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Reuel's Writing > Chapter 9

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message 1: by Reuel (new)

Reuel | 23 comments For a moment, my senses are frozen. Everything I am feeling in this instant is like a still image. The chasm of rocks below me appears a million miles away. The wind whips hair off of my forehead, the blast of air blocked by Daric’s large body. My ears are ringing, from the sudden silence that comes without hooves hitting the ground. I can taste the bitter tinge of my own fear, and at the same time a strange exhilaration bubbles up from my core. All of which leaves me except for the last item as we touch on land again.
The thunder of hooves returns, my gaze is once again of the passing ground, the wind blows through my hair like a torrent as Daric finally allows me to sit up again. But even as that moment passes my body is still left with that exhilaration coursing throughout it. Maybe this is how adrenalin junkies start, with just a small blast.
That’s fine by me, all I can handle for right now is a small blast. The whole ordeal has suddenly sapped my strength. I lean back into Daric’s chest as I realize how tired I really am. I can’t even summon the energy to look back to see if Maddox tried to jump across. Instead, my mind fills with different kind of thoughts, like how little sleep I got last night, or how much warmer and comfy Daric’s chest is compared to the ground. My butt may hurt but at least my head is cushioned. It’s not as if I want to sleep, my eyelids aren’t even heavy. But that funny feeling from my core has rushed to my head, and now the edges of my sight begin to darken. The encroaching darkness takes over before my eyes can think to drop my lids.
Consciousness returns to me in a groggy daze. My heavy lids struggle to open, but I force myself to catalog my surroundings. Our midday pursuit has now ended in a slow twilight trudge across the mountain landscape. I can tell from the way his head is hanging that Blood Horse is tired. After such an escape, I’m not surprised.
I look up at the sky. The jagged edges of the mountains line the horizon as the sun begins to sink beneath them. Without the ca’arums blocking my view, I can finally see the sky at times other than midday. If this had been the case yesterday then maybe I would have witnessed a green twilight before. Instead, I sit now, on a horse watching as the sun sheds its golden exterior and begins to darken into an emerald green. Spreading out from it, bright green striations paint the sky in teals, forest, and light greens. The color stretches out and then fades into a dark blue black night that is beginning to creep across the sky. We don’t have long before the light will be completely gone.
My eyes silently glance around, fully awake, searching for someplace to settle down. As we walk along the very edge of the mountain base the landscape has changed back to the two feet long emerald grasses that stretches on for miles. If were to rest here, we’d be found before sun up. Even though we made it across the rift, that will only hold up Maddox for a few hours. There’s no doubt that they’re following our trail.
Resting in an open field is not an option for us. I sigh at the thought of spending the night in the saddle. I don’t think Blood Horse can pull an all-nighter, let alone the rest of us too. We barely get along as is. My attention slowly shifts to Daric, although I don’t glance back at him. I can feel his attention on me, its been there since I woke up. I don’t know what he’s waiting for, but as the silence stretches longer I begin to feel more and more pressured to say something. Finally, I cave to the silence.
“So, where are we going to rest?” I ask quietly. The beauty that twilight is casting on the world seems so fragile that even a loud voice might shatter it.
“Are you still tired?” the slight tease in his voice surprises me, making me sit up to glance back at him. I didn’t think someone like him could have a sense of humor.
“No, I was thinking about the horse,” my elaboration made him pause for a moment. It was more than evident that Blood Horse needed a break. Letting out a reluctant sigh, Daric turns Blood Horse towards the grass. We travel a few meters into the tall thick of it before dismounting. Daric begins brushing down Blood Horse as I remove food and blankets from the saddle bags. In only minutes, our makeshift campsite is set up and Blood Horse is happily grazing. I leave it to Daric to start the fire as I unroll the blankets. First flattening the grass, then laying the blankets on top of them, I settle down on mine and take my pack off.
There’s only one canteen of water so I decide to leave that for Daric as I fetch my water bottle from my bag. The bottle is still about a third full. I take a sip before pulling out the jerky from last night. It isn’t until I’m eating that I realize how hungry I really am. The full pack of jerky is now empty, it almost feels like it vanished. Daric chuckles at my befuddlement as he takes a seat on his blanket. A small fire is going in the center of our camp now. I had to pull out the grass in the area and dig a small dirt pit in the ground for the fire but the heat radiating from the flames is more than worth it.
As the sun sinks below the horizon the temperature begins to steadily drop. Already, I can tell it’s going to be a cold night. I ignore his uncharacteristic chuckle at my disappointment and decide to take the moral high ground.
“Thanks for building the fire,” I mutter quietly as I sacrifice my empty wrappings to the flames. He takes a bite of his jerky, a bit purposefully I think, and nods.
