I took the folded piece of paper from the pocket of my tattered robes. My traditional sherwani had torn in both the the armscyes, and was covered in dust and debris. My body sore and aching, had not fared much better than my clothes. My hands had small cuts. My neck was sore from it whipping back and forth. And to top it off, my head ached from where it had hit the side of the deck. I was finding it hard to concentrate, and the early morning rays of sunlight were killing my eyes.
I unfolded the paper and stood up from where I collapsed. All around me was ruin. The mighty airship, the Windracer was demolished. A massive stone wall created through magic had fallen from a considerable height, and crushed the mass and deck. It continued into the hull, killing all those trapped still in their quarters. Once the battle on the deck had ceased, I had mercilessly clawed my way through the rubble. I had collapsed among the debris when I saw the remains of Roshada’s personal quarters. They were no more. She was no more. My strength was ripped from me at that moment from the realization of her mortality. But now as I said, I was once more on my feet.
I brushed the tears from my eyes, it mixed with the dust to form a thin mud across my face. I looked at the words on the paper. They were written by my own hand. Though magic could had been easily used to enchant a pen to write it for me, Master Kihnsed had always insisted that I write the old conventional way. This was to teach the virtue that magic was to be reserved for the benefit of others in helping the greater good, not for personal gain.
I read the first three words in my head. With the third word, a surge of emotion passed over me. I felt weak in the knees once more, but caught myself before I fell. The memory of her made me recall the previous day, which now seemed a lifetime ago.
My heart race with anticipation as I waited in the gardens, a slip of paper in one hand with an iridescent blue emblem of a crest with a crystal. In my pocket, I had a second slip of paper with a handwritten scrawl. I paced back and forth nervously.
Only hours ago I had been in the Golden Tower of Baalgor Island studying in the great library, an extension of Arcanus Hall in Weston. I was searching through a magic book that Master Kihnsed had left me the day before. He was gone now. Actually, he wasn’t REALLY gone, but his memories of me and our time together were mere thin threads poorly sewn into a bleached tapestry. Eventually, everything he remembered of me would be gone. Blown away by the winds of time, just as the desert winds blow through the heated lands wiping it clean from all debris. This is as he told me it would be. Master Kihnsed felt he needed to prepare me prior to his transformation to becoming a Living Rune Weapon. He would be reborn into a powerful weapon, retaining his inner character, moral principles and virtues, but his memories would be bleached away. Thus, the master I knew would die. I had been looking through a book he had left me in a large trove that he willed to me in his last will and testament.
I had been searching something important in the book and few other books I found in library. Along with this book and the other belongings in Kihnsed’s trove chest, he had given me a pure blue crystal. I held it in my hand. His last words to me came to my mind, “Find the stone’s mother, and then help its ward. Your path will be revealed.”
He had said this only minutes after telling me that the elderly Gosai I knew as my parents were not my real parents! In fact, somehow Kihnsed had a recollection of events throughout my life in detail, despite the fact that I had never told him before. It was as though he had been there, watching all along from a distance.
This twist of events left my mind puzzled. When I asked him to explain more, he gave me this crystal and message, then closed his door. He seemed constrained to tell me more. I was left befuddled on his doorstep on the eve of his Becoming.
Why had he waited until this very moment to tell me this? I felt that even though I had spent the last 20 plus years studying under his tutelage, I knew nothing about the old man. And now that he was gone, I never would. So, I went to the books to find answers, since Kihnsed only left me questions. It was there in the library that I received her message.
A guardsman dressed in black head to toe in the traditional face veil and turban of Fikir Tayfa approached me. He walked swiftly, yet softly across the stone floor of the library. A curved talwar hung from a leather belt covered by a dark cerulean cloth sash about his waist. The sword swung back and forth as he walked.
When he reached me, he produced a slip of parchment from his sash. “This is from the mistress, Roshada.” He handed me the paper, clicked his heels, bowed, then retreated back from whence he came. I mused how Roshada used her personal guard for menial tasks better suited for a courier. Her father, Ambassador Narakosh, the current ambassador of the mysterious land of Fikir Tayfa, had instructed his daughter many times that task such as delivering letters or trimming flowers in her garden were clearly not meant for those of the warrior caste. And yet she demanded her guard to do them, despite her father’s disapproval. It was her way of rebelling against the traditions, which she had grown up in. Also, I think she thought it amusing to subjugate these men to these tasks.
