Kuiper, Freya’s coachman to Arkef, was taking a stroll at Arkef’s festival.
Held annually, the festival in Arkef was to celebrate Arkef’s birthday. To do that, they take the road that was usually used for horses and carriages to pass—and used it as a space of land to set stalls. Those stalls had many flavors and varieties. Some sold food, some sold souvenirs, and some sold entertainment such as goldfish scooping. People crowded the place; adults and children, Arkef citizen or not, young and old, couples and non-couples, of this race or culture or not, lots of people. All of them, despite their own differences, had a smile on their face.
The buildings beside the road were used to promote banners. Each of them were colorfully painted; and added to the festivities. The street lamp made the night less scary and dark to more bright and cheerful. The smell of delicious food traveled the air, pleasing the nose. And the air was vibrant because of the cheerful songs a local tavern band was singing.
Kuiper didn’t hate such crowded atmosphere. In his opinion, Arkef had gone through a hard phase with its politics and the presence of bandit gangs. Arkef definitely deserve a moment of peace amidst its chaos. That way, people would recognize the value of peace and uphold it.
The sight of children running around at the festival with smiles on each of their faces brought a smile to his.
‘Kuiper? Kuiper, that’s you isn’t it?’ Someone called him. His voice was as old as Kuiper’s.
Kuiper turned around to one of the stall and located the voice. ‘Lest! Look at you! How long has it been since we last met?’
‘Too long Kuiper, too long,’ he said with a laugh. He was grilling chicken meat which was pierced with a wooden stick. Lest, the old man with gray beard and wrinkled forehead, took one piece from the grill and handed it to Kuiper without much thought. ‘On the house. Kuiper—I never thought I would see you here. I thought you hated crowds!’
‘I don’t hate crowds, Lest,’ Kuiper said as he was blowing the hot food he just received from Lest. ‘I dislike crowds. Trust me, Lest, if the library isn’t closed, we wouldn’t meet here. What’s up with that anyway? I thought Arkef’s grand library is supposed to be open all the time.’
Kuiper took a bite of the grilled chicken meat he had just received. The sauce on it was absolutely delicious on the tongue. When he chew, the texture was soft and the juiciness came out with every bite. No wonder he was grilling lots of those.
‘Customers—especially those from outside who visits Arkef, asked me the same thing. They said that the path to the library was blocked by guards. For that, I have no idea. If anything, rumors had been circulating about it for a while now. Someone here told me that someone claimed he had seen a group of people wearing hoodies, each holding a fiery torch, marching toward the library.’
‘That’s something,’ Kuiper remarked. He took another bite of the chicken meat.
‘There aren’t confirmation that it’s true.’ Lest flipped the chicken on the grill. He was skilled enough not to overburn any of the pierced chicken meat. ‘And even if it is true, the library is far away from the festival. No harm will come here.’
A customer then came to the stall and Lest had to handle her orders. Kuiper looked at the direction of the library and took a bite from his wooden stick of chicken meat. Only to bite on the wood. He had been so engrossed in the savoury flavor of the food that he didn’t realize he had eaten all the meat in that one stick.
It just so happen that at the direction he was looking at, there was an alleyway, and beside it was a trash can. At the time, at that exact moment, his eyes happened to be looking on that certain spot.
From inside an alleyway, someone slid and appeared from the alleyway. She was a young lady with an attire that one could describe as noble-like. Her build was pretty and delicate, but she held an unsheathed blade in her right hand; its sheathe was nowhere in sight. The violet hair covered her face, but that color was a dead giveaway for Kuiper to recognize her. Why, it can be no one else other than Freya, he thought.
As her hair went down and her amethyst pair of eyes came into view, her lips moved. Judging from the movement of her lips, Kuiper could have sword that Freya had uttered a curse word upon seeing the festival that was happening. Her face showed desperation for a while, but it went firm and resolute in the blink of an eye.
‘Out of the way!’ She shouted.
Because Kuiper had known Freya—and because of her tone of urgency—Kuiper agreed to what the young lady had said and went to the side of the road in a hurry.
Those who didn’t listen to what she said and remained in the center of the road was shoved away by force. Freya had turned her blade so that the blunt back side faced forward; and hit Lest on the side with it. Forcefully pushing him away to the side of the road. This act of violence prompted the others to get away from the middle of the road, some of them at least.
From the alleyway where Freya had came from, there came a rumbling. A vicious rumbling that made Kuiper shudder. Appearing from the alleyway, crushing the brick wall that made the alley an alley, was a fiery three headed hound. A creature of chaos that one would encounter easily in adventure books, but never in real life. Its savage roar almost burst Kuiper’s aging eardrums.
Its three pairs of red glowing sinister eyes were all targeting Freya. The beast then went on a rampant chase.
Watching from the sideline, the sight of the burning Cerberus was burnt into Kuiper’s mind. A memory that he would never forget, that would haunt him in his sleep in years to come. Its eyes were worse than a predator’s. Its fangs bold and mighty. Its limbs that would destroy anything in its wake. Everything—was burnt into his mind.
The stalls lining up in the center of the road didn’t slow it down and the beast stomped on them all relentlessly as if they were nothing. It left a trail of fire and destruction in its path.
‘… What in the world?’ Kuiper said.
Freya’s breathing was ragged and unstable.
Whether she liked it or not, she had to pass through the festival. There was no other choice. As much as she wanted to fight the beast right there and then, running had taken up lots of her stamina and she wouldn’t even stand on equal ground against the beast. She had to keep running.
Thankfully, at the sight of the beast, people had a general sense of fear that was good enough to make their legs carry them to the side of the road. Those who were petrified and stuck in the center of the road got hit by the back of Celeste’s blade. Freya would have used Celeste’s sheathe to shove people aside, but midway through her run, she had decided to throw the sheathe away to decrease the weight she had to carry as she ran. Painful for them, but better than being dead, Freya thought.
Freya spotted an alleyway at the side of the road and went for it. That alleyway might not lead to where she had hoped to go, but she had to get the people from the festival out from harm. She could no longer feel her legs, but still they carried her to the alleyway.
The burning beast chased on Freya. The narrow alleyway might not have been able to stop the beast’s chase, but it served a purpose: slowing it down. Her lungs was desperate in getting all the air it could get as she ran and her head felt light.
That alleyway was a short one; Freya got out of it in no time. At least she was on the right track. She then turned left. The beast turned up from the alleyway no later after Freya did. Having closed the distance once again, Cerberus dropped its jaw and snapped its fangs. That barely hit her. Freya was a hair breadth’s away from death and that was not on purpose.
The burning beast then unleashed a swipe with its claws. Freya, not being able to move her body as she willed it to, couldn’t dodge that blow. Desperately, she held Celeste up with both hands, one holding the grip while the other on the side of the blade. That blade then received the impact from the swipe and Freya flew a good distance from the beast.
Had that sword been a normal sword, made with a sharp fragile material, Freya would have died. However, Celeste was made of Altune, a material which was used for the best of shields; known for its durability. Celeste might have survived that one blow, but Freya doubted that Celeste could survive another two.
On normal circumstances, Freya would have landed perfectly on the ground and continued her run. But with her diminished stamina, that wasn’t possible. She landed rather roughly and it could hardly be called perfect, however, she couldn’t afford to be picky. She continued her run.
Blood dripped from her nose. The impact from the blow had affected her. And in the peripherals of her vision was a creeping darkness. She looked over her shoulder and the burning beast continued its chase.
Freya wiped her nosebleed with her thumb.
Even though the situation was dangerous, even when she could possibly face her demise that night, a smile appeared on her face. The battle was on.
Either I will run out of stamina and die, or I will reach my objective and live. Her amethyst pair of eyes showed no signs of giving up.
Any form of reviews or critics, kind or unkind, is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
Things happens, updates Freya at least once a week at EST Saturday 19:03. (If I don't get the timezone wrong)
Oh hey, speaking of which:
Some stuff arises during the holiday, things I need to deal with.