The Arisen :01: Stories of Old
The village of Haru'tai had a long, sordid history.
The elders of the town, the E'dari, spoke of the wars between the human lords and the terrible, mighty daiyōkai of ancient history. The mountainous village, secreted away from the rest of the modern world, wasn't Asian by any means, but stories of daiyōkai, yōkai, and yūrei have always been present in the myths and stories the E'dari spoke of in hushed, religious whispers.
The feuds between nonhuman entities and mortal souls had been recorded in scrolls of the finest paper, stored and protected, and transcribed, for centuries. It was these very stories the E'dari whispered about as they sat around their roaring bonfires, smoke billowing from the flames as surely as they circled the old men and women as they smoked their pipes.
Kyra made her way through the busy streets, curious and eager to take in the sights of a village thought to be more of a myth than a reality. Haru'tai wasn't known for letting strangers among their dwellings, the E'dari as withdrawn from the world outside their hills as the snakes were to the lands in winter.
Ryan and Leah were walking along the sides of the road, pausing by the stalls and their wares with an admiring eye. Ryan enjoyed the fine details, being a medical student. Leah was a fashion designer, beauty always catching her eye in the most unlikely places. Kyra smiled as she watched the two, wondering if, perhaps, Ryan would finally ask their air-headed friend to marry him on this trip.
She turned, gaze sweeping over the streets in search for the other two she traveled with. She spotted Sam talking to a well-built man, eyeing the massive logs he had on his shoulders before turning her gaze to the tall, broad woman. Sam shifted, then she turned and met Kyra's gaze from across the street. She made a sharp gesture with her hand, an offensive gesture that had the smaller girl flushing.
Shaking her head, Kyra turned and hunted for the last of the group. Mason was, without doubt, the hardest to keep track of. His passion for new locations and his skill with a camera often took him off the path well traveled. She made her ways through the streets, keeping her eyes peeled, and, in time, she found him.
"Tell me more, sir," Mason was sitting in front of one of the E'dari, his legs tucked under his body. There was a shine to his gaze, his lips parted in wonder. "Please, we've come a long way to hear about the stories of this region. Can't you tell us something, sir? Perhaps a legend or a story?"
The King's Banishment
"A story, you ask of me?"
The E'dari in question was a woman, her long hair silver and braided with shimmering, vibrant blue. Her eyes were the same color, cold and sharp. Kyra stopped behind her friend's shoulder, smiling as Mason turned to look up at her. He grinned, then, and turned back to the woman as he said, "Yes, ma'am! Kyra, here, she writes stories. It was from her grandfather that we learned about this place."
The old woman hummed, her gaze resting on Kyra before she turned. She brushed aside the beaded curtain leading into the building behind her, calling out in a foreign language Kyra had never heard. A moment later, an old man came shuffling out.
He turned to them. "Makar mentioned outsiders in the village. You wish a story?"
"Yes, sir," Mason was starting to rock in place, eager to learn more.
Kyra placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing as she said, "If you would."
The old man seemed to consider it as he sat, a pipe in hand. He took a long drag from the old wood shaft, smoke spilling out of his nose. After some time, he made a gesture for her to sit as he said, "I have a story, yes. The King's Banishment is an old legend among this village."
"The King's Banishment?" Mason was pulling out his notebook, flipping to a new page. He looked at the old man, voice low as he asked, "Who was banished?"
"K'taranaka was the king in question," the old man spoke slowly, as if recalling a memory from long ago. He spelled out the name for Mason when the young man asked, and, after a moment, said, "King K'taranaka was a wise man. His family was not a noble one in the beginning. They were blacksmiths. K'taranaka, at the time, was a soldier in training. Skilled with the blade. Quick on his feet. He was an inspiration to all who knew him."
The man then began to tell of K'taranaka's youth and his rise to the front ranks of the Lord in the time he had been alive. The old man slowed, refilling his pipe as he said, "Thing is, he hadn't thought about how he would defeat the daiyōkai. The few priests that had been sent up to fight the demon had all been slain. None returned to tell of how the beast fought.
"K'taranaka was not a normal man, however," the old man leaned back, resting his back against his home as his wife wove baskets of strong, green leaves longer than Kyra's forearm and half as thin. She wondered what kind of tree they had come from or if they were the leaves of some grounded plant. The old man blew a ring of smoke into the air before saying, "He ventured deep into the mountain, traveled to a place said only gods could dwell. There he found A'tzari. A sacred, magical pool of power rose from the depths of land, rising to the heavens in spheres of light.
"K'taranaka laid down plans to make a scared ground, laid the earth with white stone, and carved a hole in the ceiling overlooking the Well of A'tzari," the old man turned to them, leaning forward suddenly as he said, "Once finished, he let loose a rumor that the Well offered wisdom to those who drank, power beyond any living creature'c comprehension. He told stories of how no demon had managed to defeat the guardian of the Well."
Kyra listened as the old man spoke of how the daiyōkai, hearing the stories, came to see this place for itself. How it had unwittingly stepped into the sacred grounds and K'taranaka used an ancient spell to seal the demon away in the depths of the land, had only managed to succeed because he and twelve priests worked together for the good of Haru'tai.
Mason wrote as fast as he could, eyes wide as he asked questions and wrote down the answers. Kyra watched him, bemused, and, after a while, took the drink the old woman offered. They sat in silence as the old man explained that, after sealing the demon none had managed to kill, K'taranaka was named King of Haru'tai.
"There is the K'dal and the E'dari," the old man was saying, a smile on his face as he gestured to the village around them. "The K'dal is descended from K'taranaka and the E'dari are descended from the twelve priests. We tell these stories so we do not forget our history and so our children know their roots. Through these stories, the children of this village know the dangers which lurks in the mountains above us."
Mason and Kyra left the old couple, thanking them for the story.
They found the others not long after, the five of them finding a small patch of grass by a pond to eat their lunch. Kyra nibbled on her sandwich, listening as Mason told the story to the others with waving arms and jerky movements. His every motion was that of excitement, his eyes shining as the others asked questions. Questions he had already thought to ask, questions he could answer.
Leah was leaning against Ryan's side, curiosity in her gaze. "Do you think this Well is up in the mountains, then?"
Mason paused. "It should be, if the old man's right. They tell the children this story so they stay away from the mountain. So, yeah, I'd say there's a well up there."
The conversation continued, Kyra zoning out as she opened her canteen. The village was flourishing, half-naked children running around. Women walked the streets, chests bare and baskets resting on their hips. A few of the women would stop by their side, offering fruit with gentle smiles.
As the sun began to set, Sam led them back to the home they were staying in the villager's had offered. It was unoccupied, for the time being. Empty and unused. A blessing the five of them had been thankful for when they arrived, a week ago.
They moved to the far end of the room, passing through a thin blanket separating the living quarters and central fire-pit from the sleeping quarters. The room was circular, the ceiling tapering at a point where a window rested. The sky was dark, stars already beginning to shine.
Kyra sat on her own bed, the other four taking their places on their own. The circular room had its benefits, as each of them could see one another without having to turn around. She wondered if there was a reason for the circular layout of the bedroom, if there was a purpose to why circles seemed to be a prominent symbol within Haru'tai.
Mason was fiddling with his camera, checking to make sure all of his batteries were charged as Ryan asked, "So, we're gonna do it? Are we going to look for the site the E'dari spoke of? The maze?"
Sam and Leah turned to Kyra, their gazes questioning. Kyra looked towards the boys, blinking when she noticed their gazes also rested on her. Frowning, she looked over her friends as she asked, "Are you seriously leaving the decision on me? Me? Are you all barking?"
"No, we're gay," Sam deadpanned.
Mason snorted. "Barking and gay."
"I don't understand..." Leah turned towards Ryan, her large blue eyes curious. The man shook his head even as she asked, "Did I miss something?"
"It's a play on words," Sam explained. She didn't elaborate.
Kyra didn't expect her to, either. Running her hands over her face, she looked at the group, saw the excitement and curiosity and contentment and intrigue in each of their gazes. Sighing, Kyra leaned back and rested her weight on her elbows.
Casting a look towards the ceiling, mouthing a prayer, before she turned her gaze on the others and said, "If we're hunting legends and monsters in the morning, then we'd better get plenty of sleep tonight."
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© 2018 Britta Nicole Miller