The Unmentionable Imerias

Under the eyes of Illyn Elder, they told Asron that one day he would become a fine Elder of the Elder Keep; his novice robes will be replaced with Elder robes, a vain hope. His parents told him before he left, that he would see them often while in the Keep, parental leaves were to come every now and then, as long as he didn't break Keep law by having contact with them around it and learned his letters well. He did. But his last parental leave was two years ago.
The Mythrin purge has not died out; cycles have gone and amid the winter which grips a nation hard, things from children’s fairy tales, things from the small talk of youngsters, are rising again; rising near an isolated City which craves knowledge, but laughs at its courier. Will, the vague pendulum encased within the world itself, the one which foretold the forming of the world when it was still a rumour, the only force which binds Mythrin, is swinging Asron's homebound lifestyle deep into the unknown. Now he’s as good as dead.

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2. A NEWS COURIER FROM BEYOND THE BRIAR

CHAPTER TWO

A NEWS COURIER FROM BEYOND THE BRIAR

 

He had to leave, and he had to leave soon.

 

The marketplace had already begun to clear but Asron wanted to see Eliah. He didn’t really care that she was with Edward, but whenever he thought about it too hard, everything kept returning to the Elder...

 

The inn at Hogarth’s Creek, a large and sturdy establishment, finding inception a good what seemed millennia ago; was the most popular in the city. Large windows manned by shutters flapping slightly under the swirling snows, a large sign reading Hogarth’s Creek across it, and eager eyes which looked out from the window or played boisterous tumbling dice. Those were the images (and fondest memories) that would easily come to mind at any given mention of Hogarth’s Creek. The idea of a warm cup of Madame’s Goodbody’s tea also came to mind, especially amid times like this.

 

“Novice Asron, it’s good to see you, good to see you.” Horace Goodbody called from behind the counter where he wiped a glass, as Asron entered the inn to be welcomed by warm scents, sweat, the twinkling of the bell that Asron had never been able to locate and the sound of talking. “Peace be with you.”

 

The innkeeper was a slender man, with a pale face clean shaven. He was past thirty years and quite short for his age, an issue which resulted in him staring up at people when he served them. Asron remember his mirth at seeing the innkeeper take the jackets of three towering City Watchmen this one time. “May your stars shine bright Master Goodbody,” Asron said.

 

The inn was quite full, most people who made up the large numbers, and were most likely those in need of a good drink after seeing the hangings. Asron ordered a cup of tea with the few coin he could rummage in his deep great coat pockets and once the eager barmaid had given it to him, leaving her hand out as if he was about to give her another tip to add to the one he gave last week, he found an empty table by the window and began to drink.

 

The warmth was well welcomed. Asron looked out, seeing the people still locked in the oblivion which he too had been for so long engulfed and he smiled knowing that his position was the envy of every single one of them.

 

He was just taking another sip of tea, when his eyes (diverting from the game of tumbling stones, where a man had just thrown a stone directly into the jug with a slight rattle from across the room; and was shouting: “King of the blasted walls!” at the top of his lungs) fell upon a familiar face.

 

The door opened. Asron turned and saw the huddled figure of Edward Glouchest depart, his shoulders slumped. Edward turned back just as the twinkling concluded, his look was sharp like knives.

 

Asron cursed him under his breath and looked back across the room. Eliah sat there with her hands on her forehead and facing the table. He stood up then, tea in hand; Asron made his way towards her and with his other hand made to touch the locket around his neck, his token for good fortune. It was gone.

 

Oh yeah, Thomil.

 

“It’s been a long time hasn’t it.” Asron said, sitting on the chair opposite and not even asking if she would mind.

 

“What- Oh Asron, it’s you.” She wiped her face with her sleeve, the shirt sagged in angles and fell over the tips of her fingers, and Asron did not care to ask. “It’s not exactly my fault is it? I’ve been busy; you’ve been busy, novice.”

 

“You two talking about babies, already, you two work fast.” He laughed and she stiffened it seemed. “Okay, whatever you say Missus Glouchest wife of a blacksmith.” Asron said the words like a herald reading a message to a king.

 

“Stop it.”

 

“What?”

 

“You say it like mockery.”

 

“Isn’t it? I was sure that-”

 

“Quit while you’re ahead.” She gave him a sharp look as she folded her arms, one which could melt the harsh words to come into watery butter. “You’ve always been so immature.”

 

“’Can’t argue with that logic.” He gave her a questioning look. “Is that your new look.” Her hair was cut rough. The ends were uneven and it seemed like it had been done with nothing but teeth. He felt for her.

 

“You can call it that.” She was shaking and bit her nails.

 

They sat in silence for a while, Asron slowly slurping his tea and Eliah contemplating, if Asron could still read her eyes. “How’ve you been then, Eliah?”

