PART TWO: THE MONARCH’S HAND
Several weeks later after having the dream showing her visions of a child only she could save, Emica had been troubled in both dreaming and waking life. She had tried her best to serve her Masters devoutly in spite of it but she could no longer ignore the overwhelming guilt she felt for adamantly denying her mission.
The child had referred to her by her proper title- Oracle Emica and that terrified her. How did that child know such a thing? What had she meant by stating that she had met and helped her in a past life? Who was this gifted child and what did she have to do with the Monarch? And surely would a child so powerful really need help from Emica? It seemed like she would be putting her own life in danger for no good reason.
She slept well each night after reaching the dream’s end but she was riddled with worries and anxiety in waking life so much so that she actually contemplated going to retrieve the child. Emica also began to worry the child was not receiving proper care both physically and psychologically.
After all, there had been no signs of any other life in that decrepit haunted house of her dreams other than that little girl. Emica also recalled that the girl’s sole company had been her deceased mother’s spirit- hardly someone the girl could rely on for a long period of time.
It reached a point when her conscience could no longer allow her to get by each day without at least attempting a rescue mission and so on one cold night, she repressed her fear and overcame her own sense of self preservation to do what she hoped would be her one and only mission as Oracle. She hoped to sneak out without alerting her Masters but was unexpectedly halted by her Masters presence at the door.
“Emica, where are you going at this hour of the night?” her mistress asked her concerned.
“Mistress, I- I need to help someone. A child. She is alone in the woods and I fear for her safety,”
“It’s far too dangerous for you to go out on your own. You know that there are the nightly patrols and if they catch you, Emica, we cannot save you. They’ll reassign you to other Masters and as you well know, not all Masters are the same,”
Emica nodded, swallowed hard and said, “I know, Mistress but I’m afraid that I must risk it to save the child. She has no one else- I must help her,”
“How do you even know of the child’s existence, Emica?” her Master asked her intrigued by her bravery and total disregard for her own life.
“I- I received visions of her, Master,”
“Visions?” asked her Mistress surprised. Emica had never confided her true powers to her Masters as she feared that she’d put them in grave danger if she ever revealed the truth of who she really was.
“Are you a Seer, Emica?” her Master asked her frightened.
Emica nodded. “Yes Master,”
“How- how can you be sure, Emica?”
“I- I just know, Mistress,”
Her Masters exchanged worried looks and it took them a long while before allowing her to walk out their door. Her Mistress insisted on blessing her and then her Master took out his scabbard and wrapped it firmly around Emica’s waist.
“Don’t give up without a fight, Emica. May- may Gaia protect you this night,”
Emica nervously nodded, wore a warm Winter’s cloak and boots and thanked her Masters before setting out on her journey. The Moonlight shone ethereally and provided adequate light for her to walk towards her destiny. She thought she had to spend a lot of time evading the nighttime patrols the further she walked down the woods but for some reason, she did not encounter a single soul up until she was facing the house that haunted her mind face to face.
Each step Emica took felt harder to take than the last and she contemplated turning back several times. She was almost at the door when suddenly, she heard some noises from the bushes and she was suddenly staring ahead at one of the Monarch’s warriors known infamously as the Monarch’s Hand.
The man stared straight up at her in utter surprise and Emica knew she was done for. Her whole body trembled as she reached to pull out the dagger her Master had handed over to her although she doubted she’d truly be able to hurt the man staring so transfixed at her with his mouth ajar.
For several countless moments, they just stared at each other as the wind rustled the leaves in the cool night air. The crickets chirped as the moments ticked by and Emica began to wonder what was going through the warrior’s mind as he stared her down from across the forest clearing.
Suddenly, the man was not alone and more Monarch Hand’s men appeared from the clearing. One of them grabbed the man who was staring at Emica’s shoulders firmly and asked, “What are you staring at, Nobu?”
The man stared at Emica for a few breathless moments more before turning to his colleague and it appeared he wanted to report what he saw but instead, he shook his head and replied, “Nothing. I suppose I’m just tired, that’s all.”
His colleagues soon joined him from the forest and teased him even as they left that part of the woods to continue their night patrol. Emica was shocked that only the man had been able to see her because it wasn’t as if she was invisible- she had been standing out in the open trembling like the leaves rustling in the wind. And yet she could not explain how just one out of the Monarch’s Hand could see her…
The man turned back several times observing her even as he and his fellow patrolmen retreated further into the woods. Who was he? And why had he protected her from his colleagues? Emica had a sense that the man was a dryad and for all he knew, she was a witch. Why then, had he not apprehended her and possibly taken her to the slave market to be resold to a new dryad Master? It was too baffling.
However, even as her mind tried to find an explanation for the strange behavior of the Monarch’s Hand soldier, she opened the door to the house, seeking what had brought her out there in the first place-the child she had to save. She thought that perhaps the child would have stuck to her room where she felt safe but the moment she entered the dilapidated hallway leading to what was once a den, the child rushed to her side and hugged her.
The child was overcome with weeping and it took a long while for Emica to calm her down. “You came for me,” the child said.
“I’m sorry- I took too long,”
The child shook her head and sniffed as she wiped away the tears left on her face. “You still came. Thank you, Oracle Emica. Is he with you too?”
“Who?” Emica asked surprised.
“Your Protector; Protector Nobu. I sensed his presence here too. Did he not come to protect us?”
“I-I came on my own. Now come on, let’s get out of here before the Monarch’s Hand return,”
The child nodded and rushed up the stairs to bring a small suitcase she had packed and a dirty raggedy doll. Emica picked up and carried the child in one hand and held her luggage in the other before turning to leave the house once and for all. The child held on tightly to her as she would have done to her own mother and Emica felt her heart break for her.
“Oracle Emica, my name is Imani. Do you remember?” the child asked her.
Emica blushed for having forgotten the name of the child. “I will never forget it again, I promise,”
The child nodded as Emica turned to face the woods where Nobu and the other patrolmen had passed through. She hesitated wondering whether he really was her Protector before beginning the journey back to her Masters’ home.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Hey there, hope you had fun reading this story? Missed the first one? No worries, here’s the link to the story right here;