By dabeagle - Chapter 10
The yellow orb flew at me with amazing speed, I barely dodged it. In fact the hairs on the back of my neck stirred with its speed as it zoomed past me. I grunted as my abused ankle flared in pain. The orb stopped mere millimeters from the stone wall of the cave and hovered as I struggled to regain my footing. The orb slowly approached me, a slight pulsation becoming apparent as it closed the gap. Small yellow rays began to appear, spikes of pure yellow like a childs drawing of a bright sun began to dot the surface of the orb. It began to spill out, closing the entrance to the cave from retreat, unless you wanted to pass through the wall it was making and I figured I would not want to do that.
A bright beam of yellow shot from the glowing wall and lanced into my already damaged ankle. It felt as though my ankle were suddenly on fire and I rolled quickly away from the yellow beam, but it tracked me as though tied to the ankle itself. The wall began to fade as the yellow poured itself into me and no matter how I moved, the beam never broke contact. I tried to stand and crumpled to my feet as the beam acted like a lasso, dropping me in my tracks. Energy seemed to drain from me and as I drifted into unconsciousness, I noted that my ankle felt better.
I drifted into wakefulness, unsure of how long I had been out. My head hurt just a bit and I coughed, a few wisps of noxious black fumes escaping my mouth. I must have been healed, but by whom? I slowly regained my feet, eyes casting about warily in the gloom of the cave. I cast my gaze about to assess the situation, noting the firm surface my feet stood on. The orbs continued to glow upon the wall, Yellows, Greens, Reds, Blues, and some that appeared to be as if burnt out light bulbs.
I slowly approached, taking note of the Yellow orbs that were dimming, waxing and then waning, waxing more softly than before, then waning once more. I felt the blue pulsating, felt it right in my temples and thrumming to the beat of my heart, which I might add was somewhat rapid at this point in the day. I drew water from the air around me and formed a shield to guide my way deeper into the cave, not wishing to tempt the intelligent wind just outside the mouth of the cave. I slowly moved deeper, following the glow cast by the orbs and hoping against hope that there was a way out on the other end, that the light I had seen pulsating was an exit and not the headlamp of an oncoming train.
I looked down to my relief, seeing no tracks or ties beneath my leather shoes. I walked carefully forward, the orbs continuing to glow and the blues in particular stayed in time with my own hearts pace. I moved deeper into the cave, carefully eyeing the glowing orbs. The light at the end of the cave began to outshine its smaller compatriots at last, as I broached the entryway to an antechamber, a huge cavernous space with an orb as wide as I was tall. It was clear, glowing serenely as it floated in the center of the room. A light breeze flowed around the room, warm and cool tendrils flowing together.
I walked about the orb cautiously, unsure of its nature but quite sure I didnt want to irritate it in any way. Over a period of several minutes it dimmed to a steady, pale glow. I took this time to examine the room, and allowed my shield to drop as I did so. Scenes appeared carved into the rock of the chamber, scenes of the power of wind. Houses tumbled, rock weathered away a grain at a time, and the gentle wind scattering seeds from dandelions and useful wind as it filled the sails of a tall ship. All this and more came slowly to life on the walls of the chamber, ships gliding across the surface of wind whipped waters and buildings tumbling to the fury of the raging wind moved in the stone chamber walls as if they were living things.
I turned my attention once more to the clear orb and saw that the interior appeared empty and an idea began to form in my head. If Asmodeans magic could be contained in orbs, could other magic as well? What if the orb was huge? Would that then mean the power contained within was proportional in comparison to the smaller orbs I had encountered? I moved closer to the orb and a soft light began to surround it. I could not say from where the light came, it simply was. I moved closer to the orb, which I was sure contained the power of Air.
Approach not, the orb is not to be yours.
I stopped and looked about in a sudden panic. I had seen no one since entering the cave, where could that voice be from? My question was soon answered as an opaque vision appeared above the orb, ephemeral and completely unreal it formed and lost shape, only to reform in a misty swirl.
Who .Who are you? I asked, trying to stop my knees from knocking together.
I am the guardian of the Air Sphere, the apparition intoned.
I licked my lips and tried to calm my nerves as I studied the guardian. A wide brimmed hat, something like what you would expect to see on a childs head as they played trick or treat, adorned his head. A filmy robe swirled about his insubstantial body, covering what would be his feet were he to have any. His face was not viewable, shrouded in mist and the brim of his hat.
Who is the Sphere meant for? I asked, surprised that I was asking anything at all.
