002 Those Who Watch the Sky - 02
02 – Children Who Watch the Sky 2
Elliot looked quizzically at Link who seemed ready to burst out of her skin before again turning his own attention onto the man in red armor.
“What else could he be Elliot? He’s even talking with Cliff and he definitely isn’t a merchant.”
“What he is young Link is trouble. Hide yourselves children.”
Link was offered no chance to further her query before the nun leveled her, Elliot, and Squawk with a stern look, her eyes and body having grown tense. Link shrank back and Elliot and Squawk exchanged confused looks.
“You forget what a Sa·B·er is children. They are not to be idolized, only respected as one would a beast that drives the greater number of lesser predators from the land. And that man…”
The nun trailed off as she looked back down the path to where the aged centaur, Cliff, continued to converse with the man in red armor. Link quietly inhaled as she noticed the nun clench her fist and the floppy ears that adorned the nuns lamb-faced head twitched as she picked up the sound. With great effort the nun spoke calmly and softly as she began to head down the path.
“I mean not to scare you children, but not all Sa·B·ers are as kind as Master Cliff. You should have learned that in your studies, but more concerning with this man is that I was not aware of any Sa·B·ers arriving this day. As a precaution I advise you make your way back to town and take refuge in the church. Particularly my office as we must still discuss your disregard for the concerns of your elders.”
Elliot and Link both sighed but were hurried along by the nun’s words.
“Hurry now children and keep yourselves hidden.”
Casting a last concerned look in the nun’s direction and to Cliff and the man in red further up the path Link, Elliot, and Squawk dashed back up the path to the castle disappearing into the woods alongside it. As soon as they had put some distance between them Link was quick to start whining even as she took the lead of their small group.
“What was that about?! I’ve never seen Sister get so tense like that and there have been plenty of Sa·B·ers and merchants they’ve allowed access to the town over the years. What makes this guy any different?”
“Do you suppose he’ a Rogue?”
“Of course he’s a Rogue you two idiots! Didn’t you hear the Sister mention that she was unaware of a Sa·B·er arriving? That should tell you everything that you need to know.”
Looking back over her shoulder at Squawk, Link smiled ever so slightly and sent a chill down the nāti’s spine.
“Not everything Squawk. He could still be a Chaser or even a Hunter.”
“Link we can’t possibly find that out without ascending the wall and we were just told to return to town…”
The assuredness that had been in Elliot’s voice faded before he even trailed off as he took note of the woods around him. Squawk immediately picked up on the change in tone and spoke up with a noticeable quiver in his shrill voice.
“We’re not actually headed towards the wall are we?”
Elliot donned a grim expression and could not bring himself to look at Squawk as they continued to chase after Link.
“I very well can’t leave Link to go alone. If the Sister’s concerns have merit to them then the wall could be compromised.”
“Then that’s all the more reason not to go to the wall! What is wrong with you Link?!”
“Will you two stop being so dramatic. That Sa·B·er wouldn’t be talking with Cliff so casually if the town was in any danger. Even if he is a Rogue, building good relations with the local Defender would be to his benefit so I doubt there is anything all that shady going on. Besides, it’s not like Elliot and myself can’t handle anything else that might be sneaking in.”
“You can’t keep bolstering your confidence because we bested a group of starving bandit’s three years ago Link.”
“Of course I can Elliot. It’s been three years and I know we’ve progressed tremendously since then. Even my mother recognizes it.”
“Yet I don’t know if I can kill another human being again Link. I still have nightmares about the bandit I did kill…”
Elliot’s voice began to waver as he spoke and Link gritted her teeth in response. A dark air would have surely set in had Squawk not chirped up to share his doubts.
“And what if there are bandits again and they’re not starving? You may have been training for three years but you haven’t filled out anywhere that counts in a fight Link. And nice as your bosom and hips are you’re just a well shaped stick so I doubt you can seduce –?!”
Squawk’s yapping was brought to a sudden stop as Link stopped nigh instantly and spun about planting her foot into the nāti’s face just above his beak and between his eyes. Unlike Elliot who found himself quickly a fair distance ahead of the others and having to carefully slow himself Squawk came to an instant stop against Link’s foot. Going totally rigid Squawk seemed to have frozen for a moment before he finally fell back and clutched at his face with both hands, his eyes watering over. Pulling free a hand he pointed it accusingly at Link who lowered her foot and placed her left hand on her hip. Link’s defiant stance did nothing to stop Squawk from suddenly screaming at her at the top of his lungs and scaring the birds from the trees all around them.
“YOU IDIOT! WHAT WAS THAT FOR?!”
“Oh stop crying Squawk; you brought that onto yourself talking about my figure.”
Elliot sighed as he rejoined the other two and Link flashed him a look that kept him from saying anything about the situation. Squawk was not so reserved however and continued screaming at Link.
“I commented on your figure, not threatened your life! What part of that deserved having you plant your foot in my face?”
A low grown rose up and out of Link as her left hand left her hip and found its way to her left temple. Glowering at Squawk she shifted her position ever so slightly causing the nāti youth to shrink back. Without warning Link’s expression softened and she donned a beaming smile as her hand fell back to her side.
“Well I think you learned your lesson at least about how to talk to a maiden at least. That and I think I demonstrated that I’m a lot stronger than I look. You didn’t even budge me and you weigh at least twice as much as I do.”
“I somehow have a bad feeling about that Link.”
“What are you trying to imply El–?!”
As Link turned to face Elliot her smile became quite strained and she broke out into a cold sweat as she froze in place for a moment. She didn’t move any other part of her body save her head as she looked pleadingly at Elliot while turning very red in the face.
“U-um, El-Elliot… D-do you think y-you could m-maybe give me a ride?”
Elliot sighed and ran his right hand down his face before giving Link a disappointed look. Link tried to offer him a smile but the way her eyes watered and body trembled made it seem awkward and insincere. Squawk was quick to find the cynical side of the situation and gladly pointed it out.
“Oh great, now we’re in the middle of the woods and neither of you will be able to fight anything.”
“Oh will you shut up Squawk! This is your fault anyway!”
“How is this my fault?! You’re the one who kicked me and took us away from town for your own selfish whims! And now Elliot is going to have to carry you all the way back to town!”
“Actually that won’t be a good idea.”
Squawk flashed Elliot a nervous look as Elliot helped Link get onto his back. Straitening up and adjusting his hold on Link, Elliot attempted to hide his blushing face while Link wrapped her arms around him and he answered Squawk’s question.
“We’re too far from town and it’s gotten too late to possibly make it back before dark. If there really is reason to be concerned about a breach in the wall we couldn’t possibly afford to stay out here like this.”
“I’m sure my leg is fine Elliot. I just need to stay off of it for a little bit then I’m–”
“I’d rather not risk it Link. We’ll make our way to the wall and use the gondolas to get back to town. You’ll just have to serve as our lookout until then.”
Link mumbled the apology under her breath and pouted as she leaned her head listlessly against Elliot’s shoulder. Squawk’s long ears easily picked up the quiet apology and he was quick to jump on the opportunity it offered.
“You better be sorry Link, and ready. I’m definitely making you pay for this when we get back to town.”
“Squawk, enough. If the two of you keep squabbling it’ll make it difficult to move quickly enough to make it to the wall before dark.”
“Well then why are you standing around Elliot?!”
Elliot sighed and gently smiled as his efforts to reign in Squawk failed. Not aiming to waste any more time trying to play arbiter though Elliot tested his support of Link and he began a steady run deeper into the woods. Squawk for all of his bellowing and posturing did not linger and quickly fell in behind Elliot. It was not long after that the late afternoon light began to take on an orange hue and Elliot’s decision to head for the wall was justified.
Emerging from the woods the group of three found themselves before a towering metal wall that rose well above even the tallest of trees in the woods behind them by no less than double. The overgrown and rough metal surface seemed unbroken as far as they could tell asides from the occasional seam which separated the massive wall into sections and maintenance panels that likely served to service the lights that adorned the wall along its center and top. The sight of the unbroken wall brought a sense of relief to Squawk but Elliot allowed himself no such luxury and quickly headed to his right in the direction of the setting sun and towards a massive lookout post that glinted in the evening sunlight atop the wall in the distance. It was only as they reached the base of the metal tower that was a part of the wall and supported the lookout did Elliot allow himself to relax.
“To think after all of the trouble you caused today Link you’d still be getting your way.”
“I’m just special like that Squawk.”
Link offered her nāti friend a smile from Elliot’s back as he fumbled with a control panel that folded out of the wall. Doing his best to ignore the banter between Link and Squawk, Elliot pulled a key attached to a string around his neck out of his tunic and inserted it into a slot beside the keypad on the panel. Giving it a gentle turn a message flashed across a screen on the panel and the wall next to it came to life with a groan. The groan was followed by the sound of hissing hydraulics and soon a large rectangular section of the wall jolted and recessed into the main wall before sliding up and providing entrance into the tower. Satisfied with the results Elliot typed in a command on the panel before retracting his key and returning it to within his tunic.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Leading the way inside Elliot was greeted by a small metal walled room that was artificially lit internally from electricity powered lights in the recess between the walls and ceiling. The light from outside was soon cut off as the external wall returned to its original position with only the control panel on the wall beside it revealing its position from within. The group did not linger on it though as they instead focused on the mechanized metal doors before them and the control panel next to it. It was nothing as fancy as the security panel outside and with a simple press of a button the doors opened after the sound of whirring cables both began and ceased. Stepping into the even smaller room beyond Elliot operated another control panel within and the doors to the elevator closed shut before lifting the group to the top of the wall.
“Finally. It was starting to feel like we’d never get here.”
“Only because you were an idiot Link.”
“Oh shut up already Squawk. How many times do I have to say that?”
“Maybe we can focus on making our way to the gondolas before you two continue. I may appreciate the workout Link but I’ve been carrying you quite the distance already.”
“You could always put me down Elliot.”
“Until I have a doctor available to make sure your leg is alright I’d rather not.”
Emerging from the elevator Link, Elliot, and Squawk were bathed in a mixture of filtered light from the setting sun and the artificial lights of the observation platform. The lights within were not just cast from the recessed lights in the walls and ceiling but also from the control panels that filled the room and the monitors that displayed the feeds from a closed circuit security system that observed the entirety of the wall. Giving the screens a cursory glance as they made their way to an exterior door the group found no signs of compromise to the wall.
“It is Squawk, but…”
“What are you getting worried about now Elliot. Sa·B·ers are amazing so maybe he descended from the cliff.”
“That’s impossible you idiot. No matter where you approach the cliff from it’s a sheer drop and over four times the height of the wall. Even a Sa·B·er couldn’t survive that fall.”
“Well what if he has a Dolmen?”
“Link, even I’m starting to think that you over idolize Sa·B·ers.”
“How can you say that Elliot? They have the force of will to keep the Foreigners from turning them into monsters and then use the strength of the Foreigners against them so the rest of us can live in peace. What part of that isn’t worth looking up to?”
“Maybe the part where they are possessed by monsters.”
Link frowned at Squawk but the nāti simply huffed in response. Pouting again Link buried herself in Elliot’s back as he worked the control panel that would take them outside and onto the wall. A sudden flood of unfiltered sunlight changed Link’s pout to a squint, though she gladly propped herself up on Elliot’s shoulders to get a good look at the sky as he stepped outside.
“Ugh! What’s with all the dust?”
Coughing and sputtering Link looked around through the sudden clouds of dust that assailed the three of them and tried to whip her head about to get her long hair out of her line of sight. Managing to achieve her goal Link’s view towards the sizable town of simple stone brick and tiled roof buildings nested in the center of the woods that filled great hole in the earth was unobstructed. But the sight of the town with its twinkling lights did not draw her attention at all as it was what was above the encircling cliff beyond it that made Link’s, Elliot’s, and Squawk’s eyes tremble.
“No way… That can’t be possible… Foreigner cities never fly this low.”
“It’s not flying low you idiot, it’s crashing!”
Squawk’s observation better described the sight before the children. The titanic, vertically stretched object of ancient and impossible technology loomed before them with its upper reaches stretching into the sky above. It was not the top of the ancient city that so terrified the children however but rather that the bottom that was larger than the entirety of wood their hometown rested in was being dragged through the earth straight towards it leaving a track in its wake that would erase the town from the face of Icarus like a seed in a river.
Copyright © Joshua D Tarwater 2019