Chronoth and Misha screamed, hearts exploding in dread.
Despite the fatal blow, despite the agonizing pain, despite the dripping blood, Rachel did not let go. She would not let go. She would never ever let go. Despite it all.
“Chron.., Misha.., for.., forgive me…,” she smiled, enduring the insane pain. Smiling… Pure, and without hatred. “Run.., be cheerful..., sta.., stay alive.…”
The orc soon grew exasperated. He suddenly cocked his dagger, rejabbing it into her abdomen. Chronoth bellowed in tears, screaming and running at the cold-blooded orc while Misha did about the same. But the two of them were suddenly lifted up by something. To their surprise, they were abruptly carried away by a force. The force of arms.
Four arms. It was George, the horse owner and his long-time friend, Lewis.
“Le… Let me go! Let me go!” Chronoth and Misha struggled, crying aloud, yelling at the two adults to release them.
But George and Lewis did not comply. Despite their hitting and kicking, the two men continued running, bearing them along the way. They hurtled down the main dirt path, passing many villagers who were at the moment battling with countless orc warriors while eruptions of blood and horrific screams bursting out without cessation.
Soon the four reached the place with the sight of a familiar mount, Tucker, their brave loyal horse. He was at the moment reined by a long rope, neighing and rearing up at the sight of them.
George promptly calmed his horse and set Chronoth and Misha on the saddled top, urging them to fly. But the two did not obey, struggling to get down and rushed back to their mum.
And a slap.
A strong sudden slap on Chronoth’s cheek stupefied Misha. George regretted, he had exerted the force too hard, which seemingly making the boy’s nose bleed. Still, he yelled at Chronoth.
“Calm down Chron! Your mum.., your mum is no more!” he cried, heart jabbed with extreme pain. “But your sister is! So protect her! Protect her and run!”
Chronoth stared at him, unable yet slowly forced to accept the fact.
“Run and do not look back!” George cried. “The village is surrounded! But I trust you can cut through the siege! You never failed me! And I know you won’t! Tucker is your horse now! He is yours from now on! So stay alive, two of you! Fly and stay alive!”
Heart hewn, Chronoth immediately turned away. Pulling the rein he skilfully smacked it on Tucker, releasing the horse into a flying long bolt. While sprinting like a wind Chronoth and Misha turned back, watching George and Lewis as a large orc abruptly leapt out, felling the surprised George with his huge double-axe and subsequently wrestling with Lewis.
Blood spraying with despairing cries.
With full speed Tucker flew, thundering across the green field. Yet it seemed humans were not the only ones aided by mount. Orcs, too, had their own.
And their mounts were not slow either.
Shigaq. It was how they named the beast. A large, muscular, wolf-like mount. Armed with curved exposed fangs.
And the departure of the two siblings did not escape the eyes of an orc rider, who was also alerted by a loud croak of his pillion partner. With fury he smacked his shigaq. And the beast abruptly leapt into a sprint, pursuing after them. It barked unnaturally louder than its size, like monsters bellowing, making Chronoth and Misha tremor from time to time.
Despite the overwhelming terror, Chronoth did not let himself crushed by fear, without looking back he focused on things emerging ahead. Heavy, flashing, gloomy sky and swirling grass. He would not look back. He would never look back, let alone to his flanks, even the orc rider might have already run abreast with him.
For Chronoth knew something far deadlier was appearing.
Something far more horrendous.
Their dead end.
The impermeable siege.
And it came, slowly rising up from the field horizon. Limitlessly wide wall of orc armies. Heavily armed troops of foot-soldiers. Dreadful axes ranging from different lengths to different sizes and different shapes. Mounts of muscular shigaqs bearing their masters while snarling with countless fangs.
It was despair.
Or it seemed so. All of a sudden something chaotic occurred on a spot of the beleaguerment. Far ahead of Chronoth. And he immediately peered at it.
Confusion and cries. A great panic had erupted from an army of orcs. Shigaqs abruptly attacking each other and orcs being thrown down or furiously engaging in brutal slashing. It seemed a great dispute had suddenly broken out in that particular troop, slowly opening up a gap while radiating its influence to other battalions. Without the slightest hesitation Chronoth steered Tucker towards it. He knew it was his only chance. Failed, they died. Killed under the cascade of endless axes.
While darting forwards, Chronoth seemed too desperate and too focused --- that he did not immediately notice a hatchet was being hurled towards him.
A spinning hatchet.
Chronoth yelped in pain as he dodged on that last moment, unable to fully avoid the projectile that flew past his arm while drawing out strings of blood. Misha cried in fear. But Chronoth did not stop, with great endurance he hurried forward, diving desperately towards the widening rift.
