By dabeagle - Chapter 11
That was the first cognitive thought Kody had as the sun burned into his just opening eyes. Every joint screamed as he tried to lift himself from the ground, a small breeze stirred the dust into his face and he coughed, his body surrendering to the urge to lie back on the ground. He coughed once more and willed his body to respond, which it did, aching in protest. He rolled over and sat back on his butt, eyes slowly surveying the area around him. It was barren, small twisted trees grew in ragged clumps, other than that there was no vegetation to speak of.
Dust was king.
The sun beat down mercilessly, but the wind drove a chill through him and the flat earth offered no resistance to the wind. His tired mind ached for relief, for some knowledge of why he was here but nothing would come. He thought hard, trying to concentrate on the last thought he could muster to his mind. Aaron. William and and Roland, always Roland. Marcella, the princess arriving and Roland was to marry her.
Nooooo, Kody wailed as reality crashed in on his mind, the blind escape he had made from the chambers he was meant to be caged in. Asmodean had warded the room, but in the end his fury had been too much for the charms and he had ridden the crest of earth to he had no idea where he was. His body ached and he was hungry, other than that he only had his anger and rejection for company.
Slowly his aching legs allowed him to stand and he moved towards the nearest clump of trees. He was parched and he sat heavily in front of the small stand of trees, coughing in the dust as it rose up around him. The sun rolled high in the sky, a lazy yellowish ball that was losing its consistency around the edges. He sat and breathed slowly, trying to catch his breath.
I stole out of the castle in the wee hours of morning, it was the only time I wasnt watched since they assumed William and I were in bed together. It was somewhat awkward, and I think William realized that something was changing. Our lovemaking was passionate like it had never been, wild like animals and alternately gentle as falling snow. At last he had fallen asleep and I dressed in silence, and in the dark. I kissed him once on his forehead and bid him farewell, a solitary tear falling on his lips before I made my escape through the windows.
The heavy drapes drowned the sound of my feet hitting the ground and I was up and moving through the courtyard. I made small balls of water and tossed them past the gate guards, drawing them to the noise and allowing me safe passage, and unknowingly allowing them their lives as I slid past. I made good time as I drew away from the conquered city of Caralill and made my way to the forest outside of town. I suppose I looked sort of silly, crouched over and sliding along on the early morning mist, veils of the water droplets trailing behind me like a sporran.
Feeling that I was far enough from Asmodean not to be caught, I made a sled of water, making use of the surrounding fog, and leapt on to ride in search of Kody. The trail was dead cold by that time, his residual energy signature faded to nothing more than infrequent bursts of power. I wanted to scream in frustration, where could he be? Where would he have gone when he was a stranger here? I continued to move, vainly searching for the residual pockets of energy he had left behind. Asmodean had been going to track Kody but the King had forbidden it, despite strenuous objections. The king thought Kody no more powerful than Asmodean, despite strong declarations to the opposite, could defend them from, and therefore not something to worry about.
I knew better. They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but what about a man who just lost everything? In my opinion someone who feels they have nothing to lose is far more dangerous. I continued to search, but it was useless, the energy pockets were too far apart and I had no way to chart how they lay. If only the earth stayed disturbed when you made a ripple, then it would be childs play to follow. This was not the case, however, as the earth healed itself in a manner of speaking, smoothing out the evidence of its violation. I began moving in a zig-zag pattern in an attempt to catch the next pocket of energy while scanning for buildings that might be able to tell me where he had gone.
Kody, where did you go?
Kody stood on his aching limbs and looked about for some form of shelter. With a great deal of effort he got the dust to avoid his line of sight and scanned the horizon for a likely destination. If this was a desert he knew when night fell he would likely freeze. In the distance he spotted what looked like small cottage, weather beaten and worn down till the wood was bare of paint or any other decoration. More importantly, there was a hand pump out front, which meant water.
Gathering what little strength remained in him, he guided the dust under his feet and held himself aloft, floating like a ghostly corpse from a haunted house book. He slowly closed the distance to the run down little building, taking in the nearly ruined fence and the way the wood was polished, probably from dust storms. His approach did not go unnoticed as the front door swung in on its hinges and an old couple stared from the gaping maw of the front door. Drawing to a few feet from them he finally spoke, in a rasping voice.
I require water, he intoned.
