PART ONE: THE CHILD
Emica tossed and turned several times before finally giving up on sleep altogether and dragging her exhausted body out of bed. A thick sweat permeated her weary body as she silently walked across the darkly lit room towards the door. By dark world standards, Emica was living like a Princess especially being a witch assigned to a barren dryad couple that had shown her nothing but kindness ever since she had been sold to them by a dryad slave trader.
Life in the dark world was often very cruel for Emica and her kind. Every day she was reminded of just how much worse things could have been for her had she been selected by other Masters. Her Masters had allowed her uncommon freedom and the magic-restricting collar around her neck was only for show since she had not been unable to perform magic without it. Her Masters, particularly her kind Mistress had even taught her how to read and write and of course perform some rudimentary and even some complex magic spells particularly defensive spells…
However, there was a secret that Emica could never tell anyone about, one which even her beloved Masters knew not. Emica struggled to accept this secret and avoided thinking about it as much as possible; and yet this secret was irrevocably tied to her fate and that of others. She sighed as she suppressed such unpleasant knowledge out of her troubled mind, opening the door as silently as she could headed towards the kitchen directly above her room in the basement.
Each stair she ascended made her entire body wobble and she breathed heavily as she tried to force her body beyond its limits. Emica had not slept a wink in four days and that night was her fifth successive night without proper sleep. The cause of her insomnia was plain and simple- a recurring dream of traveling down a path to save something… or someone. She had never been able to reach the end of her dream before waking up, shaking like a leaf on a stormy day…
Emica paused, leaning onto the door as she breathed in and out before walking ever so quietly towards the kitchen sink. Despite the darkness of the room, the moonlight was bright enough to illuminate the section of the kitchen so she was faced by her own reflection on the glistening steel tap. Her eyes were swollen and red, her hair looked more like a wet rug than actual hair and her appearance was haggard and frightening.
Nonetheless, Emica twisted the tap and washed her face. The cold water did nothing to alleviate the pain of having stayed up for so long. For several minutes she just stared down at the sink and breathed in and out from her mouth. The recurring dream haunted her every moment. There was something important she needed to find at the end of the path, something important enough to risk her very life to find but what was it? Why must she be the one to retrieve it? Surely the infamous General Rancid could organize a mission to retrieve it as if it was that important, the General would know about it.
She knew whatever lay at the end of that path was the secret to turning the war to the witches’ favor but she was too paralyzed by fear to even contemplate retrieving the weapon. What was she to do? How could anyone expect her to risk her life? Besides, how ungrateful would Emica have to be to risk her life when her Masters had worked so hard to save it?
“Emica, are you alright? Are you still feeling unwell?” she heard her Mistress’s soothing voice in the darkness. Emica was ashamed that she had caused her Mistress to worry over her.
“It’s alright, Mistress. I can- can handle it,” Emica said but sounded unconvincing to her own ears.
“I shall call a healer to-”
“No! Mistress, do not risk your life for my sake. I shall be fine,”
“I am not so sure about that and worry not for my life, Emica. I cannot just stand idly by while you continue to suffer. Please, let me send for a healer to help you,”
“Mistress, I appreciate your concern as always but please, at least- at least give me until tonight- let me try to get some sleep once more,”
“If I shall not have improved by tomorrow morning, Mistress, then please, by all means, call for a healer,”
“Are you certain you can get any rest tonight?”
“Yes, my Mistress. I feel better already,”
“Alright then. At least move to the guest room tonight, Emica dear. You will get better rest on that warm comfortable bed than in the basement you insist on taking for your room,”
“I- I cannot intrude upon your kindness in such a- a despicable way Mistress-”
“Nonsense, dearest Emica. You are not well. Please, I am afraid I must insist. Go upstairs and rest. And if you need anything, please, don’t hesitate to ask me for it,”
“Mistress- I- I-”
“May Gaia bless and heal you, Emica,”
Her Masters’ kindness appeared to have no bounds and Emica braced herself. Getting sleep on the warm bed in the guest room was not challenging considering how exhausted she was. No, the challenge was that incessant dream lurking in her dreamscape. And the dream came as clearly and deceptively effervescent as ever.
She saw the path she had seen so many nights before and saw herself taking that path that was illuminated by an ethereal glow. Emica let the path lead her towards the unknown as everything else in the world disappeared. At the end of the path lay an abandoned house. The house was decrepit and void of all signs of life as was to be expected but Emica knew that there was something beyond that door that she needed to see- something that she needed to retrieve.
Emica did not wake up as she usually did when her dream reached that point but walked forward, knocking on the door before slowly entering the home. The floorboards squeaked loudly with each step she took until she climbed up the stairs and instinctively turned to her right, walked to the end of the hallway to a door clearly indicating ‘Imani’s Room’ and a smiley face on it. Intrigued, she knocked on the door and was ushered inside by a sweet childish voice.
She found a young girl seated on the carpeted floor coloring a drawing she had made in crayons. The girl, however, stopped coloring and turned to face the rocking chair in the corner and chuckled exuberantly before speaking to the seemingly empty chair, “Look Mommy, Aunt Emica is here, she’s the one I told you about, mommy, do you remember? She is very, very special but she is really scared just like me mommy,”
Emica turned to face the chair which suddenly had an occupant. She backed away from the room and ran downstairs only there wasn’t a downstairs anymore and she suddenly found herself back in that room.
“Who- who are you?” she asked the little girl.
The little girl smiled and responded, “Don’t be afraid of me, Emica. We’re friends, remember? We’ve always been friends,”
“I- I don’t know who you are,” Emica responded frightened.
“Maybe not now but we’ve met before, in our past lives,”
The child chuckled exuberantly and nodded. “You helped me a lot last time and I need your help this time too. Please, come find me. Please save me Oracle Emica. Only you can,”
Emica was horrified. A child had discovered her secret; the secret that she had ran away from all her life and yet she knew nothing of who this child was or why she had chosen Emica to save her. The dark world was not without its own intrigue and wonder and Emica had a feeling that saving the child would be the beginning of her journey as the greatest threat to the Monarchy; the Divine Servant, the Oracle…
TO BE CONTINUED…
Hey there, thanks for sticking it out until the end! Still got an itch for the Dark World and it’s intriguing stories? Say no more. Please find links to similar dark world tales listed below. Happy reading 😉