“No problem,” his reply lingers in the air as silence once more settles between us. Unlike before, this isn’t the kind of pressure filled silence that makes me feel compelled to talk. Instead, it’s comfortable, natural, as if nothing more needs to be said. I lean back on my blanket and cross my arms below my head. The aching and soreness zinging through my body starts to lessen as I stretch my body languorously. My eyes fix themselves on the darkening sky above as I finally still.
Despite so much happening today, my mind is filled with none of it. Instead, I am transfixed by the magnificence happening above me. As the sun’s light leaves the sky, its illumination has been replaced by millions of tiny twinkling stars. Even more amazing than that though, is the enormous moon filling the eastern part of the sky. It’s easily ten times the regular moon at home, and instead of a dazzling white glow it’s shining a blue-purple radiance down on the land below. The way the blue and purple bands seem to line the planet it reminds me of a blue-purple Jupiter. To the left of it, hovering slightly above there is a smaller, deeper purple moon that is simply a solid color.
The ca’arums had blocked my view the other night, but now the majesty of the sky is clear to my eyes, and what a sight it is. To say that I am breathless is an understatement. Even to be in awe only grazes the surface of this all-consuming feeling.
The spell of the night sky is unfortunately broken by words being spoken at me. It takes me a moment to at first recognize that the noise is words but the realization finally makes its way into my head. I look over at Daric, who’s looking back at me expectantly.
“So, do you think you can handle it?” he asks, as if he thinks I’ve heard anything he’s said. I nod, just wanting to agree so I could go back to my sky observing. Perhaps it’s my lack of hesitation or simply my answer which causes him to release an annoyed hiss of breath. “Do you even know what I asked?”
“Of course,” I reply indignantly. There’s no way I’m going to let him know that I was completely zoned out because I’ve never seen the night sky before.
“So what did I ask,” his tone is fair enough, as is the question. That is, it’s a fair question for someone who heard the original one. As I lay here now, looking over at him, I can’t recall any of the words that he spoke at me while I was staring at the sky. It’s not really my fault though, I was obviously not paying attention to him. So why would he speak to me and expect me to hear him if I wasn’t listening? I growl inwardly and narrow my eyes slightly at him. I can’t be wrong if I don’t answer, and I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of both looking and sounding like an idiot. Despite my resolve to save face, it doesn’t seem to stop his smugness from showing through in his tone, “that’s exactly what I thought. You didn’t hear a word I said.”
“Yeah, well it’s not my fault that you’re not as interesting as the sky,” I defensively shoot back at him, now willing to acknowledge his smug attitude.
“I said that I’m going to take a short nap. Keep watch while I’m asleep and we can move on after I wake up,” he explains this all very slowly to me, once again treating me like a small child. His patronizing demeanor really grated on my nerves.
“Yes. I got it,” my short clipped tone conveyed everything I needed it to. Even so, it seems to have no effect on him as he just nods and then settles in on his blanket. I sigh, thoroughly irritated with him, and return my gaze to the sky.
My frustration begins to melt away as I calm down once more, allowing my mind to ponder. We didn’t discuss anything that’s happened today. We haven’t even talked about what we are going to do from here on out. Are we just going to stay on the run, searching for a way out of Advania until we escape or are captured?
I bite my bottom lip, giving in to my nervous energy. I can barely handle riding for a few hours, let alone living day to day in the saddle. In the past, I always thought that a nomadic style of life would suit me, constantly traveling, seeing new places, experiencing the world. But now that I am, it’s nothing like what I thought it would be. Honestly, I miss my bed the most, even just a mattress would feel like heaven compared to the unyielding ground. Even though the tromped down grass is softer than the moss, it’s still not the same. What would I give for a fridge full of food, or better yet, a shower. Day two and I’m pretty sure I smell gross. I know I feel grimey from sweating so much. Daric didn’t say anything while we were riding, but then again we were being chased so maybe he just didn’t get the chance to.
Now that one thought of today has creeped into my mind, more start to follow. It is crazy that we are being chased, but what is really insane is that my gut feeling, based on almost no information was completely right. They were waiting for us at the top of that mountain. How did they get there before us? After we ran into the forest, they might have figured that we would make a run for the mountain, but still. They had a lot of archers there, how did they mobilize so many people in such a short amount of time? We were only in the forest for one night.
I sigh as my head begins to hurt with too many unanswered questions, my list ever growing. Tearing my gaze away from the sky I scan the campsite. Daric’s face is half illuminated in the dancing orange light. I watch it as the flames flicker, changing the shadow patterns on his face. I can’t believe he trusted me with his life today. Even more so I can’t believe I trusted him with mine. How did we make it across that gorge? When we were going towards Maddox I was betting on human nature. But that jump was a pure defiance against nature. Even now, I am still marveling over the fact that I’m actually here, uninjured, on solid ground. I don’t know what kind of miracle Daric performed, I’m just glad it worked. Falling to my death on sharp rocks is definitely not how I want to go.
