The Silent Witness (Published)

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CHAPTER 16 - SËRAFINN’S EMOTIONS

Sërafinn watched in admiration of the exchange between Gren and Shafis. The Grand Ambassador came to the kingdom to explain why he did what he did, only to receive a lesson in return that would inevitably change his way of ruling.

By the time the Grand Ambassador arrived in the kingdom of Marpøøn Gantal, the evening had already washed over all the land and a beautiful, waning moon was beginning to rise on a crystal-clear night sky. She saw the Grand Ambassador leave through the route via the bridge. The soldiers who manned the bridge were given clear instructions from King Gunner to let him and his host through without disturbance. They then proceeded to take the route back to Sajanell Døørs the same way they came to Marpøøn Gantal, in case Gren rode into Alkan.

She saw further down that Alkan had camped for the night in the open fields alongside the main road north towards the kingdom. He was no more than a day’s ride away from the bridge.

Alkan and Gren would not run into each other. She made sure of that. She created a mist that would obscure the vision of every scout of Alkan so that Gren would return safely home to his family.

Sërafinn heard the flap of wings and looked around to see where it was coming from. Landing in front of her throne at the bottom of the stairs was her cousin Færró, his wings folding and amalgamating into his body.

Smiling, she got up from her throne and descended the stairs to meet him. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.

“Cousin!” She was surprised yet happy to see him. “To what do I owe the pleasantry of your visit?” Færró smiled and brushed her cheek gently with his hand.

“I thought a nice change of pace would do me good!” Snapping his fingers, two goblets of wine appeared in his hands. He passed one to her.

“New vintage from Secret Lamp!” He announced. “An inspiration Motiňa gave to one of the winemakers, who’s been struggling for years to make a new kind of wine and has prayed non-stop to our aunt for inspiration. Either she was flattered with all the prayers or got annoyed for it being the same prayer repeatedly! Whatever the case, she granted him her favour! Motiňa continues to bless the vineyards of Secret Lamp.”

The wine was like nothing Sërafinn had ever tasted. It was sweet and pleasant on the tongue and she savoured the taste. This was wine only a god could produce.

“He’ll become famous for this,” she replied. Færró nodded in agreement. They both walked towards the edge of the platform and looked down below.

“She’s quite something, isn’t she?” Færró said, pointing towards Shafis, who was being helped into her bed by her servants. Her husband was in the temple of Zethër, praying for his wife to recover from whatever ailment the god of plague and healing might have inflicted upon her.

Each morning he would wake before the sun rose and went to the temple, devoting his time in prayer, and every evening when Shafis would retire to bed, he was back in the temple again, offering sacrifices and prayed earnestly for Zethër to heal his beloved wife.

“Yes! She is a remarkable human being,” Sërafinn smiled fondly.

Shafis was the very embodiment of what the gods desired in their creation.

Her smile faded. “To think Father struck her with an illness to stop her from overworking herself, only to find she is more determined to work harder than ever before.” Sërafinn looked at Færró. “I never saw Father so dumbfounded!”

Færró laughed. “Will the All Father heal her?”

Sërafinn took another sip. “Of course. In due time though. I suspect he is waiting for the wedding to finish in Rake Turf.”

Færró scowled. “You mean to say he’ll have her sick in body and not enjoy the wedding of her only child?” Sërafinn sighed. Her father was just as temperamental as her uncle, Tengër.

“She’ll most probably be healed before they journey to Rake Turf. Shafis won’t be making the pilgrimage to see the Thenin, that much I know. And King Gunner won’t travel to Yearn Answer if his wife is ill. Sælev confirmed that all the kings will be undertaking the pilgrimage, so I think it is safe to say that Father will heal Shafis before then.”

For a while, they stood in silence. Sërafinn looked at her cousin, but he seemed distracted.

“Færró?” He looked at her.

“Hm? Apologies, cousin. I was just thinking…” but already his voice trailed off, looking down at Barathorn. She followed his gaze and saw he was looking at Alkan. She walked towards him and gently placed her arm around his waist.

“He sacrificed an abomination to me!” he muttered. Sërafinn knew what he was referring to. Five days before, she had been phasing the moon when the hairs on the back of her neck bristled. She turned around and looked down on Barathorn and saw a human sacrifice was about to take place in the garden of the Grand Ambassador. She held back a scream. The boy’s cries filled the air while he struggled frantically in the arms of two soldiers, who were dragging him to a makeshift pyre. She could no longer stand it. No sooner had the fires been lit, she thrust her hand towards the boy, who immediately fell into oblivion. If she couldn’t prevent the sacrifice, she would at least show mercy to the poor soul that was tied to the pyre.

