Lightning flashed on my face as I hurried my walk towards my village, I am still a long way to my home and rain could come anytime soon. I cannot afford to be sick as my family will not get me treated this time. At the same time I contemplated the forest as I walk along a thin irregular pathway, birds fly past over my head chirping, sounds of running water filled my ear, dying orangish sunlight from setting sun were finding their way to enter between those huge dense trees into the empty space in forest and I was able to see the green leaves come alive with vibrant colours. I took a deep breath, dragged my hand through my hairs with a mild smile and moved forward.
One thing was eating inside me is what present shall I give to my love tomorrow for her birth anniversary; I didn’t have any coppers to buy anything. If I could sell some wood from here to local market, I could get about 5+ coppers, but that would take me at least 2 hours extra to complete my journey if I stop for that. I cannot afford to be this much late. I thought I’ll give her something cheap; after all she has been mine for the past three & a half year and is very happy with me.
I reached home before it started raining. I knocked on the door as gently as could, I didn’t want to be rude; my cousin opened the door immediately with a smile on her face like she was waiting for me. I saw my uncle sitting by the fire while my aunty trying her new sandals.
“Why are you late? Who would get you treated, if you’d gotten sick from the rain” ranted aunty.
“Did you get those herbs, Rob”; my uncle questioned in a tough tone, without moving from his place.
“I tried my best but couldn’t be able to do so, as it was there somewhere at the top of a slippery hillock”. I defended myself with explanation. “Can’t you do even a simple task!” aunty shouted; “Your best is always not enough for anything, all you do is eat and sleep on your uncle’s earnings”. I glanced towards my uncle; he was still there, unmoved, undisturbed. I glanced towards my sister; she had a pity look for me. She was worried for me, we knew now aunty will shout and curse me till we go to bed. Uncle will not say anything on her oppose, he would just silently sit like he has not heard anything. She said “why don’t you go and try to earn some money. You are big enough to earn and not be a burden on your uncle”. I thought why should I earn if my own uncle is already has a business that could fill our stomachs, just to escape from the situation I showed them my disappointed face.
It has been pathetic living under the same roof with my uncle and aunty. I was very young when my father and mother died. After that I came under their custody. I didn’t understand at first but I was more like a servant than a son to them. My cousin sister, their only child, Jona was the only person other than Emily who has loved and cared for me. She is four years younger than me. We have a great brother-sister bond and used to stick together in ones bad time.
They didn’t send me to local preacher also; maybe they didn’t want me to get educated. Whatever knowledge I had are from travelers whom I would meet during my stay in forest. They would tell me their experiences about the world and people around.
Some knowledge I got from my sister, it was more like a general knowledge; yes, she was going to a preacher unlike me. We – common people, live in the northern part of the known world, entire northern region came under the realms of kings and queens living opulently in eastern part. All I knew that we give them tax and they rule over us. West is where all the convicts were kept as prisoners in jails, apart from that I didn’t know much nor did I had any interest. All my interests were in south because it held all the magic and powers but most part of the south were still undiscovered as it was too dangerous for anyone to unfold its mysteries.
From the travellers, I would barter information about their experience in South; in exchange I would give them food or medicines. In the coming few months after my birth anniversary, I’ll be considered as an adult but I already know so much about South.
I had heard about the mystical purple orchid, that can heal any wound; the Auric fish, impossible to catch one, but if you able to catch it, eating their flesh could multiply human powers up to ten times, permanently; wishing well – fulfills your wishes, hidden treasures and many more.
According to the general rules signed by kings, it was forbidden to go deep in south but nobody stops anyone anyway.
It was around midnight, staring at the ceiling and thinking what I should do about her gift, maybe I could give her the turquoise coloured dress that she wanted. I didn’t even know that colour existed until she showed it to me. It was the most exquisite dress she had ever seen, that was out of my budget 10 times already, may be next time; this time – a bundle of flowers; yes that would be cheap and sweet. I slept immediately and woke up before dawn, went to Mr. Jim’s lawn silently, our neighbour and stole 4 roses and 3 hibiscuses.
I went to the local market area where her father’s shop was there. They lived in a cottage just behind their shop. She knew I would come there early morning. I didn’t get too close to her house because her father could suspect something about me; she was there at the gate. We saw each other and then she went in south direction, towards old farm.
