045 Those Who Watch the Sky - 45


45 – Children thrust Into the Sky 3

The cathedral in Foothold had exploded with activity as the Eyes of Icarus neared full shut. From all over the influence sphere of Foothold the church militia was recalled to the city and the Dolmens were prepared for deployment. Elliot was overwhelmed by it all and could barely keep up finding himself grateful for the moment of peace he was afforded as he joined countless church militiamen in the inner courtyards of the grounds of the cathedral complex.
It was not a pleasant day as the sky was gray with thick lazy clouds whose contents drizzled down upon Elliot and the militiamen he shared the courtyard with. Even despite the weather Elliot was still able to relax as he awaited the arrival of the bishop. Stepping up beside him and offering him a friendly for him smile was Feast.

“So, looks like you’re going to finally be seeing some action. Are you excited yet?”

“I’m nervous more than anything.”

“You’re telling me.”

“Eh…”

Elliot could do nothing to stop the soldier who responded to his comment on his nervousness and soon everyone was engaged in hush conversations. Feast seemed terribly amused by the whole situation and was struggling not to laugh. Elliot sighed and put on a very strained smile. Speaking as hushed as he could Elliot questioned Feast.

“Having fun Feast?”

“At your expense of course. But you don’t want anyone finding out about me so maybe you shouldn’t entertain me so much.”

Elliot sighed again but gladly took Feast’s advice. There were more important matters to attend than dealing with Feast.

Elliot was not the only one who was distracted from the assembly though as Lute and Pan Mouser patrolled the cathedral parapets. They were obviously keeping an eye out for Melody who no one had seen since the night she was recruited into Choir. The Mouser brothers and bishop were certain though that she would show up should a major military gathering be held outdoors and Lute and Pan eagerly awaited the harpy’s arrival. Unfortunately for them however she was not coming.

Well over a mile away Melody clung to the spire of one of the few buildings in Foothold that actually offered her a view into the cathedral grounds. So far away no icaran or other human race could possibly see her from the cathedral without a spyglass, and even then she obscured herself as much as she could behind the spire. Watching the gathering of soldiers Melody let a wordless song fall from her lips and the voices from the courtyard were carried to her ears on the wind. It was her first time hearing Elliot’s voice in some time and it brought her a sense of comfort as well as worry.

“I don’t get it Elliot ~ Who are you talking to? None of the other conversations I’m hearing sound like they would be talking to you ~

With Elliot incapable of answering her question from so far away Melody did not bother awaiting a response from him. Instead, like him she focused on the bishop’s coming appearance.

The Bishop did not leave anyone waiting for his arrival in suspense for much longer as he at last emerged from a double door at the top of an impressive staircase. He was flanked by his personal guard as though he was expecting to be attacked at any moment. Despite these precautions he seemed fully focused on the crowd before him. Patting the air with his hands he encouraged the crowds to grow quiet, and when that was not enough he nodded to the various unit captains to bark the order for silence. In response to their captains’ voices the militiamen fell silent and snapped to attention. Elliot was not to be left out and also snapped to attention as the bishop finally addressed the crowd.

“My good soldiers. You have the look of lost sheep about you as you undoubtedly seek answers to why I would recall all of you at once. You surely fear for the well beings of the farmsteads and roadways under your care, but I assure you no threat that would approach them in your absence is as grave as the one you have been called here for today. You see my good soldiers, to the south in Ibrand a devil has appeared that threatens our very way of life. That devil is why I have called you all here today for it will take all of our combined strength to defeat it for that devil is one of the Sowers of Chaos whose actions in the ill advised land of Lucir off in distant Athecia is even known of even here in Mergaol. The devil that has appeared is none other than Hazel Sycamore himself, the devil accused of stealing Her Eminence’s Light of Hope that stays back the dark god of the Foreigners.”

[Link’s father]

The thought was shared by Link and Elliot and the accusations cast against Link’s father were of little concern to them. Balgun however harrumphed loudly from his vantage point watching the ceremony from inside the cathedral.

“The way you paint that man a villain and treat Mote as though she never existed. The depths of your willing embrace of ignorance astounds me.”

Balgun’s rant would never have interrupted the address but he unironically hoped that someone asides himself had a spec of intellect. That the bishop continued uninterrupted did little more than hurt his faith in humanity.

“The evils of that devil know no bounds as he has brought a Foreigner city down from the clouds and laid waste to Ibrand. The city of our good neighbors is no more as that devil seeks to steal the technologies of the Foreigners and bring their wrath upon all mankind. He must be stopped at all costs!”

The words of the bishop drove the gathered soldiers through horror to rage and they cheered at the opportunity to end the life of Hazel Sycamore. Elliot was the only one in the courtyard who remained quiet. Instead a grave weight descended upon him as he knew unquestioningly that he would be part of the unit that would be sent out after Link’s father.

[What can I possibly do? This is madness. I can’t even begin to believe what he’s saying about Link’s father. Even after Link was positive that her father purposely set the machine sentries to slaughter the citizens of Cross I couldn’t believe it. He was so kind and her mother the same. How could he have possibly gathered such a reputation?]

The questions plaguing Elliot’s thoughts would receive no answers as the bishop instead continued to vilify Link’s father.

“Do not be so assured of your victory, however. Even with the Sister Goddesses, Father Icarus, and hHr Eminence herself behind our cause it is likely that the devil Hazel Sycamore is accompanied by a Sa·B·er of tremendous ability and power who alone could level our forces. But fear not my good soldiers, for amongst our number is one who has been visited by Her Eminence and tasked with restoring the good name of the Cardinal Church and Her Eminence. That man is none other than Knight Prince Elliot Silverlance!”