The Wind Master will come to claim the sphere, he will assume the mantle before the shadows can break the earth, the guardian stated.
I digested this, and the fact that this being seemed to have no trouble parting with information, so I pulled up a water chair and prepared to question my new fountain of knowledge.
The city is just behind the house, Master, we can be there before nightfall
if we leave now, Amoro enquired of Kody.
All right, lets go see this city, Kody replied, trying to appear more confident than he felt. These people seemed to think he was akin to a deity, though a benign one, and he wanted to do nothing to shatter that image. Still, what was he to do with a buried city? One better, what about these people that he was supposed to free, according to Amoro and his wife? They were patently ludicrous, that was his thought.
We had almost given up hope, Master, of your ever coming to us, Amoro confided as they walked, we had been taught since we were but small children that one day the Quala would return and bring us life and hope once more. Stories tell of powerful Quala Lords that held the deserts back from the city.
Why did they leave your people? Kody asked, understanding that he would need all the knowledge he could glean.
Most agree we angered them, that we fell from grace by not honoring their laws, Amoro remarked.
You say most, what else do they say? Kody asked.
Some used to say that the Quala had grown weak and had abandoned the city not because we had displeased them but because they no longer had the ability to protect the city, Amoro replied, then hastened to add, but those were not so many.
Kody thought to himself as they trudged forward in the dust, hard packed beneath their feet. Finally they reached a rise and the view was depressing, and oddly beautiful. The wasteland stretched as far as the eye could see, no spot of green, indeed no growth at all could be seen in the vastness of the shifting tides of sand.
There were once spires, graceful arches of stone and miraculous fountains to feed the city, before the Quala Lords fled the city. We were taught war had come to the land, and darkness to the south. Maybe the darkness they spoke of then was the beginning of the shadows that grow longer in the south even today.
Kody looked at Amoro long and hard. The man was obviously worn from life, his leathery face showed deep lines and his skin was tanned well from a lifetime in the sun, but his gray eyes were clear and hard as stone.
How did you hear of the shadows, Amoro? Kody asked softly.
Our only son was taken from us some months ago. He was taken south, part of a small raiding party. He came back just two moons ago, ragged and not having eaten in days, Amoro hesitated before meeting my eyes.
He spoke of darkness, twisted creatures that looked like something one would scare their children with about a campfire, the rotting dead walking like live people.
My only son died to come home, he died telling us of the horrors the south was creating.
So, where is this city? Kody asked in an attempt to change the subject from the mans obvious pain.
Merriman once stood here, on this vast plain you see before you, Amoro gave Kody a bemused glance. He sleeps beneath the sand.
Funny, men always use female references when they refer to ships and whatnot, strange that you call this city by a masculine name, Kody commented as he surveyed the plain.
Merriman was a man once, a designer of buildings and cities. His dying wish was to let his mind make the ultimate city, to become the streets and the bridges, the handrails and the spires. The city still breathes, it simply needs someone to wake it, Amoro replied.
Dust devils danced across the sand, swirls of endless beach darted to and fro in front of Kodys eyes, and he thought to himself, fuck it, why not?
He felt the breeze starting to pick up as he manipulated the wind, feeding more and more of his will into it, beginning to excavate a dead city.
You must concentrate if you wish to complete todays lessons sometime today, Cyrix! TelJasin intoned warningly while Cyrix merely grinned and drew another arrow from the quiver on his back.
Yes, Master, he said with a smirk.
Insolent pup! TelJasin snarled.
As master says, Cyrix continued maddeningly, burning more of TelJasins already short fuse.
Master says he is going to slap the teeth from your fool farmers head if you do not concentrate on the task at hand! he snapped.
Cyrix drew, loosing four arrows in the space of a breath, landing three in a small circle, and the fourth dead center betwixt its mates.
Does that meet masters approval? Cyrix tried to refrain from smirking. TelJasin merely nodded.
Why must I continually loose these arrows, Jasin? Cyrix asked seriously.
Because our time draws short, soon we must depart this place for there is much for you to do in this life, Cyrix.
Will you tell me nothing of where we are to go or what I am to do? Cyrix asked.
I do not think that is my task, I am a merely a defender, he replied.
You are my friend, you are all I have dear to me in this life! Cyrix replied with fire in his voice and his breast. Few truths of this life that I have learned are that all life truly promises is pain, and that when happiness comes we must enjoy it for its own sake while it lasts. Family and love do not simply belong to people who share our blood, so please Jasin, if there must be ill news or if unpleasant truths are to be spoken let me hear them from a mouth I trust and a heart I love!
