Wow! I just had a big realization that there is no Chapter Ten Transcript and I’ve just released Chapter Eleven. Regardless, better late than never, here you go!
The Journey of Emeline: Chapter Ten
Many miles from the heart of the Mazas Mountain, a few days travel and a dangerous trek through the thick forest, there was a new civilization. A new world that had only ever been seen generations ago. Low Ground had been ravaged by the Wind. It rustled through trees like a heavy current, and broke through doors of homes, crushing everything in its path. It was nothing like the gentle breeze that filled their lungs each morning as they stepped outside after another night of sleeplessness. No, it was a cruel cyclone that could be heard like a million cicadas coming from the distance. Markets were empty, except for a few merchants who were desperate enough to beg in the streets, their pockets empty. Large groups of people walked aimlessly around from town to town, never really finding what they longed for, growing more weary as they went. Mothers sang unsuccessful lullabies to their children, who looked off into the distance, as they were rocked back and forth until the sun came up again. Hope appeared so long gone, no one questioned their demise. Except for two people. Illen and Amery. The two sat in their home, sometimes even on their front porch. They talked like they did in the old days, their eyes closing shut after a while, but never collapsing into that final resting point. They spoke of their children, the adventures the two had gone on before they were wed. Night would come, and they’d leave a candle burning on the front porch until it blew out from the wind or melted down. Illen and Amery were waiting. For nothing and everything. The two refused to let their minds go, and every night they would lay in their beds, eyes wide open. Sometimes whispering under the covers, other times staring at the wooden slats of their bedroom ceiling. Aloud they would say their children’s names, almost as if it were a prayer.
Emeline swung her rope up and over, catching it around the trunk of a small tree, the grappling hook digging into the bark.. The day was hot, and it was cooling down fast. Emeline knew she needed to get a camp set up quick. She was planning on staying put for a few days as she canvassed the area. Now miles away from her last campsite, she was higher in the mountains than she had ever planned. It was a slow process of following the paths on her map. The region was divided into four sections with a thin, red line dividing the mountains into North, South, East and West. At this moment, Emeline was in the Southeast quadrant. Gazdag was on the West end, and her main goal was getting in a small area near the Northeast. There, she saw the same red blood print that had been on the other map. It would still take her weeks to travel that way, and the trails ran thin. It was lonely up this far, and there were no travelers during the night, no strangers to run into. Emeline pulled at the rope and it held her weight. She had made that mistake before, trusting that the line would hold, but tumbling backwards grabbing at other vegetation as the rope came loose. Tying her belongings to the end, Emeline slowly began her ascent, taking her time with every foot hold. Climbing trees had been a past time in the woods as a child, but climbing on these overhangs was something that Emeline dreaded. The heat exhausted her, and the sun burned her skin. To combat these things, Emeline left her hair down, and by mid-morning it would already be slick, covering her face as she walked. Her arms and legs were covered by her dress, which was the only clothing she could stand to wear anymore. She had cut her stockings down so they only came to the tops of her boots. The remaining material she used over her hands when climbing. Blisters ran heavy for her these days, and they had no chance to callous yet. The sweat kept them raw and stung worse than her leg. The cut had healed as much as it could, and was beginning to scab. She did all she could to keep from bumping it on the sharp rocks, but there was no easy way up or down these cliffs.
Pulling herself over the side of a steep incline, Emeline’s eyes grew wide. She was looking at a bear and her cubs. One of them had noticed her, and was walking clumsily towards her. The mother bear hadn’t noticed her yet, but it was only a matter of time, and there was a chance she had already been sensed before she climbed over the ledge. Slowly, Emeline inched herself back over, fear gripping in her chest. Halfway suspended, her fingers gripped the rope and her feet propped her up against the cliffside. There was scuffling above, and as Emeline looked up, the cub peered over the side, sniffling and snuffing as she tried to figure out what was below. It noticed the taut rope that was curled around the tree branch and began pawing at it. Though a small cub, the claws were sharp and Emeline feared for the worst. Luckily, after a few minutes, the bear left and she didn’t dare look to see if all was clear. She stayed like that, her back tucked against the rock, her feet wedged in two holds, and her hands glued to the rope. It might’ve been hours, or days. Time moves in excruciating patterns in hard times.
