[Continuing the theme of my Epic Fantasy, ‘The Daighacaer’ (“Day-gar-care”); Extract from Book I, Escape from Mount Vilipend]
[Pronunciations: Jodia (Joe dee ah); Nica (Nee kah)
Background: Weda’Sel and Urus believe that Tirǽche was ‘abducted’ by The Order of The Watchers. This is partly true but the ‘abduction’ is not what it appears to be and Tirǽche has been working with The Watchers on a mission of immense significance. She has also been discovering things of great importance to the survival of the group of escapees from Vilipend.
Prior to this segment, Tirǽche appeared to Weda’Sel and Urus to tell them that their journey will take them past a darzim stronghold and they will need to do battle with the darzim as there is no other way forward. The Watchers also require their assistance to retrieve young girls from the stronghold. A senior darzim, who is the Pretender to the position of Darknighte which Caliginor held until his fall, has spent aeons abducting baby and adolescent girls to impregnate them in order to produce a half-mortal/half-darzim creature of immense power. The young girls are instructed from as soon as they are able, to perform special tasks for ‘The Master’ alone. In this way and, through a crystal which he has imbedded in them, the girls fanatically do anything he wants them to do. Jodia’s task is to fetch water for The Master from The Wellspring.
“Stop! Who are you? What are you doing here?” The question was barked from somewhere to her right and Jodia jumped.
“I… I am Jodia and … I… was sent to d… draw w… water f…for The Master” she stuttered.
“You have one vessel only and that is not a vessel of The Master. You lie!” This time the guard approached menacingly. Jodia stood still, not knowing whether to set down her vessel and risk spilling even one drop of water or to turn and take flight and spill even more water.
“I don’t. I don’t lie, G… Good Comm… Commander. This is the vessel I was given.” She shyly handed the vessel to him as he put his hands out to take it. He wrested the vessel from her hands, spilling some of the precious water as he did so. Jodia gasped.
The guard turned the vessel around and then, seemingly confused, tipped it up to look at the base and the rest of the water fell to the thirsty ground and disappeared. The guard didn’t seem to notice the loss of the water. He would have thrown the vessel on to the floor but he saw the horror on the maid’s face and, not taking his eyes off her, he placed the vessel on the ground.
Jodia turned her eyes downward so that she would not have to look into the guard’s eyes and an involuntary shiver rushed through her like a reeling rudder. He had spilled all her water. What was she to do?
The guard reached for her before she could think any further. He took hold of her arm, although not ungently and drew her sleeve up and across her body to expose her left breast. He stared for so long that Jodia started itching from the scrutiny but she didn’t move a muscle and kept her eyes down.
Jodia knew that it was useless to try to run but she didn’t understand the guard’s inspection. Guards were not allowed to lay hands on The Master’s maids and yet this one had not only touched her person, he had moved her clothing to expose her breast and he was still staring at it, making no attempt to replace her clothing.
She was not to know it, because it was something which she had had for all her memory and it was also something which every one of her companions also had, but the guard was concentrating on the telltale scarab-shaped scar which indicated that a crystal of The Master was embedded within her breast a little to the right above her heart.
The guard slowly let her sleeve fall back over her arm and said “This looks to be not a vessel of The Master, yet it looks also to be one. Where came you upon it? Speak, maid!”
“Good Comm…mander, this is the vessel which I have used since the very day I was instructed to the t… task of retrieving water from The Wellspring. I know not of what you speak.”
“Is that your sole task, maid? To retrieve water from The Source?” Jodia heard the guard’s voice break and puzzled at that.
“Yes, Good Commander. I have not yet reached the age to be moved to The Master’s quarters although I was told this very day that I will be moving there in the next ten-day. I am looking forward to it. I hear the other girls talking about their beautiful clothes and jewellery and how proud they all are.” Jodia could have sworn that the guard growled. She saw that he was clenching and unclenching his fist and wondered what was really happening. She was beginning to get scared. She hadn’t noticed that she’d spoken a full long sentence without once stuttering. That would have surprised her more than anything else.
“Come” said the guard as he bent to retrieve the vessel. “I’ll help you to get more water from The Source. I know it can be difficult once you’ve already drawn from it.”
“How do you know that, Good Commander?” asked Jodia. “No one except maids are allowed to approach The Wellspring or they will die. That is why we alone are permitted to draw water for The Master. You call it The Source but it is The Wellspring.”
The guard sighed as he spoke to Jodia but did not answer her question. “You have been told that you alone are entitled to approach. Yet this is not the truth. No. It most certainly is not the truth. I drank long and deep from The Source before I saw you.”
The girl stopped dead in her tracks. “You… You… dispute what The Master has decreed?
Before he could say anything, Jodia continued in a state of shock as she realised what he’d said “You… You… Drank from The Wellspring? You… You… couldn’t have! If only one drop of the water touches anyone but The Master they will die. We are protected if we accidently spill a drop or two but that is only because of the special clothes The Master provides to us. Our open skin never touches the water or we will die. Why are you lying to me?”
