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.
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.