Of course, master, the old woman hopped to getting a pail and the old man set to working the pump handle, a dry grating noise was all that could be heard as the pump struggled to operate. At last the gurgling of water in a pipe could be heard echoing from the mouth of the pump, and water gushed forth in a torrent. The old woman proffered the bucket and Kody dunked his head in gratefully, the coolness of the water lowering his temperature and adding a bit of life to him. He greedily sucked in the water with his head still under the surface, then coughed some of it up when he came up for air.
Easy, master, musnt overdo, the old woman said tentatively.
I need need to rest, Kody murmured and the old couple merely nodded meekly and pointed the way to the door, which Kody floated through into a small room, where he lay in a heap, unconscious.
You must feel the forest around you, it responds to you as if you were one with its wishes. Feel the tree as it stretches into the soil, subsisting from the nutrients it provides. Feel each root as it grows deeper into the soil. Become one with the branches and the leaves, feel the sunlight as it nourishes and warms each small piece of greenery, the soothing voice washed over Cyrixs conscious thoughts as he slowly traced each root ending down in his mind, wiggling down to the very end of the deepest root and then moving through the intricate vein system of the tree until he reached the warmth of the sun hitting the leaves, and then the wind coursed through the branches and suddenly he felt the movement of all the leaves, each a shimmering shade of green, warm on the surface and cool on the underside. So much input made the experience almost overwhelming.
Yes, Cyrix! Feel the power of the forest as you grow to a second tree, and then a third!
Cyrix followed the instructions and stretched his senses, initially feeling nothing, and then the experience was tenfold as the tree next to the one he was concentrating on began to provide him with input and then it was too much and he opened his eyes in alarm, all the input suddenly gone.
It is a great gift, and a great weight you carry, Cyrix. It will not all come to you at once, Mirra, Praetor of Lilliandre intoned to Cyrix, who now had a headache.
It was amazing, I could feel each leaf, I could feel it like a many linked shield, constantly moving and growing and dying all at once. New shoots and old leaves, the power of the growth and the bitter taste of the end of life, Cyrix shook his head in wonder.
Cyrix, you have practice this afternoon. Do not suffer the body to wither while nourishing the mind, TelJasin said to the still recovering Cyrix.
Yes, I am coming, he said as he slowly regained his feet.
Morning meal first, then you must become more proficient with the bow, he told his apprentice.
Yes, Master, Cyrix replied with a grin while avoiding a swat from TelJasin.
Ill master you, once we are on the range, little human, TelJasin growled at his young charge. They walked in amicable silence towards the cook fires and found themselves a meal, eating slowly while sitting beneath the boughs of a great oak, leaves chattering in the wind and branches sighing in reply as parents would to their chatter box offspring.
TelJasin, how old are you? Cyrix asked while studying his mentors face.
If I were a tree, my face would have nothing more than ringed circles for you to see, he snorted in reply.
I dont understand, are you teasing again? Cyrix responded.
Would I tease you? My favorite student? he laughed in reply.
I am your ONLY student! Cyrix whined.
Oh, yes, thats true, TelJasin gave Cyrix a not so apologetic look, I forgot.
You MUST be old then, Cyrix responded.
Does my age matter to you? TelJasin asked after a moments silence.
Only that it tells me more of you, Cyrix snickered as he added, Master.
If I tell you my age, will you stop calling me that? TelJasin demanded. He had long ago realized he could not force the boy to do as he wished in this department, he was determined to fulfill his fool idea of a debt.
I may, Cyrix smiled.
Then I may tell you. In the meantime, to the range since your leaf is empty, TelJasin intoned, noting the oversize leaf that acted as a plate in this instance.
Defender, I would share your counsel if you could find a moment, Mirra said as she appeared from behind the tree they leaned upon.
Of course, Praetor, he glanced at Cyrix, I shall meet you on the range.
Cyrix loped off in the direction of the archery range happily, planning on improving his skills to impress his mentor and gain his favor, and perhaps his favors as well.
I trust his education is progressing satisfactorily? Mirra asked as they began to walk.
He has a keen eye and a quick shot, however he is impatient and impetuous, he replied truthfully.
So were you, defender, some rings ago, she replied.
He doesnt have a ring to learn, he may not even get a small arc. Will he? TelJasin looked deeply into Mirras face, searching for the truth of his words in her expression.
