The night was stormy and the rain was harrowing the wild forest path as Yulan trudged through it. His braided dreadlocks of hairs were damp like his clothes from the rain and the his dark tanned coppery skin blended with the darkness of the night. His dark eyes partially covered by his right hand was unsuccessfully trying to fend off the rain from his eyes. The other hand was occupied by an obsidian spear, kept alert as his senses.
The garb he wore was light, but covered him fully to compact the strong heat of the desert that he had left behind a month ago. A black long knife was held to his back by a belt and a small growth of beard adorned his face along with the piercing in his right eyebrow, a fetish followed by the desert tribes to the west.
The dress that camouflaged him in the landscape of the desert would have now announced his presence in the forest if it wasn’t for the darkness which shrouded him. The thunder muffled his trudge as he walked along the muddy path through the rain and lightning lighted his path in the starless night showing the well worn path hedged on both sides by the trees and shrubs of the forest.
Yulan had tried camping from the rain storm inside a cave but the inhabitant of the cave had returned by the time storm was blowing on its full strength and had been unhappy to find its home invaded; though it had been happy to keep the hunt Yulan had caught. The bear had then proceeded to claw Yulan out of the cave but the fire he had built for warmth had kept the bear from getting too warm with him. They had then kept on both sides of the fire for sometime, the bear guarding the entrance of the cave and Yulan guarding the fire before the werewind had started and blown the fire to ashes and smoke.
The resulting war of wits and luck helped Yulan overpower the bear for a moment for him to make away with his spear and life from the cave but not before getting caressed by the bears claw. The wound had stung at the beginning, but the cold from the rain had numbed it for the moment. He will need to clean it but for now he felt content to let it flow with the rain.
He was angry with himself for letting his woodland skills fade away due to weariness, if his luck hadn’t stood he would have embraced the eternal sleep by now.
He will have to go back to the cave, for his Yevuian bow that he had carried from his first adventure. A Jaga never loses his weapon especially not to a wild animal.
Yulan for a moment of laziness had left his bow and arrow at the cave when he entered with his hunt and had been unable to retrieve it during his quick retreat. Now the bear guarded the bow as how the dragons of the old guarded the swords by which they could be killed as if guarding its immortality like the monsters from the legend.
“Whats a dragon daddy “, asked Yulan. I looked at my son tucked in his bed and was about to explain when the elder one spoke.
” It’s a big monster that flies with giant wings has razor sharp teeth , has a hundred hands and a spiked tail with which it fells mighty castles and they eat little children “, he said dramatically raising from the bed waving his hands around to form an imaginary dragon.
” Noo “, the little one cried, his eyes round.
” Yes and they swoop down on them from under their bed “, and then he jumped from his bed to his younger brother’s side with a roar.
” Papa… “, cried Yulan and climbed down from the bed and ran towards me. I lifted him from the ground and he wrapped his hands around my neck. I got up from the chair, patting his back walked towards his bed and laid him down back in his bed and tugged him in his blankets. His eyes were still wide open.
” Toshi stop harassing your little brother , its all right Yulan no one is going to hurt you…. Dragons are only in tales and Toshi stop frightening your brother if you want me to tell the story. Toshi ran back to his bed with a wide grin on his face. I went back to my seat and continued.
Yulan closed his eyes with a sigh. The wind had started to blow towards the south, carrying the rain clouds fray to fall on some other poor soul. Yulan for first time after his return from the desert began to remember the memories of scorching hot Vallan desert with fondness.
Soon the air was clear of rain but the coldness of the night had touched the earth and the mist was spreading it’s tendril fingers to blanket the forest valley in its nights sleep. Yulan noticed that the slow slanting height that he was trekking for some now have become straight. He had reached the top of the hill.
The sound in the the forest was unnaturally quiet for Yulan’s comfort.
” No wonder folks down the fold call it the sleeping forest “, thought Yulan. He continued his walk through the path when he noticed the Heaven’s touch, a plant that he had been taught by his father to have healing properties.
