Welcome everyone! I am so happy to be back after trying to get into the swing of things at school and at my new job. My goal is to post on the weekends, which is when I have the most of my time. I have Chapters One through Three and the Prologue done, and I have written and recorded Chapter Four so things are coming along. All thats left to do is record Chapter Five and I am all caught up. I am trying to do longer episodes and so that takes me a little longer, but it’s so worth it! Hopefully this episode starts to really paint a bigger picture of what Emeline is going to face in the next few chapters. The Prologue gives a great back story, so after thing, take a listen to the shorter podcast! Hope to be seeing you all more often, enjoy! – ASMR Meli
The Journey of Emeline: Chapter Three
50 years ago, a darkness came over the earth that gripped at the throats people everywhere. Those that could make it to the mountains had a chance of surviving if they didn’t freeze to death, and others who couldn’t risk leaving, risked another kind of death. The Wind overcomes the people, and instills in them, a sense of restlessness. Slowly and with time, without sleep, great amounts of people are driven mad. Sickness erupts, and huge brawls spread out among neighboring towns. Oga, a young woman in the town of Biztosan, was fortunate enough to be near the South part of the Mazas Mountains. She and her mother packed their bags with warm clothes and food, and headed to the peaks. With them they carried her baby brother in a fur lined blanket to keep him warm.
As the days passed, and the winter grew to its ravenous peak, food became scarce. Her mother left one morning with the intention to hunt for food to feed her children, but never returned. Oga waited all day and into the next morning for her mother, but couldn’t take anymore chances. She packed up their belongings and her brother, and traveled the rest of the way to the other side of the mountain. There was a safe haven for travelers who made it across the mountain and she was able to rest for a few days, regain her strength, and find a temporary home for her brother while she returned to the mountains to find her mother. Her dark, curly hair was seen bounding its way towards the peaks, before it disappeared into the snowy paths of the Mazas.
Emeline sits at the entrance of the cave in the morning sunlight. She ran her fingers across the frayed edges of the worn map she was given. The map was hand drawn on a piece of parchment. Emeline figured she was about a mile from the forest edge in the Southern region of the map. The Mazas Mountains were what divided the working class peasants from the wealthy and rich palaces of the North. There was another way around that wasn’t so cold and treacherous, but many of the people from Low Ground didn’t have the resources to sail to High Ground. Emeline especially didn’t have any skills on water, and felt better with both of her feet on the ground. Her goal was to make it across the mountain, entering into the city of Gazdag. This was what seemed like the easiest route, and it took her along the dotted path on the map.
That path also kept her away from the section that was marked in blood. Emeline only had a few pieces of climbing appliances such as rope, a metal icepick, and her longbow. She knew she couldn’t risk being out in the elements too long, and it was very rare to find a safe cavern for the night. Her plan would have to do, and it would have to be her only plan. There was no sense in turning back anyway. There was no saving her family if she turned around. So that’s what she did. Dousing the fire in a pile snow, Emeline put on her heavy cloak, and secured her fur lined boots. The nagyfox was still too frail to be left to his own devices so she fastened him safely in her pack again and walked to the edge of the cave. It was a beautiful clear day but there was no telling how the weather might change by midday. From her back, she pulled her cloak hood over her head, and began slow and steady Northeast up the mountain path.
Emeline loved her new dark green, and fur lined cloak. It paired well with her long curly dark hair against her copper glowing skin, the richness of her skin fading as it does when winter comes around. Her blue, dyed, cotton dress flows and warms her body as she ascends. These were the nicest clothes she had ever owned. Oga had pointed her in the direction of a tailor in a town just before the mountains that owed her a favor. Emeline could get herself a new, beautiful cloak, dress, and boots if she promised to repay the tailor on her way home. There was a quarry of precious stones near Gazdag, and with some digging with her icepick, she could bring back beautiful jewels and gems for the clothier. She still carried her old cloak in her pack, for it had been given to her by her parents. It had been a soft, deep purple, and fit her almost perfectly. She wore it often during the winter months and she felt quite proud in it. The wool cloak made her feel as though she was more than a poor man’s daughter. She had managed to find pride in her family before that, but pride in herself hadn’t been so forthcoming until then. Emeline took a look at herself in the oval, gilded mirror in the tailors store. The dress lay softly on her, and every stitch was handsewn for her. The sleeves hugged her slender, toned arms and she twirled in the dress, smiling to herself. The dark blue dress made her brown eyes deepen, as she pulled her long, coiled hair up to get a look at the detail on the back of the dress. It was simply stunning. Slipping on the cloak, she ran her fingers down the course folds of the shawl, and felt the black, cold buttons in her hands.
The reason she needed such an elegant ensemble was not for the expedition across the mountains, but for when she reached the other side. There she would stand out in her torn cloak and simple white dress. The High Ground citadels were a very unusual place for the peasant people. These people lived off of trade and imports from Low Ground, but they could not simply be bothered by such people wandering into their towns. There was a special place for their peasant workers and those were usually the docking areas, near the Fekete Sea. They would do their imports as well as special exports from the Fekete Port. A small walk from there were the small lodging areas for the workers that traveled into the citadels to work during the day. Those laborers were some of the only people to ever really see the heart of High Ground. It wasn’t that High Grounders were evil individuals, but for as long as time itself, High and Low Ground was divided by a betraying mountain. The soil was rich and the sea provided safety for those who lived in High Ground and the towns inside it. In the towns of Low Ground, dense forest thicketed around them, and the soil would choose when she was plentiful. One area thrived while the other barely survived. Over time it seemed that contempt ran high between the two lands, and that was all Emeline knew about what was over the mountains peak on the other side.
