The Useless Gate and the Road Beyond
“I…uhh…iuh, yes?” squeaks from my throat, despite being squeezed by invisible, death-cold fingers.
“Very well,” Carghen studies me minutely, and then slowly unsheathes one of the three blades on his back. Raven! What’s his plan for the overgrown pig-sticker?
“A gift from your father. Now stand Benicious Hhand, you have a blessing handed you by our goddess Maylyn.”
The Crimson Knight touches the blade to my left shoulder, then my right. The formal, if quick, ceremony of knighting a man.
“Now rise. And follow me.”
My father? Maylyn’s blessing? Knighthood? I take the blade, a longsword I think, and stand. One does not refuse an order from the Crimson Knights. Ever. Carghen turns on one heel with a solitary plink and starts walking back towards the double doors. The weapon falls out of my hand. Nobody laughs, not even a cough. I’m glad, though my cheeks burn hotter than my rising emotions.
Nobody asks if I‘m okay. No one says goodbye. Not even Luke looks towards me as I bend to pick up the blade. I am damned by Maylyn’s blessing…I have no need for her. I don’t want to be a Knight. I feel more the orphan now than ever I did after my parents were taken from me. Following Carghen, I’m feeling a new level of anger as I pass through the temple. This is Maylyn’s fault. Deep inside, I know it’s my father’s doing; but damned if I understand how. Regardless, I know Bevlum is forever behind me; my only home. My safe place in the world.
Making sure my paintbrush is safe in my pocket; I step into the sun and disappear from everything I have known. Outside, I find the feeding frenzy finished. Veshinti is gone and the stumps of people I used to know remain, scattered throughout the bloodied ground of the village. Carghen seems not to notice while I try not to lose my insides. We step out from the small, meaningless gate of Bevlum, and she is behind me with an official hush.
One full day passes without a word passing between Carghen and me. Each hour, more of the mystery behind the Crimson Knights dissipates, replaced by grit-in-your-teeth reality. Amazing skills and divine blessings do not excuse being an asshole. Maylyn may not forgive me; but I’m not taking it back. There is no grace in this man, no divine light leading him. Rather, it seems that the further we travel, the farther into a grey haze he falls.
The road is hard and hot, summer having just reached its apex. We rarely stop during the day, once for lunch…and once because I pass out from exhaustion. I have no idea where we are traveling; and Carghen refuses to answer my questions. With my very pride stifled, I stiffen my upper lip and keep moving; knowing any further attempt to garner information will prove an exercise in wasting breath. I stew in my growing hatred for the Knight in front of me.
The fourth night sees Carghen open up during dinner. Fresh venison stew fills my mouth when Carghen slurps the rest of his bowl down and unceremoniously wipes the juices streaming down his chin with a crimson sleeve. Another slob, like the rest of us.
“I apologize for forcing you along like this. It generally isn’t my style. I needed to get you away from Bevlum with as much speed as possible, if that’s an acceptable apology.”
I stare at Carghen, hoping he can feel how stupid the statement sounds. I’d prefer he keep his mouth shut…his voice is heating my anger back to dangerous levels.
“I take your silence to mean that is not enough. Alright then,” he stands up and closes his eyes as though wanting to dream.
I put my bowl down; sudden realization striking me…this isn’t an apology. I’m finally going to know why! Why I am here, with him, now. I can’t decide if I’m going to stand or sit for his monologue. My legs jump with undeniable eagerness. I attempt to hold my hate for him in, remembering that he’s the one who pulled me from my home with no explanation, till now. I partially succeed; but my need to understand why supersedes my emotions.
“There are people in this world,” Carghen begins, “with talents far and beyond the average man.”
My eyes go wide. It’s difficult to keep my mouth shut, or my legs from shaking. Hurry up and tell me!
“Men and women with these talents learn about them fairly early. An accident in their childhood that sets them apart their entire lives.”
By the Raven, he’s really going to force me to endure a full speech. Asshole.
“Many of these people take those talents and use them for the betterment of man; and others decide to take from those that once ostracized them.”
Bah! Get on with it before I hit your mouth. That would make the night far more interesting.
“Benicious, your father had within himself a talent that goes beyond mere skill. Arnellus forged his paintings, Ben; he did not simply paint them on paper. He used the fabric of dreams and nightmares; and it’s called Uitherim. He learned to harness this dream-stuff in ways that are more meaningful than mere paintings. Ben, he passed that ability down to you; and left you a fantastic legacy.”
I don’t wish to hear the rest of this…my father is dead. I lost him, and now even his name conjures up terrible vistas of wrath for abandoning me. I know that losing my mother can’t be his fault; but somehow…it is Arnellus whom I blame for my losses.“Benicious, your father created Veshinti.”