The Silent Witness (Published)

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“Isn’t she beautiful?” Morgan asked in a dreamy voice. Although it was a rhetorical question, Fenn didn’t know what she was talking about. In truth, when did a man ever know what went on in a woman’s head? They were lying on the grass, arms behind their heads, and looking up at the clear night sky. Morgan insisted on him coming out with her and as usual, he did, for he could never say no to his little sister.

“What’s beautiful?” he asked, rather bored.

“The moon, silly! It’s fascinating how she changes shapes during the months. The astronomers call it Phasing.

Big deal,” he thought. “Wait a minute… she?” Fenn asked, looking at Morgan.

“Yes! The moon is a goddess and the sun is a god!” Morgan said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“How do you know that?” Fenn asked.

“Because I read about it and I listened in class!” Morgan laughed.

Fenn turned his head again towards the sky and sighed, “Did you purchase more scrolls from the traders that come round? Because if you did, grandmother would give you another lecture on wasting barthics.” Morgan was silent for a while.

“Well, I like to read a lot as there are so many interesting things that have happened in our world long before we were born and even long before that! For instance, remember the famous incident that happened by the Mark River?” Morgan looked at her brother with searching eyes.

“You mean the tragedy that struck near the city of Lan Carvi?” Fenn asked.

Morgan snorted. “You mean, Caper Løck!

Fenn thought for a while, wracking his brain as he knew the story. “Oh yes, the little girl who drowned and then dogs ’apparently’ became man’s companions.”

“Not apparently Fenn, it’s true! All schools teach that story. The gods gave them to us as a special gift and we should cherish them, and playing pranks on people is not a gift, Fenn! Remember how you chased mother with a bat, who itself was more scared out of its wits from all her screaming!” Fenn smiled at the memory. The more their mother screamed, the more the bat got agitated, hissing and squealing.

“I don’t believe in the gods,” Fenn said rather too quickly. Morgan gave him a shocked look. He looked back at her and held his sister’s gaze for a while.

“How can I believe in something I can’t see?”

“It’s very simple Fenn. It’s called Faith.

“Whatever. Give me a sword and a commander to follow. That will be real enough for me.” Now that Fenn finished school, all he ever wanted was to join the army and become a famed hero. Of all the tales told across Barathorn, Fenn enjoyed listening to the stories of heroes long ago and listened to their stories when the singers sang of their bravery. He knew all those stories well but paid no attention to the gods or some random wolf howling on the highest peak of the Purple Møuntains.

Although a middle-class family, they enjoyed what little luxury they could afford. Their homeland was also well situated in Barathorn. The kingdom of Marpøøn Gantal had two impressive rivers: the Timber and Nøn Rivers. The Timber Førest lay just northwest, so wood was plentiful. The kingdom had great walls that would make it hard for enemies to breach. With secret tunnels dug underneath, water was never in short supply. In case an enemy ever had to stop the flowing waters, there was always a backup tunnel, leading from the Nøn River. King Gunner Price and his wife, Queen Shafis, were an amorous couple, beloved by all.

King Gunner was known to be neutral, for he wished to not quarrel with any settlements; west or east of Barathorn. He’d heard reports of King Hatmin’s notion of expanding his kingdom and it could spell only one thing if other cities did not wish to fall under his rule: war. Reports now began to flow endlessly, which weighed heavily on Gunner’s mind. Shafis was not an idle queen. She had taken on many burdens off his shoulders and would settle disputes among the common people, while Gunner would concentrate on more pressing matters.

Fenn heard about King Hatmin. But he didn’t care. If war was to come, he would join the army, fancying himself a hero. It was all he ever spoke of when he was with his group of friends. “--joined their powers,” Morgan was saying, unaware her brother had trailed off towards his thoughts.

“Sorry. Repeat that.”

Morgan sighed. “I said, Sërafinn and Tengër joined their powers from the beginning. The records called ‘The Gods Gather’, states that Tengër united his power with Sërafinn’s. The gravitational pull of the moon at its fullest would raise the tides and when the moon begins to wane, the tides would calm down.”

“Big wow,” yawned Fenn. “Didn’t the gods have anything better to do?” he pondered.

“Oh, Fenn Japther you are such a bore!”

