The Gates of Ermen
The Gates of Ermen
Nobu walked through the gates of Ermen, and unbeknownst to him the gates had disappeared. He walked through a chalky mist covering the pathway, dimly lit by the setting sun, his woollen scarf swaying in the chilly air of the world beyond.
He could hear his footsteps before he took them; feel his anxious breath ringing in his ears twice. He had only one call: to keep moving forward and so he did as the eerie sounds fell on a deaf ear.
“Rinsen…” called a whisper. A voice he had heard long ago. His eyes perplexed at the sight of nothing, he changed his direction towards the whisper.
“Rinsen,” the voice called again.
Nobu’s hands moved to the hilt of his sword, his eyes searching for a sign.
The winds had died and the mist thickened. Nobu cautiously revealed the crystal of the loft, bestowed upon him by the man he had never known.
Nobu tapped his fingers and the crystal gleamed in warm blue light.
He looked up to the sky as a beam shot up from the crystal while it shook violently, spreading over the sky in sparks before shattering into two halves.
“No…” said Nobu kneeling in disappointment. He picked up the two halves and put it back in his pocket. The skies were still filled with sparks and through the mist they floated creating a path.
Nobu was unaware and still on his knees reeling from a ‘setback’ and then he felt a hand on his back.
He looked back and there was exactly who he expected: the wind. It nudged him forward and he followed the floating sparks he saw as they appeared.
Through a blinding pathway, Nobu traversed the unknown trusting a forgotten legend. It had been hours since he last saw any sign of civilization or even the sun. The sparks shined in pitch black darkness as in the Caves of Renedir.
Nobu was exhausted. He needed water, yet he could not stop. He continued to march forward until the sparks arched over the mist.
He did not move as a smothering fear took over him. He had vowed in his early days never to let the dark take over him, but this place was not the one he had known. He had heard only stories of what lies beyond the mythical gates.
Nobu took a few steps back and breathed in the air he could find and sprinted before leaping in the air following the arched path. He looked back and the mist had disappeared and there lied a dark chasm under the arched sparks. He looked beyond the chasm to the place he just leapt over and the sight sent a chill down his spine. The path was surrounded by numerous spikes on either side, and brooding creatures in the chasm whose voices he could hear now. They seemed enraged.
“Perhaps this isn’t a place for me,” Nobu said to himself, “neither was it for them.”
The path ahead was one Nobu wasn’t prepared for or me. The world beyond was unfamiliar to both of us.
Nobu unsheathed his sword and held it in his hands and with his eyes closed he spoke: “Tomen Suaro Memento.”
Fear had perished from his heart; his eyes resolute. He remembered the sweet voice calling him to them. Was it them? He thought.
Nobu stood up and with his steel companion beside him, he took the first step. What lied ahead of him was just a door. Nobu tried to open it but it was locked. No way beyond it, he sat down to ponder.
He took a long breath and closed his eyes. He could feel the air and the sparks twinkling in the sky, the blade lying beside him, and the door ahead. He heard the thud beyond the door. He thought he was safe from what lied ahead. Although hours had passed, the sun was still setting; the orange rays striking his face, spreading the warmth evenly upon his face. He felt heat beside him and he opened his eyes to look.
The crystal lit up. He lifted it up against the sun, the rays refracting and lining up onto a block embedded inside the floor. Nobu lifted with all his might and threw the block down the chasm. He smiled at the thought of enraging the beasts down there. He lived precariously.
Nobu found a key and used it to open the door. The wind rushed inwards through the door. It seemed beyond the door it had not had traces of air for ages. Nobu was in awe. How could that be? How could there be no air? It dawned onto him that this was no ordinary place. He realized not to question the mythos of this uncanny realm ever again.
Nobu opened his eyes softly; the sun was brighter than usual. It appeared closer. He meandered across the pavement cowering in the shadows cast by the stone houses he did not pay much attention to. He reached a clearing with a shoddy bridge connecting the land beyond. It looked unsteady. Nobu had had his share of fall to know not to cross that, but was there another way? He did not even know where he was going. All he did was follow the sparks and they had disappeared beyond the door.
