054 Those Watch the Sky - 054
54 – Children thrust Into the Sky 12
Approaching a massive wall with smoking heaps of rubble atop it, Link cried out as she saw the remnants of Elliot’s bronze hued saber blasted across the scorched ground. Melody was as appalled as Link and ignored the instructions given to her by Link’s mermaid double. Instead she dove down towards what remained of the Dolmen’s torso. Setting Link down before she arrived she reached it first due to still being airborne and tore with all of her might at the metal heap. She was soon joined by Link who desperately tried to find any openings she could into the cockpit.
“We shouldn’t panic ~♪ The Nectar trail feeding the colossus outside is still coming from deeper yet ~♪”
Springing back to her feet Link found her Mermaid double and took its hands in her own as best she could. Turning her massive eyes onto the mermaid desperate to have it reaffirm that Elliot was still alive she managed to startle her double.
“Hard as it is for us to believe, it is true ~♪”
“Then what happened here…?”
Turning her gaze back onto the destroyed Dolmen there were no answers that Link could see. Not immediately however as she soon noted the scorch marks on the ground could have easily originated from something fired from the wall before them. Looking up at the smoking heaps atop it she could just make out the remnants of artillery placements.
“Hey, Melody. Those smoking piles on top of that wall… can you tell how they were destroyed.”
Not feeling confident in herself with the wreckage of Elliot’s Dolmen underfoot, Melody doubted she would see anything when she looked. To her surprise, in the artificially lit internal city she could clearly see the cleanness of the lines that separated the destroyed artillery placements. Recognizing what those clean lines implied Melody lit up and sang with joy as she identified the damage for Link.
“Those are sword cuts Link! ~♪ They’re sword cuts! ~♪ Elliot must have destroyed them after his Dolmen was! ♪~”
“If that’s true then maybe there is an emergency escape hatch–⁈”
Link failed to finish her sentence or make it to the neck of the Dolmen where she would have found evidence of an ejector chute having been engaged. Instead she fell to her knees and clutched at her head with her mermaid double doing the same.
~ Children of Her Light, do intend to challenge me? Do you intend to break the seal? Do you intend to release death upon mankind? ~
“Link! Link! Are you okay⁈ What’s wrong⁈ Link!”
“It’s okay Melody. It’s just–”
Struggling to her feet, Link stared ahead towards the center column of the Foreigner city before her and let her double finish her thought.
“The voice of the one that feels like the dark one ~♪ It is in our head and growing louder, stronger ~♪ It is waking and wears an aura of death and hatred ~♪ Can you not hear it Melody? ~♪”
“I can’t at all. But if you two are hearing that voice again you mentioned back at Balgun’s…”
“It means we really don’t have any more time! We have to get everyone who’s here out before we make it mad!”
For as much haste as Link wanted to practice Elliot was moving much more cautiously. He had already lost his Dolmen by being unprepared for the defense artillery that protected the core of the Foreigner city and had barely escaped with his life through the Dolmen’s emergency ejector seat. Leaping from the seat Elliot had thrown himself at the wall so that he could reach and disable the artillery for the vain hope that the general would was still following him and would not be incapacitated by the cannons. It was a waste of time and he knew that as well but without his Dolmen’s systems he should have had no way to continue tracking Link’s father. Yet he had persisted regardless and as he passed the open blast doors beyond the fortress like wall, he discovered one of the benefits of years of decay and disuse. The passage of those ahead of him were clearly marked by the absence of dust and undisturbed vegetation that grew within the city.
With his sword perpetually at the ready and his left hand upon the head of his scabbard save when he had to use it to clear his path, he encountered not another soul. Even following the obvious trail, the lack of any life beyond the vegetation that turned the facilities that reminded Elliot of the plant in Cross into a cavern was unsettling. It was particularly unsettling as he knew he should not be alone as up until his Dolmen was destroyed its sensors were still showing a fresher heat signature over the one that led him into the central column of the Foreigner city. There was still someone ahead of him and as he was momentarily crippled by the voice that Link was assailed by back out in the city layer she explored, he wondered if he could truly fight them if need be.
“Stop worrying about it Elliot. If you have to fight anyone you can always call Feast back. How many hours have I been down here now anyway? He should have devastated enough Foreigners to allow everyone else to retreat or end the battle and be on his way back without my input. So come on Elliot, don’t give in now, don’t waste this betrayal and truly waste everyone’s lives.”
Forcing himself to recover from the terrifying voice Elliot continued to press on unable to prepare himself for what awaited him. Who else aside from those in Foothold knew about Hazel and the Sa·B·er in red being within the Foreigner city? Were they an ally of the church and thus a threat to Elliot’s rescue of Hazel, or were they some other party like Balgun who had their own reasons for following them into the Foreigner city? They were questions that Elliot could not answer, and the lack of answers kept him cautious even as nothing within the labyrinthine inner workings of the Foreigner city challenged him.
~ Children of Her Light, I welcome your sacrifice. Your awakening of this flesh. Your breaking of this seal. Come Children of Her Light, bathe me in its last embers. ~
Again the voice assailed Elliot as he wondered deeper and deeper within. He gritted his teeth against its weight and pressed forward unrelentingly. Though unrelenting, he was not resistant to the effects of the voice’s weight and nearly stumbled blind into a sight he was not prepared.
“By Icarus’ grace! Is that you master Elliot?”
“To think I would ever see any of you children again, and here of all places no less.”
