The Endless Horizon

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 14 (v.1) - The Rain-Bearer

Submitted: July 08, 2019

Reads: 72

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 08, 2019

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-14-

The Rain-Bearer

 

 

The feverish weather, as we grew closer to the source, was irresolute. Periods of torrential downfall were followed by contrasting intervals of hiatus. This ambiguity only rose in severity as time came to pass. What was able to cause such a spectacle was sure to possess phenomenal power, one that could rival even the first arch-wyvern.

Though our skill set had not been changed or expanded upon since that fight, the loft of our goals had. The hooded marauder that we'd fought in the mountains was an additional threat that would have to be dealt with in facing whatever beast we came across. We had so narrowly escaped the leviathan with our lives, yet forward we marched. It wasn't that fear was absent from our thoughts, on the contrary, we were petrified. However, the gravity, the almost magnetic pull of our quest kept our heads straight, locked. It didn't matter much, our own perturbation, we'd become a part of something so important that we had little say in the matter.

Due to our limited range-of-vision, we only noticed that we had arrived after a narrowly avoided collision with a wooden hut. After a pat of the horse's head, we both hit the ground feet first, boots sinking inches into the earth with sickening sloshing sounds.

“I prefer the mine, to be quite honest with you,” I said, blowing water from between my lips after every few words. It was only half in jest. When Cordella was unresponsive I gave her a stiff nudge. “You alright?”

“Of course,” she said with unexpected enthusiasm. Her face was similarly animated.

“You’re surprisingly upbeat given the circumstances.”

“This is different from before,” she explained, “We’re running no fool's errand this time, this is so much greater, so much more important.”

I furrowed my brows, still perplexed at her emotional state. “And that excites you? Higher stakes and greater consequence?”

“Does it not you? Misplaced as it may be, I’m at fever pitch. Knowing exactly what needs to be done, and having no worries outside that set of goals, it’s freeing, exhilarating.”

Whereas she called it invigorating, I called that same feeling confining. It was like a weight was being hoisted onto my shoulders, one that I had no hopes of holding but wasn’t given another choice.

The more of the village that I saw, the grimmer it seemed to me. The majority of the huts were completely dilapidated, buffeted and battered by the unfaltering downpour. As we pushed through the storm, the buildings grew in number, evidence that we were headed towards its center. I wanted desperately to check the residences, but I was afraid of what I might find. If the citizens of Drysdan were subject to difficulty, the people of Mochada must barely be straddling the line between life and death had they not already succumbed to the latter.

Our target this time around was not immediately apparent as it was the last, instead, we seemed to be the sole bodies in a ghost village. How were we to find something when we couldn't see even three front us? “This cursed rain!” I griped. No later than I exclaimed, the density of the precipitation thinned to a drizzle. Alarmed at the sudden development, both of us scanned the area with urgency.

I'd nearly convinced myself it was just a fluke coincidence when my eyes settled upon a simple dock extending into the lake not far from the bulk of the town. There was a silhouette of a person who sat on the edge of it, overlooking the churning water. With my hair soaked and grown out as long as it had since I left Abdera, I brushed it out of my eyes to get a better look. There was no mistaking the robe-clad figure. At a calm yet brisk pace, I moved forward, silently gesturing for Cordella to follow.

I stopped just short of where turf transitioned into the wooden planks of the dock, gathering my confidence before proceeding. With the creaking underfoot as loud as it was, there was no chance that stealth remained on our side. My sword now hung from my hand as I approached.

“Since I never got an answer last we met, I'll ask you one more time. What is your name?” My mouth tasted faintly of blood from the force with which I bit my lip. Still he remained focused on the water's rippling surface. I grew bolder, both in tone and volume. “We're in no mood for your nonchalance, either turn and face us or face a razor's edge."

“My name is Asrael, but tell me,” He straightened his neck and inhaled deeply, “what use is my name when it's already too late to make a difference.”

“You're alone.” said Cordella plainly, “With the both of us healed, you stand no chance at victory.”

“Quite the contrary, the odds seem more than tilted in my favor.”