I close my eyes, remembering back to that moment in mid-air. If I focus, I can still feel the wind blasting my face, and taste the exhilaration on the tip of my tongue. It’s still there. I open my eyes and the moment ends. I didn’t realize that my eyes had shut until I opened them once more. I wonder how many more times I’ll close my eyes before I can finally open them and see home.


message 2: by Reuel (new)

Reuel | 23 comments The next few hours pass uneventfully. Both Blood Horse and Daric are sound asleep as I watch the large moons slide across the sky. Strangely enough, I find the big dipper within this foreign sky. As a distraction, I allow myself to ponder over that fact for a while. If I go off the hypothetical whim that, let’s just say I am on a different planet, then this planet is still able to see the same constellation. In order to still see it, then this planet would have to be within the same galaxy, right? I really should have paid more attention in my astronomy class.
The loud crackle of the fire pulls me out of my thoughts and back to my surroundings. The moons are high above now. A yawn tries to push its way out of me but I stifle it. If I start yawning then I’ll feel tired. This was a long day, Daric deserves as much sleep as I can give him, especially because I can sleep in the saddle, but he can’t. I hope he knows where we’re going.
I wrap my arms around my knees and hug them to my chest, resting my chin on upon them. Where are we going? We couldn’t go over the mountain, what if it’s the same for the rest of the range? A small shiver slides through me at that thought. I was actually right about the trap. How did I know that? Is that what people call relying on their instincts? I’ve relied on my gut feeling before, but it was never strong like that. At that moment, I would have resorted to anything if it meant not reaching the top. And in the end, we did resort to anything.
Daric moves out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head to look at him fully. He is sitting up in his blanket, staring dazedly at the fire. I suppress a smile as I take in this just-woke-up Daric. His hair is disheveled around his face, and his stubble has turned into a clear 5 o’clock shadow. Some of the bandages I put on him fell off during our escape today but to my surprise his skin looks completely healed. Maybe he’s just a quick healer. Just as well, I can’t help but notice other things about his chest, like how well muscled, or how broad it is.
Nope. I force my gaze back to his face, I am not about to have thoughts like that about a guy who may or may not be real. I focus on his complex expression, shutting out all other useless thoughts. I can see his mind working, catching up on everything that happened up until this moment. Once his reboot is done he finally notices my stare. He holds my gaze for a moment before speaking softly.
“How long have I slept?” his voice is husky from sleep, making his normal tenor tone dip down into a more resonating rumble. I have to take a small breath before answering him to attempt to clear my mind. I glance back up at the sky to remind myself of the time.
“I’d say about four or five hours,” I return my gaze to him as I guesstimate. Unlike most 17 year olds, I don’t have a cell phone, and I’ve always hated watches. In a strange world, this left me without a way to actually tell time, except to use the sky. Daric glances up briefly as well. He must trust my estimate because he doesn’t correct me.
That seems to be all he wanted to know because he gets up and begins to pack. I stretch my body out briefly before following his lead in clean up. The fire is extinguished, blankets are stowed, and Blood Horse is woken. Once the horse is standing, Daric mounts him and then helps me up, my pack resting on my chest again. With the moons illuminating our way, we start on our travels with efficiency.
At first I’m quiet. But soon in to our travel I can’t control the exponentially increasing questions spawning in my mind.
“So where are we going,” I ask quietly. Daric remains silent for a long time after my question. So long that I begin to wonder if he heard me. Just as I’m about to repeat myself I feel his voice more than hear it against my ear. A small part of me jumps in surprise, I didn’t realize his face was that close.
“Have you ever heard of the Chasm Caverns?” His voice is no longer husky from sleep, but I’m not used to his low whisper either as he speaks softly into my ear. My senses all seem hyper in tuned to my surroundings: the feel of his back pressed against mine, his hot breath against my ear, his body heat mingling with mine, and an almost woodsy scent that I feel like must be coming from him.
All of it leaves me practically speechless, my brain unable to process his closeness. So all I’m left to do is shake my head no. He takes a small inhale before he begins to elaborate. “Long ago, all of Advania was covered in a lake. The lake was so old, and so deep that it was rumored that at the bottom there still lived creatures from the ancient period, protected from the ravishes of time by the waters. At least, that’s how the folk tales went to scare children from swimming alone.” He takes a slight pause here, maybe remembering something, or perhaps just catching his breath. I’m not sure, but my curiosity for the story takes ahold of my mouth and decides to interrupt.
