Dream Worlds Are Born

Story 582 ~ Tsula and Gawonii


#1

She ran through the forest, her bare feet springing off of the Earth as she moved as quickly and as silently as she could. The tree’s around her became a blur and the caw’s from the birds above went along with them. She had to escape, she could not let him catch her. Her lungs burned in her chest, aching for rest, but she soared on. Her heart pounding so deafening in her ears, she couldn’t hear his footsteps approaching. All of a sudden she is thrown to the ground, tight arms around her, refusing to loosen their grip. She couldn’t help but stop fighting. She heard him begin to laugh, the sound gnawing at her ears. She couldn’t help it anymore, laughter erupted from her, like a birdsong crying out. They laid there for a moment, catching their breath.

“Damn it, Gawonii! You’ve got to let me win eventually!”
“But if I do that, little one, you would never become faster, now would you?”
She huffed and hoisted herself up on to her elbows. Not that she would admit it, but she liked when he caught her. There was something about the way she felt safe when his arms were wrapped tight around her, refusing to let go.

“We’d better get back to the village, your father will be looking for you. Plus, it’s your turn to help with dinner preparations. The corn will not grind itself, now will it?”

She stuck her tongue out, playfully, and once again, took off into the forest.

“Tsula! Wait!” he called, be she never turned around.


#2

She knew he would follow, he always did. They had been friends since they were children and she couldn’t remember a moment of that time he wasn’t right there, beside or behind her. Until today, when she finally did stop her constant companion wasn’t anywhere to be seen “Gawonii?” Goosebumps from fear rushed across her skin. He should have been right there. She went from being worried to wanting to punch him when he suddenly jumped out “you jerk” she said with a grin, she could never truly be angry at him. “I asked you to wait and you didn’t. I needed to punish you” Tsula playfully pushed him, still trying to feign being angry.

“sorry” he said warmly. “You should help me for pulling that”


#3

She didn’t run this time, but walked steadily by his side. She wanted to catch her breath before she got to the village. If her and Gawonii came back together, out of breath and disheveled, some may develop the wrong idea. She knew her father favored him but if he thought they were intimate before ceremony he would have their heads; figuratively, she hoped. It was dusk and she knew she needed to hurry to complete her task for dinner. There was no such thing as excuses or absent work when it came to taking up your part in the village. We were all family, whether by blood or not, and we all did our equal share. She was quick with her work and no one was late. This was a particularly special meal, as they were celebrating the coming of age of one of her playmates. Shuana was 16 today, this meant many things; she was now considered a woman, she would have an extra share of the work load and would have greater responsibility helping with the children, she was considered old enough to marry and bare her own children as well. Everyone was quite aware of a few of her suitors, but were not sure which ones had the courage to ask for her hand and compete for her honor. They would surely find out tonight. Tsula was a little envious, as she still had another year to go and Shauna was very beautiful. She wondered if Gawonii was interested and feared that he might fight for her hand. She would never admit it, but she wanted him to wait for her.


#4

She hoped that since he had spent the day with her instead of fawning over Shauna as most her suitors would have that it meant this was another bullet dodged. There was only one other girl who would turn sixteen before she did so if she made it past Shauna Tsula would feel much more hopeful of her chances that Gawonii would ask to be with her. Tsula hazard a glance at Gawonii and blushed whens he realized he had been looking at her. She hoped she hadn’t been making any weird faces that would lead to awkward conversation later. Her face was far too expressive for her liking. It gave away far too much of her thoughts.


#5

The celebration went exactly as everyone had hoped, including Tsula. There was laughter, joy, and playful teasing as Shuana became a woman in the eyes of her tribe. The competition for her hand was intense and lively but in the end, was settled with smiles and acceptance. Gawonii never entered the fight but cheered with the rest of their friends. Shauna seemed happy at the victor and it was no surprise, as she had been seen talking quite frequently with the champion. As the fire dwindled and the tribe settled down, all seemed well. Tsula was happy that Gawonii hadn’t shown any interest and hoped it meant he was waiting for her. She had been caught staring off, daydreaming, ever since the fight ended. She wondered what her own celebration would be like, worrying for a fleeting moment that Gawonii wouldn’t win. The thought faded quickly though as everyone knew he was rather large and mature for his age and he believed whole heartedly that he would reign champion over anyone who tried.

