“You need to get the Centaurs out of my area!” Kragon told Arnav in a cold voice in the coarse language of the northern kingdoms. Kragon’s sharp voice was nearly shaking in anger as his heavy tail swished in anger. With his seven feet height, blood red skin and broad forehead and thick arms which looked as thick as the trees from the Restricted Region, Kragon, the Merkil, looked every inch a killer, which he was.
Arnav was scared. Slightly. He was after all just a human and though he was strong among humans, no human could match up to either the ferocity or cruelty of Merkils. But right then in the royal court of the Merkil surrounded by the stolen riches from all the other realms, Arnav was not concerned for his personal safety. That probably never even computed in Arnav’s head. Arnav was natural leader and he had been threatened far too many times in his life to actually be worried about it. Arnav was more worried for his group. His people had trusted him and come with him to meet Kragon. Arnav could not let anything happen to his people. It was a matter of honour.
“I have come here to negotiate on behalf of the Centaurs, Kragon!” Arnav said speaking in the Ancient language of Alternia, making sure he did not show any fear on his face. Arnav deliberately used the Merkil’s name, trying to make sure he showed no fear. Arnav knew a bully when he saw one. A bully who showed force merely because people backed down. Arnav knew how to deal with people like that because Arnav had always been involved in negotiation for most of his adult life and Arnav had shown a natural flair for it. And in a realm with over 76 intelligent species all wielding magic of various sort, Arnav’s skills were without par.
That was the very reason Arnav had been chosen by the Centaurs to represent them before Kragon.
And the reason Arnav had talked in the Ancient language to the Merkil was an act of trust – Only a person who came with just intentions could talk in the language of the Ancients. Arnav was more than convinced that he had a just cause in this case.
Even as he had come at the request of the Queen Mother Centaur, Arnav was not very hopeful of any positive outcome. But the Queen Mother was a personal friend and many summers back, when the Queen Mother had been young, the Queen Mother had saved Arnav’s life during the Ghoul Rebellion. Arnav felt that representing the Centaurs was the least he could do to the Centaurs in return.
In the court, Kragon bristled when Arnav called him by his name. Almost no one in the realm called him by his name. Very few even knew it. But the puny human before him looked confident as he was speaking.
Arnav and Kragon both turned as a terrified small dwarf ran inside the court and spoke in a squeaky voice bowing low to the Merkil.
Kragon looked at the dwarf disdainfully with hate filled, glittering eyes. “I said I was not to be disturbed!” Kragon said in a ice cold voice.
Arnav felt sorry for the dwarf and wanted to point out to Kragon about Resolution 2 of the Peace Treaty Among Magical Creatures Act. Under this Resolution, all people with magic no matter how weak or strong, were to be treated equal. Judging from the scars and the terrified look of the dwarf, Arnav did not even need his imagination to that that probably no one in this kingdom even knew about the Resolution, let alone follow it.
“The Dark Genii is here, your Majesty!” The dwarf squeaked looking horrified almost as if he realized the punishment that Kragon had in store for him for disturbing Kragon.
Kragon was in fact thinking of the apt punishment for the dwarf and that was when Kragon heard what the dwarf had said.
Kragon’s growled and his green eyes were nearly flaming as he got up in a quick movement. It was only because Arnav was quick in observing small details that Arnav realized that Kragon was scared. Arnav filed that piece of information for future negotiation. But the big problem was that Arnav was not too sure about finding out who this Dark Genii was. And Arnav suspected that any person who scared Kragon, could just not be bad...they were probably someone whom Arnav should stay more than far away from. Subconsciously, Arnav touched the locket in his heart and felt his heart beat hard. The locket which he had was special. Very special. And Arnav suddenly remembered the words he had heard when the locket was given to him. You have the power, my friend. You have the power, if you just believe in it. Probably it just needs a slight push to bring it out.
The person who had told Arnav that was not someone whom Arnav had ever wanted to meet. It was a chance meeting. More than a chance meeting. But what really scared Arnav was what he had done to warrant that meeting. Arnav felt his hands almost clammy as he remembered that occasion well. All the people in Alternia had some magic in them. Staying in Alternia it was impossible not to have some magic in your blood. But what happened the day on which Arnav received the locket was scary. So scary that Arnav actually let himself believe that he had hallucinated the entire thing.
Arnav had no idea what Kragon’s reaction reminded him of his locket. But it did.
Arnav struggled with himself and brought his attention back to the present.
“When?” Kragon barked at the dwarf, struggling to look in control of himself and all the people in Kragon’s court save one, did not even realize that Kragon was actually terrified and was trying not to show it.
“A few minutes back!” The dwarf squeaked bowing again.
“Where is he?” Kragon asked nodding getting up, forgetting about the fact that Arnav was still in his court.
“In the outskirts of the Restricted Region!” the dwarf said.
“Fine, I will meet him, immediately!” Kragon said standing up to his full height and trying to look like he was not scared and as far as Arnav was concerned, Kragon's expression made Kragon look more silly than needed.
Kragon did not look like he even remembered Arnav as Kragon followed the dwarf out of the court.
“The Centaurs are interfering too much with my plans!” The Dark Genii thundered in a loud voice as thunder cracked inside his body. The Dark Genii truly looked horrible. The Dark Genii’s body made up of nothing other than dark thick smoke and crackled with the worst kind of dark magic and the Dark Genii was a dangerous enemy. The Dark Genii could speak into your mind and affect you in the worst possible way – he could make you doubt yourself. That was his power, which made him the most evil sorcerer of all times.
A thunder crackled from the Dark Genii’s hands and shot Kragon straight on the chest, who whimpered and collapsed shamelessly as the Dark Genii laughed in at Kragon’s terrified face. The Dark Genii summoned his power again, but the damned fetters of the Ancient stopped the Dark Genii.
Furiously, the Dark Genii crackled his energy and tried to burn Kragon but Kragon moved himself back terrified and was not hurt by the Dark Genii’s power.
Despite the fact that Kragon was terrified of the Dark Genii, the Dark Genii was disgusted with himself right then.
Because the Dark Genii was forced to take the help of a lowly creature like the Merkil – senseless creatures which relied on brute magic force. Merely because the Centaurs were unaffected by the Dark Genii’s magic. Completely unaffected
“I asked you for one thing!” The Dark Genii fumed as the thunder from his body nearly hit the cowering Kragon again, who was trembling and struggling not to show the fact that he was terrified and was making a bad job of it. “And you still have not done it!” The Dark Genii continued. “Should I remind you Kragon, what I can do to you?” The Dark Genii’s voice turned oily and with a silky threat making him look dangerous. “I can speak to your mind and take away all your powers. You exist because your people still fear you. I will make you into a pathetic crumbling creature....” The Dark Genii hissed in Kragon’s mind.
“P..Please, Your Dar...Darkness!” Kragon pleaded because he could already feel numb and realized that the Dark Genii was stripping away his powers. “I was going to evacuate the Centaurs. I was talking to a human who had come to negotiate on behalf of the Centaurs!” Kragon spoke hastily. “I was about to have the human killed when my dwarf informed me about your arrival!” Kragon was sweating and his hands were almost trembling with rage.
“Why do you wish for the Centaurs to be evacuated?” Arnav came out from behind the boulder that he was hiding in.
The caves where Kragon had met the Genii, near the Restricted Region, looked smoky and foggy. The darkness in and around the rocky caves of the Restricted Region seemed menacing like something was hiding there. Something nasty and which was waiting to pounce at the first chance of weakness....
Arnav was struggling to breathe normally, as his fear was being replaced by blind panic as he stood in front of the shocked Kragon and hissing Genii. Arnav actually looked positively puny in front of the two creatures.
The Genii shrieked and something powerful shot out of the Genii’s hands. Even before actual thought process could reach his mind, Arnva pushed himself back and something with the force of a sledgehammer just missed Arnav by a whisker.
But Arnav was prepared for this. From his hiding space, Arnav had realized that the Genii was powerful but he could not use his power over long distance. And Arnav was able to even observe the fetters of the Ancients in the hands of the smoky Dark Genii.
“By coming here, you have invited your doom, you pathetic human!” The Dark Genii sneered and vanished and reappeared right in front of Arnav.
Arnav did not even have time to get back when he felt it – the utter blank terror which washed over him, which did not let him think.
The Dark Genii was feeding off his fear and was absorbing Arnav’s very essence. Arnav did not even know he was screaming, as he could see it all....His unhappy childhood...His first heart break...The lowest moments in his life when absolutely nothing was right...And Arnav was lying slumped on the ground as utter hopelessness washed over him as from some numbed portion of his brain he could hear the Dark Genii and Kragon laugh at his weakness. But Arnav could do nothing to stop them. Hell, he could not even breathe. He could see the look of disgust which others had for him.
And suddenly without any warning, Arnav’s locket was burning making him even more feverish. Friend, Why do you think that these events show your weakness? The voice came to him exactly the same time like Arnav had heard it the first time and Arnav in his heightened terror suddenly realized that the person who had given him the locket was an Ancient. An Ancient disguised as a human.
