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Hylurania by Bernadette Wouters

Hylurania by Bernadette Wouters

Helyna strolled through the Forest of Winterborough, the great forest which she had only just discovered. Five days ago, home would have been a big house in the centre of an enormous city. A house shared with her parents, two sisters, and one brother. It […]

Loki’s Last Stand by Matthew Calleja

Loki’s Last Stand by Matthew Calleja

The cave was dark and damp, as it had been for time unending. He couldn’t recall how long it has been since his own brethren betrayed him. This cave had been his prison for thousands of years, perhaps. Bound by chains made from his own […]

Atalanta: The Foot Race by Aleena Islam

Atalanta: The Foot Race by Aleena Islam

“Go!”

She shot off like a bullet ricocheting against the sand, leaving dust in her trail. Whoops, cheers, and howls of encouragement erupted from the ruthless crowd as they watched the Prince of Thessaly chase determinedly, albeit helplessly, after the Arcadian huntress.

Atalanta, jogging just in front of the Prince who was spluttering and gasping for breath, found herself wondering where this bottomless well of suitors originated from. Was it the gods’ creation?

Probable, she thought.

Or perhaps Aphrodite was scheming, attempting to corrode Atalanta’s devotion to Artemis?

Even more probable, she thought.

race flashed in her mind, including his tilting head and patronising leer. She thought of this as she witnessed the catastrophic sight before her; a tomato-red face submerged in enough sweat to fill the River Styx, deep and rasping breaths tumbling out of a gaping mouth, and the rapid pumping of muscular arms. Atalanta, still trotting just in front of this disaster, almost pitied the Prince, knowing his fate beyond the finish line.

Almost.

Atalanta flipped her head back around, her caramel hair whipping the tip of the Prince’s nose. She scoffed as she heard the whimper from behind her and began to speed up, pushing her legs faster and faster. The shrieks of the crowd, once directed at the pretentious prince, escalated as she neared the finish line. Closer, closer, the finish line beckoned as Atalanta sprinted the last remaining metres. Ten, nine, closer and closer, the space between her and the end dwindling.

Five, four, three metres. Suddenly, she stopped.

Atalanta adored running; the feeling of the wind caressing her face, adrenaline coursing through her body, and the undeniable pulse of her heartbeat pounding in her ears. However, over the past few weeks, she realised that what she adored even more was the humiliation and the ignominy of a pompous suitor.

She bent at the knees, attempting to emulate the same rasping breaths that she had heard from the Prince. With her head still bent down, she subtly lifted her eyes, looking for the challenger.

He’s not even close, she thought, exasperated.

The Prince was just over the half-way point of the track, his arms pumping the same relentless rhythm. As he saw Atalanta in the state of nearly collapsing, a spark of hope ignited in his eyes. What he did not see, however, was the sadistic smirk that had crawled onto her lips.

Nearing closer, gleeful laughs bubbled from his lungs, clumsily intertwining with panting gasps. Atalanta could see his conceited ego reinflating his thorax, as if the previous pathetic sight was an illusion. The Prince, blinded by the prospect of victory, ignored the confused whispers that emerged from the crowd and was only three metres from Atalanta before she suddenly shot up from her previously bent position and simply walked across the finish line. The hope that had accumulated in his eyes now withered away as he realised the consequence of his failure.

“What a shame,” Atalanta crooned, “you were so close, weren’t you?” With a final wink to the Prince, she turned to King Schoeneus and declared, “Well, Father, yet another loser. You know what happens next.”

Slumped in his throne, the King sighed and waved the executioner over with an indifferent hand. The crowds’ whispers transformed back into roars of approval as the whimpering and blubbering Prince was led to his death.

The Axe rose. Then fell. A thump. The head rolled across the sand and stopped at Atalanta’s feet. The sadistic smirk returned to her cruelly beautiful face as she faced the crowd.

“May the next suitor fare better than this one did.” She snickered, kicking the head away. The crowd howled their final roar of approval before gradually dissipating.

Her father, now perched upright in his throne, glared at his daughter, “at least try not to humiliate the challengers any more than necessary. Your cruelty will cause the number of suitors to vanish, and then no-one will be willing to marry you.”

“That’s the whole point,” muttered Atalanta under her breath. Her father ignored her.

“Do you realise that if you do not marry and bear offspring, my Kingdom will be left in the hands of outsiders, foreigners, complete strangers?’ His breath grew heavier, gasps of anger almost as deep as the late Prince’s gasps of exhaustion. Atalanta, however, having heard her father’s same rants many times before, simply shrugged and skipped away.

As she pranced away, she did not notice the loitering spectator in the stands, nor did she see his lingering green eyes observing her all the way back to the Arcadian palace.

§

On the next day, Atalanta sauntered back down to the tracks after the arrival of another challenger. A similar set up from the previous day laid before her; the King perched in his makeshift throne, eyes disinterested despite his alert body language and the same thundering crowd, blasting with enthusiasm. The only difference that Atalanta noticed was the challenger.

He stood upright near the starting line, with a dilapidated satchel thrown over his lanky shoulders. His pale skin and blonde mop of curls thrown haphazardly on his gaunt head made Atalanta raise her eyebrows in disbelief. If an athletic Prince had failed, how on earth was this beanpole going to beat her? Did he have a death wish? And did he plan on clutching that bag for the whole race? Despite her bewilderment, Atalanta, with her arms crossed and eyebrows still raised to the top of her forehead, walked up to the boy.

“What’s your name?” She asked, sticking her hand out in front of her. The boy said nothing, nor did he raise his hand to return the gesture. Instead, his gaze languidly raked up and down Atalanta, and once his stare returned back to her eyes, he gave her a crooked grin. If Atalanta was perplexed before, her bafflement simply escalated further as the boy turned away, positioning himself parallel to the track.

“Alright then, good chat.” She mumbled, still struck with confusion. Following him, Atalanta crouched at the starting line, beginning to filter out the oddity of what had just happened. She took a deep breath and reminded herself of reality. Another race, she thought. Another competitor. And soon, another head rolling across the sand.

The echoes of the King’s speech to the crowd and their subsequent howls became distorted as both competitors began sprinting, initiating the race. At least this will be over quickly, thought Atalanta, observing the boy dashing after her, his limbs flying in every direction. All of a sudden, however, one of his flying limbs reached into his bag and yanked out what Atalanta thought was a golden ball. He rolled it in front of her, and she realised that it was anything but a ball. It was a golden apple.

Staring at it, she scoffed. As if she would let herself be fooled by the façade! Right now, she had a race to win.

With Atalanta assuming that the golden apple was a ruse, a distraction, she did not understand that if one were to accidentally run onto such apple, one would fall over. Right onto one’s face.

With her ankle twisting, Atalanta crashed to the ground, face splattering into the grains of sand.

The boy, albeit shocked by the ungracefulness of the Arcadian princess, leapt over her body and carried on sprinting, all the way to the finish line. The crowd’s hollers reached the highest magnitude, their contagious enthusiasm delighting the boy, beaming with elation. The King, whose eyes flared to life at the victory, stood up and roared to the stadium, “We have a winner!”

In his glee, the boy did not see Atalanta rise from the floor, snarling and spitting the sand out of her mouth. Having somehow pulled a bow and arrow from thin air, she aimed it at the boy and slowly began to move towards him.

“Foul play! You cheated!” She growled, venom dripping in her speech, “What? You have nothing to say?” Both the crowd and the King fell to a hush as the boy raised his hands on either side of his head. Despite the terrifying sight of the huntress, his crooked grin remained, almost as if it was stamped in place.

Finally he spoke, his voice a smooth and polished purr. “To be fair, you were not meant to trip over the apple. I had three lined up for you, but it seemed as if one did the job just as well.” This only deepened Atalanta’s fury.