I followed her.
We had a little spot of ours, where we usually see each other, talk and kiss. She stood at the corner of an old cart. As I came near to her I got a clearer view of her.
She was wearing a long sleeveless red dress exactly of her size, covering her up till her ankles with thin footwear. I could clearly see her now – Her posture was tall, slim with perfect bend, dusky skin, short black hairs, big black eyes and sharp sleek tight jaws. I wonder what on earth she sees in me to be with me when she herself is too damn perfect.
I gave her flowers and wished her, “Happy birthday my love, Emily!” Immediately she burst into tears, crying like hell in a matter of seconds and I wondered ‘what I have done now’, I told her with a smile “this is just a part of your gift; wait till you see your main surprise in the evening”. I didn’t even have a single penny in my pocket but just to make her smile again I said that and would now do anything to make it happen.
“It’s not about the gifts, my father has promised my wedding to a wealthy businessman. We cannot meet from now onwards; just forget about me” she said while crying and left.
The smile on my face that I made up to make her smile wasn’t over yet and she said all these things, slowly I realised the gravity of the situation, it took me few seconds to do that.
I immediately ran after her and got in front of her. “Why can’t you marry me?” I asked her in a high pitched direct tone looking straight in her eyes.
She held my hands tightly and said in her own distorted crying voice “You don’t earn Rob and my father will never let me marry someone like you, he earns in Gold. It will happen in a month” I was senseless that moment, suffocated in my own misery, choked in my own breath. By the time I gained my conscious it was too late. She had left me.
I went home; aunty was there, she exclaimed and gave me pathetic “You are a useless” smile. Clearly she was not happy with me being a burden on family. I wished my own father and mother would have been alive, I could have got more respect and wealth.
I got out from home in anger and went towards the forest, sat on a rock at the bank of flowing water stream. Reflection of running water glimmered on my face as I contemplated the flow, feeling useless, not worthy of a life, there was extreme pain in my stomach not like I had ever before, felt like there was a hole in my heart. ‘What should I do now? Marriage; in a month, what is happening in my life all of a sudden. Is this even real?’
I wanted her back I cannot do anything without her. It was her love that kept me happy all these years. She was the whole and soul of my happiness and me. Trying to be a tough kid all these years , I never told her how much I loved her and how much she meant to me, how beautiful she was to me, how much I’d wanted her in my life. She was always a priority in my life, but I never told her any of these things. It’s such a shame I never expressed these feelings in a compassionate way. I wonder would it made any difference anyway. Or if I tell her now would it make any changes to current situation. It didn’t bother me earlier, as my actions were louder than my words for her, I thought it was enough.
I never saved from whatever I had earned, almost half of it I gave to travelers for information of south because that was the only thing related to my passion and dream and rest half I spent on her to make her happy. I gave her everything I could, never had anything for myself or demanded anything from her except her time and love. I also took care of my sister as she was also an importance in my life. Roughly one year ago she asked me to marry her. I thought it’s too early and told her we will definitely marry but not now, I wish I could have started working towards it from that day onwards so I would be in a better situation now.
My thoughts were cloudy; I was not able to think clearly as the pain in my heart overpowered my mind.
After hours of thinking I came to the conclusion that problem was not with love. It was with my earnings. That’s it; I have to increase it significantly within a month. May sound easy to anyone but not to an uneducated, unskilled, slim, barely-man kid. How can I set up my earnings in such a short time? My uncle barely save enough to fill our stomachs, he won’t be able to help.
I love her, how can I make myself capable of her, I questioned myself. I needed wealth, gold.
May be we are not destined to be together or I could make my own destiny, in this short period of time the only way I could make wealth is from ‘Murk Forest’. Everyone knows that forest has a wish giving well. However, no one has ever returned from the forest to tell that. I knew the rumors were true as I had the same information about the forest from multiple travelers. They couldn’t be all wrong. Among these rumours there are also rumours of Agithians, ruthless beasts which creep in deep forest and could split human in a blink. They know witchcraft so they could be in any shape. This is what at least we’ve been told from our childhood. I have no other choice but to go to the forest. There is no civilization near this forest, why would someone live near to that supernatural forest. The nearest village near to that forest is 50 miles away; village ‘Kisol’. First I have to go that village.
