Excerpt for Crimson Chorus, From the Nine Kingdoms (Chapter 2) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Crimson Chorus, From the Nine Kingdoms

Chapter 2


R. Merino


ISBN: 9781370041480




This is an English version of the original: “Canto Carmesí, De los Nueve Reinos (Parte 2)”

ISBN: 9781310994104

Published: April 10, 2015


A cocoon that was guarding a humanoid figure, twisted subtly; producing sounds of the watery movements from inside.


The Arch took the knife and thrust it, without hesitation, at the head height. Penetrating and wounding the surface, he tore it with a vertical movement. The thick brown liquid spurted to all sides of the wound moistening the ground.


"Come, help him to breathe," said the Arch.


The disciple obeyed. He soaked his arms into the viscosity; took out a being soaked who could barely breathe due the amount of viscosity coming out from his nostrils and mouth. The soaking being fell on the ground and with desperate movements began to crawl; slowly, he calmed down when felt the warmth ground.


He stood up awkwardly; barely balancing himself.


The Arch and his disciple were studying him in silence.


He stayed like that for a short lap. Then, he walked just two steps; staggered a little but could hold him. He continued without a steady course, leaving viscous traces and staying away from both.


"Same as the others," said the Arch sighing disappointed.

***


II


The dawn arrived. It was the first bronze hour of the next day. Calmly, he woke up. When he opened his eyes the first thing that noticed was the sky, which for a few seconds he imagined of a leaden color blue but it was actually stony, reminding him that was inside the prison.

Ephesto was laying on the hard of the floor in a corner near the entrance. He made to remember everything that had happened the previous day. He felt no longer the injuries from his body and despite the hardness of the floor he had been able to rest. After waking up completely, he felt as if a shadow was watching him from the nearby corner. Aware that was the woman, he prepared a friendly smile to introduce himself; turned his attention to the direction indicated but, there was no one. He was alone in the room, apparently, but he could feel a presence, hidden and at the same time breathable, because it expelled a unique warm scent. He sat up and settled his back against the wall behind him, without feeling surprised.


"I can feel your presence ..." said Ephesto, smiling towards the corner, suspecting that was the right place where she was located and he wasn't completely wrong because there could recognize, almost imperceptible, a translucent figure marked in the air. "I wonder, for how long you can use your art to stay hidden?”


He waited for an answer, but received no reply. He stood up, and heard a noise; she had moved. He looked out from the window protected by metal bars, as shiny as Luca's chest-guard. He supposed it was made from the same material. In the background, the sand colored brown. He inspected the ceiling with a sneaky movement.


First time I stay in a closed place. It feels strange ...”


He returned his gaze and was surprised by eyes of violet pupils floating in the air and staring at him. It was an indifferent and, at the same time, a captivating look. He felt that was getting lost in the density of those eyes.


"You said your name’s Ephesto, isn’t?" was heard the voice of the woman who spoke with a seductive accent inside his head.


"I did it ..." answered Ephesto in a trance.


"The judge sent you?"


"Yes ..."


"Why did he send you?"


"He wants to help you ... I mean!" he managed to look away, feeling confused. "I was the one who decided to help you!"


During the captivating effect of the woman, Ephesto had felt the words come out against his will. “Master artist of captivating ... She can make you see things that are not, deceive your senses if you allow it or your will is deceived. She could use you to escape if she wishes, but as I mentioned, she will not. You must convince her to change her mind. That will be your primal goal ...” he remembered the information given by judge Aquilha.


Don't you remember?” Ephesto continued hesitantly. “I was the one who scared your captors, the one who threw the flame in the square. I thought you would take advantage of the distraction to escape ...”


The eyes vanished.


"I understand ... you don't trust me, because I haven’t given you any reason to do so," he sighed in relief. “It looks like we will be here for a while ...” glanced toward the window. “At least,” said suggestively, "we should exchange information to know each other ..."

***


In the merchant neighborhood some merchants began their crop day; others, neither late nor lazy, raised tents; and many others prowled the avenues. Among them was the hoary Veledden who seemed irritated, not because the limited competent of his assistant or the disdainfulness of his young guide, but a hangover, product of the last night's feast. He liked to alleviate his worries with ferments of low quality in taverns of low reputation. The consequences were always the same and his assistant Resso always handled to assembling the tent alone, causing delays.


Chief, you do not look healthy today,” said Resso worriedly, while using a rag to polish a pair of jars. “Do you want to rest a little longer? Zoria and I can deal with the crop.”


I ... No ...” said Veledden while was staggering because his sickness. “That girl ... just wandering around the city,” he groaned, this time was because his guide servant. “She didn’t even deign to appear,” he complained again holding his head. “No, I must stay to supervise this ...”


Let us trust chief," added Resso condescendingly. “Certainly Zoria is already on the way. Also,” he sweetened his voice fearing to his recklessness, “I am sure that discomfort will not progress at 1st golden-hour, contrary it will get worse ...”


He stared to his assistant with eyes wide open, remembering something.


I think ... just for this time I'm going to follow your recommendation ... yes, I'd better go and rest some more ... Aye ... I'll be well ...” said Veledden, retreating.


When Zoria appeared, Resso had finished the tent for the bronze-crop. He was attending his first client, who had bought a couple jars of palm-fruit oil, for the sum of 28 cooprou’s. He thanked him with a kindly gesture, which changed later to seriousness when he noticed the presence of his unconcerned companion.


What made you take so long?! Once again you entertained with your explorations?!”


What a night ...” said Zoria cheerfully. “It got me completely exhausted.” Had finished while was looking around as part of his strategy to minimize the accustomed scolding from his chief, who does it whenever she was late or unwilling to help; for her luck, she realized that the chief wasn’t. “And where’s the boss? Couldn’t get up?”


Of course he's up,” replied Resso as scolding. “But he decided to go to rest for a bit more. He entrusted us the bronze-crop.”


Us ...?! JA! Why do you include me? It’s supposed that you are the disciple here, the trader, the merchant, the ...”


