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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1. THE LAST WIND OF MYTHRIN

CHAPTER ONE

THE LAST WIND OF MYTHRIN

 

At its greatest peak, the Elders’ Keep reached deep into the Imerias City skyline.

 

Visible from beyond the city walls, it was normally the first thing the strangers saw of Imerias City. It was hard at times to dispute the fact that it could be considered mere rough collections of jagged gothic towers, foreboding. However it was only those who were to find shelter within whom will find dilapidated plaster work across the walls, draped over by red colouring, only they knew about the main door, forever barred. Those who came into the city; flocked like birds of carrion amid the hustle and bustle a hanging and subsequent travelling fair the next day would bring. They all had hard faces and that could pretty much account for a thousand and one words regarding life beyond those city walls.

 

Their dark grey eyes were born for weariness, their tongues greatest still of being the courier to the news of the hard times which gripped the rest of the Briar in a premature and hard winter. The winter had surely come early in the year, snow which was not due to fall until twelve month (at the very least) fell swiftly from the heavens and tickled Asron’s nose. He wasn’t opposed to snow as per se; he often believed that the whiteness at least shed some beauty on the ruin. The Elder Keep looked almost solemn behind him, but he could only maintain that scope off optimism having ignored his ever chapped lips and the biting frost around his finger, despite them being covered by skin tight leather gloves purchased at last year’s travelling fair.

 

He was numb in so many places that to concentrate on one area only messed up his head. His great coat was surely just as useless as opposition to the engulfing snows. The thick materials were pinned about every two inches from the last with golden coloured broaches, engraved with a quite accurate depiction of a Sallation with its heels flying aimless in the area before it. Standing where he was, the greatcoat continuously flailed in all directions and during that momentary lapse exposed his novice robes beneath.

 

He hugged himself. They were regal clothes. The deep red of his novice robes always found it easy enough to stand out when Asron was to travel deeper into the city. The woven cloth made him feel as though he already was an Elder, the turning of heads as he passed, the greeting which would follow in his wake, variations of: “Walk in peace,”, and “May your path shine bright.”, they were always enough for him to break into smile.

 

It was always the cold which sent Asron from his room in the morning. That and the intolerable feeling that the walls were closing in on him after hours on end within those walls, so standing outside in the cold was easily his preference. He could never manage to withstand the numb feeling in his toes as they found their way out from the scanty duvet, the quilt which had been weathered by unseen moths and ever ticking time since first purchase.

 

He had complained to Illyn Elder enough times to be fully aware that nothing was due to change. The Elder enjoyed such a high status of comfort in his chamber, that to simply enter the door prior to his call for your being welcome, will result in a wash of warmth which would tickle your nose and give you that feeling, that only a mother could give as she kissed you goodnight. The Elder had a hearth and candles thrust in golden coloured fists across the walls, to compensate the areas in hiding from the hearth.

 

That was another thing. Asron had been a novice at the Elders’ Keep for as long as he could remember, parental leave came about every five months, but Asron would be lying to himself if he hadn’t noticed that that margin increased as ages came and passed whether it could be: every five months, every seven, rarely, was due to change as if dictated by an unruly pendulum.

 

He found himself humming. That song that mother once sang in order to lighten the heart of a boy still recovering from a fairy tale concerning the Erohas: Night’s under the hollow wood.

 

The hanging was bound to happen soon. Illyn Elder never allowed Asron to go to them though. He would always muster some errand almost by magic and it would normally occupy enough time so that when it comes to passing the gallows in Rohirik, all that would remain would be David and some of the novices seated in a circle and talking.

 

David had come about two weeks past with his mother due to some issue they encountered further south and which made his mother cry when it was even mention or hinted at.

 

He had pretty much become Asron’s main source of ‘knowledge’ when it concerned such matters. In his eighteen years he had heard only tell of thick ropes tied in nooses, prisoners standing atop pedestals and begging forgiveness from the Elder loudly for their actions to be forgiven, wringed necks, brutish hands on key to give the added push or kick and... Crack.

 

Well, that was what David had said. One day since his coming in Imerias City he spoke proudly of what he had seen in his seventeen years, from Althelos’ Great Wall itself, to brigands of the kinless and banner less men, Unmentionables in their numbers, to Erohas themselves, one day he had even rolled his eyes white in imitation of what he had seen the Erohas do, his mother had beaten him in front of them for doing such.

           

“How dare you mock those, those things David Sheman?” She had wailed, pulling his ear.

 

He had witnessed quite allot if it was all true Asron knew, but despite hardly believing what was being told, Asron always listened and even felt a great emptiness in the pit of his stomach as David gave quite realistic and near macabre visual aids with the help of some damp rags and a gullible young boy.

