For the past two years, nightmares of his battle with Zilla haunted his dreams. Every night he watched himself violently attack her over and over again as if he was watching a crazed maniac. He often wondered if she had escaped the humans and somehow survived. He questioned if he was wrong to leave her alive. She was a threat to humans and he could have stopped her from hurting anyone, but he didn’t and that made him feel responsible, at least partially, for anyone she hurt.
Years earlier when Marcos killed Von, Oni did everything in his power to find the monster. He led the human armies across the land in their search of Marcos, wanting nothing more than to make him pay for what he had done to Von and his family.
The humans went through every town and forest looking for the creature that had killed their leader. They destroyed every bit of magic they stumbled across. When the humans started to find magical weapons, Oni knew that magic had found a way to survive the humans relentless destruction. By giving the humans a way to become stronger, magic was now something the humans sought out to use instead of destroy.
After seeing how magic was changing the humans Oni decided it was time to leave to avoid being hunted for his past. Instead of hunting down magic with the human army, he set off in search of a way to regain his powers. His battle with Zilla marked another turning point on his journey. He found a new purpose. He had to protect humans from magic, even if that meant destroying magic and any hope of regaining his powers.
Even though he no longer controlled the elements, he was still a skilled fighter, a knowledgeable medic and a great woodsman. Since he didn’t age and he healed quickly from injuries, he knew he hadn’t become just another human. He still felt magic around him and it was enough to help him embrace his new found sense of purpose.
He traveled south until he reached water. From there he traveled east. As he went to different villages, he took some time to learn the language of each one. Sometimes the changes between the languages were subtle and easy for him to learn in a few days, other times it would take him months to learn enough to hold a conversation.
Oni used his skills to hunt for furs and gather medicines, which he would use to trade for supplies in the villages he came across. After trading for a bow and a good knife, Oni didn’t need much else, so he started to trade for stories.
He enjoyed listening the village histories and how they related to magic. Some villages claimed a deity was responsible for all the magic in the world, others thought magic was just part of nature and the randomness of the universe. Over the course of time, Oni crossed paths with a sailor named Shouta. The sailor told Oni a story that peeked his interest.
“That is an amazing story.” Oni said after listening to Shouta’s story. “I tell you only what I hear,” Shouta replied.
“I do not question the truth in your story, my new friend. I only wish to ensure I understand your words. Your language is different than any I have heard before and it is difficult for me to grasp at times.” Oni had been able to pick up most of the common words of this new language quickly, but it took him most of the day to be able to converse with Shouta with clarity. “If I am understanding, you traveled from a land far west of here that is surrounded by water to trade tea.”
“Hai.” Oni knew this word to mean yes.
“Before you left, you heard a story of monsters terrorizing farmers in your home land.”
“Hai. Several villages are seeing them.”
“Interesting. Do you know what these monster look like?”
“Only what the people say. They are different sizes, and shapes, but none of them look human.”
“Why don’t the people just leave?” Oni asked.
“It is not easy to give up one’s home land. Farmers live their lives as their father’s did. Just as their fathers before them. Generations of a family’s honor lays in the land as much as the rice they harvest.”
“Then I will travel to your home and see these monsters for myself,” Oni said as if he was offering a great service.
“Why would you want to do such a thing? You are one man. What can you do against monsters?”
Oni didn’t want to tell his new friend that he was once a wizard and understood the powers of magic. Instead he took a sip of Shouta’s tea and came up with a different story. “I just wanted to see these monsters for myself. Magic fascinates me. Besides I really enjoy this tea and would rather enjoy procuring more and learning how it’s made.”
“I can sell you more tea, but I have no plans to return home for quite a while. If you want to see the monsters, you will have to find a different ship to take you.”
Oni said goodbye to Shouta and decided to head towards the far eastern coast on his own. Once he reached the coast, he would find a ship to take him to Shouta’s homeland.
