Excerpt From My Book
Chapter Thirteen: Uwa and Tyf
They chased the sun across the sky, the night licking at their feet until Uwa and Tyf’s house appeared in the fading light. They lived on a large rounded rock in the middle of the ocean that reminded Anne of the small islands in Thailand, covered in moss and trees. There was a small pale house sitting on top with an orange roof and as they flew closer and closer, Anne could make out the pale purple color of the door, the round windows and arched roof. The Hawdirs hesitated when they got closer but Anne and Aaron steered them forward.
They landed at the edge, the winged deers huffing uncomfortably, their hooves scraping crumbling rocks off the edge. A man and woman stood just outside the door, arms wrapped around each other. Anne got off her Hawdir and stepped forward for a closer look.
The woman had a very stern face, pale lips tilted in a frown, lavender eyes narrowed. Her hair was long and white and her sundress black, a glimmer of silver constellations revealing themselves in the breeze. The man was different with warm bronze skin, and bright golden hair, almost orange. He greeted them with his welcomingly red eyes and wide grin. The woman continued to frown, the silver gem on her forehead glinting in the fading light. They bowed when they got closer. Anne looked to Aaron, not sure which one was which god.
“Uwa,” Aaron bowed at the woman, “Tyf,” he nodded at the man, “we have come--”
“We know why you are here,” the woman waved her hand, silencing them. Her body looked frail, broken, especially next to Tyf, who was broad chested and open. “My sister sent me a message.”
“So…” Aaron drawled, glancing at Anne. She turned to Uwa.
“W-we need your shard.”
“And you may have it,” Tyf smiled.
“But,” Uwa glowered at her fellow god, “we cannot just hand it over to you.”
Anne frowned. “W-why not?”
Uwa gestured to the ground. “It is below us.”
Aaron looked around. “Like, in the water? Or…”
“We built a labyrinth.” Tyf was super chipper, swaying on his feet. “Underground.”
The woman pinched his side, glaring. “Only those with pure intention may enter and only those with nerve shall leave.”
“How big is the, uh,” Anne looked down at the ground, searching for the entrance, “labyrinth?”
“Big,” Colin said, shifting. “It keeps going down.”
“And it’s dangerous too,” Tyf grinned. Anne was beginning to hate his grin.
“We have our treasure heavily guarded, so that scoundrels like you,” Uwa scowled at them, “do not steal our shards.” Anne wasn't sure who was better or worse, Uwa for her lack of faith in them or Tyf for being super excited about all of this.
“What…what do you mean by heavily guarded?” Uwa grinned sharply, her mouth twisted in a way that revealed too much teeth. Uwa was definitely worse, her smile giving Anne goosebumps. Anne shook her head, not really wanting to know the answer now. Colin closed his eyes, sighing deeply.
“The Qookas and the Fuermas of course,” she said.
“What’s…” Anne leaned over to Aaron, not really expecting Colin to know. “What are those?”
Aaron shivered. “My uncle ran into a Qooka and it almost mauled off his face. They’re like raccoons.” Aaron frowned. “Fuermas are like…phoenixes, they’re fire birds.”
“Oh, um…okay,” she leaned away. Uwa was staring down at Anne, a glint in her eyes. The sky was darkening and her skin was glowing, Tyf’s smile fading. His bright red eyes were turning into a dull orange and Uwa’s into a pale lavender.
“Just behind the tree,” she pointed to a tall cherry blossom. “Only the strong will survive.” Uwa grinned that uncomfortable smile.
“Try not to die,” Tyf waved. “Good luck guys.” He turned to Uwa and kissed her cheek, “See you inside, honey.” Uwa nodded and he went inside
She waved in the direction of the tree. “Go on.” Anne looked at Aaron and then Colin. Aaron was frowning and Colin’s eyes were still closed, exhaustion clear on his face. Anne nodded and started walking.
The cherry blossom was tall and pink, but in the dark, it was different, a more purple shade. The trunk was twisted in knots and its roots looped in and out of the rock, moss growing around it. On the other side of it, away from the house, was a patch of smooth black rock with a rune carved into it. They huddled around it, eyeing the lavender color of the rune.
Anne opened her mouth, “What…” then she closed it, frowning, before opening it again, “What do we do?”
Aaron’s frown was morphing his face, his brow creasing. “Colin?”
“What’s there?” Colin leaned down, hand extended. Aaron rushed forward, “Wait! Don’t touch--” Colin’s palm pressed down on the rock. It glowed brightly beneath his palm and the ground crumbled away into a long ramp of smooth stone. Aaron and Colin fell into the darkness. There was a soft thump at what was probably the bottom. Anne’s mouth opened and scrambled after them, sliding down the ramp. The rock was smooth and cold, slightly damp and behind her, the hole hatched itself up, sealing up the fading sun and rising moon.
They were just at her feet, faces still pressed to the stone. Anne stood up and looked around. The natural light from above had disappeared, but the tunnels were dimly lit by ink on the walls. Swirls of orange looped and traced down the path, one constant line, as if Tyf had come down there and run through the halls, waving his arm up and down like a little kid. Anne wouldn’t be surprised if he had.
She helped them up. Colin was scratched up and the bandage on Aaron’s face had peeled off, the cut reopening. Aaron quickly made another bandage before Anne could try and hastily smeared it onto his face, wiping away the blood. “I was gonna say,” Aaron wiped his hands on his jeans, “that the ink might be poisonous.”
“Oh…” Colin looked down at his hands. There was no ink there, only dirt. “Well, I’m alright.”
“Okay,” Anne nodded. She looked further into the tunnel. “Should we…go?”
“Yeah.” Aaron made three sunblades and handed one to each of them. “We’ll need these.”
“W-what for?” Anne asked, pocketing the knife.
“The Qookas since they’re shadow creatures.”
“What about the Fuermas?” Colin frowned, twisting the blade. “Didn’t you say they were like phoenixes? That doesn’t sound shadow based.”
“You’re right.” Aaron shaped his hands together, staring at the orange ink on the walls. “There’s this…type of khopesh, I might…” he closed his eyes, brows scrunching, “I think I can--” A burst of light flashed in the room and a curved sword appeared in his grasp.
The khopesh was made of silver, unlike the golden sunblade, and cast a dark shadow when Aaron swung it. It had a long strap and on the blade were inscriptions that Anne didn’t know how to read that glinted in the light. Anne pulled the knife closer to her, staring at the runes. “And this will kill the Fuermas?”
“It should.” Aaron slung it behind his back. “I’ve only heard that Khonwas can do the deed. But I’ve never had to use one before.”
Anne nodded and turned to Colin. “Lead the way?”
“What? Why?” he narrowed his eyes.
She gave him a look. “Because you’re a Vibrem? You’d know the way? You can sense where things are going?”
“Oh,” Colin blinked and nodded, “okay. Yeah. It’s pretty much--” he closed his eyes for a long moment. “One route, but there’s,” he pointed further into the tunnel, “something, that way.”
“Like, right ahead?”
“No, it’s just in that direction. We have to go down. But there are...I think Fuermas, east of us.”
“Okay, lead the way,” Anne shooed him forward.
Colin walked slowly, but surely, keeping his ears trained. Aaron kept his sunblade out, holding it wearily. The other boy made no move to warn him of any danger, so Anne felt less inclined to hold her blade, pocketing it in her purse next to the collected key parts, but understood that they were in a dark tunnel where unknown monsters could attack at any moment. At the end of the tunnel, there was another slide, similar to the one they entered the tunnels through.
Anne wished for a moment, while squinting in the dim light, that she could use her Irahn abilities and make a constant flame to light the path more, but was also worried that if she could, she would probably burst into flames and end up doing more harm than good.
They slid down and then turned west. They walked a stretch of tunnel before coming to another edge. Anne looked forward and found long platforms leading down, the glowing ink splattered on the ledges.
“Why?” Anne frowned, not like the effort needed to jump off of things, but moved onto the platform and jumped down to the next one, scraping her knee on the ground. Aaron helped her up and they moved along, jumping down the next three platforms before landing at the bottom. They went east again and found another set of platforms. Anne grumbled as they went down more platforms, moved west, down another set of platforms, and then back east.
Then they had to go up since the path shot straight up, the ink on the walls twirling up like a spiral. There was a single rope ladder that reached the top. Colin stopped and pointed to the top. “The Fuermas are up there.”
“At least three.” Aaron touched his Khonwa and moved towards the ladder, jerking on the two ropes and testing the strength of the wood steps by raising his one foot onto it. He nodded and gestured to Anne to climb it.
Anne’s stomach coiled, staring up at the rope. “I’m not--I can’t,” she scowled. “I have no upper arm strength. I can’t climb this. I’m too heavy.” The ladder went far up and it swayed more than Anne would have liked.
Aaron patted her back. “You can do it.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Yes you can.”
“You can,” Anne gestured at him, “you’re a fifteen year old boy. You’ve got biceps--I’ve got,” she touched her sides, “flubber.” Colin and Aaron opened their mouths to say something, but she waved them aside, not wanting to hear their words. “Fine! Whatever. But you’re catching me if I fall.”
“Here, you’ll need this,” Aaron took off his khopesh. He handed it to her and she put it on her back. She nodded and moved towards the ladder, stepping up one. She climbed up the rope, slow, uneasy steps since it swayed slightly and she was always afraid that it would twist around and her body would hang precariously upside down, but it never twisted and it never broke; she never fell. Colin was climbing five steps below her and Aaron three steps below him.
She somehow hefted herself onto the ledge at the top, rolling onto the ground. Down the tunnel, where the light was brighter, she could hear the flap of wings and sharp squawks. Colin came closer; she helped him up onto the ledge and they helped Aaron when it was his turn. Aaron took the Khonwa from Anne and held it up threateningly, edging slowly towards the bright light.
She was just about to ask him for a Khonwa of her own when a Fuerma hobbled out, its pink eyes narrowing at them. It squawked three times then hobbled into the bright light to the other birds. The Fuerma was a crimson flamingo with golden and orange feathers and wings that drooped down to the floor. It had long tail feathers, similar to the wings, and a large golden plume on the top of its head. The beak was curved and black. When it came back with two more birds, the Fuermas squawked at them and then lunged.
The problem with fighting the Fuermas was that Aaron had only made one Khonwa and there were three birds. Anne was going to hit him. Aaron swung smoothly and sliced off the thin neck of a Fuerma, the bird dissolving into black ash at the floor. Another one lunged for Anne and Colin and they both ducked away. Heat swelled in her hands and she clapped her hands together, imagining a big shield. Two extras popped out and Anne handed one to Colin, who rolled away, and tried to throw one to Aaron but ended up hitting the Fuermas he was fighting in the head. It stopped, turning its beady eyes towards her, and Aaron took the chance, swinging the khopesh down on the bird.
The last Fuerma squawked and flapped its wings at them, a burst of fire zooming towards all of them before they held up their shields in protection, squatting down. The bird flew away, down the tunnel and further, taking the bright light with it. Anne stood up from her crouch, the boys doing the same.
“Nice throw,” Aaron held out his fist for her to pump. She grimaced and looked down at the shield.
“I was trying to give it to you but then it just…”
“Well,” he grinned, “still.”
Anne nodded and then jabbed his arm. “Y-you need to give us Khonwas.”
“Oh,” Aaron nodded, but then frowned. “Why don’t you do it?” They started walking again.
She shook her head, “I’ll just mess it up.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” she gestured at Aaron, “you’ve seen me. I can’t--I’m not good at control or making this stuff.” There was another slide. Colin went first, Anne and Aaron trailing behind.
“But that was like,” Aaron frowned, “two months ago? I’m sure you’ve improved.” Anne shook her head.
“I haven't. I'm--I'm the worst, I'm just--”
They slid down, picking themselves up from the bottom. They went west. “C’mon, why don’t you just try? It’ll be okay.”
Anne sighed, exhaustion weighing on her. Today had been such a long day, she wondered when they’d get out of the tunnels. Would it be in an hour, two hours, six? They needed sleep. Aaron looked wide awake, energetic even, but Colin’s steps were slower, more hesitant, shoulders slumped. Anne held out her hand. “Let me see it.”
“Yes, the Khonwa,” she rolled her eyes. Aaron handed it to her. They went down a set of platforms, jumping from end to end, Anne making sure the edge of the blade was pointed away from her. They moved back east. She looked at the silver metal closely under the hazy glow of the orange swirls and loops, memorizing the exact curve. There was a set of stairs made from the tunnel stone, black and gray granite going up. They went up ten steps before it evened out to flat ground, before it slid back down. At the bottom of the decline, was another set of platforms to go down. They went down one set, walked left a few feet, went down another set, turned right, and then jumped down another set of platforms. Anne handed the blade back to Aaron, panting. She rested against the tunnel wall, right underneath the glowing ink,
“Be careful of the ink,” Aaron pointed to the spot above her curls. “It might zap you.” Anne nodded.
“I hate this maze.”
Colin slumped down next to her. “I agree.”
“I’m not built for exercise.”
“Don’t be such wimps.” Aaron turned to Anne. “Let’s see it?”
“Oh,” Anne looked down at her hands. Heat sizzled at her fingertips. She closed her eyes. “I--yeah, probably.” She brought up the image of the Khonwa in her head, her forehead creasing. The heat swelled, forming in her hands. The khopesh started to form, but then the magic fizzled and cracked, and two more blades erupted and fell to the floor, one dented, the other gold. The third one, the one in her hands, melted and seeped through her fingers.
She huffed, smearing the goop on her hands onto the walls. Aaron sighed and Colin frowned at the knives, picking up the gold one. It was useless, just an ordinary knife without any runes, but he shouldered the long strap anyway. “Why don’t you keep trying?” Colin suggested, Anne nodded, and they started walking again. They walked up another set of stairs.
Anne thought about it and tried it again, five small khopeshes clanking on the ground. She kicked them out of the way. There was another slide. Her butt was hurting from going down so much, but she went down anyway. The slide zigzagged and Anne squawked, slipping backwards and landing hard on her bottom, her hair falling in her face. Colin and Aaron fell on top of her, Colin’s elbow on her thigh and Aaron’s face smushed in her stomach. Anne scrambled up, swiping her hair aside. Colin clenched his eyes and got up, Aaron groaning next to him.
“Here,” Anne offered her hand to Aaron. He took it and Anne realized how much older and heavier he was when she had to haul him up herself, Anne stumbling forward a bit. Aaron swiped his hair out of his eyes and Colin readjusted his blue jacket, huddling under it. Aaron thanked her and they moved down the tunnel, still following the orange ink. It trickled up some stairs, across another stretch of flat ground, and down another set of platforms. Anne made another khopesh and swung it in the air, the blade flinging out of the hilt and imbedding itself into the wall, four other knives falling onto the ground around her. Anne frowned.
Colin slowed down. “You might not be able to make a Khonwa before we see more Fuermas.”
They were stopped at the foot of another ladder. Anne frowned because she didn’t know what Colin meant and because ladders meant more climbing. “What do you mean?”
Colin pointed down at the ground in the far corner in front of them, at the wall the ladder rested against. “There in that direction. They’re below us a few levels.”
“Do you know how many?” Aaron asked, but Colin shook his head. Aaron turned to Anne. “Can you try one more time?”
Anne nodded, clenched her eyes shut, and curled her fingers around the heat, a ball of light forming in her palms. She shaped it, remembering everything, the weight, the inscriptions, the curve. The Khonwa appeared in her hands, perfect and beautiful. Anne moved it in her grasp and swiped it in the air, just like Aaron had with his to make sure it was real, but when she did, the blade snapped off the hilt and to the ground. Colin made a noise and Anne growled, throwing the hilt at the wall. Aaron moved to touch her but she shouldered him off and started climbing the rope.
She wasn’t thinking about the strain in her arms or the ache in her feet until after she climbed to the top, had to go up a flight of stairs, and stopped at the edge of one of the platform sets. Aaron handed her and Colin a Khonwa each. Aaron opened his mouth to say something to her, but Anne glanced at Colin.
“What’s down there?”
Colin peered over the edge of the platform. “We need to jump down, go down a slide, and jump some more. There’s a bit of tunnel, some more jumps, and then I think the Fuermas are down there.”
“Really?” Anne sighed. She didn’t really want to jump or fight, more like sleep, but they had to. They had to keep going, had to get out of these tunnels, get the key piece, move onto the next stop, get all the key pieces and everything, and then go save her dad and stop Trusde or else the entire world would probably be destroyed and they’d all be dead. The tunnel walls suddenly felt smaller and her foot on the platform wobbled. She felt like her chest was caving in on itself, a sudden spike of a headache at her temple.
She blinked and stepped forward, hopping down. She followed Colin’s directions, down the two sets of platforms and closer to the tunnel’s edge for another set of jumping down. There was more squawking below and when she stepped onto the platform, peering over the edge, a brighter light filled the chasm. Colin stopped beside her and looked down at the Khopesh in his hands. “Is this a bad time to say that I don’t know how to use this?”
Aaron stood next to Colin and swung out his own blade. “Just gotta swing it around. Later, I’ll teach you some more moves.” Colin nodded and they watched Aaron swing some more times for demonstration. Aaron hopped down. “I’ll go down first.” He disappeared into the glow and Anne followed him.
At the bottom, there were thirteen large Fuermas swarming around Aaron. He sliced at two birds in one smooth motion before he disappeared from view. Anne was immediately attacked, a Fuerma biting down on her shoulder and flapping fire at her clothes. Her jeans caught aflame and Anne swung the Khonwa down, a shadow slicing one of the wings off. The Fuerma roared and dragged its beak down, wrapping its leg around hers. Anne’s heart pounded, trapped. Another Fuerma came at her other side, pecking at her neck, heat piping hot on her skin. She swung wildly, cutting the second Fuerma’s neck off and then stabbing the first one in the chest, where its heart was. They fell to ash around her and she patted down her jean legs against a wall, muffling the fire.
Colin was fighting two Fuermas and Aaron was fighting five of them, the other two running for her. Aaron made a second Khonwa in his hands and sliced off more bird necks. Anne did the same, taking out the first one with one swing, and then ducking away from the other and cutting at its thin black legs. She was following some kind of instinct that was surging up inside of her, like she had always known how to fight. It rushed through her veins and pummeled in her fists, raising her khopesh to swoop down and cut off another wing. The Fuerma cried out, one wing and leg missing. It hobbled, flapped its fire wing at her. The flames singed the top of her raincoat and licked at her neck, searing her jaw in heat. Anne cried out, slammed the blade down, and the Fuerma dissolved to ash.
She breathed in through her nose, panting, holding still. Tears bubbled at her eyes, the burn hurting so much. She wanted to poke and prod at it but Colin was whimpering, his back and hair on fire. He had the khopesh raised, caught in one of the Fuerma’s beak while the other one bit down on his shoulder. Anne ran forward, taking out the one with the Khonwa in its mouth, and Colin swung wildly down on the other one. Ash pooled around them. Anne took off her jacket and patted his hair and clothes down from the fire.
When she was done, Colin was staring at her, mouth quivering. She could see a burn on his cheek and tears welling in those black slanted eyes. She was going to wipe them away but then remembered it would probably be too much and then Aaron was shouting something and they twisted away, moving towards him.
Aaron had killed two of them, burns littering his arms. His jacket was roped around a Fuerma’s head, stopping it from moving its beak. The other one was stabbing his back with its beak and the third one flapping fire at him. Anne lunged forward, slicing the flapping Fuerma, flames tickling her face, and Colin swatted at the one pecking at Aaron. Colin wasn’t very good at fighting, swatting hazardly everywhere. Anne took the jacket from Aaron, pulling the Fuerma toward her. Aaron plunged the knife into its neck just as Colin swiped at the other one, covering them both in ash.
They stood there, panting among all the ash. Colin suddenly sneezed and Aaron started laughing. Anne rubbed at her eyes, exhaustion weighing down on her again. She rubbed at her eyes, touched her burnt jaw, and hissed, jerking her hand away. Aaron stopped laughing and pulled them both closer, taking in their injuries and his own. His face was bleeding again and the boys had some particularly nasty gashes on their backs and necks. Anne was lucky enough to really only be burnt on her face.
“Here,” Aaron dug into his jacket pocket and pulled something out. It was a small rounded phial filled with an amber liquid. He took off the cork stopper and started pouring it onto his fingers. Aaron reached for Anne and smeared the liquid onto her skin.
Fizzling heat swarmed at the burn, but this time the heat didn’t hurt, just sizzle and spread. It covered her skin and made it feel better. It smelled sweet too. Anne took a deep breath of it. The liquid smelled a lot like. “Is that…honey?”
Colin breathed into and scrunched up his nose. “And lavender?”
“Yeah,” Aaron poured a liberal amount on Colin’s hands, who immediately started to apply it even though he winced at the first touch of it. “And some ginger. It’s, uh,” he dabbed it on his cuts and burns, “a remedy. For minor injuries.”
“What about the burns?” Anne gestured to her face. She could feel the skin shifting and stitching itself back together, but when she touched it after the fizzling stopped, it was still rough and tender, scabbed. When she looked at Colin and Aaron, their skin was the same.
“It’ll heal on its own. The balm just speeds up the process.”
“Why didn’t you use that earlier?” Colin gestured to Aaron’s cut from underwater, which had now disappeared.
He touched where the cut was and sighed. “It should be used sparingly. I didn’t want us to run out.”
“But can’t you just make more?”
“No, I don’t know how. Potions like these…they’re very difficult to just make. And yeah, if I could I would, but then we might’ve taken too much of it and that wouldn’t be good.” At their blank looks, Aaron sighed. “It’s like normal medicine. Too much of it and,” he made a gurgling noise and marked a line across his neck, sticking his tongue out. Anne scoffed at his choice of description, but nodded. Aaron shoved the phial back in his jacket.
They picked up anything they dropped and started walking again. They went down a slide and started walking up two sets of stairs, silent again. Anne rubbed at her eyes again, yawning. “Hey, Aaron?”
They slid down another slide that gave way to a set of platforms. “Yeah?”
“Is there any way we could take a nap?”
Colin yawned and nodded, dragging his khopesh against the wall. Aaron slowed down, scooting off the platforms to the next ledge instead of jumping. He shrugged. “Yeah, but not for long, we gotta keep going. Let’s keep going for a little bit longer.”
Anne nodded. The platforms led to another slide. She was tempted to roll down it or go head first down the pavement, but brushed that thought away, sitting down, sliding, and then picking herself up again. At the bottom, there was a smooth tunnel, but there was a ladder at the end, so Anne sighed and trudged forward, her shoulders drooping. They climbed up one set, Anne’s arms hurting, Colin wincing behind her, and then when they reached the top, there was ten feet of ground before another ladder became obvious. Anne huffed, starting to climb up it.
As she started getting higher and higher up, the orange line of light swirling around the tunnel walls started fading, dimming the tunnel, dulling into a dark yellow and then a brown. When she reached the top, it was pitch black and she almost bumped into Colin, before he sidestepped around her. Aaron stumbled into the both of them, whispering apologies.
Anne tried to look forward and found that at the end of the tunnel, there was a faint gray light. She stepped towards it and found it to dip down. She realized there was a slide up ahead and when she followed it down, the light got brighter and then curved up again. This white glowing line was different than the orange one, with straighter and smoother strokes. It didn’t loop wildly or zigzag in random places, staying at one place in the wall. Anne slowed down, noticing that the light was getting brighter.
“We should stop here.”
Aaron looked past her, down the hall, and then back to her. “Why?”
“It’s getting brighter, so it’ll be harder to sleep.”
The blond nodded and sat down. “I’ll keep watch.”
Anne sat down as well and took off her raincoat, balling it into a makeshift pillow, pulling down the red sleeves of her shirt to cover her forearms. Her fingers brushed the ink on her wrists and the skin felt hot to touch, hotter than her palms when she was making things. She blinked, shaking her head, and sat down, laying the uninjured side of her head on the coat. Colin was settling against the wall as well. She looked up at Aaron. “You’ll wake me up in half an hour?”
She couldn’t see his face all that well, but she could make out his nod and slight grin, the tufts of blond illuminated in the white glow. Colin had disappeared into the darkness, his breathing gone quiet. “Of course.” Anne nodded and settled in on her side. Her jeans would be damp when she woke up, but she shut her eyes, trying to relax. It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep after that.