Chapter 5 - Bond
The journey was longer than I expected and also far more enjoyable than what Terron had said.
The scenery was breathtaking, we got to see the sun set down as we climbed Mount Sigmora. Terron said the witch stayed on the peak of the mountain, her name is Helia and she was also known as the All-Seeing Witch.
It was much harder for the hounds as they needed to climb, there was no path carved into the mountain and they could only scale the rocky surfaces. The mountain surface was quite a disaster, with sharp rocks jutting out at some places. These rocks had surfaces that were wide enough for the hounds to steady themselves on, but they had really huge distances between them.
I also realized that it was actually a very dangerous climb, one mistake and we would fall to our deaths. Though both Land and Shiki seemed to be very experienced in climbing.
I patted Shiki every now and then, to make sure he was hydrated and not too tired. He didn’t seem to be fazed by the heat from the afternoon sun, the tough climb seemed easy for him as we gradually overtook Land and Terron.
“Oi you bastard!” Terron had scolded in annoyance.
Shiki grinned, I guess he knew the way.
“Bones rusty, brother?” he called back.
Land hurled some more insults back and Shiki’s grin widened, his bushy tail swayed in amusement.
“You guys seem to be really good friends,” I said to Shiki as he leaped gracefully onto another rock.
“Yes we are, or he wouldn’t have approached me for help,” Shiki replied. His breath was ragged but controlled, I could hear Land’s ridiculous draws of breaths not far behind us. “And plus, not every regular hound can climb this mountain.”
“You make yourself sound really scary you know,” I pursed my lips.
“Oh you don’t know how scary I can be, girl,” he chuckled.
As we ascended the mountain, the air grew thinner and breathing became rather difficult. The winds were also getting stronger, throwing my hair into my face.
“Are you alright, do you need me to slow down?” Shiki asked softly, stopping for a moment to check on me.
I like how the purple magenta sunset reflected in his amber gold eyes.
“I think I’ll get used to it, it’s alright, don’t let me slow you down,” I told him as I picked hair out of my mouth, “Thank you for asking,” I smiled awkwardly at him. He had a hint of a smile on his face, and he seemed to be enjoying the journey himself.
Shiki offered Land to rest, but he didn’t want to.
“If you don’t rest, you’ll take up more time you know,” Shiki sighed.
“Oh hell no!” Land was furious though he was obviously tired.
“Girl, get some food out of the pouch and fill yourself, we’ll reach slightly later than expected since this idiot wants to try and beat me,” he turned back to me and said helplessly.
“Do you want an apple?” I asked, reaching for my pouch. “It’s my favorite fruit, my mum used to get them for me all the time,” I held one to his mouth. He bit the side gently, and only moved on to eating it after I took my hand away from his fangs.
Gentle beast he is, I appreciated it very much.
Eventually, Land gave up and rested for around half an hour or so below us.
Night fell and the darkness makes the climb even more dangerous. Shiki had to wait for Land to be only a rock below him before he continued.
Shiki said his powers were darkness, so I assumed he could see as clearly in the dark. He stopped talking for a while, and focused on his leaps and also on Land’s movements.
“Am I heavy?” I asked to break the silence. He almost burst out laughing.
“No, you’re nearly weightless girl, you should eat more.”
“We’re almost there,” Terron called from below, he sounded breathless.
I should thank him for helping me, he didn’t need to.
“Too naïve girl,” Shiki said suddenly.
“You can read my mind?” I asked, surprised.
“You’re really easy to read with all that darkness in your heart,” he said softly. “I read darkness like a book.” He jumped onto another ledge. I could see that we were reaching the top soon.
“That lad has a purpose, he wants you to lead the rebellion that no one dares to start,” Shiki growled, keeping his voice low enough to keep his words out of the duo’s earshot.
“I don’t think I’m powerful enough to do that,” I doubted myself the exact moment that sentence came out of my mouth.
I have seen the destruction that I have caused.
And I knew deep down, the Eshban inside me wanted to wreak havoc across the land, she wanted to destroy.
“You have great power, girl,” he glanced at me as he spoke, and I noticed a small glowing golden mark that spiraled on his forehead.
“You want revenge on your parents, the Eshban in you wants to wreak havoc across the land and make the Sovereign pay for what they have done. But your thoughts differ from the other entity within you. I understand that feeling well. But even with all these thoughts, you need to figure out what you want,” he paused, glancing back to check on Land.
That was good advice, despite the fact that he just read my mind.
“We all have our own demons – and life is all about conquering them.”
With one last leap, we reached the peak of the mountain. Shiki moved aside to make way for Land and he landed with a crash. He sprawled on the mountain like he lost his soul and Terron grimaced at the rough landing.
“You bring her to Helia, I can’t move,” Land croaked.
Shiki scoffed and turned away, leaving the pair alone. The howling wind was deafening but at least I could see more with the moon’s light.
“You have something on your forehead,” I muttered softly.
“It’s just my Drakath mark, they glow when I use my powers. It’s like the mark on your chest, except mine’s on my forehead. You don’t need to worry about it,” he explained.
He was using his powers? To see through the darkness I suppose, and to read my mind.
Hmm, I wonder if my mark glows when I use my powers too.
Shiki moved with lethal grace, like a predator hunting for prey. His large paws, that were as big as my head didn’t make any sound on the rocky surface, I don’t remember Land’s movements being this quiet. He was focused on his surroundings, sensing anything that might be of danger as we proceeded through the large boulders. I saw a warm light not far away, and knew that we have reached our destination.
“We’re here,” Shiki announced as he stepped onto the clearing.
I got to see Helia’s cottage clearly, it was built from stone, but I sensed fire within it, probably a fire place to keep her warm. The knocker on the wooden door was a hand with an eye on its back. It seemed to stare at me constantly but I ignored it. Overall, it looked really cozy for a witch, I expected a cave of some sort.
The moment we got closer, the door opened.
“I was expecting you, Shiki,” Helia had quite a high-pitched voice, toned down by excessive smoking.
The woman that emerged from the doorway had long dirty blonde hair and pale skin, with tattoos lining up her left arm. Her eyes were steel grey, and her complexion was serene. She was tall and skinny, probably even skinnier than me. Her bony hands had a pair of silver bangles that seemed too large for her.
Shiki nodded in greeting and I clambered down slowly from his back to greet the witch.
“Greetings, Seraphina,” her cold eyes bore into me, guess I didn’t need to introduce myself. “What a surprise to see one of fire emerge again in this era,” she took my hands into hers. Her cold bony fingers wrapped around my wrist and I shivered. My hands shook slightly in the cold wind and the butterflies in my stomach didn’t help.
“You’re scaring her,” Shiki’s deep voice sounded right behind me. His presence eases me for some reason. Helia laughed and let go of my hands.
“She has much to learn, I will need a lot of time to train this girl of fire,” she smiled a toothy smile. Her teeth were yellow, probably caused by excessive smoking. “You will need to rest first, and we will start tomorrow,” she gestured for me to enter her cottage.
I looked back at Shiki, his warm amber eyes met mine.
“Are you coming in with me?” I asked softly, letting the wind scatter my words.
“I don’t think I can fit through that door,” Shiki sounded amused.
“Oh my, how inconsiderate of me,” Helia grinned at him.
With a wave of her hand, the doorway arched and the stones that formed the house broke themselves down to form a wider opening.
“My thanks,” Shiki nodded in gratitude as he stepped through the doorway.
Helia’s home was quite spacious, so the hellhound had no trouble moving around, though her furniture sometimes get in the way.
“I can sleep in the living room, on the floor,” he said to Helia.
“Wonderful, I’ll show the girl to her room then,” she gestured for me to follow her up the spiral staircase. The stone steps seemed to levitate in the air with nothing underneath to support them. I hesitated for a moment and tested my weight on the first step, they were surprisingly steady and I quickly followed in Helia’s footsteps.
There were no lights on the second floor and I noticed it was quite bare, I was led to a simple room with a small window, a bed and a dressing mirror.
“Make yourself at home,” Helia had said before closing the door.
As I sat down on the bed, I noticed there was a pile of clothes folded neatly beside me. Helia was already expecting me, and she was kind enough to make preparations. The All-Seeing Witch lived up to her name.
For some reason I didn’t miss home.
Home felt like home because of my parents, and they were gone.
I fished a set of pajamas out from the pile of clothes and changed into them. As I lay down on the bed. I wondered what Helia’s power was. To manipulate stone probably, since she’s living on top of a mountain and has a house made of boulders.
The pillow was hard, guess no one has been in this room for some time. I stared at the ceiling, I was sure Land and Terron were going to be fine.
I tossed and turned, changing positions, yearning for sleep’s embrace.
At the brink of sleep, my nightmares will come, of my flames and of my parents mostly, I would force myself awake to chase them away.
After several times I grew tired of it, I grabbed my blanket and opened the door.
I descended the stairway and I saw Shiki curled up in front of the fireplace, his bushy tail laid in front of him. He was asleep as I tip-toed up to him. I wondered if he would mind if I stayed here with him. I stood there, not knowing what to do, until I noticed he had an eye open.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked, his voice soft.
“Y-Yeah,” I stammered.
He unraveled his tail, opening up the space in front of him.
“Thank you,” I whispered as I hurried over to him.
As I pulled my blanket onto myself, Shiki’s extended a paw and pushed me closer to him.
“You’re going to get burn-” he stopped, realizing his mistake and rolled his eyes.
I smiled silently, he was really warm.
I tried to sleep. His calming presence definitely made it easier, but it wasn’t enough to keep my nightmares at bay.
Flames were everywhere, and I could see a man with graying hair in the midst of the flames with a smoking pipe in his hand. He had crimson eyes with a hint of brown, they were warm and gentle and it reminded me of my father instantly.
He was looking in the distance, scratching his thick beard, seemingly waiting for someone.
He took a puff on his pipe and exhaled the smoke slowly. His clothes were battered and worn out, I noticed a bright red tattered cloak trailing behind him. A badge sat in front of his heart, I recognized the mark instantly. The mark of the Eshban, the very same mark on my chest.
His eyes turned to me, and I stood there not knowing what to do. He smiled at me knowingly and placed his left arm onto his chest, a ruby ring glistened on his finger. I knew that was a very old form of salutation.
He nodded at me kindly before turning his gaze back to the distance.
“Use your powers wisely, my heir and my avenger,”
He disappeared, leaving the inferno behind as they surrounded me. His flames were kind and gentle, their aura peaceful and understanding.
“These are not my flames anymore, these are your flames, my dear.”
Gradually, I fell into deep sleep.