Chapter Two: Neath
Black Wind unconsciously drops his jaw upon suddenly hearing this mysterious old man, George Winston, speak in his language. “George Winston, you know Middle Tongue?” Black Wind is too flustered, so all he manages to get out is this.
“Mr. Black Wind, please just call me Sage George. Here we only go by one name.” Sage George laughs and then answers Black Wind’s question. “I assume Middle Tongue is what your language is. Listen carefully, you should hear that what we are speaking right now is quite a bit different.”
Upon thinking about it for a bit, Black Wind realized that what Sage George said was correct. These words they are speaking are nothing like what he previously knew. “But then, how can I be understanding and speaking this now? What was it that you did to me earlier when the ground lit up?” Even though they were now speaking to each other and finally able to communicate, Black Wind had more questions now than ever before.
Quickly interrupting his rapid fire questions, Sage George cut in, “It’s getting dark. We wouldn’t be very hospitable guests if we made you talk outside in the dark, would we?” With these words, he looked meaningfully at Jim Abney.
“Ah, yes! Follow me Mr. Black Wind. I’ll lead you to my house. We have some guest rooms you can use for the night. Also, call me Chief Abney. And this is my son Antero. We can continue this discussion after getting somewhere more comfortable.” Chief Abney quickly remembered his job and started leading the group down the street. Black Wind noticed that, as they got further into the village, the quality of the construction of the houses went up. They were larger and looked less shoddy. And up ahead there was even a large house made of stone which had two stories. Their group walks towards this particular stone house, and before they even reach the door, it opens, revealing a woman that must have been quite pretty when she was younger. Even now, you can still see a mature charm about her.
“Come in dear, I have the fire going and some wine prepared. I’ve heard about the special guest already.” Welcomed by this woman, the group head inside. Black Wind assumes that she is the wife of Chief Abney and politely bows as he enters. The woman raises an eyebrow at this action, apparently not sure what to think of it. Once everyone has made it inside and is ushered to some seats by a fireplace, the woman brings over a bottle of wine to pour for everyone. Black Wind politely accepts the wine and sniffs it, determining that it’s alcohol. Although he tried to be discreet in his action, Black Wind got the sense that that Sage George’s keen eye caught on.
As the wine is being poured, the young Antero tries to sneakily get some poured for himself too. “Shoo! Get out of here you little rascal!” His mother playfully swats at him with her free hand and puts the rest of the wine down. He scampers off, looking dejected, although a slight smile can be seen on his lips as he leaves. “Alright. I’m sure you’ve met everyone else by now. I’m Loreena. It’s good to meet you, Mr…”
“Black Wind. It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Ms. Loreena.” Black Wind smiles at her before creasing his forehead with a slight frown. “Does Ms. Loreena have only one name? All of them have two?”
Loreena laughs slightly at his question. “I guess you really aren’t from around here, not knowing something so basic. In our culture we have a given name and a family name. I have taken Abney as my family name since marrying into Jim’s family.” She looks over at her husband and smiles. One can see just how caring this family is, just from small interactions like this one.
Chief Abney clears his throat, slightly embarrassed. “Well, we’re settled in now and away from all those staring eyes. What did they think this was, a show? Anyway, it looks like you’ve got a lot of questions. Ask away.”
“Yes. First I would like to know what Sage George did earlier which now lets us speak together.” Since he was given the opportunity to ask, Black Wind made full use of the chance. And firstly wanted to know about this strange power Sage George has, in case it turns out to be a danger to him.
Chief Abney starts to answer but is once again cut off by Sage George. “Well, Mr. Black Wind, I would like to first know what you think happened?” Seeing Black Wind stay silent in response, Sage George’s eyes widen. “I see. I see! You have no clue, do you? Now I really wonder where it is you’re from… What I did was a memory transfer spell. It copies part of the memories off the soul of the user and transfers them to the soul of the target. What I copied was my memory of Common Tongue, which would let you know how to understand and speak it. However, anything involving the soul takes a lot of mana, so I don’t enjoy doing it too frequently. I came here to retire, I didn’t know I’d still have to do stuff like this…” He grumbled for a bit more after finishing his explanation. Despite how astute he is, the Sage George is quite a character.
