The moon shone through the window, revealing many shelves inside the dark room. Only the candle in his hand shone in bright orange and yellow, the light moving along the stacks of books on the lower shelf. Some of the books were well used and in tatters, while others were virtually new and easy to recognise. She had a system for organising her books, he knew, but he could never figure it out – not fully. This only made him more excited, feeling as if he was on a grand adventure and explored an old forgotten dungeon. But as the light of the candle fell on a piece of cloth hanging on the wall, the illusion faded, and his mind once again turned to gloom.
The banner was made of red cloth with golden thread-work that depicted a blood moon eclipsed by a curved blade. It was the banner of his family, or rather, his tribe; the rulers of this world.
Fendrael’s eyes glistered in the candle light as he looked, his eyes almost as red as the moon on the banner.
But the banner represented something else to him, a society which he could not fully understand; a family he could not fully be a part of. Sometimes he wondered if he knew his mother at all. At times, she was understanding and warm, in others, she was brisk and secluded. Hiding herself in her library and immersing herself in her many books. Today was one of those days when briskness took control of her; and his father was not far behind in adding to the scolding, for he trusted his wife immensely. There was no such thing as being too strict with his son.
Fendrael felt his punishment to be uncalled for, being locked inside as he was. All he had done was asking an old man about the strange looking ornaments hanging from his beard, and commented on his funny accent…
Bored and bitter, he let out a sigh, blew out the candle, and let himself fall onto the only chair in the room behind him. The chair creaked dangerously under his weight. But instead of checking for damage, he furrowed his brow and remained on the seat, caring not for the scolding he would surely receive later.
Now, sitting comfortably, he stared at the ceiling that was as black as night itself. They say it is dangerous to look too deeply into the night, lest your mind traps itself in the void. Shuddering from the thought, his eyes drifted down to a table next to him. On it, there was a well worn book, half open and inviting. Curious, he grabbed it, but wrinkled his nose as a pungent smell entered his nostrils. The book was old (really old) and the leather cover seemed to barely hold the yellowed pages together. Holding it far from his face to avoid the smell, he read the title on the cover: “The Exodus Journal.”
There was no author on the cover, only the title. Figuring there was nothing else he could do, he placed the book back on the table, lit the candle again, and carefully turned to the first page. The pages were dry, but they still held, and the smell, that had made his nose wrinkle moments before, no longer affected him as he leaned forward and read the first sentence:
It is now 368 days since the exodus from our homelands and the horrors that we’ve witnessed have been many. Images that I’d rather forget, much less describe. Yet, will be burned into my consciousness and haunt me for the rest of my life. But I will continue to repress them and look onward into the future, in the hopes that I, and our people, will once again know peace.
What else can one do than to hope for a better future, lest you lay down and die in defeat? which I have seen many do. Completely and utterly giving up on the future. I don’t blame them, however. I’m not ashamed to admit that the thought had crossed my mind, as well. For what do I possibly have to live for? when everything that I know, and thought I knew, has been shattered by forces that I, nor anyone else, can explain but the acts of god all mighty?
Some believe that Lord Avos is testing us, while others believe that he have abandoned us. I don’t subscribe to any of those statements for who are we to interpret his infinite wisdom? That is to say, if such a man truly exists? It doesn’t matter, however. For those that have survived, they look toward the future, how bleak it may be. Hence I write this journal, to document a new beginning instead of our demise.
The lands to the east are truly wild, dense with ancient trees that tower high above our heads; unexploited by human hands. There is no road to follow either, only a small path that is leading us in the general direction of our destination – a mountain both tall in legend and height, that separates the known with the unknown. Our hopes are that once ascended, the cataclysm will be unable to follow and we will once again know peace.
Sometimes we encounter small villages along our way, small hints of civilisation represented by the smoke from their campfires. We send emissaries whenever we are able, and the people often accepts our offer to join as they are aware of the impending danger. But there are those that refuse our invitation. I do not know why they would as they should be aware of the destructive forces of the cataclysm by now; the smoke blackening the sky and the smouldering flames that illuminates the horizon in the west.
Though, I do not mourn for those that are left behind, for these eastern folk are as wild as the forest they live in. A land not claimed by neither tribe nor nation. What else would one expect of a people living at the edges of the known world, by the foot of the mountain that separates this world and the next.
I myself is not familiar with this land for I come from the land furthest to the west where the sea is plentiful and the beaches are beautiful. But I refrain from recalling too vividly my former homelands for the pain such memories cause is unimaginable. Nor do I have any inclination of writing it down for I could never, with mere words, do justice of its beauty.
No, it is better for it to be lost by the ages. To focus on the prospects ahead rather than what we have lost.