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you right this second.” Green eyes snapped to hers, although not an ounce of apprehension lay within them. After seconds of heavy silence, the boy spoke again.

“Most Greek women would simply be married off, without the need for a competition. Most Greek women would pick up the golden apple. Most Greek women would run at the sight of the Calydonian Boar. You, however, are not most Greek women. You are an anomaly, a caveat. You don’t adhere to the system; you are a flaw in Prometheus’ code.” Atalanta’s bow loosened slightly and her snarl dropped.

“You may not follow the rules of femininity, but I know that you will follow your honour and adhere to what you promised.” Atalanta’s bow then dropped completely, brows furrowed as she understood the logic to his words.

He concluded with a final wink to the huntress, “and to answer your first question, the name’s Hippomenes.”

The Price of Existence by Stefan Magri

The Price of Existence by Stefan Magri

“I surrender,” Jacob said, hands held up. The guards were confused. They were not used to people coming to the gates to surrender, especially when it meant certain death. Unfortunately, Jacob saw no other way this could end. Not without extracting a higher price in […]

Wizard’s Eye by Matthew Cilia

Wizard’s Eye by Matthew Cilia

Lo and behold! Here comes a story of one

Who is found in all yet found in none.

If you’re one of some who’s journeyed on,

Rest assured your deed is done.

Like th’ auburn leaf born beautiful ‘n bright,

Old life you’ll leave to meet th’ moon at night

To find a path unseen o’ light

An’ renew again your sight.

I met a boy not long ago before th’ twilight hour

A gentle soul untouched an’ kindled by th’ swaying wind

whose soles ungirdled at my ragged clothes over rough skin.

To his liking I offered an adventure fit for growth

To slay creatures so bold and earn gold of old

Who without further ado, prompted to do so an’ set forth.

From planes of glowing green and flowing rivers

I took him to lands of darkness, despair, bareness

Promptly he turned aback and made way to comfort.

Timely came a monster filthy and unnatural

The boy became a man as he plunged a lying sword through its torso

Forever changed, so he never went back.

Along our ever-winding road near fire beneath stars

He asked why he was chosen for such a call

To which I told that all are called, yet all are deaf.

As all things live, all must die

So silent an’ swift I set to my departure

For the man to carry on his journey alone.

Forefather’s Price by Yesahel Scicluna

Forefather’s Price by Yesahel Scicluna

The chained Prometheus followed the trail of the slowly setting sun with his eyes, treasuring the last few moments of warmth that he would have for the day. He knew full well how unforgivingly cold the night could get up in the mountains, but even […]

Fool’s Quest by Jacob Fiott

Fool’s Quest by Jacob Fiott

The blood red sky reflected off the glistening water, turning the river into what looked like a flood of blood. Right beside and above this river was another river. The dead were emerging from their graves, waves upon waves of them flowing into the realm […]

The Story of Heaven on Earth by Jake Muscat

The Story of Heaven on Earth by Jake Muscat

The whole world consisted of people who were intelligent and who spoke in pretty much the same wavelength. As the people progressed scientifically, materially and socially, they were able to find a place which was devoid of buildings and decided to settle there. They named this place Paradise.

Then they said to each other, “Let us build our paradise on Earth here.” And so they set about establishing this paradise on Earth. They went through what was needed for this paradise to become a reality, and so they said, “There will be no countries and no borders so that there is nothing for us to kill or die for. There will be no religion and no heaven because we have made heaven on earth, and all the people will live for today. There will be no need for personal possessions; no one will die of hunger or greed. There will be no names given to our people, for we are brothers and sisters of the world alike. We must build this paradise ourselves as a unity, otherwise we will be simply avoiding what we know is good for the world.” And so, Paradise was built.

There were those who believed in this paradise, but still started to doubt how realistic it could be. Those people spoke out and said, “How admirable we must be to want the best for ourselves.  However, once we have established our perfect paradise, what will we do except eat, drink, and occupy ourselves with the continuation of our species?” Those who wanted this utopia claimed that: those who wanted the return of the many nations were racist; those who asked to have personal belongings again were greedy; those who wanted a name for themselves were selfish; and those who still claimed to believe in God were primitive and possessed backwards thinking.