Though Elliot turned to confront the voice with every intention to kill the speaker they had not read his terrified aggression and continued with utter joy. The lethal air around Elliot would dissipate long before the speaker would have a chance to notice it however as it would be replaced with pure disbelief.
“Sister…? What–? How–? I don’t understand…”
Elliot could not believe his eyes in the least. Standing there before him was none other than Clover, the lamb faced nun of Cross. She seemed immediately displeased by his lack of understanding but seeing him softened the harsh tone she intended for him.
“To think that you survived your infection and became a Sa·B·er of the Cardinal Church, if that uniform is what it appears to be, yet still cannot wrap your head around what appears in front of you Mater Elliot. I must have been a horrible teacher. But considering you survived that horrible night for my short comings I am grateful to the Lady Cardinal as her blessings are surely upon you.”
“You have no idea Sister. I doubt you’ll believe me but my Her Eminence, Lady Cardinal, appeared before me directly both to save Link from her infection and during my cleansing ceremony dubbing me her Knight Prince. Her Silverlance.”
“That is an incredible claim Master Elliot. Lady Cardinal has not graced mankind with her presence since she bestowed upon us her Light of Hope.”
“Yet I believe Elliot speaks the truth Clover.”
“Master Cliff! Have you recovered?”
Coming up from behind Clover was the centaur and sole Sa·B·er who protected Cross from monsters. Elliot had not seen him since that night by the waterfall when he had intended to face his infection alone and witnessed Link become infected herself likely due to Cliff. He had so many questions for the centaur, but Cliff’s immediate attention was on Clover.
“I highly doubt that Clover, I can still feel the weight of whatever is here, and it is growing. But a few moments ago that no longer seemed to matter and my strength was my own to use again. With my strength my own again I thought I’d check on you and lo and behold none other than Elliot is standing before you. I can hardly believe my eyes.”
“I feel the same Cliff. I just… I really…”
Though a massive smile adorned his face Elliot could not hold back the tears that were flowing freely. He had never expected to encounter Cliff and Clover ever again yet here they were directly in front of him. Pulling his left hand from his scabbard he wiped away the tears and tried again to speak to Cliff and Clover.
“After everything I’ve been through and all of the death I’ve seen, just to be standing here with you two again… But what about Squawk, wasn’t he with you when you abandoned us?”
“I didn’t abandon you Elliot, though Sqauwk shares your sentiment. That is even after I explained to him that you and the little lady were infected by the Foreigners and had to be left out of my care. I even tried to explain to him that the smartest thing you could have done was follow us to show your abilities to survive and track even a skilled Sa·B·er. The three of us waited for days in a small community but two days from that pool yet you never came. Squawk lost all faith in me then and disappeared one night. We haven’t seen him since, though knowing him he’s pursuing his dream of becoming a Pilgrim of Atheaeldre and trying to breath life back into this world of ours.
“As for why we’re here. When there was no sign of you or the little lady ever showing I felt it was my responsibility to track down Hazel and let him know that I likely cost his daughter her life. Clover here refused to let me go alone however for fear that I’d get myself killed.”
“And you likely would have as well Master Cliff. While your strategy worked, taking up the role of a Chaser and pursuing the Foreigner city that destroyed Cross was a mad idea at your age, Sa·B·er or not.”
“Wait. So, Mister Sycamore is here?”
“Him and that man as well. But seeing as he is a Sa·B·er like myself he was likely crippled when that presence appeared. Seeing as Clover was never affected in the least he was probably separated from him. But he hasn’t returned in this direction and I had believed it the idea time to do so and would have finally had the chance to approach him since finding him and following him in here after it wiped out Ibrand. When the city fell from the sky I thought I wouldn’t have a chance to find him but I still waited even after all of the bloodshed between the salvagers and bandits that came here in search of treasure. But then my patience paid off and those two appeared and freed the survivors from the bandits. I should have approached them sooner but how could I talk to Hazel about his daughter in the presence of a man who must never know of her existence?”
“I don’t understand Cliff, what do you mean?”
Cliff locked up when he realized he spoke out of turn and the smile that had been adorning Elliot’s face had vanished. A tension filled the air between the old Sa·B·er and the young Sa·B·er that could have led anywhere. Fortunately, Clover was used to defusing troublesome situations and was aware of the secret that Cliff had hinted at.
“Master Elliot, do you still claim that your sword exists only to support Young Link’s dream?”
“I don’t know what that matters Sister, but I have yet to back down on that oath.”
“Then Master Elliot, it is better that you only know that that man cannot know. Should he know then Young Link will have no future but suffering and conflict. She should never have to face that.”
A heavy sigh escaped from Elliot and a strained smile adorned his face. Looking down and away from Cliff and Clover, Elliot explained his reaction.
“First, it should make you glad to know that she survived thanks to Her Eminence, Lady Cardinal, as I’ve said before, so you have no reason to tell Mister Sycamore any such tale of her untimely end…”
“There is a but is there not Master Elliot? You children always try to hide things from me but outside of your winged friend I can usually tell when you are.”
“There is nothing to hide here Sister. It’s just finding the words for it. Our journey took us to the city of Foothold and to gain us access and avoid risking our infections consuming us Link told them that her infection was inflicted upon her by her father.”
“What was the little lady thinking⁈”
Cliff and Clover’s reactions were to be expected and Elliot was comforted by them in a way. Still his smile grew more strained and moved to walk past the two survivors of his hometown.
“It’s a long story. I can tell you as we continue after Mister Sycamore. I came to retrieve him anyway and I have no intention of failing to do so. Even if I have to face this Sa·B·er you two fear so much.”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater