Good Reef!

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Chapter 11

The Troll was waiting for them with a wide smile and his arms crossed. Until now there had been no considerable problems on the road. A few Ancients had tried teasing the garrison but mostly left it alone. Whether it was thanks to Gogs and his morning lessons or just due to the Ancients’ lack of interest was anyone’s guess. But then they soon arrived at an unusual tear in the road (looking rather fresh) with a small, newly-constructed bridge across it and a Troll standing in front of it. The scouts had brought the news about him earlier, but to see a real Troll was to actually believe it. A proper one, too. Not ugly, as legends had them. But all big and gnarly with scarce hairs, big teeth, and an axe sticking out of an animal skin wrapped around his privates. There was also a massive club the size of a small tree lying next to him. Surely, it was all just a part of the whole Troll experience, to make it more official.

And what were they supposed to do now? If they tried to kill him, they would certainly lose a few men in the process and infuriate the nearby Ancients. They could ignore him and attempt to jump over the gap, but not many people could jump such a distance and not all the men had horses. Apart from that, there was also the king’s carriage and the supply carts. They could build their own bridge, but that would take time they surely didn’t have. So with a heavy heart Sava sent Lieutenant Bor to negotiate the price, just like in the olden days. But fair is fair: if they built bridges and looked after them, keeping them in a good, safe condition, why shouldn’t they charge for their use? As long as the price was fair. Bor returned with a smile on his face.

‘Lieutenant?’ asked the General.

‘He says that it’s a brand new bridge and we’d be the first ones over it, sir. Says he hasn’t built anything in a very long time – he was quite clear about that – and isn’t sure if he still has the talent for it, sir. Apparently, if we wanted to try it out for him he’d be very grateful and, if there are no accidents, he’d be willing to give us a discount. If there are accidents, he’ll waive the fee.’

‘What sort of a discount?’

‘A bottle of good wine – he was quite clear about that as well because he noticed the carriage and assumed we’d have some decent stuff – and either a sack of grains and two sacks of porridge or two sacks of dried meat.’

‘That’s not great but not terrible either, I suppose… Why are you smiling, lieutenant?’

‘I’m sorry, sir but there’s one more thing.’

‘Yes?’

‘Well, he says that since it’s a brand new bridge it needs a ceremony, a grand opening if you will.’

‘Just spit it out, will you, Bor? I can tell you’ve been dying to say it from the moment you turned your back on the Troll.’

‘He wants you to name the bridge, sir. Proper like. The smashed bottle, the speech, all that.’

‘Is that the bottle he wanted or does that mean we have to give him two?’

‘Erm, one, sir,’ he said rather put off by the lack of reaction.

‘Fine. Go tell the king we’re going to need three bottles of his wine.’

‘Three, sir? Yes, sir.’

‘He probably won’t mind,’ she continued without a comment ‘I even bet he’d be happy to give them away to the Troll just for the fun of it. And we’ll be giving him the dried meat. We can hunt a bit more often but we cannot replace porridge.’

‘Yes, sir,’ he saluted and went towards the carriage.

Sava got off her horse, stretched her legs and led the garrison towards the bridge. The Troll was still smiling broadly. Anyone else would already have had muscle twitches or a need to relax the face but not him. He had a face built to smile with glee for hours if needed. He bowed his head when she reached him and she replied in kind, which seemed to surprise him a little but only stretched his grin even wider.

‘So, dear sir, I’ve heard your price, and it seems fair, so I think we might have a deal.’

He bowed again.

‘I do have one question,’ she continued, and he raised a hairless muscle that on other faces would be an eyebrow. ‘You want us to cross the bridge and make sure it’s in working order so you can then give us a discount, correct? But you said you wanted a proper naming ceremony, and it’s not proper after a hundred people have just walked over it, is it? It’s not brand new anymore and it’s bad luck, too.’

‘What do you propose?’ asked the Troll. He had a kind, deep and wonderful voice. It was so lovely, in fact, that Sava thought he should consider reading to people as a career. Like a nanny for the children of rich parents, who are worried about their safety: a guardian and a nanny in one. She would definitely love to be read to by a voice like that. Probably anyone would. After a short period of adjustment, that is… And if he could read.

‘I name the bridge first. That way it’s proper and official. But, if we waste a bottle of wine, very expensive wine mind you since that man there is the king of this land,’ she pointed and clearly impressed the Troll ‘and you use my hand and reputation to officially open this bridge for general use,’ she continued stressing the words reputation and official ‘and then people fall, die, or break something, I will feel responsible for it, obviously. Correct? So, if everything works out and the bridge holds, I’m offering you one sack of meat and two more bottles of that extremely good and expensive wine.’

‘What if I don’t drink wine?’

‘Your voice is too lovely to never have had tried wine. But either way, that wine is from the king’s private cellar so you can easily trade it for far more than one sack of meat. You aren’t going to be charging people for just the things you’ll eat, are you? Don’t you traditionally, eat some, store some and trade some? This is usually a good trading route. You might get lucky.’

‘I might not,’ he said, and was it her imagination or did he blush after her comment about his voice? It was hard to say what with his skin being a little on the greenish side.

‘Were you really planning on eating two sacks of dried meat?’

‘Not in one go.’

‘You’re not serious. You’d get sick of it after just a few days.’

‘Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t.’

‘Your decision. Either way works for us. But if you want a proper naming ceremony before the bridge is used then these are my conditions,’ she was eager to finish this because the Troll’s magical voice was becoming harder to ignore. It was similar to having honey poured into your ears—in a good way—without the sticky mess.

‘Fine,’ he said ‘but you have to wear a dress.’

‘Done,’ she finally managed after a moment of shocked silence. They shook hands, and Sava discovered that for such massive hands the Troll had a very gentle touch.

The soldiers formed a semi-circular formation in front of the bridge, everyone hoping to get a good view and the king and his advisors stood right next to it as guests of honour, chatting politely with the Troll. Actually, the king was. His advisors attempted to be as invisible as possible. After a few moments the General emerged from the bushes wearing a dress borrowed from one of her soldiers (his name was Adam and he was known to have clothes for any occasion, which all, somehow magically, fit in his small backpack. The trick was in the way it was folded, he’d always say). There were a few gasps in the crowd. The General wasn’t beautiful but she was striking in some mysterious way. She was tall, held herself proudly and now, with a simple, long, red dress that wonderfully complemented her skin, she took more than a few people’s breath away. She strode over to the bridge ignoring the stares and grabbed a bottle from one of the king’s advisors. He had a hard time letting go of such expensive drink, but Sava was much stronger. She glanced at the label. It was actually called ‘The King’s Wine’, which was rather unoriginal, but had been bottled when the previous king was still a boy. Good stuff, she thought and stood in front of the Troll who was looking at her approvingly. There was now a pink ribbon (courtesy of Adam again, who was very excited indeed to be able to help) tied across the bridge in a big bow.

‘Right, let’s get this over with,’ she said trying extremely hard not to look uncomfortable.

‘Please,’ the Troll bowed his head.

‘Do you have a name in mind?’

‘Yes, I do. The Sava Bridge. It has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?’

The General stood speechless for a while and looked at the king. He was conveniently looking at the ribbon with his face arranged into the polite little smile he always wore at galas, balls, grand openings, concerts and similar occasions. The royal bastard. She sighed and tried hard not to be too embarrassed.

‘Right,’ she said ‘Fine, lovely. Shall we?’

‘By all means,’ said the Troll with his exquisite melting voice. If it was possible Sava would’ve stood straighter, but since it wasn’t she simply turned towards the soldiers.

‘Today, on the Twentieth day of the Ninth Month, in Lel’s year of the Circle, I am very honoured to open this bridge to the general public. May she hold them up and not let them fall,’ the formula was not very original but always conveyed the wishes of the people when it came to bridges. After all, that’s all that is required from a bridge, really. The general grabbed the bottle by the neck and turned to the railings.

‘I name you,’ a little sigh ‘The Sava Bridge’.

