Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Fabulous Misadventures of Matoya, the Witch V (2/2)

The dim light of the city lamps never seemed less necessary. The higher part of Ebonhedge was now directly facing the moon, whose pale brilliance illuminated the city, making all the streets shine bright as during the day. Yet no light is cast without shadow, and the shadows of the moon grow long and dark. Those cast by the city’s numerous towers helped obscure the paths of those who consider themselves allies of the night. The thief was one of them. He’d hidden somewhere in the city, and if it were anyone else trying to find him, the trace would surely be lost on them. We, however, had the crystal eye to guide us.

“It’s over here,” I said as the eye glowed whiter and whiter as we approached a dark alley so hidden away in the shadows that even in the eye’s light it appeared to be a dark void of nothing. “The strongest light yet.”

“But where did he go?” Cillian asked. The light illuminated his pale face, twisted in confusion.

“Must be an entrance here somewhere,” I muttered as I approached one of the stone walls. I touched it and glanced around, only to hear the sound of metal creaking behind me. I turned around to see Isolde had pressed something, and the wall in front of her had opened to reveal a dark staircase.

“Once again, I have to do all the work,” she smirked.

“Ye only found it because he was no more than a hair taller than ye,” I muttered as I held out the eye in the staircase. Indeed, the light was getting stronger. We were getting closer.

“While it may be true that the switch was in my reach, I would have found this staircase under any other circumstances anyway.”

“Impressive, Lady Isolde,” Cillian said in half a whisper as he followed me down the staircase. The echoing steps and the sound of dripping water in the distance did little to keep up at ease. In silence, we descended, lower and lower, down into an endless abyss. Yet the closer we were to the bottom, the lighter the crystal eye shined. I hanged it around my neck again and hid it under my tunic, worrying the light might give away our position much sooner than before.

We had discussed the potential battle plan beforehand. A band of thieves could pose quite a danger, so we couldn’t take any chances. I went first with Nevermore perched on my shoulder. Once we reached the dwelling, he would fly around the vicinity to give me a proper look of the place. If it was safe, I would launch smoke potion to confuse our enemies, after which Cillian would leap out in his animal form. Isolde would stay by my side as we both searched the place for the sword. It soon turned out we’d anticipated too much.

At the bottom we found the den of a group of bandits, as was to be expected. Sacks of stolen goods were laid out below the walls, and on top of them lay four chubby men of short stature, similar enough to be brothers. They were fast asleep. I went on my toes to check if I could locate the sword before I woke them, but then, suddenly, the beast leapt into the middle of the room, its auburn mane ruffled and threatening, and let out a piercing howl. The brothers jumped up as they woke and screamed, three of them squeezing into holes in the walls that I had not noticed before. The fourth one, however, did not run and pulled out a long sword out of a sheath on his back. It was black as night, its edge was jagged, ancient writing adorned its blade. I had the feeling as if I had seen the blade before.

“Stay back, fiend!” the thief shouted out to Cillian. He was struggling to have himself sound imposing, but his shaking legs revealed his true feelings. “Stay back, I warn ye!”

“Take the bloody blade, Cillian, and let’s be off,” Isolde shouted. “Ye can hack his head off with one bite. Let’s waste no more time.”

“But I-“ Cillian said in protest. Clearly he had reservations about killing a human. But before the thief managed to notice the hesitation in the creature’s eyes, he started shouting.

“Mighty Dullahan, hear my plea!” He was holding the ebony blade above his head, and as he uttered the name, the sword shone a pale light. “Keep me safe, rescue me.”

“Dullahan?” Cillian whispered and took a step back. If he were not in the guise of an animal, judging by his voice, I’m certain his face would have turned pale with terror. It was no wonder. Dullahan was a name that was most well known in the North where the lumberjack had come from. The black rider on a pale mare, wherever he went there was only disease and desolation. A hero of many northern folk tales, he was a demon that in the past had laid waste to many a country. I now knew why I recognized the blade.

“Your wish is granted,” a voice came from the middle of the room. A white flash blinded me, the earth grumbled, and when I could finally opened my eyes, the thief was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I saw him. A tall, imposing figure, clad in ornate black robes stood there. His skin was pitch black and seemed to absorb all the light around it. The hair on his head and beard looked darker still. The only bright feature on his face where his large, yellow eyes of a wildcat. The moment he materialized, I was filled with an immense sense of dread – a feeling that I had not felt in many long years. He glanced around the room and when he spotted me, another bright feature gleamed in the darkness. His fangs were white as snow and as he twisted them in a crooked grin toward me, he took a bow, and uttered a growl-like laugh.

