Chapter Thirty-Four

on July 2, 2010 in Evermist

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-Four

Narut touched Jaycn on the shoulder.  The older man had been nodding off as he sat his watch over Elias.  His friend slept like the dead, never moving, barely breathing.  Whatever the Engineers had done, it was slow working.  They said he would need several more sessions before he would be safe and on his way to properly healing.  Until then, Jaycn, Narut and the others had taken it upon themselves to watch over Eli.

“I’m fine,” Jaycn protested as Narut dragged him to his feet.

“You are not. You need sleep.  I’ll take this watch,” Narut answered him softly, but firm.  Jaycn grumbled as he left, but he did leave.  Narut settled into the chair beside Eli’s bed, wondering what the Engineers had done.  Everyone he talked to said the same thing; they were taken into a dark room and told to breathe deeply.  Soon, they found it difficult to keep their eyes open and the next thing they knew, they woke back in the infirmary, their wounds healing, pain lessened or completely gone.  The worse the wounds, the longer it took to be healed.

Eli had been among the worst.

Worried, Narut reached over and pulled the blankets higher on Eli.  “It won’t due for you to catch cold before they can heal you,” he said to his friend.  “For now, dream my friend.  Dream of your Millie…”

* * *

Elias did dream, but not of Millie.  He saw before him a golden wood where everything seemed to glow as if powered from within by ephemeral light.  Above him, a canopy of unfamiliar leaves was the only sky he could see.  Beneath his feet, the grass was soft and moist, coming just to the top of his ankles.  He moved through the grass until his soft leather boots touched an impossibly ancient stone, one of thousands forming a road twice as wide as any he’d ever seen.  Above him a blue sky replaced the canopy of leaves and a bright sun caused him to blink and squint.  Looking South, he saw that the road stretched nearly to the unfamiliar mountains on the horizon, cutting a swatch through the Great Forest surrounding him.  To the North, it disappeared into that same Forest, swallowed by trees older and larger than he was used to seeing.

He had a feeling that he needed to keep moving.  Since he saw nothing to the South but imposing mountains, he chose the Northern route and began to walk.

The city was hidden in the Trees, or a part of the Trees, and yet was of the stone as well.  It didn’t make sense, but it did.  He shook his head, closed his eyes and looked again.  His eyes tried to focus on details, but everything seemed to blur, fade and resolve again.  It caused his eyes to burn so he looked down, noticing for the first time that he held something in his hands, something made of wood.  He tried to remember what he was supposed to do with it when someone touched his shoulder and there was a spark-

“Xanh!  Xanh come quickly!”

Xanh smiled, placing the Bak’al’nos back in the cradle on his workbench.  The neck was coming along nicely and he’d just completed the holes where the pegs would seat.  Alia tugged at his sleeve again and he turned, smiling at her.

She was a head shorter than he, younger by nearly six cycles and somehow, he’d inherited her as a follower.  His Father often warned that he had taken responsibility over her the first time he allowed her to trail behind him.  Xahn didn’t really mind though, as she always made him smile.

“What has gotten you so excitable?” he asked, fighting the urge to ruffle the tuft of hair between her horns.

“I overheard the An’lo’san talking – they say creatures have come over the Mountains of Kaskien.”

“Creatures?” Xanh asked, his curiosity piqued.  Pushing back his ears, he wondered what sort of ‘creatures’ the An’lo’san had found.

“The An’lo’san sounded worried.”

‘Worried’?  Nothing worried the An’lo’san – they were the greatest warriors in all the Forest!

The Kan’zo was bustling as he and Alia navigated through the crowds of buyers and sellers.  He saw three tables with interesting wares but Alia was insistent that they not stop, so he reluctantly let her lead him by the hand until they were walking up the Thien towards his Father’s house.

The An’lo’san standing guard nodded as they passed through the entryway and into the courtyard.  Xanh took a moment to make an offering to their house God, before walking around the pond and into the main house, Alia trailing behind him.

His Father stood with his back to the door, three An’lo’san standing on the points of the triad patterned in the tiles of the floor.  Each looked grim and travel worn.

“They walk on two legs like any good Eldar, but that is the end of any similarity between us,” one of the An’lo’san, Busuma if Xanh recognized the voice, was saying.  “Their skin is pink and soft, it colors under the sun.  Worse, they have no horns.”

Xanh looked down at his hands, at the gray skin there.  ‘Pink’?  His mind boggled.  And no horns?  Sadness filled his heart.  Such a deformity could only be a punishment from the Gods.

“They are smaller as well, much smaller – almost like children,” offered another.

“And they ride the demon Koshen,” said the third.

“We ride the Saln,” his Father said with a wave of his hand.  A long pause, and then a sigh.  “What do they do?”

“Nothing.  Yet.  The An’la’zia wait and watch.”

“As is their purpose,” his Father added.  Then another sigh.  “We will wait as well.  Let me know what they do, then we will know how to act.”

“Yes Paentar.”

The An’lo’san stepped passed them and Xanh waited until they were gone before clearing his throat.

“You heard?”

“Yes, Father.”

“We’ve no idea who or what they are.  I want you and the other Ahn’sa to provide a score of the horned Ashe each end day for the next season.”

“A score?!  Father – it will take every waking moment to produce so many!”

“I am aware, my son.  But we do not know who or what they are, and we cannot take chances, not again.  We will not have a repeat of the Shenz.  I’ll not see my people slaughtered for sport.”

“Yes Father.”

Xanh moved back into the courtyard, Alia in tow.  Somehow, the water in the pond looked less clear than it had a moment ago.

“What will you do, Xanh?”

“What I am told, Alia.  What I am told.”  A score a day!  How will we manage such a commission and remain sane?

2 Responses to “Chapter Thirty-Four”

  1. Clifton Hill says:

    Very interesting. Your story is truly evolving here. I like it. Though the early chapters were good, they are nothing in comparison to how it has begun to shape up. Keep up the good work. I look forward to more.

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