Out of the past
Out of the Past
Further into the city in a crescent-shaped section of housing built into the hillside, the residents stayed inside avoiding the suns’ increasing heat. Sahn lay on a mat spread across the floor at the back wall of one of the housing sections. His eyes twitched beneath his closed lids, as visions of a distant past projected against their inner screens.
Sahn saw himself once again inside the portal escaping the eruption of a massive volcano. The silent horror he had witnessed in dreams so many times before played out once again, as he saw his young wife running from the volcanic ash that swept over the city carrying his newborn daughter. He knew it was coming. He’d seen it so many times before in his dreams, but he could not look away. The ash overran his wife and daughter along with hundreds of other citizens trying to flee its destruction, while Sahn remained safe inside the portal that was created to save as many as possible. The portal had to be closed. Sahn tried to run out to her, but he was held back. He was saved along with thousands more that made it to the portal and brought to the new location the Shrkai people live in now. A close-up image of his daughter leaped into his mind and he woke up from the nightmare.
Sahn woke to see himself in a strange room with other Shrkai people a few feet away. He reeled back as the young woman from the street turned his way. He crawled back frantically trying to escape wherever it was he found himself, pressing his back against the stone wall and searching the room for an exit.
“I’m not sure what might have happened to you for you to be so fearful,” the young Shrkai woman said with a raised brow and a hint of a chuckle in her voice. “but you should eat something.” She gestured to some food and drink on a tray near the mat he was on, then stepped out into the other room and closed a curtain. With his chest heaving with every deliberate breath he looked to the plate of food. He couldn’t resist the sight and smell of the fruit on the plate and crawled over to lift some to his mouth. He picked up a berry and twirled it in his hand before tossing down his throat and picked up a piece of bread with his other hand. He gorged himself but was only able to finish about half the food before he started to get cramps in his stomach. As he was drinking some mead he saw some clothes laid out on a wooden chair nearby and walked over carrying the simple hardened clay challis and picked up a pair of wrap-around shorts and tried them on then slipped his feet into a pair of worn sandals that had been re-stitched to secure one of the leather straps. He stuffed his pockets with the remainder of the food and finished the mead before walking over to the curtain.
He pulled it back and saw several Shrkai people sitting around a central area with three other rooms adjacent to it. The housing was not unlike what he had lived in only on a much smaller scale. Four rooms linked to a central area where it usually held four different small families. The young woman sat in a chair reading to her daughter while another young woman and her daughters who were a bit older were gathered around making a quilt. An older Shrkai man sat in the back hammering a table leg with a protruding doll-rod onto the bottom of a table while smoking from a pipe. This time of year the crops have been planted and it was too early to harvest, so for the people there was much less to do and too hot out to be outside for long anyway.
Sahn stepped quietly into the room and the people only paid him scant acknowledgement, then went back to their activities. He creeped his way like a thief toward the exit door and once his hand was on the handle the young woman spoke.
“There’s no need to go. We have an empty dwelling here, but if you’re going, you should put on a chillsuit.” Sahn looked to the wall to his left and saw some compartments built into the wall. “You can take the one in front. It used to be my husbands.” Sahn opened the chillbox feeling the cool air seep out onto his arm. He grabbed a folded garment in front. He paused as he held the white robe in his hand. He could feel the frozen frihar stones sewn into the lining. He wanted to say something. He wanted to thank her, but his need to escape, his need to withdraw, was overwhelming. He closed to chiller door and stepped out of the home.
The stifling heat and thin air hit him the moment he stepped out. He half closed his eyes and raised his hand to shield them from the intense light of the suns that were directly overhead. He quickly got into the white chillsuit, pulled the hood up over his head and started down the stairs. Sahn walked across the quiet barren soil out of the city out to the open desert and tall mesas beyond.
Further out from the city deep beneath the surface Frolin and Sarnay dried themselves after stepping out of the clear waters of the underground lake.
“So other than taking me for a swim, why did you bring me out here?” Sarnay questioned Frolin with a distinct flirtation in her voice.
“I uhh… well a couple reasons… I thought this was the best place nearby to hide from the soldiers since they may be seeking us, but also I thought you might want to call the dragons,” Frolin answered displaying obvious nervousness to Sarnay’s flirtation.
“And how would we call them from here,” Sarnay asked, as she slipped back into her clothes.
“There is much we can do from here,” Frolin replied confidently, as he stepped forward and pulled a lever hidden behind a stalactite and a wide door disguised as the cave wall slowly cranked open. Sarnay stepped toward the opening and peered into the dark chamber within. Frolin came from behind her and pulled a small lever inside the room. The room became aglow with the yellowish-green light of the frihar stones shined out from their lamps as the covers were lifted one by one. Sarnay smiled, as she stepped into the room running her fingers along a varnished wooden cabinet that lined the stone wall on her left. Her curiosity getting the best of her, she reached up to the handle of the cabinet door then turned back to look at Frolin asking with her eyes and smile if she could open it. After he nodded to her, she turned the handle and yanked it open to see shelves full of books in various states of age and condition.
