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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Specter's Staff

The next few days saw Bo and CeCe cementing their new relationship. They often would wander from the trail, for some time alone away from the gawking young ones. CeCe was getting tired of the sly smiles directed toward herself and Bo whenever they were together. Bo had made the same statement the night before as they were preparing to sleep. “How did we get to the point where our brothers are acting like small kits? If I hear snickering the next time we come back from a walk, I’m going to conk their heads together. How can you be so calm?” he asked as he lay back against his bedroll.

CeCe looked his way, before turning back to spreading her blankets. “You forget I have lived with Neko all these years. He takes immaturity to a new level at times. Every time I turn around I have become the butt of one of his jokes. I try my hardest to ignore them, but they test my patience with this game.” Satisfied with her makeshift bed, she lay down. Turning toward the male she loved, she whispered “I love you, it doesn’t matter what they do, nothing can change that.”

Bo leaned across the small distance separating them and gave her a gentle kiss. “I love you too. Good night, my love.”  Across the fire, they heard small kiss, kiss sounds as the trio of young males did their own good nights. Soon silence settled over the campsite, well except for the gentle snores, and the crackling of the wood on the fire. Unaware that they were being watched by the band of thieves who had found them.

Donny tossed and turned in his sleep; he was dreaming of an ancient mage standing outside of a mountain cave. The runes on his staff flaming bright in the descending darkness. His adversary unseen, Donny could only watch as the mage lifted the staff, his face contorted in anger.  A white veil seemed to lift from the staff heading toward the invisible foe. Donny awakened to the screams of the dying ringing in his ears. Still in a trance he rose from his bed, and began to walk into the forest. His family and friends left behind.

He followed an urgent command, “Come to me.” The night was fading with the coming sun when he stopped before the mouth of a crumbling opening in the side of the mountain. Donny shook his head, and then looked around. He heard nothing, not even the sound of the birds who should be chirping their happiness to the returning day. Donny studied the opening as remnants of his dream played across his mind. The place felt the same as had the cave opening in the dream, but it had been a large well-constructed opening, but this was nothing more than a fissure with barely enough room to squeeze inside.

Yet that is what Donny felt drawn to do. Even wide awake the siren’s call of “Come to me” rang in his ears. Stepping close he put his hand on the edge of the entrance, he felt the tingle race up his arm; it was as if the place recognized him.  He felt the same way as he stepped inside.

Back in camp the gang had started to stir, but for some reason they failed to notice Donny’s disappearance. They began rousing from their slumber unaware of the danger stealthily stalking them. The thieves lay in wait for the perfect moment to attack. “Nilla, I swear that dark one is one of our attackers. He is the one who fought as if he was Pantheri. I stand by that assumption now after watching him these last couple of days.” Bumbles explained to his leader.

“It matters not, we have a job to do and that is to bring the kit back to our master. Prepare for the attack.” Nilla stated as she went to make further plans for the coming battle. Bumbles turned back toward where the stranger’s camp was. Shaking his head, he went to armor up.

As Donny passed through the fissure opening, he found himself inside a tunnel. He reached out to touch the wall of the cave, feeling the rough stone scrap against his fur. He felt something lightly touch his ear, when he reached up he felt the gossamer strands of a spider’s web. He shivered and began to follow the tunnel deeper into the side of the mountain.

He felt the anxiety of coming close to something, yet not knowing why. The voice whispering in his ears, seemed to multiply the further in he went. He kept walking until he saw an opening larger than the one in which he had passed such a brief time ago. By now the voices were screaming at him, “COME TO ME.” So, he did.

He entered a darkened chamber. Scattered about where the remains of what had once been a living space for someone. Donny felt his eyes adjust to the lower light level, once his vision had sharpened. He scanned his surroundings. To the side of the room was a bed, tilted down on one corner where the leg had broken off. A thick coating of dust, spread like a blanket over the mildewed mattress.

What drew Donny’s attention was what sat back against the wall directly in front of him. It was a large high backed chair; almost throne-like in size. What sat upon it shocked him to his core. The skeleton that held court to the spiders and other creepy crawlies, seemed to be smiling at him.

It was dressed in ancient attire befitting a king. The muted stitching had once been gilded, now dust and the ravages of time dulled the color.  It wasn’t the clothing the skeleton wore that captured Donny’s attention. His eyes were locked on the staff still grasped in the bony claws. The voices had died away when he had entered to be replaced with an extreme compulsion. He needed to touch the staff, he wanted the staff. He stepped close and reached for the ancient wood.

As soon as his fingers grazed the gnarled wood, the runes engraved deep into the staff began to glow. As his fingers closed on the staff, he was lost in the magic infused under his grasp. Then he heard the voice, as a vision played through his mind. The mage from his dream sat before him, a smile on his lips. The years seemed to melt away as Donny was embraced by the spell.

The mage spoke to him, in a disembodied voice. “Welcome my child. The time has come to pass on my wisdom as well as my staff. You are a worthy successor, come take your prize. I am Driekor, and in times of old I was gifted this staff. It holds a great power, one which only a true guardian can wield. The time has come when once more it shall deliver justice to those who stand in your way. Guard well the Triad, it’s power will be sought. Only those of your party protect it. Only the guardians shall win the day. Take now this rod of ancient wood, engraved in circles round. To control the ghosts of those who have passed on, this power shall you have. Behold the Specter’s Staff, now come and take it away.”

The voice of Driekor returned from wherever it had come. Leaving Donny with his hand wrapped around the thing of legend. Bowing his head Donny’s placed a quiet prayer to the Goddess to guide him in his new-found knowledge. He slowly pulled the staff away from the clawed grasp of the skeleton of the old mage. The glowing runes burned away, leaving Donny once more in darkness. He turned and left the cave.

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