The plant was growing in between two rocks ledge near a small pond that was being filled by water by a narrow mountain stream .
He crouched by the plant and began plucking at the short thick leaves. He cleaned the leaves and his wounds by the water from the pond and started walking again looking for a place to check on his wound.
The cold wind got stronger but blew with a promised silence that got stronger as a Gorgon’s horn sound filled the air. Yulan listened to the horn fade away and realized that the sound of his footsteps that had been accompanying him had stopped. Then he realized with a start that he had stopped walking.
He cursed under his breath, he should have known . The night had a were feel to it and the storm was probably sorcery bought upon the forest by some gorgon witch or sorcerer.
Suddenly a shrill cry of a bird went up in the night sky. Rooks, Yulan had heard were used by Gorgon scouts. He looked up in the sky for any sign of the golothian bird, the sky that was starless before was now cloudless, filled with a million stars, adorning the night.
He looked along the forest trail, it was much clearer. Another battle cry echoed in the night sky making Yulan flinch. Gorgons rarely ventured in to human land but when they did venture, it was to do battle. He had lived long enough to have learned never to linger when any battle was fought.
” Damned forest walkers”, he murmured.
And then with steady steps he continued his trek through the forest trail .With each passing time, the echoes of the battle got stronger and Yulan could feel the earth tremor as the forces of the battle got closer. Neither the advancing nor the fleeing army would give him second consideration before sticking him out in the forest tree with his own spear if he ever came across them. And if the gorgons have time to wait, they would make an excellent dinner out of him.
He dropped the slow secure walk and started to proceed with a run, the forest was made up of several hills and mountains and had seven valleys in total but he was told by the villagers from the last one he had visited that he would have to cross only two valley’s to reach the castle moors.
The forest’s winding path began to slant down after sometime and Yulan knew that he had entered the second valley. The last valley had left him tired, hungry and hurt, he looked forward to the next valley with disdain.
He slowed his speed as he began his slow walk down the path. His legs gave out few times as his legs came in contact with the muddy earth from the last rain storm and the darkness of the night made it impossible for him to see the path clearly.
Yulan wondered if he was on the right path, clouds were starting to form again hiding the moon and the stars. His weariness was beginning to sink down in him, his breathing grew ragged and rough.
He scoped the area below him as he continued on his way down the slanted earth. The forest spread on for miles covering the hills across which lay the castle moors. The tales of valley from the inhabitants in the last village came back to him when he saw the abandoned in the castle in a clearing among the woods.
The castle had a grim glow to it, from his vantage point Yulan could perceive that the castle was a huge one, with fortified walls surrounding it. It didn’t had a moat surrounding it, an old one by its architectural design though looked ancient due to the crumbling walls that surrounded it.
The horn that he had heard earlier was signaling retreat, he had been in one successful battle with Gorgons, and the gorgons they fought had been only a raiding party. But the army with which Yulan had fought had payed dearly for that small win. And he wondered with a dread the power required to make a Gorgon army flee. Not human, he was sure.
The fleeing forces were sure to take a chance at the battle by trying to defend themselves in the castle. But then they would be completely cut of from the escape so that the chances of the army just moving away was high.
But sometimes desperation and fear counters logical judgement and might lead even the gorgons to stupidity and Yulan had seen that happen alot. And a stupid gorgon was danger to everyone, even the gorgons
He proceeded down the slanting height sure footed and once he reached bottom, he brought his strength back to his legs and began running. There will be a last stand in the hill before they enter the valley , the retreating army is bound to take a stand at the top of the hill that he had just left behind.
He decided to take his chances in the forest and then he heard the thunderstorm again, he looked back to see the rolling thunderous black clouds spawning lightnings that bolted to the earth. Another gorgon storm.
The army he knew may bleed him to death but the storm will freeze him to death, death by battle had its own glory; freezing to death looked bleak and then again their was a chance that army might just keep on going .
He looked back at the castle towers that was visible through the trees and started towards it.