Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Two

Chapter Two

There was a certain window that looked out over the walled-in garden-slash-courtyard at Ighosia Falls, and it was there that one particular patient liked to spend most of his time. He was a big man, broad-shouldered and tall, with salt-and-pepper hair and stony blue eyes. Once a formidable member of the police force, he now held no gun, had no uniform. He spent his time staring out into the courtyard, babbling softly to himself, occasionally shouting “Don’t!” or “Please, stop!” The doctors knew the shouts were linked to the incident that broke him.

One intern just happened to be looking in his direction when something came over his eyes. So she was the only one to see his mouth clamp shut mid-babble, to see the sudden change in the look behind his eyes. He’d gone quiet, the abrupt change in behavior happening without warning, just as with the woman in the wheelchair. His change was certainly less violent and even less noticeable. But the intern was convinced there had been a change. Silence surrounded the big man; the cold look in his eyes became the only indication of life.


Ara Fusica leaned over the rail of the balcony overlooking the main plaza of Necras, her feet a few inches above the ground as she hoisted herself up to look at the rabble-rousing below. All she could see were heads covered with many different colors of hair and the colorful splashes of their clothes.

“My Lady, you shouldn’t hang over the edge like that. You’ll fall, and then where will we be?”

Ara let her feet come back down to the marble floor of the balcony and looked up to her sworn guard. Roark Dow was a broad-shouldered man in the prime of his life. He didn’t wear all his steel battle armor here in the city; rather a set of thick hardened leather protected him. His coal-black hair, usually disheveled and spiky with sweat from being kept under his helmet at all hours, was now dry and sitting neatly on his head. His chin was smooth as a boy’s despite his thirty-five years. His eyes looked down on the milling crowd, appraising everyone and generally disapproving of the carousing in the streets below.

This was the first time Ara could really see the onset of the Search; it only happened every fifteen years, and at age fifteen, had only experienced the last one as an infant. She was amazed now at the sight of all the men wearing the silver braid of Seekers. So many-- it looked like nearly every man in the city wore one.

“Every fifteen years, the Seekers of Sonsedhor set out from the four capital cities of the world to search for the sword that was lost,” she said, her words almost a recitation. “I never imagined there would be so many.”

“And there may not even be one among them all who will find it. There have been nearly sixty Searches set out since Cheyne Firdin vanished, and they began long after his mysterious disappearance.” Roark spoke matter-of-factly, his lips barely moving but his voice firm and commanding. Should the need ever arise, he would lead soldiers into battle to defend her.

“Have you ever thought of joining the Search?” Ara asked, looking up at her guardian. “Did you go on the last one? You would have been old enough.”

“At the time of the last one, you were a babe in swaddling clothes in your mother’s arms, my Lady,” he replied, his voice remaining level, as if he were lecturing. “From the moment of your birth, I was bound to you, sworn to protect you, to give up my life to defend your own. I was not free to join the Search then, nor am I now.”

“I could free you from that bond if you wished,” she said, still looking up at him. She was not short-- not for her age, anyway-- but he still stood head and shoulders taller than her. “At one word form me, your oath could be undone. Do you wish it? To search the world for Sonsedhor?”

He turned his eyes back down to the rabble in the plaza. “I am not looking for glory,” he said simply and firmly, ending the conversation.

She refused to let it end. “Then what are you looking for?”

He let out a loud sigh, but she thought he was about to answer, when below them, a hubbub began. A man shouted, his voice carrying over the raucous volume of the crowd. “That’s my property! Stop him! Guards! Stop him!”

She jumped up to lean her chest against the rail again so she could really see what was below her. Roark mumbled something, but she couldn’t make it out. Probably something about not leaning over the rail again. She ignored him and looked for where the trouble was.

Among the multi-colored heads, a pale-haired man seemed to be the center of attention. “Now what is happening down there?” she asked. “Go find out, Roark. Take some guards and sort this out. I won’t have thieves in my city.”

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