The slip of paper had been folded in a single fold and sealed together with golden wax bulla. The seal was stamped with the shield of Fikir Tayfa. The crystals embossed into the shield shimmered blue atop the golden wax, possibly through enchantment. I broke the seal and opened the note:
“My Dearest Tadje,
“I have pleaded with my father that I may stay here in Baalgor, so that I may stay here with you. But, this is not to his liking.
“We must meet in the gardens. I wish to spend my last hours in Baalgor with you. I will be free from all obligations of state matters at 10 minutes after 2 in the afternoon. Please meet me there.
“With my love,
I gently closed the note. It still smelled of her perfume. I drew it close to my nose and closed my eyes. I imagined the first day we met where she nearly knocked me off the skywalk connecting two of the towers of Arcanus Tower in Weston. Apparently, she had been in an ill temper from an argument she had just had with her father.
She had stormed out of the hall to get some fresh air. Unfortunately, I was on the other side with my nose in a book, just as the door swung open. It knocked me back and over the railing. I would have fallen several stories had I not caught one of the marble spindles of the banister with my feet.
She realized what she had done and quickly pulled me up. She pulled so hard that as I came back over the rail she fell backwards bringing me along with her. I toppled on top of her. Embarrassed, I tried to get back to my feet. As I did we met eyes. Time just stopped in that moment. I became lost in the enchantedness of her golden eyes. She was angelic.
My heart now ached that this would be the last night I would be with her. I quickly sat back down at my table, and cleared away my books. Kihnsed’s questions would just have to go unanswered for now. I produced a piece of paper from my leather satchel where I kept this journal and the bizarrely enchanted book on fumemancy Kihnsed had given me. I began to write….
…An hour later, I stood waiting in the garden anxiously. Roshada’s message was in my hand. What I had written was secretly but gently tucked in my pocket. Roshada entered the garden. The same guardsman that delivered the note was standing behind her. He stopped at the entrance, and allowed her to enter alone. But his eyes were ever vigilant.
“Tadje! I wanted to see you so badly. All those meetings have been such a bore. Saying goodbye to people who only pretend to know you is so tiring especially when all I wanted to do is be here with you. I am sorry I am late. Did I keep you waiting long?” She asked this with a smile in the corner of her mouth. She enjoyed knowing that I had waited anticipatedly for her.
“Yes, my love.” I said with playful pretense in my tone. “I have been waiting ever since I received your note.”
She giggled gleefully over the jesting sarcasm of my tone. Her rich smile spread to her whole face. It warmed me to see her happy. I reached my hand into my pocket to draw out the words I had written: my last goodbye. I wanted them to be special like the ring Roshada had given me the week before when she first learned she would need to return to Fikir Tayfa.
“Can’t you come with me?” She asked half jokingly, and half wantonly. She knew I had my studies to finish here at Arcanus Hall.
Her question took me by surprise. Not because the answer would be no, but that it could be yes. I thought for a moment before answering. Kihnsed was gone. I really was not attached to Baalgor Island as I once was. I had no obligations. Everything I needed to study with I could take with me. Kihnsed had given me his special rug that connected to a familiar dedicated to tending to his house and library back in Berkay. Kihnsed would use this rug to be able to gain access to his vast library. As he knelt on the rug and concentrated in meditation he would magically call to his familiar. The familiar would then search the book Kihnsed desired and relay the information telepathically back to its master. Along with the rug, Kihnsed had left me instructions how to use it, and the true name of his familiar. I could take this anywhere and still be able to research the books needed to continue my studies in wizardry.
I pushed the paper deeper into my pocket. With resolve I answered, “Yes. I will! I will go with you. There is nothing left here to keep from you. Kihnsed is no longer my master, and I have no family. To be honest, I could stand for a change of scenery. The scholars are beginning to drive me to boredom…”
She did not let me finish my dissertation. Her face lit up with excitement at “Yes”, and she beamed ear to ear. She jumped on me and squeezed tightly around my neck, nearly causing me to lose my balance. “You really mean it? I must tell my father at once to see if it is even possible.”
“How is it that you always seem to knock me off my feet and take my breath away, Roshada dyar’Narakosh?” I said in a weakly voice. She broke free, allowing me to breath.