“Tsula,” called her father, “it is time for you to rest. Tomorrow is a new day with new responsibilities and my daughter must always be ready to care for her people.”

“Yes, Father.” She smiled. He was a stern and proud man, but he was also gentle and loving. She bid Gawonii goodnight and looked forward to seeing him tomorrow, but she was awful tired from the stressors of the day and delighted in laying her head down to rest. Her father was right, tomorrow was a new day.


#6

The sounds of screams roused Tsula from her sleep “Father?” she called out but no answer came and that was even more troubling. She rushed to her parents room to find them gone “Mother! Father!” she screamed for them in horror then ran outside to see what was happening. Blood, debri and bodies were everywhere and it was enough to finally make her cry. She ran back inside to get something to defend herself and her shoes. She quickly put some on and grabbed one of her mothers sharpest knives before running back out.

Tsula was terrified but she wouldn’t cower like some child. She was almost a woman and she needed to find her parents and though she felt a little bad about it, she mostly wanted to find Gawonii. She hadn’t gotten far when she felt something coming for her and turned to defend herself just in time, catching what she soon realized was a sickle for an arm with her mothers knife. The weasel like creature swung it’s other arm at her but she dodged, only receiving a minor cut. She wasn’t sure she could do this but just as it tried to hit her again Gawonii tackled it.

While he had it down Tsula slit it’s throat, hating she was now crying even harder. It only made it worse it was now in front of Gawonii. “Gawonii whats” she began to ask but he interrupted her “No time, I’m sorry to get to the chase like this but I’ve already seen your parents bodies…they are gone. These things aren’t the only things here and we need to get away. I was just coming to check your home for you so we could run together” Tsula began to sob harder so Gawonii lifted her into his arms and began running.


#7

She felt every jolt that his body made as he ran through the forest, with her in his arms. Reality suddenly sunk in and she shouted at him.

“Put me down! I can run on my own, Gawonii.” He hurriedly put her down, a pleading look on his face.

“We have to hurry, Tsula. We must be quiet, as well, or they will catch wind of our escape and hunt us down.” He barely paused for a response before he began running again, this time holding her hand. He was much faster than she was but the fear and adrenaline gave her the capability to keep up. She could feel the burning ache in her chest but it was a distant echo, drowned out by the screams of pain and terror emanating from her village.

Suddenly, a high pitched screech filled her ears, pain shattering her thoughts. The pain disappeared as soon as the screech stopped but the feeling of unease and fear remained. Shadows began to dart on either side of them. She wasn’t sure if they were surrounded or if these beast moved as super human speed.

“Do you see them?”
“Yes, Tsula, keep running! Don’t stop for anything, we must keep moving!”

With her senses heightened, she was able to lunge out of the way just in time as one of the horrid beasts fell upon her. She picks herself up as fast as she can and begins to run again but when she looks back she see’s Gawonii struggling with the foul demon of the night.

“Gawonii!” she screams, running back towards him.

“NO! You must keep moving, Tsula! RUN!” She turns to go, making the hardest decision of her entire life, tears stinging her eyes, robbing her of her vision. She frantically wipes at her face, trying to clear her way to safety. She can barely see in front of her face, the thicket of tree’s blocking out any light from the moon. She cries out in grief and disbelief, never stopping for a moment. She hears a snap and turns her head quickly, she see’s nothing but blackness and death. Continuing to run, she turns her head forward, only to be met face first with the hard bark of an aged oak. Blackness overwhelms her and the sounds of her heart racing in her chest become distance ticks at the back of her mind as she falls into nothingness.

Her body itches, something is tickling her side.
“Ow!” the crusader bites. She opens her eyes slowly, cracks of light blind her and torture her already pounding head.