Once again, this raises even more questions than it answers for Black Wind. However, he decides to press on and only ask the important questions. Until he knows the big picture, it’s probably better to avoid asking questions that lay too much suspicion on him. “Alright. Next, where is this? Please give as much detail as possible.” Although he knows this was an odd question to ask, Black Wind needs to know and thus could not avoid asking it.
“This is the town of Forsook, the river nearby is the Line River. The kingdom we are in is called Epica. The direction you came from was the Silent Forest. This is why the villagers were so shocked. Nothing lives in the Silent Forest. Except for possibly a vengeful god. Those who enter die without question. So, where did you come from?” Chief George slightly narrows his eyes as he asks, unable to keep the suspicion from showing. He gets the evil eye from his wife, though, who obviously is better at giving hospitality.
Black Wind’s mind is whirring with questions, hypotheses, and memories. As he once again thinks about how or why he got here, a splitting headache travels through his head, forcing him to stop thinking. He grabs his head and closes his eyes for a few seconds as the headache resides. Noticing the looks of worry or curiosity in the case of Sage George, Black Wind tells them, “I’m sorry. I can’t remember without having a splitting headache. Also, please tell me the name of the world we’re on too. Although it might be a bit odd.”
As his hosts look at eachother, Sage George asks, “The name of our world is Valeria. This is just too strange. Mind if I try healing you? It might not be my forte, but I still know enough healing magic to get by.”
“Go ahead.” Black Wind quickly gives consent, since he doesn’t like these headaches one bit. He is told to close his eyes and relax. Sage George stands in front of him with his staff and once again slams it into the ground. Ms. Loreena winces, as she thinks about what this does to her house. Once again, a circle of runes and various geometric shapes appears on the ground. This time, though Sage George’s hands glow and streams of light seem to pierce Black Wind’s head. Black Wind’s eyes are closed, so he can’t see what’s going on, but he could feel his head warm up in a pleasant sort of way, similar to the feeling when you lay in the sun on a clear spring day.
As he relaxes due to this warmth, Sage George seems to relax too, because the treatment is going as smoothly as was hoped for. However, suddenly a suffocating presence is felt throughout the room. The light shining from the magic circle as well as Sage George’s hands which was previously a pure white, turns dark and sinister.
“This man belongs to Neath! He is under the protection of Neath, and Neath does not appreciate you tinkering with his head. You will stop or not even have a chance to regret your decision.” A piercing voice is heard by everyone in the room, but to each of them it sounds as if it’s coming from right by their ear. Although the occupants want to freak out, they’re currently too scared to move a muscle. Any power that can do this is stronger than they could imagine.
While everyone else is witnessing this spectacle, Black Wind himself falls unconscious and the same black light pulses around his body, lifting him a few inches off the chair as it cushions him from any outside forces. Although he is unconscious, Black Wind sees a dream of a female figure clothed in loose black robes walk up to him and caress his cheek. She whispers something into his ear and he remembers no more. Shortly after, Black Wind wakes up, slowly sinking back onto his chair. He looks around, noticing the pale faces on all the residents of Forsook.
“What’s wrong, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?” He asks, trying to figure out the situation. “I guess the healing didn’t work?” Sage George seems to recover first and sits down with a thud.
“Not only did it not work, someone or something interfered with it. Said it was called Neath. Do you know of this Neath?” Sage George asks, sounding very drained.
“I’ve never heard the name before…” While Black Wind is thinking about it, Loreena speaks up.
“I think I have. My mother used to tell us tales of the evil goddess residing in the Silent Forest. Her name was Neath, and her lover was killed long ago by the Human King. In her grief, she managed to overcome human boundaries and ascend to godhood. But if this is true, what does this goddess have to do with Mr. Black Wind? Who are you, really?” As Loreena says this, everyone seems to have the same question in their minds. Looking to Black Wind for an answer, he slowly speaks up.
“I don’t know.”