Across the bridge there was mist again. Nobu trusted himself to know that was where he had to go.
He looked back at the place he just left and he finally noticed what he had crossed.
The pavement was broken. There was a stream of blood flowing from the door to the clearing’s end falling down into the chasm.
Nobu sauntered along the path avoiding the stream as he looked around. The houses had the sign of zernos marked on them in blood. There were no bodies. He could not enter the houses. He was stuck in a conundrum.
The sun had dimmed and he had no path. He was tired of looking, he needed to rest, but even with his brain shutting down what he saw kept him at edge.
Nobu unsheathed his sword, and washed it with the water from the river near his home. He held the sword upright looking at the sky, holding the hilt tightly he swung behind him and a trickle of blood splashed onto his face.
His face turned, he wiped it with his hand and readied himself in a stance of battle. He could see the bodies lining up the pavement now. There were hundreds of them, even children.
Nobu felt anger rising up in him, he knew this was a weapon and it was something he had mastered long ago.
He swung his blade with such fervour battling what seemed hundreds. It was a bloodbath.
Those creatures clad in green armour with long heads were too many. They kept coming.
Nobu fought till they stopped, until one had remained.
“You come here alone. You shall stay.”
Nobu pointed his sword at him.
“Ah! Feisty one. We shall see.”
The creature clad in green steel armour rushed towards Nobu. The horns on his head gear glistening in the sun. His face bathed in blood. He leapt across the stream with a smirk on his face.
Their swords clashed as they exchanged looks.
“You remind me of someone. It must have been him.”
“Enough! I shall end this,” Nobu announced to no effect on the creature.
He sliced the creature’s arm, his blade cutting through his armour, and wounding him.
“A fine warrior, but you shall not leave; the Zernos will have your head.” The creature healed his wounds and swiftly attacked.
Nobu defended as metal clashed metal, walking backwards towards the clearing. He ducked the final attack and threw the creature over the clearing into the chasm.
The creature held on, “This is not a parting, you will not leave,” he smiled; his gritty teeth sent an air of disgust in Nobu. He swung his blade again and chopped off the creature’s arm.
Nobu stood up and cleaned his sword. He was battered; the battle though short lived had drawn the breath from him. He unsheathed his sword looked into the sun.
“Is this it? Is this what you wanted me to see? Bloodshed? Death? Suffering? Why did you bring me here?” said Nobu.
“Rinsen!” a voice exclaimed.
Nobu turned to something sinister standing before him. Tall and before he could act, it grabbed Nobu’s head and lifted him up. Walking forward towards the clearing it spoke: “This is not your place, go now.”
And he fell from the clearing into depths of the chasm. His eyes closed and he disappeared into the chasm filled with the mist. The stream of blood falling was the last thing his eyes saw and the voice calling him, the touch he doesn’t remember and the memories of a time he had not lived flushed his subconscious. He had seen enough, he wanted to leave. His resolve was not enough.
Nobu fell for ages and perhaps he stopped falling. He did not know; he had no perception since he saw blood. He could only do one last thing-wake up.
Nobu woke up to the sound of flute of his home. He had the robe on him. His sword had left his side. He was on his bed resting.
“Rinsen!” and Nobu jolted awake.
“Come here now. Your path is not finished,” a voice spoke from afar. Nobu looked closer to find the sight of an old man with long wavy beard. He dressed like Merlin.
He followed the man through the open door.
Outside he was at the place he just fell from: The stone houses; green everywhere, children prancing around. He did not understand.
“All of this was-“he trailed off as his eyes met the face of someone he never knew.
“Gone?” said the man completing his sentence.
“You’re right in a way. I’m Shen and you’re Nobu and the man you laid eyes on is Rinsen.”
The last word surprised Nobu. He had been hearing that for what felt like ages. There had not been a hint of hope in Nobu of seeing this person.
Rinsen got up from the edge of the fountain he was sitting on and walked up to Nobu.
“Nobu, it’s been a long time. I’ve been waiting. Not for you, do not be mistaken. I’ve been waiting for this meeting. We have some work to do.”
Up close Nobu saw what he had not believed was possible.
And the words in his brain escaped his mouth, “but you’re…”