The Blue Journal (Fantasmagoria book 1)

By I.B. George

Fantasy, General fiction, Young adult

Paperback, eBook

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1089
9 mins

Chapter 4
Cover Your Ears!

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Captain Vidar was the first to keep watch. Next to him, he had placed the sword which had served him faithfully through the years. He scanned the thicket around, wondering how he’d never seen anything so strange.
That grey-bluish hue of the landscape made his eyes tired and made him feel uneasy. He turned his head, watching his sleeping friends. It was going to be dark soon. He didn’t believe in the evil spirits that drove people mad or killed them when they ventured into the Demented Forest.
He heard a rustle coming from the bushes ahead. He turned his head and looked in that direction but couldn’t see anything. He got up and had a closer look, trying to startle the animal that was creeping around the camp. What else could it be if not an animal?
He heard noises again, this time coming from his left side. He clasped his sword, convinced that something was wrong. From the kind of noises he could hear, it was probably a fast creature or maybe a whole pack that surrounding their camp.
Taking a few steps back, he headed towards the Professor, but kept an eye on the forest at the same time. He bent down and placed his left hand on the Professor’s shoulder, waking him up. The Professor opened his eyes in confusion and started to ask something. Vidar stopped him by placing a finger to his lips and urging Radius to be quiet.
The Professor understood right away that something was wrong. He lifted himself up onto his elbows, looking in the direction the captain was pointing. He couldn’t see anything, but got up slowly and started waking up everyone else.
Suddenly, from the edge of the forest appeared some sort of ghostly shadows which headed quickly towards the camp, seemingly gliding over the ground. The huge swords they were carrying in their hands glinted threateningly.
“We’re being attacked!” shouted Vidar, throwing the cape off his shoulders.
Robert and his companions grabbed their swords and jumped to their feet. The captain crossed his sword with the first Shadow that came his way. A metallic gnashing accompanied the crossing of the blades. Vidar pushed his adversary’s blade away and then maneuvered his sword to the right, aiming for the middle of the Shadow.
“By all gods!” he cried out when he saw how the sword went right through the body of his opponent as if through a wall of smoke.
The Shadow aimed his sword at Vidar’s left shoulder with a powerful up and down movement. The captain avoided it by jumping to one side managing to evade his adversary’s tremendous hit. He then lunged towards his adversary’s neck but was disappointed again when he saw that his sword had left no trace of a wound on the figure in front of him. He tried to look into the face of his attacker by focusing on the inside of the hood on his head and what he saw was the skeletal outline, like a black fog of his adversary’s face.
Behind him, Voras was defending himself with calm movements, twisting the sword above his head slowly. He had realized too that his adversary was a ghost and he was coolly looking for a way to crush him. Voras considered using his powers to create a solid darkness through which he could guide his friends out of the forest.
Somewhere to the right, Rolan was looking for a way to escape the assault of the Shadow in front of him. He remembered the nearby river which was few paces away. He retreated, trying to lure his adversary there where he could be able to use his power.
“The Shadows from Heldor”, he muttered when he recognized the outlines of those who attacked them. “What are they doing here, so far away from the vaults of the castle?” he wondered.
As a child, he had come across one of these Shadows haunting the dungeons of the castle. He had run away screaming, not daring to look behind until he had reached his room. The guards he bumped into in his rush had looked at him in surprise. He could not remember though if anyone had ever seen the Shadows leaving the castle dungeons, least of all the castle walls. Rolan suspected something devilish was happening and that some force, infinitely stronger than that of the spirits had set the Shadows on them.
Earlier, he had seen Azar measuring his strength against that of the fourth Shadow. He parried meticulously its strong blows, almost dancing around it.
Robert was watching the whole scene in a daze, incapable of any reaction. He was the only one there who could use his abilities without the need of a nearby source of the element he was controlling.
He focused and felt the warmth gathering across his arms. He then centred the two flames that had appeared in his palms and turned them into a fireball which he threw towards Azar’s adversary.
The fireball went straight through the body of the Shadow without causing any damage and set fire to a bush near the edge of the forest.
His action caught the attention of the Shadow who turned its head towards Robert and gave a frightening rattle.
The Shadow dodged Azar’s attack, hurled him to the ground and then headed towards Robert. Akura came his way, trying to bite the threatening silhouette but only managed to snap his jaws, as the Shadow went straight through him.
Robert froze in fear when he saw the ghost heading towards him, raising his sword high above his head. Radius parried the Shadow’s deadly strike and pulled Robert behind him.
Rolan went closer to the brook in the clearing, going backwards on purpose with every step he was taking. He was a few steps away from the water when he decided he was close enough to be able to use his abilities.
He focused his strength while he put together the fingers on his left hand and raised his arm. A stream of water erupted over the river in a spiralling column. With a sudden movement of his hand, Rolan aimed the water torrent towards the Shadow ahead.
What happened next however left Rolan speechless. The river seemed to be coming to life, as the torrent he had created took the shape of an almost human figure which extended two water streams that looked like arms. The arms stretched towards the Shadow which, overcome, came to a standstill in front of this new enemy.
By all gods, how did I not think about it? The water behind me is the River of the Everlasting Souls. The legend says that the swords of the four warriors were found in here, said Rolan to himself.
The Shadow tried to aim a heavy blow at those arms made of water. The torrents quickly wrapped around the blade of the sword and snatched it from the arm of the Shadow who let out a horrifying howl.
Azar saw the whole thing and thought quickly about his next move. He focused a flame in his palm from the bush that Robert had set on fire and threw it at the Shadow who lost its sword. Its silhouette lit up instantly and crashed into the tall grass in the clearing.
Rolan, who was nearby, covered his ears with his palms to stop himself from hearing the sharp screech of the Shadow squirming in agony. He realized then what had happened: the river had claimed back one of the swords that belonged to it hundreds of years before.
The other three Shadows heard the inhuman howls coming from their companion and turned their gaze towards there.
“The Shadows… make them go towards the river!” called Rolan.
Immediately they understood Rolan’s strategy and made as if to retreat, so as to lure the last three Shadows to the water. They took care to protect Robert, making sure he was behind them at all times.
Once by the river, they saw Rolan whirling the water again, lifting it from its bed. The Shadows tried desperately to hang on to their swords, but the might of the river was greater than their strength. Azar and Robert reacted straight away and, using the power of fire, set light to the three shadowy figures of the former warriors.
Again they heard the agonizing screams. At last, the fire consumed the four spirits, leaving just a few patches of burned grass behind.
The seven friends looked at each other for a few moments. They felt drained, but still alive. They then burst out laughing and started hugging each other, happy to have passed the first obstacle of their long journey.

