Unknown - Chapter 26
The black ship sat idly at the harbor, waiting with complete obedience for its master to return. Sazara walked with Shamah behind him towing a huge cart filled with white blankets as they passed the dockmaster who bowed in cower. In front of the ship, a couple of hardened men, donning black metal armors with metal helms with a long winding tusks that grew out from their sides and swords of great length sheathed to their waist. The dockmaster explained to Sazara that the men were the Emperium’s Royal Guard, sent to search for a woman who was a smith that escaped from the capital’s prison. Sazara nod and thanked the dockmaster.
“Halt in the name of the Emperor Kelis” said one of the guard. Sazara looked at the tall man. His square face was scarred and almost disfigured but it was calm and confident. He held his hand on the hilt of his sword not with power but with gentleness of a man with great heart. The horns on his helm made him loom over the green robed Guardian like a giant.
Sazara and Shamah stopped and the old man lets the cart rest onto the wooden plank of the dock. The huge man gestured the men behind him to check the cart.
“What is it, if I may inquire that the Emperor is looking for to send his own Royal Guard to such an isolated port town?” asked Sazara, eyes fixed to the man.
The man’s eyes fell down to him. His face stuck to the cart behind the green robed Guardian. “A traitor who pretended to be a smith, a woman who wanted to be man” said the man with authority. His eyes flew back towards the cart.
“What have this ‘pretender’ done, if I may ask?” asked the green robed man again but this time the huge man’s eyes did not fell to him.
“She betrayed her king and sold her inventions to her king’s enemies” said the man. His stern voice unchanged.
The men checked the cart. They uncovered the white blanket one piece at a time and stabbed into it beforehand. Shamah said nothing to the action though his hands clenched and his heart longed to send these men six feet under. Sazara stood waiting with patience.
“The cart’s clear, sir!” shouts the man.
“Good, dismiss” ordered the huge man and the rest moved out and broke their ranks.
“It seems that you two are clear, you may pass” said the man and he gave Sazara a bow with his head before fleeting towards the dockmaster. Sazara eyed the man and bowed back, watching him disappear beyond the archway.
“Damn pricks” complained Shamah.
“It does not matter, master Shamah, the important thing is that the others are safe” said the Wind Guardian and the two heads up the ramp to the black ship.
“It’s nice, this ship, who builds it?” Grear’s voice broke the silence of the sea once the ship had departed from Lhamira. She emerged from the hold with bottles of juice in her hands. “And juice, anyone?” said the woman, joyous of her new found freedom. She turned around, watching with smiles at her companions all who sat staring at the ocean or the sky. “No then” she said and placed the bottles next to the mast. She walked to Sazara who was standing with his back at the wheel over at the stern. “So, master Sazara, what happened?” her voice was flirting. The Water Guardian jumped on top of the rail and sat facing the bridge. The Wind Guardian looked at her. “Please stop doing that, young Grear, it is not you” he said with a soft voice. Grear shook her head.
“So, what happened?” her authoritative voice filled the stern. “I remembered being attacked by the Royal Guard’s dire wolves, but after that, I know nothing” she said and took a gulp from the bottle.
Sazara’s shoulders jumped. “That should be my line, don’t you think?” he said and looked at her with his green eyes. “What happened, young Grear?” he asked. The woman looked down, sadness filled her face. Her legs dangled aimlessly and the bottle in her hand rocked back and forth. “They are planning to attack the Uncharted North” said the woman. She looked up and watched the morning summer sky, the blazing sun raging down at the ship, the warm breeze from the west behind her. “They destroyed all of the smith cities in order to keep their metal forging secrets” her voice trembled. The authoritative voice she had once held in her disappeared when her mind flashes at the massacre she had seen. “They killed everyone in Kaleema, even Gramps… oh, poor Gramps…” her voice swayed to silence. “And the water crystals… they used it to hover war galleys and carry troops across the seas…” she held her hand to her face. “It was all my fault” regret filled her face.