Those who wanted this paradise on Earth knew no bounds or limits, no God nor metaphysical being which allowed them to distinguish right from wrong and good from evil, so they silenced those people who were against this paradise on Earth. Now they said, “Our enemies are gone; therefore we can continue the process of running our paradise on Earth.”

The Lord saw what was happening on Earth and said, “So long as they remain blind to what they were doing, they will continue running their paradise on Earth through a sea of blood and mountains of skulls. They think they know everything, but elevating themselves to the status of gods of the world has blinded them. Thus, let us open their eyes so they may see that they are naked and vulnerable.

And so, those on Earth opened their eyes and began to realise that they could not stand idleness for much longer. The paradise on Earth offered them no hope, nothing to live for, no purpose to exist, no identity for themselves. They realised that they were naked and vulnerable rather than the gods who they had claimed to be and who knew what was best for everyone else.

So they all returned to their nation, their personal belongings, their religion, their personal identity and their humble selves. Once again, the world was divided, but man had a purpose of his own once more. He was no longer a puppet of the dreamers of paradise on Earth, for he had learnt what that really meant.

To the Muses by Mel Ramage

To the Muses by Mel Ramage

Allow me to show you pain: It’s being home with no solace; My pain demands to be felt. 

Rapunzel by Elisa Cordina

Rapunzel by Elisa Cordina

All I ever dreamed of,

Was having a child of my own,

A daughter to fill my void,

And my heart to not feel like stone.

So once upon a time,

I kidnapped a baby girl,

And as I started to care for her,

I watched my dream unfurl.

She had beautiful golden hair,

So I let it grow long,

I fed and nourished her,

So that she would always be strong.

Treasures are to be locked up and hidden,

Or they’ll no longer be yours,

And since this child was my most precious treasure,

I kept her locked up and felt no remorse.

I kept her safe from the outside world,

In one of the most beautiful towers,

I loved her unconditionally,

And always surprised her with flowers.

Every day, she let down her hair,

For the tower had no doors,

Every day, I climbed up to her,

And as we sang, we did chores.

But one day, she let down her hair to a prince,

And told me she’d like to marry,

There and then, my heart broke,

And I knew I’d never again be merry.

I was so angry and hurt,

That I cut her beautiful long hair,

I told her to leave the tower,

And felt, in my heart, a tear.

How could she betray me?

I had loved her beyond measure.

Now my heart is stone once more,

For I have lost my most precious treasure.

The Intellectual Saviour by Andrew Sammut

The Intellectual Saviour by Andrew Sammut

Joshua was extraordinary in his own way. From a regular person’s point of view, he was spooky and too much of a nerd. From his parents’ perspective, he was proud of himself and enjoyed going out alone, a tendency which they deemed to be rather […]

Odin for Hire by Luke Mizzi

Odin for Hire by Luke Mizzi

Odin watched as actor Anthony Hopkins, portraying Odin himself, donned with golden plates of armour and right eye covered, screamed at the dashing Chris Hemsworth with theatrical ferocity. Behind Odin, in a cage carved out of ash tree, were two ravens; Huginn and Muninn, thought […]

The Myth of Everything by Russell Galea

The Myth of Everything by Russell Galea

Everything created Something– eleven of it, and called it Morg.’

He helped them grow, he helped them know, he helped them so.

And as they grew they birthed life, and worshipped Everything

He was content for they knew their places.

Alas, not all’s well that ends well

For they didn’t hide their faces

And all their sinning cases

Took over all the races,

Abandoning Everything.

And so, Everything was enraged.

He yearned for the balance,

Torture and penance

That previously he tried to assuage.

That balance was Nothing, and such he was summoned.

And with the Elven, the first, he found no resistance.

