Unknown - Chapter 29
Alen looked at the city with the eyes of six years old. “The place is old” he said with his jaw dropped. “This place is huge” said Enil behind him. Their eyes trailed the rooftops high above the sky, watching the lines of cracks that filled the stone walls and the dark stained coloring the roads and doors.
The air was heavy and filled with scent none of the four could identify. “There is something wrong about this place” said Eliza standing with her hands holding her father’s tunic from behind. She hid herself as her head wanders around her. “It feels as if death himself had sat here”.
The two teenagers and her father looked at her with a weird face. “What happened here, Sazara?” asked Alen.
Sazara looked down, humiliation in his eyes, fear on his face. “Let’s just go to the sage” he ignored the question and went past Alen and Enil, leaving their weird look. Kalvel eyed the buildings around him as if trying to memorize the whole city. He leaned forward and smell the air wherever he could. “This place is great as traps” he suddenly spoke that shook the Guardian’s guts. He stopped on his track and turn around. “Why do you say so, master Kalvel?” he asked, sweats trickled down his cheek. “It’s too packed together, the buildings, you can use it to confuse the enemy, much like a maze” he said with indifferent face. Sazara looked at the buidings around him and gulped. “The sage is this way” he turned and left the others. Alen looked at the fleeting Guardian with eyes of doubt. He looked around wondering what had happened to the city.
The four passed through a wider district where the buildings where borne fairly apart farther with one another and the streets were larger and made of white stones they had never seen before except at the capital city of the lordship. The air was much cooler and scents of lilies and roses and familiar flowers danced in the air, touching their nostrils with familiarity of home and beautiful villages. Alen and Enil looked to one another; weird in their face for the city seems to have changed its attitude towards them. They tracked faster yet they were unable to see the Wind Guardian less for his fleeting shadows who always appear to guide them closer towards the mountain that is now closer to them. “Why is he staying away?” said Enil in a whisper. Alen shook his head to his friend statement. “Let’s just follow him” he said back.
A series of thunderous explosion above head made the Wind Guardian’s shadow become ever more fidgety, forcing the four to go ever faster. His shadows disappeared from their sight ever more often as if it was trying to run away from the explosion. Alen looked back but was immediately snapped by the shadow to move forward quickly. Alen frowned, he wanted to stop and look to the sky but Enil was quick to nudge him, reminding him what they had to do. He nods in hesitation and kept running for the shadow as they head deeper into the heart of the city.
The shadow stopped at the base of the mountain and Sazara emerged again, breathing heavily, hands on his knees. The four emerged from behind one of the buildings. The area in front of them opened into a pavilion with a beautiful round dried up pool in the center and a large flight of steps that leads up to the mountain both surrounded by destroyed booths and small rotted kiosk of merchants long dead. Sazara sat himself on the head of the steps, his eyes fixed to the four.
“Wow, the place is beautiful” said Enil as he immersed his eyes at the pavilion. The four made their way passed the dried pool and stopped at the bottom of the stair, eyes watching the Wind Guardian. “So, why the sudden change of pace?” asked Alen. Sazara looked at the young man and gave a little laugh. “Did you not hear the explosion?” asked the Wind Guardian. Alen cocked his head to the side and caught the explosion in the distance. “You mean that one?” he asked and the Guardian nods his head. “You must be wondering what the explosion is and why I made you all hurry here, to the base of the mountain, are you not?”. Alen and the others looked at each other. “That was the sound of the Unknown assassin who attacked you back at the port town of Humi” explained the weary Guardian. He let out a breath and watched to the sky as another explosion erupted, closer than before. “The Unknown is coming for you, Alen” said the Guardian. “Thus, the reason why you must hurry and see the sage” the Guardian flickered. Alen and the others watched in awe and horror. “What’s happening?” he stepped forward, hands stretched to the Guardian. Sazara looked at himself. His hands and body fades in and out, translucent before solid, transparent before translucent and repeating. “It looks like I am at the limit of my power” he smiled. “Hurry, young Alen, we do not have much time, the Unknown will soon know of this place and they will come for the seal. We must not let them get it” said the Guardian. “But-” Alen’s sentence stopped. The Guardian was gone, leaving the four standing at the bottom of the great staircase.
“What do we do now?” asked Eliza with a tinge of fear inside her tone. She looked behind her as another explosion erupted.
Enil looked to the mountain. “No point wondering now, let’s go” he said and looked up the great staircase. He sighed and steps onto the staircase. “This is going to be a long way up” said Kalvel and he followed Enil up the staircase. Eliza followed her father. Alen sighed. “Let’s hope this won’t disappoint” he said to himself and jumped to steps at a time to Enil’s side.