“What in the w…?” she raises her body as leaves fall off of her. Memories from the night before flood her mind, her chest heaves as she doubles over in heartache. “What is happening?” she cries. She suddenly remembers Gawonii and rises quickly to back track her trail. If he had perished, maybe they would have left the body where it was slain. She examines her surroundings, quizzically. Someone had to have covered her with leaves, hiding her from the monsters, but who?


#8

“Gawonii!” Tsula calls hopefully. She knows yelling might be stupid but maybe, just maybe he had survived, caught up with her and covered her up. He may only be gone now to get the two of them breakfast “Gawonii!” she tries again, a little less hope in her voice. This was Gawonii, one of the strongest men she had ever known but anybody could be slain given the right circumstances. Tsula was about to give it one more try before retracing her steps the night before when she heard him coming, she’d know that sound anywhere. He had spent so many days over the years chasing her. Tears filled her eyes and soon he was back, standing before her, covered in dried blood.

“You shouldn’t yell like that but I suppose I should have woken you before I left” Tsula hugged him “I’m so happy you’re alive”

“and I’m happy you listened to me. I can keep us both alive if you continue to do that” Tsula let him go and wiped her face “where had you gone”

“I wanted to clean myself off and get breakfast but those things scared all the wildlife away. I wanted to finish hunting before I bathed”

“Maybe I could find berries or something while you get cleaned up” Gawonii nodded “I wont be long”

“You don’t need to hurry, we can meet right back here” They both walked away from eachother and it wasn’t until a few minuets later she finally started really thinking about last night beyond her loss. Out of everyone in their village Gawonii came for her and her alone. She blushed, that with everything before the disaster of last night Tsula felt he must want to be with her when she’s old enough.


#9

The loss of her parents came swift, like a burning hot blade, slicing through her chest. She paused for a moment, leaning against a tree, fighting back the tears that stung her eyes. She mourned their loss, not for them, but for herself. She knew that her father died doing something that made him proud and that he was alright dying for. He was protecting his people, his family. Her mother was also a warrior, part of why her father fell in love with her. Tsula knew that her parents died as protectors, guardians. It was not in their nature or culture to mourn for those lost, but to honor and celebrate. Tsula had never known how difficult that truly was until now. She took a deep breath, letting her palm rest on the bark of the nearest tree for just a moment longer, and then continued on. She picked for about an hour before she felt that she had enough to last them the day’s travel. She continued her way back to Gawonii, still in awe that he was with her still. When she was back to him, she knew that it was time to make a plan. She didn’t know where they were going, or where they could go.

“Gawonii, , what are we supposed to do?”
“The first thing that we need to do is to get to safety before night fall, we do not know if those beasts will return when the sun passes.”
“What about the others, what if there are other survivors? We can’t be the only ones, Gawonii, we just can’t be!”
“Your safety is my first priority, Tsula. Once I am reassured of that, we can look for survivors in the daytime. I know a village, about two days worth of travel, north of here. We can head there, looking for refuge. We cannot get our hopes up though, we must stay realistic in the case that those hell beasts have invaded more than just our home.”

The thought had not yet have the chance to creep into her mind, but now that is was planted, it continued to grow in the most gruesome of ways.


#10

Her people were strong and yet so many of them fell. It almost broke her heart all over to think of how many more could possibly lay dead all around them. Gawonii could tell she was struggling so he gave her a comforting caress, letting his fingertips slide down her cheek “Lets just eat for now Tsula. I’m starving and I know you must be too. Hopefully tomorrow I can find some meat for you”

“what I found will be fine” If she wasn’t so depressed and worried her heart may have fluttered at his contact but not only were her parents firm in her mind but now everyone else’s safety was too. They ate only what they needed incase food became more scarce then began their journey “tell me when I need to carry you Tsula. I don’t want to stop unless we absolutely have to. We need to check in with others as soon as possible. If the village isn’t destroyed they may all come back with us so any survivors can actually have a chance back at our own village”

“Okay” Gawonii swallowed, looking in front of him with determination as he took her hand to give her some emotional support. He felt her look up at him but he was too embarrassed to look back at her. He had never made his intentions with her known but after last night he wasn’t sure he’d be able to hold much back any longer. All he could picture that night was her dead body among the others, even now he could see it so he’d keep her close. She looked like she needed emotional support right now anyway so her age be damned he was holding her hand.


#11

As they trekked through the forest, they spoke little. Gawonii knew that Tsula needed time and mental space to process the events. He was aware that all he could do, for now, was to be there for her when she needed him. As the sun began to set, so did fear. They did not know if the creatures would be back, hunting through the forest, or if they were specifically targeting villages. They had no idea of their intelligence, nor motives. The moon was clouded and light scarce. As much as Gawonii didn’t want to admit it, they needed to set camp and some type of cover from the hellbeasts, whatever they might be.

“We need to rest, Tsula. There’s hardly any light to continue and the last thing we need is to waste our energy traveling in the wrong direction of the village. Let us gather some leaves for cover near those bushes and we will rotate watch. I will go first, as I know that you need your rest.”

Tsula wanted to argue but the fatigue and grief weighed so heavy on her body that she knew she could collapse at a moments notice. She looked at Gawonii and gave a subtle nod, placing their supplies by the bush that he had pointed out. Once an adequate amount of leaves were gathered, Gawonii told Tsula to choose a spot so that he could cover her.

“Please, let me be as close to you as possible. I don’t want to be alone right now.” She couldn’t make eye contact as she made her request and tears began to fall from her cheeks. He grabbed her face tenderly and wiped them away. “If I have anything to do with it, you will never be alone again.”


#12

Her heart actually stuttered that time. It was’t even truly about the contact it was the way he was looking at her. He held her eyes in his a few moments before helping her settle down and covering her with leaves. It wasn’t much protection but the safer he could make her the better. Gawonii sat at her side, trying to process everything. They had a plan but he needed to keep his mind busy anyway and the best thing he could do right now was try to think of as many plans as possible. Gawonii would try to think of everything that could possibly happen and how to react to it.

He let Tsula rest for five hours and even then he felt guilty as he woke her. She got up without hesitation, ready for her turn. Most of what urged her along was just how exhausted Gawonii looked. She knew he must have let her sleep an incredibly long time. Gawonii falling asleep near instantly only emphasized that. She sighed, hating once again she was in this reality. She hoped those horrible things hadn’t eaten her parents. Tsula wanted to give them the honors they deserved with a funeral.

Tsula jerked her mind away from that you’re going to make yourself cry and you need to be alert she reprimanded herself in her head. She pushed her focus to Gawonii, her savior in all this. Tsula wondered if she would of even made it out of that alive if it wasn’t for him. He came for her, had been protecting her and the way he had looked at her before she went to sleep could only mean that she didn’t have reason to worry he didn’t feel the same. The man of her dreams actually loved her and she’d hold that thought instead of all the ones that would cause her anguish.


#13

Tsula woke with a start, deafened by the sounds of screams around her. Gawonii was grabbing onto her shoulders shaking her with fear in his eyes but she couldn’t make out what he was saying. It took all but a moment for her to realize that the only screams she was hearing were those of her own. She must have fallen asleep on her watch. It was still dark outside and the realization of what she had done hit her hard. What if those monsters would have found them while they were sleeping. Gawonii’s death would have been on her hands. She covered her face as she began to sob but instead of being angry with her, he only held her closer to his chest. She looked up at him suddenly, mortified.

“What if they heard me, what if they are coming for us, Gawonii?” He voice shaken, riddled with panic.

“Sshhh, Tsula, everything will be alright. All we can do at this moment is prepare for what is it come. I am sorry but we must stay awake and alert for the time being, in case you are right. It won’t be long, and then we can rest. It’s not your fault, my sweet girl. We are both exhausted, it could have been me that had fallen asleep.”

Tsula seriously doubted that but she kept her thoughts to herself. She knew that he was only trying to make her feel better and as much as she hated to admit it, she really needed that right now. She knew that she should be trying just as hard to comfort him as well but all she could summon was to hold him a little tighter for a little bit longer. They decided to put Tsula back under the cover of leaves and for Gawonii to climb the closest tree that would give him the slightest advantage of foresight. She hated that he felt so far away but with her falling asleep on watch, they didn’t want to risk that again while she was high in a tree. The fall may not be fatal at the moment but the injuries would surely kill her in time. The clouds broke, giving them just enough moonlight to see a good perimeter. It was quiet, but not unusually so, which gave Gawonii hope that the beasts had not heard Tsula’s screams and that they would make it safely through the next few hours until sunrise.

