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This story is an original story that is quite an epic one. It is my favorite of all the stories I have written to date and I hope to be proud of it in years to come. This will be an epic length story, or perhaps even longer. The plot is very complicated, yet even more in depth will be the character of the two main characters, as they grow old, together, and apart. It deals with a mature subject matter and is not appropriate for anyone younger than thirteen years old. I would enjoy any comments, praise or otherwise.
A slight breeze leapt above the treetops, licking the leaves and sending them dancing. The sun, a radiant bauble on the horizon, crept up from its deep slumber, spilling a deluge of pink light upon the forest landscape. Birds rose from their rest, ready to sing a song of love on the spring wind. A hill rose above the trees and smoke from stone cabins drifted over the crest. Down below, farms dotted the surrounding ground. Ridges fell on the north side of the hill, providing an easel for the perfect painting of the sun. Two children, a young boy and a girl, slightly older, were perched precariously on the edge, giving a quaint picturesque look for the village. The children were playing out a daily ritual, an unspoken rule, meeting before dawn to watch the sunrise and chatting about the first things that popped into their minds.
“Your name is kind of boring, Sera,” piped up the boy. “It just means ‘girl.’ Anybody could just look at you and know that, they don’t need your name to tell them that.” He was a young lad of about 11 years of age, still having a boyish appearance that most people keep until their late teens. Blond hair fell flat over deep blue eyes, hiding an innocent expression that covered his round face. He had not yet reached the age where boys begin to thin out in the face and everywhere else.
The girl, Sera, wore a very clearly annoyed appearance and sighed a bit before replying. “You always say the most random things,” she started. “Besides that, my name isn’t any more boring than yours; at least mine has a meaning!” She brushed brunette bangs away from her face, showing brown eyes that held an air of mystery.
“Yikes! I guess it’s true that girls are temperamental. Anyway, I like my name; in fact, I like it because it doesn’t mean anything. It gives me a… mysterious feel.” He tilted his head and grinned, his eyes half closed. “It also lets me choose whatever I want it to mean, I could be to one to give a meaning to the name Tomai!” Tomai fell into a reverie, thinking up great adventures in his head, giving a short phrase to be applied to a name: “’Bold Child,’ ‘Strong One,’ ‘Great Monster Catcher!’ Oh! That reminds me, I was going to see Dr. Delinky today.
“Don’t you normally have new moon days off?” Sera interjected.
Tomai stood up and swept dust off of himself as he answered, “Yes, but today is on my own time.” He started for town, speeding as he went along.
Running through town, he attracted a bit of attention, but when the villagers saw who it was, they lowered their heads and resumed work. Tomai had always been something of an outgoing person, that is, his name preceded his self. He had made a reputation as a loud child and most assumed that he was still that way correctly. His parents couldn’t keep up with him and neither could his mentor, Dr. Delinky.
Dr. Delinky was a doctor by name only; he could not cure the sick or heal the injured. In truth, very few people, if any, knew why he was called doctor. His intelligence may have contributed to the curious nickname; he was a renowned scholar in the city of Jabul. Another common theory is that it was simply to compare his inane theories to his equally inane actions upon those theories (never mind that they most often turn out true; they are just as silly in the villagers’ brains). Yes it was true, Dr. Delinky was a very complicated man in a very simple society and he cursed fate for it.
Tomai was Delinky’s one hope; he was trying to prove that a competent person could arise from anybody. And so he took it upon himself to teach Tomai to become a Catcher.
Tomai rounded a corner and found himself at a building with a fenced in yard. He walked around back and hopped on a fence. Leaning over he waved his right arm and shouted out, “Hey, Doc! I’m here!”
A short grey haired man, wrinkled and wise, turned in surprise from his note taking and called back, “I thought I got rid of you for new moon.”
“I felt like some more training, that is, if you want to train me.” Tomai chuckled a bit.
“Fine,” Delinky sighed as he gave in. “I’ll meet you inside, get your net.”
