The Endless Horizon

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

Chapter 7 (v.1) - Clairvoyance

Submitted: June 17, 2019

Reads: 76

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Submitted: June 17, 2019

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-7-

Clairvoyance

 

 

“This is Chenglei then?” I asked, holding back awe at the size of the sprawling village filling my view.

Quite unlike Abdera, the front gates here were wide open to travelers and residents alike. As the largest trading center of modern civilization, no other kingdoms dared threaten it's tranquility and thus lose access to its multitude of unique exports. Moreover, the region's share of monsters weren't equipped to deal with the harsh conditions of the mountain metropolis. It was perhaps the best possible place for a redemption-seeking criminal to reside.

Whereas I was struck with wonder, Cordella was notably subdued. “Now that we've arrived we need to search every outlet for information on the wyverns cropping up. I'd bargain that the local taverns are most likely to have what we need.”

The idea of hunting for leads so soon after our arrival was wholly unappealing. “We've ridden for days on end Cordella, and I've traveled longer still. If it's no bother to you I'd like to rest for the evening.”

“Have it your way then, but I'd rather us not waste all of our time lounging.”

Before setting out on foot we tethered the horse under a brimming pine tree to provide cover from the snow flurry. The dark gray sky spelled out an impending storm. Numb from the cold, I was having trouble tying a strong enough knot to hold. “Kaiser,” she said while I worked at the reins, “What's going on here?”

I swiveled on my feet but found nothing of note transpiring in our vicinity. “To what exactly are you referring? I don't see anybody.”

“Exactly,” she said with a hint of urgency. “This is a mercantile village, where are the merchants? Or anyone for that matter?” She was right, in our time here thus far we'd not seen a single person. The entire town felt like it was empty, eerie even.

Uncomfortable with the situation's similarities to my nightmare from before, I approached a nearby dwelling made up of stone and mortar. I wrapped my knuckles against the sturdy wooden door to bring attention to its residents. When the door didn't open I knocked again with more force. Finally I brought my foot up to my waist and kicked it hard, causing the hinges to buckle under the brute force.

It opened to a lavish kitchen filled with jars of many different contents. Sheltered from the element, this was the perfect place to wait out the impending blizzard. I turned from my rummaging to find that my companion had stopped in the doorway.

“Why on earth would the doors be locked if nobody was home?”

I threw my arms out to signify my lack of conclusions. Frustrated at my lack of concern she started down one of the narrow halls. Once I had foraged through all of the goods I could find I begun walking through the house myself.

“Find anything?” I called out to no response. When I noticed the shadow slip past me it was already too late, my arms were tightly locked and a cold metal instrument scraped the back of my neck.

A voice hissed, “Don't make another sound.”

After a couple of forceful shoves I was brought face to face with Cordella who had been put in a similar hold. Her eyes were wide but she showed no other sign of fear; the same could not be said about the woman holding a knife to her nape. Her fingers were unsteady and her breathing irregular. These weren't killers, just townspeople. When the grip on my arms released I fought the urge to send an elbow at my assailant and instead held my hands out in compliance.

“We're sorry to take these kinds of measures, but those damned wyverns have our entire village surrounded. Any loud noise could get us killed,” the man said. He was middle-aged just as his presumed spouse was.

“There are that many of them?” Cordella inquired as soon as she was freed.

The woman responded this time. “We think they've taken to roosting in the mountains,” she explained, “and we have no way to dispel their group. We've been hidden away in our homes for nearly a week now what with the wyverian out.”

“Wyverian?” I whispered curiously, as I hadn’t before heard the term.

“Our researcher, he's been out seeking these very scoundrels.” That seemed to catch Cordella off-guard as if she reached some kind of epiphany.

The man broke the short-lived silence. “Please understand, we don't want to force you two to face the elements on your own, but we barely have enough food for the both of us as is. We'd appreciate if you didn't stay for longer than a day.” I nodded solemnly and found a spot to sit for the time being.