“Tsula”, Gawonii spoke, quietly to be safe but loud enough to draw her attention, “rest your eyes, we will leave at first light”.

She knew that he needed the rest more than she but before she could get out an argument, her eyes fell heavy.


#14

He glanced at her every now and then as she rested, hating how sad she looked. He had taken such a long watch in the first place because he knew how hard it was to deprive yourself of sleep when you weren’t used to it. There had been multiple situations that had called for him to have sleepless nights so he was far more accustomed to it than her. He felt they talked about everything so he was confident she had never had to do it before.

He hoped when she rose he could make her feel more at ease about it. Even if it wasn’t so understandable he didn’t think anything in the world could get him mad at her. In such a dire situation he was incredibly tempted to tell her how he felt but the customs they had both grown up with still had a hold on him. He’d respect them as best he could and continue to try to keep his feelings to himself.

When it was time to get going and finish their journey to the nearest village he gently woke Tsula who looked bashful almost instantly upon waking “Hey, it’s really okay” the fact he could read her continued guilt on her face only embarrassed her further “You were counting on me…”

“lets eat some breakfast then talk alright”

“alright”


#15

They had been walking for a few hours, with failed attempts at conversation. Gawonii knew she needed time but also wanted her to know that she could confide in him.

“We should be getting close,” he spoke. It was right at that moment that an awful stench invaded their senses. It burned their throats and stung their eyes. They coughed and sputtered as smoke took place of their air. They hurried towards the clearing, desperate to find relief and the source of the foul odor. They stumbled forward, met by a brief relief and then a terrible burden. They had found the village, or at least, what was left of it.

The offensive stench was the smell of burning flesh. Bodies upon bodies were stacked, lit and blazing in the heat of mid-day. There were a couple of women, holding their children to the ground mourning their loss. The men were tending to the fire, sullen looks on their faces. One of the warriors noticed Tsula and Gawonii, alerting the others that were left.

“Halt! Why have you come upon our village? Speak your name before your chance is lost and you are added to this monstrosity.”

“We are from a trip West of here, our village was devastated by a night beast and we only seek refuge and alliance against these demons.” Gawonii sheltered Tsula behind him, protecting her from whatever outcome may arrive.

“Do you know what these demons are?” the villager spoke.

“I am sorry but I am at the same position as you. We were attacked, our chief and most of our warriors were slaughtered, they had no reserve our women or children, either. They were all murdered, we barely managed to escape. How is it that you fought of these creatures? I see you still have numbers, we must gather everything we know in order to fight against this abomination. We must not allow them to wipe us out and claim our land. The ancestor’s wouldn’t stand for it.”

The villager paused for a moment that seemed to go on for an hour. Tsula could feel the tense fear in Gawonii’s stance, his muscles were ridged, as if he was ready to take her and flee at any sign of danger.

“My name is Bodaway, Firemaker. It is the only way this many of us survived,” he began walking cautiously towards them, but his stance was more relaxed than moments before. He held out his hand to Gawonii. “I am now Chief of my village, most of our numbers have waned, due to our tribulations from the last moon. We were saved by fire, and must cleanse our dead in the same way. We do not know what these demons were or if the bodies of our loved ones are safe in their deaths. We burn them to keep them from being taken over by the evil spirits that were sent here. If you have not done the same, I suggest it.”


#16

“would anybody from here come help us if we help you?” Bodaway seemed to think about this for a time “that seems fair enough, we need to stick together in these times. Come with me, we don’t have much but I would hope your village would have done the same if roles were reversed and it was one of ours asking yours for aide” They followed Bodaway, Gawonii staying close to Tsula in case anybody tried anything. Tsula just wanted to cry, she had already been depressed anyway between the loss of so many she loved and letting down Gawonii last night. Looking at all these mourning people made her want to fall to her knees in hopeless despair but she wouldn’t.

She needed to keep going. She needed to be strong to stop these things before there wasn’t an intact village left in their world. Bodaway lead them to a hut that had food and offered them each a small amount “Its all we can spare for now”

“thank you sir” they both said in near unison. They ate respectfully then he offered them each water “what may we do first to help?” Gawonii asked. Bodaways reply was “You help the men, a few of the women could use your wifes help” She actually noticed Gawonii blush a little. Tsula was the one to say “I’m not married to him. I’m not even old enough yet. I still have a few months”

“Oh, I’m sorry”

“It’s alright, my name is Tsula by the way, his is Gawonii” Bodaway nodded “come with me then Tsula” She followed and though Gawonii didn’t want her out of his sight he knew he couldn’t risk getting on the bad side of these people. Alone was probably far worse than being with strangers since these abominations were on the loose with murderous intent. The enamored, deeply in love Gawonii might have dwelled on the fact someone has taken Tsula for his but this was much too sorrowful of a situation for all that.

He deeply felt the pain these men were experiencing so he kept his mind to task, doing everything precisely how he was asked to do it. Tsula soon met a few women who Bodaway introduced then said “she and her friend have come to help us and we will soon in turn help them. Be kind and patient with her, she may look grown but she is still a little off from her womanhood”


#17

Tsula did everything they asked as best she could all the while trying to internally pick herself up before she became too lost in her despair. She knew the more you allowed yourself to dwell on the thoughts that were making you sad the worse you would get so she tried to simply think of good times with her family and Gawonii. Her village had always celebrated life when people died, they didn’t mourn. Of course people couldn’t help but cry at times, they were still human but hers had been an incredibly positive village and she felt part of honoring them was keeping her spirits up in these hard times.

Even doing these tasks were helping since they weren’t dealing with the dead. Wanting to apologize to Gawonii again about falling asleep crept into her mind but she allowed it, wanting to think of a proper apology. Tsula just hoped that Gawonii hadn’t lost any respect for her that night. Thinking about that almost brought her down again but Tsula simply told herself she’d make up for it somehow. A chance would show itself where she could be redeemed in his eyes so he might still want her when she came of age.

They didn’t see each other again until late that night when everyone was finally burned and laid to rest to protect their souls. They had gathered to eat small rations of food then settle into places to sleep for the night along with setting up a rotation of men to keep watch over the resting. Gawonii was part of the first watch so she still couldn’t talk to him. It had been exhausting helping the women anyway since they had been working just as non stop as the men so Tsula just allowed herself to rest in case she was needed early in the morning.


#18

Little did she know, this slumber would change everything. Her body laid at rest but her mind fell into a tumultuous scene. Tsula was walking through a fog which appeared to be in a forest. She didn’t recognize anything around her, not the sights, the sounds, or even the smell. She began to pick up the pace, hurried to get out of this place. She hurled all of her energy into moving forward but in her rush, failed to see the cliff in front of her. The soil buckled underneath of her feet as she tumbled downwards, barely feeling the way that the Earth was pummeling her body. Tsula landed with a hard thud, with grit in her teeth and dirt in her eyes. She could hear something, it seemed to be a faint drumming, shouting. The scent of smoke and sage began to envelope her. She tried to wipe the dirt from her eyes, but the dirt stung and scraped as she rubbed them. After a moment she was able to see but the details were still blurry. Tsula began to crawl towards the sound, hoping for someone to help her from her fall. She began the ascent up the other side of the pit, it was lower than her fall but her injuries proved to make it difficult. As she finally reached the top, she saw what the source of the noise and smoke. The man that she saw was a Shaman, a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, such people enter a trance state during a ritual, so Tsula was worried he wouldn’t be able to hear her. He wore a mask of bone and his body was painted red. She wasn’t familiar with this type of ritual. There were two other members with him, one looked up at the sky as played his drum to the beat of the Shamans words, words which Tsula had never heard and couldn’t quite place. The other member was a woman. She sat kneeling before the Shaman, head down, never looking up or speaking a word. Tsula managed to pick herself up and began to stumble towards the strange trio.