“Wow you do like to read,” she said as she looked over the books then saw three more cabinets along the uneven stone wall. “Are all these filled with books?”
“Yes I brought them in a few at a time mostly after dusk.”
“Why would you have to do that?” she asked, as she ventured further into the room and walked toward a stone counter with various gadgets on it. A smaller version of the windmills with a makeshift hill under it cutaway to show the screw mechanism that would draw up the water and several versions of a bronze watch with different sized gears and springs laid out on the counter surface.
“Well when you are a geek like me who loves books and wacky inventions in a society that stresses physicality, you find a hideaway like this, and you keep it secret.” Frolin expressed as Sarnay pretended to understand. She then stepped over to a pile of metal debris near a tall shelving unit with other unique gadgets on it. She reached down to feel the surface of a large bronze butterfly wing, then looked back at Frolin with a curious smile. “I suppose it’s time you meet our friend who helped us escape.”
Frolin took the box out from under his cloak and set it on the counter. Sarnay walked over next to him, as he opened the velvet-lined box and reached in to retrieve the small bronze butterfly. He wound it up with the key and the butterfly without any guidance from him fluttered its wings and hovered a few feet over the counter-top. Sarnay instinctively reached her hand out and the tiny butterfly fluttered over and landed on her hand.
“Ya I tried to make a larger one,” Frolin started to say gesturing toward the metal debris on the ground. “But it didn’t quite work. She’s really to thank for helping us escape”
“She?” Sarnay laughed.
“Well ya.” Frolin responded a little bit dejected. “If I’m going to give her a gender rather than calling her an it, I’d prefer female I suppose.”
“Alright well is she going to help us call the dragons then?” Sarnay chuckled, as the butterfly remained on her finger.
“Well no, I have a more practical way of doing that,” he said, as he stepped over to the shelving unit and picked up a large bronze horn.
“I’m not sure that will work,” Sarnay said to him as she coaxed the butterfly off her finger, only for it to leap onto a finger on her opposite hand. “The horn we use was modified by magic.”
“hmmph what is magic?” Frolin asked as he opened a drawer in the cabinet. “Our priests have learned to harness the energies of the world.” Frolin dug through the drawer looking for something, then whipped open another drawer, as Sarnay continued to try and remove the butterfly from her finger. “My cousin studied the priesthood for a long time. I have an amulet from him here somewhere. Ahh Here it is!” He pulled out an amber amulet on a leather string. “This should do it.” He showed her the amulet and saw her struggling with the butterfly. He laughed, then lifted his left hand and using the tiny wheel on his ring guided the butterfly back to its box.
“Don’t tell me you studied the priesthood too.”
“Well no, but how hard can it be?”
Sarnay just rolled her eyes, as Frolin put the butterfly box back in his cloak and grabbed her hand. He placed the amulet in her hand and wrapped her fingers around it.
“The dragons are your family right? Just close your eyes and focus on them.” He said, as he held her hand in his and with his other hand he lit nearby incense. Sarnay closed her eyes, as Frolin wrapped his other hand around hers as well and recited a phrase in an ancient language over and over until the amulet enclosed in her fist started to glow. He then guided her hand over to the bronze horn sitting on the counter. “Alright open your hand and keep concentrating on your dragons, have an image of them in your mind.” She kept her eyes closed, as Frolin opened her hand and the amulet dangled over the horn and when the two touched, the horn also started to glow briefly, then faded, as did the amulet. “Well that should have worked.”
Sarnay opened her eyes, as Frolin took her hand and led her across the room toward a large hearth near the other end of the room. They stepped passed an oversized crossbow leaning on the wall and Frolin led her into the hearth and reached for a lever that opened a wall behind the pile of burned logs and ash in the hearth. He carried the horn and ducked his head, as he stepped carefully over the logs trying not to disturb the pile and stepped into the dark passageway. After Sarnay stepped in beside him, he pulled another lever and the glow lamps in the room were re-covered one by one leaving them in total darkness. He uncovered a lamp inside what was a shaft leading straight up, sat down on a chair and pat his lap gesturing for Sarnay to join him. She gave him a strange look, but otherwise climbed up in the chair with him and once she was settled he pulled another lever. A loud clunk could be heard inside the walls as a counterweight was released. The clicking of gears inside the wall soon followed and the chair was thrust upwards causing Sarnay to lean forward and wrap her arms around Frolin’s neck, as they were lifted upwards in the shaft.
Sarnay looked upward to the tiny patch of blue sky visible from the opening far above, as the chair continued to raise them up to the top of a tall mesa. The chair emerged in the center of some thick bushes and they stepped off. Frolin moved the lever to a new position and pushed the chair back down into the shaft and closed the cover.
“Well let’s see if it worked,” he said, as he handed her the bronze horn. Sarnay blew into the horn and a deep brass sound bellowed out of the end of the horn. Frolin turned a dial on his bronze goggles and both eyepieces telescoped outward and became a set of binoculars. Frolin looked around the ground area from a spot within the bushes to see if anyone might have seen them or heard the horn, as Sarnay watched the sky to the north for any sign of the dragons flying forth from the mountains.
“It worked!” Sarnay shouted out after a long time and Frolin looked up to see a close-up of two dragons with his binoculars, then he turned a dial and reset his goggles back to the way they were. “I hope you keep surprising me like this.” Sarnay whispered to Frolin, as she kissed him on the cheek. “Now let’s find my sister,” she said, as the dragons landed on the mesa.
Back in the city Millaney paced in her cell with her fist clenched tight when she heard the key in the door. She stopped and poised herself with her arms to the side and her fists brought before her body. She relaxed slightly when the door opened and Patrah stepped in.
“Why am I here?” she screamed and returned to pacing with clenched fists not seeming to notice that a second person walked in with Patrah with a hood over his head. “I’ve broken no law!”
“They will decide your fate after they have chosen a new Grand Chancellor. You attempted to pull your sword against a member of the high council,” Patrah stated, as he set a bundle of Millaney’s clothes down on a small stone table near her cot.
“High council! How did Ralomar get on the high council? I thought he was deposed,” she replied as she turned sharp on the balls of her feet and caught sight of the person with Patrah, but seemed to pay him no attention.
“Yes he was removed as the leader of the Dragon Clan, but he still wields great influence with the order and was able to secure a seat on the council along with three others from the clan.”
“Oh that’s just perfect! You know he’s going to have my father killed.” Millaney’s breasts heaved, as she finally stopped pacing and stood like a tiger poised to strike. Patrah sat down on a small wooden chair and lowered his head. He wanted to reassure her that he could potentially sway the high council to spare her father but he knew she would not believe him, he no longer believed it himself. Millaney then looked to the stranger in the room and her eyelids lowered, as she seemed to turn her rage upon him. The stranger bowed quietly and reached up to pull back his hood.
Millaney’s eyes opened and her fists expanded like a flower opening its petals to bask in the sun when she recognized Darvin. Millaney again started to pace.
“How is this possible?” she spoke more out loud rather than directing her question toward anyone. “How am I supposed to deal with you now?”
“I am so happy to see you again.”
“You’re happy to see me? He’s happy to see me… Oh that makes everything better,” she conversed again more with herself than either Patrah or Darvin.
“Millaney…” Darvin took a step closer to her, but she stopped and put her hand up. He tried to speak some more, but she moved her hand closer to his face silencing him before he could say anything. After a short time, she dropped her hand and turned away shaking her head. “I came back to help.” Darvin snuck in before she could react.
“UrrgH,” Millaney sputtered her rage starting to subside ever so slightly. “If you want to help, find Dahvy and the other dragons and blast a hole in this wall for me.”
“NO!!” Patrah shouted.
“I know I know that’ll start a war. Well maybe a war is what we need.”
“That will only make the situation worse. Then Ralomar can use that to further his influence and declare us as the aggressor and rally even more Shrkai to fight against us. No let us handle this you just stay calm, we’ll get you out.”
“And what of my father?!” Millaney glared her rage beginning to return.
“Trust us Millaney,” Darvin spoke in the softest possible tone. “We’ll find a way to save him.” Darvin took another step forward to get closer to Millaney. He knew she was angry, but just being near her again was so intoxicating, that he had to reach out to hold her hand. She nearly pulled away and bolted, as his fingertips caressed her knuckles, but her breathing did slow and she stood motionless. “I will always come for you. I love you.”
Before the words were even fully out of Darvin’s mouth, Millaney pulled her hand out from his grip and the other hand streaked toward his face smacking him so hard on the cheek that his neck spun the extent of its travel and saliva flew from his lips.
“You love me?... Like those are supposed to be magic words that make everything better?” She turned from him, as he brought his fingers up to feel the trickle of blood that dripped from the corner of his mouth. Patrah stood and came over to Darvin.
“I… but…” Darvin stammered, as Patrah pulled him away from her.
“Oh just get out!” she shouted without turning to look at either of them. Darvin stared at Millaney’s back reaching out to her, as Patrah knocked on the door and the guard turned his keys in the lock. Patrah pulled the hood back over Darvin’s head and coaxed him out of the room, as Millaney kept her head lowered and her back turned to them.