How could the Abderan elites even attempt to refute the fact that dragons had crossed the northern border when this place was supposedly teeming with them? The more I learned the more questions I had.
~~~

While the sun was setting the wife prepared us a meal to be hospitable. “The least we could do is send you out on a full stomach.” For their lack of food, she had put together a spread that was more than meager: bread, roasted beef and potato stew, and even a heavenly smelling basket of pastries. Compared to having solely engorged upon apples and strips of beef for weeks on end, this was a godsend. My enjoyment wasn't shared with my companion, who had instead spent her time watching the snowfall from the window. Upon my completion of the meal I humbly thanked the couple. I had just taken a seat in front of the mantel when for a brief moment the chilling outside air spread through the house, a slam of the door followed.

I opened it to a freezing wind that almost tore the door handle from my grip. In my clouded field of vision I could only faintly make out Cordella's silhouette trudging through the icy precipitate. I yelled her name but she didn't at all slow her clip. For such extreme weather conditions, my clothes were much too thin, but I had no choice but to give her chase.

Finally catching up to her I tried to make sense of her motives, but she was unresponsive, only pointing to a robed figure in the distance. “Just tell me what's going on!” I demanded in a raised voice, my breath visible in the cold climate.

“Stop,” she suddenly pleaded of me.

I shot her a look of mixed confusion and frustration. Peering back at the cloaked man I saw that he had stopped and tilted his head to the sky above us. In another instant, I was floored by a powerful squall. A wyvern had touched down before us.

Its immensity was staggering, dwarfing the largest of griffins with ease. With it now standing only feet away, I could plainly see that it stood on two back legs feet and a small set of secondary limbs protruding from its wing-tips. Its acute sapphire scales flexed outwards in a wave motion, rippling like the surface of the water. A stream of white breath seeped from its slanted nostrils while its ancient, layered eyes scanned my person. I was near motionless save my shivering, now no longer caused by the climate. Though a pointless notion, my hand rested on the hilt of my weapon. When faced with something so deadly, seconds were turned into excruciating hours.

“It didn't attack upon first contact, I'd call that a fortunate turn of events,” an unfamiliar voice resounded from the beast's flank, causing it to cock its head towards the source of the sound. From behind the azure reptile the bundled man strode out. Nonchalantly he lifted his hand to the dragon's savage maw. Without warning it beat its wings and took to the sky, blasting us with one last gust before escaping our sight. With one motion the wyvern's fury was quelled. My mouth was held agape at the display.

“That was a pack leader, so wherever it fled to the rest should follow suit.” Now the man had discarded his hood, revealing the countenance of a well-aged man. The long white hair cascading down his shoulders and from his face was a sign of his many years lived.

From behind me I heard Cordella's slow footsteps, made louder by the crunch of the snow underfoot. “Samson!” she exclaimed.

The name had no meaning to me but the man's face lit up at the sound of her voice. “Cordella?” he uttered quietly as though unsure of the name that had crossed his lips. With a teary smile she wrapped her arms tightly around him. They embraced each other for a time before Samson pulled away. “It's much too bitter cold out here, follow me back to my residence where we can catch up.” He forged ahead through the snow.

I grabbed Cordella by the arm as she began to follow but she pulled it away. “I'll tell you later,” she said under her breath.

As we followed Samson into town the town slowly filled with life, people hesitantly leaving their houses in droves. The snow, on the other hand, fell unimpeded. Eventually, we were led to a paltry dwelling sitting along the village outskirts. Without a word we stepped inside and shut the door behind us, sheltering us from the frigid air. The sharp whistling in my ears had been replaced with the creaking of a battered old hut standing solemnly against the gale of a winter storm.

“Having only just gotten back here I've not had time to prepare the place for visitors, so I hope you don't mind a few cobwebs,” Samson said looking about the quarters. A few cobwebs was a severe understatement. Just as the outside was, the building's interior was in a state of decay. Particles of dust hung in the air and it smelled faintly of mildew, it looked like the building hadn't been lived in for years. “Regardless, I'm ever so pleased that we've come to meet Cordella!” Having taken notice of my disconcertment he addressed me abruptly, “I do apologize for if we've yet to explain the nature of our acquaintance. When last we parted ways I'd assumed that to be the last I see of her.”

Now Cordella spoke on his behalf, “Samson worked tirelessly to research magic for me. Were it not for him I'd be unable to cast a single spell.” In tales of our origin this detail had somehow slipped by without mention; however, when I thought on the matter, the role Samson played in her life was similar to the one Israfel filled in mine. Every parallel just reminded me more of him.

“She speaks much too highly of me, I merely placed the books in front of her while she did the rest. She has quite the affinity for magic this one. That's enough of us though, what of this young man you find yourself with?”

“Kaiser Arrowood sir.” In a swift motion he took my hand and shook with astounding vigor for a man of his age.

“What a pleasure it is Kaiser. I must say I admire the calmness with which you faced the Alpha! To do such a thing takes some courage.”

While I didn't think his description of the event accurate, his statement had reminded me of the question that remained first and foremost in my mind. “Tell me, how was it that you dispelled the wyvern with such ease?”

A wide grin spread across his face upon my asking. “Has Cordella truly told you nothing of me? I'm a wyverian lad.” I stared at him blankly, and his grin dampened a little. “Well, it's a term I coined to describe my particular line of research. Judging by your expression, it seems not to have caught on. Put simply, I study wyverns. Their behavior, motivations, all of it's fair topic of exploration.”

So Cordella and I were not the only ones who sought information? That she was associated with someone as this only made me more curious as to why she refrained from telling me.

Just a moment after he shifted his attention away from me once again. “A miracle I arrived when I had, another second later and I'm sure that wyvern would have taken its curiosity a step further. In a similar vein, I'm sure you're curious as to what could bring me to reside in Chenglei, just as I'm wondering the same of you.”

“Kaiser and I seek to learn more of the wyverns along with why they have been running so rampant as of late, which I'm sure you have noticed yourself.”

Ah, I have taught you well to question such things, but this doesn't explain what brings you to Chenglei. Furthermore, why would this peak your interest Kaiser?”

I attempted to show no agitation in my answer. “I disclosed the location of a dragon not far Abdera, but its existence was refuted. I've since left to find my own truth.” The less important and more damning details were spared from the story, but what I said wasn't entirely untruthful.

In notice of my vague response, Samson raised a brow but reserved further query.“I see. In any case, let me show you what I've concerned myself over these past weeks.”

Motioning to the doorway behind him we moved into a room that appeared to be his study. The room's walls were lined with bookshelves, each containing rows of dusty and neglected artifacts. He stopped just in front of a table upon which laid a large piece of stone propped up for closer examination.

“As you are well aware Corda, I've a keen interest in history, and recently I have unearthed something disconcerting. I came into possession of this curiosity thanks to a peculiar gentleman whose name escapes me.” My eyes glossed over the unfamiliar text scrawled into the stone. “This rock is a record of the past, a perfectly preserved relic of a civilization long since lost to time. Until recently I had the most incredible difficulty deciphering the text, but that's because I had surmised this civilization of old to be much less advanced than our own, lacking technologies that we possess now. I was wrong in this assumption.”

“You're suggesting that whatever ancient people left this behind were just as modern as we?” Cordella asked.

“That's precisely what I'm saying.”

My ears were in disbelief of what they'd heard, a discovery as this had astronomical implications. How could it be that this man was the only person boasting such profound knowledge?

Cordella took helm of the situation now. “Perplexing as that may be, wherein lies your worry?”

Her inquiry was met with a grimace. “From what I can tell these ancient persons lived centuries ago, long before what history would describe as the modern era. If only scant traces of their existence remain despite their evident prosperity, then it stands to reason that they were completely wiped out. I can only theorize as to what could eradicate such a prosperous people. It's this very research that has kept me between kingdoms. I've desperately sought more intelligence as this, but I've returned empty-handed each time.”

“Alas, that's more wind than I need expel,” he finally sighed. “I'm afraid this as far as I can take this inquisition.”

“How could you mean?” I was compelled to ask after being so entranced by his investigation.

“I'm not equipped to continue this line of research, nor have I the years to see it through. Much as it pains me to do so I feel as I must give way my findings to a more capable scientist.”

“For long enough I've known you such that I'm confident in recognizing your bluffs, Samson. You'd never give up your research lest you had to live knowing you couldn't find the answer yourself. Why are you in Chenglei specifically and what did you hope to find here?”

I was taken aback by the boldness with which Cordella addressed her dear friend. After a short silence, Samson spoke. “Well, if we seek knowledge of a similar sort then I feel that it be my obligation to disclose anything I've found. I have strong suspicions regarding a mine in the Chengleian summit. Recently I had heard from townsfolk that something had driven out the miners, effectively shutting down the entire operation. Call it idle supposition but I believe there to be some manner of cruel beast lying in wait at the mine's apex.” He studied us in anticipation of our reactions. “With the two of you here, then perhaps you would be able to go in my stead, for as it stands, I am in no shape to see for myself whether or not this rumor holds true.”

An apprehensive frown spread across my face. “We have no idea what may be waiting for us should we go through with this. Whatever makes you think us capable of such a feat?”

“I'm unsure of this as well,” said Cordella.

“I've already witnessed the way the two of you handle yourselves when in danger, you've every reason to be able to-.”

“What you mistake for confidence is being 'fraid stiff. There's not the faintest chance that we would survive if we were to encounter a wyvern or something of the like.”

“I'm sure of the both of your abilities just as the two of you ought be, but if you're still wary, think about the toll that this has taken on the town. Do it for them if not for yourself.”

In my time of uncertainty, I looked to Cordella for guidance. Her teeth were tightly clenched as was shown by her pursed lips. “Alright,” she said under her breath, her hand rising to cradle her brow.

“And what of you Kaiser?” asked Samson.

I closed my eyes and shook my head, still not convinced of the words I was about to say. “Tell us where we can find the mine.”

Our last moments in Samson's presence were spent with him giving us the whereabouts of the mine to which we'd carelessly march. “I'd never have brought this to your attention had I any doubt that you could manage such a task,” so went his final sentiments. “Despite this, I still bid you great fortune.”
 


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