Episode 30 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 30

I felt the Priestess’ cool hand on my shoulder and turned, reluctant to meet her strange violet eyes and hear the words I instinctively new she was about to say.

“This path is for you alone to tread, Amara.” And there it was, the sentence I’d hoped in my heart of hearts wouldn’t come.

“But…I have so many questions…” The Priestess smiled and raised a single pale finger to my lips.

“All in good time, Amara. You aren’t quite rid of me just yet I’m afraid. Your brave consort and I will be waiting right here for your return.” Lowering her hand she stepped back. Swallowing my trepidation I nodded stiffly, not wanting to risk my voice betraying the panic I felt welling in my stomach. Turning, I glanced back at Solen searching for the inner strength I’d need to continue on alone. The strength that he somehow always seemed to have in abundance.

“You can do this, Chieftain’s Daughter.” His smile was reassuring but it couldn’t eclipse the concern I saw in his eyes as I turned from him and started down the stairs.

With every step I took down into the green hued passage, I felt the press of the power increase upon me. It was like a slow trickle of sand and I could feel every single grain adding to the vast mountain which threatened to crush me. It was how I’d imagine claustrophobia would feel.

Small spaces had never really bothered me much. In the close confines of the tunnel, I was starting to reassess my standpoint.

It took me a few moments more to realize that the low noise I could hear was actually the walls of the passage. They were humming softly. The energy I could practically see running through them, creating its own unique melody. It’s sound was almost intoxicating.

I don’t really know what I had expected to find once I reached the bottom of the staircase, but it certainly wasn’t anything like what I saw as I descended the last few steps into the small chamber below the island.

In the center of the small space was a dais, not unlike the one I’d stepped up onto inside of the ceremonial circle what seemed like a lifetime ago now. It too had something large set upon it, another shrine perhaps, like the one which the Amphis has occupied? It was impossible to tell though, as wherever it was, was completely encased in a mat of dense, green vines.

I stepped closer, curiosity winning out over fear, as I tried to make out the true outline of the thing lying beneath. As I reached the top step of the dais, I noticed a small gap which the vines hadn’t yet managed to cover over. I leaned in to get a better look. Whatever was inside had to be what the Priestess has sent me down here to find. There wasn’t anything else contained within the small chamber after all.

Finally, I managed to find the right angle to peer beneath the thick foliage, but what I saw within its verdant coils filled me with a sickening wave of horror.

It was a girl! She couldn’t be many summers older than me, her skin was pale and her eyes closed as if in sleep. It was then that I realized with revulsion that the vines weren’t just encasing her small form. They were consuming her. Feeding from her body in the same way a strangleweed plant would feed from its host tree. Countless pink tinged tendrils punctured her skin and the network of small purple veins, which I could see clearly now beneath the green skin of the plant, we’re slowly draining her life away.

One thought eclipsed my mind. I had to save her! I began ripping at the vines, tearing away at them, using my fingernails to claw them off of her still, pallid skin.

Moments passed or maybe hours, my frantic mind lost all grip on the passage of time as no matter how hard I fought, the snakelike vines would just shift and lengthen, instantly filling in the damage which I inflicted with fresh new growth.

Tears of frustration ran unchecked down my cheeks but still I kept on clawing and tearing, unwilling and unable to just give up on her. I could feel her slow steady pulse as I dug my fingers deep into her tormentors flesh. It confirmed what I’d already known in my heart. She was still alive in there, it wasn’t too late.

“That is not the way my child.” The new melodious voice swelled to fill every space within the small chamber with its soothing beauty. My hands stilled and I dragged in a sobbing breath, collapsing to my knees on the cold stone platform.

“But I have to save you!” My words were a broken whisper. I didn’t even question how it was that I knew the voice to be hers. Bitter tears blinded me, turning the emerald tomb into a sea of watery-green hues.

“And save me you will, Amara, Daughter of Kocheck, and Princess to the Nacaguan people.”

Episode 29 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 29

My foot touched down on the crystalline sand and I staggered forward as the presence which I’d felt, standing on the other shore, swelled and intensified.

