Fulfil your destiny, Child of Prophecy. Save the world from bloodshed and treachery!
Help us! Save us!
Please, no more…
Let it end. Let the bloodshed end. Save our children.
These voices whispered in my brain, growing louder and louder until they rattled my skull. They soaked every cell of my body with their anguish and despair. I couldn’t fathom where they were coming from, they were just everywhere, around me, inside me. But behind their pain and anguish, I could feel a small pulsing thing at the core, as if it was breathing. It made my heart pump, synchronizing with its beat. Blood rushed into my brain and I felt like I was floating in an ocean. It was a fragile, delicate thing. And they entrusted it to me, asking me to nourish it. I felt it with my soul. It was a seedling of hope.
Who are you? You got the wrong person. I wanted to speak out but I was silent. I struggled, but the more I struggled, the more I drowned. I suddenly couldn’t breathe, my lungs wheezed from the lack of air. I felt like a fish on land, chugging for breath. This was not my world. I did not belong here. I would only face death.
My eyes burst open. My vision blurred before the brown, wooden ceiling shifted to focus. I blinked slowly, realising I was in a completely different scene. I was lying on a single bed. Did I die again? Where was I this time?
And old woman shifted into view. She looked like she was around eighty; her hair was covered in silver linings and tied into a tight bun. Her back was slightly hunched and she used a walking stick as she hobbled towards me. She had a dirty, ragged shawl over her shoulders and she was wearing a simple brown gown. Her eyes were sheened with milky white colour but they were kind and still held intelligence as she examined me for any injuries.
“Where am I?” I croaked. My throat felt like it was scrubbed by sandpaper.
“My home. I found you by the river bed. It took me a while to drag you inside.” She handed me a container filled with water and I drank quickly, realising how thirsty I was.
“My name is Romena. Welcome to my home, child. I would say it was nice to meet you but considering the village is about to be wiped out, you’re in more danger here.”
Wiped out? My brows drew in confusion.
“I’m Alice,” I said.
“Alice?” She drawled my name out slowly. “Queer name indeed. Which Kingdom are you from? You don’t look like a Bainian.”
My stomach suddenly growled and she chuckled despite the growing flames on my cheeks.
“And you must be hungry. Come, I’ve already prepared supper. You can tell me all about you afterwards.” She hobbled towards the fireplace, where a cauldron pot was hanging above the fire.
I pulled back the old tattered covers and my eyes grew wide in surprise. I was no longer wearing my clothes. I pulled the hem of my shirt. I was wearing black breeches and a plain, white cotton tunic. My violet-shaped pendant was out so I tucked it back inside the shirt. It was the only thing left of my mother.
I wanted to wail with grief. Given the events that followed my mother’s death, I didn’t have a chance to grieve her death properly. I didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye. I hoped someone would find her on the bed soon. I couldn’t bear to think of my mother’s corpse lying on her bed for weeks before someone found her.
The pain stabbed my heart and I clutched my chest with my fist. I gritted my teeth to stop the traitorous tears from leaking out of my eyes. If only I was a better daughter. If only I wasn’t so sullen and full of hatred. If only I could tell my mother that she was my world. I steadied my breath and tried to lock the grief inside me. This wasn’t the time to be emotional, especially since I was in this strange world. I needed to find a way back somehow.
I slowly stood up, assessing myself. I looked fine...apart from the ache in my bones from the fatigue. I stretched my arms and walked towards the fireplace. The fire flickered brightly in the hearth as I sat down on a rug of some sort of an animal skin.
Romena held a ladle and poured the broth into a bowl. She handed the bowl to me and I took it carefully, sniffing the broth. It smelt a bit...earthy and there were fat chunks in the soup which I couldn’t identify. She gave me a small piece of bread and I tore it into chunks. It tasted hard and chewy, like a week-old of bread. I put the pieces of bread into the broth and let it stew and soften before I ate it.
“So what happened to me?” I said between the spoonful’s. It didn’t taste so bad if you could ignore what was in it. I tried not to look at the soup as I placed spoonful’s into my mouth. I tried to ignore the greasy clumps rubbing against the ceiling of my mouth. It was a good thing I was hungry.
“You tell me, child. You were unconscious when I found you. I gathered you must’ve been swept by the river. I dragged you inside and your face was so blue I was worried you were dead. I took off your wet clothes and wrapped you up in blankets. Sure enough, you awoke after two days.”
“I was sleeping for two days?” I said, flabbergasted. I lost two days’ worth of time in a blink of an eye.
“Where is this place? Is this Hell? Am I dead?”
Romena looked surprised.
“Goodness no, child! You are as alive as I am. Don’t you know where this place is? We’re on the outskirts of the Kingdom Bain. Did you hit your head?” she asked worriedly.
Bain? Where the hell was that? There was no such country called Bain on the world map that I had memorised in my brain. Where truly was I? I tried to calm myself before the panic settled in. I was no use to myself if I became irrational. Think, Alice! If this was not Hell and I was not dead, then the only explanation, however illogical, was that somehow I stumbled into another world; an alternate reality different from mine. I had heard stories mentioning portals to another dimension, but I waved them away as stories. I didn’t think it could happen. Was the cliff I fell from the portal to another dimension?
“I jumped off a cliff. There was a battle up there, by the farm. I saw soldiers fighting against ordinary men. What was going on? I don’t understand.”
“You came from the battle? Did you see my grandson?” Her eyes sparked as she looked at me in eagerness. Was there hope in her eyes?
“I don’t know. Apart from the soldiers, there were no other survivors.” I felt bad for being the bearer of bad news.
Her shoulders slumped and she looked into the fire, flames reflected in her milky eyes.
“Then everybody’s gone. I am all that’s left,” she said. There was no emotion in her voice. Just acceptance.
“I’m sorry,” I said sincerely. “Can you tell me what was going on? Why were they fighting?”
“Those soldiers that you mentioned belong to the royal army. They demand high taxes from villagers like us but how could we afford them? Our crops are failing because of the absence of rain and we barely have anything for ourselves. We didn’t think the army would come and wipe us all out. They massacred us.”
“What about the women and children? Are they still here?”
I strained my ears to listen. But I couldn’t hear anything outside. Not a scratch of a noise let alone people’s voices.
“They evacuated the village before the army came. I hope they are all safe at least.”
“Why didn’t you go with them?” I asked.
She gave me a sad smile. Her wrinkled, knobby hands clutched the ladle and poured in some more broth from the cauldron.
“I’d only slow everybody down. I’m an old lady. I can hardly ever walk anymore. No, this is my village. I was born and raised here. And I shall die here too.”
She turned towards me. “You should go by the morrow. It’s too dark now and full of thieves. The army will be down soon and torch this village to the ground. You don’t want them to catch you. Flee while you can.”
“I don’t know where to go,” I said in desperation. “I’ve no idea where I am. This is not my world.”
“Whatever do you mean, Alice?” she asked in surprise.
“You probably think I’m crazy but I came from another world. A completely different world than this. In my world, I fell off from a cliff but when I woke up, I was suddenly on a battlefield. I managed to escape by jumping into the river and that was how you found me.”
“You’re from another world? That can’t be!” Romena was in shock this time. She dropped the ladle on the floor.
“I know it’s hard to believe-”
“Of course I believe! By the Heavens, you must be the one we’ve been waiting for so long!”
“I- huh, what? You believe me?” I said in bafflement.
“There was something strange about you, Alice. Now I understand why. Even the clothes you were wearing didn’t look like anything from this world. You were something otherworldly.”
She clutched my hands. For a frail woman, her grip was almost painful. “Oh Alice, I do not regret that I lived to see this day... to see you. This old woman can die happily now that you are here. But know this, Alice. Do not ever tell anyone you’re not from this world! There will be others who only seek for your death.”
“I don’t understand. Romena, what’s going on? Who would kill me?” My body reacted to the panic in her voice.
“There was a prophecy being told down the generations. It said, when all hope is lost and the world is plunged in chaos and despair, a child will emerge from blood and death. He will be the light and saviour of the world, and he will unite all the Seven Kingdoms and bring peace.”
My mouth gaped open as I looked at her incredulously. “That is absolutely ridiculous! I am not that child, Romena! I’m not even a male!”
Romena shrugged. “Look behind the lines, Alice. The male term is merely generic.” She fixed her gaze upon me. Strangely, her eyes were no longer milky. They were bright and full of life as if she breathed for the first time. “My Granmamere was a seer. I can feel it inside me. You are destined to change the world.”
I shook my head. Child of prophecy? It was ridiculous! I’d never believed in fate or destiny crap. I believed in forging my own destiny. And I’d be damned before I let fate try to dictate how I should live.
“This is crazy talk, Romena. I’m sorry, but I’m not the one you’re looking for. I can’t be a hero. Right now, I’m even struggling to keep myself alive! I just want to find my way back to my world. Is there a way to go back?”
“Believe it or not, Alice, destiny has its way to make itself fulfilled. You can never run from it. It’s why it is called destiny. But if you’re set on finding your way home, then I know the place where you can start.”
“Where shall I go?” I turned towards her. Could I find my way back home? I had vowed to myself that I would avenge my mother’s death. I needed to find my way back. It was the reason why I was still alive, still breathing against all odds.
“You need to go to Sirandil, the capital city in the Kingdom of Rentera. You falling into another world sounds like witchcraft to me. But who would be better to send you home other than witches? I’ve never heard of such magic. You must find the witch who can take you home.”
“Witches? They exist? Magic exists?” I was baffled. I felt like I was immersed into a world of Lord of The Rings. It wouldn’t be more shocking if Gandalf suddenly appeared in front of me and started shooting off fireworks.
“Of course. Magic brought you here. Therefore magic must take you back. The only witches you can find now are in Sirandil. If you wish to return, Sirandil is where you must seek.”
Hope swirled inside me like a blossoming violet. I can go home! I could only hope to sharpen my revenge and deliver it like a sweet requiem of a long, lost duet.
Wait for me, Mother. I will avenge you and let you rest in peace.
That night, I rested my hands under the nape of my neck and stared above. I was still trying to adjust to this whole, new world. I still didn’t know what sort of world I stumbled into. It felt like I had jumped into the past where technology didn’t exist and violence was common. In my world, witches didn’t exist and there was no such thing as a country called Bain. Magic shouldn’t even exist.
I tossed and turned my body restless against the hard mattress made of straw. I was terrified that I would be stuck here forever, in an alien place that was completely unfamiliar. Forcing my eyes to close, I pulled myself into a restless slumber. When dreams greeted me, I allowed myself to fade into a mist.