Tomai fell back to the ground and headed for the front door; he twisted the knob and pushed the door hard. It slammed back and, like clockwork, the force shook his net from its lofty position hanging on the wall. He thrust his right arm out to catch it as it fell.
His net was simply crafted. A straight carved cherry wood rod split and curved around on itself on one end. Leather was wrapped around on the other end to serve as a handle; a red tassel swung from the bottom. The first end had a mesh of thin woven thread with a steel core over the loop; the thread was waxed along the whole length to prevent wear. It was decorated with paints of earthy tones; green, yellow, red, brown.
Dr. Delinky alighted inside from another door holding his own, more ornate, net. “What do you want to start with today, Tomai?” he inquired.
“How about a wolfhound?”
“Nice sense of humor! For that little quip you get to start with a slime,” said Dr. Delinky.
“But I was being serious!” Tomai protested.
Delinky retorted, “Too late,” as he sauntered over to a large wooden device that resembled a grandfather clock. It had the traditional timepiece with all twenty arh marks. This wasn’t any normal clock though, it had a fireplace beneath and the top was like a chimney covered with a grate; in the middle, a square protuberance held an opening covered. A slit in the protrusion allowed slides to be placed in.
The doctor opened a drawer beside the machine and sifted through the contents. He raise a glass-like plate with a full color image on it. Sliding it into place, he took a quantity of flint and struck it against the wall of the fire place. A spark fell upon dead embers and twigs. Soon a small fire was roaring. A bowl of green powder lay on the countertop and Tomai brought Delinky a miniscule handful of the dust from the dish. Delinky tossed it into the flame and immediately smoke began to rise. Some went through the top grate while most was forced through the side vent. The smoke pressed against the slide and slowly filtered through between the polymer’s miniscule fibers. The image was pushed out and began filling itself until out popped a creature identical to the image which previously held to the slide.
It was a gelatinous unstructured being. Its turquoise innards were littered with various similarly colored organs, barely visible to the naked eye because of camouflage. Large black eyes poked out of a membrane. The slime was shaped like a droplet of falling rain: a ball thinning to a point on the top. The thing gave out a horrid shriek as it fell to the ground; a high-pitched “kreek” resonated from the bowels of the creature.
“Ugh! I always hated that sound,” whined Tomai while he took his hands from his ears. “Okay, I’m ready,” he continued as he took a Y-shaped stick from the back of his belt. He reached into a pouch and grabbed a blue pellet, placing it in the rubber between the prongs. Drawing it back he aimed and released. Delinky smiled as the pellet hit directly between the slime’s eyes. It broke apart as the blue spread over the creature’s membrane; the slime grew stiffer than before.
“So you got the freeze pellet down pat. I was afraid you would attack it head on like last time,” Delinky commented.
“Oh, trap up!” laughed Tomai. He lifted the net, and brought the side down hard against the creature. It flinched in surprise as the net pushed its skin down and then with a grunt pushed the net off. Tomai brought the net to his right and swung it trapping the slime within the net; the slime winced in anticipation. The aquamarine cytoplasm turned a bright blue, and in a puff of smoke and flash of light, the creature was gone.
“Quickly, boy,” demanded Delinky as he tossed a slide in an arc through the air. With one smooth motion, Tomai grasped it in mid air and held it over the net’s mesh. The smoke filtered through it and an image once again appeared on the slide. Tomai gingerly slid it back into the file.
Delinky frowned and began after a pause, “Not as good as I would have liked, but okay. You let too much smoke get away. Did you see how dull the colors were? You cost the slime a lot of power.”
“But, Delinky,” protested Tomai, “That was better than you could have done.”
“Yes, but I’m older than you. I’ve passed my prime, you haven’t. There’s as big a difference as there are stone in Jabul’s wall.” He chortled to himself at the old saying. “Five repetitions!”
* * * * * * * * * *
“Aahhh…” Tomai yawned, arriving home from his training. “Hey, mom. What’s for dinner?”
