If spirit’s had eyes, they would be crying now, shaking uncontrollably, weeping. His father was there, hovering over the face of the pool that stood in the middle of the garden. Shafts of purple luminescence gave the water an unnatural glow, as the two unnaturals met: Tiyhak and his father.
“My son,” Klychawk greeted him and they shared a would-be embrace, for how can spirits embrace?
Tiyhak cried, his pain entering reality. Ignoring it was easy, shoving it away into the deep recesses of his mind and spirit until he was seemingly unaffected. Now, the full force of his loss trickled down his would-be face. The body affords some luxuries, being so removed from spirit and soul that one might forget themselves for a time… a time, but not forever. Now he faced the inevitable pain of loss that was locked away in the darkest corners of his spirit. Now, his true self was revealed, and who better to share the moment than his father.
“It hurts…” Tiyhak spoke, the pool below coming alive with the soft patter of his tears.
“It gets better…” was all he could say, that consoling father. “He was your first.”
Those days are often cherished… first love. So innocent, so free, so… in love. Nothing in the world could get between you, those juvenile lusts your guide, dictating the does and don’ts. It hurts, those words oft found on the lips of comparable babes, resting on their mother’s shoulders. Heartache. Loss. Pain. Part of you seemingly ripped away, leaving an empty, gaping hole that nothing and no one can fill. It gets better, the mother says, stroking her child’s hair, kissing them atop the head.
First loves are never forgotten… nor are first losses. What is a father to do but sit with his son, provide a shoulder, and cry himself, sharing tears with the heartbroken. Soon a steady pitter-patter of sorrow fell on the pool. Like rain, it sprinkled the glassy water, the view from below like a window pane soaking up tears. The rain fell, bouncing off of the glass, sliding down its surface in sad descent. Ripples broadened, the pool becoming a potential surfers-paradise for water-striders.
Trees around the two spirits hung their heads in respectful mourning, remembering the excitement of Tiyhak on his previous visit to the garden. No longer did his heart burn with passion, but it was torn in two, blood spilling out of the unmendable half that remained. Someday he would find another. One day his heart would be restored, but now was not the time. Like finding a lover at the graveside of your widow, he would not take another slave now. The timing had to be perfect. The man had to be perfect. Who better to fill the hole than the one would caused this pain. Mert Whatley.
“Get off!” Cargh fought the Pharosh whose tiny arms held onto the hair which gathered on his chin.
“Oo, it tickles!” the lizard pulled away, giggling, then turned around to face me and my captor as we re-entered the prison. “Look at the short one dance!”
“You want a dance? My lady would surely oblige!” If Cargh still held Fioreh, he would have drawn her then. The pain on his face at missing her was less than evident behind that mask of hair and rage.
“Come on, shorty! Dance with me!” The Pharosh reached for his beard once again, but he ducked and rolled, coming up being his captor and kicked his scaled-tail. “Ow!” the attacked shrieked and began hopping around like a rabbit searching for a mate.
“Get out of there!” the one who led me in this “game” of follow the leader reprimanded his partner. At such direction, the Pharosh slinked out of the cell and sat on the cold stone metaphorically licking his wounds. I was led to the cell, which I entered gladly, not knowing how these over-grown lizards would respond to an escape attempt. “Good,” he said, “Now that you’re out of the way… I can dance!” He reached for Cargh with child-like glee as the man jumped back, dodging his attempt. The Pharosh covered his mouth and let out an embarrassed giggle. “Okay, little man. I can see that you’re shy. We will dance later, wallflower” He wasn’t finished laughing as he closed the stone door to our cell.
Kyra sat in the far corner of the room, thoroughly amused at the “game” the Pharosh were playing. I guessed that she wouldn’t be as amused if she had been the centre of attention. Shaking my head, I sat against the far wall with her, the small steel-bared window high above. I voiced my opinion to her that the Pharosh would no more help us with Klychawk than they would free us from this prison. She responded in the insulting way I should have by now come to expect from her, wondering why I would expect them to. Refraining from lashing out at her as was my norm, I remained silent. She was the one who desperately had sought out the Pharosh, running fearfully like prey in a hunt. If she had no constructive input to offer our situation, I certainly had no desire to speak with her on the matter.
