It’s back! The Storyteller is back! Hooray! I wasn’t actually going to write the next chapter for this story, but as you guys know, I didn’t post anything yesterday, and so I needed to get out a story post as soon as possible, and since I had already written half this chapter, I just had to write the other half to complete it.
A quick summary of events of the previous chapter: Phillip’s three companions confront him about his powers. Then they take him on a little journey, he takes them on a little journey, they end up at a strange man’s house, and that’s it. Now we continue from there. Enjoy. 🙂
I follow him into the house, my three companions accompanying me. The house is not very large, but it is comfortable. Light from a sun past its peak forces through a lone window, illuminating everything glaringly. Furniture is sparse, with a small table ensconced by four roughly-hewn stools, and on an even more sparsely filled shelf, three thick, leather-bound books with gold lettering catch my eye.
They are old volumes and have been perused much, but they are well maintained. What really interests me, however, is their titles: The Storyteller, Time Warping, and The Fourth Wall. Wordlessly I wander towards the shelf. Like everything else, the wood is coarse, but the build is durable and utilitarian. As if entranced, I reach towards The Storyteller, meaning to take it and read it, but something stops me.
“Certain things are not meant to be touched, Phillip,” our host says quietly from behind me.
I turn to face the shaggy man. He is watching me carefully from under heavy eyebrows, as are my three companions, who then look between us confusedly.
Nodding my head over my shoulder at the shelf behind me, I ask, “Who wrote those?”
“I did,” the storyteller says cursorily. “Or rather, I am. I’ve only finished two of them.
“Now, you wished to talk to me about time-warping,” he continues quickly, obviously no longer wishing to discuss the three volumes. “Go ahead, the four of you, have a seat. It is a complicated subject.”
Obediently, we each take a seat on a stool. My seat is hardly the epitome of luxury, being more of a Procrustean device. Memories of sitting on a similar chair while my mother taught me lessons assail me, and I miss the storyteller’s next few words. I snap to attention, however, when he mentions “time-warping.”
“I assume that is why you have come here. Phillip?” He looks at me.
I stare blankly back. “I’m sorry?”
The tall man snorts frustratedly. “Look at him! Come here for help, and then ignoring everything I say. I asked if you were coming here to sort out some details.”
“Well, really I just need to repair a bit of history,” I tell him frankly.
“The less in the past left untold, the better,” we say at the same time.
By now the three girls are thoroughly confused, and look at each other with bewildered facial expressions. I notice this and ignore it with the smug feeling of superior knowledge. There are some bonuses to being a storyteller with another storyteller. Our host seems to enjoy their puzzlement as well, but for some reason, his smugness even extends to me. I do my best to ignore this.
“Come,” he says, laying a map on the table. “You will travel along this route here.”
Serena looks up quickly. “We will? Haven’t we already?”
Her two friends frown at her in even more confusion. “Whatever are you talking about Serena?” they both ask.
“Don’t think about it Serena,” I tell her again. “Time is a dangerous subject.”
“A rememberer?” the aged man asks.
She nods mutely, brows knitted together in concentration.
“As I was saying,” our host continues. “You will travel along this route, parallel to this river. You will pass through this overgrown forest. Upon coming out, you will be low on water and have to reach this bend in the river up over here, where you can refill. The road is rough, so you will be exhausted and aching. From there you will move to the village through this field where you will have to watch out for pumas. Then you will be at the village.”
“Thank you,” I tell him. “Is there anything else? Are we attacked along the way, or is the journey uneventful?”
Our host eyes me from under his thick, bushy eyebrows. “That’s for you to determine, now isn’t it?”
I lean back and blink, but my blink is less a blink and more a closing of the eyes, because I don’t open my eyes again.
I crack open my eyes a slit, doing my best not to let the glaring sun blind me. Our supply of water has started to dwindle. We are trotting onwards through a field known to be home to many pumas. But fortune forsake the traveller who believes these pumas to be nothing more than big cats, for these aggressive felines are much more than that.
Legend tells of one of these pumas, a black one, which used to prowl the roads and would target very particular travelers: magical travelers. Why does everyone have to target magical beings? Then again, the puma was a magical puma itself, capable of teleporting, with superhuman speed and strength. Rumors say an ancient trapped the soul of a king inside the body of the beast.
Stepping on a sharp rock awakens me from my thoughts, and for the next few minutes I glare at the ground, watching out for anymore stones. Serena walks behind me, also obviously puzzling over things, while her two companions maintain the leading pace ahead of us. After a while I give up watching the ground and study Victoria instead.
She talks animatedly with June, the sunlight illuminating her auburn hair as it is tossed by her head and teased by the wind. Occasionally when she turns to face her compatriot, the sunlight glints off her brown eyes and long lashes. Her dress, cut short at the knee, serves to facilitate traveling, but I’ve no doubt the courtiers at the King’s Court would consider it highly scandalous. Mud has stained the hem, but apart from that the dress remains in good condition. Green is broken by flashing red sequins while brown traces daring designs up to the wide neckline. The sleeves stop short of the elbow and puff out slightly.
My scrutinizing of Victoria’s external appearance stops abruptly as I nearly run into her. Both she and June have stopped. I push between them and casually scan the road ahead to see what could have halted them. Later on reflecting back to this incident, I could swear there was a clanging sound as my heart dropped to my feet. Stalking from side to side, eyeing us, was a black puma.
Without hesitation I reach down to my hip and draw a sword I had brought with me. Serena looks confused.
“Stand back!” I warn the group, and flail the sword awkwardly. The puma seems to grin at this.
“Give me that.” Victoria snatches my weapon from my clumsy hands and charges at the large feline.
It vanishes and appears behind her, but without hesitation she whirls, slashing the blade a mere inch away from its nose. The puma snarls and lunges. She ducks, striking upwards and scratching it. For a few seconds the two circle each other, Victoria occasionally changing the hold on her sword.
“Wow, she’s good,” I remark.
June elbows me. “Shut up!” she mutters sharply.
For being half a head shorter than me, June has a sharp elbow, and I make a point to seal my lips.
The puma leaps at Victoria again, knocking her sword out of her hand. She backs away and trips over a knoll in the ground. Now scrabbling back from the puma, we can all see she is in trouble. Fortunately, though I did not realize it earlier, I had approached the two combatants, and was now able to pick up the sword.
“Here!” I shout, and toss Victoria the blade.
For a moment the puma looks at me, distracted, and that’s all Victoria needs to drive the point of the weapon through the cat’s neck. It disappears with a distressed howl, and we all breathe a sigh of relief. I close my eyes for an instant to let all the tension drain away.
I blink. Serena is staring at me openmouthed, while our host smiles knowingly. June and Victoria are unaffected. Slowly I rise from my seat, wincing at the stiffness in my muscles from sitting on such crude furniture for so long.
“I see you have everything worked out,” the storyteller says. I nod in reply.
“Wait, but–” Serena begins.
“And then they realized the sun had begun to set and they should leave,” the old man says firmly.
Unsurprisingly, the sun has sunk till it touches the treetops. I yawn and rub my hands over my eyes.
I jolt awake from my nap. June is shaking me.
“Really?” Victoria asks. “A nap? On the doorstep? While we roam the village looking for clues? Very manly.”
These words sting, and I hastily get to my feet.
Serena’s brow is furrowed in confusion, and she eyes the ground. Her blonde locks, done up fancily, wave gently in the wind. Suddenly she looks up and stares at me piercingly.
“What in the world just happened?”
Sometimes I lose track of how many layers in I am. XP