Her parents had told her that before. It was the only thing she could remember these days. It was what kept her holding on though, until her back cramped up and she knew that it was time to move. Darkness was moving in and when Emeline got back onto flat ground, she cried. Her tears stung her Sunburned face and made mud on the dusty rock. They were angry tears, but tears were tears to her, and she yanked the rope until her pack made it up to her. Unhooking the grapple, Emeline grabbed her things and began to walk, until she realized she had no plan. It was dark and she was hungry. Looking around her, she could only see trees, and they were getting thicker the further up they went. Here was a better place than any, and if the bears came back she could just head lower again, out of their way. Looking up again, Emeline caught a glimpse of the stars. They seemed closer somehow. There was a story that her father told her when they were in the woods one evening. It was her 12th name day, and Emeline asked to go on a trip with just her father, hunting and fishing for an evening, surviving just on the land. The land was so important to their town. All good things came from it, and all good people would go back.
There was a bright fire burning deep in the woods, and the two were finishing up the last of the Brown trout that Emeline had caught earlier that day. There was a fresh smell of pine and earth as they both laid down to sleep. Young Emeline looked up towards the sky, and past the trees and moonlight she could see tiny specks of dust.
“Apa, what are all those lights in the sky?” She tried to count them, but lost track and had to begin again.
“Is this only the first time you have noticed them?” Illen laughed at his daughter, but saw her amusement as she was already getting out of her bedding and running towards the opening past the trees. He got up and walked behind her as she giggled and twirled in the tall grass. Fireflies brightly lit up the grassy area and flickered on and off like a candle.
“Is this what magic looks like?” A firefly landed on Emeline’s nose and it twinkled softly and flew away.
“This is nature’s magic. But only little girls who believe can see it.”
“Apa, what do I have to believe?” Emeline went over to her father and looked up at him. He could see the stars in her eyes and a few fireflies in her hair.
“ Edes csillag, you must believe in yourself to see the magic. If you ever feel like your faith is fading, look at the stars. If they ever disappear, you’ll know to give up. But until that day happens, keep believing.” The two stayed in the field for quite some time, looking at the world with fresh eyes. They talked about how long it would take to get to the moon and what kind of magic would be waiting for them there.
Tonight, hidden away under the overhang of the mountain, Emeline could still see the stars. They weren’t fading, but she couldn’t say the same for herself. Normally Emeline didn’t have enough strength to put up her tent, but it would give her some coverage if anything showed up during the night. It was quieter than it had been for days, and it almost put her on edge. Keeping one of the tent walls open, Emeline counted the stars, until she lost count, until she fell asleep.
Deciding against leaving her camp set up, Emeline left in the morning with everything strapped to her back, trudging along the trail. She’d woken up during the night to the sound of howling and all she longed for was a safe bed. Sleep didn’t come easy after that and without the rest she so desperately needed, Emeline ached and felt weaker than ever. The tree cover kept the sun from burning her face any further, but there was little to no life making noise. Her boots were nearly worn at the fronts, and she kept her gaze low, watching one foot go forward, than the next. The will to follow the path was only kept alive by a small fire burning within her.
It was what the Boldogan’s called Tűz. It was a word that was used to explain the beginning of the world, and the beginning of Hope. Emeline thought of it now, and recalled how the story went when she heard it first as a child.
In the beginning there was Sötét, and only so. She was the daughter of Darkness. Born with no eyes, and only a small spark within her chest, her hands and feet served as her guides. In her tower she sat, with only three walls to keep her company. The fourth wall wasn’t a wall at all, but a line of steel bars that allowed air to pass through them, but nothing else. Sötét asked Darkness,
“For only a day, will you let me see the world?” Sötét’s spark grew inside of her, but then Darkness looked at her through the second walls door and denied her.
Sötét sat against the third wall and did not move for 100 years. After her years passed she asked Darkness again, lowering her bid.
“For only a hour, will you let me see the world?” A spark grew inside of her, but then Darkness looked at her through the second walls door and denied her.
For a second time, she sat against the third wall and did not move for another 100 years. Getting up from her place, she went over towards the second walls door and prepared to knock. Darkness prepared to deny her, but nothing came.
In her tower she sat, her arms outstretched past the bars of her cage, wishing up a world of her own. Her spark cultivated inside her chest, burning from the inside out, creating life. From nothing sprouted trees and rivers, lakes and mountains. Valleys and plains dipped and soared at the point of a finger. The bars melted away, and left Sötét with three walls behind her and everything in front of her. Before stepping into her world, she heard Darkness knock on the second walls door. Darkness asked,
“Show me mercy, Oh Sötét, will you let me see your world?” With her new eyes, she opened the door for Darkness, allowing It to fill in her sky at night, the caves in her mountains, and the deep ocean.
The ancient scholar in Emeline’s town went on explaining,
Sötét knew that Darkness had not kept her from seeing. Darkness had nothing for her. We have the power to change our prison into a palace. The scholar smiled and some of the children ran off and giggled, ignoring it like an old wives tale. Young Emeline sat there for a few moments, then put her hand over her chest. She could feel the spark, right there inside of her, thumping in a pattern. She walked all the way home, walking with her eyes closed, imaging what a new world she would make.
It was another full day of walking, or wandering, which was what it felt like to Emeline. It was going to be dark soon, and having only found a small water source, her canteen was nearly empty again. Coming up over an incline, Emeline saw the tips of roofs. Her first thought was that maybe she had miscalculated and ended on the other end of the Mazas, in Low Ground. She could be in High Ground too for all she knew, and that would set her back months. Walking closer, she saw more more stone houses, some covered in dark moss, others crumpled up in a pile of rocks. There didn’t seem to be the normal signs of life, like smoke, light from fires or candles, or people. From the top of the valley where she stood, it was clear to see this was at one time a busy city. Mountain peaks surrounded most sides of the abandoned city, and the moon was already beginning to rise over them. The houses were all near to each other with different streets connecting each place to another. Hesitantly, through the remaining forest covering, Emeline walked down into the valley until her legs touched on flat ground again. It was windy here, and Emeline decided to light her small lantern so she wouldn’t be left in the darkness.
The city had no walls keeping out unwanted visitors, and she guessed that the people who lived here counted on the mountains doing that. There was a long set of stairs leading up to the first main path, and her feet made a soft padding noise and she went. The steps cracked and chipped as she applied pressure on them, but they held the same as they had hundreds of years ago. The ruins were clean mostly, from any weapons, remains, and belongings. It almost seemed like everyone got up and left one day, no longer calling this home. But for Emeline, this would do. In the center of one of the courtyards, there was a well, sitting untouched. Walking over and looking down into darkness, Emeline decided to take a chance. Leaving her belongings laying against the side of the stone structure, she went off to find a bucket to fill. A few moments later she found one near what appeared to have been animal stalls. Tying her climbing rope to the handle, she lowered it in. She heard the beautiful sound of the bucket hitting water about 10 feet down, and then pulled it back up after a few moments.
Even though the sun had nearly disappeared, the heat of the day radiated off the stone paths. Undressing, Emeline soothed her skin in cool water, washing off the sweat and dirt of the day. Tomorrow she could wash her clothes, and regroup. It seemed like she scrubbed herself forever, and yet there was still dirt under her fingers, between her toes, behind her ears. She sat naked, hidden in a part of the world that no one had remembered, and hugged her legs to her chest. Her stomach grumbled, and she ignored it like she had before, but this time it was because she felt lucky. She closed her eyes and let her head fall back against the lip of the well. Before too long, tiny drops of rain fell onto her face and slid like tears down her neck and over her chest. The rain came faster, and Emeline pulled her dress back on, and packed up her things, taking it all to a nearby lodge. The wooden door was stuck, but she dug her shoulder into it and pushed hard. It swung open and revealed a small, dark room with a wooden chair, and a window that overlooked a sharp drop to a large rocky shore. There was a small place to build a fire and to her surprise, there was some wood in the corner of the room, scattered about.
