Savi banged the door with a loud noise and faced the weary and wounded villagers in front of him, a sight so sore, he found himself short of words. They had run into the half-fallen building to seek refuge from the vile creatures that had pillaged and scavenged their towns for years. He thought of the men they had lost on this mission – this death mission. They had been volunteers who wouldn’t sit back and watch their families die of hunger.
They had found the food reserves in villages that had already been destroyed by the Ziká, those filthy creatures that were said to come out from the bowels of the Earth to feed on the sons of men. He remembered how peaceful their village had been before the arrival of the Ziká, he had been a prosperous farmer and sorcerer. Their town flourished, blessed with good winds and favourable rains, his guild of gifted made sure of that. He could see his daughter’s hair flailing in the wind as she ran to and fro the meadow, the damp smell of rain bathed soil hitting his…
the high-pitched guttural sound which marked the arrival of the Ziká woke him from his reverie.
He had known this would happen, the blood from their deep, almost fatal wounds had given them off.
He heard sighs and grunts of despair from the townsmen who knew their end was now inevitable, though Ziká would never move into an enclosure, they were patient creatures when they figured out they had their prey cornered.
Moving to a nearby window, he looked out at the beautiful countryside before him, the sun shedding last of its beautiful smile as it approached the horizon, and then there they were, the taint in such a serene environment, a group of about 300 Ziká. Their hairy coat black as death, he could see the opening at the side of their heads that produced a high-pitched irritating sound, the razor-sharp teeth which still held pieces of flesh and bones. He knew these beasts in and out as he had spent hours on end studying their carcasses.
He remembered the first time he encountered them, it had been two days after his emissary visit to the Empire Capitol to attend the decadal ceremony during which he’d seek permission to freely mine the gold in their town. The festival had been gruesome as the ceremonial sacrifice of a young girl had been distorted as her twin sister asked to be sacrificed alongside. It had been a disturbing sight, but the deed for mining had been signed too.
“Sorcerer…”, one of the villagers named Ken called to him, “what do we do next?”
Siva once again fell short of words. People looked up to him because he had an answer to almost any question, a wise saying or some piece of advice but he knew he was the one in need of leading at the moment.
Instead of answering, he took to surveying the building that now served as a form of refuge for them. A ball of fire appeared in his hands at a thought.
“Whoooosssshh”, the flame roared as he projected it into mid-air so he could better examine his surrounding. It was a medium-sized room empty safe for the countless books stacked on concrete shelves moulded from the wall. The sight made his heart bleed as he remembered his library of carefully picked magical lore back home.
“We’ve what we came here for,” he said, looking back at his companions.
“More than enough food to last us for months”
Groans and grumbles flowed among the listeners.
“I know we achieved this at a cost, a high cost,” he said, bringing an end to the side talks.
“We’re wounded, we’re cornered but it’s not time to give up, if not the lives of our brothers would have been lost in vain,” he said.
“The lives of our families back home would be at peril”
“We won’t let that happen, will we?” he said, raising his voice.
New energy was awakened in the men.
“We are the Khun clan of East, known far and wide for our resilience, will we give up?” Siva shouted.
“Noooo!” they shouted, their voice reverberating
The Ziká outside responded to the noise with ear-splitting cries, still, the men screamed louder.
“So…,” Siva said, “…now we rest, tend to our wounds, and restrategize.”
The ball of fire that had been floating mid-air sizzled out of existence.
“We need to get a fire going”, one of the villagers commented.
“Yes, and a source of fuel”, another from behind backed him up.
Savi looked around the room again and noticed it was devoid of any form of furniture, another thing that baffled him about this building that had appeared out of thin air during their uphill flee from the Ziká.
“Let’s burn the books” commented a middle-aged man who had had all the fingers on his left hand bitten off some hours ago during battle.
Looking at the concrete shelves, Savi knew it would be a terrible decision as those volumes could hold centuries of wisdom. He, however, didn’t want to quell the newfound energy in the air and so decided to oblige them.
Hours later, the fire was still burning, as soon as the books got swiftly consumed, the men laboriously fed more into the makeshift fireplace. Some of them were already asleep while others were tending to their wounds.
Savi sat in silence thinking of what he would do next to save the lives of these men who had probably volunteered in vain. Most had nothing else to lose but their lives anyways.
“Ahhhhhh”, several men shouted as a tome produced a bright green light when it was tossed into the flames.
Savi reached and took it out from the fire, he knew this was a very dangerous book, a book packed with pure magic, he could feel the tingles in his fingertips.
The title was in an ancient, almost extinct tongue, a language Savi had learnt from his endless adventures to other lands. It read “THE SONS OF THE UNDERWORLD”, in it were references of various forms of black magic and creatures, some of which he was familiar with, others he wasn’t.
His heart skipped a beat when he saw the sketch of a Ziká on an age-beaten page, a flow of fluid magic from him had the words gleaming with a bright tone. As he read all about the creatures that had devoured more than half of the world, it all made sense to him.
He felt goosebumps of relief and sadness rise and fall on his skin as he read the last line of the chapter.
At the first sight of dawn, he roused all the sleeping men.
“I have found the solution to the Ziká plague”, he said with his head bent “but it will take a lot from us”
“In here…”, he said lifting the partially burnt book “…is the solution to all our problems, I have created notes to be delivered to sorcerers in the lands still standing.”
“A solution? How? How do we get it to them?” questions rose from the men as they strained to see the book.
“I will make a portal back home but it can only transport one person, the rest of us will have to do what it takes to make sure that person makes it through”
The men murmured among themselves and pushed Ken forward.
“We are ready to do anything to save our families and give our children a future, Ken Rah will pass the message across, tell us what we need to do”
“Ken, take as much food as you can carry for our people but this book and the notes within should be your priority” Siva commanded.
“For the rest of us, we need to cut through the ranks of Ziká and create enough room for a portal.”
“How do we do that?” they asked in unison.
“We rain fire and steel,” Siva said with a smirk.
Men and Ziká alike fell as the men fought with every ounce of strength left, Ken ran forward shielded by a depleting wall of protectors. Siva followed behind, his sword coming in contact with fur and bones. At the opportune moment, he released streaming balls of fire into a large gathering of Ziká while producing red and blue combinations of light from the other creating a portal, the men stood back to fight and provide time and space for Ken to make it to through the portal.
When he did, he closed it with a snap and said with an inward smile,
“Finally, hope for humanity”
“A bloody one though”, he added as he remembered the last line from the book.
“For as with the blood of the dual born, forcefully taken, they were invoked; with the same, freely given, will they be rebuked.”
Bismarck Izibealoa Faola a medical student at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org