Chapter has been cut down about 2000 words is still undergoing some editing but the events now match up with the previous chapter revisions.
Passage to Ithorah
Celebrations: Day I
Roeve pulled her goggles over her head, letting them hang around her neck. She braided her hair over her shoulder like she usually did, tying it off with a silver ribbon. Her eyes searched the dresser top, finding the metal band and pulling it over her forehead, pushing her shorter hair back and away from her face.
Roeve walked over to her wardrobe cabinet, sifting through the clothing in no hurry. She eyed a forest green fitted tunic for a moment before grabbing it and pulling it over her head along with a pair of beige shorts as the day would be hot. It was always hot in the city.
From her window, Roeve had the view of the street leading to the Arena, and it was bustling. Colorful banners strung in the air over the streets, some even hanging over the buildings themselves. The stones that made up the walkways lining the streets were painted freshly, all different colors as well. It was done by the children as was tradition every coming ceremony. It would fade in a few weeks time. There were also copious amounts of guards out today which marked the first day of the three day Celebrations. A section of guards formed a slight wall in front of the Arena, disallowing anyone to think about entering. The large building would not be opened until the third day.
But Roeve looked away once her tattered, hide boots were buckled and she clipped a few mismatched bracelets on both her wrists.
She stood and glanced around her quiet room, her sights landing on a small ceramic bowl that rested on her bed stand. She eyed the silver contents, taking her bottom lip between her teeth as she contemplated, then gave a small, resigned huff and reached over, grabbing a handful of the silver coins and stuffing them in her pocket before she changed her mind.
Roeve made her way out into the hallway, closed her door with a quiet click and walked over to the stairs, tapping down quickly with a bounce in her step into the foyer of the guild. Just as her hand closed on the curved, metal handle of the guild door, someone cleared their throat behind her.
She glanced back, seeing Jausep leaning against the doorway to his office with crossed arms.
"Going out already?" he asked. His relaxed features and calm green eyes told her he was in a good mood today. Most likely because of the stress he dealt with was pushed on someone else's shoulders for the day while he took a break from his duties as guild leader.
"Yeah, might as well." She shrugged a shoulder.
Jausep stared at her before glancing at the stairs that led to the commons above. "No Zeke?"
Roe smiled to herself, Zeke had asked her to go with him to the Celebrations the previous night. They all knew that she stopped attending the event some years ago. But she surprised them by saying she would, for the first day, and the last. Not the second day. She didn't care for the second day of the ceremonies.
"He left already... a while ago." Roeve looked up at him, her lips twitching to still her smile. "I was too slow for him apparently."
Jausep's brow lifted, amused. "He left you?"
"It's alright, I think he wanted to go to the bar first anyway. Seeing as how I have no intention of going there on my day off, it's better this way."
Jausep smirked, looked his shoulder for a brief second into his office, before turning his sight back to Roeve. She waited patiently for him to speak again.
"Come with me to check up on how the Arena is setting up, after we can walk around the streets and see the festivities," he said as he pushed himself from the door frame and crossed the foyer into another archway that led to the Arena.
Roeve's hand stayed on the handle, his words gave her pause. "You... want me to go with you?"
"That's what I was hinting at, yes."
She eyed him for a moment, and spoke again with hesitance, "Don't you have someone else to... spend your time with?"
Jausep surveyed her, making her fidget under his gaze, then smiled his smug smile. "I have many people who I can spend my time with. Though, perhaps today I desire more... calmin' company. When's the last time we went to the Celebrations together?"
It was too bad he wasn't so relaxed everyday, she mused. He could be a very grating person to be around. But a few times he'd show a different side like he was now. When he was stressed, he took it out on everyone, especially those close to him. But when he was in a good mood, when the pressure of his title and role lessened some, he was actually good company. Unfortunately those instances were becoming rare.
Roeve sighed as she dropped her hand from the door handle. "The last time we went was when Minep forced you to go with me. That was seven years ago."
He raised a surprised brow then rubbed the back of his neck. "Huh... that long?" She nodded. "I remember that..." He gave a dramatic shiver, causing her to smile. "Minep's not pretty when she's pissed. So... you goin' with me, or what?"
