Chapter Twenty-Three: Old Words Bring New Meaning
On having the early start from Haven’s Gate they had got a good head start on the day and it was definitely worth it considering the bridge from Nirvariten to Himiratia was in view.
It was astounding how lonely and sinister a stone bridge could look, the pale worn grey of the stones that made up the structure looked ill with a lack of life that everywhere else they’d been seemed to thrive in with livestock, orchards and miles of green, green grass.
As they approached it Mayfel didn’t know if it was the skies getting darker of his heavy eyelids winning the battle for rest.
The thudding metronome of hooves, soothed him like an odd lullaby, changed in an instant to hollow clicking.
Kaydence sat tall upon his steed like he had to prove to himself he was higher up than those residing on the grounds they would soon be treading on, his eyes scanned ahead and to his sides to some degree almost as if he expected to get ambushed again as they had at the Hollow.
He caught sight of a half-asleep Mayfel to his right, his eyes struggling to stay open and his head dropping, his body sometimes following if he feel past his conscious barrier.
At the rate he was going he’d be off his horse- again- but this time it would be his own fault.
“Mayfel do you need to stop? I don’t want you falling off your horse” he asked as he caught sight of the boys head bobbing sleepily with the horses trotting movement.
“No we can keep moving I’m alright” came his mumbled response.
Kaydence brought his horse to a stop, he dismounted the saddle and strode over to Mayfel’s own and clasped the rough leather reins bringing the steed to a stop just like his.
“Mayfel get off of the horse” Kaydence said.
“No I told you I’m fine we can keep going” he protested with drooping eyelids.
“Don’t make me drag you off that saddle because you know I will Mayfel so don’t push me” he warned in a slightly stern tone hoping it would have some effect in getting him to move.
Whether it was the tide of sleep acting out or complete disregard for anything Kaydence was saying, he didn’t reply but the darkening shadows under his eyes and relaxed facial features and limbs hinted towards it being the sleep deprivation as to why he got no response.
As carefully as possible he manoeuvred the sleeping- and not to mention heavy- fae from the horse, he held him against his chest one arm under the backs of his knees the other supporting his upper body from his back.
A dull scent of Lilly of the Valley clung to the brown locks of Mayfel’s hair, fitting considering their home was where it grew naturally, it lined the open woodland floors like small droplets of early snow.
Kaydence -with some struggle- elevated Mayfel’s sleep- heavy body up to his saddle, he held him briefly ensuring he wouldn’t sway and slide off before he too mounted his horse.
One arm on either side of Mayfel he held the reins, the unconscious boys body relaxed back in Kaydences own seemingly enjoying the warmth and comfort of being held while he’s completely peaceful and forgetful the road set ahead for them.
With his right hand, Kaydence reached out and seized the reins of Mayfel’s stallion, the best he could do was to bring both horses to a trot since he didn’t want to risk losing Mayfel to the dirt or break his neck while they cantered.
The loud clicking continued down the unbending stone, ahead the eclipsing clouds of grey began to huddle and multiply blocking out any form of light, with the lack of lighting it looked a lot like night had fallen early and he’d be lying if he said t it did anything to reduce the unsettling sensation in the pit of his stomach.
If he looked to his right enough, past the mist and small peaked hills he could just about make out the prodigious sculptures of igneous rock, their summits hidden behind a curtain of smokey clouds that no doubt slowly suffocated and reduced your life as you climbed deeper into their harsh grips.
Cascading sheets of what he knew to be rain extending from the clouds in the far off miles of land, everything behind it shielded from his view.
How would he engage his father when he met him? If he’s still alive to which he hoped he was because he wanted answers as to why he did what he did, acting like cowards and hiding behind their walls and mountain slopes.
He would ask what happened between him and his mother and what reason he had for abandoning his own people in their time of need.
If their ancestors, those who had been the first to walk the lands and those who fought in the war could see them now he wondered if they’d be ashamed and for who they’d show more remorse.
He couldn’t confidently say that everyone but the Aer clan was perfect, no one was perfect and in a world where humans and fey live segregated and with hatred towards each other, there was always going to be small disputes and disagreements.
But nothing about any of the clans were perfect, not even the king could say they were because not even he was free from judgement.
In the Trinity War many, including the king, had taken lives of others with a swing of their blades or the silverpoint of an arrow, you could say it was in self-defence as they were being attacked and felt their lives and the lies of their families were being threatened.
Who was to say the ones who lost their lives hadn’t felt the same, each side had been fighting for a cause they thought to be worth the bloodshed and in the end, everyone who had blood on their hands was responsible for one death or another but where did the blame truly lie? Was it because of rising tension between territory? The tension between humans and fey? Or simply just bloodlust and an excuse to cover up the warmongering?
Everything’s simply one big riddle and Kaydence, well he’d never been the best at solving riddles.
