The Story of Tata Chapter 20
By The Man
Nothing about the surrounding land or the weather would lift anyone's spirits. The sky was a depressing gray. No sound except for Tata's group trudging through the snow could be heard, for the rest of the villagers were silent with terror as they stared at the scene before them. A few paid Tata and his party a glance before their eyes went back to the body of Jeke Laro. Tata moved to the front of the crowd and his stomach did a flip-flop.
No way, Tata thought as he felt himself begin to vomit. No human could have possibly And then he did vomit as he turned away.
Janus, Glenn, Schala, and Flea had little more to say than Tata did. Janus walked over to Tata and the bloody mess that was once a man. He looked down at it with a grim face.
"Rest in peace, Jeke." Janus said finally. Moans and more vomiting sounded amongst the crowd now. Janus' attention went to Tata.
"You okay?" he asked as the youth straightened and wiped his mouth with the back of his gloved hand.
Tata gritted his teeth. "I'll never be okay." He said simply. He folded his arms across his chest and did not say another word.
Janus shook his head and brought his attention back to the rest of the crowd. "Disperse now, to your homes." Janus' commanding voice sounded across the snowy fields and to the villager's ears. "The body will be given a proper funeral, but it is not safe out here anymore. Go to your homes in groups and do not let anyone into your residences."
The villagers understood and left, some a bit hurriedly, others still looking over their shoulders at the twisted corpse of the man they once knew as they slowly trudged away. With the crowd leaving, Janus turned back to the rest of the group.
"Apparently this 'Jeke' had no family." Glenn said quietly. "In a way, it is a good thing. I doubt any relative would want to see him this way."
Flea shook her head slowly. "Why would anyone how could " but words had escaped her.
Janus looked even grimmer than before. "Looks like we might have found Tata's mystery man." He looked over at the youth, who did not seem to notice any of them. Janus turned back to the rest of the group. "Magic was used to do this. As far as I know, none of the former Enlightened Ones still possess magic. In fact, we are supposedly the only magic-users in this era."
"But we know none of us could have done it." Flea said.
"Of course." Said Schala. "We were all together when this must have happened. Any even if we weren't, none of us would ever have the heart to do something like this, especially to a poor old man who never did any harm to anybody."
Janus nodded sadly at this. "Indeed. Indeed, poor Jeke Laro. He was a very kind man and an excellent wood smith. That desk he gave me Gods "
"He knew you?" Tata finally spoke so suddenly it surprised everyone. He turned to Janus and set his gaze on the great mage. "He knew you?"
Janus considered it. "I suppose that we were more than acquaintances." Janus spoke slowly. "A week or two ago, he had asked me to teach him magic again. He knew my real name; everyone else knows me as either The Prophet or-"
"Grendel." Tata ground the word between his teeth. "He knew. He must have known you knew this poor soul. You killed him; few have ever managed that and lived to tell about it. He wants revenge against you."
Glenn let his head drop; he knew the power of this monster. "So he's still alive."
Flea nodded grimly. "It makes sense." She said plainly. "Tata is still alive, so this 'Grendel' must be as well."
Tata had turned his back to the group again. He didn't want to talk to them anymore because he felt dirty. He felt this way because part of him was glad that Len was still alive. Yes, Len; Grendel lasted forever. Len on the other hand still had much to pay for as far as Tata was concerned. But Gods, to actually want that creature to be alive? It made Tata want to vomit again.
Even Beowulf could not recall how long they had been at war with one another. No number in human history went that high. How he wanted to obliterate Grendel's dark soul for good, yet he knew that that was impossible. Neither of them was content until the other was dead, and from this fact Tata had already conceived that neither of them would ever find peace. Neither of them had a home to go to nor did they have real parents either. Just the rulers of Eimla and of Ji'groo with their stupid bickering. With Kane sealed away, Beowulf and Grendel had become all but useless. Now they fought for their own reasons, namely their hatred for one another. It was all they had, shunned from their own afterlife as they were. That was their destiny: to fight one another.