He destroyed their home; turned into black holes

And the Elven themselves were turned into Drows.

The remaining Elves leapt into unknown,

The cosmic seas carried their souls,

But then,

New ships!

Anoqians and Merceptians,

Both fighting for reign,

Ignoring the Elven,

Didn’t care what they say.

But then,

Eureka, the Elven home!

The undead Morg Rider

Elven insider

Sword yield and glider;

Battle ensued.

Annihilation, Obliteration, Extermination.

Oh no!

The dominating five races;

The Ostarians, The Gankuri, The Merceptians, The Anoquians, The Varukians:

Became friends.

(There were also the sole riders; the Arthropodians,

Who detected, predicted, and set off to no ends)

Did Nothing conquer all?

He had lost naught but time.

Anosognosia by Jelina Georgieva

Anosognosia by Jelina Georgieva

Love: do you know what real love is? Kindness: when was the last time you showed some? Passion: have you ever truly felt it? Dignity: do you have any left? Hope: I have none left… Once, humans used to know. Once, humans used to feel. […]

The Real Cinderella Story by Casey Sacco

The Real Cinderella Story by Casey Sacco

Dear diary, A dream is a wish your heart makes… but what if that dream isn’t so easy to decipher? I mean, how many times have you had an odd dream that you couldn’t put into words to save your life? Oh, now look at […]

First Revelation By Nigel Klemencic-Puglisevich

First Revelation By Nigel Klemencic-Puglisevich

It was a hard walk. The stones beneath my feet began to agitate me more and more, as if they were mosquitoes gnawing on my arms. The sun’s rays penetrated deep into my heart, heating my insides as if they were its next meal. The sun-gods were unforgiving on this day. As pained as I was, my walk had only just begun. I had left the town of Ardud, my home and the only town I’ve ever been to, earlier on that same day. To be frank, my survival skills were few to none. The fertile wilderness that I found myself in was more likely to kill me than any other tribe living in these parts.

I sat down for a moment on a rock to rest and pray. The old gods might have had some words to say so I prayed to their names, asking for guidance and courage. I asked for the safety of the Amaa, my people back home. “To this day, they live in secrecy and insecurity for fear of their slaughter. Deliver us now from evil and we shall repay you graciously.”

Upon completion of my prayer, I stood to continue my quest: to defy my destiny and to prove Ardud’s god wrong. I will not visit the cave.

It was my people who casted me out to seek a new home—not the others, the majority. One would think that the majority would have been the ones to drive me out first, but alas!  It was my own people. For my outcasting, though, I play the majority more than I do the Amaa, for it wasn’t the Amaa’s wish to have me leave. It was only the safest choice.

By tradition, the town sends one young citizen to the cave of Antrum every moon-cycle. There, they are to go without water, food, or sleep until they receive divine knowledge from their single god. By selection, I was chosen. By choice, I was going to make a stand against their false god and their threats against my people, to tell them that we will no longer be held down by their cruel hands. My family agreed that this would be for the worst. To avoid catastrophe, they ostracised me and sent me out to find a new home for myself. I left only with the clothes upon my back and a sack of dates.

My getting up seemed to alert a beast to my presence. By the sun god who saw me then, I could have sworn to have heard a beast the size of two houses. Once I caught a glimpse of it, I saw it was a hyena, foaming from the mouth and ready to consume me whole. In a fit of panic, I ran from it. Without looking behind me, I could hear more joining its path; the path towards their prey. With a growing army of hyenas behind me, I decided to engage in the only form of warfare I knew: hide.

I looked around for any sign of a place that I could access but that they could not. I began to climb a cliff face, aiming for the flat ledge that laid halfway up. I had never climbed this high before, but the pain was more than I could have imagined. My feet were already hurting from my walk and now my hands hurt just the same from my attempt to scale the cliff. I tried to keep a hold of my sack of dates but as a result of focusing on the pain in my hands, I let go. The sack fell directly beside the hyenas. I dared not look back down to see if they devoured them or not; it was safe to assume that they did. At last, I reached the flat edge of the cliff where I could rest my feet and hands. Only, as I looked around, it was clear to me that this was not a flat edge but, rather, an opening inside of the cliff. By some miracle, I had found a small cave to house myself from the sun. It was damp and cool but superior to the company of the hyenas.