I have to get moving, I went back to my cottage and packed by bags, took my bow with two arrows and my dagger. I informed my sisters that I’ll back soon. I didn’t bother to inform uncle and aunty.
Now I have to inform HER, next morning I went near to her home, she was there. I signaled her to meet me again for one more time, after that I went to old farm. I waited for her for some time, as she came I saw her face, it was not like before when she used to give me smiles a mile before she could reach; her face was numb, cold and had lots of forehead wrinkles, I suppose a sign of stress.
I said, “I’ll return before 30 days with enough wealth, please wait for me and tell your father about this. I want to tell you that I love you”. I was not very good with words so I couldn’t say anymore than this.
“Wait for me…“
I kissed her forehead, turned around and was about to walk when she held my hand and while seeing right through my eyes she said “I want to marry you, come soon with wealth”. I nodded in an unclear manner, maybe I wasn’t confident enough about the outcome of the journey I was about to begin. But I had clear understanding for the gravity of the situation. I was under pressure already as I walked away.
All I could see was her face and think – what if I fail in reaching the well or fail in returning or what if I come after 30 days. I kept my nerves, held my tears and moved on.
I needed some coppers to compensate my travel expenses. I decided to sell the herb that I got other day from forest ‘jiver’, which I didn’t give to my aunty for her back pain. I went to old market to sells those herbs. I went to the section where people buy these kinds of herbs and then sell them to far customers. I saw an old man sitting at the end.
I went towards him and asked how much for these rare herbs, he carefully examined the herb and gestured four fingers. I said “this should be more but I can have it in four but I need some information”. “What kind of information”, the old man asked. “I need to go to Murk Forest, tell me way of Kisol village”. I asked directly. He shrugged and said “take five coppers and leave; I don’t have time for nonsense”. “I don’t need extra copper just point me to the right direction, I’ll be on my way. I am already late and it’s a matter of life and death” I said. Old man replied, “What’s the point of going after your certain death, all of you go there to fulfill your greed but none has returned”.“Just point me to right direction and I won’t bother you”, I said in a low desperate tone. If you want to commit suicide, go west, 180 miles. You’ll reach Kisol. After saying this he handed over 5 coppers. I nodded with a thanking gesture.
I immediately took off; total of 220 miles will take at least 10 days to travel. Affording a horse was out of my budget, I had to walk. I started off my journey. I had a complex feeling of anxiety and excitement. Paths were mostly rocky and uneven making it difficult to walk. After first 12 hours I was starving, my back and legs was hurting as much as removing them from the body seemed to be the most compelling solution of it. There were few blood clots under my feet and my knees were not functioning properly and lower back was just simply in extreme pain. Apart from those there was this constant fear of failure and loneliness that always accompanied and haunted me. Not even a day has completed and my condition was not very good.
Whenever I broke down from pain or loneliness, When dark clouds came upon me or scorching earth stopped me from moving ahead, the only thing kept me intact was her smile and her voice in my mind. It fueled me.
I sat down and roughly planned my further journey.
Slowly I learnt how to get moving; Henceforth, I used to start my journey at dawn as it was easier to travel in early morning and covered most of the distance during that time. I took rest in night. I eat cheapest food and stayed under the clear sky. It took me few days to adjust in the rough and tough real world without any northern comfort.
After completing my 4th day of my journey I was way inside south territory. I have to be more careful now things will be different compared to civilized northern region. It was already dark and I was exhausted, about to ignite my fire so that I could supply some heat and comfort to my body, and planned to sleep off post that, I was collecting wood logs scattered across, as I looked over my shoulders and my eyes got fixed to a dim fire at a distance. It was blur but had me convinced that it was human made fire.
Another traveler! I thought. I should meet him. I went towards the fire. As I got close to it I saw a man facing towards fire and warming his palms. I circled the fire to come in front of him and said “Good evening mister! My name is R…Rob”. My voice tone was changed from casual to surprise, and my mouth was still open in shock. There was a girl about my age dressed in man’s cloths.
“Evening punk! What do you want?” she asked in a direct tone.
“I…I was sitting there, I saw your fire and thought you must be a traveler so I thought to barter some information, that’s it I don’t have any other intention”. I stammered as I answered; I had never seen any lady traveler of south and that too this much beautiful. I gulped in insecurity.
