Friday, April 12, 2013

Eriar: The End of an Age Part 2

Note: If you have missed the first part of this story, you can go to the "Stories of the Month" tab and find it there, or scroll down below this post. :0)
Set in Motion
Eoryn carefully brought the ACVOT down, porting it in one of the allotted spaces at the Inrelion. He and Finiah had traveled for the past two days to reach this Inrelion, the one they were to raise an army from.
“Ah, we are here,” Finiah said as the two of them climbed out of the ACVOT. “Good thing too, for you must be happy to have your feet back on the ground.”
“The flying does not bother me; it’s the height,” Eoryn replied defensively.  
Finiah laughed. “I am afraid it is a curse you will have to live with, my acrophobic friend, for I doubt not that we could have made better time on the higher sky-ways instead of the paltry little low-roads you chose.”
“At least I was not the one who loaded down the ACVOT with Double Blades,” Eoryn retorted in a half-grumpy way. “Do you really think that the Kinrin we summon from here will be unarmed? You could outfit a small army with the weapons you have brought.”
Finiah grinned. “You know how much my father and I enjoy our blacksmithing, and regardless, you never can tell. We might have need of those weapons. But come, we have work to do.”
Eoryn nodded, and the two friends walked towards the Inrelion, an imposing looking building with a large, overhanging roof. A steward, clothed in white, stood at its entrance. “Welcome,” he said as they approached. “You have come late; the lessons have already started.”
 “We thank you for your welcome.” Eoryn stopped before the steward. “We have come for other business then the lessons, though. We ask to be allowed to enter immediately.”
The steward’s almost uncannily light eyes flickered. “You are armed, friends, with a weapon that is forbidden inside the Inrelion. You must leave those behind if you wish to enter.”
Finiah stepped forward. “Oh? When has the Double Blade, the primary weapon of the Kinrin, been forbidden in the Inrelions of this land? We must remain armed.”
The steward shook his head. “It is required. I will not allow you to enter armed.” With these last words, the man drew forward a long blade and held it erect. It was not a Double Blade.
Eoryn caught Finiah’s eye, and they walked back to their ACVOT. A minute later they followed the steward into the Inrelion, their Double Blades concealed under their cloaks. “I would not enter anywhere without a Double Blade at my side,” Eoryn whispered in Finiah’s ear.
The steward led them into a large room. The room was circular, and a half ring of inclined rows of seats were built into the walls. A large platform stood before these rows with the trainer standing upon it, teaching his pupils in the art of weaponry.
“Sir,” the steward said, walking to the trainer, who was in the middle of a long lecture. “These two young Kinrin have come with a message they say is urgent. They requested an audience with you and your pupils.”
The teacher paused his lecture, his hands frozen in the middle of a gesture, and turned towards the steward and the two behind him. He frowned. “It had better be urgent, or you two will find the punishment for interrupting my class very discomforting.”
The steward dismissed himself, and the teacher took a step towards Eoryn and Finiah, staring at them all the while. His stare made both of the young Kinrin feel uncomfortable. “What is the message?” he asked, his voice emotionless.
“Sir, I have here a full order from the Elders of Srinmoor to release from this Inrelion the Kinrin under your tutelage. We are in a time of war, and we must act accordingly. My friend and I are to lead these Kinrin to the Crystal City, which is believed to be under siege.”
The trainer’s frown returned, and he snatched the paper Eoryn held out. His eyes ran over the orders, but he did not give an instant reply. He turned from Eoryn, pacing back and forth over the platform. Finally he spoke, but he was turned towards his students. “My pupils, do you remember the legends I have taught you of the Crystal City?”
“Yes, Master.” This reply was said simultaneously by all the Kinrin assembled in rows around the platform. Their voices were all monotone and as emotionless as their trainer’s voice.
