Monday, June 13, 2016

Hakaar - Chronicle 47.1 - Smoke and Magic


The shuffle of feet and jangling of keys echoed through the cell door. My head was still swimming from alcohol as I lay on the cool stone bench. I took in the cell interior, a smallish stone room with a heavy door set into the far wall. There was a small window set high, just within reach. From it, I could hear the sounds of the city night below, but wasn't inclined to make the effort to take a look. The rising moon created a patch of light on the floor that slowly crept toward me as I stared. I pressed my eyes shut not wanting to remember why I was here in the first place. I couldn't feel Silah. She was outside of the range of our bond and the wound in my side was throbbing relentlessly because of it. I grimaced and shifted on the stone slab, trying to get comfortable.

I lay on my side, eyes wide open and thoughts came flooding in. I grit my teeth against each moment that flashed by.

This city, Hanover, had flowed over me in waves. I felt the first waves crash as we moved into the vulnerable underbelly of its great gray walls. The dark interior of the murder holes and overlooking arrow slits gave the feeling of being silently perused by the eyes just beyond those shadows. My skin itched at the thought. Silah remained in the sheath for nearly the entire day after her dance with the lightning. Then, after encountering her malevolent sister, I was more than anxious about word getting around. I had no intention of revealing her in this place.

I only wish I had known how badly that decision would end up for me.

Sleep wouldn't come as I watched the patch of moonlight creep. I pawed at my face, not wanting to remain adrift in this state between being awake or asleep. I could feel the coolness of the night float through the cell window like a whisper. I shook myself, stood, and then paced to and fro.

I had resolved to keep Silah in her sword form. Whether it was a word that would leak from these walls and reach the wrong ears or whether it was the strictness of this city and how it treated magic. Or revered it? This didn't extend to the divine, after all. They had extorted Danin for admission saying it was for his protection.

I chuckled, remembering how the group turned menacing when the gate keepers requested more gold after taking note of Danin's holy symbol. Danin was calm about it. We were here for the order of Derrum Ebbar, after all. Making a fuss would have had a direct consequence to what he was here to accomplish.

But, from what I had seen so far, it was a long road to properly establish his order here. The ruling mages would have none of it. They seemed to have great suspicions of all things divine. It wasn't terribly dissimilar to how everyone else felt about those who followed the arcane.

For me, since I had walked through those gates, I'd felt useless. And—with Silah hovering over my shoulder, unable to participate—I felt an anxiety I couldn't shake. Talking with her in the relative sanctuary of our room in the Tipsy Crow made me realize how much she resented each passing moment. She spoke of the flows of magic she could feel as we moved through the streets with a longing I hadn't seen. So, I took a chance and snuck out with Tagaern later that night. Even as I let Silah roam free. She was distant from me, resentful, walking painfully close to the edge of our bond.

And that was just the beginning.

I leaned against the wall, pressing my forehead hard into the cool stones then reared back and giving the wall two solid thuds, sending my brain sloshing.

"She wouldn't listen! I tried to tell her that it was for our protection." I whispered hoarsely then sighed, "Why do I have to be the responsible one? I'm at least a thousand years younger than her."

My thoughts continued to race. Sig wasn't happy with our little adventure. He was right, too. I had gone against my word as well as put everyone at risk. The ache in my side throbbed again, reminding me of my distance distance from her.

I wonder where she is.

I sat again on the stone bench and put my head in my hands, running thick fingers through my black hair. I could see that the moonlight had crawled a good distance across the floor. I stared at the square of moonlight as I thought.

Danin's order had received a message from a powerful family in Hanover, the Sagars. Orphea Sagar collected stories of heroes as her hobby and we had just so happened to make it on her list.

The Sagar's, along with the other two Tobacco Guild families, were the key to allowing Danin's order more freedom within the walls of Hanover. Those in the upper ranks of Derrum Ebbar saw fit to send him off to make a good impression.

"I wonder who thought that was a good idea." I grumbled.

When we had received the invitations, it was clear that Orphea Sagar had done her research. Silah's name was printed clearly on the invitation. I remembered feeling queasy as I looked at it. She was expected and here I was trying to keep her a secret.

Floki and I went to the edges of the city, letting Tenner hunt, and providing enough distance to allow me to reveal Silah and return to the gatehouse to have her properly declared.

All the while she was frosty, barely speaking. Normally, she couldn't seem to give her tongue a rest, but now she was silent and straight backed as we approached the city.  I could barely make eye contact with her, unable to face the fires that burned behind her eyes. Helping her from the horse, our touch was empty. The echoes and feelings that would come with her touch had been held back.

I gave a half-hearted smile to the man who took note of Silah's presence.

"The man who normally handles these permits isn't here at the moment. Come back in the morning to get the permit for your weapon." He had said nodding toward Silah, but barely glancing at her.

