Atina, the Mother
Atina woke up with a heavy heart. She had been in many dangerous situations before and she knew what danger felt like. She knew that if she left Tara with Agawe, she would never see her daughter again.
She was sure Agawe was not himself. He could be under a spell. His new wife could have put a spell on him and turned him against her.
“The Agawe I knew would never take Tara away from me,” she said to herself. “If this Agawe is not really Agawe, then who is this man? And where is my husband?
She spent the morning trying to figure out what to do.
“Tara, we have to go to the Spirit World, to your grandfather,” Atina decided. “You will be safer in his kingdom.”
“You will stay with me at Encantor?”
Atina nodded, “No one can separate us.”
Tara’s face lit up. “Then let’s go, Mother.”
“We will ask your Uncle Ayong and Uncle Gayon to help us get to the Spirit World. Take everything you need. We will go to them and then be on our way to Encantor Kingdom.”
In minutes, Tara was ready.
Atina did not know what to think when she saw her daughter carrying all her belongings in one little bag.
“Do you really need your bow and arrows?”
“We might get lost and I need to hunt for animals so we don’t get hungry.”
Atina laughed. “Tara, we won’t get lost. Your uncles know the way very well. Don’t forget that your father and your uncles are the heroes of Encantor Kingdom.”
“I never grow tired of listening to the story, Mother. But you are also a hero in the kingdom…” Tara reminded her mother.
Atina felt a lump in her throat when she remembered how the Spirit World had been so much a part of her life… and Agawe’s.
Her voice was soft, almost fragile when she said, “You were just a baby when we left the kingdom.”
“Mother, are you sad?” Tara was concerned.
Atina composed herself and took a deep breath. “Let’s go, Tara.”
She strapped her sword around her waist and picked up their belongings and provisions. She took a long last look at the house before she went out the door. Atina took a deep breath. I have to be strong for Tara, she thought.
Atina, the Warrior
Once their feet touched the ground, Atina was alarmed when men from behind the trees came out. Her hand went out to Tara and held her close.
“Are you leaving,” one man asked.
“Yes. Who are you?”
“You have to go back to the house. You cannot leave.”
Something in Atina stirred, and she asked defiantly,
“Master’s orders! You are to stay inside until he comes back.”
Atina knew who the master was but she asked, “And who is your master?”
“Master Agawe! Now, go back to the house before we use force to take you in.”
Atina’s eyes darted from men to men. There were four and she saw one behind a tree. She could fight them off, and run to the horses.
She calculated the risk, not for herself but for Tara.
She felt Tara pull her arm. She turned to her and bent down. Tara whispered, “I will protect you.”
In spite of their situation, Atina could not help but smile at her little daughter. “We’ll protect each other,” she whispered back.
As she straightened, the man stepped forward and grabbed Atina’s arm to force her back to the house.
Atina let go of the bags in her hand and as they hit the ground, she grabbed the man’s hand, and with a quick footwork, tossed him to the ground.
Then Atina drew her sword and was ready for combat.
The men clearly underestimated her. It was a quick battle and after Atina finished with them, the four were on the ground writhing in pain, the other one ran up the road.
To get more men, she thought.
She sheathed her sword, picked up their bags, and took Tara’s hand as they ran to their horses. She quickly tied their belongings to the other horse, put Tara on another horse’s back and jumped in. They galloped away just as she heard the approaching horses’ hooves.
She could not go to Ayong or Gayon. Men were coming from down the road. From the sound of the hooves, there were more than half a dozen horses coming their way. The safest escape was to go into the forest.
Just as Atina thought they were at a safe distance, she heard the horses closing in. It made her blood boil. This ends here, she thought.
“Tara, you hide behind that big tree. Do not… I repeat, do not come out until I tell you. Do you understand?”
“Mother, I need to protect you.”
“Tara, you can protect me by hiding behind the tree. I know you will be safe and I will not be distracted.”
“But Mother, I want to protect you…”
“Tara, you know your mother is a warrior. I can take these men if I don’t have to keep looking to see that you are safe. Can you assure me that you are going to make yourself safe?”
“Yes, Mother,” she nodded. “I will be safe.”
“Good. Now, go and hide.”
As Tara ran, Atina took the horses to some thick bushes, hoping they won’t spook and run. She climbed up a tree and hid behind a leafy branch. She could see the men on horses. She counted seven but could hear more horses’ hooves from a distance.
For Atina, the battle would be child’s play but she was no longer fighting for herself or for some noble quest. There was Tara. If Atina would die, Tara could fall into the hands of that man pretending to be Agawe.
Atina realized that the riders were getting closer, but before she could do anything, she saw that one by one, the men were falling off their horses. Atina counted eight, nine… nine men on the ground, all with arrows sticking from their thighs.
“Arrows,” Atina muttered. She realized the arrows came from above.
With her heart pounding, she looked up to the towering trees above her. She gasped as she caught sight of the figure of a little girl sitting confidently on a branch up in a tree, with an arrow in her stretched bow ready to shoot again.
Many things raced in Atina’s mind but all she could do was stare at the figure until she realized that the girl suddenly leaped off the branch.
With an agility she did not know she possessed, Atina jumped off her perch and was on the ground screaming with outstretched hands, “Tarrrraaaaaaa…!”
Tara stopped just above Atina’s head. With bow and arrow in hand, she looked just like a cherub silhouetted against the afternoon sun, floating in the air.
As darkness began to fall, Atina found a cave for shelter that night. She was no longer surprised when Tara flashed fire from her fingers to burn the twigs Atina gathered. They huddled near the fire to keep warm.
“Tara, how long have you known that you have these powers?”
“Since Father told me about them but he said I should not show them off. He taught me how to use them and made me promise I would never, never use them for fun and games.”
Atina pulled her daughter closer and wrapped her arms around her.
“So when you and your father would sneak off pretending to go hunting, he was teaching you?”
Tara giggled, “Yes… and we had so much fun.”
Atina hugged her daughter tighter and kissed her hair.
“I missed Father…” Tara said in a small voice.
“I missed him too, Tara.”
“Father is coming home and he will stop that evil man… I know.”
© 2020 Norma