*****************************************

Chapter 10
Bustle Behind the Cell Door

Mavar “The Hobbler” was fiddling the dice in his dirty hands, grinning to his partner, Bug’ar “The Hunchback”. He raised his eyes to the sky and begged Lokar to grant him the luck he so much needed and win the stake of the game.
If he won, Bug’ar loot was going to be his, according to the Wanderers’ code of honour.
Eventually he rolled and, with his heart in his mouth, followed the dice spinning along the dust on the road and eventually settling after knocking against a rocky stone in their path.
Even “One Eye” Grintas lifted the patch off his eye in order to get a better look at the restlessness of the dice, showing a glimpse of a perfectly healthy eye which followed lively the jumps of the bone cubes.
“Six-six!” Mavar called happily to his partner’s dismay.
“You rascal, you cheated!” replied Bug’ar jumping to his feet and reaching for his dagger.
Mavar jumped nimbly at the same time, despite his infirmity, and pulled the sword out of its scabbard.
“Stop that, you blockheads!” Captain Cavas’s voice rang out from somewhere nearby. “Save your warrior ways for the drunk merchants who venture into our woods, not to fight among yourselves.”
Mavar put the sword back into the scabbard and grunted at the captain, while Bug’ar placed his dagger back in his belt.
“He cheated, Captain!” he called, turning to Cavas. “He’s using loaded dice.”
The Captain narrowed his eyes as he considered the best way to ease the conflict between the two. Eventually, he called to them, pointing at the dice:
“Bring those things to me… Now!”
Bug’ar turned on his heels and tried to grab the dice from the dust, but Mavar was faster and managed to hide them in his palm, swifter than a magician.
“There you are, Captain,” he uttered as he placed the dice in his palms.
The Captain held them, turned them over on all sides and after uttering a ‘hmm’ rolled them onto the wooden table in front of him.
The dice rolled again, clanking on the table which the captain had acquired after robbing two furniture merchants from the Kingdom of Clouds who had been uninspired when choosing to cross through the Wanderers’ forest.
“Five and three, Hunchback. Mavar won fair and square,” the captain announced his verdict.
Mavar turned to Bug’ar and revealed his yellow teeth in a grin.
“You heard the boss, Hunchback. Next two bounties are mine.”
“That’s what you think, Hobbler,” replied the quarrelsome Bug’ar. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re just a miserable cheating…”
Mavar pulled a sad face, like an orphan, as he addressed Cavas:
“Captain, I thought your word was the law and the Wanderers’ code was followed by everyone under your command. I see though that some of us think themselves above the Wanderers’ honour and believe that your decisions…”
“That’s enough, Mavar! Don’t push it!” Cavas cut him short. “And you, Bug’ar, you’d better respect my decision unless you want to have a little holiday in the Pit.”
Bug’ar swallowed hard. The thought of spending the next few days inside the dark and damp Pit brought a knot in his throat.
“Of course, Captain,” he uttered pleadingly. “I was just teasing my good friend Mavar here. You know I’m a bit of a joker…”
Cavas agreed with a slight nod of the head, even though he knew well enough that Bug’ar could have been called anything but a joker.
Mavar chuckled inside. Nobody had noticed his trick. He had grabbed the dice from the dust with his left hand while he handed to the captain another pair of dice which he had at the ready in his right hand. How he had robbed the simple minded Bug’ar of his next loot! It was a wonderful day, no doubt about that.
He saluted his captain then turned on his heels and walked away. He had already taken a few steps when he heard Cavas’s voice behind him, making his blood run cold:
“Hobbler, come back, we need to have a word!”
Mavar obeyed and approached Cavas, who was glaring at him. The captain placed his arm across his shoulders and invited him to take a walk together.
“I assume you are aware, Mavar, that half of Bug’ar’s loot is mine, right?”
“But, Captain… the code… the trial,” mumbled “The Hobbler”, confused by Cavas’s wish.
“You’re quick with your hands, Hobbler,” whispered the captain. “But not as quick as my eyes. I clearly saw your little trick when you changed the dice but I wanted to teach Bug’ar a lesson because he disobeyed one of my orders last week. Get it?”
“I get it, Captain!”
“Well then, I think we have a deal. Right, Mavar?” ended the captain sweetly.
“Of course, Captain. It would be my pleasure…”