It felt like an enormous weight pressing down upon me. This was nothing like the barrier spells we’d passed through to get here. It was nothing like anything I’d ever felt before. Somehow though, it still felt familiar to me. It made me think of the one and only time I’d seen the ocean which lay far to the west of my village.

After a life spent living within a small scattering of clearings, pressed in on all sides by dense jungle, the oceans vastness was impossible to comprehend. It was a thing of incredible beauty and I’d marveled at it’s shining turquoise expanse, but at the same time I couldn’t help also feeling a kind of fear at the sheer deadly power contained within its awe inspiring immenseness.

I heard Solen draw in a sharp breath behind me as he too felt the heft of the ancient power that resonated in this place.

“Please, come.” The Priestess beckoned us to follow her as she left the shore and began to climb the natural crystal staircase which circled up the right hand side of the emerald crag that rose before us.

For a moment, I wasn’t sure that I could move at all under the weight of all that power. Gritting my teeth in determination I took first one tentative step, then a second, surprised to find that despite the perceived pressure my movement seemed unaffected.

The Priestess was already nearing the top of the stair, and as Solen too had started to climb, I hurried to catch up with them. I wished that I could take the time to admire the amazing green crystals beneath my feet but a part of me also hoped that we wouldn’t have to linger in this strange place any longer than absolutely necessary.

The last step was taller than the rest and Solen held out his hand to help me up the rest of the way. As I reached out to place my hand in his, I wondered why it was we could touch so easily now? I was starting to think it might not only be the effects of the Priestess’ herbal tea.

It was certainly possible that the inherent magic of this strange otherworldly place was somehow drawing my spirit that little bit closer to the living world. Either that or it was somehow Solen’s spirit which was being drawn closer to the spirit realm.

The sudden thought shot a jolt of fear through my heart but it was eclipsed a moment later when our fingers finally touched and a flash of blinding energy shot through my body like white hot lightning.

Everything seemed to slow down as my wide eyes met Solen’s shocked gaze, then the moment passed and I felt myself falling, teetering backward towards the edge of the steep rock face and the desert of sharp crystals waiting below.

Solen’s grip tightened again then and with a sharp tug he pulled me back up the step and into his waiting arms.

We clung there like that for a long moment gasping in shuddering breaths, hearts pounding in time. What in all of Gaia was that? I pulled back from Solen’s embrace intending to ask the Priestess if she to had felt it but before I could she began to speak.

“Two shall set forth, true of heart, returning as one to mend that which lies broken.” Her words resonated strangely off of the walls of the cavern, and the crystals at our feet began to vibrate. Solen and I both watched on in wonder as the seemingly solid wall of crystal before us began to slide open. With a smooth grating sigh, the crystalline points pulled back sinking into the ground before us, forming a new staircase which looked to descend right down into the very heart of the island.

Episode 28 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 28

Crystal clear waterfalls trickled, ran and gushed over mossy walls covered in all manner of prehistoric looking ferns. Their waters cascading down into a pool that was so turquoise blue, it almost hurt your soul to look at it.

The waters lapped gently against the walls of the cavern, drawing out long strands of lush, green vegetation which waved and danced across its sparking surface.

The pool itself filled the entire cavern, and when I looked down to where it lapped at the ledge where we now stood, I saw shimmering shoals of multicolored fish darting about gleefully in its depths.

The cavern was lit, bright as day, and it took my overwhelmed senses a moment to locate the source of the light. It’s high vaulted ceiling was solid rock, veined with what looked like seams of quartz, but what my heart told me was sure to be pure diamond. The light was coming from another vast outcropping of sparkling gemstone points which thrust up from the center of the pool forming a small island in their midst.

It was this shining emerald isle which drew all of my focus then, or rather what I could feel nestled right at its very center. The presence called to me somehow, like a half remembered song or some long forgotten memory tickling at the edges of my mind.

