The Ancient's Town
"I... we need help."
Jack Dragonfly stood there, unconscious girl in arms, threatened by the hooded figures, not knowing what to do. They did not seem to care about their condition at all. For all he knew, they only wanted them out of their territory.
"Turn back, and head back to where you came from," a gray figure stepped forward. "We do not know how you came to find this place, nor do we care. Leave us be and head back on your way."
They did not let up their position, palms still pointing at them, glowing and ready to unleash whatever power they may be concealing. Should he take heed in the figure's advice? If he did, where would he go? Back to that forsaken Lake, where only death awaited them.
"We..." Jack began to explain, as slow as he could, "we come from this strange Lake. I... I woke up beneath it. There were these lights everywhere, and I climbed a giant tree to get out of it. I don't remember anything at all about who I am, only my name. Please..."
It was a pathetic plead, but it seemed to have clicked with the natives. At least they were still listening.
"And I..." he continued to stammer, "I found this girl just outside. She was hurt, so I carried her all the way here. Please... she needs help. She hasn't waken up in hours."
He forgot to mention her mysterious ability of rapid healing, but that wasn't important right now. Even so, his cries made the hooded people talk amongst themselves in scepticism.
"The Lake..." some murmured. Without putting down their hands, they began discussing.
"It is not possible," one mentioned, "if he were to be telling the truth, he should be dead."
"Yet he is still standing before," a female voice answered. "No one has been able to find our village in thirty years."
The chatter continued, which only frustrated Jack even more. He was exhausted, and the girl didn't seem to be holding up quite well at all. And this people were just talking as if it meant nothing at all.
"Are you gonna fucking help us, or not?" he yelled in demand, walking towards them. Instantly, the figures only cornered him more, threatening lethal action should he walk further. However, the boy did not flinch this time.
"Well?" he shouted once again.
They were standing there in a stalemate, until a few seconds later, an elderly voice was heard.
"What is this commotion about?"
All of the hooded people turned around to acknowledge his presence.
"Elder Veryl!" they exclaimed, ceasing their position and moving out of the way to let him through. A distinct blue robe appeared before Jack, harbouring a short, elderly man, who needed a wooded, worn out cane to even walk. He walked slowly, his stick tapping the ground in a steady rhythm, until he stopped at a relatively safe, but close distance from the boy.
"Who are you, boy?" he asked, peering from the covers of his hood. For an instant, Jack could see the decrepit face, all wrinkled down with a pointy nose, eyes half closed. He wasn't angry, nor disturbed. He simply was curious as to how the boy got there.
"Jack Dragonfly..." he answered, hesitantly, "or so I think."
The old man lifted his head, in an I see motion. He nodded repeatedly, understanding his answer, and continued.
"How did you find this place?"
"I..." the boy took a deep breath, "I woke up beneath this strange Lake, and I don't remember anything about me. There were these yellow lights everywhere, and I climbed out of there. I... I also found this girl outside the Lake, and she was hurt, so I carried her here. Please, just help us, Goddammit!"
The old man listened intently to his desperate, stuttered explanation, and then turned his back on him after a few seconds.
"Help them. When they feel well again, bring them to me," he ordered as he walked away, as slowly as he did before. The hooded people obeyed, getting closed to Jack. They did not seem to be threatening him anymore. Some of them even tried to take the girl off his arms, but he denied their help.
"I can still carry her," he blurted, defensively.
The figures were not offended at all, and simply stated, "Follow us."
The mob dispersed, and Jack was left with two black figures, and one grey. Right there, he could appreciate how the town these people lived in looked like. It was a humble place, quite barren even, with various wooded houses all around. The bush where he came out of served as the limits of the town, extending quite a few miles away from him.
The boy could even see small kids, shrouded in robes just like everyone, running around chasing each other.
"At least they have some humanity," he thought.
This people seemed to be so cold and serious, it almost looked like they couldn't feel any emotions at all. As he was walking alongside his escorts, Jack came across an interesting sight. Far away, he could see a line of kids sitting down in the ground, with an older figure talking to them. He raised his hand and snapped his fingers, and out of nowhere, a small ball of fire appeared. It hovered diligently above his palm, and with a sharp movement of the other hand, he covered it. Instants later, he revealed his hand, and there was nothing there anymore.
"What was that?" Jack wondered out loud.
"What was what?" the black figure that was to his right turned to him, attentively.
"He... he just made a ball of fire appear in his hand! How the hell did he do that?"
"That is magic," he answered. "It is the manipulation of Sorul in our bodies, manifested into fire, among other things."
"The what?" he questioned, unfamiliar with those terms.
