Chapter 3 – Rising Tide – Part II

Part II

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In the courtyard, the little boy searched for something to play with, as his supervisor was no fun. All this tall man wanted was for him to stay still, preferably do nothing. But little Soris was bursting with energy and curiosity. He wanted to explore, to make friends, play until he couldn’t breathe, let his child mind free to do anything that caught his attention.

The placid face with sucked-in cheeks of the supervisor was the most daunting image he could see now, scolding him for getting out of his sight even for a moment. The over-protectiveness of this man, at first, made him want to be disobedient and enjoy hearing curses and whinings following from his back. But, in less than a week, Soris understood that he was actually causing pain to someone, so he chose to become obedient.

As days went by, however, the little boy couldn’t stand the stillness anymore and noticed that the supervisor wasn’t becoming any friendlier. Soris looked around himself. The yard was big, the towering castle had countless rooms waiting for him to discover them, yet there weren’t any children today, only busy adults roaming around with thoughtful faces.

He sighed and turned to the supervisor, squinting against the strong rays of the morning sun, “Clark, may I play with the ball?”

The head from above lowered hooded, grey eyes on him. Clark hated being disturbed from his endless meditation.

Silence hovered for a couple of seconds, so the boy added in a sweet tone, showing his small white teeth, “Please?”

Clark let his shoulders drop and dragged his feet toward a bench with a wooden box upon it. He took out the smallest ball he could find there and slouched back to the prince who dashed to take it. As he snatched it with increasing joy spreading on his face, Clark hurried to lecture him, “Be careful not to hit someone; don’t bang it on the floor, don’t hit the walls with it, don’t throw it too up in the air as you can’t predict where it’ll fall…”

He went on and on about what not to do, but the boy didn’t care about anything he had to say. After all, according to Clark, the safest way to play was to just keep the ball in his hands. Soris, however, was bursting with energy. So he banged it against the floor and kicked it towards some soldiers who were passing by. The men in grey armor of fabric and plates of steel were happy to send it back to him. The prince got caught in the game quickly, so he continued to pass the ball to them, delighted to see the men’s smiles under the plain helmets which covered their eyes with smoky glass.

Clark stepped in between and scowled at the two tall playmates. “I think it’s time to get back to work!” he said, then turned to the prince, “Your Majesty, let the soldiers guard this place. You shouldn’t play with people that are of lower class.”

Soris pierced him with a brown stare. “Then who?” he snapped stretching his neck up to the supervisor who gave him the ball. “The noble children are going to arrive here after their lessons. Have a little patience, Your Highness.”

The boy took the ball and kicked it angrily toward the castle. It lobed far away from him, and got lost behind a hedge of the garden. Clark rolled his eyes, annoyed that he now had to run after the boy who scampered off retrieve it.

Soris reached the garden, then searched around until he got lost. Being away from the lecturing Clark felt way too good to regret this. He meandered until he got to an opening in the hedge. It led to a shadowed side of the castle. To his surprise, the ball was there, very close to the wheel of a wooden carriage. It had beautiful, embroidered curtains and the wood carvings glistened with fresh varnish. On its round back, it sported a symbol with a grand peacock made of gold. At that sight, the kid frowned. For long moments, even after Clark showed up by his side gasping for air, he sat still, enraged to see this cart sitting in the yard of his home.

Clark laid a hand on his shoulder. “There you are, Your Majesty. Can you imagine how dangerous it was to run away like this? What if someone kidnapped you? What if something heavy crushed you? What if you tripped?”

Soris didn’t hear any of his blabberings. He was fully focused on the carriage. Forgetting about the ball, he shifted and kicked the cart’s door, demanding, “Show yourself! Get out!”

Clark gasped in terror. “Your Majesty!”

The boy grabbed the handle and yanked the door open only to notice nobody was inside. He slammed it back, then peered up to the castle as if he declared war to someone invisible.

“Clark, I’m done playing for today,” he stated with a stern posture.

“Wise decision, Your Majesty,” Clark said, wiping his forehead. “But where are you headed to?” he asked behind the boy’s back.

“I’m going to talk to my mother.” He marched toward the castle, Clark following him with a pleased smile, thinking they’d left the yard, a place full of hazard, for a safe building. As long as the boy wasn’t playing or trying something other than walking and talking, everything was going to be just fine.

However, when they came before the queen’s door, echoing sobs infused shivers into their limbs. The prince grabbed the handle and cracked the door open. His mother sat on the bed’s margin, wiping tear after tear, trying hard to recollect herself as Queen Suzanne, the boy’s grandmother, was comforting her along with two of his aunts.

