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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3. THE BURNING HOUSE

CHAPTER THREE

THE BURNING HOUSE

 

The door was locked, all was silent and Asron was ravenous.

 

The novices sat obediently around the common room. Asron sat by the hearth his eyes never straying too far from the main door. Every now and then (to the great annoyance of the more troublesome novices, who continuously broke the pregnant silence, with their badly hushed words, ragged breathes) the patrolling Elders would pass the labyrinth of outstretched legs, to flick the ears of those too troublesome and place their forefingers over their own lips.

 

He hadn’t eaten for a while; the last of the broken hard bread did nothing to satisfy the emptiness drinking tea without eating first gave. He had a book on his lap, ‘the order of the Keep’, but it was pretty laborious even hoisting the great book and turning the pages, and not only that, the old paper made noises and Asron was quite tired of irritable eyes darting in his direction as the tearing like noise ensued.

 

If only Illyn Elder had not been called to council, Asron was sure that right now he would most likely have been aiding the Elder with some errand, which would at least give him the chance to pass through the market square and maybe remind Madame Hensworth of her oath that she owed him a free buttercake, for helping her find her dog last fortnight. He would definitely keep her to her word on that one.

 

The door opened just as he found himself drifting into a very uneasy slumber. He stirred, alert his eyes panned around the room and he must have looked mad. One of the servants had walked in and slowly but surely, the old woman, crone like even, preceded to tap the metal triangle with her metal stick.

 

The shrill sound even aroused the Elders, but at the utterance of “Yes,” from one novice their eyes darted in perfect unison. The novice kept silent afterwards and shrunk back into the shadows, better for him.

 

Periods of silence were sacred and whenever you were in either a Keep, or holding, during this time and bell tolled, you were expected to remain silent for the hour.

 

It had come to the point that the novices had created a seemingly fool proof way to swindle the law, by creating their own form of sign to communicate with during the Silence. It worked at first, but of course, soon the Elders caught wind of it and forced them to copy by hand, passage over passage from ‘the order of the keep’ as punishment.

 

“Evening study, you are all excused.” Casper Elder said, voice still hushed as if it was not accustomed to any other than the slight whispers during periods of silence.

 

Asron was nearly the first one out of the common room. He had a piece of biscuit left over in his top drawer if his memory served well. It must’ve been hard by that point but it was better than savouring the scarce saliva he had left.

 

There was some sort of gathering taking place. Asron could see some of the other novices: Tristian, Joyal, Micha and Sebastian to name a few, standing in a small circle, talking. Asron went on, climbing each flight of stairs with a grumbling in his stomach and once he had reached his room, shared with Micha and Joyal, he entered and closed the door with a self righteous thump.

 

He chewed on the biscuit and felt some relief afterward, he uncorked his water skin and gulped so much that soon the skin shrivelled under his eager fingers. Not too long after, a time which found Asron lying down and staring up at the ceiling, there was the sound of voices. Asron could hear them from outside the room, but soon they were even closer as the gathering, entered and took standing positions around the majority of the slightly cramped room.

 

“... now, otherwise we’ll miss it.” Tristian was saying to them and without caring to ask he dropped himself down hard on Joyal’s bed to Asron’s far right.

 

“So Asron, are you coming then?” Joyal said with a sharp look in Tristian’s direction.

 

“Coming Where?”

 

Tristian answered this time, dashing a book found on Joyal’s pillow to the side in apparent distaste. “That Unmentionable’s house, the one hanged today... word is they’re burning the house tonight, breaking it for all we know, I want in on some of that action.” He beamed. “You are coming then.”

 

Asron scratched his forehead. “Nah, I’ll stay here, I’ve got some things to do.” He lied badly.

 

“Of course you wouldn’t.” He shook his head in disapproval. “You know, I wonder about you sometimes Asron.” Tristian said after a while. “You’re too young to be like this, live life a bit unless you wanna dig your own grave. Lay back and just live life like, like tomorrow won’t come.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean.” Asron said, sitting up and eyeing the two novices who now idly touched the contents of Asron’s cupboard: his water skin, the broom handle he had found laying by the barber’s and come to liken for a neat quarter staff as if he knew how to wield it.

