The Passion of the Liger
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The Passion of the Liger
Copyright © 2012 by Thuan Nguyen
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
The story continues from Volume 1. In the previous volume, Narteb’s mother, Ginessa, was turned to stone by the jealous ‘witch’ Maruska. I hope you enjoy reading Volume 2. Visit https://narteb.wordpress.com for updates on Volume 3 as it is written.
THE PASSION OF THE LIGER: Volume 2
Narteb sat on the pier with his legs dangling relaxedly over the edge. It was raining, but it wasn't so bad. He was actually having a rather good time. He was currently doing some fishing, with very little luck.
Sitting next to him on the pier was his friend, Pip, who was blowing away on his ocarina. It was a small triangular shaped instrument made of clay and had a hole to blow through and little holes for the fingers, similar to a flute. Pip had his eyes closed and seemed to be entranced in the music as he played. Pip rarely fished when Narteb and his friends went fishing. He chose instead to bring his ocarina and practice.
The song Pip was playing was a slow, sad one, but strangely, it made Narteb feel happy as he listened to it. He had heard Pip play this song, which was called 'Eventide of Evermoor', countless times, and often on repeat, but he never got tired of it. On a night like this, with the horrible weather and lack of fish, Narteb was really glad his friend was there with him and playing music.
Narteb turned to look back at the pier. He had been checking periodically for the past hour or so. His dad was supposed to come join then, and they had been fishing for a few hours and he still hadn't arrived. This made Narteb worried because Narteb's dad, Anton, never broke a promise. If he said he was going to be somewhere, then he was going to be there.
The music stopped.
"Hey, Narteb, where's your dad?" said Pip.
"I don't know," said Narteb, "It's not like him not to show up."
"Well, I think I'd better get going now," said Pip, "If we stay out any later we'll be dead at school tomorrow."
"Yeah, I guess," said Narteb, "I wanna check at home anyway, I want to know if anything's wrong."
The two boys packed up their things. Narteb took a bit longer than Pip, because all Pip had to do was put the ocarina into his pocket and stand up. When Narteb had gathered his equipment, the two of them made their way back up the pier towards shore. Thankfully, by now the rain was easing up to the lightest of drizzles.
The two of them walked along the dirt track that led back to the village. It was cold and they were both soaked, so neither was in a real mood to chat. They stomped through the night in comfortable silence. Which was why it was easy for them to both hear footsteps of someone approaching them out of the darkness ahead.
"Is that someone running towards us?" said Pip.
"Looks like it," said Narteb.
The two boys stopped walking and waited to see who it was. It wasn't long before they could make him out. It was one of the men from the village, Bob Denton, father of their friend Cedric.
"Hi, Mr Denton," said Narteb.
"Thank the Gods I've found you," said Bob, "Narteb, something happened to your mother."
A shiver ran through Narteb as he heard that. He was already worried that something might have happened, but to actually hear someone say it...
"What happened?" said Narteb.
"I..." began Bob, "I think it's better you see for yourself. I really don't even quite believe it myself." His voice sort of drifted off.
"What happened to her, Mr Denton?" repeated Narteb.
Bob shook his head and turned around, "Come with me. You have to see for yourself."
He started running back towards the village and the two boys followed closely behind him. Butterflies were churning in Narteb's stomach.
"I hope everything is okay," said Pip.
Narteb grunted in agreement.
Finally, they reached a lone house on the outskirts of the village. Narteb knew this house. It was the home of his dad's friend, Ray. There was someone sitting alone on the front steps of the house. It was an old lady. Narteb knew this old woman; it was Ray's blind mother. She looked like she was in shock.
"Where did everyone go?" asked Bob.
The old woman said quietly, "They took her away. Back to her house. Everybody went with them."
"What happened?" said Narteb, "Did something happen to my mum?"
The old lady said, "Who is it?"
"It's Narteb, Granny C., Anton and Ginessa's son."
The old woman put a hand over her mouth and shook her head. She stood up and reached out towards where she heard the sound of his voice. Narteb walked towards her and touched her hands to make it easier for her. She wrapped her bony arms around him and gave him a hug.
"I'm so sorry," she said.
"What happened?" said Narteb.
"You don't know yet?" said the old woman, surprised.
"I didn't tell him," said Bob, "I can hardly believe it myself."
The old woman let go of Narteb, and said, "You should go back to your house."
"Can you tell me what happened to her?" said Narteb.
There was a long pause.
Finally, the old woman spoke. "I don't know how it happened... but I think your mother was turned to stone."
"What?" said Narteb. He didn't understand what he'd just heard.
"One moment she was normal," said Mavis, "And the next, she had become like a stone statue. I wouldn't have believed it myself, but I felt it with my own hands. I still don't quite believe it. I didn't know such things could happen..."
She explained to Narteb all that had happened that night. "And then your father came by later on, and said that your mother had been turned to stone. By some woman named, Maruska. Yes, I think he said her name was Maruska."
This was all too much for Narteb. Turned to stone? Was this all a big joke someone was playing on him? If it was, then it wasn't funny at all. He felt really confused.
"Come, Narteb," said Bob, "We should go back to your house. That's where everyone is."
Narteb nodded. He turned to Mavis, and knew that he should say goodbye to her, but was still in such shock that nothing came out of his mouth.
The old woman took Narteb's two hands in hers, and held them tenderly for a few moments, before letting them go. She too could think of no words to comfort him.
Narteb, Bob and Pip began running back towards Narteb's house. Narteb shot passed the two others; he was fully sprinting. He wasn't sure exactly what was going on, but he knew that he wanted to get home as soon as possible.
Maruska slowly trudged up the wet, slippery mountainside. She was deep in thought, and barely looked up from the ground as she walked.
Was this the end? she wondered. Would she never think of Anton ever again? She wasn't sure about that. The only thing she was sure about, was that she felt horrible at
Eventually, she came upon the gnarled birch tree. She stopped and looked behind it and saw the mouth of the cave they had set up camp in the previous night. She went into the cave and saw a smouldering campfire, and lying next to it a bundle of blankets, underneath which was her apprentice, Fog, fast asleep. Maruska entered the cave and sat down next to the dying embers of the campfire.
Fog, who was rather light sleeper awoke when she heard her Mistress sitting down. Fog sat up, rubbed her eyes and said, "You're back, Mistress! How did it go?"
"I have done what I came here to do," said Maruska.
"So it worked?" said Fog, "She was turned into a stone statue?"
Maruska nodded, "Aye."
Fog didn't know what to say. All this time she always had a small, lingering doubt that the petrification orb would not work; that such talk of magic and petrification spells, was all hogwash.
"What was it like?" said Fog.
"Terrible," said Maruska.
The two sat in silence for a moment.
"She was fearless, you know," said Maruska.
"Who? Anton's wife?" said Fog.
"Yes," said Maruska, "She didn't run. She just stood there and took it. I always imagined that she would be running. She didn't even look scared."
"How do you feel now?" said Fog, "Now that you've done it."
"I feel horrible," said Maruska, "Revenge. It has a bitter aftertaste, I have learned."
Fog resisted the urge to say 'I told you so' and held her tongue.
"What will we do now, Mistress?"
"We will return to the castle," said Maruska, "Let us leave at once."
"Now?" said Fog, "Can we not leave in the morning? This is a very cosy cave. Good for sleeping."
"No, I wish to leave this place as soon as possible," said Maruska, "I want to leave it all behind me. And all that I have done here."
Fog knew better than to disagree. She got up and began to pack up her belongings. Maruska in the meantime merely sat and stared at the burning embers in the campfire, and thought about what she had done.
When Narteb arrived back at his house, he got a small shock, because gathered outside was a big crowd of people. Many were carrying torches or lanterns and from a distance, they looked like a bunch of fireflies. When Narteb approached, he heard one of them call out, "Narteb's back!". The group murmured as a whole and a few of them came up to him and offered their condolences. It was all a bit of a blur for Narteb who was still in shock and didn't quite know what was going on.
"Where is my mum?" he said.
"She's inside the house," said one of the villagers.
Narteb walked to the front door and went inside. It was the strangest feeling. He had gone through that door countless times, but this time he was feeling a mixture of nervousness and trepidation. What would he see when he went inside?
There was already quite a few people inside his house, standing around. One could almost mistake it for a party; the big difference was that no one was smiling. It seemed that most people were gathered in the living room, so Narteb made his way there.
And then, he saw it.
In the middle of the room, was a stone statue.
It was unmistakable; it was of his mother.
Narteb's entire body went cold.
So it was true... his mother had been turned to stone!
Two people in particular were standing close to the statue. One was a brawny, muscular man, with an orange bristly moustache and shaggy orange hair. He was Boris, the village stonemason. The other was a plump lady, with a round face, and small, but kind eyes. She was Helga, Boris' wife.
"There's no way you can convince me that this is Ginessa," said Helga, "It's a stone statue. People do not get turned into stone statues."
Boris circled the statue, eyeing it carefully. Occasionally, he would reach out and tap the stone with a fingertip.
"There's no way this could be a statue, Mum." (Boris had a habit of calling Helga 'Mum' or 'Ma', even though she was his wife) "Look at the detail on this. No one can make a statue this detailed. Look there are individual eyelashes made of stone!" He peered even closer, inspecting the statue's face. "Look! There's even nose hairs in here!"