In the time it took for me to share a glace with my comrade, he had extended his arm out over the water. As it hung there, some force of instinct made me hold my breath; in that second, all stood still. The droning sound of the raindrops ceased, and the erratic drumming of my own heartbeat was ever more clear in contrast. In just another moment his arm rose, and with it, the lake began to heave and swell. Swimming just below the watery ridges, a figure pushed against the aqueous membrane until it gave way to its sheer immensity.

First to emerge were its massive dorsal fins, clad in equal parts scale and webbing. Beneath us the feeble dock swayed, likely to yield to the tremendous waves that bombarded it. Gripped by awe, Cordella was rooted in place. I, on the other hand, dropped my weapon and dove for Asrael, who turned just as we collided.

Together we plunged into the same watery depths from which the piscine-wyvern rose. Even underwater the enmity of his eyes glowed a fierce red. The bunched cloth of his cloak was locked between my fingers, but instead of fighting for his release, he displayed only a snide grin. This was my first time seeing his face, and to my shock, it was one of an older man. Dark but graying hair floated out from beneath his cowl, his sharp features most fitting of his character. When my own lungs came to betray me and pleaded for oxygen, I was forced to let go and swim upwards.

I pierced the surface, choking and gasping for air. “Hurry up and get out of there!” my friend called. Treading the water, I spun to see that the full breadth of the water had been exposed to the humid air. It was remarkably more beautiful than the wyrm from the mine. Its dorsal fin ran the length of its spine, only tapering off at its head, which was instead topped with a multitude of rear-facing spines. The entirety of its body was coated in glowing red algae, through which countless of the spines just like the ones on its head jut out. I was so absorbed in the spectacle that I failed to notice that it was about to propel itself towards me. Frantically I swam for the embankment, clambering to get my feet above the coastline. Behind me the creature sunk beneath the artificial tide.

I climbed to my feet and put distance between myself and the shore. “Ready?” I asked of Cordella as I shook my hair of water.

She had upon her face a determined look. “Whenever you are.” Her stance shifted and electricity bounced between the tips of her fingers.

I recovered my discarded blade and stood along the water's edge, waiting for the waterborne titan to surface. When it emerged I nearly lost my footing, as it had suddenly shot into the sky. What I'd first presumed to be fins were actually hybrid-wings, capable of holding the already gargantuan serpent aloft.

I held my hands out in a vain attempt to shield my face from the torrentous deluge shed from its back as it took flight. What resulted was an airborne behemoth multiple times larger than even the wyvern I had found in Crodmill. It shared the same general body shape save a pair of legs, barring it from terrestrial locomotion.

“That's not-” I stuttered, “How is that possible?”

“Behold the Maelstrom!” Asrael exclaimed from nearby, “Today you bear witness to a turning point in the history of a dying race, bask in its sovereignty or face its wrath!”

The sudden utterance turned the both of us on our heels. Cordella was vulnerable to an attack by Asrael's dagger, but I stepped in just before his strike could connect, causing it to instead graze my forearm. After deflecting the next swipe with the broadside of my blade, I swung hard towards center mass. He shirked my attack with ease.

“Continue with the plan,” I urged of Cordella, “I'll hold him back, just kill it!”

“Like hell, you will!” My adversary thrust his blade towards the exposed part of my right hand. With a quick tilt of my grip the knife was parried by the pommel. As we clashed I once again heard a static whirring from Cordella's direction.

“You, Kaiser, why do you oppose me?”

“You left this village in disrepair, you expected us to-” An unforeseen blow to my gut simultaneously expelled my breath and sent me crashing to the wet turf.

While I struggled to breathe he let his arm hang slack, for a brief moment showing no mal-intent. “I had no hand in this village's destruction, I mean to avert this catastrophe not hasten it!”

Though I was perplexed by his statement I was given no time to dwell on its meaning. He set his gait towards Cordella, whose hands were still held skyward. Desperate and without a weapon in hand I had only one a way to buy Cordella what time she needed. I pushed myself halfway off the ground and shut my eyes, summoning in front of Asrael as bright a light as I was able. It was but a quick flash, but that was all it took to momentarily daze him thus giving me ample time to leap from the ground and wrap my arms around his torso.

He resisted my hold, but it was no use, Cordella needed only a minute more before she could unleash the power she accumulated.

