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Seal of Time

I sit alone on the hilltop in the lush green grass. I always come here when I need to think. Looking out, I see the vast valley dotted with homes nestled in among fields of corn and wheat. The golden crops sway in the wind. Not far from my perch, the trail snakes up from a near dirt road below. The quiet lulls me into a calm state. I feel the sun warm my face, and the wind tousles my honey brown hair. I can feel the peace wash over me as my eyes slide closed. Among the sounds of nature about me, I suddenly hear the faint sound of singing. I slowly part my lashes and look down the slope along the worn trail. There is the owner of the soft melodic singing. Her song is in a language I do not know. It is soft and rhythmic with a mesmerizing cadence.

The figure appears to glide, rather than climb, up the incline. As she gets closer, I shamelessly stare, eyes glued to this enchanting vision. One fair hand reaches up and tucks a dark shiny curly tress behind her ear. Then, the long arm slowly lowers to her side. As I follow the fluid movement with my eyes, I notice the muscles of her arm as it moves. My eyes suddenly widen as I begin to take in her attire. A snug leopard pelt is attached to her chest, sloping from about her long elegant neck, and between her toned shoulders. The material wraps tightly about her chest, ending just before a tightly toned abdomen. Her tiny waist is clung to by a black silky looking fur. The black fur is held in place by a leather strap about the hips. One long, lean leg and petite bare foot can be seen through the high slit the angled black fur creates. The fur swishes and shines in the sun as she moves. Her song continues, and my eyes are pulled to her face. There I see the most beautiful and magical eyes. Long dark lashes frame the shining windows to her soul. In their emerald depths, I see strength, intelligence, and unbridled passion. Her eyes blink, and I slide my gaze to her soft, moist lips. They are so shapely with a rosy pink hue. I get hypnotized by them as they form the words to the beautiful foreign song. She is growing nearer and nearer to my perch, not seeming to notice me in the slightest. My mind is numb as I watch the mysterious creature come closer and closer.

Snap! Something behind me breaks my attention. Panting can be heard not far behind me as I feel icy fear slither down my spine. Before I can react, the graceful figure before my eyes stops and swiftly pulls a sharp looking dagger from her leather band. She looks directly into my eyes, pinning me with their intensity. Before I loose a shallow breath, she hurls the dagger directly at me. A scream attempts to break free from my terrified body, but I am frozen to the hillside on which I sit. The dagger hits a mark just past my left ear, and I feel the wind as it passes. Then I hear a howl from behind me that breaks the spell of my terror. I turn to see a great wolf not far behind me. It is slumped over, oozing thick black, red blood from a wound deep in the silvery fur. Then I see the leather wrapped hilt of the small dagger. My mind tries to wrap around the reality of what just occurred.

I turn back to look at the beauty with the deadly aim, but she is nowhere to be seen. I rise on shaky legs and look all about. How could she have disappeared? I wonder as I walk to the trail and look up and down along its path. After searching for some time, I pad softly across the grass to where the wolf had been slain. I stop dead in my tracks and stare in disbelief. The large wolf is gone. All that remains to mark the spot is a blood stained dagger with a leather wrapped hilt stuck into the earth. I slowly step forward and retrieve the dagger. Not knowing what to think, I simply take it and travel down the hill with it.

The next day I take the dagger to my grandmother's house. Her little cottage is in the back of the woods of the valley. As I enter the clearing before her home, I see the smoke pouring from the stone chimney. The scent of cooking herbs drifts to my nose as I walk the worn path to her dark wood porch. I duck under all the hanging herbs and vegetables as I enter her little home.

As one of the very oldest residents of the valley, she knows more than anyone else about its people and the myths of this land. The silver haired little woman is stirring a black pot over a fire. When she straightens, she asked without turning, "What troubles my son so? Tell Nona a story." I never know how she always knows what is on my mind, or even that it is me when I come to visit her, but she always does.

I take a seat at a long worn wooden bench by her table. Producing the dagger, I lay it on the table as I tell her of my adventure on the hill. Sitting slowly beside me, she turns the dagger in her worn hands. Her soft brown eyes slowly tear away from the weapon to find my face. 