Unlike other girls she was wearing pant and shirt, also a leather jacket with hat. Confident eye with sleek tight cheek bones; she looked like an experience person.
“What are you doing here, this much deep in south, you don’t look from south with all your delicate and fancy cloths” – she asked in a way where she sounded more experienced than me.
“Yes I am from north, I live near ‘Jiver’ forest, in a small village called ‘Samas’ with my uncle, aunty and cousin and I am here for Murk forest; I replied promptly”. Was I nervous? I should not be or else she will take me as a kid.
“There are better ways to commit suicide boy, why Murk?” She asked immediately with a constant half smile on her face.
“I have my reasons, as a matter of fact I didn’t have any other choice, as it was a do or die situation for me. Why are you here? Are you from here? What is your name? Where are you going?” I fired questions as it was first time I had met a lady traveler.
”I am Elena”. Only thing she said.
“So? Where are you going?” I raised my eye brows in a manner to expect an answer from her.
“I am going to Jelly land”, she said and chuckled while removing her hat; and then her shoulders were covered with long beautiful straight blond hairs. It looked like it was on fire in that wood fire light. It made her look more beautiful and me more nervous.
I knew Jelly land was an imaginary world used to scare babies off to sleep; inside I was irritated and angry. I wanted to reply in a harsh way but while gazing her hairs over her shoulders I saw group of people running towards us with fired batons.
“What the….?” I murmured.
“What? Holy shit! I have to get away” she said while packing her things. I thought the moment was correct for my revenge, I held her bag and said – I need all my answers and why all these people are behind you anyway? are you a thief?
“I don’t have time for bullshit, let go of me” she said in a tensed and irritated tone. I knew she was hiding something big.” I won’t let go, let them come” I said in a casual tone. “Fine!! I’ll tell you everything, come with me” she said in irritated manner.
We ran across the meadows into the bushes, lurking behind a fallen bark of tree we saw them searching for her. After sometime they went to opposite direction. I turned to her and said “I am all ears”. “Okay, you saved my life by foreseeing those men. I’ll be honest with you. My name is Alice, from the east.” She said.
Raised my brows, “are you a thie…” yes I am a thief, she said promptly without any hesitation. How come you are here? “I am here for the ‘Missing Mushrooms’” She said quietly.
“Oh yes I have heard about those magical mushroom that will make you invisible”. I said with excitement.
“You bet it is! I stole the map to it from a group of people earlier today in a bar when they were drunk and passed out, I guess they tracked me” She said with a surety. I knew missing mushroom was the thing that will certainly help me in Murk.
I asked – How far it is from here, miss.
“Not far out” she said. “Can I accompany you, I need some of them it will be very helpful for me in Murk, please?” I pleaded.
“Well if you are off to Murk this can be your last wish, how can I deny it. Sure you can come along”. She chuckled while saying. I wasn’t sure if I should say thanks.
As soon as dawn approached we got up and contemplated the map. It was just two miles off in south-west direction.
I was out for my first search in south; I was excited like anything but at the same time worried for Murk as well. We reached there in no time with the help of map. It was an isolated place within the jungle. How can such a place exist in a dense forest, without the map it was impossible to find it. There was a big dark cave.
I gulped and said “ladies first”.
She gave me a “not so funny” look with small eyes and said we should have fire before going in. We got ourselves a big bright torch and then we went inside. It was really dark and we could only see in the light the fire, everything else was pitch black.
After walking for some time we were out from other end. I breathe deeply as there was plenty of air there. We still were inside the cave but it was more like a huge empty space in front of us with ceiling as high as giant red woods trees and there was uneven way leading down from that small cliff, where we were.
As we went down we saw there was shallow black clear water. We contemplated the environment and then our eyes got stuck and became big when we saw few glowing spots in water at some distance. We immediately went towards it, we were near to it. They were small mushrooms that were glowing, emitting golden light. We rushed towards them, we counted there were eight mushrooms.
“Damn! It’s not enough, this layer must have been raided by others and now only eight are left. It will take years for these Mushrooms to bloom again”, ranted Alice.
“Wow, we got eight missing mushrooms. Isn’t it something?” I shouted in joy as my voice echoed. Something..something..something..Then I laughed out loud.
