Tales of Raetrethra Vol. 2

Reads: 2041  | Likes: 4  | Shelves: 3  | Comments: 1

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm


At last, Wynstal returns to Cambreford after his harrowing journey. Upon setting foot into the city, he meets someone he never expected.

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Chapter 2 - Wynstal & Kaine

Submitted: March 10, 2018

Reads: 208

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 10, 2018

A A A

A A A

Everything within Wynstal rattled the moment the airship gondola touched ground. After bouncing several times on soft grass, the battered airship came to a halt. The moment it did, several voices exhaled their relief.

“Well done, crew. Shut her down as usual. Mr Finch, go organize our welcome party.”

Every crewmen replied ‘aye captain’ to the air-shipmaster, Kahir Reis. The bearded Aszyrian – his once pristine uniform now torn-up and stained with grime – turned towards his Guardian passenger and raised an open palm.

“This is where we part ways, Mr Wynstal. It was an honor to have you on-board.”

 “Likewise, captain.”

Wynstal bade, reached down and shook the man’s hand. Nearby, the gondola’s exit clunked and groaned open.

“Passengers rightfully exit the craft first, Mr Wynstal, so go on ahead. Likewise the captain should always be last to disembark. Though I haven’t got a choice, eh?”

Kahir grinned sheepishly as he lay on the wooden floor with both legs bound together. The upper-middle bandage wrapped around his contorted right thigh was stained dark-red.

Wynstal was unamused by the captain’s self-deprecating remark.

“Fare thee well, captain. I expect to indulge in bottles of Aged Flennish with you soon.”

Kahir’s eyes widened upon being reminded his promise of treating the Guardian to aged Aragonian whiskey should they both return alive.

“Hah! Will do indeed!”

Shaking the captain’s hand one final time, Wynstal turned to exit the gondola. Along the way, he bade farewell with else on-board; helmsman Wright, navigator Jones, engineer Greg, and linesman Lionel. All of them were bandaged in one form or another, from plastered blisters to whole-limb dressings.

Ducking under and crossing the oval doorway to stand at the head of a metal ramp leading down to grassy ground level, Wynstal paused. Squinting against sunset’s piercing glare, he breathed in the cold fresh air. A refreshing change after spending weeks on-board a cramp Gondola with six other men. Soot, grease, oil, sweat, body odor, old leather; he got used to all of those. Blood, he couldn’t.

When a team of paramedics rushed up the ramp, Wynstal made way. Seeing he wasn’t injured, the first-aiders ignored him and stormed the Gondola. Down the metal ramp, rookie crewman Finch was coordinating the ground crew.

Rather than interrupt the young man, Wynstal decided to find his own way out by heading for the airfield’s hanger-shaped terminal. An obvious choice, since the alternative would be crossing vast open grassland and scale over a fence. Without even considering the hassle he’d get into if caught, he desired not the extra exercise. Especially not after what he’d gone through.

Reaching the terminal proved unstraightforward, for the field was abuzz with ground crew and emergency personnel rushing towards the battered airship that looked ready to fall apart at any moment. Several other airships, a few similar in size and most larger, were parked nearby. Even the crew of those airships paused to observe the commotion.

When at last Wynstal reached the doorway leading into the terminal, two security personnel on duty ordered him to halt. Not surprising, since the politest way of describing his appearance would be filthy.

A layer of dust and grime coated every bit of his exposed skin. His neck-length brown hair hung in ragged clumps, and the gray overcoat covering his body was caked in mud.

Composing himself, Wynstal smiled at the two guards, both armed with curved sabers and one spotting a resolver; all sheathed at their waist.

“Greetings, chaps! Fine evening to both of you. I disembarked from that ship and must be on my way on Guardian authority. May I pass?”

Both security personnel examined the rugged individual before them with a wary frown. Finally, the older one shook his head.

“Unless you have a special clearance pass, only those cleared to exit by the ground officer may go through.”