 

She looked at him. “Good enough and you.”

 

“Better.”

 

“That’s good for you.” She leaned and took the glass on her side in her hands and took a sip, Asron saw something peculiar about her fingers.

 

“Show me your hands.”

 

“No.” She made to put them under the table but Asron was too fast and grabbed them before they got too far, she winced.

 

Turning her hands over, Asron saw dark patches around her skin. They were blotchy; and with every soft touch Asron gave she made a stifled exclamation of her pain. “Who did this to you?” Abruptly he looked up at her. “It was him wasn’t it, Edward did it.”

 

“No, he-”

 

“I could always tell when you were lying; it’s all in the eyes. I swear I’ll...” He clenched his other fist and stiffened his jaw.

 

He looked up at her and that momentary lapse was enough for her to yank free and push her hands into her pockets, his own began to fall aimlessly mid air. She looked at him like he had just kicked her on the ground.

 

She began to stand, but Asron matched her movements and continued to face her.

 

“Shut up Asron, I burned myself while cooking, I don’t, I don’t see why you’re being like, like this. Not everything is some game, some fiction which needs to be enlarged for your amusement.”

 

“Why should I, if he’s hurting you, if he lays a finger on you, I’ll make him pay, I swear to that.”

 

“Swear all you like.” She gave a quick movement, one which spilled her drink over in the process. “Just make sure while you do just that, that you leave me alone Asron, just go and get lost I don’t care. You’re always like this.”

 

“Like what.”

 

“You think you own me, you think...”

 

“Say it.”

 

“You think I love you.” She picked up her jacket which had been laid across the back of her chair and hoisted a backpack over her shoulders before she then made to leave by the side of the table. Her voice came low and nearly inaudible. “But I don’t. I’m leaving.”

 

“Eliah I’m-!”

 

The bell sounded and the door closed with a thump.

 

He wanted to follow her but he knew that it would do no good; she would much prefer her space. He hit his fist against the table and sat down. The mug rattled in symphony.

 

“Fallen under the influence of female troubles I deduce, or is your flirting solely reliant on making sure they storm off and curse your existence so... well-”

 

“You know the sort.” Asron said and he turned to see Herus Imeria seated with a hood cast downward and mug to the rim with grey beer.

 

“Quite true I do, I’ve often found encounter with my own wife’s foul tongue, if you read me, Song has come between us it seems... never mind this fool, you’ll be too young for such matters.”

 

Asron flexed his cheek and nodded. “Haven’t you been hounded by people who want to hear your news.”

 

He stroked the grey line through the middle of his goatee. “Not yet, Horace gave me strict instruction to get off my head first, he says this is as much my home as his, says that I should begin when I choose and allow no other man to sway me, they are not ready for my stories at present!”

 

When will he let that go?

 

Herus laughed and moved toward Asron by sliding across the bench. Once he reached being opposite Asron he tapped him on the shoulder.

 

“How comes you’re so popular with Horace, isn’t this your first time in Imerias, it’s the first time I’ve seen you at least.”

 

“I’ve been here many a travelling fair.” He leaned back and tapped his stomach. “You just haven’t found the time for my history.” He attempted, and failed, to quell a burp.

 

“I’m here now.”

 

Herus sighed and waved his hand to silence the man and woman who passed where they sat, and stared in no shamed awe at the bard and the young man he was talking to. “Cease your whispers; I’ll be ready when I’m ready.” He looked back at Asron. “The life of a wandering bard has never been bliss... anyways, what do you know about Althelos’ Wall.”

 

He had heard enough about that Wall from his lessons with Illyn Elder. The Elder had bestowed upon him numerous books, reference books, scrolls and letters which he said would, widen his knowledge on the subject, so he was a master as per se. I’m in deep now with the Elder. “I’ve read enough about the matter. Um, it was built in the last year of the Cedric years. He was the grandfather of King Althelos and when he died, King Mirindan his son and King Althelos’ father took the mantle, but then he died eight months later, death still unknown and Althelos took office even though he has been denounced an usurper after his elder brother died a week after their father and was to take the throne. Everyone thinks that Althelos killed his brother but you know, um, then it’s also believed that he’s a baseborn from an affair Mirindan had with his wife’s sister... yeah that’s what I remember.”

 

Herus began to clap and all eyes in the inn turned towards him. “That’s very good, very good. Now have you seen the Wall?”

 

“No.” Asron felt stupid and as if he should have been answering yes.

 

“Have you seen the citadel of Berlaria, the Isles of the Ocean of Nettles? Have you stood in awe before the Standstones of the broken earth of Numyeh, your upturned face with eyes wide in amazement at the many hues of the Tenkala Lights in the sky at twelve month when at their peak... an Unmentionable.”

