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Friday, February 23, 2007

3.2.8.3. The Journey South

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The next morning, early at dawn, Robert and his hunting party are in front of Genilda’s shop. They seem well-slept and well-prepared. Of course they’ve had their breakfast, if not, Chris’ stomach would’ve been ‘singing the blues’ again. All they have to do now are to fetch their horses in the stable and go straight to Mount Hvalgarr. Genilda the guild master and her youngest daughter, Marjan helps them with the final preparations before leaving.
‘Chris, don’t forget your backpack. Most of the food is in there. Iris, is your quiver full?’ says Genilda like a mother to her children. When Iris answers her with a nod, the guild master smiles in satisfaction and says to the party, ‘Don’t forget what I’ve told you last night. Finish what you have to do, and you must come back here alive.’
‘With our limbs intact, of course,’ says Chris.
‘We can’t promise that we’ll come back here, Ilda,’ says Robert, ‘but we’ll try our best to keep each other alive.’
As he says that, Robert and friends go away. Genilda and Marjan wave good-bye to them. They wave back and walk on, leaving Genilda in her thoughts with a worried face.
I think I won’t see them again for a long, long time. O’ Vadis the Almighty, please protect them and strengthen them so they can overcome any enemy, no matter how powerful he is.
I hope they don’t run into Zal’fira. I hope my worst fears won’t come true.
Yemima Genilda sighs, saying, ‘Jolly holly,’ and goes inside her shop with Marjan, thinking. Well, so much for my dream team. I hope someone will come and buy flowers today.

==o0o==

An hour later, Robert and his friends are riding out from Barc’vadon, and they estimate that in this speed rate, they should reach the border of Bresconnor at night.
Robert rides his trusty steed Paeldagrin in a moderate speed. He doesn’t want to push Paeldagrin too hard, knowing that there’s still enough time and no one is chasing them - yet. Robert’s friends also ride in the same pace and speed as him.
Iris has a comment on this, ‘Hmm, remember when I said this horse is not elf-bred? But as I’m riding with others, it’ll be bad for you guys if you must catch up with me all the time.’ And the show-off elf girl gets no response from the others.
They are riding in a nearby village when suddenly Chris’ horse runs into someone. It’s a woman! And the collision throws her several feet away, and leaves her sprawling helplessly in the middle of the street.
‘Easy, Hailwind. Hea, hea, easy now!’
Chris is having trouble controlling his horse, Hailweather at first, but he soon calms his horse and dismounts. Andreas and Iris are already kneeling next to the poor woman, examining her.
‘Are you okay, ma’am?’ says the dwarf healer.
The woman answers with a faint voice, ‘Ahhh, I-I’m okay, I guess. Owch! My back!’
‘Lay still, ma’am. Let me heal your wounds. Vitali!’
Andreas casts a healing spell on the woman, and her broken backbone heals gradually. Chris goes near the woman he collided; helping her to get up after the effect of the spell eased her pain apologetically. He also expresses his apology by saying, ‘I’m sorry, truly sorry, ma’am. I didn’t see you coming.’
‘Oh, that’s all right, young man,’ says the woman. She must be in her late forties or older, as we can see a few wrinkles on her face. ‘It was I who must be more careful. My poor eyesight, you know... Eeep!!’
Suddenly the woman collapses, and Chris catches her nicely. The woman rests on Chris’ arms, slowly trying to stand again.
‘Thank you, young man,’ she says. ‘I must be going now. Next time I’ll be extra careful when walking.’
‘Pardon me, but are you sure you don’t want us to take you home? I mean, you’re still weak after healing,’ says Iris.
‘Oh, no need, no need. I see you are in a hurry, so don’t let this old lady hinder you. Just leave me here and go about your businesses.’
‘Well, if you insist. Take care of yourself then, ma’am.’
Andreas, Chris and Iris immediately mount their horses and ride away from there, leaving the healed woman standing on the street side.
As they ride on, Andreas remembers something about that incident that puzzles him a bit, saying, ‘Rob, Carol, why didn’t you help us back there? Luckily that lady was slightly injured.’
Carolyn answers Andreas, ‘You three are enough to handle that problem. Anyway, someone must stay behind and guard the horse and our things.’
Robert also responds, ‘Normally I must go and settle the matter for the party, but as it was Chris’ own fault, he must deal with the problem himself. And I saw him handling that like a mature man.’
‘Well, it’s not entirely my fault!’ says the redhead knight. ‘She came all so suddenly, I didn’t see her and didn’t have a chance to stop at all!’
‘But you apologized to her anyway. That attitude showed a real man. Enough of that, fellas. Let’s keep our heads down and faster our paces, Mount Hvalgarr is still days away.’

==o0o==

The party rides on into the woods miles away from the village. Suddenly, they hear sounds like someone in a trance. Robert looks around and finds no one else but them there. As he checks on his party, he finds Chris shaking, thrashing here and there and falls from his horse.
Knowing that something is wrong, the rest of the team dismount and walk towards Chris, trying to help him. Iris says, deeply concerned, ‘Ariel, what’s wrong with you?’
There’s no answer. Chris a.k.a. Ariel (the name given by Iris which she thinks more appropriate for him) just stare blankly at everyone. His expression is vacant, but suddenly turns wild! Chris charges on his own partners like a blinded boar.
‘HEEEYAAAGHHHH!!!!!’
He draws his long sword Wyrthal and swings it haphazardly like a ferocious madman, trying to slash into anything alive along his path. Of course, being seasoned hunters, Chris’ partners elude that attack easily. And they don’t want to hurt Chris, so they only try to bring him to his senses.
‘Chris! Snap out of it!’ Carolyn yells.
‘We’re not your enemies!’ says Iris, moving swiftly to Chris’ back. She leaps high, somersaults and slaps the hypnotized knight on his left cheek. But instead of being cured, Chris’ attack lands a scratch wound on Iris’ back as she lands, throwing her to the front. Iris falls and crashes on the ground. She’s in pain, thinking,
Damn! He’s heavily hypnotized! Sorry, love, I have to use the hard way now.
Meanwhile, Robert blocks another slash from Chris with his kiliji sword and counters it by elbowing Chris on his forehead. No shout of pain from Chris, but the elbowing makes him dizzy. He staggers a bit. Seeing this opportunity, the silver-haired ranger shouts, ‘Seize him!’ and quickly seizes and grapples Chris’ arms. Andreas throws himself in front of Chris’ feet and holds them tight. Carolyn also helps to hinder Chris’ movement by hugging his waist.
The berserk redhead knight struggles with all his might to release himself – in vain. Just as Iris is about to dispel the hypnotic effect on Chris with her Nervatr (Dispel Magic) spell, Chris shouts with a hoarse, distorted voice. One can say that it’s not Chris’ voice at all.
‘Go ahead, kill me, it’ll make me happier. That’s what happens to anybody who meddles in my business! I’m warning you, weaklings, if you go to Mount Hvalgarr, you will meet the same fate as he is! ALL OF YOU!!!’
Iris scolds at the voice, ‘Who are YOU!? What do you want?’
Chris’ face turns even more evil and horrifying. He laughs shrilly and femininely, then talks on, ‘I told you what I want. Don’t go to Mount Hvalgarr even if it’s the last thing you do, EVER, and go about your own businesses!’
‘Well thank you for your warning, old hag; you will know what we’ll do pretty soon, but until then... Nervatr!’
A jet of green light shoots from Iris’ left hand, and goes directly into Chris’ head through his eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. Chris is shaking more madly than ever. He lets out an eerie shriek of pain, his head points upwards and the green light is gone. This hypnotized chap doesn’t move anymore, and falls unconscious on Robert and Carolyn’s arms. Rob and his friends then put him by the tree.
Robert grunts and shakes his fist and arm in great disappointment, saying
‘Dammit...! I should’ve known. I’ve let her had Chris!’
‘Yes, we’ve dropped our guards,’ says Carolyn. ‘Say, remember that old woman Chris ran into just now? I think she’s the witch who hypnotized my cousin.’
Andreas nods, saying, ‘Yes, and not a very strong one too. But to plant a mind bomb on Chris like that, it takes a very powerful sorceress.’
‘Yes, like Zal’fira,’ says Robert.
‘Zal’fira,’ says Iris in terror. ‘So, Genilda’s right. It’s her or another wizard like her.’
‘Hmm, so she risked exposure by giving us a warning,’ says Robert. ‘But now we know who we’re dealing with and how powerful she is. I bet she only used less than half of her power just now. Iris didn’t have much trouble to dispel that mediocre spell.’
Iris nods. ‘Yes, you’re right, Rob. If that’s all she’s got, she won’t stand against Algaban... or even Omegron.’
Carolyn joins the discussion by saying, ‘but at the same time, she knows more about us now. By that warning, she also meant to measure our strength. She might tap the telepathic connection between Rob and Algaban, and underestimated us at first. Then, after seeing our teamwork and what we’re capable of, she got more advantage against us than we against her.’
‘In short,’ says Andreas, ‘she just wanted to show us that she is far better than us altogether. Now that’s a real threat.’
‘And we’ll answer that threat,’ says Robert. ‘We’ll go to Mount Hvalgarr and meet her in battle. We’ll show her that we can go beyond our limits if we work together.’
‘Aye, very nicely said, Rob,’ says Andreas.
‘That’s the pep we need. We’ll show her that Algaban didn’t choose us for nothing,’ says Iris.
‘Yeah. I believe we can do that, fellas,’ says Carolyn. Then with her thumb, she points backwards, indicating Christopher. ‘But I’m not sure about that sleepyhead over there. I mean, Zal’fira can control his mind easily like playing with a puppet.’
As Carol says that, Chris suddenly wakes up and becomes fully conscious again. Christopher talks feebly, as though his power was drained to the bottom or he just woke up from a deep, long sleep.
‘Whaa... what’s hap... pened? D-did I fall from my... my horse? Everything went... black. I thought I’ve died.’
Carolyn sighs, ‘Oh, great. He always reacts whenever someone is talking about him, even when he was unconscious. What a dope!’
Robert comments, ‘She can also play with OUR minds like puppets, not just Chris’. And he’s much tougher than he was a year back. I remind you, once again, I trust Chris with my life. Now let’s not waste time, we go at once to Hvalgarr in full speed. And Iris, please tell Chris about our discussion and what happened to him. He is our family, so he has the right to know.’
Although he is still very weak, Christopher the knight still shows lots of determination to prove himself. Slowly, he mounts his horse, assisted by Iris.
Trust me with your life, eh? I promise I won’t disappoint your trust, my friend.

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