The Story of Tata Chapter 19
Visions of Life and Death
By The Man
Flea was the first one up in the morning. Tata was the second, and they met up in the kitchen. Flea was sipping some milk when Tata entered dressed in his loose-sleeved shirt and baggy, green pants. His boots were already on and laced, as though he meant to take a walk, except he did not wear a coat or his cape. Flea was another story. She still wore her thin, white shift and slippers of the same color. She greeted him with a smile as he entered.
"Good morning, Tata." She said and sipped her milk. Her violet eyes met his gray ones.
He avoided the gaze by moving toward the kitchen pantry to fix himself breakfast. But he felt he should be at least slightly polite by answering.
"Good morning, Minka." Tata slapped a hand over his mouth as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
"What?!" Flea's voice spoke her surprise at being addressed by another name. "Who? Minka?!"
"I-I'm sorry, Flea." He tried to cover for his error. "It's just some other person, you know. I just-"
"You're damn right it is another person!" Her voice was taking on heat. "How do you know my sister's name?!"
The full weight of his error finally crashed down on Tata's head. Of course. Flea had been Minka's older sister. She knew of her sister's demise, but not of his relation to her.
"I uh, she, uh," He didn't want to say it. The last thing he wanted right now was to ruin someone else's day by bringing his miseries to them. "I knew her. She lived close by, and, uh, she sometimes came to town, on errands." He looked into Flea's eyes again, and this time he saw pain. He saw sorrow, for she knew what had happened. She had seen it. She had seen Len's first killings. He also could tell that if he stuck by this lie, those moistening eyes would soon shed tears.
Sighing, he moved over and pulled up a chair and sat down. "I won't lie, and I am sorry for attempting to do so, Flea." He said in a calm voice. He didn't want to upset her any more than he already had. "I met your sister outside the local café when we were very young. We became friends. It became more, though. I loved her. I fell in love with her and she with myself. I admired her kindness. I am sorry for not saying this sooner, but-"
Her head was lowered and Tata spotted the tear that fell from her left eye and into her half-filled cup of milk. He sighed as he remembered parts of his dream and felt tears of his own threaten to break loose any second. He pulled a handkerchief from his pant pocket and handed it to her. She took it with mumbled thanks and wiped her eyes.
"It is I who owe you an apology, Tata." She said through her tears. "I let my temper flare and I yelled at you needlessly."
"It is alright." Tata said sympathetically. She must be suffering even more than I. She was part of Minka's family. "She was given a proper funeral, and Eimla surely comforts her at this moment, the Light willing."
Flea nodded. "She, she did mention one time, when she was ten and I had come to visit, a boy who she claimed looked after her and kept her from harm." She looked up at Tata with red-rimmed eyes. "She said he was very nice. I guess it was you, right?"
He lowered his eyes in assent.
"I should have asked a little about you then, but I let it pass and didn't ask her about it again."
She shook her head sadly. "So many mistakes I made when the war started. I left my family after my father left to join the army. I left them unguarded. God, why didn't I see it coming?"
Tata now fought to keep the tears in. His head felt like it was cracking open and his eyes were burning. "It is I who failed, Flea." He said softly. She looked questioningly at him, and he went on. "I watched her get picked on so much it hurt me as much as it did her. I felt every blow that was given unto her and heard every terrible word that was said to her. I promised her I would watch over her and keep her safe. But " He sniffed to keep his nose from running too much. "I failed. The lowlife that bears the blame for this crime will never die, though he is gone for now. But Minka will never return."
Tata lowered his head for he was now indeed crying. He knew he would never forget that girl whom he had admired so much. When the feeling of warm skin slid across his hand, which rested on the table, he looked up into the eyes of her sister. She attempted a smile through her pained face.
"Minka wouldn't want us to cry over her." Flea said firmly yet gently. "If she is in Eimla, then she is at peace now. She is happy, and the last thing she would want would be us crying over her."
Tata looked down and nodded in admittance. Flea spoke truly and he knew it, but he missed her so badly that he felt like curling up and dying just so he could be with her. No, that could never happen. When he died, he would simply be reborn again and fight against his ultimate enemy. He knew that if he did not, Grendel would destroy the worlds and surely release Kane as well. He knew that he could never lead a normal life, and that if he tried to love Elayne, she would just be hurt again and again.
