The Loneliest Traid

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  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
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Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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23. A Dying Memory

They made a simple agreement, the only option really.

    Gomez would return to the castle and beg for his life, as well as Chene’s.  Perhaps they would take him in as a low rank healer and keep him in the army for now, and not murder him in the dead of night.

    “One would hope,” Gomez added to the plan as they walked around a hilltop route.  The family had sent them off with even more alcohol and a map.  Every hour or so Gomez would flick the golden lighter he held within his potion’s belt.  He would wait with his hand shielding the glow from any slight breeze, watching for any sign of Noom, although none came.  If he was anxious, he flicked it on and off like clockwork, as he did now.

    “One would hope that my general will not murder me?”

    “In the dead of night, yes?”

    “The dead of night - as opposed to?”

    He flicked it off, “This is a war, Chene, as opposed to dying on a field somewhere just north of the site of the great war.”

    “Would that not be honourable?” he laughed, “You’re a prince, I expected you to advocate that sort of thing?”

    “The great war killed thousands, why we dare begin another battle on top of that, I will never understand.” on.

    “Do you know much about it?”

    Off, “I suppose they teach you all about that in your training, right?”

    “A biased version, perhaps.”

    “Which goes?” on, off, “Tell me it’s story, jinn.”

    Chene thought back to those cold nights by campfires eating curd in troughs and speaking in hushed voices about things they shouldn’t know while their leaders slept.  He was only a boy then, and they became the worst years of his life.  For a reason he didn’t quite grasp, as soon as they were assigned to cabins he was no longer treated like the brave student he had been before.  He was treated like an inconvenience, or an outsider at the very least.  They once said his scars were the sign of a tough man - a man still standing.  Then, they turned into warning signs of someone deranged and insane, words that never seemed to fit him but were forced upon him regardless, and he had no idea why.

    “She was a witch, the woman who began it.  A practicer of the dark arts, who brought back to life an army of bone.  They say that the homes bystanding were burnt to the ground just to rid them of the smell of rot.  The immortal army turned the best part of the world to ash, taking both deserts to the far south and north, as well as the mountains scaling into Mavros.  And just as they were marching the centre point, the capital of Cardeni and the castle walls, King Lithera’s soldiers fought back.  Lead by the two great siblings, Gadanx and,” he stuttered for a moment, “Chene, as well as their people, friends and family.  It is said that they all died, but their sacrifice lead to the death of the witch and the end of the great war.  She was lost in time, and it’s said that her dark magic separated tribes and destroyed families, however.  That her evil caused a plight of hatred that we now live through until despite it we are kind enough to break the curse.”

    Gomez decided that it was time for them to rest.  He sat on the hill overlooking the woods.  The air was rich with wet mud, and pollen that burned Chene’s eyes.  He sat with him.  Gomez crossed his legs, staring into the fire between his fingers with a heavy heart that Chene could swear he heard beat slower than before.

    “My aunt and uncle died in the aftershock of that war,” he eventually said.

    Chene couldn’t hide his surprise, “How old did you say you were?”

    Gomez looked him down again, his eyebrow raised.  Chene allowed him go on with his story.

    “I haven’t always lived at the castle, you know.  I grew up in the east, where the war never touched.  We lived on the bend of the river before you reached Mavros, in a resting stop.  It’s funny, I remember skidding through the house on our polished floors, rushing to meet new customers.  If I was nice, and they liked me, they would spend all night telling me the stories from where they had been, and sometimes would even give me tokens they had collected.”

    “Is that why you’re so giving to those we meet?”

    “Well, I am by nature.  My mother married a king and ran off with him, and despite wanting me for a few years, she soon grew tired of the elven boy she had given birth to.  So she sent me to her sibling, where I helped run the hostel, cleaning and cooking and entertaining where I could,” he glanced at him through the side of his eye, “I play a mean lyre.  Wanna see?”

    “You said “elven boy”,” Chene said, unable to stop Gomez from pulling out the shell-sized instrument from his satchel, “Was she not elven?”

    “No, she was witch,” he said, tuning.

    “She was?”

    “As were my aunt and uncle.  That was the after shock.  One evening I came running around the corner to greet new guests, but they were different.  They were a gang of orcs and giants and that, and they were laughing like thunder, I felt the house come down before it really did.  They saw how our lights were lit without fire, how the walls were alive with enchanted ivy that my aunt had grown herself, and they knew what we were,” he stopped strumming, and laughed in such a way that made Chene’s blood run cold, “It’s funny.  I still remember how the house turned.  The green turned to red, our ivy burning at the edges, the branched roof coming down ontop of us as if they had set the whole woods ablaze, not just our little family mill.  I can still see wallpaper curl and tear off, and my room catch fire and my little carved toys uncle had made me turn to dust.”

He shook his head, and finished tuning, “Anyway, they took me out into the forests and beat me half to death before they saw that I was elven, even partially.  I was bleeding from deep within me, and couldn’t even find the strength to stand, never mind do more than lie and watch my home burn my family alive under the weight of the beams above.  And no one came to help.  Eventually, the water just pulled some of the rubble away and my mother came to find me again.  She brought me to the palace, and begged the king to let me stay with her.  He did, but again, he grew tired of her.  She was a witch, after all, and it would look bad if king Dyrad himself had a sinner for a bride.  So one night she just disappeared with a generous pocket of jewels and left me less than a kiss on the cheek.  I never saw her again.”

    “And the king let you stay?”

    “I am his son, but the children act more like staff, and it’s always nice to have a wizard around that looks more like your own.”

    Chene smiled, pulling at the ruffles in his uniform, “You dress in red.  Your animals, they’re all red too.”

    “Well, they say dress how you are on the inside.”

    Chene looked puzzled.

    “I have blood inside me.  It was a joke.”

    “But there’s something more,” he said, taking the badge of his royal necklace between his thumb and fingers.  It displayed a beautiful gold willow tree with curling branches as tall as the castle itself, “You practice magic, but you’re only disguising yourself as a fire wielder, aren’t you?”

    Gomez, slow in realising what Chene had implied, smiled and pulled his necklace back.  Chene knew from his tenderness to it alone, the crest was one of the few things that lived through the fire with him.

    “Your magic is in growing.  That’s why your emblem isn’t a flame, and that’s why you gave the plant to the woman of the house where we rested for a night.  You hadn’t acquired it, you grew it yourself.  You learned it from your aunt, what’s more.” Chene said, unbelieving, “Gomez, you’re a land wielder.”

    Gomez lay back against the grass on the hill, running his knuckles along its licking touch.  It glowed like matches and curled around his hand like cuffs, as long as hands, and strong as fingers, “You’re right.  I’m surprised you guessed it, jinn.”

    “But why practice fire arts then?  Surely your power is weak by now?”

    It was here that Gomez grew quiet, his eyes looking over the grass as it grew too long for its roots and shriveled and died resting in his palm.

    Chene realised, “You wanted revenge, didn’t you?  You practiced fire to do to them what they had done to your aunt and uncle.”

    He sat up, breaking free from the straw that spread under his weight and painted the hill in a dying autumn orange, “War was never meant to be, Chene.  We were never meant to rip each other apart to feed the world.  If that was the case, there would be an enemy, but there isn’t one.  We are simply people drugged on the notion that pride is enough to die for and others could never understand our pain.  But they do, and so was always the way.  For every step you reclaim you leave a widow sitting on the edge of her sons and daughters bed explaining why their father will never come home again, that the kiss on their cheek will be their last.  The mother will always hold them tighter, and the next step will be through the market stall in which she works, the next an arrow through her heart, the next looking down at the children who cry on the streets without home or love.  Without those two things, they will grow bitter and long to fight back, and so the war never ends.  If I killed them, their children would have burned down my home and so on, as is the way.  So Chene,” he said, looking out into the world below and seeing the scattered towns and homes and puffs of smoke from early fires and heated food to warm a family that would soon know the war in which they both fought for, “Do you want to go back to be a soldier again?”

    Chene felt his heart seize, allowing his memory and excuses speak where his honesty couldn’t be found, “I have to go back.  I have nowhere else to go, Gomez, I… I have no home, I’m not like you.”

    Gomez looked to him, the forest boy who now knew fire, the light behind his eyes that wasn’t as hungry for revenge as he was strong enough to defend against what the king began, “And you have no love?”

    He took up his lyre, strumming a song both sweet and sad the Chene could have sworn he’d heard before.

    “Soldiers find homes in moving stones, wars move like roaming lones, and at the end of the day, the sons stay away, and they stay still for once as resting bones,” he sang, his voice flat, “Away and away, the children dost play, until away they’re blown.  And to end the life for for the sake of a stay, to reclaim a throne, to death we lay.  Merry men fight and are lost on the way, and the king’s don’t atone, when soldiers find homes.”

    Chene knew that the song was for him.  Perhaps written after the great war, before he was born, and yet he knew that now, ringing out into the dead air atop the hill where they sat, each word was made to slot into his mind and to never be forgotten.

    “It’s said that that song is part of the key that will unlock an ancient spell,” Gomez said, plucking somewhat tunelessly.

    “A spell?” he said.

    “A spell that grants eternal peace.”

    Chene swallowed, not wanting to look at his friend again just yet, “What would that be for?”

    “For whatever it is needed.  For me?”

    “You’re going to find it?”

    “Of course,” Gomez said, lying back again, sighing, “For me, I’m going to break the curse that the witch put on this land and restore peace once more.  I am going to get revenge by curing the world of its plight.  Imagine - freedom, set upon by a wizard boy.  My aunt and uncle would be so proud,” the grass wrapped around his fingers, wilting into his skin. On, off.

    “They would be, Gomez.”

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