One of the aunts saw him and immediately went to usher him out of the room, then said after closing the door gently behind her back, “Kid, let your mother have some time for herself.”

“Why is she crying? Let me see her! I must tell her that…”

The young aunt lowered herself to meet his eyes properly. “Boy, she already knows that. You don’t have to confirm it any longer.” Soris went mute, trying to find more answers in her bitter gaze. She got up and looked at the feeble supervisor. “Clark, take him to Waltario. He’s in his studio now.”

Clark quickly bowed his head and grabbed the boy’s hand, glad to leave the kid in someone else’s care. He dragged Soris through some corridors, hoping the child wouldn’t oppose too much. He didn’t, until they reached the corridor where his father’s office was, and its door opened soundlessly.

A proud woman of thirty emerged, dressed in a sunset-red gown set with ermine. Soris narrowed his eyes, watching her advancing like a queen on a crowning day. The boy couldn’t temper his anger any longer. He pulled himself out of Clark’s grasp and ran back toward the staircase where he knew some guards would be stalling.

“Guards!” he shouted, making everyone’s heart jump in place, especially Clark’s, who turned pale. “Guards! Come quickly! There’s a thief here! Come and catch her!” he railed, pointing desperately at the woman who’d stopped in place, hazel eyes rounding wide under the fine dark make-up.

Noticing the guards’ movement, the boy started running back on the flower-patterned carpet, toward the lady who watched him with a stiff neck. “Catch her!” he insisted, satisfied to see he’d managed to take down that defiant smile from her face.

As the guards marched after him, a few steps behind, another door of the corridor opened and two maids showed up, eager to pry into the royal family’s matters. Clark was about to pull his hair out, thinking this was the death sentence for him. He grabbed the boy and covered his small mouth, begging him to stop.

The guards halted, confused about what was happening here. Clark looked at them almost crying. “Go back, guards. He was only playing around. Go! Please!”

The two men with bulky arms looked back at the maids who were red-faced from the spuming giggling at this sight, then right forward at the woman who shot flaming glances at them. They bowed their heads and excused themselves, then hurried back to their positions on the stairs.

As Clark was fighting to keep the erratic prince in check, the woman commanded to the maids, “Back to your work, ladies! Stop being so disrespectful to the prince!”

The two dropped their smiles and snuck back into the room they’d come out from. Soris tried to throw kicks and punches at the lady, his words muffled completely by the supervisor’s sweaty hand. The woman sauntered to him, offering him a vicious smirk.

Clark kept him trapped like a snake clutching on its prey, and gibbered incessantly prayers, begging the boy to calm down. But it was impossible for the prince to stop fighting. He felt like he let go of the most wicked criminal in the kingdom.

The lady stopped before him to enjoy her victory, then stooped to whisper in his ear, “You’re stupid just like your mother.” The boy grabbed on her golden necklace and pulled at it aggressively. Managing to snatch back the necklace, she rose to her feet, scolding Clark, “His mother’s failed miserably to educate him. Make sure next time we won’t get to see this savage instead of a prince.”

“My deepest apologies, Lady Voronchi!” Clark muttered humbly. “Do please forgive him. He’s only a kid and he just wanted to play.”

She turned and left, outraged by this event.

When she wasn’t in the corridor anymore, Clark let go of the prince, grabbed him by the shoulders with trembling hands and faced him. “Your Majesty, don’t you ever play like this! You’ve done enough trouble for today. Now, let’s get you to Waltario. He’ll know what’s best to do.”

Soris threw a deep scowl at the supervisor, fire burning in his brick irises. He didn’t oppose anymore, just accepted the supervisor’s guiding hand, knowing there was no use in trying to talk to such a coward.

To be continued…

Chapter 3 – Rising Tide

Part I

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A gust of chilly wind blew veils of sand on the narrow beach, announcing a storm. Kendel, Vlin, and Inerishia looked up. White clouds descended like a mist, billowing and swirling as their color changed to stains of ash and coal.

“This is really bad,” Vlin gasped, wrapping a bracelet around his wrist. “Maybe our tribe is indeed meant to disappear, Kendel.”

Kendel cast dark eagle eyes upon his friend. “We will not disappear. We’ll become something better.”

Ines’ giggles echoed in the wind as she jumped in the boat and played with the paddles. Rushing to her with a pale face, Inerishia shouted, “Ines, get off the boat right now and come here.” The kid saw the seriousness of their expressions, so she got back on the wet sand of the shore. Arms outstretched, her mother was about to grab her hand, when a big wave swooshed up out of the calm sea and lunged at the child.

