Winds of Aerathiea

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Chapter 25: Lament

He had been wandering for days.

Fortunately, his training has taught him to ignore the tightening in his gut and push away the fatigue. He could not go without water though and the lack of water in this branch of the tunnels was getting more and more worrisome. He, of course, could hear the dripping of water everywhere and that just made matters worse. The light from his kinari didn’t make things any easier. He didn’t know if it faded because it was running out of whatever made it glow or if it was because he was getting deeper and deeper and further from Sirath. This kinari had been a family heirloom, passed down for many generations. He had never heard of them going dim so he preferred to think the latter. Always looking for signs and portents, it gave him hope and solace that he may be finally reaching his destination.

The Davici clan liked to believe they were known throughout Aerathiea for their feats of strength and stamina. He focused on this as he pushed forward. Something skittered in the dark to his left. He dropped into a crouch and listened. The darkness had dramatically sharpened hearing. There it was again. Something scampered in the darkness. He raised his light over his head and saw a flash of something silvery white with a lot of legs scamper between the rocks. Summoning up what little strength and spirit he had left, he crept around to the side, forcing himself to move agonizingly slow. The hunger within him was pushing him to be careless and he silently willed it away.

The creature was some sort of millipede or pill bug but silvery gray and about as long as his forearm. He lunged and caught it as his ancestors did and being cold blooded, it was surprisingly chilled as he ripped through the now twitching carcass. Avoiding the entrails, he pulled the meat from the chitin plates. Nothing had ever tasted so good. He remembered back to the banquet thrown in his honor during the Festival of Durant. There had of course been no festival when he left to undertake this journey. He laughed out loud. As good as the food had been — and he had stuffed himself, it paled in comparison to the bug that had given its life to honor him with one more day.

He rested there in the dark. The blood of the creature had given him some solace from the ever-nagging thirst, but he knew he had to find water. He wrapped half of the remains in leather and placed it in his pack for later. He could always hear water dripping, but sounds echoed off the cave walls and the further away something was the harder it was to pinpoint its location.

After resting what felt like hours, but truly only a few minutes, he pressed on. A person could easily go insane in this labyrinth of caverns and tunnels. It wasn’t his fault, though. He had to keep telling himself that. As the third son in a large dynasty, the best life he could hope for was to cut ribbons at new shopping centers or more likely to dedicate a new Sanctuary. Gods, how he hated the Church. How it infiltrated and wormed itself into every part of life, slowly choking the life from their culture and placing restrictions on what they can and cannot do. How he hated their psalms! Was it not enough to force their clan to worship the Sisters? To take away everything else was just too much. He pushed on in the darkness, his path barely lit by the kinari. His father, the Toranth Kaneesa of Debonak was making deals with the devil and had all but disinherited him. He knew his father was scared for his people. His younger brother was entering the Priesthood. He could have survived all of that. He could have bit his tongue, christened new aeroships, made money from public appearances and speaking engagements and lived miserably ever after- as long as he had his betrothed, Seanna Marcett, but the Church took her away too.

His father had put a stop to the night raids and the ambushes from groups loyal to the Empire and its accursed Church, but only after a very high price. His beloved, Seanna, had worked as a healer and had been caring for the wounded after a particularly heinous attack. She was still there and had refused to leave when the Casteen warlords and their troops came back for the plunder.

It frustrated him as he felt his hands were impossibly tied. He had turned inwards to the ancient teachings of his people for some kind of solace. There he had discovered legends of earlier struggles and their people’s nomadic wanderings that were officially repressed by Church teachings throughout the Empire. Out in the independent provinces, these teachings still had meaning. The Dria-monks still talked of men from ni’Aerathiea coming to fight in the wars that ended in the Noldari Accords- when the Nilor and the Dranok finally dropped arms and vowed to live in peace after hundreds of morii.

That peace had lasted over a thousand morii but they lived in troubling times now. The sages had cautioned that the hand of the Church was secretly behind recent attacks, but they were made to look like Dranoki. There were always signs of reptilian blood or scales and other evidence left at the scenes. Of course, such actions were sworn off by the Green Council. They swore they had more to lose from breaking the accords than the Nilor. Never had times been more perilous. It was then that he decided to look for help from ni’Aerathiea. Most people believed such ramblings to be nothing more than a feyari-tale, but he saw it, he had nothing to lose. It was either suffer more raids and lose more people -a choice that would lead to open rebellion and significant loss of life- or go find help.

Lost in his thoughts, he only saw the flash of orange out of the corner of his eye, He had never heard anything, but as his head turned he missed the rock in front of him and the ledge. Normally sure-footed and agile, he was too far gone from exhaustion and dehydration to catch himself in time. He stumbled at the ledge and he felt himself hang in midair for longer than seemed possible and then the abrupt stop and the blackness firmed in around him.

He felt the warmth of the sun and a blinding light. Someone was trying to force something down his throat. He gagged. They tried again. He was so dehydrated he barely recognized water, but when his brain began to kick back in, he gulped eagerly. He could not see, something was covering his eyes and he was thankful. After being underground for well over a month, he had no interest in permanent blindness. Let it come gradually. People were talking around him and he struggled to sit up. He tried to croak out “Where am I” but little more than a squeak came out. Suddenly more water was pressed to his lips and he drank his fill and fell back into the softest cushions he could ever imagine and dreamed good dreams.

Voices. He heard voices again around him and some scuffling. Suddenly a voice he understood spoke out “Fear not, traveler. You are among friends. No harm will come to you here.”

“Where am I?”

The voice said, “I believe you are where you wish to be.”

“How can you know that?”

“I know many things,” the voice continued. “I know you are a Nilori Clan Prince. I know of the struggles of your world.”

“What do you mean My World? How many worlds are there?”

“Just two that I know of, but the people here are full of many tales. Some involve many other worlds than just our own,” the voice replied enthusiastically.

Not one to miss a slip of the tongue, he replied “The people here? Then you are not from here?”

“I was born here, but my family made the same journey that you just undertook many hundreds of years ago.”

“Years?”

The voice replied, “Sorry, let me think for a moment… Morae your closest equivalent is Morae”

“So, where am I, exactly?” He could hear the rushing of water and birds chirping. He smelled fragrant flowers that he could not identify.

“Would it help to know that you are near the Bhagsunag Temple near Lake Nag Chattri Dal?”

He sighed, “You know what I mean; Please answer the question.”

“Yes, you are outside. You are Ni’Aerathiea. I suppose it’s time for you take off the shroud.” He felt hands move up to his face. “Please remember this can be a very strange place.” The hands whisked the shroud away.

He was expecting instant blindness from the bright light of a sun overhead. Thankfully they were inside. It was still bright enough to be uncomfortable. He blinked and squinted. In front of him was a wee little man no more than three feet tall. “Grommon…,” was all that came out.

“My name is Nach Castamon Felis. I know it’s your custom to shorten names, so you may call me Felis. I can be your translator while you are here amongst the Monks of Shambhala.

“Well, my name is Nora-Ky Davici Nova-tonne.”

“That is quite a mouthful. Can we strike out all the titles and glorifications? Let me see if I have this right. You are the third Ky from the house Davici? Third child of Davici? Let me be the first then to welcome you to Earth, “Ky-tonne Davici.”

Kyton nodded in agreement. It was less than a mouthful and sunk back into the cushions. “How long have I been unconscious?”

“You had lost a lot of fluids. You were very dehydrated when the monks found you. Once we got you here and they worked you up with water baths and medicine, you have been asleep for four days. I’m sure you are quite hungry now. I’ll send for some food and we can keep talking as long as you like.”

“Thank you, Felis,”

“Don’t mention it. It’s technically my job to welcome newcomers.”

“Well, you are not going to like what I say next then.”

“Why, what has happened?”

“When I approached the Caerns of Debonak, my father, and his men approached me and mocked me for my beliefs in this world.”

“I’ve heard that happens to a lot of people where you come from.” Felis had jumped up on the divan.

“Indeed, however, my father being the spiteful man he is, had the tunnels sealed and destroyed after I entered. I barely made it through as the rocks crashed down behind me.”

“That is indeed unfortunate news. Since I am officially out of a job, maybe I will travel this world with you once you get up the strength.”

“I don’t know Felis, I came to raise an army; to do something to help my people. I don’t know anything else.”

The food arrived. All manner of grilled fish and meats, fruits and vegetables served with mouthwatering breads and succulent fresh cheeses. Kyton plowed into his meal like a linebacker in the Super Bowl. He decided that the bug in the cave was no longer his favorite meal.

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