The Priestess held out her hand and let the swirling sphere of aqua mist dissolve. It dripped through her pale fingers and fell into the pool below, shimmering, and then spreading out in concentric ripples which moved away from us across the water.

The moment the ripples touched the far bank the whole cavern seemed to begin to vibrate.

It wasn’t the same crass, clumsy shaking that accompanied an earthquake but something far more subtle, like the chiming of some soundless bell disturbing the air all around us.

With surprise, I looked down and found my fingers once again entwined with Solen’s. This time though I hadn’t sought the contact because I was afraid. It was more that I just had to share all of the wonder and anticipation that I felt thrumming through my every molecule.

Stone columns began to rise ponderously from beneath the water, sending the shoals of fish scattering in all directions. I could feel as well as hear the low grumbling noise they made, as the plinths pushed themselves free of the surrounding rock. They rose steadily, higher and higher, until at last they broke free of the surface of the water.

Shining rivulets poured from their algae covered tops creating even more ripples where they fell.

The Priestess smiled at our joint expressions of awe.

“I remember the first time I came upon this cavern. It’s quite something isn’t it?” Turning she stepped off of the ledge and onto the first large stone, holding her hand out to me.

“Come child. She has been waiting to meet you and your brave consort far longer than you can ever imagine.”

Releasing Solen’s hand I took hold of her cool fingers, terrified that any moment I would slip and send us both tumbling into the icy looking water below.

Thankfully my footing didn’t betray me though, and with concentration I followed her to the next stone, and the next. I felt Solen’s comforting presence at my back the entire way across the pool but it didn’t stop my insides from trembling as I took that last final step onto the glinting green shore on the other side.

Episode 27 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 27

Solen and I placed our mugs down on the wide stone hearth and the Priestess motioned for us to follow her. She led us over to the far end of the room, and came to a stop before a large intricately handwoven tapestry.

“We are about to cross through a barrier, not unlike the one that I’m sure you both felt at the temple entrance.”

She lifted the tapestry aside revealing yet another stone tunnel. This one was at least partially lit by dimly shining glass orbs set into recessed in its walls on either side. I had a feeling that the entire temple was riddled with such passages and the thought of what might be waiting down any one of them sent small shivers down my spine.

Solen went first, as usual, passing through the barrier without hesitation. I followed behind him and to my surprise, I realized that I felt a little braver.

Maybe it was the special mix of herbs in the Priestess’ tea? Or it could be that after all I’d braved so far, whatever it was that lay at the other end of the tunnel didn’t feel like anything I couldn’t handle.

“As long as he’s by your side.” A smug knowing voice whispered in my mind.

Well, so what if that was true! I shoved the self critical voice aside, and ducked beneath a hanging curtain of spider webs. Even my father didn’t rule entirely alone. He had his guards and his council too. At the moment Solen was filling the role of both for me. So, to my mind, relying on his aid wasn’t a weakness at all, it was a strength.

“That’s a simple but powerful truth Amara. You’ll need to hold it close to your heart in the coming days. Don’t let yourself forget it, no matter how tempting it is to let your doubts rule you.” The Priestess’ voice seemed to come from every direction at once as it echoed eerily off the damp stone walls.

I quickly pushed another curtain of web aside and allowed myself a small sigh of relief when I found Solen standing on the other side of it staring quizzically at me.

He looked like he was about to speak but then the Priestess pushed aside the thick cobwebs and the passage filled with light.

We both stared in amazement at the glowing sphere of blue mist which she now held outstretched in her open palm. The mist shed an aqua blue light which seemed to linger for a moment or two in the Priestess’ wake, as she carried on down the sloping passage.

This time I walked ahead of Solen, drawn like a helpless moth to the tendrils of blue mist, which seemed to wrap themselves around my curious fingers like strands of glowing silk, before dissipating completely, taking all my lingering fear with them.

I was so taken in by the strange magic that I almost bumped straight into the Priestess’ back when she finally came to a stop. My mouth dropped open on a gasp as I stared around in even greater amazement at the large vaulted cavern which had suddenly opened up before us.

