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Exit Kingdom

Chapter 1

The last of the light was a molten gold blaze, casting an orange and pink light across the whole Enran plains. Nothing was so more emblematic of the savannah’s unchanging age than the majestic creatures called Terrans. Terrans were one of the largest animals on the world and oldest matched only by Admonites, Dragons and Golems. These creatures, Terrans, are more unique than any other creature found on the world and it wasn’t because of their enormous size which in itself was incredible, or that they could live for a thousand years. It wasn’t even that despite being a herbivore had impressive spikes that jutted out the side of its face or that it had a long tail that also had spikes that came out of the tail for defence. Not that it needed those much anymore. What made it a little different to some of the other large creatures was that it had plants, trees growing along its back as well as rocks, and all this that lent to its name. But this still wasn’t the most interesting feature at least on the surface of these great creatures. Living on its back were humans.

Humans relied upon these creatures as their homes for millennia partially for defence as the creatures were so large. There was also something had which was a magical ability, it was a deep connection to both the planet in such a way that when they died their bodies left behind seeds that would become shrublings and then eventually grow into another Terran while the rest of the body faded away. So they never bred in the traditional way that other species did. Their magical ability went further than that as it manifested itself in other ways as well. One such ability, that was passive was that they grew special kinds of plants that were either very difficult to find anywhere else such as the Lantana plants that were noted for their healing. The creatures were undoubtedly unique but scattered across the world. There were around only thirty on the whole planet and the largest amount of them lived here on the plains.
One such creature, called Nessah, was making its way across the plain, strolling at its own pace. It grunted, making a deep noise. Nessah was around two thousand years old, younger than some and older than others. She dipped her head low, grazing for a while before ambling along to Lake Eleryn. Lake Eleryn was a beautiful lake especially at sunset as it was now. The glimmering reflection of the pink light in the still waters. Smaller creatures that were grazing by the water, some glanced towards Nessah but then carried on eating or drinking. Some chirped excitedly because some predators didn’t like their odds against a Terran. They did not particular like going up against one of them. At least most predators. However, smaller creatures might have been a problem, as small as parasites, or other small creatures that tried to feast upon plants such as the Etem Flyer. But fortunately Nessah had help with dealing with them.

On Nessah, across its enormous back, there were numerous humans, performing a ritual dance when night. There were numerous men and women stood on the ground. There was an older woman, Sarya that was the Hedgeseer of the tribe holding a staff. The staff was made of wood but it had a green orb nestled at the top of it. She was chanting, while waving the staff above her. The orb was glowing green. She was the oldest of the tribe. She had not only a tribal marking on her left arm but also a marking made by the Sun-Goddess herself on her neck.
‘Great Sun-Goddess, Sola, hear our call! We ask you for the rains!’ She cried out, holding the staff above her head.
Yet nothing happened.
‘We must keep on going until she responds,’ another woman said. It was one of her advisors, Rytea.
‘Let the younger girls also take part.’ Someone else said.
Sarya looked at the woman, sharply.
It was not usually the way.
One of the elders, Yurol, looked shocked at such a suggestion. ‘You can’t allow that, only those that have gone through the rite of passage
Sarya shook her head, and urged everyone to continue.
However, they continued to dance for a while. Still no rain came.
Eventually, Sarya gave in. ‘Let the kids also take part!’ She shouted.
Others started chanting in response.
Some of the younger members of the tribe peeked out from their places.
One of them was Jaslin, daughter of Luywana and Raedon. She brushed a strand of hair from her face from the wind that brushed against her. Her eyes panned across; their home was lush with grass plants and trees. However, her eyes were drawn to the other people that were performing the ritual.
One of the men, an older man, ushered them forwards.
Jaslin and the other young kids looked sheepish.
But Tavi, a young boy tapped her arm. ‘We’ll be fine.’
‘Everyone sing and dance!’
Everybody took part.
Time became seamless, hours passing away till it was late.
Singing merged becoming one song.
Until finally it started to rain, the first droplet prickling Jaslin’s skin. Then the next started to fall. It quickly became a downpour.
Everyone broke into cheers, praising the Sun-Goddess.
Sarya fell on her knees, and everyone else did in response, giving praise.
They had gone several wakings without rain, desperately needing water for their plants to grow.
Sarya rose to her feet, and waved the staff above her again, chanting, ‘The Sun-Goddess has heard our prayer!’
The rain continued to fall, well into the following day.

