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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holidays & Hard Decisions


Hello to my friends and readers. You are probably wondering where I have been. I know it has been a while since I posted on either of my blogs. To answer your question. I have been ill since the day after Thanksgiving. I had a severe throat virus, and then to kick me while I was down the Flu bug found me and decided to finish me off.

Anyone who has a Chronic illness knows a simple cold makes you feel like you are dying, when your system is already beaten down by illness. Recovery is a bitch. It has taken me almost a month to get to feeling back to normal. Then I get another knock down in the family arena. Now I am in the middle of making some of the hardest decisions of my life.

One bright light is that my brother who was living in Washington state, finally moved down to Texas to join the rest of the family. He and my other brother have kept me from losing my mind this last couple weeks. I don’t think I could have done it without them.

As many of you know I am the adult caregiver to my elderly, disabled mother. Although she has some severe health issues, she had been able to live on her own with home caregivers coming in to help her. This past week and half her health has diminished and now I am in the process of making the hard decision to place her in a skilled care nursing facility. She has reached the point where she needs twenty-four-hour care.

This has been hard for me to do, because I know that she doesn’t want to go. She worked in these places all her life, and she doesn’t want to end her life in one. It has reached the point though that there are no other alternatives left.

I have made the decision to put my books, and my two blogs on hold until after the New Year. I hope to return to writing once all the things, that seem to continually pull me away from my desk are handled.

I hope all my loyal readers will be patient with me because we are just getting into some interesting moments for the Cat’s Eye Gang. We are soon to find out what the Triad is, and what is in store for the gang once they find it. So, hang in there, exciting days are ahead of us.

I hope you all have a Happy Holiday. Also may the New Year bring you Bright Blessings, Laughter, and Love.



   

Monday, November 21, 2016

Discovery


Daylight was peeking through the cracks in the shuttered windows, causing sunbeams to streak across the room. One seemed aimed straight into Dominic’s face. It was a broad expanse of light, that no matter which way he turned he could not escape. Growling, he finally threw his covers back and stretched. “I guess I’ll check the fire, and start some coffee brewing.” He mumbled to himself as he got up from the floor. He glanced around the room to check on the others before going to tend the fire.

He had stirred the slumbering embers, before checking the water supply. They needed fresh water, so he grabbed the bucket and headed for the door. He quietly closed the door on the still cabin. The weather was turning colder, no matter how bright the sun might be shining. Dominic checked his weapons before disappearing down a faint trail leading to a sluggishly running stream.

Dominic took his time filling the bucket. He couldn’t help thinking back to the last couple of days. It was nice to get away and clear his mind. He finished with his chore and looked around. He sat the bucket in a safe spot, and climbed a nearby Oyroro tree. As he sat back against the thick trunk he thought about what he had witnessed the day before. What had happened to his friend? Neko was more than his friend, they had grown up together. Neko was as much his brother as Donny.

He felt conflicted. On one hand, he marveled at Neko’s improved fighting skills. On the other hand, he worried at the lack of remorse over killing those men. Neko had just moved on, not even looking back at the destruction he had wrought. Also, what was with that glowing stuff. It kinda freaked him out. When they had left home he had been so excited, but now he worried that they might never finish this quest the Queen had sent them on.

He was drawn out of his thoughts by hearing his name called, he waited to make sure he hadn’t mistaken the call. A few seconds later he heard Donny call his name. He was just getting ready to answer when Donny passed under the tree he was lounging in. “Damnation, you take the water bucket and we sit there waiting for water to make our coffee. But no, my dear little brother is off somewhere, and failing to bring back the damn bucket. And he’s not answering when I call. When I find him…” before he could finish Dom dropped down in front of him.

“What are you going to do, brother? And might I add I’m the elder twin. I was born first. I have the water, I just needed a bit to myself. A lot has happened in a short time and I just wanted some time to process it. Are the others awake then?” Dominic asked his now silent brother.

Donny watched as Dominic gathered up the water bucket. “They are slowly waking up. The young one has not unfortunately. I am really curious about what he meant about our journey.” Donny said as he began following Dom back to the cabin. “Have you noticed anything different about Neko? He just doesn’t seem himself the last few days. I know he found out who he is, and all, but this just feels like…well I can’t quite put it into words.” Here Donny just stopped talking as if he was trying to formulate his thoughts.

Dominic wanted to agree with his brother, but he was afraid to mention what he had witnessed without discussing it further with Bo. “He has had a lot laid in his lap, what with finding out he’s a prince of an ancient race. Then that thing appearing on his back. Just give him some time. He’ll be the same old Neko soon.” Dominic told his brother this, but really did he believe what he said.

Donny stopped not far from the cabin. His head cocked to the side, as if he was listening for something. Dominic had continued to walk, but when he noticed Donny wasn’t with him, turned to see what had made him stop. “What is it, bro?” He asked as he came back to Donny’s side. “Did you hear something?”

Donny seemed to snap out of a trance. “Whoa! I suddenly feel more alive than I think I have ever done. For some reason, I suddenly had this thought or picture in my mind of a lone fortress deep in the mountains. It sat on the edge of a cliff. It was as if I was there standing outside its walls. I have never had such a vision. What the hell is happening to me?” Dominic took note of the wild look in his twin’s eyes.

“Let’s return quickly. We need to tell the others what is happening.” He turned back towards the cabin, and as he did his vision sharpened. As he drew in a breath, he felt a rush of energy pulse through his veins. “I don’t know what happened to you, but you’re not alone. I just got a burst of something, and I also just had something happen to my eyes. We need to figure this out quick.” Donny nodded in agreement, and the two broke into a trot to get back to the cabin quickly.

As they ran into the clearing where the cabin sat, they found Bo and Azereus sparring. The twins drew up short to watch the swordsmen practice their fighting skills. Even though Bo was their brother, he had rarely sparred with anyone in the village. They now knew it was because he was a former Queen’s guard. There was no one in the village that shared his skill or knowledge.

It was like watching art brought to life, as the two men faced off against each other. As the twins watched it seemed like the longer the battle went, the more concise each opponent’s skill became. Some moves made with such subtlety that it was amazing that there was no blood being shed.  Neko had come to stand beside Dominic, and whispered “have you ever seen anything so beautiful, they work so perfectly in unison, yet against each other?” Dominic could only shake his head no to the question.

The fighting skills seemed not to phase CeCe in the slightest as she exited the cabin in search of her water bearers. “Really, I never saw such slow pokes. I would like to get breakfast on the table, and coffee brewing. I also need to brew some healing tea for the boy, his fever has increased.” She took the bucket from Dominic’s unresistant hands and made her way back inside.

Bo had never felt like this before. His mind was so clear, his sword strokes so precise. He felt like he could perceive Azereus’s moves before he made them. He and Az had always been well matched in skill, after all Az had taught him, but usually by now they would be tiring, and that is when the slight mistakes would happen and blood would be spilled in the tiny nicks as the blade touched too close. He felt as fresh now as when they had begun to spar.

Finally, he called for a break. As he lowered his sword, an insane urge to continue the battle tried to take hold, he was barely able to fight it down. Before he could say anything Azereus was shaking his hand as he spoke. “Good match. I have never felt so refreshed after such a long sparring session. Did you feel it? This energy? I felt like I could go on forever. I cannot believe we are so still well matched after so many years. I felt like I could anticipate your moves before you made them, it was very strange indeed.” As he finished speaking he noticed that they had gained an audience while fighting.

Bo followed Az’s gaze to where the three young men stood. “It seems we drew a crowd.” He heard Az say he headed toward his errant brother. He wanted to be angry at Dom for his disappearance, but for some reason he held his tongue. He understood too well the need to get away from time to time. He was about to tell Dom this when CeCe called from the doorway of the cabin that breakfast was ready.

Once everyone was seated around the table, and had their bowl of porridge in front of them. They made light conversation until the meal was done. Afterward they sat with their coffee and the discussion turned to the events of the day before as well as to the child on the bed. “I worry about his fever, if I cannot get it to break, we may lose him.” CeCe said looking over to the sleeping kit. “I don’t know about the rest of you but I want to know what he meant about our journey being almost over, I’m curious as hell to find out.”

