brown eyes, with a hint of green. He was definitely not from our village and should be a few years older than me.
“Sorry, could I stay for the night? I’ll continue my journey tomorrow,” I asked softly, not daring to look him eye-to-eye. It was a habit I had since I was young, I was the cursed child, and no one would want me to look them in the eyes.
“That mark on your chest,” he climbed out of the hiding spot swiftly, he obviously does this often. He was around 6 feet tall, with a lean figure.
My eyes widened, I didn’t notice that a button had gave way. I quickly covered the mark with my hand and started to back away.
“Legends say the person with that mark will bring downfall to the Sovereign,” the lad shrugged.
“And we all want to bring down the Sovereign,” his eyes were on mine.
“You can stay here for the night,” he answered, and I let out a sigh of relief.
“Thank you, though I’m not sure if I understood what you just said,” I looked at my toes.
“Clamber in, girl,” the lad gestured. I clambered in, it was more spacious than I thought, and this guy had a small food storage in it.
“My name is Terron, I’m from Gairon, what is your name?” he climbed in after me.
“I-I’m Seraphina,” I answered.
“Why won’t you look at me? Am I that hideous?” I could hear the grin in his voice.
“They said I-I’m cursed, I’m not supposed to look at other people’s eyes,” I stammered.
In a blurred motion, he had placed his hand under my chin. He tipped my head up gently and all I could see were his olive green eyes.
“You have beautiful eyes, and you are definitely not cursed,” he smiled. “See? I didn’t die or turn into stone you know,” he shrugged again.
I didn’t feel very comfortable with what he just did, was he trying to be charming? His cheerful expression changed into something much more serious in an instant.
“The Sovereign is after you and your family. They are currently at Gairon, they will reach your village tomorrow afternoon, and I will suggest you stay here for now.”
The last sentence wasn’t necessary.
“I know… my parents asked me to run…” my heart ached at the thought.
The lad fell silent for a moment, then he squeezed my shoulder reassuringly.
“Your parents made the right choice.”
I must look like a sad puppy.
“Because we believe that you, little girl, will overthrow the Sovereign one day.”
I don’t understand. I am powerless and the Sovereign is the corrupted, ruling government, I definitely won’t be able to do that.
Before I could answer, a head poked through the hole and I nearly let out a scream in shock.
The creature had a head that looked like a giant dog, its canines large enough to kill a human. Its rounded ears turned in attention, its fur was of the color of mud, a brown with a yellowish hue. Though its eyes were emerald green in contrast.
“Sorry for the sudden entrance, this is Land, he’s my friend, he’s a hellhound,” Terron patted my back, looking apologetic as he tried to calm me down.
The creature cocked his head to a side, looking as apologetic as its master. Land was too big to fit in, so he obediently stayed outside.
As things quieted down, I realized I was utterly exhausted.
Terron seemed to know and he told me to rest. And so I did, but this time, I didn’t have my family’s presence with me, the bitterness in my heart spread and tears stung my eyes. I grabbed my father’s necklace, it was an egg-shaped amber with a bronze base and had strings tied around it. I held it tightly in my small hands. It seemed to radiate the presence of him and my mother.
Memories replaced my nightmares tonight.
“The Sovereign rules from their high thrones. They are people who have utmost power, they are rich and corrupted, like a parasite they manifest on us normal people, and we are their slaves, to work endlessly for their good and not ours. The Sovereign’s high officers also have very powerful elemental powers, their most powerful magicians and warriors mainly uses the power of Ice, but there are also other powerful elemental wielders among them. Although the Sovereign is cruel and inhumane to its people, they shower their warriors with luxury. Anyone who fights for them will be rewarded handsomely, so many warriors train as hard as they can to reach their ranks, and many maidens dream of marrying into a Sovereign warrior’s family. But we, the normal people hate them to our very cores, they treat us as mere tools because we don’t have any significant powers. These days, there have been rumors of a rebellion schemed to overthrow the Sovereign, but till now none have stood up, there had been no real news, but only rumors,” My dad had told me before, stories to help me sleep.
“Would you be happy if the Sovereign was overthrown? Will it bring peace?” I asked innocently.
“Of course! We’ll all be happy, we wouldn’t live such hard lives if not for them. It would be a time of peace and happiness if they were overthrown, but no one would dare to stand up against their ice mages and warriors, they are corrupted yes, but not weak. And legends say that one day, one of fire, one of the Eshban will bring them down, we shall hope for that day yes?” he chuckled and tousled my hair.
I fell asleep as tears gently slid down my face.
I was woken up by a booming sound. It was around noon and Terron was nowhere in sight.
“Seraphina Monard,” the voice boomed and I froze in my seat.
Land poked its head into the hole, its ears sharp and listening.
“You are given time until the night comes, to surrender yourself to the Sovereign,” the voice paused.
“Or we will have a delightful time getting rid of your parents.”
It sent chills throughout my body and I shivered uncontrollably.
They’re here, they’re really here to take away my parents.
It isn’t a dream.
They’re going to kill my parents if I do not surrender myself.
I looked helplessly at the hellhound, scrambling up to peek out of my hiding spot, wiping soil away from my face. The trees swayed gently in the wind, Terron was not outside, did he return to his village?
A surge of panic struck me, would he be part of the Sovereign? Will he bring them to me and capture me? Would it be alright to trust this stranger? I sat back down, not knowing what to do.
I simply grabbed an apple from my small inventory, it was my favorite fruit, and my mum would often go through the hassle to get some for me.
I was in a dilemma. What should I do now?
Land was still looking at me, his head at a side, seemingly waiting for an order.
“Can you help me find a place in the woods where I can oversee the village? Will you be able to do that?” I asked softly, patting his head.
He nudged my shoulder, a sign of support, nodded and ran off. He seemed to understand what I asked for.
As I chewed on my apple, I tried my best to not cry, and to remain calm.
I was still sane enough to know that I cannot turn back. I sighed and buried my face in my hands.
Hours passed, and I couldn’t figure out a plan.
As I starred helplessly at the ceiling of soil, I could only question my existence, the very existence that would be the death of the people I love.
I heard something outside and Land’s head came into sight. He nudged my shoulder again, pointing towards a direction.
“Did you find a good spot?” I asked, tickling his chin and rubbing his head as gratitude.
“Yes, I did,” he answered, he sounded amused. I stared at him for a second and yelped in surprise.
“Wait, you- you can talk?”
“Duh, I’m a hellhound, not a normal dog,” Land replied, rolling his eyes. He sounded like a frustrated mother. “Now shall we go?” he eyed me.
I calmed myself down and clambered out of my hiding spot.