Jaslin woke up at dawn, her sister lying next to her and her parents, Luywana and Raedon. Jaslin rose to the voice of her mother, Luywana. They were living in a small wooden shelter, covered with leaves as well as some animal skins.
‘You know what today is?’ Luywana said. She was gentle but firm. She had dark hair, but her most noticeable feature was the prominent tattoo marking along her arm.
‘How can I forget?’ Jaslin said, rubbing her eyes.
It was the day, of her rite of passage. Every child had to go through it, before becoming an adult.
‘Hope she’s ready.’ Her father said, a smile forming on his face.
‘I am.’ She said, she sounded more confident than she was actually feeling. She knew what the rite of passage meant, that once it was completed, she was no longer a child, she would be expected to marry someone.
‘Break your fast and then hurry as it will be happening soon.’ Her father said before leaving the shelter. Their mother left soon afterwards.
Jaslin nodded, glancing at her sister, Tara who looked concerned but said nothing. Luywana had prepared food for them all, mainly berries and fruits from the surrounding plants outside. However, Jaslin beside her bowl had a larger white fruit, called a garpa fruit another reminder of the day to come as it was given to those, that were about to do the rite. She remembered her friend, Pyre mentioning the fruit before he became an adult.
Jaslin ate up her fruits, after giving thanks for life to the Sun-Goddess. Then her sister, Tara then had her fruits. ‘Are you well today?’ Tara asked.
‘Yeah.’ Jaslin said with a nod.
‘It does mean you’re going to get married. Do you know who it will be?’
Jaslin gave it a moment of thought. ‘Lajo. He is unmarried and he only took the rite two days ago.’
Tara frowned. ‘You don’t like him though.’
‘It’s not about what I want; it’s about the good of the tribe.’
Tara snorted. ‘Is it supposed to be this way? Do we not get any choices to make?’
Jaslin glared at her. ‘You’re not going to ruin my day, are you?’
Tara just looked at her for a moment before shaking her head. In that moment, her eyes looked perfectly sane.

Chapter 2

The time finally came for the ritual late in the day, when the Sun was starting to fall behind the trees.
Sarya and the other elders were already there, Sarya holding the staff. Her leaf made dress swaying with every movement, for the occasion. Other members of the tribe were also taking their spots.
‘Jaslin, step forward!’ Sarya’s voice bellowed.
Jaslin felt eyes on her, as she came forwards. She lowered herself down onto her knees in front of the elders, especially Sarya.
‘Now we will see exactly what the Sun-Goddess, Sola wants you to do.’ Sarya held up the staff above her hands. The green orb above the staff changed colour to a yellow as the wind picked up, rustling the trees. Sarya started to make noises, groaning sounds, as if she was in pain. Yet she wasn’t. Her eyes snapped shut as the wind continued.
Moments slipped away and her eyes opened. ‘The Sun-Goddess has shown me what Jaslin is to do. She must firstly eat an appio leaf before having the tattoo marking on her left hip.’
There were murmurs of agreement.
‘Yurol, do you have the leaf?’ Sarya demanded.
‘Right here.’ Yurol came forward, holding the leaf in his hands.
Sarya said something that Jaslin didn’t catch when she took it from him and then she came to hand it over to Jaslin. Jaslin took it with two hands and started to chew it. It was damp, still from last night’s rain. Jaslin swallowed it. She resisted the temptation to spit it out. It had a bitter aftertaste.
Jaslin felt a strange sensation that started in her stomach and spread across her body. Very strange.
‘Close your eyes, what does the Sun-Goddess show you?’ Sarya said, giving her a questioning glance.
Jaslin closed her eyes, took a deep breath. Different sounds, smells, feelings all overwhelmed her that she couldn’t hear before.
Images raced across her mind, so fast that she could barely make them out. One image stood out from the rest that came into existence.
It was fire, fire burning through the trees.
A great shadow loomed above. She thought she saw a beast’s head. Then just like that, it was gone.
‘What is it you see?’ Sarya demanded.
Jaslin’s eyes snapped open. ‘Fire…a great shadow.’
Murmurings started around the tribe.
‘Silence.’ Sarya commanded. Then everyone fell silent.
Jaslin felt the confused eyes looking at her.
‘Is this exactly what you saw?’ Sarya said.
Jaslin nodded, unable to find the strength to mention the beast.
There was a moment of silence until Sarya spoke again, ‘Now for the tattoo.’
Nil, one of the elders came forwards. He kneeled in front of Jaslin and begun the tattoo.
Jaslin knew that she would have to bare the pain or face having to go through it again, the following day.
She let him get too it.
‘Jaslin now stand!’ Sarya’s voice bellowed once they were finished.
Jaslin did as commanded.
‘You rise now as a woman, no longer playing children’s games or toys. Today you cast that aside.’ Sarya said, her voice still as loud as ever.
The sun had almost set, shadows lengthening.
‘Now it is time for—’ Sarya started but a loud roar from somewhere cut off her words abruptly.
Jaslin looked up.
Something was wrong.
Sarya turned, looking around in the sky.
The enormous beast appeared in the sky. One of the few things that could hurt a Terran; a Dragon.
It bellowed a roar before a fireball came hurtling down towards the trees.
Screams filled the air.
Several trees went up in flames.
Jaslin went sprawling forwards as their entire world shook violently.
Jaslin felt her heartbeat racing, she heard the dragon roar again and fire crackled in the air above.
‘Jaslin! Are you okay?’ Came the voice of Tara next to her. Tara’s voice was quivering. She looked terrified, just how
Jaslin nodded slowly but then she saw the dragon coming overhead, and then dived down. It caught something as it pulled back up, in its great claws. A silhouette of someone taken as prey. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It felt like a horrible dream, a nightmare.
‘Why would the Sun-Goddess send this demon to us?’ Someone nearby said, cowering on the ground. It was a woman, by the name of Rozalinde.
‘Is this because of you?’ One of the elders came forward, Yurol. ‘This is just as your vision showed us.’
‘I didn’t do anything!’ Jaslin stammered.
Before anyone else could say anything though, the dragon came around again, and another whirl of flame came licking the plants and trees, killing more in the process. The dragon breathed another blast of fire straight down.
Tears filled Jaslin’s eyes. Her whole world, her home was up in smoke.
The dragon continued as everyone ran in different directions.
Jaslin felt Tara’s hand grabbing hers.
‘We have to go!’
‘What about our family?’ Jaslin said.
‘They’ll make it. We have to make it.’ Tara started pulling Jaslin along; following the sounds of voices as there was one more tremor.
Nessah had collapsed.
Jaslin could sense she was dying. Her life-force is being extinguished.
Sarya was up ahead, shouting, and she stopped in her tracks, with the staff. She almost dropped it in the process.
‘Jaslin! Tara!’ It was the voice of their father in the darkness, further on.
They kept running towards the voices.
They found them eventually and embraced, relief washing over them.
There was another scream behind them, as the dragon came overhead.
A flash magic crackled in the air, striking the dragon. It growled with anger and breathed fire down in response, then took flight.
More voices came.
‘She’s… dead.’ Came the voice of Rozalinde, appearing in the darkness. She was holding the staff. The staff of the Hedgeseer.
‘Who…who will lead us now?’ Raedon said, even he sounded broken now.
‘I don’t know. But we have to leave.’ She said.
And they did just that.