As one of the intellectuals of this journey, I am entitled to certain comforts that are otherwise unavailable to the majority of the population. Where most people have to care for their own belongings and well-being, mine is always cared for. But, as such entitlements have it benefits, it gives my mind free reign to wander, to reminisce and recollect things that I’d much rather forget. For in the darkest hours of our lives, the mind often turns to despair.
I’ve seen this happen before, driven to suicide by the self-destructive forces of the underbelly of our consciousness.
To avoid such an outcome, I have volunteered to participate in the emissary missions and extend an invitation to our grand exodus. Though these encounters are immensely interesting, and above all, time-consuming, I’ve learned that these people are not only ignorant but also superstitious.
Deeper into the forest and closer to the mountains, the natives refer to the land as the land of the dead. The land where the souls of the regretful live, haunted by ghosts and wraiths that wander aimlessly and destroys anyone alive, for they are envious of the living.
Despite the horror stories engraved in them since birth, little convincing needed to be applied, for it was clear that they had no choice but to brave such superstition and hope that their tales were untrue. For the true land of the dead now lies behind us, millions upon millions that are dead and will never see their remains attended - to forever haunt the wastelands of their former homelands.
To keep my mind occupied, I’ve made it routine to speak with the new arrivals. Their stories intrigue me, I have to admit. And even though the easterners are a rather uncouth race - making conversations with them less than a pleasurable - I learned that their stories vary significantly depending on which village they came from; and sometimes they vary between families. Their mushy accent of the common tongue did not help to piece this together either, but I managed to find a red line in all their stories:
Once upon a time this land was once ruled by a mighty kingdom. Castles and cities littered the mountain range, creating a wall that protected this world from the next, sealing the vengeful souls of the dead to the other side of the mountain. But, somewhere along the line, the kingdom declined and the vengeful souls swarmed over the mountain, killing anyone in its path. However, with one last heroic act by an unknown hero, they managed to prevent the scourge from pressing further, preventing it from engulfing the rest of the world.
Why, and how this happened, is when the stories begin to vary and I choose not to study them further. But even though these stories are clearly fictional, I’ve learned that legends are often based in truth - although loosely.
I will keep my eyes peeled as we trudge along. Maybe I can find some evidence of ruins in the undergrowth.
Several days have now passed without any sign of civilisation, neither new nor old. And as I went to sleep that night, disheartened from my lack of findings, I awoke, hearing commotion outside my tent. In the glade, that I had chosen to set up camp, a large crowd had formed, the people staring awestruck into the night; the sky strangely illuminated, as if the sun was set at dusk.
Curious, I powered my way through to the front of the crowd, and as I looked ahead, I found myself dumbfounded.
Between the dense branches of the forest I saw a faint light glow in the distance. The light that had a purple colour in both the lighter and darker tone.
What this meant, I had no idea, but it did not matter at the time, for it was beautiful.
Being engulfed in the magic of the moment, my revery was broken as I heard a group of the Eastern Tribesmen murmuring nervously next to me. Their faces showing terror rather than wonder.
Unable to take my eyes of the light, I inquired about their behaviour the next morning. Their explanation was unsatisfactory, as their tales were filled with ambiguity, which comes as no surprise as this is the furthest that any of them have dared to travel. They could not know what the light was, so naturally, they were convinced that we were entering into the so called “Kingdom Of the Dead”.
Though, such an explanation is unlikely, I cannot deny the ominous feeling the light emanates.
I will watch this phenomenon closely from now on.
As stated in an earlier entry, I don’t know much about this land. However, I know of the drastic changes in temperature that can happen within the seasons of the region. And considering the placement of the sun, it will not be long before the weather turns to freezing and the first snow begins to settle. However, because of the cataclysmic events that continue to follow us, it is becoming apparent that the climate is not going to act as it used to.
Furthermore, I have noticed, ever since our departure, that it takes longer and longer for the sun to rise through the thickness of the smog in the horizon, now only granting us light as late as noon; effectively extending the night to 18 hours.
Despite this, I can still feel the heat from the westward wind, warming an otherwise cold and damp environment. But even though the warmth is somewhat a blessing, all things considered, I cannot help to think what fuels said warmth; it consumed our loved ones, our homes, and the very land we used to live.
As a result, warmth or cold, nothing is a certainty and the only thing we can do is to travel as fast, and as far away as possible.
The density and the roughness of the terrain have caused a great deal of complications on our travel, extending our journey threefold for what we expected it to be. But, after weeks of powering through the vegetation, the thickness of the forest finally seem to thin out as the mountains grew tall before my vision.