Jasin, dearest brother, you know much that you should not. Are you sure the leaves do not hold counsel with you?
I see it in your eyes, I see the sorrow as you look at my apprentice. His time is short, is it not? he asked, no longer able to look in her eyes.
He sets something wild in your heart, does he not? Mirra asked softly as she turned from his face.
My heart is not at issue, Praetor, TelJasin replied stiffly.
But my brothers heart beats faster, and this makes me filled with joy. Our people have some small hope with Cyrix, but his power is stronger when influenced by emotion, she replied. TelJasin tried to master his features but found that the more he tried, the more his sister could read on his smooth face.
This is not the time for a relationship, he is destined to die, is he not? TelJasin replied in frustration, all I might hope to build would be doomed. Have you not seen this?
I have seen what may yet come to pass, but the future is uncertain, ever changing. We may yet influence the course of events.
But the prophesy foretold, the Quatar would give themselves to save the green from the Forever Winter, he will die! he ground out while squelching the tears that threatened.
Quatar have not been seen for a millennia, their ways are foreign to us. Sometimes, dear Jasin, the truth you hear is not the truth that is.
You speak in riddles, he murmured uncertainly.
I speak the truth, I speak it plainly for the truth is unsettled for the future. The here and now, that can be controlled. Seize this day, this chance for happiness. It does not always come again, even for those as long lived as we are, she replied placidly.
I do not know that I have had such thoughts as you suggest, TelJasin whispered as he refused to meet her gaze.
His heart is yours for the asking, she whispered in return.
Do the trees tell you this? he snorted as he met her gaze with some hope on his face.
No, the trees do not need to tell me what Cyrix himself does say. She smiled, I have duties, as do you, I believe, Defender, and she drifted away to leave him with his thoughts.
Kody groaned awake and opened his eyes into slits in the gloom of the small room he found himself in. His neck hurt from the mattress of sorts he slept on, thatched straw didnt equal the feather mattresses hed become used to, and there were no arms to encircle him either. Slowly he opened his eyes a bit further and sat up slowly. The room was definitely small, no windows but a small shaft of light streamed through the uneven crack between the bottom of the rough hewn door and the floor, which looked to be covered in dust save for footprints that stopped short of his makeshift bed.
He sat up in the dimness and his eyes further adjusted to note the thick layer of dust on the floor and the grime on the walls, obviously a disused room. The straw pallet had done no more than give him thin protection from the dirty floor beneath, and the straw wasnt what youd call fresh, sweet smelling stuff. He stood slowly, head and neck aching but otherwise unharmed. After a good stretch he stood and headed for the door, opening it slowly to find the old woman nodding in a chair outside the door. A guttering candle stood beside her, whispering as the flame jumped and flickered.
His first step onto the old floorboards had the womans eyes wide open and she was on her feet, head slightly inclined to him in a show of respect. He attempted to make himself stand as straight as possible, the woman obviously deferred to him for some reason, probably because he had floated into their home.
Would the Master care to eat? she asked quietly, respectfully. Kodys stomach growled in response and she had turned before he had verbally replied. He followed her down the narrow hallway that quickly let out into a small kitchen. Small, rough hewn chairs stood about a shabby table and a banked fire gave warmth to the room as it waited under a misshapen copper pot. She stirred the embers, waking them from their warm hibernation, and set them to heating the pot. To the side was a smaller carafe- looking device that bore strange resemblance to a tea pot.
Strong tea will help Master with his strength, the old woman murmured
while she worked. Rough metal cups were placed upon the table, misshapen like
the pot that was preparing a meal that was beginning to send Kodys stomach
into fits of desire. The tea pot- like container was removed from its place
and hot liquid filled the cup. The woman looked at him with a mixture of humbles
We have no honey, Master, to sweeten the tea, she said softly, but firmly showing both shame and responsibility.
Thats fine, Kody said as he took the cup and sipped tentatively from the strong smelling brew. Mint lingered on the edge of his senses as the thin liquid burned down his tongue and to the back of his throat. The flavor was mild but pleasant and slaked his aching need for liquid. The woman removed a rough bowl from a shelf and dunked it into the simmering food in the pot, which he saw was a thin stew with few chunks of meat and small, withered vegetables. Nevertheless, he ate greedily of the soup which was bland by any accounting.
