Facing the Shadows; Dreams of Eothera

Chapter 1

"Dreams are like stars...you may never touch them, but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny."

Gazing out her window, Jaena felt peaceful. Nothing could calm her down more as staring into the beautiful night, a dark blanket washed over the sky, so kindly lit by sparkling little stars.

From a distance she could see Orion and unconsciously a smile formed upon her lips. Ever since Jaena had been a little girl this star sign was something for her to draw hope from. As if something was there to watch over her, to let her know better times are to come, to know she was taken care of.

In a life of turmoil it was sometimes her only comfort, that and a good song to fill her heart with emotion. She used to stare for hours onto nature's beauty, watched the sun rise and set, felt the wind upon her face while sitting in the attic's window, enjoy the sound of the waves of the sea as they crash upon the sand when time and opportunity would allow her these fine pleasures of life.

Unfortunately these pleasures weren't often presented to Jaena, or not seizeable by her frail body. Yet Orion was always there, whenever she found herself gazing upon the night sky, it was there for her. No matter when or where, it always seemed to be right there.

From behind her Jaena could hear her mother go to bed. The sound of her mother pulling the decorative chain of golden beads that turned off the main light in the living room, how her feet carried her over the carpet covered wooden stairs. And the 11th stair, softly creaking under the weight of its carrier before she finally made it to the 1st floor. The sound of the door's handle going down before opening the door leading to the first floor hallway, to then be closed once again. Another flick of a chain of beads and the sound of water flowing…

Jaena turned her head away from the darkness of her bedroom and focused back upon Orion, she bowed her head slightly and closed her eyes while smiling. This was her way of bidding the stars goodnight, to thank them for shining upon her once again before going to rest.

Silently, so her mother would not hear her move at this late hour Jaena climbed down from her attic window. The window was placed diagonally in the roof, and the window turned in its framed if wished to be opened. Jaena had found a way to block the window from falling back into a balanced position after opening it to its furthest by taking half of a wooden clothes pin and putting it into the turning mechanic on the side of the frame.

While standing in her bedroom all she could see was the sky and sometimes she wished to watch the actual world outside, the rooftops of other houses, children playing outside, to feel the breeze of wind in her face. So she had inventively found this way to open the window further and with a small chair she was able to climb into the window's frame.

One leg bent on the frame and the other resting on the roof tiles outside, while sitting and leaning against a soft pillow to keep the hard wood from hurting her. This was her favorite place in the house, here she was alone and at peace, the radio inside the room playing a meaningful tune to her heart and it was perfect.

Her mother forbade her to continue this "dangerous business" as she was worried of Jaena's safety and the possibility of her falling down. Despite this Jaena couldn't help herself nor was willing to refrain from doing so. So at night, or when her mother was away this was still her own little place.

Jaena's feet softly and skillfully landed on the chair beneath the window and she silently fiddled with the mechanic of the window to get the wooden pin out. As silently as she possible could she pushed the window back in its frame until there was an inch left. A small opening to get some fresh air into her bedroom, "Perfect" Jaena thought as she smiled to herself.

As Jaena moved from the chair onto the floor she could hear her mother's bedroom door closing. She glanced upon the digital clock on the wall "3.02", perhaps it was best to get some rest indeed, Lord knows her body needed it.

Softly Jaena placed the wooden chair back behind her desk while tiptoeing towards her bed. She pulled the white scarf from her neck that she had been wearing against the cold and put it to rest on the end of the bed.

She made herself comfortable in her bed, cuddling the soft blankets as she pulled them over her body, her long dark hair resting on the pillows as fleeting thoughts and images came to pull her away from reality into the realm of dreams.

*~*~*~*~*

A loud bell could be heard echoing through the small village of Naladen, a man violently shaking the cord of the bell on the tower at the village's entrance. The sound was threatening and the purpose of it rang clear through the village's homes and streets.

Heads turned towards the tower and fear entered the people's hearts…

Men and women scattered throughout the village, some gathering their dearest belongings, others clinging tightly to their children as they ran into the streets. Dogs barking, children crying, instant turmoil only a few moments after the bell rang.

The man in the tower had abandoned his station now, seeing his message had come across loud and clear. He hurried down the ladder, his grey eyes fearfully on the fog on the hilltop east of the village. He opened the door to the hut under the tower and was happily greeted by his dear companion, licking his face to express its love towards its master. The grey haired man quickly took the leash from the hook on the door and leashed his dog, then ran with him for safety, as fast as their legs could carry them. While running through the village square he used his voice loud and clear, alarming the villagers around him to follow him to safety.

When the loud bell's ringing reached a small cottage on the west side of the village, Jaena instantly awoke from the bed she was resting in and sat straight up. The first thing she heard was the bell, which puzzled her greatly. Unaware of her surroundings she tried to gain some control of the thoughts in her head.