Rolling over and looking at his sister he said, “Morgan, all those stories you read in those silly scrolls have taken you into a world where you no longer seem to recognise what’s real or what’s not. Everyone knows this. Do you remember how our grandmother scolded you the other day when you came with a new story to share with her? Remember what she said? ’You are wasting your time reading such rubbish’ (imitating their grandmother’s voice). Why can’t you use your talents in a way that will benefit us all?”

Morgan was silent for a while. Fenn lay back again.

“You have a talent for remembering so much information and detail, Morgan, but as grandmother said, it’s useless information. Fair enough, we had to read ‘The God’s Gather’ in school because it was a mandatory subject and to know how we came into existence, at least for those who believe in that kind of stuff. At least the wisdom goddess gave sound advice. If I remember correctly, she told her uncle for mankind to be given a choice, to worship or not to worship, to believe or not to believe. I’m glad about that. If I had to say something out of line, at least I won’t be struck down with an illness from that god of plagues and healing… quite ironic if you ask me.”

Morgan felt out of place. Her faith was real, without question. How could anyone live and not believe in something? It weighed heavy on her heart and Fenn’s words struck her more than she let on.

“By the way, when are you going to enrol at the Academy of Støne Fønt?” Fenn asked. “You always wanted to be an architect for as long as I can remember and I believe you’ll do great.”

Morgan snorted. “And where will the barthics come from once I finish school? We may not be poor, but we certainly don’t have the means for an academy that is famous across all of Barathorn.”

The Academy of Støne Fønt was the most sought-after school and many scholars who wished to study there had to register four years before joining if their applications were successful.

“We’re both still young with the world waiting for us to take it on with all we have! When we get older, we can do anything we want!” Fenn believed everything could be achieved by having a strong mind frame, but Morgan thought her brother was also living in his own fantasy world. No one gained success without first working hard for it.

“I know,” Fenn continued, “why don’t you seek employment at the Academy after school? You could benefit from it. I mean, at least you’ll be in the place you wish to study. Then you can build yourself up!”

Morgan thought about this and the more she thought, the more her future seemed brighter.

“Just be careful,” Fenn mused. “You know father would keep you with him forever if he could! If the gods are real, then may they all help the poor man who would ask his permission for your hand in marriage!”

Morgan smiled. “Yes… he always calls me his little M!

* * * * *

Sërafinn didn’t mean to eavesdrop on the siblings. She’d just witnessed a murder by the Løng River and the body was dumped into Lake Fern. She then looked at the farmlands of the city Waters Field, but a couple had been frolicking around and Sërafinn felt her cheeks burn. Only then did her eyes settle on Morgan and Fenn. She had seen them from time to time and how the siblings would fight and afterwards would become the best of friends.

Like the gods, sibling rivalry was not uncommon. She’d also witnessed with delight the night Fenn was born. The new addition to the Japther family and as with all other families, hoping the legacy of Japther would continue through him.

Her thoughts were disrupted when Samrósa came walking towards Serafinn’s throne. Serafinn’s silver palace was situated on the border of Evertheen. There, on the highest tower, she had another throne that was crafted by Remesló. A long, open-plan corridor ran from the palace to this particular throne - known as the Moon Shadow Throne - and many nights she would sit here to get away from the others, as it was so isolated. Samrósa came laughing down the corridor. No doubt she’d done something amusing to someone who didn’t see the funny side of it.

“You should see aunt Motiňa’s hair! I swear, no matter how many times I show her, she still botches it up! I laughed so hard…” her sentence trailed off when she looked down and saw what was happening in Waters Field, bringing a huge smile on her face.

“Oh! My dear innocent sister! You were ogling!”

“I wasn’t!” Sërafinn snapped. Samrósa raised her hands in an ’I surrender’ gesture.

“Let’s go inside for a ’chit-chat’, as you call it. I’ve seen enough for one night.” Rising from her throne, Samrósa couldn’t help gaze at its splendour. Remesló had indeed crafted a beautiful throne for her. The marble throne glowed a faint, silvery colour to match the moon. The seat and high backrest were padded with a shadowy colour, embedded with stars, as well as the armrests. The lining was edged with alexandrite gems so that they shone lightly and changed colour to compliment the night sky. As with all the thrones, on the top part of her backrest was her symbol of power, crafted out of blue diamonds.