And you're the guide,” replied Resso interrupting her mockery. “And don’t forget that from here you receive the payment for wandering around the city. And let's not talk about your nighttime distractions ...”


MMM ... You're right pal,” said Zoria shrewdly, then she investigated around as if looking for something. “What has been known about the flame-crafter?”


Flame-crafter ...? Still with that?! I thought you would tell me,” he changed his mood to interest.


I’ve just arrived. But it's strange ...”


Zoria silenced at once after see a customer asking for the prices of the jars and their contents. Resso disposed to answer.

His first suggestion was the big jars, which kept palm-fruit oil and sent a sweet aroma, but the customer wasn’t convinced by the offer, more for the price which was fifteen cooprou’s. He was demanding a discount, the same that was for a pair of jars. But, Resso wouldn’t accept it so easily nor would risk losing a client; charming him was as valuable as earning a single cooprou. That was the trading art, breaking the will of the customer before the agreed price and if it could, get a little more. Even masters in the art could get the double. It was not the offered item but the interactive way with the customer. Accepting the customer's request without even dealing was a symbol of an inexperienced merchant and that was disapproved upon all merchants. Resso had experience but sometimes the results of his transactions weren’t pleasant to his chief. He had to improve and every opportunity was a living experience, and he had to take advantage of it.


"You see, you're the one who likes good oils …" said Resso as seducing him. “Like the best ones. I know oils because I trade with them, but also, I know about good customers because I recognize them.”


“Are you sure?”


The customer was interested, he had been seduced.


"Yes," affirmed Resso. “Come, come ..." he whispered. “I have a jar of palm-fruit oil but it isn’t like the ones I have here ... although ... I do not know if you would be willing to pay for it ...”


“Are you trying to swindler me?”


The customer looked insecure.


You offend me, of course not. I would not risk losing a good customer. Really it is of the best quality ...”


"Fine ... and how much for it?" asked the client with interest.


"Well ... eighteen cooprou’s.”


What?!”


Be calm ... I will give you a discount.”


How much ...?”


Resso had finished the transaction. The customer was satisfied, for the surprise of Zoria who didn’t believe it.


You surprise me. You've managed to sell him an oil jar for eighteen cooprou’s.”


Sixteen.”


Two cooprou’s less than your first price tag?”


Well ... It’s a bit more than the fixed price.”


You're improving ...” said Zoria flatly.


And why are you so interested?” asked Resso as he put the rounds in his wallet. “It’s unusual from you.”


I'm not. It's just that you took me by surprise.”


I do not mean about the trades, but the woman and the fire stranger.”


Yes ...’ said Zoria remembering. “The woman ... When I saw her, I thought I had seen her before.”


Are you sure? Haven’t you confused her with someone else?”


Confuse her? HA. Even you were almost overwhelmed by her charm, I thought you would be the one who threw the flames through the eyes,” she said mockingly. “No pal ... That woman has an incomparable body; besides, don’t forget that I have a good memory. I'm sure I've seen her somewhere else ...”


Explain it that way, well I also open to doubts ... But all this isn’t our concern! Don’t want to use it as an excuse to leave your place and wander around the city ‘searching’. Leave that task for watch guilds!”


Right ... the watchers ...”


What ...? Now what are you plotting?”


"I must go."


Are you going away?!”


I'll be back in a couple of hours,” said Zoria, retreating.


Wait, Zoria! You haven’t heard me?!”


I'll be back before our boss returns ...”

***


Aquilha was inside the Main Building of the Sandean Militia that was located in Militia Perimeter, part of Right Wing of the Noble Neighborhood. He had arrived with intention to meet with General Solaris, main leader of the militia. Both, the judge and the general shared equal reputation; both dedicated to defend the kingdom interests with justice, however in a different way to apply it. The judge through careful audits and investigations, focusing on reasons rather than acts: “There are always reasons behind actions, as judge it is my duty to know them, to know who I am judging”, that was his slogan. As for the general, he was less methodical: “your deeds condemn you, the reasons behind, are mean less”. They were different but without impediment to work for the same objective.

The general wasn’t renowned just for his heroic deeds, also for his good-looking physique which couldn’t be found in any other sandean: elegant profile with long-golden hair, slender and ethereal youth. In addition, he had been gifted with each characteristic of the three sandean tribal-beings: strength, swiftness and cleverness. With this, the citizens affirmed that he had been created individually (that he represented a different race than those already known) by the deity Teradree.

The presence of Aquilha in the militia intrigued the militaries who witnessed his arrival, since these two leaders, the judge and the general, didn’t usually meet, not even because they resided in the same neighborhood. They only did so when the king summoned them to discuss important matters about the kingdom, and in those cases they treated each other with formality. On both sides wasn’t considered the word friendship. But, it wasn’t impediment to greet each other with a kindly gesture.


Why do I owe your visit, judge Aquilha?” asked general Solaris with his exaggeratedly masculine voice that contrasted with his elegant profile.


I am sorry to bother you, general.”


You do not. Kingdom matters are always a shared priority.”


That is why my apology, cause I have not come to discuss kingdom matters. It is more a personal favor.”


A personal favor?” inquired general Solaris, emphasizing doubt.


Yes,” said judge Aquilha.


I think I understand. Explain, how can I serve you?”


I would like to join a colleague to your memberships. There is no need to consider him as one more military; I just want him to be trained.”


Judge, you are well aware about my demand for the recruiting of new members. Before, they must pass the three military tests.”


And that is why I agree that he should not be exempt from such tests. But, I would like you to consider my friendship with him, at that moment.”


I will, depending on his skills. Do you have his certification?”


“Right here”


Aquilha left the scroll with Ephesto's information on the table. The general watched it, hesitating for a moment. In that short length of time, inside both minds worked out questions, ideas and answers. It was understood because they were experienced strategists, analytical par excellence, recognized by such behavior; they should consider being one step ahead of each other. None of them liked to take false steps or act irrationally. There was always a reason to consider.

The general decided to open the scroll and...