Donny had been trying to keep the vision out of his mind but it just kept flashing back. Finally, he could wait no more. “I am not sure what is going on, but for some reason I keep having this vision or something of a fortress. As much I try, I just can’t shake it. It is really starting to bother me.” He was literally shaking with the feelings he was fighting. “And on top of it, I have never felt so good before. I woke up this morning and my head was clear…well except for that stupid vision. I didn’t hurt anywhere, I keep waiting for all the aches and pains to return, but so far nothing.” He just let the last words hang in the air, waiting for a response.

Everybody was just staring at him. Donny rarely spoke and when he did, it was slow and steady. He was the voice of reason amid Dominic and Neko’s craziness.  Now here he sat more animated than any of his friends or family had ever seen him. “He’s not the only one feeling some kind of energy. And I kid you not, my eyes are acting weird. On our way, here, I could see the cabin from a distance that I could never have seen so clearly before. I swear I could have shot my bow and been able to hit either one of you guys.” Dominic added into his brother conversation.

“Okay it would appear we all have been affected by what I can only think must’ve been the jewel coming to life.” Bo declared. “I too feel this energy racing through my veins, I feel like I can conquer any foe. And my fighting skills seem to have been affected in some way too.” He further added. He looked over to see Azereus nodding his head in agreement.

CeCe had gotten up and gone to check on her patient. She stood with her hand on his brow, when she spoke. “I feel no different than I did the day we started this journey, if anything I feel more tired than I have ever felt. It is taking all I have in me to care for my patient here.” She looked down at the child with a worried look upon her face. “I am offering up so many prayers to the Goddess, yet I fear they are in vain.”

As she had been speaking the guys had watched CeCe’s hand begin to glow where she touched the boy. As she had spoken, she had been stroking his forehead. The glow had gotten stronger, but she had seemed to wilt from it at the same time. Bo stood and rushed towards her when the glow engulfed the small figure on the bed. CeCe seem to fade, becoming nothing more than an outline of the person she really was. Bo caught her has she passed out.

The glow faded from the kit when the contact with CeCe had been broken as she was caught in Bo’s arms. The kit seemed stronger, and was breathing deeper. Azereus went over to check the boy’s fevered brow, only to find the fever gone. His eyes met Bo’s across the bed. “What the…” Az started.

“Hell?” Bo finished for him.




Monday, November 14, 2016

The Rescue


Neko had walked, deep in thought until he found himself outside of Caspian. The village was preternaturally quiet reminding him of Cat’s Eye on that night not so long ago. So many things had changed since he had wandered through the silent village. So many secrets learned. He wondered if there were more secrets lurking amongst those he traveled with.

He stopped to rest, and leaned back against a low crumbling wall on the outskirt. He searched the darkness for any signs of life within the burned ruins. A crack of a twig to his left made him smile. “You might as well join me, you are terrible at sneaking. I have known you were following me since I left the hut.” Dominic came out of the shadows, and came to stand beside him. “I don’t need a babysitter. Did she send you to watch after me?”

Dominic cast Neko a sideways look before turning his attention towards the village. “No, she didn’t send me. She would never do that. I came because you are my best friend, and I was worried. That was a hell of a thing to learn about yourself. Also I figured you knew I was there, I was just keeping my distance to give you some time. Do you want to talk about it?” Once again he turned his gaze towards his companion.

Neko began to shake his head no, but then he changed his mind. “Why, didn’t she tell me sooner. She has had my whole life to tell me something like this. She knew I wondered about my parents. Where I came from. Yet day after day, she kept it all to herself. Did she think I would go blabbing it all over who I was? Endanger myself in some way by her simply telling me the damned truth! I deserved to know, Goddess help me , what if something had happened to her. I would never have known any of it.” The more Neko talked about it, the louder he became, his anger sparking. His whole body transmitting a sort of electrical current as his emotions raced.

Dominic watched in fascination, as his friend began to glow with a blue nimbus around him. Just as he was about to tell him about it, a sound from the village caught both their attentions. Neko stopped in the middle of his rant. Turning towards what sounded like a skirmish. He looked at Dom and held his finger up to his lips for silence. The two began a slow advance towards the sound, the blue glow fading but still visible around Neko’s form.

The two crept as quietly as they could while walking over the charred remains of what had once been a prosperous village. The sound of their boots as they stepped on the charcoaled remains of furniture, and other things best not thought to closely about, was loud. Neko looked down in disgust at the alley they now found themselves in. Soot coated  them both, and the stench that arose with each step got harder to bear. The sounds of fighting had grown louder, as they had moved closer. They heard a loud plaintive cry of pain, that made them hurry down the narrow pathway.

Neko held his hand up to halt Dominic’s forward momentum as they rounded a corner to find a courtyard of sorts. In the center stood four men standing over a fifth one who lay curled in a ball on the ground in the center of their circle. They were taking turns kicking, and hitting the little one. They were laughing at his cries of pain. Dominic pulled his bow around, and reached for an arrow. Just as he drew back to send the arrow flying into one of the men. He heard a growl, and watch as the blue nimbus that had encircled his friend before grew bright once again. Neko launched himself at the nearest ruffian. Dominic forgot the arrow he had cocked, as he watched his friend become a blur. The sounds of hissing, and cries of pain were all that was heard. Well that, and Neko’s deep threatening growl.

Different colored balls of fur were flying, as Neko moved from one assailant to the next. His teeth and claws were dripping blood. He had never felt such raw power. Or such primal anger. He felt none of their blows as they fought for their lives. He showed them no mercy, they deserved none in his mind. You never attacked those weaker than yourself. And you didn’t laugh at their pain. He didn’t realize that the attackers that were still able to had gathered their fallen and retreated into the maze of the city alleyways. The last one he still held in his claws.

Dom had finally broke out of his trance of watching the beauty of his friend fight, to notice the small heap lying motionless in the ashes. He ran over, and turned the body over. He feared what he might find as he uncovered the shrouded face. He drew back at the dark visage he beheld. It was like he had stepped back in time, and was looking at a younger version of Neko. The same velvety black fur covered his features. Only this version had a nasty gash running up and across his forehead. The boy was unconscious, finally giving in to the pain of his wounds. Dom wrapped him up, thinking it would be best to further check him away from the village.

Neko had dropped the lifeless form of his final opponent, and came to stand next to Dominic. “Is he alive? Did those bastards succeed in their purpose?” He asked before squatting down to look at the face of the young kit. “We need to get out of here. The ones who got away, may bring reinforcements. Here let me carry him. You keep guard with your bow.” As he spoke Neko lifted the boy into his arms and stood. "Let’s get out of the goddess forsaken place.”

The two retreated back the way they had come. Soon they had reached the cool fresh air outside the city. Dominic led the way to a small copse of trees in which they could rest, and check further on the youth. Neko lay the small bundle down. He pulled the cloak away from the boy's body, and swore as he saw the filth encrusted clothing. “This poor child has nothing, and yet those idiots would beat him to death. Sometimes I really hate our world.” Dom came to sit across from him, and nodded.

Slowly the two examined the kit looking for broken bones, and other injuries. They found evidence of past beatings, and this one would leave him bruised and sore, but they could find no broken bones. He was almost identical to Neko, except where Neko only had one spot on his stomach that had a couple white hairs. The boy had several places where white peeked through the blackness of his fur. They both also noted that somewhere in his past, the boy had lost the tip of his right ear in what appeared to  have been fight.

Dominic looked at Neko, and then down at the boy. “Do you think we ought to make camp here, or take him to the cabin where CeCe can take a look at him? If we stay here, we are going to need to start a fire, and that may draw attention we don’t want.” Dom stood up. He waited for Neko to make a decision. He got his answer when Neko wrapped the boy back up in his cloak, and picked him up once more. “Okay, the cabin it is.” He said as he followed Neko.

