Chapter 17:

Chapter 14 “The sacred forest“

Age of Ember beta

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The sun rose above marking another day. Everyone eagerly awoke to leave their homes. They were ready to meet up and start on the quest. The night before everyone had already placed whatever extra items, they needed inside of Odrian’s black hole. It was rather convenient. They all met in the middle of the city with the exception of Arachnia, who was running behind. After a couple of hours, she finally showed up late yet again.
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“M-my deepest apologies,” Arachnia was flustered and looked as though she had just woken up. She took a deep bow. Ziggy looked at everyone, sizing them up for today’s journey.Bookmark here

“Elf City is almost a 2 weeks journey out from west,” Sabrina informed everyone as she stood by Ziggy. She looked like an angel compared to the rugged-pirate appearance of Ziggy.Bookmark here

“Right,” Ziggy continued. “But don’t think this gonna be some sort of cakewalk kiddos. We will be running once we reach the Desert of Reflections and we will be swimming or flying through the Mid-Bertic Ocean.” Bookmark here

Sabrina wore a smile that was much different than her usual pleasant. Considering that Ziggy would be delegating tasks throughout the entire way, Victori hesitated to ask:Bookmark here

“Are we going anywhere fun for training?”Bookmark here

“We’ll be training the entire trip.” Ziggy’s eyes glowed passionately.Bookmark here

The expression of despair appeared on everyone's faces, except Verona and Arachnia. They were perplexed as to why everyone would be so sad on the idea of training the entire trip. Little did they know of Ziggy’s rigorous methods, it wouldn’t be long before they found out. Bookmark here

They set off toward the Moonlit Sacred Forest of Aigest. Upon first glance, the forest was unassuming in its ordinary presentation. But at night the trees would glow with radiant blue rings and some mushrooms and flowers would tower above the trees. A magical mist would fill the air throughout the entire forest and made the area quite a romantic scene. Majestic setting aside, it was within the darkest hours that turned it to breeding grounds for hostile creatures that slept during the day. Bookmark here

Hopping from tree to tree, Odrian needed to ask Sarah for a favor. He picked up the pace to get closer to her. He then tapped her on the shoulder in a slapping motion with his right hand. As soon as his hand connected with her shoulder, she went flying off to the left. It was as though someone had delivered a powerful punch. Her body broke the sound barrier and decimated a nearby mountain as soon as she collided with it.Bookmark here

“Oh shit,” Odrian wasn’t sure what to say about what had happened. Bookmark here

Odrian’s face fell flat. He looked upon the still-collapsing mountain as he pondered his strength. He had hoped that he wouldn’t misuse his powers in such a devastating way. Landon left immediately to go check on her. Victor, Verona, and Arachnia stood by, unsure of what had transpired. Knowing better than anyone else, Ziggy and Sabrina turned toward the direction of Odrian, who seemed visibly devastated by what he had done.Bookmark here

“Sarah, right now is not the time for games!” Sabrina had scolded Sarah. Bookmark here

“Fine,” Sarah reappeared next to Odrian with her hands folded.Bookmark here

Once Sarah reappeared, the mountain returned to normal as it wasn’t completely leveled moments before. Landon rushed back, upset by her unwelcomed humor. She turned toward everyone else with a grin on her face and teased:Bookmark here

“Wow, I fooled everyone here! I can’t believe you fell for it!”Bookmark here

“Hey, Sarah, nobody is laughing!” Landon voiced his opinion strongly, surprising everyone in the group. “ Remember a forux is meant to be used to fight, not goof around.”Bookmark here

“You scared the hell out of me by what you did,” Odrian felt compelled to say. At this point, he no longer wanted to ask her for a favor. “You know about what happened those years back” Landon hinted at the past.Bookmark here

“I-” Sarah choked, unsure of what to say.Bookmark here

Landon went ahead of everyone as Sarah was last to leave. It was rare that Landon had lashed out, but he had a point. She misuses her power to deceive rather hone it for something more positive. They all continued moving on top of the flat trees to cover some more ground. He came toward Verona and Arachnia, who were talking this entire time.Bookmark here

“Is she always like that?” Arachnia asked Verona.Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Verona answered, knowing Sarah liked having fun, no matter how obscure it was.Bookmark here

Victor came to Odrian’s side and gave his shoulder a slight tap.Bookmark here

“Don’t go flying on me,” Victor grinned. “We’re going to get her back. Don’t worry.” Bookmark here

“Whatever,” Odrian was still upset about what happened. He knew Victor meant well, but the scare of his powers being unleashed scared him, especially since he thought he used it on his sister.Bookmark here

After countless miles of tree hopping, Ziggy and Sabrina stopped once they found a suitable spot to rest. Ziggy turned to the others as he rested on a branch and declared:Bookmark here

“Here looks about right. Great! We’ll set up camp here.” Bookmark here

Without hesitation, Odrian opened a portal and all of everyone's camping equipment fell out. The boys set up camp on top of a large tree. They had set up two tents, one extremely large occupying most of the tree and the second tent was mid-sized, big enough for 4 people. The ladies set up on the nearby treetop. Bookmark here

“The big tent is mine,” Ziggy looked at Victor, Landon and Odrian. “So, none of you may enter.”Bookmark here

“Ziggy,” Sabrina called him out on his selfishness. “Is that necessary?”Bookmark here

“You know how it is, babe. It’s a cold world out there. Good thing this has good insulation.”Bookmark here

Sabrina sighed deeply. She wasn’t going to convince him tonight.Bookmark here

The trio of boys looked at each other knowing they had no other choice and went in to set up their sleeping areas. The ladies on the other hand had their tent set up in no time and went to get some rest. Some time after, the boys finished and went to sleep. The day was still young but they rested for a short time.Bookmark here

“GET UP!” Ziggy and Sabrina were yelling for everyone to get up. They had slowly awaken, showing up one by one with Victor being the last one to arrive. They all looked around their surroundings. The treetops were connected with colorful glowing mushrooms and flowers. As balls of light flew around in the air, Verona tried to touch one as it came close to her. They all walked over to an empty tree with a hole in the center. Sabrina looked at them:Bookmark here

“Jump down” Bookmark here

After landing from a 30ft fall inside the trunk of the tree, there was another hole for them to walk out into the forest. The forest’s ceiling was covered by plants, but it wasn’t lacking in light. It almost felt as if they were in a city, filled with all kinds of lights, all kinds of creatures running around, some eating the plants and others eating others. Bookmark here

After giving everyone a few minutes to enjoy the scenery, Ziggy stood in front of everyone and demanded:Bookmark here

“I need each of you to catch a bull rabbit. Alive.”Bookmark here

“A bull rabbit?” Victor had never seen one.Bookmark here

“Of course” Arachnia thought aloud excitedly. “This forest is the only habitat where bull rabbits can be found. There a delicacy in many parts of the world!”Bookmark here

“Really?”Bookmark here

“Indeed!” Ziggy cut in. “Can’t train on an empty stomach!”Bookmark here

Ziggy had one in his hand to show them what it was. It was a rabbit that was about a sixth of their size with bull-like horns and 2 fuzzy tails. It had a mane around its neck and 2 pair of eyes. Everyone stayed quiet as they knew there was going to be more than what he just said for face value. They were about to train on an empty stomach, many had likely conceded.Bookmark here

“Standard rules! No powers! No weapons!” Ziggy told them, much to their dismay. “Also, no running! Walk!”Bookmark here

Catching a bull rabbit at walking speed was deemed difficult, if not impossible. The second it notices you; it would flee immediately. The students dispersed as soon as he finished.Bookmark here

As Ziggy waited for the kids to come back with the rabbits, Sabrina approached him from behind him, resting her chin on his shoulder. Ziggy still holding the bull rabbit by the ears was looking at her. He knew the look in her eyes and what it meant. He didn’t have much words to say while the rabbit looked at her with its eyes wide open and an expression begging for saving. Ziggy was feeling weak in the knees by her presence. He looked over to her to find a faint smile along her face.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong, babe?” Ziggy asked with a hint of concern.Bookmark here

“Sometimes, I wish you’d be easy on those kids, Sabrina answered. She said it knowing that he wouldn’t really consider it.Bookmark here

“Wish I could, but you know we didn’t have it easy growing up. We gotta keep those kids strong.”Bookmark here

“Which ones?”Bookmark here

“Which? Babe, they are our kids. We took those boys in.”Bookmark here

“That we did. I don’t think you told me everything that day. Why you? Why us?”Bookmark here

“You try standing before 5 of the most powerful beings in the universe and ask them a question.”Bookmark here