“I don’t understand. If this was all water, then where did the lake go?” I glance around the moonlit landscape. If this entire place was underwater, then it would be more the size of a small ocean than a lake.
“There was a catastrophe. Some blamed it on the ancient gods, others thought it was a signal of the apocalypse. Regardless, why it happened didn’t matter. At that time, people were simply lucky to have survived.” I feel his lips move away from ear as he looks up at the night sky, exposing my ear to the night’s chill. When he speaks again, his voice is distant. “A meteorite struck the lake. It crashed through the bottom, destroying everything. The water, the animals, cities built along the lake, nothing survived.
“ Alongside the immediate damage, the impact caused horrible groundshakes and vaulted debris into the sky. For a week, the sky was black. All over the planet, millions of plants, animals, and people all died. For those who did manage to survive, it became a whole new world. It was the largest extinction our planet has ever experienced. It is known as the week of the black sun. Everyone knows this,” his last comment feels pointed at me, but if it is it’s subtle. He quickly continues, “What everyone doesn’t know is that the meteorite exposed a network of underground caves. As people began to explore these caves, it became apparent that they did not form naturally. Someone must have built them because they arranged themselves in a very convenient formation for a city. This network is known as the Chasm Caverns.”
For a moment I just sat there, digesting all that he had told me about the crash and these underground caves. Slowly, my questions started bubbling to the surface.
“How come they weren’t destroyed in the impact or the earthquakes?” I turn my head back to look at him, causing my body to twist slightly in the saddle.
“Many of them did. It is suspected that the network extended farther below and outward from the ones we have found. It is probable that it traversed the entire area beneath the lake. Because of the meteorite, almost all of them collapsed. The few that are usable did not escape unscathed. Many of them are scarred by deep chasms that opened up from the groundshakes.” As he explains this I can sense his focus shift down from the sky back onto me. The moons are now nearing the horizon. Daylight has not begun to lighten the sky yet, but it won’t be long. As I take in his explanation I ask another question.
“So, then this whole place, the entire country is actually a crater?” My gaze grazes over the edge of the mountain ranges. Their bowl-like shape now made a lot of sense, they are the edges. I turn my eyes towards the center, where I saw the lake and the citadel. That part still didn’t make sense.
“This impact happen almost 10 thousand years ago. After the ground calmed people began to explore the impact area. Eventually, some decided to settle here,” he said it so casually, as if nothing about that statement was strange. At first my mind goes along with it, but then I do a mental double take. Wait, what? 10 thousand years ago? I may not have paid attention in my science classes but I did watch 10,000 BC. Life back then was primitive, there are no civilizations from that long ago still around. But he’s saying that Advania was started after the impact. I quickly scan the area for high tech cities and gadgets. If they are so old then why do they seem as if they are stuck in the middle ages? I am saddle sore from riding a horse all day, in a ten thousand years I’m sure someone could figure out how to build a car.
I open my mouth several times to say something but shut it every time. I’m not sure of what Daric thinks of me right now. I already said I’m not from here, but he took that to mean Advania, which is only one country. He could think I’m from somewhere else apart of this world. I guess that would be the rational thought process. If someone claims they’re not from here, you don’t automatically start thinking they’re from a different world.
But he already pointed out that everyone knows about the week of the black sun, and obviously I didn’t. That alone must seem strange, not to mention the other strange things about me he’s surely noticed. I’ve caught his stares at my clothing and my pack a few times. It’s obvious that I’m a foreigner, he just can’t figure out from where. Right now that is probably for the best. The less he knows the better. I don’t know what he’ll do if he actually knows where I’m from, or that this might possibly be a dream. How do you explain to a figment of imagination, that they’re not real?
Just as I’m about to let this topic drop one last question comes to mind that I think is safe enough to ask, since not everyone knows about the Chasm Caverns.
“Is anyone still inside these caverns?” I ask innocently.
“Yes,” his short answer wasn’t in a stop-asking-questions tone so I decided to press my luck.
“How do you know? After all, if all of this was over ten thousand years ago then it’s possible that those usable caverns have collapsed or that people have just abandoned the place entirely.” I didn’t have to look at him to know that he is smirking as he scoffs at my remark.
“Trust me, I know,” is all he replies, but that’s not enough for my curiosity.
“But how?” I press again, not satisfied with his answer.
“Because that’s where I was born.” I turn around to glance up on his face. The smirk I heard in his voice before has grown slightly larger from my stunned silence. Before I can recover my thoughts he looks away from me and nudges Blood Horse into a faster run as the moons begin to sink into the horizon and the sun starts to rise.


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