When she hesitated to give an answer he added quietly, "Probably best if you don't go alone. Not when this is takin' place so close to the Empyrean District."
The knowing look he gave her had Roeve nodding reluctantly. "Probably best..." she agreed, her voice soft and far away. Her hand went to touch the pendant at her neck out of habit. She held it for a few seconds before tucking it under her tunic.
Jausep rubbed his neck again. The air in the foyer changed with the topic shift, thickened. Roeve shook her head, moving away from her thoughts and said seriously, "But if you plan on going into the bar, I'm leaving you and going off on my own."
Jausep gave a side smile. "Don't worry, I have no intention of goin' in there either. I'm not in the mood to be bombarded today." He tilted his head, gesturing for her to begin walking with him as they were to make their way into the Arena.
She glanced sidelong at him while they walked through the staff halls. "Your fans will be devastated, I'm sure."
His lips curved upward at the corners. "How unfortunate."
She huffed a small laugh as she shook her head lightly.
Zaeden laid flat on his back atop his bed, staring at the ceiling with his hands tucked under his head. His mind constantly returned to the conversation he had with that boy Kole in the bar.
He swore his heart stopped when he listened to the boy. He knew that girl looked familiar. But even if Zaeden placed her face on his own, he'd still doubt she was who he thought she looked like. It just wasn't possible.
Roeve Thelle, she called herself. He never would have guessed. Gloomy teal eyes, a pair he thought he'd never see again, a pair he hadn't seen in twelve years. Though, they weren't the same as before. Before they were innocent and wide with wonder, happy and childlike. Now, they were sad, they were hardened, they were not innocent, they were different, a different person, a different soul. But they were hers, older, but hers. She was a huntress, the pretty girl Davette had said, part of Jausep's Guild. That surprised him greatly; what she had become.
For the first time in years he felt a sadness creep up into him, and he immediately shot the feeling away. One thing was for certain, he had a lot of thinking to do and no matter how much Ryne wanted to leave the city. Zaeden wasn't going anywhere until he figured some things out.
He shook his head clear, and moved off of the bed. He dressed slowly, in a lazy outfit consisting of a loose tunic and trousers. He pulled on his black boots. He paused with he remembered something and grabbed the small covered basket that was sitting on top his dresser before making his way out of his room and into the corridor, heading down a few more to land in the cockpit.
Ryne was there already, his feet propped up on the co-pilot's chair as he held a mug of tea in his hands. His steely eyes were gazing out of the window, watching the ships and people go about their business. The docks were packed full with ships of all sizes. Many gazes traveled to the ship the two friends were occupying, and Zaeden knew Ryne's pride was swelling because of it. He couldn't deny that the ship was probably an wondrous sight to those who hadn't seen an Aeroship built for speed, since cargo was what went through Zaethius mostly.
Zaeden kicked Ryne's feet off of his chair and plopped down with a sigh. He glanced at his friend, taking in his features.
His grey eyes were brighter today, his scowl wasn't so deep. His posture seemed better too, not so stiff as it usually was when he was in pain. His features were relaxed, almost lazy, causing Zaeden to smirk.
"Feelin' better, Rynie boy?" he teased.
Ryne rolled his eyes as he glanced at him. The pilot's gaze was alert and he looked healthy. "Yes."
Zaeden sighed again. Of course he was feeling better, after sucking down that vial he was bound to feel better. But it wouldn't last long and in the end, drinking that stuff wasn't worth it at all in Zaeden's opinion. It wasn't worth the risk.
But Ryne never liked to hear it.
"What's that?" Ryne's deep, gruff voice bought him out of his thoughts.
"What?... oh this." Zaeden placed the basket on his knees and pulled the cloth of to uncover the items inside. "Went to a Healer yesterda–"
"Zaeden..." Ryne growled, stopping when Zaeden held up a hand.
"Yeah, yeah, don't start. I just told her about the aches and pains. I didn't say anything else other than that."
Ryne shook his head, his scowl deepening, but he remained silent.
Zaeden held up a vial of green potion. "You obviously know what this is. There are six of these little buggers."
"They don't work," Ryne grated out.