Not that the realization helped Arnav in any manner. Arnav was still dying as a dark creature was feeding off his life essence and his brain was trying to shut down from the sheer pain of it.
Arnav was moaning and feverishly clutched his head trying to ignore the pain and he trying to focus on the words flowing inside him, as the pain increased.
You survived all that, my friend. These events made you. You cannot wish them away. Accept it.
The words sounded like someone was talking to him from a deep well and honestly very little of it actually made sense to Arnav.
The ferocity of the mind attack on his head increased so much that Arnav’s head felt like it had been cleaved apart as he was struggling to focus on the evil dark form which approached him.
Accept it...Somehow that was the only thing which kept repeating in Arnav’s head. His life had been unhappy. He was an orphan and had nothing to pull himself up. No one to help him. He learnt to survive all by himself. There was no one to help him when he was hurt. No one to comfort him when he was alone...No one to love him...
But he had survived that. He had made friends. And he had made good friends for life. Friends who trusted him...
Arnav suddenly found the ferocity of the attack from the Dark Genii decrease as he was able to focus better.
The Dark Genii shrieked as his power shot with all its force towards Arnav. “You cannot fight my power, human!” The Dark Genii sneered as Kragon joined his power with that of the Dark Genii and both attacked the human.
But this time it was different.
“I have nothing to hide!” Arnav croaked in the Ancient language, barely able to even keep his eyes open.
And suddenly without any warning, Arnav was shocked when something powerful surrounded him – a shield. - A Mind Shield of the highest order – something which could even push away the combined power of the Dark Genii and a Merkil.
And Arnav was able to focus better as he got up, still feeling weak. But he could see better and the air around him was cackling with his power.
The Dark Genii looked slightly uneasy as Arnav stared at him, standing up straight.
“You cannot feed off my power, Genii!” Arnav said in a hoarse voice. “I have nothing to hide. I accept myself for what I am. My past no longer haunts me!”
No sooner had Arnav even finished the words when the Dark Genii let out a loud howl of pain.
In a corner of his mind, Arnav saw Kragon disintegrate and disappear completely. That was supposedly impossible No mortal even had the power to do something like that. Only the Ancients could do that. But Arnav was in an overdrive and was focusing on the Dark Genii and did not think about what had happened to Kragon.
“I accept my past!” Arnav said finally. And all the powers which Arnav felt shot straight at the Dark Genii and decimated the dark creature, ripping apart the Genii piece by piece.
The Dark Genii screamed and he screamed for a long time, trying to get away as something white and light surrounded the Dark Genii from all sides.
“NO!” The Dark Genii screamed.
After a long time, Arnav felt a huge silence and groggily looked around and saw the darkness around him dispelling slightly. And there was no sign of the Dark Genii.
Even before he could even understand what he had done, Arnav collapsed and that was the last thing that Arnav knew.
“Who...?” Arnav was tired but absolutely nothing made sense to him. His body felt like someone had pounded him repeatedly with the darkest magic of all times. Arnav’s body was tired. Unbearably so. But Arnav’s mind.
It was giving him a kaleidoscope of pictures and emotions – all light, bright and happy....
“The Path of the Ancient has been followed!” Arnav felt the words from around him. He could see no one. But he could sense that the things around him were extraordinarily powerful and good.
“Wha...?” Arnav asked feeling tired.
“The path of the Ancients has been forgotten, Arnav. Ancients were powerful not because of the magic. But because they were willing to look beyond their fear. They could accept themselves for what they were. That is the mark of a true Ancient. You have proved to us that you deserve the locket that you wear. You were able to unlock its true power. Which is why you were able to destroy the Dark Genii and the Merkil. You believed.”
Arnav said nothing because he had nothing to say.
“The Dark Genii needed Kragon to get rid of the Centaurs from their place, Arnav. The Centaurs were immune to the power of the Dark Genii and the land on which the Centaurs lived was the land which have the Dead Scrolls. The lines of the Dead Scroll when deciphered could make the Dark Genii the strongest creature in all of Alternia. And with the power of the Dead Scrolls flowing through him, the Dark Genii would be unstoppable – and the fetters which we, the Ancients, had placed on him would be gone – thereby making the Dark Genii, invincible. But you stopped the Dark Genii. Find the Dead Scrolls, Arnav. You are worthy of it. If you find it, you will be able to fulfill your destiny. Go and find them! You are the only person who has the true potential to find the Dead Scrolls and we know that you will not misuse the power of the Scrolls. You are truly deserving of its powers!”