 

All in all, it was always enough to send Eliah away with a sickly expression. That reminded Asron, he hadn’t seen Eliah for so long. Since her father died and she married the shifty blacksmith it all went downhill and she was becoming more and more scarce. Maybe he would find time during the day to visit, well that’s if he wasn’t around.

 

A wagon, bringing the sound of tumbling metal in its wake, passed Asron. Asron looked up at the wagon rider, a gruff looking man who Asron did now care to meet unawares in a dark alley; he had that air of tamed fury on the edge of bursting, like the silver buttons on the Mayor’s waistcoat. The man looked down at the mushy ground on which he rode, oddly with almost the exact same amount of disgust and highness as the two jet black Sallations which pulled the wagon. Weirder still they shared similar facial features if truth was to be said.

 

Asron was doing a pretty bad job of subduing the paramount laughter as result of remembering the Mayor’s waistcoat and likening the Sallation and man to close kin at the very least. That was when the man gave Asron a look which if could kill, well...

 

Asron shivered and it was not down solely to the snows about him.

 

The rider was definitely a merchant as made clear by his merchants’ gild badge which was pinned on his chest, under the broach which held his cloak in place. It showed a set of scales and Asron, if his memory served well, remembered it from his reading with Illyn Elder. In fact (to Asron’s great pleasure), morning study would soon end without even a single piece of ancient study or recount achieved, that was if Illyn Elder maintained his current tardiness, so maybe being scrutinised by a stranger, a gruff one at that, was a reasonable replacement from pondering aging scrolls, written in Briar letters which were alien to him.

 

“What you looking at boy.” The man said his mouth not needing to twist into his pre existing and perpetual snarl. “Are those novice colours I see um, how I weep for the salvation of sense, when choosing future Elders at the very least.”

 

The wagon tumbled on and Asron was left trying to quell the desire to shout curses to the man and his descendants.

 

He wasn’t the last man to come riding past the Elders’ Keep that morning though. Asron eventually lost all interest in standing like an idiot and opted instead to walk around a bit; if Illyn Elder could find it so easy as to do other than he was meant to, Asron didn’t see why he could not too. It was now equally based if that was the word.

 

Everything looked the same. It was only regularity which allowed Asron to find his way among the snow which at times obscured all vision. West Street, those roads, of broken stone and misery found Asron standing before a queer bird. The mouth of the alley was narrow, one with dilapidated splinters reaching, bony fingers out in order to prick you when found unawares. The bird, most likely a carrion eater, was black. Rough feathers, made the bird pretty ordinary, not unlike the like Asron often saw when visiting the house of wisdom in Delgaria, a land mostly shrouded in green, but dark at times. But it was the white eyes which set this bird apart from the common vulture or crow.

 

Instead it was bent. The bird, perched atop greatest vantage point of the alley walls, was seemingly scrutinising Asron’s ever movement, his every attempt to evade those cold eyes. It was a wretched thing, crooked beak, snapping up and down as low guttural noises were made. It crept forward, an unsteady thin leg, three toes, sharp nails, and flapped its wings, chipped, mangled and dark and sharp.

 

“Be gone with you.” A voice said sharply from behind Asron. Asron turned and completely startled quailed, as nearby, if a good inch was near enough; a black Sallation whined and kicked its heels, blunt teeth bared. “Bloody carrion eater; I said be gone.” The rider spat, half ignoring Asron’s presence.

 

The bird, unsteady but sure of its movement, flapped its wings again and screeched, with one last attempted flight it jumped and was soon flying high into the air, disappearing eventually in the dull grey sky, now a speckle, then gone.

 

The man looked down.  “What say you boy, are you a mute or just plain daft to stand there like an awestruck chicken under the knife. What be your name, are you well?” His voice was soft yet sharp, made for singing. Asron never took his eyes off the Sallation, it breathed heavily. “Watch your distance boy, this one’s known to bite. Nice feisty is my Lass here, just as I like ‘em, but a good song like ‘Night’s under the hollow wood’, that should calm her alright.”  He laughed merrily and pulled on his reins so that the Sallation shifted to the side, before beginning to trot backwards.

 

Asron was truly awestruck. “Asron. You’re not from these parts, are you?”

 

“Why would you say that?” Herus said with the slightest hint of a smile and a profound slur in his tone which rendered any chance of him being common in Imerias, or even the Briar, an example of downright deceit. 

 

“Customs really, you could call it superstition. Only Unmentionables ask about how you are, so that they can use Mythrin thinking they can make it better, so you’re not meant to, unless you want people to look at you funny.”

 

“Aren’t you just a smart arsed boy then?”

 

Making his way out of the alley, Asron could finally make out each facial attribute of the man. He was dressed in a large greatcoat, but the hood was drawn downwards in order to show dark short hair, glinting far too much to be natural; it was most definitely dyed like David’s mother did her own, very foreign. His beard was the same (an artificial jet black goatee), but this was broken by a thin line of greyness which passed downwards from his bottom lip to jaw.