Not food fit for Master, but its the best we have, the last,
she regretfully told him. Suddenly he felt guilty for being so greedy with their
food and pushed the empty bowl away. She came to refill the bowl but he waved
Im full, thank you, he smiled at her and she came close to curtsying to him.
Whats your name? he asked.
Tesla, she replied, My husband is Amoro.
Thank you for feeding me, and giving me shelter. I needed it, he sighed deeply.
We were waiting, the last of those who waited for you, she replied simply.
Waiting for me? Kody looked warily at her.
You are Quala, your eyes betray you, Master. Prophesy tells of your coming, of the life you will bring to our people when only two remain, she sighed and looked at him with care worn eyes, We thought maybe the prophesy was wrong, yet here you are.
I dont .tell me of the prophesy, Kody asked of her.
Time out of mind the Quata people were buried, forced to breathe dirt
and watch their crops die, families starve as food and water became scarce.
Our ancestors angered the Quala protecting our city and he lay a curse on us
to be carried like dust on the wind until a new Quala would come to care for
us, nourish us back into life, she sat in the chair opposite him and folded
her hands diminutively.
The city beneath will wake with your thunder and the people that lay dormant will walk again, that is the prophesy, Master.
Where is this city? Kody asked, intrigued with the story.
Just beyond the hill, behind the house, she replied.
The suns rays began to shine through the cloth covered windows, just openings in the wall really, no glass being in evidence, and momentarily Amoro entered the room.
Good morrow, Master, he said to Kody before heading to pour himself some tea and leaning against the counter, such as it was. Kody studied the mans features, also careworn as the woman who called herself Tesla. White hair, what was left of it, rimmed his head and stubbly growth ran about his face. His eyes, grey and showing some mirth, fairly glowed at him. Tesla, by contrast, had steel gray hair and dark, bottomless eyes that were a complete opposite to Amaros light ones.
Good Morning, Amaro, Kody replied. He felt a sensation like an electrical current run through him, and he FELT his eyes begin to glow with the light of a Quantum Wizard before dimming and returning himself to his normal state.
Youll be wanting to see the city, Amaro stated as he caught his breath from the surge of power. All Kody could think was, What the hell was that?
After scanning the horizon I headed west, if for no better reason than the sun was still shining in that direction. The desert eventually gave way to a small mountain range by the end of the day. I stopped, shivering in the dying day, and headed for the base of the mountain, a gentle slope that turned suddenly into a sharp climb. Small, stunted trees grew in clumps near the base of the sheer walls and a sudden wind began to howl as I searched for some shelter.
The howling turned into a shriek and the wind began to drive me back towards the desert. Suddenly it changed direction and I stumbled, eyes narrowed into slits as I tried to see a way through the powerful wind. A large gust caught me off guard and knocked me off my feet, rolling me back down the bare hillock and to the edge of the mountain where the wind suddenly and inexplicably died.
The cold of the desert immediately began to chill my bones as the sun continued its daily swan song. For some reason the wind wasnt allowing me forward, which meant there was something it was protecting. Thats all well and good, but I need shelter, I thought as I shivered. I started up the hill again. The wind started as mild breeze, but by the time I reached the side of the sheer rise it had solidified to a raging wall again. I moved quickly to the rock face and pressed myself flat, trapped by the vengeful wind.
I edged to my left, uneven rock making the going even more difficult. Inch by inch I edged along the sheer, cold stone wall until I felt a ridge at the tips of my fingers. The wind moved even faster, whipping my clothes into a frenzy around me as my fingers drew me slowly to the recess, which felt more and more like the opening of a cave mouth. With a final gust the wind actually shoved me in the opening where I landed awkwardly and twisted my ankle.
Son of a bitch! I yelled out while nursing the pain in my ankle. Almost as soon as I stepped into the cave the wind diminished and it seemed to warm slightly as well. How odd, you would think that the mouth of the cave would be worse since the air was whipping right outside its entrance. I stepped gingerly into the cave and suddenly found the walls lighting with sconces, eerily reminiscent of the ones Asmodean had placed in the Keep what seemed like eons ago, small glowing orbs in yellows, blues, and greens. Reds glowed further down and a light began to wax and wane at the end of the cave, which looked more and more like a tunnel to me.
I stepped forward and the yellow orb shot from its holder and flew straight at me.
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