“Well, child, we’re having salads today, so I guess that means you’ll want to skip.” His mother was a young woman, only in her early thirties, yet the strain of childbirth and housekeeping had aged her face. Long auburn hair was tied tightly into a bun to keep it out of her eyes while cooking. From underneath her apron a distinct bulge peeked out.
“I’ll just fix up something myself.”
“Mm’kay” she acknowledged, returning to her granite countertop. She started cutting a red oblong fruit, which spilled juices and seeds onto the counter, and tossing the slices into a basket of leafy greens.
A dull thump came from the doorway and in stepped Tomai’s father wiping drops of sweat from his forehead. The man, in his late forties, stood very tall, nearly seven heads, his face the same as Tomai’s and his brusque manner was apparent from the first sentence. “The fields were burning. Tomai, where were you today? We missed you.”
Tomai was reading the local news bulletin sitting on the family’s wooden table. “Hmm? Oh, I was at the doctor’s for some extra training,” he responded apathetically.
“Great, you see that crackpot six days every moon anyway. Why not just blow off swordsmanship training which by the way you only do twice every moon, to go see him again?”
Tomai retorted, “He’s not a crackpot, he’s the only one who does anything to actually help the village.”
Tomai’s father said, unbelieving, “Yeah, yeah,” He wandered over to his wife and embraced her from behind. Caressing her stomach, he rocked her and cooed, “You shouldn’t be working so hard with the baby on the way, Diare.” He gently kissed her on the cheek and disappeared to his bedroom past the cozy fireplace and knit green rug.
“Tomai? Be a dear and get out some bowls,” his mother said, not looking up from her preparations.
“Gotcha,” Tomai said as he shuffled along the dirt floor to a row of timber cabinets. “Hey, did you hear about the council meeting at the end of the year?”
“Yes,” his mother answered placidly.
Tomai’s father stomped back as Tomai was asking his mother for some bread. “You finished off the last of it yesterday, don’t you remember?” he interrupted.
“I’ll just have to make some more,” Diare offered.
“You’ll do no such thing. If Tomai wants to eat, he’ll have salad.” This ended the discussion. Until his father remembered something. “Oh yes, Sera came by the training field looking for you. But it can wait until after dinner,” he finished watching Tomai attempt to sneak out the door.
Tomai sat grudgingly in a cushioned chair and picked up his crude, iron fork to dig into the salad. His parents and he ate in silence for a while. Then his mother seemed irritated by their unsociability so stared speaking hesitantly.
“So, what do you two think about my salad? I got a few things from the garden.”
“The tomalo came out very good this time,” said his father, his voice muffled between mouthfuls of the juicy red fruit.
“It was all in the weather, dearest. We’ve had very good weather this season, you know.”
“Hmm. The weather? I think it’s the fact that we haven’t had any specific outbursts.” He discreetly winked at her.
“Well, whatever you think, Keuin, you have to admit that they came out great,” Diare said jokingly.
Tomai quickly changed the subject, fearing to tread into deep waters, “So, dad, what do you think about the council meeting this year? I’m really interested to find more out about it.”
“Hah, all the news we get is at least a month old. Besides, what happens happens; it might affect us, it might not. We can’t exactly change that, so let’s discuss something that we can affect: such as old Peten’s most recent story.”
Tomai ‘s family rose up a great discussion concerning neighbors, good and bad and talked until the sun sank low. They ate and drank and raised much merriment. After dinner, Tomai was in such a good mood he almost forgot about Sera’s summons. He dropped the square ceramic plate into the washing bin and started off, hoping he wasn’t too late.
Tomai meandered along the stone paved road, covering his eyes, as the sun hit the horizon. The clash sent brilliant orange hues flaring overhead. Walking into the sunset, Tomai found Sera’s doorstep among a row of parallel homes. The familiarity of it all was unbearable to him. He rapped his knuckles against the entryway thrice and waited patiently as Sera’s footsteps approached. She exploded upon the door knocking it open and nearly smashing in Tomai’s head.
“You made it!” she exclaimed. “You’re just in time, we have to hurry.” Sera dragged him by the arm and led him out of the small town.