"I wonder when it will all end, don't you?" Tata asked. "Our souls live forever, whether in the afterlife or in one of the nine realms. When did it start? And when will it end? My next death will mean another rebirth, and so forth forever. How long is eternity, huh? Nothing lasts forever, so when do you suppose it will all end?"
Flea thought about the question thoroughly for only a few minutes. "I suppose," she said tentatively. "That it will end when it is ready. What we must do is cherish what we experience, because they shape us into who we are. The way we perceive our experiences and our situations is what we become. But-"
"I hope you are ready to experience this." Janus' voice came from behind Tata. Immediately following that, a metal staff was dropped on the table in from of Tata, which caused Flea to pull her hand away. It clanged a few times and was still.
Janus stood in his gray coat and dark breeches. He stood straight and strong and his face was set in its usual mask of sternness. "The clouds have parted and the sun is out. I must see that you are indeed the ultimate warrior. No magic, just one man's strength against another's. And I mean today."
Tata looked up and Janus, at the man known in this world as Magus, and in his experience as Shadowdancer, and he knew that the best he could ever put forth in battle may well not be enough to even match this man, who made the strongest souls tremble.
"Who are you?"
"Do you know Tata? That's why you are here, right?"
"I do not know a soul who does not."
" So who are you?"
"No one of consequence to you. At least, not yet."
"What? Who are you? Do you have a name?"
"You surprise me, Elayne. Oh well. You may call me the One Winged Angel."
"One wing what?"
"It doesn't matter to you yet. I know more about the future than anyone else does. I will soon be reborn, probably into the seventh realm. I like it there. The Cetra were the most intelligent people I ever knew of. I will visit Beowulf's realm soon, though."
"Oh uhm, are you a warrior?"
"Of the Light, bless it forever. I am not evil, but I have been labeled as such."
"I cannot talk to you any longer. I must go; Eimla's ruler knows I am here, where I do not belong. Goodbye for now, Elayne."
The storm had indeed passed for the time being, and the sun shone brightly on Tata's face. Birds even sang out from nearby trees, their sweet melodies fueling Tata's spirit. It was later in the day and everyone who knew of Janus' "new student" had turned out to see them duel. Flea sat on a large rock, her face an unreadable slate. Glenn wore an ocean blue coat and brown breeches. He stood next to the village Nu with his arms crossed, his face reflecting open interest. Schala stood on the other side of the Nu, one hand rested on its head, the other at her side. They all waited, their eyes moving from Janus to Tata and back again, over and over, like they were trying to see something beyond each of them.
"Any time you are ready, Tata." Janus said flatly. "Soon would be preferred, but I can wait longer than this crowd."
Tata remembered he held the metal staff tightly in his hands. He kept his wrists loose in order to move the staff faster and with more power. He looked at Janus, who held his scythe in a guard position, and smiled. A good day to fight. He thought to himself.
"Never before have we battled each other, Shadowdancer." He said in a musing voice. "I'm sure many have been waiting to see this fight."
"Is that so?" Janus whirled his scythe. "Then begin."
They leapt simultaneously, their staffs whirling like the wind. They came together and metal could be heard everywhere clanging. They landed in the exact spot where the other had been. They had each parried each other's staff. Janus moved first, uncoiling like a spring back toward Tata and twisting around to face him as he flew. Tata moved in time, though, his staff rising to block Janus' incoming scythe point. Nothing else could be seen at that point. The long metal staffs whirled so fast that it sounded like a miniature tornado of steel. They were impossibly fast; no one could have ever thought a person could move their arms at such speeds.
Then a well-placed movement of the scythe crook threw up Tata's staff end, and Janus threw his foot forward, aimed at Tata's ribs. In a surprise move, though, Tata spun and flung his back leg at Janus' head. Janus saw it and swept under it and came around to block Tata's staff coming down on his head. Tata pressed the attack though, causing Janus' blocks to move wider and wider. Janus would not have that, and somehow moved under the attack and begin and onslaught from behind. Tata was quick enough to face it, but Janus' scythe end had just nicked his chin.