If I had ever needed proof of the Godess’ divine touch on earth, then this was surely it.

Episode 26 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 26

I could feel Solen’s eyes on me as he tried to work out the meaning of the Priestess’ words, so I didn’t risk glancing his way, instead focusing diligently on what she was doing with the newly boiled water.
Using an old rag, she retrieved the kettle from the fireplace and poured the steaming liquid through a piece of fine fabric which, I saw, held an assortment of leaves and berries. The water passed through the cloth and dripped into another smaller clay pot below. The scent of the steeping leaves and berries reminded me of rich dark fruitcake and warm sweet honey, and I found my mouth watering again as I watched her divide the liquid into three ornately carved wooden mugs. Setting the pot back down by the hearth she handed one each to Solen and I and lifted her own mug to her nose breathing in the aroma with an appreciative sigh.
It wasn’t until I heard Solen gasp that I realised what was wrong with that picture. I stared down in amazement at the warm mug cradled in my hands, running my thumb across the grain in fascination as my senses exploded with renewed sensation.
My heart was pounding as I carefully lifted the mug up to my waiting lips, all the time expecting the moment to end and the cup to crash to the floor as my new reality asserted itself once more.
It didn’t happen and I tipped a small sip of the brew between my lips, gasping and coughing as it burned its way down my throat.
“Careful dear, it’s still a little hot.” If the Priestess saw the grateful tears welling up in my eyes she didn’t let on. The three of us fell into an almost companionable silence as we sipped at our drinks, and for a few precious minutes let our problems take a welcome rest.
It wasn’t until I was staring into the bottom of my mug that I suddenly wondered if accepting drinks from an almost total stranger was a wise idea. I quickly pushed the thought aside though as I didn’t want to offend the only person who stood any chance of helping me, plus I figured that it was a little late to be worrying about it now. Besides I felt better than I had in days, in part due to just being able to partake in a little normality again and part, I suspected, to the natural medicinal properties contained in the mixture of leaves and berries that the Priestess had used.
I wondered for a moment how it was that any of this was having an effect on me considering that I didn’t actually have a physical body at present. Surely spirits couldn’t heal by decoctions of plants and roots in the same way that the living could?
“A little bit of medicine and a little bit of magic.” She winked at me, which totally obliterated my former ideas on how serious and unemotional the Priestess always appeared. Maybe this was part of the reason that the chosen weren’t allowed to be in contact with the tribe anymore? Because in being so, the people would see through all of the myth and mystery surrounding the post and realise that they are still just ordinary people like anyone else. Well almost anyhow, if you ignore the snake minding, the purple eyes and the mind reading.
“Oh, I’m anything but ordinary I assure you.” She grinned and my throat tightened slightly.
“But, we aren’t here to talk about me, Amara. I’ve been expecting you…” she glanced across at Solen, “…both of you, as it happens. We have much to discuss before the dawn arrives and your true journey begins.”