 “Then you will remember well the battles our people have fought before the walls of that city, all the lives we have lost defending it. Even in my age, during the Twelve Year War, we shed thousands of lives protecting the Crystal City. But why? What has this city given us in return for the tremendous amount of lives we have shed on its behalf? Nothing. Indeed, the Crystal City is essentially worthless to us—yet we still give it our aid. I would suggest that it is perhaps time to break loose from the pattern of our ancestors. Why waste more lives defending this city that it worthless to us? What do we care if it falls?”
“We are commanded by our Creator to defend the Crystal City!” Finiah exclaimed, taking a step towards the trainer. “How dare you suggest this mutiny!”
  “Is it mutiny . . . or is it sense?” The trainer turned towards Finiah, and his dark eyes flashed for an instant. A sneer showed on his face. “What say you, students?” The man paused to let his student’s answer.
“It is sense, Master,” came the instant reply.
“Then it would appear as if you and your message have no business here. My steward will show you to the door.” 
“No!” Eoryn stepped to the edge of the platform. “My peers, what are you doing? Do you wish to align yourself with the darkness? Please, don’t stoop to that! Come with us, fight for the light as you were created to do!”
The trainer laughed. “Actually, there is sense in what you say,” he mockingly complimented to Eoryn. “Is there anyone here who would still wish to throw away their life in the tradition of their ancestors? You have my full blessing to accompany these fools if so. Let my class be weeded of any of you who would claim a Double Blade as their weapon.”
There was silence, but then one of the students stood up, followed by another. A total of five students walked down their rows and onto the platform, standing beside Finiah. Three were male, while the other two were female.
The trainer glared at them. “Ah, I knew there were still some fools among our ranks. I hope your deaths come quickly.”
“How dare you!” Eoryn exclaimed. He pulled open his cloak and unsheathed his Double Blade, holding it before him at the trainer.
For an instant the malicious man who stood on the other end of the weapon looked startled, but he quickly gained back his composure. “Students,” he said evenly, “these Kinrin are not welcome here. Show them to the door.”
"Yes, Master.” The students rose to their feet as one unit, and a metallic sound filled the room as a hundred blades were unsheathed. The weapons the students held were not Double Blades; they were single bladed and a dark gray color. The student Kinrin advanced upon the small group.
Finiah also drew his Double Blade, and he and Eoryn flanked the five defenseless students as they quickly retreated from the room. The last thing Eoryn saw in that room was the sneer on the trainer’s face as he watched his students stream past him.
 Once outside, Eoryn and Finiah sheathed their weapons and ran towards their ACVOT. “Do any of you have a vehicle capable of flight?” Eoryn asked the five students as they ran.  
“I do,” one of the younger male students said.
“Good. I can bear two of you in my ACVOT while the other three of you can ride in yours!”
A male and female Kinrin jumped into Eoryn’s ACVOT with Finiah, and the other three boarded a vehicle beside them. The two ACVOTs roared to life, and the small group quickly took off into the sky, leaving the Inrelion behind.
     "Well, that went well," Finiah commented to Eoryn as they converged into one of the sky-ways populated with ACVOTS. "It was different than expected, for sure. At least we got out of there."
     Eoryn did not answer, and Finiah turned and introduced himself and his friend to the two students that rode with them.
“Hello, Finiah and Eoryn,” the male student said evenly after the introduction. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Lucas.” He shook hands with Finiah, and Eoryn acknowledged him with a nod.
“And your name?” Finiah said to the female Kinrin, who hadn’t said a word since entering the ACVOT.
“Alena,” she said simply, almost timidly.
Finiah also shook hands with Alena, and Eoryn’s glanced at her as he again gave a nod of acknowledgement. Her light green eyes met with his for an instant, her brown hair blowing across her face. She was shy, Eoryn could instantly tell that, but there was also something else, a sort of calmness to her.
Lucas broke into his thoughts. “Eoryn, where are you taking us and our friends following behind?”
“We are headed for Erailindor, a city I hope to reach before sunset.  From there we will travel to the coast of the Divide, where I hope to find a sufficient ship to bear us to Etrinmoor.”