“He won’t know any pain,” she whispered, tears rolling down her eyes.

Later that evening, Tengër came to her and informed her that he was going to create a maelstrom near the Malcøme Islands, and she was to have the moon shine brighter than usual.

“The islanders are beginning to put their trust and faith in Alkan than in the god who looks after those who live on a spit of land in the middle of my domain!” He complained to her. He didn’t even look at the sacrifice that was taking place nor see how distressed his niece was from what she had just seen.

Unlike the other members of her family, Tengër wanted to be acknowledged by humans and equally feared. His temper matched that of the sea; one moment all was calm, only for an angry storm to form within minutes.

“Uncle,” Sërafinn began. “I cannot let the moon shine brighter than it ought to. It would only cause the people of Barathorn to wonder if it’s an omen.”

Tengër shot her a look. “Exactly! It’s about time phenomena start taking place more often than ever, instead of every few hundred years or so. If you could make the moon shine brighter for Kafshëva and her wolf, you can most certainly do this for me! Let the people know who truly rule over them!”

Sërafinn sighed. She turned to the moon and gave the command. Tengër dissolved and his essence flew down into the Sea Øf Søuthern Urn.

The ocean was calm and the stars and moon were shining in all their splendour. People were remarking how exquisite the moon was looking that night and many came out of their houses to enjoy the spectacle.

No sooner had the people gathered on the shores and were marvelling at the moon when a tremor began, and everyone’s gaze fell onto the still waters of the sea.

The waters looked as if they were beginning to boil and ripples soon turned into agitated waves. As the people looked on, a circular shape began to form. The vortex swirled, slow at first until the pace picked up at an unprecedented speed.

It then began to grow in size and continued to grow until the vortex seemed as if it were capable of swallowing the moon whole. The people screamed in terror and watched helplessly as many ships and sailors were sucked into the vortex and disappeared, never to be seen again. The phenomenon was on everyone’s lips. Tengër’s threat worked. It put fear back into the hearts of the islanders.

When news of the wonder reached Alkan while journeying from Sajanell Døørs, he dispatched a letter with his personal seal to the magistrate of the Malcøme Islands and going against convention, announced that he would ‘save’ them from the ever attention-seeking gods. Once he was done with the wedding and his pilgrimage to see the Thenin, he would personally visit the island.

This announcement caused the islanders to celebrate that a powerful king was coming to their aid. When he heard this, Tengër’s rage knew no bounds. Even though she had joint custody of the seas, Sërafinn couldn’t stop her uncle from creating tsunamis and maelstroms all over.

Coming back to the present, her arm still around her cousin, he finally turned to her and asked, “what if Alkan begins sacrificing humans to all of us?” Sërafinn shuddered. She couldn’t help think about what her mother, father or even Samrósa would do. As it is, Verontó and Ismińa haven’t spoken to each other since the last council meeting. Ismińa had been using her powers to persuade humans to stand up against the injustice of Alkan, but even the goddess of foresight could not sway the populace of Barathorn.

To them, Alkan seemed to be a god in human form. Someone they could see, hear and touch. Unlike the gods, who rarely showed their true form to humans, were beginning to fade into imaginary stories, with many people losing interest in their very existence. This alarmed Ismińa and Olěnd the most.

“He professes with his lips that we, the Evertheenians, are above them,” Sërafinn stated, “yet his heart is far from us. He’s not even interested in Verontó anymore. He only invokes the god of war’s name to keep those who still believe in him to trust that what they are doing is right, slowly turning the credit for Verontó to Alkan’s gain.”

“Then he’s a deluded fool!” Færró spat. Sërafinn took her cousin in her arms and gently stroked his hair, calming him. His entire form was shaking. She wished she could use her powers and give him peace, but the gods couldn’t use their powers on each other. He eventually broke away from her but held her hands in his.

“What are we to do?” He searched her eyes, pleading for answers.

She felt helpless. “We must wait this one out, cousin. If we don’t stand together, we will land up fighting and destroying everything we’ve built. I don’t want to repeat what we did during the First Age.”

Færró looked down at Barathorn, then back at her. “And if it comes to that?”

Sërafinn felt his internal struggle. “Think of the good in this world, Færró, not just Alkan. If you get negative thoughts, think about Shafis and all she stands for. There’s so much for them to live for. They have such potential! Let’s not be too hasty based on one man’s greed. He too will grow old and die and his memory will eventually fade. We have seen many wicked men and women rise throughout the ages, but they all fell from grace, suffering eternal damnation in Innøcence Løst. And yet, life still goes on.”

He seemed content with her answer. Kissing her on her cheek, he thanked her and took a few steps back. Spreading his great wings, he took flight and Sërafinn watched him disappear as he flew towards his palace on the opposite side of the Metropolis. She let out a great sigh.

Sërafinn walked up the stairs and sat on her silvery throne on the moon and was so preoccupied with what took place between herself and Færró, that the laughter she heard shook her out of her grimness. Looking down, she saw there was a feast being held in the palace of Marpøøn Gantal. Everyone was enjoying the banquet, save for Queen Shafis, who was sleeping peacefully in her private chambers (Sërafinn granted the queen a dreamless and peaceful sleep).

Let them enjoy themselves,” she thought. “For tomorrow Alkan arrives.” She heard the laughter again and her eyes rested on Queen Isarin.

The queen of Rake Turf was engrossed in a humorous conversation with Prince Daris that Sërafinn found herself smiling despite the anxiety she and the rest of her family were feeling concerning Alkan and the thoughts of many who seemed to be colluding against the gods.

She then turned her attention to the prince, who had his faithful friend Trajan, lying by his feet under the table. He said something and again, Isarin was laughing so much that her sides were hurting.

Sërafinn returned her attention to the prince and something inside of her… stirred.

* * * * *

Sërafinn had seen the prince many times before as well as his entire family line since the founding of Kain Nightly, but now? It was as if she had noticed him for the very first time and she felt her heart quicken. What was this emotion she was experiencing?

His face was young and handsome. His stunning, blue eyes were not as intimidating as those of his brother. They were more… kind? Gentle? She found she could not stop looking at his features and felt her face flush. He was tall and graceful in every movement he made. His curly black hair fell loosely around his face. She looked at his lips and before she could stop the thought, imagined being kissed by him.

She stood abruptly, knocking the goblet of wine off the armrest of her throne. These thoughts were insane! How could a goddess think such things of a human?

Samrósa had once made the mistake of letting her feelings being made known of harbouring jealousy towards Queen Shafis. It was because people all over Barathorn continuously spoke of the queen’s beauty. What she was feeling was not jealousy.

Was it?

What reason did she have to feel jealous about? Was it the fact that Daris was paying attention to Queen Isarin and not her?

Stop it!” She thought, leaning against her throne, suddenly feeling dazed.

It must be the wine that’s making me dizzy with these absurd thoughts?” She chided herself. All of a sudden, a strong emotion swept over her entire being, and clutching tightly onto her throne was all she could do to prevent her from collapsing to the floor. She began to sweat profusely.

Since when do gods sweat?” Panic began to swell within her. She thought it best to retreat to her palace when suddenly, the palace doors towards the Moon Shadow Throne swung open and Samrósa came gliding in with a grace about her that made Sërafinn shriek.

Samrósa knew!

“I smell love!” She announced, her arms rising gracefully above her for dramatic effect, laughing while walking gracefully down the long corridor towards her sister.

Sërafinn staggered and the smile on Samrósa’s face turned into a concerned frown. She lifted her dress and rushed towards her sister, but before she could reach her in time, Sërafinn found herself pleading, “Help me!” She fell to the ground and rolled down the stairs.

When darkness began to take over, she heard her sister scream her name, yet somehow Samrósa’s voice sounded as if she were far, far away. A face loomed over her. Was it her sister’s? She could no longer tell. Her eyes were heavy and Samrósa became hysterical, trying in vain to keep her awake.

Whatever power Samrósa summoned, it was enough to alert everyone on Evertheen. Soon, there was a bustle happening all around her. Fighting against the darkness, Sërafinn felt herself being lifted in strong arms and was rushed to her palace. Those arms? Were they Verontó’s? Or maybe Remesló? She felt completely disorientated.

She was laid gently on a bed and the only face she could make out before passing out was that of her mother’s.

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