Chapter 4: Aron de Eramont
All I see is darkness, am I dead, what am I, where am I? The sounds of steel clanging on steel rings in my ear so loud they might burst.
I begin to reopen my eyes to see the world.
As I open my eyes, my vision is all brightly blurred; I can only make out two figures moving about in front of me. I hear a loud ringing noise go straight through me, piercing me, stunning me. When my vision starts to clear up, I realise I’m lying on the ground. I turn around and see the massive wooden stage tower over me.
I look back over to the two figures, and I can identify that they are sword-fighting one another.
A black coated, white-robed figure strikes at the other, who appears to be a Rachker, with his massive blade.
The blow hits the soldier’s dulled grey armour on the right part of the breastplate.
The Rachker retaliates and swings a battle axe at his opponent who responds by parrying it with his blade.
“Give up now there’s no use to fighting me. Turn yourself in and lessen your inevitable punishment.”
“Have my punishment dropped from Culled to tortured to death, can hardly say it would be worth it, mate,” the robed man replies as he swings his sword by swiping it at the Rachker downwards.
The Rachker dodges by walking backwards, and the robed figure swings the sword up past him and swipes at the Rachker a second time downwards, but instead swiping from his other side.
The second attack catches the exhausted fighter off guard and is hit on the right shoulder shaking him on the spot.
“Can’t say I didn’t warn you,” the Rachker yells as he charges forward with his axe and swings it from left to right to left to right.
The robed figure tries to block, dodge and parry as many strikes as possible, but eventually he tires and slows down too much. The axe catches the blade and throws it right next to me.
The figure looks down for it and notices that I’ve recovered consciousness.
“Well you certainly are an optimal opponent, mate, but I’m sorry to say the dual must end here,” he calls out to the Rachker.
He stretches his left hand out having a half opened palm facing up, using his right hand he pulls something out of a leather wrist wrap. What he’s pulled out appears to be a sizeable large steel needle.
He grips it like one would hold a dagger with the blade, in this case, the point on the bottom side of their clenched hand.
He reaches over to his left hand with it and does a long scratch on his hand with the needle.
He responds to the pain by flinching and making noises through his gritting teeth.
He slips the needle back into its holder and clenches his left hand into a fist.
The three of us wait, the Rachker and I confused as to what’s supposed to happen, while other sword fights and dying is happening all around us.
Suddenly, the robed figure’s eyes begin to glow from under the hood he’s wearing to cover his face.
He lifts his right hand again, points it at the Rachker and yells “MIND SNAP.”
Suddenly something in the Rachker just clicks, and he tenses up for 10 seconds and the next second afterwards his entire body relaxes, and he collapses to the ground in a heap.
I just lay there stunned by what I’ve just witnessed. Someone just used blood magic by using their blood as a power source instead of purified blood.
The robed figure stands up straight from his bent position, dusts off his coat and robes and turns to me.
“Alright matey, get up,” he says to me as he leaps over to me and regains ownership of his sword.
He starts to turn around when he realises I haven’t moved at all in response.
He turns back and quickly squats in front of my blinking eyes trying to make sure I’m seeing what I’m seeing.
“Come on mate, get the fuck up, WE are leaving,” he yells as he reaches over and grabs my right arm to wreath me upward with him.
Without saying anything or asking any questions, I find myself running not too far behind him.
We run past by the large hexagon banking sector building and everything that’s happened in the last maybe two hours floods in like a dam of information just broke.
I can’t see where Rose or father have gone. I hope they’re okay.
The robed figure in front of me slows his running down to a jog and eventually turns around to stop me.
He rummages his hand around in a pocket in his black trench coat.
He pulls something out and holds his hand out open-handed.
“Take this...show no one, tell no one, alright mate,” he yells at me over the chaos as he puts his left hand on my right shoulder.
I don’t even look to see what it is in his hand. I grab it. It feels like some small token or gambler’s chips.
After slowly processing what it feels like I quickly put it in my pocket in my fur coat.
“Alright, can I count on you to help pick people up and take them anywhere safe?”
I nod to him showing that I’ll help him evacuate people.
“Thank you mate, now stay safe, you better get going,” he yells into my ears as he pulls me past him using his hand on my shoulder.
I turn to look back, but he’s already disappeared into the growing darkness that is the fog of war.
I start looking around me for any alive people who aren’t running towards safety and notice some older adults on the ground. I can’t tell where they would be placed on the noble-Pryia system’s ladder, but that’s pointless right now, they need to be helped.
I run over to them and help up the old man and his wife.
“Hey, do you know where somewhere safe for you is?” I scream into their faces.
Their shocked expressions tell me that they have no clue what’s going on.
“Follow me I’ll take you somewhere safe,” I beckon them to follow me since I’m not sure if I’ll get anything out of them.
I know for sure that one of Rose’s father’s properties is nearby. Surely he’ll let these old folks stay in his house during the chaotic events that are transpiring.
As I try to stay calm and collected, while I guide the seniors along, I can’t help but look around. I don’t know how, but all of a sudden the sky looks like a firestorm, yet no buildings are on fire. The air feels smokey, and it’s difficult to breathe enough not to feel constant choking or coughing. The smell of smoke is strong, but it smells like this fire has been here for a couple of hours already. But, I don’t remember seeing any fire or smelling any smoke when I regained consciousness, which means that there’s only one answer, this is blood magic.
I remember now that just before I fell to the ground the bloodmage, Caisen, fell forward because of something. Maybe he’s come to again. This fire must be to scare people away from the battle.
I saw so many dead people as I ran away following that man, it’s hard to imagine Rigtal recovering from this event.
As I and my two old companions traverse the city streets, I welcome other stragglers who need help to join us.
We pass by the extensive library, and this tells me that the next street on the left should lead straight to the Drutteous household. The library is a tall church-like building, with stained glass windows dotted across each wall. The doors to enter are just two large side by side black doors that can open inwards and outwards. The chimney stack on the maroon tile roof is about a lengths tall, and it is billowing out smoke. I wish I could blame that chimney as the source of all the smoke. However, that smoke is just from a small fireplace inside the library that is to keep the inside warm during the winter, and it could never make such thick fog. The back, side and front yard of the library is quite broad. Apparently, it’s the most massive yard any library within Caleria has. It’s partly because during the summer the day is so lovely and beautiful that readers like to enjoy the sun and clear air while reading over a book from the library. The fence surrounding the property has been divided into two parts, the ground part is a five brick high brick wall, the second is a steel pole fence with the tops of each pole looking like a spear, I guess it’s to stop people from trying to sneak into the library after hours.
I always go to the library on a weekend day to read some of the latest books entering the library. I’ve always loved reading and always valued the virtue of knowledge and intelligence. My father would rather I spend more time learning about our House’s sector so that when he passes and I take over I can continue it or even better, expand it. The problem is that I have never really had any concern for leading the de Eramont House and still don’t want to.
We walk down the streets to find, despite the sky of fire brewing above us, the road and all the neighbouring houses look intact and untouched. Therefore, proving it would have to be blood magic, but knowing that doesn’t take away how painful the smoke feels in our lungs and how much pain whips my throat like lightning strikes each time I breathe in and out. If I have to cough in reaction to a sudden contraction in my throat due to its dryness, it feels like small knives slicing the inside of my throat. My nose feels like the inside of my nostrils have experienced an inferno rip through them. The screaming and yelling from Quay Square can still be heard this far from the very inside of the city.
I lead my band down the street, Rose’s home is the third on the left.
When we arrive, it appears Rose and her family decided to run to this property themselves. The torches inside are lit, illuminating the dinner hall room, I can see the sizeable long oak table. The panel windows must’ve recently been closed, and the door shut up.
I walk through the lush green garden that holds so many different types of flowers from all across the Calerian empire. I am not a flower guy. I would rather have a front yard with a few bushes, and mostly flat green grass allows for more space to train with my sword or read a book.
I knock on the large wooden door with its iron door knocker.
*Thud thud thud*
I can hear people talking inside “I can hear knocking at the door,” it sounds like Rose.
“Rose, don’t open the door, it could be those insurgents for all we know,” someone who I believe sounds like her father yelling out to her.
“Father, what are the chances of that, they have either been arrested again or killed in combat. If they have somehow killed all the Rachkers, why would they come knocking here of all places?” Rose has a tone of self-authority and independence in her voice.
While she may never go as far as me in believing Pryias should be given some sort of emancipation, she at least has a realistic rationale and can be reasoned with, like how you can reason with a domesticated cat with a chin rub.
I hear her stomp over to the door and unlock its many locks. Her father tends to be paranoid often which explains his reluctance to open up to strangers.
The door swings open so fast I fall forward from the massive wave of wind pushing me. I fall right into Rose’s arms; I quickly pick myself up off her and dust myself off.
“Eh callos, I thought I’d visit you earlier instead,” I say to her with a big grin on my face.
I could tell Rose wanted to smile, but due to the current circumstances that considered inappropriate for a young noblewoman to do.
She looks around me and sees the group huddling behind me.
“We have enough room for them so that’ll be okay,” she announces as she moves her hand in a way to tell everyone to come inside.
We all pile into the lobby of the Drutteous home and stand there in silence without moving around. We stood there for five minutes with silence singing it’s deafening song.
Rose’s father decides to break the ice with his paranoia “Rose, are you sure we can handle all these people all at once, I mean there’s a lot, and it looks like some are Pryias.”
“Father, whether they are noble or Pryia doesn’t matter right now in a crisis, they need help.”
Rose’s reply gained her some reputation among the few Pryias among us.
The involuntary guests get taken to the main hall room where they can sit and calm down.
I look around at my surroundings. I tend to do that often; it helps reassure me that wherever I am, there are possible escape routes. Plus it helps pass the time when something like this happens.