Lucas ran a hand through his dark hair. “Erailindor, I thought we might be headed there. A word of warning: you will not find the city all that hospitable, if at all. I have been there. The Decay has struck Erailindor, and the Light Tower shines no more.”
“Our Lord has removed the light from that city’s Light Tower?” Finiah asked quietly. “It is really that bad?”
Lucas shrugged. “I would only venture to say that it has grown inhospitable to those who openly follow the Creator. We should be safe enough, if we keep our mouths shut and don’t go around waving Double Blades.”
Eoryn nodded. “We will be careful.”
The city of Erailindor appeared over the horizon that late afternoon, and the two ACVOTs swooped down towards it. Many towers rose from the city, the tallest of which was the Light Tower. Every city loyal to the Creator had one of these towers, the citizens building them when their cities were first established, but it was the Creator who gave the light to each of these towers. The light that was blessed to these citizens was beautiful and good, but when the citizens turned from the ways of their Creator, it was removed, replaced by the natural darkness. That was what had befallen Erailindor. The citizens had forgotten their Creator, and he had removed the light from their city. Without the light, Erailindor looked bleak, even in the late-afternoon sun.
Eoryn ported his ACVOT in one of the streets and stepped out, looking with wonder at the tall buildings reaching far over his head. “This was once a great city,” he commented to Finiah.
Eoryn’s friend also looked around. “It once was, but I will be glad to move on. This city unnerves me.”
 “We are only staying here for the night,” Eoryn reassured.
The other ACVOT landed besides them, and the three other Kinrin stepped out. As they approached, Eoryn noticed how similar the two male Kinrin were. They looked to be almost exactly the same height and had the same facial features and reddish-brown hair; the only difference that Eoryn could tell was the color of their eyes, as one had brown eyes while the other had gray eyes.
The other female Kinrin approached Eoryn’s group ahead of the two almost identical males. She had blonde hair cut so that it hung above her shoulders, and as she spoke to him, Eoryn noticed how her upturned nose added to her overbearing presence. She was an almost exact opposite to Alena in every way. “Why did you not take a higher sky-way?” she asked almost haughtily. “Did you think a band of Heirum would attack us on the higher ways, or are you afraid of heights or something?”
“Actually, that is pretty close to the truth, though my friend will deny it,” Finiah said for Eoryn.
The girl laughed, and Eoryn blushed and turned away. As he turned, he saw one of the nearly identical male Kinrin strapping a sheath to his hip. Eager to change the subject, he said, “I see you, at least, have a Double Blade.” Eoryn stepped to the back of his ACVOT and opened a compartment, revealing the stash of Double Blades Finiah had stored there. “My friend has burdened my ACVOT down with Double Blades, so if any of you are unarmed, I would recommend you take one.”
Alena was the first to respond. “I would like one.”
Eoryn handed her a Double Blade, and she seemed to almost eagerly take it from his hands. “Thank you,” she said, and her green eyes met with Eoryn’s for another brief second before she started strapping the weapon to her side.
 The other girl also stepped forward and received a Double Blade. “I would thank you,” she nodded at Eoryn, “but seeing as I don’t know your name, that might be kind of hard.”
“I’m sorry,” Eoryn said quickly. “Introductions should have been made. My name is Eoryn, and this is my friend Finiah.”
“I’m Nayele.”  The girl, as if she had lost interest in the introductions, didn’t even look up from the Double Blade she was attaching to her belt.
The male Kinrin who had already strapped a Double Blade to his side stepped forward and shook Eoryn and Finiah’s hands. As he did, Eoryn noticed he was the one with the brown eyes. “As far as the introductions go, my name is Jalen. I am already armed, as you know, but my brother, Kiran, could use a Double Blade. He keeps forgetting to bring his.”
“Are you twins?” Finiah asked, looking from brother to brother.
The other identical sibling laughed. “No, I am two years younger than Jalen, but we get asked that a lot, much to my brother’s consternation. I was blessed by the Creator with an early growth spurt. ” Kiran armed himself with one of the Double Blades.
