The last thing I remembered was my own startled gasp ringing in my ears as I fell to the ground. I could see green swirling around in my head, red burning my hands, blue tingling my feet. The icy snow almost felt comforting as my vision blurred and all went black.
A bone chilling frost was what woke me from the darkness of my consciousness. My eyes opened with a start as I shivered and called out into the blinding white of my surroundings, but my throat was too hoarse, and instead I sounded like a wounded dog.
Suddenly, a burst of blue light shone through the pure white of the snow-covered hills. I stumbled towards it, aching all over. I tripped and skidded a little ways forward before pushing myself back to standing. My eyes widened as I beheld the object in front of me.
It was a stone, but not just any stone; this boulder towered over me, blasting a blue light, and on it was written a message:
“WHEN PREY KILLS PREDATOR, THE MAN OF GOLD BEGINS THE AGE OF DEATH.”
It all flashes before my eyes, my hand, a knife, cool blood trickling down my arm, the blinding light, and my skull cracking as I hit the ground. Had I killed something or had something tried to kill me?
I slowly breathed in and out through my nose as I tried to recollect myself. The area wasn’t safe. I turned from the boulder to limp away from the blue light, but my blood froze and my muscles no longer obeyed my mind. A wounded white timber wolf with blood matting his pelt snarled back at me; bristling at me in fear. I took a step back, startled; I hadn’t even heard the creature until it was mere feet in front of me.
The beast opens its mouth presumably to growl again, but instead it speaks.
“Into the realm of waiting you fell, lonely but not alone, a temporary punishment for an eternal crime.”
With a whisp of wind he disappears. Lonely but not alone…I didn’t see the wolf coming. Maybe there were other wolves, other creatures out here.
I shuddered at the thought and glanced around for something, anything, to serve as a makeshift weapon. There, to my right- a rock, with something peeking out from behind it.
“Who…Who is it?” My voice trembles as I try to remain composed. A blonde haired blue eyed girl pops her head outside of the rock, but there is something very wrong with her face. She was pale, almost-see through and corpse like. Her blue eyes were a misty plue without an iris or any sort, almost as if what she could see had nothing to do with the visible world.
Her mouth remained closed as she spoke.
“Take a leap of faith and you’ll be freed forever, cower in the shadows and you’ll seal your own doom.”
I instinctively stepped away from the creature, holding the rock up and pointing it at her. “What are you?”
She repeated her macabre statement. “Take a leap of faith and you’ll be freed forever, cower in shadows and you’ll seal your own doom.”
My whole body began to tremble in fear, frustration, and rage. “What are you?” I screamed louder.
The girl’s eyes slanted upwards as her still body echoed malicious laughter.
When I felt the entire atmosphere shifted into bloodlust, that’s when I decided that the rock in my hand was necessary for escape. It was either me or her. I threw the rock at her forehead with an alarming accuracy that I didn’t know that I had in me and prayed silently to myself that one blow to the head was all that was needed to distract her long enough to get away. Suddenly, the creature stopped mid laugh and her hand shot up to her temple. She threw the stone down into the snow irritatedly, turning her attention back to me with her clouded pale blue eyes.
“You dense human- I came here to bring a message to you, so why would I kill you?”
“Then would you like to explain why I felt bloodlust emitting from you in pulses?”
A single ghostly white, bony finger pointed to her stomach. “Nonhumans get hungry too. The bloodlust you felt wasn’t exactly for your own flesh- in fact, humans taste abnormally more disgusting than most.”
“Where am I?” I question her again as my body restarts its trembling. There is something about this place that is causing even the most controlled portions about me to be very unstable.
“You’re certainly not in the human realm if that is what you are asking,” the blonde said dryly. “If you yourself do not know how you have gotten here, then my best estimate is that the Drydren took an interest in you and brought you to this place. How annoying. At least the Dryads leave humans alone.”
For the first time in my life, I begin to feel some sort of gratitude for my mythology nerd side. I recognize these names. The Dryad’s cousins, the lore goes, are known as Dryden, and they were more keen to.. interact with humans.
“They exist? Dryden and Dryads, I mean.”
She cocks her head, nodding at me. “Tell me, are the kind of person who has to see it to believe it? Am I, standing right in front of you, not enough proof?”
I shrug my shoulders in agreement, “Why would a Dryden take interest in me?”
“And why does the human universe exist? I may be an Oracle, but there are still some things that I cannot answer. Now choose a weapon.”
The oracle extends her arms presenting a series of objects; a twig, a pair of tweezers, a butter knife, pen and paper, and a brick.
I hesitate, my hand hovering near the butter knife. It was certainly the most practical of my options. Then my eyes darted over to the twig.
It was long, pointy, and mundane but for one thing- the slight shimmer in the air around it. I took a deep breath and grasped the twig.
The Oracle disappeared, but her voice remained. “Best of luck.”
Suddenly, a memory flashes before my eyes, “Remember, Nera,” my mother smoothed out my hair. “Never leave without a pen and paper somewhere on your person.”
The Oracle had said a weapon, but she wasn’t even here. Taking a glance around, I quickly snatched it up and put into the satchel that lay on my left side.
I did not have time to regret my choice of weapon, but a sick feeling in my gut rested as a reminder that I picked the wrong one. Holding my head high, I begin to trudge down the deserted wasteland.
In most adventure stories, the protagonist quickly becomes swarmed by enemies, but my antagonists are not physical. A mental agony overwhelms me. I am at war with my mind.
“You know the reason you were taken here.” The voice in my head starts to whisper.
I stumble and trip, realizing anew that I am to blame for everything.
Clutching the stick as tightly as I can, I whirl around, my eyes scanning the horizon for somebody, anybody. I stop for a moment, and instead desperately scrabble through the contents of my bag, grabbing the pen and the piece of paper.
To be continued….