TelJasin stared at Cyrix, thunderstruck at the force of his words and the implicit meaning. Cyrix stood before him, a simple man with wide shoulders, a clear brow, and pleading eyes. Eyes that TelJasin found he was unable to deny.
Let us walk, and I will tell you what I know, TelJasin stated as he began to walk, trying to keep those trusting and - dare he say it! - loving eyes from his own.
Legend is all we know anymore of your kind, Quatar have not been seen in this land since time immemorial, even for those as long lived as we are. Quatar once flourished, cities grew and people existed in peace for many, many rings.
Quatar were thought to be immortal, they would even outlive the woodland elves, and we believed this because they were part of the planet, working the wondrous power of the good mother to ensure good crops and prosperity for all peoples.
What happened? Cyrix asked.
They were not immortal, the planet was not an inexhaustible supply of energy, and she rebelled, many times with deadly results. Towering waves washed seaside cities into vast oceans of rubble. The deserts rose to take back their territories and the fields were broken by the anger of the land. When the fury of the planet had abated, no Quatar were left to be found and the peoples had to learn to live on their own again, many not knowing how. Some fell to unsavory practices from desperation or the desire for power over others.
Elves retreated to the West Wood and the Great Glen, claiming it as their own and over time the other peoples avoided those places. They tell stories of haunting, of the trees driving travelers out of the forest.
Like what you did to those creatures that attacked us? Cyrix asked.
Yes, like that. For many generations we have defended the Wood and the Great Glen from outside eyes, but now I fear war is coming once more. The trees pass information, some of their cousins to the south have fallen silent in the breeze, no longer chattering about the goings on of the kingdoms to the south.
Is this the source of your uneasiness and short temper? Cyrix questioned.
Yes, that is a large part of what has me in ill humor. More is the Prophesy of the Quatar, he replied.
What does the prophesy say?
TelJasin inhaled deeply, and turned to face the eyes that controlled him and the face that made his dreams a carnal playground.
That the Quatar will bring peace, that there will be five and that they will come together to scourge the planet of the darkness that will rise.
That doesnt sound so bad, Cyrix replied, looking steadily into the Guardians eyes.
They are to join as one, the Quatar will cease to be their own entities so that they may save all others from the shadows. They will die for us, TelJasin whispered.
If I am to die, then it is beyond what I may control. Already my heart beats on borrowed time, time that you gave me, Cyrix lowered his eyes before raising them again to meet those of his mentor, I would spend what time I have giving what love I may while grace still gives me the chance to do so.
I am not sure, TelJasin began.
I am completely sure, Jasin. If you do not share my feelings then tell me to go, but if you do share my feelings then please give me what you can of yourself until my time has come! Cyrix cried out in desperation, sensing that TelJasin was slipping from his tenuous grasp.
I Dont want to lose you, Jasin whispered.
Nor I you, but I would choose to spend each remaining beat of my heart near your own, Cyrix replied as he leaned closer and softly kissed the Elf, clumsy in his simple ways but more than making up for it in sheer truth, for his love was real and at last he felt some peace wrapped in Jasins firm embrace.
He looks to be too delicate for labor, assign him to the manor house, the Master at Arms intoned to his steward. The lad was pushed forward, hands still bound after having been taken from his village. His tears had dried eventually, though the guards had teased him of his long hair and fine, delicate features. Many stories will tell of great beauty, of the swell of breasts and the fullness of lips but they always make one flaw. The nose may be too large, the profile hawkish, nose hair growing free range all the way to a bodys navel.
This lad was as fine porcelain with hair like fresh honey from a comb, strands streaked by the sun running from his crown. His captors had declared their lust, the remarks that they had never seen a prettier boy and that they would enjoy using him as you would a woman.
This was nothing new, for a time the boy had made his life being taken by men with solid coin or women with full cooking pots. It was true he looked too fine for difficult labor, but his muscles were exercised and fit under the taut skin that covered them. He had been in the village only a few days when this raiding party had rushed in, taking what they wished and removing all the able bodies from the village to the city proper.
He had been sold into slavery in a public auction, stripped as if an animal and displayed as though a freshly caught fish. Only the simplest of robes covered his nakedness to this point, but for even that he was grateful for that which hid him from hungry eyes. The steward delivered him to the main house, directly to the waiting ministrations of the House Mistress, a wide woman that he was now trying to keep up with.