Jodia’s voice was rising and the guard put his hand in the small of her back and, still considerately but forcibly at the same time, propelled her towards the rock which housed The Wellspring. He started pushing her urgently when she almost shouted “Who… Who… are you? What do you… you… want with me?”
“Maid! Be quiet!” The well-understood command as well as the authority in the guard’s voice automatically quieted the girl but with all her strength she still resisted the increasing pressure on her back.
The guard retained his hold on her and continued to propel her in the direction of The Wellspring. Jodia was beginning to experience real fear. Not the anxious frights she experienced when she was told that The Master had summoned her to stand before him so that he could measure her growth in the special clothes she was to wear when she reached her age and she was fit finally to be summoned to The Master’s rooms. This was a deep stomach-churning fear of the unknown.
“The Master… The Master will want his water” she mumbled. “I have been away too long already.”
“I am taking you to refill your vessel, child” replied the guard. “The Master is occupied with other things right now. He will not miss you for the time it takes to get back to The Source and to refill your vessel. You are safe, child. Safe from The Master’s anger and safe with me. I know you will find this hard to believe, but you can trust me.”
“You don’t under… stand. I don’t take the water to The Master. It is P… P… P…redico who does. I never take the water directly to The Master. You don’t under… stand.”
Tears sprang into Jodia’s eyes but she would not allow them to fall. She would not cry. She had long ago learned that to cry led to punishment. She would not cry.
“P… P…redico will punish me s… s… s…so m… much for being late. He knows how to hurt me without leaving any marks because The Master does not like us to have marks. P… P… P…redico will hurt me so much, s… so m… m… m… much.” Jodia’s teeth were chattering as she stuttered in her attempt to prevent herself from crying.
The guard didn’t say a word but his teeth ground their fury and he pushed the girl harder and faster towards The Wellspring.
Jodia stopped in her tracks and gasped as she rounded the corner and saw The Wellspring. It seemed to be filled to overflowing and breathing with more men than she’d seen for as far back as she could remember and the men were all laughing and joking and pushing each other into and out of the precious water.
“H… How is this possible? They should all be dead; they should all be d… d… dead. The Wellspring water k… k…kills anyone other than The Master.” Jodia shook her head to clear the image but when she turned back to The Wellspring, the men were still cavorting and appeared to be having a thoroughly good time splashing water at each other.
The guard took Jodia by the hand. He led her to one of the men and said quite sharply “Look after her. She’s terrified of someone called Predico. I’m going hunting and when I find that which I hunt, he’ll understand what it is to be terrified.”
“Wait” said the man who held Jodia. “You can’t do it on your own. Before any of us goes off on our own tangent, remember the plan; always remember the plan and that following it is the best means of getting us the result we want and also stopping us from getting killed.”
“I know, Nica. It’s just that the thought of … Nevermind. I’ll stay. So now, we wait. It won’t be too long before they miss Jodia and send someone or many someones to search for her. If we’re lucky, The Wellspring will be the first place they search. Nica, will you take Jodia with you? I don’t want there to be even a hint of her presence and I want all traces of her essence erased. Get her to the healers immediately to have that crystal removed and ground to dust or whatever is necessary to ensure that he will never be able to use it again.”
The guard looked at Jodia who was cowering into herself in shock. “Jodia, I know you’re scared by all that you are seeing here. Nica is going to take you to some people who will look after you until we finish what we have to do here. Then, we’ll all have something nice to eat and drink. You won’t have to be afraid ever again. I promise you. You’ll like the people who are going to look after you.”
Jodia shook her head and her whole body started quivering. “Now, Nica!” commanded the guard.
Nica held out his hand to the girl. She ignored it. He gestured to her to take his arm, still she ignored him. The guard, who was watching the whole affair, chuckled. “Last resort, Nica, enjoy your trip.”
Nica then took one step closer to Jodia who was looking up at him with big scared eyes; he lifted her with utmost ease and he threw her over his shoulder as if she were simply a wrap of sorts. Nica then all but ran from The Wellspring in the opposite direction from The Master.
Jodia started to struggle but the man called Nica held her more tightly and continued to move quickly and silently further and further away from The Master.
Jodia wondered helplessly what was going to happen to her if she ever managed to escape and get back to The Master. She quickly turned her thoughts away from that time. She would make The Master understand. She was sure that she could do it. What would The Master do to her? She had heard so many stories of girls disappearing and never been seen again. Would she be one of those too? Jodia slumped against Nica’s shoulder and tears now ran unchecked down her face and formed wet puddles on Nica’s shirt.
My poem for Jodia and all the other girls who have been abducted by this agent of The Darke
I have been rent
To the depths of my being
I have been rent
Devoid of self
A tempest of tears
A depth of joy
In a flood of light