Past the edge of The Eastern Forest, the dirt road faded out. Miles and miles of grassland spread across the distant land, where far away a city was built. This city had a thirty meter high wall that was made of white stone and had four guard towers. Behind that city wall, thousands of acres were used for farming.
Now, this city did not just have one wall, but three, dividing it into three parts. The largest part was the outer area and the smallest was at the center, in which stood a spire right at its heart. The spire was at least nine hundred meters high, its blunt tip aimed at the clouds. There were no windows on the spire, no markings. It was large and mostly cylindrical. And in some respect, it seemed ordinary. But the presence it exuded was daunting. No force, no power- not even the green-robed man Delias had met, in his mind, would ever attack that spire, would ever attack that city. It was simply… Inconceivable.
Delias stood at the edge of the dirt road, with his mouth open. Tears ran down his face. Though it was not like anything he had ever seen, it was definitely a city. But the oddity of the city did not worry him. Outside his short-term military campaign, he had never left Northcroke and it did not surprise him to see new things. Besides, what was important was that with a city, there was sure to be food and water, and especially, information. With information he would be able to know where he was exactly, and plan a way home… Home; Delias could already imagine what it would be like when he got back, to a place where he knew the rules. The money, the women, the…
“Ehem!” The skunk cleared its throat, interrupting Delias’s chain of thought. Delias glanced at the skunk. His eyes were a bit glazed as he was coming out from his dream world.
“What is it?”
The skunk frowned. “We must be ready to run. Why are you wasting time, crying like a little bitch? If you’re too slow, I’ll leave you!”
“Run? What are you talking about? We’re here! We did it.” Delias sneered. And I won’t have a need for you any longer. When they reached the city, the skunk and him would naturally part ways. He would be among his own kind. Humans. That was better than being around some unknown, too smart and fast for his own good, skunk.
“Dumb ass. You think this king doesn’t know what you’re thinking? The dirt road ended. I don’t need to tag along with you. But remember how I said that King Fisher would find a way to get around the road if I just simply crossed? Well, then, how could he get around something that was indefinite? How could his domain be his domain on both sides if he was stuck to rule only one side. Right now the road ends. So…” The skunk smiled.
Delias understood what the skunk meant. Before them, in this grassland, it was ‘open season’. King Fisher and his goons could prey on them all they liked. As for the reason Delias hadn’t seen them, even till now, became clear. If they showed themselves early, we would never leave the road. May even have turned around, and taken another path, one that might wound us up in someone else’s domain. They would not have been able to get to us then.
“We’re not safe until we get within two meters of those city walls, and even then… Best just get on the other side.” The skunk jumped down from Delias’s shoulder. “I’m only saying all this because you helped me out.”
Bull. If I run out with you, considering how much slower I am, I will be targeted first. They want you, not me. But they don’t know that we’re not really together. But as Delias thought about it, he knew he could not wait any longer. He was running low on energy. He was already tired, and the effects of eating nearby leaves and drinking hardly any water were already showing. If he waited while they attacked the skunk, who was to know whether he would be next? Would they let him go? And if they never caught the skunk, then, would they look for him to get revenge? Delias shuddered. He did not know the dirt roads like the skunk did. He would never get another chance to reach a city.
“Ok then, it’s settled.” The skunk crouched into a running position, not caring much for Delias’s response. “We’ll move on three. One. Two.” And as soon as the skunk said two, it bolted. But how could the skunk be a match for Delias? Before the skunk even finished saying two, Delias already pounced out. He needed every chance he could get against the skunk’s speed.
“You scoundrel. Trying to get one over on this king?!” The skunk yelled.
“Shut up! You were planning the same thing.”
“You… You…” But just at that point, the forest behind them sprung up into chaos. Two giant creatures, smaller than King Fisher, but giant none the less, rushed out. Their speed was fast and gaining.
Delias’s heart jumped. Even though the skunk had warned him, there was still a part of him that did not believe, after all, he did not hear nor saw any sign of the two giant creatures.
The skunk was fast. Faster than Delias. In five seconds it was already ten meters ahead. In ten seconds, it was twenty. The two demonic looking things behind Delias were not as fast as the skunk, but were fast still. They were gaining quite quickly and were only tens of meters behind Delias.
Delias ran as fast and hard as his two legs could take him. His chest burned by the sudden pressure, his lungs heaving and sucking in air with crazy abandon. There were no twigs or rocks in the grassland, which made Delias thankful. He could run as fast as he could without being careful not to step on anything that could hurt him.
But that did not really matter. His running speed only delayed the inevitable. After all, the city limits were a kilometer and a half away. Which human could sprint for an entire kilometer and a half?
Is this how I die? The thought echoed in Delias’s mind. Is this how I die? I should have said on that the stupid road! He cursed over and over. Delias glanced over his shoulder. The creatures shortened the distance between them by more than half. He was only near half the distance to the wall. Such a run was already shocking. But Delias knew the truth. He would die today. He just did not want to see it coming. So he sunk deep inside of himself. Focused on his breathing. Focused on his run. It was something his mother taught him when he wanted to learn how to run for his race in school twenty three years ago. He lost that race, but still, he never forgot the feeling, forgot how the world seemed to ebb away when he was in the zone. In that moment that feeling brought him solace.
At least this way, he would not know when they grabbed him, only feeling the pain and the fear in that second as they bit him in half. A Second is not a long time, right?
Unknown to Delias, as he ran, seconds went by, then tens of seconds, then a minute; two. Delias had no track of time in the zone he was, but he could see, and soon when that looming white, stone wall was right in front of him, he snapped awake.
“Ah!” Delias tried to slow down, but Bam! He crashed, shoulder first into the wall.
“You stupid, bitch! You almost ran me over!” King squealed. He had been at the wall before Delias, and had called out to the guards. The gates were closed, so the skunk could not run right in. He had to speak to a guards high up and get access. He had completely forgotten Delias in that moment, a part of him believing that Delias was long caught and dead. He did not even look back. That was until he heard the loud screeching of King Fisher’s goons.
The sounds startled him and he looked over, but as he figured, the goons did not come close within twenty meters of the city walls, screaming in frustration. For someone belonging to another’s domain, to trespass thusly could be considered as an act of war. What he did not expect was when he turned to look was to also see Delias still alive and running towards him!
King was surprised at first, but he had no feelings as to whether Delias died or not. They were not friends, and barely even associates. Why would he care for a stripeless fellow such as he? But soon King noticed that not only was the guy not dead and nearly a few meters from him, but he was still not stopping.
King quickly jumped out of the way.
Delias moaned in pain. He groggily got up, holding onto his shoulder. Luckily he slowed down enough that it was not dislocated. His eyes shifted to the screeching and stomping King Fisher goons, and was shocked himself. Just a moment ago they were right on my tail. When Delias saw how far he ran and still had not been caught, it blew his mind. Just how did I get away?
Delias laughed. He laughed and laughed. All the fear and pain he had gone through was in that laugh. A laugh that said he was alive.
“Please ignore this idiotic guy.” The skunk yelled up, bringing Delias back to attention. “I don’t even know him. Open the gates. I wish to enter the city.”
Far up, were a few black cloaked figures. Delias could not see any of their features, but what he could tell was that they wore white masks. The masks covered the entire face, and there were no holes for the eyes or the mouth. Most were painted with various designs but there were two that made Delias shudder.
One of them was in the middle looking down. He was the only one with no markings. It was just white. But there was something about that whiteness; it gave a pressure that seemed to bore into him, searching him. It caused Delias to feel naked and cold inside. The other was a figure a bit behind the one in the middle. Delias could not see much considering he was looking so far up, but he at least the mask. The mask had the most markings. Eyes were painted on where there should have been sockets, and red lips were painted where there should have been a hole for the mouth.
The painting seemed almost real, and yet, demonic. It sent shivers down Delias’s spine.
A few minutes later, the gate opened. A new road was seen in front of them. It was cobbled and plain. And down the ways, farms begun to pop up here and there. Delias did not know for what qualifications they allowed him and the skunk to enter. In the end he figured it was because he was not a part of anyone’s domain. Maybe they could tell such things? In any case, Delias went in.
His walk was brisk and fast. Even though before, when he was in the war, or when he was in that little apartment of his, he heard stories. Stories of a world unlike his own, a world far from regular humans like him. He never expected to see that world. But now it seemed that everywhere he went, he could not get away from it. Seeing those figures on the wall, Delias just wanted to get away. Away from the forest, from the dirt road, and definitely away from that wall.
Only, if what so far has taught Delias anything, then what was to come next may not be the normal he was searching for. It may even be more daunting and terrifying than the last.