Now Tata felt something creeping inside of him, something that made him want to cry. It was despair, the dark force of hopelessness. It consumed him before he could begin to fight it. He realized now that he would always be at war, no matter what the world threw at him. They had been fighting longer than any soul could remember and neither of them had gained anything. And every time Beowulf killed Grendel, he never felt better, partially because he died shortly after as well, but also that he did not like it. He hated killing, but unfortunately it was what he was best at. And now here he was trapped inside a teenager's body. From every life Beowulf led he created a new personality before becoming his real self again. Beowulf was an ancient warrior, but Tata was only a kid, not even a full-grown adult. How did anyone expect a simple kid to fight Grendel?
Tata lifted his head to a level gaze but did not turn around. It was Schala who had spoken and she stood a few feet behind him while the other three watched both of them.
She continued. "In case you have not been listening, we have decided to go after this 'Grendel' instead of letting him come to us. Janus was organizing search parties, each headed by one of us."
Tata scoffed at that with a bitter laugh. "And where does he propose to search for him, Schala? On this tiny chunk of land here out in the middle of nowhere? Grendel can travel time and breathe underwater. And still you expect to just happen along his little camping site at one point or another?"
Schala did not immediately respond, obviously taken aback by Tata's haughty attitude. "Tata, we just don't want to sit around while more people get killed. We want this monster stopped."
Tata snorted. "Right. As if he would let you find him. We have the larger party, and for that he gets to choose the battlefield, not us."
Schala folded her arms beneath her breasts. "Then what do think we should do Tata? We can't let him go through the village killing people and sitting around waiting for him isn't going to help it. You're the eternal warrior Tata. You're the one who has to stop this creature."
"You think I don't know that?" Tata said harshly. "I am never without that knowledge, Schala. But Fire, I hate it. I just hate all this fighting. It's enough to make anyone sick to their stomach."
Schala nodded slightly at that. "We all hate it Tata. Truly, we all do. But we all have to fight against this thing or else we will die. You are the one that must kill this thing. It is what you must do."
"Tata, he is still out there and-"
"I DON'T CARE!!" Tata's voice rang louder than thunder. Now he whirled around and everyone could see the tears that had begun to well in his eyes and stream down his cheeks. Janus took a step forward as though to make more but withheld himself.
"I'm sick of it!" Tata yelled. "Sick to my bloody stomach. Do you hear me?! It's just one fight after another and it never ends! And what do I get for all of it?! Do I even get a scrap of love or happiness in return for the countless lifetimes I've given up to fight this creature? No, no of course not! It's my bloody duty so why should I get anything in return?!"
Tata gritted his teeth and watched a tear fall from his cheek. "You know, I am still just a damn kid, all right?! Whether I'm Beowulf or Aladren, I'm still just Tata al'Mierra and this is just too much weight for me to handle! All this fighting has only brought a little less death than if I just sat back and let Grendel ravage the world. It's all going nowhere, it's bringing nothing but misery to everyone and I'm sick of it! Burn it all, I'm just a kid!!"
With that, Tata turned and fled north, running faster than any horse could possibly match. He ran until he was out of sight of his companions and kept on going. He ran and ran and ran. He ran until his feet burned like fire. He ran until his heart was beating so fast that there was hardly any distinction between beats. He ran until he could not see and sweat covered every inch of his face. He ran like this until he tripped on his own heel and fell hard on his knees onto the snowy field. With his sight recovered, Tata looked up. He realized that he was on the very edge of the northernmost point of the island. Another step and he would have plummeted into the ocean.
Tata's mind was whirling with so many things. Grendel, Minka, Shadowdancer, Eimla, and a great many other things encircled his mind. So many things did call to him to acknowledge them that he couldn't make sense of it all. It was just too much.