Name: Ephesto

Heir: Teradreean, Sandean

Genesis: Carmine Valley, Kingdom of Sandea, Anterior Scratch

Arts: Trading

Authorized by: Aquilha


... His face turned confused. He hadn’t found any kind of strange information on the scroll. But, the unusual request from the Judge, forced him to study every detail that could find in that limited information.


Should I refuse, Judge?” asked general Solaris shrewdly, letting him know that he would get to the bottom of the matter and that he couldn’t hide anything from him.


I would not consider it wise,” answered judge Aquilha, showing him a complicity smile.


Before accepting, since I am not clear about the purpose of this action, I must give you a warning that you must always keep in mind. If all this were to bring serious consequences to our kingdom, you as the king's representative before the citizens will be the one who mend the damage, and I will be the one to assure that happen. Have I explained?”


Perfectly”

***


Ephesto had been trying to win the woman's confidence. However, after he has tried with every possible way, like ask for help to discover the number of tiles that conforms the room, even try to imitate the carmines' sing to make her laugh, he didn’t succeed. Finally, in his resignation, he chose to tell her anecdotes of when he was under the tutoring of the Errant; those days when he did nothing but follow his mentor, helping him in what he could around the corners of Carmine Valley. Those days hadn’t been exciting adventures but, it could be found important information that Ephesto wouldn’t dare to share to anyone because his mentor had forbidden him, because it opened answers to many of the whys of his actions, and anyone who knew the reputation of the Errant, even a king, would offer to exchange it for the finest treasure.

He had dig out in his golden memories, realizing that during that vital period he had been spinning around in the same place, learning just basic things, and that didn’t bring him satisfying feeling.


So you're crimson?” she asked with interest.


Yes,” said Ephesto a bit fascinated.


Is it true that they are creations of the Errant?”


We are and don’t. Actually ... we are creations of the Fallen, but my mentor, the Errant, as many call him, has been looking for the recipe to return us as we were before. That is why the confusion.”


And who you were?”


I don’t, I do not know ... I do not remember.”


So, he hasn’t returned you to what you were before?"


No ...” answered Ephesto disappointedly.


The woman let be seen. Like a mist overlaid and well-detailed, her body began to draw slowly in the air. She wore tattered clothes, the opposite of the emerald dress she wore during her performance. Ephesto was remembering her in the other outfit, and certainly he felt disappointed. She appeared masculinity hiding all his physical attributes; although her suggestive look was betraying her. Both remained silent exchanging glances, she for suspicion and he for insecurity because he did not want to disturb her because he felt that he had already progressed. The woman stood up and looked through the window.


You're not like them, right?” she said gently.


Them ...?”


I mean your race.”


How do you know?”


I’ve heard that they are instinctive like beasts with the only difference that they cannot be tamed, and their appearance resembles like a hoarier.” The woman approached to him one step, and inspected his face following the hair. “But you ... are young ... and can understand ... The only resemble is the color of the hair ... red ...”


It heard footsteps down the hall; someone was approaching. It was Luca, who had returned to meet Ephesto, keeping the promise he had made last night, and was accompanied by a military-guard. But neither Ephesto nor the woman noticed it. They stopped at the door, and Luca order the guard to wait in silence.


That is how you figured it out ...”


“Are there more like you?”


“No. Not yet.”


You don’t know?”


As I explained you, my mentor has tried ...”


Ephesto!” interrupted Luca from the other side of the door. “Are you awake?”


Luca?! Yes,” replied Ephesto, approaching the door, “I’m here!”


I returned as promised. I'll get you out in a few moments. We must go ... are you alone?”


The woman remained visible. Ephesto looked her but she remained cold and silent.


“No. I'm not ...”


I see. The guard will open the door, so come closer.”


I will come back, I promise,” said Ephesto to the woman.


The door was opened, and then Ephesto left. Next, the guard closed the door again, locking it. The three left.

In the corridors were bright less but the walls could be distinguished; the guard had exact knowledge of the return route.


Where are we going, Luca?” asked Ephesto while they were walking in the darkness. “Shall I meet with the Judge again?”


No,” said Luca discreetly. “Not for a while, until he asks for it. You must understand that he is a very busy being. But, you have an appointment with someone of equal reputation.”


Equal reputation? Who?”


For the moment you just have to know that he will be the one who will train you, and that's where we'll go.”


Then ... will I enter the militia as the judge said?” asked Ephesto, as guessing.


The guard, who was a militia member and was listening discreetly, looked at both with incredulity in his eyes. It was understandable, since Ephesto didn’t fill the desired profile.


Let's hope so. Before you must pass certain tests ...”


Tests?”


Did you think it would be easy for you? Well, no. You have to pass three accessing tests. The first one is an interview with the General, the highest authority of Sandean Militia. He’ll measure your abilities by asking questions that you must answer.”


And how should I respond?”


You'll know when you stand before him. But, for that, you need to be presentable. First, you must change your outfit ...”


What is the problem with my outfit?”


It's not the presentable one, besides ... it's very badly treated. Since when don’t you change it?”


I've always used it, since my teacher taught me to make it.”


And you haven’t done wrong ... I suppose it is well for a nomad, but for someone who will present as the friend of the judge and Luca the diplomat, aren’t.”


If you want I can make another, just tell me where to get materials ...”


I doubt you can make an outfit with materials recollected here because they are very different from the ones you used to make yours. It's like mines; are made of iron-rock. Even if I wanted to make of copper, I couldn’t.”


I think to understand ...”


Also, all clothing has lifetime.”


I know that,” said Ephesto, remembering one of his mentor's lessons when he learned to make his. “It perishes over the days. The cloth-skin ...”


Correct. And it gives you another look.”


Ephesto at looked his clothes as if he didn’t want to wear off them; which heartened Luca.


I'm not asking you to get rid of them ... we'll keep it in a safe place for the day when you need it again.”


I would appreciate. Although, I still think it isn’t necessary to change it ...”


Now you don’t think as necessary, and I understand but, when you understand it, you will thank me. I'm sure.”