The clicking abruptly came to an end as the hooves met the even dirt and succulent grass.
Observing his surroundings he noticed how untouched the area looked, the whole space seemed well kept with not even one blade of grass being above the ankle.
Wildflowers scattered like confetti, tall dark wooded trees with trunks thicker than anywhere he’d seen in his homelands, not to mention the menacing shadows he could see if he looked further into the thickening treeline.
He felt as though something was watching him or possibly someone and yet he couldn’t hear any disturbance of foliage or the branches reaching towards each other and the skies as they weaved and twisted like some distorted dance of time.
Detaching his bag from the saddle he tossed it to the ground into the shelter of the trees because lord knows they’d need the coverage if they wanted to stay remotely dry from the storm inching closer.
Kaydence descended from the saddle careful not to knock Mayfel’s sleeping body in the wrong direction because he knew he’d hear it all the way to Evangelis and back if he did.
Just like before he cradled Mayfel’s form in his arms much like a parent carrying their child to bed but there wouldn’t be a bed for Mayfel or himself, at least not one that would be comfortable or worth looking forward to.
It was a degree or so cooler under the leafy boughs and would only continue to drop when the storm hit, there wasn’t even a point in trying to start a fire because all efforts would be proven futile.
The irritated grumble of disapproval, not surprising to Kaydence, slipped from between Mayfel’s parted lips as Kaydence lay him on the grass, he did try to find a patch that had thicker grass and fewer pebbles and he in no way purposefully laid him down so hard.
He stepped back with fingers crossed just hoping he didn’t wake up a demon.
Kaydence had to thank Mayfel’s sleep deprivation for keeping him at bay because he was not ready at all to have his ears chewed off he was about to be miserable as it is with the subtle rumbling of thunder, an invisible source of noise that summons the riders of the light in harsh streaks that tear through the sky.
To the best of his abilities, he situated them on two makeshift beds, if he thought back to their first night in the wilderness it wasn’t all to different excluding the reasoning for them sleeping on blankets near the ever-thickening forest.
Intensified wind swept through the greenwood, a weightless whistle chimed from an unknown source, a beautiful melody conveying hope and clarity.
With the tree branches swaying and the leaves rustling deafeningly above, it was hard to pinpoint where the siren-like call was coming from.
A crack of lightning forked down towards the earth no more than half a mile ahead but with the flat ground and the way he was sat, his eyes cast to the obsidian ocean, he saw the electricity surge at speeds unattainable by any living being and gave the impression that it stuck deep into the murky waters lighting it up like the moon would to the night sky, as if the world had been flipped upside down and he was peering up from the sandy bottom, through the unsettling ripples at the dully lit sky.
The nights that Bregan and he sat on the hay bales to watch and listen to the natural events were the nights he enjoyed the most. When he was a young boy he remembered Bregan telling him stories about the legends of the wild hunt, a group of sword and crossbow clad fae hunters lead by a warrior, fearless and heartless or so they say.
He said that storms weren’t just natural happening, the thunder was the sound of hundreds of hooves of supernatural steeds thudding with speed unmatched and the lightning well he was never too sure on that aspect of the story but he would say it was the leader’s wrath he inflicted through the cold night just longing for war as they rode in the endless pursuit of the hunt until the bodies of the dead could be collected.
Of course, tales change like a child’s game of pass on the whisper and the real story is left twisted and misshapen, he’s read books on the mythical creatures that had apparently lived among the first fae to be but there wasn’t much on the supposed wild hunt although there were some authors that said they would ride through the forests during hurricanes or particularly stormy and cold nights looking for wondering or even lost victims to join the hunt.
Maybe the hunt wasn’t as bad as the stories or as in the books, riding among the storms, gazing at the brilliant starred galaxies every night before falling asleep in far off lands but all that would be left to his dreams as his eyes dropped and fluttered to a close.
A stanza of an old poem he’s once whispered to the meadow winds came to the front of his mind and just like a lullaby one would sing, it fell from his lips in barely a mumble.
"Which way do the four winds blow,
Which way do the four waters flow,
Which way does the man in the moon’s face glow,
Which way do I dare go through the lands of Arravan that I owe.”
The thundering rolled on, the erupting cracks of lightning reached and scrambled for a dip in the Western waters and the beginning of the light pitter-patter of rainfall on the canopy of the trees steadily drawing closer as the hunt rode on.
Tomorrow would be a new adventure filled with new terrain, life and if all turned out the way he secretly hoped, new people, to play a part in his future.
No one knows what time holds onto, some things it lets pass by but others it will keep captive.
It is a cruel ruler but maybe, just maybe this once it would show mercy and bare the truths to him that had been lost for a small part of his life, just maybe he’ll find a small amount of peace to put the ghosts to rest.
Just maybe he could find his home.