She smashed the bottle to the applause of her soldiers and quiet sobbing of one of the advisors. The Troll’s face was an example of utter delight when he somehow managed to grab one end of the bow with his massive fingers and motioned for Sava to take the other one. They pulled to some more applause and the bridge was open. It was all a little anticlimactic, she thought, and embarrassing. Some real stress was right ahead of them, though: trying out the bridge.

The Troll offered Sava his arm, and together they went to the other side, followed by the king and his advisors and then the rest of the garrison. The carriage and carts trundled along slowly, but there was no sign of trouble whatsoever, so the General disappeared to get rid of her dress (which, as it turned out, she only put over her usual clothes) and made sure that more bottles of wine and a sack of dried meat were given to the Troll.

She got on her horse and glanced at her garrison, all ready in front of her and waiting to continue on the journey.

‘Well, it would seem that you still have the gift. A good, solid bridge.’

‘Of course I do. Impossible to lose it.’

‘What was all this then?’

‘Oh, I like scaring people. Besides, I got you to wear a dress. It was worth it.’

The General was speechless again. It rarely happened, so she decided to reply in kind.

‘You should consider changing careers.’

‘How so?’

‘Well, can you read?’

‘Of course I can read. What do you think I am? Some sort of a savage?’

‘You’re stuck here in all weathers, all year round, even if you build yourself a house nearby. But what if you read for a living?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Well, there’s those hearing books that are very popular now. Some sort of a magical box, where you put your voice, reading the book and then someone buys it and plays it. And I’m sure you would do well as a narrator at a theatre.’

‘A Troll at a theatre?’

‘Maybe even an opera,’ she shrugged ‘You do have an amazing voice. It would melt people. Just think about it.’

The Troll opened his mouth and nothing came out. Sava smiled at the success and rode her horse to the front of the garrison. Soon they were on their way leaving behind the Troll, who was now scratching his head. He went to look for a piece of wood, since his crush was now in full development, and he needed a nice plaque for the bridge. Something with a good portrait of a lovely, strong lady. He had a thing for strong ladies.

They reached the shore in the late afternoon, and many a sigh of relief could be heard from the soldiers around. Somehow seeing the horizon on one side meant that you could only be attacked from three directions, which was much better than having to watch all four sides at the same time. The Wall was just as magnificent here as it was in the capital city, although here a much larger stretch was visible…all the way along the horizon, sparkling and inviting. They didn’t stop but kept on walking and even picked up the pace a little without anyone realising. They knew they were nearly there and it put more energy in their stride. The village of Blumenport was now discernible in the distance and it looked very peaceful indeed against the clear blue skies and the sparkling Wall with the sea behind it. Soon enough they got closer and the faint sounds of human activities began reaching their ears. But it was still rather quiet - a little too quiet. Just when Sava was beginning to get uncomfortable, she heard some shouts and then a piercing scream spread across the land. Yup, that’s about right, she thought. It was a scary sound, full of pain and anger and it stirred whatever was keeping silent in the forest to their right. More voices replied as if in solidarity with what they’d all just heard. The soldiers picked up their pace and at a run (highly organised, it should be added) they entered the village and found their way to the beach. The king got on a horse, eager to see what was happening, while his advisors stayed behind with the supply carriages. They urged him to stay with them and arrange the garrison into some kind of a protective circle around him, but it was quite plain to all that the skirmish in the village had nothing to do with the king and had little chance of finding its way towards them. The General took in the scene. There was some sort of a camp set up in front of the Wall and many of its inhabitants were now running away from it. However a group consisting of at least one wizard was running towards it. Others from the village tried to stop them, but their pleas were ignored. After a closer look it was becoming clear that the people at the Wall were preparing to fight some type of large sea creatures, who were armed with simple spears and what looked like sword fish bills for weapons, but were wielding them rather confidently. And there were dozens more of the creatures than of the few men with swords, knives and other ‘proper’ weapons. The men were going to get slaughtered. No two ways about it.

‘General?’ asked the king.

‘Yes, Your Majesty.’

‘Shouldn’t we do something?’

‘What would you have me do, sir?’

‘Help?’

‘Which side?’

‘Our side.’

‘Which side is that? Have we declared a war against those sea creatures, sir?’

‘No.’

‘As I see it, sir, we are in their territory. This beach was underwater not too long ago and as far as I can tell we have invaded them. Without a signed act of war with your seal of approval, I think helping those men would just be banditry on our part.’

‘But they’re going to get massacred.’

‘We will too, sir. Have a look. See how many there are. And there are far more climbing over the wall. Probably hundreds, maybe more. They’re not well-armed, but we’re outnumbered, without tactics and on an unknown terrain. I don’t think we would survive it, sir. Not most of us anyway. And we don’t even know who started this.’

‘But that’s… well, it’s a bit heartless Vars.’

‘I’m a soldier, sir. I weigh options. I can’t just follow my impulses. You lose battles that way.’

‘But…,’ he started and never finished because of Sava’s scream directed at a few impatient soldiers twisting around and looking for an opportunity to run forward and help the men in trouble.

‘NOBODY MOVE!’ it was the first time both he and the soldiers saw her scream. She would shout at the battlefield or during practice, but this was a proper, angry scream and it was impressive. And really scary. ‘I SEE ANY OF YOU MOVE ONE TOE AND I WILL PERSONALLY BREAK YOUR BLOODY NECKS! AND THEN I WILL HAVE YOU COURT-MARTIALLED AND HANGED! UNDERSTOOD?’ So that was what was hiding beneath and made people uneasy and afraid of the General. There was something angry and merciless living there and they’d just caught a glimpse of it. ‘I SAID: IS THAT UNDERSTOOD!’

‘Yes, sir!’ they all shouted in unison.

‘GOOD! Now, use your eyes! We are standing on somebody else’s territory. For all we know they are the ones defending themselves. However, as His Majesty graciously points out, one side is going to get massacred and it’s never good to see that happen to anyone. So, we are going to go in there and attempt to restore order in a calm and organised fashion, and with NO WEAPONS DRAWN, understood?’

‘Yes, sir!’ they all replied again.

‘We will try and position ourselves in between the fighting sides, separate them and, again, NO WEAPONS DRAWN! Face away from the Wall. This will let the creatures know we’re not there to attack them and point out to our fellow countrymen that we’re not going to be helping them. If it’s impossible to stop the fighting, we will retreat. We’re not here to take part and die in local skirmishes. Understood?’

‘Yes, sir!’

‘Horses first. People second. Go!’ she shouted and added to the king ‘I don’t think you should be coming, sir.’

‘Oh, but I am,’ he replied and that was that.

They rode closer to the Wall as more people were running from the camp towards them thinking that the soldiers were going to help. However, very soon their way was blocked and the civilians were stopped short, unable to join the small group of men already fighting with the sea creatures, or actually, the small group of men already being massacred by the sea creatures. No urging would change the soldiers’ minds. They just stood there, ignoring what was going on behind their backs. Only general Vars and the king watched what was happening. And what was happening was that the wizard and his companions, finally reached the Wall and, rather than be slaughtered, caused a commotion and a sudden silence among the screeching sea creatures, who now closed ranks and gathered around them, ignoring the men they were fighting with just a few moments ago. Those who survived and were smart enough, ran, those who weren’t particularly smart and stayed to try and attack again were persuaded otherwise by general Vars and a handful of her soldiers, who then dragged them away behind the line of the military men. There were still more and more creatures pouring over the Wall, flooding the beach as far as the eye could see. Thousands of them, all looking angry but, for the moment, seemingly hesitant, apparently depending on whatever was transpiring within the small, newly arrived group of people. As if completely unaware of the danger, King Komin himself became curious and was compelled to move closer. He was immediately followed by Sava, determined to remove him to safety as soon as possible. But, incredibly, the sea of creatures separated and created a pathway for them both leading towards the centre of the gathering. The small group of Yavians there were gently handing over a limp body of a sea person. It was passed among its kind until it reached the Wall, where it was slowly lifted up and over, and soon disappeared behind it. There was a silent, yet animated conversation going on and the king moved in with his horse deciding that when a massacre was the alternative, talking was the far better option. He was suddenly met by the white stare of a small girl. For the first time in a very long time, he was completely unnerved and felt extremely vulnerable. He dismounted, closely followed by Vars. And suddenly he realized why he had travelled here. He had a role to play in all of this and his presence had been planned. This place had meaning, and he felt it through his feet. A castle had stood here once. Its inhabitants were killed and slowly it crumbled, and then the water swallowed the remaining pieces and removed them from memory. This was a spot where others failed to talk and chose to fight instead. For the first time the king had no advisors with him. Maybe that was for the best. This was not about politics.

The small girl was surrounded by nine other people and seemed to be the centre of everyone’s attention – but she was looking straight at him. And, even though he knew it was impolite, he stared right back.

‘Your Majesty,’ she said ‘These are the Oorcheen. And they are eager for some peace talks.’

Before the king managed to utter a word, a shout was heard from the throng of soldiers behind him. The crowd was pressing ever harder at the soldiers, with some of the civilians clearly unhappy about what was happening. An angry old man tore past the barrier and with a few of his comrades ran towards the king.

‘They killed our men!’ he shouted ‘They murdered! No peace with monsters! No peace!’ and he threw a jagged rock in the general direction of the group hitting an Oorcheen right in the face. The creature’s head bounced back and the power of the blow made it fall backwards, into the arms of Maya. Another man, encouraged by this small success threw another object, but this time it was an old knife. The small girl, now screaming and emanating a blinding, sparkling light, was directly in its path. Everyone gasped. A long piece of coral thrown like a spear went right through the old man and pinned someone running behind. In a split second general Vars had three more men on the ground (unsure as to how many of them were dead) and two more cowering. But that wasn’t the reason for the sudden silence. It was because the small girl had a knife sticking out of her face and was still standing. Slowly, she reached up and pulled it out with a grating sound that made everyone wince.

‘There are going to be peace talks, understood?’ she said quietly, but the whole beach heard her and nobody protested.

Komin the Second shook his head to get rid of any remaining fuzziness caused by too much information and too little sleep.

‘What are you saying?’ he asked again.

‘I’m saying,’ explained Bee patiently ‘that there are hundreds of millions of Oorcheen in the world, your majesty. This world basically belongs to them. We are merely guests. This is the only continent there is and as I see it, we’re an endangered species.’

‘What do you expect me to do with this information? I can’t possibly announce that far and wide, can I? It will only make people frightened. And frightened people are far more likely to do something stupid.’

‘Lie, then,’ she shrugged ‘It’s your decision.’

‘Possibly something along the lines of: a mutual understanding and sharing of the land and seas between the species?’

‘Like any political speak, it doesn’t really say much but it should probably do the trick.’

‘What do you think?’ he faced the representatives of the Oorcheen, who frowned and looked at Bee.

‘They don’t understand the concept of lying, your majesty. But they accept the fact that we manage to hide the truth from each other and, even though it’s hard for them to grasp, all they really care about is that their borders and minds be respected just like we’ve agreed to.’

It was very late at night. Or very early in the morning depending on people’s personal views of these things, and the official peace talks were still taking place, right on the beach where they’d started. The advisors were never allowed to join. Bealla and the Oorcheen didn’t particularly like what they saw in their minds. But general Vars was welcome. And so were Mathias and Mateya, in appreciation of what they did for Eeliah. Maya was also invited. And Bronek sort of wandered in and never left (although his presence was appreciated by the Oorcheen specifically because of the nearly constant, calming music in his head).

‘But realistically,’ interjected Sava ‘how are we supposed to make sure that nobody crosses the Wall somewhere out in the middle of nowhere?’

‘Oh, I’m sure something can be arranged,’ smiled Bee ‘And, to be honest, if someone does get over, but they keep their thoughts reasonably positive or at least neutral then they should be safe.’

‘How easy is that, though?’

‘You’d be surprised, general. Even though a lot of your thoughts revolve around the war, fighting and such, you don’t actually aim any negative thoughts at anyone, so you’d be quite safe.’

‘How is it that they were able to fight, if they’re so susceptible to negative thoughts?’ asked the king, genuinely fascinated ‘I mean, the opposing side must’ve been sending some pretty nasty things their way.’

Bee consulted with the Oorcheen and after a bit of shrugging a few of them bared their teeth.

‘They’re not sure themselves. From what I can tell, they were all pretty angry after Eeliah was shot, but when they were being attacked without any reason whatsoever that just managed to push them over the edge. They’re a very peaceful people and cannot compare what happened to anything in their memory. But I would guess that it was a bit like someone fighting in a blind rage, and not realising until much later that they’ve been injured.’

‘Huh,’ was all Komin managed to reply and a long silence followed. Nobody knew what else to say. ‘Should we sign something? How are we going to do this?’

‘An announcement will be made in the morning. In a few hours, that is. We’ll take care of that, if it’s all right with you, Your Majesty?’

‘Yes, yes, absolutely. Do what you feel is necessary. But I probably should have some kind of a document to present to my cabinet, or something of the sort. I’m not really sure. Somebody else usually deals with these things.’

The Oorcheen promptly got rather excited and one of them happily slapped Bronek on his back causing the man to cough quite violently for a few moments.

‘Well done,’ said Bee with a smile.

‘My pleasure,’ replied the bard trying to massage his back but unable to do so.

‘Our bard just had a very good thought. What if a token of peace is exchanged tomorrow? It could be officially repeated every few years or so as a sign of a continuous friendship?’

‘How refreshing!’ exclaimed the king. ‘I might try that with our neighbours soon. I’m sure that the war is practically over, especially now, anyway. We’re going to have to tell them about this.’

‘Oh, they know. They’re at the Wall on the other side of the continent, with other Seers.’

‘Peace talks?’

‘In a way. What happens here decides everything…’

‘No pressure then,’ said the king.

‘…but it’s good to have more people knowing what’s happening. The more representatives gathered around, the easier the transition period will be.’

‘All righty then,’ he replied ‘Great idea, by the way, Bronek.’

‘Thank you, Your Majesty,’ he replied stiffly.

‘I’ve asked you not to call me that on a number of occasions.’

‘It’s only appropriate, my lord.’

‘Don’t be daft. We’re friends after all.’

‘I wasn’t sure, considering I’m a deserter from your army, Your Majesty.’

‘What do you mean a deserter? When were you in the army?’

‘Ever since I was drafted.’

‘Why didn’t you ask me to let you off?’

‘I did. I sent you many a message. All of them were ignored.’

‘Apart from one,’ reminded Maya delicately.

‘Apart from one,’ repeated Bronek ‘A letter from your secretary saying that His Majesty didn’t condone favouritism.’

‘A blatant lie!’ he replied offended ‘What’s the point of being a king of you can’t play with a little favouritism? I’ll get to the bottom of this, Bronek. I promise,’ he narrowed his eyes and looked off towards his advisors. ‘I had no idea! Our greatest bard! Sent to fight. What a stupid thought!’ he exclaimed, got up and very un-royally smacked his bum to get rid of the sand stuck to his breeches.

‘That’s what I said,’ agreed Bronek standing up with everyone else.

‘I will see you very soon then.’ The Second Komin bowed towards the Oorcheen representatives who were following the recent exchange with fascinated interest and he received a few serious nods in reply. He then gathered his coat and, followed closely by a solemn looking General Vars, rejoined his garrison and his raised voice was soon heard in the distance. ‘Private letters’, ‘favouritism’ and ‘deserter’ were heard quite distinctly. And after a moment’s pause, there was a very undignified screech, presumably coming from the king, followed by:

‘Execute? The greatest bard of the Four Kingdoms? Is that right? You know where you can stick your advice? How many people deserted in the past few weeks? I’d have to execute most of the men in the country! There’s going to be a country-wide amnesty announced soon and you’re in charge of organising it!’

‘So…,’ started Maya and didn’t really know how to finish.

‘Yup,’ agreed Bronek.

‘See you in a few hours then?’ asked Bee brightly.

Everyone gathered around in silence. Fresh graves of fallen men and Oorcheen lay side by side under a row of neat headstones carved during the night. Bealla climbed the Wall and stood on top of it while the king and Oorcheen representatives waited below. To a lot of ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, a group of Unicorns emerged from the forest accompanied by a much larger, golden one. He was magnificent and shone so brightly people had to squint and look away. Nobody dared come closer or even noticed that hiding among the sea of silver was Caitleen the Dragon, stretching her neck in interest. The Unicorns stopped nearby to watch and were soon joined by more Ancients now brave enough to leave the relative safety of the forest. Before long the beach was full of creatures of all shapes and sizes watching the Wall on which a small, blind girl opened her mind and finally knowing how to, tapped into her magic. All across the Wall other Seers followed suit, watched closely by more people and Ancients gathered around them. The coral started to sparkle a bit, then a bit more, and then shone with all the hues imaginable reflecting in the sun. Very soon the colours turned to sound and the Wall began to sing. At first it was many quiet tones, a bit like musicians tuning their instruments before a concert. They grew consistently louder to finally merge into a single note, which soon caused the Wall to resonate and finally shake. People were now covering their ears when the ear-splitting noise reached its apogee and a crash was heard, followed by complete silence. A section of the coral Wall was now missing. It wasn’t large, maybe thirty feet, and Bee, still sparkling like the coral below, was now hovering above it. She opened her mouth and spoke, just as did all the other Seers around the continent, but the voice coming from between each of their lips did not belong to them. It was many voices at once, booming over the crowd, magnified by the resonating coral and, some were certain, it spread clear across the land.

‘These are our bones,’ the voices announced ‘We gave them to the sea for peace and are now giving them to you to treat as such. Let them be a reminder of the responsibilities we now bestow upon you so we may finally rest.’

Bealla slowly drifted down, touched the sand and opened her eyes. One of the Oorcheen picked up a fragment of shapeless, broken coral and, with reverence, gave it to King Komin the Second, who bowed his head and after accepting it, wasn’t really sure what to do with it. He turned to the crowds and cleared his throat. Public speaking wasn’t really his thing.

‘Let this day be remembered as a joyful occasion following a sad and shameful incident between some of our own and our sea neighbours. The waters beyond the Wall are not ours to claim, but the Oorcheen have graciously given us access to them. We are allowed to fish and use them for our needs but can only cross where the Wall has fallen. There will always be Seers there who will either let you pass or turn you away. If you cross despite their warning or climb over the Wall elsewhere you do it of your own responsibility, and the Oorcheen will not be held accountable if they feel attacked in any way and respond to that in kind. I’m sure most of you know by now that the Oorcheen communicate with their minds and perceive any negative thought in their direction as a physical attack. So if you’re not sure you can trust yourself with your thoughts, speak to a Seer or don’t go in the water. The Oorcheen have chosen to stay on their side of the Wall for the moment, but they are more than welcome to leave the water and anyone who attacks them purposefully and with malice will be brought to justice. This is a new truce, and we have faith for a lasting peace but that cannot be achieved without your help.’ He lifted the piece of coral and made it sparkle in the sun. ‘I myself promise to come here each year on this date to renew the truce and hope that it will become a tradition with my successors. I ask you to do your best to support that.

Now, there’s been no end of the world. A way of life has ended, however I think the discovery of new neighbours is worth a change of ways. Especially, since we also have returning neighbours among us and we should welcome them back in friendship,’ he nodded towards the Ancients. ‘Go home and spread the word… and make it a good word.’

The response to it all was disappointingly anticlimactic. After an uncertain moment of silence, a dull murmur spread through the crowds and was soon replaced by usual conversation and packing activities. Not many people noticed the Ancients slipping away. They simply spread out; some went back to the houses and stables they’d chosen as theirs and others wandered back to the forests and fields. A little girl walked after the Unicorns for a while only to be called back by her mother. The blind eyes of another little girl followed her with worry.

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