She straightened me up and put the tips of her fingers seductively under my chin. “It is because I am your princess.” She then tapped me on my nose completing her spell of playful seduction. “Meet me back here. I will go to my father to ask him if you can come with us. He is in a meeting, but I should be able to return at the fourth hour of noon.” With that she took my hands in hers and drew them to her cheek. Then pulled me in close, and kissed me. My eyes closed in reverie as I enjoyed the sensation. Before I opened them, she had flitted away towards the entrance of the garden. She raced across the flagstone walkway like a giddy butterfly, zipping right passed her guard. He quickly turned, trying desperately to keep soldier-like posture, yet still keep close to her heels. “Good luck,” I thought humorously regarding the guardsman.
The time flew by as sometimes it does when you are in love. Her father okayed the proposition of me giving up all to live with them in Fikir Tayfa. The next thing I knew we were aboard the magnificent sky-vessel, the Windracer, headed for the skyfast city of Belfast. I had only seen Belfast from the ground growing up on the streets of Galilee in Berkay. It was a sight to behold. Nonetheless, I had always dreamed of how magnificent it would be to walk through the gates of the sky-city. Today, I would get that opportunity.
From the deck of the Windracer, I looked back at the towers of Baalgor. I saw the familiar walls of Arcanus Tower in Weston, which we were just passing over. Then, I gazed upon the iconic Golden Tower still maintained for thousands of years since the island had been transported here to Regnum oh so long ago, bring the Founder races along with mine and Roshada’s people. I contemplated that journey to a new land. Regnum had come a long way since then. The signing of the Accord being one of those pivotal moments that brought this change.
Next, I followed the horizon to the North to Northton. There I saw the modest Towers of the Civilian. To the South stood the impressive Towers of the World Committee standing as a beacon of truth and justice, virtues Kihnsed made sure I lived before his Becoming. I then looked off into the distance across the Island of Baalgor to Easton to see the stalwart alabaster spires of the bastion of hope, known as the Towers of the Holy Dawn. But they were obscured by darkening clouds of a storm front coming in from the eastern sea. A chill ran down my spine, the cold wind filled the sails propelling us faster toward our destination. We would be missing the storm.
“Cold, eh?” Asked a voice from behind me.
I turned to see a jetblue Arudanni standing behind me. His head was crowned with a set of black feathers that shined in the golden light of the setting sun. These black feathers decorated the tips and broadness of his folded wings in a speckling pattern. “Uh, yes.” I said a bit startled from being caught up out of the moment.
“Forgive me. I did not mean to startle you. Name’s Rem.” He shot out a scaly hand from beneath his cloak of jet blue and black feathers. I did the same extending my hand of friendship.
“I am Tadje. Sa a’hied felorum.” I greeted him instinctually in my native tongue.
“Ah! You are from Berkay! Said ahead fey lorem.” He tried to parrot. I lightly chuckled, smiling at his gesture to be friendly, but his inability to say it correctly. “I don’t see much of your kind up here.”
“Oh, I mean no disrespect, gov. It’s just that Gosai typically prefer the warmth of being closer to the ground. You don’t have the privileged gift of the Welkin-Mother, Sheenova, the Aruda Goddess.” He extended his arms and unfolded his wings to their fullness with a slight turn of his body. The insides of his wings were a most impressive bright blue. They were magnificent! I could not help but show my awe of the full beauty of his display.
“You like?” He asked. “Then here.” He flicked his wrist and snapped his fingers. From out of thin air a full length cloak seemed to pour from his hand like water. Once it was fully created, I noticed a subtle greenish shimmering flash that spread quickly over the entirety of the cloak. He handed me his creation. I took it. It was made entirely of feathers of various shades of green, and dusky browns and cimarrons. The inner lining was of bright emerald green feathers. I felt them. They were of the softest down. I looked up. He could tell I was beaming.
“Ya’ like it, eh?” The generous bird-man asked. “Put it on. It will keep you warm even during the storm.”
It was if I was waiting for him to give me that permission, as this was one of the finest gifts I had ever been given. I did as he asked, slipping my right arm first, then around my back and through the left armscye. It fit wonderfully and felt so warm. I pulled the collar close to my neck.
“May Sheenova ever bless you and your family, Rem!”
“You are too kind. I wish wizards as yourself would show that same gratitude towards my brother.”
“Wizard? How did you know I…?”
“I notice many a thing, my brother-in-magic.” He interjected.
“Well then, may those of magic be kind to your brother, too.”
“Ah! Now that is something I could drink to! Shall we go down to dine? I believe they are all starting.”