Just Sera’s usual spontaneity, thought Tomai. He suspected she would lead him to the pond and tell him she saw a great monster in it. Then she would push him in. Again. Tomai sighed while they reached the outer edges of the community.
“Look!” Sera spoke with great enthusiasm and pointed out to the meadow ahead of them. Tomai saw nothing. Then, looking closer, he thought he caught a glimpse of fire; a single spark in the middle of a field.
Probably just a bug, he supposed. But then, suddenly, the spark burst into a ruby bonfire. It coalesced until flames were fondling a shape of coal. It was nearly impossible to determine the shape from such a distance. Subsequently, the shape pushed off the ground and rose into the air, flying far forward. It touched lightly upon the grass and flowers, not leaving a single trail of fire in its wake. The form sprung across the pasture. The fire cast an eerie, yet beautiful glow amongst the foliage. Sera softly sat and Tomai, breathless, did the same. He laid his arm around Sera’s shoulder, not daring to lift his eyes from the lightshow before them, lest it disappear in a puff of smoke.
Sera’s speech was so quiet that Tomai was scarcely sure he heard her say, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
He nodded, though he was confident she couldn’t see him. Just then, the thing leaped higher than it had previously and it disintegrated in a shower of orange sparks that fell leisurely over the ground.
Silence fell for a moment until Tomai whispered, “Wow.”
“I know,” Sera answered.
“What was that?” Tomai was still captivated by the awesome display of radiance.
“I have no clue what it is. It’s been coming every night for the past moon. I wasn’t even convinced I had actually seen it so I had to show it to someone else. Two nights ago it stayed for almost an entire arh.”
“I wish it stayed that long this time.”
“Me too.” Sera stood up and brushed dust off of her coral sundress. “Same time tomorrow?” she inquired, offering her hand to help Tomai up.
He took it and smiled. “You know I’ll be there.
* * * * * * * * * *
Crash! A jar fell roughly from a shelf above Tomai’s bed and landed right beside his head. Shards of dried clay slashed into his face. Tomai was woken with the searing pain of the cuts in his face. He peered around his room, searching for something that could have made the jar fall, all the while holding his nightshirt over his face to slow the bleeding. The pitch black of night hung over the room until he snatched a match from his bedside table and struck it. He dropped the match into an oil lamp and the room became aglow. He saw nothing of interest save for the blood dipping from his face and the shattered ceramic.
Then the roar of an explosion shook his house and the stench of smoke polluted the air. Distant screams echoed over the hills. Tomai’s father ran in, sword in hand, through the open doorway. “Tomai!” he shouted over the commotion. “Are you okay?” Tomai coughed on dust that was kicked up in the wake of the explosion, then nodded. “Okay! Get your sword,” he continued shortly, rushing out of the house; turning his head for a moment, he then called back, “Honey, stay here.”
Tomai barely had time to react before his father was outside. He seized his simple short sword as he headed out the door. Smoke flared from the far reaches of the town as flame licked the starry skies. Hoots and cheers drifted on the night wind. Tomai sprinted towards the sound. However, as he neared, a nitemare galloped into his path.
A fully grown nitemare was truly the stuff of nightmares. This nitemare was still a foal and was much less frightening than a mature nitemare. Deep black hair, characteristic of the adults yet rare for the young, glistened in the moonlight. Green eyes darted furiously about the landscape. Four powerful legs kept the steed shuffling around. It stood high from the ground and, looking up, Tomai saw a person seated atop the bare muscular back, clutching the nitemare’s mane with a single hand.
Guiding it, he came to full front, facing the frightened boy. A spear was gripped in the other hand and the man’s face held an alarming scowl. Animal skins were draped around his shoulders, trophies of past victories. The spearhead was carved into a claw-like shape and drenched in blood, not fresh, Tomai hoped. With a mighty arm the thug jabbed at Tomai’s chest.
Reflex and years of basic training caused Tomai to beat back his attacker sword; he was still in shock from the explosion. Impulsively, Tomai shouted, “You again! Stop destroying our village, you bandits! Why do you come here?”