“Ziggy Tade ain’t no bitch.”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m not a fool either.”Bookmark here

They both laughed jovially. Sabrina had no regrets about being their mother. She wondered if they could’ve done something more than take up the mantle of warriors. She couldn’t reject that nature of reality. Ziggy’s tough love was meant for them to survive and learn from it because someday he may not always be there to defend their children. It was a troubling thought but one that provided a sense of hope. Sabrina continued:Bookmark here

“Bae, I got an idea for what to do with Odrian.”Bookmark here

“What to do with Odrian?” Ziggy was a little confused.Bookmark here

“Yeah. I saw the look on his face when he thought he punched Sarah into that mountain. I think he’s afraid of his own strength.”Bookmark here

“That’s just silly.”Bookmark here

“Remember what happened to that school?”Bookmark here

It all came back to Ziggy,” He redacted his statement almost immediately.Bookmark here

“That’s right,” Ziggy acknowledged. “And the boy is only going to get more powerful as time goes by. I think those bracelets can only do so much. I’m all ears.”Bookmark here

“I was thinking… That we should get him trained.”Bookmark here

Ziggy turned himself to face her. He didn’t like where the conversation was going.Bookmark here

“By who and where?” Ziggy asked.Bookmark here

“Well, he’s in the Elfin City,” Sabrina answered. “Who can train him better than us?”Bookmark here

She looked him in the eyes with confidence. Ziggy didn’t want the answer or to say it, so she did: Bookmark here

“My ex.”Bookmark here

“No!” Ziggy responded immediately and turned away from her.Bookmark here

“Come on, bae. His powers are similar... He could help Odrian a lot."Bookmark here

“It’s a no, sorry.”Bookmark here

“So, you’re thinking about yourself rather than the future of your child?” Sabrina’s tone took an even more serious shift.Bookmark here

Ziggy let go of the bull rabbits' ears and held it in his hand looking at it face to face.Bookmark here

“You hear all of this, Smith?” Ziggy spoke to the bull rabbit as though it were capable of understanding and responding.Bookmark here

Ziggy named his dinner also.Bookmark here

Sabrina did not like being ignored, so she stood in front of him and took the bull rabbit out his hand by the ear. And placed her other hand under his chin and gave him a kiss.Bookmark here

“Bae, I know you don’t like the idea, but this would help Odrian so much. I can make the arrangements if you don’t want to deal with him. But if you’re saying we can’t always be there then we need him to be at his very best.”Bookmark here

“I trust you,” Ziggy gave his blessing after considering her argument. She smiled in turn as she took the rabbit away.Bookmark here

“I'm going to get something ready for them to eat.”Bookmark here

“Hold on. What are you doing with Smith? Brina? Baby?” Bookmark here

Sabrina walked away and pulled a knife out from the back of her skirt and swiftly skinned the bull rabbit. It was done in an instant, leaving it flawlessly clean in its presentation. She looked back with completely clean hands and gave an alluring yet sinister smile. Bookmark here

“I’m getting dinner ready, of course,” Sabrina said happily. Bookmark here

“Ricccckkkkk!!!!” Ziggy yelled with tears welling up.Bookmark here

“Rick?” Sabrina questioned. “I thought you named him Smith?”Bookmark here

Ignoring what she had said, Ziggy reminisced about how he caught it and the fun times they had together. He recalled how it ran to him while he was grabbing some fruits and ate them all, even giving him the idea to capture them for meat. It also sat in his hand faithfully, Ziggy felt a real connection. Ziggy muttered:Bookmark here

“You will always be remembered.”Bookmark here

“Oh god,” Sabrina couldn’t help but laugh at Ziggy’s disposition. “Stop playing around. I think ones coming back.”Bookmark here

Ziggy wasn’t playing around, but he quickly pulled his act together.Bookmark here

“Let me stop playing,” he lied to himself. Losing Smith, that hurt.Bookmark here

“You always know how to have fun. That’s why I love you.”Bookmark here

But the loss was felt deeply by Ziggy. Bookmark here

Ziggy looked at her and asked:Bookmark here

“Is that the only reason?”Bookmark here

“Oh, you’ll find out the rest tonight,” Sabrina said playfully.Bookmark here

Chills surged throughout Ziggy’s spine while he maintained composure, he thought with a wide smile: Now that’s what I'm talking aboutBookmark here

Ana Fowl
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