Chapter 3

Morning came and it was filled with sadness, and realisation.
They found Nessah dead just as they had left her.
The body had been feasted upon but there was some hope as left behind were seeds.
The sadness wasn’t just that they had found Rytea had also been killed in the attack. Yurol and the others had dug them into the ground before performing a ritual celebrating the life of both Nessah, Sarya and Rytea.
Everyone was sad, sad. The events of last night was still fresh on everyone’s minds and hearts. They had moved on from Nessah, going into the nearby forest.
Jaslin couldn’t believe that soon after becoming a woman, that her home had been destroyed.
‘We have to find a new home,’ Yurol said, taking charge.
‘Where?’ Someone said.
‘The Sun-Goddess will guide us.’ Yurol said, though he didn’t sound that confident.’
There were six elders and were all seers, but the absence of a Hedgeseer meant until then, leadership fell on the six elders. Usually they would allow the Sun-Goddess, through the staff to choose the next Hedgeseer. It also meant they would have to pick another elder too. Jaslin had never seen either ceremony.
One of the other elders, Mesra, came forwards holding the staff. ‘We need to find another Terran to make it our home. We will have to gather food for the trip.’
Murmurs of agreement came from around the group.
Jaslin helped them collect berries and other food, as much as they could.
They also spent time making spears and clubs to help protect themselves since almost everything they owned had been destroyed by the dragon.
Jaslin was plagued with the dragon, seeing it in her dreams. The vision that came true almost immediately. She could hardly eat her berries. Even her favourite bilberries, brought her little comfort. She was sat on a rock in a small clearing.
‘It wasn’t your fault, you know.’ Tara said gently over to her side. ‘You should wash.’
‘I don’t care.’ Jaslin shook her head. She didn’t want to talk about it. It would only make her cry again. She didn’t want that. She wasn’t sure what she wanted at this point. She should be feeling good about having become an adult, but all she could feel was sadness.
To make matters worse, Jaslin felt her head started to pound with pain just as Mesra began speaking.
‘It is time for the Sun-Goddess to choose a new Hedgeseer,’ Mesra said.
Jaslin was barely listening as she closed her eyes. Images like they did yesterday started to race across her mind. Then a particular image
‘All adults come forwards to begin the ceremony.’ Mesra said.
Adults of the tribe stepped forwards, standing in their positions.
Tara nudged Jaslin in the side. ‘Jaslin?’
‘Wait!’ Jaslin shouted, suddenly rising to her feet.
Her outburst brought gasps. ‘This is highly irregular.’ Yurol said, his face turning from surprise to outrage very quickly.
‘The Sun-Goddess has shown me another vision.’ Jaslin announced.
‘What is it?’ Mesra said.
‘There are hunters…coming towards us. Through the forest. They are near the river.’
‘Hunters? Beast?’
‘Warriors. They’re coming.’
‘Let’s move.’
Yurol wasn’t having any of it. ‘This is totally irregular. Send someone to go and see if its true or not.’
‘Her vision came true last night, sent by the Sun-Goddess.’ Mesra argued. ‘It came to pass.’
‘Then there won’t be any harm and seeing how many of them, there are.’ Yurol said.
Mesra looked as though she was going to disagree, but then nodded in agreement. She turned and looked at the group. ‘Cren and Lona, you go on ahead. Tell us what you find. Take spears with you both just in case.’
The two of them came forwards, and grabbed a spear each. ‘We’ll be back as soon as we can.’
‘May the Sun-Goddess light your path.’ Mesra gave them a blessing before they left, entering the trees.