If the smooth stone of the cell was cold by day, the night was something else altogether. The moon greeted me with little light from the small window above, the type of light that provided little comfort and even less heat. The weather and wildlife of Coere Ghante dictated the sounds of the night, and in Glanderxe the idle merriment of men and women were my final lullaby, but here is Kho Arian the unnatural hiss of steam and rocketing of stone carts on steal tracks unceasingly tortured me. I cared nothing for the juvenile promiscuity of Glanderxe, but at least mirth and clinking glasses held a semblance of things natural. Those idle songs of men who had more drink than sense would fill the air, the words becoming more muffled with ale as the night waned on. Here the songs of the night were all the same, no twittering of a sparrow, raven’s bone-chilling call, or man’s laughter, but the whizz of one cart after another, carrying the night-life to whatever pleasures the Pharosh amused themselves with.
Irony was my welcome companion as I woke to the sound of another song, differing from all the rest. I grumbled at the sound, for if the metropolitan choir of Kho Arian wasn’t keeping me up, this new song surely would – a joyous whistle from the lips of some creature passing by on the street above. The melody rose and fell as the singer drew closer to the window through which the song reached my ears. As if the background instrumentation of the city and the whistled melody were not enough, percussion was added to the mix as steel clattered on the stone floor in front of me. It was an axe… not unlike the one taken from Cargh on our entrance to this land.
Cargh and Kyra either were unfazed by the voices of the night or deceived me by appearing asleep. The percussion, however, left no room for even the heaviest sleeper to remain so. Jumping to his feet, Cargh rushed over to the place where the axe now lay, cold moonlight revealing its position. As he bent down to pick it up, another cymbal was struck, but the resulting sound was more dull than the drummer had intended. Clutching his axe in one hand, Cargh rose to no sooner be struck on the head by the hilt of a falling sword. A soft orange glow filled the cell from the weapon that now lay on the floor, a weapon clearly not designed for throwing through tiny windows onto defenceless prisoners below. “Oi!” Cargh bellowed up at the window, enraged. “Fioreh is not to be hurled about like some common stone or hunting knife!”
The only reply he received, an ironic one at that, was two small knifes being dropped from above, which would have impaled him had he not jumped back from the place where the weapons were falling. Lady Eyes soon joined the heap of weapons on the ground as did the Horn of Riul. No one moved, for fear that more sharp things would fall from the window, as the whistling began to leave. It returned as if thinking twice. “Silly me,” those first words of the night minstrel broke up his whistling before a set of keys were dropped on top of the pile. “Wouldn’t want to forget those.” The whistling faded once again, the only evidence of its presence lay before me on the stone.
Picking up Lady Eyes I admired her once more. We had been separated for but a moment, but still a moment longer than I ever wished to experience again. Her harsh blue skin stood out even more, enhanced by the cool moonlight.
Cargh grumbled in the corner, rubbing his head, as Kyra and I redressed ourselves. “That fool could have killed someone.”
“And now we can kill someone.” Kyra grabbed the keys from the floor.
I hope that someone isn’t Cargh. Their hatred for each other was plain, and I had no desire to witness a bloodbath… though I was somewhat curious who might come out victorious if they were to engage each other.
Kyra slid the key through a small slit in the stone, and her success was rewarded with the slow release of steam. The door slid out from its place, revealing the small room populated with many other sealed cells, but more importantly, a stone table at which two Pharosh guards sat. I could have hoped all I wanted that they had fallen down on their duties, either abandoning us or falling asleep, but that would have been in vain. If they were asleep before the door opened, they certainly weren’t now, the hiss coming from the cell signifying our escape. Standing to their feet and noticing our drawn weapons, they looked surprised, but drew no weapons of their own, claws and teeth assumed adequate for the job at hand.
Before I knew what was happening, Cargh ran at the first of the Pharosh faster than I would have thought those short legs of his allowed. He plunged right into the beast’s chests, bowling it over onto the ground. Kyra threw one of her knifes at the other guard to no effect, the sharp blade bouncing off the natural armour of the scaled being. The Pharosh made a clicking noise with the tip of his tongue. “Naughty little wolf.” It charged at her, and I swung my blade, attempting to have more of an impact than that dagger from the hands of Kyra. Lady Eyes acted more like a metal pole than the sharp, death-bringer I imaged she would be. She slowed him down, but only a little as he blew through her and launched himself off of the ground, pouncing like a cat at Kyra. She twisted her body out of the way and I watched as Lady Eyes flew from my hand and the Pharosh landed hard against the far wall, smashing one of the gas lanterns.