Much time passed before I dared to check if the hyenas had disappeared. I peered over the edge to look down only to see that the hyenas were looking up. Upon seeing me, they started to make terrifying, gruesome noises again and I frantically scurried back into the cave. I did not know if they could climb after me. So, void of sleep, I awaited their ascent.

The sun began to set and I remained in the cave without water or my dates. Even if I could sleep, I didn’t know if I wanted to out of fear of the hyenas. Time passed slowly and I was all too aware of myself and the hardships that my conditions were putting on me. Without food or water, and with the persistent hyenas, there was only so long I could last. Night soon turned to day. I checked once again for the hyenas and to my surprise, they remained. They were also seemingly devoid of sleep, yet they retained the same amount of energy as the day prior—I did not. I went back into the cave and felt as if I was never going to escape, stuck in the cave only to starve and wait for the hyenas to one day climb inside and consume me. I dreaded the thought. I truly didn’t think my desire to alleviate the Amaa from persecution would lead to my death. I suppose I never truly thought things through.

I sat alone with my thoughts, prayers, and worries for yet another day before the sky went dark again. I once again checked to see if the hyenas had left their post, but my   hope was in vain. They remained still, and likely would for the rest of time.

The lack of resources began to get to me. I ached for food or water. I was too tired to search the cave for anything that might do me any good. Getting up from the cave floor required energy that I couldn’t find within myself.

My paranoia kept me awake another night. The fear of the hyenas and of starvation drove me to hopelessness. With no way out and no energy left, death was imminent. I had to make peace with this. Oh, but peace was not easy to find.

The sun began its ascent into the sky and I lifted my head to watch, hoping for a better day ahead. The sky was replaced by an orange, followed eagerly by a Damask rose that gave way to the colour of the sea in mere moments.

Rather, in mere moments it seemed, I felt a presence around me. Not one of a hyena as I might have guessed. This presence was tranquil, yet to be feared. Calming. Humbling. I turned my head from one corner of the cave to another, but nothing was to be seen. Only felt. And I could feel it in every part of me.

“Read, young one. Read for me,” the Presence spoke. The fact that it spoke to me made me uneasy. I heard it clear as day, though the message was not clear. “I cannot read,” I responded anxiously.

“Read the words,” It demanded of me again. “Dear Presence, I cannot read.”

“I am an Angel, young one. Sent to you,” the angel said very calmly. “Read the words I have placed before you.”

I looked at the cave wall and saw the words that the angel spoke of. They read of literacy and educating my town in the name of the single god. I read this aloud to the angel.

“Angel, there is no singular god. How am I to educate people on false ideas?”

“My dear, I am sent from that god. Sent to you. Take these words to heart,” the Angel continues. “Take these words to your home.”

The Presence quickly disappeared. I sat for a moment in disbelief before running to the cliff’s edge.

The hyenas were gone. Suddenly filled with energy, I climbed to the bottom of the cliff and ran back to my town. I had to share the words of the Angel. Why, whilst trying to avoid my fate, I discovered it. It was in the majority all this time. The cave of Antrum is divine. They knew this the whole time. They were right.

Upon my entrance to the town, I was swarmed by the town’s people, including the Amaa who banished me. I now had to tell them what I had heard.

My explanation was curt, but its message was clear. Within a few short moon cycles, small institutions were opened to make people literate and educate them on the words shown to me within Antrum. Children and adults alike were to take part and record their history, their stories, and their businesses. Sooner than I’d imagined, Ardud was populated by a unified literate community which centred itself on the education of literacy to others. Thus, this magnificent practise, which was only the first of many revelations to come to me within the cave, came into being.