 

“Asron you say, a great name, one with meaning, purpose... history. Do you like history boy, do you like to hear of the times long past, times yet to come, or times better forgotten. I can tell you quite a bit if you will only allow me the time... “

 

Asron was about to speak, but the man cut him off with the wave of his hand. With the other, he reached into his pocket, deep into his greatcoat and brought forth a coin, golden in the dull sunlight. He tapped his nose. “You didn’t ask it but I’m willing to tell, I be Herus Imeria, the itinerant bard, wandering minstrel whatever title you bestow, here to grace your joyful assembly once dawn reaches its peak tomorrow... do you know what I do boy.”

 

Asron was under the impression that Herus was mocking him with the frequent use of boy, but Asron was not ready to let the growing annoyance get the better of him. “You tell stories, but all respect intended I don’t have time to-.” Herus didn’t allow him to finish.

 

“You mean story is the word used to classify ancient fact, these troublesome days, stories to give new light to relics and wraiths of our past, of our future, you believe that stories allowed me to bring here, to your own Imerias City, a city that bared forth from my own name.” He pounded his chest. “Oh yes, was it a story which makes me of the bloodline of the fore fathers of the foundation on which you sleep at night. Was it stories that brought life once to the creature I have brought here with me to dazzle all of you on the morrow. If they stories, well. If you find them still stories when I show you what I have to show. I have definitely lost all faith for these a troublesome youth.

 

You must understand, Asron that stories do not apply to anything which I have to tell. You see story implies fiction and fiction does not hold well with me. I never liked fairy tales, my wife is Song, but I do dabble in current affairs and the telling of the common man.

 

Alas, it is true that what story I bring with me must be fact, and yes everything meets inception from the slightest of truths; if you were not aware before. I bring with me a killer of man along with tell from the distant plains... over Althelos’ Great Wall itself.” Herus leaned downward and spoke. “I’ll be going to the inn at Hogarth’s now; I and that Goodbody feller have history. You come down soon if you would like to hear my stories.” He scoffed and pulled in the reins. “Are you coming or not.” 

 

“Maybe later, I have to go somewhere.” Asron said and slowly but surely he squeezed his way away from the small space the Sallation’s nostril gave him and was gone, the man’s rekindled love of song began again. Asron fingered the golden coin. It was soft, too soft in fact. Asron lifted it towards his mouth, the same way that Asron had seen merchants bite suspecting gold before weighing it on their scales. As soon as tooth bit down on it, the coin collapsed and chocolate melting when the tongue touched filled his mouth with flavour and warmth. He sucked his teeth and turned back.

 

Only grim faces looked toward him, none prone to break into smile or song.

 

Asron wasn’t truly taken in by amazement at the prospect of hearing the news the bard had with him. Asron had encountered enough of the like to be fully aware, that the greater the promise of what they had to tell, the more disappointing the actual delivery seemed in the end. In his years, Asron had never actually witnessed a bard or news courier who actually took his breath away with the tales they had, most bards and news couriers anywhere near the broken lands had never even crossed the river by the Avsa ferry, talk less of having gone over the wall in their truly meek past.

 

“They’d surely be hung outside to dry with usurper Althelos’ beheaded heads outside the citadel.” Old Brookhollow had said with his shrill voice at last year’s travelling fair, his mouth twisting this way and that, full of Botanist Weed. “Keep your lies and just stick to what you do best bard...absolutely nothing but send me to a premature sleep.” 

 

It wasn’t like he exactly appealed to seeing death, there was just something which kept nudging at his sub consciousness, repeatedly saying that he should go and see the hangings. They would have surely been near to starting by now; the Elder’ll most likely still have things to see to, rather than come out to start lesson with him at the house of knowledge, so he had nothing to lose in the end.

 

Smiling slightly and holding his greatcoat by the end so that it would stop flying, Asron began to walk towards Rohirik. He soon found, and he was hardly surprised since they were not the ideal footwear for trekking, that the longer he walked, the deeper his feet became encased within the mushy snow underneath, and he winced, as although he didn’t feel it, he knew that by now the mushy ice would have seeped through his standard novice shoes, seeking unwanted solace between his toes.

 

He shuddered. Before him, not too far away, the gallows stood dark and menacing, a vigil of darkness among the white. A shiver crept up Asron’s spine as he came ever so closer and closer still, he could almost smell the brutality; hear the everlasting screams of those who had met their own mortality there, necks wringed under those nooses. He saw the drop. It must seem like an abyss to those above the pedestals. The snow did weird things to you; Asron could almost himself there, on that pedestal.

 

The clearing by the marketplace was already filled to the rim with on looking eyes gouged in anger, disgust and fear. The hanging had already begun. Asron found space easy enough beside a woman with a toddler on her shoulder, continually muttering: “Die, die, die, Unmentionable die”, in hushed ragged breathes.

 

The people were stamping, and fists were coming down hard into their palms.

 

Mayor Conrad Mursdown had first been elected (if, that was the word), two years ago. At that time far younger, still with youthful vigour and without that limp in his right knee, he seemed a perfect replacement for the late Johil Malling, at first at least. He was well liked as per se, favoured by enough who dared to speak out in the inn or council, to them he was a shining star fastened to the name Imerias City.

 

Atop the dais placed by the gallows the Mayor stood, face red. In his hand was a piece of paper and he was reading aloud from it, but Asron could hardly distinguish the words being said amid the low hiss from the crowds which spanned deep into the marketplace, where shopkeepers halted all selling, all shouting of their latest offer and simply looked on.

 

A man had his hands clasped around Asron’s shoulders but he was too awestruck at what was to happen to even nudge him off. The man sighed loudly.        

 

“Shedric Svengar, come and face your mortality.” The Mayor said and in turn the crowd jeered. Then, not too far away and going completely unnoticed by Asron, a City Watchmen, Ralph, who Asron remembered as coming to the Elders’ Keep to converse with Illyn Elder halfway through morning lesson, came forward. He was nudging the back of a tall man, wound in thick cloth so that arms were rendered useless.

 

The man was not common around Imerias. Or at least Asron had not frequently seen him. Something dark was thrown and it caught Shedric in the chest. He gasped and halted, but Ralph did not have too much time to spare and pushed him forward, he staggered awkwardly.

 

Shedric’s mouth twisted abruptly into foul words.

 

Foul words too came from the crowd. Taunts and curses each sharper than the last, but Shedric did not react to these and just kept muttering. He never stopped muttering.

The climb up the short flight of stairs to the dais was short and steady. When they reached the platform and the top of the pedestal he seemed undeterred by the eyes watching him, hating him, not stirred by the gallows now so near to him.

 

The crowd never stopped there chanting and Asron sneaked a peek to his side to see Eliah among those eyes gouged in hatred but watching in fear. Asron wanted to call to her but his voice was lost in oblivion, among the chants he sounded more like a tremor. Thick hands leaned over Eliah’s back and held her hands. There was something different about her. Asron turned back around, but in the process something again caught his eye.

 

Another familiar face, yes hardly distinguishable given the distance, but something was familiar about it. The person was stood atop a market stool, watching. With never ending anticipation, or was he crying, Asron could not tell. He craned his neck in the wrong direction and when his eyes fell back on the place, the person was gone.

 

Ralph came forward again and after retrieving the end of it, slipped the noose with relative ease, around the man’s neck.

 

The Mayor moved toward the Unmentionable and pulled the noose tighter. The man gave him a sharp look.

 

“Shedric Svengar, you stand accused of Mythrin, the pit of evil, raising the dead, selling the risen dead to the grieving, as was the case with Lucy Dassor.” The Mayor said and the crowd neared to uproar.

 

“I knew little Lucy, I helped her learn her common letters, before she was entered into the female sector of the Keep.” Asron said to himself, the woman to his side gave him a weary look, as if he was the odd one, keeping account her passionate muttering.

 

“You’ll rot in the earth; you’ll die a million times a million.” A woman screamed in the distance and Asron felt his heart quiver at the cry which ensued.

 

The people were entering uproar and a babble of shouts and curses was born from it.

 

“Unmentionable wielder of Mythrin... you are as good as dead.”

 

Something else was thrown towards the gallows.

 

“I am not the one on the verge of death.” Ralph was about to kick the pedestal but Shedric had begun to speak and everything plunged to silence prior. “The stars have fallen, all your stars, your Will shall be laid bare before you. Shattered, simply shattered. Weep, for you are all to face the scope of what you purge. Beware those with the burned hands.” He was shouting. “I said weep you fools, clean yourself, the way the ancient Allorians did before they fell to your own weaknesses and the breaking. They shall come and they shall destroy you, leave your home in debris, as you deserve, alas, as you deserve. Enough blood has been shed, yet you can’t see beyond the red smears across your eyes. Clean yourselves.”

 

Ralph gave the Mayor a questioning look.

 

Something strange happened then, just as the Mayor extended his arm and Ralph thrust his heels, Shedric stared toward Asron, and Asron was certain that he could see straight through him.

 

“Flight is the only option!” He stepped forward on his own accord, no push or kick needed, and Asron could swear that he felt the man’s hands tighten around his shoulders as it happened, there was no melodious crack, but Asron watched in adding horror as Shedric tried to pry his fingers under the noose before going limp and swaying to and fro slightly in the breeze.

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