Chapter 4 (NEW!)
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“Watch out, Chron!” Misha cried in a sudden fear, clinging to Chronoth’s back hard.

Immediately many large trees came ramming at his eyes. In great fear he steered Tucker with all his skill, dodging the surging trunks with hazardous veers. The orcs behind soon rode in as well, yet with an overwhelming regret. They knew where they were. They dreaded this place, having received a lot of frightful news about its peril.

As Chronoth thought he was able to get rid of the pursuers behind with their growing distance, an immeasurable crannied trunk abruptly crashed at him. Too close. Too sudden. Too swift.

Nowhere to dodge. Tucker reared up on the last second, saving the two siblings while hurling them down to the bed of leaves. Heart thumping extremely fast, Chronoth helped Misha up and suddenly made up his mind. He knew he had to let Tucker go. A ruthless decision. But horses were not supposed to run in wild woods. Especially not this one.

Tucker refused, not wanitng to part with his dearest friend whom he had bonded with for so long. But to no avail. He whined in sorrow and cantered away after Chronoth gave him a swift yet firm order to leave.

No time for a proper farewell. Chronoth felt a sharp pang of guilt. He knew Tucker might not survive without a caring owner. A devastating consequence for such a faithful and loyal mount. But there was no choice. He knew between the life of Tucker and Misha, he could only choose one.

The orcs behind immediately dismounted as well when they saw the faraway siblings flee on foot. For the trees had also proved to be a great hindrance for their shigaqs. Not letting them to sprint with ease.

While darting in frigid fear, Chronoth and Misha noticed something strange appearing on the ground. Something inexplicable. Extremely small yet glimmering. Not one but many. A line — A string of them, extremely subtle yet glittering like stars, leading a way towards somewhere further in.

“Should we follow these.., Chron?” Misha asked in wonder, curious yet dreadful of where it might lead to.

“I.., I don’t know.., Misha.., b.., but it seems we have no choice.., urgh!” Chronoth suddenly gasped, blood trickling to the ground.

“You are still bleeding, Chron!” Misha cried, shocked by his undried wounds hurt by those deadly hatchets.

“I.., I’m alright.., Misha. But it seems the blood would leave a trail for the orcs to follow us….., I.., I’m sorry..,” Chronoth said in regret, trying to communicate with Misha while sprinting with her.

“Stop saying like this.., Chron!” Misha reproved. “You have done your best! Far more than what you are able to do. W.., we would escape, Chron! Let.., let’s follow these glitters on the ground, shall me…?” she said in worries, running abreast with Chronoth.

Chronoth nodded, focusing on what was coming ahead. But he knew what Misha thought. He knew they would be caught up by the orcs sooner or later. They could not escape, due to the faint trail left by his blood. The orcs were no fools, and they seemed to have a keen sense of smell.

The glitters seemed to be their only hope now. It might lead them into a place resided by the inhabitants of this wood. A hidden settlement. A gleaming path laid by those dwellers for their own orientation. But.., this could also be a false assumption, a false reckoning that could lead them into somewhere deathlier. Even far deathlier than orcs.

“Stay with me.., Chron! Don’t give up!” Misha said aloud, shocked by Chronoth who at the moment almost suddenly lost his footing and fell tumbling to the ground due to a subtle faintness creeping into his head.

“Don… Don’t worry,” Chronoth replied in constant pants. “I.., I’m alright.., Misha. Please focus ahead.”

And before long they had come to the end of the gleams. It was a spacious green clearing. With something in the middle of it. Something majestic. An ancient, pillared, vine-infested ruin.

It was built without a roof, or it seemed to be so. For its very top shelter might have already been chiselled away by ages of merciless weather. Chronoth and Misha rushed to the centre of the damaged structure, evading its exposed grand interior along the way. For something had captured their attention. There was something in the middle of the ruin.

One sculptureful obsidian fountain with a stone podium guarding its front.

The flat face of the podium was engraved with an incomprehensible text. Strange and mysterious words. A lost language. Chronoth and Misha stared into it in despair, unknowing what aid they would get in this desolate ruin. Misha immediately pulled away her gaze and looked around, uninterested in those enigmatic words.

“Bro.., broken stars…,” Chronoth said, all of a sudden reading the text. Much to the astonishment of Misha.

He was even more terrified by himself. He had never learnt this language before. But words just flowed out of his mouth when he stared into the text. As though he’d known them for a long time.

“Broken stars in the sea of hands,” he continued reading, petrified and unable to control his mind.

“High winds in the goblet of stone,”

“Red streams on the highlands of white,”

“Torrents in the valleys of deep,”

“In. Oh, The Chosen,”

“Your hand, in. In to the Fairy Fountain.”

“Chron!” Misha said aloud, waking him back into reality right when he finished decrypting the text. Right when the orcs appeared.

They stood there, grinning hideously while brandishing their axes outside the ruin. Whatever it was, wherever they were, the two siblings must run now.

But to Chronoth’s despair, he went limp, suddenly half-collapsing to the stone ground. He could stand no more. He felt weary. Dizzy. Worn out. Blood trickling down his wounds onto the mossy floor. With all his remaining strength he crawled towards the great fountain while aided by Misha, whose cheeks were at the moment moistured by uncontrollable tears. There was only one thing in Chronoth’s muddled mind now. Only one thing.

“….Your hand, in. In to the Fairy Fountain.”

The last and only sentence he could still remember from everything he had decrypted.

“Don… Don’t die.., Chron….., please… Don’t leave me…., please..,” Misha pleaded her brother in tears, helping and holding him tight on a heart hewn by despair.

Chronoth smiled at her, trying his best to ease her sorrow. He knew he would not survive. He was losing blood. They would die together today. But he wished Misha would live. He wished she could escape. He wished she could get away and live happily ever after. Without him.

Living with someone she truly loved and be happy ever after.

Without surrendering himself easily to death Chronoth continued crawling towards the grand fountain. It seemed inexplicably gentle and welcoming now. As though it was calling on Chronoth to come over. The six hulking orcs seemed amused by this scene, cackling aloud and even cheering behind them. They started clapping and dancing and urging them to move faster.

Move faster! They cackled in their own language. Crawl faster! Crawl away from us! Faster! We are behind you! They capered and pirouetted and ridiculed them.

A few even laid their eyes on Misha, entertained by how she stubbornly helped Chronoth to craw along and was sobbing truthfully for him. They wanted to take her. To humiliate her before taking her life. They would wait for her dear brother to die first. And then they would begin. Enjoying this little girl and later dissecting her.

Within moments the centre of the fountain was exposed before Chronoth’s eyes. Exquisitely carved and etched with a hand-width gap in the middle of it. Slowly losing his consciousness yet grasping on the last sentence in his mind and with the desperate desire to protect Misha, Chronoth hauled himself over, slipping his hand in.

Deep. Burying almost the entirety of his arm into the tight opening.