In the end, it only took thirty minutes for them to return, shaking their heads.
‘Nothing.’ Cren said.
Mesra looked confused, though not as confused as Jaslin.
Jaslin didn’t understand. ‘Are you sure?’
‘We swear it. There was no one.’
‘Maybe it wasn’t directly of what’s going to happen today then, maybe it’s a few wakings away.’ Mesra said.
‘Don’t try and find excuses for her. First she interrupts a ceremony and then she hides it with a lie.’ Yurol said, his voice dripping with disgust. ‘May we now continue?’
‘Yes I believe we should.’ Mesra replied.
The elders all began their chanting, while stood in a circle, singing to the Sun-Goddess as Mesra held the staff in her hands. They took turns holding the staff. The staff wasn’t even glowing yet.
‘Great Sun-Goddess, show us who is to be our next Hedgeseer!’ Mesra shouted.
A crackle of light that came from the sky and touched the staff that was so intense it made Mesra scream.
The orb lit up, glowing orange. Then it bathed everyone around them in an orange light briefly. An orange bird, a Dondoros bird that came out of the light that shone in the orange light. It arced above the gathered tribe, like an arrow and then came down, straight in front of Jaslin. It stared straight at her, and so close that Jaslin could feel the heat radiating from it. Jaslin felt a burning sensation on her cheek. Like fire. The light disappeared.
A miracle followed by a mistake.
‘This cannot be,’ Yurol said.
‘Sola has made her choice.’ Mesra said nervously.
‘She has barely been a woman for a day. She cannot be the new Hedgeseer.’
‘The ritual has been completed.’ Rozalinde, edged forwards hesitantly. She wasn’t even an elder.
Yurol’s eyes darkened. ‘She made up an entire vision and interrupted this ceremony. It has to be denied. Who else is in favour of re-doing the ceremony tomorrow, at dawn?’ He raised his hand.
There was a nervous exchange of glances between the elders. Another one put their hands up.
Then a third. It was Nil.
But no others did.
‘It’s a tie.’ Mesra said. ‘She stays as a new Hedgeseer for now. The Goddess has spoken; she has the mark on her just like Sarya did.’
‘This cannot be allowed!’ Yurol came forwards, full of rage, drawing on ability. He raised his hand as if to use magic, but someone tackled him to the ground.
It was Cren. ‘It’s over.’ Cren helped him up but restrained him.
Jaslin couldn’t believe it. Nothing made sense. ‘Why would it choose me?’
‘The Sun-Goddess chooses for her will.’ Mesra said, then she remembered who Jaslin was now, and her face dipped into a smile.
‘It has to be a mistake.’
‘She isn’t known to make mistakes. Come forwards, Yaslin.’
Trembling, Jaslin went up to Mesra.
‘Take the staff.’ Mesra handed it to her.
Jaslin took the staff, her body still shaking.
‘All praise the new Hedgeseer, Jaslin! And praise the Sun-Goddess with her blessing!’ Mesra said.
Cheers, chanting and singing broke out amongst the tribe. All apart from Yurol, who was still sulking.

Chapter 4

Even though a new Hedgeseer had been picked, they still hadn’t found a new home. By dawn the next morning, her mother awaked Jaslin. She had been sleeping on a pile of leaves. They were still in the forest.
‘We still need to find a new home,’ mother said, quietly, though she was talking to Jaslin she looked over at father.
‘We can’t stay out here for too long. It’s too much. We’ve always lived on Nessah.’
‘I can’t do anything about that.’ Jaslin snapped.
‘The Goddess will decide what should happen. And she will guide our path.’ Father said.
He left them, walking over to another family of the tribe.
Jaslin glanced over at Tara that looked even sulkier than she was.
‘What is it?’ Jaslin said.
‘If I’d known you were going to become a Hedgeseer, I’d have interrupted it…’ Tara said, not meeting Jaslin’s eyes.
‘I don’t want to be Hedgeseer.’
‘Why not? You get to be the leader. You get to tell everyone what to do now.’
‘I don’t want that kind of responsibility.’ Jaslin said with an exasperated sigh.
‘But it’s you the Goddess has chosen.’
‘My vision with the hunters wasn’t even right.’
Her mother looked at her, smiling, rather than concern. ‘Sometimes visions don’t get answered straight away. Sometimes its several wakings away or perhaps a waking away. No one knows exactly.’
‘I see.’
‘You should know this already. You remember the vision of Nioh falling to his death from the tree? It happened two wakings later.’
Nioh was a member of the tribe and Mesra had seen it in a vision. It still didn’t stop it from happening.
‘I do remember. It doesn’t help.’
‘Well break your fast, and head over to the elders.’
Jaslin reluctantly began to eat.
Almost as soon as she was finished, there were voices coming from the rest of the group.
It drew Jaslin’s attention. She rose from her feet and wandered over to the group.
Jaslin wasn’t surprised to see it was Yurol at the centre of the problem.
‘She wasn’t rightfully picked to be a Hedgeseer!’ Yurol was shouting again. ‘She is too young. We can’t have her as a leader.’
‘Are you saying your will is above the will of our own Sun-Goddess?’ Mesra said, taking charge.
‘It has never happened before.’
‘The Goddess chooses our path, we have to stick to her will otherwise face ruin. That’s why others perish. We have to have patience.’
‘No, we have to correct her mistake, while we still can!’ Yurol’s face flared in anger.
It seemed as no one was taking his side, but how long would that last?
Tara nudged into Jaslin. ‘Do something!’
Jaslin looked at her, not even realising she had been standing next to her. ‘Like what?’
‘Exile him.’
Jaslin frowned but Tara pushed her forwards. A
‘Ah you have something to finally say?’ Yurol said, his eyes falling on her.
‘Yurol you are no longer an elder of our tribe, you are sentenced to exile.’ She said.
Yurol’s face dropped, like he’d been hit by a rock. ‘Exile? Exile! How dare you sentence me to exile?’ He came bustling forwards and for an old fellow, with still some speed in him. He was about to strike but then two objects came from nowhere almost impaling him, and someone else in the process.
Fresh fear rose up inside Jaslin.
‘Arrows!’ Cren shouted.
‘Scatter! Hide up in the trees.’
Jaslin was running, running alongside Tara and Mesra.
Others ran in different directions. But mostly sticking together. The majority seemed to be heading in totally the opposite direction.
Jaslin wished she’d gone that way but it was too late.
They were all pretty fit and strong. Even the older ones.
Voices seemed to run in all directions as well. She saw a figure through the gaps in the trees. It made her heartbeat quicken.
Jaslin didn’t see what happened with everyone else. But the staff was heavy. The others were no longer in site. Mesra stopped by a tree. It was tall, with thick roots.
‘Let me carry it.’ Mesra offered.
‘Do it.’ Jaslin passed it over, her eyes looking in the direction of where she saw the figure.
Mesra begun climbing after she’d tied it to her waist with her own dead plants, which wasn’t unusual, very common. Jaslin followed her up with Tara behind.
Jaslin climbed up and up, until they thought they were safe. They could still see the ground below, through the gaps of the leaves.
‘It’s too quiet.’ Tara said.
‘Quiet.’ Mesra hushed her.
Then a pale figure stepped into view.
Jaslin glimpsed him. She glimpsed pale skin, white as a garpa fruit, which was odd. Then he disappeared just as quick, leaving Jaslin wondering whether she’d even seen a person at all.
Minutes dragged by with an uncomfortable silence.
Jaslin wondered how long they would have to wait. She glanced at Mesra, who was fixed looking down below.
Jaslin did not dare say anything.
Mesra shifted her position.
Jaslin followed her line of sight. She could not see much at all.
Maybe they had left.
‘Is it—’ Jaslin started but the forest exploded into a sound with a scream.
And shouting somewhere below them.
Jaslin closed her eyes and felt that same sensation. She could hear the birds in the trees, as well as sensing Mesra and Tara nearby. Around her she could hear the sounds of people making their way through the forest.
‘What is it?’ Mesra spoke, her voice low.
‘I think there’s three of them…going that way.’ She pointed ahead of them.
‘Keep quiet.’ Mesra said. ‘Both of you stay up here. Look after the staff.’ She passed it Jaslin before dropping below the branches, without another word.
‘She left us…’ Tara stammered.
‘She thinks she can take them.’
‘By the Goddess…we’re going to die, aren’t we?’
‘No. Now quiet.’
‘Ugh.’ Tara replied, sulking. ‘Hope we do die, then you can’t boss me around anymore.’
Jaslin would have retorted but thought better of it. She stayed silent, closing her eyes again, hoping her newfound senses would see something else. Jaslin could sense several people nearby down below. It was quite confusing. She couldn’t tell whether they were from their own tribe or not, just their life-forces. One of them blinked out of existence. The others were moving away from their tree at least.
Jaslin waited a little while longer. ‘I think it’s safe to go down now.’ She felt sleepy however.
‘Are you sure?’
‘You rather stay up here?’
Tara considered it for a moment. ‘No.’
Climbing back down to the bottom of the tree, only a few steps away Jaslin found the first corpse.
It was indeed a pale figure, covered in layers of all sorts. It looked very strange.
‘I haven’t seen anyone like that before.’ Tara said.
‘Neither have I.’ Jaslin said yawning.
‘What are those things covering its feet?’ Tara pointed at the corpses feet.
They looked as though they were made from some kind of animal hide, but they covered the entire foot and lower ankles. Tara kicked it, making the leg move.
‘Don’t touch it!’ Jaslin grabbed her, pulling her away.
‘It’s weird.’
‘Still don’t touch it…’
They made their way through the bushes, trying to be quiet. They came across another one of the men, swiftly leaving him behind.

Mesra and Cren were the first ones Jaslin found of the tribe. Both did not look great; blood had splatted Mesra and Cren was caked in mud.
‘Where’s everyone else?’ Tara said.
‘Not far away.’
‘Are they all gone?’ Tara pressed.
‘I think so.’ Mesra said, glancing at Jaslin.
Jaslin shrugged. ‘I can’t say. The vision didn’t show me how many there were exactly. But I saw animals in the vision as well. There were no animals here.’
Mesra’s eyes narrowed to slits. ‘I see. Everyone else is at the Razorhills, nearby according to Cren.’
Jaslin nodded.
‘Follow us.’ Cren said.
It was an uneventful journey, leaving the forest behind. They came out into the open, where there were grassy plains and rocky hills covered in stone. There were people perched on the rocks and sat on the grass. It was the rest of the tribe. Apart from Yurol. He was long gone.
‘Jaslin! Tara!’ Their parents rushed to meet them, wrapping them in hugs. ‘We’re relieved you made it.’
‘Sorry. We were kept safe, thanks to Mesra.’ Jaslin said, breaking the hug from her mother.
‘We are just glad you are both safe.’
‘We’re going to have keep moving until we find somewhere else safe to stay.’ Mesra suggest but her eyes fell on Jaslin. ‘But it falls on the Hedgeseer to make that final decision.’
Jaslin looked around at everybody. People looked at her with different emotions, a mixed response.
‘We can’t stay here…’ Jaslin said. ‘If there are more of those men, we will be found very easy. And killed.’
‘We need to find another Terran, soon.’ Rozalinde said, urgency creeping into her voice.
‘How will that happen?’ Jaslin said.
‘Using the staff, we need to cry out to Sola.’ Mesra said.
Jaslin glanced at the staff. The orb glowing a sharp green. ‘We need to find a Terran...but I’m tired from using the vision. I don’t know if I have the strength to do it again today.’
A few faces turned into looks of alarm, and they looked towards Mesra and the other elders.
‘Ah.’ Mesra said simply.
‘She needs to rest, is that it?’ Rozalinde asked.
‘Yes. She will need to regain her strength. Using the vision, the gift even though the Goddess gives it, we are still flesh. It drains us all, even the oldest of us.’
It drew nods from the others.

Chapter 5

The tribe had moved on from the Razorhills, passing through a set of ancient ruins, which is what they used for shelter for the night. Cren, Lona and Raedon were tasked with gathering water and food as well as leaves. Jaslin used the time to explore the ruins. She had seen things like this before but never up close. Sometimes they would see them while they were high up on the trees on Nessah.
Jaslin found them places of wonder. Parts of the stone had worn away. There were pillars that were still standing though covered in vines. Plants were trying to retake their land.
Jaslin weaved herself in between different stone stumps. There was a half broken statue, half of its face was missing, giving it a rather twisted look.
‘What are you doing?’ Came the voice of Lajo. He appeared over to the side.
‘Just wandering.’ Jaslin said with a shrug as she sat down on one of the stone stumps.
He came over, joining her. ‘You ever seen anything like this before?’
‘Sort off.’
‘It makes you wonder who built it.’
‘It must have looked beautiful.’ Jaslin surmised.
‘Could have been ugly.’ Lajo said. ‘How is it being Hedgeseer then?’
‘I’m still not used to it…’ Jaslin admitted.
‘Well…I’m glad its not me. Have fun with it while it lasts.’ Lajo said standing up just as Tara appeared.
‘Father and the others have returned.’ Tara announced.
‘Good.’ Jaslin replied, rising to her feet.
They all came around, gathering as one big tribe. Mesra said a blessing over the food, giving thanks to the Sun-Goddess before they ate.
The atmosphere was subdued, none of their usual celebrations or singing. Jaslin was too tired to care.
When others were preparing for sleep, Mesra and Nil came over to them.
‘Who is going to be keeping watch while the others sleep?’ Nil said, in a fairly assertive tone of voice.
‘I don’t know.’ Jaslin said, taken aback by his aggression. She didn’t know what to say.
Both elders exchanged a glance. ‘I am capable of going first alongside, your father.’
‘Then I shall go, after, with Lago. Then finally Cren and Lona can take over.’ Mesra finished.
‘Are you happy with that?’ Mesra said.
Jaslin nodded after a moment. She wished she knew better. ‘How do I get better at being a Hedgeseer?’
‘Give it time, you’re still young. The Goddess gives us patience, wisdom and guidance. She didn’t make a mistake.’ Mesra said.
Jaslin nodded slowly. ‘Well help me along the way.’
‘We are and we will continue to do so.’

