Deep within the Carkwork Forest, Hanora lay next to her dying lover inside the little wooden cabin that she had built with the help of the crows. The once glorious King Hutriz breathed unevenly and Hanora knew that his time was near.
“And there’s nothing I can do…” She whispered to herself. “A Fate that I am, and there’s nothing else that I can do.”
Tears trickled down her young face that equaled the feature of a mid-aged female New Dweller. She knew that Hutriz cared about her, but not as lovers. Still, she had been with him all this time.
Hutriz’s body jerked suddenly and after the sudden spasm, the crippled man breathed his last.
Hanora gave Hutriz a final kiss on the lips and then burned him to a crisp with a deterioration spell. The ashes flew out the cabin window and dispersed when it reached mid-atmosphere. Hanora staggered out of her cabin and sat on one of the tree stumps. She couldn’t believe that the situation had worsened and she blamed it on herself. She had been very careless during the Marlett War. She had let her emotions caught up with her Fate superiority.
Vurol, the king crow, noticed the Fate’s sadness and landed on her shoulder.
The crow flew away after hearing Hanora’s words, knowing that she wanted to be alone.
Hanora cried for the first time in millennia. She knew that she would never see Hutriz again. This brought menacing thoughts of the New Knowledge back to her mind: the idea of the after life, the existence of a God that look down generously upon the continents from far beyond the human eyes. She shattered the thoughts quickly, knowing their danger to her Illusian power. Once the attachment with the basic string of continent through the universe is detached, there would be no turning back.
There was no war anymore, but the peace came with a price. The Illusians were almost fully diminished from the world and those who had lost their hope in the revolution had converted to the New Knowledge. Sometimes, Hanora felt that she should destroy every single one of the New Followers and those who had abandoned Illusia – but she knew better. There was not much support left for her like how it was during the reign of Marlett over the Illusians. Hutriz and Marlett were both gone and there was no way to start all over again, since every single survivor of the Marlett War had known to fear Hanora. Excepts for the crows, Hanora could feel the anguished desolation in almost every survivor of the Marlett War and in every single one of them, they did not need Hanora.
“Let’s move on.” It was Kisst, a lone incantator whom Hanora had saved after the space-time-growth spell exploded, symbolizing the climax and anti-climax of the Marlett War. “Let’s leave this place… You are a Fate, Hanora. There is so much more in this life to you than us lower Illusians.”
“I agree… There is too much pain here.” She sat up and started walking deeper into the forest, leaving behind her wooden home. “There’s too much pain here…”
“Where to Hanora?”
“Let us go to Leapole.”
“That’s a New Followers’ dwelling place… Then again, there is no spot where the community gathers anymore…”
“I will apply a growth alteration magic before we enter the small town. They shouldn’t be able to recognize us.”
“If we are lucky enough, we might meet another of my level.”
Hanora smiled and slowed down so that Kisst could catch up with her. High above them, Vurol accompanied them silently.
“Night is almost upon us… Where is Sheila?”
Bryng was terribly worried about her daughter and so was Fury.
“With Hanora still out there,” Fury started but then ended her speech with a crying fit. She reached out for her husband and Bryng hugged her tightly, letting her face be buried on his chest.
“That evil woman… Just hope that the God will protect her. There is no intention for me to go out there. This Kingdom is still in a mess. The three sons of the king are still fighting over the throne, and they are not even worried about Hanora.”
“I wish that Hanora had already met her doom. There hadn’t been anyone who had seen her these last couple of years… Since that final blast…”
Suddenly in a distance, they both see the light from a lantern. Then, he saw two figures – an old lady and a large, bulky warrior walking towards their home. The warrior seemed to be carrying a body. They looked closer and they realized that it was Sheila.
“Sheila!” Fury ran towards the two strangers. “What happened?”
“We saw her laying on the outskirts of the Carkwork Forests. She had been savagely ravished,” the old woman said.
“Oh God… Who could have done this?” Bryng said, half-crying. “Who had done this to you, my daughter?” He picked her up from the embrace of the warrior and carried her back to the house.
“Thanks for your kindness. I see that you two are travelers,” Fury said, glaring at the warrior’s huge backpack. “Maybe you kind dwellers want to stay in our humble home for the night?”
“That would be much appreciated,” the old woman said. “And I have herbs here for the mortal wounds of your daughter.”
“Oh! You are also an herbal master… Thank the God for giving us such luck!”
“Yes… Thanks,” the old woman complimented and looked silently towards the warrior. The warrior nodded.
They all entered the small hut and the old woman began rubbing Sheila’s naked body with the various sets of herbs she had collected from the forest while the others watched. When it was all done, the couple invited them for dinner. The menu that night was roasted Colari.
“Excellent meal,” the warrior acclaimed after his initial bite.
“Thanks… And may we know of your names?” Bring asked.
“My name is Scarly. And my traveling companion, this big brute here, is Entery. We had been spending the last 5 years of our life in the Carkwork Forest. When the Marlett War ended with that disastrous spell, all of my herbs were depleted. So, both of us went to the forest to find the rarest of herbs because we are planning to start our herb home here in this town.”
“5 years… The longer that I have heard of herb masters doing such a search was 2 years… You two have so much concentration…”
“Thanks for the compliment, Fury. But we did it for the future… I noticed during my search for your home that there is no herb home here.”
“It would be great that you have chosen this humble town out of the many in this kingdom to be your destination. Being ill lately has been such a hassle since one has to search for the herbs oneself.”
“The local kingdom doesn’t have an official herb home in this town?” Entery asked.
“Our kingdom is not doing well… After the war, the kingdom is split into three… Basically the late king’s third son, Lancel, owns this town. The first son, Otel and the second, Arama, both owned their own share of the cities in this kingdom.”
“All that they do,” Fury continued after her husband, “are fighting amongst each other to obtain the entire kingdom. They all live in three separate mini-castles. The main castle is protected by the minister, and negotiations and little wars happen every now and then over the control of the castle, which symbolizes the control over this kingdom.”
“We have been gone for so long,” Scarly said, looking at her companion. “We don’t even know how well the continents have recovered from the wounds of the Marlett War.”
“Where were you originally from? Maybe I, or my wife, have some information on the status of your kingdom.”
“We came from the kingdom where King Hutriz used to rule,” said Scarly.
“I don’t clearly remember the name, but I heard that King Hutriz is a great ruler.”
“Was?” Fury asked.
“Once missing can safe be presumed dead. Isn’t that the way of the continents now?” Scarly explained herself. Entery gave her a mellow look that she ignored entirely.
“I hope not for the king was fair. My husband and I have always acknowledged King Hutriz’s fabled kindness with the best of respects, though his association with Hanora that was later realized was indeed a bit troubling. Hanora must have put him in such a trance to be so much in support of the witch.”
“I personally think that Hutriz’s passion for humanity made him look not upon the status of religion,” said Entery. “I have not knowledge of Hanora causing dark deals and disasters in the human world.”
“We never have religion before for this matter not in our lives. But the war that was wrought brought us to this New Wave. But so far, as my wife has explained to me numerous moments, our lives have been better with the new understanding of life we have now.”
“Perhaps you are right, Scarly,” Fury jumped in. “Once missing can safe be presumed dead. It’s too bad that we can’t apply the same to Hanora… She is a Fate after all.”
“Indeed. By the way, how would I be able to obtain lands here in this town? We don’t necessarily need a house… I think Entery can gather materials for us to make our own. Just a patch of land where it needs to be.”
“Lancel. He lives in that foggy Foggor, one of our neighboring towns.” Fury answered.
They finished dinner and the two strangers slept in one of the extra rooms in the house.