 

“I think I have.” Asron said with a sigh, it all came back to him now, the limp body swaying in the breeze, the face.

 

“You’ve seen an Unmentionable then.” He hummed. “’How very interesting.”

 

“There’s a hanging almost every month, they’re always getting caught by the City Watch you see, or so I hear... one novice I know once told me that an Unmentionable didn’t go down without a kick and took down three City Watchmen and badly injured the Mayor with what he called the Wisps.”

 

“The Will I deduce.” He hummed. “I see, well...  let us not talk about such matters now though, let’s not shed darkness on such a beautiful day.”

 

It’s snowing though and what’s the Will?

 

Eventually and after he had slurped the last of his grey beer, Herus stood, rubbed his hands together and hoisted his right leg onto the table. “Here, here, my dear people.” He called and it seemed that everyone had been on key to turn with the pulling of their puppet strings. “Here, here!” Herus was not ready to let those stings go.

 

They didn’t need to be told again. Horace, who was usually opposed to anybody standing on his furniture, stood silent as he swept up some broken glass near the table where they had been playing tumbling stones.

 

Silence reigned supreme. Asron felt almost uncomfortable with all those eyes in their direction, but the bard took it all in his stride.

 

“Now, when I arrived here this morning, the first thing I was told was that these ‘are hard times’, and that I am a fool to come among them. I can’t lie and say that she was wrong, it doesn’t take much of a soothsayer to deduce the omens, to see the proof.”

 

He had everyone exactly where he wanted them, and they hung onto his every syllable in the vain attempt to decipher some new meaning in them. “From Avsa, to Numyeh, Delgaria, Berlaria, the Isles, the Bliss... Imerias City. There are so many places of interest on this side of the Wall, there are so many things which we have known but have blinded ourselves to, things from the shadow of youthful jokes, the stories which keep children up at night... they are all true. For from every story, there must too be a shed of truth to bring them inception.”

 

“What are you trying to say?” A man standing by the main bar said, tapping his glass of juice as he spoke. He looked so peculiar considering how cold it was and how the glass was twinkling like ice. “I don’t care much for your Song bard; tell me about the Wall, not some trash from the mouths of wandering hermits.”

 

“Mind yourself Dan, that mouth of yours, will land you in a heap of trouble that you won’t be able to get out of.” Horace said between chews of Botanist Weed.

 

Dan seemed deflated and took a sip of his drink.

 

“The Wall is not of your concern Dan; maybe it will be wiser to worry of what is next door and not what is countless leagues away from under your nose. Like I said there is much more a curious this side of the Wall than we give it credit.” Herus said. “Erohas.”

 

There was uproar then, mostly laughter.

 

“He’s pulling our leg; I’m telling you Joe he’s pulling our legs.”

 

“Erohas, the notion, this guy must have a certain amount of guts to come talking all his rubbish.”

 

“Stick to your stories and songs Bard.”

 

“Lies are not your specialty.”

 

“The Erohas, anywhere near the city walls! He’s either a genius or insane.”

 

Herus spoke again. “This is the problem, we won’t knowledge and when it comes we brush it under the carpet, my dear people, scours of them have been seen, I’ve seen. Erohas are things you don’t want a world away from you talk less of under our noses, let yourself be open to my truths... I have proof.” Everything plunged to silence like a simple click of a switch, or as though Herus gave the right sort of yank on his puppet strings.

 

“What proof?” Surprisingly it was Horace who spoke.

 

“You shall all see tomorrow.”

 

Dan put his glass down. “First you try and make us believe that you speak the truth and then you won’t show us the proof as if it’s some stage show.”

 

“It’s just not ready yet.” Herus said.

 

“Excuses.” Dan gave a piecing glare.

 

“Tomorrow I said.” Herus looked down at Asron and back up at everybody else. “The treaty of Althelos’ Wall has ended, a king is dead.”

 

The mood swung hard to celebration and there were no exceptions, that pendulum was putting the work in today.

 

“Hooray!” Many shouted and applause began.

 

“Give me the head of the usurper!” Many added.

 

“Kill the baseborn!”

 

“One king sits on the throne beyond the Wall, they have now a queen to be in the shape of the other king’s daughter and on their throne they sit with a blade dripping red with the blood of their enemy. A trophy, you could say.”

 

“Stop with the theatrics.” A voice called but the perpetrator was not seen. The thought was neutral however; King Althelos never had a daughter... King Ulric did though, could it be Princess Eleanor, of course it had to be, there was need for dumb minded process of elimination.

 

“King Ulric is the one that is dead. Our king is dead.” The murmur began and past like a shiver through the inn.

 

“Think of poor Princess Eleanor.”

 

Dan was taken aback by this; Asron was taken aback by this. The feeling of being drained passed through them like a plague and there was silence again. Horace raised a mug and called. “Who is our new king?”

 

Herus rubbed his goatee. “Um, from what I have heard, his son Drake is due to take his mantle but he is young and easily fooled, his uncle Cornelius is to be regent until the boy comes of age.”

 

“In which case, may he live long!”

 

“May he live long!” The chant almost quelled the sound of the door opening and the bell tolling.

 

“What is this?” Illyn Elder stood for a while and after silence had come he moved though the inn’s common room like water. “What is the call for celebration?”

 

“The news the bard brings about our new king to be.” A man said and this time Asron identified him as the one who had won that round of tumbling stones.

 

Asron felt like hiding under the table but the Elder was already beside him, his ever gloved hand on his shoulder. “Continue if you please bard, I will like to hear this.”

 

“Walk in peace Elder.” Illyn Elder simply ignored the call from the end of the bar. He looked upon Herus. “Wandering bard, how fitting. Are you here for the travelling fair tomorrow?”

 

Herus cleared his throat. “That I am.”

 

“Very well, you must rest your voice for tomorrow then, have you anywhere to stay the night, the Elders’ Keep has enough room which will definitely suffice.” His voice came in a soft drool and he seemed menacing standing high above him, dark shadows marred his head where flickering light touched him.

 

“I am to stay here actually.” Herus said; his eyes unmoving.

 

The Elder looked toward Asron again. “Now Asron... I hope that you have been practising your Briar letters, I still have that scroll waiting for you; it has your name on it. Tomorrow then should do. Please try to come. I excuse you for today, since I had urgent business to attend to, so find time.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Excellent.”                

 

Illyn Elder looked down at him and Asron quailed inside.  He was grey haired man past sixty and had odd dots on his skin; at least his bad cough seemed to have left him. Despite his apparent meekness, he was well worth the feeling of foreboding his mere voice inflicted on Asron.

 

Although their own robes were similar, Asron likened the Elder’s robes to blood.

 

“Anyhow, come on Asron let us go.”

 

Herus looked toward Asron as he stood; the Elder began to make his way toward the door. “I’ll come tomorrow for the travelling fair.” Asron looked back toward the Elder. “I hope.”

 

“Good day, Asron.”

 

“Yeah, have a good day.”

 

That Elder’ll gut him like a fish for talking out of turn like that, intolerable bards these days, good for nothing.” Dan whispered to a man beside him, leaned against the bar causally, it was the last sound Asron heard before he was among the snows again.

           

Asron was struggling to manage his greatcoat considering the wind (again). Illyn Elder was taking it all in his stride however. The gray haired man walked beside him as if nothing was amiss and for a second Asron wondered what sort of garment he must wear underneath those robes for that to be possible; because Asron wouldn’t have minded having the similar for his novice robes.

           

He didn’t want to talk to him really.

 

Asron was still thinking about Eliah. They could best be described as everlasting thoughts which always lingered towards her matter; however whenever Asron got too close to clinging to any meaning in those vague images, somehow her face always dwindled to resemble that of a white eyed bird.

 

It was enough to send a chill down Asron’s spine; that was not induced solely by the snows around him, softly crumbling and crunching under the strain of Illyn Elder’s mid leg high boots made for trekking.

 

Asron coughed slightly into a fist. He could feel a cold coming on strong and the prospect was definitely daunting at best.

 

There were hardly any people on the streets of Imerias by then, they were most likely preoccupied as they lounged on armchairs sipping warm tea in their houses. Now Asron was the one emitting the envy.

 

“You went to the hanging didn’t you?” Illyn Elder said after a while. “You finally saw what happens to enemies of the Briar, and especially enemies of Imerias City.”

 

“You could call it that.”

 

“There is nothing else for it. Shedric Svengar, terrible man. He uses Mythrin for one thing and that’s bad in itself but he’s a necromancer, something which can definitely chill the bone. He sells the risen dead to their grieving families, there’s no end to his evils it seems... he was as good as dead.”

 

Asron hummed in agreement, it wasn’t agreement exactly, and more of a way to show that he had at least a fragment of interest in the subject and subsequently the Elder’ll cease the trivial small talk that Asron didn’t care for much.

 

The Elders’ Keep loomed overhead and the watchman made to open the gates.

 

“Elder...”

 

“Yes Asron,”

 

“When’s my next parental leave.” Asron looked to the ground as if that fallen stone was interesting to any degree

 

“I believe that will be your next birthday.” Illyn Elder’s eyes glinted; it was not a reflection of the sun, far too dull for that.

 

“But my last birthday was two month past.”

 

Illyn Elder nodded. “I know... I know.” He put his arm around the middle of his back and ushered him through and into the courtyard.  

 

Then the great gates closed with a clang behind them.

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