“NO! It’s not, it should have been 40 to 50”, she gave me “you idiot” look.
She said “I’ll take 5 and you take 3”. I nodded like a child as I knew it was because of her I got any of those mushrooms. We took the mushrooms and got out.
“Okay I’ll be heading towards Sinkai village, I’ll be there for the next few months, and if you want you can visit me there.” She said with a smile. Sinkai village was famous for their warriors and combat training. I said I’ll visit her and insisted her to come and visit Samas, village and that I would introduce her to my love.
“You are a nice kid, Rob. Don’t lose your innocence and honesty” she said in a serious tone.
“How can you say something like that for me?” I questioned.
“Intuition” she answered
I thanked her for the mushrooms and she asked me stay alive. Next, we parted our ways.
I continued my journey and was on my way to Murk. I was so much delighted from inside about the mushrooms and it had me in a better position, one step closer to Emily.
I would just directly tossed gold bags to her father’s face and laugh while holding her tightly on my side. I laughed thinking about the situation. There was a nice spot between Jiver and old farm, we will build a home there and I would provide her everything she desires. I didn’t need much wealth for myself; it’s just her whom I wanted to be happy because I loved that particular expression on her face with which her face glows when she gets an unexpected or any awesome gift from me or she just becomes happy with my actions.
I could trade anything for that expression. Trying to be a tough man who keeps his emotions close to his vest, I never told her these things.
But I told her that I regret every single time I had made her cry, irrespective of whatsoever was the reason.
I was walking in my own thoughts when I heard horrific screaming voices of children. I moved towards the voices and the screaming got louder and louder every second. From a distance I saw a ‘Creen’.
What??A Creen, hair rose of my arms and a chilled sensation rattled in my spine. What the hell a Creen is doing in this much deep in southern territory. I watched closely that was happening lurking behind from a tree not so far from the Creen.
Creens are half human and half animal. Claws of a wolf, horn and strength of a buffalo but face of a human. They are extremely vicious, ruthless killer for kings.
“No; please leave me, please!” said the girl which was held by Creen from her throat tightly. The vicious creature laughed in a devilish tone and then his smile got sharper with a horrific gaze on her.
“What the hell? “ I murmured. He will definitely kill her, what shall I do now, I can’t fight with a Creen, he will take me down in a matter of seconds. But I can’t leave those girls to be with him either. Shall I use my one of the mushrooms; if I could, I should be able to put my dagger into his heart but that would certainly decrease my chances in Murk. No, no I can’t afford that; I have to think something else fast. Think…think…think.
Next second, he shoved his sharp deadly claws right in her stomach. My eyes got wider and hair rose of my body as I contemplated the horrid scene. The girl was in extreme pain and tears, she screamed at the top her voice and got tossed on the ground, while she was holding her stomach trying to stop the profuse bleeding which was inevitable; cuts were too wide, too deep for the bleeding to be stopped with bear hands.
Suddenly he turned to other girl with the same horrid smile; I knew he would do the same with her. Without wasting any more time I immediately eat one of the mushrooms. It just only took a few seconds to come into effect; I checked my body it was…..not there. There was no time to act surprised and enjoy the moment as anytime that beast could kill the second girl.
I took my dagger out, crouched and walked as low and quiet as possible; sweating profusely my hands were shaking; I held the dagger with both of my hand now. All I could think was I had to aim at his heart with all my power. In no time I was near to the beast and my legs were now shaky, it made the maximum sound it could make.
The Creen sensed something was there in the air as he checked it by his snout while holding the girl’s throat and vaguely checking on the dry leaves in ground making. I stopped where I was and controlled my breathing with the maximum extend I could.
He again turned towards the girl and gave her the same exact look which he gave to the first girl before her execution and there was no time now. I ran towards him with my full force and pace. He didn’t understand what was happening but he did understand that something was coming for him, by the time he could do anything my dagger was right through his heart.
I wasn’t sure that it was enough to kill him; my heart was beating way more than it should be. With all my force I twisted the inserted dagger and he screamed in extreme pain. I wanted to know why he was here; his place was in elite army of the king. After few seconds I was again visible.
I questioned him “Why are you here? What is your business here?” he growled and said in a hard tone – “That’s none of your business”. I again gave him the hint that I could again twist the dagger by putting a little rotational on it. “Okay, okay I am here for the girls; that is all I know.” I was confused why he was here for them, especially for them.