“I’m worried about him. He hasn’t regained consciousness, and the longer he is out, the more I fear the head wound. We need to get him to my sister. Maybe she can get him to wake up.” Neko told Dom on their way back to Azereus’s cabin. “He also needs to be warmed and fed once he wakes up, that would be best done there.”

CeCe stood at the door watching for the return of her brother, her worry increasing as darkness began to fall. Had she totally driven him away, or would he be able to forgive her. All these questions chased around her mind, making her jump when Bo came to stand beside her. He looked over to see her hugging herself, and reached to take hold of her hand. “He’ll back. He loves you. It may take him a bit to get over his hurt feelings, but he will. Have faith in the man you raised.” He squeezed her hand as he spoke these words, and then pulled her close to wrap his arm around her shoulders. She turned into his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. She snuggled into his embrace, as she continued to stare at the tree-line waiting to see her brother walk through.

Bo felt CeCe snuggle in, and his heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t been sure if she would take his comfort, but now she was in his arms. He leaned down a smelled the sweet fragrance that was CeCe. She smelled of the flowers and herbs she used in her healing, and for some reason it always calmed him. He turned his gaze towards where she looked, and sent a silent prayer to the Goddess that Neko would return soon. His brother as well.

He was about to suggest that they go inside and get a cup of tea when a movement caught his eye. CeCe must have noticed it too. She broke from his embrace, and started heading toward it. Bo followed, but pulled his sword, just in case it wasn’t the boys. He heard CeCe’s exclamation, just as the boys broke through the bushes. Neko carrying a dark bundle. One that looked strangely like a child.

“We need to get him inside, he has been beaten. I worry that he may not make it.” Neko was saying to CeCe as they kept walking towards the cabin. Dom ran ahead and opened the door, so that Neko could carry his burden inside. “He has a head wound, but as far as I can tell no other serious injuries. He’s just a kit. Help him” Neko begged his sister as he lay the child on the bed. Donny and Az came close to see what was causing all the ruckus.

“Get back, I need better light to see.” CeCe told the assembled crowd as she set to work unwrapping the silent figure. She told Neko to bring her a basin of water so that she could cleanse the wound, and sent Dom to get her med kit out of her pack. “You said he was beaten? Beaten by whom? Where did you find him?” She interrogated Neko as she cleansed the nasty gash on the boy’s head.

Neko answered her questions, and helped with all that she did to figure out why the boy was still unconscious. While they did that, Dom grabbed Bo by the arm, and pulled him out of the cabin. Azereus followed not far behind. Curious to know what was going on. Donny had curled up in front of the fire, his ailment causing him to seek the warmth.

“What is so blasted important, Dominic? Why did you have to drag me out here? Why couldn’t what you have to say been said where it’s warm?” Bo asked as he rubbed his hands over his biceps and stomped around, trying to stay warm in the cold mountain air. HE turned and looked balefully at Dom, waiting to hear what his brother had to say.

Dom looked at Bo and then noticed Az had joined them. “Look, I just wanted to tell you what I saw when we found the kit. What happened to Neko. It was weird, and I wanted your advice. I just didn’t want to say anything in front of Neko at the moment. I think something happened to him, when the stone marked him. He was really upset earlier, and his body actually started to glow. Then we heard the fight, and when he saw the boy, I don’t know, something came over him.” Dominic took a breath and studied the two men before him.

“I have always marveled at Neko’s fighting skill, but today it was different. He moved so swiftly, it was like a blur; a blue glowing blur. It was like he was someone else, Neko has never killed before today. Today he killed without mercy. The worst part, he acts as if it didn’t matter; the life he took.” Dominic stopped finally, and waited to hear what his brother would have to say to this development.

Bo looked at Dom, and was at a loss on what to tell him. He honestly had no idea what to think. He was getting ready to speak his thoughts when Neko came to the door of the cabin. He saw them and headed their way. “Just thought I’d let you know it looks like the kit may be waking up. Oh, and CeCe said to get inside before you all catch your death out here in this weather.” He trotted back to the cabin, and disappeared back inside.

“We’ll talk about this later, for now let’s go meet our guest.” Bo told Dom as he headed for the cabin, and the warmth that awaited him there. Dominic and Az followed in his tracks. The boy was just stirring when they came in. His eyes moving wildly around, fear lighting his eyes. He sat up quickly, and reached for his head.

CeCe reached out and spoke softly, “You’re safe. We will not harm you. You have a nasty cut on your forehead, that is what your probably feeling. My name is CeCe, and these are my friends. Well, all except that one.” Here she stopped and pointed at Neko. “He’s my brother. He is the one who brought you here. He was worried about you, after your attack. What is your name? Where did you come from?” All eyes were on the boy, waiting to hear what his answers would be.

The boy who looked so much like Neko, watched the people around him. Where Neko’s eyes were a yellow-green, his were pure gold. What they didn’t realize, it wasn’t fear, he was feeling but destiny. As his gaze touched on each person in the room, he saw a flash of their future. He eyes finally came to rest on Neko. Here more than a simple flash enveloped his mind, and he reached up to hold his already aching head. “Thank you for your kindness, mistress. I was born in a place, I have little memory of. My name, the one I have always been called by anyways, is Spooks. I was searching for you when I was attacked.” He stopped speaking, and CeCe handed him a cup of her herbal tea. The rest waited for him to continue, their curiosity peaked.

Dominic as usual had no patience, and asked what he knew everybody else was wanting to know. “Why were you searching for us? How do you even now about us? What do you know about us?” he quizzed the youngster.


Spooks looked at him and smiled. “I know quite a bit about you, Master. I was sent to guide you on the final steps of your journey.” He said those simple words, handed CeCe the cup, and passed out.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Neko



In the silence of the crypt, Neko’s exclamations of pain slowed. He looked first at his sister, and then each of the men standing in a semi-circle around him. He studied the faces, and apparently whatever he saw, had him trying to see for himself what had everyone looking shocked. He was twisting and turning trying to get a look at the area that had went from burning like molten lava had been dropped in the middle of his back; to it just feeling strangely numb. “What is it? Come on, someone tell me something.”

He had finally gave up trying to see it for himself, and instead sat waiting for someone to fill him in. Come on , cat can’t have all of your tongues. What has you all so wide eyed and alarmed? You’re starting to freak me out.” He jumped off the bench and went to where Dom was standing. “Dude, tell me!” He practically growled as he shook his best friend.

It was enough to break Dom out of whatever kind of spell he had been under. “Bro, why you got to shake me like that? Do you mind. You’re messing with my pretty.” As he said that he began wiping himself off. One thing you could always count on with Dominic was that his white fur was always pristine. He absolutely hated it to be dirty. “Is it still burning?”

Neko stopped shaking Dom, and just stood looking at him for a moment like he must have lost his mind. “No, it doesn’t burn anymore. Am I yelling that it’s burning? It just feels kinda weird. You know like it’s there, but not there. Now tell me what it looks like.”

CeCe finally spoke as she came over to her brother. She ran her hand over the spot, he face lit with awe. “It’s in the exact place where your birthmark was. Only now, instead of a bare white patch of skin mixed in your fur. The spot has a design. A very vivid design.”

Neko stood waiting for her to go on, when she didn’t, he prompted her. “What is the design? Don’t just say a vivid design and not tell me what it is. Come on, Sis. That’s just mean.”

CeCe had just opened her mouth to speak when Dominic beat her. “It looks just like the jewel. The one that just came to life. Dude you have an exact duplicate on your back.” CeCe gave Dominic a look that showed her exasperation with the energetic young man.

“Yes, it looks just like the jewel. I don’t know why it happened to you, but the more I think about it, the more I think it may have to do with who you are.” Now she had everyone’s attention, well almost everyone's. Azereus didn’t seem interested. He had walked over closer to the stairwell. His attention focused on some point above. “I think it all may be linked somehow.” She had sat on a nearby bench, and pulled the stone back out of its pouch.

Neko came over to sit beside her, and held out his hand, she placed the stone in his palm. Not sure what to expect after the recent activity. The stone remained quiet. “You always said you would tell me more about myself, when I was older. I got older, and we never had that talk. I think now is as good a time as any other time. What do you think?” He gave his sister a questioning look.