“Ah… Alas, I do not possess one, since my voyage began from the Guardian headquarters and was expected to conclude there. Could an exception not be made? Give the Guardians a ring, they can vouch for my identity.”

The two guards shared a troubled glance. This individual could be telling the truth, or could be a phony trying to sneak into the city. Refusing him might get them in trouble later, while indulging his request would breach pages of protocol. And if proven false, would jeopardize their career.

Alternatively, they could just send him away and let him be someone else’s problem.

“Sorry, we can’t let you through. Please report your case to a ground officer.”

A standard by-the-book procedure. Wynstal had to admire their law-abiding spirits, but could not abide by it. He glanced at their name tags clipped onto their uniform, and then their rank insignia stitched above their right shoulder sleeve. Corporal Wills and Staff-Sergeant Polden.

Looking about to make sure no one was watching, Wynstal cleared his throat to warm-up his vocal cords. Looking straight at both wary men, he uttered in a calm voice with deliberate slowness.

“Corporal Wills, Sergeant Polden, I am being granted clearance under Guardian authority. Kindly let me through.”

As if a spell came over both guards, their gazes lost focus and their guarded postures relaxed.

“Yes, sir.”

Guilt gnawed at Wynstal for using such extorting method, but he had little choice.

“Thank you, gentlemen. Now, would you kindly escort me outside?”

Both security guards’ eyes regained focus, and they nodded while wearing amiable expressions as if dealing with a trusted associate.

“Understood, sir. Please follow us.”

And with that, Wynstal gained entry into the terminal.

Navigating through the domed terminal proved simple. Especially with a staff-sergeant to clear him at each checkpoint – to the puzzlement of every personnel they passed. Though small, cramp, and basic, Wynstal remained stoic to portray an important individual going about an important task. Effective, no one confronted the trio as they walked all the way to the main entrance on the opposite side of the terminal.

“Thank you, gentlemen. You are kindly dismissed.”

“Sir!”

Both security personnel saluted despite not knowing his rank, and returned to their posts. With luck, they might never reconsider what they’d allowed to happen.

“Father won’t approve of that, Wynstal.”

A familiar voice suddenly called, startling Wynstal into hopping-turning to face a person he never arranged or expected to meet here. Thin blond hair, light-blue eyes, cool handsome features, clad in a white suit, and standing behind an open rear-passenger door of a parked car.

“Need a lift to father’s place?”

Asked Kaine, his elder brother and the chief ambassador of the Guardian Organization. Surprise aside, the sight of him filled Wynstal with immense relief as he stepped towards his brother.

“Impeccable timing, Kaine! When did you return to Cambreford!?”

Since both of their jobs entailed constant travelling without remaining in any one place for long, their last encounter was months ago. Only a third-rate storyteller would dare to chalk this reunion as coincidental.

“An hour ago by commercial flight, believe it or not. I exited the terminal to hail this taxi when your airship landed. Having been made aware of its mission and knowing you’re part of it, I waited. Err… you must forgive me for not wanting to embrace you with brotherly affection.”

“Oh, very funny, Kaine.”

Wynstal grumbled before pausing at the door to the vehicle. Given his current condition…

“Don’t worry about the mess. The driver will be compensated when we arrive.”

“Ah, right. Apologies and thank you, driver.”

Wynstal bade at the middle-aged bald driver, who looked shocked witnessing a passenger with the appearance and smell of someone who’d just walked out of a battlefield entering his vehicle. Once both men got in and the door closed, the disgruntled driver started the car and began driving. A few seconds later, the stench compelled every window to be wound down.

“Good grief, Kaine. You cannot imagine how relieved I am to see you here.”

Wynstal went ‘phew’ in relief. No surprise, since he wasn’t carrying any identification and had just bewitched his way into the city. In some parts of the world, that sort of act would get him burnt at the stake.