Tata now lifted his eyes skyward and screamed a wordless cry of pain for what seemed like an eternity. When it seemed like he would scream until he died he stopped and stared out at the ocean. Then he lowered his head into his hands and began to cry.
Glenn had taken three steps north when Janus said, "Leave him alone." The former frog looked back at his former enemy and nodded in assent.
It had been three minutes since Tata's outburst. No one had said anything because the young man had answered the question each of them had harbored inside themselves for a while. How could a kid handle this kind of responsibility? Well, now they knew the answer: he couldn't. But of course no one could. No soul could possibly stay sane under the lifetimes of fighting Beowulf had to endure, certainly not a teenager who's mind was not fully developed. It simply could not be done with one's mind still intact.
"But Grendel is still out there." Flea protested. "What if they encounter one another? They-"
"They would settle their undying conflict like they have been long before we became involved." Interrupted Janus in tired tone that did not fit him at all.
Glenn nodded again. "Is it even our concern? Tata has his own reasons for wanting to settle with Len, and it's not just because it is his destiny. You saw how furious he became at Janus when he 'killed' that damned monster. He wants him for himself."
Flea and Schala were looking at him questioningly. Janus for some reason simply stared north and listened to the conversation.
"Who's Len?" Schala asked.
Glenn winced. He had said Len. They didn't know. "Len," he began in a cold voice. "Is Tata's enemy. He was a bully to him starting at age four. He is Grendel and he killed Marle, Lucca, Atropos, and over half of an army. He also killed Tata's a close friend of his. Tata wants him dead for this, and dead by his hands."
Flea nodded slowly and Schala bit her lower lip thoughtfully. Janus continued to stare north at the long trail of footprints left by the man known as Tata. He remembered going there many times, to the North Cape, to think things over and listen to the gentle sound of the waves crashing like a thousand sighs against the sandy shores. He and Glenn had nearly come to blows there once, what seemed like decades ago. But North Cape was not meant to be a battlefield. Blood had never been drawn there, and Janus wanted to keep it that way, lest the northernmost point of the land be forever marked by death.
He had almost failed to notice that Flea and quietly crept up to him and slipped into his arms. He looked down at her and she gave a small smile back.
"Hey." He said quietly.
"Hey." She answered back.
"Everything fine?" he asked.
"Well, to be honest, I was going to ask you the same question." She tried looking into his eyes, but he had averted them from her. She wasn't going to accept that and pulled his chin back so she could look at him. The moment she looked into his eyes, she saw it. "What's wrong, Janus? You can talk to me; you can talk to all of us. We can listen to you if you want to say something."
He narrowed his eyes. "What gave you that idea? I do not need to talk with anyone. When have I ever been open with my thoughts?" And with that he pulled away from her completely.
Flea sighed and walked back to Glenn and Schala. They stood close together so as to keep their conversation quiet.
"He's always been like this." Schala said apologetically to Flea. "Never wanting to talk about his thoughts, always keeping to himself. It's just the way he is."
"Some people are like that." Glenn spoke more to Schala than Flea. "For some, it is more painful to tell others of what is hurting them."
Flea had wanted to say something, but she couldn't remember what. Instead she simply looked north, at the trail of footprints Tata had left behind. Then she looked at Janus. His back turned to them, about twenty-five feet away. He appeared to be thinking. Why wouldn't that stubborn fool just talk to her? She knew she could help him, she knew it. If only she knew how.
"They're both alike." She said abruptly, her eyes still on Janus. She turned back to the others, who had set their eyes on her. She continued. "Tata and Janus, they both think alike. They see the problems of the world so clearly. They don't seek the company of others. They are unmatched warriors, but they hate to fight. Even their hair color is similar. Gods, they are so alike it's uncanny."
"There's a reason for that." Janus said loud enough to be heard over the winds that had just picked up. He turned and his hair blew back behind him. "There is a reason, and if you are willing to listen, I will tell you."
End of Chapter 20
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