Episode 25 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 25

It had all been too fraught in the clearing to take much in aside from those glowing red eyes. I had noticed the shimmering green colour of her long flowing robes and yet missed that the source of the shimmer was a thousand, iridescent jewel beetle wing cases which had been carefully and painstakingly sewn onto the smooth flaxen fabric. I had noticed too the eerie way that she moved as if the earth had no hold over her, but failed to see that her feet were bare and lightly stained green from the forest floor.
In the clearing, she had seemed so otherworldly and strange, like an alien being at odds with the natural order. But down here in the gentle light of the fire she seemed far more human. Just a woman who preferred a solitary life amongst the trees and animals instead of that found by belonging to a community.
That was, at least, until she looked directly over at me with that odd purple gaze.
“Will you stand staring at me for the whole of the visit, or do you intend to take a seat on the bench here next to your friend?”
My mouth dropped open in shock and she chuckled gleefully.
“You will have to excuse me my fun. It’s been many years since I last had company so I couldn’t resist teasing you both just a little.” She gestured again to the wooden bench and I shuffled over to it and sat down, not really knowing how to respond but content, for now, to settle for not sinking straight through the bench and ending up sprawled on the floor.
There were a million questions buzzing around in my head but I couldn’t for the life of me work out where to begin.
“Hush now child, or you’ll give me a headache” She poured water from a large earthenware pitcher into an old copper kettle and set it to boil next to the cauldron.
“But, I didn’t…that is…I hadn’t.” I stammered looking quickly over at Solen who gave me a subtle head shake which effectively silenced my babbling. The fact that I was now fairly certain that the strange woman could read my thoughts gave me all the incentive I needed to try and make my mind into a blank slate.
I focused on the room instead, taking in the array of dried and fresh herbs which hung from the ceiling and the assortment of different coloured potions which lined a stone desk to the right of where we sat.
“I wonder what those are for?” The thought popped unbidden into my mind, and when her purple gaze once again snapped to mine, I blushed crimson and dropped my own gaze to stare in feigned fascination at the colourful and ornate pattern on the carpet beneath my feet.
A few awkward minutes later and the kettle finally began to hiss as the water inside bubbled away merrily. How on earth did Solen manage to stay so calm and collected all of the time? It verged on infuriating how good he was at masking what he thought and felt.
“Still waters run deep my dear.” My gaze snapped back up to hers and she smiled knowingly at me.

Morality vs the Written Word

Today a question was asked in one of my writing groups and as it’s not the first time I’ve seen a question of this nature when thumbing through the posts, I decided it merited an article of its own.

An author had used the word ‘lame’ in the context of a character replying to a proposed idea as such.

Character 1: “I’m going to skip the party and just chill in the library.”

Character 2: “Lame.”

The author in question had then sent their work on to beta readers, one of whom came back and informed the author that by using that word they were in fact being ableist.

[Ableism: discrimination in favour of able-bodied people.]

The author was addressing the writers group to get further feedback to ascertain how other writers viewed the issue so that she could make the decision on whether to remove the word from her work as the beta suggested.

Many of the group agreed that within the context of her work, the use of ‘Lame’ was perfectly acceptable and that for it to actually qualify as ableist, in any real sense, there would have to be the proper intent behind the use which was clearly absent in this case.

One member was brave enough to challenge the overall opinion, however, citing that people shouldn’t use the word because it could cause offense and went on to describe an occasion where a friend of hers had used the word ‘crippled’ in her presence even though she herself was wheelchair bound for much of the time.

She cited that language evolves alongside empathy and that we have a duty to bear that in mind when writing, and that she herself would never use the word ‘lame’ in her work for this very reason. Several of the points that she made were completely valid and in one sense I applaud her bravery for coming forward and defending her beliefs.

The word ‘lame’ is most often used in today’s society to describe something that wouldn’t be good or enjoyable. When you take into account that it used to be the most widely used description for anyone with mobility issues that does sound pretty bad doesn’t it?

I must admit that in my real life I usually choose to err on the side of empathy and common sense wherever possible. That being said, in my opinion it is also important as writers to understand that the worlds which we write and our real selves/lives often lie miles apart in many ways.

One of the hardest things for any writer to accomplish is the formation of three dimensional believable characters. Without these, stories are little more than a block of uninteresting text on a page.

If we all only wrote characters with our own moral values then stories as a whole would become very dull indeed. Basically, we would spend our days either writing stereotypical superhero’s or every story would end up containing miniature versions of our most pedestal-living selves.

Let’s face it, were that the case, no one would want to read a single word we penned down at the end of the day, no matter how much blood, sweat and tears we poured into the endeavor.

The key to a great story is to have a wonderful array of colorful characters who cover the whole spectrum from truest good to darkest evil. That being said our characters also need to be as realistic and true to their natures as possible, including when it comes to swearing, crossing the moral and ethical line etc.

In conclusion

Should you use ‘lame’ when referring to another human being in your day to day life, down at the local supermarket maybe? Or in the schoolyard?

Certainly not in my personal opinion. To do so could be hurtful and rude in the extreme.