CeCe was about to speak when Azereus came over, “I think we should find a new place to have this discussion. I am picking up movements coming from the stairs. We may have unwanted visitors soon. I would rather not chance it be someone after the jewel or better yet, if they recognized you Princess. Someone coming for you. We have no idea how the survivors feel about your family, so I would rather not risk you.” Azereus stood awaiting her decision.

CeCe looked toward the stairwell, and then to Neko. “Can we have this discussion once we are away from the city. Azereus is right. I do not feel safe here suddenly. We can’t let the jewel fall into the wrong hands.” She reached over and took the stone from Neko and put it back in it bag before securing it inside her vest. “Come there is a servants passage way further in the back. We can make our escape from the castle using it as well.”

In silence the group gathered their gear and followed CeCe to the far end of the hall, where a simple wooden door stood. Bo came forward and opened it. The others rushed through it, into the darkness beyond. With the meager light from the re-lit braziers to guide them , they made their way out of the castle. When they reached an old rusted gated which was padlocked, Dominic  used his knife to break it, and they filed out into a moonlit glen.

Azereus took the lead from this point, and led them through the valley. They arrived close to dawn at an old cottage that had seen better days. “We can rest here. It is my old hunting place. It needs repairs, but it should shelter us for a couple days.” He pushed open the hide that covered the door and held it while the others entered. “We’ll need to gather some wood for a fire. After which maybe we can hear what the Princess has to say to Neko.”

CeCe had went in and on seeing a bed in the back of the room , she made her way there. "Fine, go gather wood. I am going to rest while you do what needs be done.” She removed her cloak and lay it on the bed before lying down. “The sooner you stop staring at me and get to moving, the sooner my brother learns his story. Go! Get out of here.”

Dominic grabbed Neko’s arm. “Come on, dude. Let’s go find some wood, and maybe we can scrounge something up to eat as well.” Neko let him pull him out of the cabin. Bo went to have a seat at the table that sat in the middle of the room. Donny had gone over and snuggled up with CeCe. It appeared that both were already fast asleep. Azereus went over to the fireplace to see if there might be enough wood to at least start a small fire. What he found brought a smile to his face.

“We’re in luck I can get a small fire started, let’s hope the boys return soon.” He opened a small tin on top of the mantle and took out some dry kindling, placing it in the grate before laying a couple sticks on top of it. He used his flint to create a spark, as the kindling lit, he gently blew on it. When he had a flame going he fed it more sticks, and then added a log. “There, that should start to warm the dampness from the room.” He said as he joined Bo at the table.

A short time later the gang were all gathered around the table, replete from eating the nice meal CeCe had prepared with the quails Neko and Dominic had managed to scrounge up. Neko took a drink from his cup. He sat it down and asked the question that had played in his mind while hunting. “Okay, Sis. Time is up. Tell me who I am. Why would the stone mark me? Why didn’t it mark you? It belongs to you after all.” Here he stopped, and tried to reach where his birthmark had been. “It’s not like I’m anything special. I’m just me.”

Bo noticed a look pass between CeCe and Azereus. He was really getting tired of their secret looks and communication. He fought down the green monster of his jealousy with an effort. CeCe had already began speaking by the time, he had controlled himself. He tuned into the conversation in time to hear her say “You are the last of your kind.” He looked at Neko and saw the look of confusion on his face. Well at least he wasn’t the only one perplexed.

CeCe had begun her explanation after taking her own drink. “Neko, you were brought to my mother as a newborn. One of the mystics brought you. He told my mother, and those closest to her, that you were the last of your kind.” She stopped here to take another drink. “Have you ever heard of the Pantheri? Of who they were? The mystic told my mother that you were the last prince of the Pantheri. That you must survive at all cost. And the stone is actually yours. It was the only thing that was brought with you. My mother gave it to me, telling me to always keep it safe. She then adopted you as her son.”

Dominic was the one to break the awkward silence. “Dude, you’re a freakin’ prince. And I remember learning about the Pantheri from the storytellers. They say the Pantheri were legendary warriors. They were the strongest, fastest, with amazing agility. They were also said to be the most clever of warriors. My best friend is a Pantheri warrior! Dude! Can you believe it?” Here Dom punched Neko in the arm. Neko swayed a bit, a shell-shocked look upon his face.

CeCe reached across the table and patted his hand. “Are you alright? I know it’s a lot to take in.” Neko looked down at her hand, he slowly pulled his out from under hers. Without speaking he stood and walked over to the fireplace. He stared into the flames, he looked so alone at that moment. It began to sink in that even among all of them, he would always be alone. He was the last one. Never in his life had he ever felt that more than at this very moment.

“Is it true they were the original inhabitants of Cameria?” Donny asked in the silence. “I remember hearing that somewhere. That the Pantheri were here, when our ancestors arrived.” Bo looked deep in thought as he ran what Donny had asked through his memory of history. Azereus stood up and began clearing the dishes from the table. Dom had gone to stand next to the silent prince.

Bo finally spoke to no one in particular. “I think Donny may be right. The Pantheri were here first. They are the ones who introduced magic into our lives. Before coming to Cameria, our people didn’t know anything of the mystical arts, or of magic. It matters not. That was a long time ago. We need to concentrate more on the now.” He was making a bed in the corner of the cabin as he spoke the last sentence.

CeCe watched him for a moment, before yawning. “I do believe Bo has a good idea. Let’s get some sleep, and we can think about what next to do in the morning.” She walked over to Neko, but for the first time that she could remember he turned away from her. “What? Why do you turn away?” was her hurt response.

Neko didn’t give her an answer, he gathered his gear and headed for the door. “I’m going to go stand watch, we still have no idea who was in the castle. They may have followed us here.” He stated as he made his escape.


Dom gave CeCe a small hug, before whispering in her ear. “Don’t worry, he’ll come around. I’ll go keep an eye on him.” He then gathered his stuff, and then followed after Neko. As everyone settled in for the night, each lost in their own thoughts of what the revelation about Neko would mean down the line. None more so than that of the dark Pantheri prince.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Awakening


The chamber was silent, but for the sound of scurrying feet of what one could only guess might be mice. When they had fallen, those holding the small braziers had dropped them. The flames extinguished. The darkness was pervasive, wrapping around the unconscious troupe. Slowly in barely perceivable ways they began to awaken.

Donny rolled over trying to snuggle into his pillow. It was only when he realized there was no pillow, or nice comfortable mattress under his slender form, that he woke up fully in the darkness. He waited for his eyes to adapt to the lack of illumination, before reaching out to search for his family. He felt the leather of a boot, and shook it. "Wake up. Are you okay. Is everyone okay?” he queried the shadowed surroundings.

He felt the boot move, and a muffled groan. He decided he might need to examine the person closer for possible injuries. He couldn’t imagine they had all fallen, and not sustained any injuries. He worked his way to where he could see that his patient was Azereus. The guard had thrown his arm over his eyes, and continued to moan low. Donny felt the need to ask again. “Are you okay?”

Slowly Azereus removed his arm, and Donny could see a faint trickle of blood running from the man’s left temple to disappear under his eye patch. Donny looked around for one of the brazier’s so he could have better light to check Az’s wound with. He finally found one, and worked to relight it. While he had been searching, Az had moved to a sitting position, but remained holding his head.

As the light from Donny’s brazier began to reach across the cold darkness, he found where the others had fallen. They were starting to move, so he turned back to see how badly Azereus had hit his head. He pulled his pack close, and dug out his med kit. He then moved closer to the injured man. He gently touched Az ‘s arm, then waited for him to lower it to look at him. “I need to clean your wound, and see how bad it is. Is that all right with you?” He waited for Az’s answer. When he simply nodded; Donny set to work.