I again gave him the same hint but this time a little more and asked “Why?”
He screamed and said “because the king demands it, you idiot!” I was more confused now. “And why he needs them?” I asked.
Breathing heavily and sweating profusely he said “We are ground soldiers, they don’t share any information with us; I don’t know anything now. Please leave me now”
There was certainly something fishy going on inside those beautiful big castles in east.
I carried the dead girl’s body, took out my dagger and signaled the other girl to come. After walking a few steps I turned back and commanded him “Stay down!” then we walked away.
A girl was dead, right in front of my eyes. I could have stopped that from happening if I would not be a selfish person. I turned to the other girl she was crying very hard, she looked at me and said “Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, you saved my life”
But I could not save her. I felt so heavy; her life was on my head. The incident was recursively happening inside of my head over and over again, it was eating me inside. We came out of forest in sometime; I could see some people not far from there. I placed the girl there in grass softly and asked the other girl to go fetch some people. She immediately left; left me there to stare the dead corpse. With tears in my eyes I moved on from there.
I walked, I walked in tears, I walked in shame.
I continued my journey towards Murk. I had travelled for 6 days continuously on foot, exhausted my 3 coppers in way for food and pain medicine. Finally I arrived at a village.
Walking on the muddy centre road of the village, either side of the village had shops and houses most them were really old like no one is actually living in them. I saw a person lurking behind the wall of a shop. I raised my voice and said “Hey Mr. Can you help me here”. He cringed and immediately took off from the spot.
Strange, I thought. I kept walking. I saw a crippled man sitting in a chair and I approached the man and asked him “Mr. Can you help me with directions?” He had a mild devilish smile on his face and was contemplating me from head to toe. “Hello Mr. Can you help please??”
“Where you want to go? What is it you seek?” Asked the man in a plain voice
“I am looking for ‘Murk’ forest.” I answered. “You don’t want to go there, whatever you seek is not above your life, your death is certain if you go in that forest. Return from wherever you have come.” The old man warned me in a direct tone.
“I can’t go back;I have my reasons to be here, if death is what coming for me then I’ll face it but if I not go backanddie without hope. Tell me the way if you know.” Yet again I ignored the warning.
Old man chuckled and said “I can sense you have stridden from far. If you wish to enter the forest and die go in the same direction. It will come in next 50 miles.”
“Thank you” I said without any gratitude.
I asked if he had some food. Fortunately, he had was some bushes; so I eat some and took some for the journey as he said he had plenty of those.
Just before leaving he said; “Kid, watch out for humans more than animals there. God bless you!”
I vaguely nodded my head as I trampled mud and went to south direction.
After walking for three long days on rocky paths; I was completely exhausted, drenched in rain and was not in position to walk anymore. My legs were entirely damaged. I was frustrated with all the pain and sufferings. It was not what I expected from this journey. It was getting too much for me to handle now. I got down on my knees, closed my eyes; I saw Emily’s smiling face, I heard her voice. She told me she will be waiting for me. I cried in desperation as I strongly held my grip on the grass and screamed as loud as I could. Nothing was under my control, I could feel it in heart that I was weak and was about to break down anytime soon.
My confidence was at rock bottom.
I knew what people will think of me when they will hear about journey, when they will hear about my story. They will think of me a compulsive, suicidal, cynical, and childish person.
Let them think what they want, I didn’t mean to drown myself, I meant to swim till I sank; but that’s not the same thing. There was only one hope for me and I took it because deep in my heart I knew she was worth it. Yes! More than my life.
I passed out and woke up half a day later. I got up, pushed my hairs back , rubbed my face and started walking again.
I heard trees bellowing continuously, I was getting near to forest. Nearby I saw flowing water coming out of dense trees. I washed my face, hands, and legs. Now I have to go in, a big gulp, I was scared but I entered the dense forest. It was just like a normal forest. I contemplated the entire surrounding. I saw large leaves coming out from huge trees, there was a thin pathway leading inside. Pathway was not clear or firm, it was muddy and full of small green plants and mushrooms, looks like no living thing has been traveling inside or outside in recent past.
No wind as I entered, from the first step itself I saw the road has been divided in to two paths. Which one shall I take!
