Olivia and Oliver Part 4
Captain Olem inhaled sharply. It didn't make sense. His son, a Stonebound? The Stonebound weren't even real. And yet Oliver sat before him admitting to having powers that would label him a traitor to the crown and worthy of execution.
“Three months ago I wouldn't have believed you,” Captain Olem said. He paused and stared out into the distance with unfocused eyes before returning his gaze to Oliver, “But since then, I have seen things that make me question my own sanity. Help me understand what's happening. Please.” Captain Olem's desperate eyes searched his son's face, pleading for answers. There had to be some reason the world was going mad.
Oliver returned his father's gaze with calm, steady eyes and took a slow breath, “Father, the Stonebound are real. Long ago there was a King who ruled all Telios. He was wise and loving, and all was as it should be. Over time, a darkness crept into Telios and the hearts of men were turned against the King. These men and women, our ancestors, rebelled, and the King allowed himself to be driven off. Now, after all this time, he speaks to us again. The Stonebound are simply those who hear his voice.”
“And this King of yours, he has turned my men into these monsters they have become?” questioned Captain Olem.
"No, father," replied Oliver. "Your men succumbed to Tenebris, the darkness I spoke of. This has caused a great sadness in the King."
“How do you know all this?” asked Olem, raising his voice slightly. “Does the King visit you? Have you met him? Can you perform these magic tricks I've heard of?”
Oliver sat pondering for a moment before meeting his father's eyes again. Before he could answer, a shrill cry cut through the forest and echoed off the walls of the cave. Olivia, silent until now, sprang to her feet and drew her sword. "They're here," she whispered. Captain Olem stood and motioned his children to the back of the cave.
“There's an exit through the back. I'll stay here and hold them off. You can get to safety while they're distracted.”
“Father, there's nowhere to go,” said Olivia. “Those things could be anywhere, and even if we made it out of the forest, we're fugitives in Falmund. There's no home to go back to.”
Captain Olem stared at his children. When had they gotten so mature? They seemed to have grown up when he wasn't looking. Olivia, weathering the last few months with such bravery, and Oliver...well it was too much to think about now.
“We do this together,” stated Olivia.
"Right," replied Olem. "You've seen the pit in front of the cave. I don't think they're dumb enough to fall in. They seem to have retained most of their faculties, but at the very least they will be funneled in so we can fight them a few at a time. Stay behind me and step in if they start to overwhelm me."
Olivia nodded her head and took up position behind her father in the mouth of the cave. A few moments later the inhuman screeching resumed. This time it was echoed a dozen times over, filling Olivia with a sense of dread. She gritted her teeth, but her resolve began to waver in the face of what was coming. She looked to her father, veteran of many battles. He stood in a relaxed and well-rehearsed battle stance. She glanced back to Oliver standing in the back of the cave with his eyes closed. His lips were moving as if he were speaking to himself, but no sound came out. Suddenly, Olivia felt very alone. What was she doing here? What could she hope to accomplish? She was a child barely capable of swinging a sword.
The screams in the woods suddenly stilled, and in the silence, Olivia heard a voice whisper her name. She gasped and her heart began pounding in her chest. She spun around, thinking the creatures had gotten in somehow, but her father still stood guard in the mouth of the cave. Olivia looked back to Oliver. This time he was staring back at her and he gave a knowing smile. Olivia looked down and saw an unassuming stone near her foot. Reaching down, she plucked it from the ground and her life changed. Knowledge flooded her mind and a veil was lifted from her eyes. Olivia felt as though she had awakened from a long slumber - no longer dreaming, but seeing the world as it truly was, bursting with color and life. Beneath it all she could hear a subtle voice, weaving through everything, sustaining everything. The voice called to Olivia.
Captain Olem scanned the forest. The creatures had gone silent again. They were close. After a few tense moments, several of them stepped through the trees to stand before Olem. He could still recognize his men, if only just barely. They were twisted, wrong.
"What do you want?" challenged Olem. In reply, the creatures advanced toward Olem with weapons drawn. Captain Olem called back into the cave, “Olivia! Oliver! They're here. Remember, we do this together.”
Olivia let out a roar. She burst forth from the cave running past her stunned father and straight at the advancing creatures. Distantly, she heard her father call after her, but her mind was filled with the voice. Before she reached the line of creatures, a wave of blackness shot out of the cave and covered the creatures in a blanket of darkness. It only lasted a moment, but when the darkness cleared some of the creatures were clutching their eyes, while others were doubled over in pain. Olivia silently thanked Oliver before crashing into the creatures in a whirl of steel.
Captain Olem was a soldier through and through. He didn't hesitate when he saw his daughter charge recklessly towards an overwhelming enemy. He ran after her, determined to protect her at all costs. He didn't even pause when the wave of darkness passed by him to envelop the creatures. Captain Olem was at his daughter's side when they met the enemy together. He covered her back as she cleaved through the creatures in a blur. When opportunities arose, Captain Olem would strike in the openings Olivia created for him. Together, they were untouchable. In only a few heartbeats twelve of the creatures lay dead at their feet.
Oliver emerged from the cave and surveyed the battlefield. He had spoken words that had not only hindered the enemy but bolstered his father and sister. They had been able to move as effortlessly as the wind, evading every attack thrown against them. Oliver met them standing in the aftermath of the battle, father looking bewildered, and Olivia a newly formed Stonebound.
Before anything could be said, the forest once more erupted with the screams of the creatures. A group of five creatures sprang into view, quickly followed by another group, and then another. Soon, waves of the creatures were crashing through the forest like floodwaters. "We can't fight them all," shouted Olivia. "Run!"
Olem, Olivia, and Oliver took off at a dead sprint, but after only a few yards it was apparent they would soon be overtaken. Oliver clutched his speaking stone tightly in his fist as he ran and whispered the words that came to him. Instantly, he felt as light as a feather and as tireless as a deer. He looked to his father and Olivia, who was easily keeping pace with him, and smiled. It seemed they just might make it after all. The creatures grew more distant by the moment until finally, they were out of sight. Soon, even their screaming faded into the natural sounds of the forest. Captain Olem called a halt, and the three stopped in a small clearing.
“What is the plan here?” asked Captain Olem. “We've managed to outrun them so far, but they will catch up to us, maybe sooner than we expect. I don't know if those things require food or rest. Eventually, we will have to fight them.”
“There is another way,” said Olivia. “The Valley of Lux is Northwest of here. Oliver spoke of it, but I didn't believe him.” Olivia paused a moment before continuing. “I hear the voice, father. It's calling us to the valley.”
Captain Olem looked at his two children. It was incredible. It was ludicrous. He suddenly couldn't control himself and let loose a thunderous belly shaking laugh, startling several birds from their hiding places. "Of course the voice is calling you to the valley! You're both Stonebound and we're being chased by twisted shadow creatures. Naturally, a magic voice that only you can hear is calling us to take refuge in a wasteland!"
“Father...,” began Oliver.
“No, stop,” said Olem, holding up his hands. “The funny thing is, I believe you. I would be a fool to ignore everything I've seen. You'll have to forgive me for being slow. I've grown accustomed to seeing the world as it used to be. Apparently, it's going to take me longer to adjust to the new way of things." Olem chuckled to himself. "So, I guess we head to this valley of yours."
“We are very close to the Falmund rift,” said Olivia. “We can spend the night there and then follow it West to the valley.”
“A sound plan,” replied Oliver, allowing himself a deep breath. “I don't know about you two, but I'm exhausted.”
An hour later, the trio found themselves approaching the lip of the Falmund chasm just as the sun was setting. The chasm wasn't especially wide, but what it lacked in width it made up for in depth. The forest floor simply ended in a sheer dropoff at the lip of the chasm and resumed on the other side of the bottomless void. There were seven such chasms in Telios, each beginning near the valley of Lux and radiating out all the way to the sea. Naturally, seven kingdoms arose to claim the land between each chasm.
Captain Olem stepped back from peering over the edge. Staring into those depths and feeling the faint cool breeze rising from them gave him a sense of vertigo. “We can rest here for awhile,” he said. “I'd like to put more space between us and the creatures before we make a proper camp. See if you two can get a little rest, and I'll stand watch.”
Olivia and Oliver didn't offer much of a fight, as both of them could barely keep their eyes open. They huddled near each other for warmth as their father stood watch nearby. Now that Olivia had a chance to rest, she found that her thoughts wouldn't let her.
“So...the voice, the powers, being Stonebound...” She couldn't even form a coherent sentence. Her mind was racing. There was so much she wanted to talk about but she didn't know where to begin.
“I understand,” replied Oliver. “It's a lot to take in. I'm still trying to take understand what it all means, and I apologize if I've seemed distant. There was just so much happening, and I didn't know how to bring it up to you without sounding crazy.”
“No, I get it now,” answered Olivia. “Right now, I want nothing more than to walk right up to father and start babbling until he understands, but I'm afraid it would be like trying to explain color to a blind man.”
"We can only explain what he is ready to hear," said Oliver. "With time, I truly believe he will come to understand, but right now, we should get some rest. We still have a ways to go."
“Oliver, What do you think we will find in the valley?”
“I can only imagine,” he replied. “But soon, we will see.”
Sometime during the night, Oliver snapped awake. Cautiously, he peered over his shoulder to where his father was still standing guard. What was he doing? He appeared to be pacing back and forth talking to himself. Was he crying?
Captain Olem turned to look at Oliver. He WAS crying, but he was also...smiling?
Just then, Oliver saw a shadow shift in the forest behind his father.
“Father! Look out!” cried Oliver.
Captain Olem turned, and suddenly the forest was full of creatures.
Oliver's warning woke Olivia and she sprang to her feet. “What's going on?” she demanded.
“The creatures have found us. They're right on top of us!” exclaimed Oliver.
Olivia grabbed her sword and took a few steps toward her father, but she was much too late. Captain Olem only had time to draw his sword before the creatures were upon him. They attacked him with furious abandon, slashing and clawing until he was forced back to the edge of the chasm. Just before being forced over the edge, Captain Olem raised his sword into the air. It shone briefly before he slammed it into the ground. There was a violent tremor, and then a sizeable chunk of the forest floor dropped away sending the creatures and Captain Olem hurtling into the abyss.
Oliver dropped to his knees, stunned.
“WHY!?” Olivia shouted. “Why would you let this happen! Where were you!”
Oliver was silent as Olivia vented. He knew the words were not directed at him. Finally, Olivia collapsed to the ground sobbing. Oliver knelt down beside her and wrapped his arms around her. They clung to each other until the morning sun filtered through the trees, bathing the forest in a dim light. Without a word, brother and sister rose as one and made their way to the valley.