Ivan

  Journey to Og Bashen

©Samuel Mogbolu


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He’d lain there for so long. He couldn’t say how long, he just knew. He’d begun to develop a new sense of time.

He knew it took months to replace a tongue or fully heal an important organ or body part.

When he fell, he split his skull. He could feel the wind caress his bare brain.

He never lost consciousness. Such mercy did not belong in this place. The wind’s touch felt quite like a furnace in the middle of his skull.

Even groaning was denied him because he’d crushed his larynx against a hellion’s elbow.

For so long, the silence was just as torturous as his wounds. It was just silent darkness, going on and on.

At least the hellions did not pull him down. No hellion made a sound when he fell. These were the mute ones, the ones who were practically dead; too damaged to move a muscle. The beast had freed the rest.

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He’d been free too, had he not? He’d seen the sky, he’d enjoyed the daylight. He no longer thought it was depressing, the daylight.

So it was always that same shade of sickly grey, like hell was colour-blind. But at least it was…light and not darkness, unlike this forsaken abyss.

There were also questions he considered even more horrific than his woeful troubles. What if Halimar escaped with the beast?

What if his eyes only missed her? What if he’d made a mistake? Or perhaps the most important ones; was she worth it?

Was she worth spending an eternity of torment for? Was she worth losing the only thing he had in this God-forsaken prison for? That is his freedom.

Why did he keep on damning his soul for women?

These thoughts, these questions were the only things that kept him company.

Sometimes, when his imagination returned him back from the distant realms it took him to, he considered the darkness and wept.

Was he truly condemned to a woeful existence in this abyss? It became even suffocative whenever he remembered that he could not end it all if he wished to. He could not take his life. His damn skull was open.

Suffocation started whenever he reached this point. He would thrash about, gasping for air. His eyes would feel as if they were one moment from popping out of his head.

And even as he did this, the knowledge that he would not die, would remain at the back of his mind. Like a relentless demon, taunting at him.

One time when he thrashed like this, he felt a slimy cold piece of mystery, slide down his face. He gripped it, about to hurl it off, when the pain paralysed him.

He was sensitive to it, this object. How startled he was, until he traced its tube like length and caught on a line leading back to his skull. He realised he had his brain in his hands.

He carefully placed it back in his skull and lay still on his face. He would remain in one spot until he was fully healed.

Nothing scared him more than losing his brain. What would happen thereafter? Would he truly develop a new one?

And thus he lay with his face down. Tis an amazing thing, the stamina of immortality. Not once did he feel the urge to turn his head or to lie on his side.

The body did not feel fatigue. Rather it was in many ways superior. He could hear the distinct thud of his heartbeat.

He could also count the beats, reaching numbers as high as great thousands. Unlike his mortal mind that easily grew weary of such tasks, this mind was more perseverant.

Such skills proved immensely useful. After every great thousand, he would feel his skull, to find out how far he’d healed.

One time he felt too closely and pierced his yet tender skull by mistake. When he’d counted the nine hundredth, nine hundredth, great thousand, he checked his skull and found it fully covered but still very tender.

“Second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…” he muttered on and on.

“Ivan?” whispered a faint voice.

“Ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth,”

“Ivan?” the voice called again.

One of his eyes opened of its own accord. Did someone call?

“Who counts? Is it you, Ivan?”

Halimar?

His will returned so that he rose up.

“Tis me, Halimar. Where are you?”

“I am below. You shall have to pull me up.”

He followed the sound of her voice. Every step he made was shadowed by his dread for the silent hellions.

What if they pulled the same mischief as before? But the hellions remained silent until he tracked her spot.

“How can I pull you out?” he asked.

She was cemented down there by a horde of hellions, just like he’d been.

“Your blood, Ivan. Your fresh blood would wake them. Just let down a drop and jump back as fast as possible.”

Ivan stood still, battling with the sense of uncertainty.

“Do it now Ivan. I cannot abide this prison.” Halimar urged.

“Aye,” Ivan muttered and bit his right thumb until it bled. He let it drop over her spot.

The floor gave way immediately. “What in ten hells!” wails from hellions erupted from all around the abyss.

Ivan jumped backwards just before a hellion could grip his ankle. He was shocked by the sheer force of his legs, by the way he sprung.

It seemed as though he was flung backwards with great speed. He fell in a sodden heap at a great distance from where he once stood.

He sat where he fell, feeling rather dazed. Gradually the wails subsided. He massaged his head and rubbed at his tender skull.

A terrible migraine had begun to rage. He soon erupted in howls, jerking around and tilting his head to find that spot of no pain.

 “All is well, Ivan. The pain would fade.” Halimar said softly.

He paused “you got out?” he slurred.

“Aye. Their movements gave me room to move, so I leapt." Halimar said.

He panted, tilting his head to one side. The pain seemed to lessen whenever he moved his head to a certain spot. If only he could accurately pin-point the spot. The spot seemed to shift at will.

“I thought you were paralysed.” He said articulately, in between thunderous pain bolts raging in his head.

“I was. When the hellions pulled me down, they straightened my spine. Thus in so doing, my movement was returned to me." she said.

Ivan sighed “all is well then.”

“Aye. Give me some blood. I have damaged my kidneys. I need to develop new ones." she said.

He absently gave his hand to her. She savagely ripped his wrist open and sucked like an infant. When she was satisfied, she slumped to seat beside him and leaned against him.

He could feel his wrist healing, the blood rushed around the area. It felt just like urination, that rapid flow of fluid.

“There is no way out of this grave.” Ivan said sombrely.

For a long while, Halimar was silent. “there is” she replied eventually.

Ivan looked on her even though the darkness forbade him from seeing her.

“You said we would be trapped here for all time.”

“I was scared of the paralysis and the resident hellions.” She said.

“What then is the way out?” he asked.

“Here, touch this.” She said.

He touched her hand and frowned “your palm?”

“No, I hold in my hand a strand of hair.” She said.

“You plan to tickle your way out of here?” he said drily.

“O ye of little faith.” She said “I have washed my hair with the ointment of Sheron.”

 “Aye,” he muttered “you want me to tell you it smells nice?”

She pinched his cheek “my Ivan has grown so surly.”

He puffed.

“At the price of one heart. I dipped my hair in the ointment of Sheron. Every strand of my hair is a key to a different location.”

Ivan sighed “this is madness.”

“No, tis sorcery. Sorcery thrives here, although there is only one practicing sorcerer in all of hell. The rest are just distributors.  Body parts are the only legal currency.”

“So you traded your heart for a dip in the ointment.” Ivan said.

“Aye.” Halimar replied.

“How did you obtain a new heart?” Ivan asked.

“I was yet in transition. A hellion in transition is very rich, very threatened but very rich.”

Ivan snorted “why did we not use your hair strand on the cliff top?”

 “There was no time.” Halimar said.

She shifted away from him “tis also very difficult to activate. To make use of the transportation, one must pass through the smoke created by burning the hair strand.”

“This is hell. There is fire everywhere?” Ivan said.

Halimar laughed “That so? Anytime you see fire in hell, chances are you won’t escape.

Fire waves come after the fog, demons clothe themselves with fire, and there are also lakes of fire. But you’ll be a fool to go near them. You’ll melt from the heat alone, if a demon does not push you in.”

Ivan frowned “what ridiculousness, I’ve seen hellions light fires.” 

Halimar sighed “there is so much for you to learn. Any hellion you see that lights a fire, spent a fortune to get a vial of transition blood.

Only blood like yours can light fires in hell.”

Ivan was startled. She was right. He’d noticed back at the twelfth, the old hellion poured out liquid from a vial when she wanted to light a fire. The goblins did the same thing.

“You want to know how much it costs to purchase a vial of your blood?” Halimar asked.

Ivan said nothing.

“Twelve brains. Twelve perfectly working brains and no bargaining.”

“Well then, good thing we have more than a vial of my blood.”

“Aye. Give me your hand.” She said.

She bit his wrist once more. He couldn’t see what she did in the darkness but something let out a sizzling hiss. Sparks started to fly off something on the floor.

“There, now we just have to wait.” she said.

“Where will it take us?” Ivan asked.

“The valley of roads. That’s where the ointment of Sheron always leads.” Halimar said.

The fire was growing larger. He could make out her profile now. But it was what he saw behind the fire that caught his attention.

The hellions, legions of them just stood with keen eyes, silently and patiently watching the fire. Halimar saw them too.

“Your blood woke them up.” she said under her breath “hold unto me. The smoke would suck me in because it is mine.

And then there shall be a horrific scramble to pass through before the smoke dies out.”

Ivan’s heartbeat was so violent. He was sure every hellion could hear the thuds. What if the hellions decided to not wait for the smoke?

What if they decided to hold unto Halimar?

“You need to calm down.” Halimar said “your palpitation is deafening. These hellions dread the thought of putting out the fire. They would do nothing to jeopardize it.”

They sat still in tense silence. Everyone’s gaze affixed on the fire.

And then at the seventh great thousandth beat of his heart, the fire rose of a sudden, rearing all the way towards the top of the abyss.

Halimar clenched his fist. The fire rapidly lost its bright colours, becoming white from the top down.

“Now.” Halimar said.

It pulled them towards it with such ferocity. It all happened in a moment. Next thing he knew, he was lying in a veil of smoke, with Halimar just beside. Their hands were still fastened.

“Come on, tarrying would get us covered under a mountain of falling hellions." she said.

As she spoke a hellion landed beside them. They quickly got up and made haste, making use of that preternatural agility.

Soon enough the sky rained hellions down upon the valley. She was truly swifter. It took all his strength to remain close to her.

They finally came up to the mouth of a tunnel. A being clad in a dusty cloak stood there. It’s dark, scaly, right hand clenched a long silver staff.

“Where to, hellions?” it said coarsely.     

“Stop trying to look at his face. He’s a demon.” Halimar scolded under her breath.

That only made him want to see it more. The cloak concealed everything.

“Og Bashen.” Halimar said.

“What can you offer?” The demon asked.

Halimar looked at Ivan “take” she said, handing the demon two organs “that’s two kidneys.”

The demon waved his hand so that a scale of balances emerged from thin air.

“Place them on the scale.” The demon urged.

Halimar placed her kidneys on the scale.

“Aye, healthy organs.” He stepped out of the way “Og Bashen it is.”

Halimar pulled Ivan with her so that they went into the dim tunnel.

“Those are the damaged kidneys you drained all my blood for?”  Ivan asked drily as they came down towards a vast shoreline.

“Twas necessary, you oaf.” She replied.

Canoes lined the coast and cloaked beings, quite like the one at the tunnel mouth, stood by the canoes.

This was perhaps the most vibrant sight he’d seen throughout his hellish sojourn.

As they came closer to the coast, the black sea revealed thousands of canoes in the distance, paddling away to different destinations.

Some of them were only identifiable by the faint glimmer of their firelight.

“It’s impressive, isn’t it?” Halimar remarked.

Ivan nodded “is it always night here? At the tunnel’s mouth it was still daytime.

“Aye, tis always night here.” Halimar said.

They walked up to a canoe. The cloaked being silently stretched out his hand. Halimar quietly stared at Ivan.

“What is it?” Ivan asked.

“You’ll have to give him your heart.” She said matter-of-factly.

 “Are you beside yourself?”

 

Her hand moved lightning fast and pierced through his chest “you need to stop acting like a child” she said, squeezing his heart.

She yanked it out and handed it to the cloaked being.

“Where to?” the cloaked being asked while Ivan grew faint and collapsed.

“We are headed for Og Bashen.” He weakly heard her say.

“All aboard then.” The cloaked being said.

Halimar picked Ivan up and slung him over her shoulders.

He opened his eyes to see her patiently watching him. The firelight danced around her frame, casting curious shadows.

She had this unsettling way of staring, perhaps because her eyes were so green. He sat up and looked around.

The cloaked being, sat behind them at the end of the canoe, calming paddling the dark waters.

To Ivan’s horror, he saw his heart half-eaten on the spot beside the cloaked being.

“You ripped out my heart.” He said through clenched teeth.

“I’ve always been a treacherous one.” She said drily.

The cloaked being started to laugh. Ivan turned; absolutely horrified by the fact that such a thing could be capable of laughter.

“You fit right here, don’t you? Even demons laugh at your barbs." Ivan teased her.

“I’m no demon. I am a transporter.” The cloaked-being said.

“You fit right here, don’t you? Having conversations with transporters.” Halimar said.

“I have a question.” The cloaked being said.

“What shall you give us if we answer?” Halimar asked.

The cloaked being shrugged “information.”

Halimar smiled “Ask away then.”

 The cloaked being slowed its paddling and crossed its legs “well, just out of curiosity. Were you twain, husband and wife in a forgotten lifetime?”

