Two Children, An Enchanter, and Three Horsemen; Chapter 18

Fiction By Teal // 5/15/2009

Chapter 18

The trail down Gilgar Mountain was harsh and treacherous. Sharp thorn-bushes on either side of the path were bothersome obstacles, but often there were walls of immense rock in the midst of the path that caused travelers great difficulty. Ciris were birds with feathers the hue of leaping flames. Especially aggressive after the laying of their fiery eggs, these birds were known to waylay and accost travelers. The ferocious-tempered Ciris dwelt in the crevices of boulders and dove from their nests at approaching pilgrims, inflicting great harm—especially in the region of the face and neck.
Andrija gritted her teeth and removed a thorn from the palm of her hand, bringing a spot of red blood. She winced and turned to Will. “We are almost at the end of the path…maybe a quarter of a mile to go at the most.”
“Good. This place is sinister,” muttered Will, glancing around uneasily.
They stumbled on, dodging overhanging thorn branches. The sun shone full overhead. The heat was intense, and perspiration stood out on their foreheads. Will brushed back his damp fair hair as they mounted a ridge. “Look! A village down a few feet!”
At that moment there was a sound of fluttering wings and an inhuman shriek. Hearts beating wildly, the boy and older girl swung about, facing a great scarlet bird that was bearing down fast upon them.
Andrija shielded her face with her hands and Will tore a switch from the thorn bush nearby and brandished it threateningly. The bird squawked and dove, slicing Will’s lower arm with its razor-sharp talons.
Will grimaced and slashed madly at the fierce creature. It screeched once more and withdrew to a branch, where it studied them with its scarlet eyes for a few moments. Then, apparently making up its mind, it dove at them, talons outstretched.
Andrija ducked and it passed millimeters above her head. Will swiped at it once more, but missed. The bird hovered over their heads.
“What’s wrong with this thing?” shouted Will.
“It is a Ciris, a very violent bird,” answered Andrija, flinging herself to the ground, with her hands over her ears as the bird tried a third attack.
“I can see that,” Will remarked dryly, eying the bleeding slash on his right arm.
“We must be very close to her nest,” called the older girl.
The bird squawked suddenly, louder than it had before, and its wings stiffened, then relaxed. Its eyes clouded and limply, the Ciris fell to the dusty path where it collapsed in a scarlet heap.
Will stepped carefully towards it and then blinked in astonishment. “Someone shot it with a bow and arrow!”
There was a rustle in the thorn-bushes behind them, and they whirled about to see a very small figure clad in a coarse brown covering. The child threw off the skin coat with a flourish. “Greetin’s travelers!”
“Why…hello,” stuttered Will, then aside to Andrija, “I think she is some sort of peasant.”
The peasant child smiled cordially at the two, her brown hair cropped close by her ears. Her rich, limpid violet eyes glowed with youth and vigor, and in her childish but seemingly capable hands she held a miniature bow, with a sack of arrows slung jauntily over her shoulder.
“Hello, child,” Andrija said kindly. “Who are you, and why are you here alone?”
“I’m Casia, ma’am,” said the child, “and I is huntin’.”
“For what, Casia?”
Casia shrugged nonchalantly. “Birds, eggs, rabbits...whatever we’se can eat. I brings it home to my family who live down inna village there.”
She pointed over her shoulder. “Sometimes all I can find is lizards.” She grimaced. “I sure don’t like lizards. They have such a slimy taste about ‘em, you know? But my mamma says that we shou’d be thankful fer ever’thin we have for supper—even if it isn’t especially appetizin’.”
Casia’s small face lit up at once. “But lookee there! Wasn’t that a fine hit?” She pointed to the dead Ciris bird. “Mamma and Faiher will be ever so pleased.”
Andrija’s brow wrinkled and she looked at the ground sadly. “But Casia dear… I am sure that the bird had young. And now, they will die without their mother to feed them.”
Casia blinked. “Never thought ‘bout that.” Her face crinkled in thought. “Well, well. Never did think none ‘bout that ever. Wonder if any o’ the lizardses I caught had lil childrens home. I guess I’ll just tell my mamma ‘bout that. Then I won’t never have to eat lizard soup again.”
Will suppressed a grin.
Casia suddenly looked up. “I know, Ma’am!”
“Yes, child?”
“I thinks I knows where the nest is, I spied it on my way up the mountain. Foller me!”
Andrija gestured for Will to join her. The child threw the skin covering over herself once more then made her way through the brambles. A few moments later, they reached a great boulder. The child scrambled up to the top, disappeared in a huge nook and then reappeared a moment later with her hands cupped around something.
Her eyes were wide with excitement. “There was just one of them, Ma’am, but I saved it! I saved it all right!”
Slowly, she opened her hands a bit so that Will and Andrija could peek in. Perched on the palm of Casia’s pudgy hands was a tiny, brilliant red ball of fluff with beady black eyes and a curved yellow beak. It blinked a few times, then chirped. It was the most adorable thing Will had ever set eyes on. His boyish heart flopped. He gazed into the sparkling eyes with a look akin to awe.
“It’s…beautiful,” he whispered reverently.
Andrija was more practical. “How do we know that this is the right nest?”
Casia shrugged, “Do ya think that the mamma bird would ‘llow us within five feet of this rock? Na! The mamma bird is the one that I shot, or else she’d be right here, screaming her head off and rippin’ like fury.”
Will nodded. “We can’t just let this little innocent creature die of starvation, Andrija! We should adopt it.”
Andrija rolled her eyes. “Oh Will… we are already in the midst of the greatest danger of our lives, and the last thing we need is an animal to impede our every step.”
“He won’t be a bother at all!” argued Will. “Just look how adorable he is. The poor little fellow, with no one in the world to take care of him…”
Andrija’s heart softened. “Well…”
“Please Andrija?”
“Alright. But the minute that bird starts getting aggressive or vicious, he is gone. Do you understand me?”
“Thanks Andrija! But he won’t ever be mean.” Will reached for the tiny creature and placed it gently on his palm, where it sat regarding him, chirping piteously all the while. “Poor little guy! He must be hungry. What do little fellows like him eat anyway, Casia?”
Casia smiled. “We’ve gotta special food for Ciris birds that we put inna our traps. Ciris bird meat is a delicacy where I lives. Come down to the village with me, and I can give you some.”
“Sounds fine with me,” Will exclaimed joyfully, cradling the little downy red chick gently in his hands.
It was a half hour after noon when the travelers reached the village at the base of Gilgar Mountain. When they came around the bend of the path, it lay in full view beneath them.