I was furious how these men simply saw her as a thing, but I held my tongue to keep the peace.

I always held my tongue.

It was no wonder she'd chosen to spend the evening on Danin's arm. He offered and I balked, but then fell silent, already feeling ashamed at wasting her time. My heart dropped with the gesture and I grit my teeth and gave the dwarf a stern look.

Let Silah play her games.

Part of the dressing of an event like this was who was on your arm. Tagaern had made a connection with a woman named Morrigan. She had been helping us through the labyrinth of who's who as well as the delights and dangers of Hanover. We went to Monta'Guevarra, a brothel of great renowned. Apparently, it was also the beating, lust ridden heart of information exchange in this city.

I chuckled, remembering how Bromm was offered a choice for whom he should bring. He waved them off at first, then stopped, he took a step toward the redhead and then took a step back. His indecision was pure comedy. I could see him considering each of the bloody bulletholes he'd weather from crossing his love, Robyn.

"I'll take the brunette." He said with a stately tone, but I could see both desire and fear in his eyes.

When the offer was extended to me, I considered briefly. Even attempting to play that game would result in disaster, so I refrained. Besides my being completely transparent, it would have been a spiteful and hollow gesture. It was all too clear how I felt and I could rarely disguise it. This had always been my bane, to be unable to play this game that Sig, Danin, and Bromm did so easily.

Another wave crashing over me, a mixture of magic, money, and smoke. And, again, I was out of my depth on all counts.

I slipped to the floor of the cell. Splaying out on the well worn stones, watching the moonlight continue to push closer and closer to the wall. It had shrunk to only a sliver at this point. My head was burning up. I could feel a walking hangover coming on but resting on the cool stones helped.

The Sagar estate had been laid open to us. There had been a play, a dinner, and a show that was done exclusively for us and our visit. We sat in places of honor with the vibrant hostess and the gentlemanly host looking on.

Ffion Sagar was sickeningly wealthy from the tobacco trade and Orphea was his prize. He gave her whatever she wanted, which played in Danin's favor for establishing a greater presence in Hanover. While she appeared to have everything she could ever want, her hobby was that of collecting tales of heroism. Journals, statues, and accounts from all corners of the continent.

Orphea doted on us, asking questions, and looking on in wonder with the answers. She was surprised and concerned, wondering why Silah had taken her place by Danin. I tried to dismiss it. But she, being immediately aware of the discomfort, gracefully allowed the moment to pass.

But I was fully aware of it.

I hadn't realized how much I depended on Silah. And it was splitting my heart in two. I resented how she refused to listen to reason. I've wanted to let go so many times before. Release her from this bond so she could find someone who could keep pace with her. The chaos of her passion, wonder, and contempt, often overwhelmed me. There were times that I longed for solitude.

And those would be the things I missed most.

Her heart held such pain. Ages upon ages have passed for her. Each time she was wielded anew, she had very little recollection of where she had been. Only recently had she gained enough power to fully recollect those pieces of her history she was allowed to remember. Which was why the revelations at the Sagar Estate were far more bitter.

The Earl explained that he was on a manhunt. A man that had appropriated the bones of a Titan King of the Vale. While that, in itself, wasn't a crime where we stood, the man had lied. The Titan King, Silah's father, was alive and the man had pilfered his deceased wife's bones.

I made the connection there and my eyes went to Silah, still on Danin's arm. She was perfectly still, a look of pain frozen on her face as she listened silently. This answered the unspoken question. This was Silah's mother. I wanted desperately to be there for her, but even at an arm's length away, she was completely out of reach.

What was worse, as it was explained to us, this bone could be used to summon the soul of the Titan which would be used in a ritual to fight for political dominance. I shuddered. While Silah seemed to resent her father, her mother was dear to her. This was yet another painful twist of fate.

And there is nothing I can do about it.

Their old friend, Raenir, was there. He was with his own bond, E'sVa'tou, the woman who had brought him back to life. This life debt had extended into something far more. You could see it in rare moments, while he talked animatedly. She'd drop her guard and regard him warmly.

Silah had done that to me in the past. She had looked beyond what even I thought I was and saw something else.

Something better.

The music continued as the night began to wind down. Danin stole a dance with Lady Orphea, spending his time, no doubt, impressing on the lady the oppressive political atmosphere and the mistreatment of his order in this city.

As he made his case, I looked to Silah. She stood perfectly still, seeming small and vulnerable. I could see that she was still reflecting on the news from earlier.

I took the opportunity and approached her, offering my hand. At her touch, I felt a trickle of our connection, but she still withheld herself. We danced in silence for a time, but I could also see her anger toward me fading. Likely, she was well aware of my stewing, sifting through my memories and motivations.