Tata's attack pattern changed again, this time going for Janus' legs. Janus parried this new attack successfully. Tata began to draw his blocks wide again, but Janus was already moving. With a vertical staff block, he moved like lightning into a roundhouse kick, this time, catching Tata by surprise in the chest. Tata grunted and stepped back. How can anyone move that fast? He thought, but and answer was already forming in his mind. He is Shadowdancer.
Both men's faces were masks of sweat, which soaked their shirts and jackets. They did not attack each other yet, and Tata smiled. He stripped off his jacket and let it fall on the snowy ground as Janus did the same.
Janus grimaced. "Are you quitting already? I'm still sleepy."
"You won't be."
This time Janus made the first move. Moving like a snake, he swiftly moved to greet Tata's attack. This time Tata's attacks did not draw Janus' scythe wide or go in any particular direction. They simply kept coming like some unrelenting force of whirling steel. Sweat began to bead more profoundly on Janus' face, which had contorted into a grimace. The sweat began coming off of them in showers, but they kept on. Janus could see that Tata was trying to wear him down, and he was not sure if he would be able to hold on for that long; Tata's face, however sweaty was simply set in a determined scowl.
Janus finally acted. His movements suddenly intensified and moved even faster. Tata was forced to block each movement. Then, quicker than anyone could follow with their eyes, Janus ducked the next attack and parried it, while at the same time sweeping his leg at Tata in an attempt to take the youth off his feet. Tata was too quick to fall for that, however. He leapt up higher than Janus had ever seen a person jump. At the same time, the back end of Tata's staff came down at Janus head in what seemed to be a head strike. Respectively, Janus moved to block it with a horizontal staff movement.
But Tata had disguised his real movement, and as the end of his staff came down, it suddenly went out farther, and he somersaulted in the air. His staff end came under Janus' and flipped it out of his hands and into the air. Janus was already moving, but Tata's foot had found Janus' head and it drove him face first into the ground. Springing to his feet, Janus searched for his scythe, only to find Tata already held it as well as his own metal rod.
The youth smiled and tossed Janus his weapon. Janus caught it without taking his eyes off of Tata.
"Now then," said Tata. "Are you quite ready?"
Neither moved at first. A deadly silence fell upon the battlegrounds as well as the crowds. Then they all watched as Tata rushed forward, his staff end pointed right at Janus' middle. Janus smiled mockingly at the seemingly feeble attack. A millisecond before Janus would have had the metal rod slam his broad chest, he ducked low and turned the staff end away with the crook of his scythe and turned the other end toward where Tata's middle was going to be. But Tata had shifted his movements and was already going for the sweep. Janus' movement was quicker than the eye could follow. His crook point went down and dug into the ground, putting a clanging halt to Tata's sweep. They locked in that stance, grimacing with effort and refusing to give any ground. Then Janus began pushing forward, keeping his scythe dug solidly into the ground. Tata grunted and flew to the side. Janus was not expecting such a move and fell forward, but he pivoted and was already in an advancing position when Tata came again at him, this time twirling his staff down upon Janus' head. Janus could see Tata's next move if he did as expected. So he did the opposite. He ducked low and rolled into Tata's advancing legs, knocking the youth's feet out from under him.
Tata fell forward almost in slow motion but managed to roll and come up on his feet. Footfalls! Tata glanced behind him just as Janus moved upon him. His scythe crook came down at Tata's head and he parried it as he shifted around to a guard stance. The two met each other's movements stroke for stroke, until finally Janus managed to swing around and deliver and crushing roundhouse kick to the back of Tata's head. An audible groan emitted from Tata's mouth as he pitched forward, and the crowd knew Janus was winning. So did Tata, but as he reeled forward and Janus rushed to follow up the attack, Tata rolled to a distance in which he had a few seconds to collect his thoughts. His head was spinning and he felt like he might black out. Tata began to close his eyes.
Then there was a bright light in Tata's head and an image of Minka entered his mind. She smiled and then was gone, leaving Tata with a feeling. It was a feeling of total will power, a voice in his head that kept saying he could not, would not fail. He spun around but Janus was already nearly upon him. Tata fell back step after step, with only his arms moving as he parried each attack. Then, at about the twentieth pace, he halted and did not budge. Janus pressed the attack harder than ever, his movements increasing their force and speed, but Tata was already matching the man's attack and now parried toward the middle and made unexpected attacks, causing Janus to move back on the defensive. Tata's attacks came from all angles and a grunt came from Janus as he was forced to increase his efforts. Now Tata moved closer, keeping the combat so close that their faces were only a couple feet apart. Janus backed up a step, then another. Then he stopped, meaning to hold his ground, but Tata put the pressure back on, closing the space between them to less than two feet. Their weapons made a constant metal ringing; there no longer were any intervals between their weapons' contact. At least, nothing the human ear could possibly identify.
