Riders of Neopia: Part Two
“Thoran! Oh, thank Fyora! Come here quickly!” My dad was kneeling down next to my mother’s apparently lifeless body, holding her head in his strong paws.
“What happened? What happened!?” I shouted as I ran the last few steps towards them, ignoring the branches that swept across my face. I collapsed beside my parents. The fear that lost its grip on me for a short while when I was dancing with Caroline was now back at full force.
"Dad, what happened?” I asked again.
“Your mother has been bitten by a Deadly Vine. We were taking a stroll near the edge of the swamp when it struck. We must get some help, quickly!” I had never seen my father look so frightened before. I saw the terror in his eyes as the muscles of his jaw tightened, twisting his mouth into a worried line.
Luckily a group of people from the village had followed me into the woods, also attracted by my mother’s screams. Amongst them was Doctor Scarles, one of the village elders.
“Stay calm, everyone. Randall, where did the Deadly Vine bite her? Let me check up on Eleonora.” Reluctantly, my dad backed up a little bit, still stretching his paws out to his wife, as if he was still holding her. Doctor Scarles kneeled down beside my mother and examined the nasty wound she had on her right leg.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” he mumbled. “Can somebody please get some wet towels here quickly? I also need some bandages, something to rest her head on and my medical gear.” Within seconds, everyone started doing something to help.
And I just stood there.
Deadly vines are the most feared creatures in our area. Once bitten, the venom rapidly spreads through your blood. Everyone knew within their hearts that nothing could save my mother. But still, by doing something to help, they didn’t have to admit that she could be gone within an hour. My dear mother. I was paralyzed with fear and misery. Everything around me was a blur of motion, with me stuck in the middle of it, as if my feet were glued to the soft forest ground. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think.
“Please, John, isn’t there anything you can do?” My dad’s question to Doctor Scarles, his voice trembling with emotion, broke my trance.
I had to do something. Just anything.
The gypsies. I had to return to their camp. Gindara told me it was the only way I could help, didn’t she? I looked at my mom, lying there on the soft moss, so vulnerable. How could I leave her like that? I just had to. It was my last option. I had to go. Now.
Once again I found myself running through the forest, ignoring the cuts the sharp branches left on my body. My heartbeat pounded in my ears. I hardly caught enough breath to keep going, but I had to. In the dark cloak of the night, I could barely see anything. A rock on my path made me trip; small clumps of dirt dug under my nails as I scrabbled up again. Had to keep going, had to keep running. After what seemed like hours, I noticed a tiny glow in the distance. The camp. I made it. Exhausted, I wearily took the last few steps into the open space. The gypsies around the campfire turned to look at me.
“My... mom!” I gasped for air. I recognized Adria as she walked over to me. The concerned look on her face left nothing of her cheerful appearance earlier that day.
“Come,” she said, “Gindara is expecting you,” while nodding in the direction of her carriage. Yieldingly, I walked over there, still trying to catch my breath. I hesitated slightly when I stood on the third wooden step, one paw on the doorknob. The red glow of Gindara’s orb was already visible through the window. I pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Like the first time, it was dark inside. Gindara’s pale blue face was covered in an orange gleam, radiating from her orb that was now shimmering even more brightly than the last time.
“Thoran, you finally came,” she whispered. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to speak so I nodded. Gindara continued, in the same whispering voice.
“Your mother is fighting for her life, but she will fail.”
There it was. The one thought I prohibited from entering my head. The thought that my mother could pass away.
I felt like someone was choking me. My throat was sealed with a lump of sadness; tears were pushing at the back of my eyes. I swallowed, in an attempt to hold them back.
“Isn’t there something I can do?” I asked, my voice weak and trembling.
Gindara stared into her orb, mumbling some words I could not understand. Then, she focused her piercing stare back onto me.
“Would you do... anything... within your powers to save her life?” A slightly disturbing grin curled up the corners of her mouth.
“Yes! Yes, of course!” A spark of hope found its way back into my heart, melting away some of the deeply frozen ice that encased it. Of course I would do anything to help my mother. Absolutely anything.
“Don’t answer so quickly, young Lupe. Nothing can be done without a sacrifice. We have to keep the balance of life intact. Yes, the balance of life.” Gindara’s eyes narrowed as she examined me. “Would you be willing to make that sacrifice?” I hesitated.
“What kind of sacrifice?” I asked. I knew by then that it wasn’t a question to help me decide. It was a question to find out what would await me. There was a moment of silence. Gindara leaned back, pressing the tips of her paws together. She wasn’t smiling anymore. Instead of staring directly at me, she was now looking at something only she could see, as if she was in a trance. She started speaking again, this time with a voice that seemed to come from all directions, reverberating inside the carriage.
An eye for an eye, a life for a life. Take out what you put in. A son, lost forever. An endless journey, in search of what will never be found again. A choice between life and guilt. A choice made within ones heart can never be undone. Not a word shall be spoken. The balance must be kept...
“Must be kept...” The words echoed around until all sound had died away. I didn’t dare to move. What if Gindara’s spell was to be taken literally? What if I was... dead? No, I couldn’t be dead; I could still feel myself breathing. Ghosts don’t breathe, do they? Did the spell fail?
“No, young Lupe. You are not dead and my spell did not fail.” Gindara’s voice broke the silence. She sounded normal again. “It has been done. Your mother will live.” The light of her red orb slowly extinguished. Yet again standing in the darkness, I didn’t feel afraid anymore. It was as if a heavy burden fell off my shoulders. My mother would live.
“You must not speak of what happened here. It will be a secret you will carry with you, until your own time has come.” The blue Usul gave me yet another one of her investigating looks. “If you do speak up before then, the balance will be ruined. Promise me you will keep it to yourself.” I nodded, still not fully realizing what had happened.
Behind me, the carriage door opened. Adria stepped inside, looking at me with eyes full of sympathy.
“You poor thing,” she whispered, reaching a paw out to me. Instinctively, I grabbed it. She led me outside, into the cool air of the night. Everything felt so surreal.
“Now it is time for me to do my job,” Adria said. “My job to tell you what Gindara’s spell to save your mother encloses.” She sighed. It was a long and deep sigh, full of pity. I was just starting to recover from what had happened in Gindara’s carriage. Now I wondered what Adria wanted to say.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You’d better sit down, Thoran.”
I took a seat on a large tree stump. Adria started to speak.
“Gindara was able to help your mother, but only by making a sacrifice. Her powers are strong, but she must still obey to the laws of life. The balance must always be kept. In order to save your mother’s life, she had to take yours. Not by killing you, but by erasing you from your world.” A strong feeling of discomfort crept up on me as Adria continued. “All the people you love have now forgotten you ever existed. Your parents. Your friends. Everyone. She could only do this, because you wanted to. In your heart, you wanted to.”
I couldn’t respond. It felt like my body wasn’t functioning properly anymore. I was in shock. Slowly, I stood up. My first few steps were a bit staggering, as I walked towards the forest. Adria watched me go. It was the beginning of my true journey.
“So what happened next, Grandpa? Where did you go?” Katherine asked. “Grandpa?” I shook myself out of my memories and smiled at her.
“I travelled for months and months. It was a journey that seemed to have no end. I...” A sudden coughing fit interrupted me. Katherine handed me a glass of water.
“Thank you, dear. So, where was I... Oh, right. A journey that seemed to have no end. Yes. I wandered through the forests for weeks, longing for a home. A family, somewhere to belong to. Those were the loneliest weeks of my life.” I looked at Katherine, my beautiful granddaughter. Her young Lupe ears weren’t ready to hear the horrors that happened to me during my time of wandering. I gently stroked her through the yellow fur on the top of her head.
“I wasn’t lonely for long, though,” I continued. Katherine stared at me with her big, brown eyes.
“Why not, Grandpa?”
“Because then, I met your grandmother.” I grinned and started to tickle her, until another coughing fit interrupted me.
“This old Lupe is in need of some sleep, my dear child,” I said, when the worst of the coughing passed.
I made myself comfortable in my bed, as Katherine walked out the door, still giggling. “Yes, I need some rest,” I mumbled to myself, “I can finally get some rest.”
Special thanks to Celes, Scarven, Kittygirl, Crystal & Kit.