"She thinks it could be because you take too many, space them out and they might."
Zaeden ignored him as he picked up the three larger bottles. "She said this one's to be had before you sleep." He shook the blue potion. "And this fella is to be taken lightly." He pointed out the golden potion. "It's different than any others I've seen you take."
Ryne shrugged, unimpressed, and turned his attention back to the cockpit window. "Doesn't matter. It's not going to work."
"You don't know that," Zaeden pointed out.
"I do know that," Ryne snapped at him, his grey eyes flashing to a dark silver, "nothing works, Zaeden, nothing ever works. There is no potion that will make it better. The only thing that helps is–"
"You can't keep taking that, Ryne!" Zaeden argued. "It can kill you."
"Good," Ryne mumbled, rubbing his thumbs against his temples in deep circles.
Zaeden rolled his eyes at Ryne's dramatics, they had been having the argument for years. Ryne never let up, and Zaeden never stopped bugging him about his condition. He only wanted to help, they were friends of the best kind. Though, their personalities differed greatly, they had been through enough to stick together like brothers. Their home was the ship and the sky was their way. How anyone other than Zaeden could be Ryne's friend was beyond him, the other male was a stiff, a grouch, a jerk, and a broody son of a bitch to top it off. All Ryne did was brood!
He also knew Ryne hadn't always been that way. From the few tales the pilot would slip of his past, Zaeden gathered that the pilot had been much like him before. But, that was before the Uprising that had occurred in Zaethius twelve years ago. The attack that changed everything and most everyone. Even Zaeden, who at the time was not even a dweller of Zaethius. He was just a twelve year old boy who didn't fully understand what an Uprising was. He learned quick though, after his mother cried her heart out for the ones lost, and his father buried himself in his work to avoid dealing with it. He learned, and he suffered too.
A lot of things changed, and one glance at the pilot to his right was all it took to see that the effects of the Uprising were still constant, still continuously suffered. Ryne suffered everyday, all the time, and it wasn't just physical. The man had lost much the night of the attack. A piece of him, half of him to be exact really, and he never learned how to cope with it.
So Ryne tended to brood. All the time, and Zaeden was used to it.
He hummed as he sank into the backrest of his chair. He did wish that his friend wasn't such a downer, it made his optimism kind of pointless.
"Not good, Ryne, not good," Zaeden stressed before he spinned around in his chair and plastered on a smile. "Let's not start the day off with you pining for death. Alright, mate?"
He got no response from him, and he spun in the chair for a few moments while he contemplated.
"Wanna go down and get somethin' to eat? I bet there are tons of stalls out already as day one of Zaethius Celebrations begins."
Zaeden threw his hands in the air in frustration. "You don't have to actually enjoy yourself down there, it's just to get some bloody food. You know there's bound to be something good. They go all out, mate."
"I'm not leaving the ship," Ryne said blankly, not even sparing Zaeden a glance as he held his cup of tea on his thigh.
Zaeden frowned as he stood. "Fine, sulk here then. I met some people yesterday who'd love to join me for the festivities."
Zaeden rolled his eyes with a frustrated huff and made his way out of the cockpit and back to his cabin. He changed again into a more presentable outfit after sifting through his clothes for a few minutes. After he had tugged back on his boots, he slipped a blade in a strap hidden behind his calf.
He knelt by a chest at the foot of his bed, unlocking it with a key he kept around his neck at all times. He shoved the lid open, the hinges groaned as he did so, and reached into the chest. He brought out a smaller, strong box and unlocked it as well, taking out a pouch of coins. After closing the chest and locking it, he tied the pouch to his belt, checked his face in a mirror above his dresser, and strode into the corridors.
He could see Ryne's feet propped back up on the co-pilot's chair, but the man himself was blocked by the back of his seat. Zaeden leaned up against the archway to the bridge and spoke.
"Sure you won't come, mate? S'jus' food..."
"I'm not leaving the ship," Ryne's deep voice drifted over to him.
Zaeden shook his head in disappointment. "Suit yourself then. I'm off."
The pilot gave him no response, so Zaeden left the ship quietly and weaved his way for the stairs that led the to city below, The Bar his destination.
