Chapter 9

The morning rays of the rising sun were just beginning to stream through the trees when Shime’Kar knelt and woke Mara’Uto on the bank of the Torudo River. She handed the girl some bread. “We should reach Atalan by early afternoon unless the enemy manages to catch up.”

Mara’Uto examined the bread. “I’d much rather eat fish,” she moaned. “This bread isn’t bad, but it isn’t what I normally eat.”

Shime’Kar sighed and began to nibble on some bread herself. “We’re almost to Atalan. Hang in there just a little longer.”

The horse behind Shime’Kar suddenly startled and would have run off if it hadn’t been tied. Shime’Kar set down her bread and slowly surveyed the forest around them. “Leave your bread and go for a swim,” she urgently whispered, pushing Mara’Uto into the water.

Mara’Uto rolled onto her stomach in the refreshingly cool water. “What is it?” she asked, trying to look into the trees behind Shime’Kar.

Shime’Kar just shook her head and motioned for Mara’Uto to move further into the river. She held her hands motionless, ready to attack the hidden threat as soon as she spotted it. She looked perplexed at the now calm horse and slowly started to rise from her knees. Behind the trees to her right, she heard a faint rustling of leaves and the sudden snap of a taut bowstring.

The arrow that pierced her thigh sent her back down to her knees with a sharp cry of pain, but she managed to twist to face the attacker and returned the attack with a roaring stream of fire from her hands. A soldier of darkness was flushed from his hiding place trying frantically to extinguish his flaming vestments, but a bolt of lightning from her hand finished him.

Mara’Uto watched from the river as another soldier of darkness carrying a large club stepped from behind the horse and toward Shime’Kar. The bulky dark figure raised the club over his head. “Smash!” he roared as he brought the monstrous weapon down upon the wounded woman, but was drowned out by the volume of Mara’Uto’s scream. Shime’Kar crumpled to the ground from the blow to her head.

The soldier of darkness turned toward Mara’Uto but a brightly colored flickering of movement distracted him and he turned away as his gaze followed a butterfly. He dropped his club and tried unsuccessfully to catch the flying insect. Mara’Uto last saw him as he chased after it into the trees.

She swam back to the shore and crawled up beside Shime’Kar’s unmoving body. She cried as she shook the woman. “You can’t just die and leave me here!” she cried. “You were going to take me to Atalan today!”

Shime’Kar’s eyes fluttered but did not open as she let out a faint gasp. “I can no longer take you to Atalan, but you can still get on the horse and go yourself,” she groaned. “Follow the river to the sea and you cannot miss it.”

“No, I can’t do it,” Mara’Uto whimpered.

“I cannot move,” Shime’Kar replied. “I brought you this far and I know you can go the rest of the way. Go to Atalan and send back help for me.” Mara’Uto hesitated and wiped away some tears. “Go!” Shime’Kar groaned more urgently. “Go now or tomorrow will see the end of our world!”

Mara’Uto lowered her head. “I can’t just leave you here to die,” she protested.

They suddenly heard someone grunting and trudging through the underbrush toward them. Mara’Uto turned her head to see the large Soldier of Darkness returning after losing the butterfly. He had not yet spotted them so Mara’Uto reached for Shime’Kar’s sword and began to pull it from the sheath.

“Wait,” said Shime’Kar, “the sword will not help you now. Take my hand in yours and point at the enemy.”

“What will that do?” Mara’Uto asked, grasping the woman’s limp hand.

“From the time I first saw you, I knew you could use magic,” Shime’Kar whispered. “I know you have not been trained, but I will help you defeat this enemy.” A purple aura seemed to surround and engulf the two hands as Mara’Uto pointed them towards the soldier of darkness, as if binding them into a single essence.

Several seconds passed with Mara’Uto making a few small hand movements. “I am trying but I don’t know how,” she softly hissed.

Shime’Kar gave a small smile. “Do not try using it, know you are using it,” she instructed.

The purple aura was now beginning to spread around Mara’Uto as she looked back at the soldier of darkness. She imagined herself blasting the enemy with lighting as she had previously seen Shime’Kar do. She breathed in deeply and tried to follow Shime’Kar’s advice. Several small sparks crackled from their hands and passed harmlessly to the ground. At first, she thought Shime’Kar had done it but then she realized it had been her.

The soldier of darkness heard the crackling and turned to face them. He roared in anger and grabbed a large sapling, ripping it from the ground and snapping off the top to make himself a club. “Jerutobikozord. Smash!” he bellowed.

Mara’Uto did not wait for him to come any closer. She was awestruck by her newfound ability and used it as best she could. Lightning flashed wildly but in the general direction of the soldier of darkness. The sound was deafening and the light dazzling but she kept it up for several seconds until she was sure the enemy was dead.

She stopped and found herself feeling worn out and trying to catch her breath. She lowered her hand as the purple aura completely faded away. The air was filled with an acrid smell and small fires burned scattered in the forest around them. “I knew you could do it,” Shime’Kar quietly congratulated.

Mara’Uto looked at Shime’Kar. “But how did you know?”

“How often do you meet someone with purple eyes?” Shime’Kar mused. “Now take the horse and ride to Atalan. You are the only warning they will have of the Dark Wizard’s attack.” She smiled. “I am sorry you must leave me, but we both know you are able to do it.”

Mara’Uto sighed. “Goodbye, Shime’Kar. I will send help for you as soon as I get there.” There was no response. Mara’Uto backed away from the woman and stood up as best she could on her fins. Ignoring the pain in her wounded legs and torn fins, she awkwardly walked to the horse and untied it. “I hope you can keep me from falling,” she said to the horse as she struggled to mount it.

Soon she was riding south along the river. At first, it was slow as she tried to get used to controlling the horse and not having Shime’Kar to keep her from falling, but eventually she felt comfortable enough to go faster. Shime’Kar had been right; she could do it!