 

On the day he got it, he instantly burst into his room and smacked the air with it, jabbed invisible foes. But he almost lost his heart when it came close to bashing Micha’s special orb, given to him by his mother at his fifth last parental leave.

 

“It’s just that you’ve always been you know.” He pulled the book back toward himself and in turn pulled his ‘concentration’ face.

 

Asron opened his mouth. “Very funny, I ain’t like that... am I?”

 

“You kind of are Asron.” Micha said shaking his head. “It’s not exactly a bad thing at least in the eyes of Illyn Elder... the shining badge on the face of this very Keep.” Everyone laughed at Micha’s quite accurate impression of Illyn Elder’s signature drool like tone.

 

“He doesn’t like me.” Asron said with a passion. “Just look at when I had my last parental leave, it comes about once every blue bloody moon.”

 

“Don’t -get -defensive. “ Tristian said with a reassuring glint in his eye. He was mocking evidently. “We aren’t persecuting you, we’re just saying you’re a little bore, more occasions than one... and don’t you start crying about it.”

 

It was anger which mostly fuelled the passion in Asron’s words. He detested Tristian, he didn’t need to be provoked, this conversation was pretty childish when considered in more detail; he just hated him with a desire and the only rift which bound him from going all bare knuckles was proberly the idea of losing any chance of parental leave, either for his next birthday or until his dismissal at age twenty.

 

“Maybe I am coming.” Asron said after a while. The chatter among the other novices stopped and eyes turned to him.

 

 

“Really?” It was Joyal who spoke then, in almost perfect unison with another novice standing in the far corner.

 

“I said I’m coming, nothing to lose anyway. What you lot waiting for old Illyn to come in and hand you the key for the main gate then or better yet escort us out.”

 

Asron made a slide towards the end of the bed and with a grunt, yanked the makeshift shutter and pulled across the wooden barrier behind it. The space which was left was enough for at least Asron to pass through, with his skinny frame in the eyes of some.

 

It didn’t take too long for the rest of them to follow suit toward the opened window. After a slight break in order for those who hadn’t already collected their outdoor garments to do so, one by one, with the exception of Javis who struggled greatly, they were outside and in the rooftops.

 

Asron’s room was proberly the only novice room which looked over onto the courtyard and was maybe the only with a window at all. He was taking steady steps across the unsteady ground, although made by rough stone. At one point, Asron felt the hard stone rumble in agony and held his arms out for balance.

 

Reaching the lowest point, a steep slope which looked down on the kitchens, Asron followed Tristan’s example of climbing downwards by scaling a large and awfully steady branch, protruding from the Elder tree.

 

Sacred as it was, the novices gave little second thought of scaling its bark and were soon looking at one another, safely on common ground. Darkness had surely settled, the snows had stopped for the present.

 

The main gate stood menacing before them. At least by scaling the rooftops they had diminished any risk of being seen by snooping Elders, in which case, asking the watchman to open the gate in sight of an urgent errand which took seven novices to do, sent by Casper Elder himself was as easy said as done.

 

Everything was quiet. The snow laden ground was mushy and icy and gave way simply enough with each trod they made. The novices spoke among themselves as they walked. Asron didn’t feel much about disobeying Keep law by leaving without authorisation, but he did have an incurable lump in his throat which made it feel as though his head would explode if he joined in their conversation of the other novices. No matter though. It sounded quite trivial anyway.

 

He could hear his heart thump and he was fully conscious to the fact that it was most likely audible back in the Keep, fast becoming a speckle in the far distance.

 

West Street was where Tristian said the house was, how he knew was anyone’s guess. He claimed, quite pompously and with many subliminal hints to his cunning in doing so, that he had overheard one of the girl novices speaking about it earlier in the day, why he was there in the female sector of the Keep... he simply winked and beamed.

 

West Street was supposedly a dark place. Little had ever happened to Asron there for him to fear, the only foreboding which hung over him as he walked came from word of mouth, what he had heard was far from pleasant: robberies, spies, your inevitable death. He was more even uneasy as they passed through the alley which cut through the centre of West Street, where he had seen a bird...

 

That rekindled memory caused fleeting shadow to appear with white eyes, every quick movement from a novice to his side left Asron flinching and hearing the guttural yelping of flocking birds around him and him alone, clawing at his eyes.

 

Any fire which had burned in the building had surely been put out, but the damage was definitely not easily swayed and far from dead. Chinks in the ceiling were now visible from the street below and cast dark the sky above it.

 

Blackened and mangled woods stood out in splinters and seemed to be as sharp as knives.

 

“How old is your information Tristian.” A novice asked, eyes never moving from the sight to behold, his voice filled with scorn.

 

“Few hours I promise, I would’ve come earlier but the Silence you know, Casper Elder wouldn’t let me breathe if not in eyes shot of him. Come on then.”

 

It was a large building. It curved to follow the turning of the road. Swinging in the light wind and creaking was a crudely painted and hoisted sign reading: “Cobble’s place.”

 

“What was this place?” Joyal said.

 

“A brewery I think, I saw the name Cobble’s place on a bottle of clear once.” Asron found himself saying. Tristian prodded and then nudged the door. It opened eerily.

 

“It’s an Unmentionable’s home.” Tristian muttered.

 

“We should be heading back.” Micha said, he must not have noticed that his voice came out in such a slight tremor. “There’s nothing for us here, just burned wood and, that smell.” He squeezed his nose. “Can you smell it?”

 

Asron could, foul incense was in the air, strong and chocking.

 

“There’s nothing for you maybe.” Tristan’s voice came strong and firm but cracked between.

 

Asron was next to entering through the opened door. The next novice came seemingly reluctantly, kicking their heels in forced submission.

 

They entered the main hall; broken glass accompanied black wood left clattered across where a floor once was, some stuck out from where a window’s ghost had not left.

 

Tristian kicked a stool aside and fingered what seemed to be a table. “Look at this.” He said and bending down he retrieved what seemed to a vial of a deep blue and uncorking it, Tristian poured the contents and threw it aside. He laughed.

 

The sound of their shuffling footsteps coincided with the soft patter which Asron somehow believed came from the sky, half visible now. They were alone weren’t they?

 

Asron looked down at the ruin and wondered of the destruction.

 

“Look.” Tristian said. Asron looked up. Tristian was pulling a long shaft which extended from the ceiling and down to the ground, barring their way if they didn’t just walk around it.

 

“Stop that.” Said Asron irritably. “You’ll cause something stupid.”

 

“I wanna see something.”

 

There was a rumble which seemed to come from the sky above. The shaft snapped with a crack, it came down hard. There was something red on it, something red on Tristan’s head. Was that blood?

 

Asron could only see Tristian drop to the floor, but he was able to roll away. Asron could not. He wasn’t fast enough. There was the sound of darting footsteps everywhere, the rain of debris caught Asron unawares.

 

He collapsed. Sprawled out on the harsh, unforgiving ground, a splinter slashed his face and Asron felt wetness.

 

“GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO...” The voices were everywhere, that and variations of “ASRON, I CAN’T FIND ASRON, ASRON, ASRON!” and “LEAVE NOW, LEAVE NOW, FORGET IT...” The voices were so loud, harsh, now guttural, and sharp like the splinter digging deep into his cheek, his eyes, clawing.

 

Asron couldn’t recognise the sounds. They were alien, forget Briar letters these were worst. The voices were irritating, then welcomed and then far away before being right in earshot, but he was scared for them to stop, if they stopped he knew he was alone...

