I woke to the sound of screams of terror. Startled, I jumped up, sharply connecting my forehead with the wooden headboard that I just recently added to my bed. I will never get used to it. Groggily, I scanned my dark room, curiously wondering whether it was morning.
I whipped the covers from my body, getting out of bed when I blindly worked my way to the door. I opened it to see many of the Athens running wildly, some pushing and pulling people out of their way, others being crushed from being stepped on.
Gown and all, I walked out slowly, turning to see a mighty beast crushing and spitting and inferno of fire upon the houses. Men, women, and children were screaming, hiding, trying to get away from the creature. Out of the corner of my eye, I barely registered that someone was running approaching me fast. I stepped back to get out of their way, but only served to have them tackled me. As I lay upon the ground I groaned once, trying to see whom it was in my house.
“ Fariah, wake up.” I groaned once at the sound of my name. “ Come on! It is I, Anthony. We’re been chosen to….”
“ Shut up. I have a headache. What are you doing in here like you own the place! Just because we’re engaged doesn’t mean you’ll come in my house and disrespect it.” I heard shuffling, which meant he was walking closer to me. I felt, even in the darkness, that he bent down and offered me a hand.
“I know, I am sorry. But we must hurry, I fear for the worst.” Slowly, the world was coming back to me, along with the screams.
“ And what is the worst? What is that beast out there?” I scrambled up, dusting myself to follow Anthony to my dresser. He was looking around my house to find the moving bag that he was looking for. “ Anthony, what are you doing?”
“ Quickly pack the things that you think you may need. We need to get as far away from here,” and as an afterthought he added, “fast. I am not positively sure what it is. Some people called it the Amadán, meaning evil one. Many of our people are criminals, and especially you, walk in moonlight, and this is the month of June. One faint touch of the creature can cause complete paralysis. Come on, we’re wasting valuable time!” He grabbed my hand, causing me to drop the clothes that I had bunched up, and dragging me out towards the door with speeds I ever knew he possessed. He threw open the door and we fled into the late evening.
“ But why is it attacking our city?”
“ We haven’t determined that yet.”
“ HELP!” A scream came through the night.
“ Peray!” I screamed. “ I know that scream anywhere! Anthony, we have to turn back!”
“ We can’t afford too!”
“ We must! He’s a little boy, he’s my sister’s son!” I broke free from his grasp, running back the way we came. “ Peray!” My cry was drowned in the screams of the Athens. “Peray!”
“ Fariah! Fariah, help me!” I turned, and through the crowd, I could see the bloodied, shaking form of a child, and above it, a monstrous beast. It was lowering its jaws hungrily upon him.
“ STOP!” My voice escaped me throat before an even realized it my eyes widen when the creature seemed to understand what I yelled. My knees wobbled as I stepped closer to Peray, eyes locked with the blood red ones of the creature; its hot breath blowing heavily in my face. My eyes left the creature momentarily before I held out my hand to the boy, whispering him to come to me slowly.
With Peray in my arms, I slowly started to back away, my foot tapped against a broken piece of stone. I whispered to Peray to quiet down as I sidestepped the stone and continued to back up.
“ Fariah!” Anthony exclaimed through the crowd; I passed Peray to his arms. “ Are you crazy? That thing could have gobbled you up in seconds! I don’t know what I would do without you!” He embraced me slowly, before drawing away when the creature growled.
“ You woman who defied me. You are pure, innocent, yet born into sin.”
I blinked in confusion. “ What does he mean?” I whispered to Anthony.
“ Are you talking about?”
“ The creature! What is it talking about?”
“ We can’t understand it.” I gulped, turning back to the creature.
“ What do you want from us?” I asked, almost inaudible.
“ The men who have committed crimes. This region is littered with the blood of the impure. Bring them to me, and I will punish them accordingly.”
“ The blood of guilty men?” I bit my lip, relaying the message to everyone else. “ Why them?”
“ They do not deserve life.”
“ And what if we do not fulfill your demand?” Someone yelled in the back.
“ What did they say,” asked the dragon, motioning to the back.
Fearful, I relayed the message to the creature. I watched in horror as it brought its face down to mine, curling its bottom lip into a wicked smile, to reveal sharp carnivorous teeth. “ Then I will deem all of this city guilty.” It searched our fearful faces. “ You have 48 hours, or I will carry out my will. Slowly…and painfully….” With that, it turned and stomped, its way out of the ruins of our beloved city.
* * *
“ Fariah, Anthony. I know that you are engaged, but we have all agreed unanimously that you two are the best candidates for this quest. Know that they will be a reward for your efforts, whether you succeed or not. At least, find it possible to weaken it for us.” Our ruler, Aristole, pleaded with us; his hands were crossed, and his old face was lined with worry.
“ Yes, we will try.” I bowed my head. “ Father Aristole? I ask you, did you already agree to send us on the quest? My fiancée warned, tried to warn me that we were chosen.” I stood again, looking at his face—his reaction.