“Please, can you help me, I have fallen and am lost in these woods.” She continued to walk towards the Shaman, as he was clearly in charge.

Not a single person turned to look at her or acknowledge her presence. She knew she was hurt and it was possible that they had not heard her weak voice. She plead again.

“Please, my name is Tsula! I am lost and in need of help. I do not know where my tribe is.”

Again, no one responded. She stood in disbelief for a moment, but knew that when in a trance, you are often disconnected to the outside world. She walked up the the strange man beating the drum and reached out to touch his shoulder, hoping to gently pull him back to this plane. The only problem with her approach, was that her hand floated right through his flesh, as if he wasn’t really there. She stood, shocked and confused. She reached out her hand for a second time, only to watch it flow through his body, like it was nothing. Were they really here, or was she?

The music suddenly comes to a halt, all eyes on the Shaman. Tsula turns to witness a horror on her eyes, one like she had never seen. The Shaman was holding the woman by her hair, with a knife against her throat. She wasn’t screaming, or scared, but sitting complacently in front of him. Tsula screams out as he slides the knife slowly and her life force begins to rush out, into the palms of the Shaman. He kneels before her, letting the blood cover his body. Tsula drops to her knees, sobbing as she watches the ritual unfold. At that moment she is thankful that they cannot see or hear her cries. As the young woman’s body slips to the floor, he rises above her, shouting the words that Tsula cannot understand.

Suddenly, the fire raises up! The flares burn white and hot as the begin to spread and surround the Shaman. Tsula can barely process what is going on when a horrid ripping sound tears through the air around her. She cannot see where it is coming from until she lays her eyes on the body of the young woman. She closes them and opens them again, praying for a new scene, or to be back lost in the woods. Thick claws are ripping out of her body, through her throat, where the Shaman chose to take his sacrifice. A wretched being screams and claws it’s way out of her body, tearing her body in half. Tsula cannot move, fear freezing her body and her eyes. She recognized the beast as the terror that has taken her village. She watches as the beast seems to be listening to the Shaman, as if it was at his command.

“Is this what is happening? Has this Shaman summoned these hell beast, but for what cost? What reason?” Her voice sounds foreign to her as she speaks to herself. Everything she knows seems a lifetime away. Reality quickly comes crashing back at her as she sees the beast turn suddenly, looking straight into her eyes as if he heard every word she just spoke. He lunges over the fire, claws reaching out to take Tsula. She scrambles back to her feet to run as fast as she can, there is no way that she will be able to outrun this monstrosity. She turns her head as she runs, just in time to see it jump towards her, razor sharp fangs about to make contact with her delicate skin.

“Tsula! Tsula, wake up! Please, wake up, Tsula!”

Tsula opens her eyes, jumping up, fighting the claws that have grabbed her, but they’re not claws, they are just hands. She is sitting in the hut, surrounded by strange faces, all of them but one that she could never forget.

“Gawonii,” she pants, a look of worry covering her face, her eyes wide, “Gawonii, I know how this has come to us.” She then collapses in his arms, sobbing into his shoulder as she finally lets all of her pain and sorrow come to fruition.


#19

Everyone was staring at them, curious as to what she had seen. Among all the nearby villages everyone believed in the gods giving them visions in desperate situations like this. One ran off to retrieve Bodaway since he, more than any of them should hear her out once she gathered herself. Gawonii gently stroked Tsulas soft brown hair with his free hand as he held her close “You’re safe Tsula, I promise I’ll keep you safe” he whispered, hoping to bring her some comfort. Tsula was just sitting up and wiping at her eyes when Bodaway approached “You’ve seen something?” he asked, omitting any pleasantries.

Tsula took no offence, nor was she surprised. Her green eyes looked directly into Bodaways as she described every second of her dream. She knew how vital this information was, how important it was he know absolutely everything. She wouldn’t try to decide what was and wasn’t important. Something as small as her falling in the dream could have significance later as they tried to rid their world of these plague beasts.

“Is that all you saw young Tsula?”