“Do my eyes deceive me now?” he said with a voice as deep as the abyss, as if a thousand snakes hissed with him as he spoke, sending visible shivers down Cillian’s back. “It has been eons, Matoya.”

“I could say the same, Byleth,” I said to him as I gripped Isolde’s hand tightly, beckoned Nevermore to perch on my shoulder with the other, and glanced at Cillian, signaling him to come closer to me. In my heart of hearts, I prayed for a miracle, as I knew there was no other way we could all make it out of this alive.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Fabulous Misadventures of Matoya, the Witch V (1/2)

I watched the imposing shadows grow  longer and darker from the towers of Ebonhedge. Built in a place where the moors and hills meet, the city was built so tall and dense that from a distance we had thought we saw a settlement carved into a mountain. Though this area had changed since I last saw it, there was no magic that could make a mountain grow in such a short time. And yet humans still managed to raise a gargantuan web of structures that completely transformed the view. It was difficult to contain my excitement.

I made my way down the inn’s tower, eager to tour the city with my companions. A sweet smoke filled the dining hall, dulling my senses. Nevertheless, the crowd was not thick, so it was with no problem that I spotted the right table. It was impossible to miss. A tall, burly young man with thick auburn hair and beard, a comely face and electric blue eyes turned around and smiled at me. Cillian’s smile was honest to a fault. One glance was enough to see what he was – innocent, kind, happy to finally rest from all the heavy lifting he had to do for us. Opposite him sat my sister, Isolde, seemingly no older than five with thick blonde curls framing her round, bored face cradled in her hands. There was one missing from the table however. I glanced up and there he was, perched on a beam under the ceiling sat a large raven, his sable eyes turned to me just as I glanced at him.

“Come, Nevermore,” I said as I extended my arm. And down he came in a silent swoop so gentle none of the other guests even noticed him. As he landed on my shoulder, I gave him a single pat on the head and beckoned the others. I had promised myself I would keep them close. The manticore incident was something the likes of which I needed to avoid. Cillian and Isolde had asked me about it on occasion, but I could not tell them anymore than the fact that we had been betrayed by the knights of Haegyn and needed to simply move on with our journey. And so we pressed on down Pilgrim’s Road in silence until we finally reached Ebonhedge.

The sun had almost set, dying the sky and the landscape below amber. We followed the narrow alleys down to the market square nestled in what looked like a pit within the city. The dark towers surrounding it ma arket quite so busy. Out of the hustle and bustle there were a few sounds that stood out – the shouts de me feel as if I was surrounded by a dense forest. It had been a long time since I’d visited a m of children playing games, the barking of dogs, the peddling of the peddlers.

“We’d best get some food now,” I said. “We’re leaving come dawn. We must be prepared.”

“What’s with the bloody rush, eh?” Isolde said with her tiny arms on her hips. “The Hierophant can wait. We’re going fast as it is now. And poor little Gillian here is exhausted from carrying all out inventory.”

“N-nay, it’s fine,” Cillian said as he frantically shook his head. “If it’s me that be the cause of concern, worry not, Lady Isolde. I can go on for as long as Matoya wishes.”

I turned and looked him in the face. I could have sworn I saw him blush. I knew he couldn’t keep that word and that he would push himself, but I’d rather see him drop from exhaustion than drop dead from my mistake. “See, Isolde? Ye should have more faith in yer own power. Who was it that made this man into a shapeshifter?”

Isolde let out a heavy sigh. Just after that, I heard her shout out an offended “Oy!” I turned to face her – shy lay on the ground, seemingly knocked back with extreme force. As Cillian was helping her up, she clutched at the string on her neck. She glanced up at me with wide eyes. “It’s gone,” she whispered. “The eye is gone.”

“Ye be forgetting,” I said as I pointed my finger to my chest, where the real eye still hung safely. Still, I leaned forward to her to check if she had been unharmed. “Who in the hells hit you?”

“I saw no one,” Cillian said as he rubbed his forehead, squinting. “Can’t have been too tall, then.”

“I’ll give ye that,” Isolde said. Already up on both her legs, she was clearing her skirt of dust.

“Although I doubt he was a midget. He was about two heads taller than me and-“

“Thief!” a voice came from behind. I turned around and saw a large, round man garbed in sparkling, elegant robes, gasping for breath, heading in my direction. He stopped in his tracks right by my side, clutching at his knees with one hand, pointing ahead with the other. The rings on his hand glimmered in the setting sun. “Thief! He st- he stole my...” he heaved.