She tried to push it aside and push on. There was something on the other side of the mountain and she could feel it pulling her along. The weather still seemed to be staying clear by evening when she finally made it into a small niche off the main path. At night she would often hear the creaky wheels of traveling merchants and workers who were used to walking the mountain paths at night. Their kerosene lamps lit the route as their mules clambered on, hee-hawing into the night. Emeline started a fire like she had done many nights before. She started by clearing the area of snow and stomping it down with her boots, and then creating a platform with nearby rocks. Then, after gathering different woods and flammable brush, Emeline took her firesteel and striking it against her flint rock. The sparks transfer onto a piece of charcoal cloth and then is thrown on the wood and brush to be blown on until a red heat appears. Emeline heats some of the snow she cleared away to make herself some of her tea. Taking the kettle of the fire, Emeline starts to roast her dinner over the fire, while the fox lays a few paces away, munching on his dinner.
Emeline was starting to wonder what she would do without her fox. He was quiet, but they had an unspoken bond. She wanted to name him, but if she named him, she felt she could never let him go. After dinner, Emeline wandered over to the end of the niche, and over the trodden path to the edge of the mountain trail. She looked out, and just beyond a line of tall trees she could see smoke rising from the small town she had left behind nearly five days ago. The Wind had surely gotten to them by now, and the city knew no sleep now. The midnight candle would burn until morning. The town would lay restless in their beds, counting sheep until the rooster crowed. It was how Oga explained it to her, and she couldn’t help but feel fatigued enough for the entire city. Emeline began to turn and when she did a flash of light and hooves came towards her and she stepped backwards, her foot catching air as she slid, tumbling down the rocky and snowy bank.
Sniffling in Emelines ear, and then an aching as she tried to swat it away. She hit a warm, thick fur, and knew it was her fox. She opened her eyes and saw the night sky above her. She sat up, and immediately felt a dizzy spell come over her. But she noticed a new presence among her. Past the flames sat a man, in a thick, dark cloak. Emeline shuffled to find her bow. The man stood and Emeline began to scream, she was backed into the corner of the niche, nowhere to run. His expression soften, and he began to speak but in her panic she could scarcely hear him.
“Don’t be scared. My name is Hadrian. I just wanted to make sure you were alright. You took a serious fall but you got laid up on a flat outreach.” He spoke in a proper way that meant he was surely from High Ground. He reached out his hands as if to show her he wasn’t going to harm her.
“Where are you traveling to at this late hour? Why have you stopped here, and not left me for dead?” Emeline cleared her throat and tried to sound stern. Her hands shook underneath her cloak. Her fox stood beside her, quietly watching the stranger.
The stranger stood there for a moment and looked to his feet. His eyes darkened and the voice in his throat came out frightened. “I was coming from Low Ground. I travel back and forth, keeping things,” he paused and thought, “civil. I keep things civil where I can. As for you, I wasn’t going to leave you there to freeze to death. Or maybe something worse. Do you know how unsafe it is for a lady to travel alone at night?”
Emeline looked at the stranger. The heat rose in her cheeks and she felt herself becoming angry. It was the first time in awhile that she felt angry at another human. Her eyes darted beside him, where her fathers bow lay covered in snow. Emeline smiled, a pleasant and warm smile towards the stranger. She took a step around the fire until she was nearly three paces from the man.
“I know the roads at night are dangerous,” she doused her tone is sweet syrup and moved a step closer. “I guess we’re both lucky we didn’t come across something more troublesome.”
Just then Emeline swung her body around and low, kicked the man square in his chest with her snowy boot, and grabbed her bow. The quiver was close-at-hand and she armed herself with an arrow, pointing her weapon for the middle of Hadrian’s forehead.
“ Another move and this will be your last civil fight.” Hadrian looked bewildered. His chest rose rapidly, and she knew the air had been knocked from him when she struck him. Hot, white air billowed into the night from both their mouths as the altitude had its way with their lungs. They stayed like that for another few seconds before Hadrian spoke.
“I’m not used to dealing with girls like you. The ones I know can’t defend themselves, and if they could they wouldn’t want to.” The chill of the night air nipped at her fingertips as Emeline held her longbow steady. “I wasn’t finished at Low Ground. I had heard rumors of The Awakening. It wasn’t until there had been stories of other towns, restless shells of a city, roaming the streets looking for sleep.”
Emeline felt her knees go weak. Her legs caved and she was on the ground, eyes wide with fear. She thought of her parents who hadn’t made it out. The town she loved, and knew was something she wouldn’t recognize. Hadrian didn’t try to run. He sat up and leaned against the mountain wall, his brow furrowed as he realized she must be from one of the towns he rode through. The Wind was ahead of him, and by the time he reached the forest edge, the Wind had started traveling West, so he knew that he was safe, but needed to get back to High Ground soon. She must’ve been in front of the Wind. He couldn’t forget the images of the townsfolk, but he knew he couldn’t share that now.
She sat like that for a long time, her legs tucked beneath her, with her head in her hands. The fire was burning low so Hadrian slowly got up and added more logs. Hadrian grabbed the girl from underneath her arms and helped her closer to the fire where she had her bed canvas set up. The girl laid down and looked blankly into the distance, before falling asleep. Hadrian went to his mule and cart, and set up his sleeping arrangements near the otherside of the fire. He thought she must be heading South, so in the morning he would bid her adieu. He watched as a small fox curled next to her. The fox had a dark coat, and darker eyes that kept its glare on him. Before long, Hadrian dozed off and a small snowfall dusted the area. Morning came before long, and the birds sang again. Today was a new day.