“ Unfortunately, we have decided this course of action from the beginning.”
“ The beginning?” I asked slowly.
“ Yes, it’s been going on for years, the feedings. Now I fear he does not want to be in concealment any longer. All I can say is he is practically blind in the dark. I am sorry to put this burden on you with your wedding days away.”
“ We must do what is best for our people,” Anthony replied for the first time. “ Our people are more important, and our children. We will leave by midnight tonight.”
* * *
I pulled my hair up into a ponytail, my long dark hair swayed past my waistline in the breeze, and my usually warm complexion was now pale against the dark night. After the meeting, the rest of the night was spent picking through destroyed houses, looking for anything to aid us in the quest. I sighed in terror, though I though that was impossible and turned my head slightly to see Anthony jogging up the hill.
“ Are you ready?” He asked gently, brushing his thumb over my cheek.
I shook my head no before turning back to the ruins of the city once more. Tears filled my burgundy eyes. “ Do you know if we’ll make it back?”
He hesitated for a moment. “I’m not going to lie to you. There’s a good chance that one or both of us wouldn’t make it back.”
I nodded slow, never looking at him. He took my chin and turned my head to him, yet I never looked at him directly. “ Look at me.” He intoned coolly. I did. “ If it wasn’t you…I wish I could keep you away, but it is not up to me. We can only accept.” I nodded my head, pushing myself from him.
“ Do you know the path we must take?”
He sighed. “ Yes. If we do not stop, it is about an hour away. We have to prepare. What weapon are you best at?”
“ Is that all?”
“ Yes, I suppose.”
He sighed again. “ We may need sword for you. All I teach you is how to hold and attack with it. Fariah….”
“ No, don’t. Do not grieve for me. I am happy with you. If I am to die with you, then I will.”
He nodded. “ Let’s go.”
* * *
They snuck into the cave the creature dwelled Anthony provided her with the flares to shoot when they complete the mission or need help. Only three men were going to be stationed to help. The cave was easy enough to navigate through with the small torch they carried with them.
They reached the heart of the cave, finding the Amadán asleep; they tucked themselves neatly into a small cleft around the corner,
“ Anthony? Where is this creature from?”
“ Tales have it he’s from the Mountains of the Moon.”
“ And how did he come to be?”
“ From the bitter deaths of fallen warriors.”
“ Then he has Ningen No Kokoro?”
“ Pardon me, my heritage is showing. It’s Japanese for A Human Heart.”
“ So you believe he is also able to be tempted or killed? That he is mortal?”
“ Yes. I do believe that.” I replied, shaking my head. “ How do we kill it though?”
“ Stab him in the heart.”
“ It can’t be that easy though, or the Council of Elders would’ve ordered it already.”
“ They don’t have you on the council.”
“ Come, it is time.”
We emerged from our hiding spots, seeing the still sleeping creatures; we made a move to approach him. I unsheathe my sword, tiptoeing towards the creature. ‘Just one stab, and it’ll be over,’ I thought to myself, scared out of my armor. ‘We’ll succeed!’ I raised the sword high over my head, and let it dive into the creature’s heart.
Its eyes snapped open, angrily he growled lashing out poisonous claws puncture our bodies, and he revved up, releasing a deadly miasma. I coughed, tears blurring my vision, I felt around for Anthony only find during the creature’s shock, its claws punctured Anthony’s thin armor, releasing the venom in his body.
Then the creature’s eyes started to dull, as he slashed out to me, I felt pain shoot through my shoulder, and it died, shuddering.
In my arms, I dragged Anthony out the cave, and with the last of my strength, sent a flare through the air. My last memory was men rushing to catch me as my gaze tilted slid ways, and into darkness.
* * *
I woke up to a cold washcloth upon my face and the sound of murmuring. When I opened my eyes, I only saw a blur before seeing people all standing around me. As I returned to reality, my body caught up with me, sending waves of electricity through my system.
I jerked once from the pain, when a pair of hands gripped her shoulder, applying a cool salve that immediately relieved the pain.
“ I see that you are awake Stone head. We have been trying to wake you up for three days now.” I turned to see Aristole leaning over me, face somber.
I tried to make my throat work, but hardly to any result. “ Where…is Anthony okay?”
Aristole exchanged looks with many of the Council, she recognized by their style of clothes.
“ I’m sorry, but Anthony died an hour ago. We did all we could, but he could not be saved. I’m sorry.”
“ It’s okay. We need to tale about the reward.” My throat was dry. “ No money.”
“But…but don’t you want it?”
“ What good is money if you’re going to die?” I gave him a look to silence him and any oncoming questions from the other elders. “ I want you to build a statue of the battle. Please give us a decent funeral, so everyone can see and remember the blood of warriors for future generations.” I gulped to try to make my words easier. “ But please…do not grieve or weep for us, rejoice in our and our children’s lives.” Those were my last words as my last vision was a smiling Anthony holding my hand out to me, as I peacefully died.