Then Janus spoke out loudly over the ringing metal. "Your skill is nearly unbreakable. You truly are the ultimate warrior."
Tata smiled and responded through gritted teeth. "And you truly are Shadowdancer."
Tata never saw it coming. With the strength of a hundred men, Janus brought his scythe down at Tata's head. Tata could only raise his staff in a feeble horizontal block, but the blow knocked his right on his back. On his back, he continued to parry Janus' attacks, but he knew that he had no hope of getting up again this fight. Janus twirled his scythe in his hands so the crook pointed at Tata. Janus brought his scythe point down at Tata's head, and Tata blocked with a horizontal hold. But Janus had been waiting for that, and with a swift motion, the crook end came under Tata's staff and threw it from the boy's hands. The scythe did not stop, and came around so the point was aimed at Tata. The fight was over. Janus had won.
Both men's' faces glistened with sweat and they were each breathing heavily. Their shirts clung to their chests and their hands were sweaty. The crowd simply stood with astonished looks on their faces. Janus stared down at Tata, who stared right back up at him. And after what seemed like forever, Janus drew back his scythe point and offered his hand to the youth who lay in the snow before him. Tata glanced at it and accepted it. Climbing to his feet, they kept their hands embraced.
"Never," Janus said in a voice that was still short of breath. "Never, in all of my battles have I ever had to fight as hard as I did today. You must be nothing less than the ultimate Warrior of the Light."
"And you, Shadowdancer," Tata said in a voice that was just as short of breath as Janus'. "You are my better. No one I know can hold claim to that. Not Aladren, not even-"
Suddenly the light was back again, but it was not Minka that he saw in this delirium. Tata saw a tall man of a thin, muscular build. He held himself in a regal fashion, yet his bright green eyes reflected mixed emotions. Pain, sadness, contempt, anger, and something else, something that made Tata want to shrivel up and disappear, just to get away from it. An unfelt wind carried the man's great mane of silver hair out to one side, and Tata knew that this was a harbinger of death, one who would leave trails of dead wherever he went. Tata was the ultimate warrior of the Light, and the death that this man carried with him made him want to scream.
Tata tried to reach out, but the darkness had already consumed him. Tata was already unconscious when he landed on the snowy ground.
Tata, twelve years old and a boy with a strong body and an intelligent mind turned his head to the voice that had spoken his name. A warm spring breeze ruffled his purple, spiked hair and he smiled as the warmth tickled his face. But he also smiled at the girl with crimson hair that hung loosely about her shoulders. They both sat up against a great peach tree, the merry chirping of the birds that nested in the tree assailing their ears.
"Yes?" Answered Tata. The girl's ears were elongated, marking her a Mystic, the race of people that possessed magical properties and who, under the leadership of a powerful mage, currently warred with the human race. Her name was Minka.
"I was just checking to see if you had fallen asleep or not." She said with a small smile. "You haven't spoken a word for some time."
Tata smiled. The girl was elegantly beautiful, with soft, smooth skin and a strong, lean form. Tata knew of nothing as beautiful her, but it was not her beauty exactly that captivated his heart. He knew that she was by nature a caring, warm individual with a kind heart. She loved animals and nature, and liked to listen to music. He liked to listen to her; he loved her voice, like the birds singing above their heads, full of life and happiness.