A few days later, Oni found himself facing a long journey over a mountain range. Something about the mountains made him pause. For years he had felt a magical presence close to him, but it always seemed to be coming from behind him. Oni hoped this was a sign that he was leaving a magical presence as he traveled but he couldn’t help but look over his shoulder every so often.
The further he went into the mountains, the stronger he felt another magical presence calling to him. It was powerful and it was close. As he climbed the tree covered mountain, he could feel the magic getting closer with each step. He had no idea what was calling him. It could be a monster, a wizard or even another fairy. The feeling became so strong he felt it all around him. As a precaution, he readied his bow with one of his masterfully crafted arrows and slowly moved through the trees.
There was a rushing in the trees above him. He aimed his bow towards the noise and drew back on the string. He continued to move slowly trying to get a clean shot at whatever was hiding amongst the leaves.
A patch of leaves exploded and a massive creature charged down from above him. The creature’s speed and size startled him and caused him to clumsily fire his bow. The beast slammed into him, dropping him to the ground. His bow broke in half as it hit the ground.
He climbed to his feet and pulled his walking staff from his back in one quick motion. He scanned the area where the creature had disappeared into the trees. He stood silently for a moment listening for where the creature might be hiding.
There was a soft squawk from the underbrush.
Oni advanced carefully, hoping to avoid another surprise attack. He let his staff lead the way as he carefully stepped over a small bush. What he saw on the other side made him breathe easier.
“You are not a monster, are you?” Oni asked.
Laying in the brush was a hawk much larger in size than any he had seen before. His arrow had struck the bird in it’s left wing. It wasn’t seriously hurt, but the impact must have stunned it enough to knock the fight out of it.
Oni pulled out his knife to finish the animal. A bird of this size would provide him meat for at least three days and the feathers would be useful in crafting more arrows. He grabbed the bird so it could not escape and raised his knife. That is when he saw a small marking drawn in the feathers just above the hawk’s eyes.
“You are not a normal hawk are you?”
“Kee-eeee-arr,” the bird screamed while looking up at him
“I will take that as a yes. This marking on your head was given to you by your masters. You must have been a companion of the birdmen that once lived in this area.”
Oni reached down slowly. “I am not going to hurt you. I just want to examine your wing.” He said trying to comfort the animal.
“Chwirk!” The hawk shrilled while trying to bite him.
Oni pulled his hand back. “You are hurt. If I don’t treat your wing, you may never fly again.”
“Suit yourself. Would you like something to eat?” He pulled a piece of dried squirrel meat from a small pouch on his belt. “I don’t have much, but we can always find more.” He sat down next to the bird and placed the meat a foot away from the animal’s face.
The hawk looked at him and then the meat.
Oni took a bite of the meat and then put it back within the bird’s reach. “It is okay my friend. I would be nervous too.”
The hawk quickly snapped its beak around the meat.
“Was that good? Would you like another?”
He pulled a second piece out of the pouch and put it on the ground for the bird. He then removed the leather water pouch from his belt. “I am going to clean the cut on your wing so I can assess the damage. Is that okay?” The hawk seemed afraid, but the draw of food seemed to calm the beast enough for Oni to get close.
Oni poured the water over the cut. “It is not too bad. I will need to stitch it up so it can heal properly. I am sorry for this, but I will have to tie you down so you do not try to attack me.” He removed his robe belt and wrapped it around the bird.
“Chwirk!” The hawk tried to fight, but the belt held its wings in place close to its side.
Oni laid the hawk on the ground and placed a stick in its beak. “Bite on this. It will help with the pain.” He removed a sewing needle and thread from his pocket that he normally used to patch rips in his clothing.
“Chwirk, chwirk, chwirk!” the hawk screamed as he stitched the cut together.
“I know it hurts, but it must be done.” It only took Oni a few minutes to sew up the cut. “All done. Your wing will heal in time.” He examined the rest of the hawk and noticed that its right leg was twisted in an odd manner. “It looks like you broke your leg when you fell.”
Oni jumped to his feet and went into the trees. He found a thick piece of vine and two small sticks before returning to the injured animal. He took the bird in his arms and took hold of its broken leg while holding it tightly to his chest. In a swift motion, he pulled the leg straight with a loud snap.
“Chwirk!!!!” The pain must have been intense.
Oni took the sticks and tied them to its leg with the vine and made a brace. He then gave the hawk another piece of dried meat.
“You will heal, but for now you will need to rest. I will build us a fire for the night.” Oni found some dry wood and dug a small fire pit that he surrounded with stones. He piled a small amount of twigs and leaves over a pile of dried leaves and then rubbed two of the larger sticks together until they started to burn. He carefully placed the dry wood on the pile of burning twigs. A few minutes later he had a nice fire going in the safety of the pit.
He picked up the hawk and carried her closer to the fire. “I think it best if I find a name for you my friend. I cannot just call you hawk all the time. Would you like a name?”
“Very well. First I need to know if you are a boy or a girl. I must admit my biology of hawks is a bit lacking so you will have to help me out a bit. Are you a male hawk?”
“Then a female name it is for you. How about Katherine? I knew a Katherine once. She was a great wizard, even if she turned to the power of dark magic.”
“Then how about Marie? She was a good woman that made a great wife to an old friend of mine?”
“I think I know the perfect name for you then. I will name you Barbara after the daughter of my friend. A little girl that died very early in life. With your help, we can find the man that killed her. It would be an honor to her memory to name you after her.”
“Barbara it is.” Oni looked up at the sky as the sun faded behind the trees. “Well Barbara, let us get some sleep. Tomorrow we will hunt for more food.”
The next morning Oni woke up to Barbara trying her best to brush dirt over the nearly dead fire. “You are a smart one.” He said seeing the intelligence of the animal. Someone had trained her well enough to know to bury a fire before leaving it. “We should be moving. I will have to carry you until you can put weight on your leg properly and your wing heals.” He said after he helped bury the fire.
Oni gathered up his equipment. He took the string from the broken bow and left the rest behind. “I might be able to craft another along the way,” he said as Barbara watched him. “No point in trying to find another string if I do not need to.”
He picked her up and carried her as he continued on his journey. “I must say it is nice to have a companion on this journey of mine. It has been so long since I felt the comfort of a friend. Do you know why I choose to help you instead of killing you?”
“I was a wizard of the old magic. When magic changed I changed with it. I used to be able to control both the elements of water and earth, but now I can control nothing. The elements do not listen to me anymore, however, I am not a normal human either. I am not sure how, but I do not age or get sick like other humans. When I saw you, I realized that you and I are similar. We are both lost in this new world. I am not a normal human, and you are not a normal hawk. Would you agree?”
“Maybe we can help each other find our places in this new world.”
After a few days, Barbara’s leg was feeling better and she took to riding on Oni’s shoulder instead of being carried. He was surprised that she never dug her claws into his skin. This reaffirmed his belief that she was well trained by someone. If her training hadn’t been as good, he was sure she would have ripped his shoulder apart.
A few days after her leg felt better, Oni removed her makeshift cast. The next morning, he woke up to find her flying above their camp site. He stood and watched in awe as she circled around in the bright blue sky. He watched her for quite a long time, unable to take his eyes off her majestic flight.
Suddenly she flew off into the air, leaving him to stare at the sky waiting for her to return to view. When she didn’t return, he listened for her cries, but none were to be heard. His heart dropped.
He had hoped Barbara was a kindred spirit. He figured the two of them would find their place in the world together. Once he came to the conclusion that she wasn’t going to return, he knew he was wrong. She didn’t need him to find her place. It was he that needed her. He once again felt lost.
Not being one to dwell on things, Oni packed up his gear and continued through the mountains. Towards the end of long day of hiking, he heard a sound that made his heart flutter.
“Kee-eeee-arr,” echoed off the mountainside.
He looked up to see Barbara swooping down towards him. As she got close, she dropped a pair of squirrels at his feet, before taking her position on his shoulder.
“I thought you had left me girl,” he said reaching up and gently rubbing her head. “You weren’t leaving you were hunting.”
“Well then, I will start a fire, and we can have a nice dinner before it gets too dark.”
He went to work making a fire and preparing the squirrels for their dinner. After dinner, he laid on the ground and feel fast asleep.
That night he dreamt of the day that he swore his oath of blood with Von. It was just as he remembered it. Von was just a boy of twelve years old. Von made him swear to do everything in his power to protect humanity before the two of them cut their hands and made their blood oath.
When he awoke, it was still dark. He looked over to see Barbara still asleep in a nearby tree. “I swore to protect humanity,” he said aloud to himself, “and that is what I will do.”
After healing Barbara, he realized he could still be useful to the humans even without his magic. He also realized that he didn’t need magic in order to keep his promise to Von. “Today, I put aside my pain and suffering. I will make a difference as long as Von’s blood runs through my veins.” He thought to himself.
By the time Barbara woke up, he had already buried the fire and spent some time meditating on his new path in life. He watched as she shook her feathers and stretched her wings.
“We should be at the coast by nightfall.” He told her. “There we will find a boat to take us to our destination.”
“Chwirk?” She said as if asking a question.
“I know of a land where monsters are hurting innocent people. I am going to help the people. Will you join me?”
“Glad to hear it.”
Barbara flew off into the sky as Oni started to hike down the mountains. He had been able to see the coast line since yesterday and knew it wasn’t far. The hardest part was going to be finding a village, but he was sure Barbara could help with that task.
It was around mid-day when Oni came across a small stream flowing down the mountain. He stopped and cleaned off several days of dirt from his face and refilled his water pouch. The ice cold water reenergized him after a long morning of hiking.
He decided to take a moment to enjoy the gentle sound of the water. He closed his eyes and listened to the world around him. The sound of the water relaxed him and allowed him to clear his mind of all negativity. He felt at peace for the first time in many years.
He could still feel magic around him, as he had since he first ran into Barbara. Now that his mind was clear, the feeling seemed stronger. As he meditated, he found that he could almost see magic as it took on an aura around him. It appeared as a white light that seemed to get brighter in one direction. The brighter light was a sort of map to where the magic was the strongest.
Barbara’s cries pulled him from his meditation. She was in trouble. He jumped to his feet and tried to pin point the direction of her cries, but the sound was echoing off the forest in a way that made it impossible to be sure.
He closed his eyes and cleared his mind. The light returned to his vision. He opened his eyes and ran off in the direction where the light was brightest. Racing through the trees, he found himself wishing for his powers to return to him. He was much faster when he could use his powers to move the trees out of his way and ask the ground to push him forward.
The cries were getting louder. He could hear rustling from the trees in front of him as if the trees were battling an adversary. He looked up to see Barbara trying to bite at a vine tied around one of her legs. Every time she tried to bite off the vine, she would lose altitude and fall towards the ground. Each time she fell, she would fly as high as the vines would let her, before trying to bite her way free again.
“I see you got your leg caught in a vine!” Oni shouted from the ground below. “Don’t worry. I will be right there to cut you free.”
“I will hurry.” Oni ran towards a tall tree. He jumped up to the closest branch and used it to swing himself into the air. He grabbed the next highest branch and pulled himself up. He jumped from branch to branch as fast as he could, getting higher into the tree with each move. It took him less than a minute to reach the top. Without slowing down, he jumped out towards Barbara and cut the vine with his knife while he was in midair.
Barbara was now free, but he was falling towards the ground from fifty feet up. He rolled his body to gain momentum and aimed for another tall tree. He was lined up for a perfectly safe landing on a nice thick branch when he was knocked out of the air by a rock.
The impact didn’t hurt much, but he was now off course. He was falling towards the ground with nothing between him and the dirt below. He tucked his body and tried to ready himself to roll as soon as his feet hit the ground.
“Chwirk!” Barbara cried seeing him helplessly falling.
At the last minute he threw his knife and staff aside, so he wouldn’t accidently hurt himself any more than necessary when he hit the ground. He landed perfectly, but that didn’t stop his legs from feeling the impact of the hard ground, or from him rolling head first into a large rock.
He got to his feet as fast as he could, but the pain in his legs made it difficult for him to brace himself. He pushed through the pain and tried to find where his staff had landed. He knew that rock didn’t jump up by itself. He was under attack, but he had no idea by who or where his attacker was hiding.
He never saw the tree branch coming. It smashed against his already weakened legs. The branch shattered on impact taking him to the ground. He looked up just in time to see a foot kick him in the face.
“I have been following you for years you stupid wizard,” Zilla said without a hint of playfulness. “Now I will finally have my revenge.”
“Zilla, I see you did not learn the last time you tried to kill me.
She kicked him again in the side of the head. “Shut your mouth wizard. The only thing I want to hear from you is begging for your life.”
Oni tried to lift himself up, but she kicked him again. He watched as she walked a few feet away and picked something up off the ground.
“You broke my wing wizard. Now I will break you.” She said as she walked towards him with a rock in her hand. “I only wish you could see what I did to all those towns that helped you in any way on your travels. I made them pay for assisting you. So many glorious deaths and yet none of them will be as satisfying as killing you.”
The idea that Zilla killed humans just because they helped him made his stomach turn. “Those people did nothing to you. You did not have to hurt them.”
“Oh, but I did. They helped you, and that was wrong. They had to pay.”
“Chwirk!” Barbara cried out as she charged down from the trees.
The sound made Zilla look up giving Barbara a clear shot at her face. Barbara’s claws and beak tore at the fairy’s face as Zilla let out a scream of pain.
Oni took advantage of the situation and pulled himself up the best he could. He looked over to see his staff only a few feet away. With everything he could muster, he got to his feet and picked up the staff.
Zilla swung her rock, knocking Barbara off of her just as Oni swung his staff across the left side of her head. Her head rocked from the impact. She slowly turned towards Oni on wobbly legs. She looked as if she would fall over from the force of a gentle breeze.
Oni thrust his staff outward, smashing it into her jaw. There was a loud cracking sound as her jaw shattered. She fell to the ground like a rock.
“Are you injured?” Oni asked as Barbara landed on his shoulder.
“Glad to hear it.”
“Do not worry about me. I will heal.” Oni looked down at the badly injured fairy at his feet. Besides the broken jaw and wing, her face had been carved up from Barbara’s assault to the point that she was barely recognizable. “Thank you for your help. You saved me from a long night of beatings and broken bones, before she would have killed me.”
“I have no doubt she would have killed you too. I could not ignore your cries for help. The question is, what are we going to do with her now?” Oni stood over the body. Zilla seemed at peace as she laid there at his feet. “I know I should kill her, but it just does not seem right to kill her while she’s so helpless. In combat I would not hesitate, but she cannot defend herself in her current state. Killing her in her sleep would be wrong.”
“If I kill her now, what makes me any different from her? Only a person of darkness would kill the defenseless. For now, I will see to her wounds and give her a chance to heal.”
Oni saw to her injuries and made sure she was comfortable. Barbara seemed very displeased by his decision to heal Zilla, as she flapped her wings and nipped the air above the fairy. He could not bring himself to kill her or leave her for dead, no matter how much he knew he should.
His injuries healed after a good night’s rest. He was sore, but nothing was broken. Barbara had a bump or two, but nothing that would not fade on its own. Zilla, on the other hand, had a much longer road to recovery. Barbara had clawed her face to the point where he would have to wait for her to wake up to know if she could see out of her left eye.
Oni went to work on Zilla’s injuries as soon as he finished checking on Barbara. “She will remember this fight for a long time, but she will live.”
“Trust me, this is the right thing to do.” Oni cleaned Zilla’s wounds and started to stitch up the deep gash on her face with the needle and thread he normally used to patch holes in his clothes. It saddened him when he realized that her once smooth, beautiful face was going to be forever disfigured by the scars. He also thought it very fitting that someone so evil would now look the part for the rest of her life. As he thought the darkness of her soul, he could not help but worry for the people in the villages he had visited. He had to know exactly what she had done.
“Barbara, I need you to go and check on the village near the coast for me. I need to know if anyone survived.”
“Please do this for me. It will take days for me to reach even the first village. As fast as you are, you will be back by morning.”
“Do not worry about her. As badly as she is hurt, she will be no threat to me. If it makes you feel better, I will tie her up while I sleep.”
“Kee-eeee-arr.” She cried before taking off into the air.
As promised, Oni tied Zilla up with some thick vines while he rested. The next morning he found her struggling against her bonds.
“You are awake.” He said as he sat up.
“ha oo on oo ee.” She said trying to talk.
“Your jaw is broken and I had to tie it up so it will heal properly. I would not try to talk if I were you.”
“You left eye was damaged. I assume you cannot see out of it. Please nod your head if I am correct.”
She nodded yes.
“I decided not to kill you while you slept, but that does not mean I will not kill you now.” Oni got up and buried his nightly fire. “The way I see it, you are no longer able to fly and you are blind in one eye.” He walked over to her and leaned down close. “The only reason you are still breathing is because I am not like you. I refuse to let you darken my soul. However, I made a promise to protect humans from the dark side of magic. If it is true that you destroyed those villages,” he removed his knife from his hip “I will end your life without mercy. Do you understand me?”
With a expression of terror , she nodded yes again.
“Good.” He stood up and put his knife away. “Now we wait for my friend to return to see if you were telling the truth.”
It didn’t take long for Barbara to return. He saw her flying overhead and welcomed her down. “Did you check out the villages near the coast?”
“Are the villagers okay?”
“I am so glad to hear it. It appears that you lied to me again.” He walked back to Zilla’s side. “I understand why you lied. You wanted me to think you were strong and still very dangerous. I have to say, I do not like dishonest people, but this does mean that you did not kill the innocent villagers.”
“il ee.” Zilla said.
“I will not kill you. I will not let you blacken my soul. I will however leave you here. I only wish I could trust you.” He stood up and gathered the last of his gear. “You are no worse off than you were before you attacked us. I will suggest once again that you find a new path in life. You try so hard to be evil, but you are not very good at it.” He turned away from her and started walking toward the coast.
Barbara swooped down from the trees and sat on his shoulder. “Chwirk.” She cried showing her disappointment in his decision.
“I know you don’t agree, but she is no threat to us. She can no longer fly and she has no ability to use magic anymore. Besides, it is likely that she will be eaten by a bear or wolf before she can untie herself. For now we have to focus on finding a boat.”
“If she decides to continue on her path of darkness, I am sure we will see her again. Thank you again for saving me. You are a true friend.”
“Could not have said it better myself.”
The Chronicles of Oni is a collection of short stories based on magical characters created by my fans that take place after the demise of dragons. As a contest prize, each winner created their character by choosing the creature type, personality, name, and the time era. After choosing their basic character sketch, I created the story of how and why Oni encountered the character and determine the character’s fate. Chapter 2: Barbara After his near death battle with Zilla, Oni reconsidered his life of solitude. He began visiting villages and found pleasure in hearing stories of the people he met. In one village near the ocean, he met a sailor from a far off land that was terrorized by an army of demons. Hearing of the terror and destruction, Oni remembered his promise he made a long time ago and set off to help. As Oni hiked through the mountains, he found an injured hawk. Seeing the animal's suffering, he asked the noble bird's permission to tend to her wounds. He quickly realized she had been a companion of the birdmen and she too was lost in the new world. He named her Barbara and the two become close friends. It did not take long for their loyalty and trust in each other to be tested by the forces of dark magic.