The dark character snickered as he responded, a hint of a smirk on his face, “Child, you just answered your own question. We’re bandits, thieves, rogues! We take what we like and make sure nobody else can have the rest.” A chill was sent down Tomai’s spine as he took a step back. “Haven’t you figured that out in the three years we’ve been coming here?” He then struck Tomai a blow from the side and rode away.
Tomai gasped in pain yet stood, grasping his side. He took a single brief glance at the moon. It was still a simple sliver, growing ever so slowly larger and rounder. Tomai squealed in happiness, and then caught himself. Regaining his composure, he started again for the center of the ruckus, the town square. He passed by devastation after devastation: shattered windows, burning houses, fallen trees. He came upon the plaza and was horrified at what he saw.
The outlaw wasn’t alone. This time he had brought along the whole gang. His father and Sera were deflecting slashes and attacks from many different fighters. Many village folk were keeled over in pain and dripping in blood. Nitemare mounted archers circled the court and shot blazing arrows at the cabins. Bales of straw and piles of firewood were blazing, an inferno greater than that of the fight.
Sera escaped the deadlock with her opponent for a second to come to Tomai’s aid. Her swordsmanship skills were nearly unparalleled in that rural country. Over the din of the battle and the roar of the flames she bellowed, “Tomai, where’s Dr. Delinky? We can’t drive them off without him; there are too many!” Tomai grunted curtly and hurried off, slashing at the nitemares’ legs as he did so.
As he bounded across the cobblestones the clatter of hooves drew near him. By the time Tomai glanced over his shoulder, the nitemare was almost upon him. Tomai leaped back when it reared up in front of him. This, however, was a fully grown nitemare. Long legs clomped about the stones as it struggled to become free. Tomai, completely outstretched, barely came to its large shoulders. Sleek black fur glimmered with sweat as rippling muscles twitched at every movement. Blood red eyes held furious rage and with every exhaling breath smoke erupted from its nostrils. The beast whinnied and bared sharp teeth, which were clenched around reins. The saddle’s straps buckled with the brute’s power.
The man seated atop the saddle was more fearsome still. His standing height was eight heads as it was and so upon the back of the nitemare he seemed even more looming and overshadowing. His billowing black pants were adorned with steel spikes and he was bare-chested save for a brace which covered his left arm and part of his torso, even more spikes ornamented the strips of leather tying the tan support around his upper body. A thread hung around his neck, strung through drilled holes in pointed teeth and claws. The reins of the nitemare were clasped in his strong yet dexterous hand and the other hand held the jewel encrusted hilt of a sword. A curved blade was chipped and cracked but sturdy as well. The sword’s dark grey edge was forged of iron ore instead of steel. His glare was ice cold and his mount was restless.
A clap of thunder and the thud of a door resounded in the night. “Sorry I’m late, boy. I had to get my jacket for the storm.” Doctor Delinky stood before his home wearing a large brown coat. He held his net and a vial filled with pluming rainbow smoke. He threw the beaker to the ground and it smashed satisfyingly. The smoke swelled and shaped itself, changing to a shade of deep grey. The texture shifted to ragged fur and razor claws. Soon a four legged monster stood growling at the enemies. The mammal was known as a wolfhound and was a vicious little canine.
“Oh! It’s Wolfie!” cried Tomai.
The hound scampered towards the nitemare and ripped its leg to shreds. The nitemare collapsed over its own weight. Vaulting away, the wolfhound snarled at the terrible director of the crew of bandits. The man called back his group as they charged off the hill and into the forest. Tomai smiled despite himself and then ran off to help the wounded, panting heavily.
Delinky sauntered over at a quieter pace. He felt a light raindrop upon his crooked nose, then another. A midnight shower rained over the village that night, glinting in the firelight that gradually died away. Presently the town seems almost peaceful, reflected the good doctor ironically. Then, he looked to his surroundings. Quiet laughter floated to the clouds and into the twinkling space above.