Angels Behaving Badly by Joanna Bugeja

Angels Behaving Badly by Joanna Bugeja

In the heavenly sky above, among God’s archangels, was Lucas. He was clothed in celestial silver clouds, wore stars on his feet, had the moon for a crown, and bestowed a gentle waterfall of graces among the faithful. He was of a beauty so rare […]

The Tale of the Modern Odysseus by Asiya Gendron

The Tale of the Modern Odysseus by Asiya Gendron

Words cannot describe the horrors my father faced lost at sea. The endless waters tried to consume him and his heart was never free Of the desperation he felt eating at his soul, He thought of his wife and son His only lifelines Time almost […]

I Will Go to the ends of the Earth by Martina Farrugia

I Will Go to the ends of the Earth by Martina Farrugia

Olivia is fuelled by determination to succeed in this quest. It is not the first time she has been sent on a hunt, and it will not be her last. However, this one is different: her aim is not to prove herself to her fellow companions, but to save the one she truly loves. She thinks of her sick lover, lying in bed, drenched in sweat, and white as snow, as she runs through ´The Forest of the Unnatural´. She breathes heavily and her sides start to ache, but she cannot stop. 

The words of her Professor echo in her mind, ´The forest is a dangerous place. You cannot simply stop, for you might not be able to continue´. She could hear the twigs snapping under her feet, could hear the eerie sound of whatever lived within the forest. She had to make it to the other side. 

Her breathing got heavier, but she swore she could hear crying. ´Do I stop?´ She thought to herself. The crying got louder. She could not bear it; she had to know who or what was crying. Olivia stopped abruptly, her brown hair sticking to her neck with sweat. 

She looked around, trying to point out the direction from where the crying was coming from. It seemed as if it was coming from every direction. The noise was too much, she could not take it. It was growing louder and louder, and it sounded almost maniacal. She fell down on her knees, her hands clasped to her ears. 

Then, she saw the bush opposite moving. There was something behind it, and suddenly, a creature emerged from behind the bush.  

She had never seen anything like it before. It had the body of a man, but the wings and claws of a vulture. It was terrifying to look at. 

The creature saw the fear in her eyes and said, “Please, do not be scared. I mean you no harm. My name is Nicholas.” Olivia realised how young it looked.  When the creature saw that the girl in front of him made no movements to leave, he continued, “I have not always looked like this. A curse was put on me when I was born. My mother and father were ashamed of me and abandoned me in this forest.”

Olivia felt her heart swell. She got up and went to kneel in front of him.

“Hello Nicholas, I am Olivia, daughter of Sebastian and Angela.”

“If you do not mind me asking, Olivia, what are you doing in these woods? Have you not heard of the dangers present?”

“I have heard the stories regarding the forest, but I had no choice but to pass from here. You see, I am on a quest. My love is sick, and I must get to the cave on the other side of these woods and retrieve the flower of Gaia; Goddess of the Earth. A flower blossoms every month and is said to have healing properties.”

“Would you mind if I accompanied you? I could be of help,” Nicholas said hopefully. Olivia felt bad for him and let him join her on her journey.

“How long have you been in the forest?” Olivia asked, curious about her new companion’s past.

“Sixteen years.”

She hummed in acknowledgment. 

´Maybe I could ask Nicholas if he would like to come home with me. Maybe one of the Professors might have a cure for him. ´

They eventually reached the end of the forest. They found themselves looking upwards, the cave was higher up than Olivia had thought. There was a narrow path leading to the cave that looked steep and unsteady.

Olivia began walking but was stopped by Nicholas.

“I could fly you up there… if you want.”

“Yes, that would save us time.”

Nicholas secured both his arms around her waist and they began to ascend.

She opened her eyes when she felt Nicholas land. She took in the sight around her. From where they were standing, she could see the beauty that was below her. 

She could see where the village ended, and the woods started. The contrast between the light and dark. One filled with joy and love, and the other a fearful place, where only those that are not wanted live.

Olivia used to believe that the creatures who lived in the forest were fearful and untrustworthy, but Nicholas proved her and everyone else wrong.

At that moment, she turned around to tell Nicholas to help her look for the flower, but he was nowhere in sight.

She called his name once, twice, three times, but no response followed.

She ran into the cave and found Nicholas holding the flower in his hand. She was overjoyed that they managed to get the flower.

“Nicholas! Thank you for getting the flower for me, I cannot wait to get -” She stopped speaking when she saw the look on his face. She had hoped that he too would be happy for her, but what greeted her was a mischievous grin.

He stepped towards her, wings outstretched and teeth out.

She looked at him in disbelief, “Nicholas, give me the flower,” she pleaded.

But he made no move to give it to her. “My dear Olivia, I have heard such great things about you. I knew you were brave and kind-hearted, but I did not think you would be this naïve and stupid.” He spat out.

“What are you talking about?”

“I heard that you were on a quest. I knew you were going to pass from the woods, I knew that you wanted the flower. But I need it too. Unfortunately, non-human species cannot exit without a human by their side. I followed you, made sure nothing hurt you.”

“Why do you need the flower?” Olivia was trying to make sense of the situation that she had suddenly found herself in.

“This flower can free me from my curse, then I can finally leave that horrible place and get my revenge on those people that abandoned their own son.” He was yelling now, and Olivia was scared. 

“I risked my life for that flower, I need it to save a life, you want it to destroy lives. I am not letting you leave with it.”

Just then, Olivia withdrew her sword. With reconfigurations, the sword was made to fit in her pocket up until Olivia grasped it with her hands, where it elongated to its full length.

The sword once belonged to a beloved hero, Perseus, who used it to slay Medusa. The sword was passed down through generations, and Olivia now had ownership over it.

Nicholas chuckled, “You can try to fight me, but you will fail.”

Olivia was a skilled fighter, one of the best, but she had never fought anything like Nicholas.

She charged towards him, sword in front of her, and made a move to hit one of the wings. Nicholas anticipated her move and hit her across the face with his claws.

He scratched the side of her face and blood gushed out of the cut. She winced as she wiped it off with the back of her hand.

Olivia was still on the ground when he began walking towards her. She rolled to the side and stood up. They were facing each other, neither making a move. Olivia did not know how to kill a creature like him. Different species had different ways of being killed. She figured that her safest move was to decapitate his head.

She decided to make a move again. She ran towards him, slid to the ground, and struck his knees. Nicholas fell to the ground, and Olivia held the sword to his neck. 

Nicholas chuckled, and got up, unfazed by the wound.

He grabbed her by the neck and walked to the edge. Olivia was now hanging off the cliff, the sword had fallen from her hand and clattered to the ground. 

“I am going to choke the life out of you, then dump your lifeless body in front of your village, so they can see what a worthless human you are. You could not even retrieve one stupid little flower for your lover.” Nicholas snarled.

Nicholas crushed the flower in his hand.

Olivia gasped and tried to kick him, but he tightened the grip around her neck, eliminating her ability to fight back. 

Just as Olivia was clinging to her last breath, a woman appeared. She was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. She had long brown her and a dress made of flowers. 

Was she floating, or was Olivia losing consciousness?

A beam of light erupted from the woman´s hand, and it sent Nicholas flying into the cave. Olivia fell to the ground and witnessed as the woman obliterating Nicholas.

She was in disbelief, and somewhat frightened.

The woman was walking back towards her. She kneeled in front of her and cupped her cheek that was scratched and covered in blood. It healed from her touch.

Then, she plucked one flower from her dress, and gave it to Olivia. She realised who this woman was, and smiled softly, as the Goddess vanished.

Olivia stood up and ran back to the village. She burst into the house where the others were waiting for her return.

She found her lover lying on the bed. Their eyes met and Olivia held the flower in her hand, and beamed, knowing she had succeeded and saved the one she truly cared about.