I had forgotten all about dinner! I was so caught up in the moment of leaving Baalgor that I forgot that I promised to meet Roshada prior to dinner. “Yes, yes. Let us go.”
On board were many dignitaries I met while we dined at the ambassador’s table. One, a daedal scholar stayed close to the ear of ambassador Narakosh. He seemed to be able to see through my efforts to hide my rough past, ignoring my attempts to fit in with the higher class. He did not share with me his name, as he saw that I was just scum. Yet, it was not hard to learn he was called Emerson, as he did not refrain from letting all the rest of the upper classmen know it. But I did not let his arrogance stop me from meeting the other dignitaries.
Roshada and I sat across the table from someone I had only heard of in news stories that arrived to Arcanus Hall by magic pigeon. To confirm her identity, I leaned to Roshada and whispered, “Is that the Lady Leena?”
“Yes, introduce yourself.” She whispered back.
Remembering etiquette in that moment, I straightened myself in my chair. I brought my napkin to my mouth and elegantly (as possible) used it in both hands to wipe the corners of my mouth. Then cleared my throat to speak, leaning forward towards the lady across the table.
“I do not wish to gawk anymore, thus it behooves me to endeavor the mystery of your persona…” I gave a little shrill from the pain caused by the quick kick to my shins from Roshada’s pointed boot. I looked over at Roshada a bit annoyed. She was smiling politely back at me, but her eyes were staring daggers. I realized that I was trying to imitate Emerson who was sitting to the left of ambassador Narakosh at the head of the table.
I looked back at Leena. “Excuse me. It sometimes pains me to use such formalities.” I emphasized the word pain. “Forgive my curiosity, but are you Lady Leena of the nefarious battle of the Galvin Necropolis?”
“I am. And you are?” She responded politely.
“Ah, yes. I am Tadje al’Qudura, wizard apprentice of the Once Kihnsed Tal’Kihmshahid.”
“Pleasure to meet you, master Al’Qudura. The Lady Roshada must be in good hands to have an apprentice of the venerable Tal’Kihmshahid.”
“You knew Master Kihnsed?”
“Who does not know the great Tal’Kihmshahid?” She asked rhetorically. “His exploits as an Arcanus Guardian Janissary in the Free Islands have made his name renown throughout all the Twelve Realms of Regnum. He singlehandedly rescued the Vilgard ambassador’s daughter. She was only 18 years old at the time. Furthermore, no one will forget the events of Northton at the base of the Towers of the Civilian. Tal’Kihmshahid set up a wall made of golden vines with silver thorns. The wall not only protected the entrance of three demons into the Council of the Civilian, but it was made to twist around the depraved triad and crushed them into oblivion. For this reason the Tal’Kihmshahid Gates of the Tower of the Civilian were constructed to resemble this golden and silver-thorned wall wrapped about three demon heads. Two of the sculpted heads hold the golden ring knockers for the doors. Tal’Kihmshahid along with eleven other diabolists and rune makers engraved the massive set of doors with powerful magic that now protects any further penetration from those of the underworld.” I felt sheepish that I was not aware of this part of my master’s life; yet, honored that he was my master.
“And of your exploits?” Wishing to change the focus off of my master. “Would you care to share with us a tale of your adventures at the Galvin Necropolis?”
The Lady’s mouth opened as if to speak. I noticed a single tear fall from her eye and glide down her cheek. “Forgive me, m’Lady. I did not know it would upset up. Though much was gained that day—-more were lost. All would have been lost if not for the brave that fought, and the courageous that fell. Our thanks shall be eternal.” I touched my hand to my forehead and brought it forward, palm upward: a gesture of gratitude in my country.
“Master Al’Qudura, you are too kind.”
“Please. Call me, Tadje.” I stood up and bowed. From the corner of my eye, the daedal scholar broke free from Ambassador Narakosh’s ear for just a moment to view the act of gratitude.
“Tadje I shall ca….” Lady Leena was interrupted by a bursting open of the galley door. Just before the cold blast of wind shot through the door and down the table, a gray furry blur unmistakably wearing a scarlet scarf bolted in and underneath the table. The first two patrons at the end of the table jumped up out of their chairs with a yelp then sat back down. Then the next pair and sequentially down the table like a wave. At every other place setting a black paw crept up with precision and dexterity and stole some food to be devoured beneath the table. It was there, and then it wasn’t. This happened until the wave reached our settings where a raccoon suddenly presented his head clothed in red scarf. It eyed me precociously. He turned to Leena, then jumped up on her lap in full bipedal stance. Roshada shrieked with glee.