Before leaving, Luca gave Ephesto new clothes. He wear off his: a brown scarf that had once served to tie up his hair, an orange waistcoat with paper cords that sculpted his chest, a long-sleeved paper shirt, and dark brown trousers with a thin orange band tight to the waist. In its place, he wore the typical sandean skin-cloth: a long vest that reached to his knees and loose trousers, both of paper.

His appearance has completely changed. It brings out his peculiar hair”, Luca thought.

All set, Ephesto with his new clothes, they left the prison.


Can you see that entry?” asked Luca, pointing to a near and opposite direction. “From there you’ll enter the militia area. You will carry this with you,” he delivered him a scroll. “It is your pass for the first test, the interview with the general.”


So, I just have to approve the interview test ...?”


No, that’s the first step. There’re still two more tests that you must also pass, but there we can no longer help you. Now, you understand why it’s important that you pass the first?”


I see.”


Well. That's all. I'm leaving, but I'll be back in a couple of days to know about your progress. Now I have to return to my land, my king has summoned me.”


Have a good trip, Luca, and thank you.”


May our deity grant you some luck, Ephesto,” concreted Luca with a smile and he left.


Ephesto saw Luca leaving and disappearing after cross the exit; he took the opposite direction. He crossed the opposite access arc, thinking that someone would stop him but it wasn’t, and he continued walking through a path that led to a building near the access. In the distance he could see another bigger building, and a bit farther another with same size. He decided to enter the contiguous building, but he was intercepted by a rough-looking military who was wearing a white-cape. But it wasn’t a cape like those carried by city watchers, but was different for the golden shine that radiated by the light reflected.


Can I help you?” said the military authoritatively.


Where do I ... find the interview place?” said Ephesto then showed him the scroll.


Are you looking for the Main Building and you arrived from this way?” asked the military intrigued.


I ... I guess I have done something wrong ...”


You are not lost at all. The correct building is not this one, but that other one you see at that direction,” he pointed towards a building distinguished at the distance. “Just follows the path. But do not enter through the first door you will find, you could get in trouble. Continue walking until you find the one on the corner. That is the main one. Am I clear?”


Aye, I will follow that direction and thank you for the information.”


Ephesto walked a few steps southward and then turned to his left. He located the first entrance of the building; he returned his gaze and realized that the military was still watching him. He decided to continue walking because almost arrived, could already see the main entrance a few steps away. Arriving at the corner, he entered without further delay.

The lobby was spacious; there were six militaries stationed in strategic locations: two were patrolling the corridors in synchrony, other two were guarding the corridors connecting to the sides, and two more were guarding a two-leafed door at the end of the main aisle. He approached at large entrance.


Good day, my name is Ephesto,” said to one of the militaries at the entrance, “and I've come to interview me with the general.”


You bring your presentation?”


Presentation? You mean the scroll...? Yes. I had forgotten, here it is ...!”


Then you can go in,” said the military without checking the scroll, and opened the door.


He went in and the door was closed behind making a sound. General Solaris was waiting for him, behind a large desk. Ephesto watched him drowned by his presence.


Approach,” said Solaris, whose voice was heard throughout the room.


As he approached, he was even more attracted by the appearance manifested of the general, but it was not only his appearance, also his creative will that throbbed majestically across the room. A will he had never felt in another being, not even his mentor radiated with such existence.


“Greetings, respected, I am ...”


You are Ephesto, judge Aquilha's acquaintance; and Luca, the diplomat, has taken you out from prison and sent you to me for interview you.”


Yes...”


I am general Solaris. But you already knew that, as I knew you would come. Even there are things I do not know yet, but I must know. Tell me, why do you want to be trained in the military art?”


I-I'm-I mean,” replied Ephesto, showing nervousness, “I have related with the judge and with Luca.” He breathed deeply, and, remembering the calm murmur of Crimson fields, relaxed. “My desire is to help them, but the arts I dominate are not enough, and my aptitudes are weak because of my inexperience ... I have seen militaries and they demonstrate respectful strength that I have not felt in other beings around here. I would like to act like them. I feel that in this place I can learn and grow a lot.”


He had said looking the general directly to his eyes. The general had felt sincerity and passion in them, which pleased him.


Your reasons ... are mean less,” said general Solaris with a smile. “But I have decided that I will train you, considering the judge recommendation. Let me the presentation that you handled.”


Ephesto gave it to him. Next, general Solaris extended the scroll, and with a feather-pen, which he rinsed with golden ink of a flask that was on his desk, he signed it; putting his name in the bottom left, next to where it was signed by the Judge. He waited until the ink dried off.


While you are under my tutelage, you must obey to every order given by your military superiors. You should never question them. Obey is the primordial characteristic of a military, always keep it in mind.” He rolled up the scroll. “Take it back. I have assigned you to Captain Eelago's Division. Go and introduce you to him. From this moment, he will be your superior. You can leave now.”


Ephesto took the scroll back.


General?” he called general's attention, interrupting him. “Where do I find captain Hílago?”


Right now he is in the training yard with those who will be your companions. Do you have any other questions?”


In-” Ephesto wished to ask again, this time for the place, but he regretted it. “No. No more questions.”


After leaving the room, the military who had opened the door before asked him to follow him. Both left the building. They stopped at the corner of the main path, and the military gave him a last explanation: “continue walking south, when you arrived at the plaza, you would identify the training yard because you would see a military group gathered”. Ephesto left, thanking him.

***


Reenjeen, with this already add twelve reports,” said Nolla as a complaint to his distinguished companion. “And I'm afraid it won’t be the last. If we don’t do something Dolomeo ...”


I know,” said Reenjeen, interrupting her in an air of self-pity. “I have been aware of it since the third report. I tried to discuss it with our leader to see if she would give me an answer to the problem but ...”


But...? She ignored you again. AH ...” said Nolla sighing. “I think it's time to ask for militia’s help, don’t you think so?”


Nay! Solving this problem it is our job; all this is happening in our territory. It is our responsibility ... I will take care of this personally as soon as possible.”


“And who will stay in the lead?!”


