NEITHER DEAD, NOR alive, Elodie’s ghostly existence didn’t require nutrition like her human body did on Earth. There were no books to read, no people to interact with, and nothing to do but wander the vast desolate lands of the Netherworld.
Thunder roared above, echoing through the vacant surroundings. What Elodie didn’t yet realise was that the landscape reflected her projected feelings. She felt alone, bleak and out of sorts, and in turn, her surroundings were barren, dark, and full of hopelessness. The opposite of being locked in the cell of a prison, Elodie was left to roam the vastness of her mind as far as her eye could see, with nobody to guide her.
Magic in the Netherworld was much stronger than in any other realm, and certainly stronger than where Earth. In comparison to all of the other realms, Earth contained a minute amount of magic, and was of the few relatively ‘untouched’ dimensions still out there. What magic did exist on Earth did not originate there.
Elodie stopped to assess her belongings. She knew enough to know she needed a plan before continuing on the treacherous journey. She dropped her sack onto the ground, a pile of dust swirled around it as it landed with a thud. Her long, dark red hair fell in front of her face in chunks as she kneeled down beside her possessions. She pushed the hood of her coal-grey cloak back from her fair-colored face, and it slid down the back of her head.
Lightening cracked in the distance, illuminating the skies if only for a moment. Elodie reached into her bag, and began pulling out the items one at a time. The first out was a plain-looking dagger. She remembered how terrified she was when she snatched it off a drunken man passed out on the cobblestone streets of Hazelton. She also remembered the desperation that drove her to take it in the first place. Being an orphan was dangerous business where she was from and protecting yourself was vital for survival. She placed the knife down beside her, systematically moving onto the next thing.
Elodie wrapped her long, calloused fingers around a worn piece of wood. She didn’t have to see this to know what she held in her hand. It was silly, really, but she’d treasured it since the day her cousin, Booker, whittled it for her. She could still remember how he smelled, his warm smile, and gentle touch. He was the only person in her life that resembled family, though he wasn’t much older than Elodie, Booker carried himself like an adult when they were children. Elodie stroked the wings on the toy horse, as she pushed the final memory of Booker’s limp body and lifeless eyes hanging in the town square. The king’s underlings made an example of him when they caught him fleeing the city to avoid going to war.
Where once tears would form, Elodie only felt the chill of the night air. She’d never felt so hallow. All she wanted to do was cry, to show some kind of emotion, but nothing surfaced. Only memories void of feeling. Elodie looked to the midnight sky, into the abyss, and found herself wondering what to do next. Where would she go? What was the point? Why would she fight to get back to a world that had rejected her since birth? Her reality here was cold and brutal, but so was her life back at home. With Booker gone, and her uncle on his death bed, there wasn’t much left.
The third item to come out of her sack, a metal pendant with breathtaking mountains up its face, circled in knots. Between the mountain peaks sat a single, almost-glowing stone. Elodie ran her finger over the stone, remember the words of the white witch. The woman who’d sacrificed herself so Elodie could live. The old woman’s words whispered through Elodie’s mind… You’re headed down a tough road, Elodie. One filled with trying times, and you will be stuck in this world between worlds, child. There is no guarantee you will ever get out. The scales may never tip in your favor. But you must remain strong, sweet one, and navigate using your head, not your heart. Fight hard and fast. Stand tall. Most of all, never give up.
The last few items fell as Elodie shook them from the bag, into the dirt. She glanced over the few pieces of spare clothing, worn deck of playing cards, handful of dried meat-that she tossed to the side, as there was no use for it here, the torn up old blanket she’d had since she was a child, and lastly, her dingy old water canteen. Another useless items, but she decided to hang onto it just in case.
A harsh wind kicked up, blowing Elodie’s cloak open. Though she didn’t need to eat, she still felt temperature, pain and fatigue. She was thankful for two things, at least, and that was that her earthen armor and trusted sword. Together, they kept her warm and protected. They were her most prized possessions, as they weren’t easy to come by.
Elodie gathered her items, placing them back into her sack. She needed to get moving. So far she hadn’t encountered any other living thing in this new world, but she didn’t trust it would remain that way forever. With the landscape so barren, she had no choice but to pick a direction by random in hopes of finding something a little more comforting along her travels.
After a moment of careful consideration, Elodie began walking North… or so she assumed. Her inner compass had no real grasp of direction, though, so it was a total guess as to whether that’s where she was actually headed.
The further Elodie walked, the more desperate she became. She’d never seen such a place before. No water, a few decrepit trees, and no animals. The land carried on and on as a dusty wasteland. Bitterness grew inside her like a hunger that couldn’t be stopped. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she saw in the distant skyline a single tower, black as the sky above her. The only reason she noticed it was because of the faint glimmer it held. Elodie had never seen a structure of that magnitude before.
Every ounce of Elodie’s being told her to turn around, to head back the direction she’d just emerged from, but a strange pull kept her moving forward. Almost like she had no control of her actions. She stared at the building, mesmerized.
© 2017, Anisa Claire. All rights reserved.
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