Arrow Of Faith
Arrow Of Faith14 mins 183 14 mins 183
“And this is why yous shall remain a wee bairn, Georgie. We lot travel in horse-drawn carriages with cheese to fill our belly, and wine for to wash it down. Sometimes I think I’ve given a monkey in line for the realm, haha.” he could almost hear his Father say, as he landed on the hay stack, and leapt onto the ledge of the wall belonging to the warehouse in front of him. He inhaled deeply through his protruding nose, and scrunched his eyebrows without moving as much as another facial muscle.
All while tensing his knees, which was no more from the ground as it was for his father at ten year auld. His eyes, a picture of austerity, and composure. From there, he sprung himself to the roof, and took off, sprinting away like a cat from building to building, losing his balance from time to time, but never his confidence, nor his impressive footing. Twas the last day of enlistment, and he was to get there fore the crowd trickled thin, lest they’d notice. His chances was slim anyway mind, cause he was no early bloomer. Two year back, when he was just a laddie of two and ten, people began talking, like they always did.
“A shame”, they said. “The king’s son, done never have ‘nough milk from them sunken teats. Someone needs to feed the lad some ham and goat’s milk, buckets of it. A stunted little thing, he’s become, dark eyes and hair and all . When one’s husband stays out for too long, a wife does forget where her own bed is. No faithfulness these days. No men in the family never grow up for to be an ounce under fifteen stone, and thick and tall as tree trunks.” Two years later, they were not singing the same tune. Disappointment remained, albeit not as strong as before. Father would not be unwavered if not for my little Evie.
Oh, how much he hates that name! By now, he’d become so fine good at vaulting between roofs so as to entertain such mundane thoughts in his noggin. Twas uncanny that a horseride through the city could not tell you fairly as much as a rooftop run could. The wafts of fried fish, chicken broth, dogshit, city sewage and such hung in the air like a witch’s potion of sorts. Looking down upon the town, the sheer numbers surprised him as always. The vegetable and meat sellers, hawking their produce with enthusiasm. The fisherman with an empty net slung over his shoulders, looking despondent. A lady grieving her son’s imminent departure to a war she could hardly think worth fighting, but to see him, possibly for the last time, notwithstanding her pleas. Whores in grand force especially, not a surprise considering come the first fortnight’s end, only cripples, the wrinkled, women, and laddies and lassies would remain
. At the end of the second fortnight, they’d wilt like plants without the sun. Georgie only knew one thing, one of them remaining he’d not be. His eyes twinkled, and his heart fluttered at the notion of such mischief he’d planned. Agonising weeks he spent in the high tower, watching the ships get ready like. Nothing special, till the mighty masts, and the wide sails fell in place, and then the spectacle was unravelled. Hundred of ships, a battalion of them, like little dots on the ocean. A clear image he did not have from his porch, owing in no small part to the colossal coconut trees, giving shade to the shore. Oh, what he’d not
give to climb on top of a watchtower for a better view. But he knew it’d be impossible for him to even fathom the idea of taking part in the adventure, until he woke up that morning, and decided to jump onto the gangplank, instead of watching from afar. He’d not stocked up, had no coin, no real exposure to the world, nor any measurable nautical skills. Not to mention nigh consideration of his family’s position, and worries. Nothing could keep him away from it mind. The feeling of the sea breeze in his face, the oscillating white sails, and the jolly shanties of the men toiling in the hot sun, with sweat on their brow. But nothing could match the views of the vast belly of Valdyk spread across as far as his eye could see, and the few hundred ships sailing with him, offering company in the blue nothingness both excited, and frightened him. Twas the only thing he ever wanted.
“Erghh” Georgie blurted out, as he started to plodge away, just have realised the buildings had end, and the stables and smells and such as one would think of with horses, had caught his boots. Bloody Brilliant. Keep mesel’ in character mind, it would. That I’ll keep mesel’ with, while I slodge through this potty porridge. He kept himself occupied while he wade across the muck and shit, until he united with the road round the doors to the harbor. No more than a few strides he took, when he audibly gasped. If he were another bairn with the same dreams, he might’ve jumped up in joy.
There it was. In the backdrop of the long supply lines and men standing in queues were the grand ships that by the king’s word was destined to not fail in their mission to take what was almost theirs once, the enchanted land. They was to sail across the curve of Valdyk’s belly, and then when there was naewhere else to go, tip over the edge, and go inside, to explore inside it.. He did not real understand that bit, nae, but it did not sway him away, as much as it did to strengthen his resolve.