Finiah turned to Lucas, the last of the Kinrin to not speak up. “Do you need a Double Blade?”
Lucas shook his head and pointed to a sheath at his side. “No, I am armed.” He said this with a note of finality in his voice.
All of them armed, the Kinrin started down the street to look for a lodging place. The streets of Erailindor were almost empty, hardly any other life passing to and fro, and the footfalls of the small group echoed between the bases of the tall towers on either side of them. This added to the almost eerie feeling in the dim city. It was not hard to guess at why the streets were nearly deserted and ACVOTs were needed for transportation in them, for the streets were sunken and cracked. The pavement overlapped itself here and there, forming uneven steps, and at other places it seemed loose and ready to crumble. The Decay had indeed ravaged the city.
The noise came faintly at first in the nearly silent street, but it grew louder. Thud . . . thud . . . thud.  It echoed in the street.
Finiah stopped and looked at Eoryn. “The noise.”
Eoryn nodded. “It is coming from the ground again. I don’t like it.”
“And you should not,” Lucas said evenly. “In fact, you should fear this noise. You have heard it before?”
“Yes, in my father’s fields,” Eoryn replied. “It came with the Decay.”
Lucas stooped by one of the cracks in the ground and listened to the muffled noise. “It did not come with the Decay; it caused the Decay,” he said quietly. “The sound you hear is that of a ROIbot undermining the ground beneath our feet.”
“A ROIbot, a mechanism built to improve our society? Are you joking?” Nayele said, laughing. “ROIbots are machines, not the cause of something the whole Kinrin race fears.” 
“But they didn’t improve our society, did they? You know that full well,” Lucas replied, his voice elevated just a little above his usual tone. “Something possessed them; they rebelled, and they disappeared. Where did they go? Did they just vanish, Nayele, leaving no trace of their presence behind? No, they disappeared beneath the surface of this earth, and even now, though they were created for good, they are destroying this world.”
Nayele crossed her arms and turned away, obviously without an answer but not excepting Lucas’s logic. Eoryn spoke, “How do you know? The Elders never told us this.”
Lucas stood from his stooping position. “I have ways of procuring information.”
“But if the ROIbots are still living, why have our ancestors not tried to exterminate them and stop the Decay?”
“Because perhaps some things are better left undisturbed,” Lucas said, looking straight back into Eoryn’s eyes. “When they rebelled, the ROIbots were fierce opponents to even the bravest warriors, and when they disappeared below the earth, most thought that they were better left that way, lest any more lives be lost fighting them. Fearing that the Kinrin race in itself is too weak to defeat the ROIbots, this secret has since been kept by the Elders from all loyal Kinrin to keep another war from breaking out.”
Finiah shook his head. “I will not ask why you have shared this guarded secret with us, Lucas, or why you even know of this, though indeed I am curious to know both answers. For now, let us move on. ROIbots below our feet or not, we still have to find lodging.”
The other Kinrin seemed glad to move on, and the group again started down the uneven street. Before long, they found a building that seemed to serve as an inn. They made towards it. It was then, as they were crossing the street, that with a sudden cry Nayele tripped and fell backwards onto Jalen. The two of them fell back into the middle of the street, and with a loud crumbling noise the ground under them began to give way. Jalen practically threw Nayele off of him and across the street as she squashed him into the crumbling pavement, more as an act of self-preservation than that of valor. Nayele landed with a thud on a relatively even patch of street and scrambled to her feet, running away from the collapsing section behind her. The rest of the Kinrin stood frozen in shock.
Jalen slipped off the patch of concrete as it tilted inward and fell into the hole appearing before him. There was a cry next to Eoryn, and a flash flew forward to the edge of the hole. It was Kiran, and he managed to grab his brother’s left wrist, the last thing showing above ground. This sudden movement dislodged the ground under his feet, and Kiran also started slipping into the depression.
“Help me!” he shouted desperately.
Lucas and Eoryn leaped forward, Finiah right behind. Grabbing hold of the boy’s shirt, the three of them managed to haul Kiran, and then Jalen, out of the gap.
Once safely on the side of the Decay-ridden street, Jalen let out a breath of air, almost a gasp, and flopped down flat on the pavement. Breathing heavily, he couldn’t speak at first, but finally he said, “Thank you, brother. Without you, I would be at wherever the bottom is in that hole. And I thank the three of you, as well.” He nodded at the other male Kinrin.
Kiran spoke almost tenderly to his big brother, “Are you going to be okay?”
Jalen rose stiffly to his feet.  “Let’s just get in that inn.”
The bedraggled group headed towards the door to the inn, all but one of them. Finiah turned to Eoryn, who stood still at the edge of the street. “Eoryn, are you coming?”
Eoryn didn’t answer at first. He was looking up at the Light Tower reaching above the rest of the dim city. “No, go ahead. I will be in in a few minutes.”
Eoryn walked up one last flight of stairs. Before him a circular platform opened out. He had reached his destination at last after a long climb. He had climbed to the highest level of the Light Tower. 
The open platform he walked out on circled the smooth, cylinder-like tower, which ended some twenty feet above in what looked almost like a transparent bowl. The bowl was where the light of the Creator should have been, but it was now empty, the only color shining through it coming from the last rays of sunlight. Erailindor stretched out below.
Eoryn willed himself to the edge of the platform, forcing away the dizziness he felt at how high he was. Grabbing hold of the railing to steady himself, he looked down at the city. It lay in shadow, the sun blocked from touching the city as it slipped under the western horizon. Only the upper third of the tallest towers still gleamed with sunlight. Dusk was on the way.
Eoryn sighed and turned gladly from the edge, realizing as he did that his hands were sweaty. He wiped them on the side of his cloak and looked up at the empty glass bowl above him. A feeling of loneliness washed over him. “My Creator,” he said out loud, “I am sorry.” It was all Eoryn could say at first. ”This city has turned from you, and as one of their race, I mourn for their disobedience. Without your light, this city is crumbling.” Eoryn paused, still looking up at the top of the tower. “Lord, what am I to do? I have followed the leading of the Elders as I know you want me to, but I am not ready. I cannot lead the Kinrin with me into battle; I am still too young.  Even if I could lead, the Kinrin with me are too few to make a difference. We are young and outnumbered, and I feel as if we will be overwhelmed in the defense of your city. I am scared.”
Peace, my son, you are not overwhelmed, for I will be with you.” The voice that came to Eoryn was firm, yet very gentle.
Eoryn dropped to his knees. “My lord, I know that is true, and I thank you. Please, fight for me, for I am weak.”
Eoryn,” the voice replied, “I have created you to do wonderful things. You must fight your battles, but I will be with you, no matter what. Even now, stand strong in me, for your first battle is near. The enemy will test you.
A chill ran up Eoryn’s spine. “When?”
There was no answer, only a thought that nagged at Eoryn’s mind. Look to the east. This thought persisted, and finally he opened his eyes and rose to his feet. His eyes turned to the east, but he didn’t see anything suspicious. He scanned the horizon. Nothing.
Eoryn shook his head, but as he did, something caught his attention. Out of the corner of his eye, it seemed to him as if the ground to the east of the city had moved. His eyes narrowed as he looked closer at the spot. In the plains past the outskirts of Erailindor, the ground was indeed moving. It crumbled and shifted, and large figures appeared, shaking the dislodged dirt off them. Even from the distance, Eoryn could tell they were huge forms, and they were making for the city. Though he had never seen one, Eoryn knew what they were. ROIbots.
Well, that's all for now, folks. Look next Tuesday for the next part. Can anyone tell me the verse that inspired the analogy of the Light Towers? Also, do I need to go back to spacing each paragraph, or do you like reading it like this?"

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