Tales of Raetrethra Vol. 2

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


Onboard an airship in north-east Aragona, Wynstal is tasked with seeking out where the Beasts are invading Cambreford from. There, they cross the border between civilization and wilderness.

Prolog (v.1) - Prologue - Into Uncharted Regions

Submitted: February 05, 2018

Reads: 154

Comments: 1

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Submitted: February 05, 2018

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There are two kinds of people in the world. Larks who prefer sunrise, and night-owls who prefer sunset.

As for Wynstal, who faced the dark eastern horizon from onboard an airship’s control bridge at twenty-thousand feet altitude, he couldn’t quite decide.

Sunrise meant rising from slumber, a prospect he considered man’s greatest chore. Yet sunrise also meant breakfast, a welcoming prospect after a good night’s sleep and a necessity for anyone with a long day ahead.

Sunset, on the other hand, heralded darkness and danger; a time for rest and reflection. Yet more often than not, the man found himself more productive at dusk.

So when dawn finally emerged against a clear blue background, Wynstal frowned. Not from a personal grudge against sunlight, but from a more practical reason: being blinded.

As for the airship’s captain standing several steps behind him, the dark-skinned Aszyrian inhaled as the sun’s rays shone through the bridge’s acrylic glass windows.

“Ah… it’s beautiful no matter where.”

Kahir Reis was his name; one of Raetrethra’s finest airship captain. An even more famous captain than he would be his younger brother, Ilyas Reis, who seven years ago set the record of how far Aszyria’s desert stretched. Three years ago Ilyas and his team left on another expedition and had yet to return.

Noticing the Guardian struggling to keep his eyes open, Captain Reis retrieved a pair of round-framed sunglasses from his brown leather flight jacket.

“Would you like a pair of shades, Mr. Wynstal?”

“Thank you, I’ll be fine.”

The Aszyrian captain chuckled.

“It’s not an offer. Go on, before your eyes burn out.”

Accepting the sunglasses and putting it on, Wynstal became able to withstand sunrise’s glare. From the corner of his vision, he noticed the captain not wearing any shades. Neither were the other five crew members of this observation zeppelin.

“Sea and sky sailors prefer not using them. It's disorientating, and a liability during emergencies.”

“Yet we’re not in any emergency?”

Wynstal countered. The captain shrugged in agreement.

“Indeed so, but we’ve other means of getting by.”

“Oh?”

“Mmm. Like knowing where to stand.”

Perplexed, Wynstal turned to scrutinize the captain and realized what he meant. Standing four steps behind him, the Aszyrian captain’s body all the way to his hooked nose was bathed in sunlight, while everything above remained in the shade.

Uttering another chuckle at the Guardian’s expense, Kahir turned to a crewmate with instructions to decrease altitude and initiate the search procedure. Wynstal’s insides soon lurched accompanying the zeppelin’s descent, and within minutes they breached the lower clouds.

Like choppy waves of an ocean, the west side landscape dipped and rose for as far as the eye can see; gray-tipped mountains separated by narrow valleys and countless streams. To the east, the terrain was flat as a pan. This mountainous-west and flat-east continued into the distance.

“The Eastern Highlands. How much further until we enter uncharted regions, Mister Jones?”

Captain Reis inquired of the navigator, who pored over a desk tracing their flight path using a pencil and compass.

“In another hundred and sixty miles, captain.”

Came the prompt reply. The Aszyrian captain grunted once in affirmative.

“Keep track of where we are at all times, Mister Jones. Make sure we can navigate back to Cambreford even if all our eyes are plucked out.”

Instruction delivered, Captain Reis stared into the distance with a scrutinizing gaze marking a seasoned sailor.

While many – himself included – joined the profession with adventurous spirits, in due time reality sank in and juvenile enthusiasm gave way to solemn professionalism. For everything beyond the map of Raetrethra was equal parts mysterious and dangerous, a foreign land where Beasts reigned supreme and where nature could not be predicted or tamed.

“We’ll start searching from this point. I have a spare spyglass if you’d like, Mister Wynstal.”

Retrieving a collapsible handheld telescope from a pocket, Captain Reis passed it to the Guardian. The Aszyrian then retrieved his own, pulled it to full length and pressed it against his right eye. Wynstal followed suit, along with his crew besides the navigator and the helmsman.

For the next two hours, they scoured the dimly-lit Eastern Highlands for any signs of Beasts. The airship performed a zig-zag flight path at an altitude of two-and-half thousand feet, once in a while circumventing mountains taller than it.

Every few minutes, they passed villages housing miners and/or lumberers; all walled with palisade and most connected to another by dirt roads. Every one in four was abandoned.

“Poor souls. They know there’s little hope, yet they try anyway.”

Bearded face cringing with pity, Captain Reis murmured.

“They’ve little choice.”

Wynstal stated, to which the Aszyrian nodded and muttered.

“Makes me wonder if being a slave in Aszyria is better than being a convicted laborer in Aragona.”

Though famed for its militarism, Aragona was even more famous for its rigid judiciary and rigorous law enforcement. Firstly, incarceration was non-existent and execution rare. Instead, fines and penal labor were part and puzzle of Aragona’s legal system.

Thus, in most cases, a convict could serve their sentence in two ways: pay a hefty fine or work as a penal laborer. Or both, depending. Servitude for minor crimes could last months or years; carried out in cities as cleaners and chimney sweeps, in factory assembly lines, or in plantations picking cotton.

As for those with decades to lifetime sentences, their fate was hard labor in lumber mills and mining camps, with an additional twist. Their destinations were beyond the militarized border where Beasts, bandits, and everything in between roamed wild.

And of course, monetary ‘incentive’ played a huge role in where one winds up.

One hour later in the airship bridge. Morning had transitioned to noon, bathing most of the rugged landscape in overcast sunlight and granting them a clear view of every nook and cranny.

“No signs of Beasts about…”

The Aszyrian captain grumbled before uttering an order none hoped to hear.

“Set a course east, into uncharted regions.”

Silence. At last, the helmsman and navigator both replied with dry voices.

“Aye captain, setting course.”

As their search continued, they encountered fewer inhabited villages. At one point, every settlement they passed were empty or long abandoned. After that, only scattered ruins remained, and then nothing. No paths, buildings, or other signs of human habitation.

The first indication they crossed the border came soon afterwards, when a sudden gust rattled several windows and caused the airship to lurch sideways.

Straining against the steering wheel, the helmsman reported.

“Strong winds against port side, captain.”

“Maintain the course and altitude, Mister Wright.”

Captain Reis looked down to witness every tree shivering in rippling waves, and noted the thick blanket of clouds above moving faster than before. Instinct and experience warned him to turn back, but they had a mission to accomplish.

Intending on relaying his intention to continue the mission, Kahir turned to witness his passenger scanning the far distance with his telescope, as if searching for something. Curious, he copied the Guardian but only saw distant trees, rivers, hills, and mountains. Was the Guardian seeing something he wasn’t?

“Is something the matter, Mister Wynstal?”

 “… no… tis nothing.”

Wynstal replied in a pensive tone laced with melancholy. Despite knowing he’d find nothing from up here, not after two thousand years, he had to try. Uttering a quiet sigh, he directed his efforts back to the task at hand.

The search continued for another ten minutes, until-

“Beasts sighted, captain. A pack of Direwolves, bearing two-seventy at one-mile distance.”

Captain Reis turned his telescope in that direction and soon found the pack. At least four-dozen black-furred, wolf-like Beasts flitted through the trees. Rather than heading west towards Aragona’s penal colonies, they were moving north towards the mountains.

“Follow them.”

“Aye, captain.”

With some struggle, the airship changed course to follow the pack. Throughout the whole time, the airship continued to jitter and shake due to shifting winds. Ten minutes passed before another crewman called.

“Second direwolf pack sighted, captain. One-and-quarter mile at bearing zero-twenty.”

True enough, a larger pack in the east was also headed north. Moments later, someone shrieked.

“M-mammoths sighted, captain…!”

Stammered a crewman half the captain’s age, in awe of what he was witnessing through his spyglass.

“Stay calm, Mister Finch. What’s their bearing?”

“Uhm… three-sixty, six-and-half miles!”

Four spyglasses shifting north, they witnessed several massive Beasts lumbering within the tall boreal forest. Each the height and size of a two-storey house, walking on four legs the size of tree-trunks. They also had a long trunk hanging between two curved tusks that were longer than a man in height.

“We’ve found our Beasts, Mister Wynstal.”

Kahir Reis pointed further north of the Mammoths, where the terrain became rockier and less forested. Directing his spyglass there and twisting it to bring the blurred image into focus, Wynstal grimaced.

“Aye, we have indeed.”

Since he witnessed a dense mass of Beasts gathering within a cleft between two jagged mountains.

There must be a thousand Direwolves and over a hundred Ursas; bear-like Beasts twice the height of a man and noted to be capable of removing a person’s head with one bite. Small herds of Mammoths interspersed the mass.

There were even a handful of Triceros; quadrupedal creatures one-third a Mammoth’s size, with thick skin tougher than six-inches of treated hide, a stronger-than-concrete calcified neck frill, and three curved horns – one above each eye and another above its nose.

“Head there. Count how many and wh-!?”

Kahir was cut short when the airship lurched violently, lifting everyone from the floor for split seconds. Every window pane rattled and anything not bolted down went flying. If it weren’t for three decades of flight experience, he would have been sprawled on the ground like half his crew.

Widening his stance and grasping onto the handrails, Captain Reis first made sure Wright the helmsman was still at his post, then checked on their Guardian passenger.

Wynstal was still standing, feet apart and holding onto the handrails with such strength his knuckles turned white. Even so, the Guardian’s demeanor carried not a tinge of fear as everything trembled. If anything, he seemed annoyed by the capricious weather.

Satisfied the Guardian could take care of himself, the captain growled at his floundering crew.

“On your feet, sailors! I’ve not given shut-eye permission!”

Hauling one dazed crewman to his feet, Kahir turned to find the navigator grasping the edges of the bolted-down desk with both hands to keep himself and the map from flying.

“Mister Jones! What is our most direct path to Raetrethra!?”

“Bearing of two-sixty, one-hundred and ten miles! Captain!”

Not too far, but still far enough for concern. Putting aside the mass of Beasts, he turned to the helmsman.

“You heard our navigator! Set a course for-”

“C-captain! Look!”

Crewman Finch whimpered, drawing the Aszyrian’s attention outside the airship.

Several tens-of-miles to the east, clouds from every direction were being pulled into a massive gray cumulonimbus that was non-existent minutes ago. If one had to guess its size, let’s say if it occurred in Cambreford, its shadow would cover the entire city.

In his long and exciting career, Captain Reis had experienced hundreds of storms, from ones meek as drizzles to a few capable of ripping a fleet of airships to splinters. However, the one he’s witnessing now was on a whole new level. Their chances of surviving this storm would be equal to jumping out and free falling from the airship right this instant, and it was heading in their direction.

Murmuring a few auspicious words under his breath, Captain Reis turned to his Guardian passenger.

“Hold on, Minster Wynstal. This’ll be a rough ride.”

And for the first time, he witnessed a person sighing in the face of a mega-storm.

Muttering under his breath, Wynstal grumbled.

First going commando in Aszyria, now going commando in lands abandoned for two millennia. Give me a break…


© Copyright 2020 AJLKS. All rights reserved.

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