I noticed Isolde’s eyes widen with delight. Before she could say anything, however, I spoke to the merchant: “Steady yer breath and tell us what happened.” The words came out the way they did before I even managed to think them. Why was I offering my help to this man knowing well that it might as well be another trap?

“My prized item,” he heaved in an unpleasant-sounding, high-pitched voice. “My ebony sword. Please, help me retrieve it. It was ordered by an outstandingly important buyer. If I lose it, I lose my life with it.”

“Then ye’re already dead, aren’t ye,” Isolde snickered. Cillian gave me a helpless glance and Nevermore cawed on my shoulder, startling the merchant.

“Not if we do something about it. We’ll find yer thief. Some compensation is in order, I expect.”

“Most certainly, madam. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” The man bowed and slowly went back to his stand.

“Ye’ve caught us up in another bloody mess, Matoya,” Isolde scoffed.

“I must agree,” Cillian said with a frown. “How do we even find the thief?”

“If me assumption is correct, and they usually are, we are searching for the same thief who took our eye copy.”

“Oh, I see,” Isolde nodded.

“I don’t understand, though,” Cillian gave me a perplexed look.

“The crystal eye is connected to the copies. That means we may be able to find the exact location of the ebony blade. Pretty soon, at that.”

Sunday, March 15, 2015

RIP Raymond

Yesterday, Raymond died.

I never really got to say goodbye to him, even though I knew he didn’t have much more time. He’s been looking worse and worse every day for some time now. I did all I could to nurse him back to health. Now the house just feels empty without him.

I remember how brimming with life he was when I first brought him home. Just looking at him brightened my mood. He was robust and radiant. He didn’t move much, but the way he stretched made him seem bold and confident. The first time we moved, he seemed okay. I mean, he did get some strange spots on him for a while, but it seemed like nothing serious. That apartment was warm though, so I guess there was no reason for him to get sick. But then we moved again. I guess it was just too cold for him here…

We did our best. We gave him enough water and we placed him in the sunlight whenever we could. But he just refused to drink and withered away. It was sad to see him become so shriveled, so weak. I could tell he was suffering by how small he’d become. I miss him dearly.

Goodbye, Raymond. You were a beautiful ficus.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


I rubbed my forehead as I put in the cash at the self-checkout. The beeping all around me was not helping much. After a whole day of stress, Mary and I decided it would be a good idea to go partying all night. Now I wished I had stayed in and simply eaten some ice cream to make myself feel better. It would have been much better than the throbbing pain I was experiencing.

I packed up my groceries in two paper bags. I was about to get out of the mall when I noticed the landlady, Mrs. Abbott, come in. I did not want to have to deal with her again. She’d spent two hours yesterday telling me how when she said she didn’t allow boys, she meant she didn’t allow for any sort of indecency to happen, and that she had reason to suspect Mary and I were more than friends. By the end of it all, I was ready to just throw a shoe  in her face, but I managed to grin and bear it. I was getting sick and tired of her butting into our business and I started seriously considering moving away. Needless to say, I did not want to see her again today, so I made my way left, hoping to reach the other exit before she saw me.

But no, of course something had to go wrong. From the other end, Franny, Mrs. Abbott’s best friend and her main gossip supplier (probably the bitch that spilled the beans this time around, too) was heading my way, her flabby skin billowing in the wind. I had to think fast. It was like being stuck between a rock and a hard place coated in really old leather. I lifted up my bags, hoping I could maybe cover my face at the last moment. And just when I thought all hope was lost, a man spoke to me.

“Looks like a pretty sad day to be doing the groceries,” the man said to me. He was an East-Asian dude, about my age, very handsome. His smile made me think, yes, this is my chance.

“The days don’t get much happier than this in Ohio,” I replied, to which he blinked and grabbed my hand and we started making our way up the escalator. For a moment, I didn’t even think about where we were going, as long as I got to get away from those two. Before I knew it, I was at an abandoned part of the mall’s parking lot.

“Thank you so much,” I said to the man. He didn’t reply. Instead, a large, black car arrived, and three with face masks came out and handed me a rifle. I wanted to protest, but no words came. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the car, facing three strangers, synchronizing watches and tending to some explosives. I also noticed some sacks of money in there.

I was pretty sure I was going to rob a bank.