Kendel darted toward the wave, thrusting his hand toward it. “Water, listen to me!” he commanded, making the sea retreat greatly and suck back the wave, revealing the underlying cause of it. A tall man with muscular arms carrying a shiny spear advanced on the pure sand uncovered from under the sea. Water dripped down his boots and summary armor made of silver scales, while his wet hair stuck to his tattooed temples, and a smirk stretched on his fawn mouth. “What a surprise! Kendel himself,” he hissed, arriving on the shore washed by a gentle wave, the sea returning to its normal course. Inerishia took Ines by the hand and hurried back to the carriage.

“What are your intentions?” Kendel asked, recognizing the race of the tan-skinned man.

“I am Divian, the son of the great demon Saulten, the one you chased away from the Coral Islands.” He pointed the leaf blade of the spear at Kendel. “I’m here because my clan felt a call coming from here.”

Kendel frowned. “No one called for you.”

Divian smothered a laugh, then pierced him with a topaz stare. “Not you.”

Ushering Ines to the cart, Inerishia heard a ripple of rustlings and branch snaps coming from the trees which bordered the beach. Those were definitely not Shion. She released the horse and lifted Ines on its back, preparing to get up on it as well. However, a multitude of demons with spears and swords snuck out from the forest, blocking the escape route, and when she turned to look at the sea, she saw many more enemies coming out from the water.

Marching proudly, Divian extended his arms. “Kendel, you were once the one who chased us out, now it’s our time to chase you. I’ll bring your head to Saulten.” He thrust the spear into the darkened sand and roared, “Devils! Rise!”

The demons swarmed the beach, targeting Kendel. Inerishia swung an arm and blew them away with a powerful stroke of wind, Vlin standing shield between her and the demons emerging from the forest. Kendel pushed aside an incoming attackers’ troop by telepathically controlling the sea water to wipe them away with furious waves.

Divian was, however, left untouched by the water. The waves were avoiding him. Eyes closed, he spun the spear with one arm. “Do you think you’re the only one who can control the water?” he asked, then hit the land once again. A sand-eating crack appeared and spread, swiftly reaching under Kendel’s feet. Seawater gushed out of there and swirled around his shins, blocking him. Kendel soon realized that these wave spirals would not listen to any other than Divian, so he called his own wave to attack the demon and distract him, hoping the demon couldn’t control more than one water attack at the same time.

Inerishia dodged a rain of poisonous daggers that were thrown at her child, then blasted a group of demons who’d surrounded Vlin. Shion slithered down from a nearby tree and took back his human form of a man with long, grass hair. “Inerishia, take the kid and go back to the White Castle. This matter here is more complicated than it seems,” he said with a stern face, taking a moment to get lost in her azure eyes. “Also, my apologies for following you,” he mumbled.

Inerishia gave an understanding nod, then listened to the child who tugged her by the sleeve. “Mommy, look up!”

Plunging from the expanding steel clouds, winged demons with spears and daggers roared and surrounded Vlin, and Kendel, who was caught in a fierce fight with Divian. Inerishia raised a hand and forced a quick spell. The clouds spiraled, winding into dozens of foamy swirls. Bolts of lightning darted from the sky and struck the sand, burning many devils and sending the others tumbling for cover. She made sure to aim at Divian, too.

The demon-leader had sunken Kendel into a pool of waterlogged sand, up to the waist, when suddenly his spear absorbed a blinding thunderbolt, protecting him from being turned to ashes. Divian stepped back to regain his balance, then scanned the beach, quickly identifying the woman with bright ginger hair. “How dare you…” he growled, thrusting his shiny weapon up in the air. The lightning show ceased instantly, fitful incandescence lingering between the thick clouds.

Inerishia grabbed her chest as a heavy pain spidered inside of her. Gasping for air, she propped herself by the horse. Before she knew it, Shion was right behind her, helping her remain standing. “I told you to leave,” he scolded her, then glanced up at the frightened child who cried for her mother. “She’s fine,” he assured her. “Your mother needs to stop fighting until she recovers.”

When her breathing normalized, Inerishia searched for Kendel. He was out of the deep slump, fighting Divian with a spear he’d snagged from a burnt demon. The beach was mostly clear, but Devils were still emerging from the sea, the winged ones, who’d survived the lightning attack, darting at Vlin.

Weakened inside, Inerishia turned around. “Shion, please help them. I promise to come back as soon as I leave Ines in a safe place.” Shion stared at her coldly, then shape-shifted into a great dragon with red scales, spewing hot air on all the demons that blocked the entrance into the woods.

Inerishia didn’t wait for a reply. She mounted the horse, the child’s weeping calming down when a warm, gentle arm embraced her. They drove off, retracing the path back to the stronghold. However, the mother had no intention of entrusting her daughter to Gladiole’s care. The war with the Devils was solid evidence that, this time, her vision had been accurate, so she was determined to get in touch with General Waltario.

A tree slumped before the horse, blocking their way. The panicked horse neighed, rearing up, almost throwing down Inerishia. She pulled the reins and regained her balance when a demon dropped from a tree right on the horse’s back and stabbed her in the shoulder. Muffling a groan of pain, the lady summoned the air to push him, then unmounted the horse that had become listless and unresponsive to her commands. Presently, it jumped over the obstacle and galloped away, raising clouds of dust on the path to the White Castle. At least it would alarm the stronghold members to come after them.

Inerishia let the crying kid slid down from her good arm so she could attempt a healing spell at her injury. The bleeding stopped quickly, but the flesh opposed to her foggy energy that radiated from her palm. “Argh, it was a poisoned dagger,” she cursed, shutting her eyes.

“Mommy, are you okay?” Ines said between sobs.

“Yes. Don’t worry. I’m going to be fine. It will only take longer and more energy to heal,” the woman explained with a weak voice. The white energy grew brighter on the injury. She had to hurry up to pull out the poison before it would render her unconscious.

Leaves rustled and soon, four demons plummeted from the green arcade of the trees, raising their weapons and surrounding the two. Ines shrieked and buried her face into her mother’s long robe. Keeping the healing constant, Inerishia spun to analyze her opponents. It was too late. They’d already thrown their daggers at her heart. She ducked, covering the kid with her arms, then stood and blasted them with a circling current, clearing the way for a couple of moments which allowed them to run.

As long as she was going to follow the path, the demons could easily anticipate where she was headed at and block her way. With the injury superficially healed, she entered the woods.

Flying demons darted upon her from the sky where the tree crowns were thinner, the lady blowing them away before reaching close. It was impossible for her to carry the kid at her chest and also fight, so she’d let Ines run on her own, glancing at her once in a while to make sure she was keeping the pace. Ines ran as fast as she could, one hand clutching the corner of her mother’s sage robe, the other wiping tears.

Inerishia didn’t run aimlessly. She knew that somewhere in the woods was a cave where she could take a break. As soon as she noticed a clearing in the forest, she swerved that way, grabbed her child’s hand and took out the piece of crystal she’d stolen from the stronghold, making them both invisible. The flying demons halted in the sky, baffled at that sudden disappearance, while the ones on the ground gathered from all sides, gawking at one another.

“Don’t be fooled by her trick!” a winged demon said. “Search for her. She can’t stay invisible forever. If we catch her, we can conquer the White Castle as well, and then this land will be all ours!” Enthralled by this promise, the demons set on searching, sniffing with their sharp noses as they searched for the smell of a human. However, Inerishia had long ago flown from there, riding on a blaze of wind and reaching to the cave.
Finally getting some moment to catch her breath, she put the crystal back in a pocket, then knelt to check her child for any bad injuries.

“Mommy, what’s going on?” Ines cried watching her mother’s face covered by a couple of wet strands of hair, heaving with exertion.

She didn’t answer as she had to make a quick decision. Every use of her powers was consuming from her energy which she later needed for the fight with Divian, and at the same time, she had to leave her little girl in a safe place, the Arid Kingdom’s castle. Flying was energy-consuming, but it was the fastest way.

“I’m going to let you in Waltario’s care, Ines.” She embraced the girl and activated the stone of invisibility again, then flew on a powerful gust of wind to the great palace of the Arid Kingdom, a building which was not too far from the White Castle. Its people were simple humans, who had no idea about the existence of demons or people with magical powers, except for General Waltario and King Martin.

High above the treetops of the forest, the two observed the shiny golden roofs of the grand palace and a miniature of the courtyard: people in colorful robes and dresses meandering and talking, soldiers patrolling carelessly, servants carrying baskets of water or laundry, and gardeners pruning the numerous bushes of roses. None of them had any idea of what was going on the faraway shore of the sea.

“This might be the safest place, indeed,” Inerishia murmured to herself, then started instructing her child about do’s and don’ts for the time she would be staying there.