Chapter 8 ~ A Past Well Kept
R e n a
I wake up when the night sky is lit up with stars. It’s a beautiful sight, but it doesn’t brighten my mood much. The plan is pretty simple but I really don’t feel ready for this or even remotely prepared. Entering Draäl somehow doesn’t feel right. Though I was born here I know deep down that this isn’t the place where I belong. It isn’t my home.
It’s ok for Kian; he isn’t the one that has to go through with the plan, he is only a by stander. He is right in saying that he’d be caught if he came with me, but that still doesn’t mean I’m happy with the outcome because now I have to do it and I have to do it alone.
We both know what I have to retrieve; the problem is we don’t know where to find it or even where to begin to look. That’s where Barnie comes in. He’s already up there in the sky somewhere, scouting the area for the book.
He knows exactly what to look for. His intelligence sometimes astounds me.
While we wait for Barnie to return, I prepare myself for the task at hand.
Kian had pointed out a little earlier that the people of Draäl would soon discover me if they caught sight of my runemark, so I had to think of a way to hide it.
They only way I can is by wrapping a long strip of cloth up each of my arms, hopefully it won’t arouse any suspicion. I also wrap a tarp of cloth over my head and around my nose and mouth, my hair, the unusual shade it is could be distinguished almost straight away as an imposter.
We both agreed nightfall would be the best time to scour the city undetected. Less people around, less threat of being caught.
As more time passes, my nerves begin to get worse. I have no idea what to expect within the walls of Draäl and if I’m honest, I don’t want to know either.
I look over at Kian who is lost in the scenery. I can help but smile at his facial expressions; he looks so amazed at what lies before him.
Staring out at the horizon, I lose myself in the stars for a while until Barnie suddenly appears, swooping down and landing on my shoulder.
I look at him and he coos softly. I take this as a good sign and I call Kian over.
“I think it’s time,” I say to him.
He nods and I stand up.
I look at Barnie, a small wavering grin playing on my lips. “You know what to do Barnie”.
Suddenly he pulls himself into the air and up over the wall surrounding the city.
I follow him with my eyes until he is out of sight and then look back at Kian.
“Good luck,” he whispers.
I nod and smile in response and then dart around to the gates.
While a thought had worried me earlier, I don’t even bother giving it a second thought now, because it isn’t a problem. I smile as I slip through the silver bars that make the gate. They obviously hadn’t thought about the space between the bars when they had made it. But then why would anyone wish to escape a place like this.
I’m surprised to find that there are no guards in sight, but then again it shouldn’t surprise me. The Demonata only come to collect the impure during the day and never at night. I suppose due to the fact that the Pure ones have a deal set up with Aldevia, they don’t feel the need to have guards hanging around. This is a good thing, it gives me the advantage.
I hear a whistle, so quiet and faint that I have to strain my ears to be able to hear it myself. I look up, my eyes adjusted to the night and see Barnie circling overhead and smile. He knows the way. All I have to do now is follow him and not get caught.
I’ve been following Barnie now for at least a half hour.
’By the Gods how long is this going to take?’
I have no idea where the hell I’m going, but I make sure to take in my surroundings to help me find my way back to Kian, slowly forming a mental map in my head, locked away for later.
I’m getting pretty sick of slipping silently around this city, like a mouse in a maze, a shadow amongst the darkened streets. There are the few odd people, dotted around the streets but it isn’t hard to dodge their eyes. I easily slip past them unnoticed.
The buildings are beautiful, all hand carved from white and grey marble, a breathtaking sight. They stand tall and proud, each has its own space not at all like the buildings in Aldevia, where they all seemed to be crushed together in some sort of messy heap.
I’m beginning to tire when I see Barnie swoop down and perch himself on the roof of a large building. It stands alone with large patches of evened grass surrounding it. I can see even from a distance that gold has been carved into the structure, meaning that this building has been stood here since the Old era, a time before Ragnarök.
I sweep the area, completely barren of unwanted eyes, before I dart across the open and up the steps into the building. As I look around the huge halls held up with beautifully carved pillars, I realise that this must be some kind of scared place for the Pure ones.
I see a light flickering out of the corner of my eyes and I flinch. When it doesn’t move, I dare to glance over. A candle, I sigh with relief.
Making my way down the hallway, I follow the path lit up for me, eventually entering a huge circular room.
There are paintings on the walls and there is more gold in this room than I’ve ever seen in my life. It covers the ceiling, the statues and even some of the seats lined up in the room. I gaze around the room, my mouth hung open in absolute awe, my eyes unable to look away.
Never have I seen anything quite like this. It’s certainly something I’m not likely to forget, something I will keep folded away safely into my bank of memories. Now I realise why the Pure Ones cherish their home, its breathtaking.
It’s when I finally look up the path towards the back of the room that I see the book.
Sitting proudly, high up on the golden altar is my goal.
A proud grin spreads across my lips under the cloth wrapped around half my face, my dancing eyes the only hint of my pleased self.
I’ve found what I came for, the Chronicle of Words.
K i a n
I pace up and down beside the moat as time drags on slowly.
Why is she taking so long, could she have found the book yet or is she in trouble?
I can’t help but worry the guilt settling on my gaining power over my thoughts. I should’ve gone with her, I shouldn’t have let her go on her own.
But I didn’t, instead I stayed here like a coward, waiting by the sidelines while she could be in trouble.
Waiting for her is agonizingly slow and painful. I’d managed to kill some time, by stealing two of the horses from the demons who were camping out, ready for the morning, but now I’m stuck waiting again.
I don’t know what’s going on in there and I can’t help if the plan has backfired.
All I have to go on is the hope of that she returns soon, even if that mean she hasn’t retrieved the book.
I need to know if she is alright, but out here I’m useless. My hope is slowly fading away the longer her absence becomes. All I can do is pray the gods protect her.
R e n a
I take my time to reach the book. I know Kian is probably wondering where I am, having been gone so long, but for the first time in a while, I’m actually starting to enjoy myself. When I reach the book, I stroke its cover gently.
I quickly look around to check if anyone is around, before clasping my fingers around the book and slowly lifting it away from its home on the altar.
It looks exactly like the Chronicle of territories.
Though unlike its brother, it has been kept well and all the beautiful gems on its cover are still intact, along with the golden lettering of the title.
I’m slipping it into my satchel when I hear footsteps and then a gasp from somewhere behind me. I stop, frozen in my tracks and slowly turn my head.
Standing about halfway down the hall is a young boy.
He’s seen me.
We both stay where we are; me by the altar and him in the corridor with his mouth hanging open. From the shadows cast upon him, I can’t make out his features very well, but I can tell he is young and slightly afraid. Suddenly I hear more footsteps and a voice.
’Great more of them to deal with,” I think, internally rolling my eyes.
“Fyn? Fyn where are you?” I hear it ask in a loud whisper.
The footsteps get louder and louder until I know whoever they belong to has reached us. I just pray he doesn’t say anything or point me out to the approaching pure one.
“Fyn it’s late. What are you still doing here?” she asks.
It’s a woman. She’s older than I first suspected, but not as young as myself or even this so called Fyn. From here I can see the small creases and wrinkles in her skin around her eyes and mouth.
She has strawberry blonde hair that falls in long waves around her face and warm, light brown eyes.
Familiarity tugs at me for only a moment, before I shake it off. I can’t know her, she’s clearly lived here her whole life while I haven’t. I can’t exactly place her in Aldevia, its clear she belongs here.
I’m almost certain I don’t know her and yet at the same time, my mind is telling me I do somehow. I know I should run, as soon as I heard her coming I should have, but something stops me. Something I can’t control.
Staying though, as I soon realise, is a huge mistake. In seconds she clocks Fyn isn’t paying her any mind and follows his gaze to me and gasps, a hand lifting to her open mouth. With this simple gesture something clicks within me. I react quickly, rushing over to her and covering her mouth before she can scream. I quickly flip out my dagger and hold it to her neck. This action makes her whimper softly.
“Move an inch or say one word and she dies. Understood?” I tell the boy, my eyes locked to him.
