The Wind and Fire is the first book released in the series and tells the story of two Fourborn Guardians, Kofi and Lela and how the prophecy of the waning moon gives them both direction in a world without freedom.
Kofi Magoro is an unlikely hero:
Second son to Gamba and Sade Magoro, Kofi has been called many things. The village boy, the over protective brother, the rebellious son, the hesitant warrior but nothing has suited him more than being the unlikely hero of his own making.
Brother to Ayo, Xola and Jomo, Kofi inherited his need for adventure from no one in his family. This doesn't stop him from pursuing his dreams, even though he has to work through his uncertainty and the lack of direction that frustrates him.
The open, jovial face in the crowd, Kofi makes friends easily and family takes on an important role in his life. An intelligent spiritualist he has strong ties to his homeland of Zjarri and to it's people and will stop at nothing to keep these ideals safe.
The sacred Fire of Zjarr is everything to Kofi. When he finds himself away from his element, Kofi armed with only his belief and inner strength is forced to kindle the Fire that lives within him on his own even if it means insurgency.
A practicing archer and amateur fire lighter, Kofi likes to start his days off early, rising in time to bask in the sun and all her wonders. He is a keen hunter, an elephant fruit addict and makes the ideal companion if you want to stick around for just one more cup of kava.
As his story grows, Kofi assumes the role of leader of the Fourborn Guardians. Armed with a fierce determination and the Fire that burns inside of him, he will always find a way to continue to fight for what is right.
Lela Iboro Asar is an outcast princess:
The creation of a frowned upon love between Hakim Asar and Thema Kibibi Iboro, Lela was born a despised, motherless child. An only child she grew up with the elements of two very different worlds raging on inside of her.
Roaming the red dunes, Lela is taken in by the outcasts of Brissan society, but this doesn't stop her from fighting the link she has with the Wind. Outspoken, hot headed yet sensitive Lela stands against her father's people while her desperate need for acceptance drives her closer and closer towards Zjarr and the Fire.
In her mind being accepted by her mother's people means that she needs to abandon the Wind completely. Lela soon learns that this is not the case when Wind briefly dominates the Fire. Instead she learns that both elements have to live together in order for her to grow.
Witty, kind hearted and determined, Lela loathes camels and early mornings. A girl of impeccable night vision, unruly hair and a peculiar fashion sense using Brissan colourless glass and crystal bracelets - she is at her happiest next to a roaring camp fire out in the open plains of Zjarri, a cup of kava in hand while she shares stories and honey cakes.
Megan Futcher's Mini-Bio:
People and cultures have always fascinated me and I enjoy thumbing through heavy books on anthropology and archaeology. My novels and novellas dive into an unknown world before recorded history and I love asking the 'what if' question while I share online and write the 4 born, a fantasy spin on human evolution and freedom exploring strength and beauty of multiculturalism.
Wind and Fire Synopsis:
In a world where the four elements rule as gods, the Gaias of Wind, Fire, Water and Earth determine the existence and fate of every man and women. Threatening this seemingly perfect world is the Fourborn – a yet to be identified baby born of all four races and the only one who has the power to set mankind free from it's elemental shackles.
Divinely chosen in the pending chaos is a guardian from each race. With the words of an ancient prophesy as their only guide, they must find and protect the Four born at all costs or risk losing everything they hold dear.
The woman we had been searching for had found us.
Talk about embarrassing! I admit Kofi and I weren’t very skilled at finding people, having so far been unable to locate the Fourborn but she didn’t have to make it so obvious.
“You’re the Huxley woman we were told to find?” Kofi asked, the blades of his bow still pointed at me and the woman.
“Who were you expecting young man? Huxley woman indeed.
I much prefer Norah though.” “But you’re a Keeper?”I shot up at his words, shaking myself free from the woman’s warm embrace.
I had not forgotten what had happened the last time a Keeper of Earth had touched me and it wasn’t going to happen again if I could help it.
“I may wear the colours of a Keeper of Earth but I’m nothing like my sisters and yet I’m not the one who should be explaining myself,” Norah remarked, getting up onto her bare feet.
“I was supposed to let you be.
You were supposed to find us on your own.
It was your only task and it was really quite simple wasn’t it? Perhaps I put too much faith in you because in the end you failed miserably.
You ignored my well-placed clues and instead you chose to wander around in circles for days on end.
