The Silent Witness (Published)

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It was the moment he’d dreamt of his entire life. After years of conflict and four wars, the cities of Lan Carvi and Caper Løck were finally under one ruler: King Alkan Lothbert. The two cities fought for centuries and over the past few years, there’d been an unsteady truce between the two.

The council of Lan Carvi sent envoys to establish a truce forty years ago. Eventually, after many messages, promises and bribery going back and forth, an armistice had finally been settled. Both cities had gang members and the two mobs clashed continuously. However, after another skirmish between the two groups, the result was the deaths of seven young gangsters who came from Caper Løck and two from Lan Carvi. The reply to this was a war that lasted for almost a year.

Facing the inevitable, Lan Carvi submitted to the Supreme Commander who led the army, Alkan himself. Being extremely ruthless and driven, he was also immensely charismatic and could talk (and fight) his way out of anything. Caper Løck flourished from his successes and was greatly praised for allying his beloved city with the inhabitants of the Malcøme Islands.

Due to harsh laws and heavy taxes laid upon the people of Caper Løck, they rose in revolt. The people no longer wanted a council to implement their laws and petty regulations. The majority of the council were indecisive, incompetent and failed in concealing from the citizens that politics bored them. The population wanted one person to look up to. They reasoned that if places like Marpøøn Gantal, Rake Turf and Kain Nightly could be ruled by kings, why couldn’t theirs? Alkan Lothbert’s name was put forward and the votes were unanimous.

At his coronation in the grand temple of the Thirteen Evertheenians, the celebrations lasted for two weeks. Construction on his palace had taken place but for now, he resided at his villa on the city’s outskirts. He bathed in the glory of his people. If only his father could see him now. A king! While sipping new wine from Secret Lamp; a city famed for having the best wine, he was busy glancing at a map of eastern Barathorn. With the city of Lan Carvi now firmly under his control, he looked at the scattered islands that made up the Malcøme Islands.

He would have to find a subtle approach to be their king, not just their ally. He put the thought aside as he didn’t want to deal with islanders just yet. He needed the ground beneath his feet to be under his name and his name alone. His gaze then turned south on the name Waters Field. An extremely rich city, it boasted abundant farmlands; so much so that the farmers of Waters Field could feed nearly everyone on the eastern side of Barathorn. It came as no surprise that Motiňa was their patron goddess. She had blessed the city centuries before and had flourished ever since.

Keeping that in mind, he then traced his fingers on the map and stopped at Støne Fønt. He frowned. How could he take possession of a city that catered for philosophical and boring scholars and theorists? On the other hand, if he did take control of Støne Fønt, he would be king over the greatest Academy in the history of mankind. He would also have full access to the Purple Møuntains, which consisted mostly of marble. If he controlled both Støne Fønt and the Purple Møuntains, he’d have immeasurable access to marble.

He traced his fingers further up and stopped at Sajanell Døørs. He gritted his teeth when he saw the name. Sajanell Døørs was first and foremost the capital city of eastern Barathorn and even though it was not along the coastline, the Løng River was one of the busiest rivers due to having countless boats ferrying traders, envoys, statesmen and diplomats coming up from the Straights Øf Dale Førd. It brought much wealth and plenty of news from all over Barathorn and in turn, caused much competition amongst men who saw it as a golden opportunity to earn a quick barthic.

Eventually, a limit was put on how many boats were allowed to sail the river. If Alkan took Sajanell Døørs, it could very likely raise red flags to King Gunner Price of Marpøøn Gantal and he may retaliate.

No. Alkan had already set his eyes on Waters Field. He sent a messenger to call his general. It was time to make preparations. He went to the temple of Verontó, the god of war and victory, and offered up his sacrifice in the hopes that the god would find his sacrifice worthwhile. He decided on a new kind of sacrifice: a young, homeless boy he found in the poor streets of his city. While the boy screamed as the flames grew, Alkan raised his hands to the sky and prayed earnestly to the god of war for favour.

Verontó, sitting on his padded throne of black and red in his palace, looked upon the sacrifice with disdain but was moved by Alkan’s prayers. He decided to look past the sacrifice and grant the new king his favour.

* * * * *

Sitting on a rock next to the landmark, Sërafinn was idly sketching her symbol with a stick in the muddy ground, causing it to glow a faint silvery colour, only for the light to slowly vanish. She sighed, then lifted her head and gazed at the moon.

“My responsibility,” Sërafinn muttered. She remembered when her father Zethër sent her and Sælev to the Void to bring back the sun and moon.

When the two siblings rode in their chariots across the sky towards the Void they found the sun was no brighter than a torch. It looked as if it were close to being snuffed out and the moon only being a silvery circular light. Sælev took the torch in his hand and tossed it into the air, causing it to explode into a brilliant fireball.

When Sërafinn took the diminutive light and cupped it in her hands, she gently spoke a command and released it. The light lifted towards the sky and a full moon was shining in all its silvery splendour.

She proceeded to draw her symbol again when a thought suddenly struck her.

“Oh no! It’s supposed to be a full moon!” She got up and ran towards an open area by the river and stretched her hand out towards the moon. While concentrating, there was a slight tremor and Sërafinn thought sarcastically, “and a divine tremor will inevitably lead to a council meeting where I’ll most probably get punished for it!” She thought back, all those thousands upon thousands of years of existence, only to note that she couldn’t remember a day she was ever in trouble. That was both Sælev and Verontó’s department. Sælev (for always being mischievous) and Verontó (who was continuously hot-headed and fought during council meetings). The moon (including her eyes) now shone brightly. She let out a long sigh.

Oh yes, this is going to cause a council meeting.” She thought about a bright side. She could look at this moment in a thousand years and remember when she was labelled as a “misfit” by the other gods. She gave a sad smile at the thought.

“When I first heard what took place here,” Vězra spoke while walking towards her daughter, making Sërafinn turn in utter panic, “it was due to the sound of a wolf’s howl.” She didn’t disguise her godly form as a human. This talk was between gods; not god and man. Sërafinn was too stunned to speak. Seeing Vězra in her divine form meant two things; they couldn’t be seen or heard by humans or gods (if Vězra willed it) and secondly, she was in serious trouble.

The council was probably exchanged for a one-on-one talk with her mother, which terrified her all the same. Sërafinn could do nothing but change form as well. As she wearily looked into her mother’s eyes, Sërafinn began to glow like moonshine and within seconds, she stood in her full glory, radiating immense power, yet both stood in quiet resolute. Vězra looked at her daughter’s eyes, then looked up and saw the actual moon. She wanted to see if the stories Sælev came to tell her were true.

Her features softened greatly and she opened her arms, inviting Sërafinn into a motherly embrace. Smiling, she stepped into her mother’s hug and held her tightly. Vězra smiled and kissed her daughter on her brow, still hugging her. For some reason, Sërafinn wouldn’t let go and Vězra’s anxiety began to rise again. She gently pulled Sërafinn from her and looked intently into her eyes.

“Is it true? Are you forgetting the phases and eclipses?” Sërafinn sighed, then walked away from Vězra and took her seat back down on the rock she was sitting on before her mother’s unsought visit.

“Does it always have to be etiquette with you?” Sërafinn asked. “Why do you come to me as a queen? Sometimes all I need is a mother.”

Vězra’s one eyebrow lifted. “I did give you a hug, didn’t I?” The corners of Sërafinn’s mouth twitched and before she could fight it, a smile formed. When she looked up, she saw her mother smiling back at her.

Vězra walked over and took a seat next to her, putting her arm around her daughter and she laid her head on her mother’s bosom. She could feel so much was going on in her daughter’s mind.

Vězra broke the silence. “I’m here tonight as your mother, not as your queen. I know it doesn’t always seem that way - given my history with the First Age - but I do care about everyone and I want you to know, I love you for being who you are to me, not just to the world. If truth be told, you were my gift to Evertheen.”

Sërafinn lifted her head and looked into her mother’s eyes. She couldn’t believe these words were coming from her mother, but she suddenly remembered there were many times Vězra had to rein herself in (or more specifically, reined in by the other Evertheenians) all for the sake of her title and duties.

If Evertheen didn’t run smoothly, how could Barathorn? Despite it being created by Motiňa, Vězra was still the queen of both Evertheen and Barathorn, whether mankind believed in them or not, or simply didn’t care if there were gods or nothing at all.

Sërafinn leaned on her mother again. Both of them sat in content silence by the river. Vězra looked over her daughter’s head and saw the calm, serene river gently flowing next to them. She then saw the landmark. Sërafinn had witnessed the entire incident. What she couldn’t understand was that all the gods would watch a fierce battle taking place and many people being slaughtered, yet here was a tragedy that involved a man and his daughter and Sërafinn was pining over this event. She slowly turned her daughter to face her.

“Please tell me why you are spending so much time here,” she nodded towards the landmark.

Sërafinn sighed. “I’m beginning to understand what it’s like to be human.”

Vězra blinked. “No you don’t and you never will! We are gods, and they are simple human beings. We will live on, but they won’t. So I’ll ask again. Why here?”

Sërafinn got up and walked towards the river. Not looking at her mother she said, “All these years I’ve been watching. Weighing my options on who to help and who not to. To give light at night and offer peace when there is violence.” She then turned to her mother. “Why are humans the way they are? Looking for fights and when they find it, blame others except themselves? Why do they plot for bad things to happen to their kind and yet not have troubled minds when they sleep at night?”

Vězra, still sitting, replied, “Humans will never understand what it means to truly live in harmony. They talk of peace in the open, but plot against others in private. You must remember, their nature and ours are not the same. We gave them a choice in the beginning, but I’ve always seen their flaw. It’s what makes me who I am to everyone. I voice what no one wants to hear. No matter if they have free will, they will always be inclined to dominate one over the other.”

Sërafinn thought for a moment. She turned her eyes towards the river. What she then asked, took her mother by utter surprise.

“What’s it like to be a mother?” Vězra had never been asked such a question before. She, Motiňa and Kafshëva had been mothers for thousands of years and having been asked this, threw her off balance.

“Why would you ask such a thing? Do you want to be a mother? Because if that’s the case I can tell you with all sincerity that it is hard! I may not always be a motherly figure, but the lives of my children are very important to me.”

Sërafinn gave a wry laugh. “We’re immortal! We cannot die! How could you worry about me? I’ll always have a home on Evertheen right across the grand palace!” When Vězra didn’t respond, she continued, “but, sometimes I wish I did have an end. Live my life to its fullest and die peacefully, just as many humans do on Barathorn.”

Vězra stood up, rage filled her entire being. “How dare you! You have a life and responsibilities as a goddess. You knew what you were but when we created these… these humans, you became too fond of them!” She said the word humans as if it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

“You can never be like them,” she continued. “They live and die, while we carry on living. It’s how it’s been. It’s how it always will be.”

After much contemplation, Sërafinn, seeing the intelligibility of her mother’s words, realised that no matter what she did, she’ll always be different from humans. She wished to interact more with them, but she knew the code of the gods, and that code meant limited intervention.

“Why do you ask?” Vězra asked gently.

Sërafinn turned to face her mother. “I sometimes imagine that motherhood was something I could enjoy.” She waited for her mother to laugh or make a biting remark. She didn’t expect her mother to understand. Again, Sërafinn greatly misjudged the kind of goddess her mother was.

“For all that I am,” said Vězra, standing up and walking towards her daughter, “I am first and foremost, a mother to four wonderful children,” she stopped in her tracks, inclined her head and thought of Verontó. “Well, I’m proud of at least three of my children. But the point is, you cannot compare your life to that of a human. It’s virtually impossible as the two kinds can never mix.”

Sërafinn thought for a moment and realised the wisdom in her mother’s words. At length, she looked at the landmark and back to her mother and finally said, “You’re right mother. I hold onto things that shouldn’t earn my worry. I’m sorry for what I’ve done. Let me make it up to you, please?”

Vězra cupped her daughter’s face in her hands. “There’s nothing to forgive. But first, go to your uncle Tengër and ease his temper and then to Sælev. I believe a lunar eclipse will be coming soon, right?”

Sërafinn nodded.

“Well then, first do that and then we can put all of this behind us.” She kissed her daughter on her brow.

Sërafinn smiled at her mother and both goddesses began to shimmer and dissolved into a ball of light, ascending to Evertheen far above where it floated above Barathorn, oblivious to human eyes.

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