Otheris and the Serpents of Qhudrus

Following the fall of the most guileful witch in all the lands, young Otheris set on a journey for a much bigger task. This task was nothing other than to bring the heads of the Serpents of Qhudrus, after the king made him an offer he could not refuse.

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3. Devourer

“Otheris! Help me!” screamed a familiar voice in the dark. He woke up from his sleep and stood up as he looked around.
“Otheris! Help me, they want to kill me! Please help me!” the voice cried out again.
Mother? Is that you? He wondered as he hurriedly made his way out of the room.
Otheris got out, it was already midnight and he did not carry the lamp with him for the moon gave him enough light he needed to see where he was headed. “Who’s there?” he said as he moved around the small compound but did not see anyone nor hear anything, so he turned to return to his room then stumbled on something and as he was about to fall, a huge snake the size of his thigh aimed for his neck but he instinctively acted fast as his two hands sprang into action grabbing the snake by its neck.
One thing that baffled Otheris as he struggled with the snake was that as huge as the snake appeared, it was standing on its tail like a tree. The snake opened its mouth wide trying to take a chunk off Otheris’ neck, Otheris knew he was in great danger and without any second thought he went straight for the snake’s neck and bit a chunk off. The snake hissed and swayed violently then threw itself on the ground and quickly crawled out of the compound. Otheris ran back to his room, as he wondered whether what just happened was real or just a dream, he lay down and dozed off.
“Otheris! Please do not let them kill me!” the familiar voice screamed again. This time he was sure he’d heard that voice before but he could not put a face to it, so he stood up and walked out again to see if he could trace her location but he got attacked by the same snake again. Instead of biting the snake Otheris forced his fingers into the wound he inflicted on it earlier, injuring it the more, the snake ran away yet again.
Otheris went back to bed but before closing his eyes he heard another scream, “This can’t be happening!” he said as he grabbed a sword from underneath his bed then walked out and as he stepped out of the door, he realised that he walked pass a dark figure but before he could turn, something cold touched him on the neck. He could not move, Otheris was frozen.
The dark figure moved from where it stood and hovered like a thick dark smoke in human form, Otheris began to follow as though parented by the dark figure. He could not talk nor do anything apart from just hopelessly follow the smoke. Otheris could not tell what it was; it had no face and no definite shape. Otheris tried to open his mouth to call for help but couldn’t. His heart pounded, he then remembered something he should have done, and he thought of a name and spoke it from within his heart. He could hear the name resound in his mind and heart, even though his lips were still glued together. As Otheris continued to repeatedly call out that name in his heart, three men came out of nowhere in the bushes and attacked the dark figure, they touched Otheris and he regained control of his body.
“Go home!” said one of the men.
Otheris could not tell from their faces if he had seen them before but he turned as instructed and started to walk home, he then heard a horrible sound from behind him fast approaching and as he looked back, the dark figure hit him to the ground.
“No!” Otheris shouted as he woke up from sleep. He had a nightmare.
“It was just a dream!” he exhaled, then covered his face with his two hands and laid his head back on the headrest.
After a little rest and a little thought, Otheris got off the bed and dressed up for his journey to Qhudrus. He took his sword and knelt down, said a little prayer then went up to his aunt’s door to knock.
“I am here! Your breakfast is ready, I also prepared some food for you to carry along!” she said standing behind him, “I heard you scream…another bad dream I guess?”
“Yes!” he answered, “more of an attack!”
“Is it about your parents again my dear?” she asked.
“No aunt Zeenah! It’s uh…umm! Nothing to bother!” he said as he kissed her on the forehead then went to eat his breakfast, “I couldn’t kill it…again!”
“You couldn’t kill what dear?” she asked.
“The snake that attacked me in my dream, this is the fourth time it appeared!” he responded.
“Don’t sweat yourself child, the good thing is, you seem to be favoured by the one you prayed to! There’s a reason He allows such a so many things to happen to us all. You just have to learn one thing,”  she placed a plate of food on the table, “maybe next time you get attacked, do not defend yourself as though the power comes from you!” she whispered as she smiled.
“I’m getting tired of all these night attacks and battles!” said Otheris as he sipped his tea from a cup.
“You have such a great task ahead of you Otheris, I can sense that in you, but perseverance is the key and you must be very careful son!” she moved the lamp from her front to the centre of the table, “and about those dreams; it’s evident that you’ve always come out victorious in all you’ve faced so far. You see, a man can either have the roots of his soul grow downward into the dark or upward into the light; every soul bears its own kind of fruit depending on the source of its essence, because each is being fed distinctively!" she paused, “It is important child, for you to know which ground you dip the roots of your soul in, for when the time for harvest is nigh, the light would only pick that which is rooted in its marrow!” Zeenah turned to him, "When last did you flip through the pages of the book I gave you?”
Otheris cleared his throat, “Well, you know I’ve been busy lately aunt Zeenah!”  He scratched his head, “Besides, some of the writings are not really clear because some of the pages are stained with…”
“Blood!” She interjected with a feeble smile, “Have I ever told you how I got the book Otheris?”
“Yes! You told me your husband gave it to you before he passed away?” he answered.
“Well, yes but not exactly in that manner!” she replied, “Anyways, many years ago when your cousin Jaharial was only three years old, his father and four of his friends went hunting in the nearby mountains and that evening they came across a stranger in a carriage who was badly injured, so they rendered help to him and as the men were treating his wounds, my husband’s friends discovered some silver and gold in a wooden box hidden beneath the seat of the carriage,” she smiled,  “that’s where the trouble started; they all got greedy and lost their senses and wanted to steal what they had stumbled upon, but my husband disagreed. So the men attacked my husband and the stranger then ran away with the wooden box,” she sighed, “as my husband made an attempt to go after his friends, the stranger called him back and told him to let them go!”
Otheris stopped eating then opened his mouth to talk, Zeenah shook her head, “I’ve told you several times to always allow a lady talk, your job is to listen, listen and…”
“Listen!” chorused Otheris.
Zeenah smiled, “We prefer if you men would just, you know…”
“Listen!” they both spoke in unison.
Otheris placed his right elbow on the table and buried the right side of his face in his palm, “I-am-all-ears!” he smiled.
Zeenah chortled, “Anyways, after my husband returned to the stranger, the man handed a book to my husband and told him it was worth more than what the men have taken, then he gave up the ghost!”
“It’s a very powerful book, and that’s a really deplorable and tragic story,” said Otheris.
Zeenah nodded, “Yes, it is! But the story didn’t end there; my husband decided to return home that night, but, he encountered his friends waiting for him on his way back. Thinking what he held was another big bar of gold or probably fearing he may expose them, they confronted him and one of the men stabbed him in the stomach.”
Otheris felt soaked in sadness, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know…”
 Zeenah smiled, “Well, after that, they threw the book on his body and fled the scene, however, on that fateful night the men packed their belongings and their families and left Moughdug. My husband was a very strong man, he got up and crawled his way home, dragged himself to the door that night,” she said, “he used the book to cover his wounds…that’s why I’m finding it hard to flip through those pages myself! He died the next morning in my arms with his hand clenched to a book he never got to read!”  She bent her head down.
Otheris moved his hand and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, “I lack words to say! You’re a strong woman!”
“I do not need sympathy now son! You see, that is why your cousin ran away from home,” she suspired, “I made the biggest mistake the day Jaharial turned twenty three; I told him how his fathered was killed!” She sobbed.
“Jaharial? He’s gone after them?” Otheris asked.
Zeenah nodded, “He said he’d avenge his father! I cried and begged him but he wouldn’t listen! Now I haven’t seen him in months! I can’t afford to lose the two of them, no! I shouldn’t! This is not fair!”
Jaharial left for a great adventure without me, and I thought he went to Guiheq to learn the merchant trade, Otheris thought.
That morning, Otheris comforted his aunt and assured her he would go seek his cousin when he returned from his mission. He made a few jokes to make her laugh and they hugged each other.
“Did I tell you?” he asked.
“What?” she inquired.
“The king…he promised to give me his daughter’s hand in marriage on my return!” he said excitedly.
“You mean one of the king’s daughters?” she said.
“The most beautiful one among them…um, Thakina!” said Otheris, “yeah that’s her name!”
“Hmm!” exclaimed Zeenah, “The Oracle? Is that so?”
“Yeah!” he sighed, “plus the king’s western garden! All mine when I return?”
“The one with the fish pond?” she asked.
“Yes! That one!” he answered.
“Hmmm!” she sat opposite him, “I hope you know that the king could kill his own brother over that garden. As a matter of fact, the rightful owner of that garden was killed by…”
“I am not his brother, and we had a deal okay! I don’t want to hear what happened with whom, when or where! Got to go!” he said as he stood up, kissed her forehead again and walked out, “just don’t forget to pray for me!”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” she said.
Otheris walked back in and picked a small bag kept on the wooden table, “That garden is yours on my return aunt Zeenah! All of it.”
“Wouldn’t it be better if you’d carry the book along with you on this journey Otheris!?” Zeenah yelled.
“No need, I have memorised some part of it, I’d reflect on the ones in my head! Thanks for the food!”
“Okay! I shall pray for you and when you’re faced with fire, remember son, there‘s a fire that burns all fires!” she said.

 

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