More hatchets came flying. He crouched low, steering Tucker skillfully left and sometimes right with all the horse-riding art he’d learnt. The projectiles swerved past him in many directions. Some he dodged fully, others a close shave, and a few bearing his blood. But he did not give up.
And he entered the wide opening. As he thought they could escape while riding all the way through the great confusion, a huge orc standing on a few corpses abruptly noticed him. And with a terrific spin he swung his massive axe at Chronoth. Exactly like how a person cut down a tree with one powerful stroke.
And the great axe did not strike air.
It managed to cut through.
Misha cried in terror. The axe had cut through strings of her hair. Chronoth had crouched once again on that critical moment. He had hurled himself flat on Tucker’s back, dragging Misha down and miraculously saving them both.
“Are you alright Misha!?” Chronoth cried in fear.
“I.., I’m fine.., Chron..,” Misha stuttered with a great effort.
And they went through, leaving the wide siege behind. But as soon as they escaped, Six orcs riding on the three shigaqs noticed them and immediately prompted their mounts into a great sprint. They knew they must not let anyone escape. Not even a child. No.., especially child. Children must be killed. Not even one shall survive. All must be killed.
The monstrous barking behind rattled the two siblings but also alerted them of the unsettled danger. Without looking back Chronoth immediately drove Tucker to an insane speed, galloping like a loosed arrow divng down the gusty green field.
While shigaqs were extremely wild and aggressive, they did not run as fast as horses. Something proved to be somewhat advantageous for Chronoth. Yet these shigaqs were being specially trained by orcs to endure a lengthy race, a feat that Tucker did not have.
While glancing around for human aids, Chronoth suddenly spotted something. It was not humans or orcs but a great stone ruin, looming ginormous from the faraway grass. Chronoth knew what it was. The Dead Gate. There were quite a number of them, scattered throughout the vast land. No one knew exactly what they were built for.
Ancient mystery stonework. All looked about the same, towering up like a majestic stone gate yet with its middle being empty, allowing a rank of 10 horsemen to pass through.
But to Chronoth’s disbelief, this gate looked different. Not its design nor its material but its function. It was suddenly working. All of a sudden this colossal thing was working like a portal. Blinding brightness suddenly came into existence, spreading like lightning to the stone pillars flanking its opening.
Winds rushed, flowing into the horrific light ahead of Chronoth.
Although the air currents were not overly strong as to the point of sucking them in, Chronoth voluntarily steered Tucker towards the gate. Not that he was brave or reckless. But he had no choice. Tucker was still too young.., he knew, they might not be able to outrun the well-trained shigaqs chasing behind for long. And entering the portal seemed to be the only choice now.
And within moments the stone gate drew close to them, its brightness screeching and thundering, making Misha and Chronoth’s ears pressured with pain. Closing his eyes Chronoth rode all the way in, preparing for the worst. The great light voraciously devoured them. And they were abruptly gone.
Vanished. Nowhere to be found. The orcs got stupefied of what they witnessed, unsure on whether to follow the two siblings in.
To Chronoth and Misha’s surprise, they were suddenly galloping in another grassland. Abruptly out from a different lofty stone gate looming up behind Tucker. It seemed they had escaped. But Chronoth did not give way to the slightest relief. In growing worries he prompted Tucker to race on. He felt a great apprehension. And that worry did not prove unfounded.
The pursuing orcs soon rushed out from the stone gate in a brightening flash, racing after them at once. The orcs well-remembered what their chief had told them. Children must not escape. If not, they paid for them.
Life for life. Head for head.
Yet something came to the aid of Chronoth. Far ahead of Tucker. A long rank of sinister dark trees. And suddenly Chronoth knew where he was. He realized they were still on the same continent, only at a different place. For he recognized these sinister trees well. The line of trees was in fact not only some plants but the front part of a great mysterious forest.
Mortal Eater, the deadly forbidden forest.
Whoever ventured into it was never seen again. Lost. Forever lost and gone. Many said mysterious creatures guarded the wood, feeding on the brains of people who dared to enter. And also the eyeless humanoid monster, ripping apart the limbs of any trespasser with its four skinny arms while he was still alive. Before it gouged out his eyes and everything in his throat.
Despite the fatal danger, Chronoth rode towards the wood. For he could now sense the emerging fatigue of Tucker. The young horse had begun to grow weary. Intruding into the wood seemed as the only way to deter the pursuers. Misha seemed to understand what he was about to do. She leaned hard against his back, afraid but supporting his decision.
Without slowing down his speed Chronoth rode forwards.
Venturing into the ominous wood under the great gloomy sky.