Roeve was found walking in the crowded streets, pausing now and then to wait for Jausep as he was halted by the city people. They would call to him, some gushing their awe of the guild leader and Arena title holder. Some praising him, others criticizing, and a few openly flirting. He would cast apologetic glances at Roeve who stood off to the side silently, but she knew they were only for her benefit. He adored the attention, loved it, even though he denied it.
Since Jausep basically order her to, she had her goggles on, giving everything a tinge of a blue hue. They were no longer in the Lowest District and had moved up into the Central District where the true ceremonies would be taking place tomorrow. Roeve had been taught to avoid all the sectors higher than the Market District, it was unsafe, for her at least, which was why she wore the goggles.
Central District was for the middle class and the biggest district in the city. Because of that it had the most room for the ceremonies, with a massive square, bordered by tall buildings of sandy colored stone and white decorative moldings. The windows, square with rounded tops, were clean, shining brilliantly in the sun, and below them garden boxes held vibrant plants and flowers, bringing much color to the district. The sector was well cared for and groomed. A big difference than the dusty Lowest District. It was a nice sight.
Temporary stalls lined the open square, advertising foods, and crafts, and clothing. One would expect to see a weapons seller taking advantage of the festivities and gathering but weapons were forbidden to be present during the ceremonies.
The Guard was cautious.
The place was lively. Loud music played by a band on a stone platform near the center were the people danced and laughed in the enormous square, thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was one of the few times the classes mixed together freely. A coming together to celebrate the city itself and how it still stood strong even after the attack twelve years ago.
Roeve's eyes slid over toward the guild leader once more. He seemed to be in deep conversation with two men, who, if she had to guess by the look on Jausep's reddening face, were giving their opinion on the Arena and it probably wasn't a good one.
She wandered away a couple of steps as she waited, eyeing the stalls. Her fingers spun the bracelets on her wrist idly as she continued further into the square. She weaved through the people, and stuck closer to the walls of the surrounding buildings.
It was when her eyes had landed on a large canvas did she stop.
There were many canvases hanging from all sorts of buildings. In the Lowest District most of those held pictures of the Guild, or Arena, and even Jausep. But further into the city, towards the Central District, the canvas pictures turned into pictures of the city itself and of prominent figures. People of the Court mostly, though now, with the tomorrow's Ceremonies, many of them held an image of a man who was most likely going to be named the city's new Archon.
She didn't care for who he was and she'd only heard his name a couple of times. It mattered little, he'd be out of the position within the year most like. The city couldn't keep an Archon, not since the attack. The pressure got to them, and she was sure the death threats did even more so. So for now, the city was run by the Court, which had enough fire under them as it was.
But, the ceremonies, traditionally, were to honor the fallen. To have a day of remembrance for those who were lost that night of the Uprising.
It was a three day celebration. The first, a day of enjoyment and festivities. The second, the Naming Celebration and also the day to remember. The third, because of popular demand, was for a grand show in the Arena to end it all.
Roeve never really liked the second day.
Her eyes drifted over the canvas that held her attention. It was big, the length of the building in which it rested on. It was a portrait of a family who had perished in the attack. Of a tall, imposing man who stood strong in the center, his chin tilted up, looking down at those who passed by. His white armor was etched with silver intricate designs, and shined like a moonstone did in the light. His expression was haughty and aristocratic, stern, hard, like marble, with two piercing aqua eyes that looked colder than ice.
That man, Rodane Knavoth, was the city's last notable Archon. He held the title for eight years before the attack happened.
The next figure in the portrait was a woman, and she sat in a chair just in front of him, her hands clasped in her lap. Rodane stood with his hand gripped over the winged back of the chair. The woman, Nanea Knavoth, his wife, held deep blue intelligent eyes, she was lovely to behold. Her figure was clothed in a white dress that gave off a brilliant sheen, with a golden sheer scarf wrapped loosely around her neck. Her dark maroon hair hung in long curls over her shoulders, held back by a metal head-piece that matched her dress. Her features were serene, the complete opposite of the man standing behind her. Her eyes were kind, and her gentle lips curved into the smallest of smiles. The woman was a dreamlike figure, and she was dead.
Roeve's eyes then moved to the last occupant in the portrait, a child.
A girl, who stood beside the chair, her hands clasped together on the arm rest. Her dress was similar to her mother's with small alterations. The child was of eight, and her face was of youthful jubilance, with eyes like her father's, but dulled, calmed by her mother's shape. Her head was tilted in a pose that spoke of elegance, most definitely taught as soon as she began walking. Her wavy hair, the color of her mother's, pulled back by two golden clips just above her ears. Her lips were pulled in a smile, but like her mother's, it was only a slight one. Had their smiles been bigger, it would make the portrait unbalanced due to the man's almost scowl.
Aevis Knavoth. Daughter of the last Archon, and presumed to be dead, for the body had never been found.
The mystery of what happened to the girl was a long standing topic many of the civilians spoke of from time to time. Stories were created, dramatic tales of her life after the attack. She escaped. She was captured. She was imprisoned. She was saved by a handsome hero. Children's tales to entertain the young ones nowadays.
Sometimes even Roeve found herself wondering where that elegant child in the portrait with the gleam of mirth dancing in her eyes had gone.
Zaeden thanked the vendor, placing a few Ribbys onto the stall surface and grabbed the wrapped meal he'd bought. He walked around the Central Square, dodging people who went this way and that. As he walked he began unwrapping his meal; a fresh seasoned slice of bread filled with some roasted poultry. He chewed while walking, watching the people enjoy the festivities, listening to the music as he meandered the square.
He was suppose to have met with the boy, Kole. But he had apparently been busy in the Engineering District, so they agreed to meet later in the bar. Zaeden had a few things he wanted to discuss with Kole regarding the stone.
He had been watching a couple dance, not paying attention to where he was stepping and bumped into someone abruptly. He managed to steady himself in time, but his food flew out of his hands and onto the floor.
"Damn, I just bought that..." he muttered before glancing up to the person he'd run into. A man whom did not look too pleased.
"Watch it, will you?" he grumbled before stalking off.
Zaeden made a rude gesture at the man's retreating back before he knelt to pick up his fallen meal. When he stood, he looked around the square for a place to dispose of it, and his blue eyes noticed a figure just a few paces ahead of him. Her hair was what caught his eye, for he remembered it from the bar. Styled the same way, braided over her shoulder. The girl, Roeve Thelle.
He surveyed her for a few moments. She had her side to him, one hand was clasped around her other wrist as she looked on at something. He followed her gaze and saw that she seemed to be staring at a canvas image hanging from a building on the opposite side of the square. He knew that image, everyone did. They put it up every year, to remember.
He began striding towards her, dropping his tainted food on a bench carelessly. When he approached, he stopped a few feet to her side, and she hadn't seemed to register his presence. Zaeden realized that half of her face was covered by two blue oval lenses that were her goggles. He'd seen those type on the Guild hunters before, which he had found out were very necessary in the plains, due to the knife-edged grasses.
His eyes darted to the portrait for a second, and he then spoke.
"Tragic, isn't it?"
The girl jumped a little at his sudden voice, and her head swiveled to him. Her goggles made it impossible to see her eyes, only her nose and lips were apparent, and from those, he couldn't really guess her expression. She only faced him, not saying anything. Her lips were neutrally set, not smiling, not frowning.
He waved a hand toward the canvas. "What happened to them, I mean."
He became uneasy at her obscured face as she continued to presumably stare at him. But after a tilt of her chin, she gave him her side once again.
"You must be from the Empyrean District if you hold that opinion," she said, her tone blank, revealing nothing.
Zaeden walked a little closer. "What makes you say that?"
"You have an accent for one, and two, only the ones loyal to the Court, who everyone from the Empyrean District is, feel that their death... was tragic." She gestured to the portrait without looking at him. Her hand went to rest over her chest, fingers fidgeting with a thin chain hanging from her neck.
He smirked, crossing his arms. "I'm not from the Empyrean District, and I am not loyal to the Court. And while I do have an accent, I must point out that you do as well."
The girl shot a look at him, her lips in a frown, and she took a some time to answer, most likely to think up an excuse. After a moment, with her lips faltering for words, she murmured, "I don't have an accent..."