“How did you managed to escape?” asked the Wind Guardian. Grear looked at the man. “The rain. It rained a day before the massacre and I listened to it like you listened to your winds and master Shamah listened to his earth” she said. “I listened and I heard them talking about the smith city of Ra Jali up north and how it was destroyed by a group of Royal Guards with ten dire wolves. At first I refused to accept it, but the rain continued to the night and they talked about the marching soldiers heading towards Kaleema and they never stops, telling me to get out of the city so my heart falter and I believed them. I searched for Gramps who had helped me become a master forger to ask him to leave the city but he was nowhere. I ran to the forge and he was not there. So I went to the only place I knew where he’d go, the graveyard. That’s where I first saw the horror that the Royal Guard had brought with them. So I ran away, the image of Gramps mutilated body flashed in my mind yet I ran still, I ignored the city and left it to be massacred” she said with a sad voice. She held back her tears.
Sazara said nothing in return. He let the young Water Guardian alone and turned towards the bubbling sea at the wake of the ship. He watched them and felt nothing.
The day went on without much words exchanged between the ship’s passengers. Alen was lost within the ship. Enil sat alone, watching the horizon at the bow, his hands at the scars on his body. Edabu was still unconscious inside the sleep quarters though his breath and pulse had steadied thanks to Eliza’s poultices and herbs that she had brought on board. Shamah sat watching the empty ocean amidship, always leaning forward on the rail and said nothing. Kalvel kept to himself and his daughter, preferring to be inside the kitchen with her all the time. The ship was somber as night falls.
Dawn broke and the silence continues. The deck was empty save for Enil who stood at the bow watching the horizon again as if he was obsessed of it. Edabu groaned much to everyone’s relief but Alen was still missing. Grear and Sazara rummaged through the ship in search of the missing seal bearer but they found none of him. Enil said nothing when he was asked and his eyes fixed to the horizon just as his hands never left his wounds. Kalvel watched from behind the half opened door to the hold. He sighed and disappeared back into the kitchen where Eliza worked in silence.
The ship broke through the first chains of island back into the realm of the lordship where it lays afloat towards its intended destination as its crew waits in silence.
Alen watched the darkness around him in silence. His hands wrapped his bended legs tight. The eye patch on his right eye felt out of place, superficial. It felt like a great lie and a struck of fate’s hammer on him, chanting to him what he knew would come at the end of his journey. Yet his heart felt nothing. There was no joy, no fear, no sadness, no missing, his life continues even without an eye to see. He looked at the scar on his chest and abdomen. They cracked and strained like his skin. He buried his face and let the darkness engulfed him.
“Are you depressed?” a voice woke him from the dead. Alen looked around. “Are you depressed?” the voice rang his ears again. Alen said nothing. “Are you depressed?” the voice asked again yet still Alen sat silent. “Come to me, seal bearer” said the voice. Alen stood slow and walked inside the darkness. He had no idea where to go save for the thought that eventually his legs will take him where he should go. So he walked, farther into the darkness, and he walked again until he reached a gate that stretched into the sky without ends to it. The gate was as large as his eye could see and it glows weary silver. “Where am I?” he asked himself though he knew he doesn’t know the answer. He walked to the gate and held his hand to touch it. “Welcome, seal bearer” another voice spoke. It was different that the one before, younger and more vibrant, it has joy and glee in it as it speaks like a happy young man. The voice giggled. “Come nearer, seal bearer” the voice invited him. Alen walked closer to the gate. “Come and touch the gate” the voice commanded and Alen obeyed.
“Stop, Alen” the first voice spoke again before he could reach out to the gate. The young man stopped. He turned around and saw a flicker, a silhouette of a man white inside instead of dark. He looked at the silhouette and silhouette looked back. “Don’t listen to him, you know” said the younger voice. “He’s just jealous you’re alive and you can tap into your power. He don’t want you to do that, you know” it said. Alen looked at the voice from beyond the gate. “Who are you two?” he asked. The silhouette stood in silence. “We are you, we are we, we are you and we” said the voice from beyond the gate. Alen could hear the glee and the smirk in the voice. “Why am I here?” he asked. “You are depressed about something and you wanted shelter, so I gave you” the silhouette answered. Its head looks down as if embarrassed to see Alen in the eyes.
“But where is this place?” asked Alen. He looked around and all he could see is darkness save the silver gate.
“This is inside the gauntlet” said the silhouette. He looked up, and met Alen’s gaze.
“This is inside the gauntlet, Alen. And I am the gauntlet you wore” said the silhouette.