Silence filled the empty home long after the intruders had gone. The window shutters flung open, the door caved in. The table and plates were shattered, the armchairs destroyed, blooming flowers of cotton from their ruptured fabric. From the door and past the living room, the floor was slick with fresh blood.
Every so often, this horrid vision would play out before Marvin.
Crying, someone he once loved was struck down and slammed. The children watched on in horror, frozen in place as their young eyes watch on. What else were children to do when their mother couldn't scream for them to run? Her mouth was held shut by a hand made from steel, her teary eyes trying to speak for her. Before their voice could be heard, the floor was already awash with blood. The terrified children stood paralyzed in place, not knowing what to do. Fate decided for them and sent a pair of blades to slit their throats. One and one, and then they stood no more.
She watched on as they fell, laughter came from all around. The iron hand around her mouth grew tighter as her assailant grew more wretched. She was up against the wall now, the force of a strong pair of hands forcing her against it. She knew what was to come next. She didn’t care. Nothing was worth living for now.
When he was done with her, he cast her to the next. Then another, then another, another, and another. Before she could be thrown to the next, she allowed herself to have the last laugh. Casting herself upon the blade of a Scyther, she allowed herself one last look at her fallen children and went to join them in paradise. It wasn’t as painful as she would have thought when the blade entered her abdomen and exited her back. She could hear the intruders moans of despair when their plaything escaped.
Panting and covered in sweat, Marvin shot up from his bed made from reeds. He gasped and fell back down on his back, relieved that it was over. The visions he had experienced countless times, yet it still managed to hit him like a ton of bricks. He cringed, feeling a jolt of pain rush up from his wounded arm, which he now had in a splint. He turned his head and looked over at the little critter that had caused the ghastly wound.
The Totodile was asleep along with the Charmander, snoozing away on a bed of reeds by the fireplace. The Totodile had collapsed instantly on the makeshift bed the moment Marvin had presented him before it. Lying by the warmth of the fireplace and comforted by their own bed of reeds, the two young ones seemed completely at peace. Marvin couldn’t get a word out of either of them before they fell asleep.
Rising from his bed and clutching his wounded arm, Marvin could only look upon them with a puzzled expression. These two children, whoever they were, evoked a feeling that simply refused to sit well with him. The well-aged Floatzel had come across many oddities in his long and adventurous life. He had ventured into chasms deep and caves eternal, he had reached the summits of the tallest mountains and braved the fiercest storms, but few things had ever unsettled Marvin this deeply.
The look that Totodile gave him when it snapped at his arm, it seemed almost feral, like it had no understanding of the world. His emerald green eyes seemed awash with confusion, yet he tried desperately to conceal them behind the snapping of a lethal pair of jaws. Marvin had many questions; ones that he hoped would be answered when the two boys awoke.
Still fatigued from lack of sleep, Marvin waddled over to a nearby pool of water that was at the end of this underground cave he called a home. Marvin’s home was an interesting one, to be sure. A small underground cavern, situated near the bottom of the lake he had found the two children near. At one end of the cavern there was a deep pool of water which was actually part of a flooded cave system that lead out to the depths of the lake itself. His dear and long-time friend, Narda the Lanturn, was able to swim in freely in from the lake and poke her head up from the pool to say hello, or more likely drive Marvin up the wall with her endless banter.
On the other end of the cavern, a rocky set of stone steps lead up to a tunnel. One could use it to climb up to the surface on the land and find themselves close to the shore of the lake. It was rarely ever used. Narda had no use for it, Marvin had little use for it, and it was rare indeed that guests ever came calling.
But the cavern’s most astonishing feature, the feature that Marvin had come to admire and made him take it as his home, were the collations of glowing crystals that were embedded in the rock walls and ceiling of the cavern. Each one shone with the light of a star in the night sky and illuminated the cavern with a glowing splendour of colour.
The thought of even trying to extract one of them to be sold revolted Marvin. He always saw their beauty as being beyond currency. He also enjoyed not having to use flaming torches that would have smoked up the cavern and constantly need replacing and relighting. The smoke from the fireplace, however, always seemed to find ventilation to the surface. Marvin had never explored why that was, his exploration days were long gone. Now, he had but to sit and enjoy the remainder of his life.
Holding his injured arm above the water, Marvin slipped into the pool. The cold early-morning water of the lake bit at him, almost as hard as a certain Totodile. That was only for a split moment, and soon Marvin sighed in relief, feeling the cold water rejuvenate his aging body after a rough night’s sleep.
At that moment, a glowing yellow light began to appear beneath the surface of the pool. It continued to grow progressively brighter until the head of a Lanturn broke the surface of the pool’s waters just before Marvin. He back up a little, bringing his arms up around the edge of the pool to support him from sliding in.
“Morning to ya, Marvin.” Narda chimed, her ever-present smile making his heart warm against the chill of the water. “How’s ya arm doin’?”
The question seemed to irritate him. The pain in his arm reminded him of a time when he was in his prime, young and fit, and wounds like this would be almost healed by the following morning. Now he would be stumbling around like an old fool for a week. “Feck, woman!” he snapped. “It hurts like a son of a-”
“Oh, stop yer complanin’, yer big sook, you!” Narda never did like to hear the complaints of an old fellow. She was younger than him by at least five summers, or was it ten? He couldn’t seem to recall nowadays. But Marvin did know for a fact that he had been old enough to remember when she first hatched.
“Fecks sake, woman!” snapped Marvin. “That Totodile’s a freak, I tell ya. Freak! Ti’ took every ounce of strength in me just to calm him down.”
“Shh! You’ll wake them, ya dammed fool,” Narda hissed.
Both friends looked upon the children in silence.
Narda adjusted her head and used her bulbs to illuminate them better. “They still sleeping, eh’ she observed, “Look at the state of them, Marvin, they must have been traveling far. Tis no wonder why they were perishin’”
“Aye,” Marvin agreed, scratching the back of his head. He continued to observe the children while they slept. They looked so peaceful now, finally at rest. Like any other innocent child.
“How fare’s the Charmander?” Narda asked.
“Lashings better than what he wus doin' oyt dare in dat storm.” He turned to Narda, an anxious look in his eyes. ‘Narda, I tink dare is somethin' wrong wi' dees laddies.’
“How’d ya figure that?”
“What wud two laddies be doin' wanderin' raun in a storm loike dat? No parents, no family. Den they clobber me, de first person they meet.” He lifted his wounded arm before Narda.
Narda seemed just as perplexed as he was, something that she rarely ever was. “I have no idea. Where yer suppose they come from? 'Av yer seen dem raun town?”
“Naw. I ever seen their sort raun anywhere. They’re wearin' armbands de likes av which I 'av never seen.”
Narda nudged forward in her pool, squinting her eyes to get a better look at the Totodile’s band. Her eyes seemed to suddenly widen after a moment. Something must have clicked in that inspiring mind of hers. “Marivin, how far be Prismatic Jungle from ‘ere?”
Marvin took a moment to think. He had occasionally frequented the outskirts of the jungle, and even ventured in slightly. He had never gone in too deep, though. Prismatic Jungle had always had an ominous reputation about it; there were always outlaws, and the mentally deranged that hid within. But in the past decade or so, the jungle had become a place of sheer terror. Nowadays, no one who went in too deep ever came back out, and the ones that did, emerged half mad with fear, screaming stories of monsters in the shadows that tore apart entire exploration teams.
Most of the losses came from his former guild, The Prospectors Guild. It was the only local guild left in these parts of Oat and the old guild master, Carlos the Cinccino, was becoming desperate for some finds in that area. Marvin had always opposed his guild master in every decision that regarded that accursed jungle. As nasty as the thought was, Marvin hoped that Carlos’ age would eventually take him, and that the guild would come under new administration, one that would put its teams to better use and value their lives better.
“It’s ‘bout a full day’s walk, if yer fit enough,’ Marvin finally said to her, answering her question. “’Ave yer ‘eard somethin’?”
Narda took a moment to ponder upon Marvin’s response. Narda may have only ever been confined to the waters of Oat lake where she had lived her entire life, but that had never stopped her from being the sociable kind. Marvin often wondered if Narda knew everyone there was to know. She was always off talking to couples that strolled by the lake, or convening with her circle of underwater friends to gossip and spread rumour, true or false.
Marvin never looked kindly on the notion of gossip and rumour spreading. But not even he could deny that Narda was a swimming encyclopaedia of knowledge when it came to knowing everything about anyone. The thing he had always found most bewildering was the fact that she was always right about what she knew.
“There’s rumours,” she began, “stories about folk living within the jungle. That there is a group, a small one, which wear strange armbands. Stories say that they are death incarnate, that they have carved out their own territory in the jungle and have slaughtered hundreds who have dared to intrude upon them,”
“Hundreds?” Marvin almost recoiled in shock. Could this have been where the lost teams had vanished to? He had met several of the survivors, not that there were that many to begin with, and he had always heard their maddened rambling of shadows and blaring red eyes. Most of the poor sods never did recover.
Marvin then turned to the two seemingly innocent children that slept on his forfeited bed by the fireplace. Neither of them looked like they could have come from the shadows that terrorised so many, and neither did they have the blaring red eyes that struck fear into the hearts of so many.
For once in his life, Marvin really hoped that Narda was wrong and that these rumours were simply what they were; rumours. Despite his doubts, a fear began to trickle into the back of his mind and he began to wonder what sort of terror he had just brought into his home. To his surprise, the visions of his nightmares came to mind. The last time he had brought terror to a place he once called home, it had cost him everything he held dear in this world.