Zaeden chuckled as he shifted from foot to foot. "You do, but I'll give it to you and say you hide it very well."
He saw her sputter for a response and his smirk widened. "S'alright, I understand why you'd cover it up if you live in the Lowest District... I know I've gotten pissed on a few times from some of the more... vocal people, jus' 'cause of how I speak. Like you, they assume I'm from the Empyrean District. I'm from Quasam actually, not that that is much better."
She was facing him again, and her head had tilted to the side in thought. "How'd you know I live in the Lowest District? I've not met you before..."
Zaeden feigned a hurt expression. "You just met me yesterday, don't tell me you've forgotten already."
"You're Kole's friend..." she said. He detected a hint of bitterness in her voice.
"Zaeden," he introduced himself, stepping forward and extending his hand. Her head dipped to look at it, and her hand twitched at her side.
Eventually she slipped her hand into his and shook it hesitantly. "Roeve..."
His eyes were on the blue lenses of her goggles, but his sight couldn't penetrate them. They were opaque and he really wanted to see her eyes. It was surreal, standing there with her after all the time that passed. And it was bittersweet, for they weren't who they used to be. Both of them had changed, into completely different people. New people...
She'd grown up, she wasn't who he remembered. He wasn't sure if she would remember him, but it didn't matter, he wasn't about to broach that subject. She assumed he believed her when she said she was Roeve, and he would let her. Even if he knew differently.
"Roeve," he repeated with a nod, "so, are you excited about tomorrow's ceremonies?"
She released his hand and shrugged. She seemingly glanced around the square for a moment. "Not really, I'm not sure I'll even come out and watch."
"Not looking forward to the new Archon?"
"It doesn't matter to me. He won't last, no matter what they keep saying. And he'll be out of the position before he could ever be a proper Archon and make real changes to the city."
Zaeden smiled to himself. He'd gotten the same answer from the few he spoke to in the Lowest District. Asking anyone from the higher districts would have people gushing over the prospect of the new candidate sticking around for a while.
"Don't know 'bout that. This, Adrone Vaelorus, looks more sturdier than the others. More alive really, the last looked like a corpse, he was disgustingly old."
Her lips tugged into a wry smile as she shook her head.
Zaeden cleared his throat and crossed his arms. "So, I'm actually meeting with Kole in a bit. I was thinking of heading to the bar to wait, would you like to join me?"
He found that he wasn't quite done with the girl yet, and he still had much to figure out, most involved the girl. He vowed to stay in Zaethius until he did, regardless of Ryne's whining.
She started rubbing her arm and glanced again at the square. "I don't think so," she said, and he tried to hide his disappointment. "I'm waiting for someone as well. And I told myself I wouldn't go into the bar today. Plus," she added with a rueful tug of her lips, "I doubt Kole would be too happy seeing me talking to his new friend."
He opened his mouth to argue he didn't really consider Kole his friend but a voice cut him off.
"Roeve, damn it. I swear you left." Zaeden turned to see the approaching figure, and his brows rose at the sight seeing the infamous Jausep walking amongst the people so casually before stopping in front of Roeve. "I said I'd only be a few minutes."
"I was tired of standing there," Roeve replied with a shrug of her shoulder.
The other man noticed Zaeden, and he cast a suspicious look towards him. "Who's this?"
"Friend of Kole's."
Zaeden saw a look of annoyance pass over Jausep's face, he wondered why Kole seemed unpopular amongst the two. He made to introduce himself, sticking out his hand, but before he had a chance to open his mouth Jausep spoke.
"Right, well let's go. If I have to hear one more person bitch about the Arena, I'm going to gut someone." Jausep grabbed her by the elbow and began tugging her away. Zaeden only watched, and Roeve turned her head over her shoulder to face him and gave a hesitant wave, which he returned slowly.
When they disappeared in the crowd, Zaeden realized he was frowning. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. He caught the portrait again, looking at it for a few moments. He gazed at the aqua eyes of the child and shook his head again before he turned on his heel and weaved his way through the people.
He'd go to the bar to wait and to think...
Author's Note: Thoughts? Comments? Feedback is appreciated :)