Halimar studied Ivan “that such a thought would cross your mind greatly saddens me.”

“Never in a thousand lifetimes.” Ivan said.

“In this lifetime then?” the cloaked being asked.

“I stay with her out of pity.” Ivan said before Halimar could speak.

“Is that so?” The cloaked being said “for she is no ordinary hellion.”

“Such flattery.” Halimar said glibly.

Ivan was curious “what do you mean?” he asked.

“Her bangle. I’ve seen it before. A certain male hellion wore it when he boarded my canoe. That’s three-hundred- years short of two-thousand- years gone by.”

Halimar’s face was expressionless. She rolled her eyes “fine, I’m a thief. I stole a bracelet.”

“That male hellion turned out to be The Sorcerer.” the cloaked being added.

Halimar laughed “you’re saying this is the sorcerer’s bracelet?”

Ivan studied her “is there something I should know?”

“Aye.” Halimar said, pinning her gaze on the cloaked being “isn’t it so convenient you just happened to meet The Sorcerer before he became The Sorcerer?

Tis is a well-known fact that no one has met the hellion. He is almost mythical like Satan himself.”

Ivan scratched his head.

“You’re so gullible” Halimar said “transporters tell tales, tis what they do.”

The transporter kept silent.

“You said you have information.” Halimar said.

“What would you like to know?” the transporter asked.

“What is the present state of Og Bashen?”

“Peaceful at the moment. But rumor has it, that The Ordained has been drafted to the territory and several other realms under the control of The Sorcerer.

They are expected to reach Og Bashen in three fortnights. You should shift your attention to more peaceful realms.”

Halimar scoffed “you mean uninhabitable realms where the darkness never wanes and goblins, ghouls and demons terrorize without fail?”

“Hell is never habitable. You survive because you have no choice.” The cloaked being said

“But you cannot turn back now, we approach the boundary and the sentinels have taken note of us.”

Ivan turned away from the transporter and looked ahead. A mammoth- sized statue stood in their path, forming a massive gate.

Its wings spanned several realms. It made Ivan recoil inside; for he was wary of passing under it.

“I see no sentinels” Ivan said.

“They live inside the statue’s head.” Halimar said “we’ve come too close to see them. But be rest assured they can see us and they can get to us before your next heartbeat.”

“What do we seek for in this realm?” Ivan asked.

“I have built a life here. You will love it here.” Halimar said.

“What about The Ordained? They sound threatening.”

“Oh yes they are; four powerful demons leading a host of twenty thousand. They move like a pestilence, leaving utter destruction wherever they go.”

“Yet we still go for Og Bashen.” Ivan remarked.

“Some hellions spend their eternity on the run. Others adapt.”

“The only way to adapt to a pestilence is to avoid it.” Ivan said.

Halimar chewed her bottom lip “aye, for you then. I’ll just pick some important personal effects.

I promise we shall leave long before The Ordained reaches the walls.”

“Only one shall leave this canoe. The other shall remain with me.” The transporter said.

The two hellions turned from gazing at the gate and looked on the transporter. The transporter had taken off its hood.

Its visage was void of skin, muscle, or sinews, just grey bone with gleaming white lights for eyes.

“There is something special about you, hellion.” The transporter said, pointing its gnarled fingers towards Ivan “perhaps tis because you are still in transition.”

“I knew this would happen. You’ve been far too cordial.” Halimar said.

“I am twice as fast as any hellion including ancient ones such as you.” The transporter said, cracking its knuckles.

“I am not ancient, just ingenious.” Halimar said calmly “I’m sure your heart meal tasted kind of funny.”

Ivan didn’t think it possible, but the transporter seemed to display emotions which strongly resembled terror. Halimar moved so fast. He barely saw her shove the transporter into the water.

She took the two paddles “I figure I’ll have to do the rowing from now on.”

“Can’t he swim back up?” Ivan asked, gazing at the waters.

“Once you go down, you don’t come back. There’s something in the waters.” Halimar said.

 

2/2
 

 

 

About

I’m just Samuel, bony faced, laidback, absentminded Samuel. I don’t like to say much, I try to stay out of trouble. Some might say otherwise but that's some for you. Point is we don’t care, let’s just be chill and have fun. So come by whenever and ask me whatever.  It’s our party now and it won't start until your arrival.