 

It wasn’t him lying there then, hands sprawled out aimlessly like a discarded rag doll. He among the rushing wisps of smoke. No, he was in his house, not the Keep, no, he was with his parents. Vague images replaced the blackness which for so long that poor boy had been enveloped, just on the brink of reaching his light at the end of his tunnel.

 

He was watching his parents. His mother was in the kitchen making a pie. He had loved her pies once. Father was seated in the main room, it was really interesting because Asron wasn’t looking at both scenes but they were all there just waiting for him in dive deeper into.

 

“These are hard times brother.” Uncle Artemis said after a while at the time of his coming. Asron stood not far away from his father who shaking uncle’s forearm as was custom.

 

“So I’m not by myself in believing the similar.” Father said.

 

“You couldn’t be more right.”

 

His father tapped him on his shoulder and gave a weary grin. A weathered face, lined not only by age but pain it seemed to Asron at times, narrowed eyebrows, above eyes which had defiantly seen too much. It was morning and they were standing outside the house, Asron now noted.

 

“Too little you see as too much Asron, or so my own father once told me... maybe he was right.” His father often told him that, Asron could remember it now, legs up high on the armchair in the main room, chewing Botanist Weed, father often delved into his memories, he hardly smiled at them though. That was odd, or maybe there were just no memories to smile about. He had brutish arms, not like Asron had ever seen them do much more than hit him when he was to go out of line, but he always had that feeling, lingering at the edge of knowing, that they were made for crushing. What a funny thought that, maybe they were.

 

It was those same hands which had woken him early that morning, no that night, it was all so confusing, now they were in his room, another morning. Asron had not seen his father the previous day, some errand for the City Watch most likely. Still quite weary and startled from the face above him, Asron had found much trouble concentrating on the hoarse words being said.

 

“Meet us up front, no later than an hour’s- Asron are you listening to me, wake up, don’t be late. Remember an hour’s turn.”

 

“You’re late.” Asron’s mother looked at him from uncle’s side, having just allowed him to kiss her cheek, and was approaching. “You should have been here a good five minutes past; the high road will most likely be clogged with grim tourists selling water in their hands... we’ll be late.”

 

“Good morning mum.”

 

“Good morning Asron.”

 

“It’ll be fine love; I grant the high road will most likely quail before Illyn Elder.” Father put in.

 

“You’re too kind Eros.” Illyn Elder’s said in a soft drool, he came forward. “Now young Asron, it is nice to finally met you, I’ve heard so many great things... you will make a fine novice.”

 

“Me, a novice?”

 

Everything was becoming more distant and Asron held his ears from the noise., the everlasting screeching. They were back in the house. Mother was talking to him; her words were almost indistinguishable beyond silent tears.

 

“I - you, so very much.”

 

“What did you say?” Asron said half dumbly, her young beautiful face kissed his brow. “... forever, I will always.... you. Take the locket and remember me, remember and still.... me.”

 

“Mum?”

 

Her eyes rolled white and she cackled, she ripped the duvet off him and lunged for his throat. “You’ve been too long Asron... why didn’t you come sooner... it is strong with this one...more to feed.” The voice was definitely not mother’s and came in a voice best resembling that of leaves being rustled by wind on the earth.

 

Colours distorted everything. Her face, the room...

 

Something he always knew was there but never had the right key to access was suddenly wide open. The closer he tugged toward it, that source, that gateway, the further it way from him, like touching it would make it less real. Make his reality crumble into dust.

 

He used all his might; he yanked it, blinding light... nothing.

 

Don’t let me die, please don’t let me die; please don’t let me stay here...

 

I never forsake you

 

Don’t let me die, please don’t let me die; please don’t let me stay here.

 

I never forsake you. I never forsake you. I never forsake you. I ...never ...forsake ...you.

 

Asron was lost with the idea that the voice would continue to speak to him, that voice which did not frighten him and he knew would eventually come.

 

Asron was seemingly oblivious to the incoming footsteps, the sharp incense ever so close, the sound of cracking wood to his far side, nearer, now next to him.

 

There was a voice.

 

 

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