“Enough with the sweet talking, Hobbler. Any word of this and I’ll hand you over to Bug’ar who probably can’t wait to do you in.”
Mavar mumbled something unintelligible and the captain gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder, sealing their agreement.
“Ah!… Mavar!” called the captain again behind him. “Bring one of the prisoners to my tent.”
“Sure, Captain… which one?”
“The one they call the Professor. I think he’s in charge.”
“Agreed, Captain. I’ll bring him right away,” added Mavar obediently.
“The Hobbler” went away, dragging behind him his left foot which had stopped functioning properly after a fight that landed him with a dagger wound.
He approached the big tent where they usually kept their prisoners while they waited for a reward. The two guards by the entrance to the tent looked at him enquiringly.
“Out of my way, scoundrels. Captain Cavas gave me orders to bring one of the captives.”
“Not until you tell us the password, Hobbler,” said one of them, a rotund fellow who used to be a baker’s aide in a nearby village.
“What password, you idiots?” shouted Mavar. “The captain didn’t tell me any password. He only said I should bring one of them.”
“We can’t let you into the tent without a password,” the round lad cut him short.
Mavar looked up and down at the fat fellow, making the former baker’s boy begin to wonder what he was up to.
“Yes, I think they should make it a bit bigger,” he said at length, inspired by this idea that’s just popped into his head.
“Make what bigger?” asked the fatty curiously.
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” replied Mavar, as though it was just a thought.
“Come on now, Hobbler, the suspense is killing me,” called the fat lad, his forehead sweaty and dying to find out what Mavar was thinking about.
“It’s just something the captain said… before coming here…”
“What, man? Out with it!”
“He told me that if anyone dares to disobey his command, he shall send them to the Pit for the next three days. And, I’m not entirely sure, but I think the old wound, the one on his shoulder, is bothering him again ‘cause he seemed real annoyed. Only, you see, the thing is he would have to make the entrance to the Pit bigger for you,” ended Mavar, seemingly not paying attention to the fellow in front of him, but watching him from the corner of his eye.
He saw the fatty going white in the face and the other guard loosening the collar of his shirt with his finger, as if it’d stopped fitting him all of a sudden.
“I’ll be on my way then,” said “The Hobbler” turning around. “See you… in three days.”
The two guards looked at each other in fright. Eventually, the round guy called after him, anxious to stop him before he went too far off.
“Mavar, buddy!”
“The Hobbler” grinned in satisfaction then turned towards the two with a serious look on his face.
“Yes?”
“How could we disobey Cavas’s orders? Please come in and take whoever you like. But make sure you tell the captain we followed his orders.”
“Of course, buddy,” Mavar reassured him, “without a fail!”
The guards unblocked the way and allowed “The Hobbler” to go to the tent. He drew the curtain that hung at the entrance and stepped inside.
As soon as he went in, everybody’s eyes turned towards him. The prisoners were sitting on the floor, their hands and legs tied up. The guard in the tent saluted and “The Hobbler” replied with a grunt. The guard was about to say something else, when Mavar cut him short:
“Do not ask me for the password, I already told it at the entrance,” he uttered confidently.
The guard swallowed his words and waited for Mavar’s next move.
“The Captain sent me to bring one of the prisoners to him… the one they call the Professor.”
The guard raised his hand and pointed to Radius.
“That’s him, over there, the one with the white beard.”
Mavar headed towards the Professor, removed his knife from the belt and bent down to cut off the rope around his legs.
“Get up!” he ordered after managing to untie the string which immobilised Radius.
Released from the ropes which had been holding him glued to the floor for some time, the Professor started rubbing his numb feet.
At last, he stood up and addressed Mavar, looking him straight in the eye:
“I’m ready, we can go now.”
“Follow me,” replied “The Hobbler” and started towards Captain Cavas’s tent after drawing back the curtain to the entrance.
It was midday and the sun shone brightly. After the semi- darkness in the tent, Radius was suddenly blinded by the light outside which forced him to close his eyes.
He opened them again after a few moments and followed Mavar who was limping his way across to the captain’s tent, dragging his bad leg behind him.

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