Not far away Bo awoke to find himself looking into a pair of bright green eyes, that were for some strange reason giving him a very nasty look. He watched as those eyes moved downward to where his hand rested. Realizing where his gaze had landed, he snatched his hand back as if burnt. No wonder CeCe had been angry. He had been fondling her breast while unconscious. “My apologies. I didn’t mean to… I mean it wasn’t my intention… it wasn’t my fault, I was knocked out.” He finally stammered out.

CeCe had a small smile on her face as she watched Bo struggle with his embarrassment, while tripping over his apologies for doing something that in reality, she had found kind of nice. To awaken with him beside her, his hand curled around her breast had for some reason felt right. Would she let him know? Not on a bet. So she just let him keep trying to make amends for what had not offended her.

“Bo, Bo.” She stopped to see if she had his attention. When he finally looked at her, she reached out and took his hand. "It’s okay, it just surprised me. Are you okay otherwise? There are a lot of things we could have fallen and gotten hurt on when we passed out. We need to check on the others, can you find another brazier, while I put the Eye back in its pouch.?” She didn’t wait to see if he had a response, but was busy putting the seemingly innocent stone away.

Bo watched her for a minute before reaching around for one of the discarded braziers, he made a funny face when his fingers found the spilled oily substance that had filled the one he found. “Damn, I found one, but it lost its contents in the fall. So unless you have some more of the oil, we won’t be able to light it.” He pulled his cloak around so that he could wipe the repulsive clinging oil from his hand.

CeCe looked up, and looked around for her pack, “I should have some in a small vial. Do you see my pack near you?” She continued to looked, and just as she heard Bo tell her didn’t see it, she found it under a bench that she had sat on as a child. “Never mind I found it,” she said, as she reached to pull it out. As she raised up she bumped her head on the cold marble. “Ouch!!” she exclaimed as she rubbed at the rising lump. “Here, look in the left side pocket.” Was all Bo heard before it was thrown his way.

Off in a corner lay the last two members of the group. Dom lay sprawled on his back, arms and legs spread wide. The interesting part was that Neko lay on top of him, well a portion of him. They both came awake at about the same moment, everyone in the chamber was made aware of their location quite quickly. “Dude!!” Dom shouted. “What the … Man, are you kidding me?” He had continued to say in a high pitched voice. The others were at a loss as to what could be so offensive to Dominic, but clearly something was.

“I didn’t, ew!! What the hell!!” Was Neko’s returned response. “Man, I am not that way, so get over yourself. And by the way just EW!!” By now Bo and CeCe had made their way over to see what the ruckus was all about, and the scene before them was quite comical. Neko had landed with his face in Dominic’s crotch. Which explained the disgust in both of their voices. “I love ya, man , just not like that.” Neko stated as he rose to his knees.

Dominic gave one of his lop-sided sardonic grins, before giving Neko his opinion. "I always knew you had a secret crush on me dude, but this was really not the time to make it known. You know I’m saving myself for Silia, and the rest of the needy woman of the world. There’s only so much of me to go around , and sorry the ladies have first dibs.” Here Dominic waggled his eyebrows at Neko, before scooting away from his scowling best friend.

“Ha, Ha. You’re so not funny. As if you have what I’m looking for. You are definitely missing a few of the finer points, that I am searching for in my future cuddle buddy.” Neko informed anyone who cared to listen. “Great Goddess, that hurts!!” he cried when he tried to stand. “What the hell! My back, it burns.” He started flapping his arms around trying to reach a spot on his back, that appeared to be just out of his reach. He began to rip at his clothing trying to get his shirt off. “Make it stop, Oh, great Goddess, make it stop.” He screamed.

CeCe and Dominic rushed towards the flailing man, trying to avoid getting hit in his desperate attempt to rid himself of his clothing. Finally Dom was able to restrain his hands, and CeCe finished removing his shredded shirt. She asked for a brazier, and Bo brought one up so that she could see. Dominic was standing looking over his shoulder, at the same time Bo and CeCe gazed at what was causing all the fuss. CeCe could only say two words, “Great Goddess.”

Dominic looked at Bo, and said what they both were thinking. “Ditto.”


Monday, October 24, 2016

The Ancient City


Dominic looked over towards Neko and shrugged, and then went over to where the ancient mystic stood waiting. The rest soon joined them and were soon perched on the benches surrounding the fire. Once Shénmi knew he had their undivided attention he began to speak.

“You may think your being brought together is a mere coincidence, but you would be mistaken. You are all joined in a way, that you will learn in time. Just let me assure you, this quest you find yourself upon was foreseen.” Here the old one stopped and looked at his enraptured audience. “You will all play a role in the future that awaits Cameria.”

Bo studied the cryptic old man, before speaking what he was sure the others were thinking. “Are you delusional? How can the six of us be some mysteriously foretold group? Where is this written? I have never heard of such a prophecy.” He looked at his compatriots to see them nodding in agreement.

Shénmi just stood there with a serene smile on his face, his eyes distant. Just as the group was getting anxious, he finally seemed to choose to remember he had been speaking to them.”Worry not, you all have roles to fulfill and soon they will become known to you. Just remember what is your strength becomes your role. Now we must get you made ready to continue your adventure.” As he said this he motioned to two acolytes, who left the room.

Neko stood and walked over to the enigmatic elder. “What are these roles? Can you at least give us a hint? What if whatever happens, and like we miss it because we didn’t know what we were looking for? You have to give us more than a few mysterious phrases, and then send us away.” He stood like a giant looking down at a miniature gnome. The ancient merely looked up at him, and calmly motioned for them to walk towards the arched entrance in the opposite direction from where they had come in.

Neko gave him an evil glare as he made his way past him, followed by the rest of gang. They entered a long hall which was lit by what appeared to be floating amber globes of light. At the opposite end stood an opening that appeared dark and foreboding. Neko reached for his sister’s hand without even realizing it.

CeCe felt the brush of velvet as her brother’s much larger hand nestled within her own. It was such a natural gesture that he had done since he was a baby. Her anxiety calmed with the connection, and she looked ahead trying to figure out what might lay beyond the darkened doorway.

When they reached the end of the hallway, they realized what they had thought was dark and foreboding was actually a portal that led outside. Only the view outside the aperture was not that of the camp or the forest. They stood gazing at snow covered mountains, at a faint road in the distance that disappeared between two solid walls of rock. They all stood with some sort of look of either puzzlement or shock upon their faces. As a whole, they focused on the ancient mystic.

Shénmei gestured for the acolytes to return the groups' weapons and other belongings.Once they were all armed, he had the helpers give them the parcels he had sent them to prepare. “Within you will find food, medicinals,as well as some warmer clothes for the colder climate you are entering.” He went to stand in front of the opening, and as he said some words in an ancient language it clouded over in a plum-colored haze. He then waved his hand as if to fan the haze away and once more they could see clearly out into the mountains.

He moved to the side, getting ready to let them exit when he held up his hand. They stopped their forward movement and waited for him to enlighten them further. “I almost forgot that which you seek, shall be found only once you hold the heart that beats for our people, and the eye that sees within.” He then motioned them to exit into the awaiting world. When the last of them had crossed the threshold, they turned to ask what he had meant to find that all that was behind them was the path on which they now stood.

Donny looked around and scratched his head. “Um, does anyone have any idea where the heck we are?” He waited for someone to give him an answer to his question. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I prefer not to be lost out in the middle of some mountains, without at least an idea which way we should go.”

Azereus had been wandering around to get a better idea of the direction they were in from studying the way the shadows fell around them. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he knew where they were. He walked over to where CeCe and Neko stood, Neko was digging in his pack looking for something. Watching the young one, he asked CeCe “Does any of this look or feel familiar to you? I feel like I know where I am, but I’m still not certain.” CeCe lifted her eyes to study the trail before them and the mountain’s thrusting up towards the sky all around them. They had to be up in a higher elevation because the air was thinner.

Neko stopped what he was doing, and finally really looked at their surroundings. He squinted his eyes really studying the lay of the land before stating his thoughts. “Dude, I am seriously getting a sense of déja vu. Sis, have we been here before?” Now there were two sets of eyes looking at CeCe for the answers. Not to mention the fact that the rest of their party had joined them.

Bo, Dom, and Donny all looked puzzled. Bo gave his opinion of the question. “I for one have never been here, nor for that matter have the twins. So it is must be something just the three of you are feeling.” Now all eyes turned toward CeCe waiting to hear her answer to the question.

CeCe looked into her brother’s gold-green eyes and admitted to not only those gathered around her, but actually to herself as well. “ We are on the path that leads into the canyon wherein lies Mithral. The place where not only I was born, but Neko as well. If we continue to follow this passage, , it will lead us directly to the ancient city, well what remains of it.”
Azereus spoke as she finished. “I too was born in Mithral, it has been quite a long time since I have been here. One ever forgets the feel of their birthplace, it is etched into the very fiber of our bones. I suggest we make it quick through this pa before the temperature gets any colder. Or worse the weather turns against us.” He hoisted his pack on his back, before adding, “the least he could have done is give us our horses back.” The others were all in agreement as they began the long walk in the crisp mountain air.

Not far into their trek, the found their horses ground tied in a small makeshift corral. Dominic spun in a circle looking through bushes, and around the trees. “Dude, that guy really weirds me out. You mention our rides, and out of nowhere here, they are. Makes me wonder what else we can ask for, and it will suddenly appear. Hey Neeks, should we give it a test?” Here he stopped and waggled his eyebrows at Neko.

“Enough! You won’t be testing any such thing. Just be happy, that we don’t have to walk the rest of the way. Now saddle up and let’s get moving. It’ll be dark soon.” Bo demanded. Dom put his head down in subservience to his older brother and did as he was told. Once mounted they continued their trek through the thin passageway. They stopped only when it became too dangerous to carry on. After a quick supper, they slept. They were mounted and back in the saddle just as the sun broke over the mountain.

As they rode they discussed the cryptic words the old mystic had uttered before sending them on their journey. “What do you think it means? Find the heart that beats for our people and the eye that sees within?” Donny queried the group in general. “I mean what is it with mystics, being all mystical and stuff.” He looked around when he heard the chuckles from all around him. It took him a minute to realize what he had said.

CeCe answered through her own giggles. “I’m not sure, but I think it may have to do with the Heart of Cameria. Before we were attacked I was going to tell you, that I think a jewel that was part of the Mithralian treasury bears a resemblance to the description given for the Heart of Cameria. One of which was actually gifted to me as a child. It was called the Eye of Mithral. Maybe they are one, and the same, which is why the message is so cryptic.” She looked around at her fellow travelers, noticing that they had stopped their horses as she explained.

They all fell silent after this as they began to move once again. Over the next few days, it seemed that they all seemed lost in their own thoughts.  Playing over again the words, the ancient had said about them all having a role to play. They each wondered exactly what their role was to be.

They had finally come to where the slender pass through the mountains opened up, and before them was their destination. They stood looking out at the view before them in silent awe.

The ancient city of Mithral was built deep inside a canyon within the Tlaqix Mountains. Massive stone walls surrounded the city. The walls were so thick that many shops had been located upon them, wasnow only the skeletal wooden beams showed thrusting up towards the gray sky. The small village of Caspian lay in rubble, just outside the main gate.The closer the group traveled towards the city, they noticed a feeling of somber gloom permeating the very air they breathed. A haze moved over the city in wispy tendrils, witness to the fires that had burned so viciously the day the city had been destroyed.
The group rode through the village and stopped before the gates and dismounted. CeCe had moved close to Azereus, and Bo noticed theweretears rolling down her face. He watched as Azereus took her in his arms and held her for a moment before she broke from the embrace and seemed to draw upon some inner strength to prepare her for what was to come. He couldn’t help feeling jealous of the fact that she had went to Az instead of himself.

They walked through the charred remains of the gate, that had once kept the inhabitants safe and secure. All around were the burnt husks of what remained of the populace that had once called the city home.They saw mother’s arms wrapped around the small skeletal bones of what had been their children. Others with their weapons drawn to fight an enemy long gone. By now CeCe was sobbing loudly at what remained of the people who she had been born to rule. She was the Queen of the dead now. Seeing how her mother had perished with her people.

She stopped in what would have been a marketplace when the city had been alive. The guys watched her as her gaze fell on the destruction of the once thriving metropolis. “I remember coming here with my nurse when I was a child. I felt so free, being outside the palace, where I was allowed to run and play with other children.” Her gaze then swept up towards the blackened remains of the once glorious castle she had called home. “We need to get inside, and hope that the way is not blocked to get where I hid my treasures.” She started walking in the direction of the postern gate.

The men all fell in behind her, letting her lead the way into her former home. The destruction inside the palace resembled that which had met them on entering the city. The remains of the dead scattered the hallways, and rooms they passed. Instead of leading them upward toward her chambers,where they expected a young princess would keep her treasures hidden. CeCe led them instead through the dining hall, and towards a archway where the remains of a door still stood.

Bo moved in front of her and shoved the door open. CeCe thanked him as she passed him, and as the others entered after her they saw that they stood on a landing with stairs that led down. CeCe walked over, and opened a small chest off to the side. She brought forth a couple braziers that held a oily sticky substance within them. She gathered her flint, and created a spark setting fire to whatever it was. A sweet smell rose up from the green colored flame. She handed one to Neko, and then thought to light a third to make sure they had enough light.

“Follow me. I hope the way remains open. This leads into one of the oldest parts of the palace.” She whispered before taking the first step down. “I came down here often to play, and when I needed to be alone. I always found it peaceful.” She continued.

“Where are you taking us, sis? What could be down here?” Neko asked the back of his sister’s head.

They had been going down what appeared to be a spiral staircase, that wound deep within the depths of the castle.The men now understood the need for the lights.When they had begun, there had been slit-like windows spaced evenly on each floor they passed. Now the windows had ended. Leaving them in darkness, with only the faint light from above, and the green flames that they carried.

They soon what they hoped was the end. CeCe led them through a door that was surprisingly still intact. Neko once again questioned his sister. “Sis, where are we going??” His ears twitching in nervousness.

CeCe held up her light in front a hall, closed off by a wrought iron gate. Behind the gate, they could see the burial vaults marked with the effigies of those lain within. “We are in my family’s crypt” was CeCe’s response. “The Eye of Mithral is hidden here.” She stated as she walked over and after unlatching the gate entered the holy place.

“I used to come here to be near my father after he passed, and soon it became, I guess you could say my place.” The boys followed her as she walked among her ancestors. She stopped beside one that bore an effigy of a kind looking Felis, not much older than Azereus was at the time. CeCe lovingly stroke the face, as her tears began again. “This is my father’s grave. It breaks my heart that my mother could not be placed next to him.” She moved toward the head of the vault,and moved one of the stones attached. A small opening appeared. CeCe reached within, and pulled out a garnet-colored velvet bag.

All of the group were gathered around her, as she pulled open the drawstring pouch. She upended a stone that fit perfectly in the center of her hand. It had a variation of colors. There was emerald green,royal blue,purple,burnt orange interlaced with silver, but at the center was a black pupil like that of one of their own eyes.

 CeCe held it up between her fingers so that the light could catch it. As the light from the green flames landed on it, it was as if it drew the light within. It began to glow, brighter, and brighter. Soon the light it emitted out shown the flames in the braziers. The whole group was suffused in the light. They each felt a warmth in the light, and then the light exploded all around them. Engulfing their bodies with it’s energy. As a one they all fell.As CeCe fell her hand now held just the eye as it had begun.A beautiful jewel.


Just a reminder if you like the pictures I use on my posts. They can all be found with links to where you can find more on my Pinterest account. www.pinterest.com/celtickitty66 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Forest of Mystics


With the thunderous waters chasing them, the group soon burst from the dank, dark earth. They were high on a hill that overlooked the Forest of Mystics. After being in the shadowy tunnels, the bright afternoon sun blinded the stumbling cluster. Donny was bent over trying to catch his breath, while Dom patted him on the back. Neko had ungraciously fallen on his bottom, and was reaching for his canteen. CeCe had joined Bo as he looked out over the forest.

Brother Malakai edged close to the pair, while still glancing at the tunnel exit. “I am pretty sure of what you sought within the monastery tunnels, and I hope you found something that could aid in your quest. I would like to suggest that you may find some of the answers you seek hidden deep in the forest below. The mystics who reside therein, choose who they show themselves to. You might find favor with one.” That being said the brown robed monk bid them farewell, and began his climb towards the gloomy stone fortress looming not far away.

Bo glanced back out over the forest, he thought he saw a faint glimmer towards the center. Deciding it must have been his imagination, he turned to gaze around at his companions. “What say all of you? Should we take the monks advice and risk the curse of the forest?” It had long been a warning whispered to small children, and later an admonishment to adventurous youth; that the Forest of Mystics was cursed. All who entered became lost and were never seen again.

CeCe continued to study the destination in question, while Neko slowly got to his feet. Brushing off his bottom as he joined Bo and CeCe, he also cast his eyes out over the dense tree line. A mist hung over the lush growth giving it a mystical quality. “I think, if he says there might be clues there, then we follow his lead. So far it feels like we have been guided in some way. I for one intend to keep luck on our side.”
 
When he saw Bo’s raised eyebrow, he laughed. “Yeah, the tunnels flooded, but we all made it out, and with a clue. So in my book, I count that as lucky.” He was turning to go see how Donny was doing when he caught a glimmer out of the corner of his eye. When he turned back, it was gone. He mumbled “What the hell?”, as he joined the twins.

Donny had stood up, and seemed to be breathing easier. Dom continued to hover near him; a worried look on his grey and white face. “Are you sure, you are going to be able to continue this quest, my brother? I am worried for you.” Neko heard Dom say this, as he passed his canteen to Donny.

Donny gave his brother a long suffering look. It spoke volumes of how he had heard this litany many times before. He gave Dominic a baleful glare, before pushing the canteen away.  Where Dominic’s markings were a stark, bold grey with black stripes. Donny’s were a muted grey with brown stripes. His fur showed the ravages of the wasting disease, that he constantly battled. “I will be okay. How many times do I have to tell you that?” He growled at his over-protective twin.

Dominic stood with his mouth opened in shock, when he noticed that they had garnered the rest of the group’s attention he closed it. “Sorry for worrying about you. Didn’t know that it wasn’t allowed. I will never bother you again. As of this moment, consider our bond broken, twin.” The pain in Dominic’s voice as he stormed away couldn’t be missed. Donny watched his brother as he disappeared into the surrounding brush, then just shook his head.

It was a solemn bunch that descended the hill, making their way towards the faint trail that some of the hunters were known to take when they hunted the periphery of the forest. The twins stayed apart from each other which was a rarity. Usually Dom was always close at hand to where his brother was. Now he walked far ahead of the others in brooding silence. He did not wait for them as he entered the dense undergrowth of the forest.

Neko watched his best friend go on ahead of them, and had learned long ago when the twins fought it was best to let them work it out. This time though felt different, Dominic had never reacted so violently to Donny’s bad moods. He usually just brushed him off, and made a joke about it. He moved to where he was walking beside Bo and was getting ready to ask him a question, when Bo spoke.

“Let it go. You know as well as I do that they fight. Then when no one is around, they make up, and all is right in the world again. Let’s just concentrate on the task at hand. Keep your eyes open, and don’t let your guard down. I don’t want any of us to be added to the list of disappearances from the forest, if you get my meaning.” Bo glanced to Neko, and when he nodded his agreement, he moved on to catch up with Azereus.

Everyone kept conversation to a minimum as they followed the trail. The trail soon disappeared altogether, and they knew they had gone as far as any hunter had dared. The smells of the forest were heavy in the air, as they disturbed the debris on the ground. As they walked they kicked up old rotted leaves, mossy earth, and the remnants of small animals long dead. What little light that filtered through the canopy of the leaves overhead did little to dispense the gloom that they felt as they walked.

They continued to walk until the lateness of the day made them start scouting a place to camp for the night. When they came to a small clearing not far from the stream they had been following, it was decided that it was time to stop for the night. Neko started gathering wood for a small fire, while the others made camp. Dominic said he was going to go hunt for some dinner, and left the clearing with his bow slung over his back.

It wasn’t long before Dominic came trotting back into camp with a couple of rabbit carcasses. He seemed to be in better spirits since he was whistling a happy tune when he presented the rabbits to CeCe for preparation. He then went and prepared his spot for the night. Still keeping his distance from Donny.

Soon the smell of roasted rabbit filled the air, making belly’s rumble and mouth’s water. Neko kept asking his sister when supper would be done and she had just thrown a small log at him to get him to be quiet. It wasn’t long after she began filling everyone’s plate.  They all ate in companionable silence enjoying the sparse meal. Once the fire had been put out, they each found their bedrolls. CeCe caught Azereus’s attention, and beckoned him to come with her a bit away from the group.

Once they were out of earshot of the others, Azereus gave her a questioning glance as he asked, “Why did you want to speak to me? Why not talk with the others as well?” He leaned against a nearby tree waiting for her answer.

CeCe gave him an arched look before telling him what she had been thinking about ever since finding the scroll talking of the Heart of Cameria. “I wanted to run something by you first. You remember seeing the Eye of Mithral, right? I have been wondering if it, and this Heart could be related. I mean the description could be that of the Eye. Especially after finding the Mithralian written within the scroll also.” She finished and gave Az a look, waiting to hear what he had to say.

While Azereus and CeCe were off by themselves whispering to each other. They were being watched by the rest of the group. Dominic sauntered over and sat and a rock beside where Bo was sitting. Bo had been studying his old friend, and the woman he cared about having their little conversation. He had noticed them doing this before as well. Dom punched him in the arm, prompting him to look away from the two, and up at his brother. “What?” He asked his younger brother.

Dom pointed a finger towards the couple, and began harassing in his usual way. “Dude, why are you sitting here while that other cat makes time with your girl? I know he’s an old friend, but please. They are always snuggling up like that, if it isn’t personal why can’t they share it with all of us?” He looked down at Bo and waggled his eyebrows at the two across the way.

Bo thought about what his brother was saying. He made a decision, and stood up, almost knocking Dom off his perch on the rock. “You know, you’re right little brother. Whatever they have to say to each other ought to be shared with the group. I’m a bit tired of secrets coming out every time we turn around. Time to break up their little tête à tête.” With Dom close on his heels, Bo headed towards CeCe and Azereus.

Azereus had been telling CeCe that it had been too many years since he had lain eyes on the Eye of Mithral, but anything was possible. He had just asked CeCe where the Eye was at the moment, when he noticed Bo and Dominic headed in their direction.  Bo must have heard the question because as he joined them he asked “Yes, tell us where the eye is? Whatever that may be? We have decided there has been enough secrets, so maybe you can enlighten the rest of the party about what you were discussing.”

CeCe observed all the eyes now watching her. “You’re right, Bo. The time for secrets is over.  I was just asking Azereus’s opinion on a matter, before filling the rest of you in on it. It has to do with the Heart of Cameria and one of the royal stones of Mithral. It is called the Eye of Mithral.” CeCe stopped as she considered what next to tell the group. “The description of the Heart is exactly that of the Eye. When I saw the scratching in Mithralian it made me wonder if the two might be…”

Before she could finish, an arrow whizzed by her head barely missing her. If not for Neko’s quick reflexes it would have hit her. All hell broke loose from that point. Armed warriors dressed in the colors of their surroundings, rushed into the camp. With what little light was left as the sun set, the gang fought their assailants.

All of a sudden someone shouted and all eyes turned towards a huge warrior. His markings were those of a black and white forest cat. His long plush fur was in tiny braids all around his face. There was a long jagged scar that ran from his temple across his cheek to his upper lip. If his air of menace wasn’t enough, the knife he held at Donny’s throat stopped the gang in their tracks.

“I thought this might end our little squabble” Scarface said with a touch of a lisp, thanks to the injured lip. “I recommend you drop your weapons now real slow. Don’t anyone try and be a hero now.” This was said when Dominic made a move to try and get his brother. “You don’t want your friend here to lose his head or anything.”