By the following morning after a good sleep, Jaslin felt far stronger and well rested. She managed to wake up earlier than Tara, despite being exhausted yesterday. She didn’t even bother with having anything to eat. She was eager to prove herself and find them a new home.
‘Won’t you eat?’ Mother persisted.
‘I’m okay, we need to find a new home for us.’ Jaslin said, rubbing her eyes.
She made her way over to the elders, with the staff. ‘I’m ready.’
‘Good.’ Mesra said, a smile forming on her lips. ‘It is time everyone, that we found ourselves a new home!’
‘Make sure you have the staff ready.’
‘What do I do?’ Jaslin asked, sheepishly.
‘Do it as we say, you start with saying, ‘Oh great Sun-Goddess, we call for your wisdom and guidance, give us your wisdom. We need to find a new home, show us the way, light our path.’’ Nil said.
‘And hold the staff above you when you say the words.’ Mesra said.
‘We gather in a circle around you.’ Nil said.
The elders did exactly that but with Jaslin in the middle. It felt very weird. Jaslin was accustomed to their various different chants, dances and prayers. She had never been at the centre of one. And she had never seen one that required asking for a new home, that was something that was another level of faith. Would Sola answer that?
Jaslin started the ritual. ‘Oh great Sun-Goddess, we cry out to you today, we call for your wisdom. We pray to you Sola, show us the way, light our path to a new home!’ She waved the staff up above as the other elders begun singing, the rest of the tribe followed.
Similar before there was a crackle of light, that appeared coming down, bright intensity that it dazzled her. Instead, it went straight into Jaslin. Her eyes snapped shut. She dropped to her knees, feeling some kind of surge rush through her body.
Once again an image raced came to focus in her mind’s eye. A beautiful lake. It was so clear in her mind’s eye that she could see the sunlight ripples on the lake. Nearby though there was a Terran drinking from the lake. She could see it in all its glory. She could see a forest nearby. Animals. She saw even butterflies drifting above the water. The last thing she saw was the Terran looking towards her before she passed out.

A familiar voice, said, ‘Are you okay Jaslin?’
Jaslin’s head was still pounding as she came around. Her eyes fluttering open. She found herself lying on a bed of leaves. There were members of the tribe all stood around her.
‘What happened?’ Jaslin said, rubbing her head.
‘You passed out unconscious after the ritual.’ Nil said, putting it bluntly.
Jaslin blinked, unsure what to say to that.
‘What do you remember?’ Mesra said, more gently.
It took her a few moments but many things came back to her mind. ‘I remember. I saw another Terran near a lake.’
It brought smiles from the tribe around them.
‘Finally some good news.’ Mesra said.
‘We will have to leave soon, we can’t waste any time.’ Nil said eagerly.
‘Jaslin’s not fully rested yet.’
His eyes bored into hers. ‘It’s her decision. She is the Hedgeseer.’
It drew a frown from Mesra, but they both looked to Jaslin.
‘As soon as I’m up, we can leave.’ Jaslin said, feigning confidence.
It satisfied Nil as he nodded before walking off.
Mesra wasn’t so easily convinced. ‘Are you certain where we’re going?’
Jaslin nodded, biting her lip. ‘I remember the dream. It still lingers. The sooner we go, the more chance the Terran will be still waiting when we get there.’
‘And you saw nothing else in the vision?’
‘No.’ Jaslin said without hesitation. She didn’t remember seeing anything of note other than the location of the Terran.
Mesra persisted. ‘And no more of those men?’
‘No.’ Jaslin said.
Mesra finally nodded, looking satisfied. She then called over my parents and sister.
‘Are you okay?’ Father asked.
‘I’m fine.’ Jaslin said with a shrug.
Her sister came with some fruits and shoved them in Jaslin’s face. ‘Eat these!’
Jaslin eyed them suspiciously but then mother spoke, ‘They’re fine, I was with her when she picked them.’
‘Urh…thanks.’ Jaslin mumbled and took them. She bit into one. A sweet but bitter flavour touched her lips. It was quite nice. She wished she had something else though.
‘Eat up. Praise the Sun-Goddess for showing us the way to a new home.’ Excitement crept into mother’s voice.
‘I can’t wait to get there.’ Tara said, beaming. ‘Is it as nice as our old home?’ She asked just when Jaslin had plopped another one in her mouth.
‘I think so. It looked beautiful where it was, for sure.’ Jaslin replied.
Tara seemed happy with that. ‘Was it as big as our old one?’
Jaslin shrugged. ‘I can’t say.’
Tara sighed and finally got bored of talking, wandered off.
Jaslin laid back and drifted off back to sleep.