"I was just thinking." Tata said, turning his eyes back to the scenery they looked upon on the grassy hill. The farmlands of Porre stretched out as far as he could see in all directions, with their lush, green pastures where horses and other animals grazed. Farmhouses dotted the lands, accompanied by their crops and barns. Everything was coming to life after the hard winter they had recently experienced. Apple blossoms flowered on another tree that was not more than thirty feet away, and Tata knew that to be the tree he used to climb in the summer when he was younger, where he picked buckets of apples to take back home. Tata could also see far, far away the little villa where Fiona lived. He had met the woman once while exploring her forests. He had learned of her plight of trying to save the forests that spread out around her house for a good mile or so. She had told him, however, that the Magus' troops kept cutting down the trees to use for their army as they passed through. The only way she had remained unharmed was that her house was so well hidden by the trees; Magus' troops had only been hacking away at the edges of the forest. Tata felt great empathy for Fiona as well as admiration; she lived alone (her husband was away in the Guardia army) in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles away from a real town, with no protection at all. Yet she stayed there in order to save the forests surrounding her villa. She was very brave.
"Oh?" Minka arched an eyebrow slightly and moved closer to Tata. "About what?"
Tata looked back at her and smiled as their eyes met. Her eyes also attracted him; they were nearly as green as the surrounding grasslands, and always held a glint of joy in them. They made Tata feel warm and happy whenever he looked into them.
"This." He said, nodding to the land. "I've always wanted to be an explorer; I've always wanted to get away from this boring little town and see the world. Like that guy that drops into town every now and then, Tama, or something. But on days like this, when everything seems alive and happy, it is so perfect. It's just beautiful." Tata sighed then and put his hand on hers, which lay on the soft grass in between them. "And of course, you make it even better. With you here, there's no greater reason for me not to leave."
Minka's smile held for only a second longer, then slowly faded away and she looked solemnly at the ground. "Tata, I meant to talk to you about something." She said softly, with a note of sadness in it. "My mother wants to move, somewhere, away from towns. Living in Porre is not working well for us, and she has already found an old house at the edge of the eastern part of the Cursed Woods."
Tata's smile faded then, too. Presently, they lived only a couple of doors away. But the Cursed Woods were only a few miles closer to his house than Fiona's villa was.
"How " Tata sighed, trying to find the words, and upon finding them, he tried again. "How are we going to see each other? You will live at least a half-day's ride away. A hard ride, at that."
"I will return to town on shopping trips." She said. "My mom doesn't want me down here any more than I have to, so I guess I'll see you when that happens." She looked at Tata with saddened eyes. She gently held his arm, like a farmer trying to keep a wild horse calm. "I'm sorry, Tata. I meant to tell you sooner. We're moving in three weeks, and there's nothing I can do about it." Tata didn't respond right away, but as Minka stood up from her sitting position, he grabbed her hand again and stood up himself, if a little faster.
"Minka, do you realize what is happening now?" he said in a heated voice. "You are moving away from me, and the only time we will get to see each other will be when you drop into town. I mean, do you realize that after you move we will not get to sit here like we have today, relaxing on this hill? We we won't get to be together, Minka."
The girl Tata so admired, with her crimson hair moving with the wind had no immediate response. Tata inhaled deeply, looked to the side at the rolling grass hills, then back at her again. Now he took both of her hands in his and spoke.
"Minka, I don't want to be that far apart. Even if a day goes by without us meeting, I miss you. You're always on my mind, and nothing is going to change that. I guess what I want to say to you here and now, is that I like you, but you know, not like friends, and " He fell silent again.
Her eyes, like the grass that ruffled in the warm, spring breeze, gazed up into his with almost utter love. "Do you love me, Tata?" Her small smile had come back. She moved a little closer to him.
Tata had always wanted to say this, but he had always imagined it to be hard, like trying to punch down a stonewall with you bare hands. But as he gazed into the eyes of the girl he truly cared for, the words he had wanted to say to her flowed easily from his mouth.
"Yes." He smiled then, too. The feelings that welled inside his chest filled his every fiber now, as he was filled with happiness. "I have loved you for as long as we have known each other. I guess I might not have known what it was at first, but it has always been there. I love you, more than anybody, or anything. I would die for you without a thought of doubt." Tata gazed out at the grass hills again only for a second, then back at Minka. "I I don't want to lose you. I want to be with you, always. I know it is selfish of me to put this on you, but I don't know a life without you, Minka."
Minka's mouth was open just a little bit, just enough to see her even, white teeth. "Do you want to make a promise?" She asked. "When we are old enough, we will get married, and until then, we will try to see each other as much as possible."