Across the hundred metres long corridor, the floor would shine with every step Sërafinn took. It was wide enough for the two to walk side by side. None of the other gods’ footsteps shone as Serafinn’s, but Samrósa didn’t care, her eyes were fixed on the couple in Waters Field. The arched doors opened on their own accord as soon as Sërafinn came nearer.

Once inside, Sërafinn poured herself a goblet of wine as well as one for her sister.

“So, I heard aunt Motiňa helped another child out of the Pass Nøtt Førest.”

“Yes yes she did,” Samrósa said in a bored tone, waving her hand hoping to dismiss the conversation. She walked over and flopped herself on the recliner.

“Who were you thinking of introducing it to?” Sërafinn asked.

Samrósa turned and looked at her sister. “Introducing what?”

“This new hairstyle of yours?”

Taking a sip, she answered, “I was thinking of Queen Shafis Price. She seems to be the apple of nearly every nation’s eye. Whatever clothes she wears, they copy her style. I have no doubt her hairstyle would accomplish the same reaction.” Samrósa took another sip of her wine. Sërafinn heard a touch of annoyance in her sister’s tone. Could it be possible for the goddess of beauty to be jealous of a mere mortal?

Although all the gods had similar family resemblances, Samrósa was, without a doubt, the most beautiful. Her eyes were remarkably sapphire in colour, piercing, yet friendly at the same time. She had a pert bust with a dress that boasted iridescent silk taffeta with a chiffon overlay the colour of lake blue. It had a tinge of lilac when it caught the light and whenever she walked. The V-shaped neck lining ran down, reaching her naval. On both sides of her dress was thigh-length slits, showing off her beautiful, slender long legs with every stride she made. Her dress didn’t have a train behind it. She desired to show off her beauty, luscious body, and long legs.

She wore a white-gold pendant down her long, slender neck. Her silver diadem shone a soft, aquamarine colour that complemented her raven-coloured hair. As with the other gods, her diadem shone her symbol. The most iconic piece of jewellery was her wristbands. They were studded with white-gold and turquoise and every finger had a ring. Each of them was connected to a diamond-encrusted chain, connected to her wristbands.

A gift from Remesló, only because she nagged him night and day to make something beautiful for her. She also wore a strip of lake blue-coloured silk bands around her upper arms.

Sërafinn was no doubt an exception. Her long hair was blue-black, partly curled up and braided with loose hair reaching down her back. Her hair was entwined with silver gossamers and had strands of loose, straightened hair that hung down on each side of her face. Her diadem shone like the moon and in its centre, was a star shining her symbol of power. The pupils of her eyes were that of the moon itself. Even when the moon phased, so did her pupils, but they weren’t without emotion. She was adorned with a sleeveless, V-neck and silver-coloured dress with a night-coloured sash laced around her thin waist. Her entire frame shimmered like twinkling stars, with hints of silver whenever she walked. Unlike Samrósa, her dress reached the ground with a long train behind her.

“Rumour has it on Evertheen,” began Samrósa, “that war is on the minds of at least two of the three kings. One of them wishes to create an empire by first conquering the north and then bully neighbouring cities, villages, and islanders to bend the knee.”

“I know,” Sërafinn said, almost in a whisper. “I never thought it would come to this. But then again, it’s only talk. Right?”

Samrósa huffed. “Well, if it’s true or not, I do not doubt in my mind that this is making our dear brother Verontó feel as if he were in Terra Nimble. Sælev had been observing the kings’ ambitions and the villagers are getting rather nervous about what may come. It’s always the poor folk who get the short end of the stick. Verontó is beginning to get restless, now that he has possible opportunities he’s been waiting for. Of course, there have been many battles in the past, but not like the ones these kings are imagining. One of the three kings has been praying to him for support.”

“Yes, and at night I see what takes place behind closed doors. Action might take place - at most times - during the day, but at night I see how they scheme! I’ve seen how innocent people begin to fear more with each passing day, wondering when war will take place. They don’t need to pray about it, I hear it all the same.” Samrósa could hear the bitterness in her sister’s voice.

“Well,” Samrósa said, her goblet dissolved as she rose from the couch. “I should be off.”

“You’re leaving so soon?” Sërafinn asked.

“Indeed sister. As you said, I only came for a chit-chat!” She smiled and winked at her sister, turning to the doors that led out to Evertheen, where her chariot was waiting outside.

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