I will summon the most suitable ones with me for this job,” said Reenjeen, ignoring her question.


“Did you hear me ...?!”


I did it, Nolla. That, I have it resolved too.”


Besides ... It will be the same as usual. Some will refuse to help, and others will use excuses to get away from the task. All are a bunch of mor ... irresponsible.”


We should not worry about them. I will take only those who wish help, even if they are few.”


And will you leave the rest of members, which are about to rebellion, in charge?”


No. I will leave to you and a support group, on the lead.”


Yes ...? That sounds good, but you are forgetting a situation that I’m not allowed to face. Who will handle the process? Dolomeo has been on our heels with that; already four warnings, we cannot delay it anymore.”


You have to take care of that, too. If it is possible delay it until my return.”


What?” said Nolla complaining, pretending to be astonished, but then she calmed down. “I’m not surprised; I knew you'd ask for. I’ll try to do my best. Go and try to solve the problem once and for all ... I'll take care of Dolomeo.”


I trust you, Nolla.”


And who else could you?”


Call Ceeval and assign him the task of spreading a warning to all merchants whom are about to leave: that avoid the north route.”

***


From the militia square, Ephesto had located the military group which had been assigned. They were reunited in the southeast part, and among them was one who highlight because was giving the orders. He noticed that was captain Eelago and decided to approach him. The captain was a strong-being, his appearance was like chief Dolomeo: tall, burly shoulders and chest but with a slender hip; also he remembered the occasion which he was attacked by this last one.

By every step approaching, it came him the same feeling felt during the persecution. He thought the captain would order to all his subordinates to attack him at any moment. But it wasn’t like that.

There were in total, forty members divided in four rows of nine, two near where Ephesto and captain Eelago were, and the other two separated thirty steps away. Both groups were facing each other while listening attentively at captain orders. There were four militaries that were separated from the others, they were merely observing. The difference in the appearance of both sides was notorious: the near seemed sagacious, and the distant ones, tenacious.


First row,” exclaimed captain Eelago, and the front row of the sagacious advanced five steps. “At my signal ...!” he made a pause of suspense.


Ephesto was looking carefully.


“Assault!”


The first row of sagacious accelerated almost anticipating the order from the captain, while tenacious waited the clash, holding a firm posture. Both rows collided and with fast movements they were forcing in duels one versus one. Four sagacious made submit to theirs opponents while the rest couldn’t achieve it. The four continued advancing towards the second row of tenacious but, were submitted. Ephesto could realize that was a kind of ceremonial fight in a fellowship environment.


Second row! Assault!” ordered captain Eelago.


The second row of sagacious imitated the action of the first. They ran out against the rest of the first row of tenacious, and kept advancing to colliding with the second row. This time just seven sagacious advanced, leaving behind just two tenacious standing.


Rows incorporate!”


Captain Eelago took out a scroll and he wrote on it. Ephesto took advantage of the pause to approach him.


Good day, respectful captain,” he said attracting his attention. “My name is Ephesto ...” and showed him the registration.


AYE. You must be the new general’s courier. What message did you bring me?”


No, I am not the courier ...” replied Ephesto a bit dispirited and confused.


AH?! Don’t...?! Then?” inquired captain Eelago, revising him, glaring him aggressively.


“Well, the truth is ...” answered Ephesto nervously, “I have come to join your division ...”


HA, HA, HA” Captain Eelago laughed bravery. “I know that, young, I can see your eyes hunger for desire, looking for training,” his words had been extremely spirited. “Ours Deity’s Luck has come to you, because it chose you to be part of my team. But in the militia you’ll need more than only desire and, luck.”


I bring the scroll with the authorization of the general ...” said Ephesto who naively was trying to give him the scroll.


HA, HA, HA” He laughs again, calling the attention of all his subordinates. “So you bring the authorization ... HA, HA, HA. Quite impetuous, young. But I’m not talking about this ...” he snatched the scroll from Ephestos’s hands and he looked directly to his eyes waiting for him to guess the answer.


“I... do not know, captain ...”


You don’t! But you’ll know it! That is why you have come here. Do you see that corner?” asked captain Eelago using the scroll to point at wall direction that divided the militia’s perimeter with the Right-Wing of the Noble Neighborhood. “Go there, draw a circle so that you keep inside it and don’t go out until my order. Do you understand?”


“Yes, captain ...”


“Then go there.”


Ephesto went to the indicated place and he did as ordered; he waited while observing his companions resume their ceremony.

***


The horizon had hidden, and Soluna was shining in her 2nd copper-hour. The merchant neighbors were making their last trades and others were preparing to leave the city; like the caravan of the merchant Veledden.


Will we take the north or the south route?” inquired Resso while was giving to Zoria, who was locating on the wagon, a pair of things asking for lodeleean clients.


We’ll take the south route,” said Veledden a bit hurried, “it’s preventable to do so, because the advice given by watchers.”


Even if we late?”


Sometimes it’s better to lose some hours than lose our travel equipment,” responded chief Veledden calmly. “Zoria! How are you?!”


Zoria was doing the last tasks.


All set to leave chief,” she responded, finalizing.


It’s time to go Resso. Let’s don’t waste more time!”


All on board, they left East Neighborhood; they went around the south wall way for next deviate trough East Sand Sea. In the middle of the silver night, they zigzagged across blue shadow dunes. Zoria with her art was doing the best she can, guiding; she was indicating safely where to go, the darkness wasn’t impediment for known their location, contrary, it favored, thanks to the night wind that was less dense than the day wind. They were traveling to Lodeleaan’s Mud town, and to arrive that place they must cross two deserts: East Sand Sea and Far Sand Sea.


We’ll take the woods route ...” said Zoria, deciding without asking for another opinion.


Veledden was the caravan chief but when it was about guiding, he left her in charge, trusting her blindly, because she was competent. Taking the decision to go around the woods wasn’t her whim, but the answer of her experience and knowledge. As she knew the nigh inconveniences of the sandy sea, like was the Silver Tides: sand waves that ascended high up and devoured everything around their path; Soluna-nature whims.