Tata moved closer and glanced down at his boots and then back at Minka. With the absolute joy of the moment flowing through him, he inclined his head and lightly kissed her. Lightly, for it was the first time they had ever kissed before. Minka hesitated, then wrapped her arms around his neck and accepted the kiss. Tata had never felt anything like it before in his life. It was simply indescribable. When they finally pulled away, they each had a look on their faces like that of an explorer who had discovered a new world. They still held each other in their arms, and in that moment, the birds had stopped chirping and the wind had died down. It was utterly calm and peaceful.
"I promise to fulfill that promise, Minka." He said. "But you have no idea how long I have wanted to do that."
She smiled a smile that fully revealed her teeth, like twinkling stars to Tata's eyes. "Oh, I do." She said. "I do."
It was then that the petals on the peach tree began to fall. The wind had loosened them, and now small seedlings could also be seen falling with the pink petals to the ground. Then just before landing, they were carried away on the warm breeze that had picked up again. At the top of the tree, a robin, with its full red chest began to sing a sweet melody to another robin on the other branch just a foot away. And anyone who could see the scene from afar would say that the world had just smiled.
" Should be okay. Probably all the blood rushing in his head or something of the sort."
Tata regained consciousness before he opened his eyes, and even then, he did not open them. He kept them closed, wondering what he would see if he opened them. Maybe if he pretended to still be asleep he could learn what was going on and "
"I think he is awake." Came a voice that could only be that of a woman's. It sounded like Minka. Tata opened his eyes and looked over to where the voice had come from, hoping, praying that it had all been a nightmare, that he still lived in Porre, with Minka still alive, and
No. It was not Minka, but Flea who sat at the side of his bed on a wooden stool. And he was in a tent as well. His dream; nothing more than a flashback and then, like a wave washing onto a sandy shore, Tata remembered everything. His dream, instead of leaving him in high spirits left him feeling unfulfilled, like it should have been real. Reality: what a gyp. Tata quipped silently.
Flea leaned forward and placed her hand on his, which lay across his chest. "You gave us quite a scare, Tata." She said softly.
"You were running a fever." Janus said, who now stood at the foot of his bed.
"And you were mumbling." Glenn added. "You just kept repeating 'stop,' 'stop.'"
Now Tata fully remembered the vision he had beheld, the vision that had caused him to lose consciousness. "I saw," Tata began, and then he stopped and swallowed. He began again. "I saw something horrible. No, it wasn't what I saw; it was what I felt. It was a man that I saw, and I felt so "
Tata gritted his teeth at the thought of it. He had really wanted to scream when he had seen the man in his vision. So much death that man carried.
"What man?" Janus inquired.
Tata sat up a little and put a hand over his eyes as he tried to remember the man's face. But he knew that he didn't need to remember; he didn't think for an instant that he would ever forget that man.
"He was tall," Tata said. "He wore black, and his hair was long and gray, like silver, but he was far from old. His eyes oh, his eyes they terrified me. They were a glowing green color, deep and thoughtful, but also cunning and intelligent. Those eyes they reflected so many emotions at once I thought he might be insane." Tata sat up very quickly then, his eyes wild and looking to each of his companions. "Do any of you know him? We have to find him. He will kill, this man, he will many people."
Blank faces looked back at his, faces that thought he was simply a deluded boy who had too much adrenaline in his veins. Tata shook his head sadly and leaned back again. "He was real." Tata stared at the ceiling as he spoke, hoping none of that rock would fall. "Or at least he will be real. I told you I am the opposite of darkness. Because of this, Dark Magic hits me hard, but every time someone dies I feel it. Most of the time, it is just like an imagined noise, barely noticeable at all, but I feel it. I pick it up like a person hearing a far off noise. This man that I saw will carry death wherever he goes. He will destroy more lives than Grendel has in the last five lifetimes, which I know to be many. Please, does anyone recognize this man that I speak of?"
"No, Tata." Janus said quietly, but a look of consideration had come across his face. From what Tata had said, he didn't blame him.
"Well, since you are alright," Glenn said, preparing to leave. "You might want to see what a villager found right after your duel."
Tata narrowed his eyes slightly. "What is it?"
"You'll want to see for yourself, Tata." Glenn said gravely. "But I can tell you now that you're going to wish you had stayed in bed."
End of Chapter 19
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