"My son, perhaps you are the one intended for this dagger. See the markings under the leather?" She asks as she lifts the edge of the wrap away from the hilt. I look and see strange symbols etched into the metal, but cannot identify them. Then, I look back to my Gran's aged and wise face. The sharp brown eyes are full of knowledge. "Son, it is your name in the language of our ancestors. Someone is reaching out to you. I suggest you answer the call." After saying her piece, she rises and returns to her pot.

Many questions swirl in my mind as she swirls the bubbling liquid. Before I can ask even one question, she straightens, turns, and looks into my eyes, "Son, why are you still here? You have a job to do. Take your dagger and your destiny in your hands. You may be what our people have been waiting for. Go now, go forth and follow your fate. We all depend on you."

I don't motion to move, just sitting with the dagger resting in my hands. What destiny? Where should I go? Our people? Gran hobbles over to me and leads me to stand. The floor creaks beneath my feet. 

She pulls me down and kisses my cheek. I feel her warm breath on my ear as she says, "Nothing will ever be the same now that the lock our forefathers put on the Gate of Time has been broken. Hurry, you do not know what things have been forgotten through history. I have told you of some of the monsters this valley held when our ancestors arrived here after the great waters receded. Do you remember?"

I nod, as she lets me stand up straight. I had always thought those stories were myths, just folk tales. She places her withered hands on my shoulders. "My son, Freedom is theirs until you help the warrior princess restore the seal." 

Warrior princess? Gate of Time? What monsters? I cannot get my brain and mouth to work together to form my queries. My head snaps up as we both hear a loud crack outside. I look back to Gran, and her face is an unreadable mask. "May the gods be with you, son."

She then pushes me out of her cottage. 

As I turn about to face the path back home, I almost drop the dagger. There, where flowers used to bloom in the clearing between Gran's house and the thick wood, is now a raging fire. And dancing about the flames are small children. No, not human children for they do not dance on the ground but in the air. In the air, held up by... wings. The flying children hold hands and sing as they float about the crackling flames.

Fear and confusion cloud my mind as I swiftly turn back to the cottage and rush inside. But I quickly realize this is not my grandmother's home; for she, her table, and her pot are gone. Now the room is dark. I stand frozen, afraid and confused. Then, out of the darkness, I feel eyes on me. She emerges, I feel relief thinking it is Gran. But then I see the hag before me. Past her white hair is a face with sharp teeth and a gleam in her grey eyes. I choke on a scream as she lunges at me with her knobby fingers ending in sharp claws. I jump back, causing her talons only to tear the cloth of my shirt. What on earth is going on!? Before I can come up with a rational solution for all I see, the hag is back on her feet and slashing. I try to evade her, but she lands on me, and we crash to the floor boards. 

"Son of the Kalen tribe!" She shrieks, "How delicious your blood will taste when freshly spilled." She licks her cracked lips with a split serpent like tongue. She lifts a hand to claw me, and I seize her wrist. With one hard shove, I throw her off me and roll to my feet. I face the rising hag as I struggle with the door behind me. As soon as I get the old wood to give, I stumble back onto the porch.

As I turn to run, I continue to look over my shoulder at the menacing hag. Bounding off the porch, I suddenly bump into something warm and furry. What the hell? I look up at a large black panther! I fall to the ground as a large clawed paw presses into my chest with enough weight that I can barely breathe. I struggle against the unnaturally large beast. Now I do not know what shall kill me first, the hag or the feline predator pinning me to the dirt. With renewed vigor, I thrash and scream as I attempt to dislodge the paw the size of my entire torso. How is a cat larger than a horse even possible?! For all my efforts, the yellow glowing eyes only stare back at me. I then noticed a leather strap running under its great chest and around either side of its massive head. Is that a harness?

From off its back, I see a form fling itself between us and the hag quickly advancing from the cottage. As my mind grows fuzzy, it registers that it was the girl from the hill yesterday. Her long curls bounce as she lands lightly on her bare feet. The last thing I see before the darkness engulfs my vision is the girl walking up to the hag as if the witch was standing still. Then, with one swift swipe of her muscled arm gripping a long blade, she decapitates the white haired witch. 

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