I tried to see as far as I could, I saw, one road was completely drenched and other had some kind of shelters at far.
I wanted to go towards the route which had shelters as that looked less dangerous.
But I suddenly remembered the legends which stated that all dangerous creatures were shape shifters and were far far more dangerous than any other creature on earth. They can disappear in thin air, knows dark magic and could gut me in a flash.
As shelters are indication of humans around, I took the less obvious route.
Forest was darker than ‘Jiver Forest’, there was no bird chirps and had very little sunlight. I continued my walk contemplating every detail I could. Every step I took I double checked my footing.
How do I find the well? should it be at center of the forest or may be at the end of the forest or could be anywhere!
Best idea was to climb a tree and have a best view from it. I started climbing a tree beside me. It took me few minutes to complete my climb.
I saw just trees, whatever I could saw, how far I could saw; I saw only trees. No sign of any well.
I was about to came down when I saw a man from top. I saw he was silently moving. I made glances to other side, there was a wild boar.
Wild boar, an extremely dangerous animal and you would not want to mess with one if it is hungry.
I wondered how the man was approaching to that kind of beast. I checked my footing on the branch. Next thing I saw was an enormous Lion jumping towards boar. The size of the lion was roughly 1.5 times of an actual lion. What Isaw left me speechless. One moment I saw a normal man, the other, a Lion. The Lion shred the boar in a matter of seconds. It eat the boar very fast with great rigor like it was starving from days. After that it left the spot.
I came down, my eyes were wide open and heart was pounding.
For this point onwards I knew my life was in grave danger. I have to plan something else or I won’t stand a second with these creatures. I thought what if I talk to that man who attacked boar. He is not hungry anymore. We could make a deal, he could protect me and I would do anything in return except eaten up by him. This sounds too naive to be true. But this was my only choice, jungle was new for me, I didn’t know routes or dangers that it contains. I can’t fight with these creatures too and my legs are not in condition to run as well. And what’s the point of taking the less travelled road anyway, these human beasts are supposed to be there on other road.
I thought anyhow I have to fight one of them, why not try this idea.
With this hope I went to the direction where he went, I followed the footsteps after walking for 200 meter or so I saw the same man drinking water from flowing water.
Shall I approach him, will he gut me before I could start my negotiations. I gathered my courage and took the next step. I have to look confident and composed. Should I start with a formal Hi, Hello or directly should I initiate a conversation; I questioned myself.
He immediately looked at me and stopped drinking water.
He had devil’s red eyes; he gave me a devilish smile to me as he stands up and walked towards me.
I forgot what I had to say, I was blank but I knew this is it. This is my only chance to negotiate. At least he is in his human form.
I gathered courage and said “I was looking for you”, in a cool tone but from inside I was already dead 4-5 times. I kept my hands back just to hide that they were continuously shaking.
“You shouldn’t be.” He snarled.
“I could make a deal for you, at least listen it first before you eat me.” I said in a tone like I was offering him sanctuary.
“Why should I, I am still hungry.” He said while approaching me, licking his lips.
This moment, this particular moment I was about to crap in my pants, fear was in my bone marrow.
I kept my nerves and said, “You are thinking about today’s hunger when I could make your life easy in present & future. What loss you could incur in a few seconds.” I gave a confident smile to him.
“Speak!” He said.
Take me to the wishing well. And I shall help you in any way you ask.
He laughed very hard at my face and said “this was your plan? You are so dead, what help could you be of mine.”
“Exactly!” I said. “We could figure out something. May be I could get you out of here and help you set up your home in a village or any work; I can do that task for you.”
“There is nothing you could do for me” he chuckled.
“Except one” He said in casual tone with devilish smile on his filthy face.
“I want you to help me kill a ‘Trior’”. I asked him what a trior is. “Just like me but he can transform into a Tiger”. He stated in a casual tone. I gulped,” what I have to do”, I asked.
Just shove this behind him when I attack him. He gave me some kind of weapon, it was a white pointed stick, and nothing was special about it except it was pure white. I asked when we have to attack, he said now. I put the stick and my hands under my cloths as I didn’t want to show him my hands trembling with fear.
He took me somewhere deep into the forest. He said when he attacks him take the opportunity and shoves it anywhere in his opponent’s body and then asked me to climb up a nearby tree.