"Boris!" said Helga, "Don't be talking about her nose hairs!" She was about to say something else, when she turned and saw Narteb.
"Tebby!" said Helga.
All the eyes in the room turned and looked at Narteb. It all went silent; nobody knew what to say to him.
Narteb walked up to the statue and examined it. He was amazed. From the tiniest of wrinkles on her face, to the look in her eyes; if it really had been sculpted by someone, they had captured her perfectly.
He reached out a hand and touched her cheek with his fingers.
Cold and hard.
...and something else.
Narteb was startled. Something strange happened when he touched her! He suddenly got a feeling that his mothers spirit, or essence, was somehow inside the stone; that she was still there buried deep within. There was no way he could have explained this, but it was just a feeling that he had. And it was a strong one.
"This statue is my mum," said Narteb quietly, "I'm sure of it."
And now, there was only one thought in his head.
He had to fix this. He could not let his her stay like this.
Narteb woke up the next morning in bed. The house was very quiet. It seemed that everyone had left after he'd gone to sleep. He lay in bed just a little while longer, thinking. The events of last night were so unusual, that he almost wondered if it had all been just a dream.
He listened closely, trying to hear the sound of someone moving around his house, or even better, his mum's voice. But he heard nothing.
Nothing but the sound of birds chirping outside.
Finally, he decided to get up. He climbed out of bed, and headed straight for the one place in his house that he was dreading going into.
The living room.
And when he got there, he saw it.
The view was different from last night. This time, there was no one else around. This time, there was light coming in through the windows, illuminating the room in peaceful morning sunshine.
But his mum was the same. Exactly the same as last night.
So it's real, thought Narteb, Not a dream.
Then something caught his eye. There was a note left on the table. He picked it up and immediately knew that it was from his dad.
Sorry, I didn't want to wake you. Plus I am no good at goodbyes. By the time you read this, I will be gone. I have gone to look for a way to cure your mother. Last night, my ex-girlfriend from many years ago came to our house. A long time ago, I abandoned her, and she has never forgiven me for it. Her name is Maruska, and she can do magic. Real magic. She used a small, glowing glass ball and turned your mother to stone. She did that hoping it would hurt me, in the same way as I have hurt her in the past.
I don't know when I will return, but I will return as soon as I can. I do not know where I will go. If by some small chance I do not return, know that I am tremendously proud of you.
Till we meet again,
P.S. Paddles is in the backyard. He was put to sleep by Maruska last night somehow. I thought he was dead, but this morning he was awake, thank the Heavens. He is a little bit drowsy, but fine. Take good care of him until I get back.
Narteb read the note twice, mainly because his brain wasn't working properly and he was having trouble thinking; so much had happened in the past few hours. One minute he was living a relatively normal life, the next his mother had been turned to stone and his father was gone. And his dog had nearly died.
To his credit though, Narteb didn't get overwhelmed by all this. He put the note down, quietly went about having a hearty bre
He packed an ample supply of food, or as he liked to call it, 'rations', and grabbed various other items that he thought he might need: rope, compass, stone and flint, skinning knife, and other such things, and put them all in a backpack. Next, he searched for all the money in his room he could find (he found dozens of silver and copper coins underneath his bed!), and put it all in a small leather pouch, which he tied to his belt. Finally, he grabbed his wooden training sword. It wasn't much, but it was the only sword he had.
Once he felt he was as fully equipped as he was going to get, he changed into something more suited for travelling. He put on his leather pants and tunic, and pulled on some leather boots. Now, that he was done, he picked up his sword, attached the scabbard to his belt and slung the backpack over his shoulders.
He went into the living room one final time. He stood in front of his mother and said to her, "I'm going to find a cure for you. Goodbye, mum."
He gave the stone statue a hug. Narteb was not the type to often voluntarily hug his mum, but today, he felt like it. Plus she was a stone statue and no one else was watching.
He went into the backyard and saw Paddles resting in his kennel. Paddles got up when he saw Narteb, and started wagging his tail weakly. Narteb could see he really was looking quite drowsy and tired. He picked up the little dog and left his house.
It was a grey sort of morning and the air was crisp. He began walking to Pip's place.
"Here we are," said Narteb to Paddles, "Your new home for a little while."
They had arrived at Pip's house. It was a log cabin, and the general shape could best be described as wide, large and flat. Narteb always felt happy when he saw this house. Currently, there was a gentle curl of smoke coming out the chimney, and when Narteb breathed, he could smell a delicious aroma in the air. Pip's mum was a fantastic cook, and was probably baking something inside.