Chapter 5

It was mid-day by the time Jaslin had awoken, and then met with the elders first and they had gathered the tribe together. After a small talk, they finally set off for their new home, that was shown to Jaslin by the Sun-Goddess herself. People were upbeat during the walk, some even started singing as they trekked across the terrain leaving the ruins long behind. Along the way they passed a large herd of animals that were grazing but there was still no sign of a Terran yet.
When it was growing late, the sun was starting to set after they entered the forest they did encounter men on horseback with weapons, a group of them that were making their way along one of the old roads of the forest. They had managed to use the darkness and foliage to hide in until they had passed.
‘That was too close,’ Rozalinde muttered next to Jaslin.
Jaslin let out a sigh, catching her breath.
‘How long do we have to go now?’ Rozalinde said as they continued to walk.
The bushes were different to the ones in the last forest; they were prickly to the skin. Jaslin felt another one brush against her legs, irritating. ‘Not too long now, I hope.’ Jaslin replied.
The singing started again for a little while, mainly Lona and Rozalinde until weariness was starting to creep in. As well, as hunger.
Rozalinde tugged Jaslin gently by the arm. ‘I’m getting thirsty and tired. Could we stop for a while?’
Jaslin stared at her, pulling her hand free. She glanced around at her surroundings. They were still deep in the forest. There was still some light left poking through the gaps of the trees. ‘If we can find a water source…’
Jaslin turned, looking towards the tribe. Some were still plodding along. ‘Everyone! It’s time we stopped for a rest, and find some water.’
‘Sounds like a good idea!’ Her mother came forwards, holding Tara’s hand. Tara looked unusually quiet. She must have been tired.
‘Let’s try and find a water source first before we stop.’ Jaslin said.
‘That sounds all good. Who will be searching for it?’ Nil questioned, standing a few feet away but he made himself known.
Jaslin was starting to feel rather weary of all these questions, all the time. ‘Anyone that is able.’
Cren and Lajo headed in one direction, Lona and Pyre in another, while the rest of the tribe waited.
Jaslin sat on the ground, resting as it began to rain. It turned into a heavy downpour that became a storm.
A bright flash filled the sky making Jaslin and others look up. Jaslin hadn’t even noticed the clouds before now. A thunderclap came seconds later.
The rain was quite refreshing to the skin, droplets running down her body and all the way down to her toes. She could fall asleep to it. She found storms very relaxing and enjoyable. She loved how pretty the sky would go, and almost on cue, she glimpsed a silver streak split the sky even through the trees. A second thunderclap came afterward.

Cren and Lajo returned first, looking wet and dejected.
‘Did you find any?’ Mesra asked first.
They both shook their heads with disappointment. ‘We couldn’t find even a stream. If this rain continues maybe we will find something.’
‘Lona and Pyre are still looking. We haven’t given up yet. The Goddess will provide for us.’ Mesra said hopeful, her eyes darting from them and falling on Jaslin. Like it was down to her.
‘We can only hope that is the case.’ Cren replied, coming over and sitting down on the ground. He didn’t look like he was in the mood for talking which was fairly ordinary for him, he wasn’t much of a talker. But Lajo didn’t look like talking either. Jaslin left them too it. She didn’t really feel like talking much more herself. She just wanted to sleep, and somehow the Terran would find them. She wished it would. She knew it wouldn’t. Everything had to be difficult.
The rain continued well into the night though the storm had finally stopped just as Lona and Pyre had returned.
‘We found a river!’ Both of them shouted, waving their hands in the air, triumphantly.
It made people rise to their feet, and follow them. Lona and Pyre led them through the forest, finally coming to a large river. They heard it before they even saw it, the rushing sound of water flowing downstream. They drank some of the water and washed in it further downstream before finally resting to the sound of screechers up making their noises in the trees as they hunted. Again, different members took turns to keep watch, starting with Nil and father.

By the following morning, the rain had totally stopped. The sun was shining. It appeared as though the Sun-Goddess’s light was shining down on them. It encouraged everybody to keep going. After about an hour or so walking, following the river that meandered through the forest and out into a clearing. Perseverance and faith finally paid off.
Ahead of them were grassy plains, the lake and in the backdrop the mountains.
Their eyes fell on the Terran.
Everybody’s eyes lit up when they saw it.
They started to run again, towards the creature that was grazing by the lake. It appeared even larger than Nessah.
As she approached it, Jaslin raised her staff, stopping three thirds of the way. She didn’t know why it was important but it was. It felt right. But something there was a surge of energy that came from it, the Terran rather than the actual staff. The image of the Terran came into her mind along with a name.
We’re connected?
Until one of us dies.
Is that all?
There are some still living here but they are without a leader. They are people Do you wish them to stay?
Let them stay.
They have what they call, ‘littles’ with them.
A large smile formed on Jaslin’s face.
‘Is this our new home?’ Tara asked sheepishly over her shoulder.
Jaslin turned her head, meeting her gaze with a warm smile. She gave a firm nod of the head then turned to look at everyone that was left of their home.
‘Yes, Doroga is our new home!’ Jaslin shouted. ‘This is our future. And we shall live on!’. Everybody’s spirits rose, not just in their cheering voices and expressions but she could also feel it. She felt more confident than ever before.
‘You’ve done well.’ Mesra said.
‘It wasn’t me, the Goddess showed us the way.’
‘I apologise for voting against you before, it is clear you are our chosen leader.’ Nil said coming forwards, nodding in appreciation.
Jaslin beamed at him. ‘We shall start a new legacy here and the old is washed away as of today.’ It was like a tidal wave of emotions that she could feel all around her. Doroga was going to be their new home; their new kingdom. He looked even bigger, and stronger than Nessah. Things were going to be different from now on. It was the start of a new future for all of them.

© 2017 Ganner Storm