I haven’t been in this particular house for a very long time. The Drutteous family owns two homes, this one and the main house which Rose lives. I can tell they’ve redone this house because it looks nothing like it did from my memories of it when I was 12, the last time I was here. The walls are made from dark wood, not black but extremely dark nonetheless. The walls are covered with different paintings whether it be portraits of family members or of famous artworks that the heads of the Drutteous House over the time have decided to purchase. From wall to wall on either side there is a pot plant with about a lengths distance between it and the next one, the plants need tending to soon because I can tell they are starting to brown. The wall’s ceiling edges are all carved in a beautiful intricate pattern that shows off how noble and wealthy the Drutteous House is to be able to afford a wood carver to do such beautiful art. I can tell they’ve done an excellent job in keeping the smoke out since all I can smell is strong varnish from the walls, they must’ve been varnished earlier today.
The sounds of war from the Quay Square can’t be heard anymore, but the memory of the cries for help and the yelling still ring in my ears as if I was right amongst it.
Just as I’m getting comfortable sitting on the vast red carpeted ground, I feel I should leave. I have this sudden urge to go.
Then I realise, my siblings!
I haven’t seen Carson and Nearie since this morning, and they could be anywhere, I have to make sure they’re okay. Also, I did promise that man that I would help more people get to safety. I decide to leave; I’ll try and find more people on the way to my house and let them stay inside my house while I look for my siblings if they aren’t home.
“I’ve asked the chefs to cook us up something, I thought that might calm people down,” Rose says to me as she comes from behind to sit next to me on the soft carpet.
“Well let them know they can scratch one person from the list,” I say to her blankly.
“You are not going back out there, Aron,” she looks pleading at me.
“I have to, my brother and sister could be out there. I won’t rest easy if I don’t know they’re okay,” I say to her.
Rose nods in acceptance and defeat. She knows that unless she physically restrains me, then there’s nothing that will stop me from making sure my siblings are safe.
I stand back up and head down the hallway back to the lobby. Rose follows close behind me to see me out.
We come past her father who must’ve snuck off to calm himself.
It would be best to ensure he doesn’t throw out any of these people for no good reason until it’s safe.
“Sir Drutteous, as you had made clear yourself it is extremely dangerous outside right now, those people’s lives are dependant on kind people such as yourself to lend the grand space of your safe land in these times of chaos and crisis. It’s times like these when Calerians must come together and look out for one another,” I know how to butter up a noble without seeming too see-through.
Something you learn when you have keen senses and attend a couple of dinner parties.
“Well thank you, it’s nice to know that we’re doing something good, I guess,” he mutters before he walks down the opposite hallway.
I walk over to the door, which from the inside appears to be made from iron, the wooden outside must be a front for the public.
I reach out and grab hold of the doorknob, twist it and ready myself to leave the safe confines of Rose’s house.
“I understand that you’re doing this for Carson and Nearie, but if you don’t find them soon...please at least find somewhere safe to hole up in...and just know that you’re welcome to come back here,” Rose’s eyes glisten from the tears welling up in them.
I give Rose a hug and a kiss on the cheek and then whisper “I’ll be fine, besides I can’t die now I’ve gotta see you tomorrow.”
My face allows for a giant grin to spread across it and I can tell so does hers along with a side of blushing on the cheeks.
I smile larger and tilt my head slightly forward to indicate the blushing.
Rose responds by turning into a little second education girl and covers her cheeks, which only causes me to laugh.
I push myself away from my friend carefully and turn back to the door, grab the handle, twist and open the door.
I’m instantly hit by a significant wind of heat swirling outside the door. It nearly took me off my feet.
I quickly regain control, step outside and slam the wooden iron door shut.
I look from left to right, ensuring I’ve got my bearings right to head towards my house. That’s right I’ve got to go back up the street and take a left.
I start a sprint along the streets road, looking around. The firestorm appears to have only worsened since we’ve been inside. The heat emanating from the sky is so extreme it’s as if it’s source was any closer my fur coat would’ve gone up in flames.
I feel an odd taste in my mouth, I lick my lips and realise that it’s ash. Ash is falling from the sky in small amounts. It’s like snow falling softly, except the opposite.
I spit out the ash in my mouth and try to rub away what little ash has landed on my face.
I take a left out of the street and towards my home.
I look around for any signs of life, but can’t find any. There’s an alley a couple of streets up from here on the right, if I went down it’d cut down my time by about 10 minutes. 10 minutes may not be much on a typical leisure day, but in a crisis like this, 1 minute is valuable.
I cross the road so that I’m on the same side as the alley entrance.
As I cross, I notice the remains of bird corpses on the ground. These birds probably got killed when the firestorm intensified. I analyse the bodies of the birds. The black feathers look burnt and tarred. However, it seems like lack of air has killed most of the birds based on the strain shown on the bodies and necks. The eyes are black as night looking deep into my soul.
I find myself staring for too long and pull myself away.
I’m almost at the alley when I hear some noise from my left from across the road back where I just was.
I continue to run towards the alley as I turn my head to face what caused the noise.
That’s weird, it looks completely clear, no animals or humans. It sounded like a rubbish bin was knocked over or something.
As I turn my head back around to face the alley since I’d be almost on top of it by now, I hear a “look out” and see a flash of orange and a hand reach out. Then suddenly, it’s all black again.