Many guide-beings rookies, and many others reckless, had perished for ignoring the recommendations and advices from the wise ones.

They approached to Coral Forest, the only territory of the desert that was decorated with Palm-trees and Coral-bushes. Going northwest through the limit of the forest was a route well knew by those who was travelling during the night, due to the terrain was firm without dunes and far of the danger of sand waves. Deep in that woodland was occulting the Tribal-Guide Village of Akaria, the genesis place of Zoria.

While they were advancing, she was observing melancholy the trees that hid the vision of the place where she had created most of her best Golden-memories. Those days as disciple, when she still didn’t dominate the guiding art, in which she remembered her mentor, a hoary hyperactive guide-being who fantasized with traveling “again” around the Four Scratches with only his guiding art -well, that’s was he presumed to the young and naïve Zoria-, but that because of his elder age he couldn’t accomplish it again...


Papario ...” she said, as murmuring to her witness, the wind, to get him the message.


So close and at the same time so far from her home; she couldn’t return. It was a law that every guide-being had to respect. Any young guide-being couldn’t abandon the village at least there was a reason to do so. There were two ways to do it: one, to join to a merchant caravan to bring the service as guide, and the other was the self-exile. The second option was a breaking the rule of the tribe, and those who did it lost the opportunity to return home. That’s why the Far Tribal-Guide Village existed; it had been founded by all those guides who took the self-exile option and they wanted to return but couldn’t. For those who took the first option, the return represented to finish their service as a guide of a caravan, but this only could happen if the chief merchant liberated them from the compromise, and that rarely happened with the adult-age-beings, and scarcely with the young ones. That luck only arrived when they reached the elder age.

Zoria lacked much to grow, she was still young.

It was at 7th solunar silver-hour. They finally crossed East Sand Sea, entering to Akario’s Territory, a midpoint before reach to Far Desert. In that place were many guide camps positioned strategically. Akario was the chief of all those camps that extended to Coral Forest. It was considered as the second village of guide-beings but it only was conforming by elite guide-beings. Its reputation was compared with the Sandean Militia. Veledden’s Caravan was stopped in the checkpoint.


Identify you” said the guide in charge, who had spoken in wind language, the main language of guide-beings.


I am Zoria,” she said in her language, “tribal guide of Akaria, and I protect this caravan, which the chief is Veledden, oil merchant, and the third one is Resso his assistant.”


She had spoken taking a serious posture, sharping her gaze and countenance determined; strangely to her regular behavior...

“Where are you going?”


To Lodeleean’s Town,” she responded.


Young sister, the sands have been very restless this night. For your own security, you must stay here until the High authorize it,” explained the guide, and left.


“What did he say?”


“He said that for our security we must stay ...” translated Zoria, “Chief?”


Let us do as they say,” responded chief Veledden. “Although, it seems to be that we aren’t the only stopped ...”


They checked the surroundings and noticed that another caravans were also in the same situation. Most of them were heading to the outskirts of the desert, towards the northern settlements. The drove to where the crowd was concentrated. Some were restlessly and many others were impatiently. Chief Veledden descended from the vehicle and get close to other merchant.


“Good night, fellow. Why the restlessness?” inquired chief Veledden noticing the anxiety of the near ones.


“Good night. It seems the desert has been aggressive on this day ...” explained the merchant intrigued.


So bad was it that they are like this? I suppose, Was it a silver wave ...?”


I wasn’t just a silver wave!” responded another of the merchants perturbed. “I can assure that it was something more ... We had never seen waves of such magnitude. It was like if they had been provoked intentionally to attack us.”


“Don’t exaggerate, fellow ...” responded chief Veledden like scolding him.


“I’m not exaggerating! We were many the injured!”


I still don’t understand; explain you ...” demanded another merchant subtly.


“So many other times I have dealt with waves but, against one like that ... never. It stalked us ... Almost ... almost loss the course ... If it hadn’t been by the elite guides, we weren’t here explaining ...”


“And can the others talk?” asked chief Veledden still unbeliever.


Ask them if you don’t believe me ...”


Behind him the scared merchant were three wounded who belonged to his caravan; his disciples and his guide, who had been rescued from the suffocation of the tide. There were others in the same predicament but, there were also those who were watching them in disbelief, as did Veledden as nothing had happened to his caravan.


What’s that?!” said a guide of the merchants, scared, fixing his glare to the north.

At the distance, a big and long figure was displacing slowly over the sand, as if it cuts it while was advancing. The only ones who distinguished it were the guides because their eyes were accustomed to the night; as all them, Zoria.


What do you see Zoria ...?” asked Resso intrigued.


“It’s big ... seems like a wall, a bigger one ... like if it was sliding through the sand ...” explained Zoria.


All the guides, sensing what was coming, began to alert all merchants, commanding them to refuge inside de woods; while others were forming in rows, protecting the camp perimeter. More guides went out from the forest to join their comrades who were protecting. The tension was felt in the night wind.

The displacing wall that wasn’t a wall but a kind of ship whose onyx hull had carving horizontal and vertical lines that was connected, from bow to stern, that it didn’t distingue in the darkness but, after a few minutes began to do it as silver glow that increased until the point that was illuminated all the ship structure.


“That ... that is ... relampeean art?”


Definitely it was about relampeean art. They were recognized for craft artifact that worked with solunar-light. It could explain because the energy manifested was the same silver energy of Soluna in her splendor night. The ship was alimented with light, absorbing it, and it seemed in any moment it was going to burst...

Before the confusion of all spectators, it wasn’t long before to manifest its intention. The accumulated energy impacted in the sandy ground, as a silver flash that caused the rise of tides that were amplifying as they made way towards their goal, the guide camps.

The elite guides started to declaim in unison in wind tongue, incomprehensible to the merchants but not for the other guides, because they knew that they was preparing their defense, using the geomancy art of bending sand. The tide didn’t take long to ram, and the guides with their act achieved to decrease its size and strength, defragmenting it in many tides but, it wasn’t sufficient to stop it. Already divided in many, the tides trashed the security going to the camp, hitting everything what they touched. But, the merchant guides imitated the action of their comrades to defend their friend...