Cargh was on the ground and on the other Pharosh, pounding pommel of blade and axe interchangeably into its face. “Who’s the short one now!” he taunted. “Stay on the ground where you belong, lizard!” The second Pharosh came at Kyra again, apparently perceiving her with one dagger a greater threat than myself, being unarmed and all. Lady Eyes was on the far side of the room and both Pharosh stood between us, separating me from her once again. I ran to the place where the lizard had first been and snatched up Kyra’s knife. It felt so weak and stupid in my hands, but would have to do for now. Kyra was deflecting the side slashing arms of the Pharosh with her knife. Running over to the beast, I searched for a place between its massive scales to sink my knife and found one, but fighting should not take so much contemplative calculation. These unknown enemies and that unfamiliar weapon caused me to falter. The Pharosh swung its giant tale for me as my knife found its mark. I was knocked off of my feet and looked up at the beast that now stood over me, having continued its swing attempting to catch Kyra in the same fate that I now faced. She, being more graceful and practised than I, jumped over the tail with seemingly little effort.
I lay there helpless, staring up at my attacker. It let out a great roar which shook the building, exposing row upon row of razor sharp teeth. Soon those teeth would pierce my flesh. I hoped for a quick death as the ominous maw approached me. I have heard of teeth falling out, whether by age or unnatural means, but this being should not be growing any more teeth. It seemed to think so as well, and certainly if more teeth were warranted in that giant mouth, they shouldn’t be made of steel and turned upside down to pierce its tongue. Also, most teeth don’t have Kyra the Tallri attached to them. She stabbed it once, then twice, and its roar turned into a muffled, painful shriek. It turned in an attempt to knock her down once again, but she was no more easily fooled than she had been the first time. She jumped forward, grabbing the blade I had stuck in its back and began to stab it repeatedly, riding it like a dragon.
I had no tact in battle, and barely had managed a single thrust, but Kyra made it look like art. She swung again and again, never missing the soft flesh between its scales, never falling from its back. Once it fell, it did not rise, and neither did the other Pharosh who remained on the ground where it had been ever since Cargh had put it there. Though the first of the lizards did not breathe fire, the second one seemed to with Fioreh plunged down its throat, flames erupting from its mouth, burning from inside out. Cargh left the blade there for a time, watching the slow death of his prey, before wrenching her free. We did not remain there until the inevitable pile of scales and bones was all that remained. Grabbing Lady Eyes from the wall she had been flung against, I followed Kyra and Cargh from that prison which should have held us longer than it did.
I had no desire to hold Cargh back from the hatred which had bubbled up inside him when he was atop the Pharosh guard, bashing his face in continually. Such emotions served us well then… but not now. Our night minstrel and weapon retriever was a member of this lizard race, the same as our jailers. I couldn’t say that his motivations held the same similarities. Though Cargh was small, our Pharosh saviour was smaller, and it took me and Kyra both to make the allmarach choose reason over steel. He eventually conceded, lowering his weapons, though I could tell that he was not happy about it and I watched closely for any signs of him going against his word to not harm the Pharosh. Cargh needed no reason other than racism itself to run his blade through this “vile rock abuser,” and he made sure to tell me so, frequently and loudly. I aimed not to give him more reason than he already had.
I reminded him that the little lizard – not as far as lizards go, but compared to the other reptiles roaming these parts – had freed us, but that didn’t seem to matter. I urged him to at least listen to what the man had to say before passing judgement to which he responded, “His judgement is passed and his price is set! The Rock will allow no abusers to live.” Though his tongue lashed out, his sword-arm did not, of which I was thankful.
When I asked the Pharosh to explain himself he would reply with things like, “just for fun” and other seemingly meaningless phrases. He seemed to be quite enjoying this game, watching Cargh’s face turn red with rage and laughing hysterically while he spoke more riddles and explained even less, until Cargh picked up the little guy and held Fioreh to his neck. At this point, such uncontrollable rage paid off, me not being the only one who feared for the minstrel’s life. He promised to talk as Cargh released him, setting him back on the ground. The little lizard, who we soon learned called himself Othban, explained that he was a member of a certain non-conformist sect of the Pharosh, having nothing in common with the rest other than form and heritage. “No one can help what they look like, but everyone can help who they are.”
Racism had been the way of the Pharosh, “ever since the Great War,” he said, a point I could not argue. Othban and the other members of this “sect” of his held no such beliefs considering it juvenile to judge a whole race based on a single event in history. I agreed with his “can’t we all just get alone” mentality, but was alone on this, Cargh and Kyra holding their own seemingly pointless and uninformed racial and religious animosities. They did, however, agree on a personal level, for not even they could hold to such racism completely which allowed and even condoned the Pharosh to lock them away in a cell. I’m sure, though, if the tables were turned, they would employ no such restrictions.
Being of such anti-cultural persuasion seemed reason enough for Othban to help us, though Cargh was unconvinced by his argument. He did, however, allow this “vile abuser” to live, which I considered progress enough. “The Rock is not heartless. If he wishes to use an abuser as a spy in the midst of the vile, who am I to argue.” As long as Cargh was happy explaining away his reasoning for letting Othban live, I cared not how he did it.
Kyra didn’t say much, but seemed happy enough to be out of the dungeon. She focused less on Othban and more on the world around us, watching every dark corner either for potential threats or simply to find the best hiding spots, should the shadows be needed. I asked what she was looking for, but she gave no response. “Don’t worry about Klychawk. We are with the Pharosh now.” These were the words I chose, though they didn’t really mean anything. Kyra was the one who was here to obtain the “secret of the Pharosh.” I simply came to deliver my message, and that was done. As far as I was concerned, the next thing on the list was the long journey home to deliver a sad refusal to the crown.
One thing still troubled me, though. Don’t think about trying to run, unless you don’t care about getting your spirit back. What did Mr. Big mean by that? Such a question didn’t need asking, for the void inside of me was answer enough. Ever since that cannonball had hit me, something had been missing. Othban started laughing when I questioned him about it. “Spirit cannons,” he said. “I wouldn’t be too concerned, though. I’ve done just fine without a spirit for as far back as I can remember.” The wink he ended this statement with was less comforting that he had intended it to be. “What is it they say? One life, one death. Two lives, two.” His eyes glazed over recalling the words before that familiar Pharosh smile returned to his face. “One death would seem bad enough, eh? Why die twice?”
“I assure you, a spirit affords more to a man than two deaths.” It was the first time that Kyra had spoken since leaving the prison.
“For you perhaps, wolf-lady. Not everyone has special magics like you.” She looked at him disdainfully. “Pardon me. I mean no disrespect. Just… what use would I have for becoming a wolf, or a raven? Is not a dragon the good things of both, having wings for flight and claws and teeth for action?” He hopped up and down, baring his teeth and slashing at the air like a kid fighting his imagination. Who knew a Pharosh could be cute? “And besides, I have no access to such things, nor could you have them back until you leave, if we did happen to retrieve them.” He said it like happening to retrieve them was as simple as finding a penny in the cracks of the sidewalk. “Not even the clan would permit that.” Making a clicking noise with the tip of his tongue, he went on. “Too dangerous. Too dangerous.” His head shook.
What could be dangerous about having a spirit? If you asked this question to Othban, he would tell you that no spirit means no spirit-tracking, making Kho Arian completely invisible to prying eyes. No spiritual travel was safe without a solid destination, nor was it profitable, and the Pharosh had taken care of any physical travel. “It’s quite a system it is,” he said with pride. “Pumping that lava beneath the river. Pure genius, I tell you! I don’t care for many of the customs of my people, by our obsession with security really can’t be argued with… just the motive behind it. I’ll help those who get through, but the boiling water and spirit canons keep the baddies away, by George they do!”
“I could get through as a raven.” Kyra was still a little on edge from his dragon comment.
Othban laughed once more, which certainly didn’t help matters, though I knew he had no intention of angering her. “Oh yes! One blast from those cannons and your spiritless body would fall to the boiling water below! What a sight!” He laughed again, amused at the picture. “Thousands of Tallri, falling like flies… I mean ravens. Haha!” After dodging a kick from Kyra he continued. “And besides. You’re not a baddie anyway!”