"A bell? where is that coming from? I haven't heard a bell in ages…"

She felt slightly dizzy, but nothing she couldn't handle. Then screams, crying and yelling came from outside, turmoil and fear being put into word by many. It shocked Jaena to her core, what was going on?

For a moment Jaena forgot the turmoil outside and mustered some strength to wake up fully and take notice of her immediate surroundings. She scanned the room that separated her from the chaos outside. She was sitting in a small bed of wood, hay sticking from under the sheets and a pillow of feathers. Next to her a wooden chair that seemed to have been handmade, a small table next to the bed with some pottery apparently holding water, besides it a small clay cup to drink from.

"Where in the world…."

Jaena didn't have time to finish her thoughts as another loud scream from a young woman could be heard outside, then a man yelling, "Lord save us, they've come here!". Shaking the thoughts of misplacement out of her head Jaena quickly stepped out of the bed and ran for the wooden door at the other end of the bedroom. When she reached the main room no one was to be found and the door towards the street was wide open. It was a small house and the roof was quite too low for Jaena's comfort, but she didn't pay it any attention as she rushed into the streets.

Horses and wagons were riding through the village, people in panic everywhere. Men, women and children ran her by, not paying her any attention whatsoever.

"Excuse me, Miss" Jaena tried to keep a young blonde woman from running by holding her shoulder, to ask her what was happening. The woman turned her head and Jaena was taken aback from the pure fear in the woman's green eyes, the panic stricken face, she couldn't keep herself from loosening her grip upon the woman's shoulder. The woman opened her mouth as if to say something, but no sound came… Her eyes spoke of fear, pain and regret and it startled Jaena, never before had she seen such despair upon anyone. And as soon as Jaena had fully released the woman's shoulder, she ran off.

Confused and unsettled Jaena wandered towards the village square, most of the people had now rushed away from her and only the occasional person could be seen, rushing from their homes with few bearings, as fast as their legs could carry them. Jaena's legs had carried her here involuntarily, but it seemed to be the best place to be if she were to find out anything.

Jaena looked around, but saw nothing that could enlighten her with any information she was searching for. Still astonished by the entire situation and wondering where it was she ended up she halted at the statue in the middle of the square.

It was one of a brave knight carved out of white stone, about twice her size. He held a sword with unique carvings in the air, a shield on his left arm holding a symbol of a eagle. Jaena let her fingers trail the carvings on the stone shield, she could make out small fields and farms, sunlight from over a hill behind the eagle. She then diverted her attention to the sword, never had Jaena seen such craftsmanship, it seemed like an ordinary blade, but the carvings upon it were beautiful. Unique and it seemed to be some old language, she couldn't read it. The hilt was holding the blade perfectly, its edges slightly curled up. It looked like gems were set on either end and in the middle was a symbol of a crown.

Jaena took a step back and admired the entire statue for a moment, it stood quite beautiful here in the village square, the man seemed to be quite young and handsome as well. She silently smiled at herself for thinking so, forgetting all around her for a moment, so in admiration of the statue, when it occurred to her that darkness was slowly taking away the sunlight in the sky, a thick dark fog forming itself on the hill to the east.

Realization dawned back upon her and the fog on the hill brought fear to her heart, perhaps this was what everyone was running for?

"Where am I? Where is everyone?" Jaena whispered softly, letting her eyes fall upon the deserted homes surrounding the square… "Where did they all go?"

"Is anyone still here?" Jaena called out loud. She could hear her own voice echo through the small streets, through the houses which all had their doors wide open. "Anyone?!"

Slowly Jaena felt the familiar feeling of loneliness creep over her again, yet this time she was somewhere unknown and it frightened her. If there was just someone there to aid her, to tell her where to go or what to do, but none answered her call.

Jaena's eyes fell back upon the eastern hill and the fog seemed to have grown, in darkness, thickness and in size, it was menacing in every meaning of the word. Jaena took a few steps back in fear, almost stumbling over the plate at the foot of the statue. She turned around and wondered how she hadn't noticed that before,

"To those who fight fear and despair, to those brave enough to light their own heart with hope in dark times, salvation shall come. Wield your blade with valiant purposes, with hope and love and the darkness shall dissipate before you and light shall triumph – Prince E.D. Valerias"

"Prince E.D. Valerias, hmmmm" Jaena pondered out loud. "It seems like this village has seen more dark times, I wonder if time is repeating itself here"

Her eyes fell back upon the fog on the hill, and she noticed something that froze her in fear to her very core. The fog was moving…it was descending from the hill and moving towards the village…

Jaena wanted to move, to run away, but her legs wouldn't budge, her voice wouldn't aid her in calling for help. She just stood there, frozen, while the fog closed distance towards the deserted village.

Deserted for all but 1 lone young woman standing in the village square, clinging to the knightly statue as if it were to break out of its stone prison to save her single handedly…