The Silent Witness (Published)

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CHAPTER 7 - HALL OF HEROES

Verontó was as excited as a child given a new toy. “It’s magnificent!” In his palace in a long hallway where the end couldn’t be seen, Remesló constructed an exquisite new design for him.

On each side along the seemingly endless hallway, countless display units were crafted into the walls. Each display cabinet had a faint, red glow.

At first glance, each display cabinet was empty, with only dunes visible, but Remesló explained that all Verontó had to do was wave his hand in front of the display cabinet and it would light up as if the sun were rising and every battle that ever took place in the past would reanimate and take place in the exact way it happened. Not a single mêlée was left out. The battles from the First Age of Man were included.

The same number of warriors, infantry, cavalry, archers, mountains, grasslands (or wherever the battle took place) would show as a flashback. Battles during the night and even those that took place at sea would show every ship, warriors, weapons, and even the water changing rapidly, making the ships tilt as well as those that sank.

Verontó thought back to the many times Tengër would toss him across the palace shouting at him to clean up the carnage that sat at the bottom of the sea. Sunken ships, broken weapons, damaged armour, and weapons were placed in vaults that could be accessed through a secret passage at the bottom of Verontó’s throne. They were sort of war trophies for the god of war.

The strategies that were decided on, fighting tactics and warriors both fighting and dying would take place. Once the battle was over, the display cabinet would erase everything and return to the empty dunes with a faint, red glow.

Remesló suggested the name “The Battles of Antiquity”, which Verontó had no objection to. The hall that these cabinets were placed in had been dubbed The Hall of Heroes.

“I thought you might appreciate it!” Remesló said with a hint of pride in his voice. He was very proud of his craftsmanship. He was a benevolent god, according to the mortals, and was always cheerful and happy, having similar traits to that of his cousin, Samrósa, but not at all as vain as her. She held that record. He loved his work, she loved herself.

Remesló was extremely well built, like his cousin Verontó, only slightly bigger. His arms were bare and wore dark brown leather leggings and boots that reached just below his knees. He wore an off-yellow leather strapping in a cross shape, each attached in the front and back of his girdle, showing off his robust stomach, biceps, and back muscles. His green eyes were friendly. He wore gauntlets with his symbol of power engraved in the middle of each one. They were crafted out of pale green beryl gemstones. He was considered very handsome to the other godlings, but his work always came first.

Unlike Verontó, he was clean-shaven and had shoulder-length, wavy brown hair. He loved his family, especially his aunt Vězra, who equally returned that love.

Verontó himself was considered incredibly good-looking, in a scary sort of way. He wore metallic black greaves that reached just over his knees and donned a black leather kilt around his waist. He sported a black metallic muscle cuirass, studded with red onyx stones. His black gauntlets were edged with silver and a leather strap of black and silver circled his hands. He wore black, leather spaulders with a cape that draped over his left shoulder. The inside of the cape was red.

His black, stygian-blade sword was strapped on his back while his belt held many other, smaller weapons, including a short sword strapped on his left-hand side. The hilts to all his weapons had his symbol crafted with red onyx stones. His wavy, jet-black hair hung loosely over his shoulders and he sported a well-trimmed beard. His striking sky-blue eyes were piercing and intimidating.

“I must go back to my forge, cousin,” Remesló said.

“You’re leaving so soon?” Verontó asked. “Left something burning in the forge?!”

Remesló gave a wry laugh. “No! But I did promise Samrósa a new throne in her palace.”

Verontó stared at him. “You made how many thrones throughout the millennia for my sister? And now you say she wants another one?”

“No. She wants a better one!” Remesló laughed. “You know her. Rather keep her busy with herself and her collection than being bored.”

Verontó winced with images that came to mind. “Sure. Go right ahead.”

As Verontó turned to look at the display cabinets, Remesló called back from the main doors just as they opened. “Don’t forget our uncle Tengër’s request on that skirmish you were caught up in that happened at the Malcøme Islands!

Verontó sighed deeply. “Is he still going on about that? The battle took place nearly four hundred years ago!”

“Yes,” replied Remesló, “and to this day, the wreckage still washes up from time to time on the island’s coastlines.”

Verontó thought for a moment. Then turned and looked at the cabinets again. Silently, he walked down a few of them and stopped in front of one. With a wave of his hand, the battle known as The Battle of Beating Drums took place between the people of the Little Turn Islands and those of the Malcøme Islands began to take place right before his eyes.

Remesló smiled to himself, knowing that his cousin will be too consumed with his memories that he won’t even notice him leaving the palace, but satisfied that what he built would be put to use. After all, isn’t that what every craftsman desires?

* * * * *

Verontó watched intensely as the battle unfurled before him. Replacing the faint, red glow, the sun was shining brightly above while below was the Sea Øf Søuthern Urn, where a fleet of no more than two hundred ships had departed from the Little Turn Islands and within their sight rose the mountain on the main island of the Malcøme Islands.

The fleet was led by a captain of fearless repute, Captain Braxas. He was standing on the deck of his ship, the Naked Snake while keeping a keen eye on the prize ahead.

For centuries, the people who lived on Malcøme Islands arrogantly claimed that the south of the Straights Øf Dale Førd was their domain, while the people of the Little Turn Islands had to accept their superiority, for along their coastlines to the east, were the rising cities of Lan Carvi and Caper Løck, so calling in for reinforcements was in ample supply.

It was because of this kind of thinking and egotism that the inhabitants of Little Turn had had enough with the dwindling items of value to trade as the island was suffering from the lack of merchants sailing there, as they didn’t want to offend the people of Malcøme Islands.

To overthrow and have the people from the Malcøme Islands under the islanders of Little Turn had been the dream of many captains before Braxas. He had heard of the ever-growing kingdom of Kain Nightly, but they were land lovers, while he was in love with the sea. Yet he also knew that the king of Kain Nightly controlled the Bay Call, so he made sure no ships would interfere with the king’s coming and goings when it came to merchants and trade. King Dassus Kane of Kain Nightly knew all too well of the conflict between the two islands, but as long as they stayed out of his way, he would always turn a blind eye.

As they were nearing, Braxas’ thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a great horn, forcing him to signal to the other ships to lift their oars and slow down completely until they knew the source of the horn blowing. All crew members and leaders of the other ships stood on the decks, looking at each other in confusion.

The horn blew again and everyone turned their gaze to the Malcøme Islands. From behind the main island, ship after ship came sailing out and turned to face the enemy. Braxas barked orders for every man to get back to their posts and prepare for battle, while the drummers beat their drums for the oarsmen to set sail, all the while ships by the dozens kept appearing before the fleet of Captain Braxas.

The lead ship came close enough for Braxas to discern the person standing on its prow. It was Captain Oras on board his famous ship, Scourge of the Seas, famed for bringing the pirates of the Que Summøns Islands to their knees.

Their constant raiding and pirating were brought to an end when Oras went to the city of Lan Carvi to discuss with the council the issue of the island’s continuous raiding and pillaging along the coastlines. He vowed to the council that he would put an end to their piracy. That was thirty years before.

Travellers avoided the Que Summøns Islands just as much as they did with the Pass Nøtt Førest. They were places where no sane person would go. The council had opted that they would eventually starve them out with their ever short supply of crops, but the inhabitants of the Que Summøns Islands raided the village of Gantell Fair and the growing town of Pømel Tarq and they could get their drinking water from the Alamas Dam, where the Keepers River flowed to the sea, which also ran along both village and town. There was also the unspoken notion that these barbarians were situated close to the Hartar Førest, where the best timber in all of Barathorn could be found in abundance.

Captain Oras, onboard his pride vessel, the Scourge of the Seas, and an armada of three hundred ships went north to face the barbarians. The element of surprise was in his favour, as no pirate expected an armada to show up during winter to their shores.

Mulac, Captain of the Que Summøns Islands prepared his ships and aboard his vessel, the Sea Føx, met Captain Oras at noon. The battle was fierce, for many died within minutes when Oras let loose a volley of catapults into Mulac’s ships that were still anchored. The duel that took place between both captains became legendary. Oras prevailed and Mulac’s head was tarred and placed on a spike on the shores of the Que Summøns Islands as a reminder that piracy will not go unpunished.

Captain Braxas stood cold face, staring at the ships pouring into the ocean, and counted no more than one hundred triremes. He smiled to himself. “I have the numbers,” he thought and allowed himself to dream of putting Oras’ head on a spike.

One of Oras’ ships was coming towards him at an alarming speed. From what he could see, it wasn’t any typical trireme. What confused him more was the lack of oarsmen and that the ship had no insignia, only black sails. His eyes widened when the realisation came too late. It was a ship built for extreme ramming.

He yelled at the crew to face the ship and use the ballistae to weaken it. For a sickening moment, he thought his vessel would sink, but thanks to the ballistae, the ship broke apart and slowly began to sink, but it managed to cause much damage to his ship, and he took it as a great and personal insult. He ordered all ballistae and catapults to throw the boulders that were locked down for the battle and destroy the oncoming armada. As he was watching the ship founder, he looked up and saw the Scourge of the Seas and the rest of the ships retreating and disappeared behind the main island.

Braxas’ men looked at him in utter confusion, while he was biting his lower lip, wondering what Oras was up to. After what seemed a long time with nothing happening, Braxas gave the order for all his ships to move forward at full speed. Although there was an uncomfortable silence, his men went to work and his fleet went forward towards the islands.

He ordered the other crew members to split: a portion of the navy go round the left while he and the rest of his ships took the right. Behind the main island, the Scourge of the Seas had already begun launching boulders into Braxas’ ships, all the while more ships were streaming in from the other five islands. Braxas had known that Oras had to get rid of many ships he had once owned, as there was not enough space for the warships to anchor, but still, he was outnumbered three to one.

Oras made Braxas believe he only had one hundred ships, but in reality, Braxas now faced four hundred triremes. He thought himself the biggest fool to have ever lived. He wouldn’t be able to live with the shame and resolved instead to make this his final stand.

Even if Tengër or Verontó were on his side, the outcome was in favour of the Malcøme Islands. The battle lasted three hours and every sailor perished. Captain Oras tarred the head of Braxas and had it placed on a spike at the front of his ship, the Naked Snake. The wheel was lashed so that the ship would steer in the direction of the Little Turn Islands. The rest of the ship was littered with the bodies of Braxas’ crew and other leaders from the remaining Armada.

The display cabinet dimmed and returned to its normal state and Verontó found he was holding his breath. He remembered after the battle how Tengër appeared before him in Verontó’s throne room and before he could say anything, Tengër picked him up by the throat and effortlessly tossed him across the room, slamming into and bringing down columns.

“You have littered the floors of the sea with your carnage!” Tengër roared. “Clean it up or the Evertheenians will be cleaning your body parts off the streets!”

His uncle was a very fierce and ill-tempered man when he wanted to be. Verontó guessed the seas were like Tengër’s mood swings: completely unpredictable. He also radiated immense power. After all, he was one of the Great Six.

His outfit was not like that of Zethër. He sported a navy-blue muscled cuirass that fitted his muscular body. His arms were bare with blue-black rings around his upper arms. His navy-blue gauntlets displayed his symbol of power on each, embedded with blue diamonds. His leggings were black with knee-length boots, studded with lapis lazuli. His long hair was jet-black and flowed as if he were underwater. His eyes were sea-green and had a neatly trimmed beard. His white-gold crown was studded with tanzanite stones, with his symbol of power blazing on the front. Inside this gemstone, waves could be seen. Sometimes, when he was in a good mood, the waves were calm. Other days, when he was angry, the gemstone showed fierce tidal waves.

His cloak was not made from material, but water. It wasn’t still either, instead, there were waves constantly rolling, and at the end of the cape, it came to a subtle stop, as one would see waves rolling onto the shore. Yet it wasn’t wet to the touch, nor did it leave any watery marks whenever he walked.

However, being a first-hand witness to Tengër’s fists, his uncle was someone no one would dare double-cross, even a god who presided over war and havoc.

Verontó stared at the now still cabinet and after a few minutes, he turned and went to his throne where he sat to think not only of the past but also prepare for what will come.

Soon.

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