“What do you reckon the sage will say?” asked Enil out of a sudden as they broke halfway through the staircase. A huge white door stood magnificent at the end of the stairs, stamped to the wall of the mountain waiting for them to arrive. “I don’t know” said Alen, his eyes fixed to the door. The explosion behind them erupted closer followed by a powerful gust of winds. “But I’m not going to wait any longer” and he rushed up the stairs, leaving his three friends behind. His feet felt light and the air around him was fresh, as if renewing his energy every time he breathes. Alen leaped up the staircase and stood in front of the door. The city lies behind him, a large circular structure of black stones, walled into the island like a huge prison. Alen stood with eyes to the delicately ornamented door and placed his hands onto it. The door creaked and opened itself, revealing nothing beyond it, like a huge mouth. Alen looked behind him to his friend as they walked towards him. He turned around without saying anything and walked inside. Enil stretched his hands to his friend only to see the door closed in front of him, leaving him, Kalvel and Eliza out on the great staircase looking at the city down below.
“Now what do we do?” said the young man.
Kalvel shrugged. Eliza turned to the city, watching the gray sky as sunset came and the moon rose to the sky like a faded face. The city was silent, without the chattery of humans nor the chirping of birds of the roar of animals in sight. It was dead.
Eliza grabbed her arms with her hands, shivering at the coming chill. “Where are we going to stay for the night?” she asked. Enil and Kalvel looked at each other. “Maybe we should head back down and see if there’s any house we can borrow” said the young man. Kalvel nods followed by Eliza and they walked back down the great staircase towards the empty prison. Enil gave the closed door another look and glance at his golden gauntlet. It stopped glowing and he could no longer feel the energy flowing from it. “What happened to you?” he asked in a whisper to the gauntlet but only the chill evening wind replied his question. Eliza shouts to him and Enil snapped back to reality. He jumped the steps and rushed towards the girl.
Alen walked inside the darkness without aim or destination. He did not know where to go though his heart tells him the place is safe, he felt no safety in the dark. Alen tries to grope his way but he felt nothing. His heart began to flutter. Fear began to snake its way into his mind as it race trying to justify what its body was doing.
“Young seal bearer...” a voice floats in the darkness, faint like a whisper. It echoes back and forth Alen’s ears. He looked around the cacophony of darkness but saw no one.
“Young seal bearer...” the voice echoes again. Alen stopped and closed his eyes. The fear in him grows but restraint by the thought of him alive. His grips his sweaty palms and played with his fingers. The voice rang through his ears again, calling for him though he could not sense where it came from. Alen stepped forward with his eyes closed. His heart forced him to grope but his will held his hands from moving. He let himself drown in the darkness, taking it into him like meeting an old friend and he embraced it.
Slowly, the darkness around him lifted and a brilliant light of gold as brilliant as the sun pierced through his eyelids. Alen winced and felt the darkness seeping into him, the ethereal feeling of the darkness turns into the feeling of being, of existence.
Alen stopped. His heart resisted the darkness and pushes it away, banishing it back to the crevices where light shied away, to the shadows where no lights touch, leaving emptiness in his heart. Alen felt the warm trickle of water that drops down his cheek. It pulls him back to sanity and he opened his eyes to see a room. It was empty save for the lone man sitting underneath the only source of light. The walls were clay and gloom but intricately adorned with murals and carvings of people like designs.
“Young seal bearer” said the lone figure with his back at Alen. Alen walked closer to the light, cautious in his steps. He eyed the walls, reading the murals only to find them as mesh of peoples over peoples and animals over peoples. “Please, sit” the lone figure gestured for Alen to sit looking at his back. Alen did as he was told and ran his eyes at the old man in rag sitting hunched; his shoulders sagged, with a hood over his head. “You are the sage of Kliph, Oroff” said the young man. The lone figure’s shoulders jumped as he laughed at the words, his voice was old and heaving for air. “Yes, I do suppose I am the sage of Kliph” he said.
“Come, young seal bearer, sit in front of me, I am an old man and I can no longer move myself nor see very well” he said. Alen stood and walked to face the hood where the face of the old man hides and sat himself down, watching the bleak darkness underneath the robe. “You...” he paused, trying to find the word to describe the old man yet he could not. The old man laughed at Alen’s try. “I am an old man, young seal bearer, so old that my face no longer exists with me, only the glitters of my soul in my eyes are all that’s left of me. Even these frail hands will soon wither” said the old man. “But that is not why you are here, is it, young seal bearer?” the old man turned his head to the walls.
“You are here for your destiny, just like many others before you.”