Veledden and Resso hid behind Zoria, while they was watching how the less prepared were hit by the tides; waiting the same end. One of the tides was approaching to them at a menacing speed. In the collision, the young Zoria imposed all her will-force to stop it but, she found out of something strange; she couldn’t feel the harmonious and controllable wind characterizing but an aggressive and destructive wind. There was a clash between the two will-forces. She was resisting to be dragged, and the tide wanted to destroy her.

The duel finished in a sand explosion and silver flashes; the only one buried was Zoria.


Zoria! Zoria! Zoria!?”


Reso was exclaiming while was looking for her in the sandy grave. He dug until found the hand of his friend who was looking the surface. Both hand found out, holding tightly to each other. He helped her to get out. She was hurt and barely can move. He checked her, and stopped a little confused to observe her.


Zoria? What happened to you ...?”


Her physical wasn’t the same, not for the received hit but...


“Is she fine ...?” asked chief Veledden reappearing.


She is ... I think yes ... but it seems ...” responded Resso while still analyzing her.


“Let me ... check her.”


Veldden touched her face, then her shoulders, arms and last he stopped on her chest.


“Yes, What I though!”


“Chief, what happened?”


“She has grown. It seems as the result of the duel, she grew ...”


“What happened ...?” she asked reappearing.


Nothing young, or must I say lady,” responded chief Veledden. “Now you are one ... a mature lady ...”


“No!” exclaimed Resso alarmed.


The ship was repeating his act.


“It’ll do it again ...”


“We must stay away, chief ...”


It’s useless Resso. All guides had been defeated, and I doubt the woods could protect us ...” explained chief Veledden.

“No ... I will ... protect everyone ...” said Zoria, feeling weak.


“You have already done it, now you must rest,” said chief Veledden scolding her.


“Who is him ...?” asked Resso wondering.


From the density shadow of the forest, a slender figure had come out. Although he was far away and the black cape who was wearing overshadows him, he emanated a will-force that could perceive from such a distance. It was a strong creative will-force. He was moving on the sand, at high fast, as if the wind carried him. In a few minutes he toured al the camp.

The ship finished accumulating and repeated his act, raising another sand tide.


I can feel him ...” expressed Zoria amusement, “he is ... the high guide, Akario ...”


The figure raised his hand and pointed to the coming tide. One single word in wind tongue was enough to submit it. As if it had been frozen in the act, the great tide stayed thus for a few seconds to then begin to deform, and change its course; it went back to the ship, burying it completely. The duel had concluded.

Soluna was at her 8th and last silver-hour. The ship started emerging from the sand to then head eastwards, and getting lost among the dunes. The guides who had evaded the tide, was searching to their companions in the sand. The lucky ones were been helped to get out of the sand, and the unlucky ones just dug out theirs graves...

***


It was the 1st golden-hour. A wagon with course northwestward the sand sea from the capital was letting a trace of dust in its way. Reenjeen was guiding the skareelo, and other three was like passengers; among them were Manol and Seenan; the last one was Fay’ario, member of the militia. The costumes they wore were distinguished as merchants; there was a purpose behind their hidden identities.

This is the place, Reenjeen,” said Fay’ario, warning them.


They slowed down until stopped; they descended and each one took place strategically, looking suspicious: Fay’ario was observing the surrounds as a good guide-being did it; Seenan and Reenjeen were pretending to revise the caravan skareelo...


“Manol, I want you to inspect the terrain,” ordered Reenjeen.


Manol nod, then, he took his immature carmine-bird that was sleeping on his shoulder and whit a soft whistle he woke it, doing to the little bird fly, vanishing like a small red point almost imperceptive in the blue sky. It had disappeared to the others but his tamer was following it with his eyes.

Each one stayed in their position during the hours they spent. Their behavior had changed, no one were so motivated. Suddenly, the little bird returned from the north, sitting again on the shoulder of his tamer; interacted with a sing.

“Reenjeen, they come from the high north, degree east!” informed Manol with his singular accent.


“Attention, prepare!” alerted Reenjeen.


In the direction given by Manol, it was raising a dust storm. It was indicating that had a lot of movement in that place; evidence of two factors: whether it was a product of a sand tide, whether it was a caravan that for the extension possibly a big one. Effectively, for the amusement and the bad luck of the four, it was the second one.


“Reenjeen ...” said Seenan worried.


“I know ...”


Both were worried, because they had attached to the plan which was to face with a small group of mercenaries, even against a medium group because for that they were trained but, the number of opponents was exaggerated in comparison of their expectation. Null was the opportunity to retire because the enemy already had detected them and was for sure that he would reach them. It was a little favorable to move but they still could use the factor of lying; continue to pretending that they were merchants. They stayed in their places, waiting. In minutes they were surrounded by enemy wagons owned to all theirs victims.

The ringleader descended from one of the vehicles, who being arrogant, he approached at a convenient distance.


“I’ll explain you what’ll happen,” said the ringleader loudly. “You’ll give your goods without resisting, and we’ll let you leave but, you’ll carry a message for the watchers of guild Wall East ... This territory don’t belong them anymore. Now, take their vehicle!”


The four stayed away from the wagon but without lowering their guard, while they were merely watching how was taken away.


“Thanks! Grateful traders,” said the ringleader, leaving, “we’ll leaving with yours ...”


For some reason, the mercenaries hadn’t taken the trouble to examine the wagon, and when one of them did so, they already had prepared the leaving; but, they still weren’t so far enough, when the ringleader was warned, who intrigued ordered to stop the wagon immediately. The ring leader ran to the stolen vehicle to corroborate.


“YOU ...!” exclaimed the ringleader, stopping the four.


“Will you keep your word?!” inquired Reenjeen rapidly.


“What are you talking about?!”


We let you the wagon in exchange for indulgence.


You ... aren’t you merchants? No ... you’re just pretending ... You are watchers! Surround them!”