Well, your time has run out and a matter beyond my control - also known as the Darkness - has forced me to intervene.”So that had been the Darkness and not some over-sized cloud as Kofi had suggested.
“What do you mean wandering around in circles?” Kofi asked, confused.“Don’t tell me you failed to realize that too? How many towns have you passed since you have been here?”“Two.”Norah sighed, shaking her red-head, “You may think it was two but in truth, it was only one.
Joro has been designed so that all paths and roads lead back into Old Prent.
It’s a matter of control, you see.
I thought you would have been smarter than that, you are outsiders, after all.”“But…” I started.“But nothing, Lela Iboro Asar.
You’ve let your guard down and if it wasn’t for me, you and Kofi would have died in that silly contraption you were sleeping in.
Oh, don’t look so shocked.
I know all about you and I know you why you are here.
I’ve seen it all.
I’ve also seen what’s to come and I know what will happen if you don’t come with me now.” “How can we trust you?” I asked.“Trust?” Norah queried, “The Darkness has descended upon us, Jora has seen everything and the world is quickly spiralling towards chaos and you want to pause to discuss trust?” “I uh…” Kofi stammered.
“Do what you will, Kofi, but I can’t wait around for you to form your words properly and neither can the Fourborn.”I was completely stunned by Norah’s speech, “You know where the Fourborn is?” “Argh, you’d think I was talking to a couple of monkeys!”Norah’s comment made the monkey on my shoulder jeer and chatter with anger.“Don’t start, my dear.
I wasn’t attacking you even though you could have chosen a far more appropriate form to come back in.” Norah said, speaking directly to Shida, “I know you have been stuffing your cheeks with honeycakes when you thought no one was looking.
We both know what your liking for them did to your figure last time and I can see it’s starting to show again.”What was this woman talking about? I looked at Shida but her eyes darted away and even in the dark, it was clear that she felt ashamed for being found out.
“Like I said, I know everything.
Now are you coming with me or not?”I looked at Kofi and he nodded, “Lead the way.” Norah however was already disappearing into the forest.
“Did you make this path?” I asked, referring to the tight trail we followed Norah down.The thick woodland around us was slowly coming into view as the sun started to rise.
The path was overgrown and looked man-made and rough when I compared it to the clean and well-maintained main path.
“Of course not, Jora makes everything, she just chooses to keep certain things on a ‘need-to-know’ basis.
The great Earth Mother only wants her people to see what she wishes them to see.
There are many things hidden in plain sight off the prescribed path.
You just have to open your eyes to them.”“Are you talking about the clues you left for us?”“I am,” Norah said, over her shoulder.
I was just about to ask her what the clues were when Kofi interrupted me.
“Where are you taking us?” “If you must know, I’m taking you to the cottage.
We’ll be safe there, if only for the briefest time.
They’re not far behind us.”“You’re taking us back to Old Prent?”“No.
I prefer to live away from that town and it’s control.
My home is in the forest.”“Who is not far behind us?” Kofi continued.
“So many questions Kofi, are you sure you don’t have an ancestor that was Joran?” Kofi frowned but Norah chuckled.
“What was the name of the Joran who guided you over the Kalima Mountains?”“How did you know about that?”“How many times must I explain myself?”“Bryn Greenan,” I said quickly.“Ah, the leader himself.”Kofi and I both waited for Norah to continue.
“I’m sure you suspected something but just in case you didn’t, Bryn is not the man he claims to be.
He’s the head of the Jai.”“What does that mean?”“It means he deceived you.”“I knew it!” Kofi raged, his fists tight balls at his side, “Just wait until I find him.”“You will have your revenge soon enough but right now we have to get home.”We hurried along down the path for sometime when Norah came to an abrupt halt.
Could Bryn and the Jai have found us? I held my breath and waited as she looked around.
She then lifted her head and whistled.
“You can come out now, my girl.
It’s only Mam,” Norah said gently into some nearby bushes.“Mam?” the sound of a soft young voice came from within the leaves.
“Yes, my child it’s only me.
You’re safe.”Slowly, the small figure of a child emerged from the foliage.
The little girl’s face was shadowed by a hood and in the poor light, I found it nearly impossible to make out any of her features save for her deep green eyes.
The child was young, maybe four or five but she looked up at me with the confidence and determination of an older soul.
“Is this your daughter?” I asked, curious to know.Norah picked the child up in her arms.
