Beasts of the Four Kingdoms: Omens
IT TOOK HIM THE REST OF THE DAY to get to the border of the hunting territory. He scavenged for berries and holly trees before dark and gorged down roasted squirrel. He made a bed out of fallen willow branches and a bed of mossy rocks. Cad thought he wouldn’t be able to sleep until his eyes gave away out of weariness.
But he had dreams, dark, fearful dreams. Dreams Aria, screaming as Dragonites came and set fire to their village. A fast scene of Beck, lying in the leaves at the roots of the ash tree… the sharp stab of him stealing his master’s sword and then, he saw it.
A man, dressed in black and green, held his hand in the air, erupting the village in flames. Then, the man revolved and all you could see was his icy blue eyes.
Cad gasped and opened his eyes, sweat pouring on his face. He had been digging his fingers into the mossy rocks so much that he could feel the rock underneath. He pulled his fingers out, crossed his arms over his knees, bent his head and cried.
When he thought he was finished he would open his eyes and then see Beck dead or the village of Nora burned and start all over again. He tried not to think of friends, family, villages or anything that was normal. What is anything that isn’t normal? And then Cad remembered: what had he told Beck that time in the woods?
“The Almighty is all Great and all Powerful. Nothing can come against Him...”
Cad breathed slowly and then swallowed. He stared at the moon for a moment and whispered. “Almighty One… I call out to You for guidance. You know how your people have been oppressed by our King and the invaders from Sea. These Dragonites, they’ve—” Cad sniffed and rub a wet tear from his eye “—they’ve destroyed homes, murdered others, stolen, robbed and raided towns and villages. And they… they killed my friend, Almighty. They killed Beck. And You didn’t do anything to help!” Cad could feel his anger rising and his teeth beginning to clench.
“You let them come. You let them set fire to my village. You let those foul creatures murder Beck and take Aria! What kind of person are you? You murderer!”
Cad gasped, as if all the air in his lungs where sucked out of him. He waited to catch his breath, thinking over what he’d just said. What is wrong with me? Do I really think He’ll actually reply? What if Taron was right.
“Maybe the Almighty is dead.”
Cad looked up at the night sky and watched as the stars sparkled and seemed to wink at one another, as if to talk in a secret code. Reminding him of this, Cad picked the sword up and removed it from its scabbard and examined the lettering on its blade. Cad ran his hand against the cold, smooth sword. The blade was so clean that he could see his reflection. Even in the darkness, Cad could see his facial features
Boy, am I a mess, Cad concluded. He ran his finger through his dark hair and rubbed his soiled face with the gauntlet of his arm. He was looked at the mirrored sky behind him , threw his head up and gasped in astonishment.
The night sky was lit up with colors like Cad had never seen: emerald, ruby and sapphire painted the sky as if a hand was guiding it along a canvas. The heavens sparkled as they danced about in joyful; their sounds of merriment seemed to shout throughout all the land. Cad was caught in this breath taking sight that he even found himself standing and reaching out, trying to touch them. His fingertips longed to feel the colors as they moved throughout the sky.
And then, it seemed as if a loud, thundering voice roared from the heavens:
“What has thou to say? Who gave men mouth? Who makes flowers, the stars, the air or even sea? Is not I? Now hark My words! You have accused Me of bloodshed and murder. But what hath thou to say? Haven’t thou been an ungrateful wretch, a liar, a thief and a wicked soul! What hath thou to say to me?”
The ringing in Cad’s ears kept going and the loud sound pounded into his head like a hammer on ten thousand anvils. Cad clamped his hands over his ears and clenched his eyes shut, half in fear and half in horror. What would the Almighty do to him? Will I die? Is He going to kill me? Oh Almighty, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, please forgive! Please forgive me…
Cad started to cry, his hands shaking and his head spinning. He suddenly felt as if he was lifted from his feet and his when he looked up he saw he was in a hand. The hand was made out of the sky and stars. He breathed and saw that the Face was hidden in the clouds. He was sure the Almighty was going to kill him: dropping him to his death, squeezing him like an insect or maybe blowing him away as an autumn leaf.