“You’ve welcome, brother. Now, let’s go get you a change of clothes. You smell absolutely atrocious!”

***

Back in the Guardian headquarters, within a spacious and well-furnished circular glass office on the top floor of the tallest tower. Seated behind a luxurious mahogany desk was its owner; a thin and tall old man with long gray-white hair, a white beard reaching his chest, wearing a gray vest over a long-sleeved shirt and green trousers.

Wise, charismatic, and enigmatic with a touch of senility. Those traits summarized Gandalin Minstral, the very old man behind the desk who founded the Guardians forty-two years ago, and had since served as its director.

Gandalin. A man mysterious as much as he was intriguing. Save for a select few, no one knows where he hailed from, or know anything about his life prior to his political rise in Cambreford and his subsequent successes afterwards. Even his real age remained unknown, though physical appearance alone would put his age somewhere between eight and nine decades.

And right this moment, the aged director was restless. Despite being seated with both hands on the desk, his fingers fidgeted, tapped against each other, intertwined and untwined. No surprise, a son he sent on a two-day scouting mission and went missing for two weeks, had just returned.

Further away, his personal assistant and the Guardian’s executive secretary, Alsius Aurelius, was busy brewing tea and pouring them into porcelain china. Perhaps due to rushing here after receiving news of Wynstal’s return, her movements lacked calm and care, causing numerous extra clinks and spills.

Witnessing her anxiety caused amusement to flicker in Gandalin, accompanied by pity followed by guilt. When Alsius returned bearing a tray with four cups, he banished those pensive thoughts and gave her a warm smile.

“Thank you, Alsius. But, will their teas not be cold when they arrive?”

Alsius paused for a split second, her focused demeanor frozen, before moving to hand the director one cup. While setting two cups on the flattened handrest of the two chairs placed before Gandalin’s desk, she replied.

“They are almost here. It will be warm by the time they arrive.”

After a short perplexed pause, Gandalin went ‘ah’. Silly of him, forgetting Alsius could sense their SES – Shard Energy Signature – from miles away. Similar to a hound’s ability of tracking an individual’s scent, Shard Energy users could sense and – with enough training – differentiate individuals.

Her tasks completed, Alsius went to sit in a spare chair near the director’s desk. Minutes of waiting later, a bell dinged from ahead, through the closed door leading to the elevator one must take to reach this office. Gandalin eagerly rose.

When the door swung open and two grown men very-important to the director stepped in, the old man exclaimed.

“Wynstal, my son! Welcome back!”

Moving to meet his younger son halfway across the round office, Gandalin threw both arms around Wynstal’s shoulders, who’d changed out his mangled outfit for a cheap set of clothes from a thrift shop along the drive here.

“Feels good to be back. Calm yourself father, you’re no spring chicken!”

Wynstal replied in kind. Too much excitement would do poorly for a man of Gandalin’s age.

“Cheeky tongue as always! What father can remain calm when a son they feared lost or worse has returned?”

“Don’t mean to interrupt, father, but I’m here too?”

Kaine announced while wearing a sheepish smile.

“Forgotten you I haven’t, Kaine! Welcome home!”

Releasing Wynstal, Gandalin moved to clasp and squeeze his elder son’s shoulders, a proud smile on his face. A few fond moments later, he let go and gestured them to sit.

“Come, sit! Alsius timed your arrival perfectly so your teas should be just nice.”

Taking their seats, both sons waited for Gandalin to sit too before all three picked and sipped their tea. Wynstal hummed in approval.

“Mmm, delicious. Irene’s blend, I believe?”

“Indeed, son. Alsius is still practicing brewing her own special blend. You should try it sometime.”

“… I would like to refuse. No offense.”

Gandalin chuckled while Alsius glowered with reddened cheeks. Noticing his other son setting his cup aside after a mere sip, the old man inquired.

“Something the matter, Kaine?”

The Guardian ambassador shook his light-haired head with a polite smile.

