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It was late night at the orphanage, one of the last orphanages in the country, and visiting hours were over. The place felt somewhat safe to the curly-haired, olive-skinned preteen who stuck her moccasins under the bed. It wasn’t the most comfortable place in the world, but she’d stayed in much worse places in her twelve years.
There was a light rain outside which somehow connected to her soul, though she didn’t know it. Her dreams were sweet, those of a Victorian boating trip, a 1950s-style lunch with cool lemonade, and worms slowly turning the earth. Her dreams were always filled with water.
“Quantha, that is her name, is it not?” the hunter asked from the dark green forest.
“That is my name,” Quantha said in her dream, surprised because this didn’t seem to have anything to do with earthworms. There was rain in the dream, though.
The hunter didn’t hear Quantha speak. A robin flew from his nest to land on the hunter’s shoulder.
“You come a far way from here,” the robin whistled. Not speaking the language of nature, Quantha understood nothing. However, all Kindrish hunters spoke all the tongues of the earth.
“Wise robin,” the hunter replied.
“All robins are wise.”
“All robins are egocentric.”
The robin chirped indignantly, then continued, “You sensed it, too?”
“But of course. I am surprised we did not find this before. We have a forest near our entrance as well. Many hunt there.”
“Do you hunt near the entrance?”
“Of course not. They chose me to find her because I am experienced in these matters. I live far from the entrance.”
“Why? You do not wish to associate with this world?”
“That is beside the point. Let’s get to why I came here. Quantha. Who is this Quantha?”
“She is a young girl who just arrived here. I am unsure of her background, but it is…. water.”
“You are sure?”
“I am absolutely sure. She is here with us, you know. She can see us.”
The hunter contemplated this. “A dream-weaver. Well, that’s rare, but nothing special. I know for a fact the fairies found something- excuse the expression- earth shattering.”
The robin’s small eyes narrowed. “They’re saying… they’re saying she may be the tenth.”
“Tenth what?” But the hunter knew.
“All hunters are idiots.” The robin looked up at the orphanage, which was for some reason right next to the forest- Quantha had seen a forest near the orphanage- then straight at Quantha. “Tenth prophet. Tenth element. The tenth, you idiot!”
“Then it would do me good to retrieve her. Now.”
He strolled to the door, put his hand onto it, and the door melted away.
“Couldn’t have just opened it,” the robin commented.
“No, I couldn’t have,” the hunter said. “Now-”
But Quantha woke up just then, and she was no longer in the orphanage. She was- she was in the bottom of some sort of boat.
“-where is she?”
In dark and shady pubs and bars, they still tell the story of the ten daughters. Most Kindrians know that there is a ‘tenth’ that all still look for, and that the ten sections of the enormous kingdom of Kindria are divided among the nine royal families and that the tenth section is desolate; left to be wandered by those who wish to die. But almost no one knows why or how any of this happened.
Rarely has the story of the ten daughters ever been recounted on Earth, but the hunter was in the darkest corner of the forest when he met a lone hiker. Not lost, mind you, but alone. The two joined together to share a meal and talk about their journeys. The hiker, a young man of about twenty-nine, told his story eagerly.
“-and I’ve got about fifty miles to go until I complete my goal; hopefully that’ll be enough to get me into the National Hikers’ Association,” he said, wrapping up his story. “I’m pretty excited that the hike is almost over. Anyway, I’ve been talking so much about my life, I haven’t given you a chance to talk. What’s your story?”
“My story?” the hunter laughed. “It’s a long one- not one you’d be interested in.”
“Oh, I have plenty of time,” the hiker insisted.
“If you have plenty of time, I will tell you another story,” the hunter said. “Not mine, but one I know well. It is also a long story, and I believe it will help you.”
He had planned to tell an Earth person this story. Why not this hiker?
“Go on,” the hiker said.
“This is a story not many people know,” the hunter began, “the tale of the ten daughters. Long ago, there was a woman who could hunt so proficiently that her name was passed down into what was then known as simply, the Land, or the Kingdom. Her name was Kindria.
“She met a man on her hutning trip whom she fell in love with, and later married. The man’s name was Togo, the greatest wizard the Land had ever known. And they had nine daughters, each of which the great wizard and the great warrior taught great academic skills. So each had the chance to become a wizard, warrior, or professor.
“With these skills instilled in the two parents and the nine daughters, the family was eventually awarded power over the entire, vast Land. They were astonished and knew not what to do. By then, the eldest daughter was nineteen, and the youngest was ten- all the others scattered in between at different ages. They instilled laws and powers and goodwill throughout the Land, and they were an entirely content family. But Togo was not happy.
“Like many other ridiculous people of that time, Togo believed that the only key to happiness was a son. He was unhappy with his nine daughters. When his wife conceived again, he was overjoyed and prayed that the child be a son. But alas- when the child was born, it was found to be a girl. Togo was livid, and employed a strategy he believed to be unique- in his fury, he cast the girl away to be raised in another Land. This Land was almost exactly the same as Togo’s Kingdom, but it had no magic. Yet the people of this strange land still not only survived, but flourished. He had planned to kill the girl and cast her into the land of darkness after her death, but after days of begging from Kindria, he agreed to send the daughter to this strange Land.”
“The strange Land was Earth, right?” the hiker interrupted, beginning to catch on to the unusual story.