“The forest has ears so it would be wise if you didn’t ask anymore questions until we are safely inside the cottage.”Continuing on in silence towards the cottage, I felt a pang of anxiety.
Kofi and I had been talking with abandon the whole time we had been in the forest.
I wondered who or what had heard us?Gradually the thicket around us thinned out and we followed Norah off the path onto a patch of thick, wet grass.
Looking ahead, I spotted an ancient structure built against the green of the forest.
Sheltered and semi-hidden from passing eyes, the cottage happened to be a house with windows, a roof and four walls that were covered lightly in moss and creeping vines.
The idea of living inside the bowels of a tree didn’t appeal to me and I was pleased to see that the cottage was more like the homes that I had seen in Chuma than the strange dwellings of Old Prent.
Stepping over the threshold and walking through the open, weathered, wooden door after Norah and the child, I was welcomed into a large-open planned room that was warm and lit with a soft glow.
Looking around I expected to see a fire burning in a pit somewhere but instead was met with countless orbs of illuminated twigs.
They seemed to be floating freely in the air high above me, bobbing around the bare roof beams.
Each orb held a small twinkle of light, too weak to shed much light on it’s own.
As a group however, they managed to light up and warm the interior of the humble, peaceful home.Two raised sleeping pallets had been set down off to one side of the cottage, each was covered with thick woollen blankets, earthy brown and green in colour.
Dominating the open space however was a large table made from a polished white wood.
It had been made by human hands and looked just as out-of-place as the rest of the old and ancient cottage, set among the perfectly planned world of Joro.
Occupying most of the tabletop were tiny jars and bottles.
I picked one up and was surprised to see that it was made from Brissan glass.
How had Norah come to get her hands on these? The Jorans, and the Brissans as far as I knew had never come into contact with each other and the only glass items that were in Joran hands were the ones I had bartered in Chuma.
“Please settle yourselves and rest,” Norah smiled, gesturing to wooden chairs that were covered with rich, shiny animal furs.
She looked calmer and happier now that she was in a control space.I did as I was instructed while Norah set a metal pot over four orbs made from twigs.
They were identical to the ones that floated above us but larger.
Taking advantage of the light, I took in our host’s mixed appearance.
Norah’s long red-hair was a shade darker than the rest of her people’s and her brown eyes were warm and gentle rather than the intense cold blue-eyed stares that left me feeling so uncomfortable.
Norah’s skin was pale and speckled with grains of red sand just like the other Jorans as was her height but, again, the shape of her body was different.Even though I had been mesmerized by their display, the thin, almost shapeless bodies of the women who had danced in the Spring Rite had made me feel fat and I despised my wide hips.
Looking at Norah’s body, it was anything but thin and shapeless and I realized that the curves of her body were soft and round and far more beautiful and real.
“Root vegetable and venison stew,” she said, interrupting my thoughts, handing us each a wooden bowl.
Norah’s long fingers were adored with rings, each one different and made from twisted twigs, metal or a strange shiny material that I had never seen before.“Meat,” Kofi sighed after taking his first mouthful.
A staple fare among your people, I hope you enjoy it.”“It doesn’t seem to be the case with your people.
I just hope you haven’t broken any Joran customs by preparing this meal for us.” “I’ve been breaking Joran customs for far too many years to remember and it’s quite the reverse actually.
I choose to enjoy meat of all kinds and it forms a healthy part of my diet,” Norah said as she joined us at the table.
I frowned, “So you mean your people choose to eat raw vegetables?”“They do but I don’t care what they choose to eat or do,” Norah said briefly, looking at the closed door, “Over time Lela, you will see that I’m nothing like my people.”“Mam who are these people?” a voice said, joining us at the table.It was the little girl we had picked up in the forest.
I was surprised that I had forgotten about her.
She’d been so quiet.
Drawing my attention away from my bowl of stew, I was shocked at what I observed.
The same green eyes as before looked at me with open curiosity but the rest of little girl intrigued me even more.
The hood of her cloak had fallen back revealing her long hair which was just as curly as mine but, instead of being dark in colour, it was a mixture of red and blonde.
Her skin was a rich brown and the colour was a perfect tone between the shade of Kofi’s and my skin.
The Keepers of Wind had said that I needed to find a person of all four races.
Was this child the Fourborn? “This is Kofi and Lela.
