The Zone. I saw it was more than underground city. It was land emitting its own blend of exotic life through its moist rich fern trees and soap stone buildings scattered along sections of rock plains under a luminous sky blue crystal roof where billows of white light moved at a leisurely pace. The place was as vast and wide as an open sea.
"Amazing." Kalia exhaled with awe.
Corin patted our backs. Joel gave us a reminder to hush our voices.
I nodded. Despite the trauma and trials we had experienced, we couldn't deny our good feelings at seeing a wondrous view.
A renewed energy came upon me as we followed Joel and Corin's lead down the steep rock paths towards the buildings of the lower levels. We arrived to an inconspicuous mud hut at the back of a narrow lane. Inside stood four woman dressed in plain crimson tunics.
"Yah come wif us. Dun cause trouble or I tell dah Chief," croaked a wrinkly faced woman.
Her grey eyes narrowed, revealing a shrewd mind behind an aged face.
I strayed a glance to Corin and Joel and held back a sigh of relief when they stayed by our sides.
We followed the four women out of the hut and emerged onto another path, taking a windy way down to a set of soap stone buildings that were built in a rose spiral pattern.
The woman led us into another mud hut.
"Henchmen stay outside." She curtly ordered the men.
The both acknowledged her words with a nod and took sentry by the sackcloth door.
The hut was functional with woven straw floors to keep the warmth and enough light from dimly torches to the walls. We moved through the sackcloth door at the back and entered a small room that had tiers of shelves to fill up the entire back wall. On the other side was another sackcloth door, which was stained by moisture; heat could be felt from this door.
The old woman ordered us to strip naked and wrap the large strip of cloth around our bodies she threw at us. She turned and left the room.
"Looks like it's birthday suit." I wryly sighed.
We both undressed, wrapped the large scratchy cloth around us and stepped out of the room. The old woman nodded. She led us back into the room and through the stained sackcloth door.
We entered a black stone corridor that was moistened with steam, making the ground slippery.
"Don't slip." The old woman stated the obvious.
We carefully followed her lead down a steep flight of steps, which eventuated into a cavern opening. The cavern was a circular pool of steaming milky water illuminated by tourmaline boulders around the edges. A boulder crop glowed brightly at the pool's center.
Some boulders had been hewn into rectangle blocks to form seats. We placed our cloth on a block as instructed by the old woman.
My heart felt giddy at the touch of warm water to my skin. I submerged my body neck deep into the pool.
"Heaven." I breathed a blissful sigh and closed my eyes.
A dream of navy-blue waters entered my thoughts.
_Marsilien_ A breeze carried the name into my ears.
I opened my eyes and gasped at the hazy outline of a man within thick clouds of steam.
"Kalia?" I gulped with hope.
"Yeah" Kalia answered as she broke through the steam cloud to disperse an image of a man I would've seen.
"Nothing." I mumbled into the water, no longer feeling the bliss.
A cold chill descended upon my head and neck. It was time to get out.
We hastily dried ourselves and followed the old woman back up a different flight of stairs. Alighting into another dressing room, where two bundles were on shelves. Upon the old woman's instructions, we unravelled the bundles.
Kalia held up a tunic of drab brown sackcloth with a faint image of a rosebud painted on the left breast. Both our heads were cocked to one side as we studied the shoulder straps that were tied around a pair of crude iron buckles. It was obvious they held the tunic together.
"Well, it'll be embarrassing if these broke." I joked as I threw my tunic over my head to cover my body.
I smoothed down the coarse cloth to my skin, resisting the urge to scratch my back. "I'll get used to it."
"Ugh! Scratch my back!" Kalia moaned and wiggled about.
I flicked her a wry one-brow-raised look as I scratched her itchy spots and finished off with a hard slap.
"Oi. Easy on the heavy hand." She snapped.
"You ain't itchy any more are you." I smirked.
"Fresh." She huffed.
We flinched at the old woman's curt snap about time-wasting. She threw pairs of straw sandals at us.
I kept my grumbles to myself as I placed them on and followed her lead out of the hut.
The calmness of The Zone was changed to anarchy beneath a fiery red-orange sky. Wing creatures swooped the skies and made passes over peoples' heads. Some people were lifted into the air and had their bodies snapped or parts torn off, causing a bloody mess to fall down to the ground.
Corin and Joel unsheathed their swords and pulled us behind them.
_"Marsilien"_ The name came out of a winged creature with a high-pitched shriek.
I stood petrified with wide eyes fixed on a black-red winged lizard baring layers of pointy teeth and razor sharp claws in my direction.
"Marsilien! IS HERE!"
I cursed and cupped my ears at the stinging pain I felt to my ears from the creatures shrieking. Blackness seeped into my mind, bringing on numbing pain and complete silence. I was deaf, blind and helpless to the world.
"Lord Dan!" I pleaded.
_"Wrong god."_ A deep voice boomed through my entire being, almost shattering my core. _"It is time. The path to your name destiny is now."_
"ET CONTERAM IN HANA!" Words come out of my mouth.
I opened my eyes feeling the blackness receded to the corners of my sight. I could see. I looked to my hands that was tingling with black energy.
"Et lapis Rashiki!" More words were shouted out of my mouth.
Lightening struck the skies, stirring a frenzy of flying Rashiki demons into a made panic when each bolt that struck a demon turned them to stone. Flashing bolts moved the skies as it struck down a magnitude of demons until of they were fast falling projectiles.
A cacophony of cries and cursing was overwhelmed by the smashing rock, breaking through huts and punching holes into paths. People sprinted about with blind fear, doing their best to avoid the dangerous raining debris.
"Harri apurtu!" A number of voices shouted to cause the rest of the falling stone to shatter into dust mid-air.
The sky rained grey dust. Another spell was cast to sweep the dust rain away, so the area was clean.