Everyone lowered their weapons, as usual it took Dominic and Neko a bit to unburden themselves. Once they were unarmed, the warriors bound their hands together. Some of the warriors stayed behind to gather the weapons, while the ones guarding the gang marched them single file out of the clearing heading to who knew where.

As they marched Bo studied the attackers. He had noticed the superb fighting skills when they had been battling. Now he checked out other aspects about them. They all were dressed in the colors of the surrounding forest, making it easy for them to blend in. The colors were different shades of dark greys, mossy greens, and muddy browns. They wore hooded tunics that covered their heads to keep any whites or light colored fur from showing. Some even muddied their fur to blend into their foliage around them.

It was well into the night when they finally entered a makeshift village. When you looked up towards the two moons; one full, the other a quarter. You saw that there were tree houses built all around. Some lit inside, other dark. The group were led into the middle of the village where a shrine stood. A spring bubbling up into a pool before it. There were etchings or drawings on the walls, but it was too hard to see them in the light cast by only the moon, and some scattered torches.

A light appeared at the entrance of the shrine, and continued to grow brighter. Soon a figure could be seen silhouetted in the light. The figure grew larger as it came nearer. For a brief moment it blocked the light streaming from the shrine, and then an ancient seal point was standing before them. All around the warriors dropped to their knees, and then bowed down towards the old one. When Scarface noticed that they weren’t bowing, he grabbed Donny and pushed him to the ground.

Other warriors did the same with the rest of the gang. They stayed in their position until they heard a brittle voice command for them to be released. When they were once again in an upright position, the ancient mystic introduced himself as Shénmi and beckoned them to follow him. He did not wait to see if they followed. The warriors all slipped away, back into the forest.

Neko looked at his companions, and just shrugged as he followed the robed old guy. Dom whispered “Is he really what I think he is?” before closing in on Neko’s tail. Bo placed his hand on the middle of CeCe back, and led her inside. That left Azereus to walk with Donny, who was stumbling a bit. He placed his arm around Donny’s waist and helped him into the shrine.

Upon their entrance, everyone looked all around the shrine, which on the inside appeared much larger than it had from the outside. The domed ceiling looked like it was lit with a million tiny candles, but as they studied them, they realized the lights were identical to stars in the night sky. In the center of the room was a huge fire pit and there were stone benches scattered all around the area. The mystic stood near the fire, studying them as they studied the shrine.


He motioned for them to join him, “Come, my children, we have much to discuss, and little time for it. The pendulum swings, and the future awaits.” 

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Scrolls


Bo stood to the side and indicated for the others to precede him. This was one time being Felis was a benefit. Their eyes quickly adjusted to the low light cast by the torches as they moved deeper into the underground tunnel. As they came up to forks in the tunnels, they would vote on which way to go before heading in the new direction.

The tunnel they were trudging through had water trickling down the walls. Their boots had become muddied by the various puddles of stagnant water they had stepped in, as they moved toward what they hoped was a storage room or vault. The smell of mildewed wood from the rotting support beams mixed with the putrid mud, and hung heavy in their noses.

They were a ragged looking bunch when they happened upon a small chamber littered with old whiskey barrels and casks of ancient weapons. They looked at each other noticing the clinging cobwebs, and slimy mud from where they had brushed up against the walls coating their forms. Donny had wandered over into a darkened corner, when the others heard his gasp.

Ever aware of his twin, Dom was across the room, as if by magic. “What is bro? Are you feeling all right? Did you hurt yourself? Talk to me, man.” Every time Donny tried to answer a new questions seemed to pop out of Dominic’s over reacting mouth. Donny finally just stopped trying to speak, and just gave his brother one of his most baleful glares. Dom closed his mouth when he saw his twins look. “What?”

With a long look at Dom, Donny finally got his chance to speak. “I’m fine. I just wasn’t expecting these,” here he stopped, and pointed to the rotting rack filled with old scrolls. “They don’t look to be in very good condition. Probably just old ledgers marking the supplies kept here, but maybe…”
CeCe bent and pulled one of the scrolls from the rack. The assemblage watched as it disintegrated as she tried to unroll it. She looked up, and noticing her audience reached for another. They all seemed to let out a collective breath as this one stayed in one piece during the unfurling. She stood and was trying to make out what was written, when Neko suddenly started moving around the chamber lighting the tallow candles left by long ago occupants.

CeCe glanced up and moved closer to one of the brass candelabras. The others began picking their own scrolls, and for a short time the only sound heard was the exclamations of dismay when a scroll would crumble between their claws. Bo looked around, and thought of how disheartening this whole search was becoming. “This is pointless. I vote we keep exploring the tunnels, and maybe we will have better luck somewhere else.” He exclaimed as another scroll became dust layered on the tabletop in front of him.

A round of agreeing voices circled around him, until he heard a sound from the corner where the rack was placed. Dusting the parchment dust from his hands as he walked, he made his way over to find Dominic sitting cross-legged on the stained floor. His lap was covered in the remnants of who knew how many scrolls. When he saw Bo, he handed him a scroll before climbing to his feet causing a small cloud of dust to rise around him. Both he and Bo started sneezing as the mildewed remains teased their sensitive sinus’s.

Bo know knew the sound had been a whoop of joy, because in the middle of his sneezing Dom was telling what he had found. “I think I found something important.” He paused to do a round of sneezing. “That scroll has been eaten away by mildew, but you can just make something out about something called, The Heart. And it has some kind of link to the Triad, whatever the hell that is.” This time he began to cough and wheeze a little. CeCe opened her canteen and offered him a drink. “Thanks, sis. I think we need to find this Heart before we go looking for that Triad thingy.”

Bo pulled a candle closer to him and tried to make out the words on the aged and mildewed parchment. “Hmm, from what I can make out this is describing a jewel or stone of some sort. There’s something about wielding power, but not in what way.” Bo leaned closer to the flame trying to make out a word, and then passed it towards CeCe. “Tell me what you think that says, it looks to be ancient Mithralian, but I can’t be certain.”

CeCe took the piece of paper, and did as Bo had done. She leaned closer to the light source, and studied what he had read. Soon she was completely surrounded by the ever curious boys. Her brow was knit together in concentration, as she worked to decipher the faded text. “It does appear to be an ancient dialect; unfortunately, not one I am well versed in. From what I can make out it speaks of the stones description. It says it looks like a Felis orb, or cat’s eye. It also calls it by another name, but I can’t make that out. Maybe we should keep looking just in case there is another scroll that belongs with this one.”

There was some grumbling from the bored dirty bunch, but soon they all settled back to the hunt. As they were reading A sound was becoming more noticeable, Neko lifted his head to listen to the low hum. He put aside the scroll he had been trying to read, and went towards where the sound seemed to be emanating from. He was standing with his head cock to the side, his ears twitching as they tried to identify the noise.

With each passing moment it was becoming louder. It had started as a hum, but now it was sounding more like a rumble. Neko turned back towards his friends, and was beginning to say something. A blur of brown came rushing around the corner, and knocked him off balance. “What the hell!!” He shouted. “Watch where you’re going. Wait, who are you?” By now the sound was becoming thunderous to their ears.

The brown figure pushed back the cowl of his robe. “My apologies, my name is Malakai, and if you want to live you must follow me quickly. There was a collapse in one of the tunnels that run under the river. Now the tunnels are being flooded. We must hurry! If we delay much longer we will be trapped.” Brother Malakai looked back and forth between the group, his desperation such that you could feel it. “Please, we are out of time!!!”

Neko grabbed CeCe’s hand and a torch. “Dude, don’t need to ask me twice. Let’s get out of here.” Water was starting to pour into the chamber and everyone began to follow the quickly disappearing monk. They had found their first lead; they would find more. First thing though was they needed to get above ground. Just as they all had exited the chamber a huge wall of murky river water crashed in, flooding where they had just stood. Whatever knowledge that had been kept there lost forever.