“None, father. I just happen to prefer coffee.”

“Ah, is that so? It has been so long since your last visit, we must have forgotten! Alsius, could you-”

“Please, don’t bother. Moreover, shouldn’t we put pleasantries aside for now? Wynstal’s got his report to deliver, and I too am here with important news.”

Noting the formality in his elder son’s voice, the aged Guardian director nodded and straightened.

“Yes, right you are, Kaine…”

Ever the professional, Kaine, always putting work first. Wynstal and Gandalin on the other hand, were twins in spirit separated by many years. How many to be exact? Too complicated to be able to count with any accuracy.

 “I must say, you are so close to your original namesake at times you two seem almost identical…”

***

Two hours later.

Reclining in his chair, Wynstal – utterly drained after delivering his report and parched from the effort of doing so – downed his fourth cup of tea while wishing for something sweeter.

Having recounted his fifteen-day ordeal with as much detail as he could remember, his mission was now complete. Alsius, ever diligent, had recorded the entire proceedings. So no need for him to draft a written report. Huzzah!

As for his three-person audience, two of them were engaged in heated discussion regarding what actions should be taken to deal with the sighted Beasts, while the third listened attentively.

“Those Beasts cannot be ignored, Kaine. Even if we block off all points of access to Cambreford, they will eventually find other paths through the mountains to Aragona, or even Avalona!”

“I’m not saying to ignore them. Be reasonable, Alsius. The financial cost of handling this issue ourselves at this time would bankrupt the Guardian treasury. Not only that, the organization lacks the manpower and supplies for a threat of this scale. We need to call on other nations, especially the two you mentioned, to pool together resources to address this issue.”

“That would take too long! In the six months it took to find where exactly they’re coming from, they’ve found new ways into the valley five times! What if the next time they do so, we’re unable to send a force to stop them? What if they exit near populated areas that are unprepared? At the very least, we must mobilize every personnel available and do everything we can to restrict their movements.”

Kaine shook his head and uttered an exhausted sigh.

“You’re not listening… I’ve said it already, we lack manpower and equipment, and the financial cost of doing so would affect the organization’s ability to function for years to come. Isn’t that so, father?”

Having been asked a direct question, Gandalin was reluctantly forced to answer.

“I do not know enough to answer in explicit detail… But yes, based on recent financial reports, our balances for the next few years are limited. With time new funds can be acquired, but as Kaine says, that needs time.”

Despite frowning with malcontent, Alsius conceded.

“Fine. Then we use whatever resources we have available until other nations join in.”

“Unfortunately, that would be a poor strategy. If we act before everyone else, they will take their time and insist we handle it ourselves. Our best option is to declare this an international crisis and wait until a consensus is made”

Now it was Alsius’s turn to sigh in exasperation.

“But that will take months…!”

Silence ensued between the two high-ranking Guardians, prompting the director to chime in.

“Thank you for your inputs, both of you. Wynstal, you have been quiet so far. Do you have anything to add?”

Urgh. Give me a break already.

Releasing a short huff to vent his exhaustion and buy time to gather his thoughts, Wynstal lifted his gaze from the brown carpet to meet Alsius’s hazel eyes.

“Alsius’s right. If even a fraction of them finds a way through the mountains, it’ll be a disaster. However, we aren’t ready. Not just in finance or manpower or supplies, but in information. Sending a force out at this stage would be rash and risky.”

 Pulling his gaze from Alsius’s disappointed demeanor, he turned to face a calm Kaine.

“Kaine also speaks sense. Driving the organization penniless won’t bode well for our long-term prospects. That said, waiting for other nations to cooperate will take ages. But, that doesn’t mean we do nothing in the meantime.”

“Ooh? Do elaborate.” Kaine inquired.

“We act now, but do so discreetly. First, send another airship and ground reconnaissance squads to gather information and monitor the threat. And if need be, send small teams with explosives to block any route they attempt to create. As for the long term objective…”

Making sure he had everyone’s attention, Wynstal announced.

“Lure them into a kill zone and eliminate the threat once and for all.”

Silence preceded in the wake of his declaration. Not out of incredulousness, but out of expectation for more details.

“Scouring every ridge and every valley would be an enormously labor intensive and expensive task. And, plugging up every crack won’t remove the original problem of having a horde of monsters wandering in our backyard. Eliminating them efficiently is the ideal solution.”

“And where do you suggest this ‘kill box’ should be? How much resources would be required to complete this objective?”

Kaine voiced, intrigued by his younger brother’s novel plan.

“One of the ravines leading to Aragona, being wider and thus easier to transport units and supplies. As for the resources required, a few infantry battalions and several dozen pieces of artillery.”

A long stretch of silence ensued. After glancing about to make sure no one had anything else to add, Gandalin clapped once to conclude this discussion.

“Thank you, Wynstal. Alsius, please stop the recording here.”

“Yes, director.”

Alsius replied, clicking a button on a small black device clipped onto her skirt.

“Please deliver a copy of that recording to Bealus, and assemble our military council for tomorrow morning. Now without further-ado, we shall move on to you, Kaine?”

Having set the scene, Gandalin beckoned his elder son to take over. In the meantime, Alsius started another recording. Clearing his throat once, the Guardian’s chief ambassador began.

“Thank you, father. As everyone is aware, the Guardian’s recent actions in Aszyria have caused widespread dissident among the international community. Starting from Avalona…”

Perhaps due to two weeks of accumulated stress and exertion, Wynstal’s sleep-deprived mind started fogging as the topic shifted towards murky and obscure subjects. He managed to pay attention for the initial few minutes, following Kaine’s every word about this and that, he says and she says, and all sorts of other political mumbo jumbo.

Ah, I’m so sleepy… Closing mine eyes would feel so nice… Oh no, closing them now would be a one-way ticket to the Land of Nod! Better think of something to pass the time. Why are you frowning at me such, Alsius? Can’t you see I’m struggling to stay awake? You know, I would greatly appreciate another cup of-

Alsius coolly shifted her hazel eyes away from Wynstal, who was eyeing her and his empty cup.

Oh Alsius, why have thou forsaken me!?

With no caffeine boost forthcoming, Wynstal complained in silence instead to pass the time.

When was the last time I had a proper break, I wonder…? It feels like years, though in reality it’s an entire age. In fact I did sleep for an entire age, until Alsius revived me.

Recalling those monumental moments of his life five years ago filled Wynstal with nostalgia. The confusion, disorientation, and physical helplessness, of waking from cryogenic suspended animation; his utter bewilderment upon recognizing Alsius, and the resulting shock after learning the truth of his circumstances.

To put it simply, Wynstal did not belong here. Neither does Gandalin or Irene. But as to how and why… that’s a tale for later.

At one point – when exactly he couldn’t be sure – Wynstal fell asleep.

Wynstal found himself seated in a massive auditorium, where he witnessed a pudgy politician in a stuffy suit and wearing a poorly-made blonde wig announcing his candidacy for president of the world through puckered lips. He then found himself clinging onto the chimney of a sinking ironclad surrounded by sharks circling the doomed warship.

Wynstal next found himself onstage, juggling and performing party tricks before the entire Guardian organization; judges Gandalin, Alsius and Kaine raised score cards. It then transitioned into a game show where everyone called him General Lee, and he led an army – a motley crew of civilian volunteers – against the villainous count holed up in a fortress.

The dream’s tone and pace then altered. Time seemed to slow, and Wynstal found himself wandering through familiar places from a bygone age. He strolled underneath towering skyscrapers of glass and steel. Moving floors carried him pass advanced structures he could never hope to find in the current world.