Thanks to this, I can now see ahead towards our destination, and thus determine where the strange light is coming from. Having perplexed us for some time, I can with certainty conclude that the light emanates somewhere beyond the mountain, further cementing my theory that it is anything but supernatural.
After all, we have long passed this supposed border of the “Land of the Dead”, and we have yet to see anything suggesting anything supernatural, nor any architecture for that matter.
Despite this, the Easterners, and indeed many of my colleges, glances nervously over their shoulders, wincing at every little sound, as if expecting some ghoulish creature to emerge from the foliage.
However, even though I don’t believe it myself, it is becoming harder and harder to remain levelheaded when more and more people seem to subscribe to the notion of a ghostly presence in this land.
But regardless of anyone’s beliefs, nobody knows what awaits us beyond the mountain, and the only sign of what to come, is a faint light that is only visible at the peak of nighttime; when the sun sets and the moon still lingers behind the smog to the east.
The terrain is becoming more and more elevated as we go on, and I can now see, with utmost clarity, the vastness that is the mountains ahead. Though I have read about its greatness several years ago, I was still shaken by the sheer height of its peaks - snow clad and menacing.
Beyond that, the sheer width of the mountain was breathtaking in its own right. It stretched as far as the eye could see on both ends, beginning at the furthest reaches to the north and ending by the great ocean to the south. Or so I’ve read…
Aside from the view ahead of me, I could now also see the the land we have left behind.
However, the most significant sight was not the greatness of nature, or the horrors of the fiery death at the horizon, but the snake-like line of people still submerged under the crowns of the trees.
It will take days before they will reach the point where I am now standing.
And here I will remain until they do, for the duty of the educated is to make sure people without it remain orderly, remain organised, and above all, remain calm. I will show my empathy by remaining here and document their arrival; to determine their various needs before continuing onward.
It is safe to say that they will be pleased, for the supplies are lasting and the people remain spirited, despite the horrors that they have faced. However, it is clear that it is going to take weeks before we are able to ascend the mountain, perhaps months before everyone is safely on the other side.
Time we simply do not have.
I cannot help but think that all of this would have been much easier if the caravan had remained united into homogenised sections, as was the plan from the beginning. But time was not on our side, and as a result, the caravan is a mishmash of different peoples; different nationalities and social classes. Though such things do not matter any longer, it is hard to deny the inevitable conflict that arises when so many people with different opinions and experiences are mixed together.
We truly are a strange race who manages to find conflict in the midst of our demise.
As we climb ever higher, the more arduous the journey becomes - the terrain turning rocky and inaccessible. The land, borderline desolate, with only thin patches of grass and bushes growing on the mountain side. Not even birds or rodents seem to thrive on these heights and I am starting to wonder if the land is indeed as accurst as the stories suggest. For even mountains has some sort of wildlife, an ecosystem where resilient animals live.
Furthermore, could a civilisation really survive this harsh climate? Or did the climate change? Perhaps something else allowed it to survive and thrive? Something that we couldn’t even fathom today?
But, I am getting ahead of myself, as I have yet to find any proof of the existence of such a civilisation, regardless of how much I wish it to be… And I really do; to the point of lunacy, one might say. But the prospect of such findings helps me cope with the endless drizzle that chills down my bone. Never allowing our bodies to fully warm - our clothes always wet.
At least the wind is calm, mercifully sparing us of the additional suffering such weather would bring.
Not that it would hinder us more than it already has, with its slippery slopes and none existent paths.
That we have managed to take our wagons this far is nothing more than miraculous, but I fear this is as far as we go for the peaks are simply too steep. Impossible to climb even alone.
We can only pray that we may find something that will allow us to escape these wretched lands. Another miracle perhaps? Avos be willing.
As predicted, the caravan has significantly slowed since yesterday, but not for the reasons that I initially thought. For as I made my way through the line, I encountered a wagon blocking the path. It was tilting dangerously to the left, with its wheels half-buried into the ground.
On closer inspection, the wagon’s wheels had revealed a hollow, covered by the undergrowth. My interest peaked and I requested to investigate further, but I could not, as this would risk the entire wagon to roll over. I understood their concerns, but I wasn’t about to give up either; so I waited for hours as they tried to jerk the wheels back on the path, but in the end, it was without avail.
As they wheezed and grunted at their failure, I carefully reminded them that if they could not salvage the wagon, they would simply have to let it roll over completely, for it stood in the way of the others that needed to pass. Their eyes showed only contempt for me then, and I was certain that they would attack me at any moment. But thankfully, reason prevailed, and they removed their belonging before they let the now worthless piece of wood crash over the edge.