Remember I told you about them? They’re the chosen ones that have come to protect you.” Norah said, drawing the little girl onto her lap.The girl nodded her eyes not leaving mine for a second.
“Kofi and Lela this is Ashling, the one you’ve been looking for.” The one we had been looking for? Was Norah serious?Don’t get me wrong, we had come a long way and I was happy and pleased to finally meet the Fourborn but I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed.
A child was not what I had been expecting.
The Keepers and their mumblings had to be wrong.Certainly, a child needed to be protected from all sorts of dangers but it looked as though Norah was playing the role of mother and protector well enough on her own so why need our help? What threat could be so large that Kofi and I had to come all this way to protect a child from it? She was quiet and appeared to be well-behaved and sweet enough so what risk could she possibly pose?“A child?” Kofi questioned.Norah frowned, “You both saw the prophesy as something more than a cloudy vision.
You would not have come all this way if you hadn’t.
You have been chosen by the Gaias and your hearts lead you here.
You were told to find and protect the Fourborn and you have succeeded, at least with the former, and now that the Fourborn is sitting right in front of you, all I see is doubt and judgement.
I ask you to see beyond your doubts and know that Ashling is the Fourborn.”“Protect her from what though?” I asked, “The Darkness?”Norah shook her head, “The Darkness has come and gone as I said earlier.
You were too late for that.”Kofi glared at our host, “That wasn’t our fault, besides the Darkness only lasted for a few moments.”“The sun is a stable entity would you not agree?” Norah stated, focussing her own glare on Kofi, “Rising and setting constantly as it does everyday without fail has kept Ashling anonymous.
It has kept her safe from prowling eyes but, most importantly, she has been kept a secret.
The brief moments when the Darkness revealed itself was long enough to throw all that stable secrecy into chaos.
The Fourborn has been exposed and her existence has become known.
So now that the Darkness is no longer a concern you now need to protect her from…”“The mayi?”“Yes.”“But we’ve just met you.
How do we know you aren’t the mayi?” Kofi frowned.“If I was going to harm the Fourborn, I would have done it already.
We are meant to protect her together,” Norah said holding Ashling closely.
“I am a mother of sorts but I am not the Mother your Keepers spoke about.
The mayi from the prophesy is Jora.”I nodded.
What Norah was saying made complete sense.
I had felt first-hand the power the Earth Mother had and if I could help protect any child, Fourborn or not, from that evil, I would.“But a child?” Kofi asked again, his voice still tainted with doubt.“It’s not what Ashling is now but who she will become that will threaten Jora’s whole existence.”Kofi nodded slowly.“Ashling my child, please gather your things.
It’s almost time to leave,” Norah said gently to the child who was still sitting on her lap before turning to us, “Jora’s plan has been set in motion, the Jai are on their way and they will stop at nothing until the Earth Mother’s demands are met.
We need to leave this place before it’s too late.”“Who are the Jai?” I asked, standing ready to assist wherever I could.“They are the sons born to the Keepers of Earth.”“The Keepers?” I asked puzzled.
The Keepers I knew were old, childless crones.“Yes Lela.
What did you think the Spring Rite was about? We may be Keepers but we’re still women with strong, healthy desires.
We have children just like any other woman.
Just like you will have in the very near future.”I blushed at her words waiting for her to continue.
“Our daughters follow in our footsteps, devoting their lives to Jora.
Our sons serve Jora too, their sole purpose being to protect the virtues and beliefs of the Earth Mother.
Over time, however, they have strayed from their roles in Joran society.
The Jai were once innocent devoted men but they are now an elite underground army bent on death and destruction.
The Jai’s new path is one of eliminating anything that poses a threat to their said true mother.”“You said that Bryn deceived us, that he knew who we were all along.
Why didn’t he kill us on the Kalima?”“I suspect he needed to be sure of your identity and, in the end, he needed you to lead him straight to the Fourborn.” “But he told us about you! That we needed to find you!”“Bryn has always been suspicious of me, as I mentioned before, I am nothing like my people.”“If we aren’t safe in Joro, where do we go?” Kofi asked, getting to his feet.
“We’re too far into Joro to make our way back to Zjarri and I can’t protect anyone if I have to cross the Kalima Mountains again.”“Don’t worry, you will never have to cross the mountains again.
Besides Zjarri is not what I had in mind.
The lands of Wai are north of here.
The Waian people could possibly help us, we just have to get out of this forest.”“Possibly?” I asked, suddenly scared.
“What I saw was hazy and a little muddled,” Norah admitted, picking Ashling up in her arms, “so we can only hope.”Suddenly the door flew open with such force that it was almost ripped off it’s hinges and an icy wind filled the cottage along with the silhouette of a man.“What a coincidence it is that I have found all of you here together,” the man said.
His face was not visible due to the bright glare outside but I didn’t need to see it in order to know who the voice belonged to.“Stay calm.
Even if it doesn’t seem like it, everything is going according to plan,” Norah said, placing Ashling in my arms.
She then turned to our unexpected guest, “I’ve been expecting you even though you’re very late.”“It would be wise if you held your tongue, old witch!” the man bellowed, pointing a bladed weapon at Norah’s throat.
I held my breath as the man turned his attention to us, “A ray of light in all this gloom.
I can’t say how pleased I am to see you again, Lela.”“I can’t say the same thing about you, Bryn,” I stated, looking into his intense stare once again.“Why ever not?” he said, coming towards us, his free hand outstretched, “I thought we’d made a lasting connection up there on the Kalima.”“Don’t you dare touch them, you bastard!” Kofi roared.
“Kofi, my friend, we meet again.”“How can you call me friend when you deceived us?”“Deceived you? I don’t know what you are going on about.
I guided you over the mountains as promised, that was my only intention.”“Was it, really?” I hissed.“All right, I deceived you but what of it? The world is filled with devious, untrustworthy souls, my naive friends.
There is no way of getting past it.”“I will find a way, trust me, and when I do, it will end in your death!” Kofi stated as he stood to his full height and entered Bryn’s personal space.
“I knew you were going to be trouble the moment I set eyes on you,” Bryn sneered, “I should have killed you right in front of your people.
A traitor would not have been missed but I held back, assuming that the Kalima would finish you off.
But you proved to be stronger than I thought.
Well, I’m tired of holding back and I’ve decided that your life will end here and now.”“I’m the only one who will decide if I live or die today,” Kofi spat, his face in Bryn’s, “My fate is in my own hands.”Bryn raised his eyebrows at Kofi’s statement, “Do you really believe that?”“My Fire can take on your Earth any day and it will be an easy victory!”“But you are nowhere near your mighty Zjarr.
Your precious Fire can’t help you here,” Bryn snorted, shoving Kofi away from him, “Look at you! A village boy posing as a warrior.
Face it, you are weak and out of your element.
Surrender to me now and you will not suffer.”“Never!” Kofi yelled, taking a dive straight for Bryn.Bryn had anticipated the move though and managed to dodge it, causing Kofi to stumble into the wall behind him.
“You are brave, I’ll give you that, but foolish too.
Twenty of my Jai brothers are waiting outside this wretched place and they are hungry for blood.
I will not ask again.
Surrender!”“No,” Kofi said as he calmly reached for his bow.I held Ashling close to me as he stepped towards Bryn once more.
Kofi stood with his knees slightly bent, holding his bow sideways with both hands, his elbows bent at chest height for easy, quick movement.“A bow in such a confined space? You can’t be serious! Stop wasting my time! Choose a real weapon!” Bryn warned as he drew out another bladed weapon from the green sash around his waist.
Bryn’s weapons from hilt to tip were a forearm in length and looked like they were carved out of bone.
No match for Zjarrian metal but Kofi wasn’t fighting with metal.
It was then that I remembered the sharp metal blades that were on either end of Kofi’s bow and I understood his reasons for choosing it.
Zjarrian bows serve a dual purpose and by his jeers, Bryn had no knowledge of this fact.
Kofi stood his ground watching as Bryn swung his blades around with confidence.
“Very well then,” he said, lunging towards Kofi.Bryn’s bone blades hit the bow with a powerful impact, causing Kofi to fall against the table behind him.
The tiny glass bottles on it went flying and crashing to the floor.
“Killing you is going to bring me so much pleasure!”Kofi righted himself and lifted his bow up against his chest again.“This is my plan,” Bryn continued, “First, I’m going to carry out Jora’s orders and kill the girl and once that’s out of the way, I’m going to move onto the crone.”Crone? Could he be talking about Norah? Surely not, she couldn’t be more than ten years older than me.