The dream changed again. He was running. Not from danger, but towards it, alongside a squad of soldiers within a once pristine and prosperous megalopolis, now a desperate urban battlefield. Clad in silvery-white full body exosuits with built in motors, pneumatics, and hydraulics, they moved faster than any person could physically achieve, while retaining the same agility and flexibility of someone not wearing one.

Turning a corner of what used to be a one-hundred-and-sixty floor office, they encountered five bipedal hostiles with savage canine features and covered in dark fur. The sergeant barked ‘fire’, and the seven-person squad squeezed the triggers of their Shard Energy assault rifles.

Instead of searing through the creatures’ fur and flesh like driving white-hot pokers into marshmallows, their laser shots struck the creatures without causing any harm. The handful of monsters, having torn apart a previous group of unarmored soldiers, turned and charged. A massacre ensued.

The lead soldier, also the squad sergeant, was pounced on, pinned down and ripped apart by three of the creatures. His screams of horror and agony transmitted to every squad member’s ear through their shared comms link. Another got bit on the forearm, and though the armpiece held the Beast tackled her to the ground and shook violently, tearing the shrieking private’s entire arm off.

Baffled by their weapon’s ineffectiveness and terrified by the savagery, junior-commissioned officer Wynstal turned and fled. Even so, the butcher continuing through his headset. Men and women shouting in panic as they continued shooting without any effect before being bore upon and torn apart. They cried out his name, begging him to come back, mocking his cowardice, taunting his ineptitude-

“Wynstal!”

“Wha-!?”

Wynstal jumped with a shriek, and found himself back in Gandalin’s office. Two faces peered at him, their expressions a mixture of worry and concern. Gandalin from behind his desk, and Alsius from the chair beside him. Due to the see-through glass walls, he realized it was past midnight.

“… Is the meeting over? Where’s Kaine?”

Though still concerned, Alsius’s lips twisted into a wry smirk.

“We finished hours ago. He’s left to check into a hotel. What happened? You were thrashing and shouting in your sleep.”

Wynstal flushed with embarrassment. Though he rarely goes to sleep without nightmares, he’d yet overcome his fear of them.

“Apologies. I had a nightmare about the long-ago past.”

Pained sympathy crossed Gandalin’s wrinkled features.

“Don’t apologize, son. I have them too sometimes. There is no shame in being afraid of nightmares, especially not you, who’ve endured more than any normal person should.”

“Hah… The same holds true for you too, father. Well, I should take my leave now.”

Stretching upwards to loosen stiff joints, Wynstal rose from the chair, groggy and disoriented. Fortunately, he had his own apartment within the Guardian headquarters, in the same block as other junior-ranked officers. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a shower, so he’d have to use the communal shower if he wished to feel and smell civilized.

“Oh, Wynstal. I suppose you’d like to know, you are being pulled off active duty for the time being.”

“Truly? Wonderful!”

Elation rushed through Wynstal, and imagining all the things he’d like to spend his break doing –eating, drinking, sleeping – brought forth a wistful smile.

 “Alsius will deliver your temporary assignment tomorrow morning.”

That shattered Wynstal’s smile, and disappointment hit him with the weight of a medicine ball. Suppressing the urge to groan, he grumbled.

“And what exactly is my new assignment, pray tell?”

“Well… you and Kaine brought back a host of administrative matters, so several instructors will be relieved from minor teaching duties which require substitutes such as lecturing, providing counsel, and grading exams.”

“Oh…? I guess I can do that…”

“Actually, director, I might consider getting another replacement to let Wynstal have time off instead.”

Alsius offered, and witnessed a spark of hope light up within the slothful Guardian’s lazy brown eyes.

“If he agrees to be my tea taster.”

She teased, hazel eyes narrowing mischievously and wearing a satisfied smirk of retribution. Gandalin burst into mirthful laughter.

Muttering under his breath, a subdued Wynstal left.


© Copyright 2020 AJLKS. All rights reserved.

Chapters

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments: