Chapter Five: The Storm
I was very much surprised. I looked down at the knife clenched in my shaking hands. Will was panting, trying to catch his breath beside me. His pale face was even more white.
"Excuse me" said a quiet voice behind us. We whirled around. It was a thin, old man with wrinkled, leathery sin and inquisitive brown eyes. "Um, I couldn't help but notice that you suddenly appeared out of nowhere and also, that's quite a knife you are carrying, young sir. But I am forgetting myself. My name is Orastus, and I have been sent to meet you. On the Lion's business, you know. Now, about supper. This way, please." He turned and walked away. We looked at each other and then began to follow him.
He led us to a low stone hut. The door was made of various animal skins hung to make a sort of curtian. Inside the floor was covered in straw. A low cot was in the corner and a fire blazed in a stone hearth. Over the fire a pot was merrily bubbling away. The walls were hung with all sorts of tools and ladles, and pots. Orastus, as he called himself, stirred the pot with a ladle and dished out the stew from the pot. It tasted very good. Getting thrown into magical lands does something to a boys appetite. And that reminds me of what wonderful appetites all young people have. It's hard to be old....but back to my tale. After we were done Orastus set the dishes aside and drew out a pipe. He filled and lit it, the smoke circling his head and making him look a bit mysterious. "Now," said he, "to business. I had a visit from the Lion the other day-"
"Excuse me," I interrupted, "what Lion?"
A look of astonishment came onto the man's face. "Why, you don't know? He's the one who comes to help Chaun in times of need."
"Why this is Chaun, young one. You have entered the land of Chaun. Once it was a beautiful place, filled with grass and trees and water, but now tis almost solely stone. And there didn't use to be slaves, but now there are, in fact, I'd make a guess that there are more slaves than free people." he stared sadly at the smoke above his head. "But anyway, as I was sayin', I had a talk with the Lion, and he told me to be on the lookout for you. Said two children were coming to save Chaun. And here you are. Well, I suppose we'd better just wait till we get more instructions." He yawned. "Bed time now." Orastus pulled out some blankets and helped us to make a bed of straw on the floor. I lay awake, thinking over all that Orstus had said. What did he mean, 'save Chaun'? And there was also the pressing matter of the parchment. It said Chaun's fate would be exchanged for my life. What in the world did that mean? But sleep kept pressing on me, and soon I fell asleep. It is a wonderful thing to be young and able to sleep well. Some of you young people don't realize, but there, I'm running away with myself again. Old people do that, you know. But perhaps if the younger generation were to realize.....never mind. As I was saying. The next morning we awoke refreshed just before dawn. Will was still sleeping next to me, and it was raining very hard. In a moment Orastus came in and hurriedly told me to get up. He shook Will awake. Then he threw dark green cloaks over us and told us to follow him. Will was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes as we stepped out into the dark and silent land. There was no traffic on the roads, we were the only ones about. We crept along the ditch of some sort of highway. Orastus went in front and Will and I followed. We had gone for a half mile or so without seeing anyone when suddenly Orastus sprang forward. We hurried up behind him. Lying in a rapidly rising pool of muddy water lay a figure in a tattered cream dress. The dress was bloody and red, and the blood began to mix with the water making it a light pink color. We rolled the figure over. I gasped and turned away. It was a young girl with the hilt of a sword stuck in her chest. Orastus began to weep violently when he saw her, but in a moment he regained control of his emotions. He drug her a little way out of the ditch while Will and I sat, stunned, in the water.
"Here," gasped Orasus," help me." I crawled over to where he sat, next to her. '"Hold her shoulders. I'm going to pull the sword out." I nodded dumbly, but what good that would do a dead person I did not know. Orastus grasped the hilt in his hands and gave a mighty tug. The body lifted slightly, but he managed to get it out. More blood poured out of the wound. "Will!" he cried. "Over here! Quickly!" Will stumbled over. "Your cordial, lad. Now!" Will handed him the bottle of cordial. Orastus unscrewed the lid and held it over the girl's wound. He carefully let a single scarlet drop fall out onto the open wound. Nothing happened. Orastus sat back on his heels and held his hands up to the weeping sky, weeping violently himself. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed. I stared dumbly at her body. A tear ran down my cheek for this lonely soul, who had perished alone in a ditch of muddy water. Then, to my utmost amazement I saw her chest rise and fall. She was breathing!
"Orastus!' I cried. "She's alive!" gasping, he scrambled over to her. She began to cough, and she opened her eyes. They were as blue as the sea.