A still small voice, sweet and soft kindly spoke. “Oh Cad. Haven’t you realized? I have forgiven you. I always have and always will as long as you ask for it. Now, I will tell you that I do grieve with you about Beck. He may have been your friend, but he was MY son. And never fear for those wicked men will pay for their deeds.” And then, the Almighty let his finger touch Cad by the forehead and said directly, “You will go through many struggles and in all you shall prevail. I AM with you.”
Cad blinked his eyes in the darkness. The forest seemed to peaceful, almost as peaceful as his soul. For some reason that he couldn’t explain, he suddenly felt that he could accept his problems. It’s as if the Almighty is with me. Why did it seem so familiar? Those words.
I AM with you…
~. . . . ~
Cad slept with no disturbance that night and woke up at the streaks of dawn, as it stretched out over the trees. He slung his quiver on his back, held his bow firmly in his right hand and hiked through the dense forest of the unknown.
~. . . .~
The forest seemed to brighten at the touch of the sun’s soft beams. Wood thrushes fluttered through the branches and the slow hedgehog lumbered along a rotten log, looking for tasty grub to eat. As Cad stepped lightly on forest leaves and twigs, he noticed strange things. A broken branch, trampled briars were scattered here and there, like it was moving. Cad stopped walking, put his hand out and felt the smooth bark of a nadika. On he stared at the gash marks that were embedded into it.
“Strange,” Cad said aloud. “What could have made this?” He squatted down and looked carefully along the tree’s base. Round scales surrounded it and along the forest floor, as if it rained from the sky. The scales were hard and cold, yet they smelled of smoke. Cad tried to decide what could have happened.
“Scales, smoke-smell and scattered,” Cad muttered. “Something that flies, has scales and smells of smoke…”
Cad pulled an arrow from his quiver, knocked it into the bowstring and aimed it high above the treetops. His breathing grew faster and faster, his eyes scanning all along the leaves. Cad felt as if his inner being was about shriek and cry out in fear.
And then he heard a screech. It was deep, it was shrill and it was loud. It shook the dying nadika, almost making Cad sway. Then, he heard a yell, a human yell.
Cad rushed toward the sound, the sounds of the beast and the man getting louder and louder. When Cad finally reached the area, he hid behind a tree and lowered his bow. He peeked from behind the tree, just like the day before with the stag. But this time, instead of a beautiful animal, a large dark jade beast flapped its wings, trying to retreat from a man swinging a battle ax. Cad almost gasped at the sight but was also happy to know he was right.
“Come at me, foul beast!” the man yelled.
The dragon roared one more time, blowing the man’s hair. With all his might the man hurled his ax at the dragon’s neck. The ax bounced flying off in the other direction, knifing itself into a tree. The dragon drew its head back and let the fiery blaze erupt from its mouth. The man somersaulted to the left, drew out a dagger and hurled it at the dragon’s snout. It hit its mark but didn’t embed deep enough.
The dragon screeched and ran its snout along the ground as to undo the blade that stuck in its scales, spinning and spinning in circles. Its tail skid along the ground and tripped the man, sending high in the air. In that split second Cad saw exactly what to do. With a swift movement, he fired an arrow at the dragon, hitting right in its wing.
“Yes!” Cad cried in triumph.
The dragon screeched one more time and tried to flap its wing away, only making it about twenty feet off the ground, but far enough that it was out of Cad’s range. Seeing that his work was done, Cad slowly eased backwards away from the leaves and bumped onto something hard.
He pulled an arrow out and was just about to knock it into his bow when he looked up and saw a massive man in front of him. Cad tried his best to swallow his fear.
Then the man said, “Where do you think you’re going, lad?” He seized Cad by his shoulder and marched him back to the creek and towards the fallen man. The man was quiet as they walked until he said, “It’s a shame your arrow saved the life of your target, assassin.”