I didn’t have time to think about it though as bone blade and bow met again.
This time Kofi fought back.
He lunged forward, the blades on his bow narrowly missing the exposed flesh on Bryn’s neck as he swung the bow around with equal force.“Good move but not good enough, I’m afraid,” Bryn sneered, “You will tire if you carry on like that and then I will make my move and end your life.”“That’s not going to happen!” Kofi said through gritted teeth, as he charged at Bryn once more.Bryn leaped aside, moving quickly around him so that his elbow crashed sharply into Kofi’s skull.
I grasped as Kofi lost his footing altogether this time, crashing into the hide-covered chairs.
He shut his eyes tightly in agony.
He was panting and his face was shiny with sweat.
He needed a moment to recover.
He was half the size he usually was when around Zjarrian fires.
He was the weaker of the two and Bryn was taking full advantage of that fact.
“What about me?” I demanded, distracting Bryn, “You haven’t mentioned my fate yet.
Will you kill me too?”“I have a better plan in mind for you, Lela my dear.
I will spare your life today and in return you will give me the sons I so desire.
It will be a challenge I know, if you fail however I will kill you.” “Go to hell!” I glared, “You have no power over me!”Bryn smiled, “If you succeed, I will allow you to love and tend to my sons but you will stand back and watch as they grow strong in Jora’s awe.
When they reach manhood you will continue to be a silent observer as Jora guides them towards destroying both your people.”“The Fire and the Wind won’t let them!”Bryn continued on as though he hadn’t heard me, “The actions of your sons will devastate you and may force you to take your own life but just in case your strong will prevails, I will leave your fate to them.”This was enough to get Kofi up again.
His face was alive with strength and anger as the tips of both his little fingers were glowing and red hot.
He roared as he ran at Bryn again, the taut string of his bow facing the Joran.
Kofi, in those brief moments, didn’t need the warrior’s fire to make him strong.
The Fire inside him had taken over that role and it was blazing hot and full of energy and power.
Bryn lifted the blade in his right hand and plunged it into Kofi’s chest.
I cried out just as Bryn’s look of victory turned into one of confusion - instead of the expected groans of pain, Kofi yelled and kept coming at him, Bryn’s bone blade proving useless and dull against Kofi’s metal-studded armour.
Kofi’s next move was quick and caught everyone in the cottage off guard.
He slung the bow over Bryn’s head and twisted it so that the string was around Bryn’s neck and then he pulled back with all the force he could gather.
Bryn’s blue eyes bulged as he began to suffocate.
He dropped his blades, panicking as he tried to loosen the bow string.
Failing, he tried to grab Kofi but fell back, causing the string to tighten even further.
Bryn’s face went bright red, the freckled specks of red sand on his skin almost popped under the pressure.
Knowing that this was his chance to end things, Kofi quickly swept Bryn’s legs up from under him and with Bryn now on the floor, Kofi shoved a booted foot into his chest and pulled back on the bow with all his strength.
Tiny spots of blood began to form under the string but Bryn continued to thrash at him.
Kofi gave one last tug, the bow stretching open to its widest.
Bryn’s lips turned blue as he slowly became motionless.
It was over.Wasting no time, Kofi quickly unwound the string.“Let’s go!” he yelled, turning to us.“What about the waiting Jai?”“The bastard was lying.
Had the Jai been waiting out there, they would have heard him struggling.”I nodded, hoping that that was indeed the case.
There was no way of knowing though until we stepped outside the safety of the cottage.My belongings gathered, I stepped outside and let out a slow breath of relief.
There was no one waiting to kill us.“Which way is north?” I asked, eager to carry on.
“That way,” Norah confirmed, pointing to the pathless forest in front of us, “We’ll have to hurry, the Jai are close.
I can sense it.”Kofi picked Ashling up without questioning Norah’s senses and dashed off into the forest.
“Hold on Shida,” I said to my furry companion as I ran after Norah.The forest in this part of Joro was very different to the rest of the forest that we had travelled through.
The air was more crisp and I shivered as a cool breeze ran over my warming body.
The suffocating walls of green that I had become so accustomed to, slowly disappeared.
The terrain flattened out and the usual wide tree-trunks made way for tall, thin ones.
Looking ahead, all I could see were those trees and their fern-like leaves.
The path ahead was clearer than it had ever been and our little group managed to make quick progress along it.The Jai on the other hand made our progress seem meaningless.