The ringleader had noticed, alerting to his henchmen. Again, Reenjeen and the others were surrounded. The mercenaries lacked of will-mind and they weren’t rivals against a watcher or for someone with equal grade of will, that’s why they always moved in group like weaker beasts, because the added will also was a way to be strong.


“Surrender, you aren’t rivals against us!”


“Don’t compare us with you,” said Reenjeen challenging him. “Come closer and you will know it!”


“Then indeed, you are watchers ...!”


Yes, we are,” assured Reenjeen. “So you can be sure that your message had been delivered. I am Reenjeen, sandean descendent, and the hand of guild Wall East!”


I am Seenan, a watcher and a sandean.”


My name is Manol, tamer-being!”


“And I, Fay’ario, guide-being.”


Mercenaries lacking of will, never forget these names!” exclaimed Reenjeen heroically, because he was conscious that their team wouldn’t win but they would never surrender. “Let our legend begin here!”


It was a moment of the tension for both groups.

Suddenly, an event changed the luck for the four. From behind, the mercenaries were surprised by a group of Eskagreeo’s riders. These beasts were cousins of the skareelo’s but with the notable difference that their head was adorned with two long frontal horns and other many uneven along the skull that were used to attack those who dared to threaten them; also to be more aggressive because they were difficult to tame.

The tackle was mortal for the first back rows of enemies who perished in the act. And as the riders were advancing, enemies were catapulted because the aggressive greeting from the beasts. The smartest chose to retreat towards a convenient direction (free of ridden beasts), and those who weren’t, they were immortalized in gravestones.


“They are riders!” exclaimed Seenan relieved.


Aye, it is Panphro ...” added Reenjeen, recognizing the renowned rider leader.


It was Panphro and his horde of Tamer riders. He highlighted among the other riders because the beast he was riding, a Superior Eskagreeo. In minutes they finished with all mercenaries without suffering casualties, including the mercenary ringleader. But they forgave those who had escaped.


Stop, riders!” ordered Panphro with leadership. “Today won’t be more enemies defeated! For to those who has conserved their life-time could tell this battle!”


The great leader approached victorious to the four.


You are fool merchants,” said Panphro as greeting. “You have ignored the warnings of our friends.”


We are not merchants,” responded Reenjeen as greeting, “but we are watchers from the city.”


Watchers ...” said Panphro dismantling his big beast. “That explains your brave behavior. But it doesn’t explains, why weren’t here the militia?”


That is because the security of the east sea is on our jurisdiction.”


I know that, guild hand Reenjeen,” add Panphro recognizing him. “Although without discredit you, the security of this place don’t belong anymore to you only.”


“I do not understand. It was just a simple group of mercenaries. We were cornered because we were ignoring the number of their members.”


“And you still doing it,” added Panphro. “You weren’t dealing with a simple group of mercenaries ... but a guild.”


“A guild ...?”


Long ago that we fight against them. But, their will-collective isn’t limited to only this group. There are more of them ... an alliance.”


“How is it possible this? I feel ashamed ...”


The four were ashamed because their abilities were less useful than the riders.


“It isn’t your fault. All this had origins from other reasons.”


“There is any way that we can help you?”


Of course,” responded Panphro, deciding to give them a task. “I need you to give important information to general Solaris ...”


The four exchanged glares of confusion in the middle of the sandy murmur.

***


The nigh was shining at the 4th silver-hour. Hector, the bartender of Nectar Tavern was walking through the main south avenue towards the south entry, in the middle of a deep calmly. The streets during the night were very different than during the day; free of merchants who obstruct their width and without people who obstruct the longitudinal vision.

He deviated and zigzagged in a bystreet, getting lost in the urban labyrinth. The reason wasn’t his disorientation because he knew exactly where he was and to where he was going. He had arrived in a bleak point of the city, where a group of mercenaries were waiting for him, which after saw him arrive, they greeted him with respect.


Had you brought what I asked?” asked Hector guessing yes after saw that they were guarding a shipment of six barrels.


As you had asked ...” responded the lead mercenary, showing him the shipment that they were guarding jealously. “There are, six barrels of mix.”

“Excellent,” responded Hector while approaching to check the barrels. “Did you dare to open them?!”

“No ... sealed as you asked.”


Perfect,” added Hector, and next he gave him a bag with copprou’s.


This is all? And where’s the request ...?” asked the lead mercenary after took the payment.


About that, I’ll take care,” responded Hector. “You’ll understand that I don’t trust in any of you. That’s why ... I’ll take care of giving it personally to the Respected One.”


“Well, well, well. What we had here ...?”


They were surprised by a voice proceeding from a figure that was contrasting in the darkness. But, he wasn’t alone because there were more shadows with him. They approached sufficiently until they were seen. It was the guild leader Garga and his subordinates of the guild South Legion. In seconds Hector and the mercenaries were surrounded, tensing the night atmosphere.

It is a cold night to be doing illegal business in the bystreets of my neighborhood. This is a serious offense for my providing security ...” said Garga, checking the barrels that were dissipating a sweet scent. “It was easy to found you, thanks to the sweet scent of this ... mix ...”

You have arrived just at time, comrade Garga,” added Hector affably. “I needed of someone who can help me with this.”

I like to be on time in my appointments,” said Garga responding with same behavior. “You ...” he spoke to the mercenaries, “already had been paid, now get out from here. And do not cause any trouble in my domains ...”


After the warning, the mercenaries dispersed scared, disappearing in the night mist.


I do not like mercenaries ...” added Garga with repudiation in his words. “You, assure to bring this shipment, and try to be discreet. We do not want to alert the watchers.” He ordered to his companions sarcastically because they were watchers.


“There will be no problem?” asked Hector.


“As always, everything has been assured. Those barrels will arrive safely.”


“Thanks.”


“And, about the other service ...?”


“I need to deliver to the respected one a package.”


“A package, may I know what is it?”


Hector smiled and denied nodding.


I understand. Then I will take care to deliver it ...”


“Nay,” said Hector interrupting. “I would like to do it personally, and if you don’t mind, I would like you to escort me.”


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