Bustling with activity was the shore. The rough shouts the enlisters made to haul everyone in line, while the lads shared their daily crack with uproarious laughs, and thought glorious deaths for themselves on a battlefield in Haaros. A means of distraction Georgie could not understand. These men were to go and fight them lot, the ones who beat them back so real badly, and ruined the next few centuries for his family, and his realm. How could they be joking about death and such, when they ought to be planning their victory.
He slipped into the line, quiet as you like, a shilling taller than he ought to be, a clever idea too. The ragged breaths of the man behind him he felt, on his bare neck, and the stink of wine he could not resist from the man in front. Twas if every damn man there’d come fresh straight out the oven, and swam through britch length horseshit on their way there. The smells made the imagery seem like a spotless courtroom mind. Daresay death doesn’t smell half as bad, nor look it. Apart from the foul half glances, merged with maybe pity, or curiosity, he did not attract much attention. Now, he’d only a dwarf in between himself and the enlisters, and the irony was all but wasted on his pale looking face, a punch in the stomach away from tossing his lunch.
“Why in bleedin Horos can I smell onions here in this shithouse?” The enlister stood up from his seat, and scanned his surroundings. He gave him a fleeting glance, and then sat back down, just having rejected the dwarf. “Next.”
Georgie waddled up carefully, like he was walking on eggshells, and made eye-contact with the stern man in front of him, whose unibrow furrowed like a ‘V’. “Take off your boots.” He commanded. Georgie froze, as the blood rose to his face. “Why, yous look flushed laddie. Need someone to untie your shoelaces?” That drew a few laughs from the lads gathered round. Maintaining a puzzled and innocent look, he bent down, and as he reached for the laces, his legs crunched down on something, as if squashing an army of beetles. The surrounding chatter had almost stopped at that dead moment, . “That’s right innit. Now what’s a round-faced bairn doing, off trying to fight a man’s battles, with an onion stuffed boot. Yous plan on scaring them lot across the mainland ,waving your onions in their face, ehh?” He asked , eyes looking down on him, and his mouth opened smugly.
The men cackled around him, like old hags. Twas if his mouth’d been sewed up, like always. Happened whenever he’d to talk under pressure, with more than just a couple of people watching him. His hands’d started to clam up, and his hands fidgeting of their own accord. He stayed put mind, and the enlister took a deep breath. “These men’ve come from Myrus, Taelor, Bincon, Verilta, and from all cross. Why’m I wasting their blimming time on a wee little thing drowning in his cloak, possibly mute, and wearing a vest meant for men my age. Tell us, who’d we write the letter for to when your bony arse flies off deck in a storm, or yous dies with no food in your belly? Whichever comes first.” This time, he wasn’t merely mocking him, and Georgie only truly started considering the perils of sailing. He did not have time to think mind, as the glare of the man’s eyes fell right onto him. “Outta my sight sonnie!!” And two men came and dragged him away, holding onto his arms, until he was a field away.
“Look son.” His strangler maintained kind eye contact, and a gentle tone. “Yous can bare lift a weapon, much less fight. And sailing is never not unpleasant as you might imagine it. Hauling overboard, you’ll be, for the first week. Ever thought that?” Georgie had never thought of it. “Don’t take the enlister’s words personal. He lost a son at sea hisself, a few years back, when he used for to call Polostas his home. Never been the same since, and why would he.” He sighed. “Count your blessings, and stay home. Them lot’ll thank yous for it.” And with them wise words, he twirled away. Georgie punched the ground. The man was not to know who he was, nor how long he’d been dreaming of this day, only to be sent off. With limp arms and head held down, he slumped across the streets of Haegean, the town not fair so bustling as before. Bumping his head onto bushels of wheat and rye did not help, and only increased his frustration. The somber grey tiles, and the bland white walls of the buildings lining the roads seemed to be eating into themselves, as if to squash him in.
The grand ruler King Aspertan had said “the day Haegean is no longer a brewing pot of unmeshable yet compatible passions and people, is the day the world would end”. That part Georgie’d barely understood, and needed his tutor to explain to him. He also believed the narrow roads, the closeness of the roads to the houses, and the mess of markets and residential areas without room to breathe brought people closer.
The only thing he’d ever found it was good for was disease and roof jumping. So Georgie never did believe him. But in that moment, he could not help but consider the former statement. The ghostly silence drifted alang like a tune played by a novice, one that would leave him alone forever, and put him to sleep when the time came. The air was almost pale, rid of anything to suggest soul, more lifeless than death itself. Twas as if everyone were in eternal mourning of the city, and the men who’d gone for a voyage of valour. Georgie wish he had too. The thought of living there, with no news, and information for several months brought a pang to his heart. "It was time", he thought. His moping’d carried him too far into the day to put off going back any longer. Back to the grand, safe spaces where one felt he’d power, influence, and held oneself on a grand stand of value and fineness, deaf to anything or anyone lay beyond their four walls.