“Correct. The daughter was safe there, raised among Native Americans, and she had many children. But the nine daughters left in the magical Kingdom still suspected something. Togo and Kindria had told them that the child had died in the early stages of birth, but after Togo’s death, they approached Kindria and asked her for the truth. Finally, she gave in and told them the truth.
“They were angry about being lied to and about the unfortunate fate of their younger sister. They banded together and planned to run away from home. Now the oldest sister was twenty-five, and the youngest was fifteen. Well, second-youngest.
“On the journey, they met an old witch who told them the most important secret of all- two of their ancestors, one on their mother’s side and one on their father’s, from thousands of years before, were the two good people who were among the four born at the dawn of time. The other two were evil, and their ancestors fought against them bravely. To reward them, the magic powers of the Land gave each five connections to the powers of the world.
“Those ten connections were given to each one of the daughters. The ten connections were- fire, light, earth, wind, ice, stone, sky, darkness, wood, and water. They could use these connections to their benefit, or they could choose to go the way of their ancestors’ evil enemies. The daughters chose to use the connections for the good of the world, and with these connections they found they had powers.
“The daughters each used their powers to fight their way into this world, where try as they might they could never find their sister. Finally, they returned to the Kingdom, where they each had two children. The pattern was the same for each daughter- one child was brilliant in all areas, whereas the other was quiet and never exceled in anything. When Kindria died, her final wish was that the Land be split into ten sections- one to be given to each of her daughters. The tenth section was to remain desolate, a land for wanderers and anyone who wished to die, because she knew Togo had left his curse there from the dead. It was to remain this way until her tenth daughter, or any direct descendant from her tenth daughter, returned to the Kingdom from Earth. This was how it had been decided, but Kindria made one mistake in her decision. She told each daughter which of her children would inherit their section of the Land- and for each, she chose the proficient, gifted child- rather than the quiet one. What she didn’t know was that the quiet ones were the ones who had inherited the magic.
“She was not unkind. She allowed each of the quiet ones to have a good life, simply not a royal life. And eventually, it was forgotten who the true magical descendants of Kindria were.
“After Kindria’s death, her daughters agreed that the kingdom deserved to be named after her. The Kingdom was thereafter called Kindria. In Kindria, still today, everyone knows that there is a tenth person to look for. Each of the nine rulers of each of the sections of Kindria today know not about this tale, but each of them is taught from birth to search for the tenth ruler.
“Meanwhile, what of the tenth daughter? The daughters kept their connections secret, and so no one knew what the tenth daughter’s connection the magic powers of the earth were. But the daughter herself knew what it was. Eventually, her Native American mother told her about the day that mysterious hunters came to her village and gave her a child- that child was the tenth daughter. The daughter began to understand her mysterious connection to one of the powers of the earth, but still told no one. When she grew older, after searching for an entrance to Kindria for years and years, she finally settled and had five children. She was wise enough to know which one had inherited the power, and had her child pass on the legacy for generations.”
The hunter stopped for a moment. He was not out of breath. It took much for him to be out of breath.
“That was an amazing story…” the hiker said. “But there must be an end to it. What’s the rest of it?”
“Ah,” the hunter said. “Well, recently in a forest in one of the wealthiest sections of Kindria- Galia, named after the daughter that originally owned it- an entrance to Earth was discovered. One of the best hunters in the land was called upon to come to this forest. He did so. And he knew why he was called there instantly- they had sensed the tenth, in Earth, near this entrance. And her connection was- water.
“He met with a robin once he entered Earth, and briefly discussed the situation. Little did he know that the precious gift he’d been given was slipping out of his hands. The tenth had disappeared, and he knew why. The descendants of the two evil wanted her in their hands. They also had powers- powers regarding death, invisibility, and other powers deep in the realms of dark magic. And so, through an ancient and very evil rite, they claimed the tenth for their own.
“The hunter was furious, but he did not give up. Slowly he formed a plan. He would go deeper into the Earth forest. There he would, as he always could in foest, reassess what he would do. As he walked, he had his idea. He would tell the tale to a person of Earth. Someone worthy. Then he would tell this Earth person his destiny.
“For the witch the daughters met never told them the whole tale. There were not four people born at the dawn of time- there were eight. Two evil and two good on Kindria, two evil and two good. The good were rewarded for fighting the evil, and the evil were punished by being turned into snakes. But the evil have been fighting in the thousands of centuries since their birth, and slowly, a band of hundreds of snakes have turned back to humans. And they have joined the battle over the tenth.
“The hunter would tell this person he found to fulfill his task. May I add that if this person were to fulfill the task the hunter told him about, he would be rewarded beyond all belief. And the task would be this: find the evil band, and fight them. Fight them and don’t let them near the tenth. What does this have to do with you, you ask? I am that hunter.” He smiled at the hiker. “And you are that person.”
The hiker screamed and grabbed his bags. “You’re insane!” he screamed. “You’re insane!”
“Why do you react this way?” the hunter asked.
“You’re insane! Who told you that? All of that is incorrect! None of that is true!” he screamed. The hiker was unsure why he was reacting that way, himself, but he had to run. He ran and ran and ran, until all he could hear was an echo of the hunter’s voice in the woods.
“You will regret this! You will always be destined to fulfill your task!”
He ran until he became part of the forest.