* * *

Matrim strode steadily and confidently through the narrow, winding, filthy streets of the city, dragging Jane behind him. The fumes rising around them caused Jane to choke and retch until Matrim turned towards her. He saw her pale face and stopped for a moment so that she could catch her breath. Then, they continued on. It was a horrible place. Beggars hobbled about the streets whining in singsong monotony, intoxicated figures swayed aimlessly.
The two turned into an alley that led up a steep brick-paved road. In a few moments, they had reached great black gates. At the mere sight of the black-clad lad before Jane, the soldiers clanked to attention, their eyes vacant, their arms stiff at their sides.
The Enchanter’s own palace stretched before them—vast, shapeless, and terribly black. Soldiers paced before every door, but Matrim seemed at ease, swinging his arms a bit as he marched through the great wooden entryway. The inside of the palace glittered with scarlet rubies and dark obsidian. Chandeliers hung from ropes of gold, and noblemen stalked about with black sabers tucked in scarlet belts. Matrim marched down crowded passageways and down dark corridors.
Jane heard the sound of high-pitched, feminine giggles around the corner. As they rounded the bend, Jane blinked. Three tall, willowy girls lounged on divans, drinking out of silver goblets encrusted with gems. They were very beautiful, dressed in shimmering gowns of grey and black and red. Ruby-specked coronets were immersed in their torrents of curled, shining, dark hair. At the sight of Matrim, they blushed and fluttered their thick eyelashes.
“I was so very worried about you, darling,” murmured the girl in gray, wrinkling her clear and unblemished brow.
The second smiled coyly. “It has been so very long since we saw you last. Two months, perhaps? You really must tell us all you have been up to, Matrim…”
“Ah! How tall you are. You are no longer the boy playmate I once knew,” sighed the third, rising languidly to her feet, and adjusting the folds of her magnificent scarlet dress.
Matrim smiled wryly, looking a bit discomfited. “Ehmm…yes. Later I shall tell you all of my adventures. But I have important business to attend to. I will speak to you later. Goodbye Carina, Almae, Layleh.”
The girl in scarlet, Layleh, caught sight of Jane. She sniffed and fluttered a white hand before her offended nose. “… and may I ask what is that repulsive creature?”
Matrim’s face reddened, and his jaw grew taught, but he took a deep breath and faced her. “This is a prisoner whom I am taking to the Dungeon,” he told her coolly. “I must go now.”
The girl in gray sighed dismally. “You really are too cruel… But go. If you must.”
Matrim took his leave of them quickly. “Who were they?” whispered Jane.
“The daughters of the Chancellor—the advisor of the Enchanter. We grew up together as children, but…they have greatly changed. As have I. We no longer are very good friends, for our views on life greatly differ,” he spoke as if to himself.
Jane shivered. They were descending slippery steps down into the dismal interior of the Dungeon.

Comments

Again, great chapter!

Keep it up, Teal! I'm so interested in this story!

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"Give the password," said the chief soldier.
"This is my password," said the King as he drew his sword. " 'The light is dawning; the lie broken'. Now guard thee, miscreant, for I am Tirian of Narnia!" --

Laura Elizabeth | Sun, 05/17/2009

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The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

Ya see? Matrim is and will

Ya see? Matrim is and will always be good.

It seems that purple cows
Are on every person's sig.
But I refuse to join the game
Oh wait, I already did!

Keri | Tue, 05/19/2009

Eeeeck! You've got me

Eeeeck! You've got me dancing on pins and needles!!! Please post more soon! Oh yeah, can I join the Society For Matrim's Defense? Although I have a horrible feeling about him. It's always the character I like who dies (like Boromir) or turns evil (like Murtagh). Rather unfair, huh?
Anyway, excellent chapter, please post soon!
Heather

Anonymous | Wed, 05/20/2009

Och!

How could you end there? I mean, "... descending slippery steps down into the dismal interior of the Dungeon." It doesn't get much more creepy than that. Oh, and you still have me terribly confused about Matrim **walks over to lunch still shaking her head**
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"Yes, words are useless! Gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble! Too much of it, darling, too much! That is why I show you my work! That is why you are here!" --Edna Mode (the Incredibles)

Ariel | Mon, 05/25/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Oooh, cool. Hey, I stop

Oooh, cool. Hey, I stop looking for a couple weeks and all of a sudden you've posted two new chapters! Yeah, Heather, you can join. All are welcome in this highly sophisticated club.

"California", he said, "is a beautiful wild kid on heroin, high as a kite and thinking she's on top of the world, not knowing that she's dying, not believing it even when you show her the marks." - Motorcycle Boy, from S.E. Hinton's 'Rumble Fish"

Bridget | Tue, 05/26/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

How come I never read this before???

How come I never read this before??? I was so into this story, and then I never read these new chapters! I think I was just being lazy:):):) This chapter kind of gave me the creeps! I really liked it! The little red chick was soooo cute!!! I liked it! I know now that I was missing out when I didn't read this new chapter!!!
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"Are you sure this water is sanitary? It looks questionable to me! But what about bacteria?"--Tantor the elephant from Tarzan.

Kendra | Wed, 06/03/2009

<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\
"Are you sure this water is sanitary? It looks questionable to me! But what about bacteria?"--Tantor the elephant from Tarzan.

I'm not sure if you should

I'm not sure if you should repost it, because I don't think any of the new stuff is getting posted. But I see you've already done it. You know, if you register at the message board you can post stuff there. I'm going to email Brianna and Ben and see if they'll come fix this site.

"It is man's inherent nature to scare himself silly for no good reason." - Calvin and Hobbes

Bridget | Sat, 06/13/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya