The village was a charming collection of buildings nestled within the confines of the small lush green valley. It was a peaceful place built on the trust of residents and looked after by the experienced hand of the elders. Sophie had been christened in the local church. She grew to love her town and the people inside. It was only recently Sophie had noticed the subtle change in the attitude of the residents, as if the town were in danger.
Sophie’s mother was reading a story to her but half way through, the words stopped flowing. The sparkle of life she normally injected into her tales diminished, prompting Sophie’s inquisitive mind to probe further.
She sat up from her warm bed and sensed a change in her mother’s body language. She began to worry. “What is it, Mother?”
“N-Nothing, my dear, I’ve a lot on my mind. Can we skip this story for tonight?”
“Why? Is there something wrong?” Although Sophie was small and unable to understand adult business, she could still tell that her mother was under a lot of stress and the pale complexion of her skin indicated something was wrong. She didn’t know how to encourage her to talk. Sophie was always a good listener and her mother had never kept secrets from her, until now.
She watched as her mother stroked her mousy, blond hair and smiled with enthusiasm, probably as a distraction. Sophie knew better and frowned. “Mum, tell me! Why is Dad acting strange, too?”
“It’s nothing to concern you. Sometimes Mum can’t tell you everything. When you’re older, you’ll understand.”
Sophie caught a glimpse of the uneasy atmosphere outside the window. People were darting back and forth, worried, hiding their belongings and protecting homes with additional boards.
“Why is everyone scared?”
Sophie’s mother glanced towards the window and replied, “There’s a storm coming. Don’t worry, my dear, we will protect you.”
Despite her words, Sophie held onto her mother’s arm in fear of the unknown.
A dark cloud formed, indicating a disturbance beyond the valley. Sophie had no idea of the challenge heading her way. She always assumed the sun would warm the land and keep the darkness at bay. With the entire village preparing for what might be coming, she slowly began to solve the puzzle that hounded her fragile mind. She had heard rumours about an army prowling the lands and was told by the elders not to venture outside the town limits. This was unusual as she often went beyond the village gates with her friends.
Then, on one sunny day, when Sophie was looking through the dusty old window of their wooden house, she watched in horror as her father returned home with her mother in his arms.
Blood and tears poured onto the crisp green grass, staining the leaves with her mother’s blood. Sophie knew that the darkness, the prelude to something more terrible, was finally upon them.
She ran to her mother’s lifeless body and tried to pull her away from her father. No matter how hard she tried, it was no good. Suddenly Sophie watched as a jiggered blade pierced her father’s chest, causing him to collapse in a pool of blood, covering her mother with his huge form. The soldier revealed by his collapse stood and stared at Sophie’s still form. His armour glittered in the sunlight and blood dripped from his armour. Sophie huddled in a ball as the warrior howled with pleasure. She saw the piercing edge of the knife plunge towards her. She froze on the spot; her body unable to move; trapped in the darkness of the blade’s shadow. But the instinct to live suddenly drowned out all rational thought. At the last moment, before the blade struck, she darted to the side and shivered as the wake of the blade brushed past her skin, cutting a layer of clothing.
Surprised, the armoured man heaved the sword into the air and slashed it down for a second attempt as if he knew some little child could not stop a man of his stature and power. Sophie’s defenceless form was much more agile than that of the huge man. She managed to easily outmatch his movements. It wasn’t until he plummeted toward the ground she realized one of the town’s elders had ended his life with a wooden pole grabbed from the debris scattered all over the village.
Sophie crouched on the ground and felt the bitter cold air rush in and out of her mouth. She could taste the pungent taste of iron. Blood streamed down the old dirt tracks that were used for plant irrigation. Sophie clutched what was left of her tattered clothing, glanced once at her parents’ bodies, then looked as people scattered in all directions and the mountain of bodies piled up around her.
She cried; it was all she could do. Tears streamed down her face, mixing with the wet dirt. Nothing could have prepared her for this disaster. She did not know what to do. Holding a tear that had fallen from her eyes, she prayed to some higher force to free her from the tyranny.
Later, watching from a vantage point, Sophie eyed the invading individuals as they ransacked homes and felt the intense heat from burning buildings. Even the holy church that had stood for as long as she could remember went up in flames as the cowardly mob cheered, drank and laughed. Completely alone, she knelt down between her parents and, holding her head between her knees, prayed for a miracle.
A group of strong village workers finally banded together and challenged the invaders head-on. Though they suffered heavy casualties, the few men managed to slay the invading force and assist the remaining families pick up their belongings and find their lost loved ones.
Scared and alone, Sophie looked at the sky and remembered the warm memories she had of her family and her father’s strong hands, always there to protect her.
Why did this happen? Why did the monsters come and murder my family like that? What is to become of me?
Sophie’s gaze swept over the entire village and her heart wept more as she saw ruined homes, children crying over their parents’ still forms and families torn apart by senseless slaughter.
She reached forward and held on to her father’s still, warm hand, soiled by the hours of work he put in down at the saw mill. It was dry and covered in sawdust. The terrible sight only brought back more memories of her close relationship with her family. She wept until she could weep no more.
Two months previously, Sophie had been playing with her school friends when an old man visited the town on a quest of enlightenment. He’d been travelling for many years and discovered all kinds of ancient relics and artefacts he claimed possessed unimaginable power.
But it was the strange words he spoke of, indicating she was more than just a girl in this world. The egg was a connection to a state-of-being and she had the power to save everybody from the evil which threatened the land.
Later, when Sophie finally returned from her adventures in the local woods, she had been puzzled to discover a crystal egg perched on the kitchen table. She was too young to understand the fundamentals of trade, but the hypnotic glow of the egg was so enchanting, she instantly fell in love with it. Of course the old travelling man had bartered the strange object for a young horse as Sophie’s father thought it would be a beautiful gift to give to his daughter. Filled with delight, she cherished the object as well as admiring its stunning colours.
Sophie searched the ruins of her home and became aware of an oval object under charred rubble. She warily picked up the crystal egg and held its reflective form in her hands. It glowed with a rhythmic thrum that vibrated in her palms. This was something she had never seen before. The crystal egg had always been that, a crystal object, void of light and movement. She saw her own reflection in the intricate facets that glowed with all the colours of the rainbow. Her image smiled back at her, a shadow of her former self. Encased in a wash of bright light, she felt the vibration of the egg slow to a patterned movement until her mind became clear and a voice began to emerge from the recent chaos. At first, it sounded like her own, incomprehensible and filled with doubt and uncertainty, but as she concentrated, her voice changed. She felt an intimate connection she had never experienced before.
“Little girl, you must come with me.”
Sophie looked up and saw an elder dressed in tattered cloths and covered in filth. She could tell by the look in his eyes that he was on the edge of panic. The army is on its way, we must leave this place!”
She weighed up her options and decided to take matters into her own hands. Sophie might have been a child besieged with grief, but she was determined to save her village and avenge her parents. She would have never considered such an act except that the memories of her parents’ untimely death ran paramount in her mind. The darkness was absolute. Black, endless black. She had no way to escape the fate that was placed upon her. She remembered the good times with her mother and her gift, the crystal egg. She felt if she just believed in it, the pulsing glow of the egg would give her hope.
The elder called again, breaking her train of thought. She stared at the war-torn man who appeared exhausted from removing rubble and saving people within her village.
“Come on, little girl, we’ll look after you.”
Sophie knew what she had to do; she clutched the crystal egg and ran off into the wilderness with a divine goal in her mind.
The highland summit had always been her favourite spot; fields of flowers gave off a scented aroma that calmed her mind and the location offered her a good view of the valley below. She enjoyed watching the sunset and the glowing radiance of the sun, but today she felt the distant thunder of the unstoppable force heading towards her village.
She held the crystal egg to the sky and allowed the full light of the sun to warm the entity inside. She knew nothing about the egg’s origin other than it was a simple trade for a horse. She had a feeling of serenity and comfort whenever she touched it. Sophie was determined to protect her home and friends from this unrelenting army.
The deadly tide was on the horizon. She could feel the presence of the lethal army when she lowered the egg. She stared at the jagged hill-line, watching as the shadowy mass moved over the mountain range, over crisp green grass, sending nesting birds flying in all directions. Sophie could not imagine what miracle this small egg could accomplish against such overwhelming odds.
She looked up, felt the calm breeze on the edge of her skin and heard the stomping of feet in the distance. It was a warning of the danger she would soon face. Looking around the lush green landscape and weighing her options, she knew she could escape before being surrounded, but Sophie could not abandon her cause and the hope the crystal egg gave her. She awaited her destiny with determination.
The darkness swept in from the south and cut the land in a diagonal line that split the area in an undisputed border of good and evil. On her side, Sophie knew the huge army would show itself at any moment and on the other side; she expected the army to be confident in its stride, arrogant in the knowledge that nothing could stop them. _I will now challenge that._ She wished her mother would wake her from her nightmare, pull her onto her lap and rock her gently, saying, “this is only a dream.” But the wind continued to blow through the darkness, carrying with it a scent of sweat and bile.
Sophie could not stop the horde of men as they spilled out of the darkness and onto the lush green land before her. The army of remorseless terror was too much to comprehend. There were thousands of them, a black mist of moving souls devouring every inch of land. She grimaced as the bright flowers faded out of existence as the army trampled over them.
The deadly horde of moving mist continued until they were upon her, a wall of impenetrable men. She finally knew they weren’t monsters from the depths of hell; they were simple men in metallic hats and mystical shields. Swallowing hard and clutching the glowing egg as hard as she could, she channelled her fears into a pool of power. Although terror was gripping her very soul, she continued to feel the power of calm and serenity from the egg. She knew that whatever happened, she would be safe.
She felt beads of sweat trickle down her cheeks and patter on to the fine crystal between her arms. She shivered as the crowd of boots thrummed all around; swallowing her in a deafening din no child should ever have to endure. She was surrounded. All alone. There was no escape.
The men outfitted in boots and armour towered over her small form like the giants from her mother’s fairytales. The bright sky solidified the entire area in a wash of light and Sophie could not tell where the sky ended and the men began. Despite this overwhelming scene, she still felt some measure of strength obtained from the egg. She believed that it could save her village and the people beyond.