They were sure-footed and a whole lot faster than we were.
They knew these forests far better than Kofi and I did and I could feel them gaining on us.Would the Jai decide to remain hidden until the last possible moment before quietly and quickly pouncing on us or would they charge at us at full speed, bone weapons at the ready?Neither of these scenarios was good and thinking about them just caused my heart to beat faster in my already pounding chest.Norah and Kofi were quite far ahead of me when Shida started to make a fuss, her eyes darting wildly around us.
She was trying to tell me something when she suddenly became still, her tiny black ears perking up to a sound in the breeze.
I stopped to listen too and it wasn’t long before I heard what she had.
The snapping of branches, the rustling of leaves and the thumping of feet meeting the bare earth, the screams and shouts of angry, savage men echoing through the trees.
The Jai had caught up with us.
It was too late.I turned, preparing to run until my last breath when I tripped over a fallen tree-stump.
I screamed as Shida let go and went flying through the air, her little body hitting the hard forest floor with a thud.
I scrambled to my feet, needing to reach her, but I was pulled back.
My cloak had caught onto something sharp.
The screams behind me were coming closer as I fumbled with the woollen knot around my neck.
Finally free, I got to my feet again and reached Shida.
I scooped her limp little body up into my arms and ran while forcing thoughts of the inevitable from my mind.
I kept on telling myself that we would be safe once we left the forest.
The Wai would help us, they just had to! We had come too far to give up now.
My chest and limbs were burning and I was forced to slow my pace.
The Jai were gaining on us but I took a moment, daring to glance behind me.
I felt the sudden need to know the faces of the men who were going to kill me.Emerging from behind the trees just as the first flakes of snow started to fall were Jora’s protectors.
They turned out to be shirtless men with animal heads and hot on my heels was a white-faced stag, a curly-horned goat and a ferocious-looking bear, a bone weapon in each of their hands.Hearing a scream from behind me, I turned my attention away from the masked men.
It was Kofi, calling out my name.
I needed to get to him before the Jai reached to me.
Failing to do so would put us right where the Jai wanted us - completely surrounded and trapped in the forest.I ran on, jumping over things that seemed to just fall in my path.
Jora was here, I could feel her.
I wouldn’t allow her to defeat us.
She had no power over us.
This wasn’t the end, it wasn’t our time.I grabbed hold of Kofi’s outstretched hand as I ran through the last of the trees.
Up ahead was a gravel clearing and we charged on towards it.“Where to now?” Kofi yelled breathlessly.“What I saw wasn’t clear but we can’t stop now.
The Jai will not rest until we are all dead!” Norah insisted just as I caught sight of a large body of water not far ahead of us.
I froze at the sight of it.
A heavy mist hung over the dark water so that it looked cold and deep even though it was lapping gently against the shore.
Kofi had spoken about the dangers of water currents back in Zjarri and I knew I’d be swept off my feet in moments.
I shook my head.
I had a pack of beastly men on my trail and I was worried that I couldn’t swim.
What was wrong with me? A grizzly death by a blunt bone was my only other choice and it didn’t sit well with me so I decided to take my chances with the water.
Hopefully, I would drown before anyone saw what it would do to my hair.Kofi yelled out to me again when suddenly blonde-haired giants began to burst out from the misty water in front of me.
Were these the mysterious Wai here to save us? Talk about waiting until the last possible moment! I watched on, mesmerized by their beautiful, muscled forms.
They wasted no time wading out of their element with their monstrous-looking weapons in hand and I found myself feeling shocked when I realized that they were charging towards us.All hope of salvation vanished when it sunk in that the Wai weren’t here to save us.
How could we be so foolish? We were foreigners that didn’t belong here and we would pay for trespassing with our lives.
There was no one left to save us now.Still holding a limp Shida in my arms, I looked over to where Kofi was standing.
He was too far ahead of me for me to get to him before the Wai did.
I had already lost Shida and tears began to blur my eyes when I realized that I was going to lose Kofi too.
The Jai were behind me and the Wai were in front of me.
Two hordes hungry for blood.
There was no way out.Trying to calm my pounding heart, my mind flooded with images of the Baobab Forest.“I’ll be seeing you soon Mama,” I whispered, “Everything will be all right.”This was the end, this was my time.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as I waited for the chaos to collide.