In that case, should you worry about putting the word, in the not enjoyable/not good context, because your character happens to be a teen and that, like it or not, is the language frequently used by real life teens?

Not even remotely! Be true to your characters, warts and all, as realism above all is one of the building blocks of a fantastic story!!

Happy writing all 🙂

Episode 24 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 24

There was a feeling of pressure as I passed through the archway as if the air had grown unnaturally thick around me and I was having to push my way through it.
A light flared a moment later further down the stone tunnel and the odd sensation lifted. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the fast change in light but finally, I glimpsed the Priestess standing next to a recess in the tunnel wall holding a flickering torch which she had clearly retrieved from a metal sconce set into the wall.
“Come along now. It’s not much further and then you can tell me all about your troubles.”
“Thank you.” She smiled at Solen again, and then with a small nod turned and headed off down the tunnel. Solen and I followed her, trying to stay within the pool of light cast by her torch. I wished I could talk to Solen, to ask him if he trusted her if he thought we’d made a grave mistake coming to this strange unsettling place. But then I remembered what he’d said back at the lodge. Otherworldly or not, there was still a good likelihood that when he told the Priestess that he was communicating with my disembodied spirit, she would kick him right back out on his ear for wasting her time.
If I spoke to him then even if he did respond, there was a good chance that she might overhear him and it could give the game away far too soon. Best instead to let Solen work up to telling her my situation in his own way, she may still refuse to listen to him but at least we would have given it our best shot.
I refused to let myself dwell on the possibility that she might refuse to help us. Worrying wouldn’t help anyone or change anything, so instead, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other until at last, we reached a large wooden door at the end of the passage.
The Priestess raised her hand and places it gently on the gnarled wood of the door and a moment later I heard a click. The door swung back on surprisingly silent hinges, revealing a small dwelling with a gently crackling fire pit at its centre.
On one side of the fire pit was a semi-circular wooden bench with a selection of animal skins spread across it and on the opposite side a large metal cauldron bubbled away merrily releasing puffs of fragrant smoke which made my mouth water.
On the far side of the room was a bed and every inch of available floor space was taken up with woven carpets of all shape, size and colour.
All in all, it was a very comfortable looking little dwelling, a far cry from the austere minimalistic quarters that I had envisioned the Priestess occupying. It seemed in direct conflict with the seemingly cool, perfect being that stood before us.
She moved over to stoke the fire, gesturing for Solen to sit down on the bench seat. I assessed her again with a clearer head as she fetched two new logs to add to the dying flames.