By now he was knackered, and could hardly walk back, much less repeat his morning exploits. With the dolphin-inscribed coin clanging in his back pocket, he paid off the passing horse-drawn wagon driver.
“Where for to?” The man enquired, with droopy eyes, and sagging shoulders. Georgie pointed into the distance, at a spire towering above everything else on the horizon. Higher than the tallest chimneys, the mills, the warehouses, and such. “What business do ya have there?” The man looked suspiciously at him. He’d not back down mind, at least now, and stared at the driver in the eye. “Alright, I’ll take ya, but a ride that far will cost ya another dolphin”. Georgie took it out, and almost threw it at the driver, and hauled himself into the wagon in one go, spurring the horses into action. They proceeded at an alarming pace, the streets robbed of the usual hurry and worry. The markets which they’d come across in the day, but nearing daybreak now became a shadow of their former self, much like him they passed, and the haystacks and such. That was when he saw it. He’d never been one to believe in the old ways, but nothing seemed like a better idea then.
In that moment, he yet did not bother to understand why people yet believed in them ways, but he knew it could help him in what he was about to do. The building stood out, in all its yellow and red glory, with hundreds of candles giving it a sun-like glare. Without a second’s hesitation, he stood on his toes and leapt off the wagon, causing it to lurch sideways. “Yous fucking fool! Yous think from your arsehole, ehh!!”The driver shouted as his wagon careened into a brick wall. Georgie ran into the building as fast as his little legs could, and pushed open the door. A haze of mist was thrown across the massive room, which was oddly shaped. The men and women sitting inside came to attention from their works. Beyond them, there was this circular arc, lowered by two feet from the surface their chairs rested on, which had a bow and arrow at the centre, and unique depictions etched onto the wall.
“Here for an arrow, my laddie?” Asked an old lady, whose piercing gaze and hunchback startled him. He nodded. “Which one shall it be?” She pointed towards the nine arrows lay in the quiver that lay on the ground. Each one of them was unique with different sentences or words,
and had a black-coloured shaft. Georgie leant down, and gingerly picked up the one with eagle feathers. The only fear left is of fear itself. There it was, written in blood, on the silvery arrowhead. He stepped down into the arc, and faced his target. The one which he would leave forever, and never meet again, no matter how alluring it might seem to re-unite. It felt strange. He was to be the first one in his family to do it. Father would not condone this, but it was his choice. A strange medicinal niff greeted him as soon as he stepped to, and a wave of hallucination washed over him. Almost transfixed, he nocked the bow, and drew, both a breath and an arrow. His back muscles were perfectly tensed, and his line of sight looking right through the arrow shaft. A little lass with ragged hair was down on her knees, head slightly down, staring at him. Her eyes were black holes of terror, and her bottom lip was quivering. Her hands were locked together, and held at her chest, begging for mercy. Her entire form had curled up, almost shaking lifelike. A clear picture popped up in his head.
At first, it was grey and blurry, barely taking any form. The next moment, it was him, toppling over on the deck of a drowning ship, lightning crackling down upon their ship. The scene shifted, and he found himself in a field of complete desolation. Bodies here, bodies there, drowned in their own blood, with maggots picking on their flesh, laid there, forgotten, but for the creatures who’d feast on him. He looked down, and found a spear driven into his guts, his worms dangling by a thread, and his legs limp. “Ahhhhhhhhhh” he screamed. He dropped into thin air, and landed in a white background with familiar faces around him. Only, their expressions contorted, as if he were speaking a different language, or doing something indecent. Then he heard a voice from far away.
“Georgam Cervane, in the presence of the Zwaligs, do yous renounce fear. Promise for to never let your blood run cold, even when this fair ground freezes over, and the depths of this world are not enough to contain the cowardice in the everyman’s hearts. And in that grave time, will yous be brave enough for to dig deeper, and find it within yoursel to stay strong through it all.” He thought for a moment.
“I’m scared”, he said. The woman laughed.
“You would never be brave if yous wasn’t, for why would yous come here. Now, say the words.” Reassured, he took a deep breath.
“I will.” The twang of the string followed, and the arrow crashed straight into the wall, which now reduced to nothing but an unconvincing picture. Whatever he’d seen had been of his own creation, but it wasn’t what he saw troubled him. It was what he did not see.