“EH–

Elliot had no way to respond beyond confusion as the bishop lowered his right hand and the militiamen parted and all looked at him. Suddenly the center of attention Elliot felt himself feeling queasy. In an instant the weight of the world was dropped upon his shoulders and he had no way of handling the situation. The bishop was not making things better as he smiled broadly and made his next proclamation.

“In a three-day Knight Prince Silverlance will join all of you in your venture to vanquish the devil. Let the first thing that Father Icarus sees when next he opens his eyes is our victory!”

A thunderous applause erupted and roared around Elliot as the bishop ended his address. Naturally there would be a whirlwind of mission briefings to come over the next few days and Elliot would not know peace again for some time. Even the moment he thought he had after he escaped from the roaring crowds was interrupted by Feast being totally amused.

“You’ve really found yourself in a fun spot now Elliot. What a show this will be.”

“Not now Feast. I don’t even know how I ended up in this situation. This isn’t what Her Eminence, Lady Cardinal’s light should be used for.”

“No, it isn’t my boy. But perhaps your tendency for keeping secrets is the cause of this dilemma you find yourself in.”

“Master Balgun

Looking up from where he had leaned against a wall to catch his breath in what he thought was a barely used corridor Elliot was greeted by the sight of Balgun crossing his arms and frowning disapprovingly. He seemed disappointed enough to ignore Elliot’s surprise at his appearance and continued his accusations.

“For example Elliot, who is this Feast that you are speaking with.”

“Ah–!”

“Don’t bother trying it deny it Elliot. I heard you speaking with them as I followed you down here. You can’t keep that secret from me nor should you if you desire my help in dealing with this situation you find yourself in.”

“How can you possibly help me Master Balgun? My situation–”

“Is complicated my boy? Nonsense. You’re simply trying to protect Link as you understand her relationship with Hazel quite well do you not.”

“You–”

“Know? Why yes my boy, I do. She hasn’t spoken of it to me directly, but it took little effort with her as she is to figure it out. Why I doubt you would recognize he when you see her again with how she is.”

“If I see her again Master Balgun. But it’s a relief that you know.”

Throwing his back against the wall Elliot slumped to the ground relieved by balgun’s insight even as word of Link’s condition worried him. Looking up at Balgun he managed a weak smile.

“I really am at a complete loss and have no way to do what’s right.”

“You could start by telling me about this Feast fellow.”

“There really isn’t anything to talk about. He’s like my shadow you could say. It isn’t that simple either though. But he isn’t someone you need to worry about. Not too often anyway. He’s maybe like the Foreigner blood in me that has simply taken on my form and worse tendencies. He’s typically harmless though unless I were to let him loose. But his powers are terrifying and I have no desire to. He is awfully persistent though, but also sometimes the only company I have. Asking him to help me deal with this mess though would be akin to just asking for how many different ways I could kill everyone in Foothold.”

“And you thought it wise not to speak of this with anyone? Even me, an expert on Foreigners and I thought, your friend.”

“I’m sorry Master Balgun. It’s just facing and conquering myself is something I feel like I have to do on my own, and Feast is every bit me even for as much of his own person as he can seem.”

“Fear not boy, I can understand where you are coming from now. I simply ask that you do not keep further secrets from me if you desire me to continuing helping you. It is why I must ask if you currently desire my aid.”

“What can I tell you to convince you.”

“Just your thoughts on your assigned mission.”

“I…”

Elliot trailed off as he looked at Balgun for a moment and then lowered his head and sighed. It took him a moment of wrestling with himself but eventually he looked again at Balgun with a determined look in his eyes and sad smile on his face.

“Would you be willing to leave ahead of us? I hate to ask you to leave Link when she hasn’t finished recovering but…”

“Elliot my boy, I would be happy to.”

Elliot’s eyes lit up and he could barely contain his joy at Balgun’s aid. The sorcerer’s willingness to suddenly depart however perplexed the bishop when he received Balgun in his office later that day.

“You’re leaving now? A three-day before you said you would be finished?”

“It is a shame, but I have other appointments to keep. Besides, with this major military operation of yours about to start I’d just be underfoot. Link should be well enough off on her own if you just leave her alone and allow her to finish recovering. Just wait three more days before meeting with her again and she should be relatively stable. If you don’t mind though, before I leave I would like to speak with her one last time so that way she is aware of my departure and does not regress to a point where you will not be able to speak with her.”

“Of course Master Sorcerer. Though you can let her rest easy in knowing that we have found Hazel Sycamore and as long as he surrenders she will have her chance to speak with him.”

“I’m sure she will be delighted to hear it. In that case then I must be off, though please keep your watchdogs away from the dear girl as well until it is time lest she have a most unfavorable reaction. Her skin itself is Nectar and destabilizing her could be beyond disastrous as it is aspected purely to her. I wouldn’t want those feral dogs you keep thinking they could kill her only to wipe out all of Foothold as a result.”

“I will keep that in mind Master Sorcerer. She shall have her solitude only as far out as the beginning of the operation to seek out Sycamore.”

“That’s all I ask. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Spinning about Balgun departed the bishop’s office. The bishop naturally did not trust Balgun and had him watched as he left Foothold and eventually disappeared over the horizon. Knowing that Balgun was gone all that remained was to secure Link’s location so none could interfere with his plans before he could safely move on to the next phase of his plans.



Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater

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