“I’m a pirate!”
“Yes, I can see that. But where did you get the scarf?” Leena inquired patiently with the talking raccoon, as a mother would speak with a child. I could now see the full length of the the scarf. It flowed down the raccoon’s shoulders and passed its tail.
“I found it. I needed it to be a pirate.” He sniffed the air. “This smells good. Can I have some?” He quickly jumped to the next subjected.
“Rascal, I can give you some fish. But you have to put the scarf back where you founded, or else I will have to put you in the box.”
“Rascal like fish. Rascal no like the box.”
“Then you need to give the scarf back to who you took it from.”
“Okay, Rascal put it back when he done being a pirate. Can I have fish now?”
“Lady Leena, it is fine. I do not believe my father minds that one scarf goes missing. Especially if he learns on who stole it.” Roshada suggested kindly.
“See! Rascal like green lady. She is smart, and has eyes like a goat. Rascal like goats. They make delicious milk, and are fun to ride. Leena should listen to smart green girl.” Roshada blushed and laughed.
“Rascal! Do you need to go to the box?” Leena scolded.
“It is all right. Rascal, I know, meant no offense. He was just giving a compliment.” Roshada said kindly to Leena. She turned to the raccoon with a humble bow of her head. “Thank you, sir for your kind words.”
“This is incredible. How is it that he is able to speak so affluently?” I asked in amazement of the talking raccoon.
Rascal looked over at me with a raised eyebrow, then put his slender fingered paw up to his mouth to give Leena an aside. “He is not as smart as the green lady.” He tried to whisper, but clearly said it that all could hear. Emerson snorted a haughty laugh from the head of the table, then returned back to conversing with the ambassador. I felt cheekishly embarrassed more from Emerson’s jeer, but kept composed.
“I can see that he is quite the witty one. Would you like a piece of madukamelon candy?”
“Candy?!” The raccoon perked up to even taller. “Yes, yes, yes!”
“Leena? Can he?” I asked respectfully, not wishing to over step.
“Yes, I’ll will take one too. Our trading company imports madukamelon from Galilee ports, yet I have never tried the candy.” Rascal scurried beneath the table to my side. He popped his head out right into my lap. Then put out his paw.
“Be polite, Rascal.” Leena chastened.
“Rascal sorry. Candy…PLEASE!” Rascal corrected.
“Here you go.” I dug out two piece of candy from my pocket brushing my hand next to the note I had made for Roshada in the library. “One for you. And one for the Lady.”
Rascal snatched them up and bolted underneath the table. “Rascal!” Leena chided then cleared her throat as a reminder. The raccoon’s head popped out again, and quickly said, “Thank you.” He retreated once more. I smiled. Leena vocalized her approval of her familiar’s manners. He hurried off in a flash after giving his master her piece to reaffirm his mission of piratism and shenanigans.
We traveled in luxury aboard the Windracer. After three days of travel, the ship’s lookout, a dutiful young Arudanni Boatswain’s Mate Skyman, spotted the floating city of Belfast at the first light of dawn. I ran to the deck to get my first glimpse. I must admit. I could not see anything toward the western horizon for sometime. But sure enough, it was just as the Skyman described it. The earthen spires came into my view. The dawning sun coming from behind the ship scattered its rays of light on the red rock walls of the city of Belfast like a fiery stone moon against the azure backdrop. It was stunning. Its rusty red visage warmed my eyes, despite the brisk morning breeze against my neck. I pulled the Conjurer’s cloak of feathers close to my neck to block out the chill so that I could take in the sight a while longer. Rem said that the cloak would last through the journey, then it would be gone. I wanted to take advantage of it as long as I could.
Roshada joined me at the bow of the ship. She too was wrapped in a cloak, but her thin bare legs were uncovered just below the middle of her thigh. I pulled her in close to the cloak of feathers to be warmed. One of the feathers on the breast of the cloak bristled her mouth. She pulled away, wrenching her face from the discomfort of getting a feather up her mouth. I apologized. We then had a good laugh together.
Soon we docked. The captain of the Windracer, Captain Vrajai Akshay, a retired Guardian Naval officer that now only did contract work for the World Council, barked the order to outfit the plank walk. The crew moved with synergistic coordination, carrying out the orders given by the captain’s First Mate, Parlo Zanshariff, a gruff Zaranceti that seemed more comfortable in the sky than underwater, and was not afraid to use the whip. The sails were trimmed with haste, and tied with the precision of several hearty knots that only a ropesman like myself could appreciate. Finding it hard to resist. I grabbed one of the loose ropes, and tied it down just before an Apprentice Skyman could tend to it. Captain Akshay noted my work.
“Mighty fine knot!” He spoke firmly, but jovially. “You could make a fine crewman if you ever chose, Master Gosai. I always have room for another Petty Officer on the bridge.”
“Thank you for the compliment, Captain. But I have given up that life long ago. I chart a different heading now.” Looking over at Roshada absentmindedly. “You have a fine crew though.”
The captain noted my glimpse. “And she be a fine ‘heading’ to fix your compass to, m’boy!” He wacked me square between the shoulders with the broad of his palm, and gave a hearty laugh.
I assisted Roshada in disembarking. It felt good to be on solid ground again. Though Belfast was not truly solid ground, the magic that held it in the sky was rooted deep in earth magic and rituals giving the whole mass of rock and city stability and constance. The drop from over the side of the dock was several miles down. It was a bit nauseating to be too close to the edge. Roshada kept trying to look over to see the ground below. I on the other hand felt we should be more cautious.
The sky-harbor was a bustling place of commerce. Ships even in this early morning hour were coming and going. Roshada noted the various levels of docks at the main port. She described it as a wall several hundred feet high (or deep, depending on your perspective) with bridge-like docks protruding from the red rock wall. There were various large portholes hewn from the stone where from which each dock extended. From across the sky-harbor about at our same level, I saw several Arudanni docksmen open one of the large wooden docking bay doors of another dock. Once open, two birdmen began turning a wheel that allowed the dock to extend out from the door. No sooner did the dock reach its full extension when a skyship rendezvoused with the end of the dock.
We turned from the harbor and headed into the city. It felt more like a normal city as we moved further away from the edge. Though I was used to heights having had to traverse them as a streetrat growing up in Galilee, I was not used to mile high heights where the air was thin enough that it made you a light more weak in the knees.
As we perused the streets of Belfast, Roshada and I were not alone. The stalwart guard that had delivered Roshada’s note to me four days before was following us like a shadow. He politely gave us some distance that we could carry on a conversation in private if we whispered. But he did not stray far from us. It was his duty to stay close and he carried out that very well.
Roshada, being the strong-willed woman she was, felt that the bit of distance between us and her escort guard was not enough. She gave me that look that made me get swirls in my stomach. She wanted to break for it, and was trying to pantomime to me if I approved. You do stupid things when you are in love. And today was no different. I gave a sheepish smile to affirm her non-verbal request. At the next vendor tent in the bazaar we saw a break into an alley. Roshada grabbed my hand and bolted for it! Adrenaline surge in our veins enhancing our sprint. We weaved in and out of back alleys and walkways. I looked back. We had lost old Iron Pants. I pulled on Roshada’s hand to drag her to a stop.
“I…think we…lost him.” I said between breaths.
“Isn’t this fun!” She said excitedly clearly with no labored breathing.
I rolled my eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. “It’s…a blast.” I puffed fibbingly. “I think…we best get back.” I finally was able to catch my breath.
“What’s the matter? Afraid to be alone with a girl in a dark alley in a strange city?” She asked flirtatiously coming in closer to me with her golden eyes hiding even more sensuality than her lips.
“Uh? Pretty much yes…to all of it.” I smiled at the last part. She did too.
“All right.” She consented. “So how do we get back?”
I looked around. In the heat of the moment I failed to do what I normally did when in a new part of a city. Having to move around a lot in Galilee with the rest of the Fox’s Fist gang I had to develop a good skill at finding my way back through the city’s maze of back roads and shanty alleys. It was an invaluable skill that my dodger mentor, Pha’Aryn the Fox made sure I learn. Boy, how he’d ream me now.
I started down one of the alley ways trying to get my bearings. Dead end. We turned around and saw a man in the shadows. I quickly pulled Roshada behind me. “What do you want?” I asked hastily.
“You should not wonder off in a strange city.” His voice was clearly familiar. He stepped into the light unhooding his cloak. It was old Iron Pants. I sighed a sigh of relief. The guard looked at us both disapprovingly.
“Hendiresh, we were just playing around. Tadje and I meant no harm.” The realization of what we had done…what I had done was beginning to set in. I had just taken the ambassador of Fikir Tayfa’s daughter away from her armed guard. I might lose my head for this. Roshada knew this as well. Thus, she was trying to pass the blame to herself.
“I was wrong, Hendiresh.” I admitted. “I accept the consequences of these actions.”
“No, Tadje! I made you do this. This was my idea.” Roshada pleaded.
“But I should have stopped you. It is my duty to protect, not to place you in potential harm despite your own choices.”
“Very well then.” Hendiresh said coldly. “I will put this in my report to Ambassador Narakosh. Come now. The ship is this way.” We followed the guard without another word. The walk back to the Windracer was quiet and slow.
I was locked in my quarters for the duration of that evening for my actions in the city. I paced my room pensively, not knowing my fate. As the reason for our trip to Belfast was of a formal nature, I was not being dealt with swiftly. The ambassador was attending to more pressing matters of state. Thus, it surprised me that he came to my quarters. He dismissed the guard from his post that he might speak with me privately.
“Tadje. Is it true what you have done with my daughter, that you left the protection of her armed escort?”
“This is true, Ambassador.”
“Is it still true you wish to give up everything to be with her? Would you marry her if you were given this chance?”
“Lord, this is all true. But I fear that I cannot marry her. I am not worthy of her. My past would not allow it.”
“The Tal’Kihmshahid has told me of your past.” A cold pain passed through me to hear this truth. “But, he has also named you as his only heir. He thought very highly of you, Tadje. As does my daughter, Roshada. Take heart. Not all is not lost. If you will give me an oath, my daughter’s hand may be yours, and your life spared.”
“Name your oath, lord, for it is MY oath. I make it now with you. What would you have of me?”
“Boldly descanted and forthright though of an impudent temperament, I do say.” Said a voice behind the open door. Emerson the Daedal scholar stepped into view, but made it clear not to step into my quarters. “The rapscallion hides nothing and risks everything without knowing anything. I see weakness, Lord Ambassador.”
“Weakness, may it be, master Scholar. But, I find strength in following Asha’s path.” I stated. Emerson simply eyed me over again. Turning once again to Ambassador Narakosh I redoubled my commitment. “What would you have of me, lord?”
“In one years time, show me that you are worthy of my daughter’s hand, and she is yours.”
I bowed my head. I looked at Emerson with fierce eyes, “I give you my word, Ambassador.”
“Well, first thing is first. You need not call me Ambassador any longer. Fikir Tayfa now has a new ambassador. He is young like yourself, but wise. He was just named in our latest meeting. I am now absolved of this title. You shall follow the newly instated Ambassador Bumi as part of your oath. You will meet with him on the morrow.”
The emeritus ambassador, the scholar and the guard all left me alone in my quarters. I dressed down and readied myself for bed. I took myself through my evening ritual of washing my feet and saying my nightly prayers. Just after I ended my last prayer, there as a knock on my door.
“Come in.” I said calmly.
Rem opened the door just a crack. “Just checking if everything is secure here. My turn for watch.”
“Hey Rem!” I said delighted to see him. “I wanted to thank you again for the cloak.”
“No prob. Anything I can do to help. Is it still around, by the way?” He asked. I pointed to the wall by my bed where the cloak hung on a peg.
“It is still looking good. Does it really have to go away?”
“Yeah, most things I create are only here for a few hours. That cloak took a bit more energy to make it stay as long as it has. Well, I need to keep checking the rest of the ship. Enjoy!” Rem closed the door and left me again in silence.
I got into the bed and drifted off to sleep.
At about the second hour of the night I woke up to an alarm! Someone was ringing the warning bell that was positioned on the deck near the helm. Something was wrong!
I jumped out of bed throwing on Rem’s cloak of feathers. I raced out of my quarters. My room was nearest to the stairs leading up to the deck. I jumped the stairs three steps at a time. Just before I got to the deck a purple flash of light pulsed like a wave across the ship. I hid myself, not knowing what was going on. I peered from the stairs to get a better look. A dark man dressed in sleek black armor and sharp creased black robes stood on the deck with a large gnarled black sword in his hand. The blade was stained with blood and it continued to gently pulse this same purple light. Five of the ambassador’s Janissary Guardians lay fallen on the deck. One of the fallen lay with his face looking at mine. His eyes were glazed over, lifeless. None of the bodies seemed to be covered in large amounts of blood.
From atop a perch in the rigging, Rem swooped down with an emerald green conjured spear in his hand. The spear had just finished taking shape when he attempted to thrust the tip into the dark intruder. The black-swordsman recognized Rem’s attack, but did nothing to even stop it. He just let it hit his armor, which the spear did not even penetrate. He simultaneously thrusted his own weapon’s tip into the descending birdman. There was a purple flash again.
Rem did not even make a whimper. He slid down to his knees, the black blade driven through his torso and out his back nearly a foot. The dark intruder remorselessly pulled the blade from the Arudanni and began to turn toward the stairs towards the quarters. Just before I turned away to hide myself from his encroaching view, I saw the white essence trail from Rem’s face and enter the sword. Rem was gone. My cloak of feathers shimmered with that same green light as once before, but this time it was a little bit brighter.
I quickly, but quietly ran back down the stairs. I needed to find Roshada, and make sure this intruder did not harm her. I found the door to her quarters and burst it open. The room was empty, though the window was open. I ran to the window hoping to find Roshada trying to find safety away from the ship, but I found nothing. Footsteps ran past the door of Roshada’s room. I heard others battling the intruder. It sounded like the intruder was not alone. Others must had boarded the ship with him.
Formulating somewhat of a plan, I scurried out the window and began climbing the side of the ship. It took me a while to reach the rail to the deck. Once I did, I saw the black-sworded intruder and some of his minions battling Anrir the Living Rune Weapon along with Leena and one who I could only assume was the new ambassador, since Anrir seemed to be protecting him. From the battle scene I looked up and saw a dreadful sight. About thirty feet in the air, a stone wall had formed. I only had a second to react, because I knew what was coming. I dug my claws deep into the wooden walls of the ship. CRASH!
The whole ship lurched in towards the wreckage in the center where the stone wall had smashed through the deck. The wall crushed most of the intruders. But miraculously Black Sword was nearly unscathed. The stone wall continued to descend through the hull of the ship disabling the magical apparatus that allowed it to float. The ship suddenly began to fall. Fortunately, the fall was mitigated by a second ship docked immediately below the Windracer on a lower dock. The abrupt crash and stop of the wreckage of the Windracer nearly knocked me from my hold. Nothing was beneath me at this moment from my position. I looked briefly down into the murky blackness of the night from the zenith of our height in the skycity. My grip tightened even deeper into the wood. I pulled myself up onto the deck just as Leena, Anrir and Ambassador Bumi fell from a portal created right where the Windracer once was.
Bumi attempted a sand trap on the Black Sword. Leena tried to put him to sleep with a Cloud of Slumber. For a brief moment Anrir entangled the dark intruder’s weapon. But he was much too powerful from them to handle. Just as Black Sword was about to smite Lady Leena, a portal opened up beneath him and he was gone. The other Living Rune Weapon protector assigned to the Ambassador then stepped out from the wreckage. She had sent the intruder away.
I continued reading the words aloud. My hope was that wherever Roshada was beyond the veil that she would be able to hear my words of love and grief:
“Thy eyes, Roshada, are as the dew drops of the golden sun.
They captivate my heart, my soul they’ve won.
“Thy lips, Roshada, are as the petals of a ‘Ssurian rose.
Their touch to mine, all’s lost in sweet repose.
“That night, Roshada, e’er now it lasts in sacred memory.
I’ll ne’er forget your touch’s serenity.
“To wish, Roshada, and let my heart speak its single most desire
Like Guillandae’s love ours would never tire.
“Yet now, Roshada, the Fates have forced us now to be apart.
So this I keep your ring a token near my heart.
“Of me, Roshada, I so plead to you, keep me close to thine.
Yet though apart your love like Indurin will shine.”
Written by the hand of Tadje Al’Qudura Rope Weaver
In ‘The Writings and Learnings Woven in Time: A Personal Reflection and Apprenticeship in Rope Casting, the Lost Art’
On the 4th of Vahishta, in the year 10K and 2 A.T.
Dedicated to Victor Peterson: A Tal’Kihmshahid to me
Picture of Ruined Windracer by daroz-d , cloud effects added using GIMP
Picture of Emerson by FoxFeather248
Picture of Rem by missmonster color changed by MGH
Picture of Letter by MGH , parchment taken from here