“Yes”

“eat, drink, refresh yourself and make sure. Talk to me when you’re absolutely certain”

“Yes sir”

“You may stay with her Gawonii, help her relax and think over her dream. Try and get more detail about the people she saw” Gawonii gave a simple nod and Bodaway began giving other instructions that Tsula didn’t listen to. She was looking back at Gawonii who made her blush when he gently smiled at her. “come Tsula”


#20

Tsula tried to go over her vision for details that would help them but every time she shut her eyes all she could see was the claws coming straight for her. Her fear was blocking her mind and concentration and she knew there was nothing to be had until she defeated this initial wave.

“I need to meditate, Gawonii. I cannot see anything except for the demon. My mind has been blocked and I need to be alone. I’m so sorry. I will find you once my meditative journey is complete and I am ready to try explaining again.”

Gawonii simply nodded kindly and walked out of the hut without a word. She knew he was worried, assumed that to him, she still probably looked like a frightened child. Tsula began to reposition herself for a long state to clear her mind but as she began to adjust, an Elder walked in. She had kind eyes but her face was firm and her hair was completely silver.

“You must come with me to accomplish your journey of the mind. I will set you on your best path but the rest will be up to you.”

She turned without another word and began to walk out of the hut. Tsula quickly rose to her feet and followed the wise woman out. They walked through the village and Tsula couldn’t help but notice the eyes that followed her. Everyone looked to her for the answers and the pressure clogged her mind even more. She expected to stop at the elder woman’s hut but they continued on passed the village. Tsula began to feel anxious but knew that she was in no danger and decided to trust the woman which she followed. The walked through the forest for what seemed to be a half hour when finally settling in on a clearing. There was a single hut in the middle, with woman of all ages coming in and out, seemingly preparing the hut for Tsula. Smoke rose out of the top along with the scent of incense she couldn’t quite place. The Elder parted the way for Tsula to enter and the women began to leave. Once they were alone, the wise woman gazed into Tsula’s eyes, but to Tsula, it felt much deeper and she had a feeling that it was not as simple as it seemed.

“You are of pure mind and soul, these visions were sent to you for a reason but you must find it within yourself to continue this journey. You will be left here, alone, to clear your mind. Strip down to your skin and envelop yourself in the smoke that remanates throughout this sacred space. I do not know how long it will take and you will soon find that time moves differently through planes. When you are ready, just follow the path back to the village. We have marked it with stones so that you do not get lost along the way. Remember, if you do not open yourself up, you cannot let guidance in.”

She then turned and walked away, leaving Tsula alone, frightened, with a lot on her mind. She ran over the woman’s instructions again through her mind before beginning.

Tsula took a moment to take in her surroundings. There wasn’t much, the mix of fire and incense filled the room’s center, there was a pelt for her to position herself, a bowl of water, and a small knife placed on the pelt. There was also a fan, made of eagle feathers placed right in the center of the pelt. She knew that these were sacred so decided to wait before she picked it up. She took a few deep breaths in, centering her mind before undressing herself. The clothes were folded neatly and set aside. Feelings of vulnerability and fear were pushed aside the moment they began to intrude and instead, she took the feathered fan wrapped in leather, embroidered with the finest beads, and started dousing her naked body with the smoke. She worked on clearing her mind of all thoughts. The Elder spoke of opening herself up and she knew she could not accomplish this task with a heavy mind. She slowly sat on the pelt, crossing her legs beneath her, resting her arms, palms up on her thighs. She began to breath, focusing from the top of her head, downwards. Her mother had taught her this technique when she was seven. She was to still her entire body, if she felt something move or tingle, she had to go back and start at that part again. Tsula had found this very effective in times of need. She breathed in and out, clearing her mind of all things. She felt a slight burn in her nostril from the mixture; she started back up at her nose, working her way back down. The air was warm, thick, she could feel the smoke wrapping around her body. It started to become difficult to tell where her body ended and the room began. Time started to slow down, Tsula no longer felt her chest rise and fall, the smoke no longer burnt her nose and her skin no longer felt exposed. Everything was just, blank.