You shall address me as Mistress while under this roof, do you understand? she intoned.
Yes, Mistress, he replied.
You will be cleaned once per day, always in the morning with the exception of today, you stink so you shall be cleaned now, she intoned.
Yes, Mistress, he replied, secretly relishing a hot bath. Mistress stopped so suddenly he almost ran into her.
Were you ever taught to clean yourself, boy? she asked, not unkindly.
Yes, Mistress, he replied.
All right, go on then, in there and be quick about removing that filthy robe. House livery will be brought straight away.
Yes, Mistress, he murmured as he stepped through the door that was indicated to him. He stepped through the doorway into a small room with a rough hewn tub, horsehair scrubbing brush, and a cake of soap on a small footstool next to it. A fire glowed in the fireplace, a pot hanging over it. Water was the contents, and he added it to the tub quickly, and dropped his scratchy, dirty, ill fitting robe to the floor and climbed into the hot water.
Relief cascaded through his being as the water soaked into his skin and wore away some of his aches. He quickly lathered the cake of soap and scrubbed at his dirt encrusted skin. His favor was always strongest after a good scrub, and perhaps he could curry some favor with his new mistress should he clean up well enough.
A serving girl in livery entered the room quietly and kicked his robe into the fireplace, landing it squarely on the glowing coals. New clothes were laid upon the stool and she scuttled out. After pausing long enough to assume a modest position with the serving girl, he resumed his scrubbing as he was sure this bath would not last long. He paid special attention to his sore feet and to removing road dirt and grime from between his toes and under the nails.
Mistress reentered the room with a rough towel.
Stand up and dry yourself, you need to be inspected, she said in a businesslike tone. He stood obediently and dried himself thoroughly, being careful to not get water on the floor outside the wooden tub. He stood, nude, in front of the house mistress as she inspected him, looking for sores or other potential health problems that might prevent him from being used as a house man. She inspected his feet carefully, and his legs. He was told to bend over and grab his ankles whilst she checked for worms and finally his hair was inspected for grubs and lice.
You seem to be in fair health, with the exception of your feet. They are somewhat damaged and you will place medicine upon them in the morning and each night before you sleep, she intoned as she moved to a shelf in the back of the room that contained small tins and earthenware jars. She picked up a small tin and walked back to him.
Will you put some clothes on and stop flashing your wares? she snickered and he had the good sense to blush.
The days passed and he slipped into a regular routine, and all in all it wasnt as bad as all that. He was fed daily, performed basic functions to keep the house clean and ensured the master of the house was attended to. At night he lay on his pallet and listened to the guards gossiping with the chambermaids.
Then there were the few things that truly vexed him, two things to be precise. Regina and Santana. Regina was a pretty, if plain, chambermaid who flashed her doe like eyes at him more often than she blinked in a day. Truly, it was worse than the hungry look he received on streets under candle light for she saw not a common streetwalker, but a future husband.
Santana was a strapping lad of perhaps twenty two with broad shoulders and fiery red hair, a rarity in any land that he had traveled to yet, and he moved his loins like no other had before.
Balthazar, are you awake? Santana spoke to him from the pallet next to his own.
Yes, Balthazar replied.
So, are you going to try and sneak out to see Regina? he asked.
No, San, I am not.
Why not? She is only just a bit plain, but she has an ample shelf to rest ones chin on, and she has hips to bear sons, Santana giggled. Here was the true vexing, as Regina wanted Balthazar, Balthazar wanted Santana and Santana wanted Regina.
If you fancy her so much, why do you not sneak out to see her? Balthazar snorted.
Because she takes your breeches off with her eyes, not mine, he said and Balthazar could picture the sad look upon his face even in the dark.
Perhaps if you didnt stutter so when she walked by, she would be more interested in your breeches, he replied with a smile in the dark, knowing that Santanas shyness was quite amusing for a man his size.
Its difficult to speak to her! Santana hissed in the dark.
Why then is it so easy for you to tell me? Balthazar asked.
I am not trying to bed you! Santana chuckled.
Oh, how Balthazar wished he would try, just once. He knew in his heart of hearts that all it would be was a momentary comfort as there was no hope of Santana loving him the way he needed to be loved. Still, he was kind to him and Balthazar knew taking care of a friend was most important, especially in these strange days when villages disappeared and new Duchies sprung up as if by magic.
As he drifted to sleep he was awakened by the sounds of swords clattering and
the shrieks of combat.