Episode 23 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 23

“I’d really prefer it if you didn’t hurt my pet. He’s been at my side for more years than you’ve walked the earth, and I’m quite fond of him” The voice was smooth like silk and totally neutral. I’d never actually heard her speak before, but I didn’t need to turn my gaze to know that it was the Priestess herself who was addressing us.
“Then you won’t mind at all, calling him off” Solen’s voice- was low and unyielding, yet somehow even standing over me like some sort of blood-sworn bodyguard, with his bow still gripped firmly in his hands, he still managed to sound respectful.
“You heard the young man Jinzu” The creature gave one last shriek of acknowledgement with a definite undertone of irritation at being denied its new playthings, before bounding off through the canopy. It must have already been in position before we arrived because, if the din it was making as it headed back towards the temple was anything to go by, then stealth was not a skill it possessed.
Part of me was almost disappointed that I hadn’t managed to even glimpse what kind of creature ‘Jinzu’ was, but only a very small part. The memory of its shrill terrible screams still rang in my ears, and I hoped that I’d never have the misfortune of hearing that sound again in my lifetime. If I still had a lifetime to live that is.
I struggled to get back to my feet and once I was stood at his side again Solen slowly lowered the bow to his side, placing the arrow back into his quiver with practised ease.
“This place is forbidden to all but those chosen by Ziuni.” I wasn’t sure what I had been expecting in response to our trespass but it certainly wasn’t the soft smile that grew to brighten her otherworldly purple eyes.
“I am sorry Priestess. I wouldn’t have come to this sacred ground but there seemed to be no other choice. My problem is very grave, and I fear not one entirely of this world.”
The Priestess raised her hand to stop him, silver bracelets glinting in the late morning light. “You had better follow me. Such things are best only spoken of safely away from prying eyes.”
Her words sent a whole new wave of shivers through me, and I couldn’t help but scan the thick blanket of green surrounding the clearing. The Priestess lead the way, her unnatural grace making it seem like she floated over the roots and vines rather than walking upon them. In fact, everything about her, from her strange purple eyes, to her oddly calm demeanour had me wondering if she had any of her former humanity left inside of her. She just seemed so strangely…other.
We arrived in front of a seemingly impenetrable wall of dense foliage but, with a smooth wave of her hand the vines drew back revealing a crumbling stone archway. It had a series of symbols carved into its sandstone blocks and in the centre of the top of the arch was Ziuni’s symbol, the heart crossed by twin spears, wrapped tightly in the coils of a two-headed serpent.
The Priestess passed under the stones and after a quick reassuring glance back at me, Solen too stepped forward into the shadowy interior of the temple.
Standing alone in the sunlight dappled clearing should have been preferable to the shadows that awaited me inside, but I couldn’t help the feeling that someone was indeed watching me, just as the Priestess had implied. The back of my neck prickled uncomfortably, but I refused to turn around and give substance to my fear.
With a soft shushing sound, the vines began to relax again, one by one slowly falling back into pace in front of the entrance and without a moment’s hesitation, I darted beneath the arch and into the darkness beyond.

Episode 22 of Bite of the Amphis

Episode 22

It was as if all the fear I’d clutched so tightly within myself, had suddenly manifested in front of my eyes.
Giant glinting coils rose, stretching up toward the patch of blue sky at the centre of the clearing. My wide eyes followed their scaled path as they twined up and around the large stone columns, which held up a roof that seemed to defy all the laws of nature. Crumbling from the passage of what had to be countless generations, it seemed to my eyes, to be part formed from ancient weathered stone and part out of the living jungle canopy itself.
Large creeping strangler fig vines had been trained in and around the original stones, living ropes, binding the whole crumbling structure together. As if man and nature had come together in its creation. It took my breath away.
How ironic that the people of my tribe had all in some way been correct. I couldn’t help but wonder if we would both be allowed to live long enough to return home and confirm their beliefs?
Although within the first few moments, once my initial terror died down, my brain had registered that the giant coils were actually that of a giant inanimate stone statue, rather than the final embodiment of my Goddess’ wrath, I still found the large obsidian orbs set into the serpent’s twin heads sickeningly familiar. I was still frozen to the spot but I was certain that, if I ever found the courage to move again, those black stone orbs would follow my every step.
“Regretting helping me yet?” My voice was reedy and my small nervous giggle sounded discordant and out of place in the deathlike stillness of the clearing.
I wasn’t actually expecting him to answer me, my words had only been a vain attempt to push back my anxiety enough to allow me to take the next step.
“Never” his voice was so low that I couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t my own imagination running away with me. Glancing over at him I found his grey gaze on mine once again with that unreadable expression which was fast pushing my already frayed nerves towards breaking point.
“Come on then, let’s get this over with.” My voice was a little high pitched but at least it sounded steady, a fact which I got to be proud of for all of two paces before a terrifying shriek broke the stillness.
“Sacrilege!” the voice howled its harsh notes echoing off of the surrounding tree trunks.
Screaming, I stumbled back a pace my foot disappearing straight through the moss-covered tangle of roots. Landing flat on my back on the damp musty ground, my scream died in my throat as I found myself pinned in place by a pair of furious looking blood red eyes.
“Intruders…. Defilers!” The eerie voice sounded like it was coming from everywhere all at once.
I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the creature’s crimson gaze, but I heard Solen pull his bow smoothly from the sling at his back, and the soft almost imperceptible tap as he notched one of his deadly black-tipped arrows in place.