I climbed and waited for some time, and then I saw a muscular man walking opposite to our way. As I watched him walking, I heard bellows from bushes and I saw huge Lion jumping towards the man. The man immediately reacted to the attack by deflecting the lion and dodged himself by rolling on the ground. He immediately turned himself into Tiger with a heart stopping roar, loud enough to be heard from miles.
They both roared and jumped towards each other. I saw the force and aggression between them. They were fighting to kill each other. I saw lion got the upper hand on tiger; yes, I thought this is the correct time to do job. I simply got down, while crouching I went near to them. With all my force shoved the sharp stick inside tiger’s back right leg. After few seconds I saw white stick turns black. Tiger died few seconds later.
I asked the man, “like you said I killed him”. I felt bad as I had killed someone who had not done anything bad to me.
Lion glanced me a look then started eating the tiger. I thought just few hours before he eat boar now he is eating again. What kind of appetite is this?
He eats half of the tiger and asked me to carry some part of his body as he will now take me to the well.
As we walk, after sometime I asked “why you asked me to kill that tiger?” He said “because I couldn’t as I have to be in human form to use the stick and kill an immortal trior”, and that kind of risk he could not take in front of that tiger and also he was hungry too. I guessed the white stick was some kind of weapon to kill these creatures. I wonder if it works on lions too. “Why you wanted to kill him? Rivalry or anything else?” I questioned him. He didn’t bother to answer and I didn’t bother to push my luck by forcing him to.
He walked me towards various turns and caves. Forest became more and more dense and dangerous. We didn’t find anyone in our way. May be he knew jungle way too much better that he knew which path would be clear at what time. We were almost 2-3 miles inside jungle. He asked to give him tiger’s remaining meat as he was hungry again. Again! I was confused and shocked at the same time.
He said we are almost there. I became excited as I was finally near the well. He removed some bushes that came in our way and there it was; an old well.
Not as I imagined. It was just an old simple well. But it was quite deep. Rather than gold coated well inside some big castle, it was just a well covered with grasses over it. I just have to flip a coin inside and make my wish I thought.
I’ll ask for lots of wealth I thought. Then I thought how I could carry it outside this jungle unharmed. I never thought I would be in this ambiguity.
“Thinking of what to wish”, he said as he chuckled. Remember you have only one wish. Use it wisely.
“Ah one more thing, one important thing”
“Let me tell you something about the well. It will not grant you wish if you are wishing out of your greed; wish from your desire not with your greed. There is a very thin line between greed and desire, which most of us didn’t know or understand; Wishing out of greed will not be fulfilled and rather it will turn you into like us. Animals, cursed immortal animals that cannot cross the jungle and are always hungry, so we have to eat something in every few hours. I too was in your situation some 200 years back, except I didn’t know this concept.You have an extra edge now. I am excited to hear what you will wish. Now you understand why no one returns from here, either they turned into us or be eaten by us.”
“Make a wish before I am hungry again.” He laughed horribly after that.
A chilled sensation crawled on my spine. Now I understood why he helped me. Firstly, he used me to help him in killing his enemy and secondly, he doesn’t care if I successfully make a wish or not he will eat me any way, he just wanted enjoy this scene.I have to make my decision quickly. I can’t think for too long. Time is the essence, which I couldn’t afford at this point.
Shall I make my wish to marry her! Yes; but even if I could I would not able to give her proper living.|
Shall I wish my father mother to come alive, father had a good business going on and I could help him in the same, that way I could have my father, mother, wife, and wealth; but am I being greedy here! | I wanted my father and mother to be back, so so much. I missed them badly this whole time.| I could also wish for my dream, to travel and unravel mysteries of south.| I could resurrect the girl that was killed by Creen.
How shall I escape from this hell forest after any wish!
I have to be careful with my wish; I can’t end up like these animals. I have to hurry also or else he could gut me and eat me to my bones.
I was not able to think straight at that point of time; my heart was pumping like I just had a sprint race. I could feel the tension in the marrow of my bones. I have to calm myself in order to think wisely. I kept my eyes closed. After few minutes, I heard; “times up!, kid”
Few seconds later, I said –I know what I have to wish, I flipped my coin and said “I wish for……
(To be continued ….)
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