While we had not grown more powerful since our last quarrel, we had grown wiser. Though we knew not what form the beast would take, there was one element of the fight on which we were sure we could depend on: the storm, and the electricity dormant just behind the veil of clouds. The wyvern circled slowly overhead, held captive by whatever force Asrael had exerted upon it. Its flight was a surprise, but it mattered not.

“Now!” Cordella called.

We were given no time to react before lightning cracked the sky, weaving and branching over the water for a split second before dissipating altogether. The show of light stained our eyes while the uproarious stampede of thunder that followed deafened our hearing. With eyes half-shut we watched the arch drop from the sky, plummeting back towards the lake at terminal velocity. If the crash of thunder had shaken the earth, the tsunami created by the rain-bearer's collision sent the heavens themselves into disarray.

Between my bleached vision and the pounding of my eardrums, I was disoriented, barely summoning the strength to keep upright. Asrael threw my arms off of him and ran forward. Through the shrill ringing in my ears I could just make out the sounds of his cursing into the wind and through my eyes the redness of his face. He was no doubt irate about the turn of events.

On shaky feet I stumbled towards the ranting man, still unaware of my plotting. With one foot forward I bore my knuckles into the back of his nape, sending him to the ground in a heap. Cordella's mouth moved to make words, but it seemed only a faint humming.

~~~
Sometime later the ringing all but ceased, and color again graced my eyes. The weather cleared considerably since the fall of the arch, leaving behind a sky of vibrant blue speckled with fluffy white clouds.

We had done it, and with little a hitch at that, only I felt no flurry of accomplishment. Still unconscious, we had bound Asrael with a loose bit of rope. Cordella was eager to search the village for life, but the questions I had were still clawing for closure, demanding that I wait for them to be answered.

When at last he awoke, he thrashed in his fibrous prison before his eyes darted to me. He quickly stopped all other movements and cast his glare to the ground, nostrils flared like the child he was.

A spiteful “V” formed out of my brows when I took notice of his wakeful state. “This is twice now that we’ve bested you, and this time, you’re going to give us information until we say you’re done.”

Slowly and shamefully his eyes lifted, searching for mine. For the first time since our meeting, he willingly conceded, though the bitterness hadn’t yet vanished from his voice. “Ask away.”

Cordella and I exchanged pleasant looks before I asked the question first and foremost on my mind. “You said you were trying to avert catastrophe, how did you intend to go about that? By bending these abominations to your will?‘

“These ‘abominations’ possess the strength that we lack, by harnessing that power I sought to bring an end to this cycle of suffering. His face was red as his rage bubbled to the surface. "But because of the both of you, I'm running out of time. We've less than a year before this world ends, and you've set out destroying any chance we have of coming out on the other side of this!“

“No one should wield that kind of power. What makes you think yourself worthy of playing God?”

My question was met with a fierce growl, “You miserable wretch!” Whatever chord I struck rang out with sheer vexation. “You echo his hollow preachings, do you not realize that you’re being used? Why are you so intent on following the word of that whoreson old fool?!”

“You call Samson a fool?” Cordella snapped, “You know not the meaning of the word! He would never use us for his gain.”

He wore a puzzled expression before the next words crawled from his lips, “Samson? I speak of Israfel.”

My heart sank. I broke into nervous laughter, as was the only response that I could muster after the utterance of the familiar name had shattered my composure.

“Kaiser?” Cordella eyed me uneasily.

I took a deep breath before I spoke again. “I don’t buy your lies for a second, a man like Israfel would never have affiliated himself with the likes of you.”

“Whether you believe me or not doesn’t change the fact. He and I were comrades once, research partners, but those times are long past. The two of us never did agree on much. 'No man should have that kind of power' he would preach with his finger crooked, the pretentious swine. He was always so ready to call out the faults of my idea but never suggested his own.”

I chose to ignore his off-handed remarks towards Israfel and continued down my line of questioning. “You said we had less than a year now until catastrophe, what else do you know?”

He shifted where he sat, tensing his torso as though he forgot that he’d been tied up. “This otherworldly cycle the two of you stumbled into, we first discovered evidence of it several years back. We dug up those stone scripts in the remains of a city long since lost to time. The first omen, as I'm sure you're well aware, outlined the appearances of arch-wyverns, ancient creatures of wrath and otherwise unrivaled power." When he finished speaking he broke into a rasping cough.

"And then?" Cordella pressed as still he choked for air.

He wiped the saliva off his chin by rubbing it against the ropes that bound him. "Next is the coming of perpetual night, a gathering so dense with wyverns, that our sun will be lost behind their veil. Past that the lines become cryptic, but they say that after these events, something will cause everything to grind to a halt. Our little wheel in the sky will grind to a halt.”

Acute nausea bubbled from the pit of my stomach. When he had said that this was greater than us, I hadn't quite grasped the reality of that statement. Even when we knew it could mean the fate of the world, we carried onward as if it were an everyday affair. Now we come to find that the arch-wyverns weren't the cause of catastrophe, but a sign of its approach. This was the first time that the gravity of everything pulled down on me with its greatest force.

“Now do you to understand the severity of our situation? For years I’ve worked to locate these wyverns and you’ve gone and slaughtered them at the command of your false prophet.”

Cordella sternly shook her head. “Still you speak of Israfel, but Kaiser hasn’t seen him in years. Samson is the one that informed us of the scripts.”

The look of confusion on his face subsided, and in its place was a wry grin. “And if I may, how did your 'Samson' come to obtain this information, a mystery donor perhaps?” He made eye contact with me as the epiphany struck. “It looks like your friend Israfel has been pulling strings from behind your back. He had told me many a year ago that he found someone upon whom he could enact his plan, but it seems he never actually told you.”

“What was his plan?” she asked in a whisper.

I cut her off. “Enough, I don’t need to hear it.”

While I mulled it over in my mind he tensed his body, as if forgetting about the ropes. I bent to remove him from his prison.

“Cut this rope and we may leave this town united. Together we can strive for a future free of-”

“No,” I interjected coldly, “I don't trust one godforsaken word from your damned muzzle. You leave this town with the hopes of never again crossing glances with either one of us.”

He pulled his hood over his head so that his wrinkled and dirtied face was once again concealed. “Still you free me. That shows me that I've at least sowed the seeds of doubt, and that you'll soon see those saplings grow to heights unimaginable.” When the ropes dropped to his side he coolly stood and looked towards the village. “Until next time,” he held up his right hand as he walked away from us.

“Are you sure he should be let go like that?” she asked of me, though I ultimately wouldn’t respond.

We were just headed back into the broken city ourselves when we heard a commotion from the heart of it. One by one, families exit their dilapidated homes, bathed by the new sunlight that rained down upon them. Into the sky, they sang songs of praise. I was without much hope of finding life, but I was incredibly thankful that so many of the townsfolk lived to see the end of the storm.

“Where are you going?” I hadn't stopped my gait until she stopped me. “Are you not staying here?”

“For what purpose?” I asked in earnest.

“To see to it that this village lives for another day, to inform them about Drysdan? If you don't intend to stay here, then where will you go?”

If they could survive the event itself, then I had no doubt that they could recover from the aftermath. As for where I left to, I didn't know. All I did know was that I couldn't stay here any longer. “There's so much demanded of us Cordella, so much at stake that I feel I'll drown if I stop moving for too long. And now, now I'm not so sure that we even walk the right path.”

“Kaiser-” our eyes locked for a second, but I broke away so as not to see her somber face.

“Before I do anything else, I have to return to Abdera and seek out Israfel. If he knows something about all of this then I have to get his help. If you choose to stay here for the time being, I only ask that you stay safe.”

I expected protest, but it seemed that we had reached a silent understanding. “You have until the turn of this month lest you want me to come drag you out myself.” We shared a smile.

She continued to follow me until we came upon Escalus, clearly ecstatic at our return. Cordella stroked his mane for a time before retrieving her effects. I climbed into the groove of the saddle and slid my feet into the stirrups, all while fighting the instinct to offer her a hand up.

“Are you certain Abdera has what you're looking for Kaiser?”

“To be truthful, I'm not certain of anything at the moment.”
 


© Copyright 2020 Ignis Vulpes. All rights reserved.

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