Nahast: Chronicles of the Fifth Age

Legends and tales in a world of ancient magic, by Alejandro Melchor & AngelChyld

  • Tales

  • Dancing Faun Productions
04
Jan

Chapter 10: Full Circle

Chapter 10: Full Circle

“You mean to tell me that not only did you let her see you, you also had chocolate at her study?” Gisako was speaking in slow and measured tones. At first she had been very pleased with Akina for her initiative in following Jakitza, but her satisfaction had gone down steadily as the young Moonshade reported her experience.

“I couldn’t just hide, mistress.” Akina was kneeling in front of Gisako. “Those… things were attacking the archmage.”

“And don’t you think an archmage would have had no problem in dealing with minor apparitions?” Gisako said. “Maybe that was just a show for your benefit.”

“Mistress, with all due respect but… why are you so mistrustful of the archmage? Isn’t she your friend?” Akina’s tone was respectful, but there was a sparkle of defiance in her eyes.


Akina was immediately silenced by the simple narrowing of Gisako’s eyes on her.

“You don’t know her.” Gisako spoke after a few moments. “Yes, she was my friend, but she’s not the same girl that I met in the Hawk Maidens. We all knew she was smart but until she started studying magic did we realize she was a genius. Genius minds travel dangerous paths, and it takes both a strong mind and a strong heart not to change during the journey.”

“So… you don’t think her heart was strong?” Akina’s question still carried that little hint of insolence.

“All I know is that she changed.” Gisako sighed, looking out the window, at the starry sky outside. “She’s…”

“…sinister.” Akina nodded slowly. “Alien. Her study was very unsettling, even if it looked like an average library. Even if her servants are rather… cute.”

Gisako blinked and laughed. Her irritation subsided by Akina’s show of both independence and judgment.

“Yes, Jakitza is a little sinister, and she enjoys it.” Gisako nodded. “That’s why you have to think twice about anything she says and does; it usually has more than one purpose. But well… it was a rare chance. Did she find anything out about those shadow creatures?”

“Ah, yes.” Akina nodded, recalling the strange evening she spent with the archmage. “I’m not sure I understood all of it, but it seems the shadows are puppets of someone else, and a focus is needed to bring them into our world. The focus has to be within a few miles, so the archmage is almost certain the sorcerer who called them is in the city or its surrounding lands. Also… I’m not sure if I got it right but the creatures are… shades of the city’s memories.”

“Did Jakitza explain what that means?” Gisako raised an eyebrow.

“More or less.” Akina nodded. “They are ghosts, but not actually undead; more like… echoes that people left behind.”

“Beldatz has a rather turbulent history.” Gisako said. “That’s a lot of echoes.”

“It makes sense.” Akina nodded and looked around them, as if fearful to be overhead, lowering her voice as well. “I think two of the shadows that attacked the archmage looked like Moonshades…”

Gisako frowned. She’d have to call Jakitza to tell all of this to the governor. If there was a rogue sorcerer conjuring the city’s ghosts, Tzie needed to know. The Chrysantemum Cradle Clan had an army’s worth of skeletons in the closet; it wouldn’t do for anyone to summon them out.

-o-

Niriko was excited. Pawaht convinced the Rowdy Waves’ captain to take them the whole way to Beldatz and now they were crossing the Sentinel Strait into the Bay of Dawn. The twin cities of Zelatari and Begirale were left behind and it would be just a few days until they were back home.

“You will drill a hole on the deck if you continue like this.” Behari joined her at the ship’s bow.

“I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed everybody.” Niriko grinned. “We left together, even if we took different roads. Aren’t you excited?”

“A little.” Behari smiled. “That fort is the closest thing to a home I’ve ever had.”

“Aw, don’t go all moody and broody on me now.” Niriko grinned and put an arm around her friend’s shoulder, giving her a little squeeze. “It’ll be great. All the girls will flock around you saying ‘big sister, big sister! Tell us your adventures!’ and there will be nowhere to hide.”

“Oh, gods.” Behari rolled her eyes and chuckled. They were a little older than Lady Tzelan was when she first arrived to form the Hawk Maidens and give the girls of Beldatz a chance at finding themselves. Only later had she revealed to Behari and Niriko all the doubts and fears she held, about the responsibility of shaping so many lives. And now they had inherited that responsibility.

“We still have things to do before returning to our posts.” Behari continued. “There’s the statuette, and our weapons…”

“You’re such a worry-wort.” Niriko grinned brightly. “All in due time. Remember that the youngest archmage in the Empire lives two stories above our rooms. Jaki will know what it all means.”

“I guess you’re right.” Behari nodded. “I just have… a strange feeling. Too many coincidences, and you know Jakitza is… a little pushy.”

“You have to trust her.” Niriko said, her playfulness put aside. “She’s our friend. She gave up so much for our sake. Yes, she’s spooky and likes to play mind-games with people, but she’s still our scroll-troll.”

“Niriko…” Behari turned to look at the deep violet eyes of the half-elf girl, smiling fondly. “It’s such a wonder that your naivete hasn’t gotten you killed yet…”

Niriko blinked and laughed, sticking her tongue out and shoving Behari playfully out of their friendly embrace.

“Meanie!”

-o-

“I need to know more.” The man in the corner of the tea house said, sitting across the young manager. “What is your price?”

“Certain information is not for sale, Horizon.” Zintzi smiled sweetly as she poured more tea for both of them. “The way you’re asking, it sounds as if you want to find out about my friend’s weaknesses to get some leverage on her.”

“I… that wasn’t my intent, Dawnhawk.” Zeren blinked. “She’s going to be my wife; I just want to know more about her.”

“Then you should have come calling me by my real name.” Zintzi kept smiling. “And saying ‘please’. That little word is truly magic if you know how and when to use it.”

“I guess I’m too used to being a Noonshade.” Zeren nodded and smirked. “I liked her. I really did. It’s a pity that she’s…”

“Not into men?” Zintzi laughed softly. “My, my, Zeren… are you falling in love with the governor’s advisor?”

“What? No!” Zeren shook his head and his hands in front of it. “I was going to say that it’s a pity that we are what we are. I think we could have been friends.”

“There’s no reason not to be.” The young woman shrugged. “Moonshade, Noonshade… you both take your names from working in the shadow of the celestial gods. From my position the only difference between you is a letter.”

“That’s a way to look at it.” The mercenary spy chuckled. “Truly, I’ve never quite understood why we’re so set against the Moonshades. I was actually glad when the archmage vouched for me to take this opportunity.”

“The archmage?” Zintzi blinked. “She’s into this?”

“You didn’t know? That’s a first.” Zeren grinned. “Yes; we don’t know how she found out about the whole plan, but she came to us and said I should be Lady Gizaletzi’s bethroted. I know my father would have chosen my older brother if not for her suggestion.”

“If I didn’t know Jakitza better, I’d say she’s trying to straighten Gisako up.” Zintzi chuckled, but there were many thoughts going through her head. “She and the governor… they need friends. They have each other but they don’t realize just how alone they really are.”

“Then will you help me… please, Miss Zintzi?” Zeren smiled.

“That’s Mrs. Zintzi for you, Zeren.” She smiled. “I am happily married. And yes, I will… what do you want to know?”

-o-

The commercial district in Beldatz was always a hive of activity. Despite the city’s isolation, it was at the center of many trading routes and merchandise from all over Northern Solerne moved within its walls. The murmur of people going about their business was heard inside the small house that served as the local office of the White Jade Guild, reputedly the best couriers in all of the Empire.

Atzayak had recovered from the wound he received from the shadow creatures that attacked him as he brought a message for the city’s archmage, the guildhouse providing everything he needed during his convalescence. But now the bandages had come off and he was ready to resume his work as one of the top messengers in the guild.

“Glad to see you up and about.” The old woman in charge of administrating this chapter of the guild said.

“And about time too.” He grinned and bowed his head lightly. “There’s too many people here. I miss the silence of the road.”

“Well, that won’t do.” The woman chuckled, looking at him. “We have an assignment for you.”

“Huh… I don’t get it.” Atzayak raised an eyebrow at the contradiction in the manager’s words. “Does the mission involve dealing with noisy people?”

“No, it involves staying here.”

“What?” He frowned. “What kind of mission is that for a courier?”

“We don’t ask. That’s part of our code and what makes us the best.” The woman said. “But the archmage paid top jade to keep you in Beldatz.”

“Well, she is quite a looker for a bookworm.” He smirked. “But girls who can incinerate me with a word are not really my type.”

“Fool.” The woman chortled. “Think of her as a mage before you think of her as a woman. She has plans; complicated plans, and we are professional pawns. Play your part, Atzayak. Your mission is to loiter in the docks until you meet this woman.”

The manager passed a sheet of paper to him where a simple portrait was drawn in ink.

“Red Storm Behari.” He frowned. “I met her already. She saved my life. Wait, she’s coming here?”

“Apparently.” The manager shrugged. “You are to find any excuse to spend time with her.”

“That’s…” He looked at the portrait for a while and chuckled. “The best mission I’ve ever been assigned. But we’re not spies; what am I supposed to do with her?”

“Lie to her, like you do with every pretty lady you spend time with.” The manager grinned. “Or tell her the truth. I asked the client the same thing and she didn’t seem to care either way. Like I said, we are professional pawns and, while unusual, this job doesn’t break our code. Think of it as paid vacations.”

“With full benefits.” He said, folding the sheet and tucking it inside his sleeve.

-o-

“You play with fire.” The elder xolotzin said, staring at the young archmage. They were at the top of the tower, sitting on opposite sides of the flame that gave the lighthouse its purpose.

“Was that a joke?” Jakitza chuckled, staring at the magical flame.

“I wish.” The little old lizard sighed. “This game you are playing… it can burn you. You and your friends and the whole city. Quitzam never took such risks.”

“And that’s why the blood of so many innocents was needed to save the city back then.” Jakitza frowned. “He was afraid of the power he saw.”

“He was wise enough to recognize it was too much for him.”

“He was afraid to put his own life on the line.” She retorted. “But it won’t happen again. Beldatz will have the protection it deserves, and if you disagree, feel free to take your clan back to the depths of the earth and barbarism from which your master rescued you.”

“Shadows and light.” The xolotzin said. “They are not toys. The hearts of your friends are not tools. I understand why you are doing this, but I cannot approve the how. I will help you as I helped Quitzam and for the same reasons: to protect you from yourself.”

“I appreciate the help.” Jakitza said. “But keep the side commentaries to yourself.”

The pearl she had made out of the fiends’ essences rested under the base of the urn that held the ingredients for the lighthouse’s fire, hidden in the urn’s shadow from the burning light, collecting the darkness.

“I know what I’m doing.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Leave a Reply

© 2019 Nahast: Chronicles of the Fifth Age | Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)

Design by Web4 Sudoku - Powered By Wordpress
MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected