Chapter 5: A Disquieting Respite
The staff's crystal orb glowed bright blue over the wounded torso, encasing both Roshan and Marciel in its healing light; its soft, high-pitched hum filled the silence in the room. Marciel observed Roshan's expression intently. The amber eyes stared fixedly at his work as his hands tightly clutched the golden rod in front of him. His face taut with stress and focus, the healer didn't seem to notice Marciel's gaze.
The sun shone gently down upon them from the large windows in Marciel's bedroom, the light eliminating many of the shadows among the room's plain, white walls. It must have been well into the morning. Despite the recent events and the eternity it had taken during the night to calm her mind, Marciel found herself in a deep sleep by the time morning arrived. Her body cried for recovery.
A gentle click and opening of the door announced a visitor. "Captain Torhild, are you faring any better this morning?" Iyar's crisp, polite voice was instantly recognizable, and his pale face and dark purple hair quickly came into view. Marciel squinted at him subtly. His expression seemed less readable than usual; he must have been hiding something particularly unpleasant. Iyar didn't do put on the front very often. The thought left Marciel slightly unsettled.
She gave him a strained smile, the previous day's events still weighing heavily on her mind. "I seem to be recovering nicely," she replied, carefully sidestepping the mage's question. "I am grateful for Roshan's talents."
The healer gave a curt but dutiful nod in response. "I'm happy to be of assistance, Captain Torhild," he added quietly, his concentration remaining on his work. The magic's whirring changed to a lower pitch as its luminescence dimmed. The day's session was nearly complete. "The bones and damaged tissue are healing effectively, and your body is doing an excellent job of recovering on its own. No complications have arisen."
Marciel attentively watched Iyar's expression. He seemed to have been relieved at the good news.
"I still suggest another day's worth of bed rest, at the very least," Roshan continued, moving the staff away as the healing light completely vanished.
Marciel nodded numbly, her eyes trailing to the tome clutched in Iyar's hand. The book appeared to be the same one he had brought in the other day. Marciel studied it closer. The green rune in the center was different. It wasn't a scholastic volume; the book he carried now was a battle tome.
Confusion set in. Why would Iyar be holding a tome for battle? Was there some unmentioned event that she had forgotten about? The mage didn't fight unless called to duty or, on those rare occasions, out of necessity.
"Roshan, we should be heading to the training grounds," Iyar reminded quickly, cutting through Marciel's thoughts. "We would not want to be late." Her perplexity deepened. Silently, the healer lifted the hood of his white robe to conceal his face and made his way to the door. The mage turned to follow.
"Wait!" Marciel interrupted, barely able to utter the command before they rushed out of the room. Both people stopped in their tracks. Reluctantly, Iyar turned back around, a more pained expression on his face now. His veneer was breaking.
"Is there anything else you need, Captain Torhild?" he addressed politely. Marciel ignored the question.
"Why was I not informed of this training session? How can you train without your captain?" she protested, her surprise evident. Roshan's back stiffened noticeably. Iyar's face fell into the slightest grimace before recomposing itself.
"You…" Iyar faltered, his eyes trailing downward to examine the ground beside him. There was a moment of uncomfortable stillness. "You are not our captain anymore," he muttered in haste.
"You have switched companies? I don't understand why the emperor would find that necessary." Iyar flinched blatantly this time.
"No," he corrected rigidly. "Our company has gained a new captain." The room turned stock-still as Marciel slowly came to comprehend the insinuations of Iyar's statement.
A burning sensation began to form at the bottom of her lungs. She quickly took a breath, suddenly realizing that she had forgotten to breathe. The silence stretched; she had to say something. "In that case, you had better hurry," she answered shakily, attempting to maintain a poised exterior. "You should be sure to form a good impression on your new captain." Iyar opened his mouth as if to retaliate but promptly shut it again, giving a deferential bow instead.
"Of course, Captain Torhild," he replied quietly. Roshan opened the door, and they swiftly exited the room.
Marciel exhaled slowly after she heard the soft click of the door closing. She must have still been in shock, she concluded; it was the only explanation for the numbing sensation she felt. The reality of the matter felt so far away, so far beyond her reach. Her mind couldn't make sense of it.
Nevertheless, she couldn't shake off the feeling of disaster. Something in her subconscious screamed endless warnings, but her mind couldn't fully pinpoint the source of anxiety. An unnerving weight settled in the pit of her stomach. With all her might, she tried to keep the myriad of conjecture at bay. For now, it was best to stick to the plain and simple fact: she had lost her company.
Marciel stared emptily out the window, her body motionless.
She was no longer captain. And that was difficult for her to swallow.
An ornate teacup rested in Mithren's steady hands, yet the emperor was not particularly attentive to his tea. Instead, his green eyes lost themselves in a richly colored painting that hung on the wall to his left. The figure of a beautiful, bronze woman stood in the piece's center, her multi-layered robe mirroring the hues of the dawn sky. The large, brilliant sun shone proudly behind her as elongated clouds, their naturally white color tinted a pale yellow from her presence, composed the ground she stood on, dancing and twirling around her elegantly tall form. Even from her lustrous complexion, it was obvious she was not of human descent. Born a goddess; always a goddess - her heavenly beauty and divine spirit could never go ignored.
From the emperor's right, sunshine filled the room, a single pane of glass occupying the space of an entire wall. The resting room had been specifically arranged so that Goddess Saimane would receive the most of her own golden rays. She was, after all, the goddess Dainore honored most.
By definition, Saimane was the goddess of the sun, but since the empire was constantly bathed in her holy light, its citizens related her to her first appearance in the new day. Thus, within the empire, she became widely known as the goddess of dawn.
Demyan put his own teacup back in its saucer on the table and watched Mithren patiently from across the small square table.
"Do you think," Mithren voiced quietly, half-murmuring to himself as he concentrated on the irradiated painting, "that the goddess will always be with us? With the empire?" Demyan raised an eyebrow at the man, caught off-guard by the question.
"With us always?" he asked in clarification. "Well," a fleeting pause, "I'm sure that she will be - so long as we remain in her good graces." Mithren gave a half-hearted smile.
"As vague as always," he noted pointedly. Demyan tossed his hands gently into the air.
"How am I to know when we will lose her favor?" A silence passed over them, but Mithren's anxiety still rippled through the atmosphere, his eyes staring vacantly at the teacup between his hands. The answer hadn't been satisfactory.
"So you do think that a day will come when the empire will no longer be in her good graces?" Mithren probed hesitantly. Demyan gave the emperor a reassuring smile.
"Goddess Saimane approves of Dainore and of your rule. I highly doubt that you will be the empire's downfall. Certainly, we have many more scores of her sunshine." Clearly pleased with the amended response, Mithren relaxed in his chair. With his mind at ease, he quickly moved on to more pressing matters.
"We announced Marciel Torhild's removal and Captain Bolek Harleigh's promotion to all the citizens in the empire this morning," he stated crisply, fingers strumming lightly against the marble table in thought.
"And Captain Harleigh set to work immediately," Demyan commented with a smile. "He and his company are training on the military training grounds as we speak. He holds great potential." The strumming stopped.
"Of surpassing Torhild?"
"Possibly." Mithren paused, taking a moment of contemplation. Finally, he gave a firm nod.
"I think so too." His forest-green eyes sparkled with promise and possibility. "And if that happens, we can only grow stronger."
"Why, of course, your highness," Demyan replied, jestingly reverting to a role of servitude. "We are the empire, after all." Mithren turned to face Saimane's loving rays, a smile at his lips.
"We are the empire," he repeated softly, savoring how the words tasted on his tongue. "And soon Leceltia and Tamuerin…" His voice drifted off, eyes distant in thought. The smile darkened.
"Will be left behind in the dust," Demyan finished with a smirk. A new prospect seemed to overshadow Mithren's earlier thought, and a charmingly innocent, genuine smile of glee broke across the emperor's face as he faced Demyan, opening his mouth to speak.
"My parents would be so proud." A child still looking for approval. There was a part of Demyan that couldn't help but pity the man. Mithren raised his gaze to the ceiling, eyes tracing over the flurry of pastel colors depicting a divine location guarded by only the most respectable of gods. "I know that they are watching from heaven." A comforting silence resulted.
"But," Demyan interrupted, his voice growing serious. "The news of our capture is going to travel quickly. We managed to keep the mission confidential, but we had never intended to withhold the dragon's arrival into Dainore from the public eye." Mithren's smile fell slightly; he knew what was coming. This was the very conversation he had avoided in those long months of waiting along Tamuerin's border. But now they couldn't afford to wait.
"To see such a bold move from the empire…" Demyan trailed off momentarily, arranging his thoughts into coherency. "Neighboring countries are going to become anxious, Mithren," he stated firmly. "And Tamuerin, especially, will not be happy with us. The fact that the dragon's wings are destroyed complicates matters even further. Our citizens will not be pleased if the blood of war taints our hands." Mithren huffed.
"I know, I know," he mumbled crossly under his breath, eyes cast to the table in contemplation. "When my father was ruling, he had sent influential envoys to maintain relations among the countries." And while Mithren had continued his father's efforts, the endeavors had slowly deteriorated in quality and care. The representatives were of lesser status; the meetings had grown more sparse. Even direct conferences with the other leaders had become meager. Dainore's foreign relations, in recent years, had been riding on reputation alone - and that would only last them so long.
"In our situation, envoys would take too much time," Demyan replied casually. "And I doubt the country leaders would appreciate the gesture." Mithren scowled, expressing his displeasure before uttering that distasteful word.
"Then a summit?"
"I would think so."
"Here." Mithren's eyes narrowed in skepticism.
"Here?" he repeated questionably. Demyan nodded, the growing traces of a grin at his lips.
"Yes, it would show our sincere apologies for any misconceptions the empire might be conveying. Would you not find this the ideal location as well?" There was a pause. Mithren, as Demyan quickly learned, disliked meetings of any type. Perhaps he needed to lighten the mood. "You would not even have to leave your royal throne, your highness," he stated jovially, an amused smile following his words.
Mithren gave a laugh but no response. And no answer would come. Demyan sighed, bowing his head in defeat.
"Just think about it then, would you? I will ask again at the end of the day. We need to act quickly to avoid potential hostilities." He stood from his seat. "Pardon me, Mithren," he announced smoothly, proceeding to the door without even a glance behind him, "but I have some matters to attend to. I will join you for lunch in a couple hours." Not allowing the emperor the time to respond, Demyan left the room, the weighty, ornate door closing on Mithren's seated form.
The emperor could enjoy Saimane's golden rays.
Demyan had work to do.
Author's Note: So, it's not Monday, and it's definitely not two weeks since my last update. I officially fail at writing schedules. In my defense, life has been really crazy and the most recent chapter I just finished writing is my longest chapter so far.
Probably my largest disappointment with this chapter is its length - I think this is the shortest I've written and, hopefully, will ever write for this story. But, unfortunately, nothing else could have really happened in this chapter; the events are major, but they're quick. The next few chapters should make up for this.
Again, I'm still trying very hard with the dialogue, so if you have any suggestions, please include them in a review, along with any other commentary and critique you may have. :) It'll only take a few minutes, and the button is conveniently big for you to easily find and push!
I realize that I'm, like, the slowest writer in the history of the world, so thank you all for following along with my extremely belated updates. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and look forward to the next.