Standing in precise formation, the army remained motionless while Sophie rose to her feet and silence engulfed the field, like that dreadful moment when she had witnessed the unprovoked murder of her father. She gave the closest soldier a look of scorn while gauging his reaction—hoping the army would turn and leave— but all he showed was blank, soulless eyes. She wondered if this army was human at all.
Sophie continued to hold her ground despite the army towering over her.
Still no one moved. The area was quiet except for the wind gently vibrating through the men’s armour. All eyes gazed down upon this small child who stood in the way of the mighty machine. Sophie did not know why they stopped. Perhaps they were amused; it was a display they’d never seen before.
The land before their feet finally settled and the curling fog festered in one location. Sophie analysed the nearest soldier and looked at him from head to toe. She could see the shine in his boots and the individual strands of grass they crushed. Her determination boiled up and she mustered all her bravery and began to form words that would either make them leave or press forward, ending her life. Before she could utter a word, the line of warriors suddenly moved, startling her.
With precision, the wall of soldiers parted, allowing a narrow passage to form. A strong-faced individual rode down it, dressed in immaculate red clothing and old enough to be her father. He rode up, dismounted and faced the girl head on. He stared, as if staring into the middle distance, ignoring her for a moment. “You show great bravery against such overwhelming odds. Tell me, girl, what is your purpose here and how do you propose to stop us?”
She broke the deadly silence and shocked the hostile crowd with her demands, despite knowing how foolish that action might be. “I will not let you pass and harm my village and people anymore. Go home and leave us alone!”
Any normal force with such overwhelming firepower would ignore this little girl’s ramblings and march right over her. But this general showed interest in her courage and remained still, intent to learn more.
Sophie extended her arms and the general backed away from the pulsating egg that gleamed in his face.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I ask you again,” Sophie repeated, unnerved by the vast number of uniformed men. “Please leave my village alone and return to where you came from.”
The general stared at the strange object. With a half-shrug he mounted his horse and looked down at the girl as if she was no obstacle. But he did admire her courage. “I like your spirit, little one. I wish I had a daughter like you, but we have an empire to expand and your village is part of the resistance in this country. We’ll move on!”
With a decisive wave of his hand, the general signalled his mighty juggernaut on the move, sending the area into an organised march of moving mass.
Completely deluged by the sudden progress of men, Sophie could only do what she was destined to do. So small and innocent; she closed her eyes to the endless wave of crushing noise. She knelt down and clutched the egg that washed the area in a blissful white light.
There was nothing she could do as the darkness surrounded her on all sides. But it was a warm voice that brought her back from the brink, a voice she knew all too well.
Sophie remembered where she was, in the basement of her home sleeping on the sofa. She remembered the events that led up to her awakening state. But the voice continued from inside the house.
“Honey, are you up?”
Still, groggy from her sleeping state, she wiped away the night’s sleep and looked at the small basement window. It was still night, probably early in the morning. The only source of light came from a warm glow that originated from _The World Portal_ located in the middle of the room; the source of her morbid dream.
Suddenly the main lights came on and her mother came down the stairs. Sophie, partly startled by the sudden brightness, gazed towards the direction of the new addition to the room.
“Honey, did you sleep down here again? Your father will be mad when he finds out you have been playing around with his work things again.”
Sophie looked at the table and saw the layout of the other world spread out along its surface. The army she dreamed about continued to march forward relentlessly to the small village, assimilating anything in its path.
She rose to her feet and tiptoed over to the table. The table allowed whoever to control the strange creatures that inhabited the world and, although she liked some aspects of the world, she did not like the dark side, which hindered its evolutionary development.
“There’s a war going on down there, Mum. I saw it in my dream and I can see it in front of me now.”
“I know, but the human world is young. They need to understand the hardships of murder and sacrifice; your father knows what he is doing.”
Sophie glanced at her mother who was now standing next to her. “I saw them; the people. I felt the lives of all those people in the village, I was there.”
Sophie’s mother stroked the glowing white egg that created the image on the table. “To them we are classed as angels, it’s the only word they call us but we’re no different than they are. One day they’ll have the technology to create their own miniature world and do whatever they want. Your father created this for research and this egg allows our minds to merge with the people down there. I’ve always told you about the dangers of sleeping down here. If your father caught you he will be angry.”
“But the humans are innocent and why did father create these monsters?”
Sophie’s mother dawdled over the stairs, then looked back. “Your father creates what he wants. It’s a game, a game of creation.”
Sophie looked back at the glowing map and snapped, “It’s a cruel game, if you ask me.”
Then, without thinking she ploughed her hand over the surface of the table and turned the enormous army into dust.
Sophie’s mother blinked in shock, but continued up the stairs. “Your father will be angry at the army you destroyed.”
“He can live with it.”
“Come, your lunch is ready.”
Sophie left The World Portal, smiling as she went. If her father could create such an unusual world in seven days the she could change its nature with a simple wave of her hand. After all, there are some things you don’t inflict on lesser beings and monsters have no place in a world as beautiful as Earth.