As the wagon teared through the thin layer of roots and sedimented sand, a much larger hollow was revealed, as I expected. What I didn’t expect, however, was the significance of the find. Under the rubble, that the wagon had caused, there were remains of a structure; not very large or well preserved, but a foundation was there, including parts of a four-sided wall.
I can hardly contain myself as I write this, for this is the evidence that I have sought ever since hearing about the stories of the Ghostly Kingdom. Naturally, the civilisations demise, and the origin of the ghost stories, had been exaggerated through centuries of oral tradition - facts twisted through the generations.
Though, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself again, for these rocks are not clear evidence by any means, only an indication of may yet to come. But what else could it be unless we have stumbled upon an old hermits humble abound?
It saddens me, however, that I cannot study them in further depth for my duties lay elsewhere. But I am certain this is but a part of a greater discovery, so significant in its implication that my heart shatters whenever I think about the circumstance to which it was found; for its discovery will be almost meaningless, beyond personal curiosity, when the very existence of our people lies in the balance.
Before I was able to head out this morning, an old man approached me. Having heard of my interest in the ruins, he explained that he once visited these rocks as a teenager. Apparently, the people of his village never embraced the ghostly stories that the other villagers told; instead, they had a rite of passage were the young men ventured deep into the highlands until they found an item by which to bring back as proof of their exploit.
This excited me to no end, not only because of the amusing gesture of spite against the other villagers of his kin, but also that it meant that there indeed are more ruins laying about.
Though my face surely shone with excitement at the time, I was taken aback by the lightless eyes that the old man expressed. Showing fear and weariness that is so rare among his kin, who otherwise hides their emotion behind a cold expressionless face.
As the old man continued his story, he suddenly dug into a satchel, strapped under his belt, and presented an item for me.
The item was shimmering in gold, with markings of an unknown kind. An around it, jewels were encrusted in red, yellow and blue, and another gem that was missing.
I was speechless. Its design was uncanny in its similarities to my own culture. It is almost as if the gems represented the Three Great Tribes of our race, by which I belong to the yellow. Of course, because of my eye colour. Truly, it must be a coincidence?
As I tried my hardest not to touch it out of respect, I noticed how fragile and famished the old man was, his hands trembling as he held it before my eyes. I quickly dug into my own satchel to offer him some food, but as I turned, the old man had already left. Limping down the hill back to his own kind.
Dumbfounded with questions, I could not draw breath to ask who he was and I just watched as the mysterious man disappeared among the crowd below.
Fendreael stopped reading and slowly turned his head towards the shelf next to him. The moon no longer illuminated the room and only a few candles lit up the area around him. But even though the shelf was shrouded in the darkness, he could see what he was looking for in his mind’s eye.
He pictured a large, but plain looking book, that seemed neither new nor old, and at its centre, a medallion was encrusted into the cover. His heart pounded in anticipation as he recalled, the similarities all too striking to ignore. However, before rising, he glanced at the entry again and read the line over and over to make sure that he interpret the words correctly.
The item was shimmering in gold, with markings of an unknown kind. Around it, jewels were encrusted in red, yellow, blue…
Finishing the sentence, he rose hastily from the chair and put the journal gently back on the nightstand. He knew the books approximate location and he moved his fingers along the backs of the books on the shelf until he felt the familiar feeling of a cold and smooth metallic surface.
As the book was as big as his entire torso, he had trouble taking it down. The heavy book slipped from his fingers and it crashed into the floor, dust spewing all around him. Fendrael grit his teeth and glanced at the door at the other end of the room, but nobody came and the kitchen staff continued as loudly as before.
Letting out a short breath of relief, he managed to place the book carefully on the nightstand next to the journal. Hunched over the book, his eyes fixated on the medallion on the cover. The medallion shimmered from the candle light and four gems were encrusted around a colourless larger gem at the centre — the fourth one was in white…
Fascinated, Fendrael glanced at the journal again and read the description: (…) the item was shimmering in gold, with markings of an unknown kind.
He frowned as he read it, finding that there were no markings on the medallion, nor was the grey gem described either.
Fendrael let out a sigh and slumped on the chair, his body still tense from the anticipation. The longer he reflected of what he had read, he realised more and more inconsistencies. The author had mentioned something about “Three Great Tribes”, but as far as he knew, there was only one ruler of this world and their eyes were not yellow but in scarlet red… Perhaps it is fiction after all.
As he sat staring at the ceiling, the smell of grilled meat made his mouth salivate and he realised that he hadn’t eaten in a while. Hesitating, his eyes flicked between the journal and the door, but then he rose and headed towards the kitchen, finding the story to be less interesting since it contained nothing but lies.