Jungle Ruins

I

I heard them say something about “Magic”. Is that something like the Maj’ick our Sage Somo does?”

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“What did you do?”

“Nothing, I swear!”, answered Pigin’ni, a 35-year young Authalar*, with her more innocent voice.

“You never no good at lies Pigi. What did you steal? Better hope ’tis useful this time!”

Pira Nooboucka, a talented barbaric wild dwarf bowwoman, was akin to a mother for her, although no such bond existed in her communal nomadic tribe. Pigin’ni lowered her head, and opened her pack. There was a heavy leatherbound tome inside, almost half as big as she was.

“I found it on a bench outside the bigfellas’ pothouse!” This time, her voice was full of heat, and her eyes was shining with excitement, despite the trouble she was surely in. “The man was already knocked out, I didn’t have to waste any venom, I swear!” She was telling the truth this time, for all the good that it did to her.

“Pigi mine, this is USELESS!” Pira Nooboucka grabbed the book and hurtled it down with fury. “WHEN will…” As she was yelling, the book opened in the ground and something resembling lighning zapped her. A moment of heavy breathing later she was down beside the tome.

“Pira!” the young dwarf rushed to the aid of her friend on the ground. “Pira Nooboucka! PIRA NOOBOUCKA!” She wasn’t responding, just lying there with her mouth open and only the white of her eyes visible. Shoving away the panic that was starting to crawl in her, she found a long branch and used it to close and push the heavy book away from her and Pira. Then she kneeled next to her on the ground and started poking her chest, as she had seen Sage Somo do to the wounded. It was no good. Pira was still unconscious.

She realised she had no choice but to enlist the help of an elder as soon as possible. But she couldn’t let them know what happened, either. As quickly as she could, she scooped a hollow in the heavy undergrowth of a nearby tree, and dragged the book there with the staff to hide it.

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II

She still couldn’t figure out a word of the Book, and it was months now that Sage Somo had started teaching her how to read and write both in dwarven and in common! He complained she didn’t seem to have any inclination towards the sacred Maj’ick of the hunt, although that was supposed to be her reason for wanting to learn. But she had got lucky at the last three hunts, so at least she wasn’t considered useless. They were now heading towards the human village, to trade their woodcrafts, leathercrafts and herbs for steel and other basic provisions, like they did 2-3 times a year. Pigin’ni was excited, if not a little terrified in case she happened upon the drunk old man she had stole the Book from.

“Stay with us this time, Pigi. It’ll not take long”, said Pira, who was alive and well, but conveniently didn’t remember what had striked her.

“Don’t worry, Pira! We’ll make sure she does!” The bigger of the Ungart twins swayed his Axe in a vulgar way, and the smaller let out a vile laugh of aggreement. The thought of punching their ugly faces crossed her mind violently, but they were twice her size and quicker than her on top of it, so she just decided to ignore them. For now. Someday she would learn to use this human “magic” and become more powerful than any of them. She just needed to figure out how to read the Book.

The trade was going on for some time now, and Pigin’na had yet to find a way to escape, to look around on her own. Though, the sight of the bigfellas going about their business, wearing their fancy clothing and steel! And permanent houses! And lack of trees and the clear sky above her! And all these colours! She was certainly not bored at least. These… colours… When she realised what was happening it was already too late. She had been dragged away from the group by a weak old man, a familiar weak old man…

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III

The sun was rising and she kept studying, while the Wizard was out drinking and gambling again. She had learned all her spells better than him, she kept getting better while he kept getting rusty, she had even helped him research a new spell just to cheat on his dice games, and for what? To still be called an apprentice? At least she wasn’t his “captive” anymore, as he kept calling her for years on. She didn’t care, the man didn’t frighten her anymore. She felt sorry for him, but enough was enough! He had tried to “civilize” her, to tie her to one place for decades on, but the jungle had never left her. Even at the heart of this large, dirty, loud, woodless and beastless human village, the thrill of the hunt endured, even if it meant she was the beast, to be chased by an angry watchman.

She blowed out the candle and she watched as the smoke was carried away by the wind. She could go wherever the wind carried her, yet she had realised long ago that the wind was never random. Few things actually were, like the deal in a game of cards where everyone is actually trying to be an honest player. She had yet to see such a game. And even if everything that could happen was random, what was the power behind that? Fate, karma, destiny, whatever it was called, what if someone could meddle with it? Not just calculate the endless possibilities that could happen, not just meddle with the odds, but spin fate itself, that would be powerful indeed!


*“dur Authalar” (=the People) is what wild dwarves call themselves.

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