The rain was still falling, and droplets were coming in through the open window, soaking the floor. She picked the wood up and laid it on a dry patch of floor, hoping to keep it until morning when she really needed it. There were two steps that led to another room in the house that held a small bed and a place to fill water for washing clothes or bathing. Emeline put the bucket in front of the window in hopes of catching more water, and then returned to the small bedroom, removing the old and damp straw, and replacing it with the fresh bedding of her own. Looking at it now, she saw it wasn’t so fresh, and swore to do all her cleaning tomorrow. There was another smaller room off of the bedroom, and it had probably been a prayer room. The door opened smoothly, and inside were lots of candles, some burned to the quick, other’s still usable. There were shelves of folded clothing in there too, and Emeline found a stiff robe that crossed over her chest and tied around her. It was a beautiful, pale color and Emeline hesitated before pulling it around her. She thought of the person who wore these before her. Maybe a young girl like herself, just trying to keep her family save. Maybe the young girl had failed, and soon Emeline would follow suit. Either way, she decided to wear it to honor whoever had left these. There was no honor in letting the clothes sit to disintegrate.
Lighting the candles, Emeline got into bed. Tonight, she didn’t open her map. She didn’t even reach for it. Instead, her hands went towards the letter that Hadrian had written her. The seal was still in tact, and her heart raced as she ran her fingertips over the two fish that were marked inside. Tonight, she allowed herself to think of him. She laughed to herself as she thought about how much she loathed him at first. But she sighed, because there was a chance she never truly showed him how much she cared for him. She was beginning to do so during their sailing trip, but fate had something else planned for them. If Hadrian knew where Emeline was now, he’d throw a fit. He’d say something about how a lady shouldn’t be out here alone without some strong man to protect her. Somehow, she would like to share this place with him. They’d roam the connecting paths together, imagining where’d the two would settle down. It would just be their city, and maybe the whole world would forget them, too. Her imagination kept running, and she forgot about the letter she was holding. There had been something between the two, right? This might be the answer to that, just open it. Emeline scolded herself for being so timid around a piece of paper. Peeling the seal from the scroll, she unraveled it and amongst the dim of the candles, Emeline began reading:
There is much that needs saying in this letter, and much that needs to be said in person. The truth is that it should’ve been said sooner, and I’ll take that blame. I mentioned that I keep things civil amongst Low and High Ground. For all purposes, I do that, and I have for some time. The Awakening is unpredictable, but actions against it’s rise again have been prepared for years and years before I’ve been born. These actions are something my father battled against from happening, but when it came down to it, the High Kings law is law. When my father was killed for acting against the King, it was my duty to step in. I gritted my teeth for the sake of my mother not losing another family member.
Emeline stopped reading for a moment. This wasn’t a love letter, but a confession. The letter continued,
When we met on the Mazas road, I was coming back with the final plans that would give the High Council everything they need to know about the entrances and exits between Low Ground and the Mazas. They are planning on building a structure that will keep any wandering groups of people from entering into the Mazas, and finding their way into High Ground. They’ve told me this is just temporary, and I have to believe them, although that may come hard for you. By the time you find what you’re looking for it may be too late for you to get it back to your family. Emeline believe me when I tell you, there are only ghosts now past the Mazas. Don’t become a ghost for nothing.
“What? No, no, no, no, no!” Emeline read the letter several times again, making sure she hadn’t miss something where Hadrian was lying. She paced the room and tears stung in her eyes, making her face scrunch up as the saltiness hit her burns.
“Why did you do this?” Emeline knelt on the floor, her legs pressed against the cool stone. Placing the letter flat in front of her, Emeline took a candle and lit one of the edges on fire, watching it burn away. Now, the truth was that even if there had been something between the two, there never would be. The fire ate away at his damned words, and when it was finished burning, Emeline spat on the fire of ash. She should’ve shot an arrow through his heart the first time she saw him. The remarks he held would’ve never made them back to the council. She could’ve saved her people from being trapped in a hellscape. Emeline knew better that to put the blame on herself. There was a gnawing feeling of regret, for not having seen past his fake facade. Her plan would just have to change. She would find the cure, the remedy, whatever it took to reverse the Wind, and then she would liberate her people, and march them into battle.
It was long before Emeline fell asleep, and as she did rain fell quietly on the world outside of her. The mountains surrounded her like a rocky blanket, and the candles eventually burned out, darkening the room. A sweet blessing the place to stay was, but a bitter curse to the person who dared stay too long.