I stumbled on the dance floor, anxiously tripping over my own feet. I cursed loudly and she put a precise finger to my lips then her thin arms held me up easily. I was reminded of us again. Us before Hanover. Us before the Vale. Back when I was just Bromm's bodyguard and nothing more.

Danin had a smile on his face as he moved away from Orphea. He was a step closer to his goal. The rest of us began to ready ourselves to leave even though there was no pressure to do so. Orphea seemed content to let this night continue for as long as it needed to and was gracious as we bid our farewells to her and her husband, Ffion.

We moved to where the wagons were parked and I stared blankly ahead, not sure what to do next.

"Perhaps it is time to mend?" Silah said.

She offered her arm while Danin was on her other arm. I winced, but obliged. Then walked them to the wagon.

"I'm going to walk. I need to clear my head." I said, holding out a hand to help her into the carriage. I attempted to play off how I felt, but, from the look on her face, I could see I had failed. I stood and watched as the wagon moved off into the night.

And you forgot the permit, fool. You thought it wouldn't come back to bite you.

That was hours ago. My eyes were bleary from lack of sleep. I could see the starry black sky through the cell window taking on a lighter hue.

I sighed.

It wasn't far from the Sagar household that guards had appeared on the street. Floki and I had been walking home in an awkward silence. Silah was usually the one to break that silence and Tenner would keep Floki occupied. It was strange to realize that we hadn't said more than a handful of words to each other directly.

"Hakaar?" The voice was stern in the darkness, but I could see him clearly as he stepped into the street. He wore the garb of a Phirian, one of the city guard.

The voices from the shadows brought an instinctive wariness to Floki, but once I saw them, I waved my hand dismissively.

"You need to come with us," The leading guard said, "Where is your unregistered weapon?"

I explained that she was currently in someone else's care. It hurt to say. It hurt far more than the wound in my side from her absence. This raised some eyebrows and I beckoned them along. Floki hung back following with a little distance.

As we approached the Tipsy Crow, there was a flash of glitter that spread across the road in front of us. Silah was in the middle of it, blasted with Sig's magic.

"How do I look?" She said, spitting out some of the glowing glitter, "Wait. I can't see."

"It'll pass in a minute or two." Sig said, then nodded to me, "It was her idea."

I caught the guards exchanging glances.

"I am not surprised." I grumbled.

But I was surprised. Had she done that for me?

She stumbled around and I reached out for her.

"Oh, there you are!" She said.

I felt that rush at her touch and I held her close.

"We have a problem. These men are going to take us back to the gatehouse. We're in trouble because I failed to get the permit." I said.

"The weapon? Please?" The thin man between the guards stepped forward with long spindly fingers.

"I'm sorry." I whispered to her.

I took her hand and willed her into a sword. I made the automatic motion to sheath her, but was quickly interrupted by a snap of the man's fingers.

"Here. Please." He said sternly.

There was a rush of confusion from Silah that immediately slipped away as I released the blade into his hands.

And things had been going so well.

The sounds of morning began to spill through the barred window and light from outside was now filling the cell. Above the cacophony, I could hear shuffling sounds from outside the heavy cell door. There was a bell that sounded and a changing of the guard. I pulled myself to the bench and sat, facing the door, blinking against the pain in my head and side.

"Hakaar? I am Vizier Orincloud. Sorry for the unpleasantness, but this is the law. It is dangerous for both you and for others when a fine weapon like yours is not declared properly." He said, his words coming out with a smooth execution.

"We wouldn't want anything dangerous to happen," I said with a growl, "Can I pay for this permit and we can be done with this?"

"Oh, it's not that simple. Unfortunately, your weapon must go through a rigorous questioning process." He said dismissively, "This takes some time. I expect you'll be able to retrieve your item in three days time."

"An interrogation? Wait. She is not simply a 'weapon'. Don't you know who she is?" I growled.

"She is a fine weapon. Truly remarkable." He bobbed his head, maintaining eye contact with glassy eyes.

"She's not just a weapon! She is not a thing to be possessed." I found myself shouting, my hands gripped so tight the blood drained from them.

"Truly, truly. I understand you are passionate about this as is expected from your kind. No need to get worked up. Would you like to go now? Or would you like to stay here?" He said, his eyes now showing his disgust.

"I would like to participate in these interrogations," I seethed, "She is not to be touched, poked, or prodded in any way."

"Oh, nothing like that. And your request to participate in the interrogation is quite unusual, but if you wanted to come back mid-morning, we may be able to accommodate you." He said smoothly.

I clenched my teeth and moved through the door then turned on him.

"I will be back. And if anything untoward is done to her? Believe me, I will know. And you will pay dearly." I said with a hiss and strode out.

(Get to know Akeron.)