An annoyed sigh came from the hooded figure, disappointed of Jack's obvious ignorance. As he was about to engage in a detailed explanation, the boy cut him off.
"Err... you can explain that to me later. First, help the girl."
He acknowledged his plea and continued walking. It was not long until the boy was led into a particular house south of town. Not even caring to knock, they made their way in.
"Master Melia," uttered the grey figure. Jack could barely hear his voice, so what makes that man think that this Melia would hear him? They led the boy further into the horribly messy place, into what should be the living room. If that house could be described in one word, that word would be paper. There were sheets, notebooks, books, all of different sizes, scattered all over the floor. They were on the shelves, on the table, at their feet, on the sofa, even the chairs. It was a total disaster, and one could not make his around without stepping on something.
Footsteps were heard coming down the stairs, and that's where Jack saw a human face for the first time in this town. A long, brown-haired woman, which looked well past her forties, peeked into the room. She was sporting a grey robe as well, and subtle wrinkles could be seen on her face, alongside a monotonous, dull expression. Upon arriving at the so called living room and seeing the boy, an obvious foreigner, she immediately hid herself from sight.
"Who is this fellow that you bring into my home without warning, Esol?" she asked, certainly annoyed by the intrusion.
"They claim to come from the Lake. Elder Veryl ordered us to help them."
Melia appeared once again, this time having concealed her face deeply into her hood.
"The Lake, you say?" she said, condescendingly, as she walked towards the newcomer. "Are you sure the souls were not playing tricks on you?"
Not wanting to discuss, Jack held out the girl.
"Help her. She hasn't woken up in hours," he begged.
Certainly not satisfied with the answer she received, she obeyed, turning towards the table behind. Knowing herself that the table was a mess, she held out her arm, and in one swift motion, slid her arm across, swiping most of the papers from the furniture.
"Here," she motioned.
Jack finally unloaded the burden he had been carrying for hours unto the table. His arms feel like jelly, and he took a seat nearby, letting out a long, exasperated sigh.
"You can leave, Esol," she said dryly to the other figures that were witnessing this whole event. It was obvious she did not like company. "I will take it from here."
"I will return when you are well," the grey man said to Jack. And with that, he left.
As soon as he was gone, Melia went straight to business. She tore the girl's bloodstained dress apart, revealing her pretty little body to the wide-opened Jack. She did not ask for privacy, nor gave any warning. Then, she began gently tapping her hand into the girl's neck, arms, face, and even breasts, in search for any problems or wounds. From what she could see, there only was an innocent girl's topless body in front of her.
"She has pulse," she mumbled, more to herself than to Jack, lifting her arms and looking around. Not finding any damage, she took her by the hips, found the edges of her underwear, and pulled her garments off her legs with ease. The boy looked away from a second, finding it unusual that the hooded woman didn't give him any heads up.
She didn't seem to care exposing a girl's body at all, but then again, maybe he was a little bit paranoid of his naughty thoughts.
"What is her problem?" she asked, opening the girl's legs and peeking into her womanhood.
"Well, she..." Jack stammered, being at a loss for words, "I found her by the Lake and she... she was bleeding all over the place."
He stood up and pointed at her stomach, slashing across it to portray where her wound was.
"She was stabbed right here."
Melia looked back mechanically from the boy to the girl, not finding any evidence to his claim.
"And she, uh..." he stuttered, trying to find a way to explain himself, " when I was carrying her, she began screaming, and a blue light appeared from her body, and then, just like that, her wound just... closed in on itself."
The grey woman turned her head slightly, not quite believing what he just said.
"She healed herself?" she asked, plainly.
"That is not possible. No one can use that type of magic outside of here," she quickly dismissed.
"I swear she did! I'm dead serious!"
After a long pause, Melia began pacing back and forth, working out possibilities in her mind, nodding and shaking her head accordingly as she was sorting out her ideas. She did not know how this came to be, as she couldn't come up with a feasible conclusion.
"But she's fine, right?" Jack interrupted, worried, returning to the most important topic at hand right now.
"Yes, she is fine," she stated, snapped out of her trance. "She is unharmed."
With those words, the boy fell back to his chair, relieved. The woman was still standing, staring at the girl's body, trying to find something she might have missed. A minute or two passed in silence, and that's when Jack began to remember that he was hungry.
"D-do you have some food?" he requested weakly, not wanting to come off as rude. "...Please?"
Snapped out of her trance again, she shook her head.
"I will prepare you dinner," she said, monotonously. "Meanwhile, take her upstairs to the bed."
Having figured out that these people were not the joking type, he immediately got to it. His arms were still sore, but he could afford to lift her one last time for today. He took her pretty little naked body and tried to fight off any naughty thoughts off his mind. The sound of crunching papers was heard as he headed to the stairs.
Indeed the house was a mess. Focusing on a particular sheet of paper close to the set of stairs, he tried to make out the writing on it, but it all looked illegible to his eyes. He only saw strange symbols and drawings with no particular rhyme or reason.
As Melia was apparently cooking him dinner, sounds of clinging metal in the background, Jack ascended the steps with care (or at least, the little care he had). The second floor was no different from the last, scattered pages everywhere in sight. He entered the first door to the right, but only saw a dark room filled with glass containers. They had all kinds of shape and forms, some even circling around one another.
It definitely did not have a bed.
Going to the next room, he found what he was looking for. It was a small, modest room, as messy as the whole house, except for the bed, which was kept in an unusually tidy condition. Looking at the sharp contrast between the bed and the house, Jack deduced that sleep was actually a pretty sacred thing to them.
Clumsily, he dropped her on the bed, and covered her goods with the thick, fur laced blanket. Realizing then that she had no spare of clothes (thanks to the lovely consideration of the woman), he went back down to the kitchen.
"Do you, uh... have some clothes you can give her?" he asked, as politely as he could.
She looked back, soullessly.
"In the drawer," was all she said, before returning to her business, poking at the frying pan with a metal fork.
He went back to the room and looked around. Strangely, there was no closet at all. The only thing that composed the room was the bed and a lonely drawer at its right (alongside the scattered papers all over the floor, of course).
Pulling out the first row, he saw a pair of grey robes, neatly folded inside. There wasn't anything else at all. No underwear, no brassiere, nothing. It surely meant that that was the only piece of cloth that was covering these people's bodies.
Mildly grossed out at the thought, he pulled out the second row. He saw a black, singular cloth, covered in dust, crammed in. It seemed like it had been there for a long time, forgotten.
"Me... Melia?" he shouted from upstairs, but heard no response.
Not hearing anything, he went back down, with robe in hand.
"Can I use the black one?" he asked yet again, as he was nearing the kitchen. However, as soon as he entered the room, the first thing he saw was the frying pan catching fire, grey hooded woman trying to disperse it.
"Holy shit!" the boy exclaimed, dropping the robe on the floor and grabbing a nearby handkerchief. He hurried alongside Melia and tried to diminish the flying, hitting it over and over again with the dirty cloth. After that fun ordeal, all that remained was a black chunk of wasted food, which didn't look very appetizing anyway.
"I apologize," Melia said, with her trademark robotic voice. "I do not cook. I will prepare you something else."
"...It's alright, heh," the boy responded awkwardly, somewhat understanding of her. "Don't worry, take your time."
As she opened the cupboard to retrieve some weird, green looking jars, she muttered quietly:
"Did you ask something?"
"Oh! I uh... can I give her the black robe?" he responded, picking up the cloth that he dropped.
She stopped what she was doing to stare at him, probably curious as to why he was asking her such a stupid question. Even though Jack couldn't see her face through the darkness of her hood, he still felt her judging gaze.
"...Yes," was all she said, returning once again to her business.
He left the room like a bolt, to avoid any further awkwardness, and headed back to the room. To give these people credit, the boy figured they wore some comfortable clothes, as the robe easily slid into the purple haired girl's silhouette, not having any trouble at all. It covered her whole body, essentially acting as a second blanket for her, only showing her sleeping face. She was resting soundly, even wistfully. The only thing that Jack could do at this point was hope that she would wake up soon.
Having no more business there, he returned downstairs, to see if Melia hadn't screwed up his dinner again. Peering into the kitchen, he saw no one.
"Dinner is ready," she said from the living room. He could barely hear her voice, even though she was standing a few feet away from him. They were quiet fellows, indeed.
There it was, a cracked plate, full with a type of green liquid, and a rusty spoon beside it. To be honest, it looked disgusting. There were bubbles on the so called soup, and it smelled awful. He took a seat, not looking forward to it at all.
Well, food was food.
He took the utensil reluctantly, having second thoughts. Maybe he could pass and say that he wasn't really hungry? However, this thought soon came to an end when Jack felt the judging gaze of Melia from the other side of the table. It wouldn't be a good idea at all to complain at the one who was feeding you.
"...Thanks," he finally said, giving up and faking a smile. He held his breath by the nose, and opened his mouth to introduce the spoon.
It was a surprise he didn't vomit. The soup had a gooey consistence, not being exactly a liquid. And the taste... it was like tasting a fresh, dead corpse. By the time he had a second serving, he could feel himself beginning to gag. But he could not stop, though. The woman was watching him.
...Funny, considering all the boy had been through, at that moment he only cared the most about not giving a bad impression to her. He did not want to come off as rude at all, even if it meant eating this death.
"Did you see them?" she asked, not taking her eyes off him for a single second.
Thank goodness that she's striking up a conversation. He stopped eating such horrendous dish, and looked back at her.
"I..." he paused, not being familiar with the term, "I don't know what that is."
Knowing she was not going to get the answer she wanted this way, she rephrased:
"What happened? How did you come here?"
The lightning in the room was beginning to die out, making it obvious that night had already come. Melia took out a small lamp and lit it with a snap of her fingers, much akin to the way the man showed the ball of fire to the kids outside before. In just a matter of minutes, the darkness of the night engulfed the windows, and all that could be seen were the blurry silhouettes of Jack and her, illuminated by the old lamp sitting at the middle of the table.
Leaning back into his chair, and taking a long sigh, the boy began to tell his story. How he woke up in that strange place, not knowing who he was or how he got there. He told of the lights, and how they seemed to be amicable towards him. He told of his climb of the giant tree, his fall, and the gravity-defying nature of that place. He told of how he gout out by swimming towards the surface, and how the lights all seemed to go down to the endless void below. And finally, he told of how he found the girl, left for dead outside the Lake, and his long ordeal throughout the eerie forest, until he found himself here.
While he was speaking, Melia stared intently, not affording to miss any details. Her brunette hair only peeked out of her hood, and that was the only thing Jack could see of her in the dark room.
An hour or so later, he was done. It felt good to talk, to let it out, even if it was to a total stranger. As he was sitting in silence, the woman only turned her head a few centimetres to the side, making it clear that she was pondering about the whole thing.
"I hope you can make some sense about all of this," Jack said, finally breaking the ice. "Tell me everything you know."
"Those lights are human souls," Melia began explaining. "When human beings die, their souls come out of their bodies, and slowly travel to the Soul Lake, which is the place where you come from."
"It is their nature, which we do not understand yet. The reason why you do not possess any memories is because souls prey upon other souls. If someone were to enter the Lake alive in their flesh, his soul would be ripped out by the other ones."
The boy remembered the dream he had, about how the lights attacked him, tearing him of the most important thing he possessed: his light. Right there, he realized that it wasn't a dream, nor a nightmare. It was a memory.
"But why did they not attack me when I woke up?" he asked, confused as to why the lights showed no ill will towards him back there.
"You essentially have no soul ,yet," deduced the woman. "Since you do not have any memories, the souls did not see anything to rip out. To them, you are merely a human shell, still developing memories, much like a baby."
It made sense to him. Since Jack did not have anything of value to give to them, they merely let him be.
"But... how do you know all of this stuff? Have you been there?"
"My people have gone there countless times, but never to the insides of the Soul Lake. To this day, it remains a mystery. In fact, you are the first one to come out alive and well from beneath the Lake. Many years ago, we performed experiments, where we would tie someone and sink him down, in order to gather information. However, they would return either dead, or in a catatonic or comatose state. It was a rare case if someone came out unharmed, but they would be in a suffering state of dementia, only to soon die. It is quite a surprise, indeed, the fact that you still possess cognitive skills and speech."
Jack listened closely to what she was saying, but as soon as he remembered how he had found the girl, tied to a nearby tree and left for dead, it clicked. All of what she said made sense to what happened to her. These people surely must have done this to her.
"So you did this to her, huh?" the boy said angrily, raising his voice. "So it was you guys who fucking tied her and left her for dead!"
By now he was standing up, fuming and ready to hit her.
"Please sit down," she answered, not flinching nor feeling threatened whatsoever, still mechanically as always. "We have not performed those experiments in twenty years."
"Then how the fuck do you explain her being tied up, so conveniently by the Lake?" he yelled.
"I do not know."
"I don't believe you," Jack quickly responded, lowering his voice, but still pissed off.
"...Perhaps outsiders desired to discover the nature of the Lake as well."
Sitting back down, the boy decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. If these people has recognized the girl when they first arrived, they would have killed them immediately. At some point, one of them even mentioned that no one has been able to find them in thirty years.
"Why did you stop experimenting with the Lake, then?" he asked, demanding reasons.
Melia took her time thinking her answer, which made him a little bit suspicious. All of her answers so far had been quick and concrete, and now she was taking her time?
"...Hundreds of years ago, we Magos thought the forest was sacred, and vowed not to meddle with it. However..."
"Wait, wait, wait," the boy interrupted, "go back. Magos?"
"We are Magos. We, as far as our knowledge extends, are the only ones who can use magic in all of Saedik."
"And what is Saedik?"
"Saedik is the world we live in. And this place, our town, is called Aegis."
"Okay, okay," he assimilated thoughtfully, joining the concepts together. "Go on."
"However, as time passed, we became curious of what was beyond the forest, so we ventured to try and find out where it led. And there, we found the Soul Lake. We found the lights, and discovered that we human beings all have those lights, which we deemed as our souls. We found out that they all headed to the inside of the Lake, and we theorized that beneath it was Purgatory.
"And what is Purgatory?"
"Purgatory is where souls are judged whether they gain entrance into Heaven, or Hell. Essentially, it is the afterlife. If a human being was righteous their whole life, they gained entrance into Heaven, to enjoy eternity alongside our God Adaland. However, if they were evil, they would be sent to Hell to be punished for their deeds."
"...Who is God?"
"He is the Creator of Saedik, He made the world out of the Abismo, or the infinite darkness, and made life possible to us all."
"Okay, okay," Jack repeated again and again, trying to remember the whole history lesson as well as he could.
"Anyways," she continued, returning to the actual subject, "my people began studying how the souls behaved, and that is how we discovered magic by the use of Sorul."
Before the boy could ask what that was, she continued talking.
"Sorul is a human being's life force. It is the energy of the human soul, which can be manifested into..." as she was saying this, Melia unexpectedly snapped her fingers, creating a small ball of fire at her fingertips, "...magic."
The event didn't perplex the boy as much now, having already seen that trick twice before.
"Years passed," she continued, "and we continued to study how the souls behaved and the nature of the forest. However, we could not find out what was inside the Lake, and that's why we performed those experiments. We could not protect by any means the people who were entering it, and as I said, they returned unable to tell us what really lied below there. Many of our people died, and we realized that we had become inhumane, so we stopped."
'As if you are not inhumane enough,' Jack thought, bitterly.
"And that was twenty years ago?" he asked.
Leaning his head back at the chair, the boy digested everything the Mago had told him. Magic, souls, God, Heaven, Hell, it all made sense just a little bit, even if it sounded so far-fetched. Besides, he saw no reason why she would be lying to him. Sure, she gave him the worst dinner in the planet, but he could find himself trusting her. She hadn't harmed him... yet.
"But if you did not do this to her... who did?" Jack asked, not exactly towards her, but to himself.
"That, I do not know. We do not meddle with the outside world."
"We... used to," she explained, "but we found out that they were too troublesome. Meaningless wars, and senseless hunger for power. Desiring no conflict, we isolated ourselves here."
A yawn took over the boy, reminding him of just how exhausted he truly was. Today was surely an intense day indeed, but even so, he felt somewhat content at the end. He had some knowledge, a small sense of what was going on around him.
"I think I'll call it a night," he finally said, standing up slowly. "Sorry for yelling at you... and stuff."
"There is no need to apologize. It was only natural for you to act that way."
Carrying the lamp, Melia stood up as well and walked around the table.
"You can rest in the sofa," she stated, walking towards it and tidying it up as best as she could. "I understand it will not be as comfortable, but..."
"It's fine. Anything will do. Thanks, Melia."
The woman walked away, from him, but stopped dead in her tracks before leaving the area.
"I do not know your name," she said, not even turning around to look at him.
"I think it's Jack," he answered. "Jack Dragonfly."
"It is remarkable. You even managed to retain some of your memories."
With that, she left, leaving the boy in the dark. He made himself comfortable, even though his legs were sticking out of the couch. Turning his head, he stared at the little light that came through the window. He could only see a glimpse of the clear sky, no cloud in sight, finally free from the cover that the trees of the forest provided. He saw the stars for the first time, even if they were one or two, glimmering with delight. And slowly, as slowly as the world was rotating, he discovered the moon as well, peeking through his window shyly. The giant white ball of light reminded him of the other ones back at the Lake. However, this one felt natural, as if it should be there in the first place, belonging rightfully to the sky.
For some reason, he felt safe. He was resting beneath a roof, with a relatively filled stomach, not worrying about any danger whatsoever. The lights were not there to haunt him again, much like they did in his dream, and he was no longer preoccupied whether he was going to make it to the next day or not. Yes, he knew he was safe.
He knew that tomorrow would be a new day.
Hello once again. I realize I didn't keep my goal of two chapters per weeks, so let's just bring it down to one per week, right? I hope this chapter doesn't suck too much, I feel the dialogue is somewhat poorly paced, but whatever, I can rework it later. So uh, yeah. Expect a chapter per week. Thanks for reading! If you think this didn't suck too much, let me know.