He nods his head vigorously and doesn’t say a word.
I’m about to say something else, when he stumbles back.
I pull the dagger closer to who I assume to be his mother’s neck, but then I realise he isn’t trying to escape. He stares at me in shock and he looks speechless for a couple of minutes. His expression scares me and my heart begins to beat rapidly in my chest.
“Why have you got my mother’s eyes?” he asks me in a small voice.
His eyes flicker to left of my face, where a slip of hair has fallen from under my scarf. I watch him as he cocks his head to the side, watching carefully. “Why is your hair the same shade?
“W-what?” I stammer, shock causing me to release my grip on his mother.
She pulls away from me and stands behind her son, wrapping her arms around him protectively. She looks at me with a look that mirrors Fyn’s.
I take a sharp intake of breath. The boy is right, her eyes, like slate grey, mirror my own and her hair, the red in it uncanny.
“What are you doing here demon?” she spits at me, her eyes wary.
I blink in shock, still unable to process the likeliness. “Demon?”
For a second she looks taken back, but she soon regains her composure. “You heard me. Go back to the filthy place from whence you came.”
“I-I’m not a demon” I say, stumbling over my words as I look back and forth at them.
“Sent here to play tricks were you, leave before I summon the guards,” she retorts, her face serious.
Before I can realise what I’m doing, the cloth from my left arm slips away to the floor, leaving my reversed rune in plain sight. I watch as the woman goes pale, staring first at my face and then back at my runemark.
“Mother why does she look like you?” Fyn asks as he looks from me to back up at his mother, tugging as her sleeve.
She mutters something incoherently, her eyes never leaving my face. I’m scared and angry at myself, but I push it to one side unable to tear away from my current position. I know I’ve put myself in a dangerous situation and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it, but this is the least of my worries for now.
My heart beats all too fast in my chest, my mind calculating how I recognise this woman’s face. I slide my dagger back into its holder and bed down to pick up the cloth, the one covering my head slipping to fully reveal my fiery curls. The woman flinches.
“Who is she?” Fyn asks as he tugs at his mother’s robes.
“Fyn, please, hush,” she says softly as she looks down at him before lifting her eyes back to me.
Her gaze is unwavering, though not as hard as before. “What do they call you?”
I stay silent, purely because fear has a sudden hold of my tongue, partly because I seem to have lost my voice.
The woman frowns at me. “your name, child”.
“Rena” I say finally, my voice quiet.
“Rena,” she repeats, a thoughtful look on her face as she savours my name.
“Come with me” she says finally, before turning around and walking down the hall, hand in hand with Fyn.
I hesitate for a moment, before deciding to follow them making sure to keep myself at a certain distance. Barnie sees me and I give him the signal to return to Kian.
I watch as he flies away and disappears into the night sky. Suddenly I feel even more uncertain than before, but I continue to follow Fyn and his mother until we reach an area of small cottage type homes.
As soon as I reach the door, I’m dragged into the house and Fyn’s mother locks the door behind me. She gives Fyn a look and after looking between me and his mother once more, he mutters a goodnight before slipping into another room.
We stand there, a few metres away from one another in the middle of the dining area, a modest space with a wooden table branched out in its centre.
In the end it’s her who breaks the silence.
“You’re an impure,” she says, a stamen more than a question.
I don’t utter a word. Instead, I simply nod my head.
“Why are you here? How did you even get here?” she asks, slightly bewildered.
I don’t answer and attempt to avoid her gaze, but it keeps finding me.
“You felt it too, didn’t you?” she asks suddenly.
This takes me by complete surprise. I hadn’t realised she had felt it too. The connection I had felt when I first saw her.
I look into her eyes and see tears forming there, a nervous smile forming on her lips.
I must have given away something because she suddenly strides up to me, her arms shaking as she tentatively wraps the around me, pulls me into her embrace, whispering my name over and over.
She pulls back and takes a good look at me, her eyes sweeping over every inch of my face. Drinking it in, remembering every freckle, the shape of my eyes, the way my chin curves and sweeps my curls from my face.
“Don’t you realise who I am?” she asks me, looking surprised as she fights back tears.
I look at her with a confused look on my face, uncertainty leaking into my expression.
She looks at me for a long moment before shocking me completely. “I’m Kanara,”
“And I’m your mother”.
K i a n
I’m still pacing about, almost distraught over Rena.
’By the Gods where could she be?’
I can’t keep calm, my mind keeps picturing the worst and I can’t block the images of her locked away somewhere. Feeling like I’m going out of my mind, when I suddenly hear a soft cooing. Instantly, Barnie appears and lands on my shoulder.
I breathe out a huge sigh of relief.
Barnie seems to be calm and has finally returned which means that his mistress won’t be far behind.
R e n a
I take a step back in shock, my mind reeling from the facts sprawled out before me.
It all makes perfect sense now; why I look so much like Kanara. Why in the temple, she had looked as though she’d seen a ghost. But somehow, I still can’t quite process this new information. All this time, in another place a world so different from the one I know, I had a mother and a brother.
“No, y-you must be mistaken. It can’t be” I mutter, stumbling over my words.
Kanara watches me sadly. “You and your sister were impure. I had to hand you over, I was given no other choice”.
“Fyn?” I manage to say, my head spinning.
“He was born pure,” she explains.
“My sister” I say, trailing off.
My mind whirs as I attempt to break down all the information overwhelming me. It can’t be true, a mother, a sister and a brother.
My mother nods as if she can read my mind, a single tear slides down her cheek. “Yes. You have a sister and a brother”.
“My-,” I choke on the words, unable to get them out.
“Your father is no longer with us,” she says softly, the ache in her tone apparent.
But I barely register it. I’m finding it hard to breathe, this barrage of insight all too much for me to cope with at once. The room spins as I sway with it, almost certain I’ll pass out if I stay here another minute.
Before she can stop me, I’ve backed up against the door and scrambled with it until it opens, I’m running away as fast as my legs will take me, my destination the gates.
I don’t care who sees me or if I’m spotted, my mind is a blur or mismatched thoughts, my distress signals ringing throughout my head.
I slip through the gates in a blur and reach Kian shortly after, my eyes still wide with internal panic. He looks extremely relived to see me at first before he notices my expression, his turning serious almost immediately. Barnie, perched on his shoulder takes this moment to disappear into the night skies.
I go to hand him the book, my hand trembling as I reach out, but he takes it and tosses it to one side, the sand flying with impact, as he cups my face in his hands, his eyes boring into mine making it impossible for me to avoid his gaze. I can feel a lump forming in my throat, but I can’t produce a single word.
“Rena, is everything ok?” he asks. I can feel him scrutinising me but I can’t move my mouth to form the words.
Silence ensues as we stand there, my face in his hands, his eyes in line with mine. My panic dissolves slightly, but my heart hammers in my chest
“We need to leave,” I say in a choked voice.
Kian says nothing and for a moment he stands there watching me, his hand not moving an inch from my face. I can feel his eyes boring into mine, searching for an answer to the question he holds in his. A question I’m not sure I have the strength to answer and I mentally beg him not to ask me any questions.
As if he understands this he suddenly he nods, his hands dropping from my cheeks.
“Let’s go,” he says.
He begins to pack up and doesn’t press me or say another word. Throwing the loads evenly over two horses I hadn’t noticed earlier in my distraught state.
I try to keep a firm head on, but my whole body feels as though it’s about to give in on me at any moment.
I’m grateful Kian makes short time of packing up and soon enough we’re riding south, away from Draäl. As we start off, something in my urges me to look back, which I do, glancing back at the city of Pure Ones.
In it, somewhere near the heart of the cite, lies a small house in which is inhabited by none other than my brother and my mother. And somewhere further away, in a world I escaped, my sister.
A family I never knew existed.
I let a tear run down my cheek as I turn my back on the city and look forward to see Kian watching me every now and then, a worried look on his face. I try to ignore his